Bettings
article featured image background
Article preview

Freedman’s Week 3 fantasy football breakdown

NFL Fantasy

Authors

author-image

Matthew Freedman

Contributor's Page
Share
Contents
Close

Week 3: Seconds, minutes, days have passed us by — and soon the end of the 2021 NFL season will be here, staring us in the face with all of its aged glory.

As the song goes: “Time, time, time. See what’s become of me, while I looked around for my possibilities.”

Time doesn’t fly. It dies. Sometimes, it never lives.

But now — right now — we have this moment.

We have Week 3.

Let’s make the most of it.

In the main 13-game weekend slate, here are the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends who stand out to me the most based on our expert rankings and fantasy projections as well as the Week 3 betting odds and our wealth of football content across FTN FantasyFTN Daily and FTN Bets.

Note: As NFL news breaks and Week 3 NFL inactives are announced Sunday morning, my perspective on some players in this piece may change. For my most up-to-date thoughts on players, consult our rankings.

To see all my Week 3 bets, check out our FTN Bet Tracker. Use the promo code FREEDMAN to get 20% off your FTN subscription.

Freedman’s favorite quarterbacks for Week 3 

Below, I take a look at my favorite quarterbacks for both fantasy football and DFS for Week 3.

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (at Detroit) 

Key numbers (at time of writing):

  • FTN Ranking: No. 3
  • Spread: -9.5
  • Total: 49.5

Welcome to the main slate, Lamar Jackson

After opening the season with back-to-back primetime games on Monday Night Football and Sunday Night Football — a draining 33-27 overtime road loss to the Raiders and an energy-sapping 36-35 comeback home win over the Chiefs — Jackson now gets a nice, normal 1 p.m. ET game.

He’s on the road — but he’s facing the Lions, who are on short rest after their 35-17 Monday night loss to the Packers in Green Bay.

What. A. Matchup.

The Lions allowed 33 and 35 points to the 49ers and Packers in Weeks 1-2, and last year they were a top-two team in most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks with 25.4 DraftKings and 24.2 FanDuel points per game.

To my eye, the Lions have been the worst team in the league in coverage through two weeks. Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah (Achilles, IR) — last year’s No. 3 overall pick — suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1, so in Week 2 the Lions started third-year fifth-rounder Amani Oruwariye at right corner (9.8 yards per target allowed for his career), undrafted second-year special-teamer Bobby Price at left cornerback (18 NFL coverage snaps to his name), and undrafted rookie A.J. Parker at slot corner (100% completion rate allowed).

Predictably, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers went off with an efficient 22-of-27 passing for 255 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions.

If I had to pick a word to describe this matchup, the word unquestionably would be “delicious.”

But let’s be real: The matchup doesn’t matter — at least not that much — because Jackson is the kind of quarterback who confounds matchups. His high Konami Code rushing ceiling and sufficient passing floor make him a dominator of all defenses.

Since Week 11 of 2018 — Jackson’s first NFL start — he has been effectively tied with Patrick Mahomes as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback.

  • Lamar Jackson (39 games): 25.5 DraftKings points | 24.4 FanDuel points
  • Patrick Mahomes (37 games): 26.0 DraftKings points | 24.2 FanDuel points

And Jackson was especially transcendent last week, when he dominated the Chiefs with a literally one-of-a-kind performance.

Let’s put a video to those numbers.

No running back, no problem.

It’s just an added bonus that on the road Jackson is 14-7 against the spread (ATS).

The Ravens are now up to No. 5 in our official FTN Power Rankings, and Jackson will likely be one of the top quarterbacks in my Week 3 DFS Cheat Sheets.

Jackson is one of our top DraftKings NFL plays and also one of our top FanDuel NFL plays this week.

Ravens-Lions is one of the most heavily bet games of Week 3 — and I’m betting on the Ravens.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants (vs. Atlanta)

Key numbers (at time of writing):

  • FTN Ranking: No. 13
  • Spread: -3
  • Total: 48.5

I am a deep Daniel Jones skeptic.

Last year he was No. 30 in the league with 6.1 adjusted yards per attempt, and his offensive coordinator doesn’t do anything well in particular aside from clapping and chewing gum.

(Apologies to all two of the Jason Garrett truthers.)

But in Weeks 1-2 — against two good Broncos and Football Team defenses — Jones played well. Or at least better than I expected he would.

There’s nothing exceptional about his 258 yards and one touchdown passing per game, but his combined 15-122-2 rushing is the stuff of a solid fantasy QB1.

The sample is small, but it’s also encouraging: Through two weeks, Jones is a top-eight fantasy quarterback with 25.9 DraftKings and 25.4 FanDuel points per game.

He was particularly strong in Week 2 on Thursday Night Football with 22-of-32 passing for 249 yards and a touchdown and 9-95-1 rushing — and now he gets to face the Falcons with three extra days of rest.

The advantageousness of this matchup cannot be overstated. The Falcons have allowed a league-high 80 points to opponents, and last year they were a top-two team in most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, with 26.1 DraftKings and 24.0 FanDuel points per game.

And in Weeks 1-2 they were exploited by two very different kinds of quarterbacks.

  • Jalen Hurts (Week 1): 27-of-35 passing for 264-3-0 | 7-62-0 rushing
  • Tom Brady (Week 2): 24-of-36 passing for 276-5-0 | 1-6-0 rushing

Jones isn’t Brady’s equal as a passer nor Hurts’ as a runner. But he is a better runner than Brady and better passer than Hurts. He should be able to handle the Falcons.

Is it a little disconcerting that Jones is on the wrong side of his splits? Yes, absolutely. The disparity between his performance at home and on the road is horrific (per our Splits Tool).

Check out all the premium stats and tools we offer in our industry-leading FantasyHQ product.

But his matchup — that overrides everything. The Falcons are that fantastically bad.

Jones is one of high-stakes savant Matthew Davis’ top Week 3 quarterback streamers, and he’s also one of my top waiver wire adds.

Upside quarterbacks for Week 3

Here are some quarterbacks I think will outperform expectations and whom I especially like as upside season-long and DFS tournament plays.

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (at Jacksonville): Last year, Murray was the No. 1 fantasy quarterback with 31.4 DraftKings and 30.2 FanDuel points per game before suffering a season-altering shoulder injury in Week 11. Through Weeks 1-2, he’s once again No. 1 with 36.3 DraftKings and 34.8 FanDuel points per game. The Jaguars defense is No. 28 with a 42.3% pass DVOA (per Football Outsiders). Murray is the highest-rated quarterback in Kyle Murray’s Week 3 DFS model.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. LA Chargers): Over the past three-plus years, Mahomes is No. 1 at the position with 26.7 DraftKings and 24.8 FanDuel points on 309.5 yards and 2.6 touchdowns passing per game. Even after their tough Week 2 loss to the Ravens, the Chiefs are still favored to win the Super Bowl: They’re still the best team in football, and Mahomes is the best quarterback.

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at LA Rams): Last year, the Rams were No. 1 in the league in fewest points allowed to quarterbacks with 14.8 DraftKings and 14.4 FanDuel points per game, so the matchup is tough, but Brady has a league-high nine touchdowns and the league’s best pass-catching quintet (wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and running back Giovani Bernard). Bucs +1.5 is one of Benny Ricciardi’s best Week 3 bets.

Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders (vs. Miami): Carr has a wide range of outcomes in that he has a tough matchup against a Dolphins defense with a strong pair of perimeter cornerbacks in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones — but Carr also has a league-high 93 attempts for 817 yards passing and career-high 9.2 AY/A. Underdogs have dominated to start the NFL season, and the Raiders are a frisky team with their 2-0 ATS record as dogs

Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos (vs. NY Jets): The Jets entered the season No. 32 in Jeff Ratcliffe’s cornerback unit rankings, and Bridgewater has a stellar 77.1% completion rate with a career-best 9.6 AY/A. The Broncos are 2-0 ATS, and I was happy to bet on them last week.

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Arizona): The Cardinals just allowed 244-3-0 passing and 2-35-0 rushing to Kirk Cousins, and Lawrence is No. 2 — behind only Derek Carr — with 817 air yards for the year (per our Air Yards Tool). Lawrence vs. the Cardinals defense is one of my top matchups to watch for Week 3.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (at NY Giants): As underwhelming as Ryan was in Week 1, he did put up 300 yards and two touchdowns (albeit with three interceptions) in Week 2 against the Buccaneers. Since 2018, only Patrick Mahomes has more regular-season 300-yard passing games than Ryan (28 vs. 25).

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears (at Cleveland): Starter Andy Dalton (knee) suffered an injury in Week 2, and Fields looked poor in relief with 6-of-13 passing for 60 yards and a pick-six interception — but he had 10 carries. With that kind of rushing volume, he could have a high Konami Code ceiling if he draws the start in Week 3, and the Browns defense is surprisingly No. 31 with a 57.4% pass DVOA. Fields is one of Chris Meaney’s Week 3 starts, sponsored by TopProp.

Jared Goff, Detroit Lions (vs. Baltimore): Last year, Goff completed 26-plus pass attempts in only four games. This year, he has already hit that mark twice. For better or worse, the 0-2 Lions have found themselves in pass-leaning game scripts, so Goff has thrown an NFL-high 93 passes. He has a modest 6.4 AY/A, but Goff could put up numbers if forced to throw in bulk. Without cornerbacks Marcus Peters (knee, IR) and Jimmy Smith (ankle, out Weeks 1-2), the Ravens have been a top-five team in most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, with 29.6 DraftKings and 26.6 FanDuel points per game.

Freedman’s favorite running backs

Below, I take a look at my favorite running backs for both fantasy football and DFS for Week 3.

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Seattle)

Key numbers (at time of writing):

  • FTN Ranking: No. 2
  • Spread: +2
  • Total: 55.5

It’s not hard to make a case for Dalvin Cook

The Vikings-Seahawks game has the highest total on the slate, so we should see a universe of fantasy goodness in this contest.

On top of that, the matchup is hilariously tantalizing. Last week, the Seahawks got destroyed by Derrick Henry, who went 35-182-3 rushing and 6-55-0 receiving on six targets against them for 50.7 DraftKings and 44.7 FanDuel points.

And in Week 1 Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines combined to allow 26-90-0 rushing and 12-108-0 receiving on 15 targets for 31.8 DraftKings and 25.8 FanDuel points.

Last year, Cook exited his Week 5 matchup with the Seahawks early because of a groin injury, but even with just a 41% snap rate he was still 17-65-1 rushing and 5-24-0 receiving on five targets.

Cook (ankle) enters Week 3 with a sprain, so be sure to monitor his status in our NFL Weekly Practice Report — but he played through the injury last week, and head coach Mike Zimmer has described Cook’s sprain as “small.” 

Accustomed to the wear and tear of the NFL game at this stage of his career, Cook seems very likely to suit up against the Seahawks, and I expect him to get his full workload, as he often has when playing through injuries.

Through Weeks 1-2, Cook is 42-192-1 rushing and 8-60-0 receiving on 10 targets with a minimum of 25 carries plus targets in each game. With his 52 total opportunities, Cook is No. 4 in the league with a 43% share of his team’s opportunities, trailing only Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey and Henry.

Since the 2019 season, Cook is No. 2 behind only McCaffrey with 23.9 DraftKings and 20.5 FanDuel points per game, and since the Week 7 bye last year he is an unholy 262-1,260-10 rushing and 40-357-1 receiving on 48 targets in 11 games.

With his three-down skill set, Cook is an utterly gamescript-independent back, and at home he’s likely to benefit from his positive career splits (including playoffs).

  • At home (21 games): 22.4 DraftKings points | 19.2 FanDuel points
  • On road (26 games): 19.6 DraftKings points | 16.8 FanDuel points

After McCaffrey and Henry, Cook is No. 3 in Jeff Ratcliffe’s Week 3 fantasy football flex rankings — and he’s the No. 1 back by rating in our NFL Simulation DFS Model.

Also, I like the Vikings at +1.5 this week.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. LA Chargers)

Key numbers (at time of writing):

  • FTN Ranking: No. 19
  • Spread: -6.5
  • Total: 54.5

To say that Clyde Edwards-Helaire has disappointed to open the year is to indulge in the art of understatement.

On the one hand, he has the clear supermajority of his backfield’s opportunities with 27 carries and three targets to just four carries for backup Darrel Williams, one carry and one target for fullback Michael Burton, and one target for third-stringer Jerick McKinnon.

In the big picture, there’s nothing wrong at all with 15 opportunities per game, especially in an elite, high-scoring offense.

On the other hand, Edwards-Helaire has been inefficient with his carries (3.3 yards per rush attempt) and surprisingly underutilized as a receiver (just three targets after seeing 54 in 13 games last year). On top of that, the team’s lone carry inside the 5-yard line this year went to the big-bodiEd Williams, not the smaller Edwards-Helaire.

What does it matter if a guy gets 15 opportunities per game and dominates his backfield if he’s not getting the premium touches and if he’s scoring only 6.9 DraftKings points and 5.7 FanDuel points per game?

And I haven’t even mentioned the Week 2 fumble.

But this might be the week Edwards-Helaire saves his season. The matchup is good: The Chargers are top-10 in most fantasy points allowed to running backs with 29.1 DraftKings and 25.1 FanDuel points per game.

In just two games, the Chargers have allowed three backs either 100 yards from scrimmage or a touchdown.

  • Antonio Gibson (Week 1): 20-90-0 rushing | 3-18-0 receiving, five targets
  • Ezekiel Elliott (Week 2): 16-71-1 rushing | 2-26-0 receiving, two targets
  • Tony Pollard (Week 2): 13-109-1 rushing | 3-31-0 receiving, three targets

The Chiefs vs. Chargers is one of Eliot Crist’s top offensive line-vs.-defensive line matchups for Week 3.

The Chiefs-Chargers game has an over/under of 54.5, which gives the Chiefs a slate-high implied total of 30.5 points. As the lead back on a team that could go off, Edwards-Helaire could have a world of fantasy goodness at his fingertips.

Edwards-Helaire was productive last year with 1,100 yards and five touchdowns in 13 regular-season games. The Chiefs offensive line was rebuilt this offseason.

He should eventually get receiving opportunities, given the pass-catching prowess he displayed in college (55-453-1 receiving in 15 games as a junior).

He’s the clear lead back on the team that is Nos. 1 and 2 in the league with 3.44 points and 44.6 yards per drive. That’s someone we should want to start in our lineups.

Edwards-Helaire is one of our top Week 3 DFS value plays.

Upside running backs for Week 3

Here are some running backs I think will outperform expectations and whom I especially like as upside season-long and DFS tournament plays.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (vs. Indianapolis): Henry is coming off a monster 35-182-3 rushing performance, and he finally has a role in the passing game with 9-74-0 receiving on 10 targets through two weeks. Since 2018, Henry has averaged 21.3 DraftKings and 19.2 FanDuel points per game as a favorite. With his increased usage as a receiver, Henry is now getting a wealth of valuable opportunities.

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers (at Kansas City): Despite entering Week 1 with a hamstring injury, Ekeler has 172 yards and a touchdown on the season with 75% of the backfield’s targets and 100% of the team’s carries within the 5-yard line, including a successful two-point conversion. Ekeler was a “good process, good outcome” DFS play for Week 2, and I love his matchup this week against the Chiefs defense, which is No. 32 in rush DVOA and No. 27 in pass DVOA against running backs.

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts (at Tennessee): Taylor leads the league with six carries inside the five-yard line. With that kind of usage, he has multi-touchdown upside, even if the Colts have a diminished offense without quarterback Carson Wentz (ankles). 

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (vs. Atlanta): Barkley played 84% of the snaps in Week 2, and now he has three extra days of rest coming off Thursday Night Football. As a home favorite, he could go off with a positive run-heavy gamescript. Barkley is one of our top SuperDraft picks for Week 3.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (at Pittsburgh): In his eight games with quarterback Joe Burrow, Mixon has averaged 21 carries and four targets per game, and this year he leads the league with an outrageous 50% share of his team’s opportunities. I’m high on Mixon in my Week 3 rankings.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team (at Buffalo): Gibson has 181 yards from scrimmage on 20 opportunities per game — and people are acting as if he’s a disappointment. Gibson is a buy-low trade candidate, and Washington +9.5 was one of Ian Wharton’s early-week bets.

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions (vs. Baltimore): Swift has 182 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and 16 targets. As a large underdog, Swift could see a number of checkdowns from short-passing quarterback Jared Goff in a negative game script, and his matchup is advantageous, as the Ravens defense is No. 29 in pass DVOA against running backs.

Damien Harris, New England Patriots (vs. New Orleans): Despite fumbling near the end of Week 1, Harris was the lead early-down back for the Patriots in Week 2. Despite losing valuable work to receiving back James White, Harris has 181 yards and a touchdown to date and is No. 5 in the league with 43 opportunities. Harris has 100% of the team’s carries inside the five-yard line: He looks like the locked-in lead back for the season

Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons (at NY Giants): Davis has 16-plus opportunities (including six-plus targets) in both games this year, and the Giants are top-10 in fantasy scoring allowed to running backs with 29.3 DraftKings and 25.0 FanDuel points per game.

James Conner, Arizona Cardinals (at Jacksonville): Conner leads the Cardinals with 24 carries, and he could see significant clock-killing action in the second half as a big road favorite against the Jaguars, who have allowed a league-high 63 carries to running backs this year. It’s worth remembering that the 2018-20 version of Conner averaged 1,040.3 yards and 8.7 touchdowns from scrimmage in 12 games per year.

James White, New England Patriots (vs. New Orleans): Another week brings another Whitian stat line of 4-5 carries and 5-7 receptions for 50-70 yards and maybe a touchdown. One can almost hear Stevie Nicks singing “Landslide.” White is one of Tyler Loechner’s Week 3 deep sleepers.

Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos (vs. NY Jets): Although he has been outproduced by veteran Melvin Gordon (187 yards vs. 115), Williams leads the Broncos with 27 carries and could see significant work on the ground as a home favorite against the Jets, who are No. 6 in most fantasy points allowed to running backs with 31.2 DraftKings and 26.7 FanDuel points per game.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta Falcons (at NY Giants): Per high-stakes dominator Nelson Sousa’s Week 2 fantasy journal: “Cordarrelle Patterson has become a thing.” As the No. 2 back behind Mike Davis and an all-around offensive weapon, C-Patz has 136 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries and nine targets. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a screenshot of an 11-word tweet must be worth 11,000 words. I don’t make the rules.

To get all of Sousa’s analysis, check out his high-stakes fantasy package, which comes with coaching sessions and Sousa’s rankings.

Peyton Barber, Las Vegas Raiders (vs. Miami): No. 1 back Josh Jacobs (ankle) seems unlikely to play in Week 3, and in his stead last week Barber racked up a team-high 13 carries as the early-down grinder. As a home favorite, Barber has a chance to fall into the end zone a couple of times, just as Jacobs did in Week 1 with his Barber-esque 10-34-2 rushing performance.

Freedman’s favorite wide receivers

Below, I take a look at my favorite wide receivers for both fantasy football and DFS for Week 3.

Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Tampa Bay)

Key numbers (at time of writing):

  • FTN Ranking: No. 9
  • Spread: +1
  • Total: 55.5

Entering the season, I was worried that Cooper Kupp would suffer without longtime BFF quarterback Jared Goff. I was clearly wrong.

Through two weeks, Kupp is the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver with 33.3 DraftKings points and 26.3 FanDuel points per game on the strength of his 16-271-3 receiving line on 21 targets.

In both games this season, he has had 10-plus targets and gone over 100 yards receiving with a touchdown: Kupp is a top-10 fantasy wide receiver

With his 38% market share of targets, Kupp is No. 2 in the NFL (per our Market Share Tool).

For the first four years of his career, Kupp was essentially a 1A option to No. 1 wide receiver Robert Woods.

But this year, Kupp has markedly out-targeted Woods, 21-13.

Eventually, I expect the target split between Kupp and Woods to even out: Woods is too good a player to be underutilized within the offense, and Kupp’s early-season dominance will eventually force defenses to account more for him, which should create opportunities for Woods.

But I don’t expect that to happen in Week 3. Last year, the Buccaneers defense was No. 5 in pass DVOA, primarily because of perimeter cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean. Playing the majority of snaps on the outside this year, Woods is slated to line up against Davis most (per our WR/CB Matchups Tool).

That’s a tough matchup for Woods. For his career, Davis has allowed a catch rate of just 58.4% in his coverage, and this year he has held opposing receivers to just 4.0 yards per target.

But Kupp has a far easier matchup. Starting slot cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow, IR) is out, so Kupp is likely to run most of his routes against journeyman backup cornerback Ross Cockrell, who this year has allowed 12-123-2 receiving on 14 targets.

Kupp has a real chance to dominate the Bucs — just as he did last year in Week 11 (11-145-0 receiving on 13 targets) … and the year before that, in Week 4 (9-121-1 receiving on 15 targets). For whatever reason, Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can’t seem to stop Kupp’s middle-of-the-field production.

On top of that, the Bucs defense this year hasn’t been the shutdown unit it was last year. The season is young, and the Bucs will certainly improve, but right now the Bucs are top-three in most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers with 58.1 DraftKings and 44.4 FanDuel points per game.

In what should be a fast-paced, high-scoring game, Kupp has unreal upside. Naturally, we project him to be the slate’s most popular receiver.

And Brooke Kromer likes the Rams to win.

Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. LA Chargers) 

Key numbers (at time of writing):

  • FTN Ranking: No. 19
  • Spread: -6.5
  • Total: 54.5

When it comes to Mecole Hardman, I’ll not give you the hard sell: He’s an upside, risk-seeking option.

But imagine this: Chargers head coach Brandon Staley uses promising rookie cornerback Asante Samuel to limit wide receiver Tyreek Hill with safety help. That’s possible. After all, last week Hill was just 3-14-0 receiving on four targets.

On top of that, All-Pro strong safety Derwin James mans up tight end Travis Kelce for the entire game and neutralizes him. That could happen. In Kelce’s three games against James, he has underwhelmed.

  • Week 1, 2018: 1-6-0 receiving, six targets
  • Week 15, 2018: 7-61-0 receiving, nine targets
  • Week 17, 2019: 3-24-0 receiving, five targets

Over the past three-plus years, those are three of Kelce’s worst games.

If that happens — if both Hill and Kelce are taken out of the game plan — what will the Chiefs do then?

Maybe quarterback Patrick Mahomes will lean a little more on the pass catcher who is No. 3 on the team with 63 pass snaps, 59 routes, 11 targets, eight receptions and 74 yards receiving — the guy who got eight targets last week.

Chiefs/Chargers could be the highest-scoring game of the week, and the Chiefs might need to rely on their ancillary receivers more than usual.

I understand why people are disillusioned with Hardman — but don’t ignore a 23-year-old third-year speedster with a potential opportunity and a career average of 10.3 yards per target.

As a possible alternative to Hill and Kelce, Hardman is one of Javier Prellezo’s “Must Jav” players.

Upside wide receivers for Week 3

Here are some wide receivers I think will outperform expectations and whom I especially like as upside season-long and DFS tournament plays.

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. LA Chargers): Hill has the highest ceiling projections among all wide receivers in our new state-of-the-art optimizer, and even with last week’s putrid 3-14-0 receiving performance, Hill still has 230 yards and a touchdown on 19 targets and two carries. Hill is one of Vlad Sedler’s core Week 3 SuperDraft plays.

DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals (at Jacksonville): Hopkins averaged 10 targets per game last year, and this year he’s an efficient 10-137-3 receiving on 12 targets. With his matchup against an overmatched Jaguars secondary, Hopkins gets an upgrade (per Jeff Ratcliffe’s WR/CB industry-best matchups breakdown).

Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks (at Minnesota): Since his 2018 breakout season, Lockett has averaged an unholy 10.2 yards per target, and this year he has balled out with 12-278-3 receiving on 16 targets. Playing primarily in the slot, Lockett should benefit from a soft matchup against slot cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who has allowed 9-119-0 receiving on 10 targets this year. The Seahawks are the No. 1 team in our NFL Stacking Model.

DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks (at Minnesota): Although Metcalf has been outproduced by teammate Tyler Lockett this year, they are tied with a team-high 16 targets. Given Metcalf’s 1,303-yard, 10-touchdown campaign last year, we know that Metcalf’s explosion will happen at some point. Metcalf is one of Chris Meaney’s top Week 3 NFL DFS plays.

Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons (at NY Giants): Ridley has a theoretically tough matchup with shadow cornerback James Bradberry — but I’m not worried about Bradberry, who does better with big-bodied alphas than with smaller, faster receivers. Ridley has disappointed with just 12-114-1 receiving this season, but he’s still averaging nine targets per game, and across his 10 career games without former teammate Julio Jones he has averaged an elite 10.9 targets.

Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team (at Buffalo): McLaurin might draw shadow coverage from Tre’Davious White, who is one of my top-five NFL corners. Still, McLaurin in Week 2 had a league-high 14 targets, which he leveraged into 11-107-1 receiving. It’s possible that backup Taylor Heinicke is better for McLaurin then starter Ryan Fitzpatrick would have been.

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers (at Kansas City): Allen has back-to-back games with 100 yards receiving, and across his 13 full games with quarterback Justin Herbert he has averaged an unbelievable 11.9 targets. The Chiefs are dead last in the league with 7.6 yards allowed per play, and last year in their Week 2 matchup — Herbert’s first NFL start — Allen was 7-96-0 receiving on 10 targets.

A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans (vs. Indianapolis): Brown has only 92 yards on the season, but he has a career average of 10.7 yards per target and 8.5 targets per game this year. The Colts are top-six in most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers with 51.8 DraftKings and 42.8 FanDuel points per game. Brown has a good matchup against cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who has allowed a 121.7 passer rating in coverage (per Derek Brown’s WR/CB matchups breakdown).

Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers (at Kansas City): Through two weeks, Williams is tied for No. 3 in the league with 19 first-read targets, and he’s No. 1 with four end-zone targets (per our Advanced Receiving Stats Tool). Playing the “Michael Thomas X” role in offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system, Williams is now a true 1A option to No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen. With 15-173-2 receiving on 22 targets, the Williams breakout season is here.

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at LA Rams): Evans is an up-and-down producer, but he’s the only guy in NFL history to open his career with seven straight 1,000-yard seasons. Against the Rams defense, which is No. 4 in pass DVOA, Evans has the downside of a scoreless 20-yard performance, but he also has the upside of a 100-yard, two-touchdown onslaught.

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at LA Rams): Rams star cornerback Jalen Ramsey might shadow Mike Evans on the perimeter — but he has played primarily in the slot to open the season, so he could match up most with Godwin, which would be a tough draw. But Godwin could see more targets overall and more snaps on the perimeter without No. 3 receiver Antonio Brown (COVID-19), who is expected to miss Week 3. Godwin leads the team with 18 targets, 13 receptions, and 167 yards receiving and has also scored two touchdowns. Godwin will be a popular play in single-entry DFS tournaments.

Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos (vs. NY Jets): Without teammate Jerry Jeudy (ankle, IR) in Week 2, Sutton exploded with 9-159-0 receiving on 12 targets. Sutton is now the clear No. 1 receiver for the Broncos, and I’m doubtful that sixth-round rookie cornerback Brandin Echols has the size (5-foot-11, 178 pounds) to challenge him. Broncos -10 is one of my best bets for Week 3.

Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (vs. Atlanta): Shepard has been a surprise breakout this year with 16-207-1 receiving on 19 targets, and the Falcons have allowed above-expectation performances this year to DeVonta Smith (6-71-1, eight targets), Jalen Reagor (6-49-1, six targets), Chris Godwin (4-62-1, five targets), and Mike Evans (5-75-2, nine targets). Shepard vs. Falcons is one of Adam Pfeifer’s Week 3 matchups to target. For prop betting, Gilles Gallant likes Shepard over 5.5 receptions.

For an edge on prop bets, check out Jeff Ratcliffe’s Player Props Table, which has a 58% win rate.

Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Tampa Bay): Woods is just 8-91-1 receiving on 13 targets and 1-13-0 rushing — but he averaged 1,238.7 yards and 6 touchdowns from scrimmage in his 2018-20 campaigns. Last year, Woods was 12-130-1 receiving on 15 targets against the Buccaneers in Week 11. He’s a prime bounceback candidate.

Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals (at Pittsburgh): Teammate Tee Higgins (shoulder) has missed back-to-back practices and might not play this weekend. If Higgins sits, Chase could enjoy enhanced target volume as the No. 1 receiver in the offense, and the rookie has impressed so far with 7-155-2 receiving on 11 targets.

Odell Beckham, Cleveland Browns (vs. Chicago): We are high on Beckham in Week 3 relative to the industry consensus. Teammate Jarvis Landry (knee, IR) is out, and Beckham is expected to make his 2021 debut after practicing in full on Wednesday and Thursday. The Bears are top-five in most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers with 52.0 DraftKings and 42.8 FanDuel points per game. Without Landry, Beckham could dominate the passing game in the offense, and Beckham has strong splits in his 11 Browns games with eight-plus targets.

Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals (at Jacksonville): Moore is the No. 4 wide receiver on the Cardinals with 38 pass snaps and routes — but he’s No. 1 on the team with 13 targets, 11 receptions, and 182 yards. Even if you take away Moore’s 77-yard Week 2 touchdown — and even if you take away that target — he still leads the team in targets and receptions. Moore tore up the Big Ten with 114-1,258-12 receiving and 21-213-2 rushing as an 18-year-old true freshman. He has elite athleticism (4.29-second 40-yard dash, 42.5-inch vertical jump). He has second-round draft capital. His dominance isn’t a surprise, and eventually he will have the playing time to support his usage. In reality, Moore is already the No. 2 receiver on the Cardinals, and he was the No. 1 wide receiver in Jeff Ratcliffe’s Week 3 waiver wire rankings. His upside is almost unspeakable.

Marvin Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Arizona): Last week, the Cardinals allowed Justin Jefferson (6-65-1, 10 targets), Adam Thielen (6-39-1, seven targets) and K.J. Osborn (5-91-1, six targets) all to put up fantasy points. Through two weeks, Jones is the No. 1 receiver for the Jags with 11-132-2 receiving on 20 targets. Trade for Jones in dynasty.

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals (at Pittsburgh): Boyd is the most boring functional fantasy receiver I’ve ever seen. A middle-of-the-field technician, Boyd averaged 996.7 yards and 5.3 touchdowns from scrimmage in 15 games per year across his 2018-20 campaigns, so it’s not as if he’s useless … but have you ever been excited — truly excited — about putting Boyd into your lineup? Regardless, if teammate Tee Higgins (shoulder) misses Week 3, then Boyd could see a meaningful boost in target volume.

K.J. Hamler, Denver Broncos (vs. New York Jets): Without teammate Jerry Jeudy (ankle, IR), Hamler had a 71% snap rate in Week 2, and this week he has an exploitable matchup in the slot against fifth-round rookie cornerback Michael Carter, who has allowed an 81.8% catch rate in his coverage.

K.J. Osborn, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Seattle): Anytime you can stack two guys with the “K.J.” initials next to each other in a Week 3 fantasy article, you must. That’s the rule. As the Vikings have transitioned to a base three-wide set this year, Osborn has ascended, ranking No. 1 on the team with 15 targets, No. 2 with 12 receptions, and No. 1 with 167 yards. Osborn was Nelson Sousa’s No. 1 waiver target at receiver this week, and Matthew Davis and Chris Meaney talked about him extensively on the Week 3 FTN FAABcast.

 

Freedman’s favorite tight ends

Below, I take a look at my favorite tight ends for both fantasy football and DFS for Week 3.

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. LA Chargers)

Key numbers (at time of writing):

  • FTN Ranking: No. 1
  • Spread: -6.5
  • Total: 54.5

Hey, everybody! Guess what! We’re two weeks into the season … and Travis Kelce is the No. 1 fantasy tight end!

Who could have possibly seen this coming?!

Kelce’s superiority is almost boring at this point. He has been the No. 1 fantasy tight end in each of the past five years.

For the season, he’s 13-185-3 receiving on 15 targets.

With an average of 1,327 yards and 8.7 touchdowns per year, Kelce essentially provided wide receiver production with tight end eligibility for the 2018-20 seasons.

And that has been the case this year as well. 

With 26.8 DraftKings and 21.8 FanDuel points per game, Kelce is a wide receiver in all but name.

As I mentioned above in the Mecole Hardman writeup, I think that Kelce’s matchup is tough.

I expect All-Pro strong safety Derwin James to defend Kelce for much of the game — and Kelce has not done well in his three prior games against the Chargers when James has been on the field.

  • Week 1, 2018: 1-6-0 receiving, six targets
  • Week 15, 2018: 7-61-0 receiving, nine targets
  • Week 17, 2019: 3-24-0 receiving, five targets

But the circumstances have also changed since Kelce and James last matched up. First, the Chargers have a new defensive coordinator. In the big picture, it’s probably a net positive for the organization to have someone other than Gus Bradley running the defense — but it does mean that we can’t automatically assume that James will be used against Kelce in the same way.

Second, the Chargers seem likely to be without No. 1 cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (shoulder), who missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday and didn’t play last week. In his absence, the Chargers shifted James from safety to slot corner, where they might choose to have him play again this week.

And if he lines up in the slot instead of safety, he will be on Kelce much less.

So Kelce’s historical production against the Chargers with James should give us concern. In fact, I’m betting Kelce under 7.5 receptions.

But Kelce could still have a big game while going under 7.5 receptions — just as he did in Weeks 1-2.

  • Week 1: 6-76-2 receiving, seven targets
  • Week 2: 7-109-1 receiving, eight targets

And Kelce’s past production against the Chargers might not be relevant anymore anyway, as we simply do not know how James will be used within the Chargers defense in Week 3.

But what we do know is that Kelce is the best tight end in the league, and he’s on the positive side of his career-long splits as a favorite.

  • Favorite (94 games): 17.4 DraftKings points | 13.7 FanDuel points
  • Underdog (26 games): 14.1 DraftKings points | 10.9 FanDuel points

In the 13 games since Week 8 last year, when the Chiefs made a point of emphasizing Kelce within the offense after his three-target game the week before, Kelce is 109-1,460-12 receiving on 144 targets (including playoffs).

Bottom line: Kelce is good at football.

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Tampa Bay)

Key numbers (at time of writing):

  • FTN Ranking: No. 10
  • Spread: +1
  • Total: 55.5

In my opinion, Derek Brown’s Week 3 game-by-game DFS breakdown is an industry-best piece. Here’s what he says about Tyler Higbee in his Rams-Bucs section:

“This is a good week to go back to Tyler Higbee after he busted as the chalk last week. Higbee has a 17% first read share (12% target share) and a 20% end zone target share. Over the last two seasons, Tampa Bay is 25th and 22nd in DVOA against the tight end position. Last year they allowed the ninth-most receptions (82) and seventh-most receiving touchdowns (9).”

You heard the man.

Higbee doused investors with a urine jar of stink in Week 2, putting up just eight yards on one target. But at least he scored a touchdown, right?!

Oops, no, that didn’t happen.

It was just eight yards.

But Higbee has played every offensive snap through two weeks, and in his seven career games with a snap rate of at least 90% he has averaged 64.4 yards and 0.29 touchdowns on 4.7 receptions and 6.3 targets. In two of those games, he has cleared 100 yards.

As an every-down player, Higbee now finally might hit the ceiling we glimpsed at the end of the 2019 season, when he was 43-522-2 receiving on 56 targets over the final five games.

Upside tight ends for Week 3

Here are some tight ends I think will outperform expectations and whom I especially like as upside season-long and DFS tournament plays.

Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders (vs. Miami): Waller is No. 1 in the league with 26 targets, and last year he — not Travis Kelce — was the No. 1 tight end with 1,309 air yards, 579 yards after the catch, a 28.6% target share, and 61.4% WOPR. Waller leads all tight ends with his 41.7 expected fantasy points in 2021. He is the de facto No. 1 wide receiver for the Raiders.

Check out the FTN Network Las Vegas giveaway, which includes Raiders tickets, hotel, travel, and more.

WOPR (Weighted Opportunity Rating) is a stat created by Josh Hermsmeyer. It combines market shares of targets and air yards.

T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (vs. Baltimore): Hockenson leads the Lions in all major pass-catching categories with 16-163-2 receiving on 20 targets. He has ascended into the top tier with Travis Kelce and Darren Waller, who combined in Weeks 1-2 to destroy the Ravens (league-high 30.8 DraftKings and 23.0 FanDuel points per game allowed to tight ends). Hockenson is one of David Jones’ “Tenacious Targets” for Week3 DFS tournaments.

Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons (at NY Giants): Pitts is No. 2 on the Falcons with 14 targets and 104 yards receiving and No. 3 with nine receptions. Lining up more in the slot and out wide than inline, Pitts is a glorified wide receiver, which makes sense: He’s the only tight end in college football history to be a Biletnikoff finalist. The Giants are No. 4 in most fantasy points allowed to tight ends with 21.0 DraftKings and 16.5 FanDuel points per game. Pitts is now priced as the No. 3 tight end in Tyler Loechner’s fantasy trade value chart.

Noah Fant, Denver Broncos (vs. NY Jets): Since he entered the league in 2019, Fant has been out produced in targets (5.3 per game) and efficiency (7.6 yards per target) only by Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, George Kittle and Mark Andrews. Phrased differently: Fant might be the No. 5 tight end in the league. He’s top-two on the Broncos with 14 targets, 10 receptions, 95 yards, and a touchdown, and last year the Jets allowed a league-high 18.2 DraftKings and 15.0 FanDuel points per game to tight ends. Fant is one of our top Yahoo DFS plays for Week 3.

Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns (vs. Chicago): Wide receiver Jarvis Landry (knee, IR) is out, and teammate Odell Beckham (knee) is making his 2021 debut after suffering a season-ending injury last year, so he might be eased into action. With no Landry and a diminished Beckham, Hooper could lead the Browns in receiving. Last week, with Landry out for almost the entire game, Hooper was 5-40-0 receiving on a team-high five targets. Hooper is one of our top Week 3 tight end streamers.

Evan Engram, New York Giants (vs. Atlanta): Engram (calf, questionable) has a shot to play this week and was Vlad Sedler’s No. 1 tight end waiver priority. Last year, Engram had career-high marks with 109 targets and 654 yards receiving, and the Falcons are No. 2 in most fantasy points allowed to tight ends with 22.2 DraftKings and 19.2 FanDuel points per game.

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts (at Tennessee): Doyle is top-three on the Colts with 12 targets, eight receptions, and 85 yards, and last year the Titans defense was No. 32 with a 36.6% pass DVOA against tight ends.

Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints (at New England): Say what you want about Johnson, but the dude through two weeks is No. 1 on the team with two touchdowns and No. 2 with six targets, four receptions, and 44 yards receiving. Last week, he saw his routes increase from nine to 16, and 12 of them were from the slot. 

Previous Splits tool update for Week 3 – Fantasy football players to watch Next The Fantasy Football Report for Week 3