Our Traps & Trends guy is back to assess the fantasy aftermath of Week 3. Matt Wilson combed through the NFL box scores and analyzed 10 fantasy players that surprised us for one reason or another. Some are names that you already know, and some are names that you need to know.
1. JEREMY HILL…PAGING JEREMY HILL…PLEASE PICK UP THE WHITE COURTESY PHONE…YOUR FANTASY OWNERS WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A WORD WITH YOU.
The Damage: Hill was out-snapped and outplayed by Giovani Bernard in a fantasy unfriendly timeshare for the second straight week. After receiving public assurances from Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson that Hill would return to his workhorse ways in Week 3 following a benching in Week 2 (10-39-0 rushing and two lost fumbles), the second-year back disappointed again with just 12 carries for 21 yards versus the Baltimore Ravens. By the way, Hill compiled just one rushing yard on five totes of the rock in the second half. Bernard out-touched Hill by a count of 16 to 12, and Bernard amassed 49 yards and three catches for 34 yards.
The Diagnosis: TREND
For whatever reason…sophomore slump perhaps…Hill obviously is not playing well, and the Hill/Bernard timeshare is unfortunately here to stay for now. Regarding the Ravens game, in fairness to Hill, he was the victim of game flow. The Bengals had to scrap their rushing attack late in the contest, and Hill usually takes a backseat to Bernard when Cincinnati starts chucking the rock. Hill’s Week 4 matchup is at home against a Kansas City defense that has been stingy against the run. In Week 5, he’ll face at Seattle Seahawks defense at home that’s usually a little softer against the run on the road. With Week 4 on the horizon, what should you do with Hill? If you have a rock-solid option on your bench, consider sitting Hill until he starts producing again.
2. CAN MICHAEL VICK CLICK AS PITTSBURGH’S FILL-IN STARTER?
The Damage: As you surely know, Ben Roethlisberger (knee) is expected to miss four to six weeks. With Bruce Gradkowski (hand surgery) lost for the season and only 2013 fourth-round pick Landry Jones available, Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback gig clearly belongs to Vick. During a victory over the St. Louis Rams in Week 3, Vick completed five of his six throws for 38 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, and he toted the rock two times for minus-two yards. Vick, however, looked overwhelmed and the Steelers racked up just 60 total yards while he was at the helm.
The Diagnosis: TRAP
While Vick should be a competent game-manager for Pittsburgh, I doubt that he’s going to be fantasy starter material even with a nice arsenal of weapons that includes Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. The 35-year-old Vick’s skills are obviously on the decline. During his 10 appearances (three starts) with the New York Jets in 2014, Vick never impressed as a pocket passer (that has been a problem throughout his career), completing just 52.9 percent of his throws with a 3:2 TD-to-INT ratio. The smart money says the Steelers will utilize a run-heavy attack with Le’Veon Bell and ask Vick to make just enough safe, high-percentage throws to keep opposing defenses from stacking the line to contain Bell.
3. DEVONTA FREEMAN…FANTASY STUD?
The Damage: Freeman’s performance against what was thought to be a rock-solid Dallas Cowboys run defense ranks as one of the biggest shockers of Week 3. Filling in for the injured Tevin Coleman (broken rib), second-year pro Freeman went nuclear as the Falcons’ three-down back, racking up 141 rushing yards and three rushing scores on 30 carries to go along with five grabs for 52 yards. As you probably figured, his stats are all single-game career highs across the board.
The Diagnosis: TREND
A lot of fantasy owners didn’t start Freeman, and understandably so. Heading into this contest, he hadn’t played well at all, averaging just 2.0 yards per carry in a limited backup role behind Coleman. I won’t slap the stud label on Freeman after just one big game, but he’s obviously fantasy-starter material. At the risk of devaluing Freeman’s performance, I need to point out two things. Coleman, who was Atlanta’s starting tailback in Week 1 and Week 2, will return. Even if Freeman keeps the starting gig, he’ll likely lose some touches each week. Prior to Week 3, the Dallas defense had allowed just 53 rushing yards per game. I suspect the Cowboys had a letdown after their big Week 2 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Dallas defense that we saw Freeman gash repeatedly can play better versus the run. By the way, check your free-agent pool for Freeman. He may be available in smaller leagues.
4. HEY! MATT JONES AND ALFRED MORRIS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE TOP DOGS IN THE WASHINGTON BACKFIELD. WHO IS CHRIS THOMPSON?
The Damage: Thompson’s unexpectedly large role in the Washington offense Thursday night drew the wrath of fantasy owners that had expected rookie Matt Jones to handle the passing-down duties. After Thompson racked up a quiet 21 total yards on four touches through the first two weeks of the regular season, the third-year pro and fifth-rounder out of Florida State erupted for an 8-57-1 receiving line and a 2-29-0 rushing line during Washington’s blowout loss at the hands of the New York Giants.
The Diagnosis: TOSSUP
We didn’t see much of Thompson in Weeks 1 and 2 because Jones and Morris were able to pound the football. Washington also wasn’t playing in come-from-behind situations. While the rookie Jones apparently has pulled even or overtaken Morris as the lead back, the coaching staff apparently doesn’t trust Jones in passing-down situations right now and has opted to use the 5-foot-8, 193-pound Thompson in a “Darren Sproles” role. Thompson is worth a pickup in deeper leagues, but you should keep in mind that his usage will depend on game flow. If Washington can’t pound the football consistently or falls behind, he’ll play a lot of snaps. Will Thompson keep his passing-down gig for the entire season? It will depend on his effectiveness and whether the Washington coaches want to turn the third-down duties over to Jones.
5. IS RUEBEN RANDLE A ROMAN CANDLE FOR YOUR FANTASY TEAM?
The Damage: The G-Men had promised to get Rueben Randle more involved in Week 3, and they kept their word. Following a quiet Week 1 (3-23-0 on five targets) and a virtually silent Week 2 (1-5-0 on two targets), Randle exploded for 7-116-1 on seven targets during the Giants’ Thursday night triumph over Washington.
The Diagnosis: TRAP
If you see Randle on the waiver wire, yes, he’s worth a pickup. However, I don’t think he’ll ever be a consistent option while sharing targets with stud Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz (calf) – assuming he’s healthy. Randle didn’t show much consistency during the second half of the 2014 season when Beckham exploded, so there isn’t much reason to expect fairly even weekly production from Randle now. By the way, in case you didn’t see him play Thursday night, Randle’s 41-yard touchdown grab happened on a fluky deflected pass. I do think he’s worth starting against very soft pass defenses or as a bye-week replacement.