Fantasy Football Week 3: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystSeptember 24, 2020

Fantasy Football Week 3: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Usually, I kick off the intro to this article with a little talk about the week that was.

    But since most fantasy managers are still working through the five stages of grief after Week 2, we'll try to talk as little about the injuries that ravaged fantasy football as possible.

    Those injuries have left a great many fantasy managers in full-on scramble mode—and quite a few teams teetering on the brink. Though going 0-2 is usually unfortunate, it's hardly the end of the world. But if you're winless and all kinds of banged-up, you could be in jeopardy of digging a hole that's too deep to escape.

    Whether you're trying to get a reeling team back on track or keep a winning streak going, the point of this column is to help you get a win.

    I've combed through fantasy questions on the Bleacher Report app (both season-long and daily fantasy) and answered some that should help guide fantasy managers in setting their Week 3 lineups.

    Let's get rolling, starting with a relative rarity in 2020: good news at the running back position.

Here's to You, Mr. Robinson

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    That good news at the running back position I just alluded to comes in the form of James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    When the Jaguars released Leonard Fournette just before the season began, they surprised many. But the real surprise has been Washington's play. The undrafted rookie has averaged 5.1 yards per carry and is coming off the first 100-yard game of his career.

    Myles Gaskin of the Miami Dolphins and Joshua Kelley of the Los Angeles Chargers have flashed some potential over the first two weeks of the season. But with Robinson's Jaguars heading into a matchup with a Dolphins squad that allowed the eighth-most PPR points (point per reception) to running backs in 2019, he gets the nod.

    Where flex options are concerned, I tend to defer to running backs for one prevailing reason: They touch the ball more. But in this case, I'm going to go with a wide receiver.

    Russell Gage of the Atlanta Falcons has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers this season, but DJ Chark Jr. of the Jacksonville Jaguars is the top receiving option for an offense that has played well in the early going.

    Add in that Miami will be without Byron Jones on Thursday night, and we have that rarest of fantasy football occurrences: the Jaguars double-dip.

    However, should Chark's chest injury keep him out against Miami, then Joshua Kelley (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,000) of the Los Angeles Chargers becomes Plan B. The Bolts could get a lead in a favorable matchup with the Carolina Panthers, and Kelley had 23 carries against Kansas City in Week 2.


    The Call: James Robinson (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,400), DJ Chark Jr. (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,400)

Three-Way...Hold the Onions

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    If that title makes sense to you, then you have had Cincinnati-style chili. If it doesn't, go eat some Cincinnati-style chili.

    Only go with a four-way.

    At running back, both James Conner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Melvin Gordon III of the Denver Broncos had good games last week, topping 80 total yards and finding the end zone.

    Conner's Week 1 fiasco has some fantasy managers understandably skittish about him, but Pittsburgh's matchup with the Houston Texans is much better than Denver's with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa led the NFL in run defense last year, and with Jeff Driskel at quarterback and no Courtland Sutton, the Buccaneers will likely load the box and sell out to stop Gordon.

    At wide receiver, DJ Moore of the Carolina Panthers broke out last week with eight grabs for 120 yards against Tampa. But Stefon Diggs is a must-start. He's tallied at least 16 PPR fantasy points in both games this year and just gashed the Miami Dolphins for an 8/153/1 line.

    Finally, this is a good problem to have at tight end since both Jonnu Smith of the Tennessee Titans and Mike Gesicki of the Dolphins are ascending young players coming off big games. But Smith has been one of Ryan Tannehill's favorite targets in the red zone this year, finding the end zone three times in two games. He's the play.

    The Call: James Conner (DraftKings DFS Value: $6.700), Stefon Diggs DraftKings DFS Value: $7,000), Jonnu Smith (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,200)

The Mayor of Yuksville

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    This bunch of Week 3 options is, um, yeah. But we can only play the hand we're dealt, so here goes.

    Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys offense put up a cool 450 passing yards last week, but Michael Gallup managed just two grabs for 58 yards. He hasn't had even 60 receiving yards in a game this year, but Dallas does draw the Seattle Seahawks' last-ranked pass defense in Week 3.

    I don't even want to type Emmanuel Sanders' name after his one-catch vanishing act against the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night. He's clearly not up to speed in the New Orleans Saints offense and needs to be glued to benches until he is.

    Through two games, Jalen Reagor of the Philadelphia Eagles has just five catches for 96 yards. And now he's set to miss multiple weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb, because every Eagle is hurt.

    A.J. Green has been relatively quiet so far this season and is likely to get Darius Slay in coverage in Week 3. But he's also drawing 11 targets per game—easily the most for the Cincinnati Bengals.

    D'Andre Swift of the Detroit Lions and Ronald Jones II of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are both playing in muddied backfields. Neither is a sure bet for touches, and Jones went full milk-carton after losing a fumble last week.

    The Arizona Cardinals are red-hot offensively, but Christian Kirk hasn't benefitted with three catches for 57 yards in two games.

    With a confidence level of "pass the Pepto Bismol," Gallup and Green are the plays here.

    The Call: A.J. Green (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,000), Michael Gallup DraftKings DFS Value: $5,500)

Let's Make a Deal

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    This technically isn't a start/sit question, but given all the carnage in Week 2, there are likely more than a few fantasy managers channeling their inner Monty Halls this week.

    Desperation can be a powerful motivator.

    Generally speaking, I'm a proponent of getting the best player in a trade. At first glance here, that would be Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings, although the sad-sack state of the Vikings offense through two weeks has knocked some of the shine off him.

    However, there's a situation here in which the Jonathan Taylor/Kareem Hunt end of this deal makes quite a bit of sense in filling a hole in the backfield.

    With Marlon Mack out for the year, Taylor is the unquestioned lead back for the Indianapolis Colts. He'll cede some passing-down snaps to Nyheim Hines, but as we saw against the Vikings in Week 2, that won't be many in weeks with a positive game script.

    Hunt is the No. 2 back for the Cleveland Browns, but he's still a significant part of the offense. Through two weeks, the 25-year-old has 29 touches and 182 total yards. He's also found the end zone twice. He's legitimately in the RB2 conversation, especially in PPR scoring systems.

    I'm assuming the reason this trade is being considered is a lack of depth at running back. And if that's the case, getting two viable starters isn't a bad haul.

    The Call: Jonathan Taylor (DraftKings DFS Value: $7,000), Kareem Hunt DraftKings DFS Value: $6,100)

Wide Receiver Woundup

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    The first wide receiver slot here is a no-brainer. Yes, Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons had a down week against the Dallas Cowboys, dropping a sure touchdown pass. He is also nursing a strained hamstring. But if Jones is on the field Sunday against the Chicago Bears, then he has to be in fantasy lineups.

    Odell Beckham Jr. of the Cleveland Browns is another "go." He had a solid stat line last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, and he would have had a second touchdown had he not been interfered with (a call the zebras missed).

    Spot No. 3 goes to CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys, who has outproduced Michael Gallup to this point. The reason is simple: Two games in, the Seattle Seahawks are surrendering the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers by a massive margin.

    That leaves one emergency spot in the event Jones doesn't play. It's a close call, but Robby Anderson of the Carolina Panthers gets the nod over A.J. Green of the Bengals. Green is pacing Cincinnati with 22 targets on the season, but Anderson has been the more productive fantasy asset so far with 15 receptions for 223 yards and a score over the first two weeks.

    OK, so maybe it isn't that close a call after all.

    The Call: Julio Jones (DraftKings DFS Value: $7,400), Odell Beckham Jr. (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,300), CeeDee Lamb (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,400)

The Barkley Blues

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    If it makes you feel any better, I have a league in which I lost Saquon Barkley and Courtland Sutton last week and was already without Le'Veon Bell and Kenny Golladay.

    Shock and amazement, that team is 0-2.

    The obvious yes here is James Robinson. As I've already mentioned, the rookie's Week 3 matchup Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins is a good one. And if you believe the Jacksonville Jaguars have a good chance of winning that game, 20-plus touches are well within reason.

    That leaves three players and one spot.

    Todd Gurley is the first checked off. His first two games with the Atlanta Falcons have been less than impressive. Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, he averaged just 2.9 yards a pop. Pass until he shows a pulse.

    Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson was a trendy breakout candidate for many fantasy pundits in 2020—this one included. And so far at least, he's making us look good, Through two games, Johnson has reeled in 14 passes for 149 yards and a score. He's averaging over 17 PPR fantasy points and 11.5 targets per contest.

    But Kareem Hunt gets the call in spot No. 2.

    The Cleveland Browns may have found a recipe for success in Week 2 by pounding away at defenses with Nick Chubb and Hunt. Doing so against the Washington Football Team will help keep their formidable pass rush honest. And while Washington hasn't been kind to opposing running backs from a fantasy perspective so far this year, one of its two games came against a Philadelphia Eagles team that didn't have Miles Sanders.

    In 2019, only two teams allowed more PPR points to the position than Washington.

    The Call: James Robinson (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,400), Kareem Hunt DraftKings DFS Value: $6,100),

Quarterback Quandary

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    From the Bleacher Report App.

    This trio of quarterbacks looks like a few of my leagues.

    That's not a good thing.

    The first signal-caller off this list is Daniel Jones of the New York Giants. It's not an indictment of Jones so much as the tattered remnants of the offense around him.

    In just this past week, the Giants placed both running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Sterling Shepard on injured reserve. Their opponent this week (the San Francisco 49ers) has also been ravaged by injuries, but Jones should be avoided until we see how he fares with a depleted cadre of weapons.

    That leaves Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (which still sounds weird) and Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams. Neither quarterback has been especially impressive in 2020—both rank outside the top 12 at the position for the season—and the two have scored a nearly identical number of fantasy points.

    It is, as they say, the proverbial toss-up. Both players are also on the road with similar matchups against the Denver Broncos (Brady) and Buffalo Bills (Goff)

    In my Week 3 Fantasy Football Big Board here at Bleacher Report, I have Goff ranked a couple of spots higher among quarterbacks, and he's the play. Brady is still getting familiar with both Bruce Arians' offense and his new teammates, and it has shown in the early going.

    The Call: Jared Goff (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,600)

The Mixon Mess

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    Want proof that fantasy football can be weird? The focal point of this column in Week 3 is an undrafted free-agent running back no one had heard of six weeks ago.

    Welcome to 2020.

    There's an annual event in fantasy football, a pitfall that's easy to fall into: the yips, which come when you overreact to a slow start by a big-name player and either bench said player or drop him outright.

    But in Joe Mixon's case—in Week 3, at least—that might not be the case.

    Mixon was a first-round pick in most fantasy drafts, but he's looked like anything but through two games with 115 rushing yards and just 3.3 yards per carry. On some level, it could be that Mixon is a slow starter. Over the first eight games of the 2019 season, he averaged 3.2 yards a pop.

    Mostly, it's a matter of negative game scripts forcing the Cincinnati Bengals to abandon the run and an offensive line that has been offensive.

    That's not especially likely to change this Sunday in Philadelphia. As bad as the Eagles have looked, we're still talking about a defending division champion that won a Super Bowl not that long ago. The Eagles are going to throw everything they have at the Bengals this week.

    Dion Lewis is a pass-catching back for a bad New York Giants team, and his Week 3 touch-load isn't certain. Robby Anderson is off to a hot start, but the Los Angeles Chargers are a bad matchup for wide receivers, and he's not going to touch the ball 20 times.

    James Robinson is. For the third time this week, he's the guy.

    The Call: James Robinson (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,400)

DraftKings DFS Question of the Week

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    Now this is a question.

    To have success in a DFS tournament, you need a contrarian play—a player rostered on a relatively low percentage of teams who goes on to have a big game.

    More than a few fantasy managers will be looking to one of these running backs as that play in Week 3.

    Joshua Kelley's 2.8 yards per carry against the Kansas City Chiefs last week weren't especially impressive. Nor are his 3.5 yards a pop for the year. What is impressive ahead of Week 3's tilt with a Carolina Panthers team that is leading the league in PPR points allowed to running backs for the second consecutive year is that even with Austin Ekeler ahead of him on the depth chart, he got 23 carries against Kansas City.

    Jerick McKinnon of the San Francisco 49ers was much better on a per-touch basis for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2. It took him just three carries to pile up 77 rushing yards against the New York Jets. With Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman both out against the New York Giants this week, the belief is that McKinnon will be the lead running back for the 49ers.

    However, the last time McKinnon had double-digit carries in an NFL game was on New Year's 2017.

    The price points for the pair aren't much of a tiebreaker. McKinnon checks in a whole $100 cheaper than Kelley.

    This play is about tolerance for risk. If Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers can get a lead against the winless Panthers, Kelley could see a lot of between-the-tackles work Sunday. McKinnon's role (and workload) is less certain; Jeff Wilson Jr. could eat into his touches more than many think.

    Give me Kelley here.

    The Call: Joshua Kelley (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,000)

Rapid Fire

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    As we do every week, we'll wrap up this column by banging out some more questions from the Bleacher Report app in rapid-fire style.

    jdrills1 is digging through the scrap heap: "Mike Davis or Russell Gage at flex in PPR?"

    Russell Gage (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,100) of the Atlanta Falcons has been a pleasant surprise so far this season, topping 100 yards in Week 1 and scoring a touchdown last week in Dallas. That hot start gives him the edge over Mike Davis of the Carolina Panthers, who is a huge question mark taking over for Christian McCaffrey.

    It's wide receiver help for npow: "Which two get the start out of Hollywood Brown, DJ Moore and Corey Davis?"

    Corey Davis of the Tennessee Titans has a great matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, but it's hard to start him over DJ Moore ((DraftKings DFS Value: $6,100) of the Panthers or Marquise Brown (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,000) of the Baltimore Ravens. Moore is the top receiver for a team likely to be playing from behind, while Brown's matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs has shootout written all over it.

    rbaker57 needs tight end help: "[Dallas] Goedert or Mike [Gesicki?]"

    This is an easy call. The Philadelphia Eagles offense is a mess, while Mike Gesicki (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,000) is coming off a huge 8/130/1 game last week against the Buffalo Bills. Gesicki all the way.

    Darrell Henderson Jr. of the Los Angeles Rams has qoolwhip qonfused (get it?): "Is Henderson for real? I just traded James Conner and need to replace him."

    With Cam Akers (chest) and Malcolm Brown (finger) both nursing injuries, Darrell Henderson Jr. (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,400) is a good bet to lead Los Angeles Rams running backs in touches Sunday against the Bills. But this backfield has the makings of a committee attack. It could be Henderson one week and Brown the next. Trusting any of them as a weekly starter is a risky bet.

    Mamo1711 is feeling froggy: "Should I consider benching Patrick Mahomes in a bad matchup in favor of Gardner Minshew?"

    In a word: no. Yes, Patrick Mahomes (DraftKings DFS Value: $7,400) gets a tough Ravens team Monday night. But you don't bench Mahomes—ever. Last year against Baltimore, he threw for 374 yards and three touchdowns.

    More QB questions from jedistone: "Drew [Brees], [Ryan] Tennehill or [Gardner] Minshew."

    It's hard to believe I'm not recommending Drew Brees here against the Green Bay Packers, but he hasn't looked great in either start this season. Ryan Tannehill had four touchdowns last week and gets a Vikings defense that has looked awful this season, but the play here is Gardner Minshew II (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,400) against the Miami Dolphins. Minshew has thrown three scoring passes in both games this season, and the Dolphins defense is down cornerback Byron Jones on Thursday night.

    Finally, mayurpatel needs two of these three players: "Need one flex and one RB in full PPR; Jerick McKinnon, Mike Davis, Marquise Brown."

    The workload concerns of Jerick McKinnon have already been discussed. That leaves Mike Davis (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,100), who should see at least 15 touches for the Panthers against the Los Angeles Chargers, and Marquise Brown (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,000) in the aforementioned potential shootout in Charm City.

    DFS player salaries courtesy of DraftKingsFantasy scoring data courtesy of FFTodayFantasy points against data courtesy of My Fantasy League.

    Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year.


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