The 7 Most Effective Offensive Players From Week 3
Week 3 gave us a lot of interesting performances, but one quarterback continues to dominate the landscape. In this week's Most Effective Players let's start with that surging signal-caller.
Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck had a field day against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but this really came as a shock to nobody. Luck got things started late in the first quarter when he connected, yet again, with running back Ahmad Bradshaw. On 3rd-and-5 from the Jaguars 6-yard line, Luck found Bradshaw over the middle for the Colts’ first touchdown of the game, and the duo’s third connection on the season.
The Colts didn’t look back from that point. Luck went on to throw three more touchdowns throughout the game – two second-quarter touchdowns to his tight end duo of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, and a fourth-quarter strike to Hakeem Nicks from one yard out.
Luck finished Sunday with an impressive 79 percent completion rate, 370 yards and 4 scores. He played his way to a 25.43 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) total – the highest single-week Passing NEP of any quarterback through the first three weeks. His performance throughout the season has made Luck the most effective passer according to our metrics; he stands alone at the top of the list for Passing NEP with a mark of 40.09.
So far this season, Luck has put up some interesting numbers, though. Of his nine passing touchdowns, eight have come from 10 yards or closer. That’s already more than the seven he had all of last year. To add to this, only two have been to the wide receiver position, and they were both caught by Hakeem Nicks.
Rashad Jennings, Running Back, New York Giants
Much to the joy of many fantasy football players, Rashad Jennings finally lived up to all the preseason hype. Jennings had one of his best days as a professional in a thrashing of the Houston Texans. The New York Giants went to their hot-handed running back often, and for good reason. Jennings ended up rushing 34 times for 176 yards and a touchdown.
His touchdown came about a minute before halftime, with the Giants only up by a touchdown. On 3rd-and-goal from the one-yard line, Jennings found a hole and burst into the end zone. Jennings was finding chunk-yardage all game, helping him earn his 5.18 yards per carry average on the day.
All of this accumulated to a Rushing NEP of 5.85 on Sunday – the highest of any running back on the day. For Jennings, this vaulted him from the 23rd spot to the 6th best Rushing NEP among running backs at least 25 carries. This is a very impressive feat for Jennings given the volume he received on Sunday.
Reggie Bush, Running Back, Detroit Lions
Oh, hello, Reggie. It’s nice of you to finally show up this year. Reggie Bush finally crept into the green on Sunday, making up - somewhat - for his slow start. While being used less than Joique Bell, Bush was seeing little production on the field. This finally changed on Sunday when Bush out-touched Bell 18 to 15.
Not only did he out-touch Bell, but Bush was much more effective for the Lions. He converted four third downs on drives that led to potential scoring plays (Nate Freese missed a field goal at the end of the first half). However, his biggest third-down conversion came early in the fourth quarter. With 3rd-and-2 from the Green Bay 26-yard line, he bounced the hand-off outside and broke a few tackles en route to the end zone.
Bush finished with 18 touches, 99 total yards and a rushing touchdown. This was good enough for a Total NEP of 7.30 in Week 3. He was a pretty balanced jack-of-all-trades, gaining a Rushing NEP of 3.46 and a Reception NEP of 3.84. His day sprung him from obscurity, ranking 176th in Total NEP among all running backs and pushing himself into the top 20. Bush was one of the only productive offensive players in what was a supposed shootout turned defensive struggle.
Julio Jones, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Falcons
Who didn’t perform remarkably well for Atlanta on Thursday night? The Falcons took it to the Tampa Buccaneers early and often, and didn’t let up. Julio Jones was no exception. In fact, you could say he led the charge on offense. Jones’ first touchdown came on 3rd-and-goal from the 8-yard line. Matt Ryan stepped away from pressure and connected with Julio, who found a hole in Tampa’s soft zone in the back of the end zone for the Falcons’ second touchdown (of many).
Jones’s second score came on an acrobatic, Willie Mays in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series lookalike catch from 40 yards out. The Falcons already had the game wrapped up at this point, and this was one of the last times we saw Jones on the field that night.
He finished with 9 receptions on 11 targets, 161 yards and 2 touchdowns – all good enough for a Reception NEP of 17.67. Jones’ Week 3 metrics were the highest of any receiver in a single week to this point, aside from Calvin Johnson’s Week 1 Reception NEP of 18.86.
Emmanuel Sanders, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos
Emmanuel Sanders has come on in a big way this year. Many were skeptical about how much his production would drop with the return of Wes Welker, and he answered his critics with a huge game against the Seattle Seahawks. This is the second week in a row a receiving threat has made the All-NEP team versus the Seahawks, which leads me to believe they’re willing to give up certain player if it means shutting down studs (Keenan Allen in Week 2; Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas in Week 3).
Sanders finished the day with 11 receptions on 15 targets (Yes, 15!) and 149 yards. His production was good enough for a Reception NEP of 11.39. Oddly enough, Sanders is the only player through the first three weeks to make the All-NEP team without a touchdown. So how did he do it? Well, he may not have scored, but he was extremely efficient – 8 of Sanders’ 11 receptions went for first downs. His biggest first down reception happened late in the game with Denver trailing by eight. With 52 seconds remaining, Peyton Manning stepped up to find Sanders 42 yards downfield in Seahawks territory. Four plays later, the Broncos scored the game-tying touchdown - with the two-point conversion, of course - but would go on to lose in overtime.
Martellus Bennett, Tight End, Chicago Bears
Nope, sorry. No three-touchdown performance from this week’s All-NEP tight end. Julius Thomas did it in Week 1, and Antonio Gates in Week 2. However, two is close enough, right? Well, that’s what Martellus Bennett accomplished in Week 3, and it was good enough to make this week’s cut.
In what was a relatively slow week for the tight end position, Bennett finished with 5 receptions, 54 yards and 2 touchdowns. His second touchdown came on the opening drive of the second half. Bennett received a 13-yard strike from Jay Cutler on 3rd-and-11. This touchdown gave the Bears a two-possession lead, something they would desperately need as the Jets came back, but eventually lost on a failed fourth down attempt deep in Chicago territory.
All in all, Bennett finished the week with a Reception NEP of 9.57. He's now sixth overall among tight ends in that category.
Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers
Kelvin Benjamin was about the only bright spot for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night. One of the main critiques about Benjamin coming into the 2014 NFL Draft were his hands. Well, he’s done nothing but prove the naysayers wrong. Maybe he was just lethargic in college, or he possibly worked on it in the offseason. Either way, Benjamin has made some very talented, circus catches, and his Week 3 touchdown was no exception.
Granted, his touchdown came in garbage time, late in the fourth quarter from backup quarterback, Derek Anderson. But he still showed what he is capable of every single week. The touchdown, and his night as a whole, gave him 8 receptions, 115 yards and the lone touchdown. He was able to finish with a Reception NEP of 10.96, and is now in seventh among receivers from a Net Expected Points standpoint.