The two big quarterback injuries continue to drive value changes in the fantasy football world. On the good side, the Dallas running game should be more prominent with Tony Romo out until right around Thanksgiving, and that’s music to the ears of a certain subset of fantasy owners. Meanwhile, an elite receiver may not be quite as reliable as he has been for the last two-plus years because of a damaging injury in the Steel City.
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Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills
It’s officially time to take Taylor seriously as a low-end QB1. He has delivered in all three games this season, scoring at least 15.9 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues every week. That low point was his first game, and thus his first career start. Since then, he put up 29 points against the Patriots and 24.3 in a win over the Dolphins. All told, Taylor has 714 passing yards, 9.15 yards per attempt (no lower than 8.07 YPA in any game), seven touchdowns, three interceptions, 96 rushing yards and one score on the ground. If you’re not paying attention, you might think Taylor has just been an effective game manager. Game managers don’t make throws like this.
That’s on a third-and-9, and Taylor knows he’s going to take a hit. He stands in anyway and delivers the dagger. Taylor is the real deal.
Joseph Randle, RB, Cowboys
The Cowboys’ script for winning without Tony Romo will be to pound the ball on the ground and ask Brandon Weeden to make as few plays as possible. That worked against Atlanta in the first half last week, and Randle thrived, running for 92 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries. The team diverted from that path in the second half and paid for it, allowing the Falcons to erase a 14-point deficit to win 39–28. You can bet Jason Garrett and the rest of the offensive staff understands that featuring Randle gives them their best chance to stay afloat in the NFC East until Tony Romo returns. That should help make Randle a top-15 back for the foreseeable future.
Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
I already spent a lot of time in this week’s Sunday Superlatives going over how the Raiders offense has taken a big step forward in the last two weeks. Murray’s inclusion here drives home the point that he has RB1 upside, and is a lock to be a high-end RB2 over the full season. Murray carved up the Browns for 139 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in Week 3. Even though the Browns aren’t exactly the toughest run defense in the league, Murray made them look like a college team last week. He has no competition in the backfield, and has already caught 11 passes for 68 yards. Murray has played 68.7% of Oakland’s snaps this year, and has played three-quarters of the team’s snaps over the last two weeks. That has him ranked fifth among all running backs. Opportunity, volume and talent. It’s all here for Murray.
James Jones, WR, Packers
Jones already staked a claim to the red-zone targets that once belonged to Jordy Nelson. In the first two games of the season, he hit pay dirt three times, all from inside the 20. Once Davante Adams re-injured the same ankle early in last week’s win over the Chiefs that he initially sprained in Week 2, Jones’ fantasy value spiked. With Adams out of the picture, Jones unsurprisingly flourished, hauling in seven of his eight targets for 139 yards and a touchdown. Adams is likely to miss at least a few games with the ankle injury, and that means Jones will be on the field for every single passing play the Packers run. In case you aren’t sure, they run a lot of them, and they’re all headlined by the best player in the NFL. Jones will be a WR2 every week in which Adams is on the shelf.
Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
Evans sat out Week 1 because of a hamstring injury, and he simply worked his way back into the rotation Week 2, playing just 61% of the Buccaneers’ snaps. He got three targets and didn’t catch any of them, but he also didn’t have any trouble with his hamstring. It was pretty easy to see a strong performance coming in Week 3, and Evans came through with seven catches for 101 yards. Now that he’s officially fully healthy, he should be back to the WR1 he was in his rookie year. Evans has a rare combination of size—he’s 6'5" and 231 pounds—and deep-ball ability, evidenced by his 18 catches for 575 yards on deep targets last year, which makes him one of the most dangerous receivers in the league. He’s still going to be a top-10 receiver this season, and all those numbers are going to be packed into his final 13 games.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals
Let me first issue a disclaimer. I think Hill is going to be fine, and as an investor in his services in one of my most important leagues, I’m not trying to sell him. Having said that, I’d have to be ignoring everything I’ve seen over the last two weeks if I didn’t make him a slider heading into Week 4. Hill has rushed for 60 yards on 22 carries in his last two games and has given way to Giovani Bernard in both of them. The presence of a capable backup is what really muddies the waters for Hill. Bernard was always going to have a role as the primary pass-catching back, but if he continues to run well, he could take away too many carries for the comfort of Hill owners. It’ll be very interesting to see how he plays against the Chiefs on Sunday. For now, the Bengals insist he’s still their workhorse.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos
Remember the first few sentences in the Hill capsule? Those pretty much apply to Anderson, as well. Anderson hasn’t really had any opportunity to get going this year. He suffered a toe injury in Week 1 that hobbled him Week 2, and then he had to be tested for a concussion last week, ending the game with just eight carries. Still, Ronnie Hillman’s presence, as well as the fact that the Broncos haven’t leaned on the run the way they did over the second half last year when Anderson burst on the fantasy scene. It appears that Hillman is going to be a thorn in the side of Anderson owners all season long, but that doesn’t mean the ship has sailed on an RB2 season. He still has a key role in a very good offense. The ceiling may not be what it was when you drafted him, but there’s no reason to sell out just yet.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
Before Ben Roethlisberger went down, it was unthinkable that Brown could be on the bad side of any fantasy column. With Michael Vick under center, however, Brown’s fantasy value undoubtedly takes a hit. We covered this in depth in the Week 3 Fact or Fiction, so check out that column for an extended view on Brown’s prospects without Roethlisberger for the next four to six weeks. The abridged version is that the ceiling for this entire offense, and Brown individually, just isn’t anywhere near as high with Vick as it is with Roethlisberger. Think about it this way. If Roethlisberger blew out his knee in the preseason and Vick were the Steelers’ starting quarterback during draft season, would Brown still have been the consensus No. 1 receiver? There isn’t a chance.
Andre Johnson, WR, Colts
Things have gone from bad to worse to uncomfortable to watch in Johnson’s first three games as a Colt. The accounting on his season is rather ugly. He has caught just seven of his 18 targets for 51 yards and zero touchdowns. His longest reception on the season thus far went for 12 yards. Last week against the Titans, he didn’t even have a target. Donte Moncrief is clearly ahead of him on the depth chart, and Phillip Dorsett might not be too far behind. At this point, you can feel free to drop him in all but the deepest of formats.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills
A two-pronged argument lands McCoy in the sliders portion of the column this week. First, the hamstring he first injured way back in training camp simply refuses to heal completely. He has been able to play through it in all three games this year, but it has clearly limited his effectiveness, especially against the Dolphins last week. Just as importantly, the Bills have a capable backup on their hands in the form of rookie Karlos Williams. He and Jamaal Charles are the only running backs who have scored in all three weeks this season, and the Florida State product has proved that he deserves a larger role in the offense. He has played so well, in fact, that the Bills will likely give McCoy a week or two off so his hamstring can heal. Even when he does return, Williams is going to be a mainstay in the offense. The best McCoy’s owners can hope for is a mid-tier RB2 season.