Stars of Week 3

QB: Josh Allen, BUF: 32-43, 358 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs (plus 1 rushing TD)

RB: Kareem Hunt, CLE: 10 carries, 81 yards, 1 TD (6 catches, 74 yards, 0 TDs)

WR: Mike Williams, LAC: 7 catches, 122 yards, 2 TDs      

TE: Tyler Conklin, MIN: 7 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD

For anyone worried about Josh Allen’s slow start, you may relax now. The Bills’ standout QB had 5 total TDs, and left the Washington Football Team perplexed in all corners. Allen remains a top 3 fantasy QB and weekly fixture in starting lineups. 

Not a shock to have a Browns’ RB as the top performer of the week, but a bit of a surprise that Kareem Hunt, and not Nick Chubb, took the honors. Hunt has carved out a nice role as RB1A to Chubb’s RB1, while primarily, but not exclusively, featured on passing downs. Hunt’s a solid RB2 in PPR leagues, and a flex play in standard leagues.

Speaking of strong positional tandems, we’ve got Chargers’ WR Mike Williams, and not stalwart Keenan Allen, as this week’s top WR. Has Williams finally become the star pass catcher that was anticipated when drafted in 2017? We cover Williams in detail below.

If wagering as to who will end up leading a positional group in stats, pick a player facing the Seattle Seahawks. The Minnesota Vikings posted video game numbers against Seahawks defense that believes in providing 8-10 yards of “cushion” on each play. Tight end Tyler Conklin appreciated the social distancing, while connecting with QB Kirk Cousins for 7 passes, including a TD. Unfortunately Conklin doesn’t get to play against the Seahawks every week, but he’s a TE2 that can help if you’re in a pinch at the position.

Week 3 Takeaways – A Closer Look 

Each week we’ll take a closer look at a handful of performances and sort out what such performances mean going forward.

- Derek Carr, QB – LV: 26-43, 386 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Analysis: Jon Gruden has had a rocky first few years in his return to the Raiders, but with a 3-0 start to the 2021 season, perhaps this year will finish with a different result. If so, the first player that Coach Gruden needs to thank is QB Derek Carr. The Fresno State product has long been underrated, having been an above average QB, even if not necessarily fantasy friendly. Fast forward to 2021, and Carr has added fantasy friendliness to his game. Carr’s counting stats have shot up this year, averaging close to 400 yards passing per game in the first troika of games, with six passing TDs thus far. In now his fourth year in Coach Gruden’s system, Carr has mastered the offense, and finally has a capable supporting cast of skill players to support a more diverse passing game. Besides star TE Darren Waller, we’re seeing a second year jump in WR Henry Ruggs, who takes the top off defenses. Fellow WRs Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfroe and Zay Jones each make meaningful contributions in their roles, giving Carr diverse weaponry. In case you’re looking for a QB, add Derek Carr. He’s a high end QB2, and can fill in for you if you need help at the position. 

- Cordarrelle Patterson, RB – WR, ATL: 7 carries, 20 yards, 0 TDs (6 catches, 82 yards, 0 TDs)

Analysis:  Cordarrelle Patterson’s career has been that of a journeyman and an ace special teams returner. In now his ninth NFL season, Patterson has joined his fifth team in the Atlanta Falcons. We initially saw Bill Belichick toy around with Patterson in a running back style rushing role, with the Bears and now the Falcons also taking advantage of Patterson’s unique skills. With Patterson recently gaining RB eligibility in leagues, now’s the time to pounce on him if he’s available. The Atlanta Falcons don’t have much juice on offense this year, with QB Matt Ryan obviously in his decline, Julio Jones no longer around at WR and RB Mike Davis profiling more so as a high end backup than a starter. WR Calvin Ridley and TE Kyle Pitts, despite his slow start, serve as the top two options on offense. But after those two, the pecking order sits up for grabs. The Falcons gave Patterson 13 touches against the Giants, mixed nearly evenly between the run and pass. Only Davis has more rushes (12) and only Ridley had more targets (11), with Patterson targeted 7 times. With running back being a shallow position in fantasy football this year, Patterson offers you RB3 / flex value. Don’t expect Patterson to transform your team, but he can help if you’re in need of another RB. For any leagues in which Patterson only has WR eligibility, he can still help, but consider him a lower end flex. The WR pool is incredibly deep this season, so Patterson’s value lies with RB eligibility.

- James Conner, RB – ARI: 11 carries, 43 yards, 2 TDs

Analysis: The Arizona Cardinals have surprised the league with a 3-0 start, with QB Kyler Murrary making a case as the overall QB1. The running game plays a central role in the Cardinals’ offense, starting with Murray and continuing with RBs Chase Edmonds and James Conner. Edmonds serves as the team’s starter, and he’s a solid RB2. The Cardinals added Conner over the offseason, with questions arising as to how the RB roles will shake out. After three games, we have a good idea. Against the Jaguars in week 3, both Edmonds and Conner had 11 carries, but Edmonds out-snapped Conner 43 to 25 (per PFF). Through three games, Conner has had 16, 8 and 11 carries, respectively. Note that the Cardinals blew out the Titans in week 1, so 16 carries is likely about as high as the range will go, with Conner taking increased snaps as a result. A 65 / 35 split tracks what we saw against the Jaguars, and that’s a solid estimate on which to move forward. The other key here, as a 35% carry rate doesn’t give Conner sufficient fantasy value on its own – Conner will get a bulk of the goal line carries. Conner found the end zone twice this past Sunday, with a pair of runs from 4 yards out. All of this makes Conner a high end flex play in standard leagues, and a lower end – but still useful - flex play in PPR leagues.

- Mike Williams, WR - LAC: 7 catches, 122 yards, 2 TDs

Analysis: Mike Williams entered the league as a heralded wide receiver prospect, having crushed college at Clemson. The Chargers selected Williams with the 7th overall pick in 2017, expecting to add a franchise WR to go along with incumbent franchise WR Keenan Allen. Well, Williams has posted solid numbers through four seasons, but profiling as a complimentary second wide receiver. Williams has had a few huge games mixed in with periods of disappearance and low production, making him unreliable as a fantasy starter. Now in year 5, something has clicked for Williams. Part of his ascent should be attributed to his own growth, with another reasonable chunk due to better QB play. Williams’ bread and butter consists of downfield targets, and Justin Herbert can hit those throws better than an aging Philip Rivers could. Through three games of the 2021 season, Williams already has 295 yards coming from 22 receptions, 4 of which have been TDs. Equally important, Herbert has targeted Williams 31 times through 3 games, so just over 10 times per game on average. That shows the sustainability of Williams’ improved numbers. Williams entered the season as a WR3 / flex option, but he’s graduated to WR2 must-start status. If you’ve got Williams, make sure he’s in your lineup every week. The long-awaited breakout has arrived.

- Emmanuel Sanders, WR – BUF: 5 catches, 92 years, 2 TDs

Analysis: The juggernaut known as the Buffalo Bills offense boasts not only QB Josh Allen, but three fantasy viable WRs. Stefon Diggs serves as the alpha, comfortably a top 5 overall WR. From there, opinionated Cole Beasley has locked down the slot, high volume role. But alas, we’re not done – veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders has fantasy viability as well. Sanders has produced everywhere he’s played, and his skill set fits well in the Bills’ aggressive downfield attack. Through three games, Allen has targeted Sanders 8, 6 and 6 times respectively, which has led to cumulative stats of 11 receptions for 194 yards and 2 TDs. So clearly most of Sanders’ counting stats came from this past game against Washington (from 6 targets). But, with no less than 6 targets in the other two games, we can gleam useful information. Here’s what you need to know – while Sanders is third in the target pecking order, he has a solid target base with high ceiling capability. The Bills don’t have much of a running game or a tight end factoring into the passing game. So the QB-WR dynamic is the team’s offense, meaning that there’s room for three WRs to eat. Sanders has WR3 / flex value, and you should deploy him particularly against bad passing defenses. Widely available in leagues, put a claim in for Sanders if you need help at WR.  

Buy Low / Sell High

Throughout the season, we’ll take a rapid fire look at a few players who have put up numbers not aligned with ADP, and render judgment as to whether the numbers will hold or not. This week, we’ll look at a few players who have struggled thus far relative to expectations. Let’s get after it: 

Player                                                Draft Projection      Verdict

1. Robert Woods, WR - LAR              WR2                            New Reality – WR3

New Rams’ QB has taken a special liking to Cooper Kupp, resulting in less targets and production for Woods. He’s now a high end WR3 / flex option, with Kupp becoming a WR1.

2. Jonathan Taylor, RB – IND            RB1                             Buy Low

Taylor has been victimized due to poor game flow (i.e. falling behind all three games thus far), while also not converting several goal line carries. Regression should be on the way in the TD department. 

3. Kyle Pitts, TE – ATL                       Mid-level TE1            New Reality – low TE1

New Reality: It’s hard to decipher what specifically is going on with Kyle Pitts, but it’s easier to diagnose the problems in Atlanta’s offense. QB Matt Ryan has struggled, and the team continues to adjust to a new offense. Pitts won’t be satisfying the sky high hopes set for him by fantasy managers coming into the season.

Rapid Fire Pickups 

Each week we’ll throw out potential free agent pickups from each position for deeper leagues, in each case a player 1) who has NOT been featured above, and 2) remains available in more than 50% of leagues.

QB: Jameis Winston, NO (vs NYG)

RB: Chuba Hubbard, CAR (@ DAL)  *must add while CMAC is out

RB: JD McKissic, WAS (@ ATL)

WR: Nelson Agholor, NE (vs TB)

WR: Tim Patrick, DEN (vs BAL)

TE: Jared Cook, LAC (vs LV)

Personal Note

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