Fantasy football: What's gotten into Jared Goff?

Rams 49ers Football
Rams quarterback Jared Goff passes against the 49ers last Thursday.

If Sean McVay is really the catalyst behind Jared Goff’s sudden improvement, then put him in the hunt for the coach-of-the-year award.

Goff, last season, was mostly awful. He started seven games in his rookie year and lost them all.  He threw more interceptions than touchdowns, as the Rams looked like a customer staring at a receipt after a bad meal. Did they choose the wrong quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick? The Eagles, dining at the adjacent table, took Carson Wentz with the No. 2 pick, and he went a respectable 7-9 while setting the rookie record with 379 completions.

So the Rams fired Jeff Fisher toward the end of a 4-12 season — a miserable return to Los Angeles after 21 years in St. Louis — and hired McVay, who had been the offensive coordinator for Washington. He worked some magic there with Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round pick in 2012.

And he’s working some magic now with Goff.

Goff has five touchdown passes in three games — not Canton-esque, but it does equal the number he had in 2016. The Rams are 2-1, which is two more wins than they had with him as a starter last year. He’s not a weekly fantasy QB1 yet, but his 10.1 yards per attempt – a popular metric for measuring quarterbacks – is tops in the league. He’s getting there.

“Whenever you have success, you’re confident,” Goff said. “The whole team is feeling pretty good right now. We’re very grounded and understand that we need to get better, but we believe in each other.”

McVay’s offense even helped Todd Gurley run for 113 yards in Week 3, his first 100-yard game since his 2015 rookie season. Gurley was a fantasy bust last season, but with six total touchdowns in 2017, he has suddenly become fantasy gold, even if we are still in September.

The Rams will play at Dallas on Sunday in a matchup of second-year quarterbacks. His counterpart, Dak Prescott, was even better than Wentz and was the rookie of the year in 2016.

“We started off 3-1 last year,” said Goff, who started the season sitting behind Case Keenum, “and you saw the way that went.”

Kareem Hunt update

Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt  racked up 538 total yards for the first three games of his career, second only to Billy Sims (562 in 1980), which makes him a beast in yardage leagues.

Hunt is the only player in NFL history with a 50-yard touchdown in each of the first three games of his career, which makes him a monster in distance leagues.

He leads the league with 401 rushing yards, which is 123 yards more than Dalvin Cook, who is second.

He is tied with Todd Gurley with six touchdowns.

His average draft position in ESPN leagues was 16th overall, eighth among running backs.

He was the 10th running back taken in the actual NFL draft back in April.

Reality check

While most of the fantasy world scrambles to find a replacement for David Johnson, the Arizona star running back is trying to adjust to life after breaking his wrist in Week 1.

“Tying your shoe, taking a shower, tedious things that you do every day become difficult,” he said last week. “Really the toughest thing right now is hanging out with my son. I can’t really carry him. I get a little nervous. He’s starting to get a little more squirmy. It’s hard to carry him. I don’t. And my wife doesn’t really trust me carrying him, either.”

Johnson is out indefinitely. Best-case scenario seems to be a return late in the regular season, hopefully in time for fantasy playoffs.

Position watch

Quarterback: Tough dilemma for Cam Newton owners after watching him struggle to put up a single touchdown against New Orleans. No one should struggle against New Orleans. Newton still doesn’t look right and is visiting  New England, which has given up the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in standard ESPN leagues … Vikings backup Case Keenum threw for 321 yards and three TDs last year against Detroit while he was playing for the Rams. Sam Bradford (knee) missed practice again Thursday, so it’s looking as if Keenum will start.

Running backs: Now’s the time to sell DeMarco Murray. That 75-yard touchdown run last Sunday was admittedly impressive, but take it away and he had 40 yards on his other 13 carries … Through three games, Cleveland’s Duke Johnson has 11 receptions on 18 targets and has even been splitting out wide in some formations. Could come in handy for PPR players.

Wide receivers:  In two games last year against Denver’s No-Fly-Zone secondary, Oakland’s Amari Cooper had 10-95-1 and teammate Michael Crabtree had 7-74-0 total. Cooper was called out by coach Jack Del Rio for dropping too many passes. Let’s see how he responds … In his three games with the Bills, Jordan Matthews doesn’t have a touchdown and posted 2-61, 3-30, and 3-61. Now THAT’s mediocrity … Pierre Garcon owners should note that Patrick Peterson missed some practice this week with a knee injury. Garcon has been targeted 10 times in two of the first three games.

Week 4 rankings

Quarterbacks

  1. Tom Brady, NE vs. Car.
  2. Aaron Rodgers, GB vs. Chi.
  3. Matt Ryan, Atl. vs. Buf.
  4. Drew Brees, NO vs. Mia.
  5. Alex Smith, KC vs. Was.
  6. Marcus Mariota, Ten. at Hou.
  7. Andy Dalton, Cin. at Cle.
  8. Russell Wilson, Sea. vs. Ind.
  9. Matthew Stafford, Det. at Min.
  10. Jared Goff, LAR at Dal.
  11. Kirk Cousins, Was. at KC
  12. Carson Wentz, Eagles at LAC

Running backs

  1. Kareem Hunt, KC vs. Was.
  2. Ezekiel Elliott, Dal. vs. LAR
  3. Jay Ajayi, Mia. vs. NO
  4. Todd Gurley, LAR at Dal.
  5. Melvin Gordon, LAC vs. Eagles
  6. Le’Veon Bell, Pit. at Bal.
  7. Devonta Freeman, Atl. vs. Buf.
  8. Dalvin Cook, Min. vs. Det.
  9. Leonard Fournette, Jac. at NYJ
  10. LeSean McCoy, Buf. at Atl.
  11. Jordan Howard, Chi. at GB
  12. Ty Montgomery, GB vs. Chi.
  13. Carlos Hyde, SF at Ari.
  14. C.J. Anderson, Den. vs. Oak.
  15. Chris Carson, Sea. vs. Ind.
  16. DeMarco Murray, Ten. at Hou.
  17. Chris Thompson, Was. at KC
  18. Christian McCaffrey, Car. at NE
  19. Lamar Miller, Hou. vs. Ten.
  20. Mark Ingram, NO vs. Mia.
  21. Mike Gillislee, NE vs. Car.
  22. Jacquizz Rodgers, TB vs. NYG
  23. Joe Mixon, Cin. at GB
  24. Marshawn Lynch, Oak. at Den.
  25. Buck Allen, Bal. vs. Pit.

Wide receivers

  1. Julio Jones, Atl. vs. Buf.
  2. A.J. Green, Cin. at Cle.
  3. Antonio Brown, Pit. at Bal.
  4. Jordy Nelson, GB vs. Chi.
  5. Mike Evans, TB vs. NYG
  6. Michael Thomas, NO vs. Mia.
  7. Odell Beckham, NYG at TB
  8. Keenan Allen, LAC vs. Eagles
  9. Larry Fitzgerald, Ari. vs. SF
  10. Stefon Diggs, Min. vs. Det.
  11. Demaryius Thomas, Den. vs. Oak.
  12. Doug Baldwin, Sea. vs. Ind.
  13. Brandin Cooks, NE vs. Car.
  14. Emmanuel Sanders, Den. vs. Oak.
  15. DeVante Parker, Mia. vs. NO
  16. Tyreek Hill, KC vs. Was.
  17. Alshon Jeffery, Eagles at LAC
  18. Dez Bryant, Dal. vs. LAR
  19. Amari Cooper, Oak. at Den.
  20. DeAndre Hopkins, Hou. vs. Ten.
  21. Davante Adams, GB vs. Chi.
  22. Jarvis Landry, Mia. vs. NO
  23. Sammy Watkins, LAR at Dal.
  24. Michael Crabtree, Oak. at Den.
  25. Pierre Garcon, SF at Ari.

Tight ends

  1. Rob Gronkowski, NE vs. Car.
  2. Zach Ertz, Eagles at LAC
  3. Travis Kelce, KC vs. Was.
  4. Jimmy Graham, Sea. vs. Ind.
  5. Jason Witten, Dal. vs. LAR
  6. Charles Clay, Buf. at Atl.
  7. Kyle Rudolph, Min. vs. NO
  8. Martellus Bennett, GB vs. Chi.
  9. Delanie Walker, Ten. at Hou.
  10. Jordan Reed, Was. at KC
  11. Cameron Brate, TB vs. NYG
  12. Hunter Henry, LAC vs. Eagles

Most popular pickups

This week/ESPN-run leagues

As of Thursday afternoon

    1. Chris Carson, RB, Seattle
    2. Charles Clay, TE, Bills
    3. Lions defense/special teams
    4. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons
    5. Ryan Succop, PK, Lions

Ed Barkowitz, who would never call the players on his roster SOBs no matter what his record, has been writing about fantasy football since 2001.