Wed Sep 18 9:50am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Mike Evans set to get it going
It was quite the interesting week in fantasy land. Several top quarterbacks went down with injury, guys that rarely have missed games throughout their career. This is going to cause some headaches for fantasy owners. Hopefully, you have a good backup option to replace these guys. And don’t hesitate to work the waiver wire for a replacement. There are some capable options out there on a lot of waiver wires. Here is to hoping you can survive these injuries.
Here are my random thoughts for the week. . . .
The Daniel Jones era is finally here. You knew it was coming. I’m happy to see Jones getting his chance, especially with Eli Manning doing little with his chances. Jones could breathe some life into the offense and help players like Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram have more success. I don’t see Jones being much of a fantasy option, but his move to starter should be a positive for those around him.
A couple good buy-low candidates in my view are Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. Both are off to slow starts and their stock is low. If you can get them for a cheaper price, I say go for it. Evans was sick the first week and had a tough matchup last week, so I look for him to ramp it up going forward. Fournette is off to a slow start as well but is getting the work. He has at least 17 touches and four receptions each of the first two games.
If I’m an Antonio Brown owner, I try to trade him. I just think it is a matter of time before a suspension is thrown down, especially with new stories about him coming out nearly every day. He played last week and did pretty well, so his value isn’t totally in the tank and some owners think he might be worth the risk. I’m not saying give him away for nothing but if you can get some value in return, I would dump Brown. I just don’t trust that situation.
The Chiefs running back situation is really starting to concern me. Neither of those backs are doing much right now. I still like Damien Williams more, mainly because I think he gets more targets in the passing game. I just don’t like the way things have played out with their running game these first two games. I would be concerned if I owned either of those guys. Plus, both are battling injury right now, which is another concern.
I’m starting to become a believer in the Ravens passing game. I’m just shocked at how much progress Lamar Jackson has made in a season. He has been lights out these first two games. I know they have come against poor defenses but you still have to give him credit for making plays. And it has to be a nightmare for opposing defenses to game plan against this unit right now. The Ravens already have a very good rushing attack, but the passing game is now becoming very dangerous. This offense is scary good.
Three passing games that have surprised me some this year and I think could be very helpful to fantasy teams the rest of the way are the Cardinals, Bengals and Redskins. These three teams are posting some big weekly passing numbers right now. And these units have some good potential going forward. None of these teams have very good rushing games, so I expect a lot of passing from all three teams the rest of the way. These might be some units to target if you need help through the air and would like to make a trade or need to pickup a player. I don’t think the first two weeks are a fluke.
Emmanuel Sanders is looking like a great draft day value. He had 11 receptions last week and was targeted 13 times in the game. He has scores each of his first two games and been targeted 20 times overall. Sanders looks completely healthy, recovered from his Achilles’ injury. I’m not sure Sanders can keep his current pace, but he is going to be a productive fantasy player the rest of the way. It is good to see him back to his old ways.
You have to worry about Carson Wentz a little. His receivers are dropping like flies and his start to the year hasn't gone quite as expected. He had two interceptions to one touchdown pass last week and struggled some throughout the game, especially after his starting receivers got injured. He missed on some throws he should have made. Wentz still has a high weekly ceiling, but he needs his receivers healthy and to start showing more consistency throwing the ball.
As always, don’t forget to check out my weekly rankings here: Week 3 rankings.
News and Notes: The Giants finally made a move at quarterback, benching Eli Manning in favor of rookie Daniel Jones. Expect Jones to start the rest of the year for the Giants. . . . .The Lions released running back C.J. Anderson on Tuesday. The team signed running back Paul Perkins to take his roster spot. . . . .The Chargers added some depth at tight end, signing Lance Kendricks on Tuesday. He could move up the depth chart in a hurry if he picks up the offense quickly.
Mike Evans, WR, Bucs. Evans is off to a slow start to his season. He was sick Week 1 but played and did little. He was better in Week 2, catching four passes for 61 yards on eight targets. That was a little more like it for Evans. Expect his best game of the season this week against the Giants. New York is 30th overall against the pass and allows the third most fantasy points to receivers. Evans is ready to breakout in this one.
Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys. Prescott is off to the best start of his career. He has seven touchdowns to just one interception in two games. He is third overall in fantasy quarterback scoring, less than a point behind the great Patrick Mahomes. He is excelling in the Cowboys new offense, an offense that takes more chances down the field. Expect more success this week against the lowly Dolphins. Miami allows the most fantasy points to quarterbacks and rank 28th overall against the pass.
Nick Chubb, RB, Browns. Chubb showed his big potential last week, having 98 total yards and a score. He didn’t run wild but got the work and produced for fantasy teams. The good news is Chubb has 20 or more touches each of the first two games. He is getting a lot of weekly work. He should get a workout again this week against the Rams. Los Angeles allows the sixth most fantasy points to running backs.
Mark Andrews, TE, Ravens. Andrews is first overall in fantasy tight end scoring after two games. He has 100-yards games in each of his two games. He also has touchdowns in each of those games and been targeted 17 times. All the talk of Andrews having a big second season seem to be coming true. He can continue his good play this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City allows the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends and rank 20th overall against the pass.
LeVeon Bell, RB, Jets. Bell is getting a workout for the Jets to start his season. He already has 54 touches in two games. He had 10 receptions last week, getting a ton of work in the passing game with the Jets trailing big. Bell is fifth overall in fantasy running back scoring. Expect him to get another workout this week against the Patriots. He could get a similar workload in the passing game with the Jets trailing by a lot. As long as Bell keeps catching a lot of passes, fantasy owners won’t care that his yardage and touchdown numbers aren’t off the charts.
Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals. Murray had 349-passing yards last week and has 300-yard games each of his first two games. The issue is he has just two scores in two games. He failed to score a touchdown last week. Murray also isn’t doing a lot on the ground, which is a bit of a surprise. He has just 17-rushing yards in two games. Murray has another tough matchup for this week, getting the Panthers. Carolina allows the fifth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and are third overall against the pass. You might want to leave Murray on your bench for this one.
Damien Williams/LeSean McCoy, RB, Chiefs. Williams had nine carries for eight yards last week and also hurt his knee in the game. For the season, Williams has run the ball 22 times for 34 yards. McCoy hasn't been much better. He ran 11 times for 23 yards last week and caught there passes for no gain. McCoy hurt his ankle in the game, so both backs are hobbled some and doing little with their work. Their matchup this week is a terrible one, playing the Ravens. Baltimore is first overall against the run and have allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs. We would just avoid both backs in this one.
Geronimo Allison, WR, Packers. Allison had a much better showing last week than his opener, finding the end zone on five targets. The problem is Allison totaled just 25 yards on his four receptions. It was good to see him score but his overall numbers weren’t very impressive. He probably isn’t worth plugging into your lineup just yet, especially this week against the Broncos. Denver has been solid against the pass to start the season, ranking fourth overall against the pass. The Broncos allow the second fewest fantasy points to receivers.
Any Jet receivers. The Jets are down to their third-string quarterback. New York has some usable fantasy receivers on their roster, including Jamison Crowder and Robby Anderson, but neither are worth using as long as Sam Darnold is out. These guys are just going to be too inconsistent to trust. And a matchup this week agains the Patriots is a terrible one for the passing game. New England is eighth overall against the pass and allow the sixth fewest fantasy points to receivers. Just avoid all Jets receivers at this point. They aren’t worth the risk.
Latavius Murray, RB, Saints. Murray had a solid opener but really struggled last week. He ran five times for just seven yards. He isn’t getting quite as many touches as expected through two games, having 14 touches. You were expecting around double-digit touches per week, but that hasn’t been the case. He isn’t worth using until his usage goes up, especially whites week against the Seahawks. Seattle is fourth overall agains the rush and allow the sixth fewest fantasy points to running backs.
Malcolm Brown, RB, Rams. Brown is getting his work in the Rams offense as the top backup to Toddy Gurley. He had double-digit carries and two scores in Week 1, and had 47 total yards last week. His numbers aren’t flashy but consistent, making him a guy to consider as a flex play in the right matchup. And this week could be a time to play Brown. The Rams play the Browns, a team that is struggling to stop the run to start the year. Cleveland allows the fourth most fantasy points to running backs.
Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers. Samuel was more involved in the offense Week 2, catching five passes for 87 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. He also ran the ball twice, giving him seven total touches. Samuel is an exciting talent that can lead the 49ers receivers in receptions, so last week wasn't a fluke. He should get a lot of targets again this week against the Steelers. Pittsburgh allows the fifth most fantasy points to receivers and are 29th overall against the pass.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions. Stafford is off to a much better start this year. He looks healthy and is producing, ranking fifth overall in fantasy quarterback scoring after two games. He has five touchdowns and thrown for at least 245 yards in both contests. He is setup for another solid game this week against the Eagles, a team that has struggled to stop the pass. Philadelphia allows the seventh most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Frank Gore, RB, Bills. Gore has double-digit carries each of his first two games. He found the end zone last week and totaled 83 yards in the game. He is getting his work and could get even more work this week if Devin Singletary is not able to play, which is possible. This makes Gore a player to consider as a flex play. He gets the Bengals, a team that allows the most fantasy points to running backs to start the season.
Allen Robinson, WR, Bears. Robinson was kind of quiet last week but played a good Broncos defense. He was still targeted seven times in the game and caught four of those targets for 40 yards. He had a 100-yard game in the opener, so the potential is always there for Robinson to have the big week. And this week against the Redskins is a great matchup for Robinson to have success. Washington has really struggled against the pass, ranking 25th overall against the pass. The Redskins allow the most fantasy points to receivers.
High/Low Scoring Games
Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.
High Scoring Games: Ravens/Chiefs, Giants/Bucs, Texans/Chargers, Rams/Browns.
Low Scoring Games: Titans/Jaguars.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
May 29th: Quarterback Preview
Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward faced a high target rate of 22.4 percent in 2019, and on top of that he posted a coverage success rate of 61 percent and had a ballhawk rate of 14.3 percent, all while operating in a tight-window rate of 28.6 percent. His 77 targets accounted for nearly a quarter of his coverage snaps, so not only are opposing quarterbacks throwing his way, but Ward is shutting most of those targets down. If the 23-year-old former fourth overall pick can stay healthy -- he's played in just 25 games in his first two seasons -- he could break out in 2020 for a Browns Defense that could become streamable at some point during the year.
Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith was targeted just 40 times in pass coverage in 2019, but he comes in at No. 6 on NFL.com's Nick Shook's top-10 coverage men in the league. He forced tight windows 20 percent of the time and allowed a passer rating of just 50.3 when targeted. Fellow safety Anthony Harris was a standout in his own right in Minnesota, but Smith is the more fear safety for the Vikings. The 31-year-old has made the Pro Bowl each of the last five seasons and was an All-Pro in 2017. Smith had 85 tackles (65 solo), one sack, three interceptions, 11 passes defensed and two fumble recoveries last year. Because he's also a threat against the run, Smith is a top-10 fantasy defensive back in IDP leagues.
The Carolina Panthers hired former seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly as a pro scout on Thursday. His new role will require plenty of film watching and advance scouting. Kuechly, who was also a five-time first-team All-Pro, retired after the 2019 season mainly because of multiple head injuries suffered throughout his career. He posted 100-plus combined tackles in every single one of his eight seasons in the NFL and also had 12.5 sacks, 18 interceptions and 66 passes defensed. In his prime, Kuechly was one of the best sideline-to-sideline linebackers. He turned 29 years old this past April. It's a shame we didn't get to see more of Captain America on the football field, but he should be a tremendous asset to Carolina's scouting team.
Cincinnati Bengals cornerback William Jackson III (shoulder) played with a torn labrum in his shoulder the entire season in 2019. "I don't know how I did it, but I did it. It was painful every game. I'm fully healthy and ready to go," Jackson said. The 27-year-old gutted it out through 14 games to record 37 tackles (26 solo), one interception and three passes defensed. It sounds like Jackson has recovered well and should be ready for the start of the regular season this fall. He could have a bounce-back year in 2020 if he's fully healthy, but Jackson hasn't ever been fantasy relevant in IDP leagues with just two career interceptions in 45 games for Cincy.
Chicago Bears free safety Eddie Jackson wasn't targeted all that much in 2019 (43 times) and his ballhawk rate (9.3 percent) won't turn many heads, but he allowed a passer rating of just 49.9 and a catch rate allowed below expectation of minus-20.9 percent. He had only two interceptions last season, but he's demonstrated a nose for the football in the past, as evidenced by his career-high six picks in 2018. A fourth-round selection by Chicago in 2017, Jackson has been a Pro Bowler each of the last two years and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2018. He might be useful as a bye-week filler in deeper IDP leagues, but he's not an every-week starter. The Bears Defense, on the other hand, is a top-five fantasy unit that should rebound after a down season in 2019.
Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White has become one of the league's best cover corners after being taken in the first round in 2017. He faced 84 targets last season and had six interceptions, 17 passes defensed, allowed a passer rating of (38.9) and a catch rate allowed below expectation (minus-8.4 percent). White had a tight-window percentage of 28.6 despite playing press coverage on opposing wideouts at a low rate. His ballhawk rate of 20.2 percent is close to that of Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who came in at No. 1 on NFL.com's Nick Shook's top-10 coverage men in 2019. Like Gilmore, White isn't much of an IDP star because QBs often avoid him, but Buffalo's defense overall should be seen as a top-five fantasy unit.
Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has been impressed by quarterback Baker Mayfield's leadership during the offseason virtual program. Hes done everything Id expect from him as a starting quarterback," Van Pelt said. Mayfield also hosted a throwing session for around nine teammates in Austin, Texas. Van Pelt said that Mayfield has quickly grasped the new offense and is making strides with new West Coast footwork. Van Pelt has Mayfield leading with his left foot in the shotgun and is streamlining his footwork under center. He's also removing a big stagger step from his dropbacks. Mayfield was talked up prior to the 2019 season, too, and he disappointed in his second season. But the third-year signal-caller does have everything in place for a rebound and is in an offense that should cater more to his strengths, making him a value QB2 with upside for QB1 status by season's end.
Denver Broncos free safety Justin Simmons was only targeted 44 times in 2019, but he was very effective when he was the nearest defender on a target. His 34.1 percent ballhawk rate -- the percentage of targets where the nearest defender made a play on the football -- was the best among those meeting NFL.com's Nick Shook's criteria by more than six percentage points. Simmons' catch rate allowed below expectation wasn't all that impressive at minus-6.7 percent, but his tight-window percentage of 34.1 helped him allow a low 34.7 passer rating. The Broncos slapped the franchise tag on the 26-year-old and hope to iron out a long-term extension before July 15. Simmons is the strength of Denver's secondary now and is a fringe defensive back starter in IDP leagues.
New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson posted excellent coverage numbers in 2019 despite starting only six games. His overall numbers were slightly better than teammate Stephon Gilmore, but Gilmore had almost twice as many targets (96 versus Jackson's 58). Jackson allowed the lowest passer rating (21.8) as the nearest defender in coverage among all defenders who qualified and the second-lowest completion percentage allowed. He allowed a passer rating of just 8.1 in press coverage and recorded all five of his interceptions while in press. And finally, Jackson had a perfect passer rating of 0.0 as the nearest defender on deep targets. He should see a much bigger role in 2020 for a Patriots Defense/special teams that is a top-10 fantasy unit.
New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore earned the top spot as the best defensive back in coverage in 2019, according to NFL.com's Nick Shook. He was the only player who faced 85 or more targets and didn't allow a single touchdown, and he also picked off six passes. Gilmore allowed the lowest passer rating (38) as the nearest defender in coverage among cornerbacks. His catch rate allowed below expectation (minus-11.8) was also the lowest among cornerbacks with a minimum of 300 coverage snaps. But like most elite corners, Gilmore lacks fantasy appeal because opposing quarterbacks often shy away from his side of the field. New England's strength will be on D again in 2020, though, and their defense/special teams unit is a top-10 fantasy option.
Philadelphia Eagles DE Josh Sweat could receive a bigger role in the defense this upcoming season after he had a solid 2019 season.
Philadelphia Eagles DE Genard Avery may only be used on special teams and as a pass rush specialist this upcoming season, in the opinion of The Philadelphia Inquirer's Les Bowen.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson used his explosiveness to shed defenders and turn upfield in 2019. He had 50 15-plus mph runs and averaged 4.3 yards gained after a defender closed within one yard of him last season. It helped him gain 1,230 yards on the ground despite not playing a full season because of injuries. Carson is coming off a season-ending hip injury, but although he's expected to be ready for Week 1, his explosiveness as a runner is tempered by the fact that he continues to struggle with injuries. If the 25-year-old can remain on the field for a full season, he should easily be an RB1, but you're much better off taking him as an RB2 and keeping your fingers crossed.
Free-agent RB Devonta Freeman (Falcons) would receive interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if he lowered his asking price, according to head coach Bruce Arians.
Fantasy Spin: Freeman rejected an offer that would have paid him $4 million, so he may have to wait longer if he is looking for more than that salary. He would be part of a committee if he signed with Tampa but could lead the team in carries in that situation. Fantasy players should continue to monitor his status.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey comes in ranked ninth on NFL.com's Nick Shook's top-10 explosive runners of 2019, but he'll still be the No. 1 player selected in the vast majority of 2020 fantasy drafts. He reached 15-plus mph on 96 touches last season, which was the most in the NFL, with 52 of those touches coming on rushing attempts. McCaffrey had a 15-plus mph rate of 18.1 percent and was able to gain 10-plus yards on 31 of his rushes in 2019. The fact that he touched the ball so much brings his 15-plus mph percentage down on this list. But McCaffrey's superior abilities as both a runner and receiver make him stand out above the rest of the competition by a landslide.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II had a down year by his standards in 2019 with the Rams, but he still placed No. 8 on NFL.com's Nick Shook's top-10 explosive runners of last season. Only one of his 10 fastest touches over the last two years came in 2019, but he still reached or exceeded 15 mph on almost 20 percent of his 223 carries. Gurley's knee issues in recent seasons have sapped some of his explosiveness, but he still had 21 runs of 10-plus yards last year. Don't ignore Gurley simply because he's no longer in play for the overall RB1 in fantasy. He'll have a better offensive line to work behind in a strong Falcons offense and should see plenty of carries. Draft him as a high-end RB2 with the ability to finish as a top-10 back.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack was the team's running game in 2019, which is why his broken hand in the second half of the season coincided with their late-season descent. He broke 15 mph on 51 runs (fourth-most among running backs) and had 28 runs of 10-plus yards. While Mack was an underrated explosive runner last year, his fantasy stock took a major hit when the Colts drafted rookie Jonathan Taylor in April. Mack could see the starting nod early in the season because of his veteran status, but Taylor is fully expected to take over this backfield at some point in 2020. The 24-year-old Mack can still make his mark with fewer touches because of his explosiveness, but he's expected to mainly be a flex option this year.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay wasn't as good in his second season as he was in his rookie campaign, but the former undrafted free agent still had 1,011 rushing yards in 2019 despite playing with three different quarterbacks. He had 48 runs of 15-plus mph last year despite defenses keying on him in the box most of the time. The offseason addition of Melvin Gordon III makes it basically impossible for Lindsay to see the 224 carries he saw last season, but he remains an explosive change-of-pace for this improved backfield. His fantasy stock is down across the board because of Gordon's presence as the lead back, but Lindsay still has some standalone fantasy appeal as a low-end RB3/flex in PPR leagues.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been interested in free-agent running back Devonta Freeman, but head coach Bruce Arians said that Freeman is asking for more money than the team is looking to spend given their current salary cap situation. Tampa has just over $6.4 million in cap space entering the 2020 season. Freeman reportedly declined a one-year, $4 million offer from the Seahawks last month and thinks he's worth more than what he's been offered on the open market. Freeman had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2015 and 2016 but has taken a dive since then and has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons. The Bucs wouldn't mind adding veteran depth behind Ronald Jones II, but rookie Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Dare Ogunbowale should also have roles in 2020 if the Bucs don't add anyone else to the backfield.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones saw most of his success in 2019 between the tackles, as he tied for the league lead with 10 touchdowns on inside runs and averaged 4.1 yards per rush on runs inside the tackles in the red zone, which was the most in the NFL among those with at least 15 such runs. Jones' 53 runs on which he hit 15-plus mph were the fourth-most in the NFL. The 25-year-old had his first 1,000-yard rushing season on 236 carries last year and led the league with 16 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 49 passes for 474 yards and three TDs. Even though he might not see an RB1 workload with second-rounder A.J. Dillon now in the mix, Jones is a high-end RB2 at the worst with RB1 upside.