News & Analysis

Fantasy Football Week 3 Recap: James Conner demonstrates bell-cow status; Allen Robinson and Kenny Golladay resume WR1 duties

Week 3 of the NFL season is almost complete, with just Monday Night Football remaining. The action from Sunday's stellar slate has already provided us with enough new information to start considering fantasy football action items as we head into Week 4.

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So let's dig into Sunday's action with an eye toward improving next week. I'll hit on snap counts, routes run, goal-line usage, targets and target shares to make sure we're ready to roll as waiver deadlines approaches on Wednesday and Week 4 sit/start decisions loom. Consider this a crash course on Week 3. 

HOUSTON TEXANS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS

James Conner returned to his bell-cow ways in Week 3 — 22 touches and 25 fantasy points against a Houston Texans defense that has been run over for the last three weeks. They've allowed the most rushing yards this season, and Conner did not disappoint. 

James Washington and Eric Ebron lead all Steelers in targets (seven) after a head injury knocked out Diontae Johnson, but it was rookie Chase Claypool who played the most snaps among all the wide receivers. We don’t yet know the extent of Johnson’s injury, but Claypool would be a player of interest off the waiver wire this week.

It wasn’t a blow-up day for Will Fuller, but he still managed 15 fantasy points and, more importantly, stayed healthy. In just three games, fantasy owners have already gotten the “full” Fuller experience. He was great in his Week 1 debut, put up a goose egg in Week 2 and finished Week 3 with a respectable performance.

It’s noteworthy that the Texans’ schedule has been absolutely brutal to start the year,but lightens up immensely for the next five games starting with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4.  

I’d be looking to buy Texans players.

CINCINNATI BENGALS @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

The Philadelphia Eagles’ offense has been one of the worst in the league over the first two weeks of the season, and their woes continued in Week 3 versus the Bengals. They ranked dead-last in average yards per pass attempt (4.8), and their outlook is not much brighter over the next few weeks with the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens on the schedule. They're also dealing with injuries to Dallas Goedert and DeSean Jackson. Jackson’s injury is not supposed to be serious, but according to Ian Rapport on Twitter, Goedert is going to miss time.

During Week 3, Greg Ward stepped up in their absences to command a 26% target share and compile eight receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. Rookie John Hightower led the team in routes run among all wide receivers.

Joe Mixon saw 94.4% of the team’s carries but mustered just 49 yards, 48 of which came after contact. This resulted in another sub-par fantasy performance (8.5 points), but Mixon’s 20 touches per game still make him a viable buy-low option with the Jacksonville Jaguars on deck.

The floor may have finally bottomed out on wide receiver A.J. Green . After leading the team in targets through the first two weeks by a significant margin, Joe Burrow found much better success targeting Tyler Boyd (13) and Tee Higgins (nine). 

Boyd had 10 receptions for 125 yards and Higgins caught two touchdowns. Green, Boyd and Higgins were the clear top three wideouts for the Bengals on Sunday.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ NEW YORK GIANTS

The New York Giants’ offense struggled to push the ball down the field in Week 3. Darius Slayton and Golden Tate saw seven targets apiece, but tight end Evan Engram saw a season-low in targets (five) and needs to be benched or even dropped until we see any semblance of consistency.

In his first game as Giant, Devonta Freeman played just five fewer snaps than Dion Lewis (19) and led the team in running back carries, which is a clear indication he is going to be the guy sooner rather than later. He'll have another week with the playbook in front of a much better spot against the Los Angeles Rams.

Every other Giants running back can be dropped to the waiver wire.

I was a week too early on Brandon Aiyuk, but the rookie wide receiver led the 49ers in targets (eight), receptions (five) and receiving yards (70) in Week 3.

Jerick McKinnon didn’t outscore Jeff Wilson Jr. in fantasy points (16.7 vs. 21.9), but he was the leader in snaps played (44 vs. 32). Had it not been for a rib injury, McKinnon would have likely finished ahead of Wilson, who made the most of his 15 touches (two TDs).

McKinnon’s injury will have to be monitored throughout the week. In the meantime, Wilson will be a hot waiver wire addition — seemingly any running back in Kyle Shanahan’s offense scores fantasy points.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

I liked Rex Burkhead’s matchup heading into Sunday James White out, and the running back turned out a career day. He scored over 34 fantasy points and saw usage as a receiver and as a rusher.

Burkhead totaled seven receptions on 10 targets. This has been a recurring theme with the Las Vegas Raiders’ defense thus far this season — they struggle to stop running backs in the passing game. They'll face the Buffalo Bills next week, so that should set up nicely for Devin Singletary.

Burkhead was already seeing more snaps more than Sony Michel over the past two weeks, and that continued in Week 3. Michel rushed for over 100 yards, but that came on just nine carries and 38% of the offensive snaps played. His 48-yard run was the big gain that leapfrogged him over the 100-yard mark. Undrafted rookie running back J.J. Taylor had more carries (11) than both Michel (nine) and Burkhead (six).

Josh Jacobs didn’t find the end zone but still saw 19 touches in the game. His receiving work has been consistent for three straight weeks. He scored less than 10 fantasy points in this matchup, but he's still a locked-and-loaded RB1 moving forward. 

Jacobs is an easy buy-low candidate after back-to-back weeks with less than 15 fantasy points in PPR.

Hunter Renfrow led the Raiders in targets (nine). When you consider that Henry Ruggs was already inactive, Bryan Edwards left the game with an ankle injury and the Bills are next for Las Vegas, Renfrow will be a surefire target off the waiver wire this week.

Ahead of Week 3, I discussed the weakness of the Bills in the slot. That remained true as Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp both scored over 20 fantasy points

TENNESSEE TITANS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS

The positive touchdown regression from Derrick Henry consistent rushing volume finally came to fruition in the form of two scores against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3. 

We need him to score to be a viable fantasy asset, and that's likely to continue — over the past three weeks, Henry has averaged 29 touches.

Jonnu Smith led the Titans in targets (eight) and now leads the team in total targets (20) on the season. He's one of just eight tight ends to see at least 20 targets season and is a TE1 until further notice.

Rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson broke out in Week 3 for the Vikings with seven receptions for 175 receiving yards and a touchdown. He did most of his damage from the slot, and that’s a key factor to take away from his performance. Next week the Titans will face JuJu Smith-Schuster, one of the league's best slot receivers.

Also, don’t forget that I boldly projected Kyle Rudolph to catch a touchdown in this matchup in my Week 3 preview, and that’s exactly what he did — two catches for 11 yards and a touchdown. The Titans lead the league in targets allowed to tight ends in the end zone. After an impressive outing in Week 3, Eric Ebron could be a legitimate streaming tight end option in Week 4.

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM @ CLEVELAND BROWNS

A week after encouraging usage for Antonio Gibson, the Washington Football Team doubled-down on their rookie running back against a stout Cleveland Browns run defense. Gibson led the team in carries (nine) and averaged 5.4 yards per attempt.

He did have a fumble toward the end of the first half, but he still led the team in carries in the second half, so the coaching staff seemed to have no ill will toward him after his mistake.

The rookie will be a tough start versus the Ravens in Week 4 because J.D. McKissic is still splitting work with him as a pass-catcher, but Gibson still remains a high priority trade target to stash away on the bench.

Both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt need to be in lineups on a weekly basis — the Browns are feeding both as if they are RB1s. Chubb saw 19 carries (51.3%) and Hunt 16 carries (43.2%) in Week 3.

At this point, the perception that both are taking away upside from each other is overshadowing the fact that they are both seeing more than enough opportunities to be fantasy viable. They're both solid trade targets.

Chubb is the better overall rusher (5.7 yards per attempt versus 2.9), but Hunt is so involved as a pass-catcher near the goal-line that he's going to continue to score touchdowns.

LOS ANGELES RAMS @ BUFFALO BILLS

I took a bold stance on tight end Tyler Higbee, listing him as a sit this week because of his lack of involvement as a pass-catcher out of the slot. My analysis proved to be right with Higbee seeing just two targets while wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp combined for 16 targets, over 180 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.

Darrell Henderson had another great outing (114 rushing yards) and dominated the rushing attempts over Malcolm Brown (20 vs. seven). They split the snaps 50/50, but after another solid effort from Henderson, he is the clear back to trust moving forward.

Devin Singletary saw 85% of the team’s running back touches and totaled over 120 offensive yards from scrimmage with Zack Moss inactive in Week 3.

The Los Angeles Rams’ best cornerback, Jalen Ramsey, has not been traveling into the slot this season to cover the opposing team’s No. 1 wideouts. This is why Cole Beasley totaled 100 receiving yards and led the team in targets (seven). 

It’s also why Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis (who routinely see slot usage) were able to put up solid fantasy performances of 14.9 and 12.0 fantasy points, respectively.

CHICAGO BEARS @ ATLANTA FALCONS

Brian Hill is continuously eating into Todd Gurley‘s carries (14 vs. nine) and offensive snaps (50% vs. 35%). This has to be worrisome for those who have Gurley — the Falcons’ positive game scripts have been set up for him to smash with Atlanta leading.

This has not been in the case, and Gurley’s lack of involvement in the passing game this season (three catches for three yards) is another red flag for the former fantasy football superstar.

For waiver wire purposes, should Russell Gage miss time, the waiver wire target would be Brandon Powell and not Olamide Zacchaeus — assuming Julio Jones returns to the lineup and resumes his place on the outside. Powell is the direct slot receiver backup to Gage, whereas Zacchaeus is the direct back up to Jones on the outside.

Allen Robinson had a monster day, finally finding the end zone with Nick Foles under center. Foles ended up throwing three touchdowns in a swagged-out visor in relief of the benched Mitchell Trubisky.

I can’t imagine the Bears could possibly go back to Trubisky after Foles’ performance. If I’m correct, Jimmy Graham becomes the waiver wire target at tight end ahead of Week 4. He was Foles’ most targeted receiver in Week 3 (seven targets), followed by Robinson (six).

CAROLINA PANTHERS @ LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The Los Angeles Chargers went from a 3% target share to the running back position in Week 1 to a whopping 25% over the past two weeks with Justin Herbert in at quarterback.

It’s clear that the rookie is dead-set on getting the ball to either Keenan Allen or Austin Ekeler, who combined for 28 targets in Week 3. It was also encouraging to see Ekeler get a carry inside the 15-yard line, which he converted into a 12-yard rushing touchdown.

Running back Mike Davis had eight receptions for the second-straight game, along with a receiving touchdown and 46 rushing yards.

The Carolina Panthers won this game, so to see Davis peppered with targets in a positive game script essentially makes him an RB2 at worst moving forward. Teddy Bridgewater seems content targeting his running back whether it's good for the overall offense or not.

D.J. Moore still remains a massive buy-low candidate. This was a tough matchup versus the strong Chargers defensive secondary, but his next two opponents are the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons.

Moore, Amari Cooper and Julian Edelman are the only three wide receivers this season with at least 235 receiving yards and zero receiving touchdowns.

NEW YORK JETS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

There’s not much to say about the Jets' abomination of an offense in Week 3 (4.3 average yards per play), besides the fact that Kalen Ballage emerged as the pass-catching back. He had five receptions for 44 yards, but they came on just seven routes.

Wide receiver Braxton Berrios is Sam Darnold’s favorite wide receiver — 10 catches and two touchdowns on 11 targets over the past two weeks. Darnold has almost a perfect quarterback rating when targeting him (152.8)

But until further notice, it’s better to just stay away from Jets players and stream the defense/special teams that play them on a weekly basis. In Week 4, they play the Denver Broncos whose defense/special teams should be readily available across all fantasy leagues.

The Indianapolis Colts DST was in a smash spot in Week 3 and delivered. They scored 27 fantasy points on three interceptions, two touchdowns, two sacks and a safety. They now have six interceptions over the past two weeks and their schedule is about as juicy as it comes. Their next three games are against the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.

As for the Colts’ offense, they were not asked to do much because their defense manhandled the Jets offense. 

Mo Alie-Cox looks like the tight end to own after another solid outing. Jack Doyle still ran twice as many routes (15 vs. seven) as Alie-Cox, but that might not matter much because Doyle saw zero targets.

T.Y Hilton is droppable at this point. The Colts over the past two weeks have shown us that they are dead-set on establishing the run. They have the second-highest run rate (57.7%), and Hilton is not efficient enough at this point in his career to make up for a lack of volume.

DALLAS COWBOYS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

There might not be anybody on this planet that can stop Russell Wilson. He has now gone back-to-back games with five touchdown passes, and it’s sure to be another blood bath in Week 4 with the Miami Dolphins up next.

The major takeaway is that Chris Carson looked to have suffered a knee injury, which would thrust Carlos Hyde into a major role as the team’s early-down back. It also makes Travis Homer a nice speculative add in deeper formats because he can also offer usage in the passing game.

Cedrick Wilson was the Cowboys’ leading wide receiver from a fantasy points perspective in Week 3, but that’s hardly a reason to chase him off the waiver wire. He ran just 20 routes and his production was buoyed by two receiving touchdowns.

Michael Gallup made me look smart by delivering on his “start em” status this week by finishing with 138 receiving yards on six receptions, but this could be the perfect time to sell high on the receiver. We've seen up and down production already this year from him, and he's a tough spot next week against the Browns.

Over the past two weeks, the Browns have run the ball at the highest rate in the NFL, which would significantly slow the pace of play for the Dallas offense. Also, the Browns have allowed the sixth-fewest yards and sixth-worst passer rating (71.2) on passes thrown to receivers lined out wide.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ DENVER BRONCOS

Tom Brady proved the haters wrong on Sunday by balling out against the Broncos’ secondary. He threw for nearly 300 yards and three scores but lost Chris Godwin in the game due to a hamstring injury.

This will be something to monitor because we saw Brady perform poorly statistically without Godwin in the lineup in Week 2, and his matchup is much tougher in Week 4 versus the Chargers.

For the Tampa Bay backfield, Ronald Jones reclaimed his role as lead back, leading all running backs in carries (13), routes run (17), targets (four) and percentage of snaps played (52%).

Noah Fant led the Broncos with 10 targets but was only able to manage five receptions for 46 yards. It’s great to see him get that volume with a new quarterback under center, but his ceiling is going to be limited overall by Denver's lack of total scoring opportunities.

Lucky for him, the Broncos play the Jets in Week 4, which should make things much easier for all their skill position players. K.J. Hamler did not pop in this game (three catches for 30 yards), but he did lead the team in routes run (44) and will have a much easier time exploiting a weak Jets secondary.

DETROIT LIONS @ ARIZONA CARDINALS

Kenny Golladay returned to the lineup. Just as I had I projected in my Week 3 preview, Matthew Stafford immediately went right back to his favorite receiver. Golladay finished with seven targets, scored a touchdown and did not seem hampered by his injury.

T.J. Hockenson also saw seven targets, which was extremely encouraging as there was fear he would lose target share when Golladay returned. But it was the other Lions' receivers who lost out. Hockenson now has at least 50 receiving yards in three-straight games.

Kyler Murray has now thrown five interceptions this season versus four touchdown passes. His four rushing touchdowns have mitigated negative points from picks, but it’s those exact rushing touchdowns that are killing Kenyan Drake’s fantasy value. He scored just 8.9 fantasy points in Week 3 despite the plus matchup against the lonely Lions.

Drake made his living in Arizona last season by scoring TDs. With Murray continuously rushing in himself, dropping Drake’s fantasy value is plummeting. Backup Chase Edmonds has also more than doubled Drake’s target total thus far (11 vs. five).

GREEN BAY PACKERS @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

I was at a wedding this past Saturday and a friend of the groom came up and asked me to help them with his fantasy football team. I recommended starting Allen Lazard because I loved his matchup in slot versus the New Orleans Saints.

That worked out on Sunday night when Lazard finished as the highest-scoring offensive skill player for the Green Bay Packers — six receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown on a team-leading eight targets.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling is starting to fade into the WR3 of sadness (1.5 fantasy points) just as Lazard is starting to heat up, so you need to add him this week ahead of Green Bay’s shootout in Week 4 with Atlanta.

Jared Cook left Sunday night with a groin injury. Depending on the extent of the injury, rookie Adam Trautman could see an opportunity to step in and contribute. He finished Sunday night fourth in routes run (18) and had two catches for 17 yards.

Emmanuel Sanders might benefit the most if Cook's injury forces him to miss games. In the first half when Cook was playing, Sanders had just one target. His four other targets all came in the second half.

Sanders would surely have additional touchdown upside with Cook out — Sanders (three) and Cook (two) are the only Saints players to be targeted in the end zone this season.

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