The Primer: Week 2 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
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With so much negativity surrounding the game of football – Antonio Brown in particular – right now, I thought I’d share a personal story about a time a professional athlete went above and beyond.
My parents used to take us to French Lick, Indiana as kids. It was an annual tradition and one that I looked forward to every year. When you’re a kid, everything is just simpler. You cram into the car for a road trip and you’re excited about it. You aren’t in your bed at home and you’re more than okay with that. You’re eating more fast food than anyone rightfully should. Kudos to my parents for doing that for us, as I know none of those things are pleasant as an adult.
The hotel we stayed at did this giant Easter egg hunt for all the kids, which was a highlight of the trip for my brother and me, until we got a bit older and needed to find other things to occupy our time out there. I don’t think my parents wanted our annual tradition to end, so my dad veered off the plan in what I believe was 1994. I would have been 11 years old and my little brother was eight years old.
SF at CIN | LAC at DET | MIN at GB | IND at TEN | NE at MIA | BUF at NYG | SEA at PIT | DAL at WAS | ARI at BAL | JAC at HOU | KC at OAK | CHI at DEN | NO at LAR | PHI at ATL | CLE at NYJ
We were a huge sports family and that period was when the Bulls had Michael Jordan, so basketball was alive and well in the Tagliere household. We’d been basketball fans for a long time, so my dad told us he wanted to show us something. French Lick happens to be the hometown of basketball legend Larry Bird. My dad got us in the car and drove us to see his property, which has a short four panel white fence surrounding the perimeter. There was a full-size basketball court with glass backboards and lights for all to see. There was no mistake; this was a basketball player’s dream.
Another thing you do when you’re a kid is have zero regard for personal privacy, so my brother and I wanted to walk up to the door and meet Larry himself. It’s not every day you’re standing outside a legend’s house. While my dad probably shouldn’t have allowed us to do it, we walked up to his front door and rang the doorbell. My heart was beating faster than it probably ever had before, but when the door opened, we saw a giant man who was not Larry Bird. Instead, it was his bodyguard who just stared at us.
“Is Mr. Bird home?” I can hear my 11-year-old voice now.
The large man started to tell us how it was Larry’s personal home and that we needed to take off, but mid-sentence, Larry himself walked out from the kitchen and told the man to let us in. There were a few large bags of McDonald’s on the counter, to which Larry told us we could have whatever we wanted.
He said, “They sponsor me, so feel free. There’s no way me and the big fella are going to eat all this food.” It felt odd, but how was I going to turn down french fries from Larry Bird?! I ate the fries. He went on to say, “Hey guys, I really do appreciate you being fans, but I have a rule with autographs. I don’t sign them at my house. It’s the one place I want to be able to just relax.” We understood and respected that. The fact that he invited us in made our day.
We went back to the car and our dad was in total shock that we went into Mr. Bird’s house. We explained everything to him, and I think he felt bad about letting us walk up there. We went back home shortly thereafter, and he told us to write a letter to Mr. Bird thanking him for being so kind. We did and it felt good. Even better? We got home from school a few weeks later and there was a package waiting for us. Larry had signed a few basketball cards and sent them back to the return address, our house.
You see, not all stories surrounding athletes are bad, even when there are no cameras on, and they’re not getting any credit from the press. Don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch.
In case you’ve missed it, I’ve been going back into The Primer on Saturday morning trying to update you on the injury reports that impact your decisions. While I cannot write a whole new article, I do talk about a lot of these things on our Sunday morning livestream, which is FREE to everyone. It’s where I discuss all the latest injury news and then take your questions live from 11-12am EST. Click here to be taken to our YouTube page where you can get notifications when we go live.
If you’re new, here’s what you can expect out of this article each and every week: Numbers, facts, stats, opinions, and some shenanigans here and there. It’s my unbiased opinion about everyone on your roster. Whether it be season-long advice, DFS advice, wide receiver/cornerback matchups, or snap counts, it’s all covered. The idea here is to give you as much information as possible and give you as much confidence as possible when you hit that ‘submit lineup’ button each week. Who should be in your lineup this week?
San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals
Jimmy Garoppolo: It was somewhat of a nightmare start to the season for Garoppolo, even though the 49ers came away with the win. He completed just 18 passes and averaged 6.1 yards per attempt against the Bucs, who have what might be the worst defense in the league. They’ll now move on to the Bengals, who are right there in that conversation. Russell Wilson threw the ball just 20 times against them last week, though they resulted in 9.8 yards per attempt and two touchdowns. If there’s something that stands out as a bright spot, it’s that the Bengals’ biggest weakness has been tight ends, which happens to be Garoppolo’s favorite position to target right now. They are traveling from the west coast to the east coast, which is never an easy thing to do, though oddsmakers seem convinced they’re the favorite here. The only quarterback who failed to post top-20 numbers against the Bengals last year was Ryan Tannehill, so we should at least assume Garoppolo has a decent fantasy floor, though his Week 1 performance doesn’t allow us to start him as anything more than a middling QB2.
Andy Dalton: One thing we learned about the Bengals offense last week? They’re going to be competent. Heading into Seattle is never an easy thing to do, even if their defense isn’t as talented as it used to be. Throwing for 418 yards and two touchdowns was one of the highlights of Week 1, especially when you consider he was without A.J. Green. The Bengals are likely to be without their star wide receiver once again, though the 49ers’ secondary isn’t extremely scary, either. After totaling just two interceptions throughout the entire 2018 season, they intercepted Jameis Winston three times in Week 1. It’s fair to say the additions they made to the defensive front may have paid off, as they continually pressured Winston. In the end, 10 of his 36 pass attempts came under pressure. Dalton’s offensive line is no prize, either, as he was pressured on 39.3 percent of his dropbacks. The combination of Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, and Dee Ford is likely to make life somewhat difficult on Dalton, though the Seattle pass-rush was no joke. Dalton took a stride in the right direction under Zac Taylor last week, though you want to see it again before completely trusting him. He can be played in 2QB leagues but shouldn’t be considered a top-notch streamer just yet. He’ll also be without starting left tackle Cordy Glenn, who’s still in the concussion protocol.
Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert: The good news is that Breida saw a team-high 15 carries. The bad news is that he totaled just 37 yards on them against the Bucs defense. Garoppolo is going to have to play better in order to lighten the attention the run-game is facing. Tevin Coleman is going to miss some time, so Breida will lead the timeshare alongside Mostert. The Bengals allowed nine running backs to rush for at least 84 yards last year and it was part of the reason Chris Carson was so highly touted last week. The odd part is that they held the Seahawks backfield to just 3.0 yards per carry (the Bengals best mark since Week 2 of 2018), though Carson’s two touchdowns did prop up his fantasy day. New defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo mixed up schemes, including playing five-man fronts at times. There was no film on how he was game-planning, so things should get easier to prepare for, though the Bengals may not be the cakewalk we expected. Because of that, Breida should be considered a backend RB2 who should net 15 touches again. Still, we can’t forget Kyle Shanahan was somewhat unpredictable with his running backs last year. Mostert looked good on his 10 touches last week, and it’s possible Shanahan rides the hot hand, though I’d play the odds and guess that Breida leads the timeshare, making Mostert a middling RB4.
Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard: We don’t know if Mixon will be able to play in this game after suffering an ankle injury early in the game against the Seahawks, so stay tuned for updates (I go back in on Saturday mornings and update the players with injuries). It was all Bernard in the backup role to Mixon, totaling 63 total yards on nine touches. The Bengals ran 75 plays in Week 1, dropping back to throw the ball on 59 of them. The ratio won’t be that high all season, but it’s clear they’re a passing team under Zac Taylor. The 49ers allowed a rather-high 5.14 yards per carry to the Bucs inept run-game. Not just that but they also tallied seven receptions for 63 yards in a game Jameis Winston couldn’t do much. Bernard has been a force in the passing game over his career and has shown the ability to handle a bigger workload at times. In the two games he got 10-plus carries last year, he finished as the RB8 and RB9. With A.J. Green and Mixon likely out this week, Bernard should be looking at a minimum of 15 touches. Because of that, he should be in fantasy lineups as a sturdy RB2, provided Mixon is out. *Update* Mixon did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, but got in a limited practice Friday. He’s a true game-time decision who will likely lose touches to Bernard even if he’s active.
Marquise Goodwin: We knew Goodwin would be one of the starting receviers against the Bucs, though we didn’t know that 49ers receivers would be targeted just 12 times all game. Goodwin saw three of them, though only one was hauled in for seven yards. It’s clear Garoppolo is struggling to do much after a brutal preseason, though the Bucs secondary was supposed to help. We just saw the Bengals secondary hold speedster Tyler Lockett in check last week, as he totaled just one catch on two targets. The big-and-fast D.K. Metcalf finished with four catches for 89 yards, though his size did help him on a few of those receptions. The Bengals cornerback duo of William Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick are probably the best part of the Bengals defense, so it’d be best to simply avoid 49ers receivers until Garoppolo shows he’s capable of supporting a fantasy relevant wide receiver. The fact that Goodwin got just three targets against the Bucs while Dante Pettis played two snaps is not a good sign.
Dante Pettis: After going back to watch the 49ers Week 1 game, I rarely saw Pettis on the field. It makes sense now when I see he played two snaps. Two. Kyle Shanahan said after the game that it was due to him being behind in the gameplan due to a groin injury he’s been dealing with, though Pettis participated in full practices on Thursday and Friday last week. It’s clear you cannot trust Pettis in fantasy leagues right now.
Deebo Samuel: After we watched Dante Pettis not get on the field for the first two months of his rookie season, the 49ers didn’t take the same approach with Samuel. He actually led the 49ers wide receivers in snaps, as he was on the field for 59-of-67 snaps. It wasn’t all great for Samuel, though, as he had a bad fumble that allowed the Bucs to recover. With Shanahan mentioning Pettis was behind in the gameplan due to an injury, you have to wonder whose snaps he eats into. Unfortunately, Samuel isn’t playing many snaps in the slot, which is the weakest point of the Bengals cornerback unit. Instead, he’ll see veteran cornerbacks William Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick, who didn’t have a great game in Week 1, but both have solid resumes in the NFL. Samuel should be owned in fantasy leagues considering his snap count, but he shouldn’t be started just yet, as it appears he can lose those snaps rather quickly.
Tyler Boyd: He took a backseat to John Ross‘ massive performance in Week 1, though you shouldn’t overlook the 11 targets Boyd got. He’s clearly going to be a focal point of Zac Taylor’s offense and should continue to be heavily involved with A.J. Green and Joe Mixon unlikely to play. The 49ers have K’Waun Williams cover the slot when healthy, though he didn’t play a full complement of snaps in Week 1 (hydration issue was reported) and shared time with Emmanuel Moseley. This is notable because it’s where Boyd was on 46 percent of his snaps in Week 1. That’s actually a lesser number than what most would expect, as it seems Taylor will move the receivers all over the formation (Ross 37 percent, Willis 37 percent). Moseley is an undrafted free agent from last year who’s still yet to see a target in coverage. Knowing that Williams had a knee scope and missed the entire preseason, this isn’t a matchup to be concerned with. Boyd needs to remain in fantasy lineups as a sturdy WR2 against the 49ers.
John Ross: It was good to see Ross out there having fun, as it’s seemed like his career has been filled with injury-after-injury with most labeling him a bust. In Zac Taylor’s first game as the head coach, we saw Ross get targeted a career-high 12 times, netting seven catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns. A lot of it came on a deep ball from Dalton where safety Tedric Thompson mistimed his jump, allowing Ross to basket-catch the ball behind him. That’s what Ross brings to the table, though, as he’s always been someone who can get behind a defense with speed. The 49ers have Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon on the edges of the field, two cornerbacks who aren’t known to be fast (Sherman 4.54, Witherspoon 4.45), but more physical. The combination of Jaquiski Tartt and Tarvarius Moore will be massively important, as they need to keep the play in front of them. Knowing Ross is being moved around the formation is huge, as he played 37 percent of his snaps in the slot, which can cause the defense to lose track of where he is. The question is whether the Bengals offensive line can hold up against the 49ers now-potent pass-rush. Ross is moving up the ranks, though we don’t want to overreact to one big performance considering his history. Approach him as an upside WR4 rather than a must-play WR3.
George Kittle: If you watched the 49ers game last week, you know that Kittle’s game arguably could’ve/should’ve been much bigger. He had two touchdowns called back in the game, with one of them due to a holding penalty that was completely unnecessary, while the other was an illegal formation. It’s clear that Kittle is the only reliable target in this offense right now, as the wide receivers remain in flux. The Bucs matchup was a great one, though the Bengals matchup is just as good, if not better. They allowed a league-high 15.0 PPR points to tight ends last year, which included a 74.1 percent completion percentage and a touchdown every 11.2 targets. The defense seems to have changed significantly under new coordinator Lou Anarumo, though it helps that the 49ers now have film to analyze and attack. Shawn Williams is the safety Kittle will see in coverage, a ball-hawking free safety who intercepted five passes last year, but also allowed a massive 10.9 yards per target in his coverage, as well as a touchdown every 7.0 targets. You’re always starting Kittle in redraft leagues as an elite TE1 and this week is one where if you have the funds to pay-up in DFS, you should consider it.
Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah: It appears there isn’t one tight end who’s more important than the other in the Bengals offense, as Eifert ran 26 pass routes and saw five targets, while Uzomah ran 24 pass routes and saw four targets. Timeshares at tight end are a nightmare and while you see a combined nine targets, you cannot forget they threw the ball a massive 51 times. The 49ers did hold O.J. Howard in check last week, as he saw five targets which netted four catches for 32 yards, while Cameron Brate also chipped in with a few receptions (also had multiple touchdowns called back due to penalty). The 49ers pass-rush is significantly better and it’s not as if they were bad against tight ends last year, allowing them just 7.09 yards per target, one of the lower marks in the league. If you want to play one, it’d be Eifert, who is the much better red zone option, and they are more appealing with A.J. Green out of the lineup, but not enough to consider for streaming purposes, as the target-floor is just not where we’d like it to be.
Los Angeles Chargers at Detroit Lions
Philip Rivers: The Chargers offense didn’t skip a beat without Melvin Gordon and Antonio Gates in Week 1, as Rivers’ 333-yard and three-touchdown performance that netted 23.92 fantasy points would’ve been his third highest total from last year. They’ll head out to the dome in Detroit to play a Lions defense that started out strong in Week 1 but ended on a bad note. Kyler Murray may have thrown for 308 yards and two touchdowns, but it took him 54 attempts to get there. The Lions racked up five sacks against the wretched Cardinals offensive line, and though Rivers played well in Week 1, he was sacked four times. He’s still missing his starting left tackle Russell Okung, which means Trent Scott will continue to “protect” his blindside. Scott allowed two of the four sacks last week. Knowing that Trey Flowers will be against him this week, it’s a real problem. The Lions are a man-heavy defense, which means there won’t be too many soft spots for a quick release, something that was exactly the opposite with the Colts, as they’re a team who runs more zone than anyone else. While Murray totaled a ton of pass attempts against them in overtime, the Lions faced an average of just 31.0 pass attempts per game in 2018 under Matt Patricia. Knowing that they won’t be able to do much on the ground against the Lions, it’ll come back to Rivers again, though he’s not likely to be nearly as efficient in this matchup as he was versus the Colts. He should be considered a high-end QB2 with a solid floor, though it’s tough to see a massive ceiling in this game.
Matthew Stafford: We heard the Lions wanted to be a run-heavy team this year, though Week 1 didn’t demonstrate that. Stafford threw the ball 45 times in their matchup against the Cardinals, though the matchup could’ve dictated the approach, as the Cardinals were down to three healthy cornerbacks. The Chargers secondary looked much more susceptible than most would’ve though last week, allowing Jacoby Brissett to complete 21-of-27 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns. The loss of Derwin James does matter, though it doesn’t completely erase all the talent they have on the defense. They allowed a miniscule 7.08 yards per attempt last year with just a 4.2 percent touchdown-rate, so it could’ve been opening game jitters. Don’t forget they allowed the Chiefs to roll all over them in Week 1 last year. If there’s one area the Chargers defense showed weakness both last year and this year, it’s to running backs. Expect the Lions to slow the game down and try to walk away with their first win of the season. Knowing there were just five quarterbacks who finished top-15 against the Chargers last year, it’d be wise to be cautious with Stafford this week. He’s a middling QB2 in a much tougher matchup than last week.
Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson: You were warned that the Colts didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher last year, but you were also warned that Ekeler would be the leader of that Chargers backfield in a 65/35 split. The lack of rushing yards (58) didn’t hold Ekeler back at all, as he racked up another 96 yards through the air and scored three total touchdowns en route to the No. 2 running back finish of the week. Jackson looked very good as well, though Ekeler has the job on lock. Ekeler will have to do something similar this week, as the Lions run defense is legit. We saw David Johnson rack up six catches for 55 yards and a touchdown through the air against them last week, which is a continuation of what we saw from the Lions defense last year when they allowed seven running backs to tally four or more receptions against them, including four running backs who caught at least six balls. With the offensive line a bit shaky, expect Rivers to rely on Ekeler in the passing game again. He needs to be in lineups as a middling RB2 who doesn’t need to gain a whole lot on the ground to be fantasy relevant. Jackson is going to have a tougher time, as he’s much less involved in the passing-game. He played just 16 snaps in the Week 1 game and will have relevance in games they rack up the rushing attempts, but this shouldn’t be one of them.
Kerryon Johnson and C.J. Anderson: The timeshare between Johnson and Anderson was closer than most thought it’d be in Week 1, as Johnson tallied 48 snaps to Anderson’s 24 snaps. Unfortunately, neither of them were able to accumulate much against a Cardinals defense that was abused against the run last year. Johnson forced four missed tackles while Anderson had none, so maybe that timeshare shrinks? The Chargers losing Derwin James clearly affected their defense, as they allowed Marlon Mack to destroy them for 174 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. That’s also what happens when you are lacking interior linemen. They lost Corey Liuget this offseason, which hurt, and while they drafted Jerry Tillery in the first round, he played just 21 snaps in the first game and struggled against the run. The fact that the Lions are underdogs bodes well for Johnson, as he’s the preferred passing-down option. While it’s a timeshare, it’s still a 65/35 split at worst, and we just witnessed Mack dominate this defense on 48 snaps last week. Johnson should remain in lineups as a relatively safe RB2 while Anderson is nothing more than a handcuff who can be used in games the Lions are big favorites (rare occurrence).
Keenan Allen: After watching Allen completely dissect the zone defense of the Colts for 8/123/1 in Week 1, we’ll see him against a Lions defense that’s much more man-heavy in their scheme. Newcomer Justin Coleman struggled in his Lions debut against the Cardinals, allowing seven receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown in his coverage. After allowing just two touchdowns all of last year, you have to wonder if the change in scheme will take some time to adjust, though he did allow just 3.5 yards per target, to be fair. Allen fared much better against zone coverage in 2018, as he posted a 131.2 WR Rating against it, while posting an 85.2 WR Rating against forms of man coverage. Still, without familiar faces Melvin Gordon and Antonio Gates, we should continue to see Allen heavily targeted by Rivers. While Allen was a favorite of ours last week, he’s more of a borderline WR1/2 this week than a locked-in stud. You’re playing him in redraft but don’t necessarily need to target him in cash games.
Mike Williams: He had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with what’s being described as a knee injury, though it’s also been said that it’s nothing serious. We’ll pay attention to his practice participation as the week goes on and update you here on Saturday. Unfortunately, with Keenan Allen playing over 55 percent of his snaps in the slot, it likely means Williams will see a lot of Darius Slay in coverage. Slay has been to multiple Pro Bowls and shadows opposing No. 1 wide receivers, though he doesn’t travel into the slot, which is why Williams is likely to see quite a bit of him. Because of the constant shadowing, Slay has allowed 15 touchdowns in coverage over the last three years, and we know Williams is a red zone weapon, but given his recent knee injury, it adds a bit more doubt. He should be considered a risky WR3 this week. *Update* Williams didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday but was able to get in a limited practice on Friday. He’s shaping up as a game-time decision, though it’s reportedly not looking great. If you have someone else you were debating, it may be wise to go a different route.
Travis Benjamin: If there’s someone on the Chargers who benefits from man coverage and playing in a dome, it’s Benjamin. He’s going to see quite a bit of Rashaan Melvin in coverage, who is a sturdy cornerback who had a down year with the Raiders last year. He’s not a small cornerback at 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds, and he’s not extremely fast (4.47-second 40-yard dash), which is what we look for with the uber-fast Benjamin. The route Melvin struggled with the most last year? The go-route where he allowed a 128.2 QB Rating in coverage. Benjamin is not someone who should be trusted in redraft leagues, but he is someone who’s on the tournament radar.
Kenny Golladay: If there’s a huge positive to take away from Week 1 for Golladay, it’s that he out-targeted Marvin Jones nine to four. In their games together last year, Jones actually out-targeted him, so this is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, those targets netted the same amount of receptions with fewer yards, though Golladay did snag a touchdown. The Chargers are hurting a bit at cornerback, as Trevor Williams missed last week with a quad injury, and now backup Michael Davis is dealing with a hamstring injury. They still have Casey Hayward, though he’s not shadowing anyone, as evidenced by T.Y. Hilton last week. Golladay plays on both sides of the formation, so the injuries would make a difference to his projection, as replacement Brandon Facyson was burned for 5/61/1 on just six targets last week. If Williams is out again with his quad injury, Golladay has the looks of a solid WR2, though it could just as easily be a Marvin Jones week with how they flip-flop on the perimeter to avoid Heyward.
Marvin Jones: He saw just four targets in a game where Stafford threw the ball 45 times, which is never a good thing, though he made the most of them, hauling in all four for 56 yards. He’s now totaled at least 54 yards in eight of his last 10 games (combining 2018 and 2019 production), making him someone worthy of a WR3/4 start most weeks. As mentioned in Golladay’s paragraph, the Chargers are weak at cornerback and may be missing two of them in Week 2. Should Trevor Williams have to miss another game with his quad injury, the Lions catch a break and can simply target backup cornerback Brandon Facyson as much as they want while avoiding Casey Heyward’s side of the field. Jones is the one who’s on the left side of the field more often (Facyson’s side), so while many run to play Golladay, it could be a good week to have Jones in tournaments. He should be considered a low-end WR3 in redraft leagues.
Danny Amendola: It was all too predictable to see Amendola targeted a team-high 13 times in Week 1, as the slot role for the Lions has been very valuable. He turned those targets into a massive 7/104/1 in the overtime game versus the Cardinals, who had a major issue at cornerback. The Chargers have one of the better slot cornerbacks in the game, however, as Desmond King has allowed just 1,000 yards on 152 targets over his career, which amounts to just 6.58 yards per target, much different than his matchup last week. Because of that, Amendola is a big-time fade in both season-long and redraft leagues. He is, however, someone who should be owned, as he is going to play a big role in the offense.
Hunter Henry (OUT): It was good to see Henry out there in a leading role, totaling 58 snaps, a number he’d hit just three times in his career. It only netted four targets, though he caught all of them for 60 yards. The Lions were one of the best in the NFL at slowing down fantasy tight ends in 2018, as there was just one tight end who accumulated more than 13.6 PPR points against them, though there was a lack of targets. On a per-target basis, they allowed 1.94 PPR points, which ranked as the eighth-most in the league. The Cardinals don’t really use tight ends, so it’s difficult to take anything away from that game. Quandre Diggs is the one who’ll be in coverage most of the time, a safety who’s allowed a 103.8 QB Rating in his coverage over the course of his career. In the end, Henry can produce in this matchup if he gets the targets. He’s one of the guys you put in your lineup every week considering where you drafted him and knowing what he’s capable of. This is not a matchup you need to run from, either. *UPDATE* Henry has been ruled OUT for this game, as he suffered a fracture in his left knee. His replacement will be Virgil Green, who’s now been with the team for two years. He saw 27 targets last year, turning them into 19 receptions, 210 yards, and a touchdown, which is competent. If you’re in a league where tight ends are hard to come by, Green could be someone to play in a pinch.
T.J. Hockenson: What a debut by the highly-touted rookie tight end, as he finished Week 1 with the second-most points among tight ends. He saw the same number of targets as Kenny Golladay, though Hockenson did much more with them, churning out 131 yards and a touchdown. In fact, his 25.1 PPR points in his debut would’ve ranked as the 16th best game by a tight end all of last season. He’s obviously going to be a huge part of the offense, though the Chargers are not a team who’s been friendly to tight ends. They allowed a ridiculously-low 1.47 PPR points per target to tight ends last year, which ranked as the third-lowest mark in all of football. The one piece of red tape that’s been removed, however, is Derwin James, who was largely responsible for shutting down tight ends last year. He’s likely out for the season, which does increase the appeal in Hockenson’s outlook, though Adrian Phillips isn’t a slouch in that department. We can’t forget the Chargers were the seventh-best defense against tight ends in 2017 under Anthony Lynn/Gus Bradley, before James was even there. It’s not to say Hockenson can’t overcome Phillips, but the matchup is surely tougher this week. Consider him a high-end TE2 who already looks better than 99 percent of rookie tight ends.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Kirk Cousins: The stat line from Cousins’ performance in Week 1 could’ve been one from one of Patrick Mahomes‘ drives. He was efficient completing 8-of-10 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown, which is all the Vikings really ask with how good their defense is. That’s going to be a problem all year for Cousins, as the Vikings want to play rock-solid defense and run the ball effectively, which they clearly did in Week 1. The Packers will have had 10 days to prepare for this game at home, though they had the entire offseason to prepare against the Bears and they came out flat. Cousins will need the Packers to score in order for him to get the pass attempts. There were a lot of people who buried Mitch Trubisky and the Bears after their Week 1 performance (rightfully so), but what was lost in translation was the improvement of the Packers defensive unit. They added Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith to bolster the linebacking corps, while adding Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage at safety. With that being said, Cousins shouldn’t be locking his eyes onto just one target like Trubisky did, and his wide receivers should beat the Packers’ cornerbacks. Cousins should be looked at as a QB2 who has just mediocre upside with the way his defense is playing and how good their run-game looked.
Aaron Rodgers: The worst fears were realized, as Matt LaFleur seemed to bring the same offense he did in Tennessee despite the upgrade in talent. Granted, it was the Bears defense, but the Packers offense looked out of sync, including Rodgers, who had happy feet throughout the entire game. Life won’t get much easier this week when the Vikings come to town, though it does help that Rodgers is at home. Some may look at Matt Ryan‘s finishing line and think, “Hey, I’ll take 300 yards and two touchdowns,” but you wouldn’t have been happy when the fourth quarter started. The Vikings have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in just three of their last 17 games, with one of the games to Ryan last week (garbage time), one to Jared Goff (when they traveled cross-country on a short week), and the other to Carson Wentz. They aren’t traveling across the country here, Rodgers likely won’t have garbage time, and it’s a divisional game. Since Mike Zimmer took over as the Vikings coach, Rodgers has continually gotten worse against the Vikings. He’s thrown one or zero touchdowns and less than 300 yards in five of the last six meetings between the two teams, though there was one game mixed in (that was in Green Bay) where he threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns. Knowing how bad the offense looked (and Rodgers himself) in Week 1, it’s not time to bank on them “breaking out” in this game. Rodgers is just a mediocre QB2 this week, though he has played better at home throughout his career.
Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison: This duo looked like the best in football in Week 1, as they combined for a massive 160 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries against the Falcons, who were healthy on defense. The zone scheme that Gary Kubiak has installed looked flawless, as Cook knifed his way through the Falcons defense continually. The Packers refreshed front seven held the Bears running backs to just 37 scoreless yards on 11 carries, a far cry from the unit that allowed them 223 yards and two touchdowns on 53 carries in two games last year. We don’t want to overreact to one game, but to say the Packers looked much improved on defense would be an understatement. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine been better against passing offenses than rushing offenses over his coaching career, so it could’ve been just poor game-planning on Matt Nagy’s part, as there was no excuse to run the ball just 11 times in a one possession game. If you want to play devil’s advocate, Cook played two games against the worse version of this Packers defense where he totaled just 38 yards on 10 carries in the first meeting and then 29 yards on 10 carries in the second one, though Kubiak’s arrival has likely shifted things quite a bit. Place Cook in your lineup as a low-end RB1 this week, though you don’t have to be aggressive in DFS. Mattison looked fantastic, though he’s clearly a backup to Cook instead of someone who’ll get meaningful snaps. He played just 12 snaps in a game that was somewhat of a blowout.
Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams: Many were upset about the timeshare in Chicago last week, though you shouldn’t be one of them. Jones played 37 snaps while Williams tallied 24 of them, which amounts to a 60/40 split, with Jones on the good end of that. It does seem Williams is the preferred option when the Packers go pass-heavy in no-huddle, so we must pay attention to potential gamescript. The Packers have opened as a three-point favorite here, though the Vikings run defense looked ridiculously good against the Falcons, as Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith totaled 27 of their 50 yards after contact. Jones played against this Vikings defense in Week 12 last year when he toted the ball 17 times for 72 yards and a touchdown while chipping in with five catches for 21 yards through the air. It was the sixth-largest performance they allowed all season, so we’ve seen he’s capable. We saw Williams get just one carry in that game, which seems unlikely with LaFleur, so we have to temper expectations. Jones should be considered a high-end RB3 whose role can grow even more if/when Williams struggles.
Adam Thielen: He had a great matchup in Week 1, though his defense and run-game ruined what could have been a monster performance. The Packers are sticking with Tramon Williams as their slot cornerback, a 36-year-old who was a solid NFL player for a long time, but isn’t equipped to handle Thielen. He saw 51 targets in coverage last year and allowed a rather-high 125.6 QB Rating on those throws. While Stefon Diggs deals with up-and-coming cornerback Jaire Alexander, Thielen should be the favorite target of Cousins. Keep him plugged in as a WR1 who tagged the Packers for 12/131/1 and 8/125/1 in their two meetings last year. It’s clear they don’t have an answer.
Stefon Diggs: If you checked back on Saturday (when I note injuries), I updated Diggs, saying he was questionable with a hamstring injury and that he came with more risk than he typically would. The good news is that he looked fine while playing most of the game and caught both of his two targets for 37 yards. The bad news is that he’ll have to go up against Jaire Alexander this week, one of the better young cornerbacks in the league. If Diggs isn’t 100 percent, the matchup is going to be even worse. Fortunately, Diggs tagged him in shadow coverage for 8/77/1 last year, though he was healthy for that game. When right, Diggs is one of the more difficult wide receivers to cover, as he’s as shifty in his routes as they come. It’s also why he posted a much-higher 128.0 WR Rating in man coverage than the 93.8 WR Rating against zone coverage. Alexander happened to be better in zone last year, so that could be the reason Diggs was able to post WR1-type numbers. If he practices in full all week and is removed from the injury report, Diggs should be labeled as a high-end WR2. If he’s not, he becomes a risk/reward WR3.
Davante Adams: After not finishing a game with less than 16.0 PPR points in 2018, Adams busted in his first game of 2019, finishing with just four catches for 36 scoreless yards. His eight targets would’ve tied his third lowest total from last year, while the receptions and yardage were the lowest. I wouldn’t panic just yet, though LaFleur’s offense can certainly cap Adams’ upside if the play-calling doesn’t change. The good news is that he played in the slot 25 percent of the time, an uptick from the 20 percent he was there last year. The matchup this week doesn’t get any easier, as he’ll have to deal with Xavier Rhodes in coverage, the guy who just held Julio Jones to just 6/31/1 on 11 targets. Adams was able to hold his own in their two meetings last year, posting 8/64/1 and 5/69/1, though Rhodes was dealing with multiple injuries throughout the season. Still, he was responsible for two of Adams’ bottom-five yardage totals from 2018. Knowing that, as well as Rodgers’ struggles against this defense in recent years, you shouldn’t be attacking Adams in DFS this week. He’s still going to be in your redraft lineups as a low-end WR1, but keep expectations in check.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: It wasn’t a great game for any of the Packers receivers in Week 1, but Valdes-Scantling is the one who saw his value rise the most, as he’s clearly the No. 2 in the offense, playing 41 snaps and being targeted six times, while Geronimo Allison played just 30 of them and wasn’t targeted. The Vikings will have Xavier Rhodes on Adams, meaning we’ll see Trae Waynes on Valdes-Scantling. Waynes has the speed to keep up with him, unlike Prince Amukamara last week who couldn’t keep up on the deep ball that gave Valdes-Scantling much of his production. Waynes was abused in coverage by Calvin Ridley last week, though he’s a different breed of route runner than Valdes-Scantling. This game doesn’t set-up very well for the Packers pass-game and we’ve seen that with Rodgers over the last three years (one or less touchdowns in 5-of-6 games). Valdes-Scantling can be considered a top-40 wide receiver for the remainder of the season, though this isn’t a game he’s likely to finish there. He’s just a mediocre WR4 against the Vikings.
Geronimo Allison: What a disappointing debut in the LaFleur offense, as Allison trailed Marquez Valdes-Scantling in snaps 41-30 and was out-targeted six to none. Allison did play in the slot 70 percent of the time, which is what we expected, but after posting a zero in Week 1 against the Bears and Buster Skrine, it’s going to be impossible to suggest him against the Vikings, even if he does have the best matchup on the field. Their slot cornerback Mackenzie Alexander dislocated his elbow in Week 1, leaving them with Jayron Kearse to man the slot. He immediately allowed seven catches for 46 yards on nine targets in Alexander’s relief. This would’ve been a dream for Allison owners just one week ago, though it’s extremely hard to trust him as anything more than a WR4/5-type option, though he makes a lot of sense in tournaments due to the matchup.
Kyle Rudolph: We didn’t get to gather much information from Week 1 when the Vikings threw the ball just 10 times, though it’s worth noting rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. got 26 snaps to Rudolph’s 53 snaps. The Packers were among the best teams in the league at defending tight ends last year, but oddly enough, Rudolph had two of his top-four performances against them last year, compiling seven catches in each game with a combined 135 yards. It’s the same scheme for the Packers, though with new personnel. Maybe there’s something the Vikings feel they can attack with Rudolph? The only issue is the fact that Cousins threw the ball 86 times in those two games last year, something they really don’t want to be doing in 2019. Rudolph is still on the high-end TE2 radar in a game they’ll need to throw a bit more than 10 times.
Jimmy Graham: It was a tough matchup against the Bears last week, but Graham was the only Packers skill position player who finished as a decent fantasy option. He’s already totaled 50 percent of his touchdown production from last year and Rodgers showed trust in him to win a jump-ball situation. The issue this week? The Vikings allowed just three tight end touchdowns all of last year. Safety Harrison Smith is more than capable to handle Graham in this matchup, meaning Rodgers likely won’t be throwing 50/50 balls in his direction. Graham isn’t someone who’ll be racking up the yardage at this stage in his career, so you need to search for the touchdowns that could be available. There are going to be weeks to stream Graham, but this isn’t one of them.