Players Sending Out Warning Signals Heading Into NFL Week 3

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Entering Week 3 of the NFL season, fantasy owners have had a chance to take a closer look at some of the more concerning players on their rosters, and are undoubtedly ready to start making some meaningful decisions. It is still very early in a long season though, with plenty of time for favorable trends to develop. That means that practicing patience is still the way to go when you are trying to decide if you should pull the plug or hold on guys that might have burned you through the first two weeks.

This week we will look at a new batch of players that might be making you nervous, as well as check back in on the players we had our eye on last week.

This article will be based largely on player performance (or lack thereof) sans additional circumstances such as injuries or missed games due to trades or suspensions that would obviously cause their production to suffer. Instead, this segment will focus on healthy players that are underperforming, with the rule of thumb being that no player will appear on this list more than three times throughout the season.

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Heed the Warning Signs

Eli Manning (QB, NYG) – High Concern

Between dropped passes by his receivers, a listless offensive line and questionable decision-making, Eli Manning looks like he could be in a world of trouble. There is a good deal of concern surrounding Manning and the New York Giants offense right now, as they have only been able to muster 13 points through two contests. While Manning’s numbers haven’t been awful thus far, they certainly haven’t been great either, and his inability to lead the offense on touchdown drives is both troubling and painful to watch.

We’ve seen slow starts from the Giants before, and you have to believe that they get back on track at some point this season. There are still reasons to be optimistic, chief among them being that Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t yet played a full game. Evan Engram’s early emergence has also been gratifying, and has given Manning another athletic target. They will have to get the running game going in the next couple of weeks to have a chance though, and the prospects in that area aren’t as encouraging. Until that happens, 36-year-old Manning will continue to have to drop back nearly 30-plus times a game, and he will continue to take big hits with little-to-no time in the pocket. If you drafted a quarterback late and went with Manning as your starter, you will need to play the wire for a couple more weeks and hope that the offense gains their footing soon.

Isaiah Crowell (RB, CLE) – Medium Concern

During the summer, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson stated that he wanted to run the ball much more this year and it sounded great, so we all believed him. The only problem is, even with Jackson making the upside call for his team and starting rookie DeShone Kizer at quarterback, the Browns are still only marginally ahead of where they were last year and will continue to play from behind most of the season.

On the bright side, the matchups over the next few games do ease up for Crowell a bit, which presents him with a great shot at having a string of meaningful games. With Duke Johnson very slowly making the transition to a slot receiver, the backfield is more or less Crowell’s, and the volume that he has maintained through two games has been encouraging. Owners should still be pretty worried though, as he looks like he will be a matchup dependent play, and unfortunately game script will not be in his favor often. He could very well end up becoming much more of a weekly flex player than the RB2 that many thought they drafted.

Brandon Marshall (WR, NYG) – Medium/Low Concern

Brandon Marshall has not looked nearly as motivated or hungry as we’ve seen him be in the past. In the Giants’ first game (without Beckham) Marshall only drew four targets and didn’t make a grab until the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, just barely extending his streak to 160 games with a catch. In the Giants’ second contest against the Detroit Lions, he drew one additional target but still only had one catch, and had an ugly drop at a critical juncture in the game.

So far Marshall has yet to take it upon himself to step up and be the second receiver that both the Giants and fantasy owners expected him to be. A little bit more mental engagement in the coming weeks would be a good sign for owners, but with the entire Giants offense is in a bad place right now, even this might not be enough to boost his production significantly. It’s only been two weeks, so the concern around Marshall is still moderately low because of the numbers he has put up in his career, but he and Manning will need to get on the same page quickly before fantasy owners are forced to move on.

Jimmy Graham (TE, SEA) – Low Concern

In all fairness, Jimmy Graham started last season slow coming off of a knee injury before finishing as a top five tight end, so mass panic should not be ensuing just yet. However, it seems like the Seattle Seahawks offense as a whole might have taken a step back, and the struggles that the team has had through the first two weeks could be a sign of more ominous offensive problems. Through two games, Graham has only gained nine yards on nine targets, and it seems that he is now nicked up again as is often the case.

The concern surrounding Graham is still low because he will always remain a top draw for red zone targets, and we have witnessed him overcome a slow start in a big way before. But if the offensive line continues to be a problem for Russell Wilson, not only would Graham’s production suffer, but he could be asked to block more which would mean less pass-catching opportunities as well. Even though he has the talent to be much more, he could become a matchup based play if Seattle doesn’t find a cure soon.

 

Updates From Last Week

 Andy Dalton (QB, CIN) – Warning Level TBD

The Cincinnati Bengals’ brass has got to be wishing they could scrap the preseason and start over right about now. They decided not to re-sign two of their top offensive lineman from last year, and this move has proved to be very problematic for the offense through the first two weeks of the season. The Bengals obviously had to do something after last week’s Thursday night performance, and the firing of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese might not be the only adjustment they make to the staff this season. We will put Dalton on the shelf for now and re-examine any improvements he may or may not make under new OC Bill Lazor in a couple of weeks.

Jordan Howard (RB, CHI) – Higher Warning Level Than Last Week

With Jordan Howard spotted leaving the stadium with his arm in a sling, we will have to wait and see if he ends up missing any time before making a call here. Potential missed games aside though, Howard has not looked great so far this season and was already trending downward on a below average offense. If the struggles to move the ball down the field persist, Howard will also continue to lose work to Tarik Cohen in the passing game. Howard owners should be increasingly worried about him being able to return value on his ADP.

TY Hilton (WR, IND) – Lower Warning Level Than Last Week

Although Hilton was still relatively mediocre in Week 2, his outlook is certainly a bit more promising if Jacoby Brissett remains under center until Andrew Luck comes back. Against the Arizona Cardinals, the majority of the Colts’ yardage and receptions went tight end Jack Doyle’s way, and he led the team with 97 yards. But what is encouraging here is that as Brissett continues to learn the play book and becomes more comfortable, a lot of those catches could easily start to go Hilton’s way. Hilton should be able to get going in his Week 3 matchup against a Browns team that can be exploited in the secondary.

Eric Ebron (TE, DET) – Lower Warning Level Than Last Week

Eric Ebron shook off a quiet Week 1 outing to lead the Detroit Lions in receptions and yardage against the Giants in Week 2, while snagging a touchdown in the red zone. I am still not convinced that Ebron is out of the clear and will be able to remain consistent week in and week out, as the Lions still have a plethora of weapons that will continue to eat into Ebron’s production. For now though, Ebron seems like a safe floor play in favorable matchups.

 

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