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The Primer: Week 3 Edition (2023 Fantasy Football)

The Primer: Week 3 Edition (2023 Fantasy Football)

Dallas Cowboys vs. Arizona Cardinals

Pace and playcalling notes

  • The Dallas offensive attack is vanilla from a pace and passing rate perspective. They rank 21st and 19th in neutral pace and passing rate.
  • Arizona continues to deploy a middling pace (15th in neutral pace) and run-balanced attack (14th in neutral passing rate).

Quarterbacks

Dak Prescott: Prescott has been game-managing. He’s 15th in passing grade with the ninth-lowest yards per attempt, fourth-lowest aDOT, and the seventh-highest adjusted completion rate. This could be the week Mike McCarthy lets him rip it. Arizona has allowed the sixth-highest yards per attempt, the 11th-highest adjusted completion rate, and the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Week 3 Positional Value: QB2 with QB1 upside

Joshua Dobbs: Dobbs doesn’t have a chance this week against the Cowboys. Sit Dobbs even in Superflex formats. Dallas is a defensive juggernaut. They have the highest pressure rate in the NFL. Their pass defense has allowed the third-lowest yards per attempt, the lowest passer rating, and the fourth-lowest adjusted completion rate. Week 3 Positional Value: Must sit in all formats

Running Backs

Tony Pollard: Pollard is the RB6 in fantasy, playing 64% of the snaps per week. He’s averaged 25 touches and 95.5 total yards while ranking first in expected fantasy points per game. His efficiency numbers are lagging, which has me slightly concerned. Among 48 qualifying running backs, he’s 43rd in missed tackles forced per attempt and 32nd in yards after contact per attempt. I’m not sounding the alarm yet, but this is something to monitor. Arizona has put a tough run defense on the field weekly. They have the tenth-lowest missed tackles allowed per attempt, the eighth-lowest yards after contact per attempt allowed, and the eighth-lowest yards per carry allowed to gap runs (Pollard 64% gap). Week 3 Positional Value: RB1

James Conner: Conner is operating as Arizona’s bell-cow, averaging 78% of the snaps with 21 touches and 88 total yards. Among 48 qualifying backs, Conner ranks 19th in missed tackles forced per attempt and yards after contact per attempt. Conner is 17th in expected fantasy points per game. Dallas is just as tough on the ground as they are through the air. The Cowboys have the 13th-lowest stuff rate, but the rest of their metrics are elite. Dallas has the third-lowest missed tackles allowed rate, the fifth-lowest yards after contact per attempt, and the second-lowest yards per carry to gap runs (Conner 54% gap). Week 3 Positional Value: Volume-based RB2/3

Wide Receivers

CeeDee Lamb: Lamb leads the team with a 27% Target share and a 36.5% air-yard share as the WR12 in fantasy. Arizona has utilized zone coverage on 61% of their corner’s snaps. Lamb last season ranked 14th in receiving grade and seventh in YPRR against zone. Against zone coverage, Lamb leads the team with a 34.2% Target share, and he’s second behind only Brandin Cooks (36.4%) in first-read share (34.8%). Lamb will run about 75% of his routes against Jalen Thompson (2022: 68.1% catch rate and 103.2 passer rating in slot coverage). Week 3 Positional Value: Elite WR1

Brandin Cooks: Cooks opened the week with a limited practice (knee), but he upgraded to back-to-back full sessions to close the week. Cooks doesn’t carry an injury designation into Week 3. This season, in his small sample against zone coverage, Cooks has a 33.3% Target share, a 34.2% air-yard share, and a 40% TPRR (2.1 YPRR). Even going back to last season, Cooks still has the juice to get loose against zone. Last season, once Houston came to their senses and transferred Cooks back to a field stretching role, he crushed against zone. After Week 7, among 68 qualifying wide receivers, Cooks ranked 22nd in receiving grade and 21st in YPRR. Cooks will run about 81% of his routes against Marco Wilson (81.3% catch rate and 139.6 passer rating) and Kei’Trel Clark (66.7% catch rate and 95.8 passer rating). Week 3 Positional Value: WR3/4 with WR2 upside

Michael Gallup: Gallup has become an afterthought in this passing attack. Against zone coverage, he has a 10.5% Target share and a 20.4% air-yard share (0.43 YPRR). Gallup has a 13% first-read share (fourth on the team) against zone. Week 3 Positional Value: Must-sit WR5/6

Marquise Brown: Marquise Brown has a 24.6% Target share and a 30.5% air yard share with a 34.9% first read share. Among 60 qualifying wide receivers, he ranks 37th in receiving grade and 41st in YPRR. Dallas has been utilizing their outside corners in man coverage on 49% of their snaps. Last year, among 83 wide receivers, Brown ranked 21st in receiving grade and 31st in YPRR against man coverage. Brown will run about 79% of his routes against DaRon Bland (50% catch rate and 16.7 passer rating) and Stephon Gilmore(53.8% catch rate and 86.1 passer rating). Week 3 Positional Value: WR4

Week 3 Positional Value:

Tight Ends

Jake Ferguson: Ferguson has only a 46.2% route run per team dropback rate. He’s seen a 15.9% Target share with a 33% TPRR. Ferguson leads the NFL with seven red zone targets. His touchdown equity in this offense is massive. Last year, Arizona allowed the most receiving touchdowns to tight ends. This season, they have given up the third-most receiving yards and fifth-highest yards per reception to the position. Week 3 Positional Value: TE2 matchup-based streaming option

Zach Ertz: Ertz has a 78.5% route run per team dropback rate with a 29.5% Target share, a 27.0% air yard share, and a 30.2% first-read share. He ranks 23rd in receiving grade and seventh in YPRR (minimum six targets). Last year, Dallas allowed the sixth-lowest receiving yards and second-lowest yards per reception to tight ends. Week 3 Positional Value: volume-based TE2 with low-end TE1 upside

NYG vs. SF TEN vs. CLE ATL vs. DET NO vs. GB DEN vs. MIA LAC vs. MIN NE vs. NYJ BUF vs. WAS HOU vs. JAC IND vs. BAL CAR vs. SEA CHI vs. KC DAL vs. ARI PIT vs. LV PHI vs. TB LAR vs. CIN

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Pace and playcalling notes

  • Pittsburgh has the fourth-slowest neutral pace, but they are leading the way in neutral passing rate (83.3%!!!).
  • Las Vegas copied and pasted their stretch run philosophy for this season. They have the ninth-slowest neutral pace while having the eighth-highest neutral rushing rate.

Quarterbacks

Kenny Pickett: The promise and hope that Kenny Pickett showed in the preseason feels like a distant memory. He’s amassed the second-lowest passing grade, the seventh-lowest yards per attempt, and the fifth-lowest adjusted completion rate. This week’s matchup could allow him the chance to rekindle some of those preseason flames. The Raiders have been atrocious at defending the pass. They have allowed the second-most passing touchdowns, the second-highest passer rating, and the highest-adjusted completion rate. If Pickett can’t show anything here, stick a fork in him. He’s done. Week 3 Positional Value: QB2

Jimmy Garoppolo: Garoppolo has played well so far, ranking sixth in passing grade, fifth in yards per attempt, and 13th in adjusted completion rate, but this matchup could expose his warts. The Steelers have held passers to the 14th-lowest passer rating, the fifth-lowest adjusted completion rating, and the 13th-fewest fantasy points per game. Pittsburgh has the third-highest pressure rate in the NFL. Garoppolo has the 11th-lowest adjusted completion rate and third-lowest passer rating against pressure. Week 3 Positional Value: low-end QB2

Running Backs

Weeks 1-2

Player Rushing attempts Targets Routes RZ opportunities
Najee Harris 16 5 39 1
Jaylen Warren 9 11 33 1

Najee Harris: Harris has played 52-57% of the snaps weekly, averaging 9.5 touches and 38 total yards. He’s splitting time with Warren, but he has recently shown some life. He ranks 13th in missed tackles forced per attempt and seventh in yards after contact per attempt. Las Vegas has the eighth-lowest stuff rate and the fourth-highest yards after contact per attempt allowed. If Harris wants to try and put some distance between him and Warren, here’s his shot. The Raiders have allowed the seventh-highest yards per carry to zone runs (Harris 56.3% zone). Week 3 Positional Value: low-end RB2/high-end RB3

Jaylen Warren: Warren has played 40-43% of the snaps weekly, averaging nine touches and 52 total yards. Among 53 qualifying running backs, Warren ranks fifth in missed tackles forced per attempt and 28th in yards after contact per attempt. Warren is a pass-game weapon with a 13.2% Target share and 38.1% route run per team dropback rate. Among 24 qualifying backs, he’s eighth in receiving grade and second in YPRR behind only Josh Jacobs. Warren can not only rip the Raiders on zone runs (66% zone), but he can have a solid day through the air. Last year, Las Vegas allowed the most receiving yards, the fourth-highest yards per reception, and the fourth-most receptions to running backs. Week 3 Positional Value: RB3 with RB2 upside

Josh Jacobs: Jacobs remains the Raiders’ bell cow, averaging 76% of the snaps played with 17.5 touches and 60 total yards. Despite the lockdown on work, it’s been a tough start to the season for Jacobs. Jacobs has the third-highest stuff rate, ranks 24th in missed tackles per attempt, and has the eighth-lowest yards after contact per attempt. Jacobs can’t escape all of the blame, but his offensive is part of the problem. Las Vegas has the eighth-lowest yards before contact per attempt. The Steelers’ swiss cheese run defense could be the get-right elixir this week. Pittsburgh has surrendered the sixth-highest missed tackles allowed rate, the highest yards after contact per attempt, and the fourth-highest explosive run rate. Week 3 Positional Value: RB1

Wide Receivers

George Pickens: Last week without Diontae Johnson, Pickens had a 30% Target share, a 66.0% air yard share, and 4.54 YPRR. Pickens had a 46.7% first-read share. He popped off with 127 receiving yards on nine targets. As long as Johnson is sidelined, Pickens should continue to see this type of insane volume. He will run about 90% of his routes against Marcus Peters (81.8% catch rate and 92.4 passer rating) and Jakorian Bennett (90.9% catch rate and 143.6 passer rating). Week 3 Positional Value: WR2/3

Other PIT WRs: No other PIT wide receiver had more than a 10% Target share or 20% first-read share. Pickett has eyes for only Pickens right now, and the rest of the receiving options aren’t earning volume. Week 3 Positional Value: Must-sits

Davante Adams: Adams practiced in full to open the week, so I expect him to play in Week 3. Adams remains one of the best wide receivers in the game with a 34.0% Target share, a 45.7% air-yard share, and 3.00 YPRR. Adams will run about 75% of his routes against Patrick Peterson (60% catch rate and 130.0 passer rating) and Levi Wallace (72.7% catch rate and 99.8 passer rating). Adams is second on the team behind Meyers in red zone targets. Week 3 Positional Value: low-end WR1

Jakobi Meyers:  Meyers will be back this week after clearing the concussion protocol. Meyers was the WR2 overall in Week 1 with a 38.5% Target share and 37.7% air yard share. Obviously, I don’t expect Meyers to continue this torrid pace, but it was an impressive game regardless. In a game where I expect Garoppolo to struggle against this secondary, it’s tough to get excited about Meyers regardless of his strong Week 1. He’ll run about 88% of his routes against Peterson and Wallace. Week 3 Positional Value: WR4

Tight Ends

Pat Freiermuth: It’s sad, but as bad as Pickett has been playing, Freiermuth has been downgraded to a matchup-based streaming option. Freiermuth’s usage has been abysmal. He’s only seen a 58.3% route run per team dropback rate with a 6.6% Target share and 0.10 YPRR. The matchup is right this week, though. The Raiders have allowed the tenth-most receiving yards, the eighth-highest catch rate, and the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends. Week 3 Positional Value: TE2 matchup-based streamer

LVR TEs: No tight end has more than a 48% route run per team dropback rate or 8.6% Target share. Both of those numbers need to be better to consider for a fantasy lineup.

NYG vs. SF TEN vs. CLE ATL vs. DET NO vs. GB DEN vs. MIA LAC vs. MIN NE vs. NYJ BUF vs. WAS HOU vs. JAC IND vs. BAL CAR vs. SEA CHI vs. KC DAL vs. ARI PIT vs. LV PHI vs. TB LAR vs. CIN

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pace and playcalling notes

  • Philadelphia has the ninth-best neutral pace while rocking the highest neutral rushing rate in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay is 13th in neutral pace while leaning on their ground game with the seventh-highest neutral rushing rate.

Quarterbacks

Jalen Hurts: Hurst is the QB9 in fantasy, largely thanks to his rushing equity. That’s not to say he’s been bad as a passer, but the efficiency isn’t what it was last season. Hurts is ninth in passing grade and sixth-best in adjusted completion rate. He only ranks 21st in yards per attempt, though. Tampa Bay looks like a tough pass defense at first glance, with the tenth-lowest adjusted completion rate and 12th-lowest passer rating allowed, but it’s all window dressing. They are bottom of the barrel against deep passing. The Buccaneers have allowed the ninth-highest yards per attempt thanks to their struggle to stop the deep ball. Tampa Bay has allowed the highest passer rating, the third-highest yards per attempt, and the highest adjusted completion rate to deep passes. Hurts gets on track passing this week. Week 3 Positional Value: High-end QB1

Baker Mayfield: Don’t look now, but Baker Mayfield appears to be back. He’s third in passing grade, ninth in yards per attempt, and 11th in adjusted completion rate. Mayfield has the seventh-best big-time throw rate. The NFL is better when Baker is good. This is Mayfield’s litmus test to see where he’s at, but I will also say that Philly’s pass defense hasn’t been a shutdown unit this season. They have allowed the 12th-highest yards per attempt and the sixth-highest passer rating. Week 3 Positional Value: QB2

Running Backs

D’Andre Swift: Swift exploded in Week 2 as the team’s starter with 75% of the snaps played with 31 touches and 181 total yards as the RB4 for the week. Swift ranks 15th in yards after contact per attempt and 11th in elusive rating. After that performance, it’s difficult to see Swift letting go of the starter’s job, but I expect the Eagles to work with multiple backs weekly. Boston Scott being ruled out helps to thin the volume tree some this week. Swift should lead the backfield in touches against a run defense that’s allowing the fourth-highest missed tackle rate and fifth-highest yards after contact per attempt. Week 3 Positional Value: RB2

Kenneth Gainwell: Gainwell was the lead back in Week 1 with 62% of the snaps, 18 touches, and 74 total yards. He will work in tandem with Swift this week, but Swift should lead this group in touches. Among 49 qualifying backs, Gainwell ranks 43rd in yards after contact per attempt and 37th in elusive rating. Gainwell should get 8-10 touches in a plus matchup. Week 3 Positional Value: RB4

Rachaad White: White has played 72-79% of snaps, averaging 20.5 touches and 76 total yards. I worry that White’s hold on this job is loosening. Chase Edmonds was getting a ton of run early in last week’s game before leaving due to injury. Maybe White has tightened his grip with last week’s game, but I still have a bad spider sense vibe. Among 48 qualifying backs, White ranks 30th in missed tackles forced per attempt and 34th in yards after contact per attempt. He still hasn’t managed one explosive run this season. Add all of this on top of pedestrian tackle-breaking numbers from last season, and the worry gets real. Fast. The Eagles are a brick wall against rushing attacks. They have the 11th-best stuff rate, the lowest missed tackles allowed rate, and they haven’t allowed an explosive run yet. Good luck, Mr. White. Week 3 Positional Value: Volume-based low-end RB2/high-end RB3

Wide Receivers

PHI vs. zone coverage

Player Target share TPRR YPRR First Read %
A.J. Brown 23.1 20 1.32 35
DeVonta Smith 25.6 21 3.21 30
Dallas Godert 17.9 16 0.50 30

A.J. Brown: The Buccaneers have gone extremely zone-heavy this season. They are deploying their corners in zone on 76-83% of their coverage snaps. Brown has a 23.1% Target share and 20% TPRR against zone this season. Both of those marks are second to DeVonta Smith. I won’t fret over Brown’s 1.32 YPRR so far against zone. That strikes me as a small sample variance rather than an indicator of his talent slipping. Brown’s 35% first-read share, which is first on the team, also alludes to the fact that these numbers could flip easily with a few more games. Brown will run about 81% of his routes against Jamel Dean (72.7% catch rate and 144.5 passer rating) and Carlton Davis (66.7% catch rate and 103.5 passer rating).. Week 3 Positional Value: WR1

DeVonta Smith: Smith leads the team with a 25.6% Target share and 3.21 YPRR against zone this season. He also ranks first in TPRR while sitting in second in first-read share, tied with Dallas Goedert. Smith and Brown each have one red zone target each this season. Smith will run about 82% of his routes against Dean and Davis. Week 3 Positional Value: Top-15 WR with WR1 upside

Mike Evans: Evans has been a happy surprise this season. He has a 25.0% Target share, a 48.7% air-yard share, and 3.89 YPRR as the WR5 in fantasy. The Evans and Mayfield connection clicking like clockwork was not on my bingo card for 2023, but here we are. Evans will run about 78% of his routes against Darius Slay (73.3% catch rate and 91.3 passer rating) and James Bradberry (60% catch rate and 123.3 passer rating), assuming he has recovered from his concussion. Week 3 Positional Value: WR2

Chris Godwin: Godwin has a 19.1% Target share and a 25.5% air yard share as he leads the team with three red zone targets. This could be a Godwin week. I lean in that direction because of Avonte Maddox‘s major injury. Maddox is out with a torn pec, so Mario Goodrich has stepped in as the nickel. Goodrich has only six targets defended in the NFL, and he has allowed all six to be secured with a 147.9 passer rating in coverage. Godwin can show him the ropes of the NFL with some on-the-job experience. Week 3 Positional Value: low-end WR2

Tight Ends

Dallas Goedert: Goedert has a 17.9% Target share with a 30% first-read share against zone this season. His 0.50 YPRR doesn’t worry me at all. Last year, he ranked sixth in receiving grade and YPRR against zone, so I’m chalking that inefficiency up to a small sample variance. Tampa Bay is a plus matchup for Goedert. The Buccaneers have allowed the 13th-most receiving yards to tight ends this season. Last year, they gave up the seventh-most fantasy points and the 11th-most receiving yards to the position. Week 3 Positional Value: TE1

Cade Otton: Otton has a strong 76% route run per team dropback rate with a 13.2% Target share and 16% TPRR. He’s a strong matchup-based streamer this week. Philly has allowed the second-most receiving yards and the most receiving touchdowns to tight ends this season. Week 3 Positional Value: TE2 with TE1 upside

NYG vs. SF TEN vs. CLE ATL vs. DET NO vs. GB DEN vs. MIA LAC vs. MIN NE vs. NYJ BUF vs. WAS HOU vs. JAC IND vs. BAL CAR vs. SEA CHI vs. KC DAL vs. ARI PIT vs. LV PHI vs. TB LAR vs. CIN

Los Angeles Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Pace and playcalling notes

  • The Rams are another slow-and-throw team. They have the fifth-lowest neutral pace while ranking 12th in neutral passing rate.
  • This rematch of former Super Bowl foes could be nauseatingly slow. The Bengals have the seventh-slowest neutral pace while throwing at the eighth-highest rate in close games.

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford: Stafford’s QB20 fantasy standing doesn’t reflect how well he’s playing. Stafford looks like the Super Bowl year Stafford. He’s fourth in passing grade, third in big-time throw rate, and 14th in adjusted completion rate. Stafford has a tough test incoming against a pass defense that has relinquished the 11th-lowest yards per attempt and the sixth-lowest adjusted completion rate. Stafford should have plenty of time in the pocket as the Bengals have the fourth-lowest pressure rate. Week 3 Positional Value: QB2

Joe Burrow: Burrow’s status remains up in the air. At this juncture, I would sit him unless you have Stafford you can fall back on in case he’s out. Burrow has been dinged up, and it has affected his play to this point. He has the seventh-lowest passing grade and the lowest yards per attempt among 33 qualifying quarterbacks. Week 3 Positional Value: Must-sit

Running Backs

Kyren Williams: Williams played 95% of the snaps last week, making Cam Akers expendable. He handled 20 touches, churning out 100 total yards with an 18.1% Target share. Among 48 qualified backs, Williams ranks 25th in yards after contact per attempt and 26th in elusive rating. While these aren’t eye-popping numbers, volume is king, and Williams is the king of the Los Angeles backfield. Cincinnati has allowed the eighth-highest explosive run rate. This run defense also has the second-worst missed tackles allowed rate. The Bengals have given up the seventh-highest yards per carry to gap runs (Williams 82.8% gap). Week 3 Positional Value: Matchup-proof RB1

Joe Mixon: Mixon has played 63-78% of the snaps, averaging 16.5 touches and 84 total yards. He has a 13.8% Target share, a 45.5% route run per team dropback rate, and 1.51 YPRR. Mixon ranks 13th in yards after contact per attempt and 25th in elusive rating. Mixon is primed for a monster day. The Rams have allowed the seventh-highest explosive run rate, the eighth-highest yards after contact per attempt, and the highest yards per carry in the NFL to zone runs (6.9 ypc). Half of Mixon’s runs have come on zone plays. Week 3 Positional Value: Top-shelf RB1

Wide Receivers

Puka Nacua: Puka Juice is the WR3 in fantasy, leading the league in Target share (36.6%), TPRR (40%), and sitting at seventh in YPRR (3.13). Nacua is also third in first read rate behind only Davante Adams and Garrett Wilson. Nacua will run about 69% of his routes against Cam Taylor-Britt (50% catch rate and 81.7 passer rating) and Chidobe Awuzie (75% catch rate and 135.4 passer rating). Week 3 Positional Value: WR1

Tutu Atwell: Atwell has an 18.3% Target share and a 29.8% air yard share. He ranks 17th and 18th in receiving grade and YPRR. Atwell hasn’t drawn a red zone target. McVay has been utilizing him in motion and bunch formations to get him free releases off the line. He’ll run about 57% of his routes against Taylor-Britt and Awuzie. Week 3 Positional Value: WR3/4

Van Jefferson: This van has flat tires. Jefferson is droppable. He has only managed a 9.7% Target share and 0.39 YPRR while taking a backseat to Nacua and Atwell. Week 3 Positional Value: Droppable

Ja’Marr Chase: The talent hasn’t gone anywhere. This offense is just in a funk as Burrow is clearly not 100%. Toss out the efficiency numbers because the talent is still there for Chase, so I won’t get hung up on his YPRR. Chase has commanded a 23.3% Target share and a 28.7% air yard share. Better days are ahead for this passing attack. Chase will run about 76% of his routes against Ahkello Witherspoon (50% catch rate and 78.1 passer rating) and Derion Kendrick (40% catch rate and 81.3 passer rating). Week 3 Positional Value: WR1

Tee Higgins: The same thing I said for Chase holds true for HIggins. Trash the efficiency metrics. These players are not old. They are not washed. They are not over the hill. This offense is out of sorts. As soon as Burrow is back to some semblance of health, this offense will start clicking. Higgins has a 26.0% Target share and a 55.1% air yard share. He’ll run about 79% of his routes against Witherspoon and Kendrick. Week 3 Positional Value: WR2

Tyler Boyd: Tyler Boyd is droppable. His 13.7% Target share, 11.3% air yard share, and 16.7% first-read share are all replaceable numbers with a possibly younger receiver off the waiver wire. Week 3 Positional Value: Droppable

Tight Ends

Tyler Higbee: Higbee has a 9.7% Target share and 79.8% route run per team dropback rate. Higbee is a matchup-based streamer at this point. Like Van Jefferson, he has taken a backseat to Nacua and Atwell. The Bengals offer a good matchup, though. Cincinnati has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends and is tied with the second-most receiving touchdowns allowed to the position. Week 3 Positional Value: TE2

NYG vs. SF TEN vs. CLE ATL vs. DET NO vs. GB DEN vs. MIA LAC vs. MIN NE vs. NYJ BUF vs. WAS HOU vs. JAC IND vs. BAL CAR vs. SEA CHI vs. KC DAL vs. ARI PIT vs. LV PHI vs. TB LAR vs. CIN

New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers

Pace and playcalling notes

  • The Giants dialed up the pace in Week 2 (eighth in neutral pace) despite remaining run-heavy (19th in neutral passing rate). With Saquon Barkley sidelined in Week 2 and facing a pass funnel defense like the 49ers, I expect Brian Daboll to ramp up the passing volume.
  • After two games, the 49ers have settled back into old habits. They rank 31st in neutral pace and 22nd in neutral passing rate. Slow and CMC-centric is the way of Kyle Shanahan.

Quarterbacks

Daniel Jones: Jones had a monster Week 2 bounce-back game. He was second in passing grade, fifth in yards per attempt, and tenth in adjusted completion rate. How did he go from looking totally lost to a standout performer last week? Clean pockets. That’s it. Dallas crushed his offensive line in Week 1 as they pressured Jones on an insane 71% of his dropbacks. In Week 2, he was only pressured on 31.1% (tenth-lowest) of his dropbacks, and Jones responded with a huge game. The 49ers will bring the heat in Week 3. They rank seventh-best in pressure rate despite blitzing at the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL. San Francisco’s zone-heavy pass defense (70-73% zone) has been tough on opposing quarterbacks. Through two weeks, they have held passing attacks to the sixth-lowest yards per attempt, fifth-lowest passer rating, and the sixth-lowest adjusted completion rate. Jones is a QB2 who must run to compensate for his possible passing shortcomings this week against this defense. Week 3 Positional Value: mid-QB2

Brock Purdy: Purdy leads the 2-0 49ers into their home opener in Week 3. Purdy might have the QB wins, but his play on the field has been run-of-the-mill. Yes, he’s ranked fifth in yards per attempt and seventh in fantasy points per dropback, but he’s also 18th in passing grade, 16th in adjusted completion rate, and one of only five quarterbacks without a big-time throw after two games. Purday will face a healthy dose of man coverage this week against the Giants. Per Fantasy Points Data, the Giants have defended the 11th-most dropbacks in man coverage this season. In Week 1, their corners operated in man on 40-52% of their snaps. Last year against man coverage, Purdy ranked fifth in passer rating and first in fantasy points per dropback, but he was also 29th in yards per attempt and 22nd in adjusted completion rate against man coverage. The noise in those numbers comes from his ability to protect the ball and his high passing touchdown rate against man coverage. Purdy had the ninth-fewest dropbacks against man last year, but he ranked 18th in passing touchdowns against man. Week 3 Positional Value: low ceiling QB2

Running Backs

Matt Breida: Breida likely gets the starting nod this week with Saquon Barkley injured. He could lose some work to Gary Brightwell, so don’t look at Breida as a locked-in workhorse in the Barkley mold. This is a brutal matchup for Breida, who will work behind an offensive line that’s 22nd in yards before contact per attempt. The 49ers have given up the fourth-lowest missed tackles allowed per attempt, the third-fewest missed tackles, and the seventh-lowest yards after contact per attempt. Breida is not a bet I want to make on talent overcoming a rough situation. He has never crested 3.0 yards after contact per attempt in his career, and his breakaway run rate has dropped in each of the last three seasons. Week 3 Positional Value: RB3

Christian McCaffrey: Well, so much for lightening McCaffrey’s load this season. McCaffrey has played at least 85% of the snaps in each game, with 100% of the snaps in Week 2. He’s averaged 24 touches and 152 total yards so far, putting an exclamation point on his status as the best running back in the NFL. McCaffrey has been in vintage form so far, ranking 13th in missed tackles forced per attempt and third in yards after contact per attempt. He’s having a ball running behind an offensive line that ranks ninth-best in yards before contact per attempt. McCaffrey should have no problems posting another strong outing against a run defense that’s 17th in stuff rate, 14th in missed tackles allowed per attempt, and 15th in yards after contact per attempt allowed. Week 3 Positional Value: Top Shelf RB1

Wide Receivers

Darius Slayton: Slayton leads the wide receiver room with a 70% route per team dropback rate. He has seen a 14.9% Target share and 34% air yard share, producing 1.22 yards per route run (YPRR). Last season, Slayton ranked fifth on the team in Target share and seventh in targets per route run (TPRR) against zone coverage. Slayton will run about 70% of his snaps against Charvarius Ward (64.7% catch rate, 59.4 passer rating) and Deommodore Lenoir (75% catch rate, 72.0 passer rating). Week 3 Positional Value: WR5/6

Parris Campbell: Campbell has a 69% route participation as the team’s starting slot receiver (80% slot). He’s drawn a 14.9% Target share and a 7.6% air yard share. His 3.6 aDOT hasn’t helped him manufacture much after two weeks, with only 0.37 YPRR. Last season, among 83 qualifying wide receivers, Campbell ranked 65th in receiving grade and 74th in YPRR against zone coverage. Campbell will see Isaiah Oliver (88.9% catch rate and 52.1 passer rating) in coverage for most of the game. Week 3 Positional Value: WR6

Isaiah Hodgins: Hodgins has an 11.9% Target share and 16.0% air yard share as Jones’ preferred end zone target. Hodgins leads the team with two end-zone targets (one score). Last year, he ranked 21st in receiving grade and 30th in YPRR against zone coverage (minimum 13 zone targets). If you’re looking at flexing any Giant wide receiver, it should be Hodgins. He’s the apple of Jones’ eye in scoring position and the best zone weapon they have outside of Darren Waller. Hodgins will run about 90% of his routes against Ward and Lenoir. Week 3 Positional Value: WR5

2022 SF vs. man coverage

Player Target % TPRR YPRR % of team receiving yards
Brandon Aiyuk 29 30 2.39 28.4
Deebo Samuel 16.3 16 1.41 14.2
George Kittle 14.5 16 1.47 16.5

Brandon Aiyuk: Aiyuk ranks second on the team with a 25.9% Target share while ranking first with a 42.3% air yard share. Among 51 qualifying wide receivers, he’s second in receiving grade and sixth in YPRR. Aiyuk is the 49ers’ go-to weapon against man coverage, leading the team in every worthwhile category against the coverage type. Last season, among 80 qualifying wide receivers, Aiyuk ranked 17th in Target share and 20th in YPRR against man coverage. Look for Purdy to feed him this week. Aiyuk will run about 75% of his routes against Adoree’ Jackson (69.2% catch rate and 99.5 passer rating) and Deonte Banks (50% catch rate and 69.3 passer rating). Aiyuk enters the game with a questionable designation, but the expectation is that he plays. Week 3 Positional Value: WR2

**Update: Brandon Aiyuk is not expected to play in Week 3. Expect Purdy to lean on George Kittle more in the passing game.**

Deebo Samuel: Samuel is the team’s zone coverage attack plan, so he should take a step back this week with Aiyuk as the leading receiving option. Last year, Samuel had a 16.3% Target share, 16% TPRR, and 1.41 YPRR against man coverage. He ranked third amongst the big three receiving weapons (Samuel, Kittle, & Aiyuk) in percentage of team receiving yards against man coverage. Samuel will run about 57% of his routes against Jackson and Banks. Week 3 Positional Value: WR3

Tight Ends

Darren Waller: Waller looked healthy in Week 2. He ranked fifth in route run per team dropback rate (80%) among tight ends. He was second in target volume (tied with Mark Andrews), behind only Travis Kelce. Waller was also fourth among tight ends in percentage of the team’s receiving yardage in Week 2. Waller had a 21.6% Target share and a 20% air yard share. Over the last three years, Waller has ranked 16th, tenth, and sixth in receiving grade against zone coverage. The 49ers were tough against tight ends last season, allowing the 11th-fewest receiving yards, sixth-lowest yards per reception, and eighth-fewest touchdowns. Week 3 Positional Value: Top-Five TE

George Kittle: Kittle has a 16.7% Target share, a 10.8% air yard share, and 1.07 YPRR after two games. He’s third on the team with a 15.8% first-read share. Kittle took a backseat last season against man coverage, so temper your expectations in Week 3. The matchup does lend itself for him to possibly be the second read this week for Purdy over Samuel, though. Last season, New York allowed the ninth-most receiving yards and 11th-most fantasy points to tight ends. Week 3 Positional Value: Top-12 TE option

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All data utilized in this article is courtesy of Fantasy Points Data, PFF, FTN, 4for4, Rotoviz, RBdsm.com, The Edge from the 33rd Team, and Playerprofiler.com unless otherwise specified.

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