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Ja'Marr Chase Creates History
I’ve written quite a bit about Ja’Marr Chase in this space and I’m trying to not overplay my hand here. I’m sure you’re already sick of hearing about him, but Chase is putting together the best rookie wide receiver campaign of all time. He demolished the Ravens’ vaunted pass defense, catching eight of his 10 targets for 201 yards and a touchdown. That’s impressive, but doubly so when you consider that the Ravens limited Tyreek Hill (3-14 receiving), Courtland Sutton (3-47 receiving), and Mike Williams (2-27 receiving). Neither Tee Higgins (7-62 receiving) nor Tyler Boyd (4-39 receiving) got much going against the Ravens’ corners, so it’s quite impressive to see Chase step up when needed.
Chase trails only Cooper Kupp for total receiving yards. More impressively, Chase is thriving on efficiency. His target share of 24.6% is well below that of Kupp’s (33.8%) and I’d expect that his efficiency begins to regress. However, Chase has earned a significantly larger share of the targets going forward and the bump in target volume should help him continue to post high-end fantasy finishes. Chase is on pace to finish as a top-5 WR at the end of the season.
Last week I talked a bit about the pass-happy Ravens offense and hoped that Bateman would continue to grow into his role. The first-round pick appears to be cemented in as the team's WR2 behind Marquise Brown. Bateman caught three of his six targets for 80 yards. QB Lamar Jackson appears to trust Bateman and I’d expect that his usage only continues to grow. Bateman can be plugged in as a FLEX play going forward.
D'Andre Swift Is A Locked-In RB1
Kudos to Dan Campbell for realizing that RB D’Andre Swift should be one of the focal points of the Lions’ offense. One of Swift’s biggest assets is his explosive ability to create big plays, which was on full display early in the game. He broke off a 63-yard receiving touchdown and went on to post 144 yards from scrimmage on 21 touches. There’s no reason to worry about Swift ceding touches to Jamaal Williams. Williams doesn’t see any run in the receiving game, an area where Swift thrives. What is interesting to me is that Swift is garnering several rushing attempts in high-leverage situations or around the goal-line. Swift is a locked-in RB1 for next week’s matchup against the Eagles.
The wheels have fallen off the “Sam Darnold is good” bandwagon. Fantasy football players celebrated far too early in assuming that his stellar play from the early season would continue once Darnold’s schedule got harder. For the first three weeks of the season, Darnold posted a stellar 67.8 completion percentage and posted 8.1 yards per attempt. He boasted an EPA of 26.8, one of the best in the league. However, over the last four weeks, Darnold has posted a 56.3 completion percentage and averaged 4.8 yards per attempt. He’s also posted a -41.1 EPA, making him the least valuable reality QB over the last four weeks. Darnold is out of the streaming mix for one-quarterback leagues. Following his unceremonious benching, I’d expect that Carolina looks to bring in another quarterback before the trade deadline.
Despite Darnold’s collapse, D.J. Moore continues to quietly produce. Moore is sixth in the NFL for total receiving yards (586) and target share (29%) and is fourth in receptions (46). He caught six of 10 targets for 73 yards this week and his performance stands in stark contrast to that of Robby Anderson’s. Over the last two weeks, Anderson has caught only six of his 20 targets for 25 yards and a touchdown. Moore remains locked in as a high-end WR2 whereas Anderson should be on your bench. I wouldn’t drop Anderson just yet, especially if the Panthers do attempt to upgrade their quarterback.
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Tua Tagovailoa Looks Like A Different Quarterback
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been the subject of trade rumors lately. However, he’s played well in both games since returning from injury, which should quell the trade rumors. In his first game back from injury, Tagovailoa completed 33 pass attempts for 329 yards and two touchdowns. On Sunday, Tagovailoa completed 32 of his 40 pass attempts for 291 yards and four touchdowns. It’s not Tagovailoa’s fault that the team lost both games on a field goal as time expired. (Jaguars K Matthew Wright completed a 53-yard attempt whereas Falcons K Younghoe Kim drilled a 36-yarder.)
Tagovailoa has looked better despite throwing to a receiving corps that is devoid of WR Will Fuller and DeVante Parker. Both WR Jaylen Waddle and TE Mike Gesicki have been very steady performers at their respective positions, but it's difficult for Tagovailoa to post a ceiling performance when throwing to players such as TE Durham Smythe, WR Mack Hollins, and WR Isaiah Ford. Despite Tagovailoa playing better, he needs to do a far better job of not turning over the football. The Falcons was picked Tagovailoa off twice and came away with 14 points. The true test for Tagovailoa will be this Sunday when the Dolphins take on the Bills.
Quick Hits – Injuries
There were several injuries that fantasy gamers need to monitor over the course of the week.
Green Bay WR Davante Adams was placed on the reserve/COVID19 list after testing positive for the virus. Adams hasn't had to follow the protocols for the unvaccinated players, suggesting he's vaccinated. Adams would need two negative tests 24 hours apart to play on Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Dolphins will be without the services of Will Fuller (broken finger) this week. Although Fuller is eligible to be activated from injured reserve, head coach Brian Flores noted that Fuller isn’t fully ready yet. WR DeVante Parker is dealing with shoulder and hamstring injuries and is very unlikely to play. Additionally, the team will lose backup running back Malcolm Brown (quad) who will be placed on injured reserve. This leaves Myles Gaskin as ostensibly the feature running back, but Salvon Ahmed is worth stashing in leagues where you’re needy at the RB position.
The Browns won a hard-fought game against the Broncos last Thursday. The team is dealing with injuries to several starters. RB Nick Chubb (calf) will return to action this Sunday provided he doesn’t suffer any setbacks in practice. With RB Kareem Hunt on injured reserve, continue to hold D’Ernest Johnson. WR Odell Beckham has looked like a shell of himself, and it turns out he’s playing through injuries to both his shoulders. He’s not expected to have surgery on either shoulder until the end of the season, but this injury does partially explain his underperformance. Lastly, QB Baker Mayfield is dealing with a torn labrum and a fracture in his injured non-throwing shoulder. It’s a question of when not if Mayfield gets the surgery. It’s unlikely he plays this Sunday against the Steelers, but I would like to tip my cap to Mayfield for playing through incredible pain.
Eagles RB Miles Sanders suffered a serious ankle injury and had to be carted off the field. The team is optimistic that Sanders did not suffer any breaks, but there is currently no set timeline for his return. In his absence, RB Boston Scott is expected to split time with Kenneth Gainwell. I’d expect Scott to take over as the team’s primary ball-carrier whereas Gainwell should continue to mix in on passing downs. Gainwell could be a low-end RB2 play in PPR formats for as long as Sanders is out, whereas Scott can be seen as a desperation FLEX play.
Jets QB Zach Wilson suffered a strained PCL and will miss the next 2-4 weeks. The Jets traded for Joe Flacco, but I’d expect that Mike White gets the start. Sadly, no one on this offense has much fantasy appeal outside of RB Michael Carter.