Greetings and welcome to Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season! What follows is a weekly strategy guide covering the main slate of FanDuel guaranteed prize pools (GPPs). It will be available every Friday from now until the Super Bowl. Each section includes a short description, and to make things easier for those short on time, every player covered in this column will be listed directly below with full analysis found in their corresponding sections.
As you incorporate this information into your weekly decisions, keep in mind that winning large tournaments presents a difficult challenge. Chasing big payouts makes for fun Sundays, but if you want to be a profitable tournament player, you must branch out and play in smaller contests that have flatter payouts, even if the prize pool doesn’t have the same appeal.
For those that want nothing but the facts, here is every player covered in this column with a quick note on each. For those that want full analysis, keep reading.
- Patrick Mahomes II II – worth chasing his upside until we see his floor.
- Deshaun Watson – untapped potential and worthy of a power stack.
- Jimmy Garoppolo – best matchup on the board and will be forced into volume for better or for worse.
- Jared Goff – big home favorite in a high-scoring game.
- Todd Gurley – great play but not as good of a play as Kamara.
- Alvin Kamara – great matchup in a high-scoring game.
- Ezekiel Elliott – the usage is there including passing. Just needs the offense to click.
- Kareem Hunt – playing at home with a 31-point implied team total.
- Dalvin Cook or Latavius Murray – massive home favorites against a weak run defense.
- Lamar Miller – underrated asset in what could be a dominant game by the Texans.
- Giovani Bernard – has thrived as the lead back in other opportunities throughout his career.
- Corey Clement – solid option with Ajayi and Sproles injured.
- Michael Thomas – most expensive and most popular wide receiver on the slate but hard to fade.
- Julio Jones – if he doesn’t finish as a top-five wide receiver this week, avoid going forward.
- DeAndre Hopkins – won’t have problems against the Giants defense.
- Will Fuller V – great stacking partner with Watson and Hopkins.
- Robert Woods – in for a big day if he and Goff can connect.
- Tyler Lockett – Wilson’s top targert for as long as Baldwin is out.
- Allen Robinson – low floor but a target vacuum who lines up all over the field.
- Travis Kelce – the cheapest way to roster a staple piece of the Chiefs’ offense.
- George Kittle – obvious play in a high-volume situation.
- Jack Doyle – Colts favor tight ends and Doyle dominating snaps. (If out, play Ebron)
- Austin Hooper – finally looks like the Falcons have made him a part of the offensive attack.
Week 3 Notes
The biggest challenge of Week 3 comes in the form of value at running backs. Thanks to a few injuries and a number of backfields in transition, the player pool offers several affordable options that will likely push a lot of rosters into building around cheap ball carriers. Players like Tevin Coleman, Dalvin Cook (or Latavius Murray), Corey Clement, Giovani Bernard, Chris Thompson, and both 49ers running backs all offer intriguing situations at a discount. Choosing the right cheap ball carrier could make a big difference in tournaments. To help you make that choice, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the player have a track record as the main ball carrier?
- How confident are you that the backup will earn an equal workload as the starter?
- In the case of a timeshare, does either back have enough upside to roster regardless of price?
- Does this situation warrant fading the top-tier running backs?
Perhaps the best thing to come out of this scenario is that the crowd will likely spread out their exposure, which could mean lower roster percentages across the board. It could also mean that paying up at running back and rostering the high-upside bell-cows qualifies as the sharp move. Doing so forces us into a different direction of roster construction.
Thoughts on Chalk
Even though creating roster uniqueness has long been the default strategy for GPPs, there’s a reason why certain players hold the confidence of the public. Remember that fading a player simply because he’s popular checks in as one of the worst processes. You wouldn’t build a lineup full of chalk; nor should you ignore a great situation in the name of contrarianism. With that said, this section will be dedicated to finding reasons why you might consider fading the players listed below. Keep in mind that all of these players are expected to have big games, so outright fades are never recommended, and be sure to check out Steve Buzzard’s percent rostered projections.
Patrick Mahomes II II - $8,900
You’ll probably hear the words “regress to the mean” get tossed around a lot in the coming weeks regarding Mahomes’ performance thus far. The problem with that line of thinking is we have no idea what his mean is. Obviously, we can’t expect him to keep up the current pace and continue to blowup record books. But if you’ll recall, at about this time last year this same discussion started bubbling around Deshaun Watson. From Week 4 to Week 8 (with a bye sandwiched in there), Watson averaged nearly 300 total yards and 5.25 touchdowns per game. Going into Week 8, the chatter of regression built as Watson and Co. headed into a tough matchup in Seattle. He finished that game with 402 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, and eight carries for 67 yards (35.78 FanDuel points). Regression, unfortunately, wasn’t allowed to happen after a season-ending injury occurred in practice the following week.
Back to Mahomes, his efficiency will absolutely regress. Last week, he connected on over 82% of his 28 passes, 21% of which scored touchdowns. Even crazier, through two games this season, Mahomes is scoring a touchdown on every 5.5 passing attempts, or just over 18% of the time. For reference, the leader in touchdown percentage among active quarterbacks is Aaron Rodgers with 6.4%, and the all-time leader is Sid Luckman with 7.9%.
So, feel free to bet against Mahomes maintaining that level of efficiency. But his regression in efficiency doesn’t mean he won’t finish as a top-5 or better quarterback in Week 3. The Chiefs have the pleasure of hosting a 49ers’ defense that is one of four teams with zero interceptions, has allowed the eighth most passing yards, and the eighth most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Not that the matchup even matters. The talent surrounding Mahomes, from players to coaches, sets him up for success every week regardless of opponent. Conversely, the lack of talent on the Chiefs’ defense sets him up with game scripts that favor quarterbacks, almost regardless of opponent.
All of that said, we do need to consider game theory before simply rostering him at a higher rate than the crowd. His salary, rightfully, jumped $2,400 from last week and he’s now the third most expensive player on the slate. And there’s a chance the 49ers’ offense isn’t all that good, unlike the other offenses (read: quarterbacks) the Chiefs have faced thus far, which suggests less passing and more running. Add it all up, and maybe you can make a case for a “normal” game from Mahomes. That leads to the following question: what is a normal game from Mahomes? We don’t know. And until we do know, his upside is worth chasing every single week.
Todd Gurley - $9,300
Gurley has established himself as the league’s alpha running back. Even last week where he averaged 2.2 yards per carry and logged only 73 total yards, he still managed to finish as the highest scoring running back thanks to three touchdowns.
You don’t need a bunch of stats to know that he’s a solid play week in and week out. His league-leading opportunities in the red zone more than satisfy his price tag. However, unlike last week in this space where we pointed to him being a better play than Alvin Kamara, the opposite is true for this week. Both players offer elite upside, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see either atop the leaderboards come Sunday’s end, but the difference in price and matchup favors Kamara. Despite having nine fewer touches through two weeks than Gurley, Kamara has more yards and his usage by team in the red zone is slightly higher (50% of team red zone opportunities for Kamara vs. 47.4% for Gurley).
Obviously, we’re splitting hairs here. Both backs are premium plays, both backs will be uber popular, and both backs offer immunity to matchups and game scripts. The only difference, at least for one week, is that Kamara saves us $600—enough to matter. Also, keep in mind that targets hold more value than carries, which heavily favor Kamara over Gurley 18 to 8.
Michael Thomas - $9,000
Thomas will challenge Tyreek Hill and Julio Jones as the most popular wide receiver of Week 3. Of the three, Hill checks in with the most upside and also the most downside. His efficiency mirrors that of his quarterback—Hill has turned 14 targets into 12 receptions for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Amazingly, those numbers came despite running only 48 receiving routes this season, compared to Thomas (79 routes) and Jones (72 routes) per Pro Football Focus. Hill does offer the most affordable way to get a game-breaking wide receiver into your lineup, so no fault if you chase him, but we could see the Chiefs spread the ball around a lot more in the coming weeks, and to once again mirror his quarterback, Hill’s efficiency has the greatest odds to suffer.
As for Thomas vs. Jones, note that Jones boasts a monster 41.8% target share. Unfortunately, his lack of touchdowns (and less accurate quarterback) cap his upside. Thomas, on the other hand, is tied for second among wide receivers in red zone opportunities with seven, boasts a 93% completion rate, ranks second in receiving yards, and holds a tie with DeSean Jackson and Hill in receiving touchdowns (three each). He also projects to have a better matchup than Jones.
Or does he? Matchups barely matter for any of these guys so don’t get sucked into thinking Jones is a worse play because he might get shadowed by Marshon Lattimore. But do note that Atlanta is more vulnerable to the run than the pass. They rank 15th in pass DVOA per Football Outsiders, and 31st in run DVOA. Those numbers correlate with fantasy points allowed—Atlanta ranks 18th in points allowed to quarterbacks and wide receivers while ranking sixth in points allowed to running backs. Conversely, the Saints have allowed the most points to wide receivers and the third fewest to running backs. Advantage Jones/Kamara over Thomas/Tevin Coleman.
Travis Kelce - $7,500
After a monster Week 2 Kelce projects to land on more rosters than any other tight end, and rightfully so. His first game of the season caused some worry, but he did see six targets. Last week, he saw another 10 targets and now ranks second among all tight ends with 16, and seventh in receiving yards despite logging only six yards in Week 1. Defenses have to pick their poison against the Chiefs, and even if they choose Kelce as that poison, he will still be a dominant threat in the red zone and offers multi-touchdown upside every single week. This week, he also offers the cheapest way to roster a staple piece of the Chiefs’ offense.
If you’re looking for a reason to fade him, that reason is Zach Ertz. He saves you $500 in salary and provides the No. 1 option of his respective offense. 21.3% of the Eagles’ FanDuel points have filtered to tight ends—the fourth highest rate among all teams. Kansas City ranks 14th in that category. Ertz, of course, leads all tight ends in opportunity percentage (share of team targets and carries) and ranks fifth in receiving yards. With Carson Wentz set to make his first start and the Eagles short on wide receivers, Ertz figures to see a load of targets and should log a top-scoring week at the position regardless of matchup. If you’re paying top prices for tight ends, consider pivoting to Ertz, who will give you a slight edge in exposure and save you some salary.
Core players need no explanation: they are the meat and potatoes of lineups. Developing a list and building around them is DFS Strategy 101.
Deshaun Watson - $7,700
Through two games, Watson has looked somewhat lost and clearly struggles behind an offensive line that can’t offer any protection. His instincts don’t look as sharp as they did last year either when he lit the fantasy world on fire from Week 3 through Weeks before an ACL injury ended his season. But the return of Will Fuller V helped Watson log a 300-yard passing game on his way to a QB10 finish. He also found some room with his legs and now has 84 rushing yards on the season. We can expect more scrambles for as long as the Texans’ pass-protection gets pushed around, which at least protects his floor.
Entering Week 3, the Giants have recorded only one sack and one turnover, and they’ve allowed the second most rushing yards to quarterbacks. But on paper, their secondary presents an interesting challenge with Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple. So far, they’ve held quarterbacks to the second-fewest passing yards and the seventh-fewest fantasy points. But injuries could change that this week:
They also haven’t been challenged. Between the Cowboys last week and the Jaguars in Week 1, the Giants have faced run-heavy offenses that don’t feature premier wide receivers. That changes this week with Fuller and of course DeAndre Hopkins, both of whom finished with over 100 yards and a score each last week.
Despite the over/under of this matchup set at a paltry 41.5 points, the Texans are a near touchdown-favorite at home. And let’s not forget that the Giants have a few playmakers on offense who can take advantage of the Texans’ defense, which might explain why 69% of the public bets have landed on the over. This looks like a good spot throw Watson into a power-stack with Hopkins and Fuller while the crowd is busy stacking their chips on other games. Note, that the Texans Trio has averaged 72.2 FanDuel points a game when on the field together (five games), or just over 24 points each.
Jimmy Garoppolo - $7,400
For as amazing as Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense looks, their defense, conversely, looks historically terrible. Through two games, they’ve allowed a league-high 1,016 yards, 876 of which have gone to quarterbacks. They’ve also allowed the second most passing touchdowns, second most total plays, and fourth most points to opposing offenses.
It’s those numbers that we’ll causally refer to as the Reverse Mahomes Effect. The RME pushed Philip Rivers into 51 pass attempts, resulting in 424 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, and 29.96 FanDuel points. A week later, the RME forced Ben Roethlisberger into 60 pass attempts (452/3/0/38.98). Next up: Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers.
Garoppolo’s lackluster performance in Week 1 was easy to excuse because 1) it was the first game of the season, and 2) it was against the Vikings’ nearly elite defense. But then he hosted the Lions and managed only 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns with no interceptions—not exactly tournament winning numbers, and he almost threw a pick-six that would have lost them the game late in the fourth quarter. Regardless, a date with the Chiefs’ offense should smooth things out. Helping matters is Marquise Goodwin’s return to practice, which would pair Garoppolo with one of his favorite targets and allow the 49ers to field their best offense. For road underdogs, they’re being credited with a solid implied team total of 25 points—most of which figures to come via the pass.
He won’t be a sneaky play by any means after the crowd gets a whiff the current 56.5-point over/under, realizes that Chiefs’ games have smashed the over in both occasions this season (64 points in Week 1 and 79 points last week), and comes to the same conclusion that we want to play quarterbacks against them when Mahomes is under center. Regardless of popularity, Garoppolo’s $7,400 salary is more than fair, and a blowup game is in the cards.
Alvin Kamara - $8,700
From the “no kidding” files, Kamara gets a plug here because he has tournament-winning upside in a tasty matchup against the Falcons, who took the field last week without their two leading tacklers from 2017 and were carved up by Christian McCaffrey (15 targets, 14 catches, 102 receiving yards). With the Falcons potentially getting hot, the Saints’ defense may end up being put in the corner, forcing their offense into a high-volume situation. Even if that doesn’t happen, Kamara figures to once again be the main red zone threat. His 13 red zone opportunities are not only the most on the team by a wide margin they’re the second most among all players (excluding quarterbacks), his 240 total yards ranks seventh, and his 79.2% snap rate is sixth highest among running backs. We only get one more opportunity after this week to utilize his services sans Mark Ingram. Don’t let it pass.
Ezekiel Elliott - $8,200
The only thing missing from Elliott’s season is consistent yardage. His 173 total yards ranks 16th among running backs despite his elite usage. Said usage is why we should target him every week because opportunities eventually equal big games. Elliott leads all running backs in snap share (93.2%), red zone opportunity percentage (66.7%), and is second in total opportunity percentage (42.4%). And for all the worry over the years about his usage as a pass-catcher:
Elliott is tied for second in team targets. The problem with that is second in team targets on the Cowboys means only 10 targets. Regardless, his 40 total touches on the season rank sixth among all players and two of the guys ahead of them aren’t available to us on Sunday. Monster games are coming, and it could start in Seattle. The matchup may not cause an overwhelming amount of excitement, especially considering the Cowboys’ offensive struggles thus far, but Seattle’s defense looks vulnerable, and their offense may end up putting that defense into negative situations. Even if the Cowboys end up playing from behind, logic suggests Elliott sees more targets to add to his already bountiful opportunities. Take advantage of his more-than-reasonable salary because it’s bound to increase after this game.
Kareem Hunt - $7,900
What do you get when you take a running back that handles the majority of carries and snaps for a team that has scored more points than any other in the league and fields one of the best offenses? A tournament player that deserves to be in your lineup before his salary skyrockets.
Hunt hasn’t been needed much this year while Mahomes sets defenses on fire, but it’s only a matter of time before he explodes for a multi-touchdown game and reminds us why so many analysts were hot for him during the offseason. Last week, he handled all but one backfield carry and led all non-quarterbacks in team red zone opportunities. His matchup in Week 3 doesn’t offer much appeal. In fact, the 49ers’ defense has looked much better than anyone gave them credit for coming into the season and they currently rank fifth in Football Outsiders’ rushing DVOA. That’s the only downside for Hunt other than his lack of use as a pass-catcher and Mahomes scoring every single touchdown without him.
The upside is a high-scoring, high-volume game that Vegas has pegged with a 56-point over/under. Most of those points belong to Kansas City who have the highest implied team total of the week (31). We want running backs in these types of games, especially those that project to tote the load. Hunt touched the ball 19 times last week and should see at least that many opportunities this week. He’s a fine way to buy into the Chiefs’ offense without paying Mahomes’ pricing. And to that end, even though the correlation is typically weak (compared to QB/WR stacks), stacking Mahomes with Hunt offers a sneaky way to expose your rosters to this contest while also differentiating from the crowd.
Dalvin Cook - $6,500
Partially thanks to the Vikings’ offensive line, the play designs, and his general ineffectiveness, Cook looks like a different player than what he showed us in a short sample last year. It doesn’t help that the Vikings can’t run-block to save anyone. Nor does it help that the entire playbook has gone through the quarterback. Cook and Latavius Murray touched the ball a combined 17 times despite five full quarters of play last week. The good news is that Cook played 68% of snaps and was once again a factor in the passing game, earning five targets and converting them into 52 yards. He did leave the game in overtime with an apparent hamstring injury that he downplayed as cramps, so monitor his practice reps as the week matures to ensure that he isn’t limited.
Should Cook be full-go, the matchup on tap sets up as the best he’ll see all season. The Bills’ defense has picked up where they left off from 2017 when they were one the worst run defense in the league. They’ve allowed six total touchdowns to running backs over the first two games this year leading to the second most fantasy points permitted to the position. Things won’t get better against the Vikings, who are massive 16.5-point favorites at home. Everything about this situation favors a heavy rushing attack with Cook leading the way. Of course, we need to know he’s healthy and even then, there’s no guarantee he stays healthy or gets a full workload if the Vikings do, indeed, blow this game wide open. That’s the downside. But his upside more than makes up for that unfortunate scenario, especially at a bargain of a price.
Note: if Cook looks unlikely to play, Murray immediately becomes one of the top options of the week at $5,200.
UPDATE 9/21 - Cook has, indeed, been ruled out. Murray doesn't offer as much appeal as a pass-catcher, but from Week 5 on last year he ranked 10th among running backs in FanDuel scoring. Fire him up with confidence in what projects as a great matchup.
Giovani Bernard - $6,400
From the Week 3 notes regarding value backs:
- Does the player have a track record as the main ball carrier?
- How confident are you that the backup will earn an equal workload as the starter?
- In the case of a timeshare, does either back have enough upside to roster regardless of price?
- Does this situation warrant fading the top-tier running backs?
1: Yes. Here are his game logs when handling at least 15 carries:
Those numbers average out to 21.8 touches, 112 yards, .55 touchdowns, and 16.5 FanDuel points per contest.
2: Very confident. Mark Walton will serve as the backup and has never played an NFL snap. Thomas Rawls was signed on Wednesday, but there’s a reason why he was a free agent.
3: A timeshare seems highly unlikely. Bernard has proven himself as a capable bell-cow in multiple occasions.
4: Yes. The matchup doesn’t look great, and we can’t expect the Panthers’ defense to play as poorly as they did last week, but it’s worth noting that both Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith found room to run. The Panthers have a leaky secondary that will set up Bernard with plenty of chances in the red zone. And should the Bengals fall behind, he offers a great option as a receiver out of the backfield.
Conclusion: Bernard looks like a great flex play or even worth rostering as one of your two top running backs for as long as Joe Mixon sits out.
Corey Clement - $5,800
With Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles nursing injuries, Clement checks in as the Eagles healthiest option, and the timing couldn’t be better. They expect to have Wentz under center for the first time since he tore his ACL late last season. Even if it takes a few series to shake off the rust, his presence alone offers a tide-raising impact on the offense. This is great news for Clement assuming he gets the start. Throughout his short career, albeit on limited opportunities, he has proven capable as both a traditional runner and a solid pass-catcher. That latter of those two skills vibes perfectly with what the Eagles need right now as they await Alshon Jeffery’s return and recently lost Mike Wallace.
Meanwhile, on tap is a home tilt against a Colts defense that, on paper, should offer quarterbacks easy afternoons but in reality, has benefited running backs:
Note, that Washington barely got their offense off of the ground last week. What’s important here is how vulnerable the Colts are against adept pass-catchers. Only the Chiefs have allowed more receiving yards to the position, and only six teams have allowed more total yards to the position. Add the benefit of playing behind an elite offensive line, and Clement will have no trouble finding success regardless of how he’s used. It also helps that the Eagles feature a solid defense capable of producing short fields and positive situations for the offense.
Checking the final box, Philadelphia runs into a friendly game script as 6.5-point favorites, at home, with a healthy over/under of 47.5 points. To recap Clement’s situation: elite offensive line, star quarterback, solid defense, big Vegas favorite, excellent pass-catcher, capable runner, and potential bell-cow usage… all for under $6,000. And one last thing: their opponent features a quarterback that looked like one of the best in the league before getting injured, so it’s not unthinkable that this game turns into an exciting back-and-forth barn-burner. In fact, that’s exactly what we’re hoping for since it would filter more targets to Clement and set him up more scoring opportunities, which in turn solidifies his place as a GPP staple.
Both of these players were already mentioned in connection with Watson, but they deserve a reboot here. Last week, they combined for 20 targets, 14 catches, 223 yards, two touchdowns, and 41.3 fantasy points. If that sounds unlikely to repeat itself, consider this: Hopkins, Fuller, and Watson have played together in five games (Fuller was injured for the first three of last year and the first one of this year). In those five games, they combined for 360.94 FanDuel points or 72.2 points per game. And not that you would play both Fuller and Hopkins without also playing their quarterback, but their combined 41.3 fantasy points from last week was the fourth time they’ve scored at least 39 points in five chances.
That leads us to Week 3 where an intriguing matchup against the Giants awaits. Together, Fuller and Hopkins need 47.4 FanDuel points to hit the elusive 3x tournament value. That’s a lot to ask of this current version of the Texans’ offense, considering the fact that Watson will be pushed out of the pocket regularly and forced to run, so we may be better off simply chasing one of them. In that case, Fuller offers the best price and the most upside since he’s the downfield threat. But make no mistake about it, the trio of Watson, Hopkins, and Fuller offer tournament-winning upside and deserve consideration as a power-stack if you can handle the risk.
Julio Jones - $8,700
Jones’ final stat-line for Week 2 fails to tell the whole story. He was consistently open deep, and Matt Ryan launched a number of deep balls in his direction, but unfortunately, they were mistimed or inaccurate. On one particular throw, Jones had his defender beat by a few yards, but the ball was overthrown. He would have easily waltzed into the end zone had the throw been on target. As it stands, Jones ranks third in average depth of target among all players with at least 10 and thanks to a massive Week 1 performance, he comes into Week 3 ranked third in targets and sixth in receiving yards.
Alas, the touchdowns eluded him for yet another game. He hasn’t paid a visit to the end zone since Week 12 of 2017 and now has only nine scores in his last 32 games. If not for a dominant market share of targets and elite production when the ball is in his hands, Jones would be untouchable. Instead, he gets to take on a Saints defense known for giving up big plays. They were torched by DeSean Jackson three times in Week 1, and last week Antonio Callaway smoked them for a 47-yard score. As noted in the WR vs. NO writeup, dating back to last season, no team has allowed more completions of 20+ yards than the Saints. So, snapping a long streak of no touchdowns could be in the cards at home against the Saints’ risk-taking, burnable secondary. The volume will most certainly be there again, as this game offers the second highest over/under of the slate. If Jones fails to turn in a top-five wide receiver performance due to zero touchdowns again, we can avoid him until further notice. But for Week 3, he’s worth his salary.
Robert Woods - $6,700
The Chargers’ field a secondary that would normally be avoidable if not for their lack of success so far this season. Adding to that lack of success was Tyreek Hill’s monster game in which he torched them for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Brandin Cooks has similar speed as Hill, and the Rams have already utilized his skill set better than the Saints and the Patriots. He enters Week 3 ranked fourth in receiving yards and 14th in FanDuel points despite zero touchdowns. The matchup looks tough, but Vegas favors the Rams by a touchdown in what should be a high-scoring game, and one of their wide receivers is going to beat the Chargers’ secondary deep. Cooks profiles as that player.
But Woods registers as a better GPP play because of his price, his lack of exposure, and his usage. He leads the team in targets, ranks 10th among all players in air yards, and 11th in average depth of target (minimum 10 targets). There have been multiple missed opportunities both last week and the week before that would have thoroughly padded his stat line had they hit. If his usage happens to fine some efficiency, he’ll alter the landscape of tournaments in Week 3.
George Kittle - $5,300
Behind Kelce and Ertz, Kittle checks in as the most popular and logical option at tight end. Kittle leads the team in targets and receiving yards. His numbers would be even more impressive if not for a few key missed plays in both Week 1 and Week 2. Given his usage and situation this week, we almost need to ignore all other options at this position. The Chiefs have allowed the most receptions, the second most FanDuel points, the third most yards, and an 80% completion rate to tight ends. This game has been covered thoroughly so far, and it ends with Kittle. He’s an obvious stacking mate with Garoppolo even if Goodwin plays.
Jack Doyle - $5,200
As of Thursday, Doyle hasn’t practiced, so be sure to verify that he is, in fact, playing Sunday before committing to his services. If he does play, he’s a great pivot from Kittle. The Colts have filtered 31.3% of targets and 23.3% of FanDuel points to tight ends; both rates rank second highest in the league. Doyle ranks second in team targets, and even though Eric Ebron boasts gaudier numbers thanks to touchdown luck, Doyle has out-snapped him 95.1% to 37.8%. In fact, not counting the quarterback, no Colts offensive player has logged more snaps. He also happens to rank first in routes run with 81. So long as he plays, Doyle, regardless of matchup, is a solid GPP option that saves a ton of salary compared to Ertz and Kelce. If Doyle doesn’t play, feel free to take a chance on Ebron.
UPDATE 9/21 - Doyle has been ruled out. It's hard to love Ebron but he should see plenty of snaps and is a solid bet for a touchdown.
Minnesota Vikings - $4,900
You could fade the Vikings, at home, and their 16.5-point spread against Josh Allen and Co., but why would you? If you can afford them, feel free to ignore their projected exposure percentage and anchor your lineups with an elite defense.
Jacksonville Jaguars - $5,000
Actually, there is one reason to fade the Vikings’ defense, and it’s Sacksonville. They haven’t generated many sacks or turnovers yet this season, but a home date with the Titans should rectify that in short order. And chances are, if the crowd pays up for a defense, it’ll be the Vikings, which translate to the Jaguars being an almost sneaky play.
Houston Texans - $4,400
The Giants allowed six sacks last week and will enter Week 3 without their starting center. With Jadeveon Clowney expected to play, the Texans shape up as a great defensive play, even if they struggle against wide receivers, and especially against a statue like Eli Manning.
Similar to sleepers, contrarian players are those the crowd has completely mispriced and undervalued. In some cases, it’s a player coming off an injury or facing a difficult matchup but still carries a heavy price tag. In other cases, it could be a player that has struggled recently and therefore deemed untrustworthy. In all cases, guard your exposure to players listed in this section but get them in at least a few lineups.
Jared Goff - $7,600
None of Goff’s stats dress him up as a tournament play outside of his ninth-ranked total passing yards. His average of 32.5 passing attempts per game ranks 23rd, and with only three touchdowns on the season, it’s clear his upside is capped. But what’s interesting about Week 3 is that his trio of wide receivers all rank in the top-33 of FanDuel projections. Detroit is the only other team that has three wide receivers with similar rankings, and they’re not available on the main slate.
We already noted that both Cooks and Woods could end up burning the Chargers’ defense once or twice. It makes sense to stack one, or even both of them with Goff. The Rams are touchdown favorites at home with an implied team total of 27.5 points. It’s worth chasing the possibility that Rivers and Co. make this game a high-scoring back-and-forth. And for the record, Rivers ranks third in adjusted net yards per pass attempt while Goff ranks fifth (per Pro Football Reference), which suggests these quarterbacks are playing at elite levels regardless of volume stats and adds more fuel to the barn-burner fire. Stacking Goff with his receivers makes for an interesting pivot in tournaments.
Lamar Miller - $6,700
To hedge against recommending a Texans power stack featuring Watson and both of his top wide receivers, Miller is also intriguing this week. Not only has he handled 76.6% of snaps and 56.7% of carries, his 30.9% share of opportunities leads the team. As does his six red zone looks and his 179 total yards rank second. He hasn’t been much of a factor as a receiver, which certainly limits his ceiling, but he has a great opportunity this week to see a bunch of touches against a Giants defense that has allowed the fifth most fantasy points to running backs. Their offensive line is an absolute shambles, and their overall offense is a mess. All of this adds up to Miller earning extra looks and could be a solid stacking mate with the Texans’ defense. If you avoid Watson and Co., at least consider Miller as an affordable GPP option and hope he finds the end zone for the first time this season.
Allen Robinson - $6,500
After a solid Week 2, Robinson ranks 13th in targets and ninth in target market share. He draws a potentially tough matchup if he finds himself in Patrick Peterson’s coverage. The good news is that Robinson plays all over the field and has divided up his snaps almost equally from left, right, and slot. No matter where he lines up, he’s the clear favorite of Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t played great this season. The Bears’ offense certainly makes us question whether or not they can produce a wide receiver with GPP upside. At the very least, Robinson provides a safety net of volume and could luck into a touchdown should the Bears find themselves in the red zone. With the way their defense has been playing in contrast to the opponent they face, perhaps Robinson will get plenty of chances against a secondary that allowed a run-heavy Rams team to log 303 wide receiver yards last week.
Tyler Lockett - $6,500
If have you’ve watched any of the Seahawks games this year then you’ve witnessed how awful their offensive line looks and how their inability to protect the quarterback or set up the run has dragged the offense down. Without Russell Wilson, this team would barely win four games. Thankfully, they do have Wilson, and for all his faults that often get blamed on the line, he’s an elite improviser when flushed from the pocket—something that’s going to happen a lot against the Cowboys on Sunday. Last week, the Cowboys’ defensive showed their teeth and sacked Manning six times. They’ve now established themselves as a premier pass-rushing unit with nine sacks through two games, second-most in the league. So, given the Seahawks inability to protect the passer, we can bet on Wilson running for his football life in this game.
That, of course, doesn’t do us any favors with his receivers. But Lockett has enough speed and is a smart enough player to vibe perfectly with his quarterbacks’ tendencies to improvise. He put his receiving abilities on display last week when he came down with this beauty of a touchdown:
Note that in 47 career games, last week was the first one Lockett played without Doug Baldwin, and he immediately jumped to the top the Seahawks’ pecking order. The matchup could be one to avoid given how well the Cowboys’ defense has played through two games, but the season is young, and the Seahawks are playing at home as small favorites. Surely, Wilson will take a few deep shots in Lockett’s direction and challenge this young defensive secondary.
Austin Hooper - $5,200
Could it be that we are finally witnessing Hooper find his way into the playbook and establishing himself as a regular part of the offensive game plan? He’s currently second in team targets and receiving yards and may earn more looks going forward after catching all five his targets last week for 59 yards and a touchdown. With the Saints coming to town, it stands to reason that the Falcons’ passing attack gets forced into high-gear. That’s good news for Hooper, who has played on 84.2% of snaps and ranks 13th among tight ends in receiving routes run. Maybe he’s fool’s gold, but Hooper looks solid this season, and they’re going to need him against a powerhouse division rival.
Virgil Green - $4,300
Green dominated snap counts last week and now has five targets over the first two games (five catches, 76 yards). The Rams field a tough defense but Jared Cook and the Raiders showed how soft the middle of that defense is if challenged. Rivers will be forced to throw in what could end up a shoot-out, and with the Chargers’ outside wide receiver facing solid coverage, Green could end up with a heavy target share.