This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.
I usually try to draft with an eye on what's around the corner, the idea of "skate to where the puck is going, not where it's been." If you took Todd Gurley or David Johnson in 2019, you were paying for past performance at a position where careers are short, and peak stretches more fleeting still. You were better off going younger and fresher, looking at who might be on the magazine covers the following year rather than the previous ones.
Accordingly, I have three shares of Jonathan Taylor and two of Saquon Barkley. I had two more of Travis Etienne whose season ended before it began. I wanted to get the next great season, rather than a once-great player on the decline. I also passed on Derrick Henry (784 carries including playoffs the last two tears) at pick five a couple times and I didn't consider Aaron Jones there, either.
Watching Henry run roughshod over the Seahawks Sunday afternoon, it occurred to me I might have made a mistake. I'm still bullish on Taylor and even Barkley (especially how well he's held up and the Giants better showing on offense Thursday), but with Henry there's no hoping he breaks a tackle or gets another goal line carry – you know he's running that guy over and taking it across the plane. Henry might yet succumb to overuse, but there was no indication from last year (career-high 5.4 YPC) that he was slowing down after all that work. And the notion we can crystal ball who will stay healthy and who will break down is dubious. Maybe with a chronically injured player like Odell Beckham we can price in extra risk, but for currently healthy running backs with long track records, it's usually folly.
If you had drafted a boring team of yesterday's stars with Henry in the first, Joe Mixon in the second, Cooper Kupp in the third. Tyler Lockett in the fourth and Adam Thielen in the fifth you'd be off to a pretty nice start. Throw in Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, for good measure, and you're not too far from having the nuts.
That said, I still think there's money to be made by drafting next year's cover player, and paying for the projected future as well as the established past is almost always a key part of a strong season. But in watching the ease with which Henry put up points – and being aghast at his six catches – I wondered whether by looking ahead to what might plausibly happen, I missed a Captain Obvious pick right under my nose.
Week 3 Sporcle Quiz
Apropos of Tom Brady's five TDs Sunday, can you name the all-time leaders (min 1500 attempts) in TD pass percentage (TD passes/attempts?)
Guessing The Lines
|My Line||Guessed line||Real line||Net||My O/U||Real O/U||Net|
|Panthers at Texans||-9.5||-7.5||-7.5||2||43||44||1|
|Colts at Titans||7.5||7||5.5||-2||47||48||1|
|Falcons at Giants||4.5||3||3||-1.5||51||48||-3|
|Chargers at Chiefs||6||7||6.5||0.5||53||55.5||2.5|
|Bengals at Steelers||3||3.5||4.5||1.5||45||44.5||-0.5|
|Bears at Browns||4.5||6||7.5||3||46||46.5||0.5|
|Ravens at Lions||-8||-7||-8.5||-0.5||48||49.5||1.5|
|Saints at Patriots||3||3||3||0||42||42||0|
|Cardinals at Jaguars||-7||-7.5||-7||0||48||52||4|
|Team at Bills||5.5||6||9||3.5||45||46||1|
|Jets at Broncos||11.5||13||10.5||-1||43||41||-2|
|Dolphins at Raiders||6||6.5||4||-2||47||45||-2|
|Seahawks at Vikings||1.5||1.5||-1.5||-3||51||55.5||4.5|
|Buccaneers at Rams||0||1.5||0||0||47||55||8|
|Packers at 49ers||3.5||3||3.5||0||52||48||-4|
|Eagles at Cowboys||3||4||4||1||48||51.5||3.5|
My guessed lines were almost always closer to the real lines than my own, which means I had a decent read on the market even when I disagreed with it. At first glance, I'm on the Football Team and the Bears, but the Seahawks margin (3) isn't worth as much because it's around zero, i.e., going from -1.5 to plus 1.5 isn't a big deal.
Of course, I retain the right to change my mind for Beating the Book on Wednesday.
Week 2 Observations
- Aaron Rodgers took three sacks, but was otherwise smooth and cool. It seems like he's lost a step as a scrambler, but he slung the ball around with ease and accuracy.
- Aaron Jones (17-67-1, 6-6-48-3) had a monster game due to all the touchdowns, and even better for him, it seems like AJ Dillon (5-18-0, 1-1-8-0) is more backup than timesharer.
- Davante Adams (9-8-121-0) mostly had his way with the Lions young DBs and broke tackles after the catch. He hasn't scored a TD yet this year though.
- Robert Tonyan (3-3-52-1) kept up his insane pace of touchdowns per target and also drew two pass interference penalties. Randall Cobb (3-3-26-0) converted a couple key third and longs.
- Jared Goff was serviceable – he's a good bye-week fill-in when the matchup is favorable.
- D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams are splitting about 50/50. T.J. Hockenson (9-8-66-1) and Quintez Cephus (7-4-63-1) are the only pass-catchers of note.
- The Lions are bad, but they seem more or less like an NFL team.
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a bad second-round pick. Mercifully, I have him in only one league, but he's still not playing on most third downs, Patrick Mahomes never checks down (I saw one play in the fourth quarter where he looked at CEH open in the flat, but went to Travis Kelce over the middle instead), and he fumbled away the game. He's just not an important player for the offense.
- Mahomes is the top fantasy QB not because of his ceiling – Lamar Jackson's and Kyler Murray's are higher – but due to his floor. He gets 350 and three walking out of bed.
- Lamar Jackson's MVP was no fluke. He's just an okay NFL passer, but that combined with his running skills is enough. It not only creates favorable downs and distances, but also turns average running backs into Jim Brown. There's a Steph Curry effect where the defense has to guard all the way out to half court, opening up space for everyone else. The defense has to freeze for Jackson, so there are massive lanes for the backs and broken coverages down the field.
- Ty'Son Williams (13-77-0-2-2-16-0) showed the most burst, but Latavius Murray (9-36-1) scored his second TD.
- Marquise Brown (10-6-113-1) just needs to stay healthy. He's too fast and quick for defenses needing to sweat the running game.
- Mark Andrews (5-5-57) is a good player, but his usage is not consistently high. Consider in a game where the Ravens scored 36 points, Jackson completed only 18 passes.
- People were praising John Harbaugh for the decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 to seal the game rather than punt back to Patrick Mahomes, but it's only praiseworthy in the context of his troglodytic forebears. To anyone with a functioning brain cell, getting one yard with Lamar Jackson vs punting to Patrick Mahomes with a minute left and a one-point lead is not a decision.
- I'm starting to regret passing on Derrick Henry (35-182-3, 6-6-55-0) for Jonathan Taylor and (in one early league) Saquon Barkley. I'm still bullish on both, but sometimes you need to be simple-minded and take what's in front of your face rather than looking around the next corner. If those six targets were not a fluke, look out.
- When Julio Jones (7-6-128-0) did his apparent toe-tap for a TD, I thought, "maybe Julio's allergy to the end zone was an Atlanta thing." No idea what happened to A.J. Brown this game.
- Tyler Lockett is putting up DK Metcalf's numbers.
- I love Justin Herbert, but I expected a lot more against a Cowboys team missing DeMarcus Lawrence.
- I told you Austin Ekeler (9-54-0, 9-9-61) would catch a pass this year.
- The equal timeshare with Tony Pollard (13-109-1, 3-3-31) Sunday is more worrisome for Ezekiel Elliott (16-71-1, 2-2-26) than his Week 1 dud.
- Masterful job by Mike McCarthy on the final drive of setting up a chip shot 56-yarder.
- Tom Brady won't face the Cowboys and Falcons every week, but he's got a shot at Peyton Manning's TD pass record if his receivers largely stay healthy,
- Rob Gronkowski now has six TDs in his last three games. Did you know he's only five months older than Kelce?
- Matt Ryan actually looked good, despite the picks and pedestrian per-play numbers. He made some good decisions and tough throws under duress. I don't think he's done.
- I always wondered why teams never used 6-2, 238-pound Cordarrelle Patterson (7-11-1, 6-5-58-1) more as an offensive player. The guy is a monster and has great vision in the open field. Maybe Arthur Smith sees that, though Patterson is now 30 years old.
- Kyle Pitts (6-5-73) looks bigger and faster than anyone around him. The big games will come.
- Take it easy on Greg Joseph, it's not like he blew the cover.
- The player I most regret not drafting is Kyler Murray because I knew at the time he'd be great. I have two Josh Allen shares (I think he'll be fine), but I should have jumped Murray there instead.
- Rondale Moore (8-7-114-1) isn't going away. DeAndre Hopkins (4-4-54-1) will still get his targets, but there's plenty to go around for Moore and Christian Kirk on a fast-paced team that throws so much. Maybe Maxx Williams (7-7-94) becomes useful too.
- Matt Prater's 62-yarder at the end of the first half (and Joseph's miss) were the difference.
- I didn't watch much of Denver-Jacksonville. and maybe the Broncos have a great defense, but I thought Trevor Lawrence would be much more ready.
- If Sam Darnold is good and Zach Wilson terrible, Curb Your Enthusiasm might unfortunately prove prophetic.
- Christian McCaffrey missed a few plays early with cramps, but still saw 24 carries and six target, i.e., he's at his 2019 workload.
- The Saints offense got exposed. Alvin Kamara should be fine, but no one else is startable, and perhaps not even rosterable.
- Derek Carr (10.3 YPA, 382 yards) lit up a Steelers defense missing key players, but the Raiders look credible after wins over the Ravens and at Pittsburgh. Getting deep threat Henry Ruggs (7-5-113-1) going is big for them, even if Darren Waller (7-5-65-0) had a more modest role,.
- The Steelers still can't run block, but Najee Harris (10-38-0, 5-5-43-1) made himself useful as a receiver.
- I really hope Diontae Johnson (hurt on the game's final, meaningless play) is okay. He's the quickest receiver in the league and was headed for a massive year.
- I picked up Elijah Mitchell everywhere, and I don't know what to think. The Eagles are always nasty against the run, but at least Mitchell got 17 carries and two catches. He also injured his shoulder, but apparently he was healthier than Trey Sermon (head) and JaMycal Hasty (ankle) because he was able to return, and they weren't. Nothing would shock me at this point – Mitchell being the guy for six more games, him needing to go on IR due to the shoulder, or him being healthy but losing carries to a player not yet on the roster.
- Maybe all those Michael Carter drafters were right after all. (Assuming the Jets can ever score a touchdown.)
- Damien Harris had an insane TD run, but did nothing otherwise. Rhamondre Stevenson was scratched after a terrible Week 1, so Harris is locked in as the starter.
- You can mostly throw out the Bills-Dolphins game because Jacoby Brissett was hopeless, and the game flow got destroyed.
- Jonathan Taylor (15-51-0, 1-1-2-0) got three goal line carries out of the gate, was stuffed on all of them and didn't do much the rest of the day. The presence of Marlon Mack (five carries) cut into Nyheim Hines (one carry, two targets) workload more than Taylor's, but a three-way split isn't feasible in a subpar offense, especially if Carson Wentz (ankle) has to miss time.
- Cooper Kupp (11-9-163-2) is easily the best receiver on the team. No idea why people were taking Robert Woods ahead of him.
- There was a moment when the Texans were up 14-7 and Baker Mayfield injured himself making a tackle where it looked like a seismic Survivor event might happen. But Mayfield was fine, and it was the Texans who lost their starting QB (Tyrod Taylor) later in the game.
- If Jarvis Landry misses any time, and Odell Beckham doesn't come back soon, I have no idea who the Browns would favor target-wise. The three tight ends, Austin Hooper (5), Harrison Bryant (4) and David Njoku (3), were the team's leaders Sunday.
- The Texans are taking the season seriously for now.
- What a garbage push ATS for the Bears, who were dominating all game. Worst, they let JaMarr Chase and Tee Higgins (in whom I have zero shares) off the hook after what should have been terrible games. Justin Fields needs to be more careful with the ball when the point spread is in the balance.
- Joe Burrow actually flopped NBA/EPL style on an out of bounds run where he slowed up on purpose to draw (a very slight) hit and flew to the turf as though he'd been clocked. Peyton-Manning-level (master of snapping the ball when the 12th man was sprinting off the field) weasel-s***.
- Daniel "Lamar Jackson" Jones did not turn the ball over, ran for 95 yards and a touchdown and nearly had a second long one, but for a holding call. Jones ran only a 4.81 40 at the 2019 Combine, but he looks a lot faster than that, and his designed runs are a major part of the game plan. While Jones took four sacks, the offensive line gave him enough time more often than not, and he was able to step into his throws, including a perfect deep ball TD to Darius Slayton. He slightly overthrew a wide open Slayton for a would-be second long TD (he was so wide open there was no need to lead him that much) but Slayton still should have caught it. Bottom line, the designed runs and better protection bodes well for Jones.
- Saquon Barkley (13-57-0, 3-2-12) has a deceptively decent line, but when you take away his one 41-yard scamper, he went 12 for 16 on his other carries. The good news is he played 58 of 69 total snaps, and he looked perfectly healthy and got a good workload on only four days' rest. I'd assume he'll have his full workload in 10 days, but the offensive line needs to run block much better.
- Sterling Shepard (10-9-94-0) looks awfully spry this year, and he's still Jones' favorite target. Kenny Golladay (8-3-38-0) is healthy, but hasn't been able to get open as well as Shepard. Moreover, Darius Slayton (6-3-54-1) is being used as the deep guy, cutting into Golladay's upside. Slayton should have had a massive game, but for the dropped second TD.
- Graham "Justin Tucker" Gano has made 35-straight field goals, seven of which were from beyond 50 yards.
- The Giants (after the James Bradberry pick) were too conservative with two minutes left and WFT having all of its timeouts. I love Barkley, but he had been stuffed all day, so running him into the teeth of the defense just to make the Team burn timeouts was a mistake.
- Taylor Heinicke can play, though he looked less mobile to me than I remember from last year's playoffs. He was smart enough to force-feed Terry McLaurin, though.
- Antonio Gibson (13-69-0, 2-2-4-0) passes the eye test – he's smooth, quick, break tackles and pushes the pile. But it looks like they're still using J.D. McKissic (4-10-1, 6-5-83-0) on third downs and in the two-minute drill. McKissic even got the rushing TD on a nice play call when the Giants were expecting a pass. I wouldn't be worried if I had Gibson, though.
- Terry McLaurin (14-11-107-1) was everywhere and put up this line with Bradberry (one of the league's top corners) on him a lot of the time. The sky is the limit, and Heinicke is plenty good enough to support him.
- Dustin Hopkins sure got bailed out by that offsides which didn't affect his initial missed kick.
- The WFT team defense did not look especially stout in what should have been a great matchup.