Week 3 Rankings: Standard | PPR
People say March is the most optimistic time of year because of spring training and eternal hope.
If that's true then the days leading up to Week 3 in the NFL maybe be the most stressful.
It was easy to disregard one week's worth of data, two becomes harder. After Week 3 we're nearly 20 percent done with the season and current season results start to feel more concrete. In some respect that's terrifying, especially if you're 0-2.
Never fear, because we have fresh starts abound with backup running backs and emerging tight ends. We also have our share of shootouts to choose from. As usual, let's get started with all 16 games in a tweet:
Miss Week 3 in a tweet? It's all right here, rIght now: https://t.co/3VflpkUgDs— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) September 22, 2016
Which backup RB takes advantage of his new role?
There's nothing Fantasy Football owners get more excited about than fresh blood at running back. Well, they g0t a large serving heading into Week 3. There are several levels of excitement here, but I'll try to rank them and tell you what to expect.
From PPR specialist to feature back?
Charles Sims is a guy I've always thought could be a top-15 back with the opportunity and he'll get his chance over the next month as Doug Martin recovers from a hamstring injury. Unfortunately for him that stretch includes the Rams, Panthers and Seahawks. Maybe Martin just didn't want to see his yards per carry crash. If Sims can produce top-25 numbers over the next three weeks that's a pretty good sign he has star ability.
Theo Riddick burst onto the scene in 2015 with 80 receptions and heading into 2016 the Lions said they wanted to give him more carries. He had 18 in his first two games but that number may balloon with Ameer Abdullah on the IR. Riddick should be a solid RB2 in PPR leagues -- the carry distribution will determine his standard value.
Jerick McKinnon is a guy who has inspired much hope from dynasty owners as they speculate as to when the Adrian Peterson era will end in Minnesota. Well, he's got his chance now -- behind the 29th ranked offensive line in football (per Pro Football Focus). This isn't a great matchup in Week 3, so I'd rather bench him and try to get a read on the situation.
Cameron Artis-Payne is a guy I've gone back and forth on several times in 2016 alone. He looked great in the preseason, but then he was inactive for the first two weeks of the regular season. Now Ron Rivera is talking like he's Jonathan Stewart 2.0. Nothing would surprise me this week with the Panthers' running back situation.
Dwayne Washington was a waiver wire darling this week -- and for good reason. He's the goal-line back in a good offense and he has a chance to see 12-15 carries per game with a little success and the right game script. I don't imagine he's getting that fame script in Lambeau.
Kenyan Drake has a ton of upside, but like every back in Miami he also has an extensive injury history. I wouldn't be surprised if he breaks a long one against the Browns and carves out a role for himself for as long as he can stay healthy.
Just a guy-i
"Jay Ajayi is good if he could just stay healthy." That is a thing people believe. I am not one of those people. Maybe against the Browns defense with a bunch of work he'll be relevant. He better get off to a fast start though because Drake is coming.
Fozzy Whittaker just ran for 100 yards! What is he doing at the bottom? Well, you can thank Ron Rivera for basically saying Whitaker would remain a change-of-pace guy and Cameron Artis-Payne would try to take Stewart's role. Much like McKinnon, I'd just as soon see this rotation play out before I start anyone.
Last chance for slow starters.
I preached patience after Week 1, but some of these guys are making it difficult. As our former president said, "...fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again." Well, these guys have fooled us twice and I'm only giving them one more chance.
Some of them like John Brown, Vincent Jackson and Duke Johnson were my preseason darlings and they're the most disappointing. You've probably already seen others dropping them but I'm giving them one more opportunity in Week 3. If they aren't more involved I'll cut them without looking back.
Blake Bortles and Coby Fleener? I was the lowest one on them heading into the season, but I didn't expect them to look quite this bad. These are the dangerous players because confirmation bias is whispering in my ear "Haha, we were right! Yell it from the mountaintops!"
This is troubling on two counts. First, there are no mountaintops in South Florida. More seriously, if I'm giving the guys I believed in one more shot I owe the same to those I thought were overvalued. Then again, I didn't actually draft Bortles or Fleener anywhere so ... "hahaha, we were right!"
Rookie quarterbacks face new tests.
Cody Kessler & Jacoby Brissett will be the 3rd & 4th rookies to start a game at QB in 2016. But none of them were stuck behind Case Keenum. pic.twitter.com/pG1rcfVoHo— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) September 20, 2016
Well, at least Goff has elevated himself to No. 2 on the Rams depth chart. The other rookies are facing entirely different tasks.
Cody Kessler makes his first start for the Browns. It's probably a temporary thing and it's made the Dolphins DST an interesting streamer. But I am interested in seeing what Kessler can do against a defense that has given us mixed results. He could be interesting in 2-QB leagues if Josh Gordon returns before Josh McCown.
Dak Prescott has made a couple of uninspiring starts so far but I'm intrigued in Week 3. Prescott had his success in the preseason mostly against backup defenses, which is exactly what he'll face when the Bears come to town. I would expect the best game we've seen yet from the rookie. If not, it's probably time to give up on the dream of him being Fantasy-relevant in 2016.
Carson Wentz has already proven his mettle against bad defenses and now he faces a stiffer test against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The bright side is he should get plenty of volume, because the Eagles won't have much luck establishing the run against this defense. If Wentz has a third solid performance he'll be well on his way to having the most successful rookie campaign for a signal-caller in 2016.
Monday Night Mother Lode and other high-scoring games.
What a week for FanDuel to decide they aren't going to count Monday night in the big contests. The Falcons and the Saints are the most obvious shootout, but they certainly aren't the only one. Here are the low-end players I'd focus on in each matchup.
Falcons @ Saints
Everyone got down on Mohamed Sanu because of one bad game, but he's a No. 3 WR. They have bad games! You don't sit them in New Orleans on Monday night, no matter how bad they were the week before. I'm OK if you dropped Fleener for a good option earlier in the week, but if you're still holding him he's not an awful option in a shootout. I'd rather start him than Clive Walford or Jesse James.
If Antonio Gates is unable to take the field, Hunter Henry comes into consideration in very deep leagues. But regardless of the depth, you're starting Travis Benjamin, Phillip Dorsett and probably Tyrell Williams. Also, Frank Gore is plenty old and generally a sit but this a great matchup at home. Start him with confidence.
We talked about it in Week 1. Bad teams play fun football! I don't hate the idea of Justin Forsett or T.J. Yeldon as a flex in a PPR league. Also, in case you missed it, Dennis Pitta is a thing again and it's beautiful.
Marcus Mariota is a sneaky good streaming play and so is his No. 1 receiver, Tajae Sharpe. Some of the luster is off Sharpe after a disappointing Week 2 but this is the worst pass defense in the NFL through two weeks and Sharpe should be in line for a ton of targets.
Is Revis Island a thing of the past?
Darrelle Revis was once one of the most feared cornerbacks in the league. This year, he's been atrocious. Of the 102 corners Pro Football Focus has graded only two have graded worse than Revis. Quarterbacks have targeted him 13 times in 2016 (which alone is staggering) and completed 10 passes for 173 yards. They have a quarterback rating of 143.9 when targeting the former Pro Bowl corner. This week we find out if he's completely washed up.
Jeremy Maclin is a fine receiver and Alex Smith is an excellent game manager, but this should be a welcome respite from the abuse he suffered in the downfield passing game. Smith does not like to throw the ball deep and isn't very good when he does. If Revis suffers again without the threat of the deep ball, or worse yet gets burnt deep by Smith, you can probably target the Jets corner every game for the foreseeable future.
Do the Seahawks get rolling?
The Seattle Seahawks have scored one touchdown through two weeks. That's not good. They've done it against the Dolphins and Rams, who gave up a combined 59 to points to the 49ers and Brady-less Patriots. That's terrible. But I'm buying low on almost this entire offense.
Russell Wilson got off to a bad start last year, so much so that people were dropping him. He finished with one of the best stretches of football we've seen in a long time. He has a bum ankle and a bad line, but I'm confident at least one of those things improves over time. When it does, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett will reach the potential we projected for them.
The only thing that has me concerned from a Fantasy perspective is this running back situation. I'm hopeful the Seahawks will rest Thomas Rawls, because he hasn't been nearly as good as Christine Michael anyway. If so, I'd move Michael up into the top 15 RBs for Week 3. If they both play, Michael is a borderline No. 2 RB and Rawls is a boom-or-bust flex play.
The Melvin Gordon breakout is happening.
Pace stats after two games are pretty silly, but...
Melvin Gordon is getting more work, being more efficient and scoring touchdowns.
Like I said, it's two games.
On the other hand, he faces the Colts this week and the Chargers just lost Danny Woodhead for the season. Gordon's workload is secure and he looks like the back that dominated college football in 2014. He should easily be a top-10 running back this week -- and quite possibly the rest of the season. The next two days may be your last chance to acquire Gordon at a reasonable price.
Desperation setting in.
You're not a football nerd unless you laminate this chart and keep it with you at all times: https://t.co/KpMeDOWr0Wpic.twitter.com/1oRQrsKPMI— Benjamin Morris (@skepticalsports) September 15, 2016
It's one thing to start 0-3 when you didn't expect to be good. When you thought you were a contender it can lead to all kinds of panic and bad decision making. We've already seen one such move from the Bills, who fired their offensive coordinator after just two games.
Will the Redskins consider benching Kirk Cousins?
Do they Saints get tired of Fleener's uninspiring play?
You would think that Brees will eventually stop looking Fleener's way pic.twitter.com/5VUbqAE4aj— Matt Franciscovich (@MattFranchise) September 20, 2016
Things like that draw quick reactions when a team that thought it was good starts slow. Any 0-2 teams that find the loss column in Week 3 will be prime candidates for overreactions and that can have implications on your Fantasy team.
Do Week 2's TE streamers turn into must-starts?
I already told you Pitta was a thing. But 12 targets will do that for you. Jacob Tamme is probably the closest thing to Pitta and in New Orleans he's pretty close to a must-start as well.
Generally when you're talking about streaming tight ends you're talking about touchdown-dependent players and that is where I would put Jesse James and Walford, though both have a chance to prove me wrong in Week 3.
Tight end has been dreadful early in the year with injuries and poor performances. It would be really nice to see a couple more tight ends step up and look like steady performers or two-thirds of the teams in your leagues are going to be streaming tight ends by Week 6.
Mano y mano
Yeah, everyone is talking about Odell Beckham and Josh Norman. Yes, that matters a lot for Fantasy. As a Beckham owner you're hoping that he a) gets back at Norman by scoring his first touchdown of the year and b) doesn't get suspended for shenanigans.
That game last year helped build Norman's reputation and I doubt either player has forgotten it. Let's hope cooler heads prevail. We've lost enough players to injuries, we don't need a superstar wide receiver getting suspended.
It's also not the only matchup worth watching.
Will Jason Verrett trail T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis? That could mean a huge day for Phillip Dorsett if he does.
Does Patrick Peterson completely shut down a hobbled Sammy Watkins? Maybe even more interesting is whether Tyrod Taylor can have another good Fantasy day without help from his superstar receiver.
Finally, which Broncos corner has the most success against A.J. Green? The Steelers did a fantastic job against the Bengals wide out in Week 2. Will he struggle again?