Welcome to the first rundown of 2020. If you’re new to my fantasy football rundown, it’s a beast of an article where I give at least a sentence on every single fantasy relevant player this week.
Deshaun Watson struggled to get the chains moving in Week 2’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Watson will always be working against Bill O’Brien’s atrocious play calling and oftentimes finds ways to succeed. Baltimore and BOB’s work were too much to overcome though. The Texans’ receiver room is chalk-full of talented field stretchers but every team still requires an alpha and things went off the rails when Will Fuller was forced out early in the game. A hamstring injury was suggested but given that he hasn’t been on the injury report this week, it’s possible it was only cramping — a pain in the short term but nothing to fear in the long. The prudent option may be to keep Will Fuller off of the active roster until the Texans open up the buffet line of cake matchups in Weeks 4-7 (MIN, JAX, at TEN, GB), he’s not listed on the injury report as of now. A mystery upper leg issue knocked him out of Week 2’s contest that Edwin Porras theorized was caused by a tight hamstring, given the therapy applied to the quadricep of his left leg in an attempt to lessen the hamstring’s load.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has allowed the 5th-fewest passing yards and yards after catch, making life hellish on the quarterback and ball-carriers alike. Per Pro Football Reference, they also lead the league in blitz rate and quarterback hurries — the latter being a combination of hits, pressures, and sacks. Deshaun Watson recorded the league’s highest sack total in 2018, the 4th-highest sack total in 2019, and currently sits tied with Carson Wentz for the numero uno spot in 2020. Watson’s sack-propensity is so bad that it inspired Josh Hermsmeyer to pen a FiveThirtyEight piece highlighting it. Sacks truly are a QB stat.
The silver lining of the showdown rests on Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to shred Houston’s defense. The one positive, year-long consistency is that Deshaun Watson will theoretically be forced out of Bill O’Brien’s archaic run-early offensive scheme due to opposing offenses running up the score on them. When forced into play-making mode, Watson will inevitably call upon his naturally lethal rushing prowess and downfield passing. The combination keeps him in the back-end of the QB1 discussion.
For those wondering if they should start Will Fuller, it must be acknowledged that he comes with a yo-yo-esque range of outcomes. Heavily monitor the Texans’ injury report and the twitter feed of reliable Houston beat reporter, Aaron Wilson. If Fuller is at risk of re-aggravating his hamstring, he would be a recommended avoid in fantasy. If he’s ready to go, his ceiling is that of a fantasy WR1. The workload, talent, and QB-WR connection that Fuller brings to the table are tough to beat.
The fantasy outlooks of the rest of the Texans’ receivers vary with Will Fuller’s availability. Given the expected catch up-mode that Houston will be in for much of the night, downfield receiver Brandin Cooks will be a factor throughout. With Fuller playing, Cooks is just a boom/bust flex option. Cooks’ flex-floor solidifies if Fuller is unable to play and his WR2 ceiling is tied to whether or not he secures a long score. Pending Fuller’s status, slot receiver Randall Cobb goes from an unusable asset to a PPR-only, low-end flex option. Ignore Kenny Stills, Keke Coutee, and DeAndre Carter regardless.
Tight end Darren Fells is seeing 60% of the targets that fellow tight end Jordan Akins is and just 50% of the playing time. The resulting box score production is proportionally equivalent. Akins is the No. 1 pass catching tight end in the offense but Fells is still seeing meaningful snaps, especially in the redzone. Akins is just a TE2 in such a tough matchup. There are green pastures on the horizon though with Minnesota, Jacksonville, and Tennessee up next.
Through two games, David Johnson has totaled 22 rushes and 8 targets, an average of 15 overall attempted-touches per game. The Pittsburgh Steelers have yielded the fewest rushing yards on the season (133) and zero rushing touchdowns. Those who drafted David Johnson as a fantasy RB2 can’t expect anything more than middling, volume-based flex numbers. If one is able, bench DJ for someone with a real ceiling.
The Steelers’ offense is firing on all cylinders with a condensed touch-tree that provides top tier options at its QB, WR, and RB positions. Ben Roethlisberger gets one of his easiest matchups of 2020 this week as he takes on the talent-deficient Texans’ defense. That the Texans have a competent offense further helps Roethlisberger’s prospects — in many cases, the Steelers’ defense will just shutdown opponents which may result in a 2nd-half run-heavy game script. Against the Texans though, Deshaun Watson has the ability to elevate his team and keep things competitive — and keep Ben Roethlisberger throwing.
As predicted in the Pittsburgh Steelers Team Preview piece, Diontae Johnson was one of the best values in fantasy. Through two games the X-receiver leads the team in targets with 23(!), good for an otherworldly 32.39% target market share. That number will surely regress to the high 20s but for now, it’s a clear sign that Diontae Johnson is the team’s true No. 1 receiver. Stud slot receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has likely reverted to the 1B role he assumed under Antonio Brown but that was still a highly lucrative role. In 2018 the duo finished with the NFL’s 3rd and 4th-highest target totals. And although JuJu soundly trails Johnson in target totals with 14, he’s been the man who Roethlisberger looks to in the redzone, hauling in a pair of touchdowns from 10 and 8-yards out in Week 1. As it currently stands, Johnson is the overall WR19 in .5PPR scoring while JuJu holds down the No. 12 spot. Top 12 fantasy outcomes for the duo is well within their range of outcomes. Both should be treated as low-end WR1s on a weekly basis with high-end outcomes possible in such a perfect matchup.
3rd-year receiver James Washington and rookie Chase Claypool are operating as a downfield duo in the Steelers offense with Claypool severely out-producing Washington despite fewer opportunities. Washington hasn’t played poorly, Claypool is just playing exceptionally well. Week 2 saw a slight shift in snap share in the rookie’s favor and it’s possibly a sign of things to come. Given the matchup, both players can be started as deep league flex options in Week 3 with money being placed on Claypool to separate from Washington as the season progresses.
Tight ends Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald aren’t worth fantasy consideration at this point as neither one is seeing much work in the passing game. Ebron is more likely to become something that McDonald as we’ve already seen successful fantasy seasons from him before. Leave him in free agency for now though.
Last week, James Conner quashed all concerns about the ankle injury that supposedly knocked him out of game one, logging a 77% snap share with 121 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown — good for overall RB10 .5PPR results. Benny Snell, a hot waiver wire add that week, totaled exactly one yard. Conner is the unquestioned bellcow in Pittsburgh whose carry-share and passing game usage offer mid-range RB1 fantasy value this week. Fire him up confidently and leave the other backs out of starting lineups.
Joe Burrow looks like the real damn deal through two games and fantasy managers would be wise to add him if he’s available. Burrow’s shown smart decision making, an accurate arm, and an outstanding rushing floor, totalling 65 rushing yards and a touchdown thus far. With his loaded pass catching corps in tow, Joe Burrow has solidified his position at the back-end of the QB1 fantasy ranks. Start him accordingly.
A.J. Green is one of fantasy football’s riskier buy-low options entering Week 3. He has nearly twice as many targets as the next closest pass catching-Bengal (22) but has just the 3rd-highest reception and yardage totals and zero touchdowns to show for it. His 43.41% team air yards share is 5th-highest(!) in the NFL. Yet Green hasn’t looked like himself on the field, recently admitting he’s still getting in shape and learning the offense. The veteran receiver is a volatile boom/bust flex option at this point, staring down the barrel of Darius Slay’s shadow-coverage. If Green’s able to get things going this week, he’ll be a much stronger start in Week 4 against a Jacksonville secondary that Ryan Fitzpatrick just roasted on Thursday Night Football.
With Joe Burrow dealing targets out like a Vegas rounder, it’s tough to get a bead on who might benefit most in the passing game, playing second fiddle to Green. Tyler Boyd has been a flop, as role players like Mike Thomas, John Ross, and Tee Higgins see enough work to sap the two theoretical top dogs of fantasy points. Perhaps the diamond in the rough is tight end Drew Sample. C.J. Uzomah was a target-machine before rupturing his Achilles in Week 2. With Uzomah departing mid-game in Week 2, Sample went from 1 target in Week 1 to 9 in Week 2’s contest. Sample is only a mediocre talent but his usage is a rare thing to find. Consider him a season-long streaming option who has legitimate odds to produce as a top 12 tight end.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor made gaudy promises of Joe Mixon’s 2020 passing game workload throughout training camp but in Week 1, it appeared as though Pinnochio was in fact made of wood. Mixon saw just two targets, compared to the mustachioed 28-year old running back, Giovani Bernard’s five. Mixon promisingly had four targets come his way in Week 2 but Gio and his ‘stache received seven. On the bright side, Mixon’s two-game 35-carry total dwarfs Gio’s two. Rights to lead back duties are not in question in Cincinnati — this is Mixon’s show. We’ll take the uptick in targets last week and hope for more. Regardless, this game should remain competitive throughout which ensures Mixon gets a high volume of touches in Week 3. He’s a high-end RB2 with upside.
Carson Wentz and Co. have yet to right the ship this year. Week 1 was nuked by injuries and a refusal to alter the game plan because of them. Week 2 was a step in the right direction but the 5th-year quarterback is not firing on all cylinders. The Bengals’ defense has struggled to stop opposing offenses to an astonishing degree though. In Week 2, they played so badly that QB Joe Burrow was forced to throw an unheard of 61 pass attempts while trying to keep pace with the Browns offense. If there’s a get-right matchup for Wentz in 2020, it’s this Sunday. He’s a mid-to-high QB2 with QB1 upside.
The usage has been there for DeSean Jackson all season. He’s second on the team in targets (16) and yardage (110) and his percentage of the team’s air yards (36.67%) is miles ahead of the rest. Stay the course with the downfield dynamo. This is the week.
Jalen Reagor, who was already playing with a torn shoulder labrum, is out at least until Week 10 with a torn UCL in his thumb — the same injury that Drew Brees suffered in 2019. Reagor’s absence obviously increases Jackson’s expected usage but team target-leader tight end Dallas Goedert must now be considered at Top 5 option. Fellow tight end Zach Ertz is right there with him as a locked-in high-volume TE1. Slot receiver Greg Ward is also likely to see some more action but isn’t yet a reliable fantasy option. If feeling bold, Ward could be flexed in deep PPR leagues but it is not recommended.
Miles Sanders ended concern over the hamstring injury that kept him out in Week 1 by rolling to an RB12 finish in Week 2. The 2nd-year back even had seven targets come his way. Cincinnati’s defense has allowed the 3rd-most rushing yards and 2nd-most rushing touchdowns over the last two weeks, setting the table for a high-end RB1 Week 3 for Miles Sanders.
Boston Scott is just a handcuff.
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan has stated his intent to operate conservatively with his 53-man roster this weekend, opting to keep his ailing stars off of MetLife Stadium’s suspect field. Chiefly among the absent group is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who has been declared out. Nick Mullens is starting instead. Mullens beat out No. 2 QB C.J. Beathard for the primary backup QB job in SF back in 2018 and has held the job ever since. In that 2018 season, Mullens went on to start 8 games as a rookie, after Jimmy G tore an ACL mid-season. Mullens had a number of impressive performances that year and established himself as one of the league’s strongest backups. Against a weak Giants defense, one could do worse than streaming the 3rd-year signal caller.
Tight end George Kittle has been declared out this week, battling an MCL sprain and a bone bruise in his knee from Week 1 — the latter of which Titans’ receiver A.J. Brown also suffered in Week 1 and he’s certain to miss more than one game. Kittle’s availability was up in the air and he somehow resumed practicing this week. Fantasy managers in need of tight end help should deploy Jordan Reed on Sunday. Reed played on just 46% of the team’s snaps last week, in place of Kittle, but the veteran tight end operated as their No. 1 passing game option when in the game. Reed hauled in 7 of 8 targets for 50 yards and 2 scores, finishing as the overall TE5 last week. He’s a locked-in TE1 in Week 3.
Another sneaky SF option is wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. Bourne is by no means an elite talent but HC Kyle Shanahan has openly professed his affection for Bourne as a Little Engine That Could type of guy. With Deebo Samuel still on IR until Week 4, at least, and Brandon Aiyuk taking longer to adjust to the offense due to his training camp hamstring pull, Bourne is the team’s de facto No. 1 WR who Shanahan will scheme up plays for in the redzone. The Giants haven’t given up a ton of receiving yardage but have been brutalized by opposing passing games in the touchdown department, tied for the 2nd-most receiving touchdowns allowed. Consider Bourne’s floor safe enough to flex him in PPR leagues and his ceiling as touchdown-dependent.
Neither Brandon Aiyuk, nor Trent Taylor are reliable enough to flex this week.
Jerick McKinnon was considered one of the hottest waiver wire adds of Week 3 — and rightfully so. The dynamic dual threat back has ripped up opponents with his receiving ability through the league’s first two weeks and immediately assumed bellcow duties after Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman were forced out of the game with knee injuries. McKinnon has flashed every bit of his old athleticism that many feared would be absent after it took him all of 2018 and 2019 to recover from the ACL tear suffered in September of 2018 and the LCL tear suffered in August of 2019. As the fantasy public expects, McKinnon is very likely to be the starter in Week 3’s contest against the Giants’ uninspiring defense. However, Kyle Shanahan has expressed major concern about the safety of MetLife turf after it robbed so many of his players of their tendon-health in Week 2. Expecting McKinnon, with such an extensive tendon-injuring history, to enter the elite territory of running back workloads seems foolish. Shanahan won’t even commit to heavily utilizing one back even when the team overall is enjoying good health.
Jeff Wilson Jr. is a savvy, under the radar pickup for teams in need of running back or flex assistance. The 6 foot, 195 pound 3rd-year back has some extremely interesting forms of usage under his belt since Shanahan and Co brought him aboard as a rookie in 2018. Flashes of heavy passing game usage as well as a prominent goal-line role are present. Jerick McKinnon will undoubtedly start but when the tough yards are needed in the redzone, Wilson Jr. is a good bet to see his share. With Mullens at QB, the Niners will want to get up on the scoreboard early and then run, run, run the clock out in hopes of escaping without injury. Expect Jerick to see somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 or more touches, safely securing his RB2 fantasy status, and expect Wilson to rumble on somewhere between 12-15 touches — more than enough to return flex value via a 49ers touchdown.
Rookie JaMycal Hasty will likely be worked into the rotation but shouldn’t see more than single-digit carries, if so.
QB Daniel Jones has been up and down thus far, exceeding expectations against Pittsburgh but flailing against Chicago. Jason Garrett’s archaic play calling isn’t doing him any favors. Although this 49ers defense will be without some of its stars in defensive ends Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas and lockdown cornerback Richard Sherman, any defense rolling out players like D-Linemen Javon Kinlaw and Arik Armstead and linebackers Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander needs to be taken seriously. Jones can’t be trusted as anything more than his volatile self in this one, although there’s a good chance he has some garbage time opportunity to pad his stats. He’s a back-end QB2.
Fantasy floors and ceilings of wide receivers Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, and tight end Evan Engram took a leap when Sterling Shepard was placed on injured reserve this week with a turf toe injury. Turf toe can linger for quite some time so it’s possible he isn’t ready to roll even after the three-week-minimum IR window. Slayton is the wide receiver to roll with as a WR2. His talent is undeniable at this point and his downfield role is the most lucrative for fantasy purposes. His 12.2 average targeted air yards, per Next Gen Stats, is a respectable mark. Golden Tate will operate as a PPR-only flex option who could also see a bump in targets with Saquon Barkley out for the year (ACL), operating as a safety blanket option near the line of scrimmage — akin to Barkley.
Evan Engram-drafters haven’t received what they’d hoped for in Engram — a common occurrence for those taking tight ends in the middle rounds. His box score results have been lacking but his usage is still promising as he’s currently tied for the team-lead in targets. Stay the course with the top 12 fantasy tight end.
The running back carousel spinning in the Giants’ backfield is not a great situation. Two-man backfields are usable in fantasy but once three are in the mix, fantasy managers will want to look elsewhere. For desperate fantasy managers, here’s how we can expect the backfield roles to play: Dion Lewis will operate in a pass catching role with the possibility of mid-to-low single-digit rushes. He is a low-ceiling PPR-only option. In the short term, we can count on Wayne Gallman to see 15 or so carries with the possibility of 1-2 targets. The fact that the team felt the need to make Devonta Freeman the 2nd-highest paid back on the team this week, after he toiled away in free agency for months, does not bode well for Gallman and Lewis’ job security. Freeman’s compromised knee has robbed him of his speed and agility. His hands remain intact though, and the former dual threat bellcow is likely to poach both rushing and receiving touches in the long term. A changing of the guard over the next two games from the current backfield ranks of Gallman, Lewis, and Freeman at the rear to Freeman a head-and-shoulders above the other two is highly possible. Jason Garrett is an old school, stuck-in-his-ways coach who would love to rely on just one back. Lewis, as the plus-pass catcher is more likely to retain a change-of-pace role after Freeman takes over but it won’t be pretty. Freeman, meanwhile should not be started in Week 3 and can be expected to secure some sort of a weekly flex-viable role in the Giants’ offense in the weeks to come. Wayne Gallman and Dion Lewis are both low-end flex options in Week 3 with Gallman the preferred option in non-PPR and .5PPR leagues and Lewis preferred in full-point PPR.
Las Vegas has some pressing offensive injury issues that they need to get ironed out stat. RB Josh Jacobs and TE Darren Waller, both registering Did Not Participate designations in this week’s practices, will be sorely needed. As of now, Derek Carr can only be trusted as a back-end QB2. The New England defense leads the league in interceptions (4) and all of Carr’s main pass catchers, the aforementioned Waller, Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, and Hunter Renfrow are nursing injuries. Edwards and Renfrow though are expected to get the green light. The tough matchup and worry for Waller put Carr on shaky ground though.
Should the banged up group play, Darren Waller is a no-brainer high-end TE1, evidenced by his god-like 16-target usage last week. That kind of passing game involvement for a tight end doesn’t happen by accident and it’s very tough to come by.
Bryan Edwards is not seeing enough work to warrant fantasy consideration. Renfrow would likely stand to benefit the most if Waller were to miss time as the talented, if slow, route runner occupies the slot most of the time. Zay Jones has emerged as a dice-roll boom/bust flex option with Henry Ruggs now declared out. It’s a risky option as he’ll have to contend with lockdown CB Stephon Gilmore though.
Were Waller to indeed sit, Foster Moreau and Jason Witten would likely nuke each other’s fantasy value.
RB Josh Jacobs predictably saw a massive increase in overall usage in Week 1’s demolishing of the Carolina Panthers. In Week 2 he returned to his requisite three-target passing game workload that restricted him in 2019. HC Jon Gruden told fans that Jacobs would surely become a full blown dual threat back in 2020 but that doesn’t seem to be the case. On twitter, Dwain McFarland detailed just how stark the passing game usage has between Josh Jacobs and the team’s primary pass catching back Jalen Richard. As of now, Josh Jacobs is just a predominantly-rush running back.
The New England run defense is quite strong and given Jacobs’ role-limitations, he can only be counted on as a mid-to-high RB2. Should Jacobs be kept out by his balky hip, Jalen Richard would immediately become a mid-to-low RB2 who would run less efficiently than Jacobs but would maintain his expected target total. Devontae Booker would likely assume a change-of-pace role behind Richard but it’s unlikely to be bountiful.
As predicted, Cam Newton has returned outrageous value on his late-round ADP, shredding defenses both on the ground and through the air for overall QB3 results. Entering Week 3, he’s the overall QB5, only pushed so low due to excellent setups for QBs 1-4. Newton’s four rushing touchdowns lead the league across all positions and his 122 rushing yards rank 21st overall. The veteran QB also has the 10th-highest passing yardage total while throwing one touchdown and one interception. The Raiders defense is playing some of the worst football in the NFL, allowing opponents toroutinely passing their way down the field before ramming in rushing scores. That’s exactly the kind of one-man football Cam Newton’s been playing this year.
Julian Edelman formed an immediate mindmeld with his new quarterback in training camp and it’s paid off so far. He’s the overall WR8 in .5PPR scoring formats and there’s no reason to treat him otherwise. Deploy Julian Edelman confidently as a mid-to-low WR1.
Both Damiere Byrd and N’Keal Harry offer flex-viability this week though it’s tough to know who to trust. Byrd has experience with Cam from their time together in Carolina but Harry has drawn verbal affection from Cam in media interviews. While Byrd patrols the deep field, Harry has worked in the short-to-intermediate area of the field. Perhaps Byrd is best viewed as a boom/bust flex option with a decent chance at a long score against the Raiders secondary. Harry, meanwhile, is a safe flex option with PPR-based upside.
At the moment, there are no fantasy-relevant tight ends on the roster.
The running back room has provided little fantasy value through two games. Sony Michel has maintained his banger role, to little effect. James White missed last week’s contest due to a family emergency, which lead to Rex Burkhead soundly leading the team in snaps. With White once again out, Burkhead will throw a wrench into Michel’s mid-field touches.
If so inclined, fantasy managers could touchdown-chase in this one. Although the rushing yardage allowed by the Raiders hasn’t been special one way or another, they have allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns on the year (4). Michel would be the dart to throw in this case but Rex Burkhead theoretically holds the safest floor with his pass catching ability. Neither are a recommended start though.
QB Ryan Tannehill’s extreme efficiency has carried over from last year, resulting in top 10 QB results through two contests. Despite being just 21st in passing attempts, Tannehill has the league’s 2nd-highest passing touchdown total. Tannehill’s rushing floor is creeping along as well at 13 yards per game, just .9 fewer than his eight-year average.
With A.J. Brown out, Corey Davis is the team’s No. 1 receiver and he’s set to smash as a WR2 against Minnesota’s appallingly secondary. 8-10 targets is well within his range of outcomes. Likewise, Adam Humphries can be fired up as a flex option with WR2 upside in PPR leagues.
Jonnu Smith looks every bit the svelte, dominant passing game weapon we thought he’d be. Fire him up as a mid-TE1 with multi-TD upside against the Raiders.
Derrick Henry has yet to pop-off this year but with Tennessee a safe bet to jump out to an early lead, the entire second-half of the game could belong to the wrecking-ball back. With linebacker Anthony Barr recently placed on Injured Reserve, the hapless Vikes are helpless against him. Henry is the overall RB5 this week.
Adam Thielen, though, offers high-end WR1 usage, owning an NFL-leading 53.38% of his team’s air yards, per Next Gen Stats, and a whopping 37.21% of his team’s targets, per NFL Savant. Those outrageously high numbers enforce Thielen’s fantasy-WR1 viability despite last week’s unfortunate box score result. With his level of usage, it’s impossible for Thielen to not reliably deliver King Kong box scores throughout the remainder of 2020.
The depth chart behind Thielen is that of a desert. Olabisi Johnson has flashed at times but does not receive the necessary work to be a reliable flex play. Same goes for rookie slot receiver, Justin Jefferson.
Tight end Irv Smith Jr. will breakout at some point as his talent is plainly superior to that of Kyle Rudolph. The snap share of the two players is just too high for him to separate right now though.
The other no-brainer play of the Vikings offense is running back Dalvin Cook. With head coach Mike Zimmer employing OC’s Gary Kubiak’s run game as the focal point of the offense, Cook will be in weekly contention to finish a top five RB based on usage alone. At the moment Cook finds himself as the overall RB8 in .5PPR scoring, a spot he can beat this week as the overall RB6 in our Fake Teams rankings.
Dwayne Haskins has shown some acceptable developmental bumps as he progresses through his second NFL season after being thrown into the fire part way through the 2019 season, wholly unprepared. Haskins has shown he knows who his top two pass catchers are in 2nd-year wideout, and college teammate, Terry McLaurin along with tight end Logan Thomas, a converted college quarterback. Haskins is that of a promising Kirk Cousins at this point, not doing enough for his own fantasy relevance but shelling out ample opportunities for McLaurin and Thomas. He’s an avoid at QB this week but keep your eye on him.
Both Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas are every-week starts with McLaurin seeing a 34.29% team air yards share and a 27.27% target market share and Thomas getting 26.76% of the team air yards — trailing only Darren Waller and Jared Cook at the position — and a ridiculous 25.75% of the team’s targets. McLaurin’s usage has resulted in overall WR11 numbers in .5PPR and Thomas, who went virtually free in drafts, sits at the TE18 spot. With the latter’s usage being so high though, a jump into the top 12 is imminent. Cleveland’s pass defense has been waxed by both wide receivers and tight ends in Weeks 1 and 2, both making McLaurin and Thomas locks for top 12 positional finishes.
Ancillary receiving options like Dontrelle Inman and Steven Sims Jr. are ignorable for our purposes.
The most exciting member of the Washington Football Team though is rookie running back Antonio Gibson, whose incredible jump in usage from Weeks 1 to 2 was detailed on twitter, here, by Rotoworld’s Hayden Winks. Gibson, a former wide receiver who earned rushing work in college, is a 6 foot, 220 pound freak athlete with serious dual threat capabilities after transitioning to running back at the NFL level. Washington offensive coordinator was in Carolina the previous two seasons, helping their quarterbacks zero in on the league’s most talented dual threat running back, Christian McCaffrey. Deploying Gibson in a similar fashion will unquestionably lead to gaudy numbers from the rookie back as the season progresses.
The coaching staff was afraid to fully take the training wheels off in Week 1 but rectified that mistake in Week 2. On Sunday, expect them to let Gibson ride to the tune of 18 or more touches. Cleveland’s defensive line is solid but their linebacking corps is not. Once Gibson gets to the second level, it won’t be a surprise to see him take off for a long score. Start Antonio Gibson as a back-end RB2 in Week 3 and expect bigger weeks to follow.
Although the Browns will have to contend with Washington’s ferocious defensive line, the rest of Washington’s defense isn’t anything to write home about. The Browns have something on their side that fans might not be used to though; an outstanding offensive line. Establish The Run’s Brandon Thorn detailed rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.’s rapid development as Baker Mayfield’s blindside protector in a threat on twitter, here. With Washington’s offense still in the “promising” phase, it’s unlikely they jump out to an early lead, allowing the Browns to pound the rock with Nick Chubb as they please. Because of this, Baker Mayfield is just a mid-range QB2 whose floor should be safe but ceiling lowered with a lower than normal pass rate expected in this one.
While Cleveland may not be a pass-heavy team, Odell Beckham Jr.’s stranglehold on their passing game volume is startling. His 33.90% target share and his 40.16% of the team’s air yards, 6th-most in the NFL) are not easily put aside. Beckham may not see enough work to reliably be considered a fantasy WR1 but a rock-solid WR2 with WR1-boom weeks? Absolutely. Consider him as such in Week 3’s tilt with Washington. Jarvis Landry should see a decent amount of safety valve usage this week, on the occasions when Washington’s vaunted pass rushers squeak by one of Cleveland’s blockers. Landry is still working his way back to full health after offseason hip surgery, though, so floor and ceiling expectations must be locked firmly into the flex realm.
Tight end Austin Hooper is a fantasy non-factor at this point. Running back Kareem Hunt has ostensibly taken over duties as the No. 3 passing game weapon. Backfieldmate Nick Chubb looks as decisive as ever rushing behind the Browns’ sterling line. Both backs, in fact, are must starts every week. Chubb’s rushing volume is bullet proof and Hunt, as the No. 2 back, is averaging 11.5 carries and 4 targets per game. As it stands through two weeks, Hunt and Chubb own the overall RB9 and RB10 spots in .5PPR scoring, respectively. With Cleveland expected to control the scoreboard, and the clock this week, Chubb is a back-end RB1 and Hunt is a solid flex option in the Fake Teams Tiered Running Back Rankings.
Quarterback Jared Goff continues to be Weekend at Bernie’s’d by Sean McVay and Goff’s supporting cast of play makers. This week looks like another surprisingly solid outing for him. Although Buffalo’s terrifying defense features talented pass rushers and excellent perimeter coverage, their interior has been flayed by slot receivers and tight ends. In Week 1, tight end Chris Herndon caught six of seven targets while slot receiver Jamison Crowder nabbed seven of his 13 for 115 yards and a score. In Week 2, tight end Mike Gesicki caught eight of 11 for 130 yards and a score while seldom-heard-from Isaiah Ford went seven of nine for 76 yards. It just so happens the Rams are featuring tight end Tyler Higbee and slot receiver Cooper Kupp on a weekly basis this year. Higbee should be treated as a high-ceiling TE1 while Kupp can be expected to best his Weeks 1 and 2 performances with rock solid WR2 production.
The team’s best receiver, Robert Woods, will have his hands full with lockdown cornerback Tre’Davious White. Woods’ talent, target workload, and unique usage keep him locked-in as a back-end WR2 though. Woods has four rushes through two games, putting him a fair bit ahead of his 1 per game average over the last two years. This probably won’t be a true ceiling game from him but he should stay in fantasy lineups.
Darrelle Henderson Jr. looks like a serious boom candidate in this one. When the Rams’ backfield is at full health, McVay likes to rotate Henderson with veteran Malcolm Brown and rookie Cam Akers. But Akers is Out this week with a rib cartilage injury and Brown had surgery to repair a broken pinky on Monday. Brown is going to play and should see some rushing work but one has to imagine that at best, if targeted in the passing game, he’ll be alligator-mouthing catches with a plastered hand. After ripping up the Eagles’ defense last week for 121 scrimmage yards and a touchdown — and not having a surgically repaired finger — Darrelle Henderson Jr. should be locked in for 20+ touches in Week 3. Buffalo plays stout run defense but the volume of touches should keep Henderson on the flex/RB2 border with touchdown-based upside.
The Bills front office has brilliantly put together a Josh Allen-friendly team and scheme, composed of downfield difference-makers and frequent, early down passing. Josh Allen sits in the overall QB2 spot after two games, throwing for a league-leading 727 yards and 6 touchdowns, the latter trails only Russell Wilson. His rushing floor is still intact, despite the uptick in passing, with 76 yards and score. The Rams’ defense consists of stars and scrubs, the latter being most relevant for Allen’s expected Week 3 box score results. He’s the overall QB7 this week.
The NFL’s premier downfield receiving duo, Stefon Diggs and John Brown, are .5PPR’s WR4 and WR10, respectively and there’s no scoring-end in sight. The boom/bust nature of being a downfield receiver may bite owners from time to time but at this point, trust the two to remain on the WR1/2 border on a weekly basis.
Cole Beasley is a high-floor, low-ceiling flex option this week as fellow short-to-intermediate area prowler, tight end Dawson Knox is out this week.
Devin Singletary has the backfield to himself as well, with Zack Moss out (turf toe) for a possibly extended absence. Singletary offers high-end flex appeal but his touchdown access is limited by Josh Allen’s redzone rushing ability.
QB Mitchell Trubisky has done enough to keep the starting gig through two games and a showdown against Atlanta’s charity-based defense won’t do anything to change that. Starting Trubisky and his interception-prone arm is a frightening prospect but the Falcons defense is so bad that in this case, it’s a savvy contrarian proposition. While his floor is as low as can be, a top 12 finish is absolutely in his range of outcomes.
Allen Robinson will stand to benefit from the Falcons’ lights-out passing attack ripping up an underperforming Chicago Bears defense. Robinson’s target market share is right where we want it for fantasy WR1s, in the 25%+ range and his team share of air yards (38.25%) is 10th in the league. The ultra-talented target-monster will post a ceiling game this week as Chicago tries to keep pace with Atlanta.
Wide receiver Darnell Mooney looks to have leapfrogged slot receiver Anthony Miller, as the team’s No. 2, in last week’s game. Given the likelihood of a full blown shootout, it wouldn’t be a surprise for the Bears to suddenly run three-wide receiver sets for three quarters, which would give Mooney and Miller access to flex-viability. The Trubisky effect obviously makes their floors questionable but a successful day for both of them is possible.
Tight end Jimmy Graham continues to lumber across the field as the team’s No. 1 pass catching tight end. He’s perhaps the shakiest of the pass catching bunch to start in fantasy lineups.
Tarik Cohen can resolutely be ignored as an ineffective (supposed) pass catching back. The backfield belongs to David Montgomery who has looked markedly better than his 2019, rookie-year flop. A back-end RB2 performance can be expected in Week 3.
Julio was unable to practice at all this week (hamstring), which puts his current game-time status somewhat in doubt. The Bears aren’t exactly an opponent that he’ll be needed for. Make backup plans for the top 12 fantasy wide receiver, perhaps with his teammate Russell Gage.
Whether it was due to game script, tight end Hayden Hurst having to learn a new play book, or otherwise, Gage has broken out in a major way this year, seeing the team’s 2nd-highest target market share (22.83%) but just 17.32% of the team’s air yards, an indication of his short-to-intermediate area prowess as a slot receiver. With Julio out, Gage would be a real-deal WR2. Even with Julio in, potentially as a decoy, Gage garners high-end flex value at worst.
As stated in the Atlanta Falcons Team Preview piece, Calvin Ridley was set to breakout as a top 12 fantasy receiver in 2020. His route running is as good as it gets and the young man is just getting started. Ridley is the overall WR1 in .5PPR scoring and should be started as such for the time being.
Hayden Hurst got in on the fun against Dallas last week and we can expect that usage to hold. Matt Ryan showed last season that he loves a reliable, big-bodied target over the middle of the field. He’s a TE1.
Todd Gurley’s snap share firmly caps his ceiling as a Top 13-24 running back. Given the offense that he’s in, Gurley doesn’t necessarily need high-end usage for him to produce, but it sure would help. In a matchup like this, there’s a hope for a touchdown. On the bright side, even though he’s losing snaps to Brian Hill and Ito Smith, neither back has done much with the work which isn’t going to push the coaching staff to running them much more than they already are.
Greener pastures are just a game away for QB Teddy Bridgewater, whose high-octane, developing offense gets a slate of Arizona, Atlanta, and Chicago over the next three weeks. Before then though, he’s got to face a brutal Chargers’ defense. As such, he’s not a recommended fantasy option.
With Christian McCaffrey out, it’s likely Teddy leans a little harder on his known play-makers, primarily stud wideout D.J. Moore. Expect Moore to maintain his floor via gaudy reception-totals but it may be tough for him to find pay dirt in this one.
Fantasy darling Robby Anderson has shown his troop potential, now free of Adam Gase’s offense. If his 25.33% target share holds, Anderson could take another deep pass for a score. But the Panthers’ overall offensive opportunities are going to be stunted by LA’s two-back offense. Consider Anderson more a 2019-boom/bust version of himself for this week.
A loud contingency of the fantasy ecosystem is adamant that slot receiver Curtis Samuel is really the one to replace Christian McCaffrey in the backfield — or at least McCaffrey’s passing game role out of the backfield. The idea that pass-happy offensive coordinator Joe Brady would actively try to reduce the number of talented pass catchers on the field by sliding Samuel into the backfield and making a tight end or backup receiver play in his stead just doesn’t make sense. A handful of backfield snaps for Samuel? Sure. But the passing back role? As Establish The Run’s Adam Levitan pointed out on twitter, Mike Davis caught all eight of his Week 2 targets in relief of CMC. After that kind of a performance, we should expect a slot receiver — who admittedly played out of the backfield in college some years ago — to move into a prominent pass catching back role? Not a chance. Curtis Samuel will retain his low-ceiling slot receiver role and may see 1-2 touches out of the backfield.
Expect Mike Davis to handle 18 or more touches against a stout Chargers defensive-front. It’s an unfortunate matchup for Davis to debut in. But the veteran back has years of film to show what he can do and he beat former backup Reggie Bonnafon for the No. 2 job in camp outright. Flex Davis this week and expect much better performances down the road.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is out “indefinitely” with a collapsed lung, tragically paving the way for rookie QB Justin Herbert to make his mark. Herbert got the start, at the last second, last week and immediately revitalized slot receiver Keenan Allen’s 2020 fantasy prospects. Seeing a young QB know where his bread should be buttered is a good sign. Fortunately for him, Week 3 should be relatively easy lifting as the Chargers’ dominant rushing attack should take care of most of the business as they bulldoze Carolina’s league-worst defense. Herbert is a high-floor/high-ceiling QB3.
Given the expected game script and newfangled passing tree with Herbert in instead of Taylor, Keenan Allen and tight end Hunter Henry take over the top two pass catching roles in the Chargers offense, kicking Mike Williams — Tyrod Taylor’s preferred No. 1 — down a couple pegs. Allen can be treated as a flex option in what should amount to a low-volume game. Given the lack of talent on the other side of the ball though, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Allen house a long pass with his savvy route running.
Hunter Henry has assumed the role on No. 1 safety blanket and can safely be billed for high-floor TE1 production.
Mike Williams’ downfield routes aren’t expected to be heavily relied on in Week 3. He’s a boom/bust flex option.
Austin Ekeler saw an immediate increase in his passing game usage with Herbert at the helm, jumping from one target in Week 1 to four in Week 2. It’s still a far cry from 2019 but if he can build on that, we’ll feel a bit more secure in Ekeler’s ability to maintain back-end RB1 status.
The biggest threat to Ekeler’s production may not be a lack of passing game usage as much as Josh Kelley is to just taking his lead back job. Through two contests, Ekeler and Kelley are tied at 35 carries apiece. Kelley’s rushing workload against the Panthers could easily clear 18 touches — and perhaps surpass the touch total of Ekeler if the team gets up enough that they opt to protect Ekeler on the bench.
Regardless of who gets more touches, the Panthers have allowed a league-high 6 rushing touchdowns on the year. We know Ekeler will get his early in the game, making him a safe back-end RB1. Kelley, meanwhile, has rock solid RB2 viability with a similar back-end RB1 ceiling.
Adam Gase is so horrifically inept, he’s ruined this team’s fantasy viability. The only player one should consider in season-long leagues is fill-in slot receiver Braxton Berrios, who turned up on the injury report with a hamstring issue. Berrios immediately became QB Sam Darnold’s favorite target, playing in place of the injured Jamison Crowder (hamstring). If Berrios is active, he’s a flex option with PPR-upside.
The Jets have allowed moderate passing yardage through two games and are tied for the 4th-most passing touchdowns allowed (4), but keep in mind, last week’s San Francisco injury implosion may have helped New York to a less lop-sided loss than they would’ve otherwise suffered. On the ground, they’re the 9th weakest run defense unit and have likewise allowed the 4th-highest rushing touchdown total (4) through two games.
This game sets up for a similar rushing bonanza as the Jets suffered last week against the 49ers who posted an overall rushing line of 27 running back carries for 143 yards and two scores. Niners backs turned seven targets into six catches for 49 yards. Assuming a similar script follows in Week 3, Philip Rivers should have a low-volume output and can only be counted on as a high-floor QB3.
T.Y. Hilton has been battling the dropsies through the team’s first two games, leaving 10s of fantasy points on the field. He can only be trusted as a boom/bust flex option as the team will likely have little reason to feed him.
Zach Pascal and Michael Pittman Jr. are even less likely to produce that Hilton, but Pittman did play well last week so it’s possible Rivers tests him early.
Tight end Mo Alie-Cox put on a show in Week 2, obliterating Minnesota’s defensive backs on five catches for 111 yards. “Starting” tight end Jack Doyle is set to return from the ankle injury that held him out of Week 2’s contest, throwing MAC’s viability into chaos. One has to think that the “backup” tight end made an impression on Frank Reich as long time Colt Jack Doyle has never even come close to doing what Alie-Cox did last week. We’ll have to monitor news reports to be sure but if MAC appears to be retaining rights to the Colts’ TE1 role, he’s a must start top 12 option at the position.
This is the perfect game for Jonathan Taylor to abolish the box score. The talented rookie is already one of the best runner’s in the league. He’s the overall RB3 this week.
This week’s change of pace back will be Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines’ pass catching-only ability will be completely unnecessary. Wilkins can be started as a low-end flex option with garbage time/TD-upside.
Smoke ‘em, if ya got ‘em.
The Seattle Seahawks have allowed 831 passing yards through two games, by far the most in the league. For perspective, the Raiders have allowed the 5th-most passing yards at 571. The Dallas Cowboys have allowed the 10th-most passing yards (536) and the 4th-highest passing touchdown total (4). The Seahawks are able to inflate their raw QB Pressure statistics because they blitz at the league’s 4th-highest rate, oftentimes sending strong safety Jamal Adams after the quarterback because their depleted pass rushing unit is so incapable they’re helpless if they don’t. Dallas meanwhile can’t even generate faux pressure, sitting as the 12th worst in the statistic.
Dak Prescott comes in as this week’s overall QB2, second only to Russell Wilson at QB1. All prominent pass catchers on both of these teams need to be jammed into lineups in what could be the league’s pass-happiest game of the week. Amari Cooper is a top tier WR1 option while rookie CeeDee Lamb has asserted himself as a locked-in fantasy WR2/high-end flex. Michael Gallup has had rough luck from the referees but this is his get-right opportunity as a long-TD flex play. Backup tight end Dalton Schultz, filling in for Blake Jarwin for the rest of the season, lead the team in targets last week (10!). Somehow, some way, even Schultz is a Top 12 tight end option. Ezekiel Elliott’s newfound passing game role has him as the overall RB1 for Week 3.
Russell Wilson is on his way to an MVP campaign, assuming Pete Carroll doesn’t return to establishing the run… But while we’ve got a guaranteed shootout on our hands, we’re treating him as he deserves — and his pass catchers too. After roasting Patriots’ shutdown cornerback Stephon Gilmore for a long score last week, D.K. Metcalf has established himself as a weekly WR1 in fantasy football. Tyler Lockett is still every bit the precision route runner that he’s always been. His mindmeld with Russell Wilson keeps him as a locked-in WR2 with back-end WR1 upside. Chris Carson’s true abilities have been unlocked as the ‘hawks have deployed him as the team’s No. 3 pass catcher, while maintaining lead back duties. He’s the premier RB2 on the week with easy RB1 upside. Tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver David Moore will duke it out for No. 4 passing game duties. Both deserve dart throw consideration in what is sure to be a high scoring affair. Luckily, Carlos Hyde hasn’t been given a prominent enough role to sap Carson of his ceiling. In a spot like this though, Hyde could find his way into the endzone. He’s a boom/bust flex option.
Tom Brady may be more a product of his environment than an elevator of talent at this point in his career. For fantasy purposes, Brady should be considered an efficient play rather than a gaudy one against the Broncos in Week 3. The Bucs offense should put up points early and then coast to a lead, lessening the need for Brady to throw in much in the 2nd-half. For this reason, he is a high-floor/capped ceiling QB2.
This week, tight end Rob Gronkowski told reporters that he’s “a blocking tight end” now. This came on the heels of head coach Bruce Arians reaffirming that it’s his wide receivers that’ll do the catching in these parts. Gronk and fellow tight end O.J. Howard shouldn’t be counted on for reliable fantasy production. But wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin sure should be. Although talk has swirled of breakouts from ancillary pass catchers like Scotty Miller, Justin Watson, and Tyler Johnson, the Bucs’ 2020 passing game outlook is beginning to look an awful lot like 2019 with Evans and Godwin ripping up defenses for back-end WR1 production. Count on the duo to finish on that WR1/2 borderline this week and beyond.
Leonard Fournette seemingly seized the dual threat backfield role for himself last week, posting an insane 103 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries along with four catches for 13 yards. LeSean McCoy saw some passing game action but Bruce Arians, who loves himself a bellcow is going to be smitten with what he has in his hands in Fournette. Ronald Jones and LeSean McCoy are still going to get work this week, so Fournette can’t be counted on as anything more than a high-end flex option but in the long term, Fournette looks like he’ll eventually separate.
The Broncos passing attack is in turmoil. QB Drew Lock and top WR Courtland Sutton are out for weeks. Now-No.1 WR Jerry Jeudy is battling a rib injury and will end up being a game-time decision on Sunday afternoon.
The potential starting offense will be quarterbacked by backup QB Jeff Driskel, a fearless downfield thrower with a rushing floor, if inaccurate. He’s just a QB3 in this matchup. Jerry Jeudy would be a shaky flex option if he’s able to play but is currently said to be a game-time decision. The fact that the rib injury is bad enough that his status is uncertain means fantasy managers should look elsewhere for receiver help.
Downfield speedster K.J. Hamler offers boom/bust flex appeal. DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick are far too risky to put on a fantasy roster though.
The players who really stand to benefit from Sutton, and potentially Jeudy’s absence are tight end Noah Fant and jumbo-sized receiving back Melvin Gordon. Fant was the man that Driskel locked onto when he entered the game in place of Lock last week, finding him for a 20-yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter. He’s a TE1.
Gordon is already running as the standalone back while Phillip Lindsay sits out with a turf toe injury and Royce Freeman warms the bench. A few extra targets sprinkled on top are helpful for Gordon’s fantasy outlook. He’s a mid-tier RB2.
Matthew Stafford has been unable to get things going without his top passing game option, big-bodied receiver Kenny Golladay, who missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury. Kenny G was able to log Limited Participation in each of Detroit’s practices this week though, indicating that he will indeed take the field on Sunday to take on the Cardinals subpar defense. Things are coming together for Stafford to be deployed as a high-end QB2 option this week. Golladay matches his quarterback as a high-end WR2.
Update: After further consideration, Golladay owners need to carefully weigh their replacement options against the Lions’ receiver. Golladay told media that he’s not yet 100%, making it entirely possible Detroit rolls him out there as a decoy. Were this to be the case, Marvin Jones Jr. would take on the team’s No. 1 WR role. Monitor news on Sunday morning to get a better understanding of Golladay’s status.
With Golladay’s return, Marvin Jones Jr. returns to his rightful No. 2 WR role and the ceilings severely drop for role players Danny Amendola, Marvin Hall, and Quintez Cephus.
Head coach Matt Patricia’s usage of tight end dynamo T.J. Hockenson has been baffling thus far. The breakout-in-waiting 2nd-year player has caught all 9 of his passes for 118 yards and a touchdown but is somehow still battling journeyman Jesse James for playing time. Hockenson can’t be trusted at all now with the team’s alpha, Golladay, back in the mix. If one is inclined, holding Hockenson on the bench for a week or two to see if Golladay’s return free’s up coverage for Hockenson would be understandable.
Although D’Andre Swift actually saw a lower snap share in Week 2 than he did in Week 1, he topped the backfield’s touch-count in Week 2 while the washed up Adrian Peterson saw his touch count chopped in half. Although some form of Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson will always be there to hamper Swift’s ceiling, the fact that he made touch-strides so early in the season is promising. The time to add the talented rookie back is now. He’s just a moderate flex option this week but could find his way into the RB24-30 range soon enough.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is running the offense of his dreams now, cranking out absurd play-totals and scoring serious points in the process. Kyler Murray has taken a major step forward as a passer and a rusher, piling up numbers good for fantasy’s overall QB4. Incredibly, Murray has the 10th-most rushing yards, across all positions, and the 2nd-highest rushing touchdown total (4). The 2nd-year quarterback should have no issue rolling to high-end QB1 numbers in such a good matchup. He’s the overall QB6 this week.
DeAndre Hopkins, .5PPR’s overall WR3, has an opportunity to take the top spot this week in a phenomenal matchup against Detroit’s talent-deficient and poorly coach secondary. Downfield receiver Christian Kirk is out with a groin injury for this week’s tilt, giving Nuk a chance to surpass his ungodly 34.25% target market share. Hopkins’ 5.9 average targeted air yards pale in comparison to Kirk’s league-leading 20.8. With Kirk out, Hopkins may be asked to run deep a bit more often that he has so far, which would only benefit his box score production.
Although Kirk’s absence isn’t likely to do much for aged slot receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is just a low-ceiling flex option, Andy Isabella could stand to benefit. Isabella was drafted to be the team’s primary downfield option but the acquisition of Hopkins in the offseason shook things up and Isabella’s been hard pressed for snaps. The two balls he caught for 67 yards in Week 2 bode well for his Week 3 opportunities — he’s a sneaky flex start with touchdown-probability.
Kenyan Drake has yet to really crack open a can in Weeks 1 and 2, though his totals certainly haven’t lost any season-longer’s matches. The Detroit Lions have allowed a league-high 408 rushing yards though — this is the week. Drake is a rock-solid RB1, while backup/change of pace rusher Chase Edmonds is a low-end flex option.
Sunday Night Football: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Week 3’s Sunday Night Football showdown features a “should have been” duo of injured wide receivers. The engines of these offenses Davante Adams of the Packers and Michael Thomas are both ailing, with Adams listed as Doubtful and Thomas already declared Out. Both pass catching corps are thin but New Orleans’ roster-infrastructure gives them a massive competitive edge.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers opened Week 1 by throwing at a 61% rate on early downs in the first half. Those are the downs that the brilliant Warren Sharp has identified as indicative of how good — and smart — a team really is as those sitatuations are when the team gets to do what they want to do. Green Bay’s Week 1 pass/run ratio came in contrast to the balanced, ground’n’pound style that has been advocated by head coach Matt LeFleur, and indicated by the team’s 2020 Draft selections. But was the ratio a result of playing the Minnesota defense, whose secondary might be the worst in the league? Possibly. Top Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter was Out that week too. In Week 2, the tables turned. Green Bay passed at the league’s 9th-lowest rate (53%) on first-half early downs. Davante Adams missed a few snaps in the first half with an ankle injury and was forced from the game due to a hamstring injury but the latter occurred in the 2nd-half, tossing aside any comments over Adams’ exit seriously influencing the play-calling. The play-calling shift wasn’t a result of gamescript either as the Packers didn’t hop out to a substantial lead until the end of the 3rd quarter — they were up just 7 points at halftime. That the Packers opted not to boost the pass catching corps via the draft is also seemingly telling. Taking Aaron Rodgers’ replacement (Jordan Love) in the 1st Round, a 2-down banger back with 845 carries on his legs (A.J. Dillon) in the 2nd, and a TE (Josiah Deguara) in the 3rd is definitively not the foundation an intelligent, pass-first team would lay.
With Adams out, the team will turn to Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to carry the load at wide receiver. Through two games, MVS has the larger target market share — 19.23% to Allen Lazard’s 14.10%. MVS also has a significantly higher average targeted air yards number, 17.3 to Lazard’s 11.6, indicative of his stranglehold on Green Bay’s downfield role. The downfield targets will provide more fantasy value on a per-target basis but it appears as though Lazard is actually the one who could stand to gain the most from Davante Adams’ absence. His snap share is significantly higher, and more stable, than Valdes-Scantling’s. Coupling that with his average targeted air yards, it’s easy to see that head coach Matt LeFleur deploys Lazard as the much more of a do-it-all receiver than he does MVS, making Lazard the likely candidate to fill-in as Adams’ one-to-one replacement. Such a role would come with a higher floor than that of MVS but perhaps a ceiling more associated with his PPR performance.
The unfortunate aspects for the duo is twofold. The New Orleans defense has largely played lockdown coverage on perimeter receivers, really only being beaten by the tight ends and slot receivers of the Buccaneers and Raiders in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins form a brutal 1-2 punch patrolling each side of the field for the Saints and the two Packers’ wide outs will have their work cutout for them. Consider Allen Lazard a flex option with low-end WR2-upside in full-point PPR formats. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is just a boom/bust flex option.
Perhaps the truest beneficiary of Davante Adams’ absence is running back Aaron Jones. Jones has been a beast this year, finally seeing the dual threat usage that the fantasy community has yearned for. The last time he saw serious passing game work just so happens to be in Weeks 5-8 of 2019, when Adams missed time with a turf toe injury. During the timespan, Jones was .5PPR’s overall RB1. Unsurprisingly, he was either tied for the team lead in target or outright lead the team in targets for the duration of Adams’ injury-absence. A lack of real receivers had to benefit someone. This time around, with Jones in the driver’s seat, he’s once again a candidate to reach that ceiling. The Saints’ defense is a dominant unit though so he’s best considered a back-end RB1 with usage-based. upside.
Tight end Robert Tonyan, affectionately referred to as Baby Kittle by 4for4Football’s stud analyst John Paulson, is a very good bet to breakout this week on the expected added usage. Tonyan beat out incumbent Jace Sternberger in camp and made some noise in a game for the first time last week. With Aaron Rodgers desperate for reliable pass catching options and the Saints have given up touchdowns to tight ends in back to back weeks, Tonyan is a low-key streaming option with touchdown-potential.
Add it all up and we see Aaron Rodgers staring down the barrel of a tough matchup, with suspect offensive play-calling, and without his Pro Bowl right hand man. The supporting cast around him is scrappy enough for him to stay fantasy relevant as the overall QB12. Rodgers’ campaign will be aided by the New Orleans offense putting up points of its own.
Running back Jamaal Williams is an unreliable fantasy option who has amounted to a glorified handcuff through two games.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints answered our Tre’Quan Smith vs. Emmanuel Sanders questions last week, making Smith the highest-targeted Saints pass catcher outside of running back Alvin Kamara. It was promising to see Smith being lined up all over the formation and asked to run routes of varying depth. He was not the one-trick deep threat that the team was asking him to be with Michael Thomas on the field — he played the No. 1 WR, Michael Thomas role, albeit with a smaller workload. Green Bay’s secondary is largely unimposing. Fantasy managers should treat Smith as a high-end flex option who can do some serious open-field damage with his 7 or more targets.
Jared Cook’s connection with Drew Brees locks him into TE1 treatment every week. He’s a no-brainer.
With Drew Brees operating as a shot-to-intermediate-passing point guard, there just isn’t enough volume to go around for slot receiver Emannuel Sanders to be seriously fantasy relevant. This game does have slight shootout potential but is unlikely to be a real barn burner. Sanders is just a multi-flex boom/bust option with a low ceiling.
Drew Brees, meanwhile can be expected for an efficient showing but when a running back — even Alvin Kamara — is expected to be the team’s most-targeted player, we can’t expect higher than mid-tier QB2 results in fantasy. Speaking of Alvin Kamara, the value of this player shot through the roof last week after two of the top running back dogs (Christian McCaffrey on IR and Saquon Barkley out for the year) were toppled by injuries. For the duration of Michael Thomas’ absence, Kamara is bankable for 20+ touches per game with as many as half of them coming through the passing game. His 13-carry, 9-target Week 2 is a testament to this possibility. Lock Kamara into your lineup as an elite RB1 and throw away the key.
With Ty Montgomery headed to Injured Reserve for a few weeks, it’s possible that Latavius Murray’s role grows but the team has made clear that Alvin Kamara’s days of splitting a backfield in a meaningful way are over. Murray is just a high-end handcuff with low-end flex appeal in the right matchup. This is not that matchup.