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Week 3 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Fitzmagical returns continue Monday Night

Brad Evans
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Each week the Noise highlights under-started names who he believes are destined to torch the competition. To qualify, each player must be started in fewer than 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Speaking as an accountability advocate, I will post results, whether genius or moronic, the following week (Scoring thresholds – QB: 18 fpts, RB: 12 fpts, WR: 11 fpts: TE: 10 fpts; .5 PPR). If you’re a member of TEAM HUEVOS, reveal your Week 3 Flames in the comments section below.

Bearded wonder Fitzpatrick to sizzle in primetime

Ryan Fitzpatrick, TB, QB (13 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $29)
Matchup: vs. Pit
Vegas line/total: Pit -1, 53.5

The Lorax speaks for the trees and brings fantasy opponents to their knees. Through two galactic weeks, he’s amassed an almost unfathomable 11.2 yards per attempt (!!!), 409.5 passing yards per game and nine total touchdowns. His 11.7 average depth of target, 82.8 completion percentage (77.8 percent on deep balls) and 1.06 fantasy points per dropback are unsustainable, yet sharp and unrelenting. Thrust into an ideal situation, he should carry on his fiery start at least another week. Trailing only fire breather Patrick Mahomes on the young year in total TD output, he’s rewarded QB patience preachers. His post-game Conor McGregor/Russian mob getup last Sunday was a flawless depiction of his current swag. What’s gathered over Tampa is the perfect storm. Setbacks to an already maligned secondary combined with Dirk Koetter’s willingness to uncork downfield throws have kept the Fitzmagic shop open. Knowing the Bucs’ shortcomings – projected Week 3 DB starters Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart have allowed a combined 134.1 passer rating to their assignments – Ben Roethlisberger must be licking his chops. Assuming Big Ben tolls, a safe presumption with a disgruntled Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner involved, Fitzpatrick may have to surpass 50 attempts to keep pace. Throw in Joe Haden’s “questionable” status, Artie Burns’ failings (158.3 passer rating allowed), the rain Mahomes dropped on the Steelers secondary last week, and the club’s overall defensive inadequacies, and another top-five performance for Fitzpatrick is achievable.

Fearless Forecast: 326 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, 1 interception, 12 rushing yards, 25.2 fantasy points

Will Tampa’s captain of the Jolly Roger keep his owners feeling merry on Monday Night? In short, yes. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Will Tampa’s captain of the Jolly Roger keep his owners feeling merry on Monday Night? In short, yes. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Bengals won’t skip a beat with Bernard

Giovani Bernard, Cin, RB (14 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $19)
Matchup: at Car
Vegas line/total: Car -3, 43.5

Pushed aside last year in favor of rookie hotshot Joe Mixon, Bernard patiently waited in the wings. As the Bengals’ season sputtered and the youngster succumbed to injury, he was thrust late season into the starting lineup. He seized the moment. What the underrated veteran accomplished was the stuff of fantasy legend. With owners fighting feverishly for every point, he popped off to the tune of 116.7 total yards per game and two total touchdowns Weeks 14-16. His resulting 18.0 points per game average in .5 PPR – RB6 during the stretch – carried many of his backers into the winner’s circle, securing cash prizes and, most importantly, bragging rights. Bernard owns all the skills necessary to handle a voluminous workload. Built like Sonic the Hedgehog, he craftily uses his low center of gravity to squeeze through tight spaces, churning his wheels for sizable games. Also a superb pass catcher and creative in space, he’s destined to shine this week with Mixon once again sidelined. With Dontari Poe and Kawann Short on the roster, Carolina can be unyielding in the trenches. However, as Tevin Coleman proved last week, off-edge runs occasionally catches them. On the year, the Panthers have surrendered 5.54 yards per carry, 140.5 total yards per game and a TD to opposing RBs. Follow the volume. Neo Gio reignites in Charlotte.

Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 75 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 28 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16.3 fantasy points

Rookie Michel about to slide into former Lewis role

Sony Michel, NE, RB (8 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $15)
Matchup: at Det
Vegas line/total: NE -6.5, 51.5

Outside of Saquon Barkley, who’s already met expectations and then some in PPR leagues – his 14 receptions in Dallas set a new single-game franchise benchmark – this year’s “special” rookie RB class has greatly underwhelmed. Royce Freeman, who is slowly crushing my soul, is the forgotten bass player in Denver’s three-man RB band. Kerryon Johnson and Rashaad Penny are a bench-only back. And Ronald Jones has sunk to Davey Jones’ locker. It’s only Week 3, but the Preseason buzz has fallen on deaf ears. Michel, however, could leave an indelible mark Sunday night. He didn’t tickle the taste buds in his first regular season action at Jacksonville, but knocking off the dust should do him wonders. Against the Jags he logged 38.7 percent of the opportunity share, totaling 41 yards on 11 carries and evading three tackles in the process. He’ll continue to work in conjunction with James White and Rex Burkhead, but a golden opportunity for him to gain more work is in store versus the loathsome Lions. Detroit, wrecked by the Jets and Niners in consecutive weeks, are a bunch of hairless cats in the trenches. In total, they’ve conceded a league high 6.9 yards per carry and 363 rushing yards along with two long TD runs. When Isaiah Crowell and Matt Breida resemble Walter Payton against you, it’s a clear reflection of your inefficiency. With a game under his belt, Michel, on roughly 14-16 touches, has reasonable odds of exploding onto the fantasy scene.

Fearless Forecast: 13 carries, 57 rushing yards, 1 reception, 6 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 12.8 fantasy points

Undrafted phenom Lindsay to be centerpiece in Baltimore

Phillip Lindsay, Den, RB (33 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $17)
Matchup: at Bal
Vegas line/total: Bal -5, 43

Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and admit fault. Through a bullhorn yours truly typed thousands of hyerbolic words about Royce Freeman. His bulky frame (6-feet, 235-pounds), alluring advanced metrics profile (No. 11 in elusive rating with Oregon in 2017), open-field burst (4.54 40-yard dash) and spectacular preseason cast an intoxicating aura around him. Head over heels for his open opportunity, I sacrificed an arm and both legs to acquire his services in multiple drafts. Then Lindsay happened. A standout in training camp who I thought posed a bigger threat to Devontae Booker’s employment in Denver, the former Buff has seized control, a modern day Arian Foster. He’s slashed, dashed and, shockingly bashed his way to back-to-back 100 total yard performances, becoming the first undrafted rookie to accomplish the feat to start his NFL career. His under-the-surface analytics are equally dynamite. He ranks top-five in yards after contact per attempt (3.9), total evaded tackles (6) and yards created per carry (2.66). When considering his size (5-foot-7, 184 pounds) what he’s accomplishing is extraordinary. Alvin Kamara the sequel? It’s not an outrageous statement. In Denver’s “hot hand” backfield he’s played just 50.8 percent of the snaps, but his usage could increase in Week 3. Baltimore, featuring premier run stoppers Terrell Suggs, Brandon Williams and Brent Urban, have fiercely plugged gaps thus far. Against Buffalo and Cincinnati the Ravens yielded 3.88 yards per carry to RBs. To fully utilize Lindsay’s big-play potential, look for OC Bill Musgrave to design space plays and off-edge runs for the heat seeker.

Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 57 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 28 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16.5 fantasy points

Take the plunge with Geronimo at WR3 in Week 3

Geronimo Allison, GB, WR (5 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $11)
Matchup: at Was
Vegas line/total: GB -3, 46

After Vontae Davis abruptly called it quits at halftime in Buffalo’s double-digit defeat to the L.A. Chargers, the University of Illinois’ presence in the league whittled to 15. As a devoted fan, the lack of representation at the pro level is an indictment on a program unable to gain even a respectable footing. Allison, however, is saving some face. Davante Adams may earn all the fantasy accolades, but the sinewy receiver is quietly in the midst of a statistical evolution. Trusted by Aaron Rodgers, he’s solicited 18.2 percent of the targets share, hauled in 11 passes and totaled 133 yards with a touchdown. His appealing 10.3 yards per target and high success rates on nine and slant routes (100-plus passer ratings when targeted) only adds to his season-long breakout potential. This week he’ll continue to build momentum. Once feared, Washington’s secondary ranks alongside (insert any “Leprechaun” movie) on the fright scale. Quentin Dunbar (30.0 passer rating allowed) has played well, but, as evidenced by T.Y. Hilton’s surgical dissection last week, Josh Norman (92.3) isn’t close to the vice-grip he once was. Take the plunge at WR3 or the FLEX in deeper formats.

Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 65 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.0 fantasy points

WEEK 3 SHOCKER SPECIAL (Under 10 percent started)

Dante Pettis, SF, WR (8 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $13)
Matchup: at KC
Vegas line/total: KC -6.5, 56

Michael Gallup. Courtland Sutton. D.J. Moore. Calvin Ridley. Throughout the summer months, fantasy analysts propped up the aforementioned rookies and glossed over Pettis. We were mistaken. The Washington product, compared to alphabet soup T.J. Houshmandzadeh by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein pre-Draft, is a versatile threat with a well-formed route tree. He’s comfortable outside or in the slot and utilizes his short-field burst to gain separation from defenders. As stated incessantly in this space, the ability to run precise routes is the strongest attribute a first-year or developed receiver can have. It’s why Pettis has made an early splash. Enticing 12.3 percent of the target share, he’s totaled three receptions for 96 yards and a score. Most impressively, his 20.1 average depth of target only trails Baltimore’s John Brown thus far. With Marquise Goodwin (quad) a question mark for Week 3, the newbie could again earn an expanded role. If the case, he should be deemed “trustworthy” as a WR3 or FLEX in 12-team leagues. His matchup, at Kansas City, promises to be a fantasy bonanza. Mahomes’ near impeccable execution combined with the Chiefs’ exploitable defense (7.9 ypa allowed) suggests the first team to 40 points wins. Likely to line up often against DB Orlando Scandrick (79.2 passer rating, 0.29 yards/snap allowed) or hobbled Steven Nelson (99.3; 1.30) and with Kendall Fuller draped on Pierre Garcon, Pettis has top-30 appeal.

Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 62 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 12.2 fantasy points

BONUS WEEK 3 FLAMES (Under 50 percent started)

RB: Aaron Jones, GB, RB (at Was; $17)Jamaal Williams’ audition as the full-timer bombed, as expected. Through two weeks he ranks RB39 in YAC per attempt and failed to force a missed tackle on 34 total touches. Jones shined on interior runs last season, piling up a 2.9 YAC/att, however, he must prove competent in pass pro to stay on the field. Jones is scheduled to square off against a Washington front that allowed 4.41 yards per carry to Arizona and Indy RBs. (FF: 13 atts, 66 yds, 1 rec, 4 yds, TD, 13.5 fpts)

RB: Chris Thompson, Was, RB (vs. GB; $20) – The Balki to Larry Appleton (Adrian Peterson) in Washington’s “Perfect Strangers” backfield, Thompson has become an Alex Smith-short-field favorite. It should come as no surprise. Generating 10.5 targets per game along with a handful of carries, he’s in line for at least 13-14 touches per week moving forward. In a contest with shootout potential, he should chew up real estate working underneath. (FF: 4 atts, 19 yds, 7 recs, 64 yds, TD, 17.8 fpts)

RB: Austin Ekeler, LAC, RB (at LAR; $14) – His name sounds like a coffee table from IKEA, but there is nothing cheap about the Western State product. The Chargers’ version of Duke Johnson or Thompson, Ekeler has really impressed out of the gate. He ranks top-eight in total avoided tackles and YAC/att (4.5). His versatility and high reliance in L.A.’s vertical scheme will continue against the cross-town rival Rams. Given the vulnerability of Wade Phillips’ defense across the middle and the potential negative script, Ekeler and Melvin Gordon combine for numerous receptions. (FF: 5 atts, 22 yds, 5 recs, 53 yds, TD, 16.0 fpts)

WR: Donte Moncrief, Jax, WR (vs. Ten; $12) – Maybe Bill Belichick knew something we didn’t. Current Titans CB Malcolm Butler, benched in Super Bowl 52, is currently the most forgiving defensive back in the league. His 3.78 yards per snap, 336 receiving yards and three touchdowns conceded sets the pace. Moncrief has seen a modest 14 targets in two games, but has measurable odds of finding the end zone for the second straight week. (FF: 4 receptions, 50 receiving yards, TD, 13.0 fpts)

TE: Jesse James, Pit, TE (at TB; $13) – He hasn’t quite robbed the Glendale train, but James is starting to assert himself as the primary TE option in Pittsburgh’s high-flying offense. Through two games, he’s totaled 19.8 yards per target and ranks No. 3 in fantasy points per target according to Pro Football Focus. Matched against a Tampa D that’s given up 20 receptions already to tight ends, he’s a viable TE1 for fantasy owners still in search for alternatives to Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen.

DST: Cleveland Browns (vs. NYJ; $14) – The combative Browns have really turned up the heat defensively under Gregg Williams. They’ve applied copious pressure (7 sacks recorded) and forced eight turnovers through two games. The Jets are no stranger to mistakes. Sam Darnold has already suffered five sacks this season. As a team, New York has also coughed it up six times (3 INTs, 3 FLs). Throw in a Cleveland crowd thirsting for Bud Light and the Browns are a top stream option in Week 3. (FF: 13 PA, 301 YDSA, 4 SCK, 3 TO, 13.0 fpts)


Each week one fortunate guest prognosticator will have a chance to silence the Noise. Following the rules stated above, participants are asked to submit their “Flames” (1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 D/ST) by midnight PT Tuesdays via Twitter @YahooNoise. How large are your stones?

Reader record: 5-9

Brad record: 8-14 (W: Bilal Powell, Nelson Agholor, New York Jets D/ST, Case Keenum; L: Tyrod Taylor, Adrian Peterson, Taylor Gabriel, Courtland Sutton (SS), Nick Boyle, Dion Lewis; DNP: Josh Gordon)

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also check out his TV show, “The Fantasy Football Hour,” now available in 91 million households on various regional sports networks, along with his work on the “Yahoo Sports Fantasy Podcast” and his award-nominated podcast, “The Fantasy Record.”

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