Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes. Anybody can tell you to start the Lamar Jacksons, David Johnsons, and George Kittles of the world. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m looking deeper at legitimate mostly-borderline candidates who owners may truly be contemplating using in lineups.
Start of the Week: Kyler Murray vs. Panthers: The NFL’s leader in pass attempts (94) after two games -- along with Andy Dalton -- Murray has produced weekly fantasy finishes of QB11 and QB16. Holding back his stats to this point is the Cardinals’ inability to score in the red zone (31st in red-zone TD percentage) and Murray’s dual-threat ability has not been part of his game with just six rushing attempts for 17 empty yards and one fumble. After running the most offensive plays Week 1 against the Lions, the Cardinals fired off the second-fewest snaps last week in Baltimore against the ball-control Ravens. Things should swing back the other way back home against a Carolina squad that is 23rd in opponent plays per game after facing the fast-paced Rams and Bucs. This game should also operate at break-neck speed. The Cardinals and Panthers are both top-six in neutral-situation pace and bottom-10 in opponent plays per game. Carolina is No. 4 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks after shutting down Jared Goff in the opener before allowing just 208 yards and one touchdown to Jameis Winston on a meager 25 attempts last Thursday night. The Bucs surprisingly leaned heavily on the run in that one. Football Outsiders isn’t exactly buying the Panthers’ lofty success against the pass, instead grading Carolina No. 19 in pass-defense DVOA. This is a beatable matchup for Murray, largely due to the pace and expected high volume of plays. More opportunities equals more chances for fantasy points. Murray should again flirt with 40 pass attempts. The rushing numbers will eventually come. After being down on Murray Weeks 1-2, I’m all in this Sunday. He’s extremely cheap on FanDuel at $7,200 sandwiched between Kirk Cousins and Dalton.
Josh Allen vs. Bengals: My “start of the week” in Week 2, Allen hung the overall QB7 day on the Giants. The sophomore is picking up right where he left off as a rookie. New OC Brian Daboll is letting Allen play to his strengths. He’s dialing up shot plays to John Brown, and Allen has ran the ball 17 times, with a rushing touchdown in each of the first two games. That’s a massive part of the draw to Allen in fantasy -- his heightened floor due to rushing output. And these are designed runs, so Daboll knows it’s a strength for the team. The Bengals are fresh off getting steamrolled at home against the 49ers, surrendering the QB6 day to a previously-struggling Jimmy Garoppolo. Cincinnati has faced the fewest passing attempts but is still No. 21 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Quarterbacks have five passing touchdowns on just 45 attempts against the Bengals. DC Lou Anarumo’s group is 29th in pass-defense DVOA. Buffalo’s implied team total of 25 points is ninth-highest of Week 3. Allen is right back in the QB1 mix with the upside to finish the week as the top-scorer any time he takes the field.
Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Steelers: After slogging through the summer and carrying that into Week 1 against the Bucs, Garoppolo got his year off the ground last week in Cincinnati. He went 17-of-25 for 297 yards (11.88 YPA) and three touchdowns as the week’s overall QB6. Volume is a bit of a concern headed into this spot, however, as Garoppolo’s 52 pass attempts through two weeks is 28th of 34 passers. But Garoppolo is No. 6 averaging 8.9 yards per attempt. And the Steelers have been getting creamed via the pass. Tom Brady was the QB7 against Pittsburgh in Week 1, and Russell Wilson went into Heinz Field and put the QB5 day on the Steelers. GM Kevin Colbert went out and addressed his secondary with the acquisition of DB Minkah Fitzpatrick on Monday, but it’s uncertain how quickly his impact will be felt. Fitzpatrick is expected to start his Steelers career at safety. Pittsburgh is No. 30 in pass-defense DVOA and 26th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, surrendering six touchdowns with no interceptions. The Niners head back to Santa Clara for their home opener but will be without stud LT Joe Staley (broken leg) for an extended period of time. Second-year QB Mason Rudolph will be making his first NFL start for the Steelers. He’s a wild card, but there should be enough meat on the bone here for Garoppolo to have a shot at another top-12 finish. San Francisco’s implied team total of 24.75 points is 11th-highest of Week 3.
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Jameis Winston vs. Giants: One of the premier late-round quarterback picks in summer fantasy drafts, Winston has been a big-time disappointment as the QB26 through Week 2. Winston was downright awful in the opener against the 49ers but was better last Thursday night in Carolina with 208 yards and one touchdown to go with no interceptions. Winston isn’t playing confidently right now, and perhaps coach Bruce Arians sees that, as the Bucs have been one of the more run-heavy teams in close games. But a home draw against the lowly Giants could be just what the doctor ordered to get Winston’s season kicked into gear. The Giants have next to nothing in terms of pass rush and are 31st in pass-defense DVOA while coming in at 30th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. They are one of five teams that have yielded at least five passing touchdowns with no interceptions. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have massive mismatch edges over this Giants secondary; Winston just needs to get the ball out and trust his arm. He has looked scared to make mistakes, and he can’t play that way. Josh Allen just lit the Giants up for the QB7 day in Week 2 after Dak Prescott went nuclear with the QB2 finish in Week 1, finishing just 0.2 points behind QB1 Lamar Jackson. The Giants’ cornerback trio of Janoris Jenkins, Deandre Baker, and Grant Haley all have negative coverage marks at Pro Football Focus, while first-round rookie Baker is PFF’s worst cover man out of 103 qualifiers. Tampa Bay’s implied team total of 27.25 points is fourth-highest of Week 3.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Broncos: It’s been literally and figuratively a slow start to the year for Rodgers. Under new coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers are playing at a molasses-slow pace, as only the Jaguars and Chargers are playing slower. And Rodgers is a middling 17th in pass attempts while checking in as the QB22 through two weeks. The matchups haven’t been ripe for fantasy pickings against the Bears and Vikings, but this also doesn’t look like a totally plus Week 3 draw against a Denver unit coached by Vic Fangio. Fangio has a long history with Rodgers after coordinating the Bears’ defense the previous four seasons. Rodgers hasn’t experienced much success against Fangio’s defenses. He obviously had more talent in Chicago, but this Broncos Defense hasn’t been the team’s issue as they sit 0-2. Denver has effectively shut down Derek Carr and Mitchell Trubisky, allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks despite registering zero sacks. Rodgers is admittedly lightyears better than those two, but this Green Bay offense has been extremely hit or miss to this point. After jumping out to an early 21-0 lead last week, the Packers were shut out the remainder of the game. LaFleur has brought his unfriendly-to-fantasy Titans scheme to Green Bay. The 42.5-point total for Broncos-Packers is the third-lowest of the week, ahead of only Titans-Jaguars and Bears-Redskins.
Andy Dalton at Bills: As mentioned earlier, Dalton is tied with Kyler Murray for the league lead at 94 pass attempts. The Bengals went up to Seattle and almost pulled the upset in Week 1 behind Dalton’s 418 yards and two touchdowns. But the Bengals laid a massive egg in their home opener last week against the Niners before Dalton padded his stats late with a long touchdown to John Ross. And now they get to travel to Buffalo to face coach Sean McDermott’s defense that is annually one of the toughest to pass against. It’s been no different through two weeks. Sam Darnold looked like a scared high school boy against the Bills in Week 1 before the Bills effectively ended Eli Manning’s career last week. Buffalo is No. 6 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA. The Bills were Nos. 1 and 2 in those respective categories a season ago. Cincinnati’s implied team total of 19 points is eighth-lowest of Week 3. Volume could be there for Dalton, but the matchup is as tough as they come.
Jared Goff at Browns: Goff on the road is something I have no interest in for fantasy purposes. Dating back to last season, these are Goff’s weekly finishes in away games, starting with last Week 1: QB15 > QB20 > QB26 > QB18 > QB2 > QB27 > QB39 > QB14 > QB29. That QB29 was Goff’s 2019 season opener against the Panthers two Sundays ago. The QB2 was a shootout with the Saints in the friendly fantasy confines of the Superdome. Cleveland has been pretty good against the pass through two weeks. The Browns are No. 2 in adjusted sack rate with Myles Garrett playing like a man on a mission, and this unit checks in at No. 8 in pass-defense DVOA. Marcus Mariota had a big Week 1 against the Browns, but literally 75 of his 248 yards and one of his three touchdowns came on a screen to Derrick Henry in that one. The Browns then predictably straight-up shut down Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk this past Monday night. Goff is easily their toughest test to date, but Goff has not looked all that great. He was bad in Carolina and definitely had some issues against the Saints last week. Goff is just a two-quarterback league play for me despite a lofty implied Rams team total of 26 points. I think the Browns win this game outright. Cleveland is No. 5 in opponent plays per game.
Start of the Week: Sony Michel vs. Jets: The “start of the week” last week, we’re going right back to the well with Michel. With the Patriots as massive favorites in Miami last Sunday, Michel saw his snap share soar from 32.9% in Week 1 to 47.9% against the Dolphins and turned 21 carries into 85 yards and a touchdown en route to the RB19 day. Michel was also vultured by Tom Brady, who scored on a one-yard TD plunge. With the Patriots as 22.5-point favorites over the Jets, this is a similar spot for Michel to be fed relentlessly as New England piles up points and coasts to an easy victory. Michel should be a lock for 18-plus carries, and he’s always a threat for multiple touchdowns. Devin Singletary (4-70-0) and Nick Chubb (18-62-1) have both had strong rushing games against this Jets Defense through two weeks. Michel offers nothing in the pass game despite the summer talk of getting him more involved there. He’s ran a total of eight pass routes. Still, Michel is a rock-solid RB2 with obvious upside around the goal line.
Miles Sanders vs. Lions: A mega-hype piece throughout the summer, Sanders has yet to really get his rookie year off the ground. He’s managed touch counts of 12 and 13 each of the first two weeks, but Sanders has just 64 scoreless yards to show for those 25 touches. Week 1 he was stuffed a couple times inside the five-yard line and then had a 21-yard touchdown scamper called back on a holding penalty. Last week in Atlanta, Sanders was given the start, but the Eagles averaged a pitiful 2.3 yards per carry as a team. Sanders actually led the team with his 28 yards on 10 carries, besting Jordan Howard’s 8-18 rushing line. Sanders also continues to pace this backfield in snaps. He’s been in on 45.5% of the downs to Darren Sproles 32.5% and Howard’s 22.7% clip. Sanders has also ran 36 pass routes, which is actually more than Sproles’ 33 and way ahead of Howard’s 14. All Sanders has to show for his first two weeks is the current RB54 slot in half-PPR formats. Some positive regression is due to hit, and a Week 3 date with the Lions looks like a potential breakthrough spot. Detroit has been annihilated by running backs. David Johnson and Chase Edmonds averaged 4.6 YPC across 19 totes Week 1, and Johnson pitched in a 6-55-1 receiving line. Last week, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson for 125 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries (5.2 YPC) while Ekeler also caught six balls for 67 yards. Johnson and Ekeler command more of their respective team’s share of the backfield snaps and aren’t stuck in three-man committees like Sanders, but this spot at home with the Eagles as 6.5-point favorites is good enough for the rookie to get his season going and pop back into the RB2/3 conversation. Philly’s implied team total of 26.25 points is fifth-highest of Week 3. Sanders owners need to hang tight and run him back out there.
Peyton Barber vs. Giants: A pre-Week 2 report surfaced from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Ronald Jones was going to play more moving forward. It couldn’t have been more wrong. After playing 32% of the snaps in Week 1, Jones was in on less than 12% of the downs last Thursday night in Carolina. Barber was the big winner in that game, jumping from 36.2% of the snaps in Week 1 to 66.7% of the plays against the Panthers. He parlayed that two-thirds of the snap share into a 23-82-1 rushing line as Week 2’s overall RB11. It’s never going to be pretty with Barber; he’s a plodding between-the-tackles grinder, but coaches can never seem to quit him. The Giants have been shredded by running backs through two weeks, surrendering the 10th-most fantasy points to the position and the most rushing scores. Frank Gore turned back the clock against the G-Men last week with a 19-68-1 output while teammate Devin Singletary also found the end zone with a 6-57-1 line on the ground before hurting his hamstring. In Week 1, Ezekiel Elliott came right off the beaches of Cabo to go 13-53-1 in a blowout win. Gore was the RB13 last week with his line, and that’s a perfect correlation for Barber. It’s not going to be a lot of yards, but Barber gets fed the rock enough and can convert when at the goal line. He’s highly dependent on touchdowns, but Barber is on the RB2/3 map as a 6.5-point home favorite for a team that has called a run play at the 10th-highest clip. Tampa Bay’s implied team total of 27.25 points is the fourth-highest of Week 3.
Frank Gore vs. Bengals: Coach Sean McDermott told us Gore was his starter and lead back before Week 2’s date with the Giants, but nobody really believed him after rookie Devin Singletary’s Week 1 performance. Gore of course then got the bulk of the work and also produced with it, hanging a 19-68-1 rushing line on the lowly G-Men. It was good enough for the overall RB13 finish for the week. Singletary did well with his limited work, producing a 6-57-1 rushing line, but he hurt his hamstring late in the win and hasn’t practiced this week. Singletary is looking like a long shot to face the Bengals, putting this backfield in the hands of Gore and pass-game veteran T.J. Yeldon. Gore could flirt with 20 carries in this spot with the Bills as touchdown home favorites. The Bengals have been blown to smithereens by running backs so far. Cincinnati is dead last in fantasy points allowed to opposing backfields, surrendering 5.4 yards per carry, the most rushing touchdowns, and most receiving touchdowns to running backs. All three of the 49ers’ RBs -- Raheem Mostert (RB3), Jeff Wilson (RB11), and Matt Breida (RB15) -- managed top-15 fantasy days against the Bengals last week. In Week 1, Chris Carson caught a touchdown and ran for another one as the overall RB9. Gore is dirt cheap at $5,700 on FanDuel and is worth firing up in season-long lineups should Singletary sit out.
Duke Johnson at Chargers: After playing 64% of the snaps Week 1 against the Saints, Johnson was in on just 36% of the downs in the slogging 13-12, Week 2 win over the Jaguars. Carlos Hyde has out-carried Johnson 30-15 through two games, and Johnson has seen just one target over the last six quarters after seeing five in the first half against New Orleans. On that one target, Johnson and Deshaun Watson weren’t on the same page last week on what should have been an easy 21-yard touchdown. Watson has simply never really targeted his running backs in his young career. And with Hyde outplaying Johnson as the early-down back, Johnson has been relegated to RB3/FLEX status. The Chargers have been crushed against the run after getting smacked by Marlon Mack in the opener, but they’ve been okay against running backs via the pass, surrendering just eight catches to the position. That’s the seventh-fewest through two weeks. And it’s not like Johnson has been getting targeted heavily to this point. Johnson figures to be a beneficiary any time the Texans are forced to chase points in potential shootouts. The Chargers, unfortunately for Johnson, play at the second-slowest offensive pace and have faced the ninth-fewest opponent plays to this point. In summary, Johnson is seeing fewer touches than Hyde, hasn’t caught a pass in six quarters, and plays against a slow Chargers team this week. None of that sounds particularly appetizing for fantasy purposes. Johnson was an RB2 reach.
James White vs. Jets: After playing 47% of the snaps and running 29 pass routes Week 1 against the Steelers, White was in on just 31% of the downs and ran 17 routes last week in the blowout win over the Dolphins. Sony Michel taking over and being fed as an early-down bruiser and at the goal line along with the injection of Antonio Brown into the offense had a major effect on the other parts of the New England offense, and White wasn’t the only fantasy loser. Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon also suffered in the box score. After scoring a career-high 12 touchdowns in 2018, White is sure to take a hit in the TD department. He’d never scored more than six touchdowns in a year prior to last season. White’s playing time and touch counts are simply way too unpredictable and unstable, especially in a spot where the Patriots are 22.5-point favorites. They won’t have to pass the ball to win this game. And Michel is going to be the one soaking up the carries along with Rex Burkhead. White may not even touch it 10 times after getting it six times in Miami. White is nothing more than a low-floor RB3 play in PPR-specific formats. He’s averaging 7.5 touches per game after two contests and is the fifth or sixth option in this offense.
Tarik Cohen at Redskins: Cohen is in a similar boat as James White above except Cohen is in a much worse offense. Cohen was targeted 10 times in the Week 1 loss to the Packers, catching eight for 49 scoreless yards while not registering a carry. He ran 43 pass routes that night as the Bears’ slot receiver. Last week in Denver, Cohen ran just 14 routes and was targeted four times, catching two for seven yards, “adding” 18 yards on four carries. Cohen has yet to find the end zone for a Chicago offense that isn’t even threatening the goal line with a regressed Mitchell Trubisky under center. Averaging 9.5 touches per game so far with a low average depth of target and scary-low floor, Cohen isn’t someone I’d actively be looking to trot out there in fantasy lineups, especially in a game with a 41.5-point total, the lowest of the week outside of Titans-Jaguars (39.5) on Thursday night. The Redskins’ defense has also performed okay against opposing running backs, checking in at No. 11 in fantasy points allowed to the position, surrendering just nine catches out of the backfield. Cohen just has too many mouths to compete with, including David Montgomery, Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Anthony Miller behind Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. Trey Burton is also back in the mix.
Start of the Week: Christian Kirk vs. Panthers: Kirk has seen the 11th-most targets among wide receivers through two weeks, but he’s yet to find the end zone and is just the overall WR30 in half-PPR scoring because he hasn’t scored a touchdown to this point. Kirk is coming off an efficient 6-114 afternoon on eight targets against the Ravens in Week 2. On one of those catches, Kirk was tackled at the one-yard line. Kirk is top-24 in air yards through two weeks and is going to have a major breakout game in the very near future; the Cardinals just need to start putting the ball in the end zone instead of settling for short field goals. Arizona is 31st in red-zone success, scoring a touchdown on just 25% of their trips inside the 20. This Carolina-Arizona game looks like one to attack in fantasy. Both the Panthers and Cardinals are top-six in offensive pace and plays per game. And both defenses are bottom-10 in opponent plays per contest. If Cam Newton (foot) can play, that would obviously be better for everyone involved in the hopes of a back-and-forth shootout in the desert. But even if Kyle Allen starts for Carolina, it’s hard not to like the Cardinals’ skill players. Running 85% of his routes from the slot, Kirk is in a prime spot against a Panthers Defense that was touched up by Bucs slot man Chris Godwin for 8-121-1 last week. And Cooper Kupp racked up 7-46 on 10 targets in Week 1. Kirk is one of my favorite Week 3 plays, both for season-long and DFS purposes. Larry Fitzgerald is also a fine WR2 play.
Devin Smith vs. Dolphins: This is a deeper-league cut, but Smith is very much on the fantasy radar following his Week 2 performance. Playing 18 snaps, the former second-round bust of the Jets hauled in three passes for 74 yards and one touchdown, smoking Josh Norman’s coverage for a 51-yard score. With Michael Gallup now out 2-4 weeks with a meniscus injury, Smith looks like the next man up opposite Amari Cooper. And the matchup couldn’t be any better on paper. While Cooper does battle with top CB Xavien Howard, Smith should see plenty of burn-victim CB Eric Rowe on the other side. Rowe has surrendered 10 catches on 12 targets in his coverage for 168 yards and two touchdowns through two games. He’s Pro Football Focus’ fourth-worst cover corner out 98 qualifiers. Quarterbacks have a near-perfect 155.9 passer rating against Miami, and the Dolphins are 26th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. Outside speed threat Marquise Brown gave the Dolphins major fits Week 1. Smith blazed a 4.42 forty coming out of Ohio State and drew some DeSean Jackson comparisons. Dallas’ implied team total of 34.5 points is the highest of Week 3. We want pieces of this pie however we can get them. Smith is just $5,200 on FanDuel where he makes for a fine tournament option.
Curtis Samuel at Cardinals: One of the biggest stars of the summer who generated major practice buzz seemingly every day, Samuel has yet to really have that breakout game. He hasn’t found the end zone through two games and has just eight catches for 123 yards on 17 targets. The target volume is nice, especially coming off 13 passes thrown his way Week 2, and Samuel also leads the Panthers in air yards. He’s playing 95% of the snaps. All that would suggest a blowup game is simmering, and Arizona’s awful secondary may be what brings Samuel’s game to a boil. The Cardinals remain without Nos. 1 and 2 corners Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (broken leg) and rank No. 24 in pass-defense DVOA. Even with Cam Newton (foot) likely to miss this game, there’s enough here for Samuel to pop off, considering Newton’s play has been the major issue for this offense. Allen could truly represent an upgrade. Newton’s passes have been wildly off the mark, and he missed an open Samuel several times last Thursday night. Samuel shouldn’t be knocked down ranks sans Newton. Both these offenses are top-six in pace and bottom-10 in opponent plays per game, suggesting both units should possess the ball plenty Sunday with chances to put up points.
DK Metcalf vs. Saints: Metcalf saw his snap share hike from 78.4% in Week 1 to 88.5% last Sunday in Pittsburgh where he ran 44 pass routes to 23 in the opener. Metcalf made an acrobatic, body-contorting 16-yard catch on the opening drive, stiff-armed a couple defenders on his second grab, and then whooped the safety for a 28-yard touchdown out of the slot in what proved to be the game-winning score. He’s a real chore to bring down in the open field and can make the difficult catches. Metcalf might draw CB Marshon Lattimore the most in this one with Tyler Lockett working the slot, but the Saints haven’t exactly been a shutdown pass defense through two games. They got flamed by Deshaun Watson in the opener before Jared Goff eventually got going in Week 2 for a top-10 fantasy finish. New Orleans has yielded the sixth-most fantasy points to wideouts and checks in at No. 22 in pass-defense DVOA. The Seahawks have a pretty narrow target tree with Lockett, Metcalf, and Chris Carson the only ones with double-digit targets. Metcalf also leads the team with 217 air yards. The big game is coming at some point. If the Saints are competitive without Drew Brees (thumb), which most expect them to be, Metcalf could be in line for a major Week 3 breakthrough.
Josh Gordon vs. Jets: Outside of his 20-yard touchdown on the Patriots’ opening drive of the season against the Steelers, Gordon has four catches for 72 yards on seven targets. The Patriots have crushed teams for a total of 76 points after two weeks. Gordon not being a bigger part of that has been a disappointment. The problem is this team has so many weapons. Gordon was blanketed in CB Xavien Howard’s coverage much of Week 2’s blowout win over the Dolphins. It was also Antonio Brown’s debut with the Patriots. Brown’s eight targets was good enough for over 28% of the share, while Gordon came in at a lowly 17.9% on five looks. Julian Edelman was also a big loser, seeing just four targets. This offense is so deep that it has become a nightmare for fantasy purposes. The Patriots have three legitimate No. 1 receivers and three running backs that play heavy snaps. The matchup with the Jets is insanely easy, but New England could just deploy Sony Michel again for 20-plus carries and coast to an easy win while Tom Brady fires off 20-30 passes. That’s not enough volume for Gordon owners to feel secure. He can rip a big play at any moment and won’t have to deal with Howard -- or any significant cornerback’s coverage -- in this one, but it’s tough to get excited about possibly just 4-6 targets. The floor is as low as the ceiling is high. Gordon needs to be treated as a boom-or-bust back-end WR3 in a game the Patriots should win by three-plus touchdowns.
John Ross at Bills: I’m not really in the business of fading Weeks 1-2 receiving yards leaders like Ross, who entered Week 3 with an NFL-high 270 yards and three touchdowns on 11 grabs. However, this spot against the Bills on the road with Andy Dalton as his quarterback seems like one where we should be a bit cautious. Ross was a one-man show Week 1 against the Seahawks, going nuclear for 7-158-2 back home in Washington state. And before the final meaningless drive last week in the blowout loss to the 49ers where he scored a 66-yard touchdown, Ross had been stuck on a disappointing 3-46-0 line. Obviously big plays and long touchdowns are part of Ross’ game. Speed kills, and it can show up at any time. But the Bills’ zone defense does a pretty good job of not allowing long touchdowns. Buffalo is No. 10 in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA. The Bills were Nos. 4 and 2 in those respective categories a season ago and surrendered the fewest pass plays of 20-plus and 40-plus yards. This feels more like a Tyler Boyd game as opposed to shot plays down the field to Ross. Cincinnati’s implied team total of 19 points is eighth-lowest of Week 3.
Tyrell Williams at Vikings: The Raiders’ default No. 1 receiver now, Williams paces the team in air yards by a considerable margin and has seen seven targets in each of the first two games while finding the end zone in both. The Gazelle has 11 grabs for 151 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a strong WR3 option, but Derek Carr’s overall unwillingness to challenge defenses down the field is going to be a problem for Williams over the duration of the season. He should still soak up plenty of targets, but this spot against the Vikings doesn’t jump off the page as one to attack. Minnesota is a middling 16th in pass-defense DVOA and Williams figures to see the most of No. 1 CB Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes’ play has slipped from elite levels, but he’s still very much an above-average cover corner with the size to check Williams. Asking Carr to go into Minnesota and put up points is a tall task as evidenced by Oakland’s anemic 17.25 points implied total, third-lowest of the week, ahead of only the lowly Jets and Dolphins. On top of all that, Williams will be playing at less than 100% due to a hip pointer suffered in Week 2.
Start of the Week: Greg Olsen at Cardinals: Left for dead as a middling TE2 in summer fantasy drafts, 34-year-old Olsen is fourth among tight ends in targets and second in air yards. He’s been in on 88% of the snaps and ran 82 pass routes. Ian Thomas has been a non-factor after missing most of training camp with a nagging injury. Olsen is going to slow down at some point, but we need to ride this wave while it’s here. And he gets an amazing Week 3 draw against a Cardinals Defense that hasn’t had a prayer of stopping tight ends to this point. Both T.J. Hockenson (6-131-1) and Mark Andrews (8-112-1) have gone over 100 yards against this defense that is dead last in fantasy points allowed to tight ends by a wide margin. As mentioned earlier, this Panthers-Cardinals tilt features a pair of offenses top-six in pace and defenses bottom-10 in opponent plays per game. There will be plenty of opportunities for fantasy output. The move from Cam Newton (foot) to Kyle Allen isn’t all that big of a drop-off, if it’s one at all.
Will Dissly vs. Saints: Perhaps we need to start taking Dissly a bit more seriously in fantasy circles. He’s coming off a brutal torn patellar tendon from a year ago, but it hasn’t seemed to bother Dissly through two weeks. He reeled in all five of his targets last week in Pittsburgh, turning them into 50 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both scores came in the red zone, and Dissly’s two looks inside the 20-yard line actually lead the team after two weeks. His mammoth 6’4/265 frame sticks out to Russell Wilson when the offense starts sniffing the end zone. Dissly has been in on 56% of the snaps, a bit low for what we feel comfortable chasing in fantasy, but there’s no denying Wilson’s affinity for Dissly in the scoring area. The Saints have stamped out tight ends to this point, but they’ve faced a pair of offenses in the Texans (Jordan Akins) and Rams (Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett) that don’t routinely feature their tight ends. Dissly is unlikely to see more than 4-6 targets in this spot, but there are far worse touchdown bets at the position. The Seahawks’ implied team total of 24.5 points is 12th-highest of Week 3. I picked Dissly up in a few leagues where I’m streaming tight ends. I like him more than Jason Witten.
Jared Cook at Seahawks: The Saints’ big free-agent prize in the offseason, Cook has been almost nonexistent in the box score after two weeks. He saw just three targets in the opener against the Texans before drawing seven passes his direction Week 2 against the Rams. The problem was Cook bungled a number of those opportunities and caught just two for 25 yards. I still want to give Cook the benefit of the doubt for at least one more week. He’s been in on 66% of the snaps and ran 63 pass routes. His short-to-intermediate routes in the safe parts of the field meshes well with Teddy Bridgewater’s strengths. And the Seahawks’ zone defense is pretty giving to tight ends. Seattle surrendered a pair of red-zone touchdowns to Vance McDonald last week after giving up nine catches for 93 yards on 10 targets to Bengals TEs Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah in Week 1. Seattle has surrendered the third-most fantasy points to tight ends. Michael Thomas should still get “his” as the slot man for the Saints, but Cook should also continue to flirt with 6-8 targets. It will be on him to actually catch them.
Austin Hooper at Colts: A “sit” last week against a stingy Eagles Defense when it comes to defending tight ends, I’m back on board with Hooper following his empty 4-34-0 performance. Hooper has been in on over 77% of the snaps and ran 79 pass routes. He’s seventh among tight ends with his 15 targets. Colts DC Matt Eberflus’ zone scheme leaves holes in the middle of the field where tight ends can sit down and rack up catches. No defense allowed more receptions to tight ends last season. The Colts limit big plays on the outside, instead conceding chunk gains in the middle in a bend-but-don’t-break way of life. Delanie Walker turned his six targets into 4-39 last week against the Colts, and Hunter Henry went 4-60 in the opener. Nothing to get excited about, but Hooper is on the field a ton and should easily see 5-7 targets with a shot at 9-11 in another friendly dome environment against a defense that could be without stud MLB Darius Leonard (concussion) patrolling the middle of the field.
Tyler Eifert at Bills: Eifert was the TE10 in Week 2 after catching three balls for nine yards and one touchdown. He ran just 12 pass routes, however, and was in on just over 26% of the snaps. Eifert is playing well behind C.J. Uzomah and just isn’t on the field enough to chase that touchdown from a week ago. The Bills were No. 1 against tight ends last season and have eliminated them to this point, yielding just 66 scoreless yards to the position through two weeks. The Bengals’ implied team total of 19 points is eighth-lowest of Week 3. Eifert will score touchdowns here and there, but we need him to get on the field more to trust him in fantasy.
Eric Ebron vs. Falcons: Much like Tyler Eifert above, Ebron buoyed his Week 2 fantasy day with a short touchdown, producing a 3-25-1 line against the Titans en route to the TE8 finish. Ebron and Jack Doyle are essentially canceling each other out, as Ebron has been in on only 44% of the snaps and drawn a total of seven targets, tied for 22nd among all tight ends. With Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, and Ricardo Allen all back healthy in the middle of the Falcons’ defense, they’ve done a much better job of defending tight ends through two weeks. Zach Ertz turned a whopping 16 targets into just eight grabs for 72 scoreless yards in Atlanta last week. Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith didn’t even catch a pass in Week 1. The Colts are limiting Jacoby Brissett’s number of pass attempts in a shift to be more run-oriented, so there just isn’t a whole lot to go around after T.Y. Hilton. Ebron and Doyle shouldn’t even be owned in 12-team leagues.
Jimmy Graham vs. Broncos: After going 3-30-1 against the Bears in the opener, Graham fought through a groin injury last week against the Vikings but didn’t catch a pass on one target. Graham was in on 72% of the snaps against Minnesota but blocked on more than half of his snaps. Graham’s best days are way behind him at 33 years old (next month), and the Green Bay offense is playing at a glacier-slow pace. Only the Chargers and Jaguars are playing slower. Even against a softer Broncos Defense, Graham isn’t anything more than a low-end TE2. We should be looking elsewhere for more upside at the position.