By Julian Martinez
Quarterback: Big Ben down, Tyrod rising
A decent amount of fantasy owners assumed the worst on Sunday afternoon when they saw Ben Roethlisberger’s leg bend in a way legs should never bend. Luckily, they got the news on Monday Roethlisberger should return in four to six weeks. It definitely is going to be a blow to most owners, as Big Ben was looking to be in the elite tier of the position but this injury could have been a lot worse.
Tyrod Taylor is still owned in less than half of fantasy leagues and that is crazy. It is crazy because after three weeks it is apparent that everyone needs to be taking this emerging QB1 more seriously. Buffalo drummed the Dolphins on Sunday 41-14 and leading the assault the whole way was Taylor.
Many saw Taylor as a pure running quarterback, but he now has seven passing touchdowns against three interceptions on the young year. Taylor is a must-add in all formats and if any of the major quarterback injuries over the last couple weeks have hurt your team, he is a legitimate answer.
The Raiders’ Derek Carr is also available in many leagues and should be on your radar. After exiting early in week one with a hand injury, Carr has led the Raider offense quite impressively. Carr has utilized his weapons and has had back-to-back 300-yard passing days.
Amari Cooper has looked the part of a first-round wide receiver and Michael Crabtree has been given new life with Carr. This coming weekend should be a cake match-up for Carr, as he will face the lowly Bears.
Running back: Freeman exciting, Anderson not so much
Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman made many owners very happy this weekend, unless you were playing against him, that is. In a thrilling game against the now Romo-less Dallas Cowboys, Freeman carried the ball and his team to victory to the tune of three touchdowns and 141 yards on the ground.
Early on Freeman was mired in question marks, particular when it came to his timeshare with rookie Tevin Coleman, but it would be hard for the Falcons to bench him after his outing in Dallas. It is at least worth monitoring the situation going forward, as Coleman was performing admirably before his injury.
It’s time to say it: C.J. Anderson isn’t who we thought he was. It’s hard to bail on, for many, your first-round pick, but at this point Anderson is in a serious limbo. Sure, he missed time to deal with a concussion in this past game, but what was even more troubling is that, when he was on the field, he only compiled 18 yards, far from what his projections were coming into the year.
You can’t cut Anderson, but you can’t have him in your starting lineup either until he produces, and it is understandable if this is tough narrative to swallow, given how much stock you probably placed in the Denver running back.
Rex Ryan came into the year with the intention of having a strong running game shoulder on the back of the recently acquired LeSean McCoy. But it looks as though that plan might be changing a bit, as a new back has emerged in Buffalo. Karlos Williams appears to be commanding more playing time, as he has been a solid producer with the touches he’s been given.
He has had a touchdown in each of his first three games and McCoy is battling a hamstring injury, which will force the Bills to give Williams more opportunity. Williams can be considered a low-end RB2 if McCoy misses time and even a solid flex play with a healthy McCoy.
Matt Jones may have not lived up to his previous week statistics Thursday night against the Giants, but there is still some value to be had with him. If he can prove to the coaching staff that he can hold onto the ball, and if Alfred Morris continues to fall from favor, then Jones can be a solid RB2 by mid-season.
Wide Receiver: Two veterans who may have fallen from grace
James Jones may not be the most exciting name on the field, but there is no denying his rapport with Aaron Rogers. Rogers found Jones in the end zone for the fourth time this season against Kansas City, and with Devante Adams appearing to be dealing with an injury, Jones’ targets are only going to go up. He is now a firm WR2.
The two veterans who are trending downward are Roddy White and Andre Johnson.
White caught over 80 receptions last year, but when stories of him getting his knee drained this off-season arose many fantasy owners had to grimace. Yet in the draft, it was hard not to take White, who has been a staple in the Atlanta offense for many years and has been Matt Ryan’s favorite target not named Julio Jones.
But it now looks like White needs to be on everyone’s bench for the foreseeable future, as he has not caught a pass in two straight games and Leonard Hankerson, who has seen more targets than White in the last two games, is the better receiver at this point.
Meanwhile Andre Johnson, who was an exciting free agent pickup by what was envisioned to be a prolific offense in Indianapolis, has not lived up to the hype. Johnson is now the third or maybe fourth option for quarterback Andrew Luck. He is miles behind T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief is turning into a rising star. Phillip Dorsett even was targeted in the end zone this week and could see increased playing time, which makes Johnson a WR4 or WR5 for many fantasy owners.
A name that needs to be owned is Rishard Matthews. Matthews has been consistent in the Miami passing game and he is criminally under-owned at this point. Against the Bills, Matthews scored two touchdowns on top of 113 yards. He may be behind Jarvis Landry when it comes to who Ryan Tannehill prefers to target, but so far Miami is proving there is more than enough to go around as Matthews is a solid flex play week-in and week-out.
Tight End: Good news if you’re streaming tight ends
Tyler Eifert lit up the Raiders in week one, in week two it was the Ravens’ Gillmore, and in week three it was Gary Barnidge. Barnidge is not a fantasy must-own by any means, and this is likely the last time he will be mentioned by me or any fantasy columnist this season, but he found the end zone and achieved the century mark in yards against what is turning into the most favorable match-up for tight ends in football.
One name that hasn’t been mentioned that much this year has been star tight end Jimmy Graham. Among all the breakout sensations at the position, Graham’s name has been lost in the shuffle, partly due to the variety of good tight ends developing, but also because Graham, much like everyone expected, saw his targets go down as he moved from New Orleans to the Pacific Northwest in Seattle.
This week Graham saw eight targets, which he turned into seven receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. It can be conceivable that Graham’s uptick in usage can be attributed to Marshawn Lynch’s absence for the majority of this game, but at least he’s trending in the right way.
Charles Clay is a name to consider looking at. This may be the third Bill mentioned but for good reason. With Sammy Watkins a possible scratch in week four, Taylor will look for other options in the passing game and Clay can be that guy. The Bills invested in Clay this off-season and despite the slow start he had in preseason, his production continues to rise as the season has gone on. In week three against his former teammates, Clay scored a touchdown and this week he could be a low-end TE1
Kicker and DST: A few notes
After a few terrible weeks, I recant my endorsement of the new-looking San Francisco defense. They were toyed with by Carson Palmer and company merely a week after getting dominated in Pittsburgh. They are safe to drop at this point.
Kicker Cody Parkey of the Philadelphia Eagles was recently placed on the IR. Caleb Sturgis will be taking over the kicking duties in Philadelphia. Sturgis has some value if the Eagle offense can find some of that Chip Kelly-magic again and start putting points on the board, but beyond that he isn’t above average at the position.
Don’t forget that bye weeks start this week, so take extra care in monitoring your lineup.