Fantasy Football Studs and Duds: Week 1
The first NFL Sunday is in the books. For many fantasy teams, overreactions are running rampant. A large reason is injuries. Whether it was Allen Robinson, Danny Woodhead, or David Johnson, fantasy owners everywhere are eagerly looking to the waiver wire already.
It’s important that context matters. No, the Houston Texans defense likely won’t be as bad as it was against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Injuries to players such as J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing derailed their defense early. Likewise, Eli Manning and Andy Dalton will eventually outscore Jared Goff at some point (hopefully). We’re also looking at players from Sunday’s games, so no mention of rookie phenom Kareem Hunt or discussion about whether or not Tom Brady is finally in decline.
For the players that actually did complete their games, the biggest question to ask right now: Is this a trend?
Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard (CHI)
Raise your hand if you had the Chicago Bears rookie running backs having more targets, receptions and receiving touchdowns than Julio Jones after the first game of the season. Cohen wasn’t the only Chicago back targeted. Howard was targeted five times in the passing game. He caught three passes for 14 yards and dropped what was sure to be the go-ahead touchdown late in the game.
In the running game, Howard received only 13 rushing attempts. He turned those into 52 yards (4.0 YPC) and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Cohen had five rushing attempts for 66 yards, including a spectacular 46-yard run.
There was a lot of speculation prior to the fantasy draft season on whether Jordan Howard would be worth his lofty ADP. After the first game, it appears that the Bears backfield could produce multiple starters. In PPR leagues, Cohen needs to be targeted as one of the top-tier waiver wire pickups this week.
Leonard Fournette (JAC)
After the first game of the regular season, it looked like Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was going to be the rookie running back phenomenon. After a stunning upset over the Texans, it still looks like Fournette is leading the pack.
Fournette bulldozed through the Texans’ defensive line to the tune of 100 yards and a touchdown. Fournette was one of only four running backs to eclipse the 100-yard mark in Week 1. He also was tied for the most receptions among Jaguars players with three catches. Perhaps most importantly, Chris Ivory only saw nine carries. Opportunity breeds success, and given the devastating injury to Allen Robinson, the Jaguars could be best suited to resort to a run-first offensive philosophy, which their head coach has already endorsed.
Amari Cooper (OAK)
Remember the narrative that Cooper doesn’t get red zone targets? Me neither. Cooper absolutely abused Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson early in the game and could have had a second touchdown in the red zone. On multiple passes intended for Cooper, Derek Carr sailed balls way too high. Otherwise, the box score could have been loaded with even more fantasy stats. It’s looking clear that the Raiders are going to feed Cooper and Crabtree despite Beast Mode’s presence in the backfield.
Antonio Brown (PIT)
During fantasy football drafts, it was debatable whether you could take Brown as high as the second overall pick. As long as Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback in Pittsburgh, Brown remains the absolute go-to option.
As much as fantasy owners would love Antonio Brown to finish the season with 176 receptions for 2,912 yards, it might be a bit extreme to extrapolate those numbers across all 16 games. After all, Le’Veon Bell surely should get more than 10 carries against the Cleveland Browns…right?
Le’Veon Bell (PIT)
Where else can we start than the aforementioned Bell? The Pittsburgh Steelers had the lead against the Browns for a total of 43 minutes and 10 seconds. Bell had just 10 rushing attempts. Inside the red zone, Bell had a total of four touches.
First and foremost, now is not the time to panic. It’s important to remember that Bell missed the entirety of preseason and training camp. Timing and conditioning are certainly factors that could have accounted for yesterday’s performance. Funny enough, Bell has faced the Browns in five previous games. In those, he failed to surpass 110 yards from scrimmage in three of them and has scored only three touchdowns. Never underestimate the craziness of divisional games.
Brandon Marshall (NYG)
Sure, Odell Beckham didn’t suit up. However, a receiver of Marshall’s caliber should not be shut down by the porous Dallas Cowboys’ secondary. Eli Manning routinely looked elsewhere on Sunday night and it begs the question: Is Marshall the ultimate buy low or is should he be sold off while there is still value?
Manning attempted 38 passes in the loss. That puts him right on pace for his average amount of pass attempts (605) over the last three seasons under Ben McAdoo. Marshall received only four of those targets. There are several factors that could be blamed, the biggest being Beckham’s absence. The other is that Marshall has been nursing injuries of his own, and he only received one target from Manning in the preseason.
Dez Bryant (DAL)
There was good news and bad news as it pertained to Dez Bryant. The good news was that he was targeted nine times, including three straight passes at the New York Giants’ three-yard line. The bad news was that Bryant only amassed two catches for 43 yards.
These types of performances are becoming very familiar for Bryant. Over his last 20 games (excluding Week 17 against Philadelphia last season), Bryant has been targeted eight or more times in eight games. In half those games, he has four or fewer catches. During that same time period, Bryant has four games where he only caught one pass.
If you can get name value off Bryant, it might be a decent idea to sell high. As Mike Tagliere noted, Bryant has an incredibly difficult strength of schedule ahead of him.