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Week 3 Fantasy Football Studs, Duds, and Thuds

Fantasy-relevant news, injuries, and notes from Week 2 games through Sunday from around the NFL.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 of the 2015 NFL season is almost in the books.

Eddie Lacy is expected to play on Monday night; the Chiefs are bad against WRs; and Alex Smith can't find wide receivers. No serious decisions. If you're locked with James Starks as your flex, gambling on Ty Montgomery or Richard Rodgers probably is not worth it, but we should replace him with James Jones or Davante Adams if you can.

Ben Roethlisberger injury

Roethlisberger tore his MCL and will be out at least four weeks. An MRI on Monday will determine the grade of the tear, and do no discount that. Here is a brief timetable for the varying degrees of the tear [.pdf]

  • A Grade I tear can be braced for three weeks, preventing any range of motion exercises, so returning in four weeks is possible, given Roethlisberger's inherent strength.
  • A Grade II tear is braced four-to-six weeks. Though, it may heal in four weeks, change of direction can be very difficult. Add that Roethlisberger is a large, large man and there is increased burden on the diminished ability to bear weight.
  • A Grade III tear is likely to take six weeks before range of motion exercises begin, and there will be increased time added due to the long period of immobility. He should be noticeably weaker, even eight weeks from now.

Antonio Brown is still a thing of greatness, but Michael Vick is not going to sustain his fantasy value. Vick targeted Le'Veon Bell on three of his six pass attempts in Week 3, but this was not just rust and game control for the situation. Vick has never produced a stud wide receiver for fantasy. Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin had nice games with VIck, but the overall production was always less than 11 points per game over the 12-14-game stints.

Bell is the #1 player in fantasy, rest of season. Not so sure Brown is the #1 WR anymore.

A.J. Green had his 'get-right game'

Green caught 10 of his 13 targets for 227 yards and two TDs. With Andy Dalton as his QB, it is very difficult for him to have a full season where he finishes as the #1 WR in fantasy. There are no strong defenses in his division anymore, but the coming weeks will get tough before they get great. Where we are 0-3, sell high; where we are 3-0 or 2-1, wait out the ups and downs through the Bengals bye, as he will be a monster in November and December.

Marshawn Lynch left with a hamstring inury

Lynch was questionable late in the week and a gametime decision. He never sits out games, but probably should have sat out this one against the Bears. There was no production here. Unless a serious tear exists, expect him to play, regardless of his health; and that is scary.

Ronnie Hillman did not take C.J. Anderson's job

Anderson missed a lot of the first half while being checked for a concussion and still out-touched Hillman nine to eight. Hillman got a TD, but only amassed 14 yards. Hillman can win this job by simply passing GO, but is locked in his own jail. This timeshare is expiring.

Buy low on Jeremy Hill

Giovani Bernard got 16 touches to Hill's 12, but the Bengals abandoned the run in a shootout. The matchups get worse--Chiefs, Seahawks, Bills--before their Week 7 bye, so gambling on waiting to buy low may be best, but begin the lowball offers to tempt the Hill owner now. Low and slow. Low and slow.

Ryan Mathews just made the Eagles backfield even messier

Demarco Murray and his sub-six yards per game average sat out with a hamstring injury in Week 3. The Eagles line is in disarray, so Murray was given the benefit of the doubt. Darren Sproles started the game, but Matthews (25/108/0) stepped in and pounded a very stout Jets run defense. Matthews only had two catches, but for 20 yards. His four targets were low, but only him, Darren Sproles, Jordan Matthews, and Zach Ertz caught passes in a game where Sam Bradford (14/28, 118, 1) was minimized by the gameplan.

Feel better about the Eagles

The rushing attack may shared and Jordan Matthews (6/49/0) had his first dud of the year, but they have a nice stretch of Washington, the Saints, Giants, and Panthers over the coming weeks. If you can buy low'ish on Matthews, do it. If Bradford was dropped, speculate if you're streaming or need a bye week replacement soon. Bradford only threw seven times after the opening drive of the second half. The Eagles were up 24-7 at that point and the Jets were bit of a predictable mess. The Eagles defense is still highly exploitable, so the near-20 first half attempts are more expected per half.

Welcome to 2015, Mike Evans

I had even serious doubt on Evans (7/101/0) that I wanted to sell low on him. Not because of him so much as his rookie QB maybe not knowing how to feed a wide receiver on the outside all game. Evans had 17 targets against a strong secondary, so we can trust Winston to lean on him, regardless of matchups.

Beware of Lesean McCoy's hamstring

The week of the hamstring infected McCoy. The Dolphins continue to be terrible, but McCoy couldn't do anything. The TD saved his fantasy week, but his Week 4 opponent, the Giants, are only allowing 3.4 yards per carry and McCoy has not been exceptional enough foresee cracking that code, especially with Karlos Williams (12/110/1) continuing to breathe down his neck.

Sell high on Jimmy Graham

Graham (7/83/1) was targeted eight times, but Lynch's injury forced Russell Wilson to throw 35 times and the Bears are awful. Don't get too excited about this. Wilson had four deep targets, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com and none were to Graham. His ceiling is higher than this from week-to-week, but the duds will sprout more often than the low-end WR1 we may be able to get for him.

The worst has passed for Frank Gore

His Weeks 1 and 2 opponents, the Bills and Jets, were the toughest Gore (14/86/2) may face all season. He should get 15 touches per game the rest of the season and has the Jaguars and Patriots over two of the next three weeks, who are both extremely vulnerable up the middle.

Amari Cooper busted up Joe Haden

Joe Haden is not a shutdown corner. When people tell us this, we can identify that they have not performed a simple PFR search. In 13 of Haden's last 17 games, opposing WR1s have been targeted at least five times and scored at least ten fantasy points, and that doesn't include Steve Smith, Sr.'s 8/90/0 and DeAndre Hopkins' (4/80/0) lines. Add that he was hurt and Cooper (8/134/0) had no problem getting his on Sunday. Cooper is a stud and may be matchup proof, but this is not the indicator of such.

Carson Palmer keeps feeding Larry Fitzgerald

Last week, I noted that Fitzgerald is a top-20 WR in the games he has played with Palmer. Week 3 was another WR1-type of performance. His 9/134/2 slash and 12-target volume may staple him into top-15 territory, rest of season. The Cardinals offense is in that elite tier with the Packers and Patriots of fantasy gold right now, as Bruce Arians has no problem running up the score. Palmer is easily a top-5 QB in all formats with Roethlisberger out and Tom Brady on bye in Week 4. The schedule has no tough matchups until Week 10. Even Chris Johnson (22/110/2) is good again in this offense.

Buy the Raiders offense

The Browns are terrible, as are the previous week's opponent, but bumslaying is a crucial element of fantasy value. An offense does not need to be all-world to love. They just have to give you faith to identify their great matchups. Add that Cooper and Latavius Murray (26/139/1) are dominating the offense and they don't carry pesky risk of not knowing who will bear the load. Cooper and Murray have totaled 94 carries and targets through Oakland's first 189 plays of the season. Through nine and a half quarters of play, Derek Carr (314/2/0) has 90 attempts for a very safe volume, as he is so great at taking care of the ball, with only 13 INTs through his first 19 starts.

Buy the Falcons offense again

The Cowboys defense has not been efficient under Rod Marinelli at all. What they have done is dominate the ball on offense to limit their weaknesses being exposed on defense. Without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for quite some time, guys like Devonta Freeman (30/141/3; 5/52/0 in the passing game) will continue to torch them. Moreover, Matt Ryan (24/36, 285, 2 TDs) is all-in on Julio Jones (12/164/2). Jones is leading the NFL with 46 targets after 20 in Week 3. Tevin Coleman was out with a rib injury, so beware of overbuying into Freeman, as the Falcons will host a strong Texans run defense in Week 4.

Beware of the Chargers

Four-fifths of their offensive line is banged up. Two ankle injuries, a groin, and a concussion are plaguing the team. Love Melvin Gordon (14/51/0) and Danny Woodhead (5/11/0; 3/32/0 in the passing game), but the deck is stacked against them. Luckily, they face the Browns in Week 4, so it may not be so bad if you absolutely have to play them, but the line play is forcing Philip Rivers to the passing game and into the shotgun, so keep loving Keenan Allen (12/133/2) and his ridiculous 18 targets. Stevie Johnson (3/46/0) isn't getting phased out; it's just that Rivers picks favorites--always has, always will.

Bad Ravens defense is great for Steve Smith

Joe Flacco has thrown 45 and 49 times in the last two weeks, as Baltimore's defense cannot keep opponents from scoring. And Flacco is giving all of the balls to Smitty (13/186/2 in 17 targets). This is all phasing Justin Forsett (10-13/0; 4/16/0 receiving) out of the game. Forsett will bounce back, as Lorenzo Taliaferro only got four touches, but the trust is falling for us fantasy owners. These three should feast on the Steelers, Browns, and 49ers in the next three weeks.

That said, Smith started strong last season with 107 yards per game through 25 catches in the first four games with three TDs. He only averaged 53 per game over the remaining 12 games and got three more TDs. Breshad Perriman will be on the field any week now and should cut into Smitty's volume.

Pick up Marvin Jones

Jones has never been a target machine in this offense, as Green owns such a large portion of the shares in the passing game. But Jones scored six TDs on 12 red zone targets in 2013. He was out all of 2014, but his role has increased in this offense, going from playing about two-thirds of the snaps in 2013 to 80.3 and 87% in the last two weeks. He has two RZ targets in the each of the last two weeks with it, so could be safe for 25 more over the rest of the season to get double digit TDs again.

Cam Newton is safely top-5 again

You are never going to know where Newton will have a dud. He can struggle to come near 200 yards any given week, but where he has a 20/31, 315 yds., 2 TD line like Week 3, the rushing production makes him elite and saves him in the rougher weeks. He was drafted to be lot of people's streaming option or backup, so trade value is there, as the value to his owner is lower than that of other top QBs. Maybe the Cam owner is also the Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, or Carson Palmer owner and can give Newton or one of those guys away for minimal startable pieces.

Kendall Wright is getting over the hump

Wright (7/95/1) has always been an interesting PPR play, but not scoring TDs was becoming a long-term trend in recent years. Marcus Mariota doesn't care and is learning where his bread is buttered, so he's leaning on Wright for production. Wright got 12 of Mariota's 44 targets and has three targets this season inside the 10-yard line after only three in each of the two previous seasons. Wright scored five red zone TDs last year, despite the low eight-target volume, so maybe this breakout should have been expected and fell under the radar.

T.J. Yeldon got Patriots'd

This is the fear with Yeldon: though the Jags have no other choice in the run game and he is good, the line is terrible and the team will be down so often that they will abandon the run.

Lance Dunbar is Brandon Weeden's volume target

Ten of Weeden's 26 targets went to Dunbar (10/100/0 in the passing game). Moreover, Weeden was 22/26 with only one deep target against a vulnerable Atlanta secondary, so he is clearly just interested in being happy to be there. This is great for the PPR value of Dunbar and Jason Witten (6/65/0), but it is making Terrance Williams un-ownable in 10-team leagues.

Darrelle Revis left with a hamstring injury

Interesting because Ryan Tannehill is precisely the type of QB who will either throw three INTs against the Jets with Revis in Week 4 or avoid Jarvis Landry altogether. Without Revis, we don't have to devalue either. On the other hand, if Revis plays, hope the avoidance occurs and continue to ride Rishard Matthews where have for 12 receptions, 228 yds., and 2 TDs over the last two weeks.

No starting RB is bad enough to bench against the Buccaneers

Alfred Blue and Bishop Sankey have dropped more than 20 fantasy points on the Bucs. 'Nuff said.

Jonathan Stewart could finish third on his team in rushing TDs

Stewart (14/52/0) wasted a juicy matchup against a Saints team he has historically torched. He left the game with a leg injury, but returned. He has the Bucs next week and the only thing that keeps him a safe flex option instead of a top-12 back for Week 4 is that Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert are the goal line backs.

DeVante Parker is coming

Parker (3/46/0) should be owned in all formats. Ryan Tannehill cannot get the ball downfield, but two of Parker's targets were end zone balls near the goal line, which says mountains for where Tanny wants the ball to go. And we have seen what Tanny can do for less talents in Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews when he wants them to get the ball.

Empty the benches against the Dolphins and Colts

These defenses are both in disarray. Even middling #1 WRs have torched Brent Grimes and Vontae Davis at points.

LeGarrette Blount is the Patriots closer

Blount dominating a blowout made me very happy. Once the Pats were up by three possessions, the keys to the bulldozer were handed to him and 18/73/3 is just what he does in these spots. After their Week 4 bye, there are about seven potential blowouts before Thanksgiving where Blount can have huge weeks. Do not sell high. Where he is available, he may be our #1 waiver priority.

Matthew Stafford is droppable in 10-team leagues

He is still the guy who knows where his bread is buttered, so Calvin Johnson owners missing out on a touchdown was saved by eight catches on 13 targets to Golden Tate's five on seven targets. But Stafford looks terrible by any eye test. This year, he 's been about the worst under duress as I can ever recall.

Andre Johnson is not rosterable in any format

After playing over 80% of Week 1 snaps, Johnson has barely cracked two-thirds of the snaps in Weeks 2 and 3. Meanwhile, Moncrief's snap share has gone from around 74 to 78% from Week 1 to 2, up to 93.4% in Week 3. Moncrief is the Colts WR2 and has a legitimate become the best fantasy option.

Andre Williams may need to be owned

Rashad Jennings (11/32/0) isn't very good and Williams wasn't good on Thursday (14/29/1). The two each had 14 touches in Week 3, but Williams got the two goal line carries and the TD. The best case scenario for Jennings is that this is a timeshare, but Williams is the one to own in a timeshare; or Williams is slowly stealing the ownership of the primary role.