This season, I am writing a weekly article for In-Between Media (IBT), giving you my takes on the fantasy football “winners and losers” after each week of NFL action. This will be an exciting topic to cover, and I will include my reasoning behind the judgments, along with actionable analysis when possible.
Now. let’s break down what was an unprecedented Week 3 of the NFL season.
Fantasy Football Winners & Losers: Week 3
De’Von Achane (RB, Miami Dolphins)
Typically, a player who scores 50 fantasy points in one game would be too obvious for one of my winners, but what De’Von Achane did on Sunday will not soon be forgotten. He was a slightly polarizing rookie prospect heading into the 2023 season. Achane had a solid college statistical profile and ran an NFL Combine-best 4.32 40-yard dash, but at only 5 feet 9 inches and 185 pounds, he was undersized. The historical hit rate for RBs under 200 pounds is not great, and there was concern about the volume of touches he would receive in the NFL.
Achane was inactive due to injury in Week 1, then saw only two touches and a 10% snap share in Week 2. Not surprisingly, many who spent a later-round draft pick on Achane in redraft leagues became impatient, and he became an appealing drop option as the early-season waiver darlings materialized. I was guilty of that in a few leagues. Achane’s rostership in ESPN leagues was only 15.6% entering Week 3.
Much like the entire Dolphins’ offense, Achane went berserk against the Broncos. Achane turned 18 rush attempts into 203 rushing yards and two TDs, including an impressive 67-yard run to take the Dolphins to 70 points. He also caught all four of his targets for 30 yards and another two TDs and finished the day with 50.3 Points Per Reception (PPR) fantasy points. Teammate Raheem Mostert also had a huge day, with four TDs of his own, but Achane out-touched and outscored him. The Dolphins did build a massive lead, which contributed to the rookie’s team-leading RB volume and yards from scrimmage, but Achane looked amazing and should be here to stay as a major contributor in the Dolphins’ backfield.
James Cook (RB, Buffalo Bills)
I am preparing myself to potentially have been wrong about James Cook. To be clear, my fading of Cook was based on disagreeing with the expectation from some that he would be the lead rushing back on the Bills. I never thought he was a bad RB, just that nothing he did in college indicated a workhorse role in the NFL was in his range of outcomes.
It’s not common for a running back’s average market share to significantly increase after they reach the NFL. Cook put up stellar efficiency metrics in 2022, which I chalked up to only being sustainable at low volumes. I will be the first to admit there was some “take-lock” in play with my view on Cook. I was fine with him at a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3 price tag, but I was out on anything higher than that.
Through three weeks, I’m ready to take the L. Cook has averaged the following numbers:
- 60% snap share
- 14.7 rush attempts per game
- 89 rushing yards per game
- 6.1 Yards Per Carry (YPC)
- 4.3 targets per game
- 62.1% RB opportunity share
- 60% RB rush attempt share
Cook hasn’t put up monster fantasy days yet because he hasn’t gotten in the endzone, which is a concern. The combination of Damien Harris, Latavius Murray and Josh Allen will likely continue to limit Cook’s potential RB1 ceiling. But, especially in the current injury-riddled RB landscape, Cook is now a high-end RB2 in my view.
Sam LaPorta (TE, Detroit Lions)
It finally happened in Week 3. One of the big three rookie TEs caught a TD pass. We all want TDs from our TEs. In the current climate, a touchdown all but guarantees a top-six finish at the tight end position for the week. Rookie TEs also have an abysmal track record with fantasy relevance. But that is mostly due to the fact that rookie TEs usually don’t see the snap share or volume during their rookie season that would facilitate consistent fantasy scoring.
Since 2009, none of 211 drafted TEs have finished in the top five in fantasy points per game as a rookie. Just three have finished top 10, and only five finished in the top 15. The three top-10 rookie TEs were Jordan Reed, Evan Engram and Kyle Pitts.
Here are their average targets per game and snap shares as rookies:
- Reed (2023): 6.7 targets per game; 56% snap share
- Engram (2017): 7.7 targets per game; 77% snap share
- Pitts (2021): 6.5 targets per game; 74% snap share
Now look at how Sam LaPorta has been ramping up over the first three weeks of 2023, especially with his target share:
- Week 1: Five targets; 15.6% target share; 83% snap share
- Week 2: Six targets; 17.6% target share; 82% snap share
- Week 3: 11 targets; 35.5% target share; 74% snap share
LaPorta is seeing even more playing time and volume than the three historical rookie top-10 examples. He has been a big fantasy football winner so far, and he could buck the trend and be the first rookie TE to finish in the top five.
Justin Fields (QB, Chicago Bears)
It has gone from bad to worse for Justin Fields and the Bears in 2023. Whether you want to blame Fields, the coaching staff, ownership or a combination of each, Fields is looking like a fantasy bust this year. I fell in the camp that has been high on Fields and thought he would take another step forward this season, but so far, the step seems to be in the opposite direction. Fields did get back in the running game in Week 3 after rushing for only three yards on four attempts versus the Buccaneers in Week 2. But Fields’ 47 rushing yards on 11 carries in Week 3 were the only positive of the day. In a negative game script against the Chiefs, Fields threw 22 passes and completed only 11 of them for 99 yards. He did throw a TD pass to D.J. Moore, but he also added an interception on a very poorly thrown ball.
Although the two “Monday Night Football” games remain, Fields is the QB23 on the week with only 10.5 fantasy points. The Bears have opened the season with a relatively tough QB schedule, and their next three matchups with the Broncos, Commanders and Vikings might lend to some better fantasy days for Fields. But negative game scripts like the one the Bears found themselves in against the Chiefs usually make QBs into fantasy football winners. Instead, Fields put up a losing performance and had one of the worst games of his NFL career. I will have a tough time starting Fields until I see something change in Chicago.
Joshua Kelley (RB, Los Angeles Chargers)
Mostly an afterthought entering the 2023 season, Joshua Kelley burst onto the fantasy scene in Week 1, rushing for 91 yards and a TD on 15 carries. And that was with Austin Ekeler. Then Ekeler injured his ankle and was ruled out for Week 2 and Week 3. Rightly so, Kelley was a popular waiver add after Week 1. He had just scored 15.1 PPR points alongside Ekeler and was primed to take over as the primary RB in Week 2. Expectations were tempered in Week 2 in a matchup with the Titans, one of the toughest matchups for fantasy RBs so far this season. The stars were seemingly aligned in Week 3 with a game against the Vikings, a bottom-10 RB matchup that had just given up 234 yards to the Eagles’ backs in Week 2.
The biggest risk with a running back like Kelley is that he just has not been that good outside of that Week 1 game. But with the rapidly shifting 2023 RB landscape, mainly due to a slew of injuries, a starting RB projected to receive a large workload against what looks like a soft matchup is difficult to pass up, even with that risk. Unfortunately, Kelley crashed and burned against the Vikings, rushing for only 12 yards on 11 rush attempts and seeing only one target.
The Chargers’ passing attack carried the team with career days from both Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen, but the game was close from start to finish. The relative lack of rushing cannot be attributed to the game script. We still do not know when Ekeler will return to the fold. The Chargers do have a juicy RB matchup on the horizon against the Bears in Week 6 and a decent matchup with the Panthers in Week 4. But it will be difficult for managers to proceed with Kelley after only 1.1 YPC on the 11 carries he did get in Week 3.
Jahan Dotson (WR, Washington Commanders)
Jahan Dotson is another wide receiver that I have been high on since he entered the NFL in 2022. With Terry McLaurin’s toe injury deeming him questionable in Week 1, I legitimately thought Dotson might take over as the WR1 for the Commanders out of the gate in 2023. Dotson flashed as a rookie, catching seven TDs on only 61 targets for an 11.5% TD rate. His peripheral market share numbers were not eye-popping, but he scored above average against all types of coverage and showed success across a variety of route types (according to Reception Perception).
However, that has not translated into any sustained success so far in 2023. After seeing nine targets for a healthy 24.1% target share in Week 1, it has been a downward trend for Dotson:
- Week 2: Five targets; 14.7% target share
- Week 3: Four targets; 13.8% target share
This downturn has coincided with erratic QB play from Sam Howell. Still, with these types of trends, it does not matter why. Unless the Commanders make a change at the QB position, we seem to be in a “hoping-for- a-TD” situation with Dotson, which is something to avoid if possible.
Not What It Seems: Fantasy Football Panic Meter
The following players were fantasy disappointments in Week 3, but my concern is low moving forward (for now):
- CeeDee Lamb (WR, Dallas Cowboys)
- Tyler Lockett (WR, Seattle Seahawks)
- Geno Smith (QB, Seattle Seahawks)
- Bijan Robinson (RB, Atlanta Falcons)
- Mark Andrews (TE, Baltimore Ravens)
The following players were disappointments in Week 3, and I am concerned about them moving forward:
- Tyler Allgeier (RB, Atlanta Falcons)
- Khalil Herbert (RB, Chicago Bears)
- Ryan Tannehill (QB, Tennessee Titans)
- Zay Jones (WR, Jacksonville Jaguars)
- Brandin Cooks (WR, Dallas Cowboys)
- Darren Waller (TE, New York Giants)
The following players ended up with decent fantasy days in Week 3, but I am not optimistic from a season-long lens:
- Jonnu Smith (TE, Atlanta Falcons)
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB, Kansas City Chiefs)
- Alexander Mattison (RB, Minnesota Vikings)
- Josh Palmer (WR, Los Angeles Chargers)
Thanks for reading my Week 3 fantasy football winners and losers. As always, find me on Twitter, talking fantasy football, joking around, posting GIFs and lending my support where it’s needed @MunderDifflinFF.
*Photo Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck – USA TODAY Sports*