Three weeks of the NFL season have come and gone,which means two very important things. The first being that there is officially a large enough sample size to start drawing some real conclusions. The second being that the beginning of the season generally produces a disproportionately large number of injuries, and that chunk of the year is hopefullyin the rearview mirror. With a laundry list of relevant players that have gone down and a better grasp of which disappointments and breakouts will stick, it’s time to start making educated guesses and taking calculated risks.
Here are players and teams that have shown us enough to start taking action, as well as assets who have been impacted by injury and what to expect from them in the near future.
Joshua Palmer vs. Raiders – Palmer is getting deja vu all over again as he finds himself thrust into a more prominent role following the loss of Mike Williams and/or Keenan Allen. This time around, it’s Williams, and after being diagnosed with a torn ACL, Palmer owners will be eager for him to gain fantasy relevance. They can expect that and more —at least for the time being. The Chargers are still without a fully healthy Austin Ekeler, and they clearly don’t trust Josh Kelley and Quentin Johnston who have been used sparingly so far this season. Although I expect Johnston to earn more of a role as the season progresses —and perhaps even leapfrog Palmer as the WR2 —Palmer is still a solid play for the time being. Additionally, Palmer averages 13 points per game over the past two seasons while Allen is active and Williams is out per ESPN’s Matthew Berry . The Chargers now take on a favorable matchup against the Raiders who rank 19th against wide receivers in PPR formats this year. Palmer is the play until Johnston shows signs of taking over, at which point Johnston will become a must-add.
Tee Higgins vs.Titans – After another disappointing performance in week three against the Rams, Higgins has thrown up duds in two of the first three games of the season. The Bengals also demonstrated a commitment to getting Jamarr Chase more involved as he saw a season high in targets, receptions and yards against the Rams. On top of that, Burrow looked considerably less mobile and was visibly hobbling, due to his injured calf throughout that game. And on top of all of that, the Bengals defense is really, really good. So much so that Burrow commented on the fact that he is intentionally taking less risks and playing conservatively because he knows that the Bengals will hold their own on the other side of the ball. All of this adds up to an unreliable Tee Higgins, who makes a living using his 6’4” frame in mid to deep yardages to come down with throws that fall into the “risky” category. He will certainly still have monster games like he did in week 2, however there is simply too much working against him to rely on him as the high end WR2 that he was drafted to be.
Alexander Mattison vs. Panthers – For managers out there who have gotten burned by the loss of running backs like Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor and Nick Chubb and are looking for a cheap replacement, Mattison is a name to circle. He is an ideal buy low trade target, as he is surrounded by negative news produced by his own poor play, as well as the addition of Cam Akers to the backfield. The good news for Mattison is that the Vikings have come out and said that they are still committed to him as the starting running back. Mattison got a ton of pre-season hype from the Vikings camp, and his usage thus far has been reflective of such. Mattison has been the clear workhorse back in Minnesota, and although he hasn’t necessarily made the most of it, he showed signs of life last week against the Chargers. He now faces the challenge of building off this solid performance, as well as staving off Akers. In regards to the former, the Vikings offense is simply too good to not start producing positive game scripts where they lead in the second half and lean on Mattison to close the game out. In regards to the latter, the Vikings acquired Akers via a future late round pick swap, meaning they got him for virtually nothing. They are not committed to him in any way and he is far more likely to fill the role of backup than chip away at Mattison’s starting job. This prediction is backed by the fact that this is exactly where they stood before the season started. There was a prominent narrative at Minnesota’s camp that Mattison is the guy and that the spot behind him is up for grabs. Well, no one grabbed it. Presumed backup Ty Chandler has been even more disappointing than Mattison in the work he’s seen so far, and it is far more likely that Akers puts his own job in danger than Mattison’s.
Jakobi Meyers @ Chargers – There are very few names this season that have been as surprising as Jakobi Meyers. He had previously been viewed as a solid receiver who lacked monster upside due to his inability to flash as New England’s number one option for the past couple of years. That script quickly flipped as he has turned in great performances in each of his first two starts this season. After having a superstar day in week one, missing week two with a concussion and then turning in another super solid showing in week three, Meyers proved that the problem was with the Patriots, not him. He is now in an offense that has built a reputation for producing fantasy relevant secondary receivers like Hunter Renfroe and Darren Waller. He will also line up next to the elite Devante Adams, which eliminates the possibility of facing consistent double coverage. Meyers now faces a Chargers defense that has given up the most PPR points to wide receivers of any team in the league this year, making him a smash play for week 4.
Khalil Herbert OR Roschon Johnson vs. Broncos – After the Broncos let rookie DeVon Achane rush for 200 yards (!!!) last week, trailing their defense this week is an all-time “don’t think, just shoot” pick. The good news: the Broncos defense showed us that they are just too bad for one of these guys not to have a good game. The bad news: the Bears offense probably isn’t good enough for both of them to have a good game, and nowhere near good enough to be able to predict which one will pop. Khalil Herbert is the safer play, as he is the team’s confirmed lead back. On the other hand, Roschon Johnson has shown flashes of a player with more burst and big play ability than Herbert. He is also the go-to back on receiving downs and in negative game scripts when the Bears are behind. Despite that, I still have Herbert as the better option as he is a safer volume bet. However, I still love taking a flier on Johnson and betting on him to explode at some point against the most porous defense in the league.