I’m fond of saying that any draft strategy can work if you pick the right players.
Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson sure look like the right players.
Both of those brilliant talents filled the box score and the highlight queue during Kansas City’s entertaining 33-28 victory on Sunday. Mahomes was just about perfect, zinging 27 completions on 37 attempts, good for 374 yards and three touchdowns. He’s up to 10 TD passes on the year, without a pick. He’s been sacked a piddly three times. Imagine what happens when Tyreek Hill comes back.
Jackson’s passing was up and down (70.6 rating, just 6.2 YPA), though he still managed 267 yards through the air. His fantasy line was saved by 46 rushing yards and a touchdown. Jackson played recklessly at times as the Ravens chased the game in the second half, but with his athleticism and creativity, no Baltimore play is truly dead until the whistle blows. There are going to be a few “no-no-no, yes!” throws from the second-year quarterback.
Even without Hill, the Kansas City passing tree is an embarrassment of riches. Travis Kelce (7-89-0, eight targets) always looks like the big kid on the playground, a man among boys. Mecole Hardman zipped for an 83-yard touchdown, turning on the jets and reminding us of Hill. Demarcus Robinson (3-43, touchdown) makes a splashy play every week. Even the running backs entered the fun — Darrel Williams collected 109 total yards, while veteran LeSean McCoy compiled 80 yards and two touchdowns, the ultimate fantasy deodorant.
Sammy Watkins was the low man on the KC totem pole — a 5-64-0 day on eight targets. It’s not an embarrassing line, but perhaps fantasy managers were misguided when Watkins was pressed into the WR1 discussion. Eventually this offense is going to get Hill back, and Watkins will never be as dynamic as Hill, or as fast as Hardman. Kelce’s a different type of matchup nightmare, too.
Fantasy pundits love to trot out the idea of late-round quarterbacks and regression off a star season. Mahomes seems to be openly mocking those concepts. If I were redrafting tomorrow, I’d peg Mahomes a Top 15 pick — and if no one else wanted to pay that freight, I’d be interested in doing it myself. If the Chiefs can keep everyone healthy and eventually get Hill back, who can possibly cover all these guys? Throw in Andy Reid and a calculator, mix well.
Jackson was a middle-round sleeper pick a month ago, someone you got at a nice price. He’s proving to be worth the freight too, even if he doesn’t have the same playmakers the Chiefs enjoy. Sharper days are ahead for Jackson and his receivers — he just missed Hollywood Brown (2-49-0, nine targets) on some deep balls Sunday. Mark Andrews (3-15-0, seven targets) didn’t look completely healthy. Of course the Ravens love to shuttle in tight ends, which led to Nick Boyle catching four passes and Hayden Hurst snagging two others.
Can you sell high on Mark Ingram? He turned 20 touches into 135 yards and three touchdowns. That said, Jackson is always going to be a rushing mouth to feed here, and Gus Edwards (nine touches, 68 yards) made an impact. And sooner or later, flashy rookie Justice Hill is likely to enter the mix.
I’d coyly try to “shop a running back” if I could this week, hoping an opponent landed on Ingram. And if I were redrafting from scratch, Jackson would have to be well inside the QB1 cutline. He’s athletic enough to outrun a lot of his mistakes, and his pocket awareness, vision and anticipation look improved this year. And even when Jackson’s off a bit, occasionally Brown or Andrews will drag him to monster statistical heights, anyway.
Baltimore gets back to divisional play in Week 4, drawing Cleveland. Kansas City heads to Detroit, aiming to take down the shocking 2-0-1 Lions. Get your popcorn ready.
Kyle Allen, backup quarterback, sparks Panthers
Everyone knew Cam Newton was playing hurt for two weeks, no matter how much the Panthers tried to stonewall it. Week 3, Carolina finally came clean — at least in its actions — and sat Newton in favor of healthy, but inexperienced, Kyle Allen.
It could be a while before we see Newton again.
Allen was terrific in the 38-20 victory at Arizona, missing just seven passes en route to 261 yards and four touchdowns. He was sacked twice, didn’t turn the ball over. D.J. Moore had just one grab, but it went for a 52-yard score. Curtis Samuel was active (five catches, touchdown), and Greg Olsen reminded us why he’s a borderline Hall of Famer (6-75-2).
Christian McCaffrey only had three catches, but a 76-yard touchdown sprint highlighted a 24-153 explosion on the ground.
Allen was decisive, had a good feel for the rush, and was solid with his ball placement. With Newton’s health in limbo, there’s no need to turn back to him anytime soon. Carolina should be challenged at Houston next week, and the nasty Jaguars defense lies in wait for Week 5.
Kyler Murray’s passing was less impressive — a 4.0 YPA doesn’t feed the cat — though 30 completions were welcome from PPR players. David Johnson absorbed nine targets and had a touchdown, tied to an otherwise ordinary 6-28 line. Christian Kirk snagged 10-of-12 targets, but made just 59 yards. Murray did run more aggressively — at times by design, at times by necessity — finishing with 59 yards on eight attempts. He’s certainly a work in progress, but also undeniably fun.
Tampa carnival finally arrives, and it is glorious
The hope before the year was that the Tampa passing game would thrive, the Tampa defense would stink, and the fantasy points would flow freely. And in Week 3, that script finally arrived in the mail. The Giants scored the 32-31 victory, but in fantasy, we’re pretty much all winners.
Mike Evans was just about the easiest buy low we’ll ever see. Could you even execute it? Did you find someone that gullible? Evans was sick in Week 1, and up against a San Francisco defense that might be pretty good. Then it was a road game in Week 2 on a short turnaround. Rested up Sunday, and up against a Giants defense that couldn’t cover a team of college mascots, the smash spot arrived. Evans had three first-half touchdowns, launching an avalanche of social media victory laps.
On the flip side, the Daniel Jones debut (two touchdowns rushing, two touchdowns passing) should push Eli Manning out of our lives for good. Jones took a handful of sacks (five in all), but he was poised throughout —the moment never looked too big for him. He pushed the ball to playmakers Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard, who both cleared 100 yards with a touchdown. Jones even directed a comeback victory without the help of Saquon Barkley, who was injured in the second half. This could be a fun rookie year.
• It’s a good thing the Jets scored two fluky DST touchdowns, because the offense was a joke at New England (47 plays, 105 yards) and wouldn’t have scored with unlimited possessions. New York’s Week 4 bye comes at a perfect time. Phillip Dorsett didn’t go off for New England (65 total yards, touchdown), but he’s in the circle of trust and can make for a handy WR3 or fantasy flex in the coming weeks. Sony Michel looked slow and indecisive, and only some short touchdown deodorant took the stench away from an 11-yard afternoon.
• Buffalo squeezed by the Bengals and most of the Bills did as expected, but make room for rookie TE Dawson Knox, who was trucking over defenders (3-67-1, four targets). We thought this team wouldn’t have an impactful tight end this year, but that’s about to change. The genie is out of the bottle.
• Ezekiel Elliott (19-125-0) was in fine form but Tony Pollard also cleared 100 yards, and Zeke saw limited use as a receiver. It’s very unlikely Elliott gets anywhere near last year’s 77 catches.
• Jamal Williams outplayed Aaron Jones by a wide margin, but Jones bailed out with two short touchdowns. Apparently the Packers were telling us the truth when they hinted about equal usage; Williams had 14 touches, Jones 11. Get out the committee ledger, it’s time for another entry.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a long touchdown and a nifty 6-99-1 day on 10 targets; no other Packer receiver had more than four opportunities. Geronimo Allison (three targets) and Jimmy Graham (one) are not roster-worthy.
• The Denver defense, it was fun while it lasted.
Unbelievable. Broncos are 2:07 away from becoming only team in past 50 years to have ZERO sacks and ZERO takeaways in the first 3 games of a season. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 22, 2019
• This could easily be the year Austin Hooper gets eight touchdowns. The Falcons prioritize him in the red zone; sometimes it works (two touchdowns Sunday at Indianapolis) and sometimes it doesn’t (two picks, earlier this year). Hooper’s in his fourth pro season and he’s shown improvement every year; player arcs aren’t always linear, but it’s reassuring when they are.
It was another near-flawless game for Jacoby Brissett, steering the Colts to a steady victory over Atlanta. Indianapolis still has the best roster in that division, by far. It helped the team immeasurably to have Brissett taking first-team reps all summer.
• Not only is Dalvin Cook looking like an obvious league winner (16-110-1 over the hapless Raiders on Sunday), but Alexander Mattison (12-58-1) might be flex-worthy in some deeper pools. The Vikings defense remains nasty, especially at home, and Gary Kubiak sure knows how to revive a running game. Other than Adam Thielen, I have zero faith in Minnesota’s passing game. Kirk Cousins did fine with his modest responsibility, but the Vikings want to hide him as much as possible.
• Forget the box score, Marcus Mariota played dreadfully Thursday night at Jacksonville. Give the Jags defense some of the credit, but Mariota doesn’t have the nerve to handle the rush any longer. I’ll be shocked if Ryan Tannehill doesn’t pick up a start by the end of October. This offense needs a new tone and a new leader, and Tannehill’s time in Miami was a lot better than you might think — he was hung out to dry for so many of those seasons.