What We Learned: Week 1 (Fantasy Football)
Week 1 has brought its fair share of surprises and new storylines that may or may not stand the test of time over the course of the NFL season. The key to fantasy success is digesting the information and identifying players that are capable of sustaining fantasy success or, conversely, shaking off a poor performance to bounce-back in the weeks ahead. Here’s what we learned in Week 1.
Rookie RBs asserted themselves in a big way
Kareem Hunt set the tone early for rookie RBs in Week 1 when he totaled 246 combined yards and three TDs on Thursday night. He immediately climbs into mid-to-top tier RB1 status on a weekly basis. On Sunday, a pair of rookie RBs had impressive showings of their own. Leonard Fournette ran the ball with authority, finishing with 100 hard-earned yards on 26 carries with a TD and finished as the second leading receiver as well. Fournette will hover around RB1 status. Sunday was the ideal game-flow for him to be involved in a big way, and if the Jaguars defense can play on a similar level going forward then Fournette could see 300+ carries this year in a ball control offense. The surprise RB performance came from Tarik Cohen of the Chicago Bears. He had gained some buzz in the preseason with his electric play, but the way he was able to maintain and even increase his big-play ability in Week 1 vs. Atlanta was impressive. Cohen topped 100 total yards and scored one TD while catching eight passes. He may end up being the Bears leading receiver this season, and at worst should be considered a flex option in PPR leagues going forward.
Drafting a WR on a bad offense because “someone has to catch it” is a terrible strategy
Anyone holding out hopes that Kevin White, Robby Anderson, Zay Jones, or Kenny Britt would be a viable fantasy option because “somebody has to catch it” in those offenses is feeling the effect of that misguided thought-process. Some offenses are just bad and will simply not produce fantasy-relevant players at a given position. Targets don’t magically come just because a name gets floated up a depth chart, actual talent (at QB and surrounding offensive positions) plays a bigger role. Looking at Baltimore, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and Chicago Bears, the average performance of the WR1 on those teams was 3.8 catches for 52.6 yards.
Chris Carson is the RB to own in Seattle
The Seattle offense looked awful against Green Bay on Sunday aside from a couple quick hitting drives that resulted in scores. One thing that did stick out was the dramatic difference in play between Eddie Lacy and Chris Carson. Lacy showed little power or effort in his runs, gaining just three yards on five carries. Carson looked much more engaged in his runs, showing a determination that Lacy occasionally flashed while he was a Packer. Carson finished with 39 yards on six carries and hauled in his lone target for 10 yards as well. Carson should see a continued increase in his role, while Lacy could get phased out even more upon the return of Thomas Rawls. If I owned Lacy I would drop him to pick up Carson. Carson is yet to enter RB2/flex consideration but is worth a roster spot as it looks like he could be a capable back if Seattle is able to get their offense on track.
Several teams still have rust to shake off (but don’t panic)
Some offenses came out of the gates in Week 1 looking awful and will continue to be bad throughout the season (sorry Jets fans). Other teams laid an egg in Week 1 but should be fine once the rust gets knocked off. Specifically, the offenses in Cincinnati, Seattle, and Washington likely cost many fantasy players an opportunity to post a W to start the season. The Redskins were a mess and out of sync all preseason and that has carried into Week 1, but it feels like all they need is some confidence that would come along with a string of successful drives, which they are fully capable of at any moment starting in Week 2. There shouldn’t be much panic with their passing game weapons. Once it clicks they’ll put up big numbers. Cincinnati and Seattle have some offensive line issues that either need to get better or the skill players will need to adjust to the reality of their offensive line shortcomings. Things should get better in the weeks ahead, and I wouldn’t panic if I were relying on either Doug Baldwin or A.J. Green. The TE situation is a little more concerning, as a weaker offensive line may keep the TE’s in as blockers, or at least an initial chip block before entering a route. Also for the Bengals, Andy Dalton was just flat-out awful at times and should bounce-back with a quick turnaround and a Thursday matchup against Houston in Week 2. Hey, the reality is slow starts happen to some teams. Sometimes it lasts a quarter, sometimes a game, sometimes even a month or so, but given the talent on these offenses, it would be wise to wait out the slow start rather than panic and sell low or cut someone capable of being a difference maker when it matters later in the year.
Several top RBs/WRs struggled in Week 1
It was a frustrating week for those who had picks at the top of their drafts (aside from Antonio Brown owners). David Johnson the receiver was impressive, continuing the 10+yards per reception rate he posted last season. But David Johnson the RB was not so good, gaining just 23 yards on the ground before an injury forced him out and could cause him to miss several games. Le’Veon Bell had struggles of his own as he worked on knocking off the rust from his holdout, having just 13 touches for under 50 total yards. Neither Johnson or Bell scored on the day. Julio Jones was the third most targeted player on his team and finished with just four catches for 66 yards. A.J. Green had a similar performance, catching five passes for 74 yards as his QB couldn’t stop turning the ball over. The WRs should be able to bounce back next week with decent matchups, but there is concern for the RBs. The wrist injury for Johnson could potentially cost him multiple games and will need to be monitored as more news surfaces. Bell faces a tough Week 2 matchup against the Vikings defense.