Welcome back to another edition of Spin’s Fantasy Factory! I’m Spin, UConn’s self-proclaimed “fantasy football expert” — though after my last couple of weeks of picks, it may be time to retire that title. Even so, I’ve yet to be told to hand in the towel and close the doors on the Factory, so production will continue…
It’s no secret that fantasy football is more of a dart throw than many would like to believe. You could research all of the best matchups for the week, analyze team personnel and trends throughout games, yet anything is possible once Sunday begins. Just look at a player like Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary — he’s been rumored all training camp to be losing touches to rookie James Cook, and Singletary’s been a small part of a Buffalo offense that has an abundance of mouths to feed. In Week 3, however, Singletary was the star of the show, as he collected nine catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, in addition to 13 rushing yards. If you’re keeping track, that’s 24.1 PPR points.
Guys like Singletary will have their moments throughout the NFL season, though predicting which players will continue their elite production is more of a challenge. However, that’s what I’d like to attempt to do with this addition of Spin’s Factory. For both of the main skill positions (WR and RB), I’ve listed a player that put up monstrous performances in Week 3 and whether or not those trends will continue further. Without further ado, let’s get this wagon train a-movin’!
DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
After recording zero catches on four targets to open the season, Smith had a solid Week 2 (seven catches for 80 yards) but was the Eagles’ primary downfield target in Week 3 against Washington. Exploiting a weak Commanders secondary, Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts connected with Smith eight times, which yielded 169 yards and a touchdown. The athletic wideout came up with a trio of downfield shots from Hurts for respective gains of 45, 29 and 41 yards. Smith’s touchdown came from two yards, out on a play where he rose over Washington’s Kendall Fuller and ripped the ball down over the defender in one-on-one coverage. The catches and receiving yards were both new career highs for the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, and his 169 receiving yards were the most by an Eagle since Jeremy Maclin had 187 yards in 2014. Smith was able to exploit single coverage time and again while Washington’s secondary focused on A.J. Brown, who caught five of ten targets for 85 yards and a score.
Smith’s big-play ability and explosiveness with the ball have been apparent ever since Philly made him the 10th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Though he entered the NFL as a highly-touted prospect, Smith’s rookie campaign was a bit of a disappointment, as he failed to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in the expanded 17-game regular season and averaged a modest 3.7 receptions per contest. With his production steadily climbing since that rough start in Week 1, fantasy managers may be itching to throw Smith into their starting lineups for a juicy Week 4 date with the Jacksonville Jaguars and their unimpressive defense. But is this type of treatment warranted for the upcoming matchup?
The Jags’ defense has given up the 12th most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in PPR leagues through three games, which includes two games teams missing top their receiver (Michael Pittman for the Colts and Keenan Allen for the Chargers). So really, Jacksonville’s defense has shown it can allow major fantasy production to even non-elite opposing wide receivers. That bodes extremely well for Smith, who despite his breakout performance last week is still the clear WR2 on the Eagles’ depth chart behind Brown. Brown figures to draw the attention of the Jaguars’ top cornerback, Tyson Campbell, which will give Smith room to work deep downfield. As Jacksonville’s offense shows more signs of life in the post-Urban Meyer era, this game has the potential to be a shootout. With Hurts showing more willingness to throw the ball deep downfield, I’d expect Smith’s fantasy output to continue into Week 4.
Jamaal Williams, RB, Detroit Lions
Typically Detroit’s number two running back, Williams was given the opportunity to operate as a workhorse after starter D’Andre Swift was removed from last week’s contest against the Minnesota Vikings after suffering a shoulder injury. Given Swift’s injury history — he’s been battling an ankle injury that he suffered back in the opening week — reports from the Lions’ practices this week indicate that the team may choose to sit Swift until he makes a full recovery. In fact, he could be held out all the way until the second half of the season. Until then, Williams is expected to take on a massive bulk of the backfield duties for a Detroit team that has taken tremendous strides forward in year two of the Dan Campbell experiment.
Still only 27 years old, the veteran Williams stepped up in a major way for the Lions by delivering 87 rushing yards and punching in two touchdowns against Minnesota in Swift’s stead. In the two games he played last season without Swift, Williams recorded 17 and 19 rushing attempts for 71 and 77 yards, respectively. While those stats may not raise any eyebrows, keep in mind that Detroit’s offense was among the worst in the NFL last season. In 2022, it has shown a heightened ability to move the ball downfield, and Williams’ four rushing touchdowns through three weeks are already more than he had in all of 2021. In addition to the fact that he’ll be given plenty of opportunities (36 combined touches in two games is no number to squawk at), the Lions’ more all-around offensive approach figures to allow Williams more leeway instead of having him be the focal point of the offense. As long as opposing defenses aren’t expecting Detroit to run through Williams on every down, he’ll have more opportunities to see the open field and rip off big plays.
If he is indeed given the keys to the Lions’ backfield, can Williams’ Week 3 production carry over into Week 4? His team will be taking on the Seattle Seahawks, a squad that is surrendering fantasy points to opposing running backs at the ninth-highest rate in the NFL. The matchup is trending into a smash spot with the Seahawks’ defense allowing 4.9 yards per carry, and given that he’ll be thrust into bell-cow duties, volume alone should convince fantasy managers that Williams’ will continue to produce into Week 4 and beyond. He should be added into all leagues where he is still floating on the waiver wire.