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Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 3

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement. The same goes for fantasy football; managing rosters effectively is key to winning that championship.

Throughout the season, players get hot and see an increased role while others struggle and fight to stay relevant. Experienced fantasy players know this happens every year. In this weekly column, we’ll showcase those who have taken important steps forward and those who have taken steps back.

These are the key risers and fallers heading into Week 3 of the NFL season.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!


Week 3 Risers

Russell Wilson (QB, SEA)

Well, well, well. Would you look at that? Pete Carroll decides to let Russell Wilson actually throw footballs and he throws for 300 yards! It's almost like Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Wilson threw three touchdowns and only six incompletions in one of the best performances by a quarterback this season. We've seen Wilson put up back end QB1 numbers on limited attempts. If Carroll is going to let him loose, Wilson is an elite option.

Emmanuel Sanders (WR, DEN)

Through two weeks, Joe Flacco looks terrible and the Broncos look like one of the worst teams in the league. Amidst all of that, Emmanuel Sanders is dominating. Sanders caught 11 of 13 targets for 98 yards and the best touchdown of the season thus far. He looks all kinds of recovered from his achilles tear and is the clear WR1 in Denver. Even more impressive is that he did this against the Bears, who still have the league's best defense. Sanders has gone from WR4 flier to a legitimately weekly must start WR2.

Tyler Lockett (WR, SEA)

In the words of Taylor Swift, you need to calm down. After seeing just two targets in Week 1, Tyler Lockett went full Jarvis Landry in Week 2 with 12 targets, catching 10 for 79 yards. Russell Wilson's passer rating targeting Lockett continues to be perfect. Lockett now has a 78% catch rate on the season and if you look at the upcoming schedule, there is not a difficult opponent in sight. If you managed to buy low on Lockett after one week, kudos, because things are about to get fun.

Royce Freeman (RB, DEN)

It's easy to go look at who had the best game relative to their Week 1 and call him a riser. Royce Freeman had a solid, if unspectacular game in Week 2. However, what was extremely encouraging is what I believe to be the move away from Phillip Lindsay and towards Freeman as the 1a in that backfield. Lindsay had 20 opportunities to touch the ball to Freeman's 18, but they were used virtually the same. Freeman saw seven targets in the passing game, which was something people said he couldn't do. Freeman was more efficient with his touches, turning them into 102 yards while Lindsay only managed 66 yards. Freeman has simply looked better than Lindsay through two weeks of the season and has already emerged as a viable Flex play. The arrow is pointing upwards.

Mark Andrews (TE, BAL)

Here's a guy I was way wrong on. I never doubted Mark Andrews' talent, but I doubted whether Lamar Jackson would throw enough to make him a TE1. All Andrews has done is post back to back eight catch 100 yard and a touchdown performances. Jackson's evolution as a passer has allowed two of his pass catchers to be relevant. One of those is Andrews, whose 17 targets through two games suggest this production is sustainable.


Week 3 Fallers

Cam Newton (QB, CAR)

I am leaving Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger out of this because obviously injured players are fallers. Cam Newton, who very well may also be injured, is definitely a faller. Newton hasn't thrown a touchdown yet, and despite his 333 yards passing, he now leads the league by a wide margin in uncatchable pass rate at 34.2%. The next worst is Mitch Trubisky at 27.8%. Anyone who watched the Thursday night game is not surprised at that stat. Newton isn't running anymore and while he was never a good enough passer to sustain value without rushing, he has gotten even worse this season. His style of play has resulted in him taking a beating over the years and it is entirely possible that he is just done.

Josh Gordon (WR, NE)

Through two weeks, Josh Gordon has seen just nine targets. The arrival of Antonio Brown actually didn't change anything for Gordon's usage. He was barely targeted in Week 1 and he was barely targeted in Week 2. Gordon just happened to be more efficient in Week 1 and also scored. In Week 2, he turned his two receptions into just 19 yards in a game in which the Patriots scored 43 points. Between AB, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and the running backs, the only guarantee seems to be young, ascending quarterback, Tom Brady. Gordon was drafted to be a WR2 and he looks like a WR4.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, PIT)

The truth is JuJu Smith-Schuster was likely finding his way here regardless of Ben Roethlisberger's injury. JuJu just hasn't looked capable of being an alpha WR1. He profiles better as the WR2 and through two weeks, he's been largely getting by on volume and underneath stuff. The splash plays aren't even being attempted. Now with Big Ben done for the season, JuJu is firmly out of the WR1 conversation. While Mason Rudolph is a competent backup, there is no way to spin this as a positive. JuJu looks more like a high-floor WR2 than the potential best receiver in fantasy.

Miles Sanders (RB, PHI)

I just don't know what people expected. I guess the fact that David Montgomery was going at the 3/4 turn and Miles Sanders wasn't going until the 5/6 turn was telling, but so many analysts were banging the drum that the only reason Doug Pederson ran a three-man committee was because he didn't have the talent to ride one guy. Whether you think Sanders is overrated as a talent or not, there is no doubting Pederson's plan. Once again, no Eagles running back reached the 50% snap plateau. Sanders is certainly atop the committee, but Darren Sproles and Jordan Howard are not going anywhere. At this point, Sanders is unstartable in fantasy leagues, bordering on un-rosterable.

Joe Mixon (RB, CIN)

Every season, various analysts argue over whether talent is the most important factor or whether it's situation and opportunity. The truth is it varies. We know Mixon is incredibly talented. It just hasn't seemed to matter on the Bengals running behind the league's worst offensive line, that just lost another starter, and playing in an offense without its best player in A.J. Green. Mixon showed no signs of being hampered by his ankle sprain, but turned 14 touches into just 27 yards. Mixon is supposed to average around 15 fantasy points. Instead, through two weeks, he hasn't reached double digits in total. You probably can't bench him, but you certainly can't look at him as anything more than a Flex right now.

Jared Cook (TE, LAR)

The hope with Jared Cook was that Drew Brees would turn him into some lesser version of Jimmy Graham. Through two weeks, we saw nothing of the sort. Now, with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback for the foreseeable future, there is nothing to be too excited about here. Cook will continue to catch a couple passes each week, but he has little hope of being a TE1 without the full force of Brees behind him.

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