Welcome to Vantage Points, a column I will be writing weekly during the NFL season as a window into every game of the week. With access limited more than ever this year and with no preseason games for us to put our own eyes on, I have the utmost respect for sportswriters covering the NFL on a daily basis, giving us a window into what these teams might look like and where their strengths and weaknesses — beyond the obvious — lie.
The purpose of this column is to highlight the work of those writers, but to also turn some of their observations into actionable fantasy advice. The goal isn’t just to highlight obvious angles, but perhaps some of the lower-end ones that could lead to fantasy advantages. I’m also taking advantage of watching press conferences and reading transcripts from coaches and players.
I will publish this column twice weekly — on Wednesdays to preview the Thursday night game, and on Fridays to preview the Sunday slate.
Miami at Jacksonville (Thu, 8:20 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Dolphins…
The Dolphins haven’t exactly been a high-quality fantasy team so far, but a lot of Miami beat writers — and fantasy players — have been monitoring the backfield. While RB Jordan Howard has averaged under 1.0 YPC and hasn’t played much, beat writers have been a little surprised that Matt Breida hasn’t played more. Breida has just 12 carries and 1 catch through two games, and has played under 25% of the snaps in each of the first two weeks, with Myles Gaskin leading the way.
“[Coaches] haven’t said much [about my carries]. I mean it’s understood since Day 1 that whatever they ask me to do – I’ve told them since Day 1 – I’m going to do,” Breida told reporters. “I’m not the type of guy who’s going to complain about how many carries I get, how many yards I get.”
Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey used the old adage “there is only one football.” Breida probably figures to play a little bit more going forward.
I thought this film breakdown piece of the Dolphins’ Week 2 loss to Buffalo from The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino was fantastic, with a couple useful fantasy notes. Tolentino touched on the backfield, saying the coaches “rewarded” Gaskin for a great offseason, and that Gaskin is paying off the dividends.
Are the Dolphins throwing too much? Tolentino notes that the Dolphins’ passing rate on early downs and in the first 28 minutes of games (before the first-half two-minute warning) is tops in the NFL at 76%.
Tolentino called WR Preston Williams “nearly nonexistent” through two games… with his most notable play coming on a dropped TD that could have won Miami the game last week. You wonder if Williams has simply been the victim of two tough matchups — he has seen Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White in coverage. Tolentino has been disappointed because in camp, at times, Williams “looked like the most talented receiver on the field.”
Tolentino noted the presence of slot WR Isaiah Ford (7 catches, 76 yards) against Buffalo was a positive sign of things to come. Ford quietly caught 21 passes over the final four games of 2019.
What They’re Saying About the Jaguars…
Here’s what Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, noted for his facial hair stylings, is saying about Jaguar QB Gardner Minshew’s own preferences in the department — “I think the beard is a cooler look. I think guys that grow mustaches a lot of times have patchy sides.” Ouch. As someone who has a beard with somewhat patchy sides, this one hurt, Fitz.
This is an interesting matchup for Minshew and the Jags. In the piece I linked above from Josh Tolentino, he notes how disappointing the Dolphins’ defense has been. He called big-money signing CB Byron Jones “a non-factor,” and Jones is going to miss this game with a groin injury anyway. Meanwhile, top CB Xavien Howard “got lit up” against the Bills last week.
There are two things to watch for from Minshew per Next Gen Stats this week. Minshew is getting the ball out quickly (average of 2.61 seconds, down from 2.85 last year), which is reducing pressure. But Minshew also has the NFL’s best passer rating on play action (146.6), as he’s 13/17 with 3 TD and 0 INT with a 9.9 YPA.
I got a lot of people asking me this week about Jags WR DJ Chark, and this seems to be a good matchup for him to get going. However, it’s noteworthy that Chark has been listed as “limited” on the injury report with a chest injury, and maybe that’s one reason he has just 7 targets (though he’s caught them all) through two games.
With Chark dinged, the Jags have been getting a lot out of rookie WR Laviska Shenault. But Shenault isn’t just a WR — according to Next Gen Stats, Shenault, Taysom Hill, and Kyler Murray are the only three players in the NFL to line up at QB, in the backfield, in the slot, tight to the formation, and out wide this year. Shenault has run 28 of his 42 routes from out wide, but also has 5 carries as a pure running back (7 total).
Jaguars rookie RB James Robinson joined Phillip Lindsay to be the only UDFA RBs in NFL history to start their rookie seasons with two games of 60+ rushing yards. Things could be a little tougher for Robinson this week if C Brandon Linder (knee) can’t play. Coach Doug Marrone told reporters than Linder’s injury isn’t serious enough for IR, but the short week probably will prevent him from getting out there.
The Dolphins have been a really bad fantasy team so far with the exception of TE Mike Gesicki’s big game last week. At WR, things have been tough, with DeVante Parker (hamstring) dinged and Williams struggling in bad matchups. I think I need to see it from Williams before playing him (this is a good matchup), but if Parker goes on the short week, I can endorse getting him in there as a WR3.
Gaskin is a FLEX play, but from what I’ve been reading, it definitely sounds like we should expect Breida to get more work going forward. Howard is flat-out droppable.
I think the Jags and OC Jay Gruden have done a fantastic job with Minshew, and he’s a low-end QB1 play this week against a big-money Dolphin defense that has really underachieved.
I’m still firing up Chark as a WR3, though the chest injury must be monitored given the short week. Shenault should be rosered in every league at this stage because he has such a unique role. There could be weeks he touches the ball 10-plus times.
I haven’t used Robinson yet in leagues where I have him, but if the Jags are going to be more competitive than common wisdom suggests, he’s in the low-end RB2 conversation every week. I’ve been very impressed with his play, though it does need to be noted that Chris Thompson functioned as Jacksonville’s hurry-up back last week when the Jags were playing from behind.