Where have all the first-rounders gone?
We’re now entering Week 3 of the 2014 fantasy football season, and we’ve yet to see a breakout game from last year’s top running backs and this year’s highest draft selections like Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (for obvious and emotionally jarring reasons), Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles or Chicago’s Matt Forte. Together that group has scored one touchdown and rushed for 354 total yards.
Instead Dallas’s DeMarco Murray has emerged as the league’s leading rusher, posting back-to-back 100-plus yard games for the third time in his career and, more importantly to owners, staying healthy. Then there’s Houston’s Arian Foster, Washington’s Alfred Morris and Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, all of whom were seen as second to third round targets.
For receivers the result has been split, with only Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Atlanta’s Julio Jones living up to expectations. Instead Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson has notched 292 receiving yards with one touchdown and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown has totaled 12 receptions for 206 yards and a score, with Dallas’s Dez Bryant and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green starting the season off a little slow.
Still there’s no solid, discernable reason yet for standard league owners to make a panic trade, or for dynasty league owners to fold their season this early. Owners can still supplement their lineups with several players in Week 3 while those top draft picks find their groove.
Let’s breakdown some of Week 3’s running backs and wide receivers who could be started and those owners should think about sitting. There are also a few sleepers lurking for owners to study before setting their lines up. Remember, always start and sit players at your own discretion.
RBs To Start/Sit
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell’s been a revelation for the Steelers, padding his 168 rushing yards and two touchdowns with 11 receptions for 136 yards. But there might be some hesitancy in starting Bell in Week 3, with Pittsburgh on the road against Carolina. The Panthers have let up only three touchdowns in their first two games, and are sixth against run allowing 86 yards per game. In their most recent victory they held Detroit’s No. 1 pass-catching back Reggie Bush to 26 yards on the ground and only two catches for six yards. This week Bell might be a gamble, but given his production so far owners must start him.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Circumstance and injury have limited Lacy’s promising second season. He suffered a concussion against Seattle in the opener after gaining 43 yards on 13 carries, and then the Packers needed to erase an 18-point deficit against the New York Jets in Week 2, further cutting off Lacy’s supply of touches. A third factor could surface against Detroit’s No. 2 ranked rushing defense in Week 3. Lacy has 25 total carries this season, a big drop from the nearly 19 touches he averaged per game last year. But his workload should jump this week as the Packers will need a big game from Lacy order to keep Detroit’s prolific offense on the sidelines.
Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
Ball’s had more opportunities this season than Lacy, and he has Peyton Manning to serve as a distraction. But he’s picking up 3.6 yards per carry as Denver’s No. 1 back, and next faces a Seattle defense that’ll likely be fired up after losing to San Diego in Week 2. We already saw how the Seahawks can neutralize Manning in the Super Bowl, and they held Ball to one yard rushing off six carries. Ball might pick up his play later in the season, but it won’t be in Week 3.
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants
Unfortunately for Jennings, the Giants own one of the worst offenses in the NFL after two weeks, and things aren’t likely to get better against visiting Houston. The Texans are giving up yardage, which might give owners enough reason to start Jennings, but they are keeping teams out of the end zone (only two surrendered in two games) and they’re excellent at forcing turnovers (six total including four in Week 2). If you have another back like Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller, start them ahead of Jennings.
WRs To Start/Sit
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
Allen is again off to a average start, but it’s better than last year. He has 10 catches for 92 yards, compared to three for 30 yards around this time in 2013. It was in Week 3 last season when Allen started to emerge, though that was against Dallas’s awful secondary. Week 3 this year is a much stiffer challenge. The Chargers and Allen looked great against Seattle’s D last week, but Buffalo owns a far better pass rush (6.0 sacks) and has already forced 3 INTs. It’s possible Buffalo roughs up San Diego QB Philip Rivers early and often, reducing Allen’s value in Week 3
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
Crabtree bounced back from a poor Week 1 showing with seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown against Chicago, but faces an Arizona secondary more than capable of shutting him down in Week 3. Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin or even Miami’s Mike Wallace might be better starts.
Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
Colston saw his incredible six-year, 86-game streak with at least one reception come to an end last week. Look for Colston to start a new streak against Minnesota in Week 3, but he might not put up big numbers. The Vikings own the No. 8 pass defense in the league, and just held New England and Tom Brady to 142 passing yards in a 30-7 loss. Start Colston as your No. 2 or No. 3 receiver, but he shouldn’t be considered flex option.
Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
Tate’s started his first year in Detroit very well with 11 catches for 150 yards. In PPR leagues Tate’s a valuable start this week, with Green Bay’s secondary more preoccupied with Calvin Johnson, and Reggie Bush.
Week 3 Sleepers
Miles Austin, WR, Cleveland Browns
At home against a Baltimore pass defense ranked No. 23 in the league, the veteran Austin could have a big Week 3. With tight end Jordan Cameron still questionable and running back Ben Tate out again, Cleveland will likely turn to Austin and Andrew Hawkins to keep up with the Ravens.
Brian Quick, WR, St. Louis Rams
Even with all of St. Louis’s issues at quarterback, Quick’s recorded seven receptions in back-to-back games for 143 yards. He’s the most consistent player for the Rams, and could light up Dallas at home in Week 3.
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals stuck with the ground game in Week 2, which limited Gresham to only three targets. All of which he caught. In Week 3 he’ll face a Tennessee defense that’s given up the 14 th most points to tight ends so far this season. We don’t know how effective top receiver A.J. Green will be due to his toe injury, which could mean more targets for Gresham and receiver Mohamed Sanu.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings
With Adrian Peterson now likely out for the rest of the season, Matt Asiata and McKinnon figure to be the Vikings top two running backs. They’ll face a Saints defense that’s been a major disappointment thus far, and McKinnon has the overall athletic skills and good speed to break some tackles for big plays if given the opportunity in Week 3. If not this week, down the line he could be valuable.