A man . . . sees a unicorn cross his path and disappear. That in itself is startling, but there are precedents for mystical encounters of various kinds . . . until — “My God,” says a second man, “I must be dreaming, I thought I saw a unicorn.” At which point, a dimension is added that makes the experience as alarming as it will ever be. A third witness, you understand, adds no further dimension but only spreads it thinner, and a fourth thinner still, and the more witnesses there are the thinner it gets and the more reasonable it becomes until it is as thin as reality, the name we give to the common experience . . . “Look, look!” recites the crowd. “A horse with an arrow in its forehead! It must have been mistaken for a deer.”
Rest assured, you did, in fact, see a unicorn on Sunday. For one glorious day, the Dolphins were so transcendent that they simply couldn’t not score – every play an object lesson in the value of creating space and running to daylight.
Our RotoViz squads aren’t perfect by any stretch, but for a stunning sixty minutes our themes of buying skill and speed at RB, buying talent and efficiency as a driver of volume, and leaning into innovation were perfectly encapsulated by a 60-year flood in Miami.
Throughout the history of Zero RB, we’ve leaned into the smaller, hybrid backs with the ability to run to daylight. For most of this century, no one epitomized that quite like Chris Johnson or Jamaal Charles, but if you’re a RotoViz Radio listener, you knew 2023 brought the potential for a new Johnson.
We draft big-play backs because every touch is a high-value touch. During the 2009 campaign, Johnson scored from 30-plus yards on nine different occasions, leading to a paradigm-altering season where he gained 2,509 yards and scored 16 TDs.
That brings us to Sunday, where De’Von Achane rushed 18 times for 203 yards and two scores, while catching four passes for two additional touchdowns.
If you apply youth-oriented and contingency-based tactics to fantasy football, there will be those moments early in every campaign where a game or a week will provide that visceral, gut-churning moment where you wish you’d taken a Costanza approach to fantasy. Occasionally that’s not even wrong, but it will always leave you without the Achane moments.
After Week 2, the focus was on D’Andre Swift, but Achane was always the most fun RB to write about in this year’s Zero RB Countdown.
The fantasy superhighway is littered with billboards that literally just say, “Draft Raheem Mostert,” and then you drive another mile and there’s another one that says, “Make sure you get 10 Jeff Wilson shares today.” If you’ve got your Underdog notifications set properly, it just tells you that another Dolphins RB has been added to your portfolio instead of reminding you about being on the clock.
Achane’s preseason shoulder injury obscures his early-season timeline. As a 188-pound, late third-round pick, he was already pretty enthusiastically drafted. You’ve got to do the responsible thing and load up on the veterans. Of course, if you were the type of person who did the safe thing and got your RB workload locked in early and watched Netflix, you wouldn’t be here for these picks anyway.
I haven’t been doing the responsible thing for the last two months, and if I’m going to get better prices for the most important drafts, I’m not going to start going to bed early now.
The RotoViz In-Season Content
As a teaser for the Week 4 content, here’s a look back at last week as Matt Spencer joined us with some juicy DFS analytics,
Win the Waiver Wire – Bjorn Yang-Vaernet
The Memory of Smoke – Shawn Siegele
5 Things That Mattered (and 5 That Didn’t) – Mat Irby
TE Streaming – Neil Dutton
K-Means Clustering for DFS Insights – Matt Spencer
The Dynasty Command Center – Curtis Patrick
The Zero RB Dynasty Watch – David Phillippi
Best Ball Mania IV Advance Rate Model – Jake Boes
Streaming Defense – Ross Durham
The Buy Low Report: Advanced WR Metrics – Ryan Ramsarran
The Passing Game Matchup Report: WR/CB Battles – Dave Caban
NFL Pace Report: Shootout Options – Mat Irby
Zero RB Universe – Shawn Siegele
Wrong Read: Every Key Matchup Note from the Advance Team Stat Explorer – Blair Andrews
How to Think About Small-Field DFS Tournaments (DK) – Michael Hitchcock
Beating the Week 2 FanDuel DFS Slate – Justin Herrera
The NFL Weather Report – Mat Irby
The RotoViz Radio network also brings you a wide range of content each week. As I’ll frequently do on Mondays this season, here’s a look back at the week that was through the lens of our newest episodes.
You don’t often get to witness a unicorn and you want to celebrate before it gets thinned and lost to history. Here’s a guide for a once-in-a-lifetime SB and what to look for on the show (with insights from the Monday Review tool, Dave’s Passing Matchup column, and Blair’s Wrong Read):
Dolphins vs. Broncos
- Ben and I break down a performance for the ages and explain why it’s both the culmination of the trends we’ve been discussing since last offseason and the future of offensive football.
- For those who aren’t overly invested in the Broncos as a reality squad, the Denver side of the game wasn’t without intrigue. Courtland Sutton posted a big fantasy game (8-91-2) but lost two of the softest fumbles you’ll ever see. Marvin Mims (126) and Jerry Jeudy (122) both edged him in air yards, with the rookie adding a 99-yard kickoff return TD and the veteran losing a TD on a Brandon Johnson penalty.
- You can’t buy Mims at prices that reflect his current route and target shares, but should you be buying Jeudy and Javonte Williams?
Falcons vs. Lions
- What did Ben think of Desmond Ridder missing Kyle Pitts on what might have been an 85-yard TD on their second drive?
- Although Pitts drew nine targets and looked fully healthy after an offseason of speculation, Ridder played the worst game of his young career. Under constant pressure, he succumbed to seven sacks and completed only two of six passes to Drake London. The Falcons have a top-12 remaining QB schedule – along with several other passers who struggled in a big way on Sunday – but it’s hard to envision them turning it around with Arthur Smith calling the shots.
- Sam LaPorta moved to TE2 overall in my dynasty rankings last week, and that was before the 11-target, 84-yard, 1-TD eruption against Atlanta. Ben and I discuss his redraft outlook, and it’s shockingly high.
Texans vs. Jaguars
- C.J. Stroud looks like the second coming of Justin Herbert. His combination of size, processing, arm strength, accuracy, and quick release has been absolutely stunning through three weeks. Dave Caban’s emphasis on the key production metrics for QB prospects got our RotoViz Rookie Guide readers all over the young star. He moved well up in my dynasty ranks last week and will take another jump after dismantling Jacksonville to the tune of 280 yards, 9.3 yards per attempt, two scores, and no sacks. His 68-yard TD pass to Tank Dell put in the final nail and Stroud made it look easy.
- This was the second straight nightmarish performance for Calvin Ridley, who drew seven targets but dropped a touchdown and committed multiple false start penalties. The former star still leads the team with a 35% air share and 0.59 WOPR, but he ranks third on the team in both receptions and YAC. His 50% catch rate is unsustainably low, yet the buy-low thesis still doesn’t get him back to ADP with Christian Kirk and Evan Engram both heavily involved in a currently broken offense.
- Travis Etienne touched the ball 23 times and gained 138 yards. That left only three opportunities for Tank Bigsby. Unfortunately, one of those came after a (questionable) DPI placed the ball on the 1-yard line. Etienne gained 44 yards on that drive but didn’t get the most crucial carry. He moved up in my ROS RB rankings last week and looked good in this one, but he joins Ridley in needing a more functional offense to squeeze the most of his immense talent.
Chargers vs. Vikings
- Hopefully you took our recommendation to load up on Keenan Allen from the first moment drafts opened last spring. Allen came in with five career games over 150 yards, but this was his first over 200. He broke the franchise record in receptions (18) and threw a 49-yard TD to Mike Williams.
- Unfortunately, his running mate was lost for the season with a torn ACL, creating opportunities for Joshua Palmer, who scored a circus TD, and Quentin Johnston, who generated 2 air yards on three targets. Justin Herbert ranks near the top of the leaderboard in every passing category, and his air conversion is far better than three of the four QBs he trails in total air yards (Mac Jones, Deshaun Watson, Jordan Love).
- Herbert also trails Kirk Cousins on the season, but the Vikings’ insistence on establishing Alexander Mattison probably cost them the Week 3 victory.
- As Blair points out, it’s rarely a good idea to attack an opponent’s weakness . . . with your own weakness. “Although the Chargers aren’t particularly good at defending the run, the Vikings are even worse at executing on offense.”
- Ben and I discuss the contrast between the Chargers abandoning their running game (Joshua Kelley gained 11 yards on 12 attempts) and the Vikings dropping to 0-3 in an attempt to cover the front office.
Nothing shows off a lack of competitiveness quite like complaining that your opponents should take it easy in professional sports. Colm and I get fired up and have fun with the mindset that Miami owes the rest of the league a little more incompetence.
Cardinals vs. Cowboys
- The Cardinals/Cowboys game felt less like an upset and more like two teams moving in different directions. Rondale Moore’s 45-yard score was an interior run concept that mirrored the Miami tactics.
- Arizona was able to run on Dallas throughout – James Conner went 14-98-1 on the ground – but they mixed in the splash plays that were lacking on the other side of the ball. Marquise Brown scored the game winner from in close, but Michael Wilson generated 86 yards on a mere two targets.
- Here’s the evolving contrast that was told the story of these two offenses: Jake Ferguson – 7 targets; Zach Ertz – 2 targets. The Cardinals de-emphasized their efficiency-destroying pass plays in Week 3, while the Cowboys continued to dial up underneath targets at the expense of unleashing CeeDee Lamb. Mike McCarthy played right into Jonathan Gannon’s hands and allowed the Arizona defense to play downhill throughout. Colm breaks down the shape of Dallas’ drives and the futility of small wins in a game the Passing Matchup Rater nailed.
Steelers vs. Raiders
- Davante Adams was held under 100 receiving yards in each of the first two weeks, but he exploded for 172 and two scores on a whopping 20 targets against the Steelers. This was Adams’ fifth game of 170-plus in the last five years.
- Kenny Pickett averaged 8.4 yards per attempt, in part due to a 72-yard strike to Calvin Austin, but the Steelers still saw fit to rush 27 times with Najee Harris (19) and Jaylen Warren (8). Neither player was able to penetrate the Raiders’ run defense. This is especially damning given Blair’s scouting report: “Las Vegas is a bottom-five team in rushing FPOE allowed, yards after contact allowed, EPA per attempt allowed, and success rate allowed.“
Seahawks vs. Panthers
- Kenneth Walker joined Etienne, James Cook, and J.K. Dobbins as the foundation of our 2023 Dead Zone RB plan, and the healthy members of that group are flourishing. Every Walker carry is both an adventure and a highlight, as he continues to race sideline to sideline, making tacklers flat out miss and maintaining contact balance of the most gymnastic variety. Although he’s stylistically different from either Barry Sanders or LeSean McCoy, the Seattle star is the next in line of rule-breaking backs where “designed gap” has no meaning.
- On the far other side of the spectrum, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is off to one of the most disappointing starts in memory. To be clear, this is a wildly unfair way to look at a player’s first three weeks, but the exploits of Stroud, Puka Nacua, Bijan Robinson, and LaPorta provide some context for the possibility of instant stardom. Colm and I break down a disastrous Week 3 from a usage perspective and explore the near-term outlook for one of our favorite prospects.
RotoViz squads are loaded with the weekend’s highest scorers, but completely avoiding some of the other massive totals has been almost impossible in Week 3. With two more games tonight, you have a chance to slingshot your competitors or hang on for dear life. Good luck and don’t miss Conor O’Driscoll on the RotoViz Report.