Fantasy football highs and lows from NFL Week 7: Burrow, Herbert put talent on display

After two quiet games in a row, Bengals rookie Joe Burrow came up big against the Browns. Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire

Week 7 of the fantasy football season featured plenty of notable performances around the NFL on Sunday. What should we make of them? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft offer their analysis.


Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins building a strong chemistry

First, let's talk Burrow. The first rookie quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 400 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for an additional score, Burrow also became only the 14th different rookie quarterback since at least 1950 to score 30-plus fantasy points in a game, and his 33.6 points were 11th best by any rookie quarterback during that same time frame. He rebounded in a major way from a pair of challenging matchups, reestablishing himself as a matchups-conscious, yet borderline top-10 fantasy quarterback. That Burrow's Cincinnati Bengals continue to struggle to keep opponents' offenses in check only supports his cause, as he'll keep contending for the league's lead in pass attempts; and that he's faring as well as he has despite a shaky offensive line only further signals his massive talent. He'll get the Tennessee Titans next, a matchup that could vault him into said top 10 in the positional rankings -- within that top-10 tier of fantasy QBs, two are on a bye (Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson) in Week 8 and another (Ben Roethlisberger) faces a brutal matchup (at Baltimore). -- Cockcroft

Now Higgins. With five or more targets in every game this season (in a volume pass offense), Higgins has WR3/Flex value in deeper leagues -- with more upside in Non-PPR formats. The Bengals rookie wide receiver caught 5 of 5 targets for 71 yards and a score versus the Browns. He can run the in-breakers and adjust to the ball on back-shoulder throws. That meshes with the accuracy and processing ability of Burrow in Cincinnati. -- Bowen

Justin Herbert looking like a gem for Chargers

With 38.5 fantasy points, Herbert enjoyed the fourth-best single-game performance by a rookie quarterback since at least 1950, and he now has 125.8 points through his first five NFL games, which is the second most during that same time frame behind only Cam Newton's 128.4. Yes, Herbert's matchup was extremely favorable on Sunday, but the mark of a good quarterback is stepping up when facing his softest matchups, and it's also worth pointing out that the rookie totaled 37.7 points while facing tough defenses in the Panthers (Week 3) and Buccaneers (Week 4). His mobility was on full display in this game, including his running for the game-winning score at the end of the third quarter, and he now has 10 passing touchdowns in his past three games combined. It might be difficult to think of Herbert as a high-end QB2 in two-quarterback leagues, or a matchups candidate in single-QB formats, but that's where we're at. -- Cockcroft

Davante Adams knows the formula to find volume

Who needs other wide receivers when you've got Adams? His 44.6 PPR fantasy points set a new personal best, breaking his previous mark of 41.6, set in Week 1, and those are his first two games of 40-plus points in his 90-game NFL career. Even when defenses know it's coming, they can't seem to contain Adams, who has seen such an outrageous amount of targets that he has two of the top seven single-game target shares despite having been active for only four games thus far (47.1% this week, fifth-largest; 41.5% in Week 1, seventh-largest). Health willing, he's in good shape to be the top-scoring wide receiver the remainder of the year, accounting for his volume as well as a favorable remaining schedule, with only his Weeks 12 (CHI), 15 (CAR) and 17 (@CHI) matchups looking that challenging. -- Cockcroft

Rob Gronkowski is coming alive

I was down on Gronk through the first couple of weeks of the season. Low target volume, plus the lack of overall usage in the game plan. However, Gronk has now caught 10 of 16 targets for 140 yards -- with two touchdowns -- in his past two games, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are scheming him up in the route tree. We can look at the deep crossers there, or the red zone targets -- with Gronk flexed outside to create isolation matchups. And Tom Brady has been dialed in, winning with ball location on those throws. With a Week 8 game versus the Giants, Gronk will be ranked as a mid-tier TE1. -- Bowen

You weren't alone on your Gronkowski opinion, Matt. I was right there with you -- and I wasn't touching him in drafts in the preseason, in fact. He sure looks like a legitimate part of this passing game now, however, and I think that's a good part of the reason for Brady's improvement in the past month. I can only wonder, though, what Antonio Brown's arrival in Week 9 will mean for the offense. There were already a lot of mouths to feed, and while I anticipate a lot of fantasy points for the team as a whole, I repeat my comments from a week ago that it's going to be difficult to project whom to start in fantasy from among Gronkowski, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Brown and even someone like Scotty Miller. I'm not so sure that things will adhere closely to the matchups, either, so the best advice would be to embrace the inconsistency, knowing that the big games will come from time to time, but if that's not something you can absorb on your roster, consider making a trade. -- Cockcroft

Major troubles for the Dallas Cowboys' offense

That's back-to-back ugly games for the Cowboys after losing Dak Prescott to a season-ending injury in Week 5, and with Andy Dalton departing Sunday's game due to a concussion, there's legitimate question as to how adversely all these injuries -- not to mention the team's defensive struggles -- will affect the offense going forward. Consider that in those two games, Ezekiel Elliott scored 12.0 and 6.1 PPR fantasy points, well beneath his 22.3 average in the first five weeks; CeeDee Lamb scored 13.4 and 0.1 points on 16 total targets; Michael Gallup scored 4.3 and 0.0 on eight total targets; and Dalton Schultz scored 7.5 and 4.2 points on nine total targets. After rookie Ben DiNucci took over under center midway through the third quarter, the Cowboys totaled only 20 yards on 11 offensive plays, with all three of their possessions ending in punts. One might think things can't get much worse for the Cowboys, and that things should even out against weaker defenses, but the fact remains that they don't face many more easy matchups, other than perhaps the Week 11 game at the Vikings. I'd worry about -- and am downgrading -- any of the above names for the time being, though their rebound prospects might at least improve should coach Mike McCarthy take over playcalling or perhaps the team acquires a more proven quarterback. -- Cockcroft

I agree, Tristan. And let's not forget that Lamb was held without a catch versus Washington (five targets). Lamb has the ability to make plays up the seam, win on deep overs and more. And you can scheme him up on screens and jet sweeps. Get him the ball in space. However, this Dallas pass game already lacked juice with Dalton under center. And if the veteran quarterback can't go, we have to wonder about Lamb's fantasy value in Week 8 versus the Eagles. -- Bowen

Don't count out Baker Mayfield yet

Talk about in-game turnarounds. After going 0-for-5 passing with an interception to begin Sunday's game, Mayfield came roaring back to complete 22 of his final 23 pass attempts for 297 yards and five touchdowns, including making a near-inexplicable, game-winning touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones in the game's final minute. Mayfield set a new personal best in the process by scoring 29.8 fantasy points, and while it could've been just fleeting good fortune, it has to be pointed out that he did it while his No. 1 wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., was sidelined due to a knee injury. What that means for Mayfield, Beckham and the Cleveland Browns' offense going forward is anyone's guess, as it's highly unlikely that Beckham is going anywhere as Mayfield's top target. Maybe it's a turning point, but it's a good thing to see from the young quarterback with extremely fantasy-friendly matchups upcoming against the Texans (Week 10), Jaguars (Week 12) and Titans (Week 13). -- Cockcroft


Quick-hitters

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills: For the third straight game, we saw an opposing defense use late movement and disguise versus the Bills quarterback, which creates some disruption for Allen in terms of timing and rhythm as a thrower. Yes, Allen posted over 300 yards passing, with another 61 yards rushing. And you get that with Allen: the throwing volume, plus the designed run concepts/scrambles. However, with no scoring production on Sunday, and a Week 8 matchup versus the Patriots' defense, Allen is going to slide back a bit in my rankings. Previously a lock as a top-5 weekly play, Allen drops down into my QB8-10 range against New England. The Patriots have not been a shutdown defense this season, but that's an exotic coverage team which will use multiple sub-package looks -- with late movement and disguise -- to force Allen to play more off-schedule. -- Bowen

Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: It's all about the availability with Johnson. Before leaving the game with an injury on Sunday, Johnson caught 9 of 15 targets for 80 yards -- with two touchdowns. When he's up -- and healthy -- Johnson is a prime fit for the Steelers' short-to-intermediate pass game with Ben Roethlisberger, which fits Johnson's traits as a catch-and-run target. If he can go next week, I'm putting Johnson in my lineup as a WR3 in a 14-team league -- even in a tough matchup versus the Baltimore Ravens' defense. I'm going to trust the volume, and the route tree in Pittsburgh. -- Bowen

Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Football Team: While it did come in a dream matchup against the Cowboys, McLaurin's 22.0 PPR fantasy point performance underscored his legitimate claim to a WR1 valuation. His 11 targets out of 21 for Washington as a whole boosted his seasonal target share to 29.7%, third largest in the league, and he has a favorable schedule once he returns from the Week 8 bye. In fact, you might want to utilize his week off -- fantasy managers sometimes get antsy while their players are on the sidelines -- to continue to pursue a trade for him. -- Cockcroft

Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions: Golladay has missed some time with injury this season. However, the veteran wide receiver caught 6 of 7 targets for 114 yards in the win over Atlanta on Sunday, after posting 105 yards receiving in Week 6. His catch radius is ridiculous, and so is the body control. Plus, we know quarterback Matthew Stafford will give him targets on 50/50 balls. Golladay will be a lower-tier WR1 in my rankings next week versus the zone-heavy Colts defense. -- Bowen

Dallas Cowboys defense: After another poor performance versus Washington on Sunday, this Dallas defense has now produced a total of -9 fantasy points this season. That's last in the league and the worst total for a D/ST through seven games since 1940. On top of that, the Cowboys are only the fifth D/ST in that span to have a negative score through seven games. Look, we can all see the issues here, from a lack of communication and discipline, to the blown coverages in the secondary. Bad football at all three levels here. -- Bowen