Big Ben Leaves With Elbow Injury
Some injuries are inevitable, but this one is tilting. Ben Roethlisberger reportedly felt discomfort in his elbow at practice this week, but he wasn’t listed on the Steelers’ injury report and the Steelers were able to keep things from leaking into the media. We (fantasy owners) paid the price. Roethlisberger only lasted 15 pass attempts (5.0 YPA, zero TDs) on Sunday before leaving with too much pain. That led to down games from JuJu Smith-Schuster, who only had five receptions for 84 scoreless yards, and James Conner, who finished with 33 yards and one score. If you paid up for any of them in DFS, you were likely toast.
The obvious question becomes how long (and if) Big Ben misses. Per Dr. David Chao, the injury appears to be "significant" as it's on the inside of his elbow near the ulnar nerve and UCL. If you’re a baseball fan, you know what the UCL is (Tommy John), but that’s the worst-case scenario and hasn't been confirmed by the Steelers. There are also different severities of elbow injuries, most way milder than Tommy John surgery. For example, Josh Allen had a UCL injury and missed weeks, not months. We’ll learn more about what exactly is going on Monday or Tuesday, but I’m guessing Roethlisberger does not suit up next week. That would mean it’s Mason Rudolph time. In my opinion, there are worse backup quarterbacks for fantasy purposes than Rudolph, who at least likes to send it. JuJu will definitely be dropped in my weekly rankings, but I’ll likely keep him inside the top-15 depending on the matchup. Conner would be more vulnerable with a quarterback change, but he’s still too involved to drop out of the top 20 at the position. On the flip side, if there’s a player whose stock is actually up, it’s James Washington, who went crazy at Oklahoma State with Rudolph slinging the ball all over the field.
Brees Leaves Game Early With Thumb Injury
Aaron Donald, as he always does, created pressure up the middle and hit Drew Brees right as he was releasing the ball. Donald made contact on Brees’ throwing hand, and Brees knew something was up immediately. The Saints put tape on his hand, specifically around his thumb, and he was seen trying to pick up a football on the sidelines. Brees couldn’t comfortably grip the ball. Dr. David Chao believes this “could be a significant” injury, with the potential timeline being between 1-8 weeks. A hand specialist on Monday will determine how severe this is, but a torn thumb ligament is in play.
Teddy Bridgewater is thought of as one of the best backups in the NFL, but what evidence do we actually have? Bridgewater has 29 career passing touchdowns to 23 career interceptions, and he just stunk up the joint in Los Angeles as the long reliever. I’m not convinced he’ll play like a top-35 quarterback and that will hurt everyone. Just to different extents. Michael Thomas is the best bet to keep most of his fantasy value. He was peppered with targets (13) on Sunday, and he was the first look on most Bridgewater dropbacks. Thomas’ volume seems safe, so I’d keep him inside the top-12 at the position even if Brees misses time. Alvin Kamara might take a bigger hit than Thomas, especially if he’s not a centerpiece in the short passing game like he was in the second half of Week 2. But I doubt that continues. Bridgewater needs Kamara’s YAC ability, so I’ll knock him down just a few spots in my running back rankings and call him an RB1/2. The rest of the Saints’ skill position players could fall off a cliff. Latavius Murray will struggle to find positive game scripts. Ted Ginn and Tre’Quan Smith, who left Week 2 with a leg injury, aren’t scheme fits with Teddy. And Jared Cook will lose red zone and over the top targets. I’d try not to start any of them in Seattle next week and probably against Dallas in Week 4.
Editor's Note: Drafting is only half the battle. Dominate all season long with our Season Pass! Use our NEW Start/Sit Tool, Trade Analyzer, Consensus Rankings, Projections and more on your way to a championship! Click here for more!
The Fantasy Quarterback Landscape
Patrick Mahomes has 821 passing yards and seven touchdowns through two weeks. He’s the gold standard, and there are only a few quarterbacks who have a weekly ceiling in Mahomes’ range. … One of those quarterbacks who can keep up is Lamar Jackson, who now has a five-touchdown game and a 120-rushing yard game. We have been blessed with a Mahomes vs. LJ matchup next week. … Deshaun Watson is probably the next best bet for QB1 overall weekly finishes. His receivers and rushing ceiling -- he had a rushing touchdown this week -- are elite, and he’s a top-five quarterback in just about every matchup. … Dak Prescott looks to have made a major leap in 2019 while playing with new OC Kellen Moore. Prescott has been a top-eight quarterback since the Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper, and I don’t see this offense slowing down. … It’s also hard not to be optimistic with Kyler Murray, especially in fantasy. The Cardinals are playing at an incredible pace, and Murray has been quite accurate since his terrible Week 1 first half. If Murray actually uses his legs -- he somehow only has five 17 rushing yards -- then he could enter the elite tier of fantasy quarterbacks. ... The rest of the quarterbacks are still figuring things out. A quarterback like Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, or Tom Brady can break into the top-four conversation, but they're closer to the QB1/2 borderline because they lack the massive ceiling as these dual-threat talents.
The Fantasy Football Forecast's MNF Preview
Browns (25.25, -6) @ NYJ
Baker Mayfield and the Browns’ offensive line spoiled one of the most anticipated games of the decade for Cleveland fans. Mayfield tossed three picks and may have come out of the game a bit banged up. A lot will be riding on this Week 2 performance on the road, but he has to improve getting the ball out faster. Mayfield is on the QB1/2 borderline in a “get right” spot.
Odell Beckham couldn’t break off a big play in Week 1, but he had 11 targets on a 29% target share. It’s going to be a big season for Odell as long as Baker can adjust. OBJ’s matchup is off the charts good, but Odell is a WR1 in just about every matchup possible. … Jarvis Landry was a full-time player but only had an 18% target share Week 1. This could be an inconsistent season for the slot receiver with OBJ being heavily targeted. Landry is a WR3/4. … Rashard Higgins played on less than half of the Browns’ passing plays -- Damian Ratley actually played more snaps -- and was targeted just three times. Higgins has some juice, so he could fall into an occasional long touchdown, but he’s only a zero-floor WR5. … David Njoku ran a route on 70% of Browns’ pass attempts and had a 16% target share Week 1. Those are strong numbers. The Jets’ star linebacker C.J. Mosley is questionable to play next week, and the Jets’ defense fell apart when he left the game last week. Njoku’s ceiling and floor would be higher if Mosley can’t suit up, but he’s a TE1 regardless.
Nick Chubb played on 70% of offensive snaps, took 85% of the team carries, and received four targets while running a route on more than half of the Browns’ passing plays. Chubb just couldn’t find the end zone or break off a 20+ yard gain last week. Going forward, that won’t be the case, especially with Jets' studs C.J. Mosley and Quinnen Williams out this week. Chubb is an RB1 on the road in Week 2 with RB Dontrell Hilliard (concussion) out.
Jets (19.5, +6) vs. CLE
The Jets used 11 personnel on 82% of their offensive plays Week 1, according to Warren Sharp, locking in Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, and Quincy Enunwa (now on IR) into near full-time roles. Anderson is the most explosive receiver and has the most touchdown equity of the group, but he gets another tough matchup with Denzel Ward, who just shutout Corey Davis last week. Anderson is a zero-floor WR4. … Crowder became the first receiver to have fewer than 100 receiving yards on at least 14 receptions in a single game. That’s both terrible and amazing at the same time. Crowder’s connection with Darnold was well-documented this summer, so I’m expecting Crowder’s involvement to fall. The good news is his individual matchup with Ward on Anderson. Crowder is a PPR WR4. … Ryan Griffin is a low-ceiling TE2 who is playing on almost all passing plays.
Le’Veon Bell played on every snap Week 1. He’s back, and the home matchup against a Browns’ defense who was destroyed by Derrick Henry last week is a good one. Fire up Bell as a top-six RB. … Ty Montgomery was limited to five snaps. He’s purely a handcuff.