The injuries. Oh, the injuries. It was yet another busy night for the medical tent and physio staff on TNF, as we saw consensus number one fantasy pick, Christian McCaffery, ruled out in the 2nd quarter with a nasty looking hamstring injury. This was followed by a broken foot for promising rookie CB Jaycee Horn. Both will undergo additional tests to determine the severity of the injuries, but its no doubt multi-week absences for both players which is a huge blow to the now 3-0 Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers came out 24-9 victors in an easy win where rookie Texans QB David Mills didn’t do anything spectacular, but did mount a nice touchdown drive towards the end.
Here’s my 5 key TNF fantasy takeaways:
1. Pick up Chubba Hubbard as a priority add
Christian McCaffery exited the game in the second quarter and was immediately ruled out with a hamstring injury after short time in the medical tent. A huge blow for the Carolina Panthers (who also lost rookie first round pick Jaycee Horn to a broken foot) and fantasy managers.
Up stepped rookie Chubba Hubbard who went on to handle 14 touches for 79 total yards, an efficient showing which with the injury to McCaffery likely to sideline him for several weeks, means he’s your priority waiver pickup this week (unless god forbid MORE injuries happen to starting running backs this weekend). Hubbard is going to get the volume and he’s shown the talent to produce on a small sample, albeit not to the level of CMC. He’ll likely push for 15-20 touches a game in CMCs absence, with Royce Freeman figuring to spell him on occasion. We should get an MRI result before waivers pass to see how long an absence it will be.
Add Hubbard and expect RB2 production while CMC is out.
2. Brandin Cooks is a stud and one of the best value receivers in fantasy drafts this season
Brandin Cooks was being drafted in rounds 7-9 in fantasy drafts this year, with the absence of Deshaun Watson and general lack of supporting quality on offence he got faded heavily. Crazy for a guy that does nothing but produce year in year out. 1,000+ yards, 5+ TDs, 110+ targets in 5 of the last 7 seasons, playing on 4 different teams and with at least 6 different QBs. He excels at all levels of the field, being able to create seperation in intermediate and deep routes. He has the upside for 100+ yards and a touchdown most weeks.
Last night Davis Mills looked his way 11 times, catching 9 of them and going for 112 scoreless yards. Cooks is now up to 322 yards and 1 touchdown on 23 catches in 3 weeks, with at least 112 yards or a touchdown in each week.
Cooks is still 28 years old, so we would expect at least another 2 seasons of production (if you drafted startup dynasty leagues this summer, you likely got even better value). We got it wrong again with Cooks and congratulations to anyone that drafted him as their WR3/4 this year. To anyone that didn’t, maybe you can lowball an offer to the owner who still hasn’t recognised his brilliance.
3. Sam Darnold is finally having his breakout season, post Adam Gase – shock.
Darnold last night completed 23/34 passes for 304 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns, with zero turnovers. He’s now thrown for 888 yards, 3 touchdowns and just 1 interception, with a passer rating of 99.0 on the year – a vast improvement on his career average of 78.2. In each week Darnold has thrown 275+ yards and scored two touchdowns. On the year, career highs in completion percentage (68.22%) and YPC (8.3).
Darnold is free of Adam Gase and we are now seeing the Sam Darnold we should’ve been seeing the last 3 seasons under the coaching of Matt Rhule’s team. The Panthers are now 3-0 and look like the real deal executing well on both sides of the ball. CMC will be a loss and a dent on Darnold’s fantasy upside, however long he is absent for, but we’re seeing a confident version of the 4th year QB who isn’t afraid to push the ball downfield (13 completions of 20+ yards) or put the team on his back in the end zone (3 rushing touchdowns in 3 weeks).
Currently he’s operating as a high end QB2 in 12 team leagues, I expect that to continue and he’s worth an add to rosters if you waited on QB late in the draft and have been disappointed (Tua, Winston, Tannehill). He finally has the stability to grow and it’s gonna fun as hell to watch him this year.
4. Add Panthers D/ST
Yes it was the Texans but this is now 3 weeks in a row they’ve posted 10+ fantasy points. They’re now up to 14 sacks on the season and haven’t allowed more than 14 points (opponents have been NYJ, NO, HOU).
They get a tough matchup next week on the road to Dallas, but after that their schedule looks pretty good with matchups against PHI, MIN, @NYG, @ATL, NE. They’re trending towards set it and forget it, if they can keep Dak and co in check next week then we can trust them in any matchup for the foreseeable.
5. Is Sam Darnold not throwing to Robby Anderson because it reminds him of the Jets?
11 targets and 5 catches in 3 weeks is concerning, as it puts him on pace for 62 targets and 28 catches on the year. It looks as though McCaffery returning and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr working almost exclusively out of the slot, has reduced his role to a deep threat specialist. Hubbard should pickup the majority of McCaffery’s short passing work in his absence, so I still don’t see the uptick for Anderson coming from that. If anything it gives Marshall Jr a boost as a more reliable option on short-intermediate routes than Hubbard.
Keep an eye on Anderson, as you likely won’t get much for him in a trade but just be prepared to cut him down the line if a more reliable receiving option is available to you on the waiver wire.