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Mekale McKay
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Week 3 AAF Fantasy Starts

by Nick Mensio

With the NFL over, football addicts have turned to the AAF for their fix. I’ve watched the entirety or parts of all eight games so far and am entirely rooting for the league to have success. Fanball is offering DFS games for AAF, so I’ll have a short weekly piece highlighting some of my favorite plays at QB, RB, and WR. Fanball doesn’t force you to use a TE with a starting lineup of QB-RB-WR-FLEX-FLEX-FLEX, and the AAF hasn’t displayed any real playmaking TEs outside of Anthony Denham.

QUARTERBACK

Garrett Gilbert vs. Memphis Express — This is the NFL equivalent of suggesting to “start” Patrick Mahomes; Gilbert has been that good through two weeks of the AAF season. The former Rams sixth-round pick out of SMU in 2014, Gilbert leads the league in completion percentage (64.2%), yards per attempts (11.7), passing yards (620) and passer rating (129.4), while checking in at No. 2 with four touchdown passes to John Wolford’s six. Coach Steve Spurrier has been running an aggressive downfield passing attack, and Gilbert has attempted a whopping 30.2% of his passes 20-plus yards down the field. Gilbert has the league’s only 300-yard passing game through Week 2 after lighting up the San Antonio Commanders for 393 yards and two scores in last Sunday’s comeback win. Additionally, Gilbert is thriving under pressure with a 129.7 rating. He’s the most well-rounded passer in this eight-team league and working himself into another NFL job after finishing this past NFL season as the Panthers’ No. 4 quarterback behind Cam Newton, Taylor Heinicke, and Kyle Allen. Gilbert now gets an Express team that is No. 5 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Luis Perez had a nice Week 1 against this Express defense, going 19-of-33 for 252 scoreless yards, but was hurt badly by multiple drops and some red-zone woes. Wolford threw a pair of Week 2 picks in the first half against Memphis but answered with two touchdowns after the break in the Hotshots’ come-from-behind victory. The Apollos are averaging 38.5 points per game and have the most talent on offense. Spurrier doesn’t care about running up the score and is going to do whatever he pleases. Gilbert is a lock-and-load cash-game play at Fanball, even as the highest-priced passer.

Luis Perez at Atlanta Legends — It’s no question that Garrett Gilbert and John Wolford are the AAF’s two best passers, but Perez is arguably at the top of Tier 2. Perez spent last summer in Rams camp as a rookie UDFA out of Texas A&M - Commerce. He was brutal in his lone preseason appearance and opened the year on L.A.’s practice squad, but Perez has good size at 6’3/222 and throws a decent ball. He’s been hurt badly by drops from his wideouts through two weeks. Perez is No. 2 in adjusted completion percentage, as Iron wideouts lead the league with eight total drops. WR Tobais Palmer dropped a TD last week in the win over the Stallions, and Quinton Patton bungled a number of balls in the season opener. Perez has yet to throw a touchdown with Trent Richardson dominating red-zone work with three rushing scores. Perez is past due and gets a Legends squad that is the league’s worst team. Atlanta is surrendering 32 points per game and allowing the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Gilbert lit the Legends up for 227 yards and two scores in Week 1. Fleet No. 2 QB Philip Nelson went just 14-of-30 for 142 scoreless yards last Sunday. This is a matchup Perez should be able to take advantage of, and he’s the fifth-highest priced QB on the slate. Birmingham’s implied team total of 23 points is the third-most of Week 3.

RUNNING BACK

Trent Richardson at Atlanta Legends — Richardson has been the premier RB1 through two weeks, leading all running backs in snaps (46), rushing attempts (42), first downs (9), and rushing touchdowns (3). Richardson is averaging a miserable 2.4 YPC but is getting literally zero room to run; he has 99 rushing yards, and 116 are after-contact, so it’s evident he’s been getting hit a ton in the backfield before even reaching the line of scrimmage. It’s easy to make fun of T-Rich, but he doesn’t have a lot of help up front. The Iron are sixth in run-blocking at Pro Football Focus. Richardson is the definition of a workhorse, seeing over 70% of his team’s RB touches while averaging over 25 touches per game. Things should be much of the same this week from a volume standpoint. The Legends are second-to-last in fantasy points allowed to running backs and just coughed up Ja’Quan Gardner’s 15-104-2 game on the ground last week. Akeem Hunt posted a 10-73 rushing effort in Week 1 for the Commanders versus Atlanta. If Richardson is able to stay involved in the passing game as he was last week after leading the team with a 6-50 receiving line, it further raises his floor. With Birmingham as significant six-point favorites, game script figures to also be in Richardson’s favor.

D’Ernest Johnson vs. Memphis Express — Starter Akeem Hunt’s snap rate plummeted from 52% to 27% last week, and Johnson was the biggest beneficiary from it. Johnson isn’t a great athlete but has been the Apollos’ best running back through two games, putting together a combined 13-92-0 rushing line while catching a 33-yard touchdown in Week 1. Johnson was the one getting the work in crunch time last week when the Apollos closed out the Commanders to secure the come-from-behind win. Johnson was grinding out tough yards and picking up first downs late, leading the announcers to believe Johnson earned himself even more work come Week 3 against Memphis. This backfield still looks like a three-man RBBC with goal-line back De’Veon Smith included in that. But Johnson has certainly earned a longer look and plays in the league’s top offense that also has Week 3’s top implied total at 29.5 points. Orlando is a massive 14-point home favorite, signaling a run-favorable game script. Johnson makes sense as a cheap tournament play on Fanball to fit in other studs.

Akrum Wadley vs. Birmingham Iron — Wadley was inactive Week 1 before making his debut last week and playing a robust 60% of the snaps. The former Iowa Hawkeyes star was a college tackle-breaking machine and led the Legends in receiving in Week 2 with an 8-70 line. Tarean Folston fell by the wayside as Wadley and Lawrence Pittman played expanded roles. Wadley is the preferred pass-game back for Atlanta, and with the Legends as six-point underdogs that suggests Wadley could again see heavy work. The Legends just don’t have much talent, making Wadley one of the club’s better playmakers. The Iron play strong defense, but Salt Lake running backs made some plays in the pass game last week, particularly Branden Oliver with a 19-yard catch-and-run to set up a Joel Bouagnon touchdown. The Legends figure to be trailing much of the day Sunday. Wadley is dirt-cheap at $4,300 on Fanball. A PPR site, Wadley looks like another bargain play over there.

WIDE RECEIVER

Rashad Ross at Salt Lake Stallions — If not for Charles Johnson in Orlando, we’d be talking about Ross as the AAF’s top playmaker. Ross is a 29-year-old who has been around the block, getting some 2015-2016 run with the Redskins and making plays when on the field for Washington. For some reason, he just couldn’t stick in D.C. and oddly didn’t make the Cardinals out of camp last summer. He’s doing everything now to get another shot at the NFL. Ross lit up these same Stallions for a 5-103-2 night in Week 1 when he was just burning the Salt Lake DBs over the top, running right by them with his 4.36 wheels. Ross is an auto-play every week, along with Charles Johnson. This Arizona-Salt Lake game has more shootout potential in a possible back-and-forth game, putting Ross slightly ahead of Johnson for me this weekend. Ross is t-6th among wideouts in targets through Week 2, but is second in yards and leads the position with three touchdowns. He can win over the top or make defenders miss in the short-to-intermediate levels as he did last week on an 11-yard score against Memphis. Ross also happens to be cheaper than Johnson at receiver this week.

Mekale McKay at San Diego Fleet — McKay is seeing DeAndre Hopkins-level volume with 20 targets through two games, but Orlando CB Keith Reaser smothered him last Sunday, holding McKay to two grabs for 36 yards on nine targets. McKay, however, did have a touchdown called back on a penalty away from the play. He’s been getting peppered with targets in the red zone and scoring area, so McKay is bound to have an explosion here in the near future. The Fleet are sixth against opposing wideouts and just allowed a 5-80 night to McKay in Week 1 on a whopping 12 targets. McKay was doing whatever he wanted in that game and could have easily gone for 100-plus and multiple scores. The Commanders have also attempted the most passes in the AAF thus far. Starting QB Logan Woodside just needs to play better for a full game. He’s been starting hot before fading late in the second halves of contests. McKay is boom-or-bust, but his boom chances make him a strong tournament play with a somewhat elevated floor in such a favorable matchup on the road.

Nelson Spruce vs. San Antonio Commanders — A fan favorite of the Rams when the team was on Hard Knocks for their arrival to L.A., Spruce never made the team and toiled around the bottom of rosters before settling in the AAF. Spruce’s snaps haven’t been high through two weeks as the Fleet’s No. 5 receiver, but he seems to be the preferred option out of the slot for Mike Martz’s group and just saw No. 4 wideout Kameron Kelly get moved to the defensive side of the ball this week. Spruce should see more work after tying for the Week 2 team lead in targets and leading the Fleet in catches and yards with a 4-58 line. Spruce has excellent hands and has been a safety blanket of sorts for the Fleet’s pair of overmatched quarterbacks Mike Bercovici and Philip Nelson. Spruce is dirt cheap over at Fanball, providing another avenue to loading studs in lineups.

Nick Mensio
Nick Mensio is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. The 2014 NFL season marks his third with Rotoworld. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.