Fantasy Football Week 3 Wide Receiver Rankings: Trust Russell Gage in a big spot?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp
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When the Chiefs and Packers got rid of Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams without replacing them with viable No. 1 options this past offseason, there was a lot of talk in the Fantasy community about things like “vacated targets,” and a lot written about the “opportunity” guys like Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, and JuJu Smith-Schuster (among others) had to step in become must-start Fantasy options because of those absences.

So far, none of those players have managed it yet, and we got some more examples in Week 2 of why vacated targets and opportunity don’t necessarily matter all that much at wide receiver. The Colts were missing Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce, and they had one player reach even 40 receiving yards against the Jaguars this week. Similarly, the Buccaneers were missing Chris Godwin and Julio Jones, and Mike Evans had 61 yards before being ejected from the game. Russell Gage stepped up for 28 yards, while Breshad Perriman had 45 – at least he had a touchdown. 

The point? Unlike at running back, where simply being on the field means you’ve got a pretty good chance of literally being handed the ball a bunch of times, wide receivers have to be good enough to get open often enough for their quarterback to find them and then do something with the targets they inevitably earn. Sometimes, guys really do step up when the opportunity becomes available and emerge as breakouts, but when that’s the primary – let alone the only – case for a player’s Fantasy appeal, you should be pretty skeptical of them.

For what it’s worth, I think Smith-Schuster can still become a viable Fantasy option, and I don’t want to write off Gage entirely – he was one of those players who actually did take advantage of an opportunity for a bigger target share with Atlanta last season. But, it’s worth keeping in mind that, while “opportunity” can be a viable tie-breaker when setting your lineup, you shouldn’t just automatically start a player because his better teammates are out. Lazard, Gage and Smith-Schuster are decent starting options this week, but none of them are owed a spot in your lineup. They’ve still gotta earn it, and none have so far. 

Here are my top-60 rankings for wide receiver in Week 3 help you make those decisions. 

  1. Cooper Kupp @ARI
  2. Justin Jefferson vs. DET
  3. Davante Adams @TEN — Adams had the opportunity for some big plays in Week 2, but Derek Carr wasn’t quite on the money on a couple of targets. However, he still had multiple end zone targets in addition to his touchdown, so Week 2 was probably his floor. He’s still an elite Fantasy option.
  4. Ja’Marr Chase @NYJ
  5. Stefon Diggs @MIA
  6. Deebo Samuel @DEN
  7. Amon-Ra St. Brown @MIN
  8. Tyreek Hill vs. BUF — The Dolphins have been an unusual offense, in that they’ve run the fourth-most plays with two or fewer WRs on the field while throwing on 59% of such plays — league average is 43.8%. That’s going to mean an unusually high target share for Hill and Jaylen Waddle, which is fine by us.
  9. Tee Higgins @NYJ — Higgins was back from his concussion in Week 2 and looked very much like a 1B to Chase’s 1A. As SportsLine’s Jacob Gibbs has pointed out, Higgins has actually been targeted slightly more often than Chase when they’ve shared the dating back to the start of the 2021 season. He might just be a top-12 WR in his own right moving forward.
  10. A.J. Brown @WAS
  11. Jaylen Waddle vs. BUF
  12. Brandin Cooks @CHI
  13. Mike Williams vs. JAX — Williams got the WR1 treatment with Keenan Allen out in Week 2. You didn’t actually consider sitting him, did you?
  14. Michael Thomas @CAR — Thomas’ catch rate is down to a career-low 65%, which makes some sense given his career-high 11.6 yard average depth of target. He’s looked a lot like the pre-injury version of himself in spite of that, and the red zone usage so far has been especially promising. He’d look even better if he and Jameis Winston figure out how to hit on some of those deeper targets.
  15. Marquise Brown vs. LAR — Brown got 11 targets in Week 2, and I hope that’s more of the norm moving forward with DeAndre Hopkins sidelined. He’s clearly the team’s top option at wide receiver, and he’s been close on a few big plays — including one that was initially ruled a touchdown before being overturned in Week 2. He’s got big weekly upside, still.
  16. D.J. Moore vs. NO — Moore’s usage has been one of many befuddling things about this offense so far. He’s still running a route on every pass play, but Baker Mayfield isn’t looking Moore’s way enough. I have to assume that will change moving forward, but I have to acknowledge that I’ve lost a bit of faith in Moore so far.
  17. Diontae Johnson @CLE — So far, Mitchell Trubisky hasn’t been an upgrade for Johnson, though he is still targeting him at a very high rate, just like Ben Roethlisberger did. If Johnson keeps getting double-digit targets every week, he’s going to have a big game at some point. He’s a must-start Fantasy WR.
  18. Courtland Sutton vs. SF — Sutton got going after Jerry Jeudy left Sunday’s game, and if Jeudy is out for Week 3, there’s no question he would be the No. 1 target in this offense. It’s still a question if Jeudy plays, as they both have 10 targets in the five quarters Jeudy has played. This offense has looked pretty messy so far, but Sutton showed a lot of good things in Week 2 — and had a touchdown overturned on review early. It could’ve been an even better day.
  19. CeeDee Lamb @NYG — One thing you can say about Lamb is that he’s been a target hog so far, with 11 in each of the first two games. He was better in Week 2, and I’m hopeful that’ll be more like the norm moving forward — not huge production, but enough to be a viable start without Dak Prescott.
  20. Christian Kirk @LAC — Kirk has been much better than I expected through two games, serving as the clear No. 1 option in the offense and seeing a variety of types of targets — they’ve schemed up short-area plays for him near the goal line and have looked for him down the field. He looks like a top-20 WR in this offense.
  21. Rashod Bateman @NE — Bateman has shown his big-play ability in each of the first two games, but it’s been weird to see him only running routes on 71% of pass plays, like he was in Week 2. Either he’s going to be more involved moving forward or he’s going to be a disappointment for Fantasy. I’m hoping it’s the former.
  22. Curtis Samuel vs. PHI — Samuel has now led the Commanders in targets in both games so far, and in Week 2, and he continues to be a focal point of the scheme — his touchdown came on a play where he lined up in the backfield and scored on a wheel route. Samuel looks like he’s going to have a big role pretty much every week, and he’s firmly in the starting-caliber range for Fantasy.
  23. JuJu Smith-Schuster @IND — Smith-Schuster followed up a very promising first game with three targets in Week 2. Patrick Mahomes told us there would be a different No. 1 WR every week, and maybe he was telling the truth. I’ll give Smith-Schuster the benefit of the doubt, but if he doesn’t garner a 20-plus percentage target share this week, he’ll be relegated to the WR3/4 range in my rankings. He’s the only Chiefs WR I would be willing to use this week.
  24. Terry McLaurin vs. PHI — McLaurin got more opportunities in Week 2, but still had just a 17.4% target share in a pass-heavy game. Curtis Samuel has eight more targets than McLaurin, while Jahan Dotson only has two fewer in his first two NFL games. McLaurin’s big-play ability will still mean he’s got a chance for a big game every week, but he’s more like a boom-or-bust WR3 at this point.
  25. Allen Robinson @ARI — The Rams got Robinson involved near the goal line to a petty ridiculous degree Sunday, with two official targets from inside the 5 and another waived off due to a late whistle — he actually scored on the latter play. All that being said, he still had just five targets on 37 pass attempts, which is pretty middling. I’d be looking to see Robinson if I could get WR2 value for him.
  26. D.K. Metcalf vs. ATL — As I wrote in my Week 2 Winners & Losers column for the Fantasy Football Today Newsletter, we may have overlooked a key fact: 28% of Geno Smith’s targets went to Tyler Lockett last season compared to 22% for Metcalf. This offense looks pretty bad, but Metcalf’s big-play ability means you can never just outright call him a sit for Fantasy. But it might be time to admit he’s not necessarily a better weekly play than Lockett at this point.
  27. Drake London @SEA — The Falcons schemed up a lot of quick-hitting passes for London in Week 2, with the majority of his eight catches coming on such plays. That’s a good sign for his involvement moving forward, especially as teams focus more on taking Kyle Pitts away.
  28. Tyler Lockett vs. ATL
  29. Garrett Wilson vs. CIN — Wilson’s massive Week 2 breakout could have been even bigger — he was downed at the 2-yard line on one play and had two other end zone targets in addition to his two touchdowns. I’m not ready to say he’s definitely the No. 1 target for the Jets moving forward, but he’s clearly an elite talent who is already playing basically a full complement of snaps, so he’s a must-add player on waivers wherever he’s available, and he’s a viable starting option, too.
  30. Elijah Moore vs. CIN — Moore’s slow start is a disappointment for sure, but I’m not ready to give up on him just yet. Maybe Garrett Wilson’s Week 2 breakout will give Moore more room to make plays as defenses have to focus on three receiving threats on every play. Moore has been a big disappointment so far, there’s no doubting that, but I still believe in the talent — he’s a buy-low candidate for me.
  31. Amari Cooper vs. PIT — Cooper is probably going to be frustratingly inconsistent thanks to Jacoby Brissett, but his 26% target share through two games is no fluke. He’ll have plenty of moments, and Week 2 was a reminder that he’s a really special player who will be able to overcome his circumstances more than you might think.
  32. Adam Thielen vs. DET
  33. Russell Gage vs. GB — It was a tough matchup against the Saints, but Week 2 was a good example of why you can’t just say, “Next man up gets more targets” when it comes to a passing game. Guys still have to get open and earn targets, and then they have to do something with those targets. Gage had a middling 18% target share with Mike Evans ejected early and Chris Godwin and Julio Jones out, so I’m not going to expect big things from Gage even if all of those guys are out again. He’s a decent Fantasy option, but hardly a must-start one.
  34. Brandon Aiyuk @DEN — The switch from Trey Lance to Jimmy Garoppolo should be good news for Aiyuk, who should see more frequent and accurate targets. It’ll still be a pretty crowded receiving corps if George Kittle is healthy, but Aiyuk’s chances of breaking out are a little better than they were a week ago.
  35. Gabe Davis @MIA
  36. Darnell Mooney vs. HOU — It’s not like Mooney is coming off the field, or anything. That’s not why he isn’t producing. He isn’t producing because the Bears have been almost shockingly inept when it comes to passing the ball. I can’t imagine this trend continues moving forward, and we’ve seen Mooney be good with Justin Fields before, but it’s hard to trust him as anything more than a WR3 at this point.
  37. Hunter Renfrow @TEN — The Raiders got Renfrow more involved in Week 2, but I wonder if his two fumbles on consecutive plays — including the game-loser — might not come back to cost him. That’s the kind of thing some coaches will penalize a player for, so we’ll see if Josh McDaniels does that with Renfrow this week.
  38. Josh Palmer vs. JAX
  39. Treylon Burks vs. LV — Burks still isn’t playing an every snap role, but he’s drawing targets at a very strong rate, and looks like someone who could break out in a big way if and when he does become a full-time player.
  40. Chris Olave @CAR — If you’re looking for someone to target before they blow up, Olave looks like a pretty good target. Jameis Winston has been looking his way on deep targets early this season, and Olave had a whopping 334 intended air yards on his 13 targets in Week 2, the fourth-highest total of the PFF era, dating back to the early 2000s. If Olave remains Winston’s primary, “Screw it, I’m going deep” option and starts to hit on them, he could turn into an excellent Fantasy option. I’m excited about his upside and view him as a must-add where available this week.
  41. Sterling Shepard vs. DAL — Generally speaking, I think it’s probably a bad thing for the Giants offense if Shepard remains as much of a focal point as he was in Week 2’s 10-target game, but I’m not going to ignore it for Fantasy. Eventually, Kadarius Toney will be the go-to option in this passing game, I think, but until then, Shepard is going to have some PPR appeal.
  42. Jakobi Meyers vs. BAL — Despite the addition of DeVante Parker, Meyers has remained the Patriots go-to target in the passing game. He doesn’t have huge upside even with that role, but he’s a nice player to have around on your bench in case you need an injury replacement.
  43. Tyler Boyd @NYJ
  44. Robert Woods vs. LV
  45. DeVonta Smith @WAS
  46. Allen Lazard @TB — Lazard returned and led the Packers in routes and snaps at wide receiver in Week 2, but was targeted just three times, as Aaron Rodgers showed no real desire to feature him. I do think Lazard will be the team’s top option in the passing game — especially near the end zone — but I don’t expect that to make him a must-start Fantasy WR.
  47. Chase Claypool @CLE
  48. Greg Dortch vs. LAR
  49. Corey Davis vs. CIN
  50. Jarvis Landry @CAR
  51. Jahan Dotson vs. PHI — The touchdowns in each game are nice, and Dotson sure looks like he belongs after being thrown into basically an every-down role for the Commanders. But I’m not to the point where I’m willing to trust him for Fantasy just yet — his target share is just 11.5%. He should be rostered in all formats, but don’t start Dotson just yet.
  52. Zay Jones @LAC
  53. DJ Chark @MIN
  54. Robby Anderson vs. NO
  55. A.J. Green vs. LAR
  56. Nico Collins @CHI — Collins earned nine targets on 38 pass attempts in Week 2, and if he can sustain a target share in that range, he’s going to matter, even in a bad offense. That was a good sign after he wasn’t really involved in Week 1. I’m not willing to trust him yet, but this was a good start.
  57. Donovan Peoples-Jones vs. PIT
  58. Kyle Phillips vs. LV
  59. DeVante Parker vs. BAL
  60. K.J. Osborn vs. DET

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