The Josh Gordon deal is a big enough topic that we'll break it down into sections. Next, we'll examine a variety of players who our staff believes (or doubts) can redeem themselves after a bad start. We'll end the roundtable with another round of players who've been pleasant surprises early and whether we should believe in their long-term viability.
- The Patriots-Browns Trade of Josh Gordon
- Fantasy Implications of the Josh Gordon Deal
- Fantasy Trash/Hidden Treasure
- For Real/Fool's Gold
The Patriots-Browns Trade of Josh Gordon
Matt Waldman: What are your general thoughts on this deal?
Jason Wood: Wow...
Bob Henry: Eeeee! (Gulp...)
Joe Bryant: It's a great move by New England and makes total sense to me. Patriots thinking they can get the most out of a guy.
Sigmund Bloom: Eagles might be kicking themselves that they didn't give this a shot with their needs and a strong culture. Maybe they can make an offer for DeVante Parker.
Wood: I would have been beside myself if the Eagles brought him in, Sigmund.
Bloom: I understand, but they should take the Pats' approach of calculated risks and betting on their culture, organization, and coaches to get the most from players.
Alessandro Miglio: As I was saying, he was a hold for me throughout this entire weekend's drama.
Bryant: I'm fascinated by your reaction, Jason. Why would you be beside yourself?
Wood: Aside from the immense risk he never sets foot on a football field again at a moment's notice? Football truly is a team game and the Eagles won in part last year because they genuinely liked each other and bought into the coaching philosophy.
Each piece you bring in that's not part of the equation has an exponential impact on degrading that foundation they've built. It's like buying into a lottery ticket upside in exchange for a track record of self-destruction that unintentionally pulls others around him into the void.
Bryant: I am baffled by the "beside myself" reaction or the indignation from folks that their team is "above" bringing in such a "miscreant" as Gordon. I don't think Gordon is a bad guy at all.
Dallas taking in Greg Hardy was one thing. I was fine with Michael Vick going to the Eagles, but I could understand how people might not be. I don't see Gordon's issues in the same range of any of those.
He might not work out in New England, but I see the risk as minimal and am fascinated at the shunning I see from some reacting to his potential arrival to their team before New England made the deal.
B.J. VanderWoude: I have the same reaction, Joe. I think if he were a guy who created a toxic environment within the locker room, the Browns would not have put up with everything they have.
I think that Cleveland is trying to turn the corner now and don't want to see anything fester, but we haven't heard a single teammate come out and bash him the way other teams did after their running back didn't report. I also don't think he can be any more of a distraction than Edelman being suspended for PED use, Brady being suspended (ridiculously), or Belichick costing his team draft picks.
Gordon has done little to earn any benefit of the doubt that those guys but the Patriots have a tight operation and it means Gordon will either be a guy who can help them or he won't be there long. He won't be a guy who will distract them from their goals.
Bryant: Totally this...
Wood: I'm on the other side. The excuses people make for freakish athleticism astound. Although I cannot fathom how anyone can conclude that Gordon is anything but a potential distraction and letdown in the making, as odd as this sounds, my view doesn't preclude this from being a move worth making for the Patriots.
It's such a unique organization in the NFL that it can afford to bring Gordon in. I still think it's more likely he'll to be off the roster in a month than becoming a huge playmaker for them all year. His behavior is cancerous to a team.
Bryant: Have you seen evidence that Gordon is a "cancer?" That's what I'm scratching my head over.
Wood: Absolutely. Let's review what we know.
- Josh Gordon is a drug addict, and a severe one, at that
- He's failed to shed those demons repeatedly
- He was banned from the league
- Through enormous leaps of faith, he got yet another shot
- Throughout all this, the Browns stuck by him
- He then returns to much fanfare, and mysteriously leaves camp to practice on his own
- The Browns stick by him
- He reports, and even though the Browns were within their rights to keep him from being vested this year, they opt to honor his service time
- Two weeks into the season, the Browns announce they're releasing him
- We shortly find out it wasn't because of another drug violation (as we all assumed) but for other reasons
- We also find out he practiced in full all week then showed up on Saturday with a 'hamstring'
- We then find out he's 100 percent (magically) today after the trade is consummated
So let's look at this logically. A team that stuck by him when even the most cursory understanding of the statistics behind drug relapse would've told them to cut bait, opts suddenly to cut him because of "other" issues. It has to be one of the following scenarios:
- He hasn't officially relapsed but they strongly fear he's using again and/or is putting himself in situations that will likely lead to a relapse -- CONCLUSION: He's caught up in his demons. Doesn't make him a bad person, keep him sympathetic but also essentially removes him from the NFL landscape forever.
- He hadn't relapsed at all but had such little respect for the only organization that believed in him, his teammates, his coaches, the fans, and ownership, that he couldn't be bothered to show up to meetings and practices on time. The finally the team had enough of a guy who should've lost his shot in the league many times over but sabotaged his behavior to get himself cut. That's not the description for a good teammate, anywhere.
The way I see it, either Gordon's demon has him, or he didn't live up to his expectations intentionally. It cannot be anything else. And since it seems he hasn't relapsed, we're left with one possibility.
Bryant: I agree for sure with the facts you listed. I just wouldn't call that behavior cancerous as I don't think it affects other people or sends a negative message. He's clearly battling addiction issues, which we both know are frustrating for folks like us who have experience being in the lives of people dealing with addiction. However, it's not cancerous. Almost all of his trouble has been failed drug tests.
The appearance is that's under control for now. Now maybe the assumption is that he can't function in the league without drugs. But it seems if they can keep him clean, he can get on the field. We'll, of course, see soon enough.
However, none of that makes me think he's cancerous for the team or asinine for the Patriots to give him a shot. With society's view on alcohol and recreational drugs, I'm surprised to see one who abuses them is seen as a pariah. It's fascinating to me.
Wood: I agree that the addiction doesn't make him cancerous. However, his behavior outside of his addiction does. He was also a big-time drug dealer. By his own admission, Gordon was making $10,000 a month at Baylor. A month!
Bryant: I think we've reached the point where we've fleshed this out thoroughly and we'll have to remain in disagreement with that point.
Miglio: I disagree that this was a bad move by the Patriots. The trade was for a conditional fifth-round pick. If Gordon messes up, he's gone and the Pats don't bat an eye. On the flip side, Gordon could be Randy Moss-lite for Brady. The downside is minimal, and the upside is obvious.
John Lee: The one thing that we should point out here is that this is it for Gordon. If polled, I suspect that NFL general managers would universally agree that if Josh Gordon cannot succeed in that Patriots locker room, he cannot succeed in any NFL locker room.
So all of Gordon's eggs are in this basket. He either sinks or swims at this point and I don't think there is anything in between.
B.J. VanderWoude: I think it was a calculated risk with minimal downside from a football perspective. I don't think he's bad for your football culture. He's not a locker room disturbance. As far as PR optics, I have no idea, but New England just boosted their potential big time.
And John, I agree with you about this being Gordon's last chance, but I think this situation is the best thing for his career. Either he really makes the change and does his best to reach his potential or he figures out what's next in his life.
Henry: The locker room and environment thing here is interesting to me. On one hand, we view the Patriots as having a strong team, lots of leadership with Brady and others, so one is naturally inclined to think "good place for Gordon to land".We've also seen/heard numerous examples of other players who've said the exact opposite. It's tough to play in NE. Lots of pressure. Not a "fun" place. All work. Too serious. Brady himself may be a great leader but he's also super intense. Being that it is New England, I could see this going either way. If Gordon needed time to get away in Cleveland (TV / Hard Knocks or not) then the pressure cooker in NE will surely add to those demons and become even more challenging.Or, the Patriots embrace him, and he them, and this turns into one of those moments we look back and say (as many are already), "What a brilliant move once again by the Patriots." Why don't other teams do it that way? One thing for sure. It'll generate a ton of press and intrigue. Time will tell.
I am conflicted with Gordon's behavior and not really sure what to believe given that I don't think Cleveland deserves any benefit of the doubt on this or other matters. Of course, Gordon doesn't either.
Jeff Tefertiller: Maybe I see the situation differently than most, but I see it as a way to load up for a one- or two-year run for Brady's final years. The loss to Jacksonville illustrated a need. It's a win-at-all-costs, short-term move. If he fails, he fails. Not a huge impact.
Wood: Again, I think the Patriots are the only team that should take this gamble. Still, it's telling to me that supposedly eight teams inquired about him yet Cleveland took the Patriots' offer of essentially a fifth-round pick (or a swap of a fifth for a seventh, depending).
It indicates that other teams were either A) not serious about acquiring him and were just curious or B) Unwilling to risk as little as a fifth rounder for the "opportunity." The final word for me on this matter is there's a cost to bringing someone aboard, even if the traditional fiscal and draft resource costs are seen as low.
Ari Ingel: Former teammates and coaches have said that Gordon has been a good teammate. Guys like Joe Thomas even have said they really like Gordon. I also don't understand how substance abuse issues make him a cancerous locker room presence. He can be a good teammate (I guess outside of being dependable) and still have personal issues. Both can be true.
Matt Waldman: It all depends on how a team manages its employee. Because these issues are public for NFL players due to them being contracted employees and NFL owners wanting to make this information public, it's a different animal compared to other employment environments where it's either illegal to disclose (HIPPA for non-contract employees) or distasteful or unnecessary to make these issues known.
While there's a PR component that the NFL wants to get tough on criminal behavior for the good of the game, I can't help but think that there's also a component to making drug tests public so ownership can control salary negotiations and have public sentiment on its side. In this respect, I'm not a fan of drug issues being public knowledge but it's legal and acceptable for businesses hiring contracted employees — and there's often good precedent for the need.
While I agree with Joe that drug addiction doesn't automatically make a player a cancerous teammate, there's no doubt that it makes him unreliable.
If I managed a team of contracted employees and one of them was an amazing asset when available but hasn't been available for major long-term projects for years and I don't know whether I can or should build my team around his specific talents, how am I going to do my job? Personally, I would care about Gordon's health and welfare but as a leader of a business team, I would have wanted to get rid of him well before what transpired this summer.
We've all been around talented people who aren't reliable and it's not only frustrating but it can be a waste of time and resources. I'd hate to be an offensive coordinator who spent all week (or all preseason) scripting and installing a game plan that involved plays that we'd only want to run for Gordon only to learn that he can't emotionally handle the job yet and is gone for a significant part of the season. The same is true if I were the quarterback or any of those teammates.
Sorry Browns fans, but what do these coaches or players know about winning football who vouched for Gordon? Have these past coaches run winning organizations? Were these other players who vouched for him on championship teams? I don't think any of them were other than Jamie Collins Sr.
I've stuck with Gordon on my dynasty teams because I've viewed him as a luxury worth the upside. However, if I were a part of a football organization, there is no way that I would have put up with Gordon for anywhere the length of time the Browns did. As much as I want him to do well and get his addiction under control, it is ridiculous to think that what transpired in Cleveland wasn't an amazing display of patience because they were starved for his otherworldly talent.
Gordon is the most talented receiver in football. This is different than the most refined or accomplished. Gordon's amazing season occurred under the influence. Maybe it's not on the same plain as Doc Ellis's no-hitter on LSD, but it's remarkable in its own way.
Because of Gordon's talent, I understand the extreme patience because it's rooted in a team's natural inclination to covet season-changing skill. Hardy, Vick, and Gordon do not belong in the same conversation for their behaviors and it's unfair to lump Gordon within the other two. However, it is fair to say that Gordon has done nothing to prove that he's reliable and that he's hurt his teammates and team no matter how many of them want to say nice things about him.
And I am a Browns fan still wanting to see Gordon turn this around for his sake.
Daniel Simpkins: I am a mental health therapist by day, and I have spent part of my career treating individuals with substance abuse issues. It has given me some insight into this situation that I don’t believe I would otherwise have.
I feel that Josh Gordon’s behavior has been constantly self-defeating. Self-sabotage is very common in individuals who are battling addiction. It can be overcome, but it takes time, insight on the part of the individual, and the willingness of that person to make different choices instead of sinking back into old patterns.
I remain skeptical that Gordon can conquer this issue before it ends his playing career. New England’s culture and environment give him the best chance to do so, but again, Josh Gordon is the determining factor in whether or not he is successful.
I know that the general public feels that they have to declare a winner and a loser in this deal, but I think it’s possible that both teams won by making this trade. Cleveland has been dealing with this distraction for a very long time and to finally be rid of it must be a relief.
The Browns finally have the personnel to compete with other teams and just need a few changes in the coaching staff to be a serious contender. Dismissing Gordon may have come later than it needed to, but better late than never.
As for New England, there is virtually no risk in this for them. They get a player who can greatly help their struggling offense at minimal cost. If his behavior becomes bad enough that they have to cut him, they have only lost a late-round pick.
The fantasy implications of the josh Gordon deal
Waldman: Strictly from a fantasy perspective, what do you think of the trade?
Andy Hicks: Far too often we think that talent is a better measure of success than anything else. History has repeated to us over and over again, that it is far from the defining factor.
I ranked Gordon way higher than I should have this summer and got burned after warning anyone I could about Martavis Bryant in 2017. I won’t be making that mistake again.
For a refresher course in how players who have been suspended for at least a year since Ricky Williams successfully returned, here's a list for your consideration:
- Frank Alexander – Now playing in the CFL.
- Aldon Smith – Still not reinstated.
- Dion Jordan – Made a return to NFL rosters after a three-year absence.
- Daryl Washington – Hasn’t played since 2013.
- Justin Blackmon – Hasn’t played since 2013.
- Tanard Jackson – Suspended indefinitely after returning from a year-long suspension.
- Dominic Rhodes – Never played in the NFL again.
- Johnny Jolly – Returned to play one season after missing three seasons.
- Travis Henry – Never played in the NFL again.
- Odell Thurman – Never played in the NFL again.
- Koren Robinson – Played one more season (12 games, 400 yards, and 2 touchdowns).
- Martavis Bryant – The fact he was able to record 50 receptions in 2017 has to be considered a success, but his on-again, off-again appearance on Oakland's roster indicates that is all it will be.
It leaves us with Gordon. Cleveland invested so much time into this young man and for them to walk away speaks volumes. For fantasy purposes, he should only be considered if you have a deep roster and can easily replace guys from the waiver wire. New England and Bill Belichick have demonstrated over and over again, people who make stupid decisions do not stay a Patriot for long.
If I had a deep roster on my fantasy squad, I would happily keep him for a week or two to see what happens, but in my heart, I know this is not going to end well. I wish Josh Gordon every success in the world, but he is fantasy poison.
Vander Woude: If we are to use the Patriots past moves to determine Gordon's future fantasy value, I would put his weekly points somewhere between Brandin Cooks and Randy Moss.
From a pure football perspective, I expect a lot from him because he has landed in a place that has perennially gotten more out of wide receivers they have drafted/acquired (Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Danny Amendola, and Deion Branch) than those receivers were able to achieve anywhere else. He is playing with one of the best quarterbacks of all time, for one of the greatest coaches of all time, and for an organization that's football operations are as good as any franchise in the history of the league. Gordon is a high-risk player, and he deserves that tag. His substance abuse issues have gotten the best of him repeatedly, and it is hard to look at it in any other way. With that said, he has landed in a place that has put his career in an immediate sink-or-swim mode. He will either sink and be out of the league, or he will swim and reach his potential as one of the most talented receivers in the league. I am interested in acquiring Gordon, although only if the price is right and matches his risk/reward portfolio. I have no problem using 33 percent of my free agent budget on him, perhaps even more, because his upside is as high as any player you will find on the waiver wire this year with the exception of James Connor.
Would I trade a No.2 fantasy wide receiver like Golden Tate for him? Probably not, however, I would trade a No.3 wide receiver like Randall Cobb or Kenny Stills for him in a heartbeat. I won't upset the consistency of my team for Gordon, but I will trade a receiver with boom or bust weekly potential--that has a low-risk profile, like Cobb/Stills--for him. Chad Parsons: I am skeptical of Gordon's ultimate fantasy impact. Aside from the off-field factors, the Patriots are a tough offensive to crack in terms of attention to detail, reps, trust, and fitting specific game plans. Third, Julian Edelman will be back soon and Rob Gronkowski and James White are an integral part of the offense not going away. In terms of a trade, I would pay a price of a No.3 fantasy receiver with upside level pricing in re-draft leagues. In dynasty leagues, a future first-round pick as a contender is a worthy risk-reward price for the potential upside.
Andrew Garda: If – and we've seen receivers fail to ‘get it’ here before so it is an if – he does get the hang of the offense, Gordon could put up some nice numbers. While he’s not a 1:1 comparison to Brandin Cooks, both are big-play receivers and Cooks earned 114 targets, caught 65, and earned 1,000 yards.
Gordon is capable of that and Brady is absolutely a step up from anyone throwing to Gordon before.
There’s significant risk in acquiring him but if you don't give up a ton, or you snag him off the waiver wire, you can mitigate the risk. I wouldn’t trade him if I have him, as you probably didn’t draft him thinking he’d be a key cog in your machine anyway.
Posting 40 percent of free agent bidding funds is reasonable and I’d push the button for him in regular waivers as well. I own him in a few leagues, and I’m not selling.
Sean Settle: Everyone has echoed my sentiments about the move and the risk-reward. I would burn my top waiver on Gordon for even the chance of him returning to form in a much better offense. I would be wary of a trade until we know for sure that he is going to be activated and actually play. I would be happy to part with my waiver but would not trade straight up for Gordon.
Simpkins: Assuming he can stay on the field, I love this landing spot for Gordon for fantasy purposes. The Patriots lack that true vertical element to their passing game at the moment and Josh Gordon has the ability to provide it. It will open up the field, which will help both the passing and running game.
If I were going to acquire Gordon via trade, I would deal someone on my team that I’m not terribly excited about going forward, but who is a player for whom others may have more love. Jamaal Williams comes to mind. I took him in a few leagues, thinking the Packers coaching staff might come to their senses and feature him exclusively. Williams didn’t light up the box score in the first two weeks and the beat writers that cover the team believe that the coaching staff wants to mix in Aaron Jones when he returns. If that happens, it will make this situation a dreaded three-headed committee.
If Gordon is on the waiver wire, I’m willing to give 50 percent of my budget to acquire him in a stock PPR league. At worst, I can trade him to another owner for someone I really do believe in who has had a slow start. At best, he’ll be a difference-maker for my team down the stretch.
Henry: The main driver for Gordon’s value rests entirely with his behavior, ability to stay clean, show up on time and be an accountable teammate and member of the Patriots football team at this point. It’s also safe to say, this is his last chance, but wow – what a great opportunity it is.
If you were bullish on Gordon throughout the pre-season as a Cleveland Brown, you have to be even more so now. The same risks are still in play. In fact, if Gordon couldn’t handle the pressures of playing football and staying clean in Cleveland, it’s fair to question whether he’ll have an even more difficult time in New England.
That said, if Gordon is clear to play (and healthy despite the whole hamstring scenario that was the last straw for him in Cleveland), then it’s more about getting acclimated to the playbook and developing trust with Brady. Neither of those two factors is a "gimme."
If he’s in the lineup, he is their second-best skill player behind Gronkowski and I’ll project him that way, but first I have to see that he’s acclimated, ready to play and actually on the field. Those are not trivial obstacles.
The risk associated with Gordon remains the same. The fact is that people in his position often have a difficult time staying clean and Gordon is no different. The odds are not favorable. The chances of him making it and staying clean for the full season are probably less than 50 percent, but if you focus on the path of success, then he’s in that WR1/WR2 range every week because of his upside and explosive potential on any given play.
Factoring in everything, he’s probably best to evaluate around the WR3 range as an extreme boom/bust case for the season and each week. For waivers, I’m the type to go all in, and I’d make a strong play with FAAB budget if he is available. I wouldn’t hesitate to bid over 50 percent of the budget.
Waldman: Knowing only part of the story and knowing that we won't learn more until after we can make any profitable decision as fantasy players, I'd like to tell you that I'm through with Gordon in re-draft leagues despite labeling him a value this preseason. However, I can't quit Gordon in re-draft if the opportunity is right to acquire him.
I don't know a league where someone will trade him to me without expecting the world. Maybe those of you reading this play in some of these leagues and if you do, I'm happy for you. It's not going to happen in mine.
The only way I can consider him is the waiver wire and by the time this posts, most of you reading will have had your blind bidding for the week. For those of you with Thursday or Friday evening bids, I'd only bid on Gordon if I had a strong team and I'm hoping to put it over the top and risking 50-60 percent of my budget is less likely to hurt my squad.
However, if my team is struggling and has multiple under-performing players and injuries, I'd rather have my entire budget to take numerous shots on additional players, acquire depth, and trade for players who have a track record of reliability. Gordon's substance abuse history is too much for me to invest otherwise because too much has occurred to give him a pass until he proves a lot more than he has in recent years.
In dynasty leagues, I invested in Gordon long ago and I'm riding it out because I've made space to do so. I've earned nothing on the investment since he made Aqib Talib look like a hapless Pop Warner kid out of his depth.
At this point, handling your investment in Gordon is a lot like Field of Dreams: Building a baseball diamond in your cornfield and then traveling across the country to convince a renowned writer-activist-recluse to return home with you see it because you heard voices tell you to do so is crazy. However, if you've gone this far with the risk and turn back now to sell your farm to some investor for pennies on the dollar, you're a wuss.
Fail big rather than chicken out at the final moment.
Waldman: Each player below has underperformed to preseason expectations. In the urgent/panicky culture of fantasy football, which of these players are you dumping? Which ones are you actively searching to get dumped in your lap? Pick two backs
Pick two passers
Pick two receivers
- Allen Robinson
- Demaryius Thomas
- Corey Davis
- Larry Fitzgerald
- Jamison Crowder
- Robert Woods
- Amari Cooper
Pick one tight end
Select players from this list who you have the strongest opinion about one way or the other.
Adam Harstad: I just wanted to drop in and comment about Rashaad Penny from a dynasty slant. Between Penny's slow start and Phillip Lindsay's fast start, I've seen evidence from Twitter polls and completed trades that a lot of people in the community are starting to view them as roughly equal assets.To that end, I wanted to share a list of every running back drafted in the first round since 2000 who gained fewer than 600 yards from scrimmage as a rookie, and every undrafted running back since 2000 who gained more than 800 yards from scrimmage as a rookie. First-Round Disappointments:
- Thomas Jones
- T.J. Duckett
- Mark Ingram II
- Donald Brown
- C.J. Spiller
- David Wilson
- Shaun Alexander
- Felix Jones
- Cedric Benson
- Deuce McAllister
- Tim Biakabutuka
- Larry Johnson
- Rashard Mendenhall
- Chris Perry
- Trung Canidate
*(Willis McGahee missed his entire rookie season to injury and is not included here.)Undrafted Surprises
The 15 first-round disappointments combined for a total of 16 top-12 finishes for the rest of their careers. They also had 11 top-24 finishes. Over half of them went on to achieve strong fantasy relevance, earning at least one top-12 or two top-24 finishes. The seven undrafted surprises combined to total two top-12 and one top-24 finish for the rest of their careers. Only Ryan Grant and LeGarrette Blount provided any notable fantasy value beyond their rookie season. This isn't to say that no undrafted free agent can ever be a star, (Arian Foster would certainly take umbrage at the suggestion). Nor is it to say that no first-round back can ever disappoint-- Chris Perry ended his career with just 1,080 total yards and 4 touchdowns. This is just a reminder that even 16 games are a very small sample size relative to everything that was considered before the draft, and 2 games are absolutely microscopic.
Waldman: I was about to berate you if you didn't mention Foster. Thanks for the opening statement. What about the rest of you on the topic above about who is fantasy trash or fantasy treasure with Adam's warning in mind? Let's focus on running backs for the moment.
Henry: I’m absolutely sticking with David Johnson and Alex Collins. The offense in Arizona is horrendous at the moment, but I’m not bailing on Johnson unless a convincing offer comes along. He’s too good of a player not to right the ship. It’s also a bet that Wilks and his staff will come around or the good old “assumption of rational coaching” mantra.
The Ravens will also settle into a better place offensively. Collins is definitely a better option when the game script is favorable. We haven’t seen much of that yet, but the sky is not falling, and Baltimore will rebound. When they do, Collins will be fine as a middle-tier RB2.
Settle: After falling victim to taking what I thought was a healthy Johnson near the top of the first round, I have already come to regret that decision. With that I have also established a new rule for myself: Never draft a running back from a bad team. Ever.
There were a lot of unknowns with Johnson after losing almost a full season to injury, but then the Cardinals made the mistake of paying him for what he did in the past before his injury. The man has his money and is not being used enough with Arizona trailing early and often in games. It is hard to call a first-round pick fantasy trash, but from a value standpoint, that is what he will be this season.
I ignored all of the signs and will most likely still stubbornly run him out there every week in the hopes that Arizona will turn it around. David Johnson is going to let down a lot of owners this year and unfortunately, I am going to be one of them.
Collins is a slightly different case in that we have no idea what kind of team the Ravens are. They blew out a Buffalo team with their vertical passing game but then were taken to the woodshed by Cincinnati.
Waldman: You mean we don't know that Buffalo stinks and Cincinnati is decent if not good?
Settle: Ha! Perhaps. Still, Collins was effectively benched after a fumble against Buffalo but came right back into the starting fold the next week.
There are three running backs in Baltimore and the team has committed to none of them. Collins has the upside of being a solid RB2 every week but that is all dependent on the play calling. I am going to have a hard time trusting Collins until the Ravens prove they are willing to make him their lead back.
Waldman: Trade him to me for what Bob said.
Hicks: With a contract extension, David Johnson is locked into Arizona for the next three years. While that may be great for his financial well being, the new Cardinals are going to struggle following the departure of Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer.
His 17 touchdowns from 2016 are going to be a distant memory and he is unlikely to play to the elite level he was expected to until this team clicks. That may not be this year, so we have to lower expectations for Johnson considerably.
He should still be a reasonable start given his abilities as a pass catcher, but it will be almost impossible for him to reach his draft slot. He can still be a mid-tier RB2 if they figure out how to get him the ball out of the backfield and run him effectively when they aren’t being blown out. I'm not excited.
LeSean McCoy was always going to be a risk one way or another heading into the season. The off-field allegations were severe, so no one should have taken him too high, but the offensive line issues and poor quarterback play are only adding to the woes.
Given that he is now over 30, it would be a pretty good bet that he is in his final season as an NFL player, especially with the off-field drama. It is hard to see a scenario where he delivers like his old self and I would be almost tempted to dump him now, but would probably hang on for another week or two.
Simpkins: The situation wasn’t very good, to begin with, but now with the rib injury, I’m sending McCoy to my waiver wire. I’m also dumping Penny. Not only am I not a fan of him as a talent, but the situation is about as bad as it can be. The offensive line can’t pass or run block effectively, Brian Schottenheimer's play-calling is terrible, and Russell Wilson is basically having to spin gold from straw to keep this offense even somewhat respectable.
Parsons: I am buying David Johnson as there is little going on for Arizona's offense and the 'squeaky wheel' premise is ready for Week 3 after blatant misuse of Johnson for two games. I am fading Alex Collins and LeSean McCoy.
Collins has been outscored by Javorius Allen and Allen is getting red zone and passing game work, leaving empty carries and mere volume the lone potential upside in a given week for Collins. McCoy is dinged up with an injury which lingers and could be elevated in-game. Also, Buffalo's offense is bad enough, McCoy could go a month or two between touchdowns.
Garda: Right now, with the new allegations around LeSean McCoy, I’m nervous. Once is happenstance, a second time, coincidence and I’m not waiting for the third time to prove enemy action.
I’m trying to sell him as even if there’s something to clear him later, this is what the CoCommissioner'sxempt list is for, and the Bills should absolutely put him on it. Sure, he’s their whole offense, but they are going to have to learn to win without him sooner or later and he’s not exactly helping now.
I’m sticking with David Johnson, though. I get that Steve Wilks is doing a bad job of using the only worthwhile thing in his offense, but at some point, he’ll see the light and we’ll see Johnson on more pass routes (like we did in Week 1), and they will also use him on more outside runs.
VanderWoude: Johnson is the easy answer of the player that I want to be dumped in my lap. The Cardinals have looked as bad as any team not wearing blue in New York, and Mike McCoy has not made Johnson the focus of the offense. These are the reasons I will use in my bid to acquire Johnson though.
He has as much natural talent as you will find in an NFL running back, and he fits the bill as a two-way force in the running and passing game. You can argue that his upside is higher than any other running back, and that is an easy argument when you use past performance as an indicator of a player's ceiling. Quick Trivia Question: Who is the only running back to crack 400+ points in PPR scoring from 2007-2017? David Johnson. I was an early buyer of McCoy in drafts because I thought he would not be suspended. The stronger argument was that his price in drafts (fourth-fifth round) was low if you erred on the conservative side and said he would play 12 games, as his prorated stats in 12 games surpassed the median stats of other running backs around him.
Now he has mounting legal problems and has sustained an injury to his ribs. That is before you even begin to account for the Bills factor, which after McCoy, is destined to lack a fantasy player even worthy of a bench role. He is an easy dump for me, and I would not be looking for much more than a No.4 running back with some upside. Alex Collins is a hold for me, although I'm not sure I am going out of my way to acquire him either. His role is pretty secure and the offense will normalize with respect to run/pass ratio as the season progresses. His lack of pass-catching ability makes it hard for me to see him as anything more than a solid No.3 running back, which makes it hard to gain value for in a trade. Derrick Henry is not the best running back on the Titans right now. Whether that has to do with his one-way skill set that allows teams to stack the box and dare the Titans to beat them with the pass, I don't exactly know, but I do prefer Dion Lewis in the backfield. If I could dump Henry for Lewis and a low end starting tight end, I would do that trade.
Waldman: Quarterbacks. 1-2-3, go!
Hicks: Deshaun Watson was rusty and inexperienced heading into the first two weeks of the season. Better numbers are coming as he regains confidence and clicks with his receivers. Week 2 was a significant improvement on his first game and while he looked off against the Patriots, he at least was able to move the ball well against the Titans. People cannot panic yet and big numbers are surely around the corner.
Jared Goff has played Oakland and Arizona in the first two games. To say the Rams haven’t been stretched is an understatement. Goff has still managed to do well and given the insane numbers of other quarterbacks, even if he continues on his current numbers he will easily fall inside the top 12. He is on pace for 4600 yards and 24 touchdowns. If he has to do more then the first two weeks, then that ranking moves into the single digits and more.
VanderWoude: From a pure fantasy perspective, Matthew Stafford has been fine thus far. He is the No.11 quarterback and is averaging roughly 310 passing yards and 2 touchdowns per game. That is a 4,960 passing yards and 32 touchdown pace (albeit with 32 interceptions as well), above what you thought you would get out of him to begin the season.
The remarkable play of other quarterback is not his fault, and he has a massive amount of talent around him at wide receiver. I would trade him straight up for Goff, Luck or Garoppolo, as well as Joe Flacco or Andy Dalton, the two quarterbacks directly ahead of him in this season's current rankings.
The Lions may not look good as a football team, but the fact that they are down in games has put the passing game in a good place. He is a hold, and someone I would not hesitate to acquire for the quarterbacks I mentioned above. I see Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson in a similar light. Watson has more talent around him and will be fine from a fantasy perspective. I am not in the least bit worried about a player with his skill set and receiving options.
Wilson, on the other hand, worries me because he is absolutely running for his life on the field. Yet, he somehow inspires confidence that in this scenario he can still produce fantasy points.
He is missing Doug Baldwin, and that has forced Brandon Marshall and Tyler Lockett into the top two receiver spots when in actuality they are second and third options at this stage of their careers. The running game has produced nothing of value, yet Wilson is still the No.13 quarterback and averaging 262 passing yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game.
Wilson is a survivor, the type of player you could flush down the toilet and he would walk out the other end with a plumbers license. I would rather acquire Watson because he has less risk, but I would take a chance on Wilson, being that he finished the season as the #1 quarterback last year with a team that is not much different once he gets Baldwin back. Luck is just getting his sea legs back and should be a hold as well. Garoppolo is adjusting to life as a starter after team's have tape on you, and Goff has played rather well; he just hasn't had to dig the Rams out of a deficit, which has kept his upside in check thus far. I am not panicking on any of these quarterbacks.
Detroit's defense is bad enough and they have yet to stick with the run game to project them as "Kansas City North" in terms of higher scoring game scripts. Jimmy Garoppolo is concerning with his lack of weapons and inaccuracy (plus questionable decision-making) thus far. The sizzle is more than the steak at a position where there is more value elsewhere.
Simpkins: Wilson is a great example of the disconnect that sometimes exists between real football and the fantasy game. The Seahawks are proving to be a mediocre-to-bad football team, so folks just assume that Wilson isn’t good. The fact is, Wilson is the only reason things haven’t completely collapsed. His improvisational skills and ability to extend the play with his legs are the only reasons the offense isn’t completely predictable and defensible. Wilson may be doing a lot of his damage in garbage time this year, but the points still count the same.
If someone unwisely cuts bait on Jared Goff, I’m jumping all over him. Todd Gurley has been soaking up a lot of the touchdown opportunities through two weeks against weak run defenses. I see games on the horizon (the Vikings and Seahawks in particular) where more competent run defenses will require Goff to pass more.
Garda: Wilson has been able to overcome the offensive line issues — and they are significant in perpetuity — but that seems to have come to a halt this season. A combination of a bad plan for the running backs and an injury to Doug Baldwin has seemed to kibosh Wilson pretty significantly. Trying to make Rashaad Penny happen when he’s clearly not ready rather than role with Chris Carson isn’t helping.
This is probably hurting Fantasy GMs a lot but hold the course. Baldwin will be back and I feel confident Pete Carroll will regain sanity, get Carson off special teams and used more. The defense is also not good, which means Wilson will continue to have to throw.
Seattle won’t be good but expect Wilson to be a productive fantasy player once his weapons are in order. Hold on, it will come.
As for Goff, yes it was the Cardinals who are arguably the worst team in the NFL right now, and yes the LA Chargers are a good defensive team but don’t give up here yet either.
First, I think part of what we are seeing is the issues you get when you add a new player like Brandin Cooks to the mix. He and Goff are still getting synced up.
Secondly, there are some favorable matchups not far off like the Seahawks, Chiefs, and Saints, all of whom can be thrown on. It’s slow going now, but Goff will be much more productive as the season progresses.
Settle: I personally put a lot of stock into Watson for this season and I am going to stick to it. He looked much more comfortable with the return of Will Fuller V and were it not for an overturned big play to DeAndre Hopkins, Houston would have won last week.
Watson has the skill set and weapons to succeed in this league as a dual-threat quarterback, but he is still working off some of the rust to a lost season. There will always be some growing pains with young passers but look for Watson to rebound in a big way this season and finish in the top 10 for quarterbacks.
The Bears made Russell Wilson look like a rookie backup quarterback who had never started in the league before. He threw his first pick-six in over 2000 attempts, was sacked 6 times, and fumbled twice. With all that being said, I am still confident in Wilson’s ability.
He starts slow every year and then turns it on at the right time. He lost his top option in Doug Baldwin and is still trying to figure out what he has in this new offense. The defense has fallen apart, and it will be up to Wilson to keep teams in games more than ever before. The numbers may look ugly so far, but I fully expect for Wilson to still finish in the top five for quarterbacks this season. If someone makes the mistake of giving up on Wilson early this year, jump on this fantasy treasure.
Henry: I’ve consistently and stubbornly stuck to my guns on Deshaun Watson and I’m not about to bail now either, especially after seeing Will Fuller V back in the lineup in Week 2. The top of the quarterback ranks looks a little different today thanks to Patrick Mahomes II and a knee injury to Aaron Rodgers, but I’d argue that Watson has every bit the upside of any of his peers going forward. Similarly, I’m also doubling down on Andrew Luck after drafting him at a nice discount in drafts this summer.
The one that gives me the most concern in this group is Russell Wilson due to the lack of talent surrounding him and the amount of pressure he is facing week in and week out. He has done magical things in similar situations before, but the first two weeks paint a daunting picture for his chances going forward.
Waldman: Who are your receivers, Bob?
Henry: I’m sticking with Allen Robinson simply because of the dominant target share he has commanded through the first two games. The scores will follow at some point, but he is healthy and has a strong floor to deliver value going forward.
The player I would bail on, or have lower expectations for, is Jamison Crowder. He doesn’t have the same upside as the others on this list and I don’t really trust Alex Smith to help get him into a place where he’ll consistently return value above his weekly VBD baseline (WR36).
Parsons: I am buying Amari Cooper as he has the highest target upside of this group and he has been limited by quizzical lack of use in the past. However, the Raiders offense has little other direction to turn.
Jamison Crowder is the easy fade answer as Alex Smith has been peppering Jordan Reed and the running backs over any wide receiver presence. Also, few slot-centric receivers are worthy of consideration with any meaningful upside.
Demaryius Thomas also deserves a mention as he looks to have lost multiple steps and struggles to separate or produce after the catch. With Courtland Sutton off to a solid start, the pendulum will start to swing away from Thomas by midseason.
VanderWoude: I have to admit that I was wrong about Allen Robinson. I never doubted his talent. In fact, I was a champion of his talent as a big play, deep threat receiver who was able to make plays when covered by top-tier cornerbacks.
What I underestimated was his fit in the Chicago system, and how that translated with Mitch Trubisky's skill set. Trubisky's best match in terms of his skill set is Alex Smith. Trubisky's arm is a little more live when throwing deep, but Smith's intelligence and mobility are off the charts.
Robinson has shown an ability to run the full route-tree and play as both a possession receiver and continue to be a deep threat. Robinson has 14 catches for 144 yards and although he has not caught a touchdown, I'm confident that they will come. I am definitely a buyer on Robinson, as he is the undisputed No.1 receiver on a team that will hand him a large target share, and he is currently second in market share of team's air yards. I am also a buyer on Robert Woods. The Rams have not had a game script where the passing game has had to become a priority, yet Woods has still seen nine targets in each of the Rams first two games. Additionally, Woods is seventh in market share of team air yards. The players in front of him, Julio Jones, Allen Robinson, Odell Beckham Jr Jr., AJ Green, Corey Davis, and Adam Theilen.
Hicks: The play of Demaryius Thomas has noticeably declined over the last two years and it won’t be long before he has to face the Dez Bryant treatment in Denver. His contract is almost untenable in 2019 given his current production and while his week one production may have masked the obvious signs, his week two stat line against the Raiders is clearly worrying.
There is no way I way I would be jumping off Robert Woods now. Brandin Cooks is doing as I, but not many others expected. Robert Woods has been targeted numerous times downfield and against the Raiders was literally inches away from three big plays.
Earning 81 yards on 6 catches in a blowout against the Cardinals is also impressive. Once the Rams actually play some teams with ability, Woods will get his share and more. This is a loaded outfit and Woods can easily reach WR2 status very soon.
Settle: Drops have always been an issue for Thomas and after a crucial drop against the Raiders that almost blew the comeback effort, it may be time to reevaluate the receiver. Emmanuel Sanders has been playing very well for the Broncos and took over in the second half last week. If I had any say in the coaching staff I would lobby to feature more Sanders and less Thomas. He is entering his ninth season in the league and appears to be on the decline. Sanders and Lindsay are the future of that offense; look for Thomas’ numbers to continue to decline.
The Raiders are looking like a modern version of the Browns with all of their recent changes. Nothing they do seems to make sense in terms of winning football games. However, Cooper is the most dynamic playmaker in that offense and once Gruden realizes that things should turn around.
There is no commitment to a power running game with Lynch or to a high flying spread offense with Cooper. Carr started to feed Cooper against the Broncos and found more success than anything they have done all season. Look for Cooper to get going again in a big way for the rest of the year.
Simpkins: The smothering defense has been the storyline so far for the Bears, but by the end of the year, I bet we’ll be talking more about their offense and Allen Robinson. We saw the emphasis to get Robinson involved against the Seahawks and he was targeted often. While the offense still has some kinks to work out running the new system, there seems to be growth each week. I’m still optimistic Robinson can meet our expectations for where we drafted him.
This week reminded me that Cooper is not a lost cause. Yes, the team isn’t winning, but Cooper himself is still a very skilled route technician and Carr a competent enough quarterback to get him the ball.
Garda: I like Amari Cooper and, in an offense, on a team that wasn’t looking like a nuclear meltdown gone sentient, I would have more faith. Oakland is a mess though, and I continue to think Jon Gruden is not going to get it out of the early tailspin. I don’t think Gruden is going to get much out of Carr and consequently, much out of Cooper.
Sure he had a great game last week, but I don’t think we see that all that often this year. He’s got some tough matchups, but even against suspect secondaries, like the Seahawks, I just don’t feel great about him.
I’m selling high.
I’m also selling on Larry Fitzgerald, though it kills me. Fitz is a tough old bird, but this offense is awful and not getting better. Unlike with David Johnson, switching to Josh Rosen won’t help. In fact, with either Sam Bradford or Rosen, Fitzgerald’s fate seems grim.
Waldman: Wrap this up with your list of tight ends, Andrew.
Garda: While Week 1 was bad for Graham and his Fantasy GMs, there was a lot to like about his game which didn’t show up on the scoreboard. He drew a lot of attention and did a lot of blocking and running as a MacGuffin, which helped the team in a way other tight end experiments in Green Bay haven’t.
And the payoff was a big Week 2.
Aaron Rodgers likes him, Graham is doing good work off the ball and so he will have ample opportunity to succeed. Don’t let him off your roster.
Parsons: I am skeptical of Jonnu Smith. He played a ton of snaps in Week 2 without a trace of passing game involvement. Also, Tennessee's passing game is a struggle in general with Marcus Mariota dinged up plus Smith faces the challenge of moving from optimized ancillary targets/role to facing greater defensive attention as a Year 2 player. Outside of deeper 2TE leagues, I expect Smith to be irrelevant for fantasy leagues.
VanderWoude: The tight end position has become a tale of two players. They are either gold mines or landmines, so it is important to keep that in perspective when you are making a decision on tight ends this early in the year. The No.12 tight end, Kyle Rudolph, is averaging 11.1 points per game and has 10 targets through two games. In fact, six of the top 12 tight ends are averaging only five targets per game or less.
With this in mind, Jimmy Graham is a definite hold, as he has a definitive role in the Packers passing game. His targets may fluctuate from week to week, but despite being the No.13 tight end currently, I am very confident he will finish in the top eight at the position, and I am going out of my way to have him dumped in my lap for a bench running back, wide receiver or No.2 quarterback.
Hicks: David Njoku is a young tight end with the ability to be one of the best in the league. It may not happen this year, but if he keeps working it will click. He is suited to this offense and it is only a matter of time before he makes crucial plays as Cleveland gather confidence. I would hope he is my backup option, but by the end of the year, he should be pushing for starting numbers.
Settle: Watson is looking more like Coby Fleener than a new Jimmy Graham. It has been tough to be in the Saints offense for anyone not named Michael Thomas. Even Alvin Kamara is dealing with losing touches. Watson and Brees have not seemed to click yet. A prime example was a 1st and goal play from the 2-yard line where Brees overthrew a wide-open Watson in the end zone for an easy touchdown. It was a simple play-action release play and Watson did not have a defender anywhere near him.
Simpkins: With the volatility at the position, those of us who do not have an elite option like Gronkowski or Kelce have to just put up with the bad weeks and realize that our team strengths are at other positions. Watson is perhaps the third or fourth priority in the pecking order for targets in this offense, but he is getting at least a couple of catches per game. There will be games this year when he puts up a top tight end production. Just don’t pull him out of your lineup in favor of the flavor of the week. You’ll be kicking yourself when Watson finally has one of those games and your plug-and-play guy does nothing.
Henry: This one is easy – stick with Graham and have some patience with Njoku. The latter could be Fool’s Gold given the overall situation in Cleveland with Tyrod Taylor. However, at some point we anticipate this becoming the Baker Mayfield show and with Josh Gordon out of the way, Njoku has a line of sight to develop and become the No.2 option (and definitely in the red zone).
Graham is an easy call even if he’s lost a step and no longer has elite TE upside. The fact is the position itself is suboptimal and Graham is just as likely as any other tight end outside of the big three to deliver weekly value given his prowess in the red zone and Rodgers’ ability to deliver the ball in tight spots with or without a knee injury.
For Real/Fool's Gold
Waldman: Explain which end of the spectrum you fall on these performers. Pick four.
- Will Dissly
- Phillip Lindsay
- Austin Ekeler
- Matt Brieda
- Patrick Mahomes II II
- Mark Andrews
- Tyler Lockett
- Keelan Cole
- Blake Bortles
We're making these calls based on fantasy value, not talent. Still, feel free to comment on talent and skill if you wish.
Henry: Patrick Mahomes II – I was all in before the last two weeks and he was one of my top targets at the position throughout the best ball drafts all summer long. The arrow is pointing straight up there, and I would ride Mahomes every week going forward with great confidence. The Chiefs offense will have some bumps along the way, but the big play potential is abundant and multi-faceted.
Matt Breida – I remain confident in the 49er’s offense and Kyle Shanahan. If forced to bet between he and Alfred Morris, I’m 100% behind Breida to sustain and deliver fantasy value, especially in a PPR format. Morris may score more touchdowns, but he is less diverse from a game script perspective and that’s where Breida becomes more useful as an RB3/Flex option with the upside for more.
Will Dissly – Not buying on Dissly as I don’t feel good about the Seahawks offense at all. The line isn’t very good and my deepest fears are becoming a reality with Brian Schottenheimer as the offensive coordinator. Also, Ed Dickson should return to the field after Week 6 and Dissly still seems best served as a blocker to help the offensive line gel.
Keelan Cole / Blake Bortles – I’ll take the combo vote here and roll with both of these guys as legitimate options going forward. Bortles certainly has his detractors, and rightfully so, but he’s playing good football, the coaching staff continues to show more confidence in him and with his legs he provides a higher floor than most realize (even if he’s throwing interceptions). Both players can be limited by the strength of the Jaguar defense, but as strong bench options (or Cole as a flex), the upside for both makes them an easy decision to roster and hold.
Simpkins: Will Dissly - Ok, I was wrong about Dissly being fool’s gold. I thought Pete Carroll would do the rational thing and use his best blocking tight end to shore up the deficiencies of his offensive line. Instead, Dissly continues to see work in the passing game while their best receiving tight end, Nick Vannett, does little.
Phillip Lindsay - This week is confirming for me that I was right to say that Lindsay wasn’t just a waiver wire fad. The Broncos have implemented a committee that will rely on game script to determine which of Lindsay or Freeman has the bigger fantasy day. Patrick Mahomes II - To say that he’s broken the mold is an understatement. Ten touchdowns in two games has never been accomplished until this past Sunday. While that kind of pace can’t be sustained, it doesn’t mean that Mahomes can’t put up great fantasy production each week. We need to be putting him in our lineups over guys like Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, and other established options at the position. Blake Bortles - I’ve been very critical of Bortles in the past, but to his credit, he played the best football of his career last year and to begin this one. I’m open to players making improvement and becoming a different version of themselves as they learn and grow. I do think Bortles will have moments where he reverts to old bad habits under pressure, but that’s descriptive of almost every quarterback in the league.
Settle: Lindsay is one of the more frustrating guys on this list and it has everything to do with play calling. From a fantasy standpoint, he is the best back on the Broncos right now and his quick-cutting style best fits their offensive line.
However, the Broncos continue to try and force Royce Freeman down our throats at the expense of Lindsay. It was Lindsay who had over 100 yards rushing against the Raiders and helped move the ball up and down the field, but it was Freeman who they used around the goal line and on third down.
I am very high on Lindsay if the Broncos realize he is currently the better back. There was a point that the Broncos were even giving carries to Devontae Booker instead on Lindsay. Give this man the ball and watch him work.
After the big game this week it appears that Brieda has taken the starting job from Alfred Morris. He has looked like the better back the first two weeks of the season and is playing for a team with playoff aspirations.
After Morris’ costly fumble on the goal line against the Vikings, Brieda got his chance in week 2 and did not disappoint. If you have a top waiver and he is still available, go after him.
He should be a solid RB2/3 for the rest of the season and finish somewhere in the top 20 for running backs. Morris only gets a chance again if Brieda slips up or gets injured.
I will have to amend what I said about Mahomes from last week. He looked every bit the part against the Steelers and single-handedly won that game for the Chiefs. There are too many weapons around him to not be successful and he has a defense that is going to require him to score as many points as possible.
The only downside is the potential for a few bad games sprinkled in. Mahomes has the same gunslinger mentality of Brett Farve, but that also lead to leading the NFL in career interceptions. There will come a time where we see Mahomes roll right, throw back across the field, and make an ugly pick, but right now he is locked in and I am officially on the bandwagon.
This is a very intriguing case. With Doug Baldwin out, the targets have to go to someone else.
Lockett seemed like a near lock to get those, but Brandon Marshall and Will Dissly have been taking their fair share as well. It will always be Lockett stretching the field and looking for the big play as well as returning punts, but he does not see the volume of targets required to make him a top option.
He is a great boom or bust option or in a league the rewards long touchdowns. As the season wears on, I lean towards Brandon Marshall filling the Baldwin target void rather than Lockett.
Hicks: Will Dissly is for real but is also a rookie and opposing defenses may figure out how to take him out in coming weeks. Touchdowns in both games to start and looking explosive while running with the ball means he could be a good start all year if he can continue to grow. I wouldn’t throw all the eggs into his basket just yet, but he is worth rostering and keeping an eye on his development.
Austin Ekeler is for real. With 63 career carries he has an average of six yards a carry and he is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, adding to his fantasy value. Melvin Gordon III is the volume beast in this offense, but if the Chargers need a spark they should turn to Ekeler. Gordon is limited as a runner as is evidenced by his career 3.8 yards a carry. Gordon is a touchdown beast, so won’t lose value, but Ekeler has variety and elusiveness that will make him worth a start on almost any given week, especially in flex leagues.
Not even his biggest admirers thought Patrick Mahomes II would start his NFL career with 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first two games. It is almost impossible to keep up this pace, but there is little doubt that Mahomes is ready to play at this level and play it well.
I do expect some bad games to come along sooner or later, but his rapport with his receivers is evident and he doesn’t lack confidence. We can have enough faith to continue to start him, but as we have seen in years gone by, Andy Reid teams have lulls in seasons that make all players lose value. Make sure you have a good player to turn to when this happens.
With the Jaguars adding Donte Moncrief and D.J. Chark Jr during the offseason and resigning Marqise Lee it looked like they had little faith in Keelan Cole to lead this offense. That opinion has clearly been put to bed after his dominating performance against the Patriots.
His numbers during the fantasy playoffs bear repeating with 16 receptions for 393 yards and 2 touchdowns between weeks 14 and 16. He could reach a ceiling of a high-end WR2 this season with more performances like this on a regular basis. His last few regular season outings indicate he is not a fluke.
VanderWoude: The combination of Blake Bortles and Keelan Cole is one that I am high on moving forward in the season. What most people don't realize is that Bortles adds consistent rushing yards to his totals.
Throughout his first four years, he's averaged 327.7 rushing yards per season with seven total rushing touchdowns. That is equal to (25 yards per point passing) another 1,079 passing yards. What we have seen so far this year, is that Bortles can be a dynamic passer when the Jaguars coaches give him that opportunity.
I am also bullish on Keelan Cole, even more so after he displayed an Odell Beckham Jr Jr.-like one-handed catch along the sidelines last week. Cole is sneaky fast (4.5, 40-yard time at pro day) and has made it a habit of consistently getting behind his defender and making plays down the field.
With his ball skills starting to catch up to his speed, Cole has made himself the No.1 receiver on the Jaguars through sheer will. He has the speed, skills and opportunity to put up big numbers this season. Having watched every Chiefs offensive play the last four seasons while writing their recaps every week, I have become intimately familiar with Andy Reid's offensive scheme. Alex Smith was a great fit for the Chiefs because he was a master at executing complex plays that called for lots of pre-snap motion and run-pass option (RPO) plays.
Smith lacked one thing though, and that was the arm strength to drive the ball down the field and take advantage of a receiver group that ranks as fast as any team in the league. Enter Patrick Mahomes II, who has everything the Chiefs could possibly want in a quarterback as far as skill set, intelligence, and professionalism. Mahomes has thrown 10 touchdowns in the first 2 games, and NFL record, and put every other team on notice that the Chiefs offense will stretch you to your breaking point with their speed and athleticism. What has impressed me with Mahomes though is his ability to process information pre-snap, and then make the correct decision. He absolutely destroyed Artie Burns last week with several audibles that put Burns on an island against Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.
With the massive amount of talent the Chiefs have on offense, Mahomes has played the role of distributor perfectly through two games, putting his receivers in the best position to succeed and then letting them make plays after the catch.
That is what every quarterback strives to do, but the scary part is we have yet to see Mahomes use his athleticism outside the pocket much as he has 35 yards rushing and 1 touchdown. Mahomes has incredible arm strength but is also capable of making plays with his legs, so when defenses start to adjust and overplay him as a pocket passer, we will see the full scope of his athleticism. Which pretty much makes him the scariest quarterback in the NFL to try and game plan against, and he's only started three games in his career.
I'm calling Mahomes as MVP this season. Austin Ekeler has carved out a consistent role in the Chargers backfield, and although Melvin Gordon III is the clear No.1 back, Ekeler has fantasy value now as he is the ninth-ranked running back after two games. While Gordon has yet to average 4.0+ yards-per-carry (YPC) through a full season, Ekeler is averaging 7.5 YPC on 16 carries this season.
That is no fluke either, as Ekeler averaged 5.5 YPC on 47 carries in his rookie season last year. He is also averaging 13.5 yards per reception on eight catches this year (with a receiving touchdown). For context, Gordon is averaging 3.8 YPC and 9.3 yards per reception this season. Gordon's job is secure, but Ekeler provides the Chargers with an explosive option out of the backfield that rounds out their offense rather nicely. Ekeler's situation reminds me of Michael Turner's situation with the Chargers in the early 2000's, when Turner backed up LaDainian Tomlinson but flashed No.1 running back talent whenever he was given a chance to make a play. Ekeler is a more dynamic version of Turner, with superior pass-catching skills, but both are powerful with a low center of gravity that can punish defenders while also capable of making big plays.
I see Ekeler as a future No.1 running back, but for now, he will have to settle for being Gordon's understudy. If the Chargers looked close enough though, they would see that Ekeler is a much more efficient player than Gordon. Whether that would translate over a large volume of carries, I do not know, but if I had to guess, I would say absolutely. I believe the Chargers possess the best backfield in the NFL, and Ekeler is a big reason why.
Parsons: Matt Breida is for real. There is no challenger coming for the 49ers lead job, and Alfred Morris has been pedestrian at best. Breida has the big play ability and the passing role secured. Even decent volume will cement Breida in the upper RB2 discussion for the rest of the season. Austin Ekeler is for real. He has been optimized with his touches and the Chargers/Phillip Rivers are known for producing strong PPR backs even in a secondary role. Ekeler, like a Chris Thompson, can be a top-15 PPR option on only 10-15 touches a week. Mark Andrews is Fool's Gold. Hayden Hurst will be back soon and get every opportunity to be the clear TE1 for Baltimore. There will be some, but limited, scraps left for Andrews to be anything more than a lower TE2 with occasional touchdowns. Patrick Mahomes II is for real. The combination of elite weapons and historically poor defense will keep the gas pedal down for an offense which will need to push 30-plus points in every game to secure a win.
Garda: While I think he will definitely have some rougher spots, Mahomes throws laser beams. He has tremendous talent around him, and an offense which is just going to keep throwing the ball. A lot. Mahomes may not be the top option every week, but he is a top choice in any given week.
Bortles lit the Patriots up but was pretty docile in Week 1. Which is the outlier – the game against the poor defense (Giants) or the good defense (Patriots)? And what does the offense look like when Leonard Fournette is back? I suspect Bortles is more the guy we saw Week 1, and Fournette will go back to being more of an option when he heals up. I don’t believe Bortles will keep Week 2’s production up. It feels like this is going to come apart at some point.
While I believe Blake Bortles will flame out, I also am convinced that won’t end Cole’s value. First of all, we saw him perform last season even when Bortles was less-than-stellar. He has the numbers over 18 games now. Secondly, Donte Moncrief is already hurt as he has been with great frequency over the previous two years. Cole is going to get plenty of targets, even if Bortles is not good.
I actually really want to believe in Dissly, who I think is talented. Unfortunately, Seattle is the place tight ends go to die. He did have a great Week 1, but if it weren’t for a touchdown in Week 2, his numbers would have been shaky. In Seattle, that’s how that goes. At some point, Dissly is going to have to remain in blocking as this offensive line continues to struggle. And that will take him out of the passing game. Further, he is mostly going to live and die on touchdowns and while he has one in each of the first two weeks, that’s also how many red zone targets he has. I’d feel better if he got more and maybe he will, but I don’t trust it.