How has the start of the season treated you? Are you 2-0? 0-2? 1-1? Is your team ravaged by injuries or did you manage to escape a brutal Week 2 unscathed? Regardless, Week 3 will present its own set of challenges. Whether you’re looking to stay undefeated, stay alive in the fantasy playoff race, or just tread water after losing your star players last week, this column is for you. Let’s take a look at some players flying under the radar who are sneaky starts in Week 3 (please note, all players below are currently starting in fewer than 20% of leagues):
Mitchell Trubisky (QB - CHI)
Newsflash: The Falcons’ defense sucks. It seems a bit juvenile to put it that bluntly but it’s absolutely true. Sometimes it’s important not to overthink things—lord knows I’m super guilty of doing that—and trust what your eyes tell you. Is Trubisky a great quarterback? No. Is he a good fantasy quarterback? Yes. Trubisky was the QB10 in 2018 on a per-game basis. From Weeks 10-17 in 2019, Trubisky was the QB13 on a per-game basis (minimum four starts). He’s the QB14 right now through two weeks and is facing the absolute best matchup a fantasy quarterback can have against an Atlanta defense giving up 35.8 fantasy points per game to passers this season. Trubisky is my QB14 this week.
Justin Herbert (QB - LAC)
It appears that Herbert will enter Week 3 as the Chargers’ starter as they begin their run against NFC South opponents, starting with the Panthers at home. The rookie will have more time to prepare than he did last week before his 23.24-point performance against the defending Super Bowl champions. Although the Panthers are technically the second-stingiest defense against fantasy quarterbacks this season, I don’t buy it. Carolina is getting shredded on the ground, so neither Derek Carr nor Tom Brady had to throw too much in order to come away with victories. However, Carolina is still giving up a nearly-70% completion percentage so far this season and the Chargers have a healthier pass-catching corps than the Raiders or Buccaneers did. I expect another 20-point performance from Herbert, who’s a top-15 quarterback in my rankings this week.
Joshua Kelley (RB - LAC)
No team in the NFL has allowed more fantasy points to running backs this season than the Panthers, who will travel across the country to face the Chargers this weekend. After getting his feet wet with 12 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown while playing 24% of the offensive snaps in Week 1, Kelley got a whopping 23 carries in Week 2. The rookie played more than 50% of the snaps and had 113 total yards on 25 touches. While that kind of volume isn’t likely to continue, getting 15-plus touches per game isn’t an aberration. This is how Los Angeles wants to operate their offense and it’s how they’ve done it in the past. Kelley will have a significant role week in and week out and is a flex play given the right matchup. This is the right matchup. He’s a borderline top-30 running back this week and can be a godsend to those reeling from the Christian McCaffrey or Saquon Barkley injuries.
Dion Lewis (RB - NYG)
Despite being one of the most-added players in fantasy this week, Lewis’ ownership percentage is still only hovering around 30%. While the signing of Devonta Freeman will likely eat into Lewis’ role down the road, I don’t think that starts this week. The Giants trusted Lewis over Wayne Gallman last week and he’s the more experienced pass-blocker and pass-catcher. The Giants will throw more in general without Barkley and will likely be playing from behind despite facing a banged-up 49ers team. That scenario is where Lewis shines and he’s an RB2 this week in PPR formats. Remember, Joe Judge is very familiar with Lewis’ skill set and past success.
Tarik Cohen (RB - CHI)
Fantasy managers, like myself, are likely very frustrated with Cohen’s production so far this season. Coming off a career-best season in targets with 104, Cohen has a grand total of three through two weeks. This feels like a make-or-break week for the Chicago back. He’s already been dropped in 10-15% of leagues and there will be a mass dropping if he has another poor game in Week 3. I’m still willing to take a chance this week, ranking Cohen as my RB30 against the Falcons—Atlanta has allowed 15 receptions, 85 receiving yards, and two touchdowns to running backs so far this season. Cohen out-snapped David Montgomery in Week 1 and was on the field plenty in Week 2. This game could be a bit of a shootout, so Cohen should get more looks in the passing game, in theory.
Jerry Jeudy (WR - DEN)
The matchup kind of sucks, Jeudy is a little hobbled, and the Broncos will be using their back-up quarterback, but I still like the rookie this week. Driskel isn’t as good as Drew Lock, but he’ll sling the football around plenty—mistakes and all. That’s good news for the No. 1 receiving option who is feeling a little better in his recovery from a rib injury. Jeudy has eight catches and 15 targets through two weeks and should get plenty of opportunities to catch the ball at home against the Steelers. He’s more of a low-end WR3 or flex play, but he could have a nice target share this week.
Kendrick Bourne (WR - SF)
Jimmy Garoppolo may be out, but I don’t expect Kyle Shanahan to be timid with Nick Mullens. It looks like George Kittle will sit out again this week, so Bourne will be the top pass-catching option for San Francisco in a great matchup against the Giants secondary. New York’s allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Bourne has five targets in each of the last two games and should lead the team in that category this week. If you’re in a really deep league, he’s a solid WR4 this week.
Russell Gage (WR - ATL)
I’m going to keep putting Gage on this list until the fantasy world adjusts. Gage is rostered in less than half of leagues and is starting in fewer than 10% of lineups. He’s second on the Falcons in targets behind only Calvin Ridley, and Julio Jones is still nursing a hamstring injury. Gage ranks as a WR1 (No. 11 overall) through two weeks after back-to-back 16-plus point performances. The matchup against the Bears isn’t great, but the Falcons are at home and will continue to throw a ton. That means Gage should continue to get near or above 10 targets, making him a solid WR3 in PPR formats.
Dalton Schultz (TE - DAL)
No Blake Jarwin, no problem for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys last week. Against a porous Falcons defense, Schultz broke out with nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. He’ll face a Seahawks secondary that not only allowed the most catches and yards to tight ends last season (including playoffs), but that’s considerably banged up as well. If you’re looking for a dart throw, there are few in the tight end group in a better position to succeed this week.
Mo Alie-Cox (TE - IND)
It looks like Jack Doyle will miss another game, opening things up for another strong performance for Alie-Cox coming off a career-high 111-yard game in Week 2. We all know Philip Rivers loves his tight ends and Alie-Cox should own the middle of the field this week, especially with no Parris Campbell in the lineup. A favorable matchup with the Jets at home awaits Alie-Cox as well. He’s a top-15 tight end this week.