The Vikings tried to tell us. Every indication they gave after naming Kevin Stefanski the offensive coordinator was that they wanted to run the ball early and often. In his three games as interim coordinator last season, they threw the ball just 82 times; their first pick in this year's draft was a center; they added guard Josh Kline in free agency.
In spite of that, the Fantasy community still coalesced round Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs as top-12 wide receivers. On FantasyPros.com's industry consensus ADP, Thielen came off the board as the No. 10 WR; Diggs was No. 12. Kirk Cousins was only the No. 18 quarterback, but we believed in the Vikings receivers. And it sure seems like we made a mistake.
In a matchup against a soft Raiders secondary in Week 3, the Vikings put the ball in the air just 21 times. That comes after a 10-pass game in Week 1; even in Week 2, when they trailed much of the game, they threw the ball only 32 times.
As a result, Diggs has just 12 targets in three games, for six catches, 101 yards, and one touchdown; Thielen, the more productive of the two, has 16 targets for 173 yards and two touchdowns. To put that into context, Diggs had four games last season with more than 12 targets, and for with more than 101 yards. By this point last season, Thielen had 32 receptions for 338 yards.
This is what the Vikings want to do. They want to win games with their defense and their running game, and they are 2-1 with a five-point loss on their resume. Which is to say, everything is going according to plan. Which makes it hard to suggest buying low on either Thielen or Diggs.
Sure, the Vikings will inevitably have to throw the ball more than they have thus far — they are on pace for just 336 attempts, 91 fewer than last year's NFL-low Seahawks.
But, unless things start going south in a hurry, Diggs and Thielen just aren't going to get the target volume they need to be top-12 options at receiver. The Vikings were sixth-most pass-happy team in the league in 2018, which allowed both Diggs and Thielen to approach 150 targets. Even if, and/or when the Vikings have to throw it more moving forward, they probably aren't going to be one of the league leaders in pass attempts again. Maybe we should have seen this coming.
And, with next two games coming against the Bears and Giants, you probably shouldn't expect the Vikings to change course anytime soon.
Winners and Losers
NYG N.Y. Giants • #12
Age: 30 • Experience: 7 yrs.
We were hoping Waller would see a healthy workload this season, but nobody saw this coming. Waller hauled in 13 of the 14 passes thrown his way Sunday for 134 yards, and even added a rushing attempt for 7 yards, giving him 27 PPR Fantasy points in the game. Through three games, Waller now has 26 catches on 29 targets, for 267 yards, putting him on pace for 1,424. I'll take the under on that pace, but you also suspect he'll find the end zone at some point, too. At this point, there's no question Waller has emerged as a must-start Fantasy tight end. The only question is whether he's broken into that top tier of players.
Mike Evans WR
TB Tampa Bay • #13
Age: 29 • Experience: 10 yrs.
Now that's how you have a bounceback game. Evans entered Week 3 with just 89 yards and no touchdowns on 13 targets and six catches, and he bested each of those numbers Sunday against the Giants. He caught 8 of 15 for 190 yards and three touchdowns, quieting any concerns there may have been about Chris Godwin emerging as the team's No. 1 option. Godwin's season-long numbers still look fine after his three-catch, 40-yard showing, but it was nice to see Evans reassert himself as the top option for Jameis Winston, who also had by far his best performance of the season.
Greg Olsen TE
SEA Seattle • #88
Age: 38 • Experience: 14 yrs.
Age and injuries can't slow Greg Olsen down, and neither can a backup quarterback, as it turns out. Even with Cam Newton sidelined, Olsen continued his resurgence Sunday, catching six of seven passes for 75 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both from Kyle Allen. Olsen, who had played just 16 games with 482 yards in his previous two seasons combined, now has 221 through three games on 16 catches and 25 targets and is back being arguably the top option in the Panthers' passing game.
Ronald Jones RB
DAL Dallas • #32
Age: 25 • Experience: 6 yrs.
That's now two out of three games where Jones has outshined Peyton Barber this season. That shouldn't be saying too much, given how pedestrian Barber has been in his career, but it's a big improvement over where Jones was last season. He ran the ball 14 times for 80 yards, both a team-high total, and added a 41-yard catch. He's coming off just four carries for 9 yards in Week 2, so we can't say for sure Jones is coming to take the job, but it seems at this point to be just a matter of a time.
Josh Gordon WR
TEN Tennessee • #19
Age: 32 • Experience: 6 yrs.
First, Antonio Brown was released. Then, Julian Edelman suffered a chest injury in Week 3. Things were looking bleak for Josh Gordon at this time a week ago, but now he could be Tom Brady's No. 1 target moving forward. We'll see what the extent of Edelman's injury is, but we got a sneak peek of what life could be like for Gordon as Tom Brady's top option in Week 3, as he caught six of 11 passes for 83 yards. Even if Edelman is back for Week 4, Gordon looks like a must-start Fantasy option moving forward; if Edelman is out, the sky is the limit.
KC Kansas City • #11
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Valdes-Scantling is by no means the Packers' top target in the passing game, despite the fact that he has as many targets in three games as Davante Adams. However, he has at least five in all three games, and led the team with six catches, 99 yards, and 10 targets, scoring his first touchdown of the season en route. Valdes-Scantling hasn't been a superstar, but he's emerged as a reliable option for Aaron Rodgers, and is in the Flex discussion every week.
LV Las Vegas • #17
Age: 30 • Experience: 10 yrs.
Adams isn't in quite the same boat as the Vikings' receivers, but the Packers are another team who seemed to make it clear they wanted to run the ball with their offensive coordinator hire, and that's been the case so far, with Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball just 93 times through three games, compared to 116 attempts at this time last season. That has meant a slip in Adams' production. He was targeted just four times Sunday, bringing him to just 21 on the season. He has been effective with the targets he has received, averaging a career-high 9.4 yards per target, but Adams has yet to score a touchdown, after double-digit touchdowns in each of the previous three games. The touchdowns will come, and the efficiency has been a nice bonus, but nothing about how the Packers have run their offense or used Adams this year should make you feel confident he will reach the highs he saw in 2018.
Chris Carson RB
SEA Seattle • #32
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
It's probably a really good thing for Carson that Rashaad Penny was sidelined by an injury for Week 3, because he seems determined to hand Penny this job. Carson lost another fumble Sunday, his third of the season, and just didn't make much of an impact overall. He rushed for 53 yards on 15 carries and had just one catch for negative-2 yards, while C.J. Procise caught five passes for 38 yards. Carson hasn't topped 60 rushing yards in a game yet, so it's not like he's blown the doors off the place despite the fumbles. If Penny is healthy in Week 4, Carson could be fighting for his job.
Josh Jacobs RB
LV Las Vegas • #8
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
What was so impressive about Jacobs' NFL debut wasn't just the production, but how much he dominated work. He played 73% of the offensive snaps and saw 24 of the 27 total touches that went to running backs in Week 1. Things haven't been the same since, and it's fair to wonder whether the rookie will be dependent on game script for his work. That would be a bad sign, since this Raiders team doesn't figure to be running out ahead of too many opponents. In Week 3, Jacobs got just 10 of the 21 total running back touches, one week after getting 12 of 21. He's been nursing an injury, so it's possible they just want to take it easy on him, but this is a bad trend for a back who didn't come into the NFL with a workhorse profile. The Raiders should be able to hang with the Colts in Week 4, but looming matchups against the Bears, Packers, and Texans in the three games after that could be a challenge.
PHI Philadelphia • #34
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
The good news is, the workload was there for Johnson. The Lions talked a big game about getting Johnson more work this preseason, and after releasing C.J. Anderson this week, he got 20 carries Sunday. Unfortunately, he just wasn't particularly effective yet again, finishing with 36 yards, adding one catch for 7 yards as well. He was saved by a touchdown, and the Lions did give him five touches inside of the 10-yard line, so not all was lost. But Johnson has been below 4.0 yards per carry in each game (126 yards on 48 carries total), and hasn't had the usage we were hoping for in the passing game (six targets in three games). This isn't a great offense, so even getting a ton of carries may not be enough to make him much more than a low-end No. 2 running back for Fantasy.