By: Justin Lynch
Parker had a rough outing until he dominated the last drive of the game and scored a garbage time touchdown as time expired. This may end up being a common occurrence. The Dolphins aren’t very good, but Cutler likes to take chances, and Parker is his guy. Cutler threw the ball up to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery back in Chicago (and Denver) and he will do that with Parker now. He may not make it easy, and he may have to do it all in garbage time but Parker will keep getting targets and yards against prevent defenses. It may not be the breakout season many imagined, but he numbers in garbage time count just as much.
After a 6-62-2 line in week 2, Sanders was tough to leave off this list, but this week his fortune changes. Though he only managed 7-72, his 15 targets show his importance to the offense. Simien likes to throw intermediate routes, and that is Sanders’ specialty. The Broncos are good, but even when they are winning, they will still look to Sanders in the passing game. Sanders is a solid PPR play every week, who may throw a cherry on top if he scores.
At a wildly inconsistent position, Ertz is beginning to separate himself. With three straight 14+ point (PPR) outings, Ertz is among the top tight ends in points. As I discussed last week, the Eagles need to throw. And defenses are loading up on Alshon. Ertz is the beneficiary of the extra attention elsewhere, and is still the safety valve for a young quarterback. 10 more targets this week makes 28 on the season. Expect that number to hold steady, as he becomes a consistent performer from in a spot most fantasy teams need it.
New Orleans’ defense may stink, but Houston’s doesn’t. And Brady torched them too. With both regular starting tackles mostly sidelined with injuries against Clowney and Watt, the complete lack of a run game, and a defense that couldn’t get off the field, Brady, at 40, chewed up one of the league’s best defenses.
The difference with Brady this year is how much he may need to throw. The defense in New England isn’t good, and that means Brady will have to win shootouts week after week until things start to change on defense. Hogan and Amendola are healthy, Gronk is getting into a groove and Cooks is beginning to be comfortable. Brady has enough weapons to put up big numbers every week, and if the Pats want to win games, he may have to.
Crowell hasn’t topped 50 yards in any game this season, and hasn’t even cracked 13 carries the last two weeks. Duke Johnson takes all of the receptions and the Browns aren’t in a position to run the ball late in games. The offseason buzz about getting Crowell the ball more isn’t coming to fruition, and unless he scores a touchdown, he isn’t going to put up starting running back numbers. Start to plan your team without him as a fixture.
There’s just too much going on in the Saints’ backfield. Ingram got 14 carries, Peterson got nine, and though Kamara only got two, he led the backfield in targets. The Saints’ won’t be running the ball much late in games, and Kamara is their receiving threat. Peterson will steal goal line touches, and Ingram is left to fight for the rest. Peterson’s role may decrease as the season goes on, but Kamara may be the most talented back in New Orleans, and Peterson’ decline will mirror Kamara’s rise, not Ingram’s.
Crowder was a consistent player last season, putting up double digit points nearly every week (PPR). But this season he has fallen behind. He isn’t getting as many looks (only 18 targets through three games), and isn’t breaking as many big plays (hasn’t topped 52 receiving yards).
I think he’ll come around some, but as Doctson and Pryor get more comfortable, he may not come around to where we originally thought. With Chris Thompson’s emergence as a threat out of the backfield, Crowder loses even more potential targets.
I initially targeted Crowder as a Jarvis Landry-type player. But it seems that his decreased role may be the norm. And Crowder is going to be more 2016-Randall Cobb, than Landry.
2 Things to Think About
Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs
Cook and Diggs both had monster week 3 outings. Though Cook averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, his 169 total yards and a rushing score were more than enough for fantasy owners. Diggs, after a slow week 2, returned to the guy we saw in week 1 with a line of 8-173-2. Bradford’s injury is a mystery, and this team goes as the quarterback position goes, and that is what makes these two such an enigma. Cook may not get the carries he needs if the Vikings fall behind, and Diggs will get bottled up if the quarterback can’t spread the ball around.
But both are talented and focal points of the offense. Cook has almost zero competition for carries, and Diggs is by far their most talented weapon. Getting these two the ball will be a primary objective for the Vikings every week, and that means both will get a lot of looks.
Both of these guys will have good weeks and bad weeks, it’s just a matter of how consistent they will be. I think Cook will be more consistent, with less upside, while Diggs’ output will be volatile. Either way, if the Vikings can get consistent output from the quarterback, whether it’s Keenum or Bradford, these two will be guys to keep your eye on.
Thompson has quietly been one of the top scoring players so far this season. His four total touchdowns and increasing role have some wondering why it took so long to find him. But Thompson’s situation is still unclear. If Samaje Perine can’t figure it out, and Rob Kelley goes through the year with nagging injuries, Thompson could continue his productive ways.
But I see these three weeks as more of an aberration. Thompson is talented, and by far the best receiver Washington has out of the backfield. But he has been reliant on big plays and touchdowns, and hasn’t gotten enough touches to make me think he will consistently produce. I’m also not sold on his ability to run between the tackles as the lead back.
Still, he will see his role increase as he keeps performing. And having someone with that type of big-play ability is always a good thing to have, assuming he can provide solid output without the 60-yard scamper. Thompson will be someone to watch for, but expect outputs closer to 10 than 30 going forward.
1 Concluding Thought
It’s not time to hit the panic button yet. Three weeks isn’t a season, and even in league’s where a low percentage of teams make the playoffs, no one is out of the hunt yet. If you liked your draft, if you trust your picks, don’t give up on your guys yet. But be reasonable. Kelvin Benjamin, Ameer Abdullah, and Lamar Miller likely aren’t turning things around in a big way (though Abdullah has the best shot). If you have guys who scored less than 10 points each game so far, don’t expect a sudden breakout. But don’t cut them, either.
Now is the time you start transitioning from trusting your offseason rankings to reacting to what is going on. But focus on trends more so than points. Look for opportunity, touches and targets, over touchdowns and total scoring. And don’t give up on your sleeper if he’s showing some promise. It’s still too early to know what to expect, but we have enough information to make more informed decisions.
If you’re 3-0, or 2-1, don’t get comfortable, now may be the best time to sell high on someone who has outperformed expectations so far. And if you’re 0-3, open the lid to the panic button, but don’t press it quite yet. Start fielding the market for some trades, but don’t alter your team. This is a sticky part of the season. Everyone wants to make premature conclusions about the next 13 weeks. Don’t. Stick to what you believe, don’t get recency bias, but be smart about who will and won’t continue on their current trajectory. And don’t trade Le’Veon Bell.