So that was … an interesting week of football.
We’ll most past the incredible rash of injuries that have stunned the football world and sent countless fantasy rosters into early-season tailspins. It’s mostly positivity in this space (though I might unearth a stat or two that casts a less flattering light on some players; it’s all in fun, though).
Here are 30 of the most interesting facts from around the fantasy football world entering Week 3:
1. If it seems like NFL teams are scoring at an incredible rate, it’s because they are. Through the first two weeks of the regular season, the 32 regular-season games played have averaged an absurd 50.3 points; that’s the highest scoring average through Week 2 since the 1970 merger (by a point and a half, no less!) So if you’re wondering why you’re 0-2 despite averaging 135 fantasy points per week, that’s probably a huge factor.
2. Only one player has recorded 30+ points in each of the first two weeks – and it’s Chef Russell Wilson, who is cooking at a furious rate in a revamped Seahawks offense. Wilson has already racked up 610 passing yards and nine touchdowns through two games, and has even dialed up the rushing with 68 yards on the ground. It might be too early to crown him league MVP, but if you waited on quarterback and landed Wilson as your QB1, you’re in great shape.
3. As impressive as his overall statistics look, he has been even more dangerous when it comes to red-zone efficiency. Wilson is a perfect 7-for-7 in pass attempts inside the 20-yard line, with five touchdowns. He’s the only QB who has a perfect red-zone completion rate (minimum three attempts) and his five RZ scores are tied with Gardner Minshew for second-most in the NFL. Seattle’s offense might put up crooked numbers all season. Enjoy the ride!
4. Any questions about how the Las Vegas Raiders would employ Josh Jacobs in 2020 have been answered with emphasis. Jacobs has an unbelievable 59 touches through the first two games (52 carries, seven receptions), tied with Tennessee’s Derrick Henry for the most in the league. He might be averaging just 3.5 yards per carry so far, but fantasy managers can’t quibble if he continues to rank inside the top five in fantasy points at the position.
5. We know that Cam Newton isn’t anything like the guy the Patriots had under center the previous two decades – but few stats highlight this than the fact that Newton has 11 red-zone carries through the first two games (fourth-most in the NFL). Tom Brady had 11 red-zone carries in the entire 2019 season. And even if he doesn’t keep up this crazy pace, he should still blow past Sony Michel‘s team-best 41 red-zone attempts from last year.
6. Here’s a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ red zone target share through two games:
Russell Gage: 3
Julio Jones: 1
Hayden Hurst: 1
Ito Smith: 1
It would seem that Jones will never be a double-digit touchdown threat, while Ridley is emerging as a future superstar with tremendous TD potential in one of the most high-powered offenses in the league. Gage’s numbers are intriguing, and make him worthy of every-week FLEX consideration (at least for now).
7. For all the hubbub about how the Raiders upgraded their wide receiving corps in the offseason, Derek Carr is still throwing most of his passes to other players. Las Vegas has the lowest wide receiver target share of any team in the league at 30.6 percent (19 of 62); the San Francisco 49ers are the only other team below 40 percent. This should even out more as the season goes along, but for the moment, there’s little fantasy value in the Raiders’ WR corps.
8. So where are all those WR targets going? To the tight ends – 43.5 percent of Carr’s pass attempts are intended for TEs, which puts to bed any concerns about Darren Waller in Year 2. Waller, who was on more than a few bust lists coming into the season, ranks second in targets and has a whopping 38.9 percent target share. That won’t hold up, of course, but Waller is far and away Carr’s favorite receiving option – and that isn’t about to change anytime soon.
9. We do NOT like that, Kirk Cousins. The Minnesota Vikings quarterback is off to a miserable start with a 58.8 percent completion rate and four interceptions through two games. And what’s worse, he’s done so despite having the third-highest Time-to-Throw average in the league according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats (3.07 seconds). Cousins has played from behind a lot, but he’s part of the reason why – and simply put, he needs to be much, much better.
10. This might be a great time to buy low on New York Giants tight end Evan Engram. He has played a whopping 95 percent of the team’s snaps through two games, second-most among TEs (behind Ryan Izzo of the Patriots). With Barkley going down early in the Giants’ Week 2 loss to Chicago, Engram saw eight targets and finished with six catches for 65 yards – and he should see plenty more opportunities in the New York offense moving forward.
11. Who knew the biggest beneficiary of the Cowboys’ decision to draft CeeDee Lamb would be Ezekiel Elliott? Zeke has faced 8+ men in the box on just 4.6 percent of his carries, and he has parlayed that open space into the fifth-most fantasy points among RBs through two games. The Cowboys have run 11 personnel a league-high 84 percent of the time – and with defenses forced to account for Dallas’s WR threats, Zeke will have room to roam.
12. From Jacob Gibbs on Twitter:
Discouraging Week 2 snap rates:
– Jacob Gibbs (@jagibbs_23) September 22, 2020
Some of these snap counts aren’t worth worrying too much about (see Jones, Aaron) but Michel’s is a big-time concern. He had just seven carries for 19 yards in Week 2 and is at 17-56-1 through two games; you can safely drop him, as his rushing production has been effectively been replaced by Newton.
13. Last season, D.K. Metcalf was a clear No. 2 option to Tyler Lockett – but through two games in 2020, Metcalf is getting a lot more attention from Wilson. Metcalf enters Week 3 ranked third in the NFL in targeted air yards share at 48.61 percent, up significantly from the 28.51 percent mark he posted as a rookie. Metcalf has WR1 upside this week against a porous Dallas Cowboys pass defense; fire him up in season-long and daily fantasy lineups.
14. Just how rough have things been for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz? He ranks dead last in adjusted net yards per pass attempt among quarterbacks who have started their first two games (3.3); that figure is even lower than Cousins’. Only Dak Prescott has a lower touchdown rate among two-week starters than Wentz’s 2.4 percent, and Wentz shares the league lead in sacks with Deshaun Watson at eight. Things should get better, but ugh.
15. This week in “How Much Better Can This Guy Get?”, Lamar Jackson continues to amaze as a passer, ranked second in the NFL in completion rate (77.55 percent) and No. 2 in ANY/A (9.45). He also has the highest TD rate (9.0 percent) since entering the league, in case you weren’t sufficiently impressed. Jackson remains a stone-cold lock as the QB1 in fantasy – and if the Ravens land him a star receiver at some point, the sky’s the limit.
16. Who will be the last to miss a catch? Through two weeks, 19 players (minimum five receptions) have caught everything thrown their way; four players are tied for the lead with a 9-for-9 mark so far, a list that includes Jordan Akins, Chris Carson, Nyheim Hines and T.J. Hockenson. Carson is the most intriguing name on the list: he’s on pace to shatter his career high of 37 receptions in 2019, and his three TDs this season double his career mark.
17. At the other end of the spectrum: Miami Dolphins receiver Preston Williams, who has the lowest catch rate of any player with a minimum of 10 targets at 25 percent (3-for-12). A heinous drop cost Miami seven points last week, and a slip on a route in Week 1 led to a New England interception. Miami QB Ryan Fitzpatrick insists he’ll keep throwing to Williams, but another dud in Week 3 will put him squarely on the fantasy must-drop list.
18. A.J. Green is another receiver struggling to make an impact early in the season; he has the second-lowest catch rate at 36.4 percent and boasts a mind-boggling 3.64 receiving yards per target, which ranks 81st out of 83 players with 10 or more targets. But given that Green didn’t practice in full until the very end of the preseason, he’s still working out the kinks with rookie QB Joe Burrow – so take advantage and consider Green a buy-low candidate.
19. Last week, I outlined how little time Burrow had been given to throw in the Bengals’ Week 1 setback to the L.A. Chargers – and things didn’t get any better in a 35-30 Week 2 loss to rival Cleveland. The Bengals’ O-line has allowed the third-most pressures in the NFL (52), resulting in Burrow being sacked six times. Continued issues should lead to Burrow leaning heavily on safety valves like RBs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard and TE Drew Sample.
20. The Atlanta Falcons have seen a tremendous amount of offensive success through two games – but their starting running back has seen only a small sliver of the pie. Not only is Todd Gurley averaging a pedestrian 3.3 yards per carry with just two receptions, he has yet to break a tackle on any of his 37 carries (per PFF’s Ian Hartitz). If you can get anything of value for the looking-a-little-washed running back, now might be the time to do it.
21. N’Keal Harry might be one of the hottest Week 3 waiver wire tickets, but Patrick Thorman explains on Twitter that there’s another New England wide receiver worth your time:
Edelman might have one of his most productive seasons yet. #fantasyfootball
– Pierre Camus (@Roto_Chef) September 23, 2020
Edelman and Newton have established instant chemistry in the Patriots’ offense – and that shouldn’t be a surprise, with Edelman averaging over 150 targets the three times he has appeared in all 16 games over his career. Health will always be an issue with the 34-year-old, but when he’s on the field, he’s an every-week high-end WR3.
22. You might have noticed that Kyler Murray has become quite the rushing threat (okay, so he was as a rookie, but with an NFL-best 7.5 YPC through two weeks, he’s even more dangerous in 2020.) The biggest difference: Murray has been far more aggressive at taking off on pass plays, with nine scrambles in 2020 compared with just 29 all of last season. He’s also averaging 10.9 yards on those nine scrambles after averaging 6.9 YPS in 2019.
23. What does Murray’s additional rushing do to Kenyan Drake‘s value? Not much in terms of eating into his carries; Drake has toted the ball 36 times, fifth-most in the league to date. But Drake has seen just four targets in the passing game – and if that doesn’t trend upward, he’ll lose a good chunk of his value in 1/2 and full PPR formats.
24. Christian McCaffrey‘s injury doesn’t just put a major crimp in fantasy managers’ plans – it also sends the Carolina Panthers’ offense as a whole careening off a cliff. The Panthers enter Week 3 ranked 30th in the NFL with just eight Explosive Plays* on 135 offensive snaps (per Sharp Football Stats) – including a 2-for-89 success rate between their own 40-yard line and the opponent’s end zone. This offense is a big-time fade in fantasy formats.
*Explosive Plays are defined as runs of 10+ yards or pass completions of 15+ yards.
25. So which teams have been the best at producing Explosive Plays? It might come as no surprise to know that the Ravens are No. 1 in the league with a 16 percent success rate (20-for-123), with Cleveland (20-for-125, 16 percent) and Green Bay (21-for-142, 15 percent) close behind. And watch out for those Buffalo Bills, who have set the league standard with 12 Explosive Plays and an 18 percent success rate on first down.
26. Aaron Rodgers‘ renaissance has been fun to watch – and a big reason for his early success is the stoutness of the Packers’ offensive line, which boasts the No. 3 adjusted sack rate against at 2.9 percent (per Football Outsiders). Rodgers has been sacked just once through two games, and he ranks just outside the top 10 in average time to throw. If the O-line can continue to keep him upright, there’s no reason why Rodgers can’t challenge the 5,000-yard mark.
27. Don’t look now, but the Miami Dolphins might have found a running back worthy of fantasy consideration – and it’s neither of the two marquee guys they brought in during the offseason. Myles Gaskin ranks fourth among RBs in targets (11) and has turned them into 10 receptions for 62 yards; that, combined with a 5.4 YPC mark over 16 carries, should result in more work moving forward – and that puts him squarely in the weekly FLEX conversation.
28. Per Joe Dolan on Twitter:
Allen Robinson has caught 44.4% of his targets.
Per @SportsInfo_SIS, he’s caught 100% of his targets that have been accurate.
– Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) September 22, 2020
Fantasy managers shouldn’t give up on Robinson, especially when you consider that he has been flawless when the ball has actually been in his vicinity. He’ll have rough games for sure, but he’ll also make something out of nothing more than your average receiver – and that counts for a lot, especially if injuries continue to ravage fantasy lineups.
29. Let’s wrap things up with two tight ends that appear ready join the upper echelon at the position sooner than later. Jonnu Smith has come out of nowhere (sorry, Yates) to put up TE1 numbers through the first two games; he has excelled after the catch, averaging an incredible 11.3 YAC on his eight receptions. He also ranks third in the league with an average expected-to-actual YAC of 3.1 yards per reception, which portends big things.
30. If you’re thinking about dealing for Noah Fant, you had better do it soon. There’s a good chance Fant won’t be any less costly than he is right now, with 5-81-1 and 4-57-1 lines to open the season. Fant is also among the league leaders in average YAC (8.9) and expected-to-actual YAC differential (2.0), and will be an integral part of the Denver offense with Courtland Sutton lost for the season. Your window is closing to land a locked-in TE1 at a decent cost.