This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.The Giants Were Correct to Draft Saquon Barkley at No. 2
I asserted this on Twitter the other day, and it generated some debate, so I'll make the case in more depth here.
Before I start, I want to take on and dispense with a couple of separate or tangential objections that come up, so we can get to what I think is the essential issue.
Whether the Giants should have traded down is a separate question from what they should have done at 1.2 when that didn't happen.
That the Giants kept Eli Manning is also tangential to this discussion. Whether or not Manning had one more year left in the tank (he obviously didn't), the Giants still had a need at QB for possibly the short and definitely the long term. The Giants could have cut Manning and drafted a QB, and they could have cut him, drafted Barkley and traded for Tyrod Taylor or signed Alex Smith. The Giants' need at QB is the important fact, not their particular plans for Manning.
Given this backdrop, the key question is whether at 1.2, the Giants, badly needing a QB, should have taken one of the available ones (Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen or Lamar Jackson), Barkley or some other player. I believe they were correct to take Barkley.
For many, this is wrong, no matter how it turns out because generally quarterbacks are more important than running backs. Peak Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady is worth much more than peak Marshall Faulk. If Faulk were to miss a game with an injury, the line might move a point or two at most. When Rodgers goes down, the disparity is at least seven and sometimes more. Clearly the betting markets value the QB, so why shouldn't we?
Let's start with this point. When Rodgers gets hurt, the Packers turn to the likes of Brett Hundley or DeShone Kizer, scrub QBs who haven't practiced much with the first team and who are probably not future NFL starters. Of course, the disparity is vast. But when a backup does emerge and turns out to be good, e.g., Case Keenum filling in for Sam Bradford last year, the Vikings were favored by as much as ever. Now there's a big difference between Rodgers and a healthy Bradford, but at least half the line move from Rodgers to Kizer isn't due to Rodgers being great, it's because Kizer is bad.
Case in point, on Sunday when Ryan Tannehill was scratched the line went from Bears -3 to Bears -7. Even Tannehill was worth (so they thought) four points more than Brock Osweiler. So if a Rodgers' injury moves the line seven or eight, and Tannehill four, then Rodgers to Tannehill is itself only about 3-4 points. But Tannehill is a below average QB himself. If Matthew Stafford (maybe the league's 12th best QB) were Rodgers' backup, I suspect the line would move about two points only. In other words, the difference between a good, slightly above average starting QB like Stafford (relatively easy to find) and a great one like Rodgers (hard to find) is no more than 2-3 points.
That's still more than the difference between Marshall Faulk and his (let's assume solid) backup, though we've narrowed the gap quite a bit. But wouldn't we still rather have Rodgers and say Latavius Murray over Stafford and Faulk? Of course. There's one problem with that comparison, though: We haven't yet factored in the likelihood that Darnold is Rodgers or that Barkley is Faulk.
It's impossible to do this rigorously, but the odds that Barkley coming out of college was an elite back, given his pass-catching, open-field vision, size, speed and power were pretty good. He was considered a generational prospect, and more importantly, his exceptional pass-catching skills made him especially valuable in the modern NFL. What are the odds that Darnold is an elite, Rodgers-Brady-Brees level QB? Less good. Not only did he throw 26 TDs and 13 picks last year, there's nothing unique about him physically, besides his gigantic head.
Maybe some people were convinced, and to the extent you thought Darnold's odds of becoming elite were anywhere near as good as Barkley's, then the QB is a no brainer because the difference he makes is greater. But if looking at the available QBs you thought, "Sure, anything can happen, but I don't see much chance of a top-five NFL QB here and even top-10 is a stretch" then you should go for the base hit rather than swinging for the unlikely home run. (This is where people argue you trade down, and I agree, but, again, that's a separate question once they didn't.)
Now I've used Stafford as the baseline, and you might argue a team would be lucky as hell to have him, and it's crazy to assume the Giants could find someone at Stafford's level. Well, Kirk Cousins was a free agent, and he's right there. If we look at the top real-life QBs in the league, I'd rank them roughly:
Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, Ben Roethlisberger, Pat Mahomes, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Jared Goff, Philip Rivers, Cousins, Stafford, Cam Newton, Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston. That's half the league. Another seven teams presumably have their QBs of the foreseeable future: Andy Dalton, Jimmy Garoppolo, Mayfield (1.1), Darnold (1.2), Rosen (1.10), Mitchell Trubisky (1.2) and Marcus Mariota (1.2.) It's only the bottom quarter: Joe Flacco, Blake Bortles, Manning, Case Keenum, Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, Derek Carr, Alex Smith and Tannehill that have someone much worse than Stafford. Put differently, half the league has a Stafford-level QB as far as the betting markets are concerned, and another quarter has someone who might be a point or two lower, but whom they hope to be at least as good if not better in the near future. And even the Smiths and Flaccos aren't that far off. It only takes an average QB these days to light up opposing defenses, and average QBs are not in short supply.
Finally, how did Keenum and Nick Foles make it to the NFC Championship, and Foles light up the Vikings' No. 1 defense and then the Patriots on the biggest stage despite Bill Belichick having two weeks to prepare? It's not that Keenum and Foles are as good as Stafford in a vacuum, but that both played in excellent systems. In Doug Pederson's system, Foles was good enough to go toe-to-toe with Brady in a shootout. In Pat Shurmur's, Keenum took out Drew Brees' Saints, albeit on a miraculous play. Remember Jared Goff was terrible in Jeff Fisher's system and a star in Sean McVay's. Keenum too was the victim of an awful system and Stafford himself was barely average despite having Calvin Johnson at his peak, before Jim Bob Cooter took over as offensive coordinator.
If Stafford-level QBs are plentiful, and good systems can elevate below-average QBs to nearly that level, why are we treating the position as such a scarce commodity? It's clear from the numbers that QB *play* is crucially important to team success, but QB play is not the same thing as the name on the jersey. The complex system that was the 2017 Eagles didn't mind that its Super Bowl winning QB had FOLES typed out on his jersey rather than WENTZ. Perhaps in the majority of cases other than Rodgers-Wilson types, the system and the fit are bigger than the skills of the player himself.
Of course, if a Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck-level prospect comes along and you feel their likelihood of being a great QB is akin to Barkley's likelihood of being a great back, then it's not even a decision, you take the QB. But barring that, it's hard to see why you'd pass on a likely difference-making elite RB for a total crapshoot QB when his likely upside isn't even that difficult to find.
I think the stronger argument against Barkley is showing why Darnold or Rosen - or whoever - is not in fact a crapshoot, not just one of the best in a particular class, but a great prospect in his own right. If you can pass that bar with one of them, you can make the case. The weaker argument - which I've seen often - is simply to declare that you always take the QB because of the upside and the potential cost savings (fully mature QBs are expensive, QBs on their rookie deals are cheap), no matter what you think of the particular prospects this year and no matter how good the alternatives are. Yes, the cost savings is huge when you have a QB on his rookie deal, allowing you to spend on other areas, but that only matters if the QB is good.
Most "always" or "never" arguments are lazy. They assume what's true for the majority of cases is true in every case. Or that even if it's not, that it's too difficult to diagnose the exceptions (hence the laziness.) A better formulation would be "usually, but I could be persuaded in particular circumstances." If the person isn't willing to concede that tiny bit of ground, and consider the details of the situation, you're up against an assertion of faith, and that's often more about signaling their allegiance to a particular sect than engaging with the particular question. Occasionally it's just someone who has trouble telling the difference between a useful heuristic and an absolute truth.
A few other arguments against drafting whatever QB happens to be available when you need one are:
(1) If you guess wrong it's often a franchise-crushing 3-5 year mistake. The Titans are hoping Mariota is good, but this is now Year 4, and he'll probably be the starter next year too. Tannehill was drafted in 2012. Christian Ponder, Jamarcus Russell, Blaine Gabbert all cost their franchises years of possible contention. If you miss on the early-first-round back or offensive tackle, it's a major error, but it's just the opportunity cost of who you might have drafted. With the quarterback, his poor play is dragging down the entire team, and it's difficult to move on from such a major investment at a position that often requires on-the-job training. When some outcomes are profoundly negative, they must also be factored into the equation. Gabbert plus an average back is so much worse than Trent Richardson plus a veteran QB on a one-year deal. The first is a three-year death sentence, the second might not even prevent you from making the playoffs that first year!
(2) Even if your QB pick is reasonably competent, and you get a nice cost-savings advantage for a few years, what will you do when the rookie contract is up? (And that's assuming the star QB doesn't pull a Khalil Mack and re-negotiate, something that's rare so far, but certainly possible.) Almost every recently-drafted QB that even remotely panned out - Stafford, Dalton, Carr, Newton, Tannehill, Flacco, Bortles - re-signed long-term deals with the team that drafted him. It's hard to see that as a pure coincidence - once the team invests in the QB who knows the system and who has built up a relationship with the coaching staff, receivers, fan base and community - it's loath to let him go. Because drafting a new QB is so dicey, most teams simply stick with the known if he's at all competent rather than voluntarily risk going back into the wilderness. That means the guy you draft - if he's not a bust - is very likely to be with you for the better part of a decade, and many of those years at full cost. So not only do you run the risk of total failure with your rookie QB, but you could wind up with partial success and long-term mediocrity, something that has massive opportunity cost as better options come into the league. Of course, you don't have to do this just because you drafted him, but that virtually every team does shows there must be an extra cost to not doing it once he's established beyond his rookie deal.
(3) Once you've locked in your investment in a "franchise" QB, you're not going to acquire another QB for the foreseeable future. The Jets will not take a QB in 2019 no matter how good the options are because they've gone all-in with Darnold. Put differently, if Mayfield turns out to be great, the Browns were only interested in him because they took Myles Garrett instead of Mitch Trubisky the year before. (Of course, they could have taken Pat Mahomes, and they probably wouldn't care in that case, but it's easy to see that with hindsight.)
Bottom line, as a Giants fan, I'm ecstatic to have Saquon Barkley on the Giants, and I'm glad they took him over Darnold, even though I'm aghast they didn't cut Eliablity and sign or trade for a semi-competent veteran QB like Taylor until they can find a long-term solution. One simply cannot go into the year with bottom-three QB play, something that's especially egregious given their QB-friendly system and coach, i.e., anyone remotely competent could thrive playing for Pat Shurmur and having Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Barkley as targets.
(I made some of these arguments before the NFL draft and added in a table of how all the first-round QBs since 1998 have fared:)
|Year||Pick||Player||W||L||%||PO W||SB W||YPA||Notable players passed up||QBs passed up|
|1998||2||Ryan Leaf||4||17||19||0||0||5.6||Randy Moss, Charles Woodson, Fred Taylor||Matt Hasselbeck|
|1999||1||Tim Couch||22||37||37||0||0||6.5||E. James, R. Williams, T. Holt, C. Bailey|
|2000||18||Chad Pennington||44||37||54||2||0||6.6||Shaun Alexander,||Tom Brady, Marc Bulger|
|2001||1||Michael Vick||61||51||54||2||0||7||Justin Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson||Drew Brees|
|2001||31||Drew Brees||142||106||57||7||1||7.6||Steve Smith,|
|2002||1||David Carr||23||56||29||0||0||6.4||Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney, Ed Reed|
|2002||3||Joey Harrington||26||50||34||0||0||5.8||Freeney, Reed||J. McCown, D. Garrard|
|2003||1||Carson Palmer||92||88||51||1||0||7.3||Andre Johnton, Suggs, Polamalu||Tony Romo|
|2003||7||Byron Leftwich||24||26||48||0||0||6.6||Suggs, Polamalu||Tony Romo|
|2003||19||Kyle Boller||20||27||43||0||0||5.9||Dallas Clark, Nnamdi Asomugha||Tony Romo|
|2003||22||Rex Grossman||25||22||53||2||0||6.6||Clark, Asomugha||Tony Romo|
|2004||1||Eli Manning||111||103||52||8||2||7||Larry Fitzgerald|
|2004||22||J.P. Losman||10||23||30||0||0||6.6||Steven Jackson||Matt Schaub|
|2005||1||Alex Smith||88||62||59||2||0||6.9||DeMarcus Ware||Aaron Rodgers|
|2006||3||Vince Young||31||19||62||0||0||6.9||Vernon Davis, Haloti Ngata||Jay Cutler|
|2007||1||JaMarcus Russell||7||18||28||0||0||6||Cal.Johnson, Joe Thomas, Peterson, Revis|
|2007||22||Brady Quinn||1||7||13||0||0||5.5||Joe Staley, Greg Olsen|
|2008||3||Matt Ryan||95||63||60||4||0||7.5||Aqib Talib|
|2009||17||Josh Freeman||25||36||41||0||0||6.8||Alex Mack, Clay Matthews|
|2010||1||Sam Bradford||34||45||43||0||0||6.6||Ndamuking Suh, Eric Berry, Earl Thomas|
|2010||25||Tim Tebow||8||6||57||1||0||6.7||Rob Gronkowski|
|2011||1||Cam Newton||62||45||58||3||0||7.3||V.Miller, A.J.Green, J.Jones, P.Peterson, Watt|
|2011||8||Jake Locker||9||14||39||0||0||7||Smith, Watt||Dalton, Kaepernick, T.Taylor|
|2011||10||Blaine Gabbert||11||34||24||0||0||6||Watt||Dalton, Kaepernick, T.Taylor|
|2011||12||Christian Ponder||14||21||40||0||0||6.3||Cameron Jordan||Dalton, Kaepernick, T.Taylor|
|2012||1||Andrew Luck||43||27||61||3||0||7.2||Luke Keuchly, Fletcher Cox||Wilson, Foles, Cousins, Keenum|
|2012||2||Robert Griffin||15||25||38||0||0||7.4||Luke Keuchly, Fletcher Cox||Wilson, Foles, Cousins, Keenum|
|2012||8||Ryan Tannehill||37||40||48||0||0||7||Luke Keuchly, Fletcher Cox, Melvin Ingram||Wilson, Foles, Cousins, Keenum|
|2012||22||Brandon Weeden||6||19||24||0||0||6.7||Harrison Smith||Wilson, Foles, Cousins, Keenum|
|2013||16||EJ Manuel||6||12||33||0||0||6.4||Xavier Rhodes, DeAndre Hopkins|
|2014||3||Blake Bortles||21||40||34||2||0||6.7||Khalil Mack, Odell Beckham, Aaron Donald||Carr, Garoppolo|
|2014||22||Johnny Manziel||2||6||25||0||0||6.5||Jason Verrett|
|2014||32||Teddy Bridgewater||17||11||61||0||0||7.2||DeMarcus Lawrence|
|2015||1||Jameis Winston||18||27||40||0||0||7.5||Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley|
|2015||2||Marcus Mariota||20||22||48||1||0||7.4||Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley|
|2016||1||Jared Goff||11||11||50||0||0||7.2||Joey Bosa, Zeke Elliott, Jalen Ramsey||Dak Prescott|
|2016||2||Carson Wentz||18||11||62||0||1||6.8||Joey Bosa, Zeke Elliott, Jalen Ramsey||Dak Prescott|
|2016||26||Paxton Lynch||1||3||25||0||0||6.2||Michael Thomas||Dak Prescott|
|2017||2||Mitchell Trubisky||4||8||33||0||0||6.6||Marshon Lattimore|
|2017||10||Patrick Mahomes||1||0||100||0||0||8.1||Marshon Lattimore|
Week 7 Trivia
With Barkley and Adam Thielen starting the year with six straight 100-YFS games, can you name all the players who have streaks of 10 or more 100-YFS games?
Guessing the Lines
|Game||My Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL|
|Broncos at Cardinals||0||-1.5||-2.5||2.5|
|Titans vs Chargers||4.5||3.5||6.5||-2|
|Bills at Colts||5.5||3.5||6.5||-1|
|Panthers at Eagles||5.5||3.5||4.5||1|
|Browns at Buccaneers||3||3||3||0|
|Lions at Dolphins||0||1.5||-1||1|
|Texans at Jaguars||5.5||4.5||4.5||1|
|Vikings at Jets||-2.5||-2.5||-3||0.5|
|Patriots at Bears||-2.5||-3||-3.5||1|
|Saints at Ravens||3||3||2.5||0.5|
|Cowboys at Redskins||2.5||2.5||1.5||1|
|Rams at 49ers||-8.5||-7.5||-10.5||2|
|Bengals at Chiefs||6.5||6.5||6||0.5|
|Giants at Falcons||7||7||6||1|
I don't like this slate. It looks like I'm on the Cardinals on Thursday night, and the 49ers at home against the Rams, but everything else is pretty close. Of course, I reserve the right to change my opinion in Beating the Book
Week 6 Observations
• Pat Mahomes and Tyreek Hill had monster second halves, and Hill in particular stood out on the game-tying TD in the closing minutes. It's one thing to catch a long TD in stride, quite another to come to a full stop, jump to catch the ball and accelerate so quickly that the defender standing next to you still can't catch you. The Chiefs offense didn't have much rhythm, but when you can connect on 75-yard and 67-yard TDs, you don't need it.
•Kareem Hunt went 10-for-80 on the ground and 6-5-105-1 through the air. The Chiefs haven't been trailing much early in the season, but Hunt has been big as a receiver both here and against the Broncos when the game-flow necessitated it. He's a great running back, but fantasy-wise, he's not yet in the class of Todd Gurley or Saquon Barkley because the Chiefs don't throw to him when they're ahead.
•Tom Brady had a business-like 340 yards, 9.7 YPA, a TD pass and a nice TD run, aided by the new ultra-sensitive QB rules. Brady was all but wrapped up, but the defender, not wanting to draw a flag and not thinking the old man would run, let up, and Brady smartly made a dash for the goal line.
•Sony Michel looked good, hitting the holes quickly and decisively and running hard. He finished with a 24-106-2 line. James White ran well too (6-for-39) and went 7-5-53 as a receiver. Both are every week PPR starters.
• The reason you should never take Rob Gronkowski in the top-two rounds is the lack of volume. He was efficient as ever (4-3-97) and made the game-sealing catch, but the Pats almost never give him double-digit looks, and this year, they're not even using him in the red zone (one target all year.)
•Josh Gordon led the team with nine targets, drew a long pass interference penalty and caught a modest five passes for 42 yards. The results weren't great, but they're taking the experiment seriously at least. The only negative is Gordon didn't appear to be open on most of the throws that went his way. Julian Edelman had seven targets and a TD, but mostly Brady spread the ball around.
• I mostly watched the Rams-Broncos in the late-slate. The Titans against anyone are usually unwatchable, and the Ravens were like sand on an already dying flame. The Cowboys also fall into that category, though Jason Garrett went on 4th-and-1 once, and their game plan, targeting Cole Beasley (11-9-101-2) from the slot and avoiding the outside corners was sound.
• You would have done very well in DFS stacking Dak Prescott (80 rush yards and a TD, plus two passing TDs) and Beasley as well as Brock Osweiler and Albert Wilson against ostensibly two of the league's best defenses this week.
• I thought Marcus Mariota had turned the corner against the Eagles, but I was wrong. He missed Taywan Taylor on a wide open bomb too. It's crazy he still got 7.8 YPA on 15 attempts, but if you factor in the whopping 11 sacks for 66 yards, the passing game netted only 51 yards.
• It was a Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead rather than John Brown day for the Ravens, but I'll chalk that up to game flow and the opponent. Brown will get more work when the opponent scores a point.
•Jared Goff had a quiet game with only 201 passing yards, no TDs and a pick. The Broncos weren't fooled by the Rams' misdirection and got constant pressure, sacking him five times. Cooper Kupp's knee injury didn't help.
•Todd Gurley ran wild going 28-for-208 and two scores. He also caught two of five targets for 17 yards.
• I'm just glad the second pick by Nathan Peterman wasn't returned for a TD. The first one coughed up the game (and any chance for people to lose in my Survivor Pool), but the second almost blew the cover.
• The Bills are not a team you want your fantasy players to be up against – they slow it down, never score and play solid defense. Only DeAndre Hopkins (6-5-63-1) had a passable game.
•Cam Newton put up passable numbers, but came up just short on the final drive. Devin Funchess (8-5-74-1) is the team's unquestioned No. 1, though D.J. Moore (5-4-59) seems to be growing his role, despite two fumbles. Greg Olsen had a solid 7-4-48 game, his first one back from a broken foot.
• Is Christian McCaffrey a workhorse? Sunday, he had eight carries for 20 yards and caught seven of eight targets for 46 more. I still see Reggie Bush as the relevant comp.
• I've been bashing Sam Darnold since Day 1, but it's hard to knock his performance against the Colts – 24-of-30 for 280 yards (9.3 YPA), two TDs, one pick and two sacks taken. Slot man Jermaine Kearse (10-9-94) was his top target, and Terrelle Pryor (6-5-57-1) was his No. 2, before leaving with a groin injury. Quincy Enunwa left early with an ankle injury, and Robby Anderson saw only five targets for 39 yards.
•Andrew Luck had a passable 301-yard, 4-TD day without his top receiver T.Y. Hilton, but he also threw three picks, one of which, on a tipped ball, was taken to the house. Eric Ebron (7-4-71-1) appears to be a top-five TE, and Chester Rodgers (10-4-55-1) looks like the No. 1 until Hilton gets back. Marlon Mack supplanted Nyheim Hines as the top back with 12 carries for 89 yards.
•Adam Thielen is an unstoppable force, going 15-11-123-1, the sixth straight game he's topped 100 yards to start the year. Stefon Diggs had a modest 5-3-33. Latavius Murray had a big game filling in for Dalvin Cook – 24-155-1. Cook was slated to play, but aggravated his hamstring in pre-game warmups.
•Larry Fitzgerald led the Cardinals in targets with eight, but produced a meager five catches for 39 yards. He had value last year when the team forced him the ball 160 times, but in a more diverse offense, it's tough for him to make an impact. Christian Kirk and Ricky Seals-Jones are the more dynamic targets in the offense. I was wrong about Fitzgerald last year, but I'd rather be out a year too early than a year too late.
•David Johnson scored another TD, but he fumbled and managed only 70 YFS. He simply hasn't found much room to run this year.
• When Ryan Tannehill was scratched before the game, the point spread jumped from Bears -3 to Bears -7, i.e., the market thought the Dolphins had hit Brock bottom. But Osweiler threw for 380 yards and three TDs (two picks), didn't take a single sack against the Bears vaunted defense and led the team to an overtime win.
•Albert Wilson went 9-6-155-2, gashing the Bears for two long TDs. I assume he'll see more looks, but the Dolphins' WR tree is very hard to decipher this year. Kenny Stills (two targets) used to be their top dog, and now even DeVante Parker (zero targets) is back. Danny Amendola saw 11 targets, but caught just eight passes for 59 yards.
•Kenyan Drake lost a key fumble at the goal line, but Adam Gase went back to him in overtime, and Drake made key plays on the game-winning drive. Still Drake had only 13 carries (for 57 yards) to Frank Gore's 15 for 101. Drake had four catches for 21 yards and Gore one for 18, but Gore (at 35) is still part of a 50/50 timeshare and actually playing well.
• Mitch Trubisky was 22 of 31 for 316 yards (10.2 YPA), three TDs and one pick. It was a good follow-up to the six-TD Tampa game, but he threw a bad interception in the end zone. Trubisky also had 47 yards rushing.
•Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard are like James White and Sony Michel, with Cohen getting fewer carries but all the catches recently and Howard getting more of the early down work. Both lost fumbles, but Cohen scored the TD and had a 9-7-90 line through the air. Taylor Gabriel made the most of his targets – 5-5-110, while Allen Robinson went 6-5-64-1 and Trey Burton 4-4-23-1. Anthony Miller caught a 29-yard TD on four targets.
•Melvin Gordon was underdrafted as a late first-rounder this year. He went 18-132-3 and caught two of four targets for 18 yards. Tyrell Williams (4-3-118-2) had a monster game on low volume, while Keenan Allen went 6-4-62.
•Baker Mayfield had a bad game against an improving Chargers defense which should get Joey Bosa back at some point. Someone named Damion Ratley led the Browns in receiving with an 8-6-81 line. David Njoku went 12-7-55-1 and should continue to be heavily involved. Jarvis Landry might not be healthy – he posted a 9-2-11 line. Antonio Callaway is healthy, but possibly not ready – he delivered a 10-2-9 masterpiece.
• The Steelers look like themselves again, down to the narrow distribution of production among their top playmakers. Antonio Brown went 6-5-101-1, Juju Smith-Schuster 10-7-111 and James Connor had 19 carries for 111 yards and two scores to go along with four catches for 18 yards. Vance McDonald went 8-7-68 as the fourth weapon in the attack, while Jesse James saw seven targets for only 26 yards.
•Joe Mixon had another productive day – 11-64-1 on the ground and four catches for 20 yards, Tyler Boyd went 9-7-62-2 and A.J. Green 12-7-85. C.J. Uzomah was productive by 2018 tight end standards – 7-6-54. Andy Dalton had a mediocre game, with only 229 yards, 5.5 YPA and three sacks.
•Jameis Winston could put up huge numbers in this situation – great weapons, poor running game, bad defense. He had 395 passing yards and four TDs, two picks and two sacks. He also ran for 31 yards.
•Peyton Barber ran well – 13 carries for 83 yards, but gameflow prevented more. Five Bucs receivers had at least 56 yards, but no one had more than 82. O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin, Cameron Brate (one catch, 15 yards) and Barber (4-for-24) caught touchdowns.
•Matt Ryan threw for another 354 yards and three more scores. He's on pace for 5,213 yards. Julio Jones led the team with a 14-10-143-0 line. He's on pace for a 117-1,885-0 season. Austin Hooper went 10-9-71-1, cementing himself as an important part of the passing attack and one of the better fantasy tight ends. Calvin Ridley caught just three passes before leaving with an ankle injury, and Mohamed Sanu scored a TD on one of his two targets.
•Aaron Rodgers threw for 425 yards (9.2 YPA), two touchdowns and no picks, while running for another 34 yards. He took three sacks and an intentional grounding penalty, though.
• The Packers maintained their three-man rotation at running back, though Aaron Jones started and immediately took a handoff 16 yards for an apparent touchdown. Unfortunately, he was ruled out of bounds and got stuffed on the next play. Maybe Mike McCarthy was going to bring in Jamaal Williams on the next series anyway, but it felt as though had Jones scored on either of those plays, maybe he would have been given a chance to build on the role. We'll never know, but in the end, Jones got only eight carries, Williams six and Ty Montgomery four.
•Davante Adams predictably had a monster game – 16-10-132-2, but he has limited explosiveness or wiggle. Every time he caught the ball in the open field and tried to get extra yards, he was shut down quickly. He should still be a monster for fantasy purposes, but he left yards on the table.
• Graham went 9-5-104, looked healthy and ran well. He got bailed out by the refs on his clear fumble, though.
•Marquez Valdes-Scantling went 6-3-103. Rodgers either has nowhere to throw, or a receiver is wide open. Valdes-Scantling got free on one play for 60 yards and seems like the clear top choice among the rookies.
•C.J. Beathard played a good game, throwing for 237 yards (10.7 YPA) and two scores and running for 21 more yards. His one pick on 3rd-and-3 in the closing minutes cost them the game, however.
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•Marquise Goodwin looked like Tyreek Hill with a 5-4-126-2 line on your bench (or waivers.) Time to pick him back up, as he's finally healthy again. Pierre Garcon and George Kittle saw six targets each, but neither did much with them. Kyle Juszczyk was the only back who saw any targets.
• The kickers were money in the bank as they made all six PATs and seven FGS attempted between them. Mason Crosby in particular bounced back from an all-time terrible game.