A star was born this weekend in the NFL and his name is Christine Michael. All it took was a real opportunity for him to play the workhorse role on the Seahawks offense and he relished in it. Michael literally used the spin move straight out of Madden video games on multiple occasions and rumbled all the way to 106 yards and the first two touchdowns (TDs) of his career on 20 carries. For a guy who had caught four total passes in 18 previous NFL games combined, Michael has been atypically involved in that aspect this year as he caught 2-3 passes on Sunday (to give him seven receptions through three games). The Seahawks’ offensive line is subpar and has made the other backs on the roster look bad but Michael has been able to overcome and average 5.2 yards per carry (YPC) on 45 attempts thus far. After this contest, there’s no question who the top dog is in this backfield, and he should be slated to see 20-plus touches in all competitive games moving forward. Michael looked as effective in-between the 20s as he did in the red zone…in fact, he scored from 41 yards out and from four yards away. While Michael doesn’t possess the upside of backs such as Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson due to their superior pass-catching abilities, he does have the potential to become one of the better rushers in the league. His ceiling is somewhere slightly short of Marshawn Lynch’s numbers with the Seahawks and his floor could be a small standard deviation below Latavius Murray’s 2015 season (assuming he remains healthy) in this role. One thing is for sure: Michael took this job this week and ran away with it (literally).
Here are some of my other DFS-relevant observations from Week 3 of the 2016 NFL season:
Marcus Mariota, Titans – Even in the juiciest of possible matchups (at least according to the stat book), Marcus Mariota struggled mightily in Week 2 to the tune of completing just 17-33 passes (51.5-percent completion) for 214 yards, zero TDs and two interceptions (INTs). Prior to this game, the Raiders had allowed a whopping 808 yards passing in two games and at least 500 yards of offense in each game as well. This week, the Titans only managed 393 yards and 10 points in what proved to be a loss at home. After throwing exactly two TDs in each of his previous two games, Mariota just dropped a complete stinker in an elite matchup. His high yardage total through three games is 271 through the air and 22 on the ground (which he accomplished this week). Unfortunately for prospective Mariota rosterers, this team is built on the run. However, it also functions better when safety blanket Delanie Walker is healthy. For now, this can be chalked up as an anomaly, but Mariota is difficult to trust despite his rushing ability. For the foreseeable future, Mariota should be reserved for tournaments regardless of price tag because both his floor and upside are limited (especially without Walker). The offense is conservative and the defense is solid so Mariota shouldn’t find himself in any shootouts in the near future.
Jerick McKinnon/Matt Asiata, Vikings – The running game was poor prior to the Adrian Peterson injury so why was everyone sold on Jerick McKinnon (even at a cheap price tag) this week? Was it because the masses felt Peterson was over-the-hump and McKinnon was a superior talent? Heading into this week, the Vikings ranked dead last in YPC at just 1.9…nearly a full yard behind the Rams (2.7). Between McKinnon (2.8), Matt Asiata (2.5) and Sam Bradford (-1.0), the team averaged just 2.4 YPC in the first game following Peterson’s (presumably) season-ending injury. Lost in their struggles is the fact the offensive line isn’t helping them out any. In Week 3, Pro Football Focus graded both the tackles incredibly poorly in their run-blocking and 3-5 offensive linemen (including both tackles) had graded outside the top 60 at their position without Week 3 included. Regardless of who is attempting to run the ball, they’re unlikely to get it going consistently with this collective group of mediocrity blocking for them. The best chance of fantasy points moving forward is for McKinnon to get involved in the running game or Asiata to magically get a goal line carry due to the passing offense leading the team to the one-yard line.
Terrelle Pryor Sr., Browns – Cleveland decided to rotate at quarterback (QB) on Sunday due to the injuries to both Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. Therefore, Pryor played 14 snaps at QB, one at half back, four at slot receiver and the rest as an outside receiver. In other words, he is the emphasis of their offense in one way or another and is going to contribute in multiple ways on a weekly basis. Week 4 prices have yet to be released but it’s hard to imagine Pryor being priced much above $10,000 (if even that high). For a guy who is expected to play at least a handful of snaps at the most impactful position on the field and mix in as the team’s top receiving option, even a $10,000 price tag would be a bargain. At this point, Pryor’s floor is that of a rushing QB due to the substantial amount of snaps he’s receiving under center combined with being the team’s most targeted (14) receiver. With either Griffin or McCown under center, Isaiah Crowell was the focus of the offense because they knew they could systematically create a balance. Now, no one is concerned about the passing game so they can load the box. Consequently, Pryor’s production on a weekly basis is going to decide whether or not the team wins or loses. In Week 4, Pryor could be the most heavily-owned player we’ve ever seen on FantasyDraft, and you will not want to be one of the ones passing on him in cash game formats.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos – Remember the Broncos receivers? On Sunday, they set up to make sure the fantasy world didn’t forget about them as Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas each surpassed 100 yards receiving and scored at least one TD (Sanders scored two). The focus here is on Sanders because he was targeted a whopping 13 times against a Bengals defense that was only allowing 219 yards passing per game heading into this tilt at home. Furthermore, Sanders had only caught 8-16 passes (50-percent catch rate) for 88 yards in two previous games after catching at least 76 passes in each of his last two seasons with the Broncos. Last year, Peyton Manning graded as the league’s worst starting QB and Sanders still found a way to maintain relevance en route to 1,135 yards and six TDs. Even with an unpredictable (although rapidly improving) Trevor Siemian under center, Sanders should be able to at least approach those numbers once again. Just because the QB isn’t favorable doesn’t mean the system can’t find ways to get him (and Thomas) the ball. Both should be fine moving forward as long as the expectations are similar to last year’s and not 2014. People were suggesting all week long the Broncos receivers were done being fantasy contributors but that simply is not the case.
Jordan Reed, Redskins – Something is officially up with the Kirk Cousins/Jordan Reed duo that was absolutely dominant at the end of last season. I found it strange Vernon Davis was targeted five times last week (which ate into Reed’s volume). In Week 3, Davis wasn’t targeted at all and Reed still only saw seven targets (which is low for his standards) and caught just four passes for 56 yards. Over the course of Reed’s final five games last season (including playoffs), he failed to reach 27.40 fantasy points just once. In three games this year, Reed has yet to eclipse 13.40 fantasy points…with his QB attempting the second most passes of anyone in the league (behind Blake Bortles). Sure Cousins’ accuracy has seemed off but he’s still completed 65-plus percent of his passes and averaged more yards per attempt than last year. The issue here is there are more mouths to feed in the passing game with a healthy DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder seeming like an extremely capable three-headed monster. Reed may have slid down the totem pole to option two in the passing game, or at least no longer the clear number one, which is an issue for his long-term value. Reed is still an upper-echelon TE but it doesn’t look like he’s going to approach Rob Gronkowski-type value any time soon (as I had hoped).