Another week is in the books. It is still early, but team and player outlooks are starting to get a bit clearer. However, there is still a ton of work to be done. As players that coaches thought looked good start to fizzle out, young hungry players will come out of the woodwork to take their starting jobs. Here at Last Word on Sports, we do the dirty work of sifting through those under-the-radar players who are ready to break out on a moment’s notice. Here are some players to keep an eye on the next few weeks.
Week Three Fantasy Football Watch List Featuring Derek Carr
Derek Carr’s 2016 MVP-caliber season with the Oakland Raiders seems like it happened so long ago. Some wonder if it was just an illusion, especially after the largely mediocre season a year ago. This continued into week one of this season. Carr looked gun-shy in the pocket, panicking at the slightest pressure and throwing three picks in prime-time against the Los Angeles Rams. Even head coach Jon Gruden seemed to call him out during his press conference.
Carr answered and put himself in gear against the Denver Broncos last week. Going against a fierce pass rush with Von Miller and rookie stud Bradley Chubb, Carr stood strong in the pocket, throwing some of the trademark darts that put him in the elite conversation during the Silver and Black’s only winning season in over 15 years. He became the only quarterback in history to throw at least 30 times and complete at least 90 percent of his passes. Carr only had three incompletions, one of them being a blatant drop that arguably cost them the game.
The team still lost the game, and Oakland fell to 0-2 with their new head coach. But the Raiders offense should only improve as the season goes on. The Rams and Broncos are two of the better pass defenses in the league. The next few weeks, Oakland has a much easier time, going against teams like the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns. In addition, Carr should only improve as he gets more familiar with Gruden’s complex offensive scheme. He’s already being touted as a waiver wire add, but team owners that don’t want to pull the trigger just yet should at least keep an eye on his performances the next few weeks.
Last week it was the A.J. Green show on Thursday Night Football. Green connected with quarterback Andy Dalton for three touchdowns in the first half. Dalton threw four on the night though, his final one going to Tyler Boyd. On the night, Boyd hauled in six receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. His nine targets were tied with Green for first on the team. His 14 through two games are also second on the team. It is looking like he is going to be a big part of the Bengals offense this year.
Boyd was drafted in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2016 draft. He didn’t do much his rookie season and missed the middle of the 2017 season with an MCL sprain. He never really had a chance to get acclimated with the system, and the entire Bengals offense looked out of sync anyway. This year, it looks like an entirely different story. The offense is clicking, and Boyd finally looks to have his feet under him in the NFL.
Many expected Boyd to be buried on the depth chart, behind options like Green, Tyler Eifert, Joe Mixon, and John Ross. While he has no chance of outplaying Green at this point, he looks much better as a receiver than any of the other guys. His style is also an excellent complement to Green. Boyd is an excellent route runner, who excels on short and intermediate routes while Green is streaking deep downfield.
If the Bengals offense keeps rolling through teams, Boyd could be an option to add as early as next week.
Peyton Barber, running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was hyped as a late-round sleeper all off-season. He looked good in the preseason whereas rookie second-round pick Ronald Jones looked horrible. In the four games Jones appeared in, he managed 22 yards on 28 carries. This was good for less than a yard a carry, going up against mostly backups. Jones did manage one reception that went for 37 yards, showcasing some potential for making big plays.
The Bucs decided that the rookie needed some time before seeing regular-season action, as he was inactive the first two weeks. However, after seeing Barber, and veteran Jacquizz Rodgers in action the last few weeks, they should give Jones another look. Through two games, Barber has 35 rushes for only 91 yards (2.6 yards per carry). Rodgers hasn’t been any better. He only has seven carries but mustered a measly 14 yards with them. Tampa Bay has been putting up points through the passing game with Ryan Fitzpatrick, but at some point they’re going to have to be able to run the ball effectively.
Jones is a player that will need to be monitored in headlines leading up to this week’s game. He will likely be active, so fantasy team owners need to keep an eye on his touches and effectiveness the next few weeks. The starting job in Tampa is far from established, and the team spent a high draft pick on Jones. If he can improve on his preseason performance, he needs to be added to teams immediately.
Week Two Redux: Austin Ekeler
Last week, Last Word on Sports highlighted Austin Ekeler as a player to keep an eye on for the next few weeks. He was thought of as more of a desperation back to handcuff Melvin Gordon. His week one usage where he got ten touches seemed like it was just going to be a fluke. However, he got even more touches this weekend. It was mostly because Gordon rested in the fourth quarter of a blowout win, but with both backs effective, the Chargers likely stick with a similar approach.
Ekeler is shaping up to be at the very least an option at FLEX weekly. He has over 90 scrimmage yards in both games this season. His true test will come this Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, who allowed less than 75 yards rushing in both games this season. This was against running backs Marshawn Lynch and David Johnson.
Ekeler will probably be added in a lot of PPR leagues this week. If he can have another fantasy relevant day against that defense and is still available, he should be scooped up immediately.
Find the rest of week two’s fantasy football watch list here