Our NFL Premium Package is Now Available for the 2022 season! Get full access to our best bets, given out early in the week, in real time: sides, totals, player props, and more, through the end of the Super Bowl.
What’s Next for Christian Watson After Touchdown Trifecta
The Packers and Chiefs both moved on from star wide receivers last offseason. There was a belief that the future Hall of Fame quarterbacks for each team could throw any receiver(s) to 1,000-yard seasons. JuJu Smith-Schuster might hit that number in Kansas City but there isn’t going to be a Packers wide receiver that eclipses a grand. Having said that, rookie Christian Watson popped off for a 4/107/3 line in what may have been a season-saving win for the Packers against the Cowboys. Is there some staying power here for the second-round pick out of North Dakota State?
Watson saw an 84% route participation on Sunday and a massive 42% target share. He had a couple of early drops on Sunday and has had problems with drops all season, but the reality is whoever broke out amongst the Packers wide receivers first was going to get more chance because Green Bay isn’t exactly the kind of team that can spread the ball around with an embarrassment of riches at the position. It’s widely known by now the Packers have not drafted a wide receiver in the first round in the Aaron Rodgers era. Yet, Watson was the second pick of the second round and if he’s looking like a first rounder by season’s end, no one will care that he had to wait until Friday to hear his name called. The Packers have too much invested in Watson for him to fail. They needed every bit of his production last week as despite his massive game they had to sweat things out in overtime to get the win. It’s hard to see a path where Watson declines and the Packers continue to win. Don’t expect three touchdowns every week but Sunday was more real than fake.
Another Rookie Receiver to Monitor
I didn’t intend for rookies to dominate this week’s actionable stats write-up, but I do think it’s an important time of year for first-year players particularly on contending teams. We’re far enough away from the playoffs to where there’s still time for youngsters to carve out roles in their team’s offenses into late December and January. However, we’re also close enough to the end to where if enough growth doesn’t take place for rookies, contending teams won’t be able to risk them being liabilities in critical regular season games and potentially playoff games. That’s why the next few weeks are massive for those kinds of players to prove their worth to their coaching staffs if they haven’t already. That’s why we want to highlight Titans wide receiver Treylon Burks here.
Last week, Burks returned from injured reserve with a 75% route participation and 18% target share. He only caught three balls for 24 yards, but it was a tough matchup against Denver and Burks opened the season with five and six-catch games respectively in weeks 1 and 2 for Tennessee. He’s not AJ Brown. He may never be AJ Brown. But in order to become a more complete football team, Tennessee desperately needs a wide receiver that can keep defenses honest. We know everything goes through Derrick Henry in Nashville. But handing it off to Henry seemingly every play and relying on defense to keep the games in the teens or low 20s has a definite ceiling and isn’t going to beat Buffalo and Kansas City in the AFC. Burks is a very important player for Tennessee for the rest of the season and you have to think the Titans don’t trade AJ Brown to draft Burks in the first round if they don’t think Burks can come in and perform right away. It’s been a disjointed season for the Arkansas product, but he’s healthy again and should be targeted more and more in the coming weeks.
Rookie Running Backs Making an Impact
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers look like a football team again and while they’re far from the Super Bowl contender they’ve been the last couple seasons with Tom Brady, that’s definitely progress for a team that looked lost for essentially the entire first half of the season. Leonard Fournette didn’t make it out of the 21-16 victory in Munich against Seattle healthy and there could be an opportunity for third-round pick Rachaad White when Tampa returns from its bye week. It seems like Fournette should be recovere to play in two weeks but White is still worth an add in all fantasy formats. Running back is all about who can withstand the war of attrition and Fournette’s the only guy blocking White from a workhorse role. White finished Sunday with 22 carries for 105 yards and Ke’Shawn Vaughn was the only Tampa Bay back to carry the ball besides White and Fournette. Vaughn had just two carries and has just four on the entire season. Bucs coach Todd Bowles has harped on the need for an increased role for White during the season and White was averaging about eight touches per game in Weeks 6-9. Bye weeks are usually good times for young players to get more accustomed to their roles. White is going to have a role in this offense down the stretch regardless of Fournette’s health.
We’re less bullish on Isiah Pacheco’s prospects in Kansas City, but he’s still interesting after leading the Chiefs backfield playing 35 snaps and carrying the ball 16 times. Pacheco seems to have passed Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who only played four snaps in the victory over Jacksonville. The rookie out of Rutgers looks like the favorite for early-down touches amongst the Chiefs running backs. The problem is, Kansas City just doesn’t run enough to make that role all that valuable and when you consider Jerick McKinnon has the third-down role locked up (McKinnon played seven of KC’s eight third-down snaps on Sunday) expectations should be tempered for Pacheco. However, early-down snaps in an offense that’s going to score as much as Kansas City’s are still valuable and in deeper formats Pacheco should absolutely be rostered.
Steelers Offense Out of the Bye
We’ll finish up with some more young skill players which is basically everyone on the Steelers offense. Pittsburgh returned from its bye week with a 20-10 victory over New Orleans in the first game after trading Chase Claypool to Chicago. There really wasn’t a wide receiver other than George Pickens and Diontae Johnson that picked up Claypool’s vacated targets. Steven Sims and Gunner Olszewski ran 13 routes a piece but totaled just three targets and two catches. This is good news for Pickens and Johnson, neither of which was producing a ton prior to the Claypool trade, but if anything the trade of Claypool further reiterated confidence in the top two wide receivers in the steel city. Pickens and Johnson have combined for just one receiving touchdown all season. Johnson was the higher fantasy draft pick of the two, and he’s certainly been a disappointment, but he’s still useable on a weekly basis as he has only one game all season with less than four catches and just three games this year with under 40 receiving yards. I realize that’s not what you paid for on draft day, far from it, but if he can start mixing in some touchdowns here and there, Johnson’s fantasy outputs will look a lot better and that’s without an uptick in catches or yards.
Lastly, in the backfield, Jaylen Warren played a bigger role out of the bye having been in on 36 snaps for the Steelers offense to the 50 snaps Najee Harris played. It was the second highest snap count for Warren of the season and Warren played on nine of Pittsburgh’s 12 third-down attempts. Warren could be a good stash as the Steelers look to help rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett as much as they can as the season wears on which might make a second back playable in deeper leagues by the fantasy playoffs.
By Greg Frank
Want to have direct access to our network of Betting Predators handicappers? Sign up for our FREE Discord channel to get 24/7 direct access to our handicapping team, as well as our community of sharp bettors
Want an easy to find all of our Betting Predators content in one place? Sign up for our free newsletter, Substack and receive a weekly roundup on everything we've published (FREE + PREMIUM), and all that we're up to throughout the week. We promise we'll never give your email address out for advertising purposes.