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2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 3 Tiers

By: STATS LLC

Week 3 is one of the most intriguing Weeks I’ve ever seen. We have a perfect storm of odd matchups and an incredible amount of home underdogs. I cannot stress enough that this week’s rankings will seem a bit funky due to this. This also means that these ranking are very likely to change a lot from now until Sunday, simply because everything is so close and volatile.

We are always working on providing more and more fantasy content for our fans and customers. In the meantime, feel free to engage with us on Twitter, and we’ll help you out the best we can.

Also, please note these are for standard scoring. The numbers in parentheses are how many tiers a player moves up or down in PPR, where applicable.

Quarterbacks

Tier 1

Aaron Rodgers (vs CIN)

Rodgers has gone over 300 yards in each of the first two weeks, yet it somehow feels like he’s off to a bit of a slow start. Expect his TD numbers to experience positive regression going forward, along with a bit of a spike in rushing stats. He might not be required to throw much and could be missing Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb. There isn’t an elite QB with a good enough matchup to join him in the top tier this week, though.

Tier 2

Cam Newton (vs NO)
Tom Brady (vs HOU)
Derek Carr (@ WAS)
Matt Ryan (@ DET)

It’s been awhile since I’ve had Newton in my top 5, but that’s what the Saints defense can do to a QB’s projection. Despite missing his go-to TE in Greg Olsen this week, I like Newton to shake off some of the rust and put up solid numbers.

Brady might not be asked to throw much in what should be a blowout. With his depleted receiving corps, this might be a game they let Mike Gillislee/Rex Burkhead kill the clock in the second half verses airing it out like last week.

Carr and Ryan are in great spots and are elite QB1 plays.

Tier 3

Kirk Cousins (vs OAK)
Matthew Stafford (vs ATL)
Ben Roethlisberger (@ CHI)
Russell Wilson (@ TEN)
Drew Brees (@ CAR)
Dak Prescott (@ ARI)
Carson Wentz (vs NYG)
Philip Rivers (vs KC)
Alex Smith (@ LAC)

This is the Tier that will generate the most sit/start questions this week. Cousins is off to a slow start, but that was to be expected after losing his top two WR from a year ago. There aren’t many potential high-scoring matchups this week, but OAK/WSH just might be most fruitful. Look for him to get his season back on track.

Wentz is almost a QB1 by default this week. The Giants are never a great matchup for a QB, but Wentz will likely attack their defense through TE Zach Ertz. It’s also increasingly apparent that the Eagles have almost completely abandoned the idea of running the ball with their five-man RB committee. Wentz’s rushing stats have risen considerably in his second season, which could make him a borderline QB1 most weeks going forward if it keeps up.

Big Ben and Drew Brees both have less-than-ideal road matchups, which means we must decide whether to start them or not. Either way, if you roll them out there they should be able to give you solid enough numbers to win your matchup, but don’t expect a massive game from either.

Rivers and Smith are more high-end QB2 plays this week against each other in a matchup that could be more of a defensive struggle rather than a shootout.

Tier 4

Marcus Mariota (vs SEA)
Trevor Siemian (@ BUF)
DeShone Kizer (@ IND)

Mariota draws the dreaded Seattle matchup this week. Due to his rushing stats, he is a bit matchup-proof, though, and I would certainly roll him out there if you don’t have a better option this week.

Siemian is getting a ton of buzz right now. While I do believe some is warranted (simply because of how well the Mike McCoy offense feeds off the strength of their personnel), I’m more optimistic about the sustainable success of individual players such as CJ Anderson, Emmanuel Sanders, and Demaryius Thomas in this offense. Siemian is probably good enough to prop up the value of those players compared to last year, but still not good enough to be a fantasy star himself.

The Browns are a road favorite for what might be the first time in 20 years in a laughable matchup against the Colts. With a bunch of odd matchups this week, this is actually a game that could generate some fantasy gold. If there were any week to roll Kizer out in two-QB leagues, this would be it.

Tier 5

Jameis Winston (@ MIN)
Jay Cutler (@ NYJ)
Carson Palmer (vs DAL)
Sam Bradford (vs TB)

I’m not expecting great numbers from Winston in a tough road matchup against the Vikings. Next week would be an ideal time to try to buy low on him if he puts up poor numbers. I still think he’s a rock-solid QB1 the rest of the season, and his schedule is about to open up over the next several weeks. He’s had his bye week already, too.

Tier 6

Tyrod Taylor (vs DEN)
Jacoby Brissett (vs CLE)
Andy Dalton (@ GB)
Joe Flacco (@ JAX)
Eli Manning (@ PHI)
Jared Goff (@ SF)
Blake Bortles (vs BAL)
Josh McCown (vs MIA)
Deshaun Watson (@ NE)

This uninspiring tier consists of low-end QB2 options in two-QB leagues. Taylor has a brutal matchup against the Broncos. However, despite the high probability of him failing to throw for 200 yards, we have to remember that most of his value comes on the ground. He could pop up in the top 15 this week if he breaks off a couple big gains with his legs or scores a rushing TD, making him the best dart throw in this Tier.

Tier 7

Mike Glennon (vs PIT)
Brian Hoyer (vs LAR)

Neither QB is worth talking about.

Running Backs

Tier 1

Le’Veon Bell (@ CHI)
Ezekiel Elliott (@ ARI)
Kareem Hunt (@ LAC)
Jay Ajayi (@ NYJ, -1) 

For maybe the first time ever, we have four RBs in Tier 1. This is obviously due to David Johnson being on the shelf, but also due to the fact that Bell/Zeke are off to a bit of a rough start. On top of that, we now have to truly consider Kareem Hunt as a top 3 RB going forward. Jay Ajayi just squeaks into Tier 1 due to his matchup against the potentially 0-16 Jets, in what could provide him with a massive workload this week.

Tier 2

Todd Gurley (@ SF)

In a very odd week, Gurley gets Tier 2 all to himself. He seems to have drawn one of the most favorable opening schedules we have ever seen for a RB. After a cupcake matchup against the 49ers this week, however, he’s set up for what should be a brutal several-week stretch. Next week would be the time to sell high on him.

Tier 3

LeSean McCoy (vs DEN)
Melvin Gordon (vs KC)
Carlos Hyde (vs LAR)
Ty Montgomery (vs CIN)
Devonta Freeman (@ DET)

McCoy and Gordon are volume workhorses who are essentially matchup-proof due to their involvement in both the run and pass games. Hyde has been impressive so far this season and remains an RB1 play in a home matchup against the Rams.

I’m a bit worried Montgomery may not be needed as much this week if the Packers take an early lead, as they may save his somewhat-fragile body for other weeks. Having said that, you really have no choice but to roll him out there.

Tier 4

Dalvin Cook (vs TB)
Leonard Fournette (vs BAL)
C.J. Anderson (@ BUF)
Marshawn Lynch (@ WAS)

This is the last of the RB1 class, and all four have decent matchups. Anderson seems to start off hot every season and then get hurt. I am not a fan of trying to predict injuries, but this might be the highest his stock gets all season. I wouldn’t necessarily sell high considering his playoff matchup schedule at the end of the year is quite favorable.

Tier 5

Christian McCaffrey (vs NO, +2)
Mike Gillislee (vs HOU, -2)
Jonathan Stewart (vs NO, -1)

We have an entire RBBC in this three-man tier. I think investing in the Panthers running game this week is a smart bet against the Saints. With Olsen out and Newton still shaking off the rust of his shoulder surgery, look for Carolina to lean on both RBs hard this week.

As I mentioned before, this is a week in which the Patriots will likely use Gillislee a ton in the second half to preserve a big lead. He is the No.1  safest bet for a rushing TD in Week 3.

Tier 6

Javorius Allen (@ JAX, +2)
Tarik Cohen (vs PIT, +3)
Isaiah Crowell (@ IND)
Ameer Abdullah (vs ATL)
Lamar Miller (@ NE)
Samaje Perine (vs OAK)
Jacquizz Rodgers (@ MIN)
Jordan Howard (vs PIT)

This is the most interesting tier of the week. All of these guys have seen their stock rise/fall the most this season. Terrence West missed practice on Wednesday and could be looking at a game-time decision. If he were to miss, Allen would move up a tier. I’m a bit too cautious rather than bullish on his stock, considering the Ravens just lost Marshal Yanda for the season. No offensive lineman in the league is more important than Yanda, since he’s that much better than the rest of his teammates. They now become a below-average line with his loss.

Cohen/Howard may be the quickest RBBC to develop in the past few seasons. I always felt Howard was being drafted way too high heading into the season because of this possibility. A lot of it could be due to the shoulder injury he’s been dealing with. Who knows if he is playing through a multi-week injury simply to keep Cohen from running away with the job. You have to start him if you don’t have any better options, but this isn’t a straight forward black/white situation. We are going to have to handle it week to week until we see how it starts to unfold.

Tier 7

DeMarco Murray (vs SEA)
Chris Carson (@ TEN)
Tevin Coleman (@ DET, +1)
Mark Ingram (@ CAR, +1)
Darren Sproles (vs NYG, +1)
Matt Forte (vs MIA)
Chris Thompson (vs OAK, +1)
Frank Gore (vs CLE)

Similar to the Bears RBBC, the Titans RB situation is a bit murky. It’s hard to tell how much of it is due to the hamstring injury Murray is dealing with, but a lot of it simply has to do with Derrick Henry being extremely good, too. This is why I urged people to take someone like Henry over a Frank Gore later in their drafts. We know exactly what we are going to get from Gore. Most weeks Henry will be a borderline flex play or a bye-week depth player. However, if Murray misses time, Henry is a rock solid RB2 and potentially a RB1 in great matchups.

I’m buying Chris Carson and selling Chris Thompson this week. Carson is clearly the best RB on Seattle’s roster. Despite playing behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines, he has the talent and expected volume to be a RB2/RB3 depending on matchups. Thompson is not going to rush for multiple TDs possibly ever again. We have a large enough sample size to expect 5-10 touches most weeks from him, mostly in the passing game, and his role wouldn’t expand that much even if Rob Kelley misses much time. He’s only a PPR option going forward.

Tier 8

Terrance West (@ JAX)
Bilal Powell (vs MIA, +1)
Derrick Henry (vs SEA)
Joe Mixon (@ GB)
James White (vs HOU, +1)
Paul Perkins (@ PHI)

This tier is pretty much all talented RBs (and Paul Perkins) stuck in a RBBC, and they’d shoot up the ranks if any of their teammates were to miss time. It certainly seems like Henry could be the first one to get called up if Murray’s hamstring injury costs him time. I’m also monitoring how the new Bengals offensive coordinator handles their carry distribution this week. They may start to go away from two-down plodder Jeremy Hill and third-down specialist Gio Bernard, and increasing Mixon’s workload. This would give them a chance to see if Mixon can be a true workhorse back considering this is shaping up to be a lost season for them.

Tier 9

Kerwynn Williams (vs DAL)
Chris Johnson (vs DAL, -1)
Giovani Bernard (@ GB, +1)
Duke Johnson Jr. (@ IND, +1)
Theo Riddick (vs ATL, +2)
Alvin Kamara (@ CAR, +1)
Shane Vereen (@ PHI, +1)

I do not think it’s wise to try to figure out which Cardinals RB to play this week. Williams certainly flopped in a dream matchup last week where he could have run away with the starting role. Instead, we saw Johnson have a solid game as they turned to him more in the second half. This could flip entirely back again this week, or we could even see Andre Ellington play a larger role. I’m also very worried that if they manage to get into a goal-line situation, we might see 234-pound Elijhaa Penny come in to vulture a 1-yard TD. This is a perfect example of a time to not start a RB just because he is the nominal “starter” on paper.

Wide Receivers

Tier 1

Antonio Brown (@ CHI)

I’ve been getting a lot of questions on how/why I had Mike Evans in the top 5 last week considering the Bears have done a good job shutting down WR1’s dating back to last season. I just want to caution that something like that could be a false correlation, and I tend to overlook such factors. You have to remember the Bears were awful last year and teams likely didn’t have to air it out in order to win. They are no match for the greatest WR of this era, so he’s in Tier 1 all alone again this week.

Tier 2

Julio Jones (@ DET)

Jones is also matchup-proof. It is starting to be very apparent, however, that new OC Steve Sarkisian was simply blowing smoke when he said they were going to go out of their way to get Jones the ball in the red zone. It certainly seems as if we are destined to get something like a 110-reception, 1,600-yard and … three-TD season from him. I still think going forward that some of these ticky-tack Freeman touchdowns near the goal line may go to Jones every once in awhile, but it’s getting harder and harder to assume.

Tier 3

A.J. Green (@ GB)
Mike Evans (@ MIN)

It may seem a bit odd having Green in the elite tier given his team’s offensive struggles, but I think we see the Bengals make it a point to give him the ball this week. They will likely have to air it out against the Packers in order to keep it competitive.

Evans is matchup-proof and is still an elite WR1 despite the brutal matchup.

Tier 4

DeAndre Hopkins (@ NE)
Amari Cooper (@ WAS)
Demaryius Thomas (@ BUF)
Michael Crabtree (@ WAS)
Odell Beckham Jr. (@ PHI)
Kelvin Benjamin (vs NO, -1)
Michael Thomas (@ CAR)
Keenan Allen (vs KC)
Tyreek Hill (@ LAC, -1)
Stefon Diggs (vs TB)
Davante Adams (vs CIN)
DeVante Parker (@ NYJ)
Golden Tate (vs ATL)

This is the insane tier. With all of the road favorites and odd matchups this week, we have a pretty unconventional set of rankings. Cooper/Crabtree are rock-solid WR1 plays, and I don’t care who is claimed to be “shadowed” by Josh Norman this week. I really do believe that whole narrative is a bit overblown, to be honest. It seems to me that we now have about 25 or so teams with “shutdown” corners, so there needs to come a point when we either just have to ignore most of them altogether or remember that there are in fact elite WRs in the league as well. Cooper and Crabtree are both elite WRs whom I don’t mind betting on against a good CB like Norman.

This may be the only week Kelvin Benjamin is ranked near Michael Thomas, but their matchups alone are enough in order to close the gap enough to make them a coin flip.

Tier 5

Brandin Cooks (vs HOU)
Dez Bryant (@ ARI)
Jarvis Landry (@ NYJ, +1)
Emmanuel Sanders (@ BUF)
Terrelle Pryor Sr. (vs OAK)
Doug Baldwin (@ TEN)
Larry Fitzgerald (vs DAL, +1)
Alshon Jeffery (vs NYG)
Pierre Garcon (vs LAR)
Adam Thielen (vs TB)

Cooks scares me a bit this week considering they won’t need to throw too much or design too many deep balls to him. I was known for having Pryor way down on my WR draft board this season compared to most experts. Therefore, I’m not too surprised that he is off to a bit of a shaky start. However, I do think at some point he and Cousins will start clicking, and it could come as early as this week. I think he is a great play in what could be the top-scoring matchup in a lower-scoring week. Fire him up if you have him.

Tier 6

Randall Cobb (vs CIN)
Allen Hurns (vs BAL)
J.J. Nelson (vs DAL)
T.Y. Hilton (vs CLE)
Martavis Bryant (@ CHI)
Marqise Lee (vs BAL)
Tyrell Williams (vs KC)
Sammy Watkins (@ SF)
Jeremy Maclin (@ JAX)
Jamison Crowder (vs OAK)
Chris Hogan (vs HOU)
Rashard Higgins (@ IND)
DeSean Jackson (@ MIN)
Jermaine Kearse (vs MIA)
Rishard Matthews (vs SEA)
Mohamed Sanu (@ DET)

The Packers WR situation is a bit of a mess to forecast right now. You have to realize I’m writing this up while Cobb and Nelson are both highly questionable. If either of them miss this week then someone like Davante Adams is instantly a WR2 (and possibly even higher if BOTH miss). You then have Geronimo Allison enter the discussion in that event. If either Cobb or Jordy are active you have to play them, though. It’s that simple.

J.J. Nelson can now be penciled in as a low end WR2/3 anytime John Brown misses a game. The surprise WR this week in Tier 6 is Rashard Higgins. You have to remember that talent alone is half the formula in fantasy football, with the other half being volume. With Corey Coleman on IR now and Kenny Britt looking like a lost cause, Higgins could very well be the Browns’ No. 1. Normally this isn’t much of an endorsement. This week it is, however, considering they are facing the Colts. I’m viewing him as a low-end WR3.

Tier 7

Tyler Lockett (@ TEN)
Devin Funchess (vs NO)
Donte Moncrief (vs CLE)
Marvin Jones Jr. (vs ATL)
Kenny Golladay (vs ATL)
Jordy Nelson (vs CIN)
Ted Ginn Jr. (@ CAR)
Marquise Goodwin (vs LAR)
Cooper Kupp (@ SF)
Jaron Brown (vs DAL)

Ignore Nelson’s rank here. Like I mentioned, if he is active, you start him. Him missing this week gives such a boost to the rest of the WRs I had to give him a half-game of projections just to keep his teammates’ rankings at a reasonable level. The dart-throw WR3/Flex pick this week is Devin Funchess. He may not get the volume to be relevant most weeks, but anyone facing the Saints is in play. He could be a sneaky bet for a TD or even two as the most overlooked natural replacement for Greg Olsen.

Tight Ends

Week 1

Rob Gronkowski (vs HOU)

There really isn’t much to say about Gronk other than if you have him, you play him this week (if he’s active). If you are holding on to some droppable TE2 like Jesse James on the bench, I would say an advanced move would be to drop him for Dwayne Allen. If you are only going to be starting your backup TE if Gronk misses time, you may as well have your backup be the guy that would be a TE1 in that scenario.

Tier 2

Travis Kelce (@ LAC)

Kelce is certainly closing the gap on Gronk, and now with Greg Olsen on IR, his stock goes up even more in theory. TE has been a bit of a disaster so far this year, and people that took Kelce earlier in their drafts are sitting pretty right now.

Tier 3

Zach Ertz (vs NYG)
Jordan Reed (vs OAK)

Ertz is certainly looking like the best bang-for-your-buck TE so far this season. Usually you were able to get him much later on in drafts. The loss of Jordan Matthews certainly has opened up more targets for him over the middle, at least initially. I look for them to use him heavily against the Giants, who sort of force teams to move the ball via their TE.

People love making excuses for why they shouldn’t play Reed week-to-week. If he’s active, play him. You have to remember that the TE position is the most TD-dependent position in fantasy, and there are not many TEs more likely to get a TD than Jordan Reed.

Tier 4

Jason Witten (@ ARI)
Delanie Walker (vs SEA)
Kyle Rudolph (vs TB)
Martellus Bennett (vs CIN)
Jared Cook (@ WAS)
Coby Fleener (@ CAR)

I am loving the Jason Witten hype after two weeks. We have enough of a sample size to know that our beloved dad runner has only so much upside, but he still appears matchup-proof given how the Cowboys use him. He also benefits by default from most TEs in this range having poor matchups this week. Bennett would also rise a bit if any of the Green Bay WRs were to sit out this week.

Tier 5

Jack Doyle (vs CLE)
Charles Clay (vs DEN)
Hunter Henry (vs KC)
Jesse James (@ CHI)
Evan Engram (@ PHI)
Eric Ebron (vs ATL)
Benjamin Watson (@ JAX)
Jimmy Graham (@ TEN)

You can make a case for starting any one of these TEs, as I think they are all decent bets to score. Pay attention to Jimmy Graham’s status. If he is active and near 100 percent, his rank will obviously shoot up. I am urging caution with him, though, if he tries to play through what could be a multi-week ankle injury. It seems like the TE pool is deep enough to find a Week 3 fill-in for Graham if needed.

Tier 5

Ed Dickson (vs NO)
Zach Miller (vs PIT)
Austin Hooper (@ DET)
Julius Thomas (@ NYJ)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (vs MIA)
Cameron Brate (@ MIN)
Tyler Eifert (@ GB)

Ed Dickson is a typically a blocking TE but will be asked to run more routes with Greg Olsen on the shelf. He is my dark-horse pick to put up TE1 numbers this week (this is NOT an endorsement to play him over anyone above). His range of outcomes also makes it very likely he puts up a dud as well.

ASJ returns from his two-game suspension. Although I typically avoid Jets TEs, they really don’t have many options in the passing game, so he could vault up to their second-most targeted player as soon as this week. He may be worth a stash on your bench just to see this week how much they plan on using him.

Kickers

Tier 1

Stephen Gostkowski (vs HOU)
Giorgio Tavecchio (@ WAS)
Matt Bryant (@ DET)

Tier 2

Dustin Hopkins (vs OAK)
Dan Bailey (@ ARI)
Graham Gano (vs NO)
Cairo Santos (@ LAC)

Tier 3

Mason Crosby (vs CIN)
Justin Tucker (@ JAX)
Matt Prater (vs ATL)
Jake Elliott (vs NYG)
Kai Forbath (vs TB)

Tier 4

Phil Dawson (vs DAL)
Brandon McManus (@ BUF)
Younghoe Koo (vs KC)
Adam Vinatieri (vs CLE)
Cody Parkey (@ NYJ)
Ryan Succop (vs SEA)
Chris Boswell (@ CHI)
Wil Lutz (@ CAR)
Zane Gonzalez (@ IND)

Tier 5

Greg Zuerlein (@ SF)
Robbie Gould (vs LAR)
Blair Walsh (@ TEN)
Nick Folk (@ MIN)

Tier 6

Chandler Catanzaro (vs MIA)
Randy Bullock (@ GB)
Connor Barth (vs PIT)
Jason Myers (vs BAL)
Stephen Hauschka (vs DEN)
Aldrick Rosas (@ PHI)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (@ NE)

Defense

Tier 1

Baltimore Ravens (@ JAX)
New England Patriots (vs HOU)
Indianapolis Colts (vs CLE)
Green Bay Packers (vs CIN)

Tier 2

Tennessee Titans (vs SEA)
Kansas City Chiefs (@ LAC)
Philadelphia Eagles (vs NYG)
Pittsburgh Steelers (@ CHI)
Denver Broncos (@ BUF)
Los Angeles Rams (@ SF)
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs BAL)

Tier 3

Cleveland Browns (@ IND)
Dallas Cowboys (@ ARI)
Miami Dolphins (@ NYJ)
Minnesota Vikings (vs TB)
Buffalo Bills (vs DEN)
Carolina Panthers (vs NO)
Atlanta Falcons (@ DET)
San Francisco 49ers (vs LAR)
Seattle Seahawks (@ TEN)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ MIN)

Tier 4

Arizona Cardinals (vs DAL)
Los Angeles Chargers (vs KC)
Chicago Bears (vs PIT)
New York Giants (@ PHI)
New York Jets (vs MIA)
Oakland Raiders (@ WAS)
Cincinnati Bengals (@ GB)

Tier 5

Detroit Lions (vs ATL)
New Orleans Saints (@ CAR)
Washington Redskins (vs OAK)
Houston Texans (@ NE)