Fantasy Football Fact or Fluke: Where should we expect consistency and volatility?

With two full weeks of NFL football now in the books, it’s time again to check in with some of the best and worst fantasy performances we saw on the field and decide what — and whom — we can trust. At this point in the season, we don’t have many data points which complicates the task.

Do two great games constitute consistency? Does a bounce-back performance in Week 2 mean the fantasy arrow is pointing straight up now? Or will we be doomed by boom-or-bust volatility all season long? How much do team trends influence individual player value? There are a lot of questions heading into Week 3, so let’s get into it.

Bijan Robinson becoming a consistency king

Robinson is looking every bit like the first-round fantasy pick we hoped for. Though he failed to score again this week, he carried 19 times for 124 yards and caught four-of-five passes for another 48 yards. He’s just unstoppable with the ball in his hands and finds himself in elite territory with Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler in terms of rush yards over expected (2.63) and yards per carry (6.2). This kind of consistency is fantasy gold.

Tyler Allgeier remains a key part of the run-heavy game plan Atlanta operates under but proved far less slippery than Robinson in Week 2 as he racked up only 48 yards on 16 carries (no targets). He did face a stacked box more often than most backs (35.5%). Allgeier is still startable in deeper leagues, especially Week 3 against a Lions defense that has been susceptible to the run in recent seasons.

Have to pick our spots with Drake London

While the Falcons' rushing duo should maintain consistent usage week-to-week, it sure seems like the pass game is going to be volatile and game-script dependent. The team is a surprising 2-0 after easily taking down the Panthers (Desmond Ridder threw 18 times, completing 83.3 percent of them for a paltry 115 yards and one touchdown) and going toe to toe with the Packers to eke out a one-point victory (Ridder threw 32 times, completing 59.6 percent with one TD and one INT; he also rushed 10 times for 39 yards and a score). In the competitive Week 2 game, London saw a team-high seven targets, catching six including a touchdown. Jonnu Smith and Mack Hollins both had six targets in the win, while Kyle Pitts saw five.

London, after posting a zero on one target in Week 1, thus reingratiated himself to fantasy managers. Going forward, my plan will be to only start London in games expected to be competitive because the Falcons are clearly not inclined to let Ridder pass unnecessarily. Week 3 London gets the green light against a Lions offense that has put up an average of 26 points per game, and early betting lines give Detroit a 3-point edge at home.

Jaguars passing game mired in volatility

A week after we anointed Calvin Ridley fantasy football's best return-to-glory story, it was Kirk who stole the show in Jacksonville. Although Ridley saw eight targets in the unexpectedly low-scoring loss to Kansas City, he caught only two while Kirk hauled in 11 of his 14(!) targets. With Zay Jones and Evan Engram also in the mix, not to mention Travis Etienne, who caught five passes from Trevor Lawrence in Week 1, this was always going to be a pass-friendly offense mired in volatility.

Since I’m ever the optimist, I will point out the Jaguars are Top 10 in pass attempts so far, tied with the Chargers at 37 per game. Next up are the Texans, who were beat up on the ground by Zack Moss in Week 2. Teams just haven’t had to throw much against Houston, which would make me look at alternatives to Kirk for Week 3 rosters. Etienne and Engram are the most solid Jaguars’ starts this week, but I know that I, for one, won’t be able to bench Ridley either.

Tee Higgins rebounds, but questions remain for Bengals

As a Ja'Marr Chase manager, I'm admittedly less than thrilled here. Higgins turned 12 targets into 8/89/2 and finished as WR3 for the week. With zero catches on eight targets in a disastrous Week 1, Higgins had nowhere to go but up. Joe Burrow has reportedly tweaked his calf injury which is bad news for the Bengals if that has, in fact, been part of his problem in these first two games. Like Higgins, Burrow was better in Week 2 (222/2/1) so we await news on the calf. A tough Monday night showdown with the Rams is on tap for Week 3, I'm looking at replacement options for Burrow (realistically, maybe C.J. Stroud is available in your league). Chase and Higgins both remain must-starts as long as Burrow is the starting QB.

Brian Robinson among fantasy's top value picks

Robinson doing so well to start the season is another feel-good story line for fantasy football, but especially those who trusted him in the Round 9-10 range. It’s true that he splits work with Antonio Gibson, but the share is overwhelmingly in Robinson’s favor (37 attempts and five targets to Gibson’s five attempts and four targets through two games). Robinson has scored two rushing and one receiving touchdown so far, and though his average is only 3.9 YPC, his consistent volume and ability to always move forward bode well for his continued fantasy production. Given where he was drafted, Robinson has the potential to be one of the best 2023 values. It’s a tough draw against the Bills for Week 3, but they’ve always been more susceptible to the run than the pass. Start Robinson with confidence.

This is the Daniel Jones we drafted

Jones was the top fantasy scorer in Week 3 (321 yards passing, 59 rushing yards, two passing and one rushing touchdown with one interception). This is what we drafted — a QB with multiple receiving weapons and smart, strong running ability. Why it took six NFL quarters for it to emerge is a mystery I'm not going to solve today, but I am breathing a sigh of relief. Jones is in starting consideration every week, but a quick turnaround to play Thursday in San Francisco is not ideal for his Week 3 fantasy outlook. This is especially true given Saquon Barkley's ankle injury; the 49ers know Matt Breida and will be putting the full force of their formidable defense into disrupting Jones' Thursday night.

I'm cautiously optimistic about Darren Waller, who led the team with eight targets against Arizona. Jalin Hyatt is also a name to watch but realize that he made the most of his two targets, a number that lagged well behind Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell and Darius Slayton. In one QB leagues, it would be great to look for alternatives this week against the 49ers. Some widely available names include Stroud and Matthew Stafford.

Quick hits

Nico Collins, Texans

Consistency at last. He’s seen 10 targets per game to start the season, and C.J. Stroud is the newest in the "gunslinger" mold of NFL QBs, ranking fourth in passing (626 yards). Trust in Collins vs. Jacksonville for Week 3.

DeAndre Swift

Swift is undeniably talented and undeniably plays for a team that makes running the ball a top priority. I don’t think we’re in for 28 attempts or 175 rushing yards per week from Swift, who got a heavy workload with Kenneth Gainwell out, but I think he’s shown enough to get the best opportunities from the Eagles. Pump the brakes on Week 3 expectations as the Eagles travel to Tampa Bay, which has been brutal against the run again this season, but you’re probably still starting Swift in a 12-team league.

Puka Nacua, Rams

There isn't much more to say than hasn't already been said about Nacua's incredible, record-setting start to 2023. He was widely added after Week 1, and widely benched for Week 2, sure to be started ubiquitously against the Bengals on Week 3's Monday Night Football.

Kyren Williams, Rams

Williams terrific start has been somewhat overshadowed by his aforementioned teammate but consider what he's done: he leads all running backs in rushing touchdowns (3, tied with Raheem Mostert and Anthony Richardson) and targets (12, tied with Jaylen Warren). He's second only to Tony Pollard in red-zone rushing attempts (10). This is an every week starter, looking to continue producing vs. a middling Bengals' run defense.

Justin Fields, Bears

Fields hasn’t quite picked up where he left off last season, but if last year was any indication, he has time to improve. Do you?, is the question. Fields has averaged 16.1 fantasy points per game, so he hasn’t absolutely tanked you like, say, Burrow has, but it’s not great considering where you drafted him. I’m going to chalk up the lack of rushing production to the Bucs defense and game script. I’m nervous to start him in KC, but there just aren’t many options widely available that I’d start over him (Stroud, Jared Goff?).

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