5 Burning Questions for Week 1 (Fantasy Football)
We made it.
Free agency, the draft, mini-camps and OTAs, training camp and preseason, your fantasy drafts, and now… it’s here.
Real, meaningful, big-boy football.
It’s been a long road, but if you’ve followed the signs closely, you’re well on your way to league championships already. But there have been some hard forks in that road and in your drafts, and several signs have been hard to decipher. There are players and teams with major questions unanswered, and these are the five most burning ones.
1. What kind of workload will Alvin Kamara get?
“The mistake would be that Alvin gets 15 more carries,” Sean Payton said in May, more being the operative word, which most news outlets missed, reporting that Kamara wouldn’t even get 15 period. The truth is somewhere in between, and it may mean the world to those who invested a high first-round pick in him. One thing we know is that Kamara will not maintain his historic rookie-year efficiency. How much more volume does he need to offset it, and will he get it? That’s what we need to know. Kamara averaged eight carries and four catches per game as a rookie. Can he move from 12 to 18 touches per week? Will Payton give him more? We’ll have to wait until Sunday September 9th at home against the Buccaneers to get a hint.
2. How is work split between Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis?
When the Titans released DeMarco Murray in March, Derrick Henry’s stock shot up. When the Titans went out and signed Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry’s stock crashed down. Months later, it’s rebounded and settled at the third/fourth turn, while Dion Lewis is being drafted in the early sixth. A pricey backfield, behind only the Falcons and Saints RB tandems.
So what’s the deal? Will this thing be a 50/50 timeshare, as preseason snap counts seem to indicate? Or is it “just preseason?” Will Henry lead, with Lewis spelling him and taking passing downs; can Henry secure 60% of snaps and a mid-RB2 finish? This is a high potential backfield — one that I’ve followed through preseason closer than any other — and the jury is still out on these questions. The Titans open up with a favorable matchup at the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, which should benefit Derrick Henry and a rushing game script. He’ll need a strong showing to make those who drafted him in the third round feel good about their investment. I cannot wait to look at snap counts and touches when it’s done.
3. What does the Patriots backfield look like?
No backfield has been more productive for fantasy than the New England Patriots in the last five years. The Saints have come on, but just recently, and though they’re the top fantasy backfield for the time being, they’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. Patriot running backs have averaged 21 touchdowns over the last five seasons, with no fewer than 16 (the league average over that span is 13.2). Though it’s earned its reputation as a running back carousel, there is always value to be found.
So where will it be found this year? There’s some method to Belichick’s madness, but no one has seemed to put that puzzle together yet. James White enters the season with momentum, operating as the three-down starter in their preseason games. Rex Burkhead earned a nice contract, and most experts see him as the favorite to lead the team in rushing touchdowns, but he hasn’t played at all this preseason as he nurses a tear in his knee. Sony Michel is a first-round pick with significantly more talent than either White or Burkhead, but can he get healthy and hold onto the ball? Is Jeremy Hill going to come in and vulture all of our dreams? Only Belichick knows. Heaven help us all.
4. Can Deshaun Watson back his rookie season up?
Like Kamara, Deshaun Watson’s rookie efficiency was historic for his position. But it was short lived. Now, he returns from his ACL tear with more weapons, more experience — and more expectations. Being drafted as the overall QB2 early in the fourth round, he doesn’t need to match last year’s dominance to return value, but he has to come close. He’ll open up the season on the road against a revitalized Patriots defense, so we may not get the answer to this question right away, but the question is burning nonetheless.
5. How long will it take Andrew Luck to “get back?”
Luck has looked good in the preseason. But he reportedly doesn’t have his “fastball” back to full speed. Perhaps the highest risk/reward play at the highest scoring position in fantasy football, owners need to know if he’s back. And not just his. Hilton’s and Doyle’s and Ebron’s owners, too. All of those owners, indeed the fate of the Colts’ franchise itself, rests on the recovering right shoulder of Andrew Luck. He hasn’t played a meaningful NFL game in one and a half years. He’s been under the knife twice, to Europe and back, and now… the time has finally come to answer some questions.
Can Luck step right in and continue to dominate? If not, how long will it take? Will he ever? Is his “fastball” really that necessary? Will there be growing pains as he readjusts to the speed of the game? Will he stay healthy all year? There’s so much upside to be had from this offense, and so many questions and risks. They’ll open at home against Cincinnati, and we’ll finally begin to get answers.
Nick Zychowicz is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Nick, check out his archive and follow him @NJZychowicz.