An important aspect of fantasy football is getting ahead of the curve in player values. We've listed and highlighted some players who show a change in value and let you know what to do with them in Week 9's "Three Up, Three Down" article.
Michael Carter II: Carter has slowly been taking over the Jets backfield for the last few weeks, but Week 8’s showing as the overall RB1 in fantasy football marks his best output of the season. Are the Jets going to score 34 every week? Doubtful. Will Carter see 14 targets in a game again? Probably not. But the usage for a rookie that started the season in a muddled backfield is excellent to see. In Week 1, Carter saw just 25% of his team’s snaps. Prior to the Jets’ Week 6 bye, he had yet to crack 52%. Over the last two weeks though, Carter has seen 72% and 70% of the offensive snaps while averaging 24.5 opportunities (carries and targets) per game. That type of volume alone puts him in an elite tier of running backs, but Carter has also been more efficient than his teammates. Between Carter, Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, and La’Mical Perine, Carter averages the most yards per attempt at 3.8 while also leading the team in rushing touchdowns. Regardless of his rushing abilities though, Carter is the preferred pass-catcher in New York. For a team projected to have many negative gamescripts throughout this season, that bodes very well for Carter’s fantasy value in PPR leagues.
Michael Pittman Jr: Better late than never, right? Pittman has been trending up for a few weeks now. But after his 15-target game in Week 8, it’s time to dive a bit deeper into his current trends. Pittman was the 34th overall pick in last year’s draft, but injuries kept him from doing much as a rookie. He played in 13 games but was limited in many of them after a Week 3 injury landed him on IR. Looking at his measurables, it’s hard not to get excited. He’s got elite top-end speed, and his 6’4” frame gives him a monstrous catch radius. Looking at his team situation, he was in a perfect position to plant himself as the Colts’ WR1 this year, and that’s what he’s doing. I hinted at this possibility in an article from this offseason. Through eight games, Pittman has seen seven-plus targets five times. Over the last two weeks, he’s seen 19 total targets, which he’s turned into 14 receptions for 191 yards and three touchdowns. His combination of size and speed are perfect for Carson Wentz, and Pittman is quickly developing a solid rapport with his new quarterback. Compared to last year with Philip Rivers, Pittman is seeing an increase in catch rate, depth of target, target quality, yards before the catch, touchdown rate, and big plays. He’s a high-end WR2 right now that hasn’t even reached his peak.
Justin Fields: How can a player coming off of three straight losses be trending up? Well, Fields was verging into “fantasy football punching bag” territory heading into Week 8’s matchup against the 49ers. After being selected 10th overall in this year’s draft, he struggled quite a bit on a decrepit Bears’ team. He had five starts under his belt heading into the game. Outside of a few plays here and there, he hadn’t shown much to warrant his draft stock. On Sunday, Fields looked poised as a passer. Most importantly though, he leaned heavily on his athleticism for the first time as a pro. Fields carried the ball ten times when he came in for an injured Andy Dalton in Week 2, which was expected to be the norm. But he struggled to find much room to run in that game and only totaled 31 yards. He had precisely three carries in the next three games but has seen an uptick in rushing volume in every outing since. While volume is great, his ability with that volume is what has him trending up. Fields lived up to his loftiest expectations in Sunday’s game, best encapsulated by a broken play on 4th and 1 that he turned into a spectacular rushing touchdown. His passing touchdown was equally as impressive, and he rolled out left and ripped a dart across his body to a falling Jesse James in the end zone. There’s undoubtedly some risk going forward with Fields, but he shouldn’t be on the waiver wire in any leagues after seeing his abilities as a rusher last week.
Kenneth Gainwell: How quickly impressions can change in just a week. Heading into Week 8’s matchup, Gainwell was one of the hottest names in fantasy football. He was the RB29 in PPR leagues despite sharing touches with Miles Sanders. He had seen three-plus targets in all but one game and was seeing a steadily increasing role in the offense. When Sanders was declared out for Week 8’s matchup, Gainwell appeared ready to take over that job. Unfortunately for Gainwell and those that started him in fantasy, Boston Scott and Jordan Howard took over as the primary ball carries. Gainwell was essentially non-existent in the Eagles’ blowout win. He garnered 13 carries over the game, but most of those came in the fourth quarter when the starters hit the bench. For fantasy managers that were holding hope that the rookie out of Memphis would be able to steal the starting gig in Philadelphia, it’s time to put those dreams to rest. Gainwell’s value as a pass-catching back is still evident (although not in Week 8), but there is little chance that he becomes a featured back this year. Nick Sirianni seems to not only prefer a committee backfield, but he also has a knack for leaning on his veterans. Gainwell is a solid bye-week fill-in going forward, but his usage showed that his ceiling is much lower than initially anticipated.
Myles Gaskin: Similarly to Gainwell, the writing was on the wall for Gaskin to have a big game in the wake of a teammate’s injury. His usage through the first seven games of the season was sporadic and brutal to predict. In Week 5, he saw ten targets and plunged into the end zone twice, making us think that there could be a trend in highlighting him as a pass-catching back. Then, in Weeks 6-7, he saw 20 carries and ten targets, leading us to believe that he could be a more well-rounded offensive threat. And in Week 8, with Malcolm Brown inactive, Gaskin saw 12 carries and four targets and struggled to do much with them. He led the backfield in snap counts, but Salvon Ahmed and Patrick Laird were involved quite a bit. Gaskin had a strong finish to the 2020 season, and many predicted that he’d have the opportunity to run away with the job as a three-down back in Miami. Unfortunately, though, this team seems committed to having a committee of backs. We should have anticipated this. Head coach Brian Flores spent his time under Bill Belichick, who is notorious for his inability to commit to a single running back. When Laird was activated from the practice squad early in the week, expectations for Gaskin should have been tempered. Going forward, Gaskin shouldn’t be viewed as any more than a boom-or-bust RB3.
Patrick Mahomes II: You’re still valuing Mahomes as a QB1. But it’s time that we start to temper expectations a bit. Through Week 8, Mahomes is the QB6 in fantasy points per game. That’s respectable, but for a guy that was being drafted as the unanimous QB1 overall, it’s tough seeing Jalen Hurts and Matthew Stafford outperforming him on a weekly basis. From a simple eye test, this Chiefs squad is nothing like we’ve seen over the last few years. They are struggling to push the ball downfield. Mahomes already has the second-most interceptions of his career, and we aren’t even halfway through the season. Tyreek Hill is the bright spot on this offense, but Travis Kelce is having his lowest yardage per game since 2017. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is still battling through injuries. No receiver has been able to step up as a viable WR2 candidate. There’s a chance that Mahomes bounces back, but if you can trade him on name value, it isn’t a bad idea. He’s no longer in a tier of his own, but just in the tier of other good fantasy quarterbacks. There’s no denying the arm talent of Mahomes, but a sketchy offensive line, aging skill players, and lack of offensive depth is proving that Mahomes is human after all.