Who do I drop? Darnell Mooney, Mac Jones among fantasy football Week 3 cuts

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 17: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots warms-up on the sideline during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 17, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
By Gary Davenport
Sep. 19, 2023

The Athletic has your Fantasy football rankings week 3: Sleepers, projections, starts, sits

We’re going to start the Week 3 edition of “Drops” with something I’m hoping to avoid as much as possible this season.

A mea culpa.

In last week’蝉 column, I advocated dropping both Denver quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Marvin Mims. Neither had done much of anything in Week 1. Week 2 was another story.


After averaging a measly 5.2 yards per attempt in Week 1, Wilson threw for 308 yards and three scores against the Washington Commanders —including a successful Hail Mary at the end of the game. He averaged a robust 9.6 yards per attempt and finished the week third among all quarterbacks in fantasy points. One of those touchdown throws was caught by Mims, who topped 100 receiving yards.

I’m not apologizing for Mims — yes, he caught two passes for 113 yards, but those were his only two targets of the game. Wilson, on the other hand, I’ll own — although in my defense it’蝉 not like the Vegas secondary he struggled against in Week 1 is, um, good or anything.

Just ask Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

It’蝉 the risk that’蝉 always part of dropping players. And since I recommended dropping Wilson, I’ll take the hit for doing so just before what may well be his best game of the year.

I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong — and it’蝉 not going to be the last time it happens, But if you think I’m going to let a little something like that stop me, you are sorely mistaken, my friends.

Now let’蝉 start dropping the axe again (and hope we avoid any Chris Hanson style hiccups).

Rostered percentages courtesy of Yahoo

Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots (22 percent) (Droppable in 12-team 1QB leagues)

Back in the long-ago days of Week 1, Jones was second behind only Tua Tagovailoa of the Dolphins in fantasy points after throwing for 316 yards and three scores against the Philadelphia Eagles. Jones was a waiver target after standing tall in the face of Philly’蝉 vaunted pass rush — something he told reporters he took great pride in.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” Jones said. “Standing in there. Taking shots when I have to. Just continuing to be a pro in that manner. Always felt like, as a quarterback, you had to show that in your own way. Some guys do it differently than others. But you also have to be smart. This is a league full of a lot of really good players and they’re coming to knock your head off, so gotta make sure you show that fashion and show it in unique ways. For me, it’蝉 standing in the pocket and ripping it.”

Fast forward one week, and Jones’ numbers took a major dive — 231 passing yards, 25 rushing yards, one score and a fantasy finish outside the Top 20. The reality is that Week 1 was more exception than rule, the Patriots don’t have the offensive weaponry to consistently put up big numbers through the air and New England’蝉 next two matchups are on the road against two of the best pass defenses in the league in the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys.

Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams (90 percent) (Droppable in 12-team leagues…maybe)

That 90 percent number shows two things. The first is how high many fantasy analysts were on Akers this summer and the second is how hard it can be to admit we were flat-out wrong. Of course, it’蝉 not all our fault — over the summer Rams head coach Sean McVay talked up Akers as a lead back on the cusp of a breakout year.

“He’蝉 really capitalized on a lot of the momentum he built up toward the latter part of the year. And he’蝉 going to be a huge part of what we’re doing moving forward,” McVay said of Akers on June 15. “He’蝉 had a great offseason. I love the rapport that he’蝉 established with Ron Gould, our new running backs coach. Cam is going to be a central figure in this offense.”

Liar liar pants on fire! Two games into the season, Akers was a healthy scratch and on the trade block.


There’蝉 a caveat with this one: With Cleveland’蝉 Nick Chubb lost for the season, there’蝉 at least a chance the Rams and Browns will play Let’蝉 Make a Deal. But if you need a roster spot and we don’t get some movement on the trade front, then there’蝉 little point in hanging on to a player McVay has no intention of letting anywhere near the field.

If you figure out why McVay hates Akers, let the rest of us know. Because the whole situation is really quite confusing.

Related: Jake Ciely’蝉 Week 3 waiver wire adds

Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys (24 percent) (Droppable in 12-team leagues)

We knew heading into the 2023 season that coming off a disappointing campaign and with Brandin Cooks now in Dallas that Michael Gallup was going to see a reduced role in the Cowboys’ offense. But per The Athletic’蝉 own Jon Machota, Gallup said before the season that he was 100 percent mentally and physically — and ready to show he can still be the receiver who eclipsed 1,100 receiving yards in 2019.

“Mentally, it’蝉 up to 100 percent. Last year, obviously the mentals weren’t there,” he said. “I knew my leg was good. I knew I was straight, but I still had to get over that little hump…I’ve already (rebuilt the confidence). That’蝉 why we had OTAs and all that good stuff. I definitely rebuilt it.”

If ever there was going to be an opportunity for Gallup to show up, show out and get himself back into the good graces of fantasy managers, it was this past week against the New York Jets with Cooks on the shelf with a knee injury. But while CeeDee Lamb was peppered with 13 targets and even Jalen Tolbert got four looks, Gallup caught one pass for three yards on two targets. Sorry Mike — you’re off the island.

Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears (41 percent) (Droppable in 12-team leagues)

Remember when the Bears passing game was going to be better because DJ Moore was in town and Justin Fields was going to take off and everything was going to be awesome? Those were good times, but two weeks in we haven’t seen much of an inkling of any of that. However, Bears wideout Darnell Mooney told reporters that it’蝉 still too soon to pass judgment on Chicago’蝉 passing game — again.

“We’re still kind of trying to figure out what we have and what we’re good at,” he said. “Last year, you didn’t think he would just run the ball until probably a couple weeks in the season when you’re understanding, ‘This works for us, so we’re gonna continue to do that.’ We’re still trying to figure out what works for us. It’蝉 not too soon, not too late or whatever. Obviously, you don’t want to be 0-2. If we’re 2-0, we’re not talking about what works, we’re probably still trying to figure out what works, but we’re still trying to figure those things out.”

Maybe he’蝉 right. But it’蝉 not too soon to pass judgment on Mooney’蝉 fantasy relevance. Yes, Mooney was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2021. But over the past two seasons with Fields, Mooney has topped 70 receiving yards in a game all of once. So far this year, he has four catches on seven targets for 53 yards. He’蝉 also nursing a knee injury that cost him most of Week 2. We’ll be lucky if the Bears passing game supports one wide receiver. Asking for two is begging to be disappointed.

Irv Smith Jr., TE, Cincinnati Bengals (9 Percent) (Droppable in all leagues)

On some level, it’蝉 understandable that fantasy managers slapped Smith with the “sleeper” label in 2023. The talent’蝉 there. The Bengals offense, when firing on all cylinders, is as potent as any in the NFL. And as Geoff Hobson wrote for the team’蝉 website, tight ends coach James Casey talked up Smith as a player who could be a real factor for the Bengals offensively this year.

“A big aspect is going be catching those underneath balls and run after the catch and he’蝉 got a chance to be really, really good at that because he’蝉 quick, he’蝉 athletic,” he said. “He’蝉 got to be one of those guys who can catch underneath and the first guy who hits him doesn’t bring him down. He can break tackles and turn a 2-3 yard flat route into a first down and that’蝉 critical. That will take our offense to the next level.”

The problem has been two-fold. First, the Cincinnati offense hasn’t come close to firing on all cylinders, although it finally started to show some signs of life in the second half of last week’蝉 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. But even then, Smith has been all but invisible in the passing game — he’蝉 averaging fewer than five targets and 13.5 receiving yards per game.


5.4 yards per reception ain’t exactly YAC-ing it up.

You can yell at Gary when Cam Akers gets traded two days after you drop him at @IDPSharks.

(Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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Gary Davenport

Gary Davenport is a contributor to The Athletic and is one of fantasy football's leading experts on Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Gary was the 2017 FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year. Follow Gary on Twitter @IDPSharks