6 Interesting Tidbits for Week 2
Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books and, as always, there were a number of surprises. Maybe you knew Lamar Jackson could take advantage of a horrendous Miami defense, but nobody thought Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Ryan Fitzpatrick would have more rushing yards than him. Now, is this useful information? No, but the following six tidbits from Week 1 should give you a better idea of what to expect from some players this season, and more importantly, how to value them for Week 2.
Austin Ekeler dominates backfield touches for the Los Angeles Chargers
With Melvin Gordon reporting he would be showing up in around six to eight weeks, the Los Angeles Chargers backfield will consist of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson for now. Many figured that Ekeler would be the most valuable back based on past performances and his pass-catching skill set, but the Chargers saying they wanted a split made many hesitant to fully trust Ekeler. But after a tremendous Week 1, we can put that worry aside.
Ekeler out-snapped Jackson 47-16 against the Colts. As you can expect, the number of touches were lopsided as well, with Ekeler leading this category 18-7. This trend has held true in all four of Ekeler’s NFL starts, out-touching Jackson 17-3, 18-9 and 17-9 in the previous three. Of course, he had great success with his 18 touches last week, totaling 154 yards and three touchdowns. This week, he faces a Detroit defense that gave up 137 total yards and a touchdown to David Johnson last week, which included six catches, an area of strength for Ekeler.
Jack Doyle sees the majority of the TE snaps for the Indianapolis Colts, but Eric Ebron finishes with more routes ran
One of the biggest narratives in the fantasy football world this offseason was the projected regression of Eric Ebron, mostly due to the return of Jack Doyle. There loud voices on both sides of the argument, and both had new ammo for their argument after Week 1. Much like last season, Doyle dominated the snaps. He finished the game with 43 (68.2%) snaps, compared to Ebron’s 25 (39.7%). Despite the larger snap share, Ebron ran 16 routes, compared to Doyle’s 13.
Opportunity leads to productivity in fantasy, meaning the more opportunities a player gets to score fantasy points, the more points they generally score. This is an interesting situation because you decide what creates the most opportunity – time on the field or routes ran.
Doyle is the obvious better run blocker, which is why he got so many snaps last week. This shouldn’t change. However, the difference in routes ran seems to be a little flukey. Going forward, I expect essentially the same number of routes ran per game, but Doyle will continue getting more snaps due to his blocking. Facing the Titans this week, the Colts likely won’t be chasing a ton of points, so expect to see a heavy dose of Doyle, with Ebron doing his work in the red zone and in passing situations.
Todd Gurley dominates snaps, but the context of said snaps is concerning
We have been talking about Todd Gurley’s knees since last season’s playoffs, and there were fears, concerns and a larger number of red flags from him heading into this season. After drafting electric rookie Darrell Henderson, the worry and reports were that there would be a split in the Los Angeles Rams’ backfield, in order to keep Gurley running into the postseason. In Week 1, there was a snap split, but it still weighed heavily in favor of Gurley, who saw 53 snaps (69.7%). After him, Malcolm Brown saw 21 snaps (27.6%), while the rookie Henderson was only given two (2.6%). Gurley was also the most efficient back, totaling 101 yards on 15 touches, compared to Brown’s 53 yards on 11 touches. When looking at these numbers, the concerns on Gurley die down a bit, but that changes when you look further into it.
Yes, Gurley was the most efficient runner and 15 touches is still a solid amount for running backs. However, the Rams did limit Gurley by avoiding short-yardage situations and plays that could add great stress and pressure on his knees, or at least more than normal. That meant taking him out when the team entered the red zone. Gurley didn’t record one red zone touch, while Henderson saw one and Brown touched the ball five times in the red zone, which is why he came away with two touchdowns.
This means that the likelihood of Gurley scoring touchdowns goes way down, while Brown could have great value being the touchdown vulture on a high-powered offense. I’m sure there will be more crucial future situations where the Rams opt to give the ball to Gurley on the fourth-quarter touchdown to win the game, for example. But as long as Brown continues to convert these early season opportunities, there’s no reason for the Rams to change up the roles, which severely caps the upside of Gurley, unfortunately. For example, the Saints come to town this week in what is expected to be a high-scoring affair. There is a great chance Gurley finishes with over 100 yards, but it may be Brown that comes away with another two touchdowns, which already is a double-digit output. You’re playing Gurley if you have him, but how the Rams use him this week will tell us a lot about how they view their star running back going forward.
Tarik Cohen is now a slot receiver
While Tarik Cohen is listed as a running back in your fantasy leagues, we may actually see him become wide receiver eligible, if what we saw in Week 1 is a sign of things to come. When looking at the three Chicago Bears RBs, Cohen led the way in snaps (51), with Mike Davis (40) and David Montgomery (27) coming up behind him. However, Cohen’s only carry was a fumble on the exchange, which didn’t get counted as a carry, meaning he played 51 snaps without a rushing attempt. Breaking down these 51 snaps further, he saw just four out of the backfield, seven split out wide and 40 in the slot.
These 47 snaps lined up as a wide receiver led to 10 targets, resulting in eight receptions for 49 yards. If you play in a PPR league, you were happy, but it still is a bit concerning. When the Bears have a game flow where they need to pass a lot, Cohen will see a lot of work. When the defense does its job and the Bears are fully in control of the game, Cohen may be forgotten about, as they lean on Davis and Montgomery running the rock. Playing the Broncos and their former defensive coordinator this week, Chicago should be in control of this game, if Denver’s Monday night performance is any indication of things to come. A long week for Chicago and short week for Denver isn’t likely to end well, even with Mitchell Trubisky‘s struggles in the opener.
Christian McCaffrey had a ridiculous workload in Week 1, playing every offensive snap
We saw the yoked out pictures of Christian McCaffrey this offseason and knew a big workload was coming. However, nobody guessed he would play all 66 running back snaps for the Carolina Panthers. This heavy playing time led to a massive workload, with him shouldering 29 total touches in the game versus the Rams. He took 19 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns, then McCaffrey turned his team-high 11 targets into 10 catches for 81 more yards. Yes, the Rams offense is prone to giving up big chunk plays, but the 209 total yards is just ridiculous.
Looking forward to Thursday, McCaffrey faces an inferior Tampa Bay defense. McCaffrey is matchup proof given his versatility and role in the offense, and he is poised for yet another big performance. McCaffrey averaged 20.5 touches and 28.4 fantasy points in 1/2 PPR leagues in his two matchups with Tampa last season.
Darren Waller played every offensive snap for the Oakland Raiders
We know the tight end in the Jon Gruden system has value. Jared Cook was a top-5 TE last season, catching 68-of-101 targets and nearly got to 1,000 yards. With him gone, obviously it immediately frees up 100 targets. In case you haven’t heard, Antonio Brown is not with the Raiders anymore, which also leaves a big hole in what we expected the Oakland offense to look like. With all of this, Waller came into the picture and received a ton of offseason hype as an athletic TE option that can replicate the Jared Cook role in this offense. Against the Broncos on Monday night, he did just that.
Waller stayed on the field for all 55 snaps, showing he has no competition. No competition leads to a ton of opportunity, which is something that can be rare at the position. The Raiders were also in control of this game throughout and were able to lean on the run. This won’t always be the case, which means there will be more targets going Waller’s way than we saw Monday. Still, Waller caught 7/8 targets for 70 yards, seeing the most receiving targets on his team. Facing the Chiefs this week, you can bet the Raiders will pass more than the 26 times they did against the Broncos. Knock on wood if you’re with me.
Zach Brunner is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Raju, follow him @fantasyflurry