Here is a closer look at who’s fantasy football value saw an increase, and who’s dropped after Week 3’s exciting weekend of NFL action.
Ah, Week 3 of the NFL season, where you take everything you think you know, crumple it up, and toss it into the nearest garbage can. Teams that looked dominant the first two weeks of the season fell flat and teams that looked ready for the number one pick came out to play. Even yours truly had it completely wrong. Last week I had the Ravens Defense in my Risers list and what happens? 44 points for the Jaguars and Blake Bortles throws four touchdown passes. Likewise, I had Stefan Diggs in the Fallers and by all means he should have been avoided this week without Sam Bradford in the Vikings offense. 173 yards and two touchdowns later, I completely missed the boat on this one. Hopefully the NFL has gotten this craziness out of its system and we can return to some sense of normalcy. That being said, on to this week’s candidates.
RISER OF THE WEEK: Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota
I’ll be the first one to admit, I misjudged this one horribly. Diggs was completely untouchable Sunday against the Buccaneers. Case Keenum looked his way more than anyone and Diggs made the most of his 11 targets in the Vikings 34-17 beat down of Tampa Bay. Diggs hauled in eight of them for the above mentioned totals, giving fantasy owners (the ones who had him in the starting lineup anyway,) a huge boost. Minnesota looks as if it will have its starting quarterback return for Week 4 and Diggs will definitely benefit from Bradford in the pocket. Minnesota is home for a divisional clash with Detroit next week and look for Diggs to have a big game.
Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Gurley finally showed his fantasy value in Thursday Night’s shootout with San Francisco. Gurley carried the ball 28 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ 41-39 win. He also added five catches for another 36 yards and another score to push him above the 25 point mark in most standard leagues. Gurley’s huge game was a payoff for fantasy owners who used a high round pick on the third year star. Los Angeles heads to Dallas in Week 4 to take on a suspect Cowboys defense that gave up its first 100-yard rusher in its last meeting (at the time of this writing).
Brandin Cooks, WR, New England
The Patriots are hitting their stride and starting to look like the team that many picked to run the table at the beginning of the season. This means nothing but good stuff for Cooks and the rest of Tom Brady’s receivers. Cooks was targeted only seven times but hauled in five of those passes for an incredible 131 yards and two touchdowns. Cooks’ huge output this week is indicative of his potential and games like this are a huge reason New England made the move for him this offseason. New England is home next week to face a Carolina defense that was absolutely shredded this week by New Orleans. Brady should have another big game and in turn, so should Cooks.
Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago
In one of the early games of the madness that was Week 3, Howard ran all over Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense. With the passing game failing to produce anything of note, Howard put the game on his shoulders and ran with it, so to speak. Howard amassed 23 carries for 138 yards and added five catches for 26 more yards including the game-winning touchdown in the Bears’ overtime thriller with Pittsburgh. Howard carried the ball three of the four plays in the overtime drive for Chicago. Howard and the Bears have a short turnaround as they head to Green Bay on Thursday for an NFC North showdown with the Packers.
Jaguars D/ST, Jacksonville
Before the start of the 2017 season, many pundits considered Jacksonville to be one of the sleepers on the defensive side of the ball. While not having any of the league’s “big” names, the Jaguars defense is working as a unit and caused major headaches for the Ravens in London Sunday morning. The Jaguars sacked Joe Flacco twice and held the Ravens to 186 total yards in the 44-7 shellacking. Baltimore couldn’t move the ball and the Jags had a field day. Jacksonville looks to have a huge advantage in Week 4 as they travel to the Meadowlands to face the New York Jets. The Jets have had a difficult time all season making any headway on offense so it could be another big week for the Jacksonville defense.
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo
Early in the season, the Bills struggled putting any kind of offense together at all. Sunday against the Broncos, Buffalo made huge improvements on the offensive side of the ball and Clay was a huge part of that. Clay was targeted more than anyone on the team except LeSean McCoy and caught all six of his targets amassing 39 yards. Clay also caught a huge third quarter touchdown pass that put the Bills ahead for good. This game was a huge confidence boost for Buffalo’s offense and going forward Clay will be an integral part of Tyrod Taylor’s passing game. The Bills head to Atlanta next week to face a Falcons team that has been stingy against Tight Ends this year but has a tendency to give up a lot of passing yards.
Chris Thompson, RB, Washington
Thompson has been a huge part of the offensive success the Redskins have seen this season, and surprisingly, most of his impact has come not in the running game, but the passing game. Thompson only carried the ball eight times for 38 yards in Washington’s Sunday Night win over Oakland, but was targeted a team high seven times by Kirk Cousins. Thompson hauled in six of those targets for a staggering 150 yards and the game’s opening touchdown. Thompson also hauled in a 74 yards pass in the third quarter that led to a field goal that put the game out of reach. Washington heads to Kansas City in Week 4 for a Monday Night showdown with the Chiefs. Kansas City has a stout run defense, but watch for Thompson to get plenty of looks in the passing game to open things up.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville
While I did make mention of the Jaguars’ stellar defensive performance earlier, the offense had plenty of firepower of its own Sunday morning. Bortles finally got the Jags’ offense moving and Lewis hauled in four passes for a respectable 62 yards. However, Lewis’ fantasy score rocketed due to his three touchdown catches, putting him over the 20-point mark in standard leagues. In the first two games of the season, Jacksonville focused heavily on the run game, but showed Sunday that a passing attack isn’t out of the question either. Not to mention it was against the league’s best pass defense to this point. Jacksonville faces a Jets defense next week that has given up numerous big pass plays this year, opening the door for another potential monster game for Lewis.
Duke Johnson, Jr., RB, Cleveland
While Cleveland’s rushing attack leaves plenty to be desired, Johnson has to be mentioned in terms of fantasy value. True, he is low on the list of touches and yards, but Johnson did see the ball in the red zone, scoring the only touchdown from a Browns running back on Sunday. While he only carried the ball twice for 23 yards, Johnson had his biggest impact in the passing game. Johnson caught six passes for 81 yards, both team highs, in Cleveland’s loss to the Colts. Going forward, while Johnson hasn’t made much headway so far this year, it’s worth noting that neither has Isaiah Crowell. Johnson punching the ball in from the red zone has to improve his chances and look for increased touches near the goal line.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville
For a guy who went undrafted in most fantasy leagues, Bortles will be at least worth a look off the waiver wire this week. With the Jags’ passing game being a huge question mark going into the season, it’s understandable why owners steered clear of Bortles. After Sunday’s performance, owners needing a little extra boost mike take a second look. Bortles was extremely effective on Sunday against one of the best secondaries in the league. He threw for 244 yards and four touchdowns with a 64 percent completion rate. Those numbers made him one of the top scoring fantasy quarterbacks this week. Going forward the Jags face a Jets team that will give up big chunks of yards to opposing quarterbacks.
FALLER OF THE WEEK: Mike Wallace/Jeremy Maclin, WR, Baltimore
I couldn’t very well pick on one of these two this week without throwing the other in there too. Sunday was a horrible game for the Ravens on all fronts, especially the passing game. Wallace and Maclin were completely ineffective against the Jaguars’ ferocious defense. The two combined for ten targets but only managed two catches between them for a measly 14 yards, eight for Maclin and six for Wallace. Both fell extremely short of projections for this week which undoubtedly hurt fantasy owners that opted to put them in the lineup. Things don’t look any easier in the near future as Baltimore faces off against divisional foe Pittsburgh in Week 4.
Panthers D/ST, Carolina
Going into Sunday’s matchup Carolina had what many consider to be the league’s best defense, only allowing a total of six points in its first two matchups. Also, the Panthers had allowed just under 400 yards of total offense going into the Week 3 contest with New Orleans. As mentioned above, throw all that out the window. New Orleans completely manhandled the Panthers’ defense on Sunday. Carolina only sacked Drew Brees once and didn’t force a single turnover. Brees in turn threw for three touchdowns and New Orleans compiled 362 total yards of offense, nearly matching what Carolina had allowed in its first two games It doesn’t get any easier for Carolina either as they head to Foxborough next week for a Sunday morning kickoff against the New England Patriots and perennial MVP candidate Tom Brady. If you have another defense on the roster this might be the week to play it.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland
While Lynch had shown flashes of his old self early this season, Sunday night he was nearly invisible as Oakland struggled offensively against Washington. Lynch only managed 18 yards on six carries in the 27-10 loss. What’s even more concerning from a fantasy standpoint is Lynch’s decline after Week 1. He has gone from 76 yards in the opening game to 45 last week, down to this week’s anemic performance. While he did score in Week 2, fantasy owners have to be concerned. Next week faces another daunting task as the revamped Denver defense is up next. Denver has held Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, and LeSean McCoy to 54 yards, 8 yards, and 45 yards respectively, in its first three games. Lynch may find the going tough next week.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver
Speaking of the Broncos, Anderson makes this list for the first time, not necessarily because of a bad performance, but his value declines due to Jamaal Charles looking like the ball carrier he was earlier in his career. While Anderson was the primary back early in the season they split the carries evenly on Sunday, with Charles having the more productive game of the two. Anderson racked up only 36 yards on eight carries while Charles saw nine carries for 56 yards and the Broncos’ only touchdown. With a continued split of the work, Anderson will see his fantasy value drop going forward.
Dolphins D/ST, Miami
After Miami’s opening performance against San Diego, optimism was running high in the Dolphins’ camp. Week three saw Miami’s defense take a step back in the 20-6 loss to the Jets. While the Jets only did manage 336 yards of total offense, it’s the big plays that are concerning for the Dolphins. A long touchdown pass in the second quarter made the difference and with much stronger offenses on the horizon the concern is definitely there. The Dolphins welcome the New Orleans Saints next week with the Saints having just run roughshod over one of the best defenses in the league. Miami could have a rough week against Drew Brees and company.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore
While Flacco hasn’t traditionally had much fantasy value, he definitely takes a hit this week. While he was in the game for the majority of the snaps, he was out produced by backup Ryan Mallett after Mallett entered in the fourth quarter. Flacco was 8-18 with only 28 yards and two interceptions through the first three quarters. Conversely, Mallett went 6-9 for 36 yards and the Ravens’ only touchdown in the fourth quarter. With a brutal AFC North matchup against Pittsburgh next week, Flacco looks to be in line for another rough outing and fantasy owners might do well to steer clear.
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland
At the helm of one of the league’s most potent offenses, Carr has looked very good coming off of last year’s season ending injury. Oakland’s offense has completely dominated its opponents the first two games of this year, throwing for over 500 yards and five touchdowns in that span. Sunday tells a completely different story. Carr struggled mightily against the Redskins in Oakland’s 27-10 loss. Carr only managed 118 yards passing with one touchdown and two interceptions, while being sacked four times by the Washington defense. It’s worth noting that the only two scoring drives he led were of 18 yards and 8 yards, both coming off of Washington turnovers. At one point in the fourth quarter Carr only had 74 passing yards. Next week looks to be even tougher as Denver’s “No-fly zone” comes to Oakland for their Week 4 clash. Carr needs to rebound quickly to avoid another rough game
Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami
Ajayi was drafted in the first three or four rounds in most drafts, so fantasy owners need him to step up quickly. Ajayi struggled against a tough Jets front seven on Sunday only managing 16 yards on 11 carries. After the Jets went up by 20 early in the third quarter, the running game was abandoned in an effort to get back in the game. Ajayi did leave the game in the first quarter with an unknown injury, so it’s worth watching for fantasy owners. Miami faces New Orleans in London in Week 4 and Ajayi may have a little easier time against the Saints’ defense but the injury is worth keeping an eye on.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina
Benjamin’s left knee injury ended his season in training camp two seasons ago, and the fear is there that the same may have happened again. Benjamin went down in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to New Orleans and didn’t return. The Panthers are waiting on the results of an MRI to confirm the severity of the injury but it definitely didn’t look good. Owners will want to watch his status closely as a long term absence will be brutal from a fantasy standpoint.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams
While Watkins did have a monster game Thursday night against San Francisco, his injury concern is the reason for his inclusion here this week. Watkins had a huge fantasy week hauling in six of seven targets for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Combined with Todd Gurley’s production the Rams were very kind to fantasy owners this week. Watkins left with a concussion in the fourth quarter and is in the league’s concussion protocol. The 10 days between games will definitely help his availability for next week, but owners will be wise to keep a close eye in the coming days to see if Watkins will be able to suit up for Week 4’s matchup against Dallas.