Upgrades

Recent news and/or performance has made us more optimistic about these particular players for fantasy purposes.

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford (Det) – Stafford did about all he could to get the Lions to win this game, but the Lions defense had no chance slowing down Packers offense when they had the pedal down. He completed 28/41 passes for 385 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT for 32.4 FP (2nd), as the Lions just ran out of time late in the game in a 31-24 loss. WR Marvin Jones has clearly emerged as the go-to receiver for Stafford, as the pair connected for TDs from 73 and 35 yards away. It also looks like TE Eric Ebron is emerging as well, with OC Jim Bob Cooter lining Ebron up all over the field to get him favorable matchups. Stafford is averaging a healthy 2.3 TDs per game so far, and he should continue his hot play against a bad Bears team this week.

Aaron Rodgers (GB) – We saw some vintage Rodgers finally in Week 3, which is encouraging because he needed to take advantage of a banged up Lions defense without a couple key pieces in their front seven. He completed 15/24 passes for 205 yards and 4 TDs for 28.5 FP (4th), torching the Lions early and staking the Packers to a 31-10 halftime lead. He completed just 3/6 passes after the break as the team went into full-blown clock-burning mode with Eddie Lacy. Our tape studies the first two weeks showed that Jordy Nelson was indeed still getting open, and Rodgers actually pulled the trigger this week. We are a little worried about Randall Cobb’s lack of production out of the slot in the early going, but Rodgers is back on the upswing with Jordy looking as good as ever.

Kirk Cousins (Was) – This was a much-needed win for Washington, and absolutely necessary game for Cousins, who had endured a lot of valid criticism to this point. But he outplayed Eli Manning in Week 2’s win over the Giants, going 21/35 for 296 yards and 2 scores. His best throw of the day was a dart to DeSean Jackson on a 44-yard post pattern, and he also tallied a 55-yard TD on a tunnel screen to Jamison Crowder – it was a beautiful call by Jay Gruden on 3rd-and-15. Cousins still missed some throws, and the biggest concern is his inability to put points on the board in the red zone. Cousins went just 2/5 for 14 yards in the red area, and on the year is completing just 30.4% of his passes inside the 20. He also took a horrendous sack as time expired in the red zone in the first half, denying Washington a chance to kick a field goal. But aside from his poor performance there – and it’s certainly significant – Cousins much more resembled the breakout player of 2015 than the low-end starter we’ve seen thus far in 2016. Keep in mind that through three games, Washington remains incredibly pass-heavy, and Cousins is actually the NFL’s leading passer. It’s not pretty, but he’s still viable for fantasy. He must get better in the red zone, however.

Upgrades from the Waiver Wire:

  • Carson Wentz (Phi)
  • Ryan Tannehill (Mia)
  • Dak Prescott (Dal)
  • Trevor Siemian (Den)

 

Running Backs

Devonta Freeman (RB, Atl) – On Monday night, Freeman looked a lot like the guy who finished #1 in overall fantasy scoring at the RB position in scoring last year. While Tevin Coleman “vultured” 3 TDs, Freeman was the more impressive player, putting up 14/152 rushing and 5/55/1 receiving on 5 targets in a dominant performance against the Saints. Yes, the New Orleans defense is a complete sieve, but Freeman also showed exceptional moves and physicality – his stiff arm of Sterling Moore on his first carry will be on NFL highlight packages for the entire season. Freeman played a season-high 59.4% of the offensive snaps (to 42.2% for Coleman), and while not ideal, it’s clearly enough for a gifted player to produce, especially in a glorious matchup. Freeman’s floor is clearly not as high as it was last year when he was dominating snaps and touches, but his ceiling is still massive, and he’s simply a better runner than Coleman.

David Johnson (Ari) – The Cardinals had a miserable road performance at Buffalo, where the Bills had their backs up against the wall in a must-win situation. Johnson proved he is game-script proof, as he played 79 of the Cardinals’ 82 offensive snaps (96.3%), and posted 19/83/2 rushing with 3/28 receiving on 6 targets. He was really the only Cardinal player to show up with any sort of consistency. The passing game was miserable (especially Carson Palmer), and Johnson’s hard-charging yards were the only consistent way Arizona was able to move the football. The Cardinals are 1-2, but through no fault of DJ’s. He’s the #1 RB in all of fantasy.

Ezekiel Elliott (Dal) – Fantasy players are obviously sick of the fact that Elliott was vulture three times inside the 5 by three different players (Alfred Morris, Dak Prescott, Lance Dunbar), but everything else for him was a major positive against the hapless Bears on Sunday night. Playing 75.0% of the snaps, Elliott posted 30/140 rushing and 2/20 receiving, turning in his best performance thus far of his rookie season. Elliott did not look great in his first two games, but everything he showed in Week 3 was an example of why he was the best RB prospect in this class. He is both powerful and agile, but he does such an outstanding job keeping his balance and making himself compact in the hole. The vultures were obnoxious, but everything else looks great for Elliott. Also keep in mind he is very comfortable running out of the shotgun from his time at Ohio State, and it’s also where Prescott is most comfortable. Prescott and Zeke are a nice fit together.

Christine Michael (Sea) – At this point, the Seahawks would be downright foolish to take CMike off the field. In Week 3’s blowout win over San Francisco, Michael posted 20/106/2 rushing and 2/5 receiving on 3 targets. The two scores – including a 41-yard TD on his first carry – were the first two of his NFL career, and Michael kept it going the rest of the game. With Thomas Rawls inactive, Michael played 64.3% of the Seahawks’ offensive snaps, ceding some work late to Alex Collins and Terrence Magee with the game out of reach. His performance was especially impressive considering the shakiness of the Seahawks’ passing game, especially given the injury issues for QB Russell Wilson. The Seahawks tried to shoehorn Rawls into the lineup in Week 2, but it’s clear at this point Michael should not be taken off the field, even when Rawls comes back (which should be a couple weeks, as Pete Carroll announced on Monday that he has an injured fibula and is out a few weeks). He’s been explosive and powerful, and is a weekly starter until further notice.

DeMarco Murray (Ten) - Through three weeks, Murray is the No. 1 fantasy back (PPR). That is not a typo. He ripped through the Raiders for 16/114/1 rushing (adding 5/41 receiving) en route to yet another top-10 (PPR) weekly performance. After an abysmal 2015 with the Eagles, DeMarco Murray is back to being a weekly top-10 option in fantasy football. Through Week 1-3, Murray is tied for third in running back targets (19) and tied for 13th in rush attempts (41). In those games, Murray has played on 70.3 percent of the Titans’ offensive snaps. Keep riding him while he is on absolute fire.

LeSean McCoy (Buf) – The Bills have been sputtering offensively through two weeks, but their best offensive player picked a good week to step up and carry the team in a pretty tough matchup. McCoy finished with 17/110/2 rushing and 3/6 receiving on 4 targets for 26.6 FP (1st) in Week 3 against the Cardinals. He scored TDs from 24 and 5 yards away, staking the Bills to an early 17-0 lead. WR Sammy Watkins missed the game with a foot injury, and he’s been battling the injury all season long with no signs of improving, so this offense is going to run through McCoy going forward. And it’s not like he’s leaving the field, playing 75% of the snaps even in a blowout for most of the game.

Jeremy Hill (Cin) – We hope you were brave enough to play Hill in a tough matchup against the Broncos defense in Week 3. We imagine he was probably on a lot benches when he finished with 17/97/2 rushing for 21.7 FP (9th), scoring on a runs from 3 and 4 yards away. We did feature Hill as a “Trade For” guy last week because he’s run well dating back to the preseason, and he’s now averaging .69 TDs per game in his career. The Bengals came into the Week 3 running the ball on just 27% of their offensive plays, but they had a much closer split of 29 rushing attempts and 31 pass attempts in Week 3. Hill’s schedule will lighten up significantly after facing three of the best run defenses in the league to start the year, and they want to run the ball closer to 50% of the time like they did in Week 3.

LeGarrette Blount (NE) – Blount has been in the perfect spot to make a fantasy impact the first three weeks of the season. The Patriots have been playing with leads in all three games, and they’ve been limiting their passing attempts to keep the exposure of their backup QBs to a minimum. Blount finished with 24/105/2 rushing for 22.5 FP (8th) in Week 3 against the Texans, putting the game away with a 41-yard TD run off the left side. He’s now scored in all three games and is averaging 99.3 yards per game heading into his final game without Tom Brady. Blount is a prime sell-high candidate before Brady gets back and starts slinging the ball around the field more often, as the Bills have the second fewest pass attempts per game with 29.0.

Duke Johnson (Cle) – Duke had just 6 carries in the first two games, but HC Hue Jackson made sure to get his more talented RB involved in Week 3 with rookie Cody Kessler starting at QB. He finished with 10/69 rushing and 5/12 receiving on 7 targets for 13.1 FP (19th) against the Dolphins, which was by far his best fantasy game of the year. Isaiah Crowell still led the backfield in carried (15), but he played on 51% of the snaps while Duke saw 50%. At least Kessler showed he’s willing to check it down to Duke in the passing game, and Hue should keep him involved as a runner going forward as they look to limit the rookie QB’s exposure.

Le’Veon Bell (Pit) – The wait is over! Bell will return this week off his three-game suspension for missing mandatory drug tests. He’ll instantly become an elite fantasy option at RB, even this week going against a good Chiefs defense. Even with a Week 3 dud, his replacement DeAngelo Williams finished the first three games tied for second for FPG (22.2) with David Johnson, behind only DeMarco Murray (24.2) at the position. Williams will likely retain some work each week after playing well, but Bell is in store for a pretty heavy workload.

Charles Sims (TB) - While his matchup versus the Los Angeles Rams was not great on paper, Sims still delivered exactly how we expected him to (13/55/1 rushing; 6/69 receiving). With Doug Martin (hamstring) on the mend, Sims played on 85% of the Bucs’ snaps and handled 77.8% of the Bucs’ running back opportunities, logging eight targets. For as long as Martin is out, Charles Sims will remain usable in PPR-formats, regardless of matchup. Even though his next two opponents are tough against the run (vs. Broncos, at Panthers), Sims’ passing game usage makes him usable in fantasy football.

Upgrades from the Waiver Wire:

  • Jordan Howard (Chi)
  • Orleans Darkwa (NYG)
  • Darren Sproles (Phi)
  • Wendell Smallwood (Phi)

 

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown (Pit) – AB had a rare off game in Week 2 because of sloppy conditions at Heinz Field, posting just 4/39 receiving on 11 targets. As expected, Brown bounced back in a big way against the Eagles, finishing with 12/140 on 18 targets for 26.0 FP (9th). QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense did struggle all game long, and Big Ben leaned on his top WR as he had a 41% target share, which isn’t typically recipe for success. Roethlisberger’s weapons aren’t looking great right now. Slot WR Eli Rogers left early with a toe injury, WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder) looked like he’d never played football before, and WR Sammie Coates can only run real fast in a straight line. So it looks like Brown and Le’Veon Bell will be carrying this offense going forward.

Jordy Nelson (GB) – Our tape studies the first two weeks showed that Jordy Nelson was indeed still getting open, but Aaron Rodgers wasn’t pulling the trigger or just off with his timing in the first two games. Well, that changed in Week 3, as Nelson finished with 6/101/2 receiving on 7 targets for 28.1 FP (7th). He burned a Lions LB for a 49-yard pass, and he added scores from 8 and 17 yards away, beating top CB Darius Slay on the last score. Nelson now has 4 TDs in three games, and he’s trending upward if Rodgers continues to pull the trigger and look comfortable with Jordy after two shaky games to start the year.

Marvin Jones (Det) – Marvin has quickly settled the debate over who would be the #1 receiver in the Lions offense with Calvin Johnson retiring. We’re also guessing Jones will no longer be a bargain on DFS sites after this week’s explosion against the Packers. He finished with 6/205/2 receiving on 8 targets for 38.5 FP (1st) in Week 3 against the Packers, scoring on a 73-yard catch and run at the end of the first half and adding a 35-yard TD in the fourth quarter. Jones and Matthew Stafford have clearly been on the same page since training camp, and the pair almost singlehandedly kept the Lions competitive in what was a blowout. Marvin is locked in as a WR2 going forward, and he’s clearly headed toward a career year in his first year away from A.J. Green.

Jarvis Landry (Mia) – Landry is the sustaining force in this offense, especially with Arian Foster (hamstring) out of the lineup and this running game pretty much non-existent. He had another huge day in Week 3, finishing with 7/120/1 receiving on 12 targets for 26.6 FP (8th) against the Browns, beating Tramon Williams for 42-yard TD. The Dolphins are having a tough time running the ball at this point, even with Foster in the lineup, so Ryan Tannehill will have to move the offense through Landry going forward, which means he’s locked in as a WR2 in PPR formats.

Doug Baldwin (Sea) – Baldwin’s just a baller. Though he entered Week 3 with a little bit of a knee tweak, he looked completely healthy and absolutely carved apart the 49ers with savvy route running. Baldwin played 79% of the Seahawks offensive snaps, and posted 8/164/1 receiving on 10 targets. His TD actually didn’t even come from Russell Wilson – it was a 16-yarder that became the first TD pass of young Trevone Boykin’s career. Wilson’s banged up (knee, ankle), as is Tyler Lockett, which just increases Baldwin’s importance in the offense. What we know right now is that while Baldwin simply won’t score TDs at the unsustainable rate he did late last season, he’s also one of the savviest route runners in the entire NFL, and along with Christine Michael has helped keep the Seahawks on schedule while Wilson deals with injuries and the offensive line tries to hold itself together.

Emmanuel Sanders (Den) – Sanders entered Week 3 with just 8 catches in two games, and he was taking on a very strong Cincinnati defense on the road. Bengal DC Paul Guenther took the reasonable approach of daring Trevor Siemian to throw the ball… and Siemian happily answered the challenge. Sanders was the big beneficiary, torching Dre Kirkpatrick and Pacman Jones for 9/117/2 receiving, on 13 targets. With Demaryius Thomas also going off, this resembled a Peyton Manning heyday game for both of the Broncos’ top receivers. We don’t know if Sanders’ massive target share will continue going forward – he was openly upset with his role in the first two games, and DT still isn’t 100%. But what this game at least shows is that Sanders continues to be viable for fantasy – he’s a WR3 with a big ceiling, though lower floor than you may want.

Mike Evans (TB) - If it wasn’t already clear, Evans is completely matchup-proof. After destroying the Rams for 10/132/1 in Week 3, Evans is a sure-fire weekly WR1. Vincent Jackson (2/18, 4/44, 3/37) just isn’t a factor anymore at all. Instead, Mike Evans is dominating targets (7, 18, 13 through three games) while Jackson’s role is simply miniscule in comparison (7, 9, 6 targets in Week 1-3). Evans faces the Broncos’ at home in Week 4, but his target volume can overrule any tough matchup.

Demaryius Thomas (Den) – DT is hanging around pretty well. While he wasn’t fed as often as Emmanuel Sanders was against the Bengals in Week 3, but he was very efficient, catching 6 passes for 100 yards and a TD on 7 targets. The coup-de-grace for the Broncos’ victory was a 55-yard TD from Trevor Siemian with under 5 minutes left in the game, in which Thomas had single coverage on CB Chris Lewis-Harris, absolutely the matchup the Broncos dreamed of late in the game, immediately after Adam Jones limped off the field. It was a poor job by the Bengal defense, but also good to see Demaryius put together his second consecutive solid game while playing on a sore hip. Again, he hasn’t exploded the way Sanders did in Week 3, but it’s also important to note that he’s been generally pretty good despite playing injured and with a new QB. He’s not the dominant fantasy asset he once was, but he’s a weekly starter.

Sterling Shepard (NYG) – The publicized matchup in this game was Odell Beckham vs. Josh Norman, but Shepard had himself a heck of a matchup in the slot, and he took advantage of it to the tune of 5/73/1 receiving on 7 targets against Washington. Shepard had a lot of production in the first half, and was looking like he was on his way to a monster game, but OBJ started to beat Norman consistently in the second half, at the same time Eli Manning began to struggle (Kirk Cousins outplayed Manning yesterday). Additionally, there are now potentially more targets opening up in this offense with Shane Vereen (triceps) surprisingly out for the season. Shepard is hard to bench in leagues in which you can start three or more WRs.

Michael Crabtree (Oak) – Crabtree did in Week 3’s win over the Titans what everyone playing DFS would have hoped Amari Cooper would have done. Crabtree posted 8/102 receiving on 11 targets, which now gives him at least 13 FP in a PPR in each of the Raiders’ first three games. Meanwhile, Cooper has had some struggles with drops, and Crabtree has at times looked like the more reliable receiver in crunch time for QB Derek Carr than Cooper has been. While Crabtree’s ceiling isn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination, he’s just a very good receiver who has a rapport with his young QB, and that trust is a huge part of staying productive. Again, no one is going to go crazy and say Crabtree is a WR1, but his floor is surprisingly high and he’s a excellent player to plug into just about any lineup. If you have three receivers better than Crabtree, you’re in outstanding shape.

Upgrades from the Waiver Wire:

  • Steve Smith (Bal)
  • Terrelle Pryor (Cle)
  • Adam Humphries (TB)
  • Jamison Crowder (Was)
  • Cole Beasley (Dal)

 

Tight Ends

Coby Fleener (TE, NO) – Of course you had to feel this was coming. Fleener was being dropped in fantasy leagues left and right, and justifiably so, after tallying just 3 catches on 12 targets in New Orleans’ first two games of the year. Well, the Saints made a concerted effort to get him involved in Week 3 against Atlanta, and it paid off to the tune of 7/109/1 receiving on 11 targets. Fleener had a drop and also ran the wrong route on an early-game incompletion, but in all he made several plays with his still-enticing athleticism, showing the glimpses of the upside both the Saints and we thought he had in this offense when New Orleans signed him to a massive contract. Look, if you dropped Fleener we can’t blame you. He’s been up-and-down his entire career, and he’ll continue to be, even with Drew Brees. But this game will go a long way toward helping him earn trust from his QB, his coaching staff, and fantasy players.

Jimmy Graham (Sea) – The NFL season has been full with interesting stories to this point so far this year, but an underreported one is the fact that Graham is playing, and playing a lot, under a year after perhaps the most devastating knee injury someone can suffer – a torn patellar tendon. Graham was perhaps a little tentative in his first couple weeks, but after playing a miniscule snap share in Week 1, he was up to starter’s snaps in Week 2. He then parlayed another set of starter’s snaps in Week 3 – 67.1% – into 100 yards on 6 catches, including a TD. Graham was targeted 9 times. He arguably could have had a bigger workload as well, but the Seahawks were absolutely dominant and there was no reason to risk him in the 4th quarter, especially with Russell Wilson already hurt. We’ve come a long way from Week 1, when we wondered if Graham would ever be productive again. Now, he looks like a guy with the upside to be a weekly starter at TE, at a position where upside it at a premium.

Cameron Brate (TB) - In his first start without Austin Seferian-Jenkins (waived) on the roster, Brate annihilated the Rams in Week 3 for 5/46/2 (on 10 targets). He played on 75.3% of the Bucs’ snaps. Now with Seferian-Jenkins officially out of town, Brate has the TE job to himself. Outside of Mike Evans and slot-man Adam Humphries, the Bucs’ do not have much in the way of receivers. 33-year-old Vincent Jackson has logged 9-99-0 through three games. Brate is worth a waiver add in every league type.

Upgrades from the Waiver Wire:

  • Kyle Rudolph (Min)
  • Zach Miller (Chi)
  • Cameron Brate (TB)
  • Jack Doyle (Ind)

 

Downgrades

Recent news and/or performance has made us less optimistic about these particular players for fantasy purposes.

Quarterbacks

Carson Palmer (Ari) – Palmer was awful in Buffalo, and gave the Bills a hell of a gift at their home stadium, considering they needed a win desperately. Palmer went 26/50 for 261 yards and 4 INTs, while taking 5 sacks. We have to contextualize a number of the picks, since the Cardinals were playing from behind late and Palmer was just winging the ball a trying to make a play, but he looked awful all day long – his passes seemed to lack the typical zip we’ve come to expect from Palmer. This is now the second time in three games that Palmer hasn’t looked particularly good, though his numbers were still solid enough against the Patriots in Week 1. Palmer, on multiple occasions, failed to see John Brown running open down the field, which could have at least given him something for fantasy (Palmer was also picked off once when it seemed like Brown ran the wrong route, and one when Michael Floyd ran a bad route). We still believe in Bruce Arians and the Cardinals to get this turned around, but this certainly resembled the Palmer who struggled badly in the NFC Championship Game last year.

Marcus Mariota (Ten) - Sure, the Titans were without stud TE Delanie Walker in Week 3, but Mariota’s performance versus the Raiders was a downright disappointment. Coming into the matchup, Oakland’s secondary was allowing the highest passing touchdown rate and most yards/game to opposing signal-callers. Marcus Mariota only totaled 214 yards versus Oakland and did not throw a single touchdown (he did throw 2 interceptions). The Titans’ “exotic smashmouth” offense they touted so heavily in the offseason simply is not working. Through Week 1-3, the Titans have put up 16, 16 and 10 points. You simply can’t run a legitimate NFL offense with Harry Douglas and Andre Johnson playing over 40% of the snaps every single week. While Mariota does deserve some of the blame, the Titans need a complete makeover from top-to-bottom.

Tyrod Taylor (Buf) – Taylor finally got his legs going in Week 3 after totaling just 36 rushing yards in the first two weeks, but he still looked quite shaky as a passer. He completed 14/25 passes for 119 yards and 1 INT and he added 9/76/1 rushing for 19.6 FP (13th) in Week 3 against the Cardinals, so 39% of his total yardage in Week 3 came from his legs. WR Sammy Watkins didn’t play in Week 3 because of his ongoing foot issue, so the Bills predictably struggled through the air. Still, it doesn’t appear that Watkins is getting any healthier at this point, and Taylor literally has no other quality receiver at this point. Tyrod has to keep running to be a streaming option going forward, so he’s certainly droppable at this point for better waiver wire options.

 

Running Backs

Jeremy Langford (Chi) – Langford’s run as the top RB to start the year was short-lived, as he’s been diagnosed with a sprained ankle after being carted to the locker room in Week 3. There were initially worries that he had suffered an Achilles injury, so we’ll take an ankle injury at this point, even if it is the high-ankle variety. Langford finished with 3/31 rushing and 2/15 receiving on 3 targets for 6.6 FP (40th) in Week 3 against the Cowboys before leaving for good in the second half. Rookie Jordan Howard had started to work in more the last two weeks, and he’ll now likely get his chance to lead this backfield if Langford does in fact miss at least a week or two with his injury.

Justin Forsett (Bal) – If you’ve been forced to use Forsett in your lineups at any point this season, we truly feel bad for you. He once again did nothing in Week 3 against the Jaguars, finishing with just 7/20 rushing and 6/12 receiving on 7 targets for 9.2 FP (30th). The Ravens did give Forsett more playing time than Terrance West this week, splitting the work 64% to 25% against the Jags. Forsett is tied for 38th among fantasy RBs through three weeks with an average of 8.5 FPG. Both Forsett and West have no fantasy juice at this point, and we’re hoping that rookie Kenneth Dixon can get in the lineup soon and take over this backfield.

Shane Vereen (NYG) – Unfortunately, we got some unexpected bad news on Vereen on Monday. One day after he put together a solid effort – despite fumbles – as the Giants’ lead runner, Vereen was downgraded as coach Ben McAdoo told reporters he suffered a torn triceps (some confusion ensued, with the Giants having to clarify that Vereen is not necessarily out for the season). With Rashad Jennings (thumb) still banged up, this could open the door for Orleans Darkwa and Paul Perkins to make some noise off the Waiver Wire. Though Vereen was having some ball security issues, he was also clearly the Giants’ best back so far this year, and he’s a huge loss.

Ryan Mathews (Phi) – Though Mathews wasn’t on the game status report with a injury, we did note in our early Sunday update that he had an ankle wrapped up during the week and was playing hurt. In Week 3’s blowout of Pittsburgh, Mathews carried just 2 times for -5 yards, while playing just 8 snaps. Meanwhile, each of Wendell Smallwood, Kenjon Barner, and Darren Sproles scored a TD. Coach Doug Pederson said Mathews’ ankle was the big reason he played so little, and with the Eagles’ bye coming up, Mathews should be far more ready to play in Week 5, when Pederson says he’ll resume as Philly’s top back. That said, he clearly has competition.

Thomas Rawls (Sea) – Rawls was inactive on Sunday, watching from the sidelines as Christine Michael carved up the 49ers for 100 yards and 2 TDs. Then, we got more bad news on Monday when coach Pete Carroll told reporters that Rawls will miss a number of weeks with a fibula injury. At this point, Rawls has been a mega fantasy bust, and there’s no reason to think Michael will lose his grip on the starting job unless he falls flat on his face while Rawls is out. Don’t hold your breath. Rawls is droppable in shallow leagues if you need a bench spot.

Chris Ivory/T.J. Yeldon (Jac) - The downgrade has less to do with Ivory and Yeldon overall and more to do with Jacksonville’s atrocious offensive line. Through three games, the duo has combined for 98 yards (Ivory ran for 10/14 in Week 3). 92 of those total 98 yards have come after contact, meaning the Jags’ o-line has literally not created any separation in the 2016. They were without two of their starters in Week 3 (G Brandon Linder, T Kelvin Beachum), but it likely does not matter. Until the Jags’ can fix their offensive line, neither Ivory or Yeldon can be trusted past mid-RB3 territory.

 

Wide Receivers

Sammy Watkins (Buf) – Watkins’ foot issue has been a real pain for his fantasy owners, and it doesn’t appear to be getting any better. Of course, he had the misfortune of having a teammate step on his foot in practice last week, which set him back heading into Week 3. He has to be considered week to week at this point, and he doesn’t need to be in a fantasy lineup until he gets healthier and is moving well in game action.

A.J. Green (Cin) – Green hasn’t had the best history going against Aqib Talib and the Broncos secondary, including a big goose egg back in 2014. He looked just fine in Week 3, finishing with 8/77 receiving on 11 targets for 15.7 FP (20th). He did have a costly drop on third down with the Bengals still a score down, but he’s been the only consistent weapon in the passing game for Andy Dalton in the early going. TE Tyler Eifert could be back soon, and he could take away some goal-line looks, but this passing offense is going to run through Green going forward and the matchups get easier starting with the Dolphins this week.

Randall Cobb (GB) – The Packers finally got their offense going in the right direction in Week 3 against the Lions, but their slot WR wasn’t included in the fun. He finished with just 1/33 receiving on 3 targets for 4.3 FP (t-80th), despite the Packers scoring on six of their first seven drives of the game. Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson have rekindled their relationship with 4 TDs in the early going. Meanwhile, Cobb has picked up where he left off in 2015, as he’s averaging just 8.8 FPG through three weeks, which ranks him 62nd at the position. Heading into their Week 4 bye, Cobb doesn’t need to be in fantasy lineups until we see some progress.

Golden Tate (Det) – Tate still hasn’t hit triple digits in receiving yardage even with 13 catches in three games, as he’s averaging a miserable 7.2 YPC (13/94 receiving). He finished with just 4/40 receiving on 6 targets and added -8 yards rushing for 7.2 FP (56th) against the Packers in Week 3. Marvin Jones has clearly emerged as the #1 WR for Matthew Stafford, and Tate is struggling to hold off Eric Ebron as the #2 receiver now. Granted, Stafford did just miss Tate for a long play in Week 3, which would’ve dramatically changed his season outlook so far. Still, it’s hard to trust Tate even in PPR formats right, and we’d be really worried if he can’t get it going against a bad Bears defense this week.

Tyler Lockett (Sea) – Lockett was a ghost in Week 3, aside from a 62-yard punt return. Coming into the game with a knee sprain, Lockett wasn’t even targeted in the passing game while playing 32.9% of the Seahawks’ offensive snaps, as he was clearly limited by the injury – he didn’t even look particularly fast on the return. We’ll see if his usage goes up more in the near future, but he is a prayer flex play at best at this point.

Allen Hurns (Jac) - We always knew Hurns was due for major touchdown regression this season after he scored 10 times in 2015, but we didn’t expect for him to become completely unusable without scores. After just 4/40 (on eight targets) versus the Ravens in Week 3, Hurns is downgraded yet again -- this time to WR5 level. He’s still worth holding on to in fantasy -- the Jags’ will trail a ton yet again this year -- but until Blake Bortles can figure it out his form, Allen Hurns’ production will continue to suffer. Through three weeks, Hurns is just the WR51 in PPR points per contest.


Tight Ends

Jacob Tamme (TE, Atl) – Tamme was a hot pickup for Monday night’s great matchup, but even with a glorious draw with the Saints’ D and Julio Jones doing next to nothing, he managed just 3/28 receiving on 4 targets. Ultimately, Tamme is an ancillary player in a pretty good offense, one that looks like it’s starting to figure things out. That makes him viable off the Waiver Wire, but as an every-week start, he’s bound to disappoint. There are too many mouths to feed here, and in Tamme’s general area of the field, where he succeeds the most, the Falcons can get more explosive plays out of their running backs. That will keep him pretty inconsistent.  

Dwayne Allen (Ind) - While we thought Donte Moncrief’s (shoulder) absence would bring Allen a bit more attention, he’s still simply just splitting too much of the TE targets with teammate Jack Doyle. Through Week 1-3, both Dwayne Allen and Doyle have 15 targets. Allen did drop a goal-line target in Week 3 that would have saved his PPR score (3/35 on 5 targets), but it’s apparent the Colts’ are going to play so much ‘12-personnel’ (2-TE) that Doyle and Allen are going to eat into each other every week. Neither can be trusted past top-15 territory at this point.

 

Holding Steady

These players have been in the news in one way or another, but we think their fantasy stock remains largely unchanged. 

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees (QB, NO) – Brees is obviously a must-start QB, but his defense looks even worse this year than it did last. Brees threw a ridiculous 54 times in Week 3, completing 36 of them for 376 yards with 3 TDs and a bad pick in a loss to Atlanta. The Saints are now 0-3, and while their offense is clearly dangerous, the defense is abominable. Brees has done a good job this year working in some no-name options in the passing game (Brandon Coleman, Tommylee Lewis), as he always does, and he even had a lot of success throwing it to Coby Fleener on Monday night. But the biggest takeaway is that the defense still sucks, and that will mean Brees will need to throw it pretty much constantly.

 

Running Backs

Todd Gurley (LA) – Look, Gurley scored 2 TDs in Week 3, and that’s absolutely huge. But some of the same problems still remained – against the Buccaneers, who have a far tougher run defense than a pass defense, Gurley managed 27/85 rushing, with 2 short TDs. Amazingly, the 3.1 YPC that Gurley averaged managed to improve his bottom line, as he continues to be constantly destroyed in the backfield behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines. So Gurley’s status is exactly the same – if the Rams get a positive gameflow, as they did this past week, he will play a lot (80% of the snaps in Week 3), and he’ll get a lot of carries. But he doesn’t catch the ball enough to provide value in that department, and he is not going to make you happy for fantasy unless he scores. He did that in Week 3, and he had a huge game. It’s a pretty simple equation.

C.J. Anderson (Den) – CJA had his first bad fantasy game of 2016 in Week 3 against the Bengals, as he posted just 14/37 rushing and 1/5 receiving on 4 targets, while playing 71.6% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps. It was a pretty simple game to break down – the Bengals dared Trevor Siemian to throw the ball, and Siemian threw it very successfully. There’s really not a whole lot more to go on than that. CJA still played a ton of snaps and was easily the Broncos’ lead back. He’ll continue to be an RB1 in our eyes, because it’s not like Devontae Booker is lighting the world on fire.

Melvin Gordon (SD) – Gordon, as expected, played a huge snap share in Week 3 with Danny Woodhead out for the season. On an 87% share, Gordon posted 16/35/1 rushing and 4/43 receiving on 7 targets. The receiving numbers and Gordon’s short rushing TD helped this to become a good fantasy day, but his actual performance has to be considered pretty poor considering it was against the Colts’ abysmal defense. Keep in mind that the Chargers recently signed Dexter McCluster, and though McCluster got only 9 snaps in this one, he almost scored a TD, as QB Philip Rivers just barely overthrew him. Gordon should continue to have a sizeable workload going forward, but McCluster looks like he’s going to be involved, even if its not to the same level as Woodhead.

Eddie Lacy (GB) – Lacy wasn’t great for fantasy in the first two weeks, but he was actually averaging a healthy 4.3 YPC (26/111 rushing) through two games, he just wasn’t getting enough touches. HC Mike McCarthy actually fed the beast in Week 3 against the Lions, as Lacy finished with 17/103 rushing and 1/2 receiving on 2 targets for 11.5 FP (t-22nd). The Packers scored on six of their first seven drives, but unfortunately Lacy didn’t get the chance to punch one in on their four TD drives. At least he got to wear down the Lions in the second half with 11/61 rushing with the Packers nursing a big lead. Lacy does look like he’s gained some weight since training camp, and we hope he doesn’t pig out over their Week 4 bye. Lacy just needs to start finding the end zone after going scoreless the first three games, as he’s averaging a fantastic 5.0 YPC (43/214). Only Isaiah Crowell (6.1), DeMarco Murray (6.0), and Christine Michael (5.1) are better among RBs with 40+ carries.

Tevin Coleman (RB, Atl) – Obviously, Coleman had a massive fantasy game – it’s hard not to when scoring 3 TDs. But aside from the short TDs, he was not the better player than Devonta Freeman, who looked outstanding. Coleman posted 12/42/3 rushing and 3/47 receiving against the Saints. This is nothing to take away from what he did, but it’s also an example of how he remains a viable flex play, because this can happen. An explosive downhill runner, Coleman doesn’t have Freeman’s lateral agility or functional balance, but he’s an excellent change of pace. He played 42.2% of the Falcons’ snaps on Monday night, and there really doesn’t appear to be a reason for that snap share to change. He’s more than just a handcuff.

Isaiah Crowell (Cle) – Crowell seems like a player set to regress in an offense that seems to be destined to be playing from behind most weeks, but he ran well once again in Week 3 against the Dolphins. He finished with 15/79 rushing for 7.9 FP (35th), but he didn’t come through for fantasy because he didn’t score a TD this week. He also has just 3 catches through three games, so his margin for error is pretty small most weeks if he’s not going to score a TD. HC Hue Jackson also got Duke Johnson more involved as a runner with 10 carries this week after he had just 6 carries combined the first two weeks. Crow played on 51% of the snaps while Duke saw 50%. The good news is that Crow gets the Redskins this week, and they’ve been gashed by the run in the early going, and Jackson will look to continue to run the ball with rookie Cody Kessler at QB.

Latavius Murray (Oak) – You can say whatever you want, and Murray has certainly been productive this year because of TDs, but his workload is becoming a major issue when it comes to fantasy football. Against the Titans in Week 3 win, Murray carried 10 times for 37 yards and a TD, with 1/1 receiving as well. His TD run was from 22 yards, and it was a really nice run, but his other 9 carries went for just 15 yards. Moreover, Murray played just 47.7% of the Raiders’ snaps, after player 48.0% last week. With two games under 50%, he ties his total from the 2015 season. DeAndre Washington led the Raiders with 6/57 rushing, while Jalen Richard had 6/28 himself. It was also the second consecutive game in which Murray had fewer than 50% of the Raiders’ RB carries. The TDs are there, and Murray generally looks pretty good, but there are some real issues here for fantasy.

Carlos Hyde (SF) – We really have no idea how to classify this game for Hyde. We love garbage-time production in fantasy, but rarely do we get GTP rushing production. Well, Hyde did against the Seahawks in a blowout loss. Hyde posted 21/103/2 rushing and 1/2 receiving on the day. Both of his TD runs came in the 4th quarter with under 8 minutes left in the game, so what was looking like a stifling day for Hyde ended up being majorly productive when all was said and done. Overall, it appeared coach Chip Kelly trusted Hyde more than he did Blaine Gabbert and the passing game, which is a difficult move to criticize Kelly for all things considered. Hyde is still a viable RB2 as he played 70.2% of San Fran’s offensive snaps, but this performance was too weird from a usage basis to upgrade Hyde outright.

Matt Jones (Was) – Jones didn’t have a huge game in Week 3 against the Giants, but coach Jay Gruden stuck with the run. Jones posted 17/65 rushing and 2/14 receiving while playing 46.5% of the offensive snaps. Jones left briefly while being evaluated for a concussion, but returned to the game when it was determined he was healthy. Again, he hasn’t been spectacular this year, and he consistently plays fewer snaps than passing back Chris Thompson. But when the club wants to run the ball, it’s beyond obvious that Jones is their best guy. That’s not necessarily an endorsement of Jones, but rather an acknowledgement of their lack of options elsewhere.

Frank Gore (Ind) - Once again, Gore is on the “hold” list. He is the definition of a “holding steady” running back. Although he never has a monster ceiling, his floor will forever be usable in fantasy football. Granted, the Chargers own one of the worst run-defenses in the league, but Gore continued his Energizer Bunny-like output in which he never dies in Week 3. He ran for 21/82/1 at home in the Colts’ third contest, en route to yet another high-end RB2 performance (14.3 PPR points). If Gore is the worst part of your fantasy team, you are doing just fine.

 

Wide Receivers

Brandin Cooks (WR, NO) – In all likelihood, the Willie Snead injury hurt Cooks’ output more than it helped. It meant the Falcons were able to shadow Cooks for most of the night with Desmond Trufant, and Trufant ate his lunch. On 8 targets, still a good numbers, Cooks managed just 2/13 receiving. Now, he was also open on a couple of occasions and QB Drew Brees made bad throws, which obviously needs to be mentioned. But Cooks just couldn’t consistently beat Trufant, which opened the door for Michael Thomas and Coby Fleener to have huge games. We were dead wrong about Cooks having a big game in this one, despite 77 total points being scored.

Stefon Diggs (Min) – We hyped Diggs last week plenty, so of course he goes out and finishes with just 4/40 receiving on 7 targets for 8.0 FP (t-47th) against the Panthers in Week 3. He was getting open once again this week with routes like this one, but TE Kyle Rudolph was QB Sam Bradford’s target of choice this week with a 35.7% target share. Still, this Vikings rushing game struggled once again, averaging 2.4 YPC in their first game without Adrian Peterson, and they are averaging a league-worst 2.1 YPC – the next closest team is the Jags at 2.8. That means that the offense will run through Diggs most weeks unless this Vikings O-line and RB situation dramatically improves.

Mike Wallace (Bal) – Wallace had his first letdown of the year playing with Joe Flacco, but they did nearly have their fourth-TD connection of 2016. Wallace finished with 3/34 receiving on 6 targets for 6.9 FP (58th) in Week 3 against the Jaguars, as he dropped what would’ve been a 19-yard touchdown in the end zone. They did give him his second carry of the year, and Flacco is going to take a couple deep shots to him every week, but his Week 3 performance is a reminder that Wallace is still a boom-or-bust option most weeks as a WR3.

DeVante Parker (Mia) – Parker slightly disappointed with his involvement in the Dolphins passing game against the lowly Browns in Week 3, but he did come through for fantasy with a 26-yard TD. He finished with 3/51/1 receiving on 5 targets 14.1 FP (22nd), but both Jarvis Landry (12) and Kenny Stills (8) saw more targets than him. He also saw 87% of the snaps compared to Stills’ 97%, so Parker is still technically behind Stills at this point. Parker is looking just fine as a WR3 going forward, but he does have some boom-or-bust potential.

DeSean Jackson (Was) – Really, the simplest analysis of DJax we can give is to just keep starting him. In Week 3’s win over the Giants, DJax posted 5/96/1 receiving on 8 targets. He torched former Philly teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a post pattern for a 44-yard TD, which turned out to be QB Kirk Cousins’ best throw of the season to this point. While DeSean also left briefly with left knee and ankle problems, an injury that was bugging him coming into the game, but seems to have come out OK. It’s good to know that DJax, even with Cousins struggling to this point, still has legitimate week-winning potential. He has consistently gotten open all year.

Tavon Austin (LA) – Tavon gets a bad rap as an inefficient, overpaid player, and plenty of the criticism thrown his way is valid, but we also think playing for the Rams has a lot to do with his struggles. He managed to break free of that in Week 3, though, as he torched the Buccaneers for 5/82/1 receiving on 8 targets. He also gets the occasional rush attempt, which helps pad his stats. Look, with Case Keenum at QB, it’s really hard to trust Austin on a weekly basis, especially since he came into this game averaging under 3.0 yards per target, but he has talent. It makes him rosterable, and with bye weeks coming up, you know he’s going to be fed targets if you need to put him in your lineup.

Travis Benjamin (SD) – Week 3 against the Colts was kind of a stinker for the entire Chargers’ offense, but it was certainly valid to expect more of Benjamin than he gave you for fantasy. On 7 targets, Benjamin posted 4/82 receiving. Again, a lot of guys had worse games this week, but against one of the NFL’s worst defenses, it was fair to expect Benjamin to explode. Unfortunately, it was an uncharacteristically poor performance from QB Philip Rivers, and the Colts actually managed to get to the QB in this game, which is something we haven’t really come to expect from them. Benjamin is still a majorly important part of the passing game, and is hard to bench.

Tyrell Williams (SD) – Williams, at 85% of the Chargers’ snaps against the Colts in Week 3, actually played more snaps than did Travis Benjamin (75%), and his 9 targets led the Chargers. With those 9 targets, he turned in 6 catches for 69 yards. We’re actually a little surprised at the kind of routes Williams has been running. The Chargers are using his speed on shorter, higher-percentage routes, and not necessarily running him straight down the field. While his ceiling may not be as high as we thought with that kind of usage, his floor is higher than the boom-or-bust fantasy asset we assumed he would be. He’s a pretty good guy to have around as a WR3/flex. He’s a gifted player who is still capable of making big plays.

 

Tight Ends

Travis Kelce (KC) – This game is a perfect example of why it’s really difficult to bench Kelce. While the Chief offense likely limits his upside ultimately, he’s just a next-level talent. He torched the Jets for 6 catches, 89 yards, and an acrobatic TD on 7 targets on Sunday. Safeties Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist were absolutely no match for Kelce, who looked every bit the “Baby Gronk” he’s been termed in the past in this game. Kelce’s usage has been remarkably consistent, as he’s had exactly 7 targets in every game thus far, it’s just what he does with his reasonable target share that dictates his fantasy line (obviously). But his floor is decent enough that you can gamble every week on his ceiling, which is absolutely top-5 at the position. It’s just Alex Smith holding him back.

Delanie Walker (Ten) - Due to a bum hamstring, Walker missed a cake Week 3 matchup versus the leaky Raiders’ secondary. Unfortunately we really don’t have a timeline for Walker’s return and he is questionable for Week 4 versus the Texans. Anthony Fasano and Phillip Supernaw will handle the Titans’ TE duties as long as Walker is out, but neither player is on the fantasy radar.

Dennis Pitta (Bal) – PPR Pitta looked headed for a huge game in Week 3 against the Jaguars, but his buddy Joe Flacco misfired on Pitta’s only 2 targets in the second half. Still, the once-left-for-dead TE finished with 6/42 receiving on 8 targets for 10.2 FP (12th). Even with his disappointing finish to his Week 3 game, Pitta finished as a TE1 and he sits behind only Greg Olsen, Kyle Rudolph, and Jordan Reed in terms of targets with 23. Pitta needs to be in PPR lineups once again this week going against the Raiders defense that’s given up 14.83 FPG to TEs to start the year.

Gary Barnidge (Cle) – Barnidge has been on a rollercoaster ride this season after starting the year with a big old goose egg against the Eagles in the season opener. Rookie QB Cody Kessler doesn’t have a big arm, and he was more than willing to look toward Barnidge and Duke Johnson when he wasn’t targeting WR Terrelle Pryor. Barnidge finished with 5/66 receiving on 6 targets for 11.6 FP (11th) against the Dolphins in Week 3. We’re still a little worried about Barnidge going forward now that there’s tape out there on Kessler, but the rookie will need someone in the middle of the field to help him out.

 

Watch List

Keep an eye on these players and situations. It may be too early to make a call one way or the other on them, but they are situations worth watching.

Quarterbacks

Ben Roethlisberger (Pit) – The Steelers and Big Ben will want to burn the game tape of their performance against the Eagles in Week 3. He looked off the entire game, and their O-line eventually caved in with Steelers forced to throw it a ton with the Eagles up big. Big Ben completed 24/44 passes for 257 yards and 1 INT for 13.6 FP (24th), and he lost one of his two fumbles. Roethlisberger did play well for fantasy in the first two games, but he came back to earth with a thud in Week 3. At least he got stud Antonio Brown going with 12/140 receiving on 18 targets, but a 41% target share for one player isn’t a recipe for success. Slot WR Eli Rogers left early with a toe injury, WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder) looked like he’d never played football before, and WR Sammie Coates can only run real fast in a straight line. Needless to say, we are little bit worried about Big Ben’s weapons going forward, but at least he gets RB Le’Veon Bell back this week.

Russell Wilson (Sea) – Wilson now has two bad wheels. He came into the Seahawks’ Week 3 blowout of the 49ers with a bum right ankle, and during the game, his left knee got bent in a way that’s simply not supposed to happen. Wilson actually returned to the game briefly, but after the Seahawks’ next series ended, he was removed from the game permanently for Trevone Boykin. All in all, Wilson finished with 15/23 passing for 243 yards and a TD. On Monday, coach Pete Carroll confirmed to reporters that Wilson has an MCL sprain in his left knee, and while Wilson has every intention to play against the Jets in Week 4, he’d have to wear a knee brace if so. He hasn’t been good for fantasy thus far this year, and while his weapons are starting to come around, anything that limits his mobility isn’t going to help him.

Philip Rivers (SD) – Rivers had a decent final stat line against the Colts in Week 3, with 25/38 passing for 310 yards, but he didn’t throw a TD, and he certainly looked worse in this game than his 8.16 YPA would suggest. He missed a ton of throws we’re used to seeing Rivers make, and he was consistently harassed by a Colt pass rush that really had been nonexistent heading into this game. Missing his three favorite targets – Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, and Danny Woodhead – certainly had something to do with it. At the least, it looks like the Chargers are better equipped to absorb those injuries than they were last year, which could help Rivers’ fantasy production, but he also needs to play better than he did in this one.

 

Running Backs

Spencer Ware (KC) – Ware didn’t explode in Week 3, but he had a very workmanlike performance as the Chiefs grinded out a win against the Jets. Playing 71.4% of the offensive snaps, a season high, Ware posted 20/75 rushing and 1/8 receiving. Unfortunately, there was a huge fantasy swing when replay review determined Ware fumbled into the end zone at the end of a six-yard run, resulting in a turnover instead of a TD, as the play was called on the field. Nonetheless, Ware has been the Chiefs’ best back this year, and it’s really hard to envision him losing his role completely, even when Jamaal Charles comes back.

Theo Riddick (Det) – With Ameer Abdullah (foot) likely done for the season, Riddick took over as the lead runner in Week 3 against the Packers. The good news is that he played on 66% of the snaps ahead of Dwayne Washington (37%). The bad news is that Riddick was stuck in negative yardage for much of the day going against the Packers, and Washington looked much better as a runner (10/38 rushing). Riddick finished with just 10/9 rushing and 7/39 receiving on 9 targets 11.8 FP (21st) against a nasty Packers front seven. Opposing RBs are averaging just 1.8 YPC against the Packers front seven, and the next closest average is 3.2 YPC against the Giants. Riddick is going to continue to see plenty of work going forward with Abdullah out of the lineup, but we could see closer to a 50/50 split with Washington going forward.

Jerick McKinnon (Min) – Matt Asiata technically got the start for the Vikings, but we actually saw the 65-35 split in snaps between McKinnon and Asiata that we expected to see. The problem is that McKinnon did little with his playing time, finishing with 16/45 rushing and 1/2 receiving on 2 targets for 5.7 FP (45th) against the Panthers in Week 3. This Vikings rushing game struggled once again, averaging 2.4 YPC in their first game without Adrian Peterson, and they are averaging a league-worst 2.1 YPC – the next closest team is the Jags at 2.8. The Vikings O-line has been dominated in the early going, but they’ve also gone against three of the better run defenses between the Titans, Packers, and Panthers. McKinnon did get exposed a bit in pass protection too, which is something to watch if he wants to keep his 65-35 playing time split. McKinnon is going to get his chances to come through for fantasy, as he’s clearly the more dynamic option in this backfield, but this Vikings O-line needs to start creating running room.

Cameron Artis-Payne/Fozzy Whittaker (Car) - With Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) sidelined for the next 2-4 weeks, the Panthers’ split Artis-Payne (12/47) and Whittaker’s (5/22 rushing; 5/34 receiving) snaps nearly down the middle. Artis-Payne was on the field for 40% of the snaps while Whittaker played a few more downs (45%). While Stewart is out, neither back will be fantasy-relevant for the most part. We’d imagine this split will continue: Cameron Artis-Payne will receive the bulk of the carries while Whittaker will handle 5-8 carries and 4-7 targets per game. Keep in mind, Cam Newton is still essentially the goal-line back in Carolina.

 

Wide Receivers

Julio Jones (WR, Atl) – In a game with 77 total points, the #1 WRs on both sides really disappointed. Julio hauled in 1 pass for 16 yards on 7 targets against the Saints, as he played through calf and ankle injuries. Julio now has just 10 catches on 20 targets this year, an average of 3.3 and 6.7 per game, respectively, after averaging a whopping 8.5 and 12.7 per game last year. Perhaps the injuries have something to do with it, and it’s also possible the Saints were so focused on stopping Julio that they allowed the Falcon RBs to go absolutely wild on them. Whatever the case, Julio has not been the player fantasy owners paid up big for. It’s hard to imagine the dominance won’t be coming, however, as defenses need to account for the Falcons’ deadly run game.

Mohamed Sanu (WR, Atl) – Sanu caught 3 passes for 31 yards on 4 targets against the Saints in Week 3, all in the first half – he left in the 2nd quarter with a shoulder injury. Sanu didn’t return to the game, and up until now there’s been no update on his status. As always, we’ll fill you in throughout the week with practice reports and any news.

Dez Bryant (Dal) – A late TD – the first TD pass of Dak Prescott’s career – saved Dez’s fantasy day in Week 3. All in all, against the Bears’ hapless defense, Dez posted 3/40/1 receiving on 6 targets, while playing 76.5% of the offensive snaps. Dez missed some time after a nasty tackle caused him to roll up on his knee. Dez will have an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury, but while Cowboy owner Jerry Jones didn’t seem too concerned, it’s worth noting for a player who has had a lot of bad injury luck lately. Also keep in mind he’s clearly not been the favorite target of Prescott, for what that’s worth.

Brandon Marshall (NYJ) – Marshall saw 9 targets and sat out just 2 plays in Week 3 against the Chiefs, so his knee injury didn’t seem to be an issue at all. Marshall’s issue was the quarterback play of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who tossed 6 INTs to the Chiefs, which is the most in a game since Ty Detmer through 7 INTs in a game back in 2001. Marshall finished with just 3/27 receiving for 5.7 FP (69th), as Fitz was wild with most of his attempts, but Marshall did just miss out on a one-handed catch in the end zone when he was ruled out of bounds. It doesn’t look like Marshall’s knee is going to be an ongoing problem, but the play of his quarterback could develop into an ongoing problem because of two shaky performances to start the year.

John Brown (Ari) – Brown actually showed signs of life in Week 3 against the Bills, as he posted 6/70 receiving, which both led the Cardinals in their embarrassing loss, on 11 targets, which tied him for second on the club. Brown’s usage was still down, as he played on just 57% of the offensive snaps, but it’s a boost from last week. It’s also worth noting that intrepid beat man Mike Jurecki noted that Brown was open for a potential deep score earlier in the game, but Carson Palmer didn’t see him. It was an awful game overall for the Cardinals, but at least Brown owners can take something from it.

Phillip Dorsett (Ind) - In his first game without Donte Moncrief (shoulder), Dorsett failed to separate himself from the pack. Granted, it was a tough matchup -- he saw a good bit of Chargers’ shut-down CB Jason Verrett in Week 3 -- but his four targets (3/27) was very disappointing. He and T.Y. Hilton both played 87% of Colts’ snaps in Week 3, but Hilton had the far better day (8/174/1 on 11 targets). Once more, the Colts ran a ton of 2-TE sets (12-personnel) without Moncrief on the field. Both Jack Doyle and Dwayne Allen played over 75% of Colts’ snaps in Week 3. Dorsett’s next two matchups are much easier (vs. Jaguars, vs. Bears) but he may not have the volume we expected with Moncrief out of the lineup. Dorsett is a mid-WR4 until further notice.

Kelvin Benjamin (Car) - In a week where the Panthers’ averaged the 7th-fewest yards/play and Cam Newton was sacked eight times, we really can’t put too much stock in Benjamin’s poor performance (1 target, 0/0). On one hand, Newton did target Greg Olsen 10 times, but this was simply not a good spot for Benjamin against the Vikings’ physical corners. Once more, Benjamin actually recorded his highest snap share of the year (79%). We are not bailing on Benjamin by any means, but we are making note of this blip in the radar.

Michael Floyd (Ari) – Floyd had a rough game in Week 3 against Buffalo. He hauled in just 4 of 11 targets for 65 yards, and ran a lazy route late in the game, which resulted in the 3rd of Carson Palmer’s 4 interceptions. Moreover, head coach Bruce Arians revealed on Monday that Floyd is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, a surprise since he was cleared during the game, but woke up with a headache the next day. His status must be monitored this week, as the Cardinals head into a key game with the Rams.

Amari Cooper (Oak) – Cooper was one of the disappointments of Week 3. While the Raiders took care of business on the road against the Titans, Cooper posted just 4/62 receiving on 9 targets. Again, it wasn’t an awful line, but Michael Crabtree had the bigger game, and Cooper continues to have problems with drops. In the second half alone, Derek Carr missed a certain TD for Cooper, and Cooper dropped a couple of passes on top of that. The drops are really disconcerting, because it was a major issue for him last year, and Crabtree has developed into a very reliable receiver for Carr. Nonetheless, Cooper is consistently winning against any and all comers, so it feels like an explosion is coming.

 

Tight Ends

Eric Ebron (Det) – We do have to worry about back and ankle issues that have cropped up on Ebron in the early going, but there’s no denying how good Ebron has looked through three games. With OC Jim Bob Cooter moving him all over the field, Ebron finished with 5/69 receiving on 8 targets for 11.9 FP (10th). His ankle injury is something to watch, as he clearly was hobbled in the second half, and the issue kept him out of the entire preseason. He also dealt with a back issue last week, which cost him some practice time, but he’s making a push to be #2 receiver here. Ebron is locked in as a weekly TE1 going forward, and he’s headed for a career year if he can stay healthy.