Carr’s Calls – Week Three Fantasy Football Preview and Advice

NFL week two is in the books and fantasy owners are likely extremely happy with their team, ready to smash their computers -myself-, or struggling to figure out the moves required to ensure success in the coming weeks. With injuries beginning to mount and emerging players still left on waivers, there is plenty of time to recover or build upon your fantasy season with a full slate of games on the horizon.

All information in this article is accurate as of midday Tuesday, Sept. 18 but is subject to change due to trades, injury reports, and other external factors that may develop as the week progresses. With that said we can take a quick look back to week two to establish a baseline moving forward.

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers lead the league in total yards and rank second in points scored. Many members of this team are unowned in fantasy leagues, as wide receivers DeSean Jackson, WR3, and Chris Godwin, WR29, are 61.4 percent and 34.1 percent owned respectively in ESPN leagues. Fitzpatrick himself, current QB1, is only 31.7 percent owned in ESPN leagues and represents a top streaming option until we receive further notice about Jameis Winston’s status. The Buccaneers look to continue their success at home on Monday Night Football this week against the Steelers who rank second worst against quarterbacks so far this season.

Just below Fitzmagic in the QB rankings is a second-year breakout, Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs lead the league in total points, and rank ninth in total passing yards with 578. Mahomes is going to be a top QB play moving forward. Chiefs players aside from Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce are solidified in their roles, making other Chiefs, such as wide receiver Sammy Watkins, appealing trade targets. There is not a ton to add here except I would not be moving Hill, Hunt, or Kelce if you have them and they would remain locked in my starting lineup every week moving forward to take advantage of Mahomes’s success. Mahomes is 3-0 in his NFL career without starting a game at home. That will change this weekend and I expect a big day from the emerging star.

The still winless Browns are beginning to lose my fantasy interest with the departure of Josh Gordon, taking the value of Jarvis Landry, and David Njoku down a tad. Duke Johnson is not being used at all in Cleveland and may be worth dropping for a speculative RB option, with only 8 rushes for 20 yards, and 3 receptions on 8 targets for 15 yards on the year. Antonio Calloway is a player worth monitoring but outside of Landry I want no part of the offense.

Josh Gordon should be primed for a huge workload in New England, assuming his personal matters are resolved and that his hamstring issue is not serious. Chris Hogan loses a lot of value here and I would try to trade him if possible before the week three games.

Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon owners should rush to pick up Latavius Murray and Giovanni Bernard, respectively, as handcuffs until more information is known on the player’s injuries. Melvin Gordon and is listed as questionable but Austin Ekeler, Gordon’s listed backup and current RB9 as a player that has shown a prowess for catching balls of out the backfield for high yardage, should have already been picked up after his performance week one. However, that is not the case as Ekeler is only 43 percent owned in ESPN leagues and is a solid flex play moving forward. While Tevin Coleman slots in nicely for the injured Devonta Freeman, and should also already be rostered, no reasonable backup exists for LeSean McCoy. As a rule of thumb, I do not want a single Buffalo Bill on my roster this year – they have been known to retire at halftime and I want no part of that franchise.

Finally, I would hesitate to start players against the Rams, Bears, and Vikings this season. All three defenses look elite, should be owned as DST plays. Except for matchup-proof players, AKA top-15 at each position, such as Aaron Rodgers, Todd Gurley, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowki, you are limiting your points upside by starting players against these teams. With all of that said, let’s look at week three.

Aside from the Steelers/Buccaneers game, the Sunday matchup between the Saints/Falcons jumps off the schedule as a game I would like to have players in. Saints @ Falcons opened in Vegas as a 53 point over/under and is already up to 53.5, the second highest total on the slate. A dome environment with two division rivals that have shot-out in the past, I want pieces of this game in my lineup if possible, though it is not needed. Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Tevin Coleman, and Alvin Kamara are the obvious plays and are great trade targets. However, there are plays that may be hiding on the waiver wire if you have interest in targeting the Saints/Falcons matchup.

Mohammed Sanu and Calvin Ridley, at 63.6 percent and 37 percent ESPN ownership respectively, represent low-floor, high-ceiling plays on the week, but their respective targets of 9 and 8 on the season give me reason for concern. If either score a touchdown, they will crush their projections. However, the Falcons are funneling the ball to Julio, who has 28 targets on the year. Falcons’ tight end, Austin Hooper, at 17.5 percent ESPN ownership, may be a piece to grab on waivers this week as he also has 9 targets on the year including two in the Red Zone, and will not compete as much with Jones or the other wideouts for targets. I like this pickup moving forward more than for this week, as New Orleans tends to defend tight ends well, ranking second best against the position last year.

New Orleans is much easier to evaluate as the only reliable options outside of Kamara and Thomas include Ted Ginn Jr. and Benjamin Watson. I would not pick either up unless you are desperate for a play at the position. However, both do have upside this week if the game becomes a shootout.

Do not rush to plug worse plays into your lineup from this game if you already have solidified studs with higher floors. Although, I wanted to highlight a few less obvious plays from this game that could be worth rostering in deeper leagues or for teams that have caught an injury bug. The 49ers/Chiefs game also has a lot of fantasy appeal with an O/U of 54.5, down from opening at 56. However, I expect the Chiefs to roll in this game, and the Vegas betters appear to agree with the negative line movement.

Aside from focusing on all the individual games, there are a few players at each position that I want to highlight for this upcoming week. This list is by no means all-encompassing but is instead a list of players that my research leads me to believe are worthy of trading for, starting or picking up off the waiver wire.

Jaguars QB, Blake Bortles — Do me a favor and go follow @BortlesFacts on Twitter. You will not regret it and it will only make your love for Bortles stronger. Back to fantasy, Bortles is coming off a 377-yard, four touchdown performance against a New England defense that entered the year with high hopes and a new offensive coordinator yet got picked apart by Bortles and a spectacular one-handed catch from my fellow fantasy man-crush, Keelan Cole. Currently QB8 at 10.2 percent ESPN ownership, I expect Bortles to throw for over 300 yards this weekend, especially if RB Leonard Fournette is out again, with a nice rushing floor. Bortles quietly ranks fourth among QBs with 77 rushing yards on 10 carries, adding additional value to his favorable matchup at home against the Titans. Grab Fitzpatrick first, but if he is not there, Bortles is your guy for week two.

Broncos RB, Philip Lindsay – As a Royce Freeman owner it hurts my heart to say this, but Lindsay is the back to own in Denver. Leading the running backs in yards, attempts, and yards/attempt, the rookie is emerging as a complement to Sanders and Thomas in the Denver offense. Keenum loves to check down to running backs, evidenced by the production of Jerick McKinnon in 2017, and at 61.7 percent ESPN ownership, he could be an every-week running back still available on waivers. The matchup against the Ravens in week three is not the most favorable. However, with C.J. Mosley out on defense, the middle of the field is more open for Lindsay to take advantage of.

Lions WR, Kenny Golladay – The second-year wideout has become the star of the Lions’ receivers, leading the team in reception yards, yards/catch, and ranks second in targets behind Golden Tate with 21 on the season. With a non-existent running game of 137 total rushing yards in the first two weeks, the Lions are going to throw the football and are perennially a team involved in high-scoring affairs. This weekend is no different against a New England defense struggling to find its identity. I love Golladay moving forward this season and at 69.1 percent ESPN ownership, he is still available in many leagues as a high-ceiling, high-floor wide receiver.

Steelers TE, Jesse James – Tight end is always a tough position to evaluate as there is such high deviation from the top-tier Gronks, Ertzs, and Kelces of the world. At 3.3 percent ESPN ownership, current TE2 Jesse James has emerged as the fourth most targeted option in Pittsburgh behind AB, Juju, and Conner with 11 targets for 105 yards receiving on the year. The Buccaneers have allowed the second most fantasy points to tight ends this season, allowing James to be a nice pivot off the Steelers’ studs if you do not own them. I love Jesse James this week and the consistency of 5 targets each week for 20+ yards/reception is an appealing prospect for teams in need of a tight end moving forward.

That is it for this week and I wish you all the best for your teams this weekend. As always if you have any questions about fantasy or anything from my article, feel free to email me at jcarr3@umbc.edu or tweet me @jeff_carr_.