Last season it was the rookie wide receivers generating the headlines. This season, it's the veteran wide receivers grabbing the spotlight.
Through three weeks, we've been treated to all-time great performances by a trio of all-time great wide receivers: the Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones, Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown. Jones, with his 28 fantasy points on Sunday, is off to one of the 10 best starts by any wide receiver since 1960. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald, who scored 25 fantasy points on Sunday, ranks among the 15 best starts by any wide receiver in his team's first three games. And Brown, with his 10 fantasy points on Sunday, now has 56 for the season, meaning that three of the eight hottest starts by a wide receiver (through three team games) since 2001 have happened in 2015.
Here are the leaders in fantasy points by wide receivers through three team games, since 1960. Also listed are the wideouts' season totals and games played.
Perhaps the key takeaway here is that almost all of these wide receivers remained productive for the remainder of these seasons, with the four players who fell short of the 200-point plateau all having missed some time later in those seasons.
Raider on the rise
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr isn't necessarily grabbing headlines just yet, and his 20 fantasy points on Sunday were tied for just sixth-best so far in Week 3, and Sunday points gave him a modest 48 through three games. Still, this was his second consecutive game with at least 20, both of which were against teams with good defensive reputations (Baltimore Ravens in Week 2, Cleveland Browns in Week 3), and put him on a pace for 256 fantasy points this season.
Assuming Carr remains on that pace, that would represent an increase of 78 fantasy points from his rookie season, which is a substantial jump. In fact, among quarterbacks who started at least eight games as rookies, it would be the 10th-largest increase by any sophomore quarterback.
None of the above 11 quarterbacks, however, started all of his team's games in the given rookie season. That's what makes Carr's feat especially impressive. Consider that, since 1960, he is only the 20th quarterback to start every one of his team's games during his rookie year. Among the previous 19 to do it, none has enjoyed as great an increase in his fantasy points per game as a sophomore as Carr has thus far.
Digging deeper, Carr has improved his completion percentage by five percent (58 to 63), increased his yards per attempt by more than two (5.46 to 8.07), and more than doubled his Total QBR (47.2 to 95.8) from his rookie campaign. He's well worth the discussion as a QB2 in two-quarterback leagues.
Start your engines
Second-year Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman made the most of his first career NFL start. Getting the call in place of injured rookie Tevin Coleman, who was sidelined with a fractured rib, Freeman topped the Week 3 fantasy leaderboard (pending Monday's games) with 37 fantasy points on 30 carries and four receptions.
Since 2001, that's the most fantasy points by any running back making his first NFL start, as is his 42 fantasy points in points-per-reception (PPR) formats. Granted, "starts" tend to be misleading labels for NFL running backs -- a team's first play could feature another player who isn't its projected game leader in carries -- but Freeman's feat is impressive nevertheless. Here are the top 10 in both standard and PPR leagues since 2001:
• Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green's 34 fantasy points in standard leagues and 44 in PPR formats represented new career highs. He's normally known more for his week-to-week consistency, as this represented his 40th out of 63 career games that resulted in a top-25 weekly score at his position. Those 40 performances tie him with Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas for third most since the start of Green's rookie year of 2011; Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall are tied for the lead with 41 apiece.
• Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. scored 30 fantasy points in standard leagues and 43 points in PPR play, which represent his greatest single-game totals since Week 2 of the 2007 season; he played 121 games between those two performances.
Throwback to Thursday
• New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s 13 fantasy points on Thursday Night Football gave him a whopping 234 through the first 15 games of his NFL career. That is the most by any wide receiver through his first 15 NFL games since 1960.