Posted Thursday for TNF and updated Friday for the main slate, “The Fantasy Blueprint” will get you the stats and information that actually matter for fantasy football, and it will be produced in a way that doesn’t waste our time. If you don’t know what “Fantasy Usage” is, read this. If you want my best bets, they’ll be at the top on Saturday. If you need live Vegas odds, go here. If you simply just want my weekly rankings (posted Wednesday), subscribe here for $3.99 per month and use promo code WINKS10 for 10% off. If you have other questions, reach out on Twitter (@HaydenWinks).
Analysis coming Friday.
Carson is my RB14 this week. Subscribe to Rotoworld EDGE+ here to unlock the rest of my personal weekly positional rankings (posted Wednesday) for only $3.99 per month. Use promo code: WINKS10 for 10% off.
My bet for the most underappreciated 2020 offense, the Jaguars catch a good spot at home against Miami’s 29th-ranked passing EPA defense. Jacksonville is 3rd in ESPN’s pass block win rate and is incorporating quick-hitting concepts to get playmakers in space. Gardner Minshew is accurate and willing to play downfield when asked, plus offers 23.8 rushing yards per game. Minshew, who is the QB11 in 2020 after being the QB14 in 2019, belongs on the QB1/2 borderline. … Tyler Eifert has run a route on 66% of dropbacks this season, but it’s only translated to TE26 production. That could increase if Chark is out, although Eifert is on the TE2/3 borderline in most matchups. … TE James O’Shaughnessy runs some routes if looking for a punt play in DFS Showdown.
D.J. Chark’s WR90 fantasy usage and 11% target share are some of the bigger question marks of the fantasy year. I think there’s something to OC Jay Gruden opting for more balance within his receiving group, but I think his chest and back injuries are the true culprit. Chark was limited on Monday and Tuesday before not practicing at all on Wednesday. His individual matchup, if healthy, is a good one with Dolphins CB Byron Jones (groin) ruled out. Expecting any sort of floor with Chark is not wise. He’s best viewed as a flex play right now. … Keelan Cole (WR52 fantasy usage), Laviska Shenault (WR67 fantasy usage), and Chris Conley (WR78 fantasy usage) round out his low-key deep receiving corps. Shenault, the second-round rookie with elite athleticism, has flashed the most and Gruden is scheming him touches out wide, in the slot, and out of the backfield. Shenault’s role will improve as the season progresses, and he’s already playing on 57% of dropbacks. He gets a slight boost playing against Miami’s No. 30 ranked rushing EPA defense because of potential short-yardage wild cat plays. Shenault has some flex appeal, particularly if Chark is out. Cole is the starting slot receiver and runs the second-most routes on the team behind Chark. He’s a good fit with a Gruden’s offense that’s utilized underneath receivers in recent seasons. On the other hand, Conley is a rotational player (39% routes) who wins vertically, making him a boom-bust WR5 in plus matchups like this one. He’d be the biggest beneficiary if Chark is unable to go.
Game script and defensive matchups are positives for James Robinson, who has 35-of-37 RB carries through two games as Jacksonville’s workhorse grinder. The Dolphins have allowed the 6th most rush attempts compared to the 30th most pass attempts this season, which lines up with 2019 totals, too. Robinson is a candidate for 15-20 carries and all goal-line opportunities as a borderline RB2/3. … Chris Thompson is out there on just under half of the Jaguars’ dropbacks but hasn’t received many targets with other underneath players higher in the pecking order. His RB64 fantasy usage, and Jacksonville’s status as 2.5-point favorites work against the unplayable Thompson.
Tua Tagovailoa hasn’t been tackled since surgery, meaning Ryan Fitzpatrick is likely here to stay. He survived an impossible opening schedule (NE, BUF) and is rewarded with a fully healthy receiving corps and a date with a Jaguars’ team that’s dead last in passing EPA defense. Fitzpatrick, the QB20 through two weeks, is a viable QB2 streamer despite a round matchup on Thursday night. … Mike Gesicki counts as a tight end in fantasy circles, but he’s truly a slot receiver with 80% of his routes coming from that position. Gesicki was breaking out to close the 2019 season — he finished as the TE5 from Week 13 on — and is clearly on his way to every-week TE1 status through two weeks this season. He has TE3 usage on a team-high 21% target share, while showcasing his 97th percentile athleticism in the red zone. Jacksonville’s safeties and linebackers are positions to attack for fantasy purposes, as evidenced by their No. 29 ranking against the position thus far. … Durham Smythe is a blocking tight end but does run a handful of routes per game as a DFS Showdown punt play.
DeVante Parker (hamstring) practiced in full Wednesday, a sign that his injury is behind him. This week’s matchup is far easier than his last two, especially if he avoids CB C.J. Henderson as projected. Parker’s WR17 fantasy usage is a great sign for his upside WR3 billing. Last week, he showed burst while running routes on 91% of dropbacks. … From The Fantasy Usage Model, “Preston Williams has been utilized (WR37 fantasy usage) but has just missed on plays. His 28% air yards share will pay off eventually, and a Week 3 matchup against the Jaguars (3rd most passing yards allowed) is an ideal way to cash in positive regression tickets. Williams has some flex appeal in 12-team leagues despite a WR101 start to the season.” … An undersized slot player, Isaiah Ford has quietly posted WR53 fantasy usage while Miami has played in comeback mode in two-straight weeks. Off the radar in standard-sized redraft leagues, Ford has sleeper appeal in DFS Showdown after running a route on 74% of Week 2 dropbacks.
Running back roles have been defined in Miami. Myles Gaskin (RB27 fantasy usage) is the passing-down back while Jordan Howard (RB52 fantasy usage) handles goal-line duties. Howard only has a 6% touch share while trailing, so he has zero floor if things get away from Miami early. Gaskin is the preferred play in DFS Showdown after seeing 24% of touches while trailing through two games. Matt Breida has only played 22% of offensive snaps.
Even before Saquon Barkley’s ACL tear, the Giants were 1st in neutral pass rate (61%) while opting for a quick-hitting passing attack under Daniel Jones. With receiving talent in bulk, Jones projects for top-8 passing volume (currently 6th in attempts). San Francisco’s defense is without DE Nick Bosa, DT Solomon Thomas, and CB Richard Sherman, plus has starters who are battling through injuries. It’s an underrated spot for Jones as a mid-range QB2, but the porous OL holds him back from reaching the top-15. … From The Fantasy Usage Model, “Through two games, Evan Engram has TE7 fantasy usage but TE23 fantasy production. Given Engram’s talent and athleticism, this is the definition of just running bad on a small sample, making this a no-brainer buy low spot. That’s especially the case with Barkley and Shepard injured. Expect Engram’s 19% target share to climb right away. Even against the 49ers’ stud linebackers, I like Engram as a top-8 option this week.”
WR analysis will be added following official injury reports Friday.
ESPN’s Jordan Raanan made waves this week for his opinions on the Giants’ RB situation. In the offseason he believed Wayne Gallman “could carry the load” if Saquon were to miss time, but after seeing Dion Lewis and talking to sources, he wrote that Dion Lewis is “the best bet to be the Giants’ top back” even with Devonta Freeman signing for near the veteran minimum. I lean Lewis in Week 3 and potentially beyond given his familiarity with the offense, pass-blocking skills, and fit with New York’s pass-heavy approach. Lewis is a boom-bust RB2/3 for now. Freeman and Gallman are bench stashes. There’s a chance all three cannibalize each other’s flex appeal.
The Cowboys/Seahawks is the game of the week with both teams projected for 25+ points each and Dallas playing at the fastest pace in the NFL. The team with the best mixture of points and pace is the Cardinals, and it’s not particularly close. The Chargers and to a lesser extent the Colts are two teams that may go overlooked this week. On the flip side, expectations for the Texans should be held in check given their low team total and slow pace.
Defensive plays allowed is the most underrated fantasy football stat when it comes for analyzing matchups. Unlike efficiency metrics, plays allowed incorporates important things like pace, ball control, and strengths/weaknesses of a defense. For example, the Bengals aren’t a great passing defense in terms of efficiency, but they’ve allowed the second-fewest pass attempts because teams get up early against them and run the ball (most rush attempts allowed). I highly encourage looking at this chart every week. It’s a great way to break ties. For more on this topic, I listed potential “pass funnels” and “run funnels” in this tweet.
There are quite a few teams in “eruption spots” when it comes strictly to offensive efficiency. The Titans and Jaguars are surprisingly projected for quality passing attacks, while the Texans, Lions, Browns, and Eagles may be overrated this week. In terms of two strong teams clashing, I’m most excited about the Rams/Bills matchup. It’s two of the best-coached teams in the NFL.
The Packers have had the most efficient rushing attack in the NFL, and it hasn’t been close (read: unsustainably good). You can say the opposite about the Bengals, who may be pivoting to more spread concepts after small sample success with it last week. That’d be a benefit to Joe Mixon. The Jaguars, Patriots, Vikings, Ravens, and Cardinals stick out as rushing offenses in great spots. Despite being in the bad bottom-left quadrant, the Colts rushing offense will smash, too, even if it’s more volume-based.
Passing volume can be forced by the scoreboard. We see pass rates spike/fall when a team’s in-game winning percentage exits the 25-75% middle ground, which is what I define as “neutral game script.” We can project game script by using Vegas’ point spreads, thus the reason for this chart. The Panthers, Jets, Rams, Vikings, and Bears are teams that likely pass more than normal this week because they’re all underdogs, while the Eagles, Patriots, Seahawks, and Colts are likely to rush more often because they’re all favorites. The Chargers already run a lot and are heavy favorites, setting them up for a ton of rushes in Week 3.
Neutral pass rate is how often an offense passes the ball in situations where teams typically have a choice between passing or rushing. That means I remove garbage-time plays, two-minute drills, and third downs. This chart simply ranks teams by how often they’re choosing to pass. I listed the offenses with the biggest neutral pass rate changes from last season in this tweet.
I’ll clean this chart up moving forward, but this shows how many fantasy points each defense allows only on passing plays (read: no rushing). Teams are ranked from easiest defensive matchup to hardest, meaning the Colts have allowed the fewest PPR points in the air so far. The blue part of the bar shows PPR points allowed from the slot, while the orange part of the bar shows PPR points allowed from the outside or in the backfield (remember receiving only).
When it comes to picking defenses, I care about how often they’re expected to create pressure and how many points they’re expected to give up. The three teams that check these two boxes the most this week are the Steelers, Colts, and Bucs with the Browns, 49ers, and Charges in a tier right below. I’d pivot off the Ravens, Bears, and Broncos if I’d used them in previous weeks due to matchup.