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Mon Sep 27th 2021

2021 Week Three Review

NFL week three was a blast! There were some fantastic finishes to games, including two game-winning kicks from fellow greater Austinites, Justin Tucker, and Mason Crosby. There were a few big upsets and surprises on Sunday too. It was a great week to watch as a football fan.

It was not a great week for me to watch as a fantasy fan, though. I had a terrible week, personally. My teams finished 3-7 this week, and many of my starting players suffered injuries. But like I remind myself every week, win or lose, it's a joy to watch football all weekend and cheer on all of my dynasty teams.

After following all of the games this week, here are a few of my thoughts on players and situations and their impact on our dynasty teams.

Ten Observations From Week Three

Carolina's Narrow Offense

  • Carolina took care of the Texans on Thursday night to remain undefeated on the season under the leadership of their new quarterback, Sam Darnold. Darnold's consistent play to start the season is helping his team, but he's only elevating the fantasy value of two players, Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore. I noticed on Thursday night how Darnold almost always targeted his first read, and Moore was his first read on most plays. Moore had 12 targets, while the rest of Carolina's receivers saw a combined eight targets. That's the story of the season so far, making it impossible to start Robby Anderson anymore and holding down the upside for their very talented rookie, Terrace Marshall. Anderson is one of my most rostered players, and I started him in every league last week but will do so no longer even if people think his targets will increase since Christian McCaffery, the only other player Darnold targets, was injured. Sadly, after 23 and 22 point weeks, McCaffrey left the game with a hamstring injury Thursday night. After the injury, Chuba Hubbard became Darnold's next most targeted player, and I assume this will continue to be the pattern while the Pathers await McCaffrey's return. Darnold is a very limited quarterback, and the Panther's coaching staff is not asking him to do more than he's able. He locks on to his first read, and that's about it. It's possible that he can improve or that defenses will catch on and make things more difficult for him, but I will not believe he can do it until I see it.

Buffalo's Offense Is Back

  • After a pretty poor start to the season, Josh Allen and the Bills returned to last year's form this week. Allen appeared to regress to his old erratic self in weeks one and two with completion percentages of 59 and 52. This week he was back up 74%, and he scored five touchdowns, four through the air, and one on the ground. Emmanuel Sanders had his first breakout game with two touchdowns, and Cole Beasley led the team in targets and catches with 13 and 11, respectively. Stefon Diggs, however, did not benefit from Josh Allen's performance as he did so often last year. Diggs has had a really slow start to the season after being the most targeted wide receiver in the league last year. Sadly, I think the addition of Sanders will harm Diggs' production this season. He'll have his share of week-winning fantasy games, but he'll lack the consistency he had last year. The good news, though, is that the Bills' offense is back to their 2020 season form, which raises the tide of all the pass catchers, including Dawson Knox, who has had touchdown catches in back-to-back weeks. I'm excited about Knox's growing role in the offense and am happy to have him as a developmental tight end on my rosters with a chance to become a reliable starter by the end of this season.

The Giants Lay An Egg

  • Just when you thought you could trust the Daniel Jones and the Giants offense at home against Atlanta's 27th ranked passing defense, they lay an egg. Thankfully, Saquon Barkley returned to a full workload this week and scored his first touchdown of the season, but the Giants' passing game was awful. I started Daniel Jones in two leagues this week and lost both games because he lost all his weapons. Kenny Golladay was on a pitch count Sunday after battling a hip injury all week. Sterling Shepard was hot out of the gates but injured his hamstring in the first quarter and did not return. Then Darius Slayton left the game with an injury too. Jones' only options were check-downs to Barkley, who was his top target on Sunday, and his back-ups. Golladay ended up having to play, and he had the best day of any wide receivers, but it was still an unimpressive performance. Like I wrote about last week, Sterling Shepard is the only reliable pass catcher on this team until he gets injured like he always does. He was in four of my starting lineups this week, which is another reason why I lost so many games this week. It comes with the territory with him. 

Matt Nagy First To Lose Job

  • Speaking of bad offenses, Matt Nagy will be the first coach to lose his job this season. The Bears, under Nagy and their rookie quarterback, Justin Fields, who was making his first NFL start, managed only six first downs and a total of 47 offensive yards in their defeat to the Browns. Fields' debut was terrible. He was sacked nine times and only completed six passes. Everyone who thought Fields was the cheap chalk quarterback in DFS this week got burned, and I blame Nagy. He was brought to Chicago from the Andy Reid coaching tree to improve the Bears' offense, but he's not been able to do so. The one game they won this year was on the back of their defenses, forcing three turnovers. The Bears' offense is pathetic, holding down the dynasty value of great players like Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, and David Montgomery. Nagy's only hope I keeping his job is Justin Fields, yet he insisted on starting Andy Dalton over him to start the season. I'm tired of the Bears, but I'm grateful that I don't have a single Bear on my dynasty rosters.

Rookie Quarterbacks Struggling

  • Fields was not the only rookie quarterback to struggle on Sunday. Zack Wilson, Trevor Lawrence, and Mac Jones also had bad days and have not looked good to start the season. Together, they combined to throw seven interceptions on Sunday, and their teams scored a total of 25 offensive points. I'm confident that all of these rookie quarterbacks will improve, and I've yet to move them down my dynasty rankings, but this season is going to be a rough ride. They'll have a hard time elevating the dynasty value of their targets this season. When setting starting lineups this season, players on each of their teams take a hit. On my teams, I've yet to start Laviska Shenault or Marvin Jones. I've also not started Jacobi Meyers or Jonnu Smith yet. Unfortunately, I started James White this week - another player lost to injury in the first quarter of the game, and I have started Damien Harris one time this season. I don't have Corey Davis on any of my teams. He's the only player on these teams I believe I would start, but he has looked pretty bad apart from week one.

Baltimore Offensive Changes

  • Baltimore gave signs all offseason that they intended to pass the ball more than in previous seasons. They need more balance to compete with the likes of the Chiefs in the AFC. Lamar Jackson has passed the ball 30, 26, and 31 times the first three weeks of the season, whereas he averaged 22 pass attempts per game last season. Losing their top two running backs to injury is undoubtedly a factor in the offensive changes, but it's certainly not the only reason. Jackson had several beautifully thrown passes on Sunday, and if Marquise Brown had not dropped three perfectly thrown balls, Jackson would have had three passing touchdowns instead of just one. Brown, while healthy, is an every-week starter, and his dynasty value is on the rise with these offensive changes. I'm very excited to see what Rashod Bateman will do once he's healthy to make his NFL debut. Bateman was my top-ranked rookie wide receiver before the NFL draft last year, but I moved him down a few spots after Baltimore drafted him because of their offensive scheme and inaccurate quarterback. But Baltimore drafted Bateman because they wanted the scheme to change. He's going to help them do it even more than they already have this season.

No Trustworthy Falcons

  • The Falcons found a way to beat the injury-riddled Giants on Sunday, but they sure looked terrible doing it. For years Atlanta has been one of the most potent offenses in the league, making their skilled position players every week starters on fantasy rosters, but this year under their new coach Arthur Smith, their offense is pathetic. Matt Ryan used to unleash the deep ball more than most quarterbacks, but this year he has the lowest A-DOT of any starting quarterback in the NFL at 4.31. That's pathetic! I don't think this is a matter of Ryan's arm strength or ability like it is with Ben Roethlisberger, but it's a matter of Smith's offense and play calling. Calvin Ridley has plenty of receptions; 5,7, and 8 the first three weeks of the season, but he's only had 51, 63, and 61 yards. That's 8.8 yards per catch when Ridley had 15.3 yards per catch last season. You can't sit Calvin Ridley, but until things change, you can't expect anything as you used to from him. Kyle Pitts is still a top-tier dynasty tight end, but he's not helping dynasty teams this season so far, and there are up to ten tight ends I'd start ahead of him at this point in the season.

Arizona's Balanced Passing Attack

  • Arizona's offense is cooking, and they're one of the five undefeated teams in the NFL. The only problem for dynasty managers is that they're distributing the ball so evenly. Kyler Murray is obviously an every-week starter, but his teammates are far less reliable, even DeAndre Hopkins, unfortunately. A different wide receiver has led the team in yards each of the first three weeks of the season, DeAndre Hopkins week one, Rondale Moore in week two, and A.J. Green in week three. This week, I benched Hopkins in leagues since he was a game-time decision because of his injury, and I'm lucky that I did. He only has three catches for 21 yards, even though he played 61 of 67 snaps. I can't bench Hopkins when he's healthy, but I have far fewer expectations of him if the Cardinals continue to distribute the ball this way. Rondale Moore had just two catches for one yard a week after his seven-catch, one touchdown, 114-yard day. Cardinal wide receivers are going to be a problem for dynasty managers who need consistency in their lineups. At least their running back roles are crystal clear. Chase Edmonds is the passing downs back, while James Conner is the short-yardage and goal-line back. Edmunds provided a consistent floor for teams in PPR leagues, while Conner is a touchdown or bust player.

Roethlisberger Is Washed Up

  • Roethlisberger compiled a lot of yards in a comeback attempt, but he looked awful doing so. Ben lacks the strength and surprising mobility for a big guy that he once had to extend plays, and his arm strength appears to be a problem this season. Most of his yards on Sunday came from constant check downs. His leading pass-catcher was Najee Harris, who had a fantastic day with 14 catches for 104 yards. With the game on the line on fourth and long, Ben through a screen pass for one yard, and the game was over. Something is wrong with Ben this season. He and the Steelers may regret coming back for one more season. It would be hard to believe that the Steelers, Ben's only team, would bench him for Mason Rudolf, who has not looked good when he has started games, but I could see the "injury card" being played by the team or by Ben to save some face in the situation, and that's bad news for everyone on the Steelers' offense.

Early Surprise Standings

  • Only five teams are 3-0, and some of them are surprises. The Raiders, Broncos, and Panthers are surprisingly undefeated and on top of their divisions. The Rams and Cardinals are also 3-0 in the same strong division. There are also some surprising teams at the bottom of their divisions. The Colts are 0-3, and at the bottom of their terrible division, Seattle is 1-2 and at the bottom of their strong division, and the Chiefs are surprisingly the worst team in their division at 1-2 with two 3-0 teams ahead of them in Denver and Las Vegas. I mention the standings here to point out that the same can be true in dynasty leagues right now. The best roster among my teams is now 0-3 this season. My weakest roster is now 3-0. Fantasy football is a cruel game sometimes. It's a long season, and there is plenty of time to come back in leagues where you're behind, and there's plenty of time to see 3-0 teams fall apart. Injuries are piling up already, and rosters will change. It's not time to panic. Stay the course. Be patient. The cream will rise to the top.

Week Three Waiver Wire

As a reminder, I play in 27 to 30-man roster leagues, so the players I list here are for deep leagues only. If you play in shallower leagues, there are certainly better players than these to pick up off the waiver wire, but if you're in deep dynasty leagues, these are the players I would make bids on this week. I list them in the order that I would prioritize them.

It's a decent week this week with a few players I'd make bids to get.

Tyler Conklin

  • On Sunday, Conklin was heavily involved in the passing game with eight targets, seven receptions, 70 yards, and a touchdown. Like almost all tight ends, his production will be sporadic, but he's a startable tight end if you don't have one of the top 5 tight ends in the league. As I wrote about last week, Minnesota's offense is on the rise. Everything that dynasty managers hoped to see from Irv Smith this season, they could see in Conklin, who Irv Smith could not thoroughly beat out for playing time last season. It's more a move to make for this season more than the future, but Conklin would be my first priority this week on tight end-needy teams.

Payton Barber

  • I picked up Barber in a deep 14-team league two weeks ago when coach Gruden proclaimed him the starter ahead of Kenyan Drake when Josh Jacobs was injured. He did get more carries than Drake that week, and this past Sunday, he got 23 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown. Barber is just an average back, but he's historically had fantasy flashpoints on teams. His role is secure as long as Jacobs is injured and Jacobs does miss a lot of games. For now, he's a startable player when the matchups are favorable.

Kendrick Bourne

  • Bourne played 55 snaps and was an active part of the offense on Sunday. He had an excellent touchdown grab and 96 yards receiving. He got more targets than Nelson Agholor, who played more snaps than Bourne. There's room for someone to step up on the Patriots to become the WR-2. Bourne may have taken the first step in that direction too. With James White lost for the season, his six targets a game have to go somewhere.

Collin Johnson

  • Johnson led the Giants receivers in targets after Shepard and Slayton were lost to injury. Johnson has the size and pedigree to be a starting wide receiver in the NFL and was a surprise cut by the Jaguars this offseason. The Giants were quick to sign him, and now he's the first to see playtime off the bench. It will be hard for him to get playing time when everyone is healthy, but he'll have a chance to earn the team's trust for a few weeks at least. I'll add him as a stash on a few teams this week.

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine

  • I have to admit not knowing who he was, but he was the leading receiver on the Titans this Sunday while A.J. Brown and Julio Jones watched from the sidelines. On Sunday, Tannehill spread the ball around to eleven players, but Westbrook-Ikhine had the most receptions with four. He's a second-year player, so he has youth on his side. He must be the player the team likes over Josh Reynolds, who was a surprise scratch this week. I'd only add him in the deepest leagues, but I've already added him to all of my scout teams.

Week Three Trades

Trades are hard to grade in a vacuum since scoring systems are different in each league, and every team has a diverse roster construction. That's why I write about trades made in my leagues and give context for why the dynasty owners made the trades. I grade the trade, but in the context of what each team was attempting to accomplish with the trade.

Here are my thoughts on trades that took place in my leagues this week. I hope these trades give you an idea of how other active owners value these players and future picks.

It's early in the season, so there were only two trades in my leagues last week.

Darrell Henderson and a 2022 2nd round pick <=====> Courtland Sutton

  • This trade was made between two 2-0 teams, but one has a much stronger roster. The team that traded for Henderson is weak at running back and has Sony Michel on his roster, so he aimed to shore up the Rams backfield for the season. The team that gave up Henderson is decent at running back but needs depth at wide receiver, especially with some of his startable players injured. I see what each was trying to do to help their team, but I prefer the Sutton side of this trade. Henderson already can't stay healthy, and Sutton, though recovering from ACL surgery last year, will have a much longer and healthier career than Henderson. Plus, Cam Akers will be the starter next year ahead of Henderson if he can recover from his Achilles injury.

 Javonte Williams <=====> Corey Davis, Bryan Edwards, Robert Tonyan, Elijah Mitchell, Nyheim Hines, and a 2022 2nd round pick

  • This trade was one of the biggest I've ever seen, or at least the most amount of players I've ever seen. The team that traded for Williams is the defending champion and has a stacked team, scoring almost 40 points a game more than the second highest-scoring team in the league. The team that took the package in this deal has one of the worst rosters I've seen. To give you an idea, these are the players he dropped to make room for the trade: Allan Lazard, David Njoku, Benny Snell, and Justice Hill. Both teams did well in this trade, but I believe the champion team gave up too much for one player. Bryan Edwards is essentially in his rookie season since he did not play last year, and he's beginning to make an impact for the Raiders. Corey Davis is the best receiver on a team that will improve as Zack Wilson gets better. Tonyan may not maintain his dynasty value if Rodgers does not get a new contract in Green Bay, but he's a top-12 tight end for the time being. Mitchell and Hines are good depth pieces too. I like Javontte Williams and believe he will be the lead running back in Denver next year. He's definitely the best player in the deal, but I think he sacrificed too much-needed roster depth that would sustain his team in the long run. 

Tom Brady and Chase Edmonds <=====> Josh Jacobs

  • This trade took place in a one-quarterback league. The team that traded for Tom Brady was desperate for a quarterback since he rostered Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and Ben Roethlisberger. He wanted to compete this year and knew he needed a quarterback. With Kyler Murray as his starter, the other manager was willing to give his elder quarterback away and add Edmunds, who would likely never see his starting lineup. Josh Jacobs, on the other hand, once healthy, will immediately start for this manager's team. For this year, it's a no-brainer to trade two non-starters for a starter. I like the Jacobs side of this trade for the long-term, too, even though I am not as high on Jacobs as most analysts.

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