Targets, Touches and TDs: Week 3

Targets, Touches and TDs: Week 3

Fantasy football strategy

Targets, Touches and TDs: Week 3

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Now that we’ve made it through Week 2, we’re focusing in on some old, familiar faces and how they’ve fared so far in their new fantasy places.

In this category, we’ve selected a pair of notable players from each of the four main fantasy positions — quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end — and delved into their initial-impact 2021 resumes through a pair of games. It’s a small sample to be sure, but we will then attempt to forecast their fantasy football positional value over the remainder of the season.

Here goes, starting with the pass slingers …

Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford

2021 stats: 39-of-56 passing for 599 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception; 7 rushes, -4 yards, 0 TDs

Fantasy position rank (Huddle Performance scoring): 11th with 49.5 fantasy points

Quick assessment: The former Detroit Lions QB has been impressive in leading the Rams to a 2-0 start, and he leads the league with an average of 15.4 yards per completion while ranking sixth with a TD percentage of 8.9.

To the surprise of few, a full 61.8 percent of Stafford’s 55 targets have gone to wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, with the former ranking as fantasy’s No. 1 wideout (point-per-reception scoring) so far, reeling in 16-of-21 targets for 271 yards and three TDs to total 60.6 points.

At age 33, Stafford isn’t going to add much fantasy value with his legs, but he’s been among the the league’s best-protected passers so far, facing pressure on only 6.8 percent of his dropbacks, per ProFootballReference.com, and being sacked just twice.

Rest-of-season valuation: Stafford looks have found a nice fit in Sean McVay’s offense, and with an above-average cast of weapons, he figures to remain in the low-end QB1 range the rest of the way. His relative lack of rushing value will keep him outside of the QB1 elite.

Indianapolis Colts QB Carson Wentz

2021 stats: 45-of-69 passing for 498 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception; 9 rushes, 60 yards, 0 TDs

Fantasy position rank (Huddle Performance scoring): Tied for 17th with 42.9 fantasy points

Quick assessment: The former Eagles QB who’s been reunited with Indy coach Frank Reich, seems to have left his turnover troubles in Philly after having a league-most 25 combined interceptions/fumbles in 12 games a season ago.

However, injury question marks loom large yet again for the still-28-year-old Wentz, who missed the preseason due to foot surgery and then left Sunday’s 27-24 home loss to the Rams in the fourth quarter after reportedly spraining both ankles.

The Colts’ leaky protection up front certainly hasn’t helped as Wentz has dealt with pressure on 20.5 percent of his dropbacks so far with six sacks.

Wentz has managed to rush for 60 yards — tied for fifth among QBs — on nine attempts, but with veteran wideout T.Y. Hilton injured and out, his passel of pass-catchers is below average. All three of his TD passes have gone to wideout Zach Pascal, who has only nine total catches on the year.

Meanwhile, second-year WR Michael Pittman Jr. pacing Indy in targets (16), receptions (11) and receiving yards (152).

Rest-of-season valuation: Wentz figures to keep producing ho-hum QB2 numbers if healthy, but, as aforementioned, that’s been a career question mark as he’s missed 12 games over the last four seasons.

Atlanta Falcons RB Mike Davis

2021 stats: 24 rushes, 87 yards, 0 TDs; 13 targets, 10 receptions, 48 yards, 0 TDs

Fantasy position rank (Huddle PPR scoring): 26th with 23.5 PPR points

Quick assessment: Davis has received a decent amount of work with 34 touches so far, including 10 receptions (on 13 targets), which is tied for fourth among running backs.

Efficiency, though, has eluded Davis as he’s averaging only 3.6 yards per rush and 4.8 yards per reception and has yet to find the end zone.

Davis entered the season looking like he would enjoy one of the league’s few RB bell-cow roles, but hybrid back/WR Cordarrelle Patterson has garnered 21 touches so far and has outproduced Davis in total yards (136-135), TDs (2-0) and PPR points (32.5-23.5) on 13 fewer touches.

Rest-of-season valuation: Wayne Gallman was signed just before the season and is still getting up to speed in the offense. But with the 6-foot-2, 238-pound Patterson fitting the rough profile of new head coach Arthur Smith’s “Atlanta Derrick Henry” — and producing — that’s quickly emerged as the most pressing concern for Davis’ snap and touch share going forward.

Treat Davis as a low-end RB2 for now, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the more-dynamic and versatile Patterson wind up the as the team’s top fantasy backfield option.

Las Vegas Raiders RB Kenyan Drake

2021 stats: 13 rushes, 20 yards, 0 TDs; 11 targets, 10 receptions, 105 yards, 0 TDs

Fantasy position rank (Huddle PPR scoring): Tied for 28th with 22.5 fantasy points

Quick assessment: With starter Josh Jacobs injured and out Sunday in Pittsburgh, it was freshly signed Peyton Barber who led the Silver & Black in rushing attempts with 13 while Drake had seven. Neither was able to get much going against the stout Steelers rushing defense, though, with Barber gaining 32 yards and Drake all of nine.

Drake was fourth on the team Sunday with six targets, reeling in five for 46 yards and is tied with Davis for fourth among league RBs with 10 catches while trailing only Christian McCaffrey (154) and D’Andre Swift (106) at the position with 105 receiving yards.

Ground-wise, though, Drake has rushed for only 20 yards on 13 carries so far.

Rest-of-season valuation: Despite signing a two-year, $11 million guaranteed contract in the offseason, it appears as if Drake is simply ticketed to be the Raiders’ change-of-pace, passing-game back.

Jacobs should return soon to assume his lead role, leaving Drake as a low-end RB2/flex PPR option, at best.

Tennessee Titans WR Julio Jones

2021 stats: 14 targets, 9 receptions, 157 yards, 0 TDs; 0 rushes

Fantasy position rank (Huddle PPR scoring): 40th with 24.7 fantasy points

Quick assessment: The former Falcons standout elicited some immediate panic when he struggled Week 1 in his Tennessee debut, catching 3-of-6 targets for 29 yards. But then again, the entire Titans offense had an awful day at the office that opening Sunday in a 38-13 drubbing by the Arizona Cardinals.

Jones bounced back nicely Sunday in Seattle, hauling in six of his eight targets for a team-leading 128 yards in a 33-30 overtime win over the Seahawks.

Through two games, Jones ranks second on the team with 14 targets, but he has certainly outperformed target-leader and third-year Titans wideout A.J. Brown, who’s caught only seven of his 17 targets for 92 yards and a TD.

Rest-of-season valuation: A relative lack of TD grabs (he’s had 20 among 360 total receptions in 58 games since the start of the 2017 season) and injury concerns (seven missed games in 2020) remain issues for the 32-year-old Jones even as he remains one of the game’s most physically gifted wideouts.

Brown figures to pick things up after his slow start, leaving Jones as Ryan Tannehill’s No. 2 target and a solid WR3/flex option as along he’s healthy and on the field.

New York Giants WR Kenny Golladay

2021 stats: 14 targets, 7 receptions, 102 yards, 0 TDs; 0 rushes

Fantasy position rank (Huddle PPR scoring): 63rd with 17.2 fantasy points

Quick assessment: It’s certainly been a sluggish start in the Jersey Apple for the former Detroit Lions wide receiver. A hamstring injury sidelined him for most of August, and he’s only caught half of his 14 targets while averaging 14.6 yards per catch and 7.3 per look — well off his four-year Detroit averages of 16.8 and 9.7, respectively.

In his most recent game — last Thursday’s 30-29 loss in Washington — he was targeted eight times but caught only three for 38 yards and was seen yelling — allegedly at offensive coordinator Jason Garrett — on the sideline during the second half.

In the meantime, holdover N.Y. wideouts Sterling Shepard (16-207-1 on 19 targets) and Darius Slayton (6-119-1 on 13 targets) have been far more productive as Golladay finds his footing in his new environs.

Rest-of-season valuation: The preseason injury certainly set Golladay’s transition back, but he’s too talented — and the team is paying him too much money — not to feed him a steady diet of targets.

The efficiency is bound to improve and so is Golladay’s fantasy stock. Buy low now, and you very well could find yourself with a low-end WR2 asset late in the season.

New England Patriots TE Jonnu Smith

2021 stats: 10 targets, 9 receptions, 0 TDs; 1 rush, 6 yards, 0 TDs

Fantasy position rank (Huddle PPR scoring): 14th with 16.6 fantasy points

Quick assessment: Signed in free agency along with fellow TE Hunter Henry this offseason, the former Tennessee Titan ranks third on the team in targets and receptions.

Smith has been slightly more involved than Henry (5-73 on 7 targets), but he is averaging only 7.8 yards per catch — a marked decrease from his four-year, 11.4-yard average with the Titans.

In 2020, Smith finished tied for third among league tight ends with nine total TDs (one rushing) on only 41 receptions and 43 total touches, so we knew some 2021 TD regression was quite likely.

Moreover, Pats rookie QB Mac Jones is only averaging 6.8 yards per attempt and has thrown only one TD pass in two games so far, so Smith is simply going to need steady volume to come close to matching his 16th-place PPR positional finish a season ago.

Rest-of-season valuation: In 10- and 12-team standard leagues, Smith doesn’t figure to be a viable weekly starting option despite the lack of continued reliability at the position.

Instead, he’s among the plug-in-and-hope-for-a-TD streaming candidate masses as a TE2.

Los Angeles Chargers TE Jared Cook

2021 stats: 13 targets, 8 receptions, 84 yards, 0 TDs; 0 rushes

Fantasy position rank (Huddle PPR scoring): Tied for 16th with 16.4 fantasy points

Quick assessment: Cook had a solid L.A. debut in Week 1 with five receptions for 58 yards on eight targets. His second outing Sunday only netted three catches for 28 yards on five targets, but he did have a TD reception called back due to an illegal-shift penalty.

Wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen have accounted for 50 percent of Justin Herbert’s 86 targets so far, and running back Austin Ekeler is well on his way to reclaiming the No. 3 target slot with nine Sunday after surprisingly failing to attract one in the opener.

Rest-of-season valuation: That puts Cook at No. 4 on the Bolts’ target tree, but that should be more than fine to sustain mid-level TE2 production with a quarterback of Herbert’s caliber and the attention of opposing defenses focused elsewhere.

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