Fantasy Football: Thursday Night Football recap marks the start of the Baker Mayfield era
Chris Towers breaks down a wild Thursday game that featured the start of an exciting new era in Cleveland.
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The Baker Mayfield era has officially begun
We'll never know if coach Hue Jackson would have made the switch if not for Tyrod Taylor's concussion late in the first half, but either way, I don't think we're going to see Taylor again for the Browns. Taylor was a disaster Thursday night, completing 4 of 14 passes for 19 yards – he actually lost more yards on sacks than he passed for – while Mayfield came in and immediately re-invigorated the offense.
In his NFL regular season debut, Mayfield completed 17 of 23 passes for 201 yards, and electrified the crowd with a two-point conversion reception. He was everything we'd hoped to see from the top pick, connecting with top receiver Jarvis Landry over and over – Landry finished the game with eight catches for 103 yards. After the game, Jackson told reporters he needed to watch the tape before making a decision on who will start in Week 4, but … it will be Mayfield. It has to be Mayfield. I can't blame Jackson for not wanting to announce he was benching Taylor while the latter was recovering from a concussion, but I would expect we'll get an announcement early next week.
And that should be good news for the Browns offense. Taylor just wasn't getting the job done early, and there are too many weapons in this offense for them to not be more explosive. This is good news for Landry, though he was going to get his regardless. The bigger beneficiaries are likely second-year tight end David Njoku (two catches, 36 yards Thursday) and rookie receiver Antonio Callaway (four for 20); the latter had a few big opportunities wasted by poor throws from Taylor Thursday.
I wouldn't necessarily run out and add Mayfield, just because quarterback is so deep and easy to fill in Fantasy and he doesn't project to provide enough value with his legs to stand out, but there's obvious upside here. He should be owned in all 2QB leagues, and is worth a waiver-wire add in 14-team or deeper leagues next week.
There will be growing pains with Sam Darnold
Of course, we saw Thursday why you may not want to pin your Fantasy hopes on Mayfield right away. Darnold was legitimately solid the first two games, averaging 8.6 yards per attempt with an 88.9 passer rating in spite of three interceptions, but he took a big step back Thursday. Darnold was just 15 for 31 for 169 yards and two interceptions, and he was missing all over the field. Part of the issue for Darnold? He doesn't seem to trust anyone but Quincy Enunwa, who has more than double the targets of the next highest player in the offense. This isn't an offense totally lacking in talent, but it's hard to rely on Robby Anderson or Terrelle Pryor, and Darnold isn't ready to elevate them yet. Darnold has certainly showed flashes, but he's not Fantasy relevant yet.
Other notes from TNF
- Isaiah Crowell was bailed out by two scores … I don't mind because I started Crowell in multiple leagues, but Crowell was not very good at all despite the two scores, rushing for 34 yards on 16 carries. That gives him 69 yards combined in his last two games, and 36.3 percent of his total rushing yards have come on one Week 1 carry.
- Robby Anderson is looking like a bust … After he finished as a top-20 WR last season, I thought Anderson was undervalued coming into the season, but he has been a total non-factor so far. Anderson has just six catches for 90 yards on 10 targets in three games, and has seemingly fallen behind Pryor in the receiving hierarchy. Even Jermaine Kearse had more targets in Week 3.
- Duke Johnson hasn't been involved … Jackson doesn't really have an excuse here, because he used Johnson correctly last season, but Johnson has just five receptions through three games. That's quite a drop for someone who averaged 4.6 receptions per game a year ago. For his part, Jackson did acknowledge Johnson is one of the Browns' best weapons and he needs to get him the ball more. Could be a buy-low situation here, especially in PPR formats.
Other notes from around the NFL
- T.Y. Hilton (quad) did not practice Thursday … Hilton told reporters the injury was "nothing to worry about" but … I'm worried! He hasn't practiced in either of the first two days of the week, so Friday will be telling. If he doesn't practice again, you'll need to find an alternative in case Hilton sits.
- Rob Gronkowski (ankle) was limited … This one legitimately doesn't sound serious, with NFL Network reporting the injury is not believed to be a concern. Of course, it's the Patriots, so we'll see what happens Friday and Sunday.
- Julio Jones (calf) says he will play … Jones has missed both Wednesday and Thursday practice sessions, but like Hilton, insists he's fine. We'll see what happens Friday, but if he doesn't practice, you'll want a replacement on stand-by – perhaps Calvin Ridley. One concern is we've seen times when Jones played through injury but was a decoy with no usage.
- Dalvin Cook (hamstring) has yet to practice this week … Stop me if you've heard this one: Cook says he's fine. This one is quite a bit more concerning, given that Cook actually had to leave Sunday's game. I'm adding Latavius Murray as insurance, especially with the lowly Bills on the schedule.
- Jay Ajayi (back) was held out of practice again … Ajayi seems unlikely to play at this point, though we'll see what happens Friday. Corey Clement is a must-add player if he's available in your league.
- Marlon Mack (foot, hamstring) was out again … This one is frustrating because there just haven't been many details – to start with, is the foot or the hamstring the bigger issue? Either way, you probably wouldn't want to rely on a healthy Mack in a timeshare yet, so plan on more reliable options.
- Jack Doyle (hip) did not practice … Like Hilton, this is the second straight day of practice Doyle has missed. We'll see what happens Friday, but you'll want to add Eric Ebron if you've been streaming tight ends, because he could see a big boost in work.
- Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) is not expected back in Week 3 … Preseason reports indicated Jeffery was hoping to be back after missing two weeks, but he's still limited at practice at this point. It would be a surprise if Jeffery played in Week 3, but his return could come the following week.
- Marquise Goodwin (thigh) was limited again … Goodwin has improved enough to get on the practice field, but he still looks very much in question for Week 3. Have other options available.
- Josh Gordon (hamstring) remained limited at practice … We do know Gordon was healthy enough to pass a physical earlier this week, but that doesn't mean he's healthy enough to play right away. Add in learning a new playbook, and you're better off not relying on him in Week 3 even if he does play.
- Cole Beasley (ankle) was limited Thursday … Believe it or not, Beasley is the top target in the Cowboys' passing game, though that doesn't mean you should want to trust him even if healthy.
- Chris Godwin (toe) was limited Thursday … It doesn't sound like Godwin's toe is a serious issue at this point, but we'll see if he progresses any Friday. Godwin is a low-end starting option despite scoring twice in his first two games of the season.
So who should you sit and start this week? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 3 Fantasy football rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.
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