By: Kris Perez
The 2019 NFL season has already been an unexpected and turbulent one for many teams. In Week 3, the starting QB for 8 teams began the year expecting to be the backup, with 5 of them leading their teams to wins. This week, I am going to take a look at each of these situations and analyze the fantasy impact that each of the backups will have on the other players around them.
Kyle Allen (Carolina Panthers)
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Cam Newton is believed to be dealing with a Lisfranc injury which will put him out 4-8 weeks. In the meantime, second-year starter Kyle Allen will take over. In Week 3, he led the Panthers to a 38-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals, where he was 19/26 for 261 yards and 4 TD. Allen look poised and confident as the starter, and performed well when pressed into duty. As for the Panthers weapons, Christian McCaffrey was dominant on the ground with 24 carries for 153 yards and 1 TD to go with 3 receptions for 35 yards. He finished as the #4 RB in Week 3. The passing game was much more effective in fantasy in Week 3, Curtis Samuel and Greg Olsen tied for the lead in targets with 7, and DJ Moore added a 52 yard touchdown on 2 targets. The big-play ability, with Allen averaging 13.7 Yards/Completion, should bode well for the Panthers weapons, specifically Curtis Samuel who had the largest target share among the WRs. McCafferey is an obvious must start each week, but I believe with Allen as the QB, Samuel, Moore, and Olsen are also startable options.
Teddy Bridgewater (New Orleans Saints)
The New Orleans Saints had Super Bowl aspirations coming into this year, but these have been tampered slightly with Teddy Bridgewater now running the offense. In his first meaningful start since 2015, Bridgewater led the Saints to a 33-27 win over the Seahawks, going 19/27 for 177 yards and 2 TD. Of his 27 attempts, 17 were to Alvin Kamara or Michael Thomas, with Kamara leading the way with 10 targets. Kamara finished the week as the #2 RB and Thomas finished the week as the #22 WR. The other options for the Saints are pretty much unplayable in fantasy with Brees, but especially with Bridgewater targeting the two stars so often, they should not be played at all. Even with the explosiveness of Thomas and Kamara, Bridgewater has only averaged 6.8 yards/attempt this season, which is largely to do with the fact that they haven’t been pushing the ball downfield as much with him. Michael Thomas remains a player you must play each week, but his ceiling has been significantly lowered. The volume in the offense will still be there as Thomas currently ranks 2nd in the NFL with 33 targets (31.4%), but his yardage each game will be much lower while Bridewater is the starter. Kamara on the other hand will remain an RB1 with Top 5 potential each week. His ability to be an electric checkdown option for Bridgewater, who averages a league low 5.1 Attempted Air Yards/ Attempt among, makes him a dangerous fantasy player this season.
Jacoby Brissett (Indianapolis Colts)
The Colts began this year with the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck, which forced Jacoby Brissett into the starting role for a team in position to win the division. Brisset has done well to manage the games and has the Colts tied for 1st in the AFC South. Similar to the situation in New Orleans, the WR1 and RB1 are being featured heavily in the absence of the star QB. TY Hilton has become Brissett’s go-to reciever accounting for 27.2% of the targets, for 195 yards and 4 TD through 3 weeks, which is good for the #5 WR in fantasy. Outside of him though, Brissett has pretty evenly distributed the targets among the other weapons on offense, and no other pass-catcher ranks as a 1 in their positions. Marlon Mack, on the other hand, has had an excellent start to 2019 averaging 4.9 Yards/Carry (15th in the NFL) and 99.7 Yards/Game (3rd). He is currently the #7 RB and will continue to see high volume and with an excellent offensive line in front of him, has the potential to finish the season as a Top 3 RB. Outside the two main starts for the Colts, I would not play anyone else as the volume is simply not there for the other players to have an impact in fantasy.
Luke Falk (New York Jets)
Luke Falk doesn’t figure to be the New York Jets starter for much longer, with Darnold most likely returning from an illness after their Bye in Week 4. This is good news for Jets playmakers as they struggled mightily with Falk as the QB going 0-2 and having averaging 183.5 Yards/Game. Since Week 3, when Falk had to take over for the injured Trevor Siemien, he hasn’t played particularly well and neither have the Jets around him. Outside of Bell, who has had accounted for 26.1% of targets from Falk, no other Jets receiver has been effective. Bell also struggled rushing averaging only 1.9 Yards/Carry on for 35 yards, but given that the Patriots defense loaded the box and forced Falk to beat them, this is understandable and excusable. With Darnold returning, the normal pass-catchers for the Jets, Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder, should see volume closer to Week 1 where together they made up 58.5% of the targets and combined for 122 yards. Given the impact that Bell has on the offense and the team’s lack of big plays, I would not play anyone other than Bell until the offense proves that it can be explosive and have an impact on fantasy.
Daniel Jones (New York Giants)
Daniel (“Danny Dimes” as he is now being called in New York) Jones had an amazing start to his career. He led the New York Giants to their first win of 2019 while going 23/36 for 336 yards and 4 Total TD. He added 28 rushing yards which led the team, making him the first Giants QB to do so since Kerry Collins in 2000. Saquon Barkley was injured in this game and will be out for 4-8 weeks, so the offense will now be on Jones’ shoulders. Jones is in a position to succeed as he fits the weapons of the Giants perfectly. He threw mostly short and intermediate passes (7.0 Average Air Yards/Completion), and allowed the receivers to catch and run, with an average of 13.6 Yards After Catch per Completion and only a 2.5% Bad Throw Percentage. The ability for Jones to put his play-makers in positions to have explosive plays, makes them interesting for fantasy. Evan Engram was a beast in Week 3 having 6 receptions for 113 yards and 1 TD on 8 targets, finishing as the #5 TE and #1 on the year. He is a must start in all leagues and will be even more impactful as the checkdown option for Jones in the absence of Barkley. Sterling Shepard, who led the team in targets with 9, finished with 100 yards and 1 TD on 7 receptions. He may be a flex option as long as Jones continues to be productive. Golden Tate will return in Week 5 from his 4 game suspension and would be someone to consider picking up now before he hits the waiver wire next week. Jones himself would be a streamable option for the remainder of the year against plus matchups, particularly this week against a Redskins team that ranks 27th in Fantasy Points Given up to the QB.
Gardner Minshew (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Gardner Minshew has brought an unforeseen swagger, particularly from a 6th round pick, to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has been both productive on the field and a national sensation off of it. He is completing 73.9% of his passes, good for 2nd in the NFL, and ranks 7th in QB Rating with a rating of 110.6. In regards to the weapons for the Jaguars, Dede Westbrook and Leanord Fournette lead the team in targets with 20, but DJ Chark and Chris Conley lead the team in receiving yards with 277 and 200 respectively. Part of this is due to the fact that Westbrook has only a 55% catch rate on his 20 targets, including a dropped TD in their last game. Add to this his meager 7.2 Yards/Reception, I don’t think Westbrook represents a playable option in fantasy. Chark, however, remains an interesting fantasy option as he has a touchdown in each game this season and currently ranks as the #6 WR. He has been a reliable option for Minshew, catching 83.3% of his targets which has him tied for 3rd among WRs. With Chark’s surprising performance this season, I believe he is a must start each week in this offense. As for Leonard Fournette, he has had a lackluster beginning to 2019 ranking as the #22 RB. This can be attributed to the fact that, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, he has seen the 6th highest percentage of Snaps with 8+ Defenders in the Box at 27.91%. Opposing defenses have been stacking the box and forcing Minshew to beat them. I believe that this will change as Minshew grows more comfortable and begins to punish defenses for stacking the box, so I believe Fournette still remains a viable fantasy option with low RB1 potential.
Josh Rosen (Miami Dolphins)
As I mentioned in Week 1, the Dolphins are really bad. They have since made a change at QB to Josh Rosen, but this has had very little impact on their overall offense. Through 3 games, the leading receiver for the Dolphins is Preston Williams who has only 155 yards through 3 games and ranks as the #49 WR. This ranks him as a low end WR4 or high end WR5. I would not roster any WR for the Dolphins this season, but in Dynasty leagues where you can keep players, Williams may be an interesting stash on the basis that the QB situation should improve next year. As for the RBs, the leading rusher for the Dolphins is Kenyan Drake who, on the year, only has 69 yards on 3.1 Yards/Carry, and he currently ranks as the #48 RB. The only reason I would even consider rostering Drake is on the basis that he may be moved to a better situation through a trade, but I wouldn’t worry about grabbing until a potential move is made. Even though the Dolphins have made a switch to Rosen as the QB, I would not consider playing or even rostering any of the weapons around him as this offense is simply too ineffective to consider for fantasy purposes.
Mason Rudolph (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Mason Rudolph has taken over the starting QB job for the Pittsburgh Steelers after Ben Roethlisberger had a season ending elbow injury. In his first start Rudolph did not perform well, going 14/27 for 174 yards and 2 TD with 1 Int. His performance was aided by a 76 yard catch and run TD by JuJu Smith-Schuster who finished the day with 3 receptions for 81 yards. Rudolph has not pushed the ball downfield, averaging only 4.2 Completed Yards/Pass Attempt, which will impact the amount of big plays that the Steelers receivers can make. Smith-Schuster led the team in targets with 7, with Diontae Johnson finishing second on the team with 6 targets. Johnson finished the day with 3 receptions for 52 yards and 1 TD. In Week 3 Rudolph was very inaccurate, often leading receivers to much on throwing behind them, as evidenced by his 51.9% Completion Percentage. The WRs for the Steelers will struggle while Rudoplh takes time to get comfortable in the offense. For the time being, I would only start Smith-Schuster in this offense, but I don’t see him as a WR1, I see him more as a WR2 currently. As for the other main weapon in their offense, James Conner has struggled this season. He is averaging 2.9 Yards/Carry which is tied for 40th among RBs. This is in large part due to the same thing that has made Fournette inefficient, which is the amount of defenders in the box. Conner faces 8+ Defenders in the Box on 26.47% of snaps, the 8th highest percentage in the NFL, which has lead to a stuff percentage (percentage of rushes that are stopped before or at the line of scrimmage) of 23%, ranking 25th. I would expect both of these numbers to continue to grow until Rudolph begins to show improvement and the ability to throw downfield accurately. Until then, Connor will continue to see many defenders in the box, making it more difficult to run effectively.
Start of the Week
Will Dissly, Seahawks @ Cardinals
Will Dissly has been a surprise and much needed addition to the Seahawks offense in 2019. He currently leads the team in Receiving TD with 3 and has been very reliable with a catch rate of 85.7%, including a 100% catch rate in the Red Zone. He had been splitting reps with Nick Vannett, the back-up TE, but this week Vannett was traded to the Steelers so the job should be solidly in the grasp of Dissly. The matchup this week could not be better for Dissly as the Cardinals have given up the most fantasy points to TEs in 2019. This season they rank 31st in Receptions, 32nd in Reception Yards, and 32nd in Receiving TDs to TEs. The matchup is favorable for Dissly this week and with his increased usage in the offense he is poised for a big day. I believe he will be a Top 5 TE this week and is a Must Start in Week 4.
Sit of the Week
Jarvis Landry, Browns @ Ravens
With the addition of a superstar WR like Odell Beckham Jr. to an offense, it makes sense that the WR who was the 1 would see a regression. Jarvis Landry has certainly regressed this season with his target share and catch rate down 4.9% and 10.9% respectively through 3 weeks compared to 2018. In the Browns offense, QB Baker Mayfield has targeted the 2nd option significantly less than the 1st option, for example, in 2018 David Njoku only received 15.3% of targets. Landry currently ranks as the #58 WR and is nearing panic time for many fantasy owners. This week he faces a stout Ravens Defense whose statistics have been inflated with the passing heavy offenses of the Cardinals and the Chiefs. They currently rank 23rd in fantasy points given up to WRs, but I don’t expect the Browns to have the same effectiveness against this defense. With a weak offensive line, I expect Mayfield to be under heavy pressure all game and look for short passes which will not be effective for fantasy. I think the tough matchup and lack of big play ability from this passing game makes Landry a Must Sit for Week 4.
Add of the Week
Wayne Galman, Giants
The Giants lost Saquon Barkley on Sunday to a high ankle sprain that will keep him out for 4-6 weeks, which means backup Wayne Galman will be pressed into the starting role. The Giants have worked out free agent FBs for the roster but have not had any indication that they want to sign another RB so the role is being given solely to Galman. While Galman wasn’t efficient in Week 3 totaling 5 rushes for 13 yards (2.6 Yards/Carry), I expect him to be an impactful fantasy option in the absence of Barkley. This is mainly due to the improvement of the Giants offensive line which currently ranks 8th in the NFL in rushing offense. They have attributed to the 8th best Adjusted Line Yards per Carry, which is the average number of yards that the line is responsible for on a rush. They also have the 4th lowest stuff percentage at just 13%. The Giants also rank 3rd in Defense Adjusted Rushing Success over Average with an average of 16.7% success over the NFL average. While I do not expect Galman to have the same Top 5 potential each week that Barkley has, the rushing system for the Giants has been so successful, I believe Galman can have high end RB2 potential while Barkley is out, making him a Must Add in Week 4.