There wasn’t much offense across the NFL last week; just four of the league’s fourteen games finished above the over-under line set by oddsmakers. Units we thought would be high-powered, such as the Cardinals, Buccaneers and Packers, once again struggled to find any continuity moving the ball downfield. Even the Bills and the Chiefs turned the Game of the Year into a slog. A league-wide decline in scoring has yet to go away, and it’s time for fantasy managers to act accordingly. With fewer points on the board, separating the “studs” from the “duds” can become a weekly exercise in unpredictability. Here are four risers and fallers that you should pay attention to as we near the season’s halfway point.
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Stock Up: RB Travis Etienne Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars
Etienne’s 12.8 PPR points don’t jump off the page, especially following a game where the Jaguars had nearly 400 yards of offense. However, for the first time all year, the former first-round pick was both Jacksonville’s official starter and out-snapped James Robinson. While JRob’s return from an Achilles tear has been fun to watch, Etienne has played well, with 5.6 yards per carry. Last Sunday was arguably his best performance as a pro, running for an efficient 86 yards on just 10 carries, along with two catches for 22 yards. Robinson, while still a factor with 12 carries for 54 yards, has had under seven fantasy points in each of the past three weeks.
Will Etienne literally run away with the starting gig? It’s possible, but unlikely; Doug Pederson was known for sticking to a two or three-man running back committee while he was head coach of the Eagles. That doesn’t mean Etienne has no path to being a solid fantasy starter, especially if his stellar receiving skills are utilized more. Despite his inconsistent usage and lack of a touchdown, Etienne is still the fantasy RB28 in PPR leagues, making him a legitimate RB2 candidate going forward. It’s hard to even call him a buy-low given Robinson’s recent struggles, but any trade for Etienne needs to happen now before it becomes obvious that he’s commanding most of the workload in the Jaguars backfield.
Stock Down: WR Drake London, Atlanta Falcons
Arthur Smith is one of the weirdest coaches in football when it comes to personnel usage. It’s hard to argue with the results, as the Falcons are 3-3, but the victories are coming at the cost of production from some of the team’s best players. London, who set the world on fire over the first three weeks of the season, has averaged just over 30 yards per game since. In Sunday’s win over the 49ers, London clocked in for just 50% of the team’s snaps, four fewer than veteran Olamide Zaccheaus. Smith is constantly rotating in pieces on offense; while it might keep Atlanta fresh, it’s a fantasy nightmare that can tank a player’s value (see Pitts, Kyle).
Even more troubling is that the Falcons may have found a formula for winning games: pounding the rock. Over their past three outings, Atlanta has the second-most rush attempts in the league. They’ve relied less on Marcus Mariota‘s arm of late (averaging 19.3 pass attempts since Week 4), and that should only continue once Cordarrelle Patterson returns from the IR. Don’t count on London returning to his early-season form until we see some playing time continuity from Smith and the coaching staff.
Stock Up: RB Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots
At long last, Rhamondre Stevenson has taken control of the Patriots’ backfield. While Damien Harris‘ injury certainly guaranteed more touches, the second-year back has excelled as a starter, rumbling for 237 rushing yards over two games. During Sunday’s 38-15 demolition of the Browns, the Pats leaned on Stevenson in both the red zone (two touchdowns) and passing game (four catches on five targets). While 19 touches might not have been as many as expected with Harris out, Stevenson is clearly making the most of his opportunity to shine.
Harris is sure to command some kind of role in New England’s offense upon his return, which could come as early as this weekend. That doesn’t mean Bill Belichick is blind; Stevenson has been the better runner so far this year, along with route-running ability that can help out rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe. The Patriots’ offense being able to move down the field in spite of Mac Jones‘ injury also bodes well for Stevenson; red zone opportunities should be available all season, especially during the fantasy playoffs against the Raiders, Bengals and Dolphins. Managers who nabbed Stevenson in the middle rounds of their draft should be giving themselves a pat on the back.
Stock Down: QB Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
In all honesty, the stock is down on the entire Rams offense (sans Cooper Kupp). Los Angeles is currently ranked 26th in total yardage, looking almost unrecognizable compared to last year’s dynamic aerial attack. While it might not be fair to pin all the blame on Stafford, the buck stops at quarterback; for a Pro Bowl talent, he has looked dreadful. Currently ranked as the QB24, he’s had just one game above 12 fantasy points this season. Most troubling is the amount of mistakes the veteran has made; he currently leads the NFL with eight interceptions.
Can things get better for the Rams? Yes. Will they? It’s hard to say. LA’s offensive line has looked lost without Andrew Whitworth, the running game is stagnant, and Allen Robinson has disappointed as the team’s WR2. Improved play up front is a reasonable expectation, as the team has had to deal with some early-season injuries, but there is no star-in-waiting that can boost the team’s passing attack a la Odell Beckham Jr. last year. Stafford has to find a way to make defenses focus on anyone other than Kupp, his go-to option when things break down inside the pocket. A week of rest should help, but things will only get tougher with upcoming games against the 49ers and Buccaneers.