Fantasy Football: 5 Things We Learned in Week 3
Week 3 was the week of the backup quarterback. Seven teams went into Week 3 with a different quarterback than the one they thought they would start the season with, and shockingly, five of those seven teams won their games this week. Usually a backup quarterback spells doom for their entire offense -- for fantasy football and otherwise -- but that simply wasn't the case here.
The NFL already looks like a different league than the one we saw in Week 1, and if you want to have any shot to win your fantasy leagues you're going to have to keep up. So to help you not fall behind, here are five things we learned in Week 3.
Daniel Jones looks like the real deal...
We haven't seen too many debuts like New York Giants first-round draft pick Daniel Jones' debut this Sunday. Jones led the Giants back from an 18-point deficit to a 1-point road victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first-ever start in the NFL.
Jones tore it up during the preseason, but we've seen more than a handful of preseason stars flame out in the NFL. However, Jones passed his first test with flying colors, completing 23 of his 36 pass attempts for 336 yards and 2 touchdowns, while contributing another 2 scores and 28 yards on the ground. That performance was good enough to vault Jones near the top of the fantasy leaderboards -- his 34.24 fantasy points finished behind only Russell Wilson and his ridiculous 41.34 points.
Jones' arrival in New York is a boon for their offense, which looked stagnant through the first two weeks of the season under Eli Manning. The Giants had two pass-catchers (Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram) hit 100 yards in the game. By comparison, the Giants had just one pass-catcher hit that mark over the first two weeks of the season.
Things are really looking up for the Giants passing offense right now, and don't expect that train to start losing steam anytime soon. Over the next two weeks the Giants have two home games, one against Washington's struggling defense and another against a Minnesota Vikings defense that has been solid in real football, but forgiving in fantasy football. This could be a good chance to see if Golden Tate is available on your waiver wires, and I expect Jones to be one of the most sought-after streamers at the quarterback position for Week 4.
...But it's not all sunshine and butterflies in New York
The Giants may have come from behind to seal their first win of the season, but they lost superstar running back Saquon Barkley in the process -- which means your fantasy teams did, too.
Barkley, one of the most dynamic and athletic players in the league, left Sunday's game in the first half with an ankle injury. He didn't return to the game but was seen on the sidelines in the second half in a walking boot and wielding crutches. He has an MRI scheduled for Monday, but the outlook doesn't look too promising right now. Dr. David Chao -- ProFootballDoc on Twitter -- speculates that Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain, which would likely result in the stud running back missing a significant amount of time. San Francisco 49ers back Tevin Coleman suffered a similar injury in Week 1 and hasn't played or fully practiced since.
Barkley's injury is bad news for the Giants and devastating news for those of us that spent high draft picks on him in fantasy this year. Hopefully, his superhuman athleticism will help him return to the field healthy sooner than expected, but in the meantime you probably won't be able to start the star for at least a couple of weeks.
In Barkley's absence, Wayne Gallman took over as the lead back on Sunday. He only managed to muster up 13 yards on 15 carries against the Bucs' stout run defense, and unfortunately, Gallman is not the same threat as a pass-catcher out of the backfield as we've grown to expect from Barkley. Expect the Giants to sign a free agent for depth this week, but Gallman should still be one of your top waiver priorities this week as the lead back on a revitalized Giants offense.
Kyle Allen crushed it this week
Kyle Allen absolutely dunked on the Cardinals hapless defense on Sunday and brought all of the Panthers' top fantasy football options along with him. Allen was an efficient touchdown machine, completing 19 of his 26 passes for 4 scores in the Panthers' first win of the season. He tossed touchdowns to Curtis Samuel, D.J. Moore, and two more to Greg Olsen in the rout, and even managed to get Christian McCaffrey a few extra points in the receiving game for fantasy football -- not that he needed them with his 153 rushing yards and a score of his own on the ground.
Sure, the Cardinals defense is atrocious, but Allen's performance should give you the confidence you need to start your Panthers players in fantasy football for however long Cam Newton remains sidelined. After all, the guy did beat out Kyler Murray for the starting job at Texas A&M back in the day.
The Panthers will have a tougher matchup on the road against the Houston Texans next week, but we've at least seen that Kyle Allen can keep the offense rolling while Newton recovers. You'll be able to start all of your Panthers with confidence in Week 4 regardless of which quarterback plays.
It's Minshew Mania in Jacksonville
Kicking off the week of the breakout backup quarterback was Gardner Minshew's destruction of the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football. Neither the final score -- 20 to 7 -- nor the box score fully reflect how good the sixth-round rookie looked in the Jacksonville Jaguars' first win of the season.
In typical accurate form, Minshew completed 20 of his 30 pass attempts for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. What the box score doesn't reflect is that five of his incompletions were drops, including one that should have been an easy score for Dede Westbrook. Another two of those incompletions came on contested passes, meaning that over the course of the night just three of Minshew's attempts were off-target. On the season, his 73.9 completion percentage currently ranks second in the league behind only Dak Prescott.
Minshew's takeover in Jacksonville has created a few actionable takeaways for fantasy. Minshew isn't a competitive option as a quarterback himself outside of two-quarterback leagues, but he has put both Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark on the map as fantasy WR3's. In Minshew's two games as the starter, Chark, Westbrook and Leonard Fournette each have a 22% target share, while Chark has drawn an impressive 35% share of the team's total air yards. His 10.7 average depth of target and 40% share of the team's air yards over the whole season make Chark one of the premier deep threats in the league right now.
Chark (41%) and Westbrook (66%) are available in a surprising number of Yahoo! leagues heading into Week 4. If you need help at the wide receiver position, make sure to keep them on your shortlist.
Mike Evans is (still) a monster
If you drafted Mike Evans this season, you were probably starting to worry a little heading into Week 3. Evans had just 89 total receiving yards through the first two weeks, and was being thoroughly outperformed by teammate Chris Godwin. It's fair to assume that the illness Evans contracted just before Week 1 could explain some of his struggles to start the season, but things were definitely getting a little dicey. Unless you had been paying attention to the air yards distribution on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense, that is. Despite Evans' lack of real production, he still had 234 air yards through the first two weeks, a top 16 mark in the league. Air yards are representative of a player's intended usage on his team, and in Evans' case his huge air yard volume showed us that despite his low receiving yardage totals, the Bucs still wanted to feature him heavily.
In other words, he was primed for a breakout. We were all expecting something -- just no one could have expected Evans to drop an 8-190-3 receiving line, even against a bottom-tier Giants secondary.
With his Week 3 performance, Evans vaulted from outside the top 50 wide receivers in fantasy, all the way up to being the WR7 using FanDuel scoring. The Bucs' offense clearly relies on Evans and his explosive playmaking ability -- the 31 points they scored on Sunday were the most they scored all year. With Evans back and healthy, the Bruce Arians' Bucs can finally get things going.
If you bought low on Evans heading into Week 3, then congratulations. If you held onto him despite the slow start, then your patience was rewarded -- assuming you started him this week.