Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons – In what was a shootout of a game that ultimately ended in a loss for his team, Matt Ryan lit up the stat sheet, completing 26-of-35 passes for 374 passing yards and five touchdowns. After a dud of a week in Week 1, Ryan has gone over 30 fantasy points in both Weeks 2 and 3. “Matty Ice” should continue to enjoy plenty of big fantasy weeks going forward, considering he has a bevy of offensive talent around him in the Falcons offense. From one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Julio Jones to the up-and-coming rookie Calvin Ridley and a pair of solid running backs in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, there is no shortage of playmakers surrounding the 11th-year player out of Boston College.
Will he have some dud weeks from time to time? Yes, but we’ve come to expect that from him in his career. The difference this year is it appears Dan Quinn and company have found a legitimate number-two wide receiver to play opposite Julio Jones in Calvin Ridley. While one wide receiver may not seem like a significant difference-maker, it absolutely is considering there’s never been an intimidating presence to opposing defenses opposite Jones in their offense.
A Week 4 matchup at home vs. the Bengals is a tougher-than-average matchup, but looking ahead from Weeks 5 to 7, the Falcons have cushy matchups with the Steelers, Buccaneers, and Giants which will yield highly positive fantasy results for Ryan. Consider him a low-end QB1 with mid-level QB1 upside the rest of the season.
Oh, and with so many quarterbacks that were drafted late or went undrafted in fantasy drafts having incredible success, can we all agree that drafting Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, etc. in the 3rd-6th round may not be the best strategy anymore? The beauty of fantasy football is it’s an entirely idiosyncratic and subjective game where each fantasy player believes this strategy or that strategy is the best. However, if you’re still on the “pick an elite quarterback early” bandwagon, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate that strategy.
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints – I’d be remiss to not talk about the best PPR fantasy running back through three weeks. First, here’s a quick story for my readers – In my 14-team PPR home league this year, I had the 4th overall pick and drafted Alvin Kamara over Ezekiel Elliott. While that is not the most outrageous selection, I had not one sliver of doubt in my mind about choosing Kamara over Elliott. I received some slack for it during the draft, but after three weeks, I’m extremely satisfied with that selection. Moving along, Kamara has been absolutely dominant (and that’s putting it lightly, to be honest) these first three weeks of the season. His efficiency is off the charts, his uncanny ability as a pass-catcher is other-worldly, and he has the pleasure of playing with one of the best quarterbacks of this generation in Drew Brees. As I mentioned, Kamara has the most fantasy points among running backs heading into Week 4 and is second overall among all fantasy positions, trailing only Ryan Fitzpatrick. He has averaged 3.8 yards-per-carry on 37 rushing attempts, which will only go up as the season goes on. Where he truly excels is in the passing game out of the backfield. He has tallied 30 receptions on 38 targets in three games, including a 20-target, 15-catches, 124 receiving yards performance this past week vs. the Falcons. To put his 38 targets in perspective, only three wide receivers have more than 38 targets through three weeks, and their names are Adam Thielen, Antonio Brown, and his teammate, Michael Thomas. The Saints offense is a wagon, and considering their defense has been a leaky sieve, they are going to be in a bunch of shootouts this year which will equate to a massive amount of fantasy points for Kamara going forward. He’s the cream of the crop at the running back position and his supremacy had to be included in this week’s “Like” version of this article.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders – In the Raiders, Week 1 home opener vs. the Rams, Marshawn Lynch saw just 24 snaps and logged 11 carries for 41 yards and one rushing touchdown. Lynch has been more involved recently, logging 42 snaps in Weeks 2 and 3 for a total of 37 carries for 129 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in both games. His 3.5 yard-per-carry on 38 carries is nothing to write home about, but he’s scored a touchdown in each of the Raiders first three games and is the clear-cut goal-line back for his team. He doesn’t hold much value as a receiver, as he’s caught just seven passes for 33 receiving yards thus far and will continue to relinquish passing-down situations to Jalen Richard. However, Lynch holds RB2 value in standard leagues and high-end RB3/Flex value in PPR leagues and is in a position where the opportunity for scoring a touchdown is quite high. If the Raiders (who are 0-3) can start to turn it around and get ahead on the scoreboard, Lynch will have more opportunities for carries in the second half, thus increasing his fantasy value in the process. Since his current value is not sky-high, he’s a decent target in a trade if you’re in need of running back help.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Cleveland Browns – So much for Duke Johnson being a hindrance to Carlos Hyde’s fantasy value. Hyde has been solid thus far, totaling 203 rushing yards on 61 rushing attempts, with four rushing touchdowns as well. Don’t be discouraged by his 3.3 yard-per-carry average through three weeks. With the Brown’s savior (Baker Mayfield) taking over the starting quarterback role in Cleveland, defenses will now be forced to respect the pass more often than they have the first three weeks when Tyrod Taylor was starting, which in turn will open up all kinds of running room for Hyde. As far as his snap count percentage goes, Hyde has bested Duke Johnson in each of the Browns first three games, having been on the field for 56% of the Browns 228 total snaps, compared to 41% for Duke Johnson. Nick Chubb has been a non-factor, accounting for just 5% of the teams snaps in the first three games. Better game-scripts are also coming for Hyde and the Browns offense, so it’s best to view him as a low-end RB2 with high-end RB2 upside the rest of the season.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs – In his first four seasons in the NFL, Sammy Watkins was an underperformer that could never quite figure it out. He’s been hobbled with injuries far too often and has not lived up to expectations when he has been on the field. However, in hindsight, maybe all Watkins needed was a reliable quarterback and an offensive scheme that featured him more often than he was featured in Los Angeles and Buffalo. Watkins is off to a great start to his 2018 campaign, having caught 14 of 20 targets for 176 receiving yards and hauling in his first touchdown of the year this past week vs. the 49ers. His 20 targets rank second on the Chiefs after three weeks, behind Travis Kelce’s 26 targets and ahead of Tyreek Hill’s 19 targets.
Another thing that has my attention with the Chiefs is the fact that their running backs have only seen 12 targets through three weeks, including just three targets for their starting running back, Kareem Hunt. It’s safe to presume the Chiefs will almost exclusively prefer to target their two wide receivers (Watkins, Hill), and star tight end (Kelce) going forward. While Hill and Kelce may or may not be the top-dogs in the Chiefs aerial attack, there’s still plenty of targets to go around in this high-octane offense. Add it all up, and you have a solid, low-end WR2 with mid-level WR2 upside in Watkins for the rest of the season. With Patrick Mahomes playing at an unprecedented level, the sky is the limit for Watkins and this offense the rest of the season. Lock Watkins into you WR2 or WR3/Flex spot and enjoy his solid fantasy production going forward.
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The Tight End Position – It’s becoming more and more apparent that the tight end position is a hot mess. It’s a position that has been and will continue to be an inconsistent and volatile position for the rest of the 2018 season. You can count on one hand the number of tight ends that you are confident in going forward (hint: one of them is not Rob Gronkowski).
Travis Kelce, after pulling a disappearing act Week 1, has been on fire the past two weeks. He combined for 15 receptions for 223 receiving yards in Weeks 2 and 3 and leads all tight ends with 54.9 PPR fantasy points through three weeks.
Zach Ertz has performed well in his first three games, tallying 21 receptions for 215 receiving yards for the Eagles offense. With Carson Wentz back in the picture, Ertz should start to see more work in the red zone, which means the touchdowns will come. He and Kelce are two of three two tight ends with a noteworthy pulse at this current time.
The third tight end that has the pulse of someone that just drank six cups of coffee is none other than O.J. Howard of the Buccaneers. I want to first give a quick shout out to a certain Fantasy Sharks contributor, Thomas Casale (@ThePigskinGuy on Twitter). In his annual “The Fire Sale” preseason article (that he’s been writing since 1998, by the way, Thomas let the entire fantasy football community know that O.J. Howard was one of his top sleepers of the 2018 season. Through three weeks, his evaluation of Howard couldn’t have been more spot on. Howard is the only tight end in the NFL that has had at least 50 receiving yards in each game and currently has the fourth-most fantasy points at the tight end position, ahead of guys such as Trey Burton, Kyle Rudolph, Rob Gronkowski, and Jordan Reed. Personally, I’ve always been a big believer in the “punt the tight end position and play the streaming game,” philosophy. I followed Thomas’ advice this season and selected O.J. Howard in all three of my hometown leagues, and have only Thomas to thank for that. But, anyway, let us continue…
Other than those three players, which tight end, if any, are you most optimistic about going forward? The answer, quite frankly, should be none of them. Maybe that is a bit melodramatic, but the point I’m driving home is just about every tight end not named Kelce, Ertz, Howard (fine, and Gronkowski), are all a-dime-a-dozen. They’ll have good weeks and bad weeks, and you’ll likely never know when either of those will happen. See Page 2 for the hot mess that is the tight end position.
Other Players to Like:
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Isaiah Crowell, RB, New York Jets
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals