Week 3: Sleepers of the Week
Like Alex Smith, Matt Schaub also has his team on a two-game win streak to open the season. Not only is the former University of Virginia signal-caller playing well, he is the sixth-ranked fantasy QB. Aren't you glad you reached for Aaron Rodgers in the second round? In any case, Schaub's been letting it fly with a little more reckless abandon than usual. The Texans have the reputation for being a run-first and run-heavy team. Not so fast, my friend. Schaub already has 93 pass attempts, tied for second-most in the NFL. He's only attempted more than 40 passes in six games dating back to the 2010 season. Granted, Houston has played in two close games and needed to play catch-up in Week 1 against San Diego. This pace will be difficult to maintain, especially since Ben Tate and Arian Foster have only combined for 55 carries through two games. Schaub might come back to Earth since he has to face Baltimore, Seattle and San Francisco in the next three weeks. Then again, they do get to play Jacksonville twice every year so these things tend to balance out.
Certainly never flashy, Alex Smith has his Chiefs on a bonafide winning streak. Throttling Jacksonville in Week 1 was foreseeable; however, sticking it to the Cowboys was a big win against what is thought to be a legit playoff contender. His stats are modest: 395 passing yards, four TDs, and get this: 82 rushing yards. This places Smith as a low-end QB1 after two weeks. There are plenty of better options, but Smith is a great stash-and-grab option who can fit into your starting lineup when facing an easy matchup. That looks to be the case in Week 3. The Chiefs travel to Philadelphia and the Eagles have the 31st-ranked pass defense (allowing 360.5 yards per game). If your QB1 is underwhelming, consider Smith on a week-to-week basis.
The bottom line with Gio Bernard is that sooner or later, the Bengals will trust him enough to give him the ball more than BenJarvus Green-Ellis. For the time being, BJGE has nearly triple the touches (38) compared to the rookie (14). Bernard is averaging 5.0 yards per carry, compared to BJGE's 2.8 ypc. It's better to be ahead of the curve than behind it. Bernard is the better back in every way, as many thought he'd be, and can contribute on all three downs. Granted, he's not a big guy at 5-foot-9 and 208 pounds, but that's why BJGE will retain a small role in the offense as to not put the entire workload on Bernard's back. Playing Bernard in Week 3 probably won't elicit a ton of points. The takeaway here is that you should pursue him via trade if possible. His two TDs last week (on just nine touches) should be considered a bit of an anomaly. What you're looking for with him is yardage and receptions a la Reggie Bush, Matt Forte, Darren Sproles, etc.
Through two weeks, guess how many running backs have 30 carries? The answer is 18. Considering the overall state of backs in the league, you want the guys touching the ball as often as possible, regardless of name recognition since they have the most direct route to production. Of those 18 backs with 30 or more carries, Rashard Mendenhall probably ranks towards the bottom in a popularity contest. It's obvious he's lost a step, not that he was particularly fast anyway. With that in mind, Arizona has two things going for them: scheduling has benefited them as they face both the NFC and AFC South teams. There are some pretty bad run defenses in that group and on those weeks, Mendenhall would make an excellent flex play. Arizona is also terribly thin at the position, giving Mendenhall plenty of opportunities to stay in the game on all three downs. For those with more immediate needs, the Saints are up next and they currently rank 27th in rushing yards allowed. Last season, they allowed the most fantasy points to RBs. Start Mendenhall confidently this week.
Earlier in this piece, I referenced Matt Schaub's 93 pass attempts. There's another QB with 93 attempts and that's Sam Bradford. Once again, that's tied for second-most in the league. At this rate (which seems more likely to continue in St. Louis compared to Houston given the Rams lack of a dominant rushing attack), Tavon Austin should be in store for a big season. The rookie is already on pace for 152 targets. The yardage totals are a bit low (44 yards per game), but that's a schematic issue that could change over time. Austin's hands haven't been there, he's tied for second in the NFL with three drops. So he's not an ideal WR1 or WR2 and he's obviously a better fit for PPR formats. His two touchdowns in Week 2 were probably a bit of a fluke; however, fantasy owners need to be looking for targets, receptions and eventually yards. That's going to be Austin's bread and butter.