In this Week 3 edition of 10 Thoughts, we cover Rondale Moore’s tantalizing potential, Mike Williams’ success in the Michael Thomas role, Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s struggles, and much more.
1) Rondale Moore is already a fantasy superstar, and consistency is within reach.
Moore leads Arizona Cardinals pass catchers in targets (13) receiving yards (182) despite being a distant last in snap rate at just 36.9%. Think about how impressive that per snap production is… the efficiency Moore has shown is absolutely special. I hope that by now you’re dreaming on what Moore could do with a decent snap rate — if so, I have some promising news. Moore’s snap rate went from 29 percent in Week 1 to 45.9% in Week 2, and it’s clear that he should continue to see his snaps rise based on his talent level and insane per touch production. If Moore gets into just the 60+% snap rate range he’s talented enough to be a WR2, that’s how good this guy is. Moore is one of the few players I’m willing to “buy high” on, and the sky is the limit for him in rational coaching prevails in Arizona.
2) Don’t lose faith in these struggling tight ends.
What do Tyler Higbee, George Kittle, and Gerald Everett all have in common? They all played at least 79.6% of snaps last week (Kittle and Higbee played 100%) and they all ran a route on at least 78.1% of dropbacks. Additionally, they all scored less than six fantasy points in Week 2. So essentially, they all had elite usage for the position with nothing to show for it on the surface. If the usage holds up (I’m most confident that it will for Higbee and Kittle) there’s no way that these guys won’t put together some big games sooner rather than later.
3) Tony Pollard is better than Ezekiel Elliott, and the Cowboys know it.
The only reason that Tony Pollard has 23 touches to Zeke’s 31 thus far is that Ezekiel Elliott is a marketable star whom the team has invested significant money and draft capital into over the years. The eye test and the stat sheet tell you that Pollard is the superior talent. Through two weeks, Pollard has turned 23 touches into 183 yards while Zeke has turned 31 touches into 122 total yards. It’s also clear that the Cowboys feed Pollard when he’s on the field, as he’s racked up 23 touches on only 28.6% of snaps. The Cowboys are going to keep both of these guys involved all year long. I’m valuing Zeke as a mid-tier RB2 and Pollard as an ascending RB3. For those playing dynasty, I think Pollard will be the lead back in Dallas in 2022.
4) The Bengals passing game is being held back by an unexpected shortage of volume.
Any time you have three receivers valued at the WR3 level or higher, the volume has to be there for them to pay off on a consistent basis, regardless of how talented they may be. That wasn’t expected to be an issue in Cincinnati this season, but it has been so far. The Bengals 54.1% pass rate through two weeks ranks 24th in the NFL. To put that in perspective, the Bengals passed at a 62.9% rate when Joe Burrow was healthy in 2020. The current volume creates a situation where either one receiver will be left out each week (Tyler Boyd Week 1), or the ceiling is limited for all three receivers (Week 2). For what it’s worth, I do expect that the Bengals will get back to passing at a top 10 rate, and I think the current volume is more a result of the team easing Joe Burrow back in than a philosophical shift. Either way, this is something to watch closely.
5) Mike Williams really is playing the Michael Thomas role in Joe Lombardi’s Chargers offense.
Most of the industry laughed it off when Joe Lombardi indicated that Mike Williams would be utilized a la Michael Thomas in his new offense, but here we are. Williams is being utilized like a complete receiver in 2021 (9.9 aDOT) rather than a contested-catch, deep-ball guy like he had been in 2020 (15.8 aDOT) and in past years. The Clemson product has always been a top talent, but now he’s running routes all over the field and bullying smaller corners at all levels. The usage has been consistent through two weeks and it’s also Lombardi’s rhetoric, so there’s no reason to think that Williams won’t be in this role all year long. Big Mike is the WR5 overall at this point in time, and I’m already valuing him as a legitimate WR2 — he looks like one of the year’s best values.
6) Henry Ruggs could be assuming a different, and better role.
Similar to Mike Williams, Ruggs had been pigeon-holed into a clear-out, high aDOT role to this point in his career… until last week. Ruggs’ 2020 aDOT (17.3) was massive, as was his Week 1 aDOT (19.6), but in Week 2 it came down to 12.3, and, not coincidentally, he went off for 5/113/1. The Raiders need someone outside of Darren Waller to breakout and provide receiving production, and Ruggs could be that guy if this usage sticks. It’s a big if, but if Ruggs has a similar aDOt in Week 3 I will be aggressively targeting him regardless of his box score results.
7) Marquise Brown has quietly been excellent over his last five games.
Marquise Brown’s box score results in his last five games are as follows: 6/113/1, 6/69/1, 4/87/0, 7/109/0, 5/41/2. Is it just me or does that look like WR2 production? I’m not ready to go that far just yet, but Brown could finally make the leap a year after everyone gave up on him. The obstacles in the way of a breakout season are the Ravens’ low passing volume offensive scheme, and, to a lesser extent, the return of Rashod Bateman in Week 4. Those are real obstacles, but they are far from insurmountable. I’m already moving Brown into the back-end WR3 range and I think he’s still undervalued in general — go out and get him.
8) Darnell Mooney is primed to benefit from the switch to Justin Fields.
To be clear, I think every single member of Chicago’s offense is set up to benefit from Justin Fields taking the reigns from Andy Dalton. Dalton was truly awful, and he was so nervous in the pocket that he checked down nearly every play (4.6 aDOT). Fields is better in every way, but especially at pushing the ball down the field. Fields’ scouting report coming out of Ohio State told you that he excels in the deep-ball game, and it wasn’t lying. Fields posted a 96.1 PFF passing grade on deep throws his final college season. Enter one Darnell Mooney, the Bears second-year speedster who seemingly gets over the top of the defense at will. Mooney was open deep and missed deep by poor quarterbacks so many times in 2020 that I lost count, but that won’t happen with Justin Fields throwing to him. Mooney already went for 6/66/0 in one half with Fields last week, and more is coming. Look for Mooney’s value to ascend rapidly with Fields under center.
9) Clyde Edwards-Helaire is not a good NFL running back.
This is a tough pill for many people to swallow, but it’s the truth. Edwards-Helaire was a bad first-round pick in fantasy drafts last year, and he was a bad pick in drafts this year in the late second/early third round because he’s not a good player. Andy Reid will never admit it publicly, but he knows this, and that’s why he’s never featured CEH despite drafting him in the first round. Reid isn’t stubborn like other egotistic coaches in the NFL who refuse to adjust when they make a mistake, he’s going to do what’s best for the team. Edwards-Helaire is small, he doesn’t find holes, and he’s slow (4.60 40-yard dash). CEH’s 47.0 PFF rushing grade ranks dead last in the entire NFL through two weeks — he won’t suddenly turn into a good player — but there is a sole source of hope. Opponents know how bad he’s been and they will undoubtedly absolutely dare the Chiefs to run going forward by leaving as few defenders in the box as possible. If Edwards-Helaire still can’t take advantage of unbelievably friendly defensive looks starting this week… he doesn’t belong in the NFL period.
10) The San Francisco 49ers backfield is too messy and unpredictable to invest in.
Who will carry the load at running back for the 49ers over the rest of the season? Will it be Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, Trenton Cannon, Jacques Patrick, or Jeff Wilson? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. The likely answer is that it will be a combination of those players and maybe even other ones that they add via free agency or the trade market. The chances of one back leading the backfield for most of the season are minimal, to say the least. The Kyle Shanahan running back carousel is going spin and spin, and I highly suggest not getting in line for the ride. I’ll eat my words if one of these guys is anything close to a bellcow in 2021.