Injuries, injuries and injuries seem to be the stifling and unfortunate theme of this 2023 NFL season.
Through two weeks, fantasy managers have already lost J.K. Dobbins, Nick Chubb and Aaron Rodgers for the year, while others are scrambling to fill the temporary voids left by Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor, Cooper Kupp, Diontae Johnson, et al.
Amid this uncertainty, setting lineups can feel like a game of Russian roulette. Below, we’ll break down one player at each position to target (love) and one at each position to fade (hate) for your Week 3 fantasy football lineups based on matchups, injuries, strategies and more.
Love/Hate for NFL Week 3
Players We Love This Week
Kirk Cousins, QB (vs. LAC)
Kirk Cousins is off to a blazing fantasy start to the season after a near-perfect outing Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Over two games, he is the fantasy QB1 with a 72.7 completion percentage, over 700 passing yards, six touchdowns and just one interception — all quite good considering he was drafted as the QB14 according to ADP.
Will this pace be sustainable? It seems unlikely, but this hot streak has a good chance of continuing through Week 3 as the Minnesota Vikings take on the Los Angeles Chargers at home (and not in prime time). Through two weeks, Los Angeles’ defense has allowed the most offensive yards, the most passing yards and the third-most points. Las Vegas sportsbook certainly thinks this game has major shootout potential — it has the highest point total of the slate (54.5 on DraftKings). Cousins should flirt with top-five numbers in the bonanza game of the week.
Nico Collins, WR (at JAC)
Nico Collins was stellar for the second week in a row and has been the lone bright spot on this otherwise pedestrian Houston Texans’ offense. He hauled in seven of nine targets for a career-high 146 yards and his first touchdown of the season (the team’s second).
Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has absolutely peppered the Year 3 wideout with looks, and deservedly so: 68 of Collins’ 226 receiving yards have come after the catch, and his 17.4 yards per catch rank 11th-best through two weeks. His 20 targets are tied for the sixth-most among pass-catchers and account for more than a 26 percent share. The opportunities are there — albeit on a lower-volume offense — and should continue as Stroud gets more comfortable.
Houston will travel to Jacksonville this week to face a below-average Jaguars pass defense that has relinquished the eighth-most passing yards this season. The Texans are expected to be playing from behind in this matchup with a line of -9.5 as of Tuesday, which should bode well for passing volume. We should regard Collins as a solid WR3/flex option on the rise — especially in points per reception (PPR) formats.
Kyren Williams, RB (at CIN)
Kyren Williams enjoyed a very healthy 95 percent snap share in the Los Angeles Rams’ Week 2 loss with healthy scratch Cam Akers on the trading block once again. (Time is a flat circle.) Williams capitalized on this usage in what was, on paper, a brutal matchup against the San Francisco 49ers and rushed 14 times for 52 yards and a touchdown. He also tacked on six catches on 10 targets for 48 yards and a touchdown and was the team’s second-most targeted player.
That the Rams feel comfortable rolling with him as their lead back for the rest of the season is a huge endorsement of the Year 2 rusher out of Notre Dame. Williams has already accounted for 75 percent of the total production from his rookie season through two games and is on a ridiculous 17-game pace for over 1,300 scrimmage yards and 34 touchdowns.
Williams could end up being everything people hoped Akers would be going into the year when he was drafted as the RB22 — or Williams could perhaps be even more. He gets a much easier opponent this week in the Cincinnati Bengals, who have allowed at least 100 rushing yards in each game this year. Given the matchup and volume, Williams is a high-end RB2 with RB1 upside.
Sam LaPorta, TE (vs. ATL)
Sam LaPorta has been a pleasant surprise and a nice waiver wire add for those managers able to nab him after Week 1. He capitalized on a sweet matchup against the Seattle Seahawks and nabbed five of six targets for 63 yards, finishing as the TE8 in half-PPR. His 11 targets account for 16.7 percent of the team’s total this year (behind only Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds), putting him seventh among tight ends.
All of this would be impressive in a vacuum, but tossing in the fact that LaPorta is a rookie gives him massive fantasy upside down the line. In the immediate term, the Iowa product could produce top-12 numbers this week — even with the Atlanta Falcons, who have been stingy against the pass thus far, on deck.
Players We Hate This Week
Justin Fields, QB (at KC)
It is difficult to watch this version of Justin Fields, whom many thought had taken a step forward last season after finishing as the fantasy QB5. The Year 3 quarterback has looked scared and predictable, which has been reflected both in his stat lines and from opponents.
“Everybody knew what was coming,” Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David told reporters after the team’s win over the Chicago Bears. “They called a screen. It was the same formation. Everybody knew what was coming.”
Fields completed just 16 of 29 attempts for 211 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions – one of which was returned for a touchdown. To add insult to injury, his rushing prowess — which made him a fantasy superstar last season — was stymied entirely. He tallied just three yards on four attempts (though he did find the end zone).
Fields’ offensive line has done him no favors, allowing 10 sacks — the second-most in the NFL — for a loss of 69 yards through two games. He is an extremely risky play this week with the Kansas City Chiefs on deck in a game with the largest point spread of the week (-12.5). The team total sits at 16.5 as of Tuesday, which gives little optimism for fantasy managers. Fields is a low-end QB1 with significant bust potential.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR (at CLE)
There is little to like about DeAndre Hopkins’ fantasy outlook after two games. The veteran wideout is 31 years old, seemingly on the decline and playing on an anemic offense quarterbacked by Ryan Tannehill. Hopkins’ 31.6 percent target share is healthy, but a career-low 9.5 yards per reception has resulted in minimal production through two games. Based on the eye test alone, Year 2 WR Treylon Burks looks significantly sprier and is averaging 18.8 YPC, thanks mainly to a huge 70-yard catch last week against the Chargers.
If Burks continues to look good, Hopkins could see fewer and fewer targets as the season progresses. He is a boom-or-bust WR3/flex option who you can only hope falls into the end zone this week against the Cleveland Browns, who have allowed the second-fewest points and third-fewest passing yards per game this year.
Najee Harris, RB (at LV)
It may be time to push the panic button on Najee Harris. The Year 3 running back appears to be falling off a cliff after a stellar rookie campaign in which he finished as the RB4 in half-PPR. Harris was the RB15 in 2022… and is currently the RB48 through the first two games of 2023 — less than ideal considering fantasy managers drafted him as the RB9.
His lack of production stems from sharing snaps and touches with Jaylen Warren. Harris currently has the edge in snaps (64 to 48) and carries (16 to nine), though Warren has seen significantly more usage in the passing game with 12 targets to Harris’ five. Even so, 21 touches through two games is pretty weak for the alleged bell cow running back.
Overall, the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ offense looks rough: The unit ranks seventh-worst in points scored and second-worst in rushing yards this year, and it was the team’s defense that eked out the win Monday night over the Browns. Harris could very well be a symptom, not the problem, but his play is concerning nonetheless. He is a mid-to-low-end RB2 moving forward, even in a softer matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2.
Dallas Goedert, TE (at TB)
Dallas Goedert has underperformed in two consecutive games to start the year. He kicked off the season with a Week 1 goose egg against the New England Patriots, then followed that game up with an underwhelming 22 yards against the Vikings. His six catches likely saved managers playing in PPR formats, but this was far from an inspiring performance, especially in a game where DeVonta Smith and D’Andre Swift combined for over 300 yards.
If you drafted Goedert, you may not have the luxury of hating him now. That said, you may want to consider picking up a backup option in case this troubling trend continues.