We're heading full speed into Week 3. This is the week that we'd like to believe we have most things figured out. Spoiler alert: We don't. But what we do have is a larger sample size of data to help us make more informed decisions. Of course, we'll have even more data after this week. And the week after that. And so on.
Yet despite our best efforts at learning, we'll never get it totally right. Hopefully, we just are right more than we're wrong. A journey of a thousand sleepers begins with one column. Or something like that. I'm rambling. Here are some names.
Entering the season, Carr was considered a fringe QB1. Through the first two weeks, he’s lived up to those expectations with a QB22 finish in Week 1 and rebounding with a QB10 outing in Week 2. The advanced metrics tell a similar story. Per Football Outsiders, Carr ranks 18th in defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR) and 18th in defense-adjusted value over average. It’s just a fancy way of saying he’s been ordinary to this point in the season. Something you already know if you’ve been starting him -- or just watching the Raiders.
If there’s a week for Carr and the Raiders passing game to turn up, it’s this week against the Tennessee Titans. Despite a decent pass rush, Tennesee’s corners have been average at best. Considering what Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs did to them on Monday night, the prospect of facing a Carr/Davante Adams stack in Week 3 could cause a lot of sleepless nights in the Music City.
I would say that we’ve seen the highs and lows of Smith this season. More accurately, we’ve seen the mids (Week 1) and lows (Week 2) of the journeyman quarterback. It’s a big part of the reason DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett had depressed ADPs during fantasy draft season. While I’d never try to sell you on Geno as a season-long option, there are reasons to think he could be a Superflex starter in Week 3.
The Falcons might be interesting to watch offensively but things aren’t so enthralling on the defensive side. Atlanta is struggling to get consistent pressure on quarterbacks through the first two weeks. They make up for it with a secondary giving up an ungood 7.8 yards per pass attempt. The Seahawks' pass protection hasn’t been stellar in the early going, but they've also faced a couple of tough defenses in Denver and San Francisco. This week’s matchup doesn’t figure to be as rigorous. Oh, and for what it's worth, Pete Carroll says he plans to #LetGenoCook -- unleashing his quarterback to throw downfield a little more in Week 3. This could backfire horribly. But I appreciate the spirit.
It's strange to think that just three weeks into the season, we’d be talking about a third-round pick having sleeper potential. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the Rams backfield. Darrell Henderson dominated the opportunities in Week 1. Akers closed the snap gap significantly in Week 2 -- even if Henderson looked better according to the eye test.
There’s never really any accounting for what Sean McVay is going to do with this backfield, but all of the preseason chatter suggested the Rams want Akers to be the lead back. If there’s ever a week to get him on track, it’s against a Cardinals defense that is allowing more than four yards per carry this season. Considering how effective the Chiefs were in Week 1, that number might have been even worse had Kansas City given Clyde Edwards-Helaire more than seven carries. Without a doubt, Henderson will stay in the mix this week, but this could be the Akers breakout.
Another week of playing Rhamondre Roulette. This week, the ball is bouncing in a positive direction for the rollercoaster rusher. Ty Montgomery’s injury in Week 1 was supposed to mean better things for Stevenson in Week 2, but those good vibes never manifested. However, there have been a lot of hopeful signs around Stevenson. He far and away out-snapped Damien Harris in Week 2, absorbing all of the plays left vacant by Montgomery. Stevenson also ran significantly more routes in Week 2. The next step is getting the targets.
That could happen in Week 3. The Ravens have been hit hard by pass-catching running backs in the first couple of weeks. Baltimore has given up 19 receptions for 129 yards to the position in its first two games -- including a combined 13 catches for 78 yards by Michael Carter and Breece Hall in the season opener. With the Ravens getting to the quarterback at a high rate (27 QB pressures so far), there could be plenty of chances for Mac Jones to get the ball out quickly to his running back. StevenSZN could finally be here.
While we’re talking about the Patriots passing game, let’s turn our attention to the wide receivers. You’d be hard-pressed to find any fantasy managers who were eager to pick up parts of the New England receiving room this offseason. For good reason. It’s filled with a collection of pieces that have so far been less than the sum of its parts. Its leader is Meyers, a player who was so touchdown-challenged that you might as well have been playing “Yub Nub” underneath the team celebration when he finally scored.
So why am I touting Meyers this week? Well, if there’s a Pats receiver you want, he’s the one. He’s the leader in routes run, targets and air yards -- and it’s not close in the latter two categories. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s secondary has had its issues in the first two weeks. Missed assignments and big plays were the headlines for the Ravens in the Week 2 loss to Miami, but they were having a tough time handling the Dolphins receivers even before that big fourth quarter. In Week 1, the Jets trio of Corey Davis, Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore snagged 15 passes for 178 yards on 27 targets. I’m not sold on the Patriots offense overall yet. You’ll have to pick your spots when to use them, but this could be one of them.
Last week, someone asked me if they should start Rashaad Penny or Dortch. I snorted, scoffed and immediately picked the Seahawks running back. Sure, Dortch had posted a double-digit fantasy total in Week 1. But that had to be a fluke, right? Certainly not something to be repeated again. This is my mea culpa. I was wrong.
In two weeks, Dortch has been a very real part of Arizona’s passing game. He leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. More importantly, he’s second only to Marquise Brown in routes run, while ranking third in overall target share. He is what we hoped Rondale Moore would be. (Side note: this makes me feel justified about my Moore hype in the preseason.) This week is a potentially high-scoring matchup with the Rams. And with plenty of attention likely to be paid to the two receivers on the outside as well as Zach Ertz, Dortch could find more room to roam in the middle of the field.
While we all lament the lack of Kyle Pitts in our fantasy lives, let’s celebrate one of the guys who has shown up. Through two weeks, Thomas is the TE10 with a 13 percent target share on a team that finds itself with a plethora of weapons in the passing game. While it would be nice to see him playing a few more snaps (67 percent) or running a few more routes (58 percent participation), it’s still reassuring that a player returning from an ACL tear is as much a part of the offense as Thomas is.
This week, he’ll line up against an Eagles defense that has been very good to start year but still can’t seem to overcome its tight end bugaboo. Last season, the Birds allowed the most receiving touchdowns to tight ends. So far this season, Philly is allowing the seventh-most points per game to the position and allowed me to get off my first #LetIrvSwerve tweet of the season. Thank you, Eagles. Anyway, if you’re looking for a streamer, Thomas could be your guy.
I know I’m going to hate myself for this later, but here we go. Engram might be becoming a thing down in Jacksonville. He’s on the field for more than 70 percent of the snaps and seeing a respectable 17.6 percent target share. For context, Engram has a larger snap share than Darren Waller and a larger target share than Pitts. In this offense, it feels a sustainable. I repeat, Engram might be becoming a thing down in Jacksonville. I’m dizzy. I think I need to lie down.
This week’s matchup against the Chargers could be a higher-scoring affair than it would initially appear. The Bolts haven’t been awful against tight ends this year. But they haven’t been great, either. Neither Waller nor Travis Kelce found the end zone against Los Angeles this season, but both players also scored in double figures and had top 15 weekly finishes. If Engram can do the same this week, we might need to admit this could FINALLY be the year.
The further away we get from 2019, the more it looks like Hooper’s breakout year in Atlanta was more of the outlier. But we persist. The Titans offense hasn’t given us much reason to be excited in the first two weeks. Heck, even Derrick Henry has only rushed for two first downs this year. The passing offense has been even more lackluster.
The Raiders might not exactly be the cure for what ails Tennessee, but they could at least serve as an aspirin for any offensive pains. Las Vegas ranks 28th in pass defense and has been beaten up by Gerald Everett and Ertz in the first two weeks. That, combined with Hooper having one of just three Titans end zone targets, gives him streaming potential.
This isn’t so much about the Chiefs defense being good as it is about the Colts offense being questionable. Last week’s showing against the Jaguars was miserable. Having Michael Pittman back in action should help somewhat, but this outfit hasn’t been the well-oiled machine we were anticipating.
The previously stout offensive line has allowed seven sacks in the first two games. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan has tossed four picks in his first two games with Indy. Until things start to turn around, we might be able to pick on Indianapolis if you’re of a mind to stream defenses.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who regrets having Sloppy Joe's. Send him your home improvement aspirations or fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.