Fantasy football Week 3 recap and top waiver wire picks

A chaotic fantasy football season continued Sunday, but we actually got to see some quality games.

Of the 14 games played on Sunday, eight of them finished with a margin of victory within 10 points. Seven of those games finished with a margin of victory within six points. Even Monday’s game was close until late as the Cowboys topped the Cardinals 28-17.

Sunday didn’t start out with a quality game, however. The Jacksonville Jaguars must have felt at home as they trounced the Baltimore Ravens 44-7 in London, England early.

Blake Bortles made you think he’s still a viable fantasy option as he threw four touchdowns on the day. Three of those scores went to Marcedes Lewis, the Jaguars’ tight end who hadn’t caught three touchdowns in a game ever. In fact, he hadn’t scored that many TDs in a whole season since 2013 when he had four.

The Ravens skill players were non-existent in terms of fantasy. It’s hard to trust the results of this game, given the unique circumstances. Suffice it to say Bortles may have some viability left while the Ravens running backs aren’t actually as bad as they appeared. One thing is undeniable, though, and that’s that the Jags’ defense is a real option to start for you.

Speaking of what looked like a good start, turns out Trevor Siemian isn’t John Elway just yet. He feasted on a poor Cowboys secondary last week but didn’t find such success against the Bills. Though he turned the ball over twice, he managed to provide enough for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to avoid turning in dud games.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) gestures during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

One thing to keep an eye on from this game was the use of Jamaal Charles. C.J. Anderson was great in the first two weeks, but Charles had the same amount of touches as Anderson and scored. Charles also outgained Anderson 57 to 43.

Another running back tandem that had better success was the one in Chicago. Jordan Howard, though banged up, had his best game of the season with 138 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including the game winner against the Steelers in overtime. Tarik Cohen nearly scored the winning touchdown but was ruled out of bounds, negating an electrifying play. He finished with 102 yards of offense.

On the other side of the ball, Antonio Brown was reliable as always with over 100 yards and a score. Le’Veon Bell had his best fantasy game of the season as he finally got into the end zone.

The best running back performance of the week came from Todd Gurley on Thursday night. He scored three times and totaled 149 yards.

Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams rushes for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium on September 21, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Another back that came through was the ultra-efficient Chris Thompson of Washington. I didn’t think he would be able to keep making the most of his few touches like he did in the first two weeks. Well, the Redskins gave him 18 touches for 188 yards and a touchdown. Shut me up.

A running back that has to have few doubters left is rookie Kareem Hunt. He scored once again, this time from 69 yards in the fourth quarter. Hunt became the first player ever to score a touchdown from beyond 50 yards in each of his first three career games.

Dalvin Cook, another rookie, Devonta Freeman and DeMarco Murray all had big days. Murray surprised with a 115-yard performance, highlighted by a 75-yard score. Cook totaled 169 yards and scored while Freeman rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown.

On the flip side, Terrance West, Jay Ajayi and Marshawn Lynch were terrible in what looked to be decent matchups.

In a far cry from last week, 13 wide receivers caught passes for over 100 yards. The best performance of the week came from Stefon Diggs, who caught eight passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. It was quite the surprise given that Case Keenum was his quarterback Sunday. Even Adam Thielen had a serviceable five catch-98 yard game.

Stefon Diggs #14 of the Minnesota Vikings catches the ball for a touchdown over defender Vernon Hargreaves #28 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second quarter of the game on September 24, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

T.Y. Hilton had a surprisingly good game with Jacoby Brissett at the helm. Hilton caught seven passes for 153 yards and a touchdown.

Brandin Cooks had his best game as a Patriot, catching five passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner in the final minute.

Larry Fitzgerald had a huge game for the Cardinals, like I thought he would, taking advantage of a banged up Cowboys secondary. He caught 13 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.

Fitzgerald’s counterpart nearly had a terrible game, but Dez Bryant was able to turn a short pass into a highlight score as he dragged four defenders into the end zone with the help of his teammates. The Cowboys’ best receiver of the night turned out to be Brice Butler. He caught just two passes but gained 90 yards and scored.

Sammy Watkins had his best game as a Ram on Thursday. He scored twice and gained 106 yards.

Chris Hogan, Jordy Nelson and Odell Beckham Jr. each scored twice as well. Beckham Jr. made another one-handed highlight catch for his second score of the day.

New York Giants’ Odell Beckham, left, catches a touchdown against Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Mills during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The worst receiving performance of the day was put up by Kelvin Benjamin, though it was mostly due to his leg injury. With him and Greg Olsen already out, Cam Newton was terrible.

The only worse performance from a quarterback was by Joe Flacco, who scored negative fantasy points.

It’s important to mention that Russell Wilson finally looked like he did in the second half of last season. He threw for a career-high 373 yards and four touchdowns. If you bought him low after his first two weeks, good for you. Wilson even hooked up with Jimmy Graham well. The tight end caught seven passes for 72 yards.

It’s been a tough two years for tight ends. Fifteen of them caught touchdowns this week, though. Vernon Davis was a big factor in the Redskins’ win on Sunday night. If Jordan Reed stays sidelined, Davis can be a nice pickup.

Top waiver wire picks

Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants: 7 rec., 133 yards, TD.

Taylor Gabriel, WR, Falcons: 5 rec., 79 yards, TD.

Case Keenum, QB, Vikings: A great streaming option for as long as Sam Bradford is out.

Robert Woods, WR, Rams: 6 rec., 108 yards.

Brice Butler, WR, Cowboys: 2 rec., 90 yards, TD. If he can continue to stretch the field and catch jump balls, things could open up for the passing game.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Broncos: He’s owned in just 33 percent of Yahoo leagues. Stow him away if you have room.

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texans: 10 touches, 90 yards.

Wendell Smallwood, RB, Eagles: Darren Sproles is out with a broken arm and Smallwood stepped up.

Robby Anderson, WR, Jets: 3 rec., 95 yards, TD

Vernon Davis, TE, Redskins: 5 rec., 58 yards, TD

17 for ’17: Fantasy Football Predictions for 2017

Fantasy football success can come through many avenues. It can come through dogged research and statistical analysis. It can come through eye tests and understanding likely game scripts. Sometimes success comes from going with your gut. Ideally, your preparation is a well-rounded mix, but there’s a lot to be said for that gut feeling. With the NFL season a week away from kicking off, here are 17 gut predictions for the upcoming fantasy football season. Make sure to stay updated up until your draft with our standard and PPR rankings.

1. David Johnson will rush for 1,000 yards and gain 1,000 yards receiving. Last season he was 121 yards shy of accomplishing the feat when he got hurt in the final game of the season. This time he’ll make it happen. The receiving corps isn’t outstanding, so he’ll have ample opportunity to be used in the passing game. He caught 80 passes last year, more than Brandin Cooks, Terrelle Pryor, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson and Pierre Garcon.

2. Todd Gurley won’t be as disappointing as last season, but he won’t finish the season as an RB1. While it’s great that Jeff Fisher is finally gone and Sammy Watkins is now on the team, Gurley still has a bad line in front of him. In addition to that, he just doesn’t look good when he has to make one guy miss. He rushed for 3.2 yards per carry last season and had a long run of just 24 yards.

3. Martavis Bryant will finish the season as a WR2 or better. Before he was suspended last season, he was targeted 92 times in 2015. He caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns. Bryant has looked solid in preseason and his talent is undeniable. He’ll definitely be able to hold off Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

4. Marshawn Lynch won’t break 850 yards rushing. His coach said he doesn’t want to give him more than 200 rushing attempts. It’ll be tough for him to be an RB1 with that volume. Also, people forget that before he was injured in 2015, he wasn’t playing very well. He had 417 yards on 111 carries for a 3.8 yard per carry average. He scored just three times.

5. Jay Cutler will make DeVante Parker a WR2 and Julius Thomas a TE1. Smoking Jay Cutler has never lacked ability. He just needs a good situation in which to thrive. If he can get the ball out quickly and rely on Jay Ajayi’s running ability, the passing game will open up and provide nice numbers Parker and Thomas wouldn’t have gotten with Ryan Tannehill.

6. LeGarrette Blount will have major regression, rushing for less than 8 touchdowns this season. He had 18 rushing touchdowns last season and won’t come close to that production this year. The running style of the Eagles isn’t conducive to Blount’s style. The Eagles’ best back last year rushed for just 661 yards. Blount was in a perfect situation last year. He won’t repeat.

7. Dak Prescott will be a top-6 fantasy quarterback. The lack of Ezekiel Elliott for (likely) six games will force the Cowboys to rely on the second-year quarterback that has looked great in preseason. Prescott was third in quarterback rating last season, but threw for just 229 yards per game. That was 26th best last season. If he can keep the efficiency up in an increased passing role, his fantasy scoring could propel him to the top tier.

8. Jamison Crowder will score more fantasy points than Terrelle Pryor. He already has chemistry with Kirk Cousins, playing in all 32 games in his first two seasons. Crowder was targeted 97 times last season with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both ahead of him last year. Pryor will be the focus of defenses, leaving Crowder with softer coverage.

9. Mark Ingram will be the best running back in New Orleans this season. He finally rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, but the Saints brought in Adrian Peterson. Ingram had a very efficient season, rushing 205 times with a 5.1 yard per carry average. He’s rushed for at least six touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. What’s even more encouraging is his reception numbers over the last two seasons. He’s caught 96 passes in the last two years. Ingram had four receiving touchdowns last year.

10. Jeremy Hill will win out in the battle of the Bengals running backs. Joe Mixon looks like he can do anything, and he probably can if his head coach lets him loose. But Marvin Lewis doesn’t like to do that. Gio Bernard will remain the third-down back and provide a change of pace. Hill is a veteran and is nursing an ankle injury now, but if he stays healthy then Lewis will trust him.

11. Nobody will have 100 receptions this season. Just three receivers had more than 100 receptions last season. Larry Fitzgerald (107), Antonio Brown (106) and Odell Beckham Jr. (101) were the only players to accomplish that feat last year. Fitzgerald is getting old, Brown will share targets with Bryant and Beckham Jr. has Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram to contend with. The player that was next closest was Julian Edelman with 98 catches.

12. Matthew Stafford will respond to his mega contract with a top-8 fantasy performance this season. When the Lions didn’t draft one of the many available running backs, it became clear that they are happy with Stafford throwing the ball. Last season he threw 594 passes and the Lions rushed just 350 times, tied for the league low. With two agile, pass-catching running backs and a lot of receiving options, Stafford will put up big numbers.

13. Zach Ertz will be a top-5 tight end. Ertz was the number one receiving option in Philly last season, but when Alshon Jeffery joined the team it seemed he’d take a back seat. He may not be the top option for the Eagles anymore, but Jordan Matthews shipping off to Buffalo opens things back up. Ertz might be the No. 2 option but put up bigger raw numbers since he won’t be the focus of the defense.

14. Keenan Allen will play 16 games for the first time in his career. He’s looked great in the preseason and after playing just nine games in two years I’ve got a feeling he finally puts an entire season together. If he can pull that off, he’ll likely post career highs in catches and yards.

15. Andrew Luck won’t start the season, but he’ll end up as a QB1. He hasn’t practiced all preseason after undergoing shoulder surgery seven months ago. Chuck Pagano is being tight-lipped on the quarterback’s availability. It’s definitely a situation to be concerned about. But I just have a gut feeling that he’ll be back before too long. The good news is he’s falling in most drafts. You may be able to take him a lot later than his ADP (8th round). He’s going as low as the 11th in some drafts.

16. At least five rookie running backs will be RB1 or RB2 status. Leonard Fournette will benefit from volume while Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey can showcase versatility. D’Onta Foreman has looked great in preseason and it doesn’t take him a lot of touches to be productive. He’ll play second fiddle to Lamar Miller early, but he could break out when given the opportunity.

17. Kareem Hunt will be the top-performing rookie, outpacing the running backs mentioned in prediction No. 16. Spencer Ware had a great season last year, except he didn’t get into the end zone often. If Hunt continues to look like he does in preseason, with little competition in KC, he could end up as a high-end RB2 or even a low-end RB1. The Chiefs offensive scheme benefits the rookie greatly.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football preseason first impressions

We finally got a look at some live football over the past week and there were a lot of things to take away. Here are a few thoughts as we look back at the first full week of games, and look forward at what’s to come:

Golladay puts fantasy owners on notice

Kenny Golladay might not be a sleeper anymore. He would have been a nice receiver to stow away late in your drafts but probably not now after catching two touchdown passes in his preseason debut. Golladay is going in the 14th round currently, but he likely moves up if he keeps it up.

Foreman to be more than a handcuff?

D’Onta Foreman looked great in his debut, busting out on a 41-yard run and averaging 8.4 yards per carry. Lamar Miller will start, but if Foreman continues to impress it will be hard for the Texans to keep him off the field.

Let these rookie QBs play

Deshaun Watson was 15 of 25 for 174 yards and rushed for a touchdown for the Texans. Mitch Trubisky had a dream debut for Chicago as he went 18 of 25 for 166 yards and a touchdown. And Patrick Mahomes has already moved up the depth chart to No. 2 behind Alex Smith. They all looked good, but they need to be named starters before you make any plans with them in mind.

When does Rico Gathers officially become fantasy-relevant?

Rico Gathers had four catches for 47 yards and scored for the second straight game in the preseason. With Jason Witten in front of him on the depth chart, does that mean he’s not going to contribute this year? He passes the eye test, though, and if he can carve himself a red zone role then it’s possible he makes it on some fantasy rosters.

RELATED: Fantasy football rankings: Top 250 (and more).

RELATED: Fantasy confessions of a 3-peat champ

Monitor these running backs

These backs aren’t currently the apparent starters on their teams. But that could change soon:
De’Angelo Henderson, Broncos: He had 54 yards and averaged 7.7 yards per carry in the first preseason game. The Broncos backfield is somewhat unsettled, though C.J. Anderson looks to be the starter.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Buccaneers: He’ll actually start the first four games for the suspended Doug Martin and it’s possible he could keep the job outright if he performs well.
Joe Williams, 49ers: Carlos Hyde is looking like he’ll keep his job, but Williams busted out for 60 yards on seven carries after it was reported he was having a bad camp.
Thomas Rawls, Seahawks: When Eddie Lacy signed with Seattle it was assumed he’d take over as the featured back. Rawls is hoping to hold him off, however, and started the first preseason game.
Dion Lewis, Patriots: Lewis was once considered a solid, versatile running back before injuries stalled his development. He looked good in the first week of preseason, gaining 55 yards on 11 touches. If Mike Gillislee struggles with his hamstring for long, Lewis could make a comeback.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

NFL rookies ready to make a fantasy impact

The NFL draft has come and gone and with it the expectations have been set for the incoming rookie class. Here’s a look at the rookies who can make an impact in your fantasy football leagues.

Early contributors

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars — He passes the eye test and has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson. I have a few doubts about that comparison, but he’s in a good spot and I’d expect him to get the share of carries next season despite the presence of Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon. Last year’s running back picked at No. 4 (Ezekiel Elliott) turned out all right. Fournette is at least an RB2 in my book, and could end up being a top-8 running back by the time the season is over. He’ll probably go in the second or third rounds of fantasy drafts.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers — This is a great situation for the rookie; Jonathan Stewart is entering his 11th year and McCaffrey has the versatility to take over touches from the other backs on the roster. If what he did in college is any indication, he’ll be starting outright soon enough. McCaffrey will be expected to take a lot of pressure off Cam Newton, likely acting as an outlet in the passing game. Look for him to go in the second or third rounds if he’s taken early. He may end up putting up flex-to-RB2 numbers.

Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal scores on a nineteen yard touchdown run against the Rice Owls in the third quarter of their NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Mike Williams, WR, Chargers — Outside of Keenan Allen, who is a walking injury waiting to happen, the Chargers have a lot of mediocre options at the position. Williams can make an early impact if he makes the most of his targets. He’s likely to go in the sixth or seventh round.

O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers — This could end up being more beneficial to Jameis Winston, who now has Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and now Howard as targets. Howard can line up almost anywhere on the field and will be a matchup nightmare. He might not be a TE1 to start the season, so don’t reach, but he could be a valuable late-round pick.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings — The offensive line is in rough shape, though they did address the need in the draft. If it improves significantly then Cook has a chance to produce. His ability to take it to the house on any play makes him an enticing pick. I see him as a flex player at this point, so he can be taken as early as the fifth, but maybe the sixth or seventh rounds are more appropriate given that Latavius Murray is in the picture.

Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles carries the ball in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines during the Capitol One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins — Matt Jones is still in the doghouse, but Rob Kelley is the likely starter. Perine can be an instant short-yardage and goal line specialist, which could prove to be valuable for fantasy. He’s got the size to handle a lot of touches so he may end up as Kelley’s handcuff.

Corey Davis, WR, Titans — The Titans have Rishard Matthews as their No. 1 wide receiver but Davis has the opportunity to become the new No. 1. He’ll have a chance to prove himself early and that’s a big factor for rookie success. He has WR2 potential.

Needing some seasoning

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints — Draft experts saw him as the fourth best running back in the draft, but going to the Saints where Mark Ingram has been the starter and Adrian Peterson just entered the picture doesn’t bode well for early production.

Alvin Kamara #6 carries the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 45-34. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals — So many questions surround this pick. From character issues to the fact that he enters a crowded backfield with a bruiser and a pass catcher already in play. That said, if he gets the opportunity he may end up being the value pick of the draft. People will shy away for various reasons, but the talent is there to be an RB1. It will take some mock drafting to figure out where, if at all, you’re willing to take him.

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texans — Lamar Miller will be the starter once the season gets going, but he’s had a history of getting run down in the latter part of the season. If Foreman makes a mark early, he can have a solid floor of production, even as a situational back.

Texas RB D’Onta Foreman goes through some pass catching drills as he performed for NFL scouts Tuesday March 28, 2017 during Pro Timing Day at the University inside the team practice bubble.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Zay Jones, WR, Bills — He can turn into a possession receiver if he can click with Tyrod Taylor early. Sammy Watkins is the best option on the team, but Jones can turn into the No. 2 WR if he can outplay Brandon Tate and Andre Holmes.

ArDarius Stewart, WR, Jets — With Brandon Marshall moving on to the Giants, there’s room for a new playmaker to rise to prominence. Stewart’s ability after the catch can help him carve a role with the Jets, but is Josh McCown going to play well enough for it to matter?

Possible sleeper

Joe Williams, RB, 49ers — Bad play-calling in the Super Bowl notwithstanding, Kyle Shanahan is an offensive guru and he was very happy grabbing Williams in the fourth round. Williams is definitely a risky pick, which is why you have to make sure your starting spots are filled before taking a flyer on him.

Let’s talk quarterbacks

The top four taken at the position all entered situations where they’ll sit or have to win a starting job. Not one is in a plug-and-play situation. Don’t draft any of them, but monitor closely. The key isn’t to wait on a big game before picking them up off the waiver wire. You have to see signs first. Then, only if you have room on your roster, you take a chance on the wire.

D’Onta Foreman’s potential fantasy value

D’Onta Foreman broke out in 2016, rushing for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns with the Texas Longhorns on his way to taking home the Doak Walker Award.

College stats don’t transfer to the pro ranks, but those kinds of numbers make him a valuable fantasy football prospect.

With that in mind we’ll take a look at potential second-round landing spots for the running back, and what his possible fantasy impact will be.

49ers (34th overall) — The 49ers are tired of worrying about when Carlos Hyde will get injured so much that they signed Tim Hightower. It’s a crowded situation, but Foreman would add some talented youth to the rookie head coach, and former Longhorn, Kyle Shanahan.

Jets (39th) — The Jets situation is similar to the 49ers. They might miss their chance on Leonard Fournette in the first round, so they might take the Doak Walker winner instead.

Eagles (43rd) — This would be a great spot for the rookie to make an immediate impact. Ryan Mathews can’t stay healthy and Darren Sproles is an undersized third down option. If Foreman can improve his pass protection, he’ll make his way onto the field early.

Bills (44th) — With the loss of Mike Gillislee to the Patriots, the Bills will want some youth backing up LeSean McCoy. Gillislee rushed 101 times for 577 yards and eight touchdowns. Those would be fantasy-relevant stats if Foreman ends up on the roster.

Colts (46th) — Fantasy gurus have been writing off Frank Gore for about five years now. His touches have to decrease at some point and if the Colts see Foreman in the middle of the second round, they could snatch him up. They’ll need to improve on their run blocking for Foreman to make an impact.

Ravens (47th) — Terrance West is the starter for now, but the Ravens would like to have their leading rusher gain more than 774 yards. Foreman has the tools to do so.

Redskins (49th) — Washington isn’t totally sold on Rob Kelley as the No. 1 guy. Foreman could get significant playing time early if he gets taken by the Redskins.

Buccaneers (50th) — Doug Martin is only good every other year, and if they miss on Dalvin Cook in the first round, Foreman could end up here.

Giants (55th) — If he falls to the late second round, the Giants would be lucky to have him. They’ve already got pass receivers out of the backfield. They need a solid first and second down back.

Packers (61st) — What a gift if they can land the 2,000-yard rusher at this spot with only Ty Montgomery as the only serviceable back. Foreman’s fantasy value would be pretty high if this happens.

Here’s a look at Foreman’s career at Texas.