Let's examine what we think of players with the preseason over and the season ahead.
- Mason Rudolph Fantasy Implications
- Teddy Bridgewater Fantasy Implications
- One-Week-Wonder, Decent Stopgap, or It's Just the Beginning?
- Buy, Sell, Hold?
Mason Rudolph Fantasy Implications
Matt Waldman: Ben Roethlisberger is out for the year.
- Is Rudolph capable of becoming a fantasy starter?
- Are there any players that you believe will lose value and no longer be a fantasy starter?
- Are there any players that you believe will gain value and become a fantasy starter?
- Which surrounding talents see the greatest increases and decreases in fantasy value?
What are the ramifications of these events in Pittsburgh?
Jeff Pasquino: Rudolph is very green, but he has played well in the preseason for his first two seasons (QB Ratings of 90 and 113) with a 7:2 TD-to-INT ratio. Yes, it is preseason, but the Steelers are usually a smart organization, and they just traded away Josh Dobbs to Jacksonville. That's an endorsement in Rudolph, and they must feel that he's a capable backup. That will be clearly tested now for the rest of the year, but Rudolph's ceiling is higher than Teddy Bridgewater, I think, given that Pittsburgh will have to throw more than the Saints and that Rudolph will be the starter all year for the Steelers.
I am concerned about Donte Moncrief, as he has dropped far too many passes so far in that offense. Moncrief will likely be the WR3 to James Washington. I firmly believe that James Washington has a strong case to increase in value. Washington played at Oklahoma State with Rudolph, and that history (along with Moncrief's having more drops than catches so far this season) should point Washington's fantasy stock upwards.
I am holding Smith-Schuster as a WR1 for now, with Washington in the WR3/flex category. Rudolph's good enough to keep all of Pittsburgh's offense about where they were before, including James Conner (if healthy).
Jason Wood: We're about to find out, aren't we? As Jeff noted, there are positive signs including Pittsburgh's willingness to trade Josh Dobbs to Jacksonville. And Rudolph didn't look overmatched last week when stepping in for Roethlisberger.
On paper, Rudolph is set up for success. The rest of the unit is a seasoned, cohesive offense. The offensive line is among the AFC's best. And the system is battle-tested.
But Rudolph is young, and he doesn't have the arm talent, experience, or confidence of his veteran predecessor. The bar is high for fantasy relevance these days, but he's capable, for sure.
James Washington's arrow is pointing straight up for myriad reasons, some that Jeff already noted. Even if Roethlisberger hadn't gotten hurt, Donte Moncrief's abysmal performance meant Washington would have a larger role in the coming weeks.
If Rudolph is up to the challenge, both can remain every-week fantasy players, but that's a big if. At best, Smith-Schuster and Conner fall a few spots onto the fringes of the WR1 and RB1 tiers, respectively.
Vince McDonald is harder to figure out. I had written him off before the season as overvalued, and it looked spot on after Week 1. But last week's two-touchdown performance piqued my curiosity.
Drew Davenport: I don't think Rudolph is going to be someone to count on this year for Top 12 production. As Jeff pointed out, the Steelers feel that he has come far enough to be their guy or they wouldn't have dealt Josh Dobbs to Jacksonville.
There is also an argument to be made that the offense looked more creative and multi-dimensional when Rudolph came in the game, but some of that can be chalked up to the Seahawks having no film on Rudolph and preparing a gameplan for Ben Roethlisberger.
I don't think Rudolph is going to completely kill the Steelers offense, but I see him settling in the QB15-20 range rather than becoming a starter. I do, however, want to pursue him in a Superflex setting for depth or as a second starter. But in general, I'm in wait-and-see mode in 1 QB leagues before I consider adding him.
I'm of the opinion that just about every player on the Steelers offense takes a hit with the switch, and I'm not thrilled to be a James Conner or JuJu Smith-Schuster owner today. Having said that, Conner and Smith-Schuster are still starters, but they now become top-end RB2/WR2 level instead of having the ceiling they did with Roethlisberger. Donte Moncrief is someone nobody should be rostering at this point, but that has little to do with the switch at quarterback.
I think that Jeff and Jason have hit on the right points with a couple of guys that could see an increase in value here: Vance McDonald and James Washington. I can't decide whether or not it's lazy analysis to say that because Rudolph played with Washington in college that they're more likely to click now that Moncrief and Roethlisberger are out of the way.
But I tend to believe that it does matter, and I'm watching Washingon closely for signs that he'll get more attention. That did *not* materialize this week as he only saw 1 target during Rudolph's appearance, but that's hardly a good measure. If an impatient owner dropped Washington, it's smart to see if you have a spot on your bench for him to see what develops.
I also agree that Vance McDonald could benefit from the change. His target numbers weren't what people were hoping for over the first six quarters of the season, but that changed Sunday. He saw 4 targets of 19 pass attempts and scored twice. It would be crazy not to think McDonald's situation has improved. The sample size is too small, but it's a good indicator.
As noted, Moncrief is cratering and should be dropped in all but the deepest leagues. Diontae Johnson saw 3 targets Sunday, so that is something to watch. Rudolph excelled at pushing the ball down the field in college and if that tendency holds then Johnson and Washington could end up being valuable.
At this point, it is wise to temper expectations overall. I don't think the offense will fall off a cliff, but I think they'll see a drop in production that limits their upside. I'm not interested in owning anyone outside of Smith-Schuster, McDonald, or Conner unless I have space on my bench to let things develop. The ancillary players in the offense aren't likely to see the opportunities they need to become reliable starters.
Sean Settle: With all of the talent surrounding Rudolph in Pittsburgh there is no reason to believe he cannot be a reliable fantasy spot starter. I would not roll with him as my primary option at quarterback, but he does have matchups against the Dolphins, Cardinals, Jets, and Bengals twice that will give him value.
Rudolph also has the benefit of potentially being the starter the rest of the season and time to work in the offense extensively. Rudolph has the skill set, offensive weapons, and favorable schedule to make him a starter certain weeks the rest of the season.
In addition to the struggles of Donte Moncrief, Ryan Switzer hasn't performed well. He was a fringe player in deep leagues already this year but there is a chance his roster spot is in jeopardy in Pittsburgh. After muffing a punt in the first quarter he was replaced by Dionte Johnson for the rest of Week 2 against Seattle. Any value he may have had to begin the season is gone due to poor play and the team losing its starting quarterback.
James Washington makes the biggest jump with Rudolph taking over at quarterback. With Donte Moncrief dropping more passes than he has caught, and Ryan Switzer being benched on special teams and potentially losing his roster spot, Washington should make the biggest jump in the offense. He could be considered a WR3-Flex option going forward, especially considering his connection with Rudolph from college.
If healthy, the biggest jump should come for Conner. The offense will have to rely on him more than before and should push him to clear RB1 status going forward. The Steelers have several games that are very winnable if Conner is healthy and gets 25-plus touches. JuJu should see a slight downgrade until he can build more rapport with Rudolph. He should remain a low-end WR1 but will see a slight decrease going forward.
Maurile Tremblay: Sure. There are no guarantees, but the starting quarterback in the Steelers offense has the upside to be a fantasy starter. And I think Rudolph has better upside than most NFL backups would.
He was a third-round pick last year, but he played well enough at Oklahoma State to merit first-round consideration. He beat out Josh Dobbs for the number two spot this year on the merits. While I don't necessarily expect the Steelers' offense to be as effective with Rudolph as it would have been with Roethlisberger, that possibility is well within the range of potential outcomes.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Vance McDonald may (or may not) be marginally less productive without Roethlisberger, they are all still fantasy starters. James Washington is the player most likely to benefit from the change at quarterback. Washington was already moving ahead of Donte Moncrief in the rotation. His rapport with Rudolph (they were teammates at Oklahoma State) can only help.
On the whole, I don't believe the Pittsburgh offense will change much, and other than a possible bump for James Washington, I don't believe that any of the skill-position players on the Steelers will have their fantasy values much affected.
Waldman: The only commentary I'll add to this topic is about James Washington. We all know that he's an excellent player in the vertical game as well as a 50/50 target in the red zone.
The flaw in Washington's game that has kept him out of the starting lineup to begin the season has been running consistent route depths, which makes it difficult for Ben Roethlisberger to rely on him consistently. While this should still be an issue between Washington and Rudolph, their experience playing together for years at Oklahoma State likely mitigates this issue enough that the college connection that everyone mentioned above isn't lazy analysis.
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