Welcome back to my Sunday column! Each week, I’ll be here to give you some instant stat-based insight into NFL offenses. We saw some big names get hurt on Sunday, including Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, and Drew Lock. Those injuries will all have fantasy implications, so let’s break down what that means for your lineup.
Let’s get started!
Story #1: Saquon Barkley went down with a knee injury, and Christian McCaffrey hurt his ankle.
Star running back Saquon Barkley got carted to the locker room, and the Giants fear that he tore his ACL. That is terrible news, and if you took him with the second overall pick, you should prepare for the worst. Even if this isn’t the end of his season, it’s highly unlikely that Barkley will return next week.
Without Barkley in the lineup, the Giants trusted Dion Lewis with the football. Lewis got 10 carries for 20 yards and a score, and he added four receptions for 36 yards. He’s a high-end waiver add this week, and while he won’t give you the same level of production that you got from Barkley, he should give you RB2-type numbers.
It’s worth noting that the Giants didn’t have Wayne Gallman this week. As the third-string back, Gallman got a single touch last week, and he’d likely form a committee with Lewis. He’s worth a look in standard-scoring leagues, and he’ll be a touchdown-dependent option.
The Giants may also choose to elevate one of their practice squad running backs, Rod Smith or Sandro Platzgummer. I think they’d roll with Smith over Platzgummer, but I doubt that either of them would get much work in Week 3. They’re players to monitor, but neither of them is worth a speculative add.
Lastly, we don’t know a whole lot about McCaffrey’s injury yet. We do know that he hurt his ankle, had it examined on the sideline, and will undergo an MRI on Monday. Since we’ll have a better picture of his status before waivers process, I wouldn’t panic, but Mike Davis would be a must-add everywhere if McCaffrey were forced to miss time.
Story #2: 49ers lost… a bunch of players.
Jimmy G may have a high ankle sprain, and that would keep him sidelined for four-to-six weeks. Backup Nick Mullens would serve as his replacement, and he did a decent job against the Jets, as he went 8-for-11 and earned 71 yards. He’s a great add in 2QB leagues for next week.
Mostert exited with an apparent knee injury, and the 49ers suspect that it’s an MCL issue, not an ACL tear. So while Mostert could miss a few weeks, he won’t miss the full season. Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon figure to see a large uptick in volume as a result, and if either is on waivers, I would grab one for Week 3. San Francisco will play the Giants next week, and they just allowed the Bears to total 135 rushing yards, so both guys have RB2-type ceilings.
The 49ers’ defense took two big hits with Bosa and Thomas going down, and they may struggle to pay off their D/ST1 value without them.
One last note — the quality of MetLife Field’s turf is a story to follow in the lead-up to Week 3. Arik Armstead and Kyle Shanahan already noted complaints about the field’s condition, and it may have played a role in the injuries suffered by both teams. Since the 49ers are scheduled to play again here next week, someone may need to address the issue before the team feels comfortable playing here again.
Story #3: The Broncos lost starting quarterback Drew Lock.
Lock exited the game early after injuring his throwing shoulder against Pittsburgh. While we don’t know the extent of the injury, it’s never good to see a quarterback hurt his preferred arm. Lock drafters should batten down the hatches and find an alternative starter.
Surprisingly, Lock’s tight end didn’t lose much value without him. Backup Jeff Driskel threw for 256 yards after Lock went down, and Noah Fant managed to post a stat line of 4-57-1 on five targets. That’s all you can ask for from your tight end spot.
That said, the same wasn’t true for his wide receivers, as neither Courtland Sutton nor Jerry Jeudy hit value in Week 2. Both receivers earned 60-plus yards on three (Sutton) or four (Jeudy) catches, and while those numbers won’t lose you a matchup, they won’t win you one, either.
Denver’s wide receivers would be easier to fade if Lock sat out next week, but Fant may continue to post low-end TE1 numbers if he maintains his high level of efficiency.
Story #4: Parris Campbell got carted off the field with a knee injury.
A low hit from Harrison Smith ended Campbell’s day early against the Vikings in Week 2. The injury comes just a week after he looked like the Colts’ best receiver against the Jaguars. If you added him on waivers this week, get ready to drop him before Week 3. He might not be done for the season, but’s likely going to miss a game or two.
Without Campbell, Philip Rivers targeted backup tight end Mo Alie-Cox and Michael Pittman six times each. Pittman, listed as a backup, will probably start in place of Campbell. While Zach Pascal outscored Pittman by securing a late-game touchdown pass, Pittman is my preferred waiver-wire add for the week. Pascal is a short-yardage receiver who will depend on receptions or touchdowns to score fantasy points.
Meanwhile, Alie-Cox looked like a stud with Jack Doyle out. The Colts have featured two tight ends in the same offense before (remember Doyle and Dwayne Allen, anyone?), so Alie-Cox might be worth a prospective add heading into Week 3. He shouldn’t be a high-priority add, but his target share and 111 receiving yards make him an attractive option.
Oh, and remember Nyheim Hines? Yeah, he let’s look at his snap count:
Colts final HB snap count
Jonathan Taylor 49
Jordan Wilkins 17
Nyheim Hines 9
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) September 20, 2020
Oof. Across those nine plays, he earned no carries and caught just one pass. The Colts may use him more frequently in future weeks, but for now, he looks like someone to drop.
Story #5: James Conner returned to a workhorse role… and Diontae Johnson finished as Pittsburgh’s WR1.
Well. It looks like his Week 1 usage meant nothing, as James Conner logged 16 carries for 106 yards and a score in Week 2. The Steelers mostly controlled this game, and Conner helped them do it with his consistency on the ground.
Backup Benny Snell, a popular waiver-wire add for Week 2, logged only three carries and one reception for a total of one yard. Unless you really want Conner’s handcuff, you can safely drop him from your roster. Conner drafters, it looks like you’re safe with him.
Also, despite his two touchdowns a week ago, JuJu Smith-Schuster got outplayed by Diontae Johnson. Johnson out-targeted him (13-to-8), out-caught him (8-to-7), earned more yards (92-to-48), and added a score. They may alternate between WR1A/WR1B some weeks, but Johnson out-targeted Smith-Schuster last week, so I’m valuing him as Pittsburgh’s top wideout.
Story #6: Cam Akers went down with a rib injury.
Akers went down early against the Eagles after injuring his rib. We don’t know much for sure, but the injury could cost him a week or two, so Akers drafters should prepare themselves for a brief absence until they get further information.
Rams final HB snap count
Malcolm Brown 37
Darrell Henderson 29
Cam Akers 3(injured)
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) September 20, 2020
That said, Henderson impressed me when on the field. He out-carried Brown (12-to-11), earned more yards (81-to-47), and scored once. Henderson added 40 yards in the passing game, while Brown failed to log a single target. Brown also exited the game with a finger injury.
If the Henderson drafter dropped him after Week 1, they wouldn’t have been unjustified in doing so — Henderson saw very limited action as the Rams easied him back in after an injury. That said, he looked like the better back in Week 2, so expect him to play a bigger role moving forward. Add him wherever you can.
Story #7: Davante Adams injured his hamstring.
Adams left Sunday’s blowout against the Lions with a hamstring injury. That’s not good news for Aaron Rodgers, who doesn’t really have anyone else to throw to. Adams returned to the game for a few plays, but his status will be up in the air for next week. We’ll have to wait for more information, and he’ll be a player to monitor throughout the week.
If Adams misses time, then the Packers will probably emphasize the running game a lot more. They lack the depth necessary at wide receiver to do anything else, in my opinion, as neither Allen Lazard nor Marquez Valdes-Scantling poses a serious threat to opposing defenses.
Lazard logged three catches on five targets for 45 yards. MVS caught three of his six targets for 64. Neither player scored, and Aaron Jones led the team in targets (8) and receiving yards (68). While both Lazard and MVS would be worth adding off waivers, don’t expect too much from them. Jamaal Williams could be another smart pickup, as the Packers won’t be able to lean on Jones completely.
Story #8: Leonard Fournette out-performed Ronald Jones.
Just as we all expected, Jones quickly fell out of favor in Tampa Bay. He fumbled a handoff early in the second quarter and saw much less of the field afterward.
43-year old Tom Brady jumped right in the pile to try to get it back.pic.twitter.com/r6CrV6KrtQ
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 20, 2020
Fournette had the advantage in snaps (26-to-21), carries (12-to-7), targets (5-to-2), receptions (4-to-2), rushing yards (103-to-23), touchdowns (2-to-1) — just about every stat that matters.
It looks like Bruce Arians will play the hot hand at running back, so don’t chalk this up as Fournette’s backfield quite yet. Tampa Bay will give people headaches all season long, but as of right now, Fournette looks like the better option for Week 3’s game against Denver.
Story #9: Mike Gesicki led the Dolphins in receiving.
I kind of called this one. The Bills played without two of their starting linebackers, Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano, so it’s not surprising that Gesicki had such a good day. He caught eight of his 11 targets for 130 yards and one touchdown, much more than what DeVante Parker (5-53) and Preston Williams (1-26) could do.
It’s a great turnaround from his disappointing Week 1 performance, but I don’t think that these numbers are sustainable. Gesicki saw this volume because Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White shut down Williams, so if Williams isn’t as tightly covered, Gesicki may not pop off like this again.
The bigger story is that the Dolphins’ offense looked good again. Week 1’s matchup with the Patriots was probably just an outlier, so you can breathe a bit easier about guys like Gesicki, Williams, and Parker.
Story #10: Ryan Tannehill tossed four touchdowns.
Experts expected that Derrick Henry would get most of the points in this one, especially with A.J. Brown out, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill led the way instead. He scored four times on just 24 passing attempts, and Jonnu Smith (2), Corey Davis (1), and Adam Humphries (1) all put up scores.
This may be more of a story about Jacksonville’s defense than one about the Titans’ offense. Jacksonville surrendered tons of fantasy points on the ground last year, but this year, they might be a team to target with quarterbacks and wide receivers.
That said, Davis and Humphries cemented themselves as strong waiver-wire adds for as long as Brown sits out. Humphries led the team in targets (6), while Davis (5) tied with Smith (5) for second. If either one isn’t on a roster, you should fix that before the Titans play the Vikings’ roastable secondary in Week 3.
Story #11: Tight ends looked good for the Cowboys and Falcons.
Schultz, who replaced the injured Blake Jarwin, led the Cowboys in targets with 10, and he caught nine of them for 88 yards and a score. That’s a ton of value, and while he won’t be a viable option every week, Schultz looks like a great streamer in pass-heavy game scripts. He could be worth an add before Dallas’ Week 3 game against the Seahawks, which should be another high-scoring affair.
Hurst redeemed himself after he disappointed against the Seahawks in Week 1. He earned the third-most targets (8) and receptions (5), and he totaled 72 yards and a score. It appears like he will inherit Austin Hooper’s looks after all, which was in question after his disappointing show last week. Hurst drafters should comfortably start him against the Bears in Week 3.
Story #12: James Robinson, workhorse back?
After an impressive Week 1 showing against the Colts, Robinson looked even better against the Titans. He earned 102 rushing yards on 16 carries, and he added 18 yards on three receptions. He’s the clear lead back in this offense, and while Laviska Shenault will vulture some carries (and Chris Thompson will vulture some targets), he appears set for a high-volume role.
Also, it looks like the Jaguars will be able to keep games closer than I had anticipated. I had written Robinson off as someone who wouldn’t often see a lot of usage due to his team often playing from behind. But if Jacksonville can hang with Tennessee, then they can probably hang with most teams in the AFC, so that’s not a good reason to fade Robinson.
Yes, there’s a chance that Ryquell Armstead could take some work upon his return. But I want to believe in Robinson, and if the person who added him is willing to sell, I would make a lowball offer while you still can.
Story #13: J.K. Dobbins and Mark Andrews disappointed.
After they dropped two touchdowns apiece in Week 1, fantasy players may have expected more from Dobbins and Andrews in Week 2, but that didn’t come to fruition. Andrews caught just one of his three targets for 29 yards, while Dobbins touched the ball only three times (to be fair, though he still managed to earn 61 yards).
The Ravens’ offense depends on only one player: Lamar Jackson. Everyone else’s fantasy production will fluctuate each week. Mark Ingram is the clear lead back in this offense, and he earned the most touches in both of the past two games. That said, Dobbins and Gus Edwards have roles to play, and their presence caps Ingram’s upside.
Obviously, you shouldn’t give up on either Andrews or Dobbins after their below-average Week 2 results. You should, however, come to expect similar up-and-down performances from them moving forward.
Story #14: Brandin Cooks replaced an injured Will Fuller.
We still don’t know for sure what ailed Will Fuller in this game, but we do know that he touched the ball just one time. With Fuller out of the equation, Brandin Cooks led the Texans in targets (8) and receiving yards (95). Tight end Jordan Akins led the team in receptions (7), but Darren Fells scored Houston’s only passing touchdown of the day.
Fuller’s status will be something to monitor as Week 3 approaches. He’s been plagued by similar soft-tissue injuries throughout his career, but the chemistry he flashed with Watson in Week 1 proves that he’s worth holding onto.
If Fuller misses time, Randall Cobb would be worth an add from the waiver wire. The veteran slot receiver caught five of his six targets for 59 yards in the loss, and he should be a volume-dependent WR3 option for as long as Fuller can’t go.
Story #15: Justin Herbert replaced an injured Tyrod Taylor.
In a shocking turn of events, Tyrod Taylor suffered a chest injury and couldn’t start Sunday’s game against the Chiefs. So the Chargers trotted out rookie Justin Herbert instead, and boy, did he look good.
Herbert completed 66 percent of his passes for 311 yards and a score, and he added 18 yards and another score on the ground. He threw for more yards than opposing quarterback Patrick Mahomes, did, too.
Herbert could become a viable streaming option if he can keep the starting gig over Taylor, and he is a must-add in 2QB leagues — if you can even get him off waivers.
Story #16: Sammy Watkins disappeared.
Watkins led the Chiefs in targets, air yards, and receiving yards for Week 1. He did none of that in Week 2. His targets (3) and receptions (1) trailed Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Demarcus Robinson; he managed to tie Mecole Hardman in targets.
I think the Chargers’ tough secondary best explains Watkins’ disappearance. Even without Derwin James, they’ve still got Casey Hayward, Desmond King, and Chris Harris, so it’s no surprise that Kansas City struggled to score until late.
The jury is still out on Watkins. He’s a headache to roster, but Mahomes gives him too much upside for me to feel comfortable dropping him. Leave him on your bench and see how Mahomes distributes the targets against the Ravens in Week 3.
Story #17: Seattle’s tight ends did nothing.
Greg Olsen GIFTS the Pats a pick-six early 🎁pic.twitter.com/v68OkbGIsd
— PFF (@PFF) September 21, 2020
Since Dissly and Jacob Hollister were consistent streaming options in this offense last year, it was a bit surprising to see both Dissly and Olsen. That said, this development may say more about New England’s defense than either of the tight ends. The Patriots limited Mike Gesicki to three catches for 30 yards in Week 1, so they could just be a team to fade tight ends against.
Story #18: Cam Newton can still throw a football.
We saw Newton run all over the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, but I was unsure about what he could do in a pass-heavy game script. As it turns out, he’s still great when he asked to throw the football.
Newton passed for 397 yards in Week 2. That’s more than twice the mark of 155 he posted in Week 1, and he didn’t lean on short-yardage passes to do so. Wide receiver Julian Edelman totaled 179 yards on just eight receptions — good for 22.4 yards per catch — so all of my concerns about this offense have gone out the window.
If Newton is truly a dual-threat quarterback again, then he’ll be a QB1 every week. Keep starting him with confidence in both 1QB and 2QB leagues.
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