Fantasy Focus: Which players on undefeated teams are best for your roster going forward?

Kansas City Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 23: Demetrius Harris #84 of the Kansas City Chiefs shoots a jump shot with the football to celebrate after catching a touchdown pass in the end zone during the second quarter of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium on September 23, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

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And then there were three.

After Week 3 saw the fall of the Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings, only three teams remain unbeaten in the NFL: the Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Miami Dolphins.

It got me to thinking… could you be unbeaten in your fantasy league with a team made up of only players from the remaining unbeatens? Could it last throughout the season?

For this exercise, I’ll look at the best players from this group as they would go forward the rest of the season.  While past performances are important, they can’t be taken as a pure indicator of future success.

QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City

While Jared Goff has been a steady performer for the Rams and Ryan Tannehill’s return from injury has certainly translated to real life success for the Dolphins, no quarterback offers the fantasy upside that Mahomes does.

You might wonder how much more upside can a quarterback who’s thrown for 13 touchdowns in the first three games really offer.  Simply put, it’s a bet on continuing that success. I still feel there will be speed bumps coming for Mahomes this season, but I also expect the bad game or two from Goff and Tannehill.  I can easily see Mahomes having a 400 yard, 4 TD game down the line; that’s not a bet I’d make on either of the other QBs.

RB Todd Gurley III, Los Angeles

The consensus first overall pick in fantasy leagues this year hasn’t done anything to be unworthy of that billing so far this season. TGIII leads the NFL in touches and touchdowns from scrimmage three weeks into the season and ranks fourth in yards from scrimmage.  He’s a threat both on the ground and in the air.  While the Rams season gets tougher as the season goes on, Gurley is simply too good to sit no matter the opponent.

RB Kareem Hunt, Kansas City

While Hunt’s been a mild disappointment to fantasy owners to start this season, he still rates as a starter in this unbeaten roster for two reasons: 1) better days are ahead and 2) the Dolphins timeshare of Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore simply isn’t better. Hunt hasn’t seen the same success to start 2018 that he did a year ago, averaging less than four yards per carry. To date, his fantasy numbers have been bailed out by three touchdowns—all within the five yard line, including two one-yard scores against the 49ers. He’s too talented of a football player to underwhelm throughout the season.  As NFL coordinators work to concoct schemes to challenge Mahomes, the Chiefs will counteract, and that figures to mean more opportunities for Hunt.

WR Tyreek Hill, Kansas City

At the deepest position in this unbeaten exercise, Cheetah stands out as the best.  The third-year receiver still shows off his game-breaking speed on go routes and punt returns, but he’s become a more complete wideout getting several targets a game.  He’ll have some tough matchups against Jacksonville and Los Angeles as the season goes on, but his value in multiple areas (PPR, long play bonus, special teams touchdowns) makes him a worthy play in all league formats.

WR Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles

Now on to his third team, Cooks may have found his perfect fit.  The Rams rewarded Cooks with a five-year, $80 million contract extension shortly after trading for him, and he’s shown to be worth every penny so far. While he hasn’t found the end zone yet this season, Cooks has at least five receptions in every game and leads the Rams in yards.  I generally think yards are a safer predictor of future success than touchdowns.  Eventually, the scores will come his way.

WR Robert Woods, Los Angeles

The addition of Cooks hasn’t been to the detriment of the Rams leading receiver from 2017.  Woods has built upon what was a career year by improving his vertical ability while maintaining his value as a possession receiver.  That shines through in his Week 3 line against the Chargers: 10 receptions, 104 yards, 2 TDs. For as balanced as the Chiefs offensive attack, the Rams may even have them beat; the good thing for fantasy players is that they’re so good, it’s not hurting anyone else’s numbers.

(My apologies to Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins, and Kenny Stills come here.  In most leagues, all would merit consideration as starting receivers.  They just aren’t quite able to crack this “best of the best” format.)

TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City

A runaway choice here as tight ends don’t really factor into the Rams passing attack and the Dolphins are playing a rookie in Mike Gesicki. Not only is Kelce the best tight end among the undefeated teams, he’s making a strong case to lay claim as the best tight end in all of fantasy football. He’s bounced back from a lackluster Week 1 in a big way, posting consecutive 100-yard receiving games.  It’s the inverse of Rob Gronkowski who posted video game numbers in the season debut but has been held in check since. With a quarterback more open to taking downfield shots, this may finally be the season that Kelce firmly breaks away from “Gronk” as the clear TE1.

K Jason Sanders, Miami

The lone Dolphin to make my “all-unbeaten” squad speaks more to my concerns about Miami going forward than anything else.  Even as one of just three undefeated teams remaining, the Dolphins still rate low in power rankings and aren’t even the favorites to win the AFC East despite being two games ahead of every other division opponent.  All this to say that I think the struggles are coming for the Dolphins, but offensive struggles aren’t bad for fantasy kickers.  You want to find someone on a team that’s good enough to score points, but only so good that they often have to settle for field goals.  The Dolphins fit that profile better than either the Chiefs or Rams (full disclosure: I would’ve picked the Rams Greg Zuerlein here because of his ability to blast field goals from long range, but he’s currently injured and out for several more weeks.)

DEF Los Angeles

I’m sticking with the Rams here despite recent injuries to starting cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib.  While their schedule includes dates with high-powered offenses like the Chiefs and Saints, it also has five games versus a significantly weakened NFC West, including two games against a 49ers squad that’s now without Jimmy Garoppolo. The Dolphins D has risen to the occasion thus far in 2018, but I’m not convinced it’ll hold on through the rest of the season and may falter as soon as this weekend versus the Patriots.

In review, this creates a fantasy squad of

QB Mahomes

RB Gurley

RB Hunt

WR Hill

WR Cooks

WR Woods

TE Kelce

K Sanders

DEF Los Angeles

Looks unbeatable to me.

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