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Can you believe we are a quarter of the way through the season already? In fantasy terms, we're even further, considering most league's playoffs start in Week 15. For those of you with a 4-0 record, Congratulations! All the power to you.
This week's edition is more for those who are 0-4, 1-3, or 2-2. I'll take a look at some struggling players from each position and let you know how you should proceed with these players. This list does not include any players who have missed multiple games with an injury.
JOE BURROW, CIN
- Current rank: 31, 33.4 FP
- Drafted as: QB1
- Opponents played: at CLE, BAL, LAR, at TEN
- Record: 1-3
- Upcoming schedule: at ARI, SEA, BYE, at SF
Joe Burrow's slow start is not necessarily performance-related but injury-related. He suffered a calf strain back in August that he re-injured on September 17th. Calf injuries can be tricky to heal and may linger for several weeks, so the light at the end of the tunnel for Burrow, while getting closer, could still be a few weeks away. The calf injury is causing him to not fully step into his throws and put the type of velocity on the ball needed for throws deep downfield. As a result, the Bengals are using an altered offensive approach that includes more short or intermediate throws that give receivers the chance to run after the catch. He has two touchdowns in four games (both came in Week 2) and two interceptions. Luckily for Burrow and Cincinnati, the Bengals have a Week 7 bye. We could potentially see a change in the positive direction in Week 8. Can you hold out that long? You may need to. It's not just Burrow who is affected. Ja'Marr Chase, despite having a strong Week 3 outcome, has been relatively unChase-like with fairly pedestrian numbers, and he has yet to find the end zone this season.
Result: Brighter days are ahead for Burrow, which trickles down to other players but it might not come until Week 8 at the earliest.
TREVOR LAWRENCE, JAC
- Current rank: QB17, 59.8 FP
- Drafted as: Top 10 QB
- Opponents played: at IND, KC, HOU, ATL (London).
- Record: 2-2
- Upcoming schedule: at BUF (London), IND, at NO
Trevor Lawrence's fantasy production has been underwhelming so far in 2023. The offensive line has improved slightly after a challenging start, but the running game is still a major concern. That's keeping Lawrence from being able to establish a rhythm on offense. Travis Etienne has not been able to break off any big plays, and his average yards per carry in four games is below 4.0. Lawrence's completion percentage is a respectable 67.1%, but he has been inconsistent in the red zone, and the team as a whole is 29th in 3rd down conversion percentage at 31.7%.
Lawrence has the talent to be a top-10 quarterback, but he needs his supporting cast to improve. If Etienne can get going and the Jaguars can find a way to score more touchdowns, Lawrence could start to climb the rankings. He'll also get his left tackle back, who served a four-game suspension.
Result: Last year, Lawrence showed that he could be a reliable fantasy quarterback, finishing 6th. Perhaps a big play or two here and there will elevate his game and get him and the Jaguars back on pace as one of the better teams in the AFC South.
NAJEE HARRIS, PIT
- Current PPR rank: RB36, 28.4 FPs
- Drafted as: RB2
- Opponents played: SF, CLE, at LSV, at HOU
- Record: 2-2
- Upcoming schedule: BAL, Bye at LAR, JAC
Najee Harris was the RB8 after Week 10 last year. The Steelers' offense finished on a high note, winning seven of their last nine games. Things were looking up for Pittsburgh and Harris heading into the 2023 season. So far, the Steelers and Harris have struggled to gain traction against this year's opponents. Mike Tomlin always seems to find a way to make things work in Pittsburgh. Will that happen once again in 2023?
Why has Harris struggled up to this point?
- Poor offensive line play: The Steelers' offensive line has been one of the worst in the league this season, giving up a lot of pressure on quarterback Kenny Pickett and making it difficult for Harris to run.
- Increased competition in the backfield: The Steelers' second-year running back Jaylen Warren has been getting more playing time. This has limited Harris' touches, altered his rhythm, and taken away some of his opportunities to produce.
- Tighter defenses: The Steelers have faced some stout defenses in their first few games, namely the 49ers and Browns. These defenses have been able to contain Harris and make it difficult for him to break big runs.
The Steelers are utilizing Harris more in the team's carry share (56% to Warren's 29%). However, Warren has developed into a capable receiver, grasping an 18% team target share, second on the team behind only George Pickens. As a result, Harris has been squeezed out of producing fantasy points as a receiver, which constricts his fantasy point totals to yardage and touchdowns. If the touchdowns aren't coming, the yardage is the only saving grace. At this point, four games in, both the yardage and scoring touch have been a non-factor. Harris has only four receptions on eight targets, he has games of 31, 43, 65, and 71 rushing yards, and he has yet to find the end zone. With other options springing up among fantasy running backs, Harris can be replaced in your lineup until he proves his worth.
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