Have the San Francisco 49ers provided us with another fantasy-relevant quarterback? Is it time for Mark Ingram owners to smack the panic button? Should Tarik Cohen owners think about doing that, too? Is another tight end emerging in what has been a barren landscape at the position? Senior FantasySharks.com writer Matt Wilson tackles those questions in his hot-off-the-press newest edition of Traps & Trends.
We’re just nine weeks into the regular season, but…
1. If you play well in your first career regular-season NFL start, they’ll verify your Twitter account during the game.
The Dude: Nick Mullens
The Damage: Quite a few fantasy managers who own running backs or receivers in the San Francisco 49ers offense understandably yanked their players out of starting lineups when the team announced that the 23-year-old Mullens would make his first ever start because C.J. Beathard (wrist) was too banged up to go. Mullens, a 2017 undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi (the same school that gave us NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre) stunned the fantasy universe with a legitimately excellent performance in front of a Thursday night national television audience. Showing impressive poise and a solid command of the San Francisco offense, he connected on 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards three touchdowns during the 49ers’ 34-3 shellacking of the Oakland Raiders. Mullins also became just the third quarterback in league history to pass for more than 250 yards and three scores with no picks in a debut outing. Saturday afternoon, the 49ers announced that Mullens “most likely” will start in a Week 10 home matchup versus the New York Giants. Is Mullens officially a large-sized blip on the fantasy streaming radar?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Yes. I think he’s streamer material. While Mullens’ performance came against an Oakland defense that was clearly going through the motions (Raiders players are helping Jon Gruden plan for the future – sarcasm intended), there was nothing fluky about how well Mullens played with a San Francisco team that clearly hasn’t quit on the season despite a losing record. The G-Men have allowed at least 300 passing yards and two touchdown tosses in two of their last three road outings, so the matchup is favorable. Following a Week 11 bye, Mullens, assuming he keeps the starting gig, would draw his first road start against the super-leaky Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. Mullens, however, would face home and away matchups versus the Seattle Seahawks (Week 13 and Week 15), which are more challenging. Sandwiched in between the Seattle games is a Week 14 home clash with a burnable Denver Broncos secondary.
2. Fantasy owners who waited for this guy to come off his season-opening four-game league suspension probably wouldn’t mind if he drew another suspension.
The Dude: Mark Ingram
The Damage: A lot of Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints fantasy stars racked up big outings during the Saints’ 45-35 home victory over the Rams this past Sunday, but Ingram was one of the few that didn’t make an impact in this scoring festival. Taking a backseat to Alvin Kamara (116 combo yards and three touchdowns on 23 touches), Ingram compiled just nine carries for 33 yards (he lost a fumble, which clearly impacted his playing time) and caught one pass for three yards on two targets. Since Ingram’s big Week 5 return performance (73 total yards and two rushing touchdowns on 18 touches), he has been very disappointing. From Week 7 (New Orleans had a Week 6 bye) through Week 9, Ingram has averaged just 13 combo touches for 57 scoreless yards per contest. Will he breakout of this production funk? Is it time for Ingram owners to panic?
The Diagnosis: TOSSUP
I’m honestly not sure whether Ingram will recapture his super-productive 2017 form, which is why I used the “TOSSUP” designation. Is it time for Ingram owners to panic? Yes. Ingram’s struggles don’t have much to do with his workload. From Week 5 through Week 9, backfield wingman Kamara touched the ball 71 times while Ingram logged 58 touches. That’s not a big difference. He isn’t seeing much action as a receiver (just eight catches for 10 targets) and the power runner is losing goal-line carries to Kamara, which is obviously a big deal. Ingram has a Week 10 road matchup versus a Cincinnati Bengals defense that is ranked in the bottom eight versus the run. After that, all of the Saints’ remaining opponents are ranked 16th or better in run defense. If Ingram doesn’t show something this weekend, it’s time to bench him – unless you’ve done so already.
3. The Chicago Bears steamrolled the Buffalo Bills 41-9, but should fantasy owners worry about two of Chicago’s top offensive stars not lighting up the stat sheet?
The Damage: Cohen, coming off three straight outings with at least 80 combo yards and one touchdown, cobbled together his worst game of the season against the Bills. With Buffalo defenders keying on him, Cohen finished with just six carries for five yards and one reception for eight yards on two targets. Trubisky had averaged 306 passing yards, 3.3 scoring strikes and 58 rushing yards per game since Week 4, so his 135 passing yards, one touchdown pass and six rushing yards was a splash of cold water in the face of his fantasy managers. Was the Bills game a sign of trouble for both players? Is time to bench Cohen and Trubisky?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
No and no. If you didn’t see the box score for the Chicago/Buffalo matchup, the Bears defense absolutely dominated, scoring twice off turnovers. Cohen’s wingman, power-runner Jordan Howard, also ran solidly and found the end zone twice against a Bills defense that ranked 20th in rushing yards, 28th in rushing touchdowns and 22nd in fantasy points allowed to tailbacks. The Bears didn’t give Cohen many touches because they simply didn’t need to use one of their best offensive weapons. Trubisky’s dud also was a product of Chicago’s domination with its defense and Howard-led ground game, but his struggles against an improving Bills defense that limited Tom Brady (Patriots) to 324 scoreless passing yards in Week 8 weren’t a total shock.
Going forward, if you own Cohen, expect to see his usage decline in favorable rushing matchups that favor Howard receiving extra carries. The Bears’ Week 10 home matchup versus a Detroit Lions defense that has surrendered the second-most rushing yards to tailbacks comes to mind. While Trubisky also should bounce back, don’t expect a monster outing against a Detroit defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards and the 13th-fewest quarterback fantasy points.