Just because a player is listed as a “fade” doesn’t mean they are automatic sits. As the old adage goes, “Always start your studs.” What a “bust” designation does mean, however, is that you’ll want to consider higher upside options in the flex.
Heading into Week 3 with some big-time injuries to your fantasy football stars, it can feel like there’s no player you truly can afford to sit. However, identifying players who might have a down week (even if you do have to start them) can help inform the decisions you make elsewhere in your lineup.
Bust: Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
It feels a bit rushed to call Week 2’s overall QB1 a “bust” in the immediate game to follow, but alas, a matchup against the San Francisco 49ers tends to have that effect. Jones and Co. are coming into the Bay Area coming off of one of the most exciting comebacks in franchise history, and unfortunately, they’ll probably be in position to need another one of those in the fourth quarter of their Week 3 matchup.
Though the 49ers have not been a shutdown defense against the pass, having allowed the ninth most passing yards this season, they have excelled in generating turnovers against the quarterback. Over two weeks this season, they’ve allowed just two passing touchdowns and forced four interceptions. Jones, meanwhile, has already thrown three picks this season.
Jones’ saving grace for fantasy has generally been his rushing productivity, but 49ers LB Fred Warner is likely to limit that production as one of the Niners' best rush defenders.
UPDATE: Jones finished with just 4.98 fantasy points in a 30-12 loss to San Francisco.
Fade: James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Through two weeks, Cardinals RB James Conner ranks fourth among running backs in total touches, only behind Christian McCaffrey, Tony Pollard and Derrick Henry. That kind of volume makes him a difficult sit for any fantasy team. But this week, the already inefficient Cardinals offense is about to hit another speed bump … a speed bump named the Dallas Cowboys defense.
Through two weeks, the Cowboys are allowing a league-low 3.5 yards per play and an 8.7% scoring rate to offenses. They are also leading the league with a 30.4% forced turnover rate. This game is likely to spiral out of the Cardinals’ control quickly, which won’t be conducive to the run game, though that could mean Conner gets some work as a receiver if they fall behind.
Just don’t expect any semblance of efficiency (or much scoring) to help his fantasy day.
Bust: Jerome Ford, RB, Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns signed a familiar face in Kareem Hunt this week to help bolster some depth following the season-ending knee injury for Nick Chubb. Regardless of that signing, Ford was destined for the Week 3 fade/bust list based solely on his matchup against the Titans this weekend.
Dating back to last season, the Titans' defense has allowed a league-low 16.26 fantasy points per game to running backs. Tennessee is carrying on that success so far this year, too, allowing running backs just 2.65 yards per attempt through two games. Given uncertainties about what type of role Hunt might have paired with the difficult defensive matchup in Week 3, it’s best to look elsewhere … even if you did just drop 100% of your FAB on Ford. (Oops).
Fade: Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints
Saints WR Chris Olave is building on his tremendously successful rookie campaign with new quarterback Derek Carr, with 14 receptions for 198 receiving yards through two weeks. However, this team will have their toughest matchup yet this season on the road against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3. The Packers' defense is generally underrated, but Green Bay is a bit unbalanced, with its strengths lying more in the secondary with Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas than in its run defense.
The Saints won’t be able to take full advantage of this plus matchup in the run game unfortunately, with Alvin Kamara serving the last of his three-game suspension and a hamstring injury to Jamaal Williams likely sidelining him for Week 3. Though that could force a greater emphasis on the passing game, the Packers' defense could pose a challenge to Carr and limit the production of his receivers. Green Bay’s defense is generating the second-highest pressure rate in the league (53.2%) while allowing the eighth-lowest completion rate in the league. Already having tallied two interceptions on the season, the Packers dropped an additional three would-be picks (second-most in the league).
I’d prefer not to test this defense, as long as I can avoid it.
Fade: DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
In Week 3, the Seahawks will play host to the Panthers as six-point home favorites in a matchup with the second-lowest over/under on the week at 41.5 points. This matchup feels more conducive to the run game for the Seahawks, considering the game script and the matchup.
Through the first two games of the season, Carolina’s defense has ranked top-10 in rushing yards and yards per attempt while being one of just five teams to have allowed four or more rushing touchdowns. Because of success found against the Panthers in the run game this season, this defense has faced the third-fewest pass attempts. After all, why pass when you can just run all over Carolina and dominate time of possession?
Though DK Metcalf has been more productive this season, he’s actually functioned more as Geno Smith’s No. 2 behind Tyler Lockett. Lockett leads the team in targets and has seen more red-zone targets than Metcalf — the most valuable targets there are. Lockett is due for some positive regression, which could mean a hit for Metcalf’s production, and this matchup in particular has me looking elsewhere if I’m in need of a high-upside option.
Bust: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Freiermuth (whom you probably selected as the seventh or eighth tight end off the board) has been unplayable through two weeks. Currently sitting as the TE32 with just three total receptions on the season, Freiermuth has been yet another victim of Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada and floundering play from second-year QB Kenny Pickett. While some of Freiermuth’s lack of production can be attributed to struggles of the Steelers’ offense in general, it’s also worth wondering if a shift in Freiermuth’s usage is partly to blame.
In his first two NFL seasons, Freiermuth played 32.3% and 36.4% of snaps out of the slot, respectively, with occasional opportunities to line out wide. In 2023, Freiermuth has seen an increase in his use as a true in-line tight end, with just 19% of snaps from the slot and just one lined up out wide so far through two weeks. Freiermuth’s lack of target share is abundantly alarming, especially considering that the Steelers rank seventh in the league in pass attempts through the first two weeks.
He’s unplayable until this offense shows some marked improvement.