Kenyan Drake and Larry Fitzgerald might have been the two most frustrating fantasy players in September. Not just because they underachieved so much -- but because they came with enough potential that you probably kept trotting them out there in your starting lineup every week, hoping for a breakthrough that never came.
If you're in a deep enough league, you still might be doing it.
So, is there any hope? Our NFL Nation reporters broke down the expectations for Drake, Fitzgerald and a handful of other early fantasy disappointments:
Miami Dolphins' Drake: The running back's stat lines over the past two weeks have been stunners -- a total of eight carries for 6 yards in those two games, plus three catches for 20 yards and zero touchdowns.
"The hope with Drake," said ESPN Dolphins reporter Cameron Wolfe, "is the Dolphins will start running more than the 44 and 45 plays they've run over the past two weeks, which will inevitably raise his touches."
Unfortunately, though, the concerns are many -- starting with the injury-ravaged Dolphins offensive line that is making life difficult for Drake, veteran running back Frank Gore and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami already has lost top free-agent guard Josh Sitton, team captain and center Daniel Kilgore and veteran reserve guard/center Jake Brendel to injured reserve.
The timeshare with Gore is also a concern. Wolfe said Drake will remain the No. 1 back, even though Gore wound up with more touches last week (a lot of those came late in a blowout loss to the New England Patriots). But Wolfe said coach Adam Gase does love Gore, so he will remain involved.
Gase -- who suggested in the preseason that Drake could see 20 to 25 touches per game -- vowed this week to get both running backs more involved. But for now, proceed with caution.
"He shouldn't be in your starting lineup until Miami's offense shows it can have success with an injured makeshift offensive line," Wolfe said. "But keep him on your roster and maybe even buy low, because there should eventually be some bounce-back."
Arizona Cardinals' Fitzgerald: What a bummer. After catching at least 107 passes in each of the past three years, the Cardinals' future Hall of Famer is on pace for only 60 this season. The wide receiver ranks 66th among receivers in ESPN fantasy scoring.
But ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss believes most of that is because of the nagging hamstring injury Fitzgerald has been fighting through each week, and Weinfuss remains confident Fitzgerald will get closer to his usual self once he's healthy.
Of course, the Cardinals' woeful offense is a big part of the problem, too (they rank dead last in the NFL with 9.3 points and 208.5 yards per game). But coach Steve Wilks still believes the switch from veteran quarterback Sam Bradford to rookie Josh Rosen can give the offense a spark. And Weinfuss didn't even list Fitzgerald among his top four priorities for fixing the 0-4 Cardinals (though making better use of RB David Johnson -- another fantasy disappointment -- is prominent on the list).
Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy: The warning signs were there heading into the season with the Bills' depleted offensive line and question marks at the quarterback position. But it still has been disappointing to see McCoy with just 85 rushing yards, 41 receiving yards and zero touchdowns through three games played (he missed Week 3 with a rib injury).
ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak wrote this week that Buffalo should actually consider trading McCoy and receiver Kelvin Benjamin while going all-in to rebuild. But that strategy probably won't net you much in your fantasy leagues.
"There seem to be too many factors working against McCoy from a fantasy perspective," Rodak said. "He hasn't been making his trademark explosive plays when the ball is in his hands, which should be concerning for a running back who turned 30 in July. He is playing behind most likely the NFL's worst offensive line and with a rookie quarterback who has looked lost through parts of his three starts. Coach Sean McDermott wants offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to get McCoy the ball more, but it is hard for Daboll to justify doing that when the Bills are falling [very] behind early in games."
Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook: Part of the issue with Cook is a hamstring injury that sidelined him in Week 3 and limited him in Week 4 -- so that will get better. But the other problem is the Vikings' struggles across the injury-depleted offensive line, which might not get better.
Time to bench McCoy
Matthew Berry and Field Yates discuss expectations for LeSean McCoy in Week 5.
As ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin broke it down, Minnesota ranks last in the NFL in rushing yards per game and 29th in yards per attempt. And that has prevented new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo from running the ball as much as he had hoped.
Cook, who has 98 rushing yards, 107 receiving yards and zero touchdowns in three games this season, was limited in practice this week and could be limited Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. So temper your expectations for Week 5.
Baltimore Ravens RB Alex Collins: The good news? ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley wrote that coach Jim Harbaugh continued to give Collins a vote of confidence despite his second lost fumble of the season (and NFL-leading fourth in two years). Harbaugh is confident Collins can overcome the issue like he did last season.
The bad news? Collins popped up on the injury report with a knee injury this week, which will make it even more difficult for fantasy owners to start him with confidence.
Collins has run for 158 yards and two touchdowns this season for one of the NFL's best offenses. But he has split time more than expected with fellow RB Javorius Allen. As Hensley wrote, each has played exactly 136 snaps through four games.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson: The veteran signal-caller hasn't been a total flop, but he is ranked 20th among quarterbacks in ESPN fantasy scoring after being drafted fourth among QBs. He is averaging 222 passing yards and 10.5 rushing yards per game, with a total of seven TD passes, three interceptions and zero TD runs.
"Wilson's fantasy production is very much tied to Seattle's run game," ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson wrote. "Part of the reason for his underwhelming fantasy start is the Seahawks have been running the ball a lot over the past two weeks and thus haven't needed him to carry their offense like he did for pretty much all of last season.
"The Seahawks would prefer Wilson have to throw the ball only 26 times a game like he did in their recent wins over Dallas and Arizona. But there will be games where they need to rely more on Wilson's arm.”
Maybe even this week, Henderson suggested, if they have to play catch-up against the Los Angeles Rams.
New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram is back from his four-game suspension, which is a great boost for fantasy owners who had the patience to draft him (especially if they have someone such as Drake, Cook or Collins on their roster).
But as ESPN's Saints reporter, I expect Kamara to be more of a “1A” and Ingram more of a “1B” after Kamara's MVP-caliber start to the season while averaging 23 touches per game. Last year over their final 10 full games together, Ingram averaged 15.6 touches and Kamara 15.0. I would expect that to lean more toward 18/12 or 17/13 in Kamara's favor -- with an equal split near the goal line. A lot of the touches could depend on game script, though, with Ingram benefiting when the Saints are trying to run out the clock on a big lead or Kamara benefiting when they have to pass.
Houston Texans: Just because you never heard of rookie receiver Keke Coutee before he caught 11 passes for 109 yards in his NFL debut on Sunday doesn't mean you should ignore him for fantasy purposes. Coutee, a speedy fourth-round draft pick from Texas Tech, didn't play in the first three games because he was recovering from a hamstring injury. Then he played a bigger role than expected in Week 4 because Texans receiver Will Fuller V suffered his own hamstring injury.
Fuller could be back this week, so ESPN Texans reporter Sarah Barshop said you can't expect Coutee to approach the 15 targets he saw last week behind starters DeAndre Hopkins and Fuller. But she wrote about how coach Bill O'Brien and quarterback Deshaun Watson like Coutee as a "playmaker" who brings an "electric" element to their offense.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Vance McDonald has been one of the NFL's hottest tight ends with nine catches for 174 yards and a touchdown over the past two weeks. And ESPN Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler said he is a "fairly safe bet" for continued fantasy production, "since Ben Roethlisberger clearly looks for him often, the Steelers are dropping back to pass more than 70 percent of the time and he's a solid yards-after-catch guy." But Fowler said the wild card is the Steelers like going with the "hot hand" at tight end. So Jesse James, who is productive at finding soft spots in zone coverage, could have the occasional "go-off day" himself.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans have been scheming to get 2017 first-round pick Corey Davis more targets -- and ESPN Titans reporter Turron Davenport wrote about how their work paid off in grand fashion in Week 4.
Denver Broncos: Fantasy owners of running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman will agree with ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold, who wrote that Denver needs to run more if it wants to win more. The Broncos rank second in the NFL with 148.3 rushing yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry. But they rank only 11th in rushing attempts.
Detroit Lions: Likewise, ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein makes a case for why rookie running back Kerryon Johnson should be Detroit's featured back after making the most of his limited touches so far.
Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants: Julio Jones is on pace for more than 2,000 receiving yards. Odell Beckham Jr. is on pace for more than 1,300. But neither megastar receiver has a touchdown yet. ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure wrote about how Jones isn't concerned with the TD stats -- he just wants more wins. But at least the Falcons are making big plays with fellow receiver Calvin Ridley as a result. ESPN Giants reporter Jordan Raanan wrote about how the Giants need to get the ball downfield more to all of their receivers, starting with Beckham.