Fantasy Football Predictions
Last week was a good one for the bold predictions. Aside from missing on tight ends (I thought Jimmy Graham was a sit and Ben Watson was a start) and believing a strong showing from Washington’s passing game would carry Josh Doctson, most of my forecasts for Week 2 were spot on. David Johnson indeed disappointed fantasy owners with just 48 yards rushing and no touchdowns, Robby Anderson was definitely a bust with three receptions for 27 yards, and Bilal Powell was the strong PPR play I expected him to be with five catches, 80 total yards from scrimmage, and a score. But my strongest point of prognostication came at the quarterback position, where I finished second overall in FantasyPros accuracy for the week and called in this space for fantasy owners to bench Tom Brady while keeping the faith in Matthew Stafford. Brady threw for a pair of touchdowns but finished the week as just the eighteenth best fantasy quarterback, while Stafford was a top-10 option with 347 yards and three scores. I will do my best to keep that momentum going in Week 3.
The below projections are meant to highlight sleepers and lesser-owned players who could put you over the top in season-long and DFS contests, or guide you toward fading a popular fantasy option who is poised to disappoint. Questions about our bold predictions or your own weekly lineups are encouraged and appreciated via the comments section or on Twitter.
1. Latavius Murray is an RB1 this week
After exiting last week’s game against the Packers with what was described as only cramps and downplaying the severity of any injury during the week, the Vikings ended up ruling Dalvin Cook out for Week 3 with a bad hamstring. Enter Murray, who will start in Cook’s place and draws a dream matchup against an awful Bills team in a game where Minnesota is favored by 16.5 points (that’s not a typo!). That should be a recipe for a high volume of carries against a team that has allowed 19 rushing touchdowns in its last 12 games dating back to last season. Murray has just 15 combined carries over the first two weeks of the season, but he filled in admirably for Cook last season, rushing for 842 yards and eight scores. He should get all the work he can handle against Buffalo and the soft matchup vaults him to RB1 status this week. Rookie Roc Thomas is a name to remember in DFS this weekend, as he caught seven-of-eight targets for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason and could slot in as the change-of-pace back to Murray’s bell cow role.
2. Corey Clement is ALSO an RB1 this week
An injury to the guy ahead of you on the depth chart doesn’t automatically translate to fantasy success, but Clement (as with Murray) is another example of a very capable runner that just needs an opportunity. Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles were both ruled out for Week 3 on Friday, locking the talented Clement into a prominent role against a vulnerable Colts defense. With Sproles out and Ajayi missing some time last week, Clement received 11 touches and produced 85 total yards and a touchdown. After getting gashed by Joe Mixon for 149 total yards in Week 1, Indianapolis held the Redskins in check on the ground only to concede 16 receptions for 122 yards to Washington running backs in the passing game. Given Clement’s potential as a three-down-back this week, he has as much upside as just about any rusher in fantasy football.
3. Will Dissly is a TE1 this week
A relatively unknown fourth-round draft pick from the University of Washington, Dissly burst onto the fantasy scene in Week 1 with 105 receiving yards and a touchdown. But most people (myself included) wrote that off as a one-week anomaly that wouldn’t translate into any kind of sustained fantasy success. However, two weeks into the season, I’m changing my tune on the rookie. After splitting the snap count fairly evenly with presumptive number-one tight end Nick Vannett in Week 1, Dissly out-snapped Vannett 47-26 on Monday night and had the look of Seattle’s top pass-catcher at the position. Dissly has five targets and a touchdown in each of the Seahawks first two games and has an opportunity to build on that success moving forward. This is a team that threw 132 passes to tight ends in 2017 for 797 yards and 15 touchdowns, lost Jimmy Graham in the offseason, and continues to be without injured wide receiver Doug Baldwin. With Russell Wilson under constant pressure due to a leaky offensive line, he should continue to look often to the tight end, especially in the red zone. With a favorable matchup against a Dallas defense that just gave up nine receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown to the position last week, Dissly should be able to maintain his hot start to the season.
4. Sony Michel can be started with confidence
Fantasy owners have gone mad trying to predict results from the Patriots backfield over the years, but I think Michel is on track for a big Week 3. After missing most of training camp and the first week of the regular season following an early-August knee scope, Michel made his NFL debut last week against the Jaguars. In a tough matchup, the rookie led New England in rushing attempts (10) and yards (34), while also garnering two targets in the passing game. It may have been an inauspicious start to Michel’s NFL career, but he almost doubled Rex Burkhead’s usage and received the Patriots only two carries inside the 10-yard line. With Jeremy Hill on IR, Michel could be seizing the role of New England’s goal-line back, a valuable designation for a team that has averaged 17.5 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons but hasn’t found the endzone via a running play yet in 2018. Those floodgates might just open this week, with a matchup against a Lions defense that has been gashed for a league-high 363 yards rushing to start the year, including three touchdowns.
5. Josh Gordon will be a fantasy bust this week
Gordon had a crazy couple of days over the last week, getting a surprise out designation for Week 2 on Saturday followed by rumors about his sobriety and the Browns intent to cut him, and then an eventual trade to New England on Monday. Fantasy owners are rightfully thrilled by the prospects of Gordon moving to a better offense led by Tom Brady, but that excitement needs to be tempered in his first week with the Patriots. Gordon has been limited this week in practice with a hamstring injury and he’s still getting up to speed on New England’s playbook. It seems likely that Gordon plays in Week 3, but with a limited snap count. Fantasy owners will be anxious to get Gordon back into their lineups, but even with a favorable matchup against the Lions on tap, the smart move is to keep Gordon on the bench for at least one more week.
6. This is finally the breakthrough week for Jimmy Garoppolo in 2018
After a tough season-opener in Minnesota, a lot of people thought Garoppolo was poised for a bounce back in Week 2 against the Lions. Unfortunately for Jimmy G, Detroit is so bad at defending the run that the 49ers simply road Matt Breida and Alfred Morris to a victory. But in Week 3, Garoppolo is likely going to be called upon for much more as San Francisco tries to keep pace with the high-powered Chiefs offense. Kansas City is the top-scoring team in the NFL through two weeks, averaging an astounding 40 points per game. But the Chiefs defense has been as bad as the offense has been good, allowing a league-worst 508 total yards per contest including 876 yards passing and seven touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. The over/under on this game is set at 55.5 with a spread of 6.5, so Vegas is expecting fireworks on both sides of the ball. Garoppolo is currently being started in just 24% of ESPN leagues, but he demonstrated his fantasy prowess last season, potentially gets wide receiver Marquise Goodwin back from a quad injury this week, and couldn’t ask for a better matchup. I view him as a solid top-12 fantasy option at quarterback in Week 3.
7. Keelan Cole is a WR2
Fresh off a 116-yard receiving day with a touchdown in Week 2, Cole is poised for continued fantasy success against Tennessee on Sunday. Following the loss of Marqise Lee to a torn ACL in the preseason, Cole assumed the role of the Jaguars’ top pass-catcher and he leads the team in receptions and receiving yards through two weeks. The 23 catches for 475 yards and three touchdowns that Cole flashed across five December games last season demonstrates that his Week 2 performance isn’t a fluke, and he draws a favorable matchup this week against a Titans defense allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. The likely return of Leonard Fournette to the Jacksonville backfield might cut into some of the pass volume from a week ago, but with Blake Bortles looking like a competent NFL quarterback this season, Cole should continue to get his opportunities. Against a Tennessee defense that gave up WR1 numbers to Kenny Stills in Week 1 and both DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller a week ago, Cole should be locked into fantasy lineups for Week 3.
8. Deshaun Watson belongs on fantasy benches this week
After a poor showing in his season-opening return from last year’s knee injury, Watson threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2. However, I’m expecting the pendulum to swing back the other direction against the Giants on Sunday. New York is giving up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks through two games, but is in the bottom half of the league in defending the run. This looks like a Lamar Miller game to me, as the ground has been the place to attack the Giants this season and Miller has a few splits working in his favor this week. He has averaged 3.5 more carries per game at home than on the road in his first two seasons with Houston, and more than four extra carries per game when the Texans are favored to win, as they are this week. That game script and a continued lack of protection from his offensive line should limit Watson’s fantasy production. There are easily 12-14 quarterbacks that I would rather start this week.
9. O.J. Howard is a top-five fantasy tight end
This shouldn’t sound that crazy, considering Howard has in fact been a top-five fantasy tight end through the first two weeks of the season, with 150 yards receiving and a touchdown. But he’s still owned in less than 60% of ESPN leagues and is currently being started in just 35%, so I think this counts as a bold prediction. The knock on Howard in 2018 has been his target share in the suddenly unstoppable Tampa Bay offense, as he’s seen just three opportunities in each of the first two games. But I think the more telling statistic is the disappearance of fellow Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate. Howard saw 65% of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps in Week 1 compared to 36% for Brate, and that split increased to a 79%-to-24% advantage for Howard last week. Entering the season, the biggest concern from a fantasy perspective for the former first-round draft pick was a perceived timeshare with Brate, as Howard’s physical talents were never in doubt. Now that he is distancing himself from the competition, Howard should be viewed as a fantasy TE1 for the rest of the season, and he’s a top-five option at the position for me in a favorable Week 3 matchup with a Steelers defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to tight ends.
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