Week 3 Overview
This should be a fun slate to play. From a big picture perspective, here is how the slate breaks down:
- There are at least a handful of quarterbacks with realistic 30-point upside. The fact that there are multiple strong options will limit the chalkiness of any one passer and the lack of separation in pricing at the position makes rostering an elite quarterback easy to do.
- Running back is tough. With the possible exception of Saquon Barkley, there are no slam dunk values. This should lead to a lot of diversity in lineups but we still want to be cognizant of projected roster percentages and see if we can find some elite players who are going overlooked.
- Unlike running back, wide receiver is overflowing with strong values. We have plenty of good wide receivers playing in games that could shootout. Plus, a bunch of other elite players in strong spots. The bevy of options should lead to opportunities to roster great players at lower-than-normal popularity.
- Tight end feels like a position where the optimal strategy will be to focus in on the same three-to-five players every single week. In terms of upside, there is still a big gap between the top options and everyone else that is wider than we see at any other position.
This is a fun week with some outstanding quarterback options. If you like rushing upside, Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson have it in spades. If you want to save a little bit of money and go for a pocket-passer who could put up big numbers, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford are enticing. Patrick Mahomes II and Justin Herbert don’t have the extreme rushing upside of Murray and Jackson but bring some to the table along with 300+ yard passing projections. With the bevy of top options, nobody should be overly popular so you do not have to get too cute at the position.
Top QB Options
Kyler Murray, Arizona ($9,000) at Jacksonville
Sometimes writing these weekly articles feels a bit repetitive. For example, prior to his injury last season, I wrote about Murray as a top play almost every single week. We are heading that direction again this season with Murray topping this list as the top play at the position for the second-straight week. That 2020 knee injury suffered in Week 10 is very important to keep in mind because it changed how Murray played down the stretch last year. Prior to the knee injury, he was scoring rushing touchdowns in nearly every game. After the injury, his rushing attempts and production fell off drastically. Now is a good time to refresh our memories about the tear Murray was on pre-injury given the further context we have now after his torrid 2021 start.
Here are Murray’s FanDuel points scored in all healthy starts since the beginning of the 2020 season:
Those numbers are bonkers. A simple statistical summary tells the tale. That is an average of 31 FanDuel points per game with a standard deviation of 5.2. The median is 30.9 and the minimum is 23.1, so it is not like the numbers here are skewed by outlier games. He has simply been a 31 PPG quarterback…
Last week, we listed Rondale Moore here as the preferred stacking option. He is very much in play again this week, though his price has risen $700. Aside from potentially stacking with Moore, the move may be to play Murray without any of his wide receivers given how much he has been spreading the ball around.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore ($8,400) at Detroit
For Jackson, the GPP-winning upside is all about his rushing production. He has 193 rushing yards, which is third in the entire NFL behind only Derrick Henry and Joe Mixon. Jackson is currently averaging 15.7 fantasy points per game just as a runner. There is no reason to believe he will slow down much as a runner given the Ravens injuries at the running back position and what we have seen from a healthy Jackson over the last four seasons. Can he start to make more plays with his arm too?
If Mahomes does this it’s talked about till the end of time . Lamar is just sensational pic.twitter.com/EZQkdDNpmr— Jeudy Will Be Back Soon ðŸ˜ˆ (@JollyJeudy) September 22, 2021
Jackson has been solid as a passer to start the year, throwing for 235+ yards and a touchdown in both games. This is where his GPP-winning upside comes into play. If he continues to put up the big rushing numbers and starts to throw more passing touchdowns (like he did in 2019), then watch out. He might get rolling as a passer against this Detroit defense. The Lions rank dead last in net yards per pass drop back (9.4) and have a shaky, injury-riddled secondary. This is one of the handful of worst defenses in the NFL. Pairing Jackson with Mark Andrews is a nice GPP option this week. It just feels like Andrews is due for a multi-touchdown game and this is a spot where the Ravens may look to get him rolling.
Other QBs to consider:
Patrick Mahomes II ($9,000) and Justin Herbert ($7,500) We can list these two together because a strong GPP strategy this week is targeting one of these high total games, like Chargers-Chiefs, with a game stack. With Mahomes, Herbert, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and others to choose from, the options to mix and match three or four players from this potential shootout are fun to consider. In terms of bang for your buck, Herbert projects almost as well as Mahomes and that $1,500 gap in price helps you fit in both a top Chargers weapon and one of Hill-Kelce in your lineups.
Both Brady and Stafford are off to torrid starts this season and this is a game with very strong shootout potential. Expect both teams to come out with pass-heavy game plans. If the more expensive quarterbacks do not find the end zone with their legs or end up playing conservatively while nursing big leads, Brady or Stafford could be the guy in the million-dollar lineup.
This is a more difficult week at running back. The top guys are either priced way up (Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry) or in tough matchups (Alvin Kamara and Nick Chubb). This should lead to more of the field gravitating towards the mid-tier. Saquon Barkley feels way too cheap and will be popular (for good reason) but there are plenty of other intriguing options for $7K or less.
Top RB Plays
Austin Ekeler, Chargers ($7,000) at Kansas City
It has been a strange start to the 2021 season for Ekeler. He went from being targeted zero times in Week 1 to seeing nine targets in Week 2. Based upon past history, we should assume the Week 2 usage is more representative of what we should see going forward. Remember, Ekeler was nursing a hamstring injury in the lead up to Week 1 and that may have impacted the game plan. In a potential shootout against Kansas City, we should again see Ekeler push towards double-digit targets. While FanDuel does not have full-PPR scoring, we should not underestimate how much the points pile up on running back receptions. For example, Ekeler’s nine catches for 61 yards last week was good for 10.6 FanDuel points before even factoring in his rushing output. Ekeler also has 16 career receiving touchdowns despite only starting 23 games. His passing game usage goes beyond the typical short dump-offs and screens typical of many running backs. He also gets targets deep down the field. If Patrick Mahomes II is out there doing Patrick Mahomes II stuff, we could see Ekeler get extra heavy usage in the receiving game with the Chargers amping up the aggressiveness to try to keep pace. Don’t underestimate Ekeler’s chances at producing multiple touchdowns in this spot.
Seems like we might see a larger workload for Austin Ekeler and the rest of the running backs going forward, at least closer to the endzone. Lombardi & Staley both talked about the running game taking pressure off the passing game, which has a lack of space in the red area.— Guilty As Charged Podcast (@GACPodcast17) September 23, 2021
The mid-tier pricing adds to Ekeler’s attractiveness this week. We know how big of an advantage players like Kyler Murray and Travis Kelce can provide. It is hard to get up to those guys if you are paying $9,500+ for your RB1. It is much more manageable if you stick to the $7K-and-under options like Ekeler.
Saquon Barkley, Giants ($6,000) vs. Atlanta
This feels like a “now or never” spot for Barkley. If he is going to return to the dominant fantasy force he was his first two seasons in the league, this looks like the week we should see it happen. Rostering him at a bargain-basement price and rolling the dice we see the guy who has had stretches of dominance return is a great risk-versus-reward proposition. Barkley’s usage has ramped up. He was on the field over 80% of the snaps last week and that was on a short week with the Giants playing the Thursday night game. With ten days of rest and recovery, we should be getting closer to seeing a fully healthy Barkley.
If you told me a year ago that I could roster a healthy Barkley as a home favorite against one of the league’s worst defenses and it would only cost me $6,000, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, here we are. For context on just how affordable he is, we can note that he is $400 cheaper than Ty'Son Williams and only $100 more than Cordarrelle Patterson. The negative with Barkley this week is that he is likely to be the most popular play on the entire slate. If you do roster him, you may want to be more aggressive in targeting some contrarian players on the rest of your roster.
David Montgomery, Chicago ($6,900) at Cleveland
Montgomery is flying way under the radar this week. Saquon Barkley is likely to be on something like 5X as many GPP rosters as Montgomery. Rostering talented players who are going to see plenty of touches when most are ignoring them is the most basic yet most profitable tournament strategy in daily fantasy. Adding intrigue to Montgomery’s upside this week is the added wrinkle of sharing the backfield with another major rushing threat in Justin Fields. Montgomery may see bigger holes than normal due to edge players having to respect Fields as a runner. There is a reason that seemingly any back on the field alongside Lamar Jackson averages over 5.0 yards per carry and we could see a similar boost in efficiency for Montgomery next to Fields.
Nick Chubb, Cleveland ($7,800) vs. Chicago
The case for Chubb is easy. We are getting an elite talent at a very low rostered percentage because people are afraid of the Bears matchup and attention has been focused elsewhere. Last week, we talked here about the idea that we should always be playing Derrick Henry when he wasn’t one of the most popular backs on the slate and that ended up being a tournament-winning strategy. The same logic should apply to Chubb. His ceiling is not quite as high as Henry’s but he has the same uncanny ability to break off long touchdown runs that can tilt the slate. We are getting Chubb as a home favorite at low ownership and a reasonable price tag. What’s not to like?
Other RBs to consider:
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota ($9,500) vs. Seattle
Derrick Henry, Tennessee ($9,700) vs. Indianapolis
As noted in the positional overview, it is a difficult week to figure out at running back with few options that really pop out. When in doubt, maybe the best play is to just stick with the known commodities. The pricing is tough and the matchups are middle of the road, but we know what these two can do, and having them in our lineups if we can make the salary work always raises the ceiling of our roster.
This is a fun week at wide receiver and this may be the key spot to differentiate yourself from the field in tournaments. There are a boatload of viable, high-upside options. The best plays come from a pair of games likely to be high-scoring (Chargers-Chiefs and Buccaneers-Rams). The focus in these games should lead to elite players like DK Metcalf, Stefon Diggs, A.J. Brown, Justin Jefferson, Calvin Ridley and the like being less popular than normal. This is the position where you should play your hunches because there is no shortage of strong plays.
Top WR Options
Mike Williams, Chargers ($6,000) at Kansas City Williams appears on our list of top plays yet again. The pricing has still not fully adjusted to the massive change in the way Williams is being used under the new coaching staff. In previous years, he saw fewer targets and those targets came much further down the field and were lower-percentage throws. In 2021, we are seeing Williams be peppered with targets less than 10 yards down the field. This massive change in usage this season has caused a couple of big changes for Evans: (1) his catch rate of 68.2% is up more than 10% over his career averages, and (2) his career targets per game (4.7 coming into this season) has seen a huge jump to 11.0. Based upon everything we have seen on the field and heard from the coaching staff, we should expect these trends to continue.
This could finally be Mike Williams' break-out season we've all been waiting for.— JL Garofalo (@FYFJohnLuke) September 23, 2021
His opportunity metrics have leveled up. He's averaging 11 targets per game (#2 among all WRs), up from 5.83 targets per game over the last two seasons.
WR5 in PPR thru Week 2 ðŸ”¥ pic.twitter.com/MNzRxvc9Xt
Add it all up and we get a wide receiver who is receiving 10+ targets per game, the go-to option in the red zone, playing with an elite young quarterback, and in a matchup that is very likely to shoot out. Given this price tag, this should be an obvious spot for everyone to go heavy on Williams but he will be less popular than he should be because too many are clinging to perceived notions about the way Williams will be used instead of going by what we are actually seeing.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay ($7,300) at LA Rams
Full disclosure: I was having a hard time trying to decide who to feature here between Godwin and teammate Mike Evans. The Buccaneers passing offense has looked unstoppable early in the season and with Antonio Brown sidelined, we should see higher usage for both Godwin and Evans. My suspicion is that Evans will not see quite as much of Jalen Ramsey as many are assuming despite Bruce Arians saying this week that he’d be surprised if Ramsey wasn’t on Evans for a majority of the time. The Rams have been using Ramsey in the slot much more this season. However, after digging deeper, it does seem likely that Ramsey will shadow Evans both in the red zone and in some obvious passing situations.
Tom Brady is ruthless when it comes to exploiting matchup advantages and Godwin should be the Buccaneers biggest mismatch in the passing game this week when he is not lined up across from Ramsey. This is a similar situation to Week 1 when Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs followed Evans and Godwin saw a whopping 13 targets, which he turned into 9-105-1. While Godwin will be popular, he has both a high floor and high ceiling so it may be worth following the crowd on this one and looking to separate from the crowd in some other spots (perhaps with one of the running backs featured above).
Rondale Moore, Arizona ($5,600) at Jacksonville
You do not have to stack Kyler Murray this week given his rushing upside. If you do, Moore is again the best bet. He is also a nice cost-saving option with proven upside and a higher floor than many think if you play him alone. Moore is second in the NFL in yards per route run (behind only Deebo Samuel who is not on the main slate), ahead of early fantasy stars like Cooper Kupp and Tyler Lockett.
Please allow me a quick digression here and then I’ll circle back to Moore. One of my passions has been and still is college football daily fantasy. I wrote a weekly column at Footballguys for years about the FanDuel CFB main slate. In doing so, one of the patterns that emerged was that whenever Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech had a guy with both deep speed and some “make you miss” playing in the slot, that guy produced massive numbers. Kingsbury uses quick passes to that guy as almost an extension of the running game and mixes in some deep shots as well to keep the defense honest. Kingsbury might have finally that foundational piece in Moore. If so, stat lines like his 7-114-1 last week may become the norm.
Other WRs to Consider:
Kenny Golladay, Giants ($5,600) vs. Atlanta
Golladay made noise about how he is being used and often times that squeaky wheel gets some grease. Expect Golladay to see some extra targets this week with Jason Garrett trying to get back in the good graces of his star receiver. Golladay is a similar player to Mike Evans, who burned this same defense for 5-75-2 last week. Stacking him with Daniel Jones is a viable, high-upside option given the matchup and the increased usage of Jones as a runner.
In neutral situations, opposing offenses are throwing against the Buccaneers defense a ridiculous 83% of the time. Tampa Bay remains a “pass funnel” defense with Vita Vea and company eliminating the run game and forcing teams to extra pass-heavy game plans. Expect a pass-heavy approach again this week from the Rams in a potential shootout, which will put each of the Rams wide receivers in play.
If you are playing multiple rosters, it makes sense to have exposure to each of the Rams' top pass catchers. Kupp will be by far the most popular, safest, and is the most expensive. Jefferson will be by far the least popular, most risky, and is far and away the cheapest. Woods is in between the two in all categories. Jefferson has been on the field nearly every passing down but has only seen three targets in each game. Gambling on a usage increase for him seems like a worthwhile roll of the dice with him expected to be rostered on under 1% of lineups.
Last season, only two tight ends really separated from the pack: Darren Waller and Travis Kelce. We still want to get those two players into as many lineups as possible, especially since we may be able to get similar upside from the mid-tier running backs and wide receivers as we could from the top guys.
It looks like T.J. Hockenson is poised to join Waller and Kelce on the very shortlist of difference makers at the position. He will be especially popular this week given that his price has not yet caught up to his early-season usage and production.
Top TE Options
Darren Waller, Las Vegas ($7,400) vs. Miami
Waller had a disappointing Week 2 while receiving a lot of attention from the Steelers and Minkah Fitzpatrick. He still finished as the TE5 on the slate. That sort of floor is why it is wise to pay a bit extra for a top option like Waller. He is unlikely to sink your lineup if you hit on guys at other positions and he also has elite 25-point upside any given week. Waller has a better matchup this week with the strength of the Miami defense resting in the outside cornerbacks. This should funnel even more targets towards the middle of the field to Waller.
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit ($6,300) vs. Kansas City
The bullish case for Hockenson this offseason was that he could make the third-year leap typical at the tight end position and that the lack of weapons for the Lions would lead to him having a huge share of targets in the passing game. We have seen signs of both of those factors breaking in Hockenson’s favor. He is a mismatch weapon for the Lions and has seen 9.5 targets per game in the early going. The ceiling still seems lower for Hockenson than for Waller or Kelce, but the floor is similar and the price difference makes him much easier to fit into lineups. We have seen top tight ends have success this season against Baltimore.
Ravens DC Don "Wink" Martindale on facing Lions TE T.J. Hockenson after playing Darren Waller and Travis Kelce: "If our safeties want to know what it's like playing in the Pro Bowl, look at the last three weeks."— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) September 23, 2021
Travis Kelce, Kansas City ($8,500) vs. Chargers
As said in past weeks, we don’t need to type 1,000 words to explain why Travis Kelce is a good FanDuel tournament option. He has been the fantasy TE1 for the past five years and has opened 2021 with back-to-back 20+ point fantasy games. He should be featured in a high-scoring game against the Chargers. Derwin James is a talented guy who may slow Kelce some but we’ve seen enough to know Kelce will still get his.
Other TEs to consider:
Kyle Pitts, Atlanta ($6,200) at Giants Pitts has not yet caught a touchdown but is averaging 7.0 targets and 52 receiving yards per game. He could see even more than seven targets this week with Russell Gage sidelined and it just feels like Pitts is due to break one for a long score. Remember, he ran a freakishly fast 4.44-second forty-yard dash on his pro day. If he gets loose in the secondary, he can take it to the house. It will happen eventually and when it does, he will probably win somebody a lot of money.
Denver ($5,000) vs. Jets
Zach Wilson has taken too many risks trying to make spectacular plays early in his NFL career. It has not helped matters that he lost his top offensive lineman, Mekhi Becton, to injury. His absence combined with the Jets lack of a running game has allowed opposing defenses to dial up the pass rush and get after the rookie quarterback. This is a great spot for Von Miller and the Broncos defense as heavy home favorites.
Arizona ($4,600) at Jacksonville
We have another team with an elite pass rusher (Chandler Jones) facing a poor offensive line and rookie quarterback. With the Cardinals likely to jump out to a big early lead, conditions are ripe to generate sacks and turnovers.
Buffalo ($4,100) vs. Washington
We have a home favorite that is coming off of a six-sack shutout performance last week facing an inexperienced quarterback. Not hard to see the upside here.