Week 3 has come and gone, yet there still seems to be more questions than answers on both sides of the ball. A deeper dive into analytics should clarify who to buy while the price is still low and what to expect moving forward after some surprising week three stat-lines.
Additionally, recognizing favorable defensive matchups is equally as crucial as identifying undervalued fantasy assets. Surprising defensive performances are one of the more prominent talking points of Week 3. Determining whether defensive rankings are what they seem is another focus of this week’s dive into the analytics.
Allen Robinson – WR Chicago Bears
The lack of production from Robinson has caused fantasy owners to worry. Chicago has run the sixth-most offensive plays in 2021 but has by far the fewest deep passes on the season, with only five across three games. Robinson’s average depth of target has dropped from 9.1 yards in 2020 to 4.9 in 2021, so he is not generating the same chunk plays that he was over the last few years.
Now is certainly not the time to sell with the Chicago QB tumult and Robinson underperforming early in the season, but it is time to reset expectations. The volume should return as Robinson is the clear number one receiver on this roster, but his numbers will not drastically increase without the Bears taking more shots downfield.
Mike Evans – WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay surpassed Jacksonville this week for the most deep passes in the NFL with 32. Even though Evans has the lowest air yards before reception of his career so far, he is a solid buy candidate heading into Week 4 as their top deep-ball target. While Antonio Brown may have more air yards per reception, Evans is more heavily targeted and receives deeper looks than Chris Godwin.
Waiting until after Week 4 to buy may be better as Tampa is on the road against New England, who has allowed the fifth-fewest yards and points scored per game on the season. He could still have a great game against the Patriots. The Pats may have inflated stats after only facing the Dolphins, Jets, and Saints so far. Either way, Evans is a strong buy candidate who should continue making big plays and seeing plenty of end-zone targets.
James Robinson – RB Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have the most runs up the middle of any team through week three despite starting the season 0-3. James Robinson may have had a massive game with 15-88-1 on the ground and 6-46 through the air last week, but now is the time to sell.
Robinson’s snap percentage lowered to 59% in week three, and he is on an offense that should not score a lot this season. He will not be a weekly starter with typically low-value touches up the middle unless he can break more big plays from his four reception per game pace.
Air Yard Leaders
Air yards lead to big plays, and big plays lead to fantasy points. The teams leading in air yards through week three are:
|Team||Air Yards (weeks 1-3)|
Stefon Diggs is elite. Everyone knows that, but what about the other options? Emmanuel Sanders is coming off a monster performance of 5-92-2 on six targets, and Cole Beasley had 11-98-0 on 13 targets. Sanders will not have two touchdowns every week, but he out-snapped Beasley and Davis in Week 3. After having such an excellent performance, Sanders is not necessarily a buy candidate, but he should be held as a flex-worthy option with upside on any given week.
Evans, Godwin, and Brown are all weekly starters. Having any shares of this receiving game is beneficial.
DJ Chark has been a buy candidate all season because the air yards are coming his way. He only had three receptions in week three, but 16.3 yards per reception and a touchdown on six targets are still a sign of things to come. It may be harder to buy him after a week with a touchdown, but the boom games should continue throughout the season.
Buy Henry Ruggs III. He has seven targets each of the last two games, averaging over 21.5 yards per reception on the season. With Las Vegas airing the ball out this much, Ruggs has an incredible big-play upside. With this uptick in targets, his floor is higher than people realize, and he should be a solid season-long flex option.
Mac Jones had 51 pass attempts against the Saints in week three. While he did not do much with the attempts, ending with 30/51 for only 270 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions, his receivers received a plethora of targets. Jakobi Meyers may have been the target leader with 14, but Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne received more deep passes with eight targets each.
Agholor is New England’s highest-paid receiver with higher value targets than Meyers and more total targets than Bourne on the season. He could be a solid temporary starting option over the next four weeks against the Buccaneers, Texans, Cowboys, and Jets. Agholor should be dirt cheap to buy (if even rostered), so he could be worth a start with some clear upside in deeper leagues.
Washington Football Team
The Washington defense has allowed the most offensive plays and total yards through Week 3. This defense has the perception of being great because of the capital spent across the board. Eight of the eleven designated weekly starters were top-50 NFL draft picks, including six first-rounders, skewing public opinion.
Argue all you whether it is the players’ or coaches’ faults, but the truth is that Washington remains an easier matchup until they can prove otherwise. They have faced some decent overall teams, but allowing 92 points through three games is unacceptable.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Is the Buccaneers defense still elite? They have allowed 88 points (27th) on the season and have been abysmal against quarterbacks (31st) and wide receivers (32nd) in most fantasy formats. They have had an overall difficult schedule, but the Falcons are not world-beaters by any means. The Buccaneers have been a favorable matchup through the first three games.
|Offensive plays allowed||29th|
|Yards allowed per play||18th|
|Total yards allowed||27th|
Yards Allowed per Play
The fewest yards allowed per play on the season are:
Cincinnati has allowed the second-most total offensive plays but has the seventh-fewest total yards allowed. So far, the teams they have faced are down at 28th, 31st, and 23rd in air yards per pass attempt, but their defense is worth monitoring.
The other four listed have allowed the fewest total yards and appear to be elite. Carolina has been the top defense giving up the fewest total yards, fewest yards per play, and allowed the fewest offensive plays.
On the other hand, nine teams are allowing 6.0+ yards per play:
Indianapolis is the most surprising, but they have also faced the Seahawks, Rams, and Titans so far. Their defense should not be dismissed entirely, but they are also worth monitoring as the season continues.