6 Players Who Mattered: nF's Week 3 Fantasy Recap

Here to make sense of what happened yesterday, Lead Writer provides a numbers-filled recap like only numberFire can.

Part of me really wonders what the Christian Ponder Bandwagon would actually look like. My guess is a near-empty Volkswagen hatchback bunch of shivering Florida State fans wondering how on earth it gets this cold in Minnesota in September. They'll be warm soon though; the Ponder Bandwagon's about to get cozy with some new members after his 24 fantasy point (FP) performance against the Niners on Sunday. But Ponder wasn't the only breakout star this week 3 - Andre Brown, Torrey Smith, and Jamaal "Yes he's alive and kicking" Charles each singlehandedly won some fantasy matchups this week. If you had told their fantasy owners that before the weekend, you would have a good case to be committed (and hurry, because that Christian Ponder Bandwagon is full of people going straight to the asylum).

As always, fantasy football is a bit crazy. We're here to make sense of it, but sometimes, there are things that even we can't predict. Here is a look at some crucial names from yesterday and why they overperformed, underperformed, or were right on target with numberFire's projections.

Locked on Target, Sir

Mike Wallace - Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 3 Final Points: 18 (#4 WR)
numberFire Projected Points: 12.93 (#4 WR)

If Al Gore had given the Internet the ability to talk when he invented it oh so many years ago, numberFire would have spent the entire week like a doom-and-gloom prophet screaming from the roof tops "START YOUR STEELERS PASSING ATTACK!" In our projections this week, Big Ben was the #2 QB, Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace were each in the top 5 of wide receivers, and Heath Miller was a top-ten tight end. And what do you know? Roethlisberger ended up being the #2 fantasy player overall in week 3, Miller was the #1 TE, and Brown would have been a top 10 WR if not for a fumble. But it was Wallace that we were closest on - we had him at #4, and he finished at #4. How's that for symmetry? The main key for Wallace's continued success is that the Steelers really don't have too many weapons offensively. There's Brown, there's Wallace, there's Miller... and then the cliff to Emmanuel Sanders is Grand Canyon-esque. As a result, Wallace saw 24% of Roethlisberger's total passes come his way against the Raiders. And especially if Wallace can continue converting his catches at a 77% rate - which would easily be his highest as a pro - you won't see him drop off the top of the charts any time soon.

Maurice Jones-Drew - Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 3 Final Points: 24 (#2 RB)
numberFire Projected Points: 18.94 (#2 RB)

You hear all those people shouting "MJD is back!" from the Jacksonville swamps? numberFire did that too. We have just been doing it since last Tuesday. The matchup was an excellent one for Jones-Drew; he now has over 1,700 total yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 career meetings with the Colts. Perhaps even more important, though, is just how committed to the run the Jaguars seem to be. Jones-Drew ran the ball 28 times on Sunday, the most of any player not currently being crowned the King of Kansas City. Those 28 rushes were 52% of Jacksonville's total offensive plays, easily the highest proportion for any running back in the entire NFL. Jones-Drew has gotten progressively better as the season has gone on, as his yards per carry average has increased every single week since the start of the season. What was that they say about holdouts? I forget, because we're only three weeks into the season and it already doesn't matter.

Low Expectations, High Performance

Jamaal Charles - Kansas City Chiefs
Week 3 Final Points: 34 (#1 RB)
numberFire Projected Points: 12.43 (#13 RB)

Off by a week. In week 2 against the Bills, numberFire had Jamaal Charles as our #2 overall RB, and he repaid us by absolutely going off for a staggering... three yards rushing. That scared a good number of people off - he was only started in 79.5% of ESPN leagues this week. I think it's going to take some serious marketing prowess to keep those other 20.5% from quitting fantasy football on the spot. Perhaps they should have listened to numberFire, as we moved him down on our board, but only slightly. Ranked as the #13 RB entering the weekend, we expected him to be a starting-caliber fantasy back, but not to win any fantasy matchups on his own. The main reason for his high performance was the sheer number of plays the Chiefs ran: their 92 total plays was over 20 plays higher than their previous season-high. As a result, even though Charles on ran the ball on 36% of the Chiefs' snaps, he still had more rushing attempts than any other player in the league. The other big reason for Charles's comeback performance is that one long run can completely change the complexion of a back's fantasy day. Take out Charles's 91-yard scamper in the third quarter, and the resulting 4.44 yards per carry average on the rest of his attempts would have actually been worse than his week 1 "off day" against the Falcons.

A.J. Green - Cincinnati Bengals
Week 3 Final Points: 25 (#1 WR)
numberFire Projected Points: 8.90 (#24 WR)

There won't be as many fantasy owners angry because they didn't start A.J. Green, as he was the fifth-most started wide receiver in all of fantasy football this past week at 97.8% of ESPN fantasy teams. However, numberFire didn't see the big week coming. Before this weekend, the Redskins had been playing surprisingly efficiently on defense, despite the big point totals they had given up the first two weeks. In fact, they had risen all the way up to #13 on our defensive rankings entering week 3. I think it's safe to say they'll no longer be that high. Green's week 3 was a textbook case of "First play, backup receiver fires a 77 yard touchdown". And the title of that textbook is "Things You'll Usually Never See Outside of a Game of Madden". Other than that 77 yard trick play, Green had a solid but not spectacular 110 receiving yard and no touchdowns, so excuse me for not jumping for joy at his fantasy prospects moving forward. But at least for those who took Green in the first four rounds of fantasy drafts this past August, it is a week's worth of redemption.

But You Were Supposed To Do So Well!

Alex Smith - San Francisco 49ers
Week 3 Final Points: 10 (#21 QB)
numberFire Projected Points: 15.95 (#12 QB)

This was the coronation week for Alex Smith as a premier, top-flight QB. After two straight sound victories, and two straight 17 FP days to boot, a clear-cut thrashing of the Vikings was supposed to solidify him not being the bust that so many made him out to be. numberFire's resident 49ers homer, Sean Weinstock, even had Smith as his #1 fantasy upside guy for week 3. But in the end, Alex Smith was exactly who we thought he was. It's not like the 49ers couldn't move the ball at all - 40% of their drives were of 7 plays or longer. It's just that, as often has happened with Alex Smith, he couldn't punch the ball in the endzone. The 49ers had two drives of at least 10 plays in yesterday's game. The result of those two drives: three combined points after the second Akers FG attempt was blocked. Smith threw more passes than he had in any other game this season, but if you don't sustain the TDs (he had four in the first two weeks), you're not going to be a top-flight fantasy QB. Banished once again to the waiver wire for you, sir.

Vincent Jackson - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 3 Final Points: 2 (#72 WR)
numberFire Projected Points: 11.73 (#6 WR)

With quantity over quality players, there is always one major issue: what happens when that massive quantity suddenly goes away? For Vincent Jackson, we just found out, and the results are terrifying ugly. Jackson has had a bad catch rate this entire season - catching only 45% of the balls thrown his way placed his catch rate right near the bottom of all NFL receivers. We also figured that his catch rate wouldn't improve much, as he has only had one season (2009) over the league-average 60% catch rate in his seven-year career. But so far this season, he had been making up for it by apparently being Josh Freeman's only friend and confidante, getting nearly 40% of all of Freeman's passes coming his way. This week, he still led the Bucs in targets with seven balls thrown his way, but that total comprised only 26% of all of Freeman's throws. And even worse, his hands dripped with even more butter than usual; he caught only one pass for an abysmal 14% catch rate on the day. Jackson had relied on quantity over quality for the first two weeks, but the bottom finally fell out against the Cowboys.