The Hot Sheet looks at which top prospects are excelling and which ones are struggling on a week-to-week basis. The consensus top-flight players may not always appear on this list because we are trying to help you find the next group of breakout players before your leaguemates do.
The value of the players mentioned on the Hot List is rising, thanks to their performance on the field. On the other hand, Cold List players are struggling, and losing dynasty value as a result.
1) Stefon Diggs, WR MIN
The Vikings offense, including top WR Stefon Diggs, had us a little worried after Week Two. With starting QB Sam Bradford out of the lineup and his status going forward up in the air, backup Case Keenum took over and the team that looked like a dominant offense in the season opener folded. Diggs followed up his Week One WR2 performance by disappointing fantasy players with a WR73 finish. In Week Three, things were back to normal though, even with Bradford still missing. The Vikings offense was humming and Diggs eight catches for 173 yards and two scores made him the runaway WR1 for the week. Even with the Week Two stinker, he’s now the top scoring WR through three games and his dynasty value is on the rise as a result. It has been trendy over the past week to compare Diggs and another class of 2015 wideout, Amari Cooper (more on him later), which really shows how quickly dynasty players are adjusting to the idea of Diggs as a top ten player at the position.
2) Zach Ertz, TE PHI
Only three players across the four key fantasy relevant positions have finished as a top ten fantasy scorer in each of the first three weeks of the season. While you won’t be surprised at the first two, the talk of the fantasy football world Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt, the third might raise an eyebrow…Eagles TE Zach Ertz. Ertz enters Week Four sporting weekly finishes of TE4, TE10 and TE3. After the moves made by the Eagles this off-season, namely dealing former target hog WR Jordan Matthews to the Bills, there was speculation Ertz would be much more involved in the offense on a consistent basis. That has proved true as Ertz leads all TEs in targets, receptions and yardage. Considering the Eagles backfield woes and the loss of key pass-catcher RB Darren Sproles, Ertz’s usage could increase even more. Considering the state of the dynasty TE landscape and Ertz is surely shooting up the rank, with Tyler Eifert, Greg Olsen and Jordan Reed all dealing with injury issues.
3) Deshaun Watson, QB HOU
Although he didn’t earn the starting job in the pre-season, the Texans quickly moved to rookie QB Deshaun Watson after the first half in Week One. Since then, Watson has shown quick improvement. In Week Two, he was the WR7 in fantasy leagues, due in large part to his running ability. No one gave Watson or the Texans a shot in Week Three when they visited the Patriots, but the rookie signal caller matched future Hall of Famer QB Tom Brady score for score…well, almost. The Patriots took the lead for good with under two minutes remaining, but that shouldn’t take away from Watson’s fantasy numbers. He threw for over 300 yards, exceeding his production from the first two games combined and also tossed a pair of touchdowns. He did throw two interceptions as well though, all of that leading to a QB15 finish for the week. There is an entire generation of long-time successful QBs who are now on the wrong side of 35 years old and while most continue to put up big time fantasy numbers, both NFL teams and dynasty players will soon be looking for the next franchise QB and Watson could be just that in dynasty leagues.
4) Chris Thompson, RB WAS
Heading into Week Three, the top-scoring player that no one was really talking about was Redskins RB Chis Thompson, who was the RB13 in Week One and followed that up by finishing as the RB5. Despite that, no one seemed to trust Thompson to continue the production, given that he was racking up all these numbers on such limited touches. In Week Three, on the Sunday Night stage, Thompson had the best game of his career, catching six passes for 150 yards and a score. When rookie RB Samaje Perine left the game with an injury, Thompson helped pick up the slack as a runner too, rushing for 38 yards on eight carries. The 14 touches he saw in Week Three represented the second-most in his career, but Redskins HC Jay Gruden insists Thompson will not be given a bigger workload as the team is intent on keeping their breakout player healthy. With starting RB Rob Kelley banged up and Perine struggling, it may be difficult to keep Thompson off the field.
5) Duke Johnson, RB CLE
The entire off-season narrative focused on the Cleveland Browns backfield centered around the expected breakout for RB Isaiah Crowell, who played well down the stretch of 2016. Late in the off-season though, multiple reports suggested that backup RB Duke Johnson could see many more snaps in the slot in 2017 and HC Hue Jackson later commented that he wanted to use Johnson as much as possible this season. In Week One, Johnson didn’t even see a snap out of the backfield, sparking a debate if the former Miami Hurricane should be officially labeled as a WR for fantasy leagues. Although Johnson has seen more usage out of the backfield in the subsequent weeks, he also continues to score most of his fantasy points as a pass-catcher. Johnson’s targets, receptions and yardage have increased each week, as have his fantasy points, highlighted by a Week Three RB8 finish. With his backfield-mate Crowell struggling and the Browns often playing from behind, Johnson could continue to see his role rise.
Other players considered: Dak Prescott, Jared Goff, Carlos Hyde, Alex Collins, Tom Brady, D’Onta Foreman, Chris Hogan, DeShone Kizer, DeVante Parker, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, Golden Tate, Devonta Freeman, Rishard Matthews, Ty Montgomery, Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley
1) Amari Cooper, WR OAK
It’s hard to admit this, but one of my personal favorites just isn’t getting it done this season. Raiders WR Amari Cooper was projected by almost everyone to take the league by storm this season after a pair of very respectable seasons to open his career. Although he’d hit the 1,000-yard mark in each of the previous two seasons, Cooper is off to a slow pace in year three, barely exceeding 100 yards through three games. The season started well as Cooper saw a handful of red zone targets, catching one for a touchdown and finishing as the WR12. In the two games since, Cooper finished as WR54 and WR111, totaling five receptions over that span. This rough start has some jumping ship, trading Cooper away for players previously viewed as a tier or two below the young Raiders receiver. It is that youth (Cooper is still just 23 years old) that has me buying all of the Cooper shares I can across my leagues, despite his poor start to the season.
2) Julio Jones, WR ATL
While Cooper is taking all of the heat, superstar WR Julio Jones has also been enduring a slow start to his season. After former OC Kyle Shanahan left the Falcons following their Super Bowl defeat to take over the 49ers head coaching position, there was a lot of debate about how the offense might change under first time NFL OC Steve Sarkisian. The team was expected to keep much of the same scheme that helped get them to the Super Bowl in the first place, though reports did suggest that Jones would be even more involved in the red zone. In 2016, Jones ranked 59th among WRs in red zone targets. This season, he has only two red zone targets, tied with his teammates WRs Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel and TE Austin Hooper. Again, Jones is not disappointing in the same manner as Cooper and his value hasn’t been impacted, but a top weekly finish of WR16 certainly isn’t what his fantasy owners have come to expect.
3) Andrew Luck, QB IND
It has been a nightmare off-season for Colts QB Andrew Luck, and to a much lesser degree, his dynasty owners. A January shoulder surgery resulted in a confusing and always changing timeline and dozens of almost misleading comments from team representatives. It was well into the pre-season with Luck still not even throwing before it was finally an accepted fact that he would miss the season opener, but once the Colts activated Luck from the PUP list, it was assumed he would be back in action on or before Week Six. On Sunday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the Colts were still targeting a Week Six return, but considering he still isn’t throwing passes, that seems unlikely. A trusted resource, Dr. David Chao suggested this week that Luck would not return until November, which would be Week Nine or later. Considering the Colts don’t appear to be contenders in any way, I wonder if there is a chance they simply allow Luck to sit the entire year and pile up the losses as they attempt to rebuild the franchise around him. Regardless, this expanding timeline of Luck throwing, practicing and returning to game action is only hurting his dynasty value.
4) Hunter Henry, TE LAC
What a strange season for second-year TE Hunter Henry. After tying for the touchdown league lead at his position as a rookie, dynasty players made acquiring Henry a top priority. After all, Antonio Gates wasn’t getting any younger and would surely be phased out of the offense once he broke the all-time TE touchdown record, which he did in Week Two. Week Two also happened to be the only game this season in which Henry has drawn a target. While he totaled a solid seven receptions for 80 yards against the Dolphins, Henry hasn’t even been targeted in Week One or Three. It’s difficult to even believe that a player who drew such off-season hype could fade so quickly. Henry reached a high point of TE4 in off-season dynasty ADP, but an updated set of rankings could see him outside of the top ten, even with the previously mentioned TE troubles of this early portion of the year.
5) Breshad Perriman, WR BAL
I often think about player value in dynasty leagues and one question I haven’t yet gained clarity on is how long underperforming high-draft picks can maintain their value. One player currently testing this idea is Ravens WR Breshad Perriman. After missing his entire rookie season with an injury, Perriman finished as the WR77 in 2016, despite playing all 16 games. Through three games this season, Perriman has nine targets and has only hauled in one of those for 25 total yards, failing to catch a pass in either of the past two games. Despite the Ravens need for reliable playmakers in the offense, Perriman has failed to make a mark.
Other players considered: Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, Mike Wallace, Paul Perkins, Isaiah Crowell, Donte Moncrief, Laquon Treadwell, Charles Sims, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Ameer Abdullah, Marshawn Lynch, Terrelle Pryor, Samaje Perine, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill, Martellus Bennett, Ben Roethlisberger