Fantasy Football: 10 Lessons Learned in Week 3

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Despite a baffling week in the NFL — Buffalo Bills smashing the Vikings, anyone? — our lessons learned so far this year have continued to pay off. (Mostly). It’s an uphill battle trying to identify long-lasting takeaways in such a fickle and fluctuating league. But, with our powers combined, we can accomplish anything!

Too strong? Okay. Well, for now, we’ll leave “anything” on the back burner and start with 10 more lessons learned in Week 3!

1. Bae-ker Mayfield Has Arrived

Unless you spent the week in a submarine, you probably know that Superman-I-mean-Baker-Mayfield soared in from Krypton last Thursday, lifted the entire city of Cleveland onto his broad, caped shoulders, and carried the Browns to their first victory in 635 days. It was a glorious moment for nearly all NFL fandom (minus the Jets), and it might have some surprising fantasy implications as well.

First, I think Mayfield has legitimate streamer and 2QB value as the new Browns starter. He looked great in limited action, has solid weapons, and can even add sneaky value with his legs. And speaking of the weapons, look for David Njoku and even Antonio Callaway to gain some fantasy value with this change. Mayfield has shown an early rapport with both guys, and both have the talent to capitalize on targets. Grab them where you can.

2. Calvin Ridley is Good for Matt Ryan

The explosive arrival of Calvin Ridley these past two weeks (13 targets, 11 receptions, 210 yards, and 3 TDs) is well and good for owners savvy enough to snag him off waivers. He should be FLEX-worthy more often than we thought. But Ridley’s biggest impact, in my opinion, is actually on Matt Ryan.

Ryan is not a transcendent quarterback. Which means, unlike Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, he will not turn a so-so-receiving corps into fantasy brilliance. He is, however, a highly competent quarterback who can capitalize on excellent weaponry to put up excellent numbers. With Ridley now spreading a field previously anchored tightly to Julio Jones, Ryan has the options and the explosive playmakers to be a solid QB1 again. I’d trade for him where you have to, and consider him a locked in starter anywhere you have him.

3. Buck “Thorn-in-Alex’s-Side” Allen is Not Going Away

As they say, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away (another TD that should have gone to Collins). In the case of Week 3, Alex Collins was given 68 yards and a TD, but had a second TD swiftly taken away by the horrible reality that is the Allen Goal Line Dive. Buck, Javorious, Infuriating Gnat, the man goes by a lot of names, and he vultures a lot of touchdowns.

Sadly for Alex Collins truthers, it seems Baltimore is highly committed to using Buck Allen in this role, and considering he’s scored in every game so far, you can hardly blame them. But it does cap Collins’ upside for fantasy. You’re probably not selling unless he’s your fourth RB and someone’s offering a Kenny Golladay, but just have a paper bag handy for the next time Buck Allen sets you to hyperventilate.

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4. Christian McCaffrey Can Carry the Rock

After 18 games of low-carry, reception-heavy usage for Christian McCaffrey, and typically mediocre production when he did run between the tackles, we finally saw the “RB breakout” for Christian McCaffrey. He absolutely gashed the Bengals for 184 yards on 28 rush attempts (almost quadrupling his average career carry count coming into the contest … alliterations are fun).

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It wasn’t all on one play either, though he did pick up 45 yards on his biggest run of the day. McCaffrey logged 7 rushes of 10+ yards. Heck, even with the 45-yard play completely removed, McCaffrey averaged 5.1 yards per carry! Unfortunately, he’s still losing goal-line work to Cam Newton, but now that we’ve seen implementation and execution for McCaffrey in both aspects of the offense, he’s bordering on an RB1 lock in all formats.

5. Will Fuller is a Must-Start While Healthy

At this point, the track record for Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller is too strong to excuse or ignore. In the six career games that Fuller has enjoyed Watson as the starter, he has 26 catches for 493 yards and 9 touchdowns. A typo, you say? A misstep? A slip of the tongue, perhaps?

Nope, Fuller’s 16 game pace with Watson is seriously 69 catches for 1,300 yards and 24 touchdowns. Now, of course, unless he’s the Randy Moss to Watson’s Tom Brady, the touchdowns are going to regress. But cut them to half, nay, even a third, and you’re still looking at WR1 numbers from Will Fuller. With only two games this season and still limited name value, you might be able to snag Fuller for relatively cheap. Do it. If you have the depth to handle his slightly elevated injury risk, Fuller has league-winning upside.

6. Matt Breida‘s Stock Might Surprise Us

As awesome as it was to see Baker Mayfield arrive, it was equally depressing to see another bright young (handsome) QB succumb to a season-ending ACL injury. Jimmy Garoppolo and 2018 parted ways on Sunday, setting off a waterfall of crying emojis from fantasy players who own his teammates.

Not so fast with Matt Breida. As Andy, Mike, and Jason mentioned on the podcast, former 49ers bell-cow Carlos Hyde was a pass-catching machine with backup QB C.J. Beathard last season. In six games with Beathard at the helm, Hyde saw a whopping 50 targets and grabbed 31 of them for 200 yards. This team will be throwing a lot for the next 13 weeks, and Beathard’s history tells us most of those throws will go about 3 yards to a dynamic Matt Breida. Especially in PPR leagues, see if you can capitalize on the 49er-fear to scoop up Breida.

7. Jordy Nelson is Not Dead Yet!

He’s feeling better! He feels happy! And before you say, “No he’s not, he’ll be stone dead in a moment, and also, this Monty Python reference has gone on long enough” consider the outlook for everyone else in the Oakland receiving corps. There’s actually a picture of Amari Cooper and Martavis Bryant next to the word “inconsistent” in the dictionary, and the current leader in scrimmage yards for the team is a perennial disappearing act, Jared Cook.

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It was bound to take some time for Derek Carr and Nelson to gel, but a 173 yard, 1 TD performance might go a long way towards expediting that process. The 0-3 Raiders aren’t going to be grinding out the clock any time soon, which means there will be targets aplenty for the Oakland pass-catchers. Nelson won’t be winning you weeks often, but he may be a decent FLEX play if he can continue to garner Carr’s favor.

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8. The Green Bay Backfield is a Black Hole for Fantasy

You see what I did with the colors there? It was a color pun …

Moving on. With the return of Aaron Jones from suspension, the Packers running back situation went from “eh” to “bleh.” Why do I say this, considering how dynamic Jones looked on his 6 carries for 42 yards? Well, because he got 6 carries. And Jamaal Wiliams got 5, and Ty Montgomery got 4, and both of those guys had more targets and more receptions.

This is going to be like the infamously unpredictable Patriots backfield — one guy will probably tear off a big run or score each week, but you’ll never know who it is and each back will severely limit the upside of the others. Jones will not get bell-cow work in light of Williams’ superior pass-blocking and Montgomery’s superior pass-catching, which means none of the trio will consistently see more than 10-12 touches. That’s bad news for fantasy on all accounts.

9. The Rams are the Best Team in Football

After what we saw in Week 3 versus the Chargers, I don’t think this one’s up for debate anymore. The Vikings, Eagles, Patriots, and Steelers have all looked suspect in at least one game, and the Chiefs’ porous defense tips the scales towards the incredibly well-rounded Rams.

For fantasy, the biggest takeaways are Jared Goff‘s ascension and the reliability of all three WRs. Goff has taken another step forward after a sophomore breakout and looks like an easy top 10 fantasy QB in this offense. And as a result, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods, who we compared the Lions receivers to last week, are all firmly entrenched as weekly starters. And of course, it goes without saying that Todd Gurley is in his own tier at RB at this point. It would probably take Melvin Gordon and a low end WR2 to pry Gurley off my hands, and even then it would be painful.

10. Chris Carson is the King … For Now

Well there it was, Pete Carroll finally decided what he wanted to do with the running game and fed Carson 32 carries. It resulted in 102 rushing yards and a touchdown, as well as the first Seahawks victory, so I can’t see Carroll rushing to reverse his decision any time soon.

I was not much of a Penny truther coming into the season and warned of Carson’s ability (we saw him perform well last year before injury). Now it looks like Penny is little more than waiver fodder as Carson slips into the low-end RB2 range. This one could change again in several weeks, so keep coming back to Lessons Learned, but for now, Carson is worth a weekly FLEX at the least.