Welcome to the Fantasy Football Rundown: a weekly article written by yours truly in which I give at least one sentence on every single fantasy relevant player for Week 3. Starts, sits, sleepers, busts, you name it, I talk about it here. Be warned, this is a beast of a piece. If you’re looking for a specific player, I recommend using your web browser’s search function to head straight to said player. Otherwise, enjoy reading!
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
QB Carson Wentz & Jacob Eason — Wentz has a high-ankle sprain in one ankle and a low-ankle sprain in the other. His status for Sunday is up in the air but he’ll obviously be playing hobbled. It’s a shame; Tennessee’s horrific pass defense has surrendered bottom-5 numbers in both passing yardage (600) and passing touchdowns (6), taking up the T-No. 29 spot in our own Paddi Cooper’s NEFF rating. Should Wentz be active, he’ll be on the high-end QB2 streaming radar. If it’s Eason, he’s best left out of redraft lineups as he’s just bad at football.
Update 9/23/21: Should Eason and Hundley 1-2 punch-it, Michael Pittman would be the only fantasy-viable WR or TE. He’d be a limited flex but could see a high volume of targets. With Eason focused downfield and Hundly ready to tuck and run, Nyheim Hines’ receiving usage would take a significant blow. He should remain on redraft benches while Jonathan Taylor could see his highest carry total of the year thus far.
WR Michael Pittman — Pittman saw far too few targets in Week 1 but the team rectified that in Week 2, sending 12 his way. The second-year WR caught eight of them for an A-B-C-like 123 yards. With Eason at the helm, Pittman can’t be trusted as more than a low-floor/high-ceiling flex play but if Wentz can go, Pittman’s status is solidified as a firm flex.
WR Zach Pascal — Although Pittman leads the team in red zone targets (5), Pascal is dominating end zone tosses, catching 3-of-3 looks for 3 touchdowns, per PFF.com. Michael Strahan is the only other Colt to see an end zone target. Touchdowns can be fluky but that kind of intended usage is noteworthy. Pascal should be rostered in all formats and can be started in multi-flex leagues if Wentz is active.
WR Parris Campbell & Michael Strachan — Avoid in redraft.
TEs Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox — Doyle lead MAC in both snaps (95 to 66) and targets this year (12 to 4) and may actually be pulling away with the primary receiving TE job. TE-needy teams should add Doyle but might want to employ a wait-and-see approach. TEN has done very well against Arizona and Seattle’s tight ends thus far but neither squad is featuring them in the offense.
RBs Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, & Marlon Mack — This is a buy-low moment for Jonathan Taylor. The team inexcusably gave Mack 5 carries on 13 snaps last week, which he predictably took for just 16 yards, and fantasy managers with Taylor on their roster have to be frustrated. An easter egg in Taylor’s usage; although he’s yet to find the end zone, the second-year back boasts league-leading marks in both red zone carries (12) and carries inside the 10-yard line. Touchdown regression is coming, make your trade offer now. Tennessee’s run defense unit ranks 25th in NEFF rating. Hines’ Week 3 outlook depends on the QB. With Wentz he’s a rock-solid flex play. With Eason, he’s near-unstartable in typical redraft formats. Mack shouldn’t even be on fantasy rosters.
QB Ryan Tannehill — OC Todd Downing pulled his head at least part way out of “it” last week, dialing up 11 play-action pass attempts after Week 1’s 2 PA-attempt fiasco. The 11 PA shots came at a rate of 27%—good, but a far cry from the dominant 36% rate that helped Tannehill shred opponents last year. With any luck, this year’s sum will continue to rise. For Week 3, count on Tannehill as a safe top 15 option. Indy’ No. 1 CB Xavier Rhodes (calf) still hasn’t participated in a single practice this year, putting his availability for this week’s tilt firmly in doubt.
WR A.J. Brown & Julio Jones — Now is your buy-low opportunity for AJB. The third-year receiver hasn’t made much noise in the box score but he’s leading the team in targets (17), the WR room in snaps (126), and is among the league’s elite in air yards (173). Sans Xavier Rhodes, the Colts secondary doesn’t have a chance at slowing him. The young baller is a locked-in WR1. Julio, meanwhile, looked like his old self last week, as evidenced by his 128 yards receiving and his two-game Yards per Route Run mark of 2.12, per PFF.com. The veteran is a top-15 WR once again this week.
WR Chester Rogers & Josh Reynolds — With Reynolds (foot) finally returning to practice this week, Mr. Rogers’ time as the No. 3 WR is likely up. Reynolds can be added in leagues with very big benches. He’s not a great flex play this week though.
TE MyCole Pruitt & Geoff Swaim — Avoid.
RB Derrick Henry — As mentioned here, Henry is on pace to obliterate his career receiving marks. Having never seen more than 31 targets in a given season, the stud back has already seen 10 come his way—and he’s caught 9 of them for 74 yards. The biggest knock on Henry as a Round 1 draft pick was his expected lack of passing game usage. If Henry, the NFL’s current leader in total touches (61), is going to maintain this type of elite dual threat usage then Christian McCaffrey’s flag atop the RB1 mountain is no longer safe. Henry will compete for overall RB1 honors this week.
RB Jeremy McNichols — Premier handcuff while Darrynton Evans is on IR.
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants
QB Matt Ryan — After a brutal two game skid against a healthy Philly D and the vaunted Bucs, the Falcons have a get-right opportunity against a Giants defense that’s allowed 575 passing yards (8th most), 4 passing touchdowns (T-12th most), and just 1 interception. Their 8 passes defended and 19 QB pressures are both middling marks. Paddi Cooper’s NEFF ratings have them perfectly pegged as the league’s 22nd best pass defense unit. Ryan’s a mid-tier QB2 this week.
WR Calvin Ridley — As stated above, this is a great spot for the Falcons’ passing game to make some noise. Ridley will have to do battle with stud CB James Bradberry for much of the day though so it might be best to cap ceiling expectations around the WR7 region. Washington’s “Scary” Terry McLaurin managed to take Bradberry to the cleaners in Week 2 on an 11-catch, 107-yard, 1-touchdown stat line, but McLaurin travels to the slot more than Ridley does so it might be harder for the latter to get away from Bradberry’s coverage. The standout Giants’ CB typically works on the perimeter, pre-snap.
TE Kyle Pitts — A healthy lead in TE snaps, 106 to Hayden Hurst’s 73, Pitts is also second on the team in both targets (14) and percentage of team air yards (25.28%). The latter mark is in line with palyers like DeAndre Hopkins and Corey Davis. Pitts is an elite TE1.
WR Russell Gage & WR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson — Gage suffered a nasty ankle injury in Week 2 and is unlikely to play in Week 3. Subpar NFL WR Olamide Zaccheus is set to take over for him in the slot but he’s too risky for redraft purposes. In DFS, the dice can be rolled; NYG slot CB Darnay Holmes has earned a PFF coverage grade of just 57.9. It’s as bad as it sounds. WR/RB Patterson currently owns rights to the team’s scrimmage yards/touchdowns lead, 136 and 2, respectively. With Gage out, the Patterson train has little chance of slowing. Important note: Patterson’s positional designations vary by format. In some he is an RB, others a WR, and other others a WR/RB. Take advantage of this where you can. Patterson is a WR3/high-end flex play this week.
RB Mike Davis — Davis was ranked at his floor this week (RB28), due to both the emergence of Patterson and Davis’ tough luck to start the season. If sticking with process over results though, he should be considered an RB2. New York is allowing 5.0 yards per carry (YPC) to opposing backfields, tied for fourth most in the NFL. That number is lightyears softer than Philly’s 3.8 YPC allowed and Tampa Bay’s outrageous 3.0 YPC allowed.
New York Giants
QB Daniel Jones — Baby deer-legged Danny Dimes has miraculously earned the second-highest passing grade (85.4) in PFF’s database through two weeks. NYG’s signal caller is also averaging 61.0 rushing yards per game, third most at the position. Facing a Falcons’ defense that allowed a league-high 8 touchdowns while failing to register a single interception, Jones is a top-12 play this week.
Injury note: Interior offensive Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux have both been placed on Injured Reserve, with the former’s career possibly over (badly broken leg). Gates was filling in for Lemieux in the starting lineup so technically this is only the loss of one starter — dropping to the third stringer isn’t great though. Regardless, Atlanta’s nonexistent pass rush won’t be able to do much this week but it could be a problem against better defensive lines.
WR Sterling Shepard — A slot receiver at heart, Shepard has benefited hugely from TE/slot receiver Evan Engram’s two game absence to start the year. No. 1 WR Kenny Golladay (hip) was limited all week in practice, opening the door for Shepard to again operate as the team’s No. 1 WR this week. Shepard’s fine play may keep him in that role regardless. Through two games, he’s seen a team-high 19 targets come this way and another 9+ target outing against the hapless Falcons should easily bear top-24 WR fruit.
WR Darius Slayton & Kadarius Toney — Field stretcher Slayton is a sneaky strong flex this week. ATL has allowed a whopping 7 completions of 20 yards or more through just two weeks of the 2021 season. Toney should not even be on a redraft roster.
TE Evan Engram — Slide Engram into your starting tight end spot with confidence. The Falcons are allowing a whopping 19.2 .5PPR PPG to opposing tight ends, second most in the NFL.
TE Kyle Rudolph — Given the stat above, Rudolph makes for a sneaky single game DFS play.
RB Saquon Barkley — Barkley showed his trademark burst against the WFT last week and his intended touch counts (carries + targets) have trended in the right direction (13 in Week 1, 16 in Week 2). Expect 20 or more this week against what may be the NFL’s worst defense. He’s a top-5 RB.
— NerdBall Fantasy Football (@nerdballff) September 17, 2021
Devontae Booker — Lackluster handcuff.
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers
QB Justin Herbert — Positive regression is on the way for Herbert. Compared to last year when Herbert finished as the QB9, he’s averaging 4.4 more pass attempts per game and 0.4 more rushing attempts per game. A date with the mighty Kansas City Chiefs should crank the Chargers’ offense into overdrive and Herbert and Mahomes exchange offensive blows. He’s an elite QB1.
WR Keenan Allen & Mike Williams — Both Keenan and BMW are top-12 WRs this week. The former continues to be a model of consistency, catching over 60% of his targets and posting 100 or more yards in Weeks 1 and 2. Williams, while not operating in the inside/outside Michael Thomas role as many thought he would—Williams’ slot rate is actually lower than it was in both 2019 and 2020—his average depth of target (aDot), 9.3 yards, is in line with the league’s premier X-receivers. Expect fantasy’s WR5 to stay hot against the Chiefs.
WR Jalen Guyton & Josh Palmer — Guyton’s 103 snaps tower over Palmer’s 32. The former is the deep threat to target in DFS.
TE Jared Cook & Donald Parham — The snap share is near even and Parham had a 36-yard TD called back last week. Cook is the TE1 here right now but Parham has a chance to steal the job. Buy-low on Parham. The Chiefs’ 12.6 .5PPR PPG allowed to TEs are the 11th most in the league, though it’s fair to point out that KC played without stud safety Tyrann Matheiu in Week 1. Cook’s a mid-to-low TE1 option.
RB Austin Ekeler — An elite RB1 this week.
The Chiefs run defense this season:
– 5.9 yards per carry (most)
– 396 yards (most – 71 more than anyone else)
– 7 TDs (most – 4 more than anyone else)
Austin Ekeler 👀👀👀
— Jarad Evans (@PFF_Jarad) September 23, 2021
RB Justin Jackson & Larry Rountree — The spry Jackson and molasses-slow Rountree flip-flopped in the snap column last week. Pick your poison for a bench stash.
Kansas City Chiefs
QB Patrick Mahomes — Top 3-QB.
WR Tyreek Hill & TE Travis Kelce — A tale of usage: Hill has caught 14-of-19 targets for 211 yards and 1 touchdown. Kelce has caught 13-of-15 targets for 185 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hill owns 43.91% of the team’s air yards while Kelce hysterically owns just 14.11%. Each extreme allows the other to flourish. Hill is a top-5 WR. Kelce is a top-2 TE.
WR Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, & Byron Pringle — Snap share: 85 for Hardman, 78 for Robinson, and 22 for Pringle. Hardman, the supposed downfield burner, owns the lowest yards per reception mark, yet the highest target total. The trio sits in the WR65-WR73 in .5PPR scoring. Pick your DFS dart and throw it but don’t rely on any of these guys in redraft leagues.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire & Darrel Williams — CEH is drastically out-touching the rest of the backfield but largely flailing like Magikarp in the box score. His usage has been subpar, as outlined here by film guru J Moyer. Still, the second-year back has a fantastic match-up this week: the Chargers’ run defense NEFF score of 29.8% comes in as the 31st ranked unit. Edwards-Helaire has been conservatively ranked as a mid-to-low RB2. Williams is just a handcuff.
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
QB Joe Burrow — Burrow’s Sunday bout with the Steelers is beginning to look like one with a paper tiger. Although PIT D is T-1st in QB hurries (19), T-11th in sacks (5), and 3rd in QB pressures (31), a number of their stars will either be hurt or limited. Edge rusher T.J. Watt (groin) is responsible for two hurries, three sacks, and seven pressures—he’s a toss-up for Sunday. Stud run-stuffer Tyson Alualu is now on IR, CB Joe Haden and LB Devin Bush are both nursing groin injuries. While three of the four playing isn’t bad, playing at less than 100% surely makes life easier on Burrow. Keep Burrow in the high-end QB2 section of your fantasy mind.
WR Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, & Auden Tate — Higgins (shoulder), the team leader in targets, failed to practice on both Wednesday and Thursday with a likely AC joint sprain. He’s unlikely to play on Sunday which significantly increases the outlooks of both Chase and Boyd. If this is the case, Chase must be treated as a borderline top-15 WR while Boyd is cemented as a flex across all formats. Jump-baller Tate would become a contrarian DFS option.
TE C.J. Uzomah — The Steelers’ 13.9 .5PPR PPG allowed to the TE position is 7th most in the NFL. Uzomah could be utilized in DFS. Redraft is a bit too bold.
RB Joe Mixon — Mixon’s 100 snaps are tied for 7th most in the NFL, his 54 touches are 3rd, and his 221 yards from scrimmage are 8th. The void left by Alualu will happily be filled by Mixon carries up the gut. He’s this week’s RB8.
RB Chris Evans & Samaje Perine — Evans: passing game handcuff. Perine: run game handcuff.
QB Ben Roethlisberger — The Bengals have quietly built a decent defense. Slot CB Mike Hilton, signed away from Pittsburgh in the off-season, has been a blitzing machine, registering either a QB hurry or a QB pressure on each of his six blitzes. Expect Hilton to put knowledge gleaned from his four seasons with the Steel Curtain into use. DE Trey Hendrickson has tallied four QB hurries, four QB pressures, and 1.5 sacks—another fantastic off-season acquisition. Roethlisberger is now managing a pectoral injury on his throwing side:
This pec issue sounds like a strain. The pecs work to cross the arm across the chest and assist the throwing motion. This could impact his accuracy and volume https://t.co/3xDxG6tV2y pic.twitter.com/pJpZRev6s5
— Edwin Porras, DPT (@FBInjuryDoc) September 21, 2021
Making matters worse, X-receiver Diontae Johnson was unable to practice on both Wednesday and Thursday with a knee injury. The Steelers’ QB is just a mid-to-low QB2 right now.
WR Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, & James Washington — With Johnson likely on the shelf, Claypool is the man who stands to benefit the most. The gargantuan second-year receiver should slide right into the X-receiver job. He’s a high-floor WR2. JuJu should be expected to lock horns with former teammate Mike Hilton. His 3.8 average targeted air yards (TAY) are 7th lowest in the league; outlook, not great. JuJu is only on the flex radar in very deep full-point PPR, multi-flex leagues—‚he’s a WR4. James Washington will likely assume Z-receiver/field stretching duties. Minnesota’s pass catchers had a field day on long balls in Week 1, making Washington an acceptable low-floor/high-ceiling WR4/flex play in deep formats.
TE Pat Freiermuth & Eric Ebron — Avoid two-tight end committees.
RB Najee Harris — Of the backfield’s 36 intended touches this season, Harris has seen 34 of them come his way. Unfortunately, our preseason fears have been confirmed; Harris hasn’t found much room to run behind Pittsburgh’s god awful offensive line — and that’s not likely to change in Week 3. CIN has allowed just 190 rushing yards this year (11th fewest) and just 1 rushing touchdown. That said, the Bengals are allowing opponent backs are slashing the Bengals for a whopping 9 receptions (T-3rd most) and 43.5 receiving yards per game (12th most). PIT has limited Harris’ receiving work to just 4 targets per game—fantasy managers should expect him to haul in at least 75% of his targets in this one—so he’s been ranked as just a mid-tier RB2. But there’s room for top-12 to 15 upside if they send a few more his way this week, as they should.
While Anthony McFarland sits on IR with an undisclosed issue, Benny Snell Jr. is the primary handcuff.
Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns
QB Justin Fields — The story of Fields’ NFL playing time: downfield receivers and lethal scrambles. X-receiver Robinson and downfield WRs Mooney and Goodwin have all seen four targets come their way when Fields was under center. The idea seems to be, look deep, if no one’s there then take off. Of Fields’ 8 carries, 4 have been scrambles that totaled 29 yards. The four designed runs went for nine yards and one touchdown. The rookie’s scrambling ability locks him firmly into top-12 QB contention this week against a Browns’ defense that’s allowed rushing touchdowns to Patrick Mahomes and Tyrod Taylor in back-to-back weeks.
WR Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Marquise Goodwin, & TE Cole Kmet — Robinson must be dropped to that of a low-end WR2 as Fields has shown too much of a liking for Mooney and Goodwin. The latter two receivers are both zero-floor/high-ceiling flex plays, about as risky as you can get. Meanwhile, Kmet should be glued to your fantasy bench as a wait-and-see guy.
RB David Montgomery & Damien Williams — The only thing Williams had going for him was his passing game usage (eight targets to Montgomery’s five). Both have seen just one target apiece through a little over two quarters of Fields at the helm. Williams should be nowhere near a starting lineup but there’s hope for Montgomery. Fields played the entirety of the second-half last week and the Bears handed the ball off on 82% of second-half early-downs. If they employ anything close to that for the majority of Week 3’s contest, it’s not out of the question for Montgomery to see 25+ carries. He’s a high-end RB2.
QB Baker Mayfield — Mayfield suffered an injury to his left shoulder on Sunday but didn’t miss much time and he’s practicing in full this week. If he gets hit there, it will hurt. But this shouldn’t impact his throwing ability. There might be a slight chance he’s at increased risk of fumbling though. That said, this is a great match-up for Mayfield to continue his high-end QB2 ways. Chicago has struggled to generate pressure on QBs (14, 7th fewest in the NFL) and do-it-all defensive lineman Akiem Hicks showed up on the injury report this week, registering back-to-back Did Not Participate designations under “illness/knee”.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. — Beckham is now set to make his 2021 debut, on the heels of stud slot receiver Jarvis Landry landing on IR (knee). A full complement of snaps after not even taking contact in practice until this week shouldn’t be expected but fantasy managers in multi-flex leagues could roll the dice on him this week.
WR Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, & Anthony Schwartz — Through Weeks 1 and 2, DPJ and Schwartz tag-teamed the downfield receiver role that Beckham has returned to fill. DPJ slot reps: seven and eight. Schwartz slot reps: four and two. Per PFF.com, when Landry went down early in Week 1, Higgins came off the bench and took a team-high 10 snaps in the slot. A possible snap projection for Week 3: Beckham runs largely on the perimeter, moving inside on less than 10 snaps. Higgins takes well over 60-70% of the slot snaps with DPJ and the tight ends combining for 30% or so of the interior reps. DPJ sees 15 or so on the perimeter. Schwartz is the primary rotational piece behind Beckham and rarely travels inside. Higgins can be spot-started in full-point PPR multi-flex leagues. DPJ is a DFS-only boom/bust candidate. Schwartz is the best non-Beckham WR to go for a long gain or two — DFS-only though.
TE David Njoku, Austin Hooper, & Harrison Bryant — Role the dice in DFS in that order. Landry’s absence creates a safety blanket vacuum that needs to be filled.
RB Nick Chubb & Kareem Hunt — Chubb through two weeks: 26 carries, 6.8 YPC, 3 targets, and 27 route run (per PFF.com), good for the RB4 in .5PPR. Hunt through two weeks: 19 carries, 4.4 YPC, 4 targets, 24 routes run (per PFF.com), good for the RB25 in .5PPR. As Dwain McFarland shows in his unparalleled Utilization Report, Hunt is still getting the receiving work on receiving downs but this is dream-like usage for Chubb. Getting him routinely running routes like this is what we want. Chubb is the RB7 this week. Hunt is the RB20.
RB/WR Demetric Felton — Felton should be rostered in deep leagues. He’s best left on the bench for now.
Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions
QB Lamar Jackson — As predicted back in Week 1, Jackson could be expected to see “a 2 to 3 carry increase on the 11.15 carries per game that he’s averaged through 2 full seasons as a starter” due to the injuries the Ravens have suffered at WR and RB. He’s averaging 14 carries per game. Detroit’s done a good job of closing on scrambling quarterbacks once they tuck and run but the 6.5 QB-rush attempts they’re seeing each week, T-2nd most in the NFL, bodes well for Jackson’s Week 3 box score. He should have little issue retaining his QB4 status.
WR Marquise Brown — Hollywood is theoretically trending in the wrong direction while nursing his ankle. The speedster practiced in limited capacity on Wednesday but couldn’t go on Thursday. Of course, he didn’t practice on either day last week and still finished as the WR7. The extra day of rest with their Week 2 bout coming on Monday night likely helped. With CB Jeff Okudah on IR (Achilles), the runway is clear for a big showing from Brown. If active, he’s a WR2.
WR Sammy Watkins — Watkins shifts from a WR4 to a back-end WR3 if Brown is out.
TE Mark Andrews — The Ravens are utilizing Andrews like never before. After playing on a rotational basis for the first three years of his career, Andrews is now playing a full complement of snaps—his 112 are 5th at the position. He remains an elite TE1.
RB Ty’Son Williams & Latavius Murray — The Ravens have their formula: Williams is the J.K. Dobbins replacement, Murray is the Gus Bus replacement. Williams out-snapped, 37-to-27, and out-touched, 15-to-9, Murray last week. Williams caught two-of-two targets while Murray saw none. Murray got three red zone carries to Williams’ two. Williams is an every-week RB2 while Murray is a safe RB3/flex play.
RB Devonta Freeman — Freeman’s just running cardio.
QB Jared Goff — Detroit’s offensive formula has proven safe for Goff; a high-volume of RB and TE targets has yielded high-end QB1 and high-end QB2 results, respectively. He’s firmly on the streaming radar against a banged up Ravens’ defense.
WR Quintez Cephus — Lions’ nominal No. 1 WR Tyrell Williams suffered a concussion in Week 1, has been unable to play since, and was placed on Injured Reserve just this week. Enter Quintez Cephus; Cephus lacks top end speed but he’s quick in short spaces and has jumps for days, and he’s quickly become the Lions’ No. 1 WR in Williams’ absence. Cephus’ 13 targets are a respectable 3rd on the team and he’s converted both of his red zone targets for scores in consecutive weeks. The Ravens are allowing 38.4 .5PPR PPG, 8th most in the NFL, making Cephus quietly WR2-viable this week.
WR Kalif Raymond & Amon-Ra St. Brown — Ignore Raymond, stash ARSB if you wish. The latter would stand to benefit were TE T.J. Hockenson miss time.
TE T.J. Hockenson — Hockenson’s sublime usage has led to his emergence as the next great NFL tight end. His 20 targets comfortably lead the team. He’s firmly in contention for top-3 TE honors every week.
RB D’Andre Swift & Jamaal Williams — Swift and Williams came back to earth a bit last week but a date with a Ravens front-seven that’s currently allowing 6 RB receptions per game, T-10th most in the NFL, is just what the doctor ordered. Both men are RB2s.
New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots
New Orleans Saints
QB Jameis Winston — Turns out Lasik might not have been the answer. Week 1’s low yardage/high scoring outcome just looks like variance after last week’s flop. New England’s dominant defense is not a get-right spot for this team. Winston is on the QB2/3 borderline. Now is the time to add (and bench) Taysom Hill if you are desperate at QB.
WR Maruez Callaway — Callaway is the only WR decent enough to be considered as a WR4. He’s not a great option though.
TE Adam Trautman & Juwan Johnson — Per PFF.com, Trautman went from 29 routes run in Week 1 to zero last week. He’s dominating TE snaps against Johnson (74 to 30) but it’s mostly as a blocker. Johnson, meanwhile, ran a route on 16 of his 18 snaps last week and is tied for second on the team in targets with 6. Neither player is seeing enough usage to be fantasy relevant.
RB Alvin Kamara — As seen last week with Jets’ WR Corey Davis (two catches for eight yards on five targets), when facing a lesser QB, Pats’ head coach Bill Belichick will have his defense key on the opponent’s best offensive weapon. This week, that’s Alvin Kamara. As of now, he’s the RB10 in our ranks but that way drop upon further review.
New England Patriots
QB Mac Jones — Mac shouldn’t have to do much this week as the Patriots’ ground game should be able to run at will. Jones is a low-end QB2.
WR Jakobi Meyers & Nelson Agholor — Neither WR is better than a WR4 this week.
TE Hunter Henry & Jonnu Smith — Both are just bench stashes.
RB Damien Harris & James White — Harris’ 42 touches and 181 scrimmage yards are both team-leading. White’s 21 touches and 126 scrimmage yards are second on the team. Both back have scored once. Facing a Saints’ defense that will be without stud defensive linemen Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata, as well as inside linebacker Kwon Alexander, both Harris and White should eat. The former is a high-end RB2 while the latter is a high-floor flex.
RB Rhamondre Stevenson — Harris’ handcuff.
Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Kyler Murray — Murray is No. 2 in the NFL in both passing yards (689) and touchdowns (7). His two rushing touchdowns are tied for third across all positions. Jacksonville is one of seven dreadful team’s that has yet to record an interception and has just five passes defended to its name, tied for fifth fewest in the NFL. Murray is once again in contention for No. 1 fantasy QB honors again this week.
WR DeAndre Hopkins — .5PPR’s WR6 (ribs) is going to be fine for Week 3. Once again, he’s an elite WR1.
WR Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, & A.J. Green — On this week’s episode of The Fantasy Football Hustle, Dwain McFarland told us that Moore is currently the team-leader in targets per route run (T/RR) at 34%. For reference, Hopkins, No. 2 on the team in T/RR, comes in at 20%. When Moore is on the field, they scheme the ball into his hands. Per PFF.com, Moore’s route total jumped from 14 in Week 1 to 24(!) in Week 2. Most basic of all, Moore is miraculously the team-leader in targets. The rookie WR is a firm WR3/flex this week. Green’s 41.7% catch rate is second only to No. 3 TE Demetrius Harris for worst on the team. Green, tied for second on the team in targets with 12, may be able to fall into the end zone this week but the aged receiver can’t be trusted as more than a WR5. Kirk has played very well as the team’s primary slot receiver this year, catching 8-of-9 targets for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s a safe WR3/flex in a great match-up.
TE Maxx Williams — Double-X literally produced the best game of his 7-year career last week, catching 7 passes for 94 scoreless yards. Don’t chase variance. Leave him in free agency.
RB Chase Edmonds & James Conner — Conner looks like he’s running in quicksand at this point. He does not need to be rostered. Edmonds, meanwhile, is averaging 5.5 yards per carry, has caught 9-of-9 targets for 72 yards, while frustratingly having to share time with Conner—79 snaps to 58. Edmonds also trails Conner in the red zone touch department, five to three. Until Edmonds steals the scoring position role from Conner, the former is trapped in near the RB2/3 borderline.
QB Trevor Lawrence — Arizona’s blitz happy defense (32, tied for second most in the NFL), should make life tough on Lawrence this weekend. He’s a mid-tier QB2, whose grace could be saved via shootout game-script. This admission by Urban Meyer does not instill confidence:
Urban Meyer told Vic Fangio after the game that “every week it’s like playing Alabama in the NFL”
— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) September 22, 2021
WR Marvin Jones Jr., D.J. Chark Jr., & Laviska Shenault Jr. — Jones Jr., with his team-leading 20 targets in tow, is the clear-cut X-receiver in this offense. He’s a mid-to-high WR2 on a weekly basis. Chark Jr.’s target total plummeted from 12 in Week 1 to a Junior Varsity 4 in Week 2. While Chark did put up 86 yards and 1 touchdown two weeks ago, Urban Meyer was clearly displeased with the fact that he caught just 3 of the 12 balls Lawrence sent his way. Chark is just a WR4/multi-flex option until he turns things around. Shenault Jr. became the first player in NFL history to see five or more targets yet not gain a single yard before exiting with a shoulder injury last week. He’s practicing in full this week but if the team’s treatment of Chark is any indication as to how Meyer handles poor performances, Shenault’s unlikely to see another decent target share. Like Chark, he’s only on the WR4/multi-flex radar.
RB James Robinson & Carlos Hyde — It’s a decent match-up but this backfield just cannot be banked on. Robinson is on the RB3/4 borderline while Hyde toils away as an RB5.
Washington Football Team at Buffalo Bills
Washington Football Team
QB Taylor Heinicke — Heinicke was great last week. His 7.9% Completion Percentage Above Expectation (CPAE) was fifth best in the league. Buffalo’s defense will provide a stiff test though; their 27 QB pressures and 8 sacks are both top-5 in the league. Heinicke is a mid-to-high QB2.
WR Terry McLaurin — Heinicke correctly chose to lock onto Scary Terry last week, launching a whopping 14 passes his way and the stud X-receiver turned that into overall WR3 .5PPR numbers. McLaurin will have to do battle with lockdown CB Tre’Davious White but volume is king. He remains a top-15 this week.
WR Adam Humphries & Dyami Brown — Humphries and his hysterically low 2.0 TAY, third lowest in the league, operated as the safety blanket last week. Brown saw decent usage but couldn’t make much of it. Consider Humphries a WR5 in full-point PPR and Brown as a WR5 in .5PPR.
TE Logan Thomas — A mid-to-low TE1 who should see five or more targets.
RB Antonio Gibson & J.D. McKissic — JDM is the passing game back:
JD McKissic ran a route on 24 of WFT's 50 dropbacks on Thursday. Antonio Gibson ran 23 routes. That's a small improvement from where Gibson was in 2020. As @dwainmcfarland explains, Gibson more involved on early downs but still ceding all third-down/two-minute work to McKissic. https://t.co/O34K40jR59
— Jack Miller (@JackMiller02) September 18, 2021
Regardless, Gibson is still a high-volume lead back, as evidenced by his 38 touches—T-9th most in the NFL. Gibson’s shoulder injury is almost entirely a non-issue at this point. Buffalo’s run defense has tied for the second best NEFF rating (75%) though so Gibson finds himself one spot outside of the RB1 ranks. McKissic and his steady hands make for a high-floor flex/high-end RB4.
QB Josh Allen — WFT’s blitzes (32), QB hurries (14), sacks (6), and QB pressures (24) are all tied for top-5-best marks in the league but that didn’t stop mobile QBs Justin Herbert and Daniel Jones from combining for the league’s ninth highest passing yard total (562) through two weeks against them. That trend should remain the same this week. Allen is once again a top-5 fantasy QB.
WR Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, & Gabe Davis — Opposing WRs are hanging 38.8 .5PPR PPG, 7th most in the league, one the Football Team right now, setting the stage for a beastly WR1 week from Diggs. Primary slot receivers Keenan Allen and Sterling Shepard both finished as mid-to-high WR3s against WFT’s slot coverage. A similar outcome can be expected from Beasley. Sanders is a WR3/flex option and Davis is a boom/bust WR4.
RB Devin Singletary & Zack Moss — Singletary ran very well last week, totaling 82 yards on the ground at 6.3 YPC while finding the end zone on a 46-yarder. Moss, likewise made the most of his meager snaps, banging in two touchdowns on just eight carries. The Footballers have bottled up opposing backfields though so fantasy managers can’t expect such strong outings from this duo two weeks in a row. Lead back Singletary is an RB3/flex while Moss is just an RB4.
New York Jets at Denver Broncos
New York Jets
QB Zach Wilson — A rookie QB played a loaded Bill Belichick defense last week. From a season-long perspective, don’t panic. Unfortunately, the Broncos’ offer another stout defense; they’re the fourth ranked pass defense unit per NEFF rating (68.2%). They’re awfully banged up though. Edge rushers Bradley Chubb and Von Miller, as well as CB Ronald Darby are all on IR. Wilson is just a back-end QB2 right now but his rushing ability could elevate him a few spots. He finally tucked and ran it a few times last week which was a positive sign for fantasy purposes.
WR Corey Davis — Belichick gave Davis, the team’s No. 1 WR, blanket treatment last week—his typical tactic when playing against a rookie QB. Don’t panic. When comparing aDOT’s of Denver’s last two opponents, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Giants, the two players found on either side of Davis’ 12.7 mark are Sterling Shepard and Marvin Jones Jr. Both posted team-highs and finished as Top 20 WRs. Davis is a top-15 WR once again.
WR Braxton Berrios & Elijah Moore — Slot receiver Berrios and Z-receiver Moore are serious candidates for seven or more targets this week with Jamison Crowder registering back-to-back DNPs and Keelan Cole mostly running cardio. Berrios’ 6.4 TAY renders him a high-floor option in multi-flex, full-point PPR leagues only. Moore is a boom/bust WR5/flex.
RB Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, & Tevin Coleman — As predicted, Coleman is already being phased out of the offense. His snap count plummeted last week while both Carter and Johnson out-touched him. Carter took his team-high 11 carries for 50 yards while dual threat Carter went 11 for 59 on the ground and 2-of-3 for 29 through the air. The latter two backs are now on the flex radar with Carter slightly ahead of Johnson due to the passing game action.
QB Teddy Bridgewater — Real competition for the starting job seems to have lit a fire under Teddy. This ain’t your papa’s bear. The Broncos’ signal caller ranks second in CPAE, completing a whopping 11.5% of his passes that most QBs have no business completing and his 15.7% Aggressiveness rating is the highest it’s been dating back to 2019. The Jets are tied for last in both passes defended (three) and interceptions (zero). Bridgewater’s quietly a high-end QB2 this week with a shot at finishing circa the QB9 zone.
WR Courtland Sutton — Sutton may still be improving the health of his reconstructed ACL but that didn’t stop the dominant X-receiver from finishing as the WR6 last week. Peppered all over the field, Teddy honed in on him in scoring position, launching a team-high four targets his way in the red zone, along with the team’s lone end zone look, per PFF.com. He’s a top-15 WR this week.
254 air yards for Courtland Sutton in Week 2
Teddy Bridgewater is tied for first in the NFL in deep-ball attempts.
match made in heaven 🥰 pic.twitter.com/jSNt0PfnKm
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) September 21, 2021
WR Tim Patrick & K.J. Hamler — Hamler took over primary slot duties in Jerry Jeudy’s absence last week but Patrick saw more work, while alternating between the perimeter and the slot at roughly a 70%/30% clip, per PFF.com. Patrick has a good shot to build on his 7-of-8, 72-yard, and 2 touchdown 2 game stretch. He’s a sturdy WR3/flex while Hamler is a boom/bust WR4/flex.
TE Noah Fant — Fant’s usage sans Jeudy was as good as it was bad last week. He had the second highest target total on the team but the ball was reaching at a paltry 4.1 TAY. That is not deep enough to return solid TE1 value. The Jets could fix his problems but you can’t trust him to produce results higher than the TE8 or so.
RB Melvin Gordon & Javonte Williams — Gordon further tiled the snap discrepancy in his favor last week despite a clock-killing game script throughout the second-half. He’s nearly doubled Williams’ routes run (42 to 25, per PFF.com), catching a perfect 5-of-5 passes that have come his way. That said, Williams has the 7th best PFF rushing grade (75.3, min. 15 attempts) in the league right now. The 1-2 punch sits on either side of the RB2/3 borderline in a great match-up against the hapless Jets.
Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders
QB Jacoby Brissett — Brissett played 15 games as a starter in 2019 and tossed up an ugly -4.0% CPAE. His rushing floor is high enough to hurt pass catching backs but not good enough to bank on. Making matters worse, the Raiders’ DE Maxx Crosby is playing the best pass rush football of any defensive lineman in the league right now:
Defenders with double-digit pressures this season (PFF)
19: Maxx Crosby
15: Arik Armstead
14: Aaron Donald, Cameron Heyward
11: Micah Parsons, Melvin Ingram, Von Miller
10: Harold Landry, Romeo Okwara, Matthew Judon, Chandler Jones
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 22, 2021
WR Jaylen Waddle & Will Fuller — Waddle and Fuller are both WR3/flex plays with Brissett at the helm. Shaky floors but their explosive abilities keep a high-ceiling intact.
WR DeVante Parker — WR4 with Fuller in the fold.
TE Mike Gesicki — Waddle took his job. Just a TE2.
RB Salvon Ahmed & Myles Gaskin — MIA could opt for a clock-control approach with early Ahmed carries but we don’t like rotational rushers in low-grade offenses. Gaskin’s passing game usage is going to dip with the scrambly Brissett running for his life. Both are low-ceiling RB4s. Don’t start them.
Las Vegas Raiders
QB Derek Carr — Carr’s ankle injury hasn’t slowed him down in practice, he’s practiced in full all week. While wonderfully named, edge rushers Samuel Eguavoen and Andrew Van Ginkel won’t have a fish-in-a-barrel situation with the veteran passer who’s impressively leading the NFL in passing yards. His 817-yard 2 game total towers over No. 2 ranked passer Kyler Murray (689) by 128 yards. Despite the incoming duel with Miami’s vaunted secondary, Carr can be treated as a locked-in QB1.
WR Henry Ruggs — Ruggs’ young career is starting to come together. His 19.66% of the team’s air yards is second on the team. MIA’s DB group is beastly though so keep Ruggs as a boom/bust flex play/WR3 this week.
WRs Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards — Slotster Renfrow is a high-floor WR4/flex play in full-point PPR formats, operating as Carr’s primary safety blanket option. Edwards is just a role player right now. Not a recommended start this week.
TE Darren Waller — Waller’s 26 targets lead the entirety of the NFL. He’s an elite TE1.
RB Peyton Barber & Kenyan Drake — Lead back Josh Jacobs failed to practice on both Wednesday and Thursday (ankle). He’s unlikely to play this week against Miami’s nonexistent run defense. Their 25.2 .5PPR PPG allowed to opposing RBs is 6th most in the NFL. Both Barber and Drake should eat this week as MIA is surrendering 113.5 rushing yards, 1.5 rushing touchdowns, 6.5 receptions, and 46 receiving yards to the position. They’re the third worst ranked unit per NEFF rating (33.1%), Both players are RB3/flexes.
Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings
QB Russell Wilson — Wilson looks right at home in new OC Shane Waldron’s scheme. He’s the QB7 through two games. That’s where he should be ranked against a mid-tier Vikings’ defense this week.
WR D.K. Metcalf & Tyler Lockett — Lock them into your WR1 spots and throw away the key. Minnesota’s pass rush has produced mixed results (and are likely to be without LB Anthony Barr) and the secondary can’t stop anyone. Their 588 passing yards and 5 passing touchdowns are both Bottom 10 in the league.
WR Freddie Swain — Swain can be considered in DFS formats.
TE Gerald Everett & Will Dissly — BUY GERALD EVERETT. The TE duo split snaps on a near-even split in Week 1 and Dissly ran two more routes than Everett (19 to 17). In Week 2, Everett was given 17 more snaps than Dissly and more importantly, ran 28 routes (per PFF.com) while Dissly ran a whopping zero! The latter was a full-time blocker. The targets haven’t been there for Everett but he’s trending towards a massive boost in usage.
RB Chris Carson, Travis Homer, & Alex Collins — The SEA RBs were deployed in that order last week. Carson was the clear-cut lead rusher, Homer was the passing game back, and Collins operated as the direct rush-backup to Carson. The latter is the only startable backfield asset. Collins is the preferred bench stash, should Carson miss any time. Carson is comfortably on the RB1/2 borderline this week against the Vikings’ ho-hum front-seven.
QB Kirk Cousins — Cousins is playing well this year, posting solid back-end QB1 numbers against two quietly decent defenses in Cincinnati and Arizona. Keep him in that range against Seattle this week.
WR Adam Thielen & Justin Jefferson — The two WRs have run 50 routes apiece, per PFF.com, but the devil’s in the details. Jefferson has converted his lone end zone target for a touchdown while failing to find pay dirt on his three red zone looks, per PFF.com. Thielen, meanwhile, has secured both of his end zone targets and his single red zone target for touchdowns, resulting in a WR5 standing for the veteran receiver and a WR30 standing for Jefferson. Positive regression to the mean is on its way for Jefferson, he’s a top-15 WR this week. Thielen’s a locked-in WR1 at the moment though.
WR K.J. Osborn — Slot receiver Osborn has stepped up in TE Irv Smith’s absence. He’s No. 3 on the team in targets (17), 2 looks behind Jefferson, and is 86 snaps ahead of the No. 4 receiver. Osborn is a WR3/flex option.
RB Dalvin Cook & Alexander Mattison — Cook (ankle) was unable to practice at all this week, putting his status for Week 3 in serious doubt. Should he play, he’d be the high-flying RB1 that he always is. If not Mattison would immediately become a top-12 play at the RB position
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Tom Brady — Brady’s had some soft defensive match-ups but with this team, it doesn’t really matter. He’s an elite QB1 this week.
WR Mike Evans & Chris Godwin — Antonio Brown tested positive for COVID-19 and given his inability to return quickly, is likely experiencing symptoms. He is unlikely to play this week, clearing the runway for Evans and Godwin. The dominant duo should push for 10 targets apiece, making them good bets for WR1 finishes. Per PFF.com, stud CB Jalen Ramsey shadowed Evans last year but Evans still managed a 5-catch, 49-yard, 1 touchdown stat line. Bet on Godwin for the top-5 WR finish but if Evans does have a tough go of it, he won’t finish worse than a WR2.
WR Scotty Miller & Tyler Johnson — Miller is the more proven Buc but Johnson got more snaps last week per PFF.com. Follow the TB news cycle closely. Whichever receiver gets the starting nod in place of Antonio Brown is a rock-solid WR4/flex option who could easily vault into the top 30 at the position.
TE Rob Gronkowski — Elite TE1.
RB Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, & Gio Bernard — Fournette’s 29 total touches nearly double the usage of Jones (11) and Bernard (4) combined. Still, three active backs are too many cooks in the kitchen. Fournette is just an RB4.
Los Angeles Rams
QB Matthew Stafford — This will be the toughest test for the Stafford-led Rams offense but Stafford’s been cooking so far. His 42.56 .5PPR points are 11th most in the league and he hasn’t even developed rapport with X-receiver Robert Woods yet — there’s still room for improvement. Stafford’s quest is aided by the likely absence of standout DL Jason Pierre-Paul. He’s a back-end QB1 once again this week.
WR Cooper Kupp & Robert Woods — Kupp, fantasy’s WR1 through two games, should stay hot against TB’s slot coverage. Since the loss of stud CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, the Bucs’ slot coverage has yielded 10 receptions on 13 targets for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns, per PFF.com.
WR Van Jefferson Jr. — Jefferson is the clear-cut downfield WR in this offense. His 90 snaps dwarf that of DeSean Jackson’s 17. The young WR has his work cut out for him against a stout TB DB group though. This isn’t the week to flex him. He’s just a WR4.
TE Tyler Higbee — This is the buy-low moment for Higbee. No. 2 TE Johnny Mundt’s snaps plummeted last week and Higbee didn’t make much noise in the box score. It’s him, and him alone, operating as the TE of note in this offense.
RB Sony Michel, Darrell Henderson Jr., & Jake Funk — Darrell Henderson suffered a rib cartilage injury last week and has been deemed Questionable for Week 3 after not practicing all week. It’s said to be an issue of pain tolerance. Should he be active, both he and Michel would be RB3/flex plays in what’s likely to be a high-scoring affair. If Henderson is out, Michel creeps up to the RB2/3 borderline. Jake Funk would then enter the fantasy conversation as an RB4.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Green Bay Packers
QB Aaron Rodgers — All systems go for Rodgers and Co. SF DL Arik Armstead barely practiced this week (adductor), DT Kevin Givens (ankle) is Out, Javon Kinlaw is practicing in a limited fashion (knee), as is LB Emmanuel Moseley (knee). He’s a mid-tier QB1.
WR Davante Adams — Elite WR1.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling — MVS is perhaps the highest variance starting WR in fantasy. He is to be utilized in DFS-only. Do not start him in redraft leagues.
WR Allen Lazard, Amari Rodgers, & Randall Cobb — Lazard is the No. 3 WR but HC Matt LeFleur called for more Cobb usage. Avoid all three.
TE Robert Tonyan — Back-end TE1.
RB A.J. Dillon & Kylin Hill — Dillon is the primary bench stash. Hill would see ample passing game usage if Jones were to miss time though.
San Francisco 49ers
QB Jimmy Garoppolo — The Packers’ passing defense has allowed 7 touchdowns (second most), defended 5 passes (T-5th fewest), registered 1 interception (T-2nd fewest), while generating 4 QB hurries (6th fewest), 9 QB knockdowns (6th fewest), 1 sack (the fewest), for a total of just 14 QB pressures (7th fewest). Jimmy Garoppolo is a high-end QB2 streaming option who can reasonably finish inside the Top 12 at the position this week.
WR Deebo Samuel — Deebo’s 20 targets are more than twice as many as the next closest Niner and his 53.58% team air yards share is the largest in the NFL through two weeks. He’s an WR1 again this week.
WR Trent Sherfield & Brandon Aiyuk — GB has been burned for 40+ yard scores in back-to-back games, making Sherfield a sneaky boom/bust WR5/multi-flex option. Aiyuk has all the talent in the world but is clearly in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse. Start if you wish — he might be more variant than MVS this week.
TE George Kittle — Kittle’s 122 snaps are 4th highest at the position through two games and he’s second on the team in targets (9). Although he’s not in the Kelce/Waller/Hockenson/Andrews tier, he’s one with Kyle Pitts right after that bunch. Keep him locked into your starting lineup this week.
RB Trey Sermon, Trenton Cannon, & Jacques Patrick — Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) is Doubtful to play while JaMycal Hasty (ankle) was already ruled Out. That leaves Sermon, who just cleared the concussion protocol, and the recently signed duo of Cannon and Patrick to shoulder the load. GB 279 rushing yards allowed are 5th most in the NFL, so someone (or someones) is gonna eat this week. Sermon’s the best bet to get the starting nod. He’s on the RB2/3 borderline. The highly athletic, dual threat Cannon is the best bet for No. 2 duties, though he’s tough to trust outside of very deep mult-flex formats. Patrick is shockingly unathletic and really shouldn’t be anywhere other than the bench (both in real life and fantasy).