Three weeks in the books and all that is certain is that the NFL is uncertain. Breakouts from Wide Receivers (Gordon, Brown), let downs from Quarterbacks (Kaepernick, Manning), and surprises from unknowns (Hoyer, Franklin) have opened up the fantasy landscape. The waiver wire will be abuzz this week, and some owners will face some major questions about their perceived studs going forward. Luckily for you, I am here to try and help you make some sense of all of this by recapping the past week, and projecting the upcoming one. Welcome to another week my column (every Wednesday throughout the season) where we play a little game of Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda. To recap the rules: the concept of this column is to highlight the past weeks most notable Fantasy performances from the most influential positions (Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, and Tight End). I will identify a player whom you would generally rely on as one of your starters that you Coulda started, but due to their lackluster performance should not have. Next will be a player who more than likely is on your bench or waiver wire that you Woulda started, and had you done so would have been rewarded with Starter-like numbers. And finally, I will list a player that if you could have had your pick of the entire NFL you Shoulda started, essentially the top performer at his position. Week 3 provided another offensive explosion, and there were several players who could have easily qualified for this list. Conversely, there were also many flops by some high profile guys you would normally count on. If you have any players you seek advice for, feel free to ask me on Twitter. Even if you do not have a question to ask, why not just click the follow button below anyways. You may pick up some other good information throughout the week. Comments on the article are always welcome, and encouraged. Now on to the show…
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Coulda relied on Eli Manning, New York Giants. (12-23 119 yards, 0 TD’s, 1 INT)
With all due respect to Peyton’s little brother, it could have very easily been Colin Kaepernick’s second straight week in this position. However, Eli was slightly worse. The combination of strong play by the Carolina defense, and the ineffectiveness of the Giants offensive line, was enough to bury Manning early and often. It appeared as though New York gave up at halftime, and if you were looking for the maligned QB to air it out this week, you probably gave up too. It is hard to see all the talent around him go to waste, but until he can straighten out it is tough to validate starting him.
Woulda dared to trust Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns. (30-54 321 yards, 3 TD’s, 3 INT’s)
Is Browns management smarter than us all, or is this just beginner’s luck? In a week in which they traded their franchise star, running back Trent Richardson, they also handed over the reigns of the organization to Brian Hoyer. Who?!? Yes, Brian Hoyer. A journeyman so far in his career, he looked confident and poised in leading the Browns to a road win at Minnesota. Regardless of if they trade any wide receivers, he will still have Jordan Cameron as a target. And that is worth keeping an eye on.
Shoulda had a beignet with Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints. (29-46 342 yards, 3 TD’s, 1 INT)
First week it was Peyton, not to be outdone by Aaron Rodgers in week two. Now, the third of the upper level quarterbacks makes his first appearance on the best in show list. Brees had it going all day at home, spreading it out to eight separate receivers, en route to leading the team to a 3-0 start. He has been anything but erratic, tossing for over 300 yards in every game so far this season. Having him on your roster makes choosing which QB to start a Brees (I know, I know…just awful).
Coulda hoped redemption for CJ Spiller, Buffalo Bills. (9 rush yds, 0 TD’s; 1-1 rec, 0 TD’s)
You thought the new Doug Marrone offense was going to propel Spiller to elite levels. You thought the Jets defense was overrated and would get torched again by CJ, as he did last year for 169 yards rushing in week one. Well, you guessed wrong on both and are now scrambling to replace the guy you spent a high draft pick on. What has gone wrong in Buffalo? Whatever the issues are, do not expect things to change anytime soon. You might be selling low, but anything would be an improvement at this point.
Woulda sung like Bilal Powell, New York Jets. (149 rush yds, 0 TD’s; 2-9 receiving, 0 TD’s)
Joell Ortiz references aside (“Sing Like Bilal”), Jets fans (I included) finally had something to cheer about. And I mean for years we have been waiting. The young offense in New York exploded Sunday at home against the Bills, and Powell set the pace by owning the ground game. I had him listed as a draft day bargain, and had you listened you would either have a legitimate starter or solid trade bait. Coach Rex Ryan clearly prefers him over Chris Ivory, and he is the one Jet running back you should own.
Shoulda trusted the health of DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys. (175 rush yds, 1 TD; 3-28-0)
Although I own him in one of the two leagues I play in, I have never been too high on DeMarco Murray. Injuries are not predictable but yet something about him just leads you to believe at some point he will miss time. Now that he exploded against the Rams, I expect the time to come soon. Hopefully I am wrong, but this is what he is capable of. If he can remain healthy and stay in games, more days like this should be expected.
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Coulda believed in Dwayne Bowe, KC Chiefs. (1 catch for 4 yards, 0 TD’s)
I was so high on Bowe coming into this year for the same reason as so many others – Andy Reid running the show; Alex Smith and his competence; a healthy Jamal Charles. Needless to say, the early results have been anything but stellar. In front of a Thursday night national audience they may have hit rock bottom, as Bowe drew just 3 targets the entire game. My personal belief is that he was doubled all night, which allowed for Donnie Avery’s explosion. Now that Avery is in the mix, Dwayne should get some better matchups and some better looks. It is way too soon to sell him, but it is getting close.
Woulda dared to play Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns. (10-146, 2 TD’s; 1 rush for 22 yds)
No T-Rich, no Brandon Weeden, on the road, no problem. If you were one of the owners who drafted Gordon, and waited through his two game suspension to start the season, you were probably frustrated wondering how he could be successful. On Sunday it did not seem to matter as he was unstoppable. News now that the Browns are shopping him may make you an even happier owner, depending on where he potential may land. I was a doubter given the turmoil in Cleveland this week, but there is no way he should remain on your bench going forward. He is that dynamic.
Shoulda complained like Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers. (9-196, 2 TD’s)
There is a growing trend with NFL receivers – yell at your offensive coordinator for a lack of targets. Ok, so it only happened twice so far this year, but both times it has worked. Mike Wallace broke out in Week 2 after yelling at Miami OC Mike Sherman, and now it was Brown who went off for Pittsburgh. The numbers are staggering and speak for themselves. Did you really think the Steelers would be that bad all year? Brown is as solid a WR2 as there is, and can potentially do this again.
Coulda knew the real Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears. (2 receptions for 10 yds, 0 TD’s)
If you had seen Bennett in Dallas, or New York, you knew the talent was there and the potential is tremendous. However, you also know that he is capable of taking games off. New Head Coach Marc Trestman has Jay Cutler playing with confidence again, and he will need Bennett to show up more regularly. He is definitely someone you should start week to week at Tight End, but do not be alarmed if there are more games like this sprinkled in with the good ones.
Woulda waited on Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills. (5 receptions for 79 yards, 1 TD)
If you waited on drafting a Tight End and selected Chandler to be your starter based on last years success, the logic was sound. The problem is he has yet to get in sync with rookie QB EJ Manuel. He has maintained exactly 6 targets in each of the first three weeks this season, but Sunday was the first time they went for big yardage (15.8 ypr). I expect the confidence in him will continue to grow for Manuel, and he could once again be a viable source of fantasy points as he was in 2012. At 6’7″ he is a very large Red Zone target who will continue to get targets.
Shoulda wrote a separate column for Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints. (9-134, 2 TD’s)
This is the second week in a row that Graham tops all Tight Ends for fantasy success, and I suspect it will continue. He is clearly the best at his position, and he has arguably the best QB throwing his way. “It’s just ‘Run, jump and get it’” said Graham of the play Brees calls for him. That pretty much sums it up.
Part two of this column brings us to the Play ‘Em/Pass ‘Em segment: one guy I like, and one I do not, for the upcoming week. Week 3 was one of my worst in a very long time. In retrospect, you probably should have just reversed all of my picks (outside of the QB’s). In my defense, with the article released on Wednesdays I had no knowledge of the Trent Richardson trade and did not adjust my selection. That is about all you can defend of my atrocious advice last week. It does however support why you should follow me on Twitter. That will give us a chance to address your specific roster and dilemmas you may be faced with. It also is more forgiving of time as you can ask all of your questions right up until rosters lock. In short, my Twitter success rate for Play vs Pass was much greater than this column was in Week 3. This is the first week of Bye’s in the 2013 NFL season as Green Bay and Carolina get the week off. This will further limit your options eliminating several star players from your lineups. These are some eligible players you should be aware of in Week 4 :
Play ‘Em: Tony Romo, DAL (@ SD) The Chargers have been giving up a ton through the air. Romo has experience and weapons around him to continue taking advantage of the SD secondary.
Pass ‘Em: Geno Smith, NYJ (@ TEN) Before you get all giddy about the potential he has flashed, he now goes on the road to take on a tough Titans secondary led by Jason McCourty.
Play ‘Em: LaMar Miller, MIA (@ NO) The Superdome will be rocking Monday night, but the Dolphins will be ready to prove the record is real. Miller controls the line of scrimmage on big stage.
Pass ‘Em: Chris Johnson, TEN (vs NYJ) If the Jets defense does not intimidate you, ask Doug Martin, Stevan Ridley, and CJ Spiller what they think. Add CJ2K to that list come Sunday.
Play ‘Em: Josh Gordon, CLE (vs CIN) I thought the odds were stacked against him last week and he proved me wrong. Some regression, but that is a tough act to repeat. Ride the hot hand.
Pass ‘Em: Andre Johnson, HOU (vs SEA) After a drubbing by the Ravens on ‘Ray Lewis Day’, the Texans are a little demoralized. Seattle is not the team to try to rebound against.
Play ‘Em: Coby Fleener, IND (@ JAC) A full week of practice with the new starters will get the Colts offense back on track. I expect them to beat up on the Jags and have a solid fantasy day.
Pass ‘Em: Jordan Cameron, CLE (vs CIN) I love J.Cam but the Bengals have been tough against TE’s so far this year. The Cleveland regression will affect his numbers this week from what they have been.
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Thanks for stopping by again this week. The column continues to gain traction and I appreciate your support. Do not forget to add the Twitter handle if you are into that sort of thing. Have a great week and good luck in your games!