Fantasy Football Weekly Recap: Week 3
Welcome back to my Sunday column! Each week, I’ll be here to give you some instant stat-based insight into NFL offenses. After an injury-riddled Week 2, I’m thankful that we saw fewer notable injuries this week, although I’ll break down the injury fallout for those who did go down.
Story #1: Justin Jefferson exploded for 175 yards and a touchdown.
Just as we all expected, right? Jefferson was the consensus WR71 entering Week 3, and it looks like he’ll end up with a WR1 (if not the WR1) finish. Crazy stuff. Jefferson led the Vikings in targets (9), and no one came close to that figure — not Adam Thielen (5), not Kyle Rudolph (3), and not Bisi Johnson (0).
Jefferson had never been targeted more than three times in a game before Week 3, so it’s no surprise that no one saw him coming. But as the 0-3 Vikings become more and more desperate this season, you can expect to see Jefferson post similarly massive stat lines when Minnesota needs him to.
Jefferson makes for a great waiver stash after this week, although his volume has been too unstable for me to want to start him in Week 4. Also, Adam Thielen managers should be a little concerned about his upside moving forward.
Story #2: Rex Burkhead scored three times.
Wow. I thought it would be a good week for Sony Michel (and it was — he had 140 total yards), but Rex Burkhead really stole his thunder. On just 13 touches, Burkhead logged three touchdowns and 98 yards. Two of his scores came on the ground, while the other one came through the air.
His total points are mouthwatering, but you can’t expect him to post similar numbers next week. Not only did both J.J. Taylor (who?) and Sony Michel earn more carries than him, but Damien Harris is also eligible to return from injured reserve after this week. Oh, and James White should be back soon, too.
The Patriots’ backfield is an absolute mess for fantasy purposes. It’s clear that Bill Belichick wants to embrace a run-first offensive scheme, though, as the Patriots have averaged 40 carries per game in their two wins. It’s going to be the luck of the draw from here on out, so don’t put in an impulsive waiver claim for Burkhead just yet.
Story #3: The 49ers backfield got even murkier.
Those who started Jerick McKinnon received a nice payout, as the speedster totaled 77 yards and a score on 17 touches. However, those who started Jeffrey Wilson ended up with even more points, as he posted 69 yards and two scores on 15 touches.
It’s worth noting that McKinnon was the clear lead back early in the game. Wilson saw most of his usage after the game had already been decided, but an injury to McKinnon could also explain the offensive shift.
Kyle Shanahan's update on #49ers injuries suffered against the Giants:
TE Jordan Reed (ankle, knee)
RB Jerick McKinnon (rib)
CB Emmanuel Moseley (concussion)
LB Mark Nzeocha (quad)
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) September 27, 2020
McKinnon’s status is worth monitoring this week. If it sounds like a minor injury, and he can practice in full, then he’s a decent option against the Eagles next week. If he can’t go, Wilson is the next man up, and he’s worth adding off waivers if he’s still available. And even if McKinnon can play, Wilson should still see enough touches to keep himself in the flex conversation.
Oh, and if McKinnon misses time, Brandon Aiyuk should get some additional rushing plays. He ran the ball three times for 31 yards and a score on Sunday (in addition to catching five targets for 70 yards on a team-high eight targets), so if he found himself on waivers in your league after his disappointing Week 2, he’d make a great addition for Week 4.
Stories #4-8: Injuries.
Diontae Johnson, John Brown, Dallas Goedert, DeSean Jackson, and Russell Gage all went down with early injuries. Tarik Cohen also went down, and it sounds like it could be a season-ender. If you started any of these guys, well, I’ll let Zuko say it for me:
Let’s break down the fallout from each of these injuries.
Johnson suffered a concussion in the second quarter. Without him for most of the game, Ben Roethlisberger’s lead target-getters were Eric Ebron (7) and James Washington (7), while JuJu Smith-Schuster (5) retained his short-yardage role, and Chase Claypool (4) didn’t see a ton of additional usage. I’m optimistic that Johnson can clear the concussion protocol for next week, so this is a non-story for start/sit or waiver wire purposes. But if he can’t go, Washington would gain the most value.
Brown left the game with a calf injury, and he did not return in the second half. Josh Allen’s go-to guys with Brown off the field were Cole Beasley (7 targets), Stefon Diggs (6), and Gabriel Davis (4). He also threw six passes (and three touchdowns) to his tight ends, although neither Tyler Kroft nor Lee Smith should see that kind of usage once Dawson Knox returns. Soft-tissue injuries are always difficult to evaluate — Brown could miss a game, or he could be fine. Practice reports will be the best way to gauge his injury’s severity. If he has to miss extended time, that’s a slight boost to Diggs’ value and a huge to Beasley’s. So if Beasley is on waivers, he’s worth a speculative pickup this week.
Goedert limped off the field with a foot injury in the first quarter and was quickly ruled out, while Jackson aggravated his hamstring in the second quarter and was ruled questionable to return (and later, out). The Eagles already lacked receiving depth, and these injuries do not bode well for them. Greg Ward led the team in targets (11) with Zach Ertz (10) close behind. I’m not optimistic about Goedert’s Week 4 availability, and even if Jackson can go, he hasn’t done much for the Eagles this season. Ward is worth a waiver claim, but I would avoid the rest of Philly’s offense for now.
Gage suffered a concussion early in Week 3. Without both Gage and Julio Jones, Matt Ryan had to force-feed Calvin Ridley, and he earned 13 targets — but he caught just five of them. Olamide Zaccheaus (6) and Brandon Powell (4) also caught Ryan’s eye after Gage went down, while Hayden Hurst (3) nearly missed the box score entirely with just one catch. Both Gage and Jones’ statuses are worth monitoring as next week approaches, and none of Atlanta’s depth receivers make attractive waiver-wire options.
Cohen may have torn his ACL this week, and that would be the end of his 2020 campaign. We’ll have to wait for MRI results to know for sure, but if Cohen is down, then running backs David Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson should see an increase in volume.
Story #9: Matt Nagy benched Mitch Trubisky for Nick Foles.
Finally, BDN has returned! Inconsistent play from Trubisky precipitated the quarterback change, and somehow, Foles came in and led the Bears to a three-score, fourth-quarter comeback. The Bears still gave up way too much to get him, but hey, at least he looked good.
Of course, now the world wants to know — who will start Week 4?
Matt Nagy won’t make a call on a #Bears QB going forward yet. “We just want to enjoy the win tonight.”
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) September 27, 2020
Nagy didn’t commit to Trubisky after the swap, and to me, it sounds like Foles might get the nod in Week 4. If he’s a free agent, he’s worth an add in 2QB leagues, although I suspect that one of your league mates may have already stashed him. He shouldn’t be on your radar in 1QB leagues. The swap is also probably good news for Allen Robinson, and he should have a slightly more stable floor with Foles under center.
Story #10: Darrell Henderson asserted himself as the Rams’ lead back.
So much for a running back by committee, Sean McVay. Henderson logged 21 touches on Sunday, while ostensible starter Malcolm Brown touched the ball just seven times. Henderson’s late-game breakout last week may explain McVay’s confidence in him, although the fact that Brown suffered a rib injury last week could have also played a role.
I was skeptical of Henderson before, but he looks like the player we expected him to be back in 2019. He turned his 21 touches into 120 yards and a score, and he was considerably more efficient than Brown with his touches.
Henderson is the back to start here while Cam Akers recovers from his injury over the next few weeks. I used to like Brown because of his goal-line snaps, but Henderson has started to earn some of them, which drastically decreases Brown’s fantasy value. I’d hold him for a week to see if he bounces back, but honestly, he looks droppable.
Story #11: Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are (fantasy football) busts.
If you drafted either of them, I’m sorry, but it’s time to move on. The Browns have shown us what kind of team they are, and their run-first offense doesn’t leave much room for either Beckham or Landry to succeed. If you don’t believe me, just listen to Beckham himself — he told Cleveland.com that it’s “probably not going to be that kind of season” for him.
Beckham caught four of six targets for 59 yards, while teammate Landry caught all four of his targets for 39. Those are low-end WR3 numbers at best, and while Beckham will still have high upside when the Browns find themselves playing catch-up, he isn’t the WR1 or WR2 that you may have drafted him as.
Fortunately, Beckham’s name recognition may make him a valuable trade asset in some of your leagues. I’d recommend trying to swap him for a young, unproven asset like James Robinson, Myles Gaskin, or Diontae Johnson.
Story #12: Devonta Freeman and Dion Lewis disappointed those who picked them up.
If you lost Saquon Barkley and eagerly added one of his replacements, I’m sorry, but things did not work out in Week 3. While we can probably chalk some of it up to the 49ers’ strong defensive front, they had to play without multiple starters (Solomon Thomas, Nick Bosa, and Dee Ford), so it could just be tough sledding for the Giants from here on out.
Since the Giants found themselves down early, it’s hard to gauge how they intend to use these running backs moving forward. Carry-wise, Freeman (5) led the way, although Wayne Gallman (4) came in close behind. Lewis (1) was irrelevant in both the running game and the passing game.
I would send Lewis back to waivers if you picked him up. Freeman is a decent hold, but I wouldn’t start him for the Giants’ Week 4 game against the Rams. And in the unlikely chance that you added Gallman, his two receptions meant that he technically out-touched Freeman this week, but I’m not sure if that’ll happen again. Drop him if you can find better value elsewhere.
Story #13: Darren Waller disappeared for the Raiders.
After a 12-catch showing just a week ago, Waller fell off the face of the Earth. He caught just two of his four targets for nine yards! In 19 games for the Raiders, Waller has caught more than two passes in all but three games. I’m chalking this up as a fluke, but there could be one cause for concern: injury.
Waller was questionable with a knee injury, and that may have limited him somewhat on Sunday, especially since the Raiders were on a short week after beating the Saints on Monday Night Football.
So while I’m not sounding the alarm bells, Waller’s practice reps are worth monitoring this week. If he’s still limited, then it could be worth streaming a tight end in Week 4, although you’ll probably be fine if you don’t.
It’s worth mentioning that Hunter Renfrow popped off for six catches, 84 yards, and a touchdown with Waller limited (and Henry Ruggs out). He could be worth starting against the Bills if Ruggs can’t play next week.
Story #14: Drew Brees is washed.
I know this is a hot take, so let me repeat it just so we’re clear: Drew Brees is washed.
Drew Brees' average depth of target through two quarters:
— PFF (@PFF) September 28, 2020
The 41-year-old has been exposed without Michael Thomas. To be fair, he’s already shown us how limited his arm is — last year, Brees ranked 29th among quarterbacks in average depth of attempt at 6.8. This season, that number has fallen to 4.8 (and that’s not counting his Week 3 performance).
So while we can trust Brees to make the short-yardage throws that Thomas and Alvin Kamara can turn into yards, we can’t trust him to generate yardage on his own. He’s still a low-end QB1, of course, but his fantasy value now depends entirely upon Kamara and Thomas.
Story #15: The Saints are an excellent defense to target with tight ends.
The Saints had surrendered the most fantasy points to tight ends heading into Week 3, and they will keep their top spot after a grisly showing on Sunday Night Football. Green Bay tight ends Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, and Jace Sternberger combined for eight receptions, 104 yards, and two touchdowns against them.
Just how good have the Saints made opposing tight ends look? O.J. Howard caught four passes for 36 yards and a score against them in Week 1, and he’s totaled just four receptions since then. Oh, and Darren Waller caught 12 passes for 105 yards against them in Week 2.
The Saints will face a pair of low-end TE1s in the next two weeks: T.J. Hockenson and Hunter Henry. Unless they adjust, these two players should post some impressive fantasy numbers in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively.
Story #16: Chris Godwin injured his hamstring.
Uh oh. After sitting out Week 2 with a concussion, slot superstar Chris Godwin was quickly ruled out for Tampa Bay with a hamstring injury. Before he left, he had amassed 64 yards and a score on five catches.
Hamstring injuries are hard to gauge, and two other elite wide receivers are struggling with similar ailments (Julio Jones and Davante Adams). While we don’t know much for sure yet, Godwin managers should have a backup plan in place should Godwin have to miss time like Jones and Adams.
As we wait for news on Godwin’s status, wide receiver Scotty Miller makes a great speculative add. He had the third-most targets for Tampa Bay this week (5), trailing just Godwin and Rob Gronkowski. He could post WR3 numbers as Tom Brady’s second-best wide receiver.
Story #17: Chris Carson sprained his knee.
Carson got hurt late in the Seahawks’ win over the Cowboys after defensive lineman Trysten Hill made one of the dirtiest plays I’ve seen in a while.
This dude has some hurt coming his way next week for this gator roll. We see it on film. pic.twitter.com/r0RcQuJlni
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) September 28, 2020
The Seahawks are still evaluating Carson’s injury, so it’ll be a story to monitor throughout the week. If Carson can’t play next week, then Travis Homer and Carlos Hyde would gain the most value. And if Carson were forced to miss extended time, then Rashaad Penny would be worth an add-and-stash for when he can return from the PUP list in a few weeks.
Story #18: Andy Isabella exploded with Christian Kirk out.
Isabella caught four passes for 47 yards and two scores on Sunday. Although he had only earned three targets on the season so far, his breakout was relatively predictable if you looked at his air yards, Kirk’s air yards, and the matchup:
IT'S ANDY ISABELLA TIME.
▫️ #1 on ARI in aDOT.
▫️ #3 on ARI in total air yards — despite only having 3 targets.
▫️ 100th percentile 40-yard dash time (4.31).
▫️ He plays DET, who allow 15.04 YDS/REC (#4 in the NFL). https://t.co/7JSlHgOsm9 pic.twitter.com/lII4uJOABj
— Isaiah Sirois (@is_sirois) September 25, 2020
To be clear, Isabella won’t have much value with Christian Kirk in the lineup. They play very similar roles, and as Weeks 1 and 2 showed, Kirk will earn more of Kyler Murray’s deep looks than Isabella will.
I’m not adding Isabella in redraft leagues, but he could be a strategic DFS play for Week 4 if Kirk can’t suit up.
Story #19: Adrian Peterson led Detroit’s backfield in touches — by a lot.
So what does this mean? Not a whole lot. Matt Patricia is going to pick his backs based on the game script. Peterson is his preferred option to grind out the clock, Swift looks like the go-to receiving weapon in come-from-behind situations, and Johnson inhabits an awkward middle ground between the two.
It’s never fun to play “guess the game script” with a team like Detroit, so I recommend that you trade whichever players you have in this backfield.
Story #20: Michael Gallup led the Cowboys in receiving.
The receiver needed a strong performance after two unimpressive showings in Weeks 1 and 2. So far, his average depth of target (16.3) suggests that he’s a mid-to-deep-range threat for Dak Prescott, and that compensates for the lower volume that he’s seeing with CeeDee Lamb in the lineup. Gallup is a high-upside, low-floor WR3 this season, and he finally showed us his ceiling in Week 3.
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