Fantasy Football Week 2 Fallout

by Emerson Beery · Fantasy Football

The 2023 fantasy football season has already thrown some curveballs that are reshaping the landscape. From star players facing season-ending injuries, emerging talents seizing the spotlight, to the uncertain futures of key quarterbacks, this article delves into the latest developments that will undoubtedly impact your fantasy roster. Whether you’re seeking waiver wire gems to fill the void left by Nick Chubb, navigating the ups and downs of the 49ers’ receiving corps, or contemplating the future of Justin Fields, our comprehensive analysis has you covered.

Nick Chubb Curtain Call

In a devastating turn of events, Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending injury this past Monday night, ending his 2023 season. It was the same knee that he suffered a brutal injury to back in college, making his recovery timeline murky. Additionally, Chubb will count over $16 million against the salary cap next season. If he were to be cut, he would only cost the Browns $4 million, making him a strong candidate for release.

Chubb can obviously be cut in any single-season format. In dynasty leagues though this craters his value. As a running back entering his late twenties coming off a season-ending knee injury, he won’t be able to garner anything of significance on the trade market. Even if he were ready to start the 2024 season, he will never be valued as more than an RB3. Chubb is a strong hold until fantasy managers have more clarity on the situation.

Regardless, the fantasy football season must go on, and Jerome Ford and Pierre Strong are next up on the depth chart in Cleveland. Ford operated as the immediate backup to Chubb and was impressive in limited opportunities. He will immediately be one of the top adds off waiver wires this week and will be a fringe RB2 in most formats. However, he can be left on benches when the Browns face off against the Titans’ defense next week.

This is also another potential destination for Kareem Hunt or Leonard Fournette. Given all the running back injuries across the NFL already, if these players aren’t signed this week, they can be cut from fantasy rosters. Given the strong offensive line play in Cleveland, either of them would immediately enter the top 15 running back conversation. Fantasy managers should monitor their situation closely and consider making a waiver claim if they have the roster room.

Week Two Fantasy Football Takeaways

49ers’ Fortune Turning into Fantasy Misfortune

After Brandon Aiyuk‘s fantasy managers were celebrating after Week 1, the talented young wideout was quiet in Week 2. Instead, it was Deebo Samuel leading the way with over 100 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. That will be a problem for fantasy managers in 2023 because each of these pass catchers will be subject to up-and-down performances. The 49ers boast one of the most talented skill position groups in the NFL. As a result, there may not be enough targets to sustain multiple fantasy-relevant receivers on a regular basis.

Despite Brock Purdy‘s success as an NFL quarterback, his play and the offensive scheme aren’t great for the fantasy football success of 49ers receivers. The 49ers rank No. 32 in pace of play and No. 24 in pass plays per game this season. With only 54 pass attempts so far this season, there simply won’t be enough targets every week to go around.

Not surprisingly, Christian McCaffrey is getting his touches and is RB1 overall through two weeks in the NFL season. However, for Aiyuk, Samuel, and George Kittle, this means they will likely be boom and bust. They will each have their weeks they star, and those games will likely be impossible to predict. Fantasy managers are still starting each of these players everywhere, but don’t expect consistency. Aiyuk and Samuel are fringe WR2s, and Kittle is still a mid-tier TE1 due to the bleak outlook at the position.

Purdy is a massive riser in quarterback rankings this season and has the makings to be a long-term starter in this league. He is more important in superflex leagues though, where he can operate as a reliable second quarterback. In single-quarterback formats, he is still just a streaming option in good matchups. He is asked to operate a low volume passing offense and doesn’t possess any rushing upside, limiting his ceiling.

Saquon Barkley Back on the Trainer’s Table

Saquon Barkley suffered an ankle sprain that is expected to sideline him for the next three weeks. Based on the frustration on his face after the injury, it could have been much worse. He appears to have avoided the dreaded high ankle sprain that could have kept him out for months. Instead, he will be considered week-to-week, with a potential for return against Miami in Week 5.

Barkley was the No. 3 RB in fantasy football in Week 2 and was slated for his clear bell-cow role in the Giants’ backfield in 2023. He received 23 touches in Week 2 and has run the third most routes among running backs in the NFL this season. Unfortunately, Barkley has a long injury history and has dealt with multiple ankle sprains in the past. In the first six games he returned from his ankle sprains in 2019 and 2021, he averaged less than four yards per carry on seven occasions. Barkley lacked the same home run ability, scoring only three touchdowns in those 12 games as well.

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Saquon Barkley Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

He could once again struggle with efficiency upon his return, which could hold him back from top 5 overall upside. Barkley looks for the home run every time he touches the ball. In 2022, he had 18 Breakaway Runs but still finished No. 34 in yards per touch. Barkley is a boom or bust rusher in this league. If he’s not 100-percent, then his fantasy production will likely suffer as a result without the same big play ability.

Behind Barkley on the running back depth chart are Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, and rookie Eric Gray. Breida will get the first opportunity to lead the backfield, but he has only played over 50-percent of snaps in a game once since 2019. This will be a committee approach, and none of these players will be viable fantasy starters in Week 3.

Week 3 Waiver Wire Targets

Bijan Robinson Rookie Breakout

Bijan Robinson showed fantasy managers exactly why they shouldn’t have been worried about Tyler Allgeier‘s large role in Week 1. Following a 63-percent snap share in Week 1, that number increased to 72-percent in his Week 2 matchup against the Packers. Furthermore, Robinson has garnered a massive 23-percent target share that ranks among the highest in the NFL among running backs

As a result, Robinson is the RB7 this season despite ranking only No. 30 in Opportunity Share. The sky is the limit for Robinson, and these performances are just the beginning. He is on pace for 85 receptions and over 2,000 all-purpose yards with RB1 overall upside at the position.

In my 2023 rest-of-season fantasy football rankings, only Christian McCaffrey lies ahead of Bijan Robinson. Since 2000, he is only one of five running backs to finish as an RB1 in their first two games. Furthermore, as a rookie running back with a physical build, he poses much less injury risk. Fantasy managers who drafted Robinson this past year should enjoy the discount because he will be in the conversation to be the first overall pick in 2024.

Justin Fields Flirting With Disaster

The Chicago Bears’ passing attack has been nothing short of a disaster through two weeks of the NFL season. Justin Fields ranks No. 25 in QBR and last in the entire league in air yards per attempt. His rushing attempts per game are down from 10.7 in 2022 to 6.0 in 2023 as well. Fields simply hasn’t taken the step forward that many anticipated, and he is in danger of losing his starting role after this season.

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Justin Fields Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Whether it be making the wrong read or missing an open target, there haven’t been many positive takeaways from Fields’ play these first two weeks. The playcalling hasn’t done him any favors either. Chicago’s playcalling has been bland, and they haven’t been running as many designed rush plays for Fields that had success in 2022.

Rushing Upside

Fields’ rushing upside likely gives him a solid floor as a low-end QB1. However, the Bears appear to be one of the worst teams in the NFL and are likely going to have a high pick in the 2024 NFL draft. If Fields doesn’t improve quickly, they will very likely move on in favor of a rookie signal caller.

For redraft leagues, this means Fields’ limited passing ability will hold him back from top 5 overall upside. He is still a starter though, for now, as his rushing volume will likely increase. In dynasty leagues, this is more concerning because his days as a starter may be limited. Through 29 career games, Fields has averaged only 156.5 yards passing per game with 26 touchdowns to 24 interceptions. He is quickly dropping in value and is impossible to sell at this point. He is a fringe QB1 at this point and a player I would easily trade away straight up for Kirk Cousins or Daniel Jones in dynasty leagues.

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