News & Analysis

Week 3 breakout candidates and potential projection-beaters

By Tyler Loechner
Sep 21, 2017

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 27: Carlos Hyde #28 of the San Francisco 49ers runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings during the second quarter in the preseason game on August 27, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Last week’s breakouts article, based on PPO matchup, was largely a success. Using this stat is a fantastic way to identify potential blowup spots — for both great players and under-the-radar options as well.

I’ve updated the color-coded chart to break out running backs by rushing versus passing. There’s often a large difference between how good a team is versus a running back through the air vs. on the ground. It’s time to open that data up to you as well.

Remember, we have just two weeks of data under our belts so far. These numbers are going to change as the season progresses. But some early signals have already started to break through the noise: The Falcons are still bad against running backs, the Giants are still bad against tight ends, and the Saints are still bad against wideouts, just to name a few.

Below are some players who are primed to break out in Week 3, according to the PPO data. (To see individual player PPO scores on a weekly or season-long basis, check out the fantasy stats section in our Tools lab.)

Running backs

I love Carlos Hyde on Thursday night this week. The Rams have given up 0.80 PPO to running backs on the ground through two weeks. Hyde turned 15 carries into 124 yards in Week 2 against the more formidable Seahawks defense.

Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah are both in good spots against the Falcons this week, who struggle mightily against pass-catching backs. Riddick and Abdullah both fit the bill there. They eat into each others’ snaps (Abdullah has 64; Riddick with 48), but are both viable as flex options in PPR formats this week.

Assuming he plays, Jay Ajayi is the chalk this week. The Jets no longer have a strong run defense, evidenced by their 0.95 PPO given up so far this year, third-worst in the league. In Miami’s first game, Ajayi was fed the ball 28 times on the ground, and he had two targets as well. Load up.

Kareem Hunt is tops among running backs with 1.00 PPO. This week he faces the Los Angeles Chargers, who are among the better teams in the league in terms of PPO against running backs, ceding just 0.36 PPO on the ground (seventh-best) and 0.02 PPO through the air (best). What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? My money is on Hunt.

Wide receivers

The Chargers have been good against the run, but that’s not the case through the air, where they have given up the seventh-most PPO (0.25) to wideouts. Up this week is Tyreek Hill, a PPO superstar from 2016 who is a top-10 wideout in terms of PPO again in 2017.

Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess are going to roast the Saints. New Orleans has given up a league-worst 0.32 PPO to wideouts so far this year, and now Carolina is without Greg Olsen, which will naturally cause more targets to funnel toward Benjamin and Funchess.

Antonio Brown has scored the 16th-most PPO in standard leagues despite no touchdowns yet. That’s insane. This week he gets the Chicago Bears, who are typically strong against WR1s, but were just torched by Mike Evans, and are now a bottom-half team in terms of PPO given up to wideouts. Evans found success thanks to the threat of DeSean Jackson, peeling coverage away. The Steelers have a similar threat, with Martavis Bryant freeing space for Brown.

The Colts have been bad against wideouts (second-most PPO given up). Now they face the wideout-starved Cleveland Browns, who forced Rashard Higgins the ball 11 times last week. Outside of three interceptions (no biggy, right?), Cleveland was actually fairly successful when throwing to Higgins, completing seven passes for 95 yards. Higgins is in a good spot to fly under the radar in PPR formats.

Tight ends

Jack Doyle has caught 10 of 11 targets for 120 yards this season, and has been one of the few bright spots for the Colts. This week he draws the Cleveland Browns, who have given up the fourth-most PPO to tight ends through two weeks, including two touchdowns in Week 1 to Jesse James.

Zach Ertz should destroy the Giants in Week 3. As noted before, the Giants are still bad against tight ends. They have given up the third-most PPO to the position (0.37), while Ertz has racked up a position-leading 190 yards on 16 targets. Look for Ertz to score his first touchdown of the season on Sunday.

The Redskins have been friendly to tight ends this year (0.26 PPO given up, seventh-most), and in Week 3 they face Jared Cook. Cook is hardly a slam-dunk pick, but he has caught 9 of 10 targets for 81 yards so far this year.

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