Week 3 of the NFL season brought plenty of exciting moments – from Justin Tucker’s game winning, record setting 66-yard field goal to Jamal Agnew’s 109-yard field goal return touchdown and Cooper Kupp’s third straight tournament winning performance (I’ve been playing lots of Single Entry, so I’ve been fading Mr. Kupp and his double digit ownership; it hasn’t been fun). On the flip side, we’re also left with multiple major injuries that will affect the Fantasy landscape immediately. Let’s get right to them.
Christian McCaffrey – OUT (Hamstring Strain)
Here we go again. After coming off a lost season due to injuries, McCaffrey only managed to play a couple of games before the injury bug bit him once again. This time, it’s a hamstring strain that will keep him sidelined for multiple weeks. McCaffrey hasn’t been placed on IR yet, which is the only good news here. Enter Chuba Hubbard, who saw 14 touches (5 targets) once McCaffrey departed and ended up with a 55% snap share. I’m not expecting Hubbard to see a McCaffrey-like workload, but he’s going to become the primary running back in this offense and will get targeted in the passing game. That’s more than enough for him to be a relevant DFS play, especially when you consider there’s nothing more important than volume at the running back position. On a slight tangent – if you think otherwise, look no further than Najee Harris, who was drafted 24th overall in the 2021 first draft and looks OK at best in terms of talent. His offensive line is very likely the worst in the league and the Pittsburgh offense has been horrible, yet Harris has been in tournament winning lineups for two weeks in a row on DK. Harris’ latest performance was particularly eye opening, as he posted a 14-40-0 rushing line but an absurd 14-102-0 receiving line on 19 targets. For those scoring at home, that’s less than 7.4 yards per reception. That’s the end of the tangent. Hubbard’s price tags ($5,900 on DK/$6,300 on FD) are accounting for his new role but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you consider that if he was any cheaper, he’d likely be massive chalk. Royce Freeman is the other running back that clearly benefits with McCaffrey sidelined. Freeman saw 6 touches and wasn’t as productive as Hubbard, but he’ll certainly play a backup role and could see some work in goal-line situations. Speaking of the red zone – Hubbard saw 5 RZ opportunities in Week 3 and Sam Darnold rushed for two touchdowns (has a career high 3 rushing touchdowns on the season). Darnold isn’t Lamar Jackson but these rushing touchdowns are also coming on designed option plays.
A.J. Brown – Questionable (Hamstring Injury)
Brown was forced out of Week 3’s game against the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter due to a hamstring injury. He didn’t return. We haven’t received any updates on Brown’s status for Week 4 and beyond but assuming that he’ll miss at least a week isn’t that far fetched given that he’s dealing with a hammy. Julio Jones only played a surprising 50% of the snaps in Week 3. There’s no report of an injury on Jones but reading between the lines, it looks like he was just being managed as they had just lost Brown for the day and were playing from ahead all game. If this holds, Jones is set to be the clear top target in the passing game for Tennessee, with upside in the high 20s market share of targets right away. With Brown going down early and Jones only playing half of the snaps, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine led Tennessee with a 77.9% snap share. Tennessee is traveling to New York to face the Jets in Week 4, so they’re likely not throwing the ball much. That makes guys like Westbrook-Ikhine and Chester Rogers difficult to trust despite the cheap price tags and great matchup. Realistically, they could get by without Jones playing 80%+ of the snaps though he could get peppered with targets early on if Brown misses this game. UPDATE: Brown’s status has been updated to week-to-week with a hamstring strain.
Juju Smith-Schuster (Rib Injury) and Diontae Johnson (Knee Injury) – Questionable
Diontae Johnson didn’t practice at all last week heading into Week 3 and Juju Smith-Schuster was healthy going into the game but left and didn’t return with an injury to his ribs. We haven’t received any further updates and likely won’t until later this week but if Johnson and Smith-Schuster miss Week 4, Chase Claypool is going to see double digit targets and Najee Harris (team high 19 targets in Week 3) could be in that range once again. James Washington will line up opposite of Claypool and Ray-Ray McCloud will be elevated to WR3 in the depth chart. We could also see more 2 TE sets from the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger generated 58 passing attempts in Week 3 and they now travel to Green Bay to face the Packers. This offense is completely out of sorts but massive volume will open up if both Smith-Schuster and Johnson can’t give it a go this week.
Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton – Questionable (Hamstring Injuries)
Shepard and Slayton were healthy coming into Week 3’s clash with the Atlanta Falcons, but both players sustained hamstring injuries during the game and were forced out. Neither player returned to the game. It looks like Shepard and Slayton will be questionable at best in Week 4. Shepard has been Daniel Jones’ most trusted target and he’s also been the most productive option in the passing game. If both are forced to the sidelines in Week 4, expect Kenny Golladay’s snap share to get into the 80s% once again, with Kadarius Toney, Collin Johnson and C.J. Board receiving more playing time as well. Golladay’s production hasn’t been great with the Giants but part of that has been Shepard’s emergence as the top target in the offense. Toney has looked horrible thus far in his rookie season and there’s not great depth behind Golladay, so there’s a clear chance for the latter to recapture some of that lost value. Collin Johnson tied Saquon Barkley for the team lead in targets (7) in Week 3 – he’ll have some value as a punt in Week 4 but he’ll need the news to break in his favor.
–Dalvin Cook (MIN) didn’t see any practice time ahead of Week 3 and ended up not playing. He was dealing with a sprained ankle, so I’d assume he’ll have a much better chance to suit up in Week 4. If Cook is forced to the sidelines once again, Alex Mattison will regain his DFS value. In Week 3, Mattison saw 32 touches with the Vikings playing from ahead for most of the game and he turned in a 26-112-0 rushing line and 6-59-0 receiving line on 8 targets.
–Elijah Mitchell (SF) is dealing with a shoulder injury that sidelined him in Week 3. Trey Sermon started for the 49ers on Sunday Night Football and generated a 58.5% snap share. Full back Kyle Juszcyk (68.5% snap share) also saw more playing time and even lined up as a running back when Sermon wasn’t in the game.
–Darrell Henderson (LAR) missed Week 3 with a rib injury. Sony Michel played 73.8% of the snaps against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and would be in line for a similar workload against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4 if Henderson is sidelined once again. Michel was held to just a 3.4 YPC in a tough matchup against the Buccaneers but he did see 20 rushing attempts and 4 targets.
–K.J. Hamler (DEN) tore his ACL in Week 3, which ends his season. With Jerry Jeudy also sidelined, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick are very clearly the top wide receivers in Denver.
–Justin Fields (CHI) and Andy Dalton (CHI) – Fields got banged up in Week 3 and Dalton is still nursing a knee injury. Per Adam Schefter, Matt Nagy told reporters that Fields, Dalton and Nick Foles are under consideration to start Week 4. My guess is Foles only starts if both Fields and Dalton are sidelined.
–Elijah Moore (NYJ) and Jamison Crowder (NYJ) – Moore sustained a concussion in Week 3 and Crowder has been sidelined since Week 1. The Jets passing game is very gross but Corey Davis will continue to get peppered with targets and Braxton Berrios will be the primary slot receiver if both Moore and Crowder are ruled out for Week 4.
–Antonio Brown (TB) and Josh Jacobs (OAK) are playing on Sunday Night and Monday Night respectively in Week 4 but they missed Week 3 and are likely going to be questionable once again. Peyton Barber saw 23 carries and 5 targets in Week 3 and he rushed for over 100 yards (I am sorry) while Kenyan Drake’s snap share was reduced to the low 40s%. Yikes. UPDATE: Scotty Miller has been ruled OUT (turf toe) and Antonio Brown hasn’t been activated from reserve/COVID-19 list. If Brown doesn’t get activated ahead of Sunday Night’s clash with the New England Patriots, Tyler Johnson will be in line for a much bigger role. Johnson split time with Scotty Miller in Week 3 with Brown sidelined and played 46.5% of the snaps. Without Miller or potentially Brown, Johnson becomes the clear WR3 in this offense.