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Good News, Bad News: Miles Sanders, Christian McCaffrey, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Davante Adams

CMC has a pair of 100-yard rushing games, but a lack of targets is concerning.

How fantasy managers proceed through a given football season often comes down to perspective.

If player X had a big game because player Y was injured, you can look at that a few ways. Player X had a good game because he’s a good player, and he will soon take work away from player Y … or the only reason player X even had this opportunity is because player Y went down and this performance won’t be repeated unless that happens again.

Week 3 of the NFL season brought on plenty of scenarios ripe for interpretation. Which brings us to the second installment of Good News, Bad News:

Miles Sanders, Eagles
Sanders’s volume problem is gone. The Eagles’ clear-cut lead back has toted the ball at least 13 times in each game this season and his 45 carries rank 10th in the league. In 2021, quarterback Jalen Hurts finished with more carries and rushing yards than Sanders and Boston Scott, and Kenneth Gainwell also cut into his workload considerably. Now his snap count is up to 54% from 38% and he leads Philadelphia, one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL, in rushing attempts.

Sure, his efficiency dipped against the Commanders this past week, but the team didn’t gash Washington on the ground the way it did its first two opponents. So what’s the issue with Sanders, the RB23 ahead of Monday Night Football? It’s one that’s plagued him throughout his career and one that increased volume has not cured: Touchdowns.

Philadelphia has a league-high six scores on the ground. Sanders accounts for one, Hurts has three and Gainwell and Scott have each punched one in as well. For a back like Sanders, who provides a solid rushing floor but doesn’t add much in the receiving game, touchdown production is extremely important.

Hurts is doubling up Sanders’s red-zone rushing attempts and there’s no reason for offensive coordinator Shane Steichen to take the ball out of his dual-threat quarterback’s hands around the goal line. This continues to put a hard cap on the fantasy potential for Sanders, who has 13 total touchdowns across four seasons in the league.

Sep 11, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) watches the defense after taking a one point lead over Cleveland Browns during the second half at Bank of America Stadium.

Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
McCaffrey is averaging an even 100 scrimmage yards per game, tied with Cooper Kupp for the 10th-most. Surprisingly, most of that has come on the ground. His best trait has always been that he could beat defenses in a variety of ways, evidenced by his 2019 All-Pro, RB1 campaign in which he broke 1,000 yards on the ground and through the air. But the Panthers have been force-feeding their back carries while he’s been lightly involved in the receiving game.

The good news is he’s been running the ball well. CMC has two 100-yard rushing games already, including in Week 3 against the Saints, albeit on 25 carries. What’s confounding is Carolina’s target distribution and perhaps even more concerning is Baker Mayfield’s disastrous completion percentage. D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson rank first and second in targets but they haven’t been effective receivers in large part because Mayfield is completing just above 50% of his attempts. McCaffrey’s 71.4% catch percentage would be the second-worst mark of his career but it paces the team by a wide margin.

McCaffrey has also found the end zone just once in three games, which further explains how the consensus No. 2 pick ranks 10th at his position behind the likes of Khalil Herbert and Jamaal Williams. CMC will continue to be effective for fantasy because he is a rare talent, but for him to return to elite status, he has to be more involved as a receiver. Ten running backs (including Rex Burkhead) have more targets than McCaffrey. That can’t continue.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions
St. Brown returned to Earth against the Vikings. The WR3 on the season only posted 13.3 points in a close loss in a divisional game. That performance ended his six-game touchdown streak and eight-game run of eight-plus catches and 10-plus targets. That’s really it as far as bad news goes, which is a testament to the fact that St. Brown has truly arrived.

Josh Reynolds led Detroit in targets Sunday, but he’s no threat to St. Brown’s connection with quarterback Jared Goff. He ranks seventh in target share through three weeks and is tied for sixth in the league in total targets (33). Perhaps most importantly, the Lions are good! The offense certainly is, at least. They rank second in points per game (31.7) with a dangerous rushing attack and strong passing game anchored by Goff and St. Brown.

What was seen last season and what many hoped for this year was for Detroit to face negative game scripts, which would force more targets St. Brown’s way. So far, the 1-2 Lions actually have a positive point differential and are competitive in a manner that was thought to be a year or two away. What’s even better for St. Brown’s fantasy prospects is that the defense is the weak link of this team, which has led to a couple of shootouts already.

Not every game is going to be a 30-point explosion, but St. Brown has established a very high floor and might be relied on even heavier moving forward with D’Andre Swift set to miss some time.

Davante Adams, Raiders
Touchdowns are keeping Adams afloat in Las Vegas. When he was in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers, his affinity for the end zone, paired with his other receiving numbers, which all ranked near the top of the league, was what separated him from the pack. Now, a score in each game is just keeping Adams relevant.

In his Raiders debut, Derek Carr–his college teammate–targeted him a whopping 17 times and they connected 10 times for 141 yards and a score. Since then, Adams has seven catches on 17 targets across two games for just 48 yards. He didn’t have a single game with less than 40 yards in 2021 and now has done so in back-to-back weeks. So far, his incorporation into the Vegas offense has been a bit more rocky than Tyreek Hill’s in Miami or A.J. Brown’s in Philadelphia.

Despite his near-30% target share, Adams does not lead Las Vegas in receiving yards. Mack Hollins, a 2017 fourth-round pick, does. Adams’s 50% catch rate is alarming—his career average is 65.6% and he was above 70% his final two seasons in Green Bay. Touchdown regression is inevitable and the connection between Adams and Carr needs to look more like Week 1 than the last two outings for him to salvage decent outings without scores moving forward. There’s already a baseline for what success looks like for this duo, but it’s been hard to repeat that through an 0-3 start.

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