Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 3

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 3

Statistical Analysis

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 3

Week 2 brought us big-time bounce backs from Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, continued RB1 excellence from Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley and Devonta Freeman, a touchdown-catch hat-trick from Michael Crabtree and an extended and concerning offensive malaise for a number of other franchises, including 10 teams which failed to score 14 points.

Here’s hoping your fantasy teams had at least a few of the former and not too many of the latter.

In any case, it’s time for our weekly review of the significant stats, notable numbers and illuminating integers compiled through action Sunday in Week 2 of the 2017 fantasy season. Here goes …

  • We start with the aforementioned Gurley, who totaled 136 yards and scored via the ground and air Sunday in the Rams’ 27-20 home loss to Washington. Gurley’s 88 rushing yards on 16 carries were his most since Week 14 of his rookie season in 2015, but it’s his ongoing pass-catching prowess that’s really piqued our attention. Gurley snared three of his four targets for 48 yards, including an 18-yard TD, and now has caught eight of 10 targets for 104 yards and a score on the season. Only rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp has attracted more of Jared Goff’s targets on the Rams, and among all league running backs, Gurley ranks among the top 12 in targets, receptions and receiving yards. After catching only 21 passes as a rookie, he upped his reception total to 43 a year ago and now looks to be in line for a similar jump this season with his current four-catch-per-game pace putting him at 64 receptions.
  • In the same game, Washington RB Chris Thompson matched Gurley score for score, also tallying a pair of TDs, with both coming on the ground. Thompson, a third-down specialist, also caught three passes for 29 yards but his rushing work (three carries for 77 yards – highlighted by a 61-yard TD burst on a second-quarter draw play) was a much needed for the Skins with starter Rob Kelley leaving early with a rib issue. It also continued an impressive recent tear for Thompson, who has amassed six TDs and 305 total yards from scrimmage over his last six games, good for 85.5 point-per-reception fantasy points (14.3 per contest). Definitely a must-add RB in any league, regardless of scoring format, if he’s available.
  • When it comes to the 2017 backfield of the defending-champion Patriots, offseason-acquisition Mike Gillislee has dominated the carries (33 of 56 among N.E. running backs) while rushing for a league-most four scores. But don’t make the mistake of overlooking James White, particularly in PPR leagues. Through play Sunday, White ranked third among all league backs with 13 targets and 11 receptions and only the rookie Hunt has more receiving yards than White’s 115 among league RBs. OK, sure, fantasy general managers will immediately bring up the week-to-week lack of trust factor that seems to follow all New England skill-position players not named Tom Brady, but that’s precisely where White really stands out. In the Patriots’ 21 regular-season and playoff games since the start of last season, White has garnered at least four targets in 18 of those contests and has had at least three receptions in 16 of those games. Overall among NFL backs, he trails only David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell in targets (99) and receptions (71) during that regular-season span and only Johnson (946) has more RB receiving yards than White’s 666. Also, only the Lions’ Theo Riddick (six) has caught more scoring passes among running backs than White’s five since the start of last season. And that, as we said, includes regular-season games only so White’s 14-catch, 110-yard, one-TD on 16 Super Bowl targets isn’t even encompassed in those numbers. And, now, with injuries felling Brady’s other offensive-skill supporting cast seemingly by the quarter so far this season, jog – don’t walk – to your nearest Internet-connected device to check and see if White is somehow available in your PPR league.
  • One player who isn’t off to such a strong start – fantasy or otherwise – is Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who came out of Sunday sitting way down in 24th place among fantasy QBs with 356 passing yards, 74 rushing yards and one total TD. That, mind you, is behind the likes of Deshaun Watson, Josh McCown, Mike Glennon and Blake Bortles. But if you think you’ve heard the words “Russell Wilson” and “off to a slow start” in the same sentence recently, it’s because you have. In his first eight games a season ago, Wilson had five passing TDs and 44 rushing yards with no scores. In the final eight contests, he tossed 16 scoring passes and had 215 yards and a TD on the ground. Sure, Wilson was dealing with knee and ankle injuries early last season, but he wasn’t in 2015 when he had nine passing/rushing TDs in the first half of the season followed by a whopping 26 over his final eight regular-season contests. Sure, the Seahawks’ ongoing offensive-line issues don’t appear as if they’re going away anytime soon, but don’t be overly eager to send Wilson packing as “Mr. Second Half” just may come back to haunt you at the most critical time of the fantasy season.
  • Back to the offense in D.C., it’s been a fantasy struggle so far for Washington’s top wide receivers, Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder. The duo combined to catch six of nine targets for 78 yards and no TDs in Sunday’s win in L.A. Overall, Kirk Cousins is 15-of-27 for 158 yards, zero scores and an interception when targeting Pryor and Crowder this season and is 26-of-40 for 261 yards, two TDs and no picks when targeting everyone else, including wideout Ryan Grant, who was on the receiving end of the game-winning 11-yard TD pass with 1:49 remaining Sunday. Pryor’s slow start is somewhat understandable given it’s his first year with the team and his relative newness to the position, but Jamison’s sluggishness is a bit more perplexing given he’s coming off a 67-847-7 season as Washington’s top returning wideout. Things, though, only figure to get better for Pryor and Crowder, especially with stud tight end Jordan Reed now dealing with another injury, a bruised chest suffered during Sunday’s contest.
  • Earlier in the day in Jacksonville, the Titans ran over the Jaguars for 179 yards and three TDs on 36 attempts, and it was second-year back Derrick Henry leading the way with 92 yards and a score on 14 carries. Starter DeMarco Murray finished 25 yards on nine attempts but was pulled early due to a “tight” hamstring. Sunday’s stats were really nothing new, however. Over Tennessee’s last five games, dating back to the final three last season, Henry has outrushed Murray 253-221 on 16 fewer carries (64-48). The former also has totaled four rushing scores while Murray has failed to find the end zone. In short, it’s looking more and more like an even backfield timeshare in the Music City so the time is now to start adjusting your fantasy expectations accordingly.
  • Finally, we finish with the Buccaneers, whose 2017 regular-season debut Sunday produced a 29-7 thrashing of the visiting Bears. Jameis Winston and his loaded offense have been the main fantasy storyline in Tampa, but fantasy general managers need to take note of the stout defense being played by the Bucs. Since surrendering 43 points to the Falcons in Week 9 last season, Tampa Bay has fielded one of the league’s top defenses with an average of 16 points allowed, 22 total sacks and a league-most 22 takeaways over that nine-game stretch. The Bucs have allowed only seven TD passes during that span while picking off a league-most 15 passes, returning four of them for scores, with the latest coming Sunday on cornerback Robert McClain’s 47-yard TD return in the second quarter. It was one of four forced turnovers on the afternoon by the hosts. And with upcoming games against the less-than-imposing Giants, Cardinals, Bills and Jets over the next eight weeks, there look to be ample green-light opportunity to start the Bucs’ underrated D.

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