Our trio of experts -- Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings -- publish their first rankings of the week every Tuesday, and Chris Towers is here to break them down for the week ahead.
1. Which struggling QB has the most to prove in Week 3?
There's a lot going on here, so we'll start with Rodgers, who has arguably been the most disappointing of the three. He received something of a pass for his pedestrian 2015 season, mostly because he was without Jordy Nelson all year, but also because even a "pedestrian" Aaron Rodgers season ends with 31 touchdowns and 3,800 yards. The return of Nelson was supposed to add a much-needed downfield dynamic to the Packers' offense, but we just haven't seen that through two games. Rodgers is averaging just 5.9 yards per attempt, with only three touchdowns on a whopping 70 pass attempts. The good news is Rodgers has long played better at Lambeau Field, where he has a career 109.8 passer rating. If the Packers' passing game can't get on track against the Lions in Week 3, it might be time for a full-blown panic.
Wilson's struggles can likely be tied to an ankle injury, as well as the Seahawks' porous offensive line. We can give him a pass -- for now -- but Bortles gets no such excuses. He has had his full complement of weapons, the same ones he threw 35 touchdowns to last season, so there isn't really an excuse for him there. He just hasn't played well, especially in Week 2, when he needed a pair of garbage time scores while down big to even get to positive scoring in Fantasy. He was never an efficient quarterback last season, but he took advantage of three big, physical options in the red zone to finish off drives with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Julius Thomas. He has had neither an overwhelming tough or easy schedule so far, and the Ravens should continue that trend in Week 3. We were already worried about Bortles regressing this season, and it will be hard to keep running him out there in your lineup if he can't get going this week.
2. If you need a QB on waivers, who are you adding for Week 3?
Efficiency isn't Ryan Tannehill's strong suit, and hence is prone to rough stretches. At this point in his career, he isn't much more than an average NFL quarterback, but even an average quarterback can be useful for Fantasy with the right amount of volume, as he proved yet again in Week 2, finishing with 26 Fantasy points on 45 pass attempts against the Patriots. Much of that came after the Dolphins went down early, which is a bit of a concern, because it's hard to see them falling behind to the Browns. Of course, it's still the Browns, so Tannehill should have little trouble finding success against a defense that has allowed 572 passing yards and four touchdowns through two games to Carson Wentz and Joe Flacco. With Arian Foster likely sidelined and DeVante Parker back, the Dolphins would be smart to lean heavily on the passing game yet again, which should make Tannehill productive enough to be worth starting yet again.
3. Which injury-replacement running back ranks highest this week?
I don't envy our intrepid trio of rankers this week, as the rash of injuries across the running back position has clouded what is already a tough picture to make out. Injuries to the likes of Jonathan Stewart, Doug Martin, Adrian Peterson, Ameer Abdullah and others could thrust a number of reserves into larger roles, while the potential return of Jamaal Charles could put a damper on Ware's production. That Dave, Jamey, and Heath can't agree on which replacement back is best shouldn't come as much of a surprise, and should be a good indicator of how messy this week could be at the position.
Whittaker figures to get a nice boost in work in Carolina, and he looked good in Week 2, rushing for 100 yards on 16 carries in a win over the 49ers. He has been the primary backup for the Panthers so far this season, but it was Cameron Artis-Payne who got the bulk of the work when Stewart sat out late last season. Artis-Payne, who was actually a healthy scratch for the first two weeks of the season, rushed 33 times for 152 yards over the course of three games late last season, while Whittaker had just seven carries in that stretch. Whittaker seems like the obvious choice in the Carolina backfield based on their usage so far, but Artis-Payne is a sneaky-good play for Week 3 as a flex option.
Sims figures to play a huge role for the Buccaneers this week, and he and Theo Riddick look like very similar plays in Week 3. Both are more known for their pass-catching abilities than their running skills, but should get 15-plus touches with Doug Martin and Ameer Abdullah dealing with injuries, respectively. You won't find either on waivers this week, but both should make the jump from flex to RB2 if their starters end up sitting out.
4. Which non-top-20 RB so far has the best chance to finish top-5 in Week 3?
No, we aren't worried about Gurley, it seems. He has had a tough time so far, as he found almost no room to operate against either the 49ers or the Seahawks to open the season. He hasn't had much help from the rest of his offense, as opposing defenses have had no qualms about stacking the box and daring Case Keenum to beat them. He hasn't been able to do that yet, and it's hard to see why anyone would expect that to change moving forward. On the other hand, a subpar offensive supporting cast didn't really slow Gurley down as a rookie, so we have to expect him to break out at some point. The bad news? His next two opponents (Tampa Bay and Arizona) ranked ninth and second in rushing defense DVOA last season -- and they haven't exactly regressed so far. It might be a few more weeks before Gurley really looks like himself.
Freeman hasn't had quite as tough a task in front of him so far, but he has been similarly disappointing thanks to the re-emergence of Tevin Coleman as a factor for the Falcons. Freeman didn't even catch a single pass in Week 2, after being held to just 40 yards in the opener -- however, he did rush for 93 yards on 17 carries last Sunday, so it isn't all bad news. Now, he gets to take on the Saints in a Monday night showdown in Week 3, and that should be just what he needs to get going. The Saints featured a historically bad defense last season, one Freeman torched for 250 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in two matchups last season. Coleman remains a factor and will continue to cut into Freeman's playing time, but you should have no qualms about starting either back this week.
5. Which non-top-20 WR so far has the best chance to finish top-5 in Week 3?
- Dave: Odell Beckham
- Jamey: Odell Beckham
- Heath: Allen Robinson
Beckham couldn't have asked for an easier schedule to open the season because the Cowboys and Saints ranked 17th and 32nd in pass defense DVOA in 2015, per FootballOutsiders.com. Now, 159 yards isn't a bad total for two games, but it does represent his worst two-game Fantasy scoring stretch since Weeks 6 and 7 last season. Given the presence of Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz, there has to be some concern about Beckham sustaining the unbelievable pace from his first two seasons, but I'm not sure two games is enough proof to draw from just yet. Shepard and Cruz are benefiting from the attention Beckham draws, and now they have proved themselves capable of making defenses pay for that, Beckham's life should get a little easier from this point on. Washington isn't a terribly tough matchup, and we've seen Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant go for 100-plus yards against them so far.
The Jaguars force fed Robinson in Week 1, as he ended up with 15 targets, but had just six receptions for 72 yards in the loss to the Packers. They opted for a different strategy in Week 2, targeting Robinson just five times, and the results weren't really any better. Robinson has caught just nine of 20 passes thrown his way so far this season, and after racking up 14 touchdowns last season -- one every 5.7 receptions -- he has yet to score in the early going here. Robinson had little room to work against Pro Bowler Jason Verrett in San Diego last week, but will hopefully have better success against the Ravens, who ranked 25th in pass defense DVOA last season. Robinson has been disappointing so far, but he is far too talented to even consider sitting, because he is going to have a monster game soon.
6. Which rookie WR will keep it up in Week 3?
- Dave: Sterling Shepard
- Jamey: Sterling Shepard
- Heath: Will Fuller
Shepard has been very impressive so far, finishing in double figures in standard Fantasy scoring in each of his first two games. He has hauled in 11 of 12 passes thrown his way, and he has done so with an average depth of target of 11.4 yards -- these have not been dumpoffs and screens Shepard is hauling in. He'll slow down at some point, and it might happen in Week 3 against a talented Washington secondary. Still, you have to like his chances more than Fuller against the Patriots on a short week Thursday. Both remain somewhat risky plays given their lack of track records, but as WR3, both continue to have a ton of upside -- and what they've shown so far isn't bad either.
7. Which tight end has the best chance to break out in Week 3?
There are a lot of panicky Fleener owners right now, and it's hard to blame them. Fleener's first two games in New Orleans have been rough. Despite a healthy 12 targets, Fleener has just three catches so far, and coach Sean Payton told reporters Monday that Fleener is not as consistent as they would like. The Saints have gotten big production out of the tight end spot in recent years, including a surprise 825-yard, six-touchdown performance from Ben Watson a year ago, although it's worth noting Watson had just 31 receiving yards in his first two games a year ago, less than Fleener's total of 35. Playing in a new system, Fleener is still trying to find his place, and it makes sense to remain patient with him; there just aren't many tight ends with as much upside as Fleener, especially not on waivers.
Reed clearly has the highest upside among this trio, but Ebron remains a very intriguing option moving forward. He's shown a bit this season, hauling in nine catches for 99 yards and a score, but was on the verge of a really big game in Week 2; he had a touchdown called back by a penalty in the loss to the Titans. Ebron is receiving consistent work, especially in the red zone, and should get plenty of opportunities in Week 3 against the Packers, in a game the Lions will likely have to throw plenty to stay in. Still just 81 percent owned, he certainly has the talent to be a top-five tight end, and he's showing flashes of it here.