STATS 2018 NFL Fantasy Football Projections: Week 3

By: Corey Schwartz | September 20, 2018

Carson Wentz’s return has sparked a bit of debate in the fantasy football world. Will he immediately show the MVP-caliber form he displayed prior to his injury that shot the Philadelphia Eagles toward their first-ever Super Bowl title? Or will Wentz come out rusty after missing plenty of game action, including the last three weeks of the 2017 regular season, all of the playoffs, and the first two weeks this year?

It depends which expert you ask.

Wentz grades out much higher in STATS’ Week 3 fantasy projections than among the average of 80+ experts submitting their player rankings to FantasyPros.com. STATS’ model sees a big upside for Wentz against an Indianapolis defense that is below average against the pass. That model factors in everything from proprietary advanced analytics and metrics to weather projections that could affect player performance and productivity. Naturally, rankings will differ from expert to expert.

Each week we’ll highlight some players who we believe will fare better – or even worse – than expert consensus based on the STATS model. We’ll begin with a couple players from the Thursday night game and work our way through the week. Feedback is always appreciated, so feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @CSchwartz18.

Jarvis Landry, Cleveland, WR

  • With Josh Gordon gone last week, he saw a relatively normal 23% target share and not the 30%+ that we deemed possible in Gordon’s absence.
  • Defenses can key on him and he’s not a Julio Jones or A.J. Green that can fight through double teams to produce no matter what.
  • We still see his volume going up by necessity in that offense, but only by enough to slightly raise his outlook to WR2 status.
  • Against a Jets defense that grades out well, his outlook is even lower.
  • We project him for just 59.8 yards, which would be a season low, leaving him as our #25 WR (fantasypros: #17)

Cleveland Browns Defense

  • The Browns’ futility has led to a lot of high draft picks, and (Baker Mayfield aside) many of those picks were spent on defensive playmakers (Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, Larry Ogunjobi, Denzel Ward).
  • Most of those picks are working, and the Browns appear to have a number of current or future Pro Bowlers on the defense.
  • Mostly led by Garrett, the Browns have registered 7 sacks already, and we project that trend to continue. We have them projected for the second-highest sack total and second-most fumble recoveries this week.
  • Facing turnover-prone rookie Sam Darnold, they’re our #4 defense this week (fantasypros: #6) and a fine waiver wire add in season-long.

Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia

  • Obviously not the safest option – and due to that floor, it isn’t wise to bench him for guys like Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, and Drew Brees – but his ceiling alone makes him a great upside option, especially in DFS tournaments.
  • He faces an Indianapolis defense that, while improved, still grades out as below average against the pass.
  • Andrew Luck’s solid play should keep this game close and force Wentz to continue making plays.
  • Wentz is our #4 QB, as his upside only trails Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton this week (fantasypros: #14).

Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston

  • Watson has looked comfortable running around, with 13 rushes for 84 yards already in 2 games.
  • The Giants defense has struggled to contain 2 other mobile QBs so far – allowing Blake Bortles to run for 4/42 and Dak Prescott to run for 7/45.
  • Watson’s rushing potential moves both the floor and ceiling up, and injuries to Olivier Vernon (the Giants only pass-rusher) and starting CB Eli Apple move the needle even higher.
  • Watson is our #6 QB for the week (fantasypros: #8), and now may be a good time to buy-low in DFS.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay

  • Rodgers’ status as a fantasy QB GOAT rests largely on his dual-threat ability, adding 2.8 fantasy points per game on the ground since 2014.
  • With a large brace on his knee, and a danger of re-aggravating the injury, he ran just 3 times for 8 yards last week, and the decreased rushing output should be the new normal for the foreseeable future.
  • Rodgers’ arm and overall QB acumen keep him a sure-fire QB1 every time he suits up, but he’s no longer a top 3 guy in any matchup.
  • This week, against an underrated Washington defense that makes plays, he’s just our #7 QB (fantasypros: #3), and guys like Brady, Newton, and Garoppolo are safer bets in DFS cash games.

David Johnson, RB, Arizona

  • Johnson’s struggled thus far can be entirely chalked up to his team’s success (or lack thereof). His role is still that of an elite workhorse, and we project him for the second-highest rush usage (behind James Conner) and fifth-highest target share among Week 3 RBs.
  • Unless you think Arizona’s offense will continue to operate at an historically bad level, they’ll see some positive regression, which will benefit Johnson disproportionately.
  • The matchup is tough against a stout Chicago defense, but Chicago’s offense may be mediocre enough to keep Arizona in the game longer (especially in Arizona), which should lead to a season-high rush attempts for Johnson.
  • Now is the time to buy low on a guy with top-3 RB potential. As is, we have him as our #4 RB this week (fantasypros: #11).

Sony Michel, New England, RB

  • He looked decent in his NFL debut last week, rushing for 3.4 YPC against Jacksonville’s elite defense
  • Most encouraging is that he played more than Rex Burkhead, out-touching Burkhead 11-6.
  • New England should have a more favorable game script against Detroit. We project it for 27.5 rush attempts, up from last week’s 24.
  • The pie should be bigger, Michel’s share of it could be larger, and he has a great chance to show why he was a first-round pick against a below-average Detroit run defense that was gashed by Matt Breida last week.
  • He’s our #24 RB this week (fantasypros: #35), making him a nice flex option and DFS sleeper.

Latavius Murray, Minnesota, RB

  • I want to point him out as a DFS sleeper and emergency option in season-long.
  • Minnesota should win big at home against Buffalo, and we project Minnesota for a league-high 33.0 rush attempts.
  • Minnesota will be hesitant to give the extra carries to Dalvin Cook, who left hobbled last week and is a year removed from an ACL tear.
  • Murray could see a lot of garbage-time usage against a bad defense, and we project him for 10.2 carries (more than guys like Derrick Henry, Chris Carson, and Matt Breida).
  • He’s our #36 RB for the week (fantasypros: #40)
  • UPDATE: With Dalvin Cook being ruled out for Week 3, Murray becomes a must-play. Our model projects Murray as a legitimate RB1, with the fourth-highest projected rush attempts of the week (18.3). Congrats if you scooped him off the wire.

Melvin Gordon III, LA Chargers, RB

  • You obviously aren’t benching Gordon in season-long fantasy but should consider avoiding him in DFS.
  • Against a great Rams defense, the Chargers are only expected to score around 20 points, with a  lot of mouths to be fed (including Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen).
  • He’s also a bit banged up (neck), which could incentivize the Chargers to give more touches to Ekeler, who has been way more efficient than Gordon thus far (7.3 YPC to 3.8; 13.5 Yards per Target to 7.0).
  • Normally more likely to score a TD than not, we project Gordon’s TD% under 50% this week.
  • He’s our #12 RB this week (fantasypros: #4), as we essentially have him flip-flopped with David Johnson, whose role is larger and matchup is slightly better.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh, WR

  • Our model loves Smith-Schuster’s spot on the age curve – still 21 years old, he’s younger than many college players
  • All he’s done at this age is catch at least 4 passes in 9 consecutive regular season games, with 100+ yards in 5 of those, including each of the 2 so far this season.
  • He’s one of 33 players for whom we pencil in over 20% target share, and Tampa’s resurgent offense should mean more Pittsburgh passes (larger pie).
  • We project him for the eighth-most receiving yards and 10th-most receiving TDs this week, adding up to a WR-like #8 ranking (fantasypros: #10)

Will Fuller V, Houston, WR

  • Fuller caught 7 TD passes last year on just 28 receptions (and 50 targets), an unsustainable rate.
  • Our model factors in regression from there, which is why it was encouraging to see his number of targets (9) and Catch% (88.9%) both rise in his 2018 debut last week.
  • TD regression should be offset by higher volume and more versatile usage.
  • The Giants are susceptible to big plays, having been burnt by Tavon Austin last week in Dallas.
  • Giants’ #2 corner Eli Apple is questionable to play, so Fuller should have his way.
  • He’s a borderline WR2, coming in at #24 in our rankings (fantasypros: #32)

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona, WR

  • Experts have bumped David Johnson too much after Arizona’s struggles, and Fitzgerald not enough.
  • Already more of a slot/possession WR at this stage of his career, 52.2% of his targets last year came on screens or in the short slot.
  • Now that Arizona doesn’t score as much, his projected TDs are way too low for him to be considered a WR2 in standard scoring (he’s still there in PPR).
  • Our model gives him only the 63rd-best chance of catching a TD this week, behind 6 RB
  • Throw in that his floor is 0 due to a hamstring injury last week, and he’s just our #36 WR in standard leagues (fantasypros: #24).

Will Dissly, Seattle, TE

  • The top 13 or so TE are not controversial at this point, so I’ll point out a sleeper.
  • Dissly ranks 3rd on Seattle with 10 targets. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s 15.1% of Seattle’s total, and we project only 13 TEs to surpass that target share this week.
  • The bottom line is he’s the #3 option for a good and productive QB, which gives him a higher floor and ceiling than 15 or so other starting TE.
  • He’s our #16 TE this week (fantasypros: #21), which makes him a desirable waiver-wire add if you drafted Delanie Walker or Greg Olsen.

Trey Burton, Chicago, TE

  • A lot of the hype on Burton stemmed from expectations that he could be Chicago’s #1 passing option, but that hasn’t come to fruition thus far.
  • Allen Robinson had a monster 41% target share last week, while Burton was at a TE2-ish 11%.
  • That target share needs to be closer to 20% for Burton to post sure-fire TE1 stats, given Trubisky’s limitations and inefficiency.
  • As is, we project a 16% target share, which isn’t going to cut it, unless he continues to catch shovel passes for TDs at the goal-line.
  • He’s our #13 TE this week (fantasypros: #9).

Chandler Catanzaro, K, Tampa Bay

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick and his receivers are getting all the attention for Tampa’s surprisingly good offense (because they’re the ones responsible for it), but their kicker is a quiet beneficiary.
  • As long as a kicker’s team is expected to score lots of points and keep the game close, that kicker is in a solid spot
  • It helps that Catanzaro is pretty good (career 84%; 14 FGM over 40 yards last season) and that he plays most of his games, including his next one, in warm weather.
  • He’s our #10 kicker this week (fantasypros: #15), and now is a good time to scoop him up if you lost Daniel Carlson or Greg Zeuerlein.