Is Cam Newton back on track? Are you panicking over Jay Ajayi? Is Demaryius Thomas trending downward? Is it time to trust Alvin Kamara? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson answers those questions (hint: he’s still nervous about “Superman”) in the latest edition of “Traps & Trends.”
1. Is it time to panic about the J-Train?
The Dude: Jay Ajayi
The Damage: Following a nice Week 1 season debut (28-122-0 rushing and 2-4-0 receiving in a road win over the Los Angeles Chargers) Ajayi has disappointed in consecutive outings. The second-year pro brutally tanked in Week 2, amassing just 11 carries for 16 yards and catching two passes for nine yards during Miami’s surprising road loss to a New York Jets team that played with a chip on its collective shoulder. In Week 3, playing in front of family and friends at Wembley Stadium in his native London, England, Ajayi compiled just 46 yards on 12 carries and reeled in his lone target for eight yards during an ugly penalty-marred 20-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints, who dominated the time of possession. Is it time to consider benching Ajayi?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
There are a lot of things working against Ajayi right now, but I certainly wouldn’t give up on him just yet. Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Ajayi and his teammates are absolutely exhausted despite public claims to the contrary, which goes a long way toward explaining why the Miami offense has scored just one buzzer-beater touchdown (Week 2 against the Jets) in the last two weeks. The Dolphins had to bolt South Beach before Hurricane Irma hit just before Week 1, and they’ve played three consecutive road games, which included a cross-country trip to Los Angeles and, as noted, a trip across the Atlantic to London.
Ajayi still seems to be running well despite a tender knee. Unfortunately, Miami has dialed back his involvement in the passing game, and the Fish had to play from behind against Gang Green and New Orleans. The Dolphins offensive line is clearly struggling; Ajayi isn’t finding consistent running room. In addition, Jay Cutler, who was pulled out of the broadcast booth to start, still looks rusty, which is why teams are focusing strongly on Ajayi. Head coach/play-caller Adam Gase is a respected offensive mind, and he didn’t turn stupid overnight. A lot of the Dolphins’ problems are correctable, which is why I think Ajayi will bounce back in Week 5 at home against a reeling Tennessee Titans defense. Don’t panic Ajayi owners – better fantasy outings are right around the corner.
2. Is “Superman” finally back on track — bad shoulder and all?
The Dude: Cam Newton
The Damage: Coming off a stretch of three season-opening games with just two touchdown passes and rushing score, Newton absolutely exploded during his team’s 33-30 road triumph over the New England Patriots. Stunning just about everyone in the fantasy universe, Newton passed for 316 yards and three touchdowns against just one pick, and toted the rock eight times for 44 yards and one score. Is this one slump-busting rebound performance enough to trust Newton as a fantasy starter again?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
I’m not going to backpedal on my criticisms of Newton from last week. Even though he looked like the 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player again while running between the tackles (why wasn’t he doing that consistently from Week 1 through Week 3?) and connecting on 22 of 29 of his throws against New England, I still suspect Newton’s surgically repaired throwing shoulder isn’t 100 percent right. During the New England game, he had some overthrows on short stuff and put up a few of the same wobblers that we’ve been seeing since Week 1. I also think Newton’s performance is also a commentary on how awful the Patriots defense has been playing. Remember the “New Orleans Saints test” that I discussed last week? I’m starting to think the Saints defense isn’t so terrible after all. Look for Newton to come back down to earth against a Detroit Lions defense that has allowed just four touchdown passes so far in 2017.
3. Hey! Aren’t you supposed to be the Denver Broncos’ top receiver and a top-20 fantasy wideout?
The Dude: Demaryius Thomas
The Damage: Drawing a great Week 4 matchup on paper against a very banged-up Oakland Raiders secondary, Thomas disappointed with just one reception for 11 yards, which came in the first half, on five targets. In addition, Thomas has amassed more than 75 yards in a game just once so far and has gone 10 straight outings without a touchdown. Is Thomas trending toward fantasy WR3 status?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Yes. While the mega-talented Thomas is healthy – as far as we know – his usage has leveled off at fantasy WR3 production levels – and the scoring drought is worrisome. Heading into Week 4, teammate Emmanuel Sanders had notched four red-zone targets to Thomas’ one. His production in the Raiders game, however, was probably an outlier. Trevor Siemian passed for just 179 yards and spread the ball around more than usual, which Thomas owners should hope was a fluke (I think it was). The Broncos defense is also playing at a top level, so it’s hard to see Thomas and the Denver offense getting into many shootouts. He had averaged eight targets, six catches and 78 receiving yards per contest from Week 1 through Week 3, so Thomas’ fantasy floor seems safe.
4. Did we witness the overdue breakout of Darren Sproles 2.0?
The Dude: Alvin Kamara
The Damage: The New Orleans Saints rookie back’s Week 3 performance during a win over the Carolina Panthers – a 2-37-1 rushing line and a 3-5-0 receiving line on five targets – didn’t receive much attention from the fantasy community probably because Kamara, with his usage trending downward, had touched the ball just five times. Kamara probably was parked on quite a few benches this past Sunday during an impressive “Sprolesian” breakout performance. Heavily used against the Miami Dolphins from the get-go, the speedy and versatile Kamara racked up 10 catches for 71 yards and one score on 10 targets and amassed a modest five carries for 25 yards. Can Kamara be trusted with a consistent role going forward?
The Diagnosis: TREND
I wouldn’t expect 10 receptions each week, but with Adrian Peterson slowly disappearing (he played just six snaps against the Dolphins), it looks like Kamara will have a more consistent role going forward and deserve weekly flex consideration in leagues with point-per-reception (PPR) scoring.