Week 3 Player Grid
This Player Grid will hold little value for you without first reading this.
READ THE SENTENCE DIRECTLY ABOVE!
Note: Players in a given tier are not listed in any particular order.
Quarterback is probably the easiest position for me this week, as there are a few guys who have a low likelihood of failure, with quite a bit of upside. There are surely more guys than I am including on my list, but as always: this is not “a list of all the good plays on the slate.” Rather, this is my personal player pool. Here are the three guys in Tier 1 for me this week.
- Patrick Mahomes :: There isn’t much more to say about Mahomes at this point. He has been accurate, aggressive, and utterly unstoppable through the first two games of the season (and really, through his first three career starts), and that is unlikely to change in this spot against a San Francisco defense that has the personnel to be good against the run, but not against the pass. Even with his price on the rise, he remains slightly underpriced this week. His pace will slow down, of course; but he is clearly one of the top plays on the weekend.
- Deshaun Watson :: The biggest issue for Watson this season has been the Texans’ offensive line, which has ranked 26th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards to begin the season, putting Watson under siege all day against the Patriots and Titans. This week, Watson takes on a Giants team that ranks dead last in adjusted sack rate. He’ll have extra time to throw this week, which means extra time to find DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller downfield. Watson adds floor with his legs, and he has as much ceiling as any quarterback in football.
- Drew Brees :: The Saints do not have the personnel right now to stick with the run, which creates a high-volume situation against a banged-up defense. Expect Brees to lean heavily on Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas once again — and with Ted Ginn and Tre’Quan Smith on the field to add to the explosive upside this unit has as a whole, it will be difficult for Brees to post a “bad game,” while a great game is very much in the cards.
I am surprised by where ownership is projected to flow at the position this week. As such, my list is going to look different from others you might be able to find, and might look different from your own list as well. On weeks like this, I know going into the week that my chances of a bad weekend are heightened a bit, as I will be on very different plays from everyone else (and if all the popular plays hit, I’ll have a hard time keeping pace with so many rosters at once). But I also know that I like the approach I am taking, and I feel confident that if we played out this slate a hundred times, I would win quite a bit more money than I would lose. I always find it’s better to play the plays you like than to try to “side with the field” on plays you don’t like as much. As such, here is my apparently-contrarian RB pool.
- Alvin Kamara :: Locked in here every week for now. Playing a Falcons team that has made a habit of getting dusted by running backs through the air. Kamara is going to be heavily involved once again. High floor // high ceiling. Great play.
- Todd Gurley :: Same as Kamara: Gurley is locked into this spot every week right now. He has 15 red zone carries, which is already seven more than any other player in the NFL. He’s also taking on a Chargers defense that is attackable on the ground. High floor // high ceiling. Lots to like in this spot. (On FanDuel, it’s so easy to fit in these top guys, it would be difficult to justify not doing so.)
- Giovani Bernard :: This is where I apparently begin to veer away from the field, as there is more interest in Kareem Hunt, Latavius Murray, and Corey Clement than in Gio. But last season, in Weeks 13 through 17, Giovani Bernard took over this Bengals backfield, averaging 52.2 snaps per game, running 27 pass routes per game, averaging 14.2 carries per game, and hauling in 4.8 catches per game on 6.4 targets. He averaged 101.4 total yards across those five games, while scoring a pair of touchdowns on the ground. With Mixon out this week, similar usage and production are in play.
- Melvin Gordon :: Gordon has 20 targets and 15 catches already this season, even after he missed huge chunks of the second half last week. The Rams are set to erase the Chargers on the perimeter this week, and Virgil Green is no one’s idea of a “consistent threat” over the middle. This leaves Gordon and Keenan Allen as the primary means of moving the football, and should lock Gordon into another strong game.
- Christian McCaffrey — on DraftKings :: Although he has only 18 carries through two games, CMC has 24 targets and 20 receptions. He is playing almost every snap, and he is entirely game-flow-independent. There are only a few running backs this week with a clear shot at 25+ points on DraftKings. CMC is one of them.
- Latavius Murray — on FanDuel :: I am not interested in Murray on DraftKings, as I see him maxing out at four targets, and he is priced like an actual starting running back. On FanDuel, however, Murray costs under 9% of the salary cap, and the touchdown-heavy scoring structure plays perfectly to his strengths. Murray won’t sneak by anyone on there, but he’s a great play regardless.
On FanDuel this week, it is much easier to fit Michael Thomas — who is the safest play on the slate at the position. In cash games and small field tourneys, it makes sense to play him. In terms of “upside,” I have Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, DeAndre Hopkins, and Adam Thielen in the same range as him, and I think it’s fine to pivot off Thomas for one of those in tourneys in order to try something different. On DraftKings, it is far more difficult to justify Thomas’ price, and I’m looking at all of these wide receivers as having an “18 to 26 point range,” rather than as guys who are likely to pop off for 30. Because of this, I’m not “moving around salary” to make sure I have these guys. If I land on them, great. If I don’t, no biggie.
I also don’t see a ton separating these guys. I like Thielen the most, simply because the matchup is better for him than it is for any of these other guys; though with Thielen, we obviously have concerns that this game will get out of hand early and he’ll be capped at eight or nine targets as a result.
Next up for me is probably Beckham, then Julio, then Hopkins, but it’s really close on all of them, and I wouldn’t argue with rearranging that in any way.
That’s how I’m seeing the high-priced guys.
From there, here are the “guys outside the highest range,” and how they fit in my Player Grid this week.
- Allen Robinson :: Robinson has seen 21 targets through two games, and he ranks second in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards, behind only Julio Jones. Mitchell Trubisky has not looked comfortable in this offense so far, but Robinson is too good to be priced at 11.2% of the salary cap or below on all three sites — especially given the usage he is seeing. He’ll be able to find some soft spots in the Cardinals’ zone-heavy defense this week.
- Will Fuller :: It will feel strange to play Fuller in cash this week, but I’m currently leaning that direction. Deshaun Watson does not like checking down passes, and the Giants have no pass rush, which will enable Watson to look downfield all day. With Janoris Jenkins on DeAndre Hopkins, Fuller should see a couple extra looks — and while his targets were unpredictable last year, it still feels safe to lock him in for at least seven targets in this spot, with clear upside for 10 or 11 looks. The matchup is great, and Fuller can post a spiked week on this type of usage, allowing me to take on a slightly lower floor here for the upside he brings to the table.
- Nelson Agholor // Emmanuel Sanders :: Agholor and Sanders are both a little more expensive than Fuller on DraftKings and a little less expensive on FanDuel. I’m currently leaning Fuller over them (though that could change), but it’s close among these three. I’m a bit concerned about Agholor bumping outside with Jordan Matthews in the slot, as he was far less productive in 2016 when running routes on the perimeter; but Carson Wentz should keep him involved, and his target projection sits in the seven to 10 range. Sanders has the best matchup for the Broncos, and is their best receiver — in a game in which the Broncos project to be trailing. The only concern here is “ceiling,” as the Broncos may score only two touchdowns in this game — limiting the opportunities for scores from Manny. The floor is terrific, however, and he has as good a chance of scoring as anyone else on this team.
- Eric Ebron :: For all his flaws (and he has many), Ebron is a strong pass-catching tight end, and he will be forced into a heavy role this week with Jack Doyle on the sidelines. I’m not overthinking this one. Ebron is one of my two favorite tight end plays on the slate.
- Zach Ertz :: If not for salary considerations, I would be locking Ertz onto rosters this week. The matchup sets up nicely for him, but more importantly, Wentz is back, and Alshon Jeffrey is still out. It would be massively disappointing if Ertz fell shy of seven targets, and something like 12 or 13 targets is clearly within his range. He’s a high-floor, high-ceiling play this week.
- Cowboys :: The savings on both sites are significant in moving off the Vikings to the Cowboys. Dallas has an elite pass rush, and the Seahawks have taken more sacks than any team in the league. Russ is having to choose between taking sacks and throwing to guys who are covered. This is resulting in lots of DST points. The Cowboys are the sort of play that will see higher ownership numbers as buy-in levels escalate.
- Vikings :: And then, of course, you have the best pure play on the slate: the Vikings, at home, against the Bills. No need to overthink this: they are clearly the best pure play (as in: if we take salary out of the equation, this is the team to have). And while salary constraints make the Cowboys the better overall play on paper, games are not played on paper. The Vikings have a greater chance of a multi-touchdown game than the Cowboys have, and if they notch one of those games, they’ll be very much worth the price.
- Tevin Coleman :: Coleman is going a little overlooked as a safe/solid play. He has the same role as last week, in a better matchup. Coleman’s range should be about 10 to 22 on FanDuel and 11 to 25 on DraftKings.
- Jordan Howard :: Howard is also going overlooked, as a running back who is involved in every phase of the game for the Bears. He has a solid floor this week, and his ceiling is underrated
- Cooper Kupp — DraftKings :: Going back to last year (and including the playoffs), Kupp has fallen shy of double-digit DraftKings points only once in his last 10 games, and he has topped 16 points in five of his last 10 games. Kupp is rarely going to pop off for 30+, but he brings tremendous floor and ceiling to the table for his price.
- Devin Funchess :: For as long as Greg Olsen is out, Funchess should range from seven to 10 targets most weeks — and he’ll shape up as the number three red zone weapon, behind only Cam and CMC. It never feels great to play him, but the floor and ceiling are there.
- Cam Newton :: Cam is a fixture here. He is literally always in play in tourneys. He can disappoint in good matchups, but he can also post 35 points in bad. Keep Cam in mind in tourneys every single week.
- Joe Flacco :: Typically, Tier 3 is reserved for lower-floor guys who might be able to pop off. Flacco is actually here because he can post a strong point-per-dollar game, and the savings can enable you to do some fun stuff in other spots on your roster. Flacco is not recommended for cash games; but if he posts another 22 or 23 point game in this spot, and the expensive guys don’t top 27 or 28, you’ll gain an edge with the way you can use those savings.
- Saquon Barkley :: Barkley has a bad offensive line, sure; and the Texans have a stout defensive line. But the Giants aren’t going to lie down and die in this spot. Instead, they’ll throw the ball to Saquon and OBJ and see if these guys can win the game for them. Saquon’s floor is low for the price; but his ceiling remains awesome.
- Wendell Smallwood :: At this point, I do not expect to play Corey Clement. Maybe this will prove to be crazy. But the more I have thought about this one, the more it seems that we could see the Eagles split this workload somewhere-close-to-down-the-middle. Wentz does not check down in the pass game, and a split workload would leave each guy fairly touchdown-dependent. If Clement sees 12 to 14 carries and Smallwood sees eight to 10, the latter could be a great tourney pivot off the former, and the savings could make a big difference in other spots on your roster.
- Kenyan Drake :: Talent? Check. Matchup? Check. Price? Check. Opportunity? Uh…yeah. Drake has one of the top matchups on the board, and his talent is off the charts. His price is also very fair, but the one question is, “Will he see enough work?” This takes him far away from cash game consideration, but he’s a strong upside play in tourneys.
- John Brown :: I cannot quite bring myself to slide over to Brown in cash, but he lines up nicely as the number one receiver against an overrated Broncos secondary. Denver filters action to the air, and their perimeter corners are no match for JB. It feels strange to lock him in, but the usage is there and the matchup is not all that scary. He has plenty of upside this week.
- Marquise Goodwin :: If Goodwin plays, and is healthy, he will be the number one receiver against a poor Chiefs secondary that especially struggles downfield. Even if he is active, however, it will be difficult to know whether or not he is truly healthy. This introduces some risk, but there is really nice upside in this spot.
- Tyreek Hill :: He literally has the highest upside on the slate. It would not be surprising this season to see him hit for 200 yards in a game, and this is the type of matchup that could allow that to happen. This is nothing against Tyreek as a play (and hopefully you have read the breakdown of what this Player Grid is — and of what each Tier means). It is simply that the principles of “volume” force him down to Tier 3. He’s a great play this week.
- Robert Woods :: Woods has functioned as the number one receiver on this team to start the year, and he is priced like a number two or three receiver. I don’t love the matchup, but the usage has been there for Woods to be able to pop off this week.
- All the rest :: There are a lot of wide receivers I like this week who are worth mentioning, even if they won’t be on my Main Roster: Keenan Allen has a great matchup in the slot vs the Rams; Stefon Diggs has a tougher matchup than Thielen, but can obviously smash; A.J. Green doesn’t see enough volume for me, but his upside is as high as anyone’s; Geronimo Allison has a legit role in the Packers’ offense; and Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks are great options on their respective teams, each in a different price range from the more obviously appealing guy, but with strong upside.
- All the rest :: Ebron and Ertz stand out to me as much better plays than the other available options, but the other available options that I considered earlier in the week: Travis Kelce has the same ceiling as Ertz, but I like Ertz’ floor more in that price range; Jordan Reed is in a weird price spot and may go overlooked, but is always a strong play; Jared Cook will be the Raiders’ best means of moving the ball; George Kittle has monster upside if his usage returns (I may yet bump Kittle up to the top Tier for my own rosters before kickoff…); Jimmy Graham has had valuable usage so far, and is a borderline Tier 1 play as well; Ian Thomas should see more targets this week against a Cincy defense whose linebackers are attackable.
- All the rest :: I cannot imagine moving off the Cowboys at the low end or the Vikings at the high end, but if you want to go off the board — or if you are mass-multi-entering, these are the other defenses I toyed around with earlier in the week: The Jags are always a strong DST play, and are an interesting pivot off Minnesota; the Dolphins should be able to force Carr into some mistakes; Sam Bradford has no chance against this Bears defense; the Cardinals’ D has a sneaky-good chance of piling up points against Trubisky.
Hopefully this gives you a great opportunity to compare your thoughts against my own.
I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend; and I’ll see you on the site next Thursday morning for the Week 4 edition of the NFL Edge!