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Fantasy football highs and lows from NFL Week 3: The Justin Herbert-to-Mike Williams connection

Week 3 of the fantasy football season featured some big games by receivers you don’t think about as their quarterback’s top target, yet Mike Williams and Emmanuel Sanders offer Justin Herbert and Josh Allen extra octane for their high-powered offenses. Where do we see Williams and Sanders the rest of the season? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft offer their analysis along with thoughts on James Robinson, Justin Fields, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense and more.

Williams posted 33.2 PPR points in the Week 3 win over the Chiefs, which led all wide receivers in the early games. But this is also becoming a consistent thread in the Chargers offense with quarterback Justin Herbert. Williams has now seen at least nine targets a game this season, and three of his four touchdown receptions have come on red zone throws. Remember, Herbert has very similar physical tools to Bills quarterback Josh Allen. And his ball location when targeting Williams has been on-point. That’s why the Chargers can continue to scheme Williams open on in-breakers and also isolate him in one-on-one matchups. Looking at the target volume for Williams here, plus the ascending level of play from Herbert, you can lock in the Chargers WR as a weekly Top 20 play. –Bowen

To that point, Matt, Williams played 72.1% of the Chargers’ snaps and had a 25.7% target share in this game, meaning that he has now played at least 70% of the snaps with at least a 20% target share in each of his first three weeks. To put that into perspective, he had only four such games all of last season. Herbert is looking in Williams’ direction considerably more this year, and I think Williams might have even arrived as a weekly top-15 option at his position. –Cockcroft

Now there’s the Josh Allen we all came to know and love during 2020, as his 37.22 fantasy points paced all players during the 1 p.m. ET game block. It’s the third-best single game score he has delivered in any of his 47 games, and it included some of the trademark deep throws he made last year, as while his 11.6% completion rate on throws 20-plus yards downfield was lower than his standard, it included his 28-yard, first-drive touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders. While we’ve also noted in the column how the Washington defense has struggled to this point, this was still a standout game for Allen, considering the on-paper matchup. He’s now aligned for an extremely favorable portion of his schedule, with games against the Houston Texans (Week 4), Kansas City Chiefs (Week 5), Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 9) and New York Jets (Week 10) upcoming, a stretch during which you probably wouldn’t want any other quarterback given the choice. –Cockcroft

Allen was dialed-in today, Tristan. And in a Buffalo offense that runs through the quarterback and the pass game, Allen took advantage of a Washington defense that couldn’t apply consistent pressure or secure rush lanes. That allowed Allen to move, climb and extend plays to the edge of the pocket. And when he gets those opportunities, against zone-heavy teams, he can light you up. Up next for Allen and the Bills in Week 4? The Texans defense. More zone windows to scheme – and attack. –Bowen

Allen’s game is Emmanuel Sanders’ gain

Speaking of Sanders’ touchdown, it was the first of two on the day for the veteran wide receiver, whose 26.40 PPR fantasy points were his most since Week 14 of the 2019 season, and his 11th-most in 161 career games. The performance presents a bit of a tough read: On one hand, there’s that aforementioned favorable schedule, which aligns quite nicely for a perimeter receiver like him, one who should now be one of the week’s hottest pickups (and rightfully so). On the other, Sanders’ target share was still only 14.0%, the third straight week his number was in the mid-teens, as both Stefon Diggs and slot receiver Cole Beasley saw more targets. There’s a hint of John Brown to this performance, and that’s not to knock Brown’s Bills contributions, as he ranked 20th among wide receivers with 219.82 points in 2019 and had a handful of big fantasy days in 2019-20. Brown also, however, had his share of quiet weeks, including a pair of times shut out in 2020, which could be a similar problem to Sanders when game flow works against him, and/or Allen is more reliant on his other receivers. Sanders is certainly roster-worthy, but it’s in the WR3-4 tier. –Cockcroft

James Robinson‘s rebound game doesn’t fully redeem him

After failing to exceed 10 PPR points in his first two games, Robinson rebounded with 25.4 points in the Jags’ Week 3 loss to the Cardinals. Remember, when Robinson gets consistent run game volume, including red zone touches, there is no question he can be a viable asset to your lineup. And the receiving totals on underneath throws are a boost here, too. But that also depends on the Jags offensive structure, and the ability to maintain positive game flow, given Robinson’s lack of dynamic traits. With a Week 4 matchup versus the Bengals, I will have Robinson in the RB2 mix, but I want to see more before I’m sold on his week-to-week value with this current Jacksonville team . –Bowen

Wait and see after Justin Fields‘ quiet debut

We expected a lot more here, right? And that includes the offensive game plan from Bears head coach Matt Nagy. More movement and play-action concepts, schemed throws and designed rush attempts for Fields given his natural playmaking ability. The rookie, working behind an offensive line that didn’t have answers for the Cleveland pass rush, produced a total of just 3.92 fantasy points in the Week 3 loss to the Browns. With a matchup against the Lions in Week 4, Fields will be in the QB2 mix in my ranks, but we have to see a game plan that caters to his dual-threat ability before we can bump him up. –Bowen

Marquise Brown‘s drops set up Justin Tucker‘s historic field goal

Hollywood’s was the stinker performance of the week, and if not for Justin Tucker’s 66-yard, walk-off field goal that bounced off the crossbar, it would’ve ultimately been the stat line that did in his team. Brown scored 8.3 PPR fantasy points while catching 3 of 7 targets, but the story was more about what he didn’t do, specifically that three of those missed targets were ugly drops, two of which would’ve certainly been touchdowns if caught and a third which probably would’ve also gone for a score. Normally, it’d be easy to say that he’s a big-play wide receiver who should quickly rebound, but with the volume of mistakes in this one, not to mention it being about the best matchup he could possibly ask for, it’s fair to wonder whether it might have an impact on his targets in the near future. Now he draws one of the tougher matchups at his position in the Denver Broncos. It’ll be tough to trust him in that game, at least not at much more than a boom-or-bust flex play. –Cockcroft

T.J. Hockenson comes up short

Just when he earned our consensus No. 3 tight end ranking spot for the week — that had typically been George Kittle‘s — Hockenson posted one of the most disappointing performances of Week 3, scoring only 3.0 PPR fantasy points while seeing a mere two targets. Yes, the Baltimore Ravens put quarterback Jared Goff under constant pressure, but this is still a defense with a weaker secondary than its teams from years past, and one would’ve figured Hockenson would see more throws than this. Only once his entire rookie season did he score fewer fantasy points, and not once did he see so few targets. Chalk it up to an outlier game, but it’s a reminder that the Lions’ offensive woes could have an adverse impact upon Hockenson’s consistency even in his leading role. –Cockcroft

Quick Hitters

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: After another game where he failed to post more than 14 fantasy points, and with upcoming matchups versus the Packers (Week 4) and Broncos (Week 5), Roethlisberger will be a mid-tier QB2 in my ranks. His level of play has continued to decline since last season, and I still see the Steelers throwing one-on-one balls in an attempt to create explosive plays. –Bowen

Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Another week, another massive usage rate for the rookie, as he played 94.8% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps, but the real story here was his 19 targets, the second-most by any running back in the 30 seasons for which we have target data (1992 forward). As Matt mentioned with Roethlisberger, Harris’ usage could shift depending upon how the quarterback’s season plays out, but I think the team recognizes the offense needs flow through Harris. This is a locked-in, top-10 fantasy running back, regardless of whom is under center. –Cockcroft

Washington defense: I was all-in on this defense back in the summer. But are we at the point where Washington is now best suited as a matchup based, streaming option? This unit was carved up by Josh Allen on Sunday. And they’ve failed to produce over two fantasy points in a game this season. The Week 4 matchup looks pretty good for Washington against the Atlanta offense, but we need that pass rush to get going before this group jumps back up the ranks. –Bowen

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