There’s nothing quite like the first few weeks of any NFL season to really get a vibe for who teams are, and what they’re capable of doing. Studs rise, high level draft picks struggle, and some teams surprise us completely (I’m looking at you, Miami). Despite all of these factors, one thing is certain: In football it’s a game of inches and on any given Sunday any team can make magic happen. So who made the biggest impact this week? Let’s take a look at some of the standout players from Week 3 that you’ll want to monitor closely for your fantasy teams.
Patrick Mahomes (QB, Kansas City Chiefs)
Whoever said that good times are fleeting clearly never watched Patrick Mahomes and this Kansas City Chiefs offense. Through three weeks, Mahomes is a certifiable fantasy football juggernaut. He’s posted totals of 28/43/30 in the first three weeks against high-level competition (Chargers/Steelers/49ers), and has done it all with arguably the best supporting cast in the league. Mahomes may have two tough challenges ahead in Denver/Jacksonville, but he’s so hot at the moment I see no reason to shy away from him. Stay in the flames and enjoy this outpouring of points until Andy Reid somehow ruins it for everyone by Week 8.
Mike Williams (WR, Los Angeles Chargers)
It was brewing just under the surface for the first two weeks, then it finally happened! The Mike Williams breakout game occurred during the Battle of LA Sunday, and it was glorious. Hardcore fantasy players may know Williams well as a former top 10 pick that lost his rookie season to injury, but beamed with potential from day one. Williams’ combination of size and superior athleticism has clearly caught Philip Rivers’ eye and that paid off handsomely against the Rams. The 2nd year breakout favorite torched the Rams talented secondary for 81 yrds/2 TDs on just 4 receptions. He was targeted 7 times all over the field, and looks to have solidified himself as a growing favorite in a high-powered offense moving forward. Roster him in shallow leagues while you can, this kid’s going places.
Tyler Boyd (WR, Cincinnati Bengals)
Take a second. Breathe. Read that name again. Still don’t know who this is? Change that mindset, because if you don’t you’ll be robbing yourself of one of the hottest breakout talents in the league through the first month. Tyler Boyd may not be a household name yet, but he’s been low-key great over the first three weeks of the season. He was overlooked in favor of AJ Green/Joe Mixon in Week 1 against Indianapolis but that changed in a big way in Weeks 2 and 3. In that time Boyd’s posted a combined 39 points in standard leagues and hauled in 12 catches on 16 targets for over 200 yards and 2 TDs. This Bengals team is surprising a lot of people early in the year, but don’t let Boyd continue to surprise you. Jump on this opportunity now, because the breakout is for real and will likely only ramp up from this point. Add in a late game injury to A.J. Green (severity unknown at time of writing), and you have the recipe for a legitimate stud in Cincy.
Calvin Ridley (WR, Atlanta Falcons)
His Week 3 stat line: 7 Catches/146 Yards/3 TDs. Need I say more? Most fantasy players won’t like reading that stat line because this guy was likely on your bench in favor of a more name brand WR, but a statement was made Sunday in Atlanta. This offense under Matt Ryan has shifted into overdrive since a feeble Week 1 performance and has come out swinging as one of the more impressive units of the past two weeks. Ridley flashed the skills that made him a standout at Alabama in this shootout. His speed popped off the screen and his route running was crisp. He proved to his QB and everyone watching at home that he’s for real. You can’t expect 3 TDs every week, but you should definitely be looking to buy shares of Ridley on your bench where you can.
Christian McCaffrey (RB, Carolina Panthers)
If you’re a fantasy owner with Run CMC on your squad you’ve likely had an inner monologue with yourself asking why you chose him over some other players available at that spot in your draft. The Panthers promised he’d be a workhorse back, they promised sky-high touch totals, and in the first two weeks they were only half honest in their delivery on those promises. However, that all changed in Week 3 as Christian McCaffrey blew the doors off a talented Bengals defense for 194 total yards on 30 touches. Standard and PPR owners alike were likely doing a happy dance by the time the 1 PM EST games ended. The Panthers go on a bye in Week 4, but the party should pick right back up in Week 5 against a beatable Giants defense.
Adrian Peterson (RB, Washington Redskins)
It’s about time we stop fawning over Tom Brady’s ability to avoid father time and start giving props to Adrian Peterson. What he’s done in Washington through three weeks is nothing short of astounding. Anyone who watched him play for Arizona last year saw a shell of a player, a bruising back running into defensive fronts and falling over defeated. This season Peterson’s somehow managed to look more like a 23-year-old than a 33-year-old, and he’s doing it with volume. Through three weeks the man they call “All Day” has rushed the ball 56 times for 236 yards and 3 TDs. In short, the nickname still fits just fine. Peterson shredded a solid Green Bay defense for 120 yards/2 TDs and helped Alex Smith to manage the clock and close out an impressive win against the Packers. Next up is a bye week, so he’ll get some likely much-needed rest before getting back at it in Week 5 against New Orleans in the Superdome.
Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “Travis Kelce’s a BEAST!”. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. That’s because it’s true. It’s been true for the better part of the past five years and it was true again in Week 3 as Kelce roasted the 49ers for 8 Catches/114 yards. He didn’t reach the end zone like he did in Week 2 (twice), but he dominated the target share from Patrick Mahomes. Kelce was targeted 10 times and hauled in 80% of those opportunities. There are few weapons in the league as dangerous as Kelce in the open field, as he has the athleticism to compete with coverage and the power to bash his way into the end zone. To put it simply, he’s good at football, keep starting him.
Deshaun Watson (QB, Houston Texans)
I know what you’re thinking, why is DeShaun Watson on this breakdown? The Texans lost! They’re 0-3, which in the NFL means they’re B-A-D! Right? Well, only slightly. Record-wise there’s no denying that an 0-3 start is brutal, but from an individual perspective Deshaun Watson has inched closer to his ROTY level performance from last season. The second-year star is still showing signs of hesitation stemming from his ACL injury from 2017, but he still threw all over the yard against the Giants on Sunday. Watson completed 60% of his passes under extreme duress, and kept his team in the game late with 385 Passing Yards/2 TDs to his record. The Houston Texans may be in dire straits, but you’ll be in good hands with Watson moving forward as he gets even more comfortable in the saddle. Keep your chin up and give the man his due.
Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints)
There is no more reliable wide receiver in fantasy football right now than Michael Thomas. Through three weeks Thomas has exceeded his projected point total in standard scoring by 5 points or more every single time. He’s posted totals of 27/18/17 and dominated in the target share with 38 receptions on 40 targets. That’s unbelievable consistency. In the Week 3 overtime slug fest in Atlanta he went a perfect 10/10 for 129 yards. With all the drama going on in Pittsburgh with consensus No.1 WR Antonio Brown, it’s safe to say Thomas has become a name that’s brought a big smile to fantasy owners faces so far this year. He’s quickly becoming an elite option and should be treated as such.
My Main Takeaway From Week 3:
Rookies Can Make A Difference Immediately.
Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen entered Week 3 not knowing where they stood with their respective organizations. Mayfield was the much hyped/criticized first overall pick in this year’s draft, and Allen was a premiere arm talent thrust into arguably the worst offense in the league in Week 1. To say they were expected to struggle a bit would be an understatement, but they didn’t struggle, they did the unthinkable.
When starter Tyrod Taylor went down late in the first half, Mayfield took the field to a thunderous ovation from the Cleveland faithful. What he delivered was something fans of the Browns hadn’t seen in over 600 days: a win. Mayfield dissected an underrated Jets defense and executed a gutsy comeback to kickoff a Super Bowl-level drinking celebration that Cleveland’s yearned for for years. For all intents and purposes, he’s now a God in greater Ohio, all of this in one start. One opportunity is all it took.
On the other hand, Josh Allen came into Minnesota an unknown quantity in the league. Sure, he had a strong arm, but that amounted to a metaphorical slingshot in a matchup against one of the true goliaths of the NFC, the Minnesota Vikings. It was largely accepted going into this game that the Bills would be down big at half, and get bulldozed by second stringers by the 4th quarter. It was supposed to be a cakewalk for Minnesota, but it wasn’t.
Allen gashed the Vikings for 3 TDs (169/1 through the air, 10/39/2 on the ground) and rallied behind a defense that held the mighty Minnesota offense to just 6 points. It was one of the most legitimately-shocking upsets in modern, regular season NFL history, and it was orchestrated by a rookie that no one believed could do it just hours before the game started.
Rookies can make an impact, and they can do it when you least expect it. That’s what Week 3 taught me, and it’s a lesson that I’m sure we’ll see repeated numerous times through league history. It’s one we can all learn from, on Sunday’s anything can happen. That’s what makes this game magical.