Welcome back to my Sunday column! Each week, I’ll be here to give you some instant stat-based insight into NFL offenses. We saw some unexpected developments in the one-o’clock games this week, from the disappearance of Jordan Howard to the explosion of Robby Anderson, and I’ll map these out below.
Let’s get started!
Story #1: Marlon Mack’s injury and the Colts’ backfield.
Mack may have torn his Achilles tendon on Sunday, and if he did, that would be the end of his season. While Mack started the game as the clear lead back, the injury gave Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor a ton of opportunities. Here’s a breakdown of their carries:
Final tallies on usage in the Colts' backfield:
Mack: 7 touches (4 carries, 3 receptions)*
Hines: 15 touches (7 carries, 8 receptions)
Taylor: 15 touches (9 carries, 6 receptions)
*Mack was the clear lead back before exiting the game with an injury.
— Isaiah Sirois (@is_sirois) September 13, 2020
The game script called for plenty of passing plays, as Philip Rivers attempted 46 passes as he tried to keep up with the Jaguars. The Colts will need to keep throwing this often if they can’t pull out to bigger leads moving forward, so receiving-back Hines feels like a smart waiver-wire add week regardless of Mack’s status.
And while Jonathan Taylor looked like the third wheel before Mack went down, his injury makes Taylor the best power runner in this offense. He should post solid RB2 numbers each week, and while Hines’ passing-down role will cap his Taylor’s upside in PPR formats, he should be a reliable floor play.
Story #2: Three Falcons wideouts go for over 100 yards.
In a high-scoring game against the Seahawks, Matt Ryan threw 54 passes for 450 yards. Three different wideouts — Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Russell Gage — hauled in nine receptions each, and all of them totaled over 100 yards. Ryan targeted the three of them equally, as each earned 12 targets.
While that level of production is par for the course with Ridley and Jones, it’s a bit surprising to see Gage get that many points. The slot wideout had never caught nine passes in a game before, and he had never gone over 100 yards. He’s worth a waiver add in PPR leagues.
The flip side of this story is that tight end Hayden Hurst disappointed. Despite the high number of passing attempts, he only caught three passes for 38 yards on five targets. He might just need some time to get acquainted with Ryan, but his usage is something to monitor.
Story #3: Robby Anderson explodes for Carolina.
Anderson caught six passes for 115 yards and a score on Sunday, and he led the Panthers in receiving yards by a big margin. D.J. Moore only caught four passes for 54 yards, while Curtis Samuel caught five passes for 54 yards. That said, 65 percent of Anderson’s yards came on a single play.
📺: CBS pic.twitter.com/QqePG4nkMt
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) September 13, 2020
Don’t overreact to this one. Anderson is still the same boom-or-bust receiver that he was in New York. Targets are the best indication of fantasy value, and Moore led the team with nine, while both Anderson and Samuel logged eight. Moore’s disappointing fantasy day would’ve looked a lot better if he hadn’t dropped a late-game touchdown pass.
The skinny? Moore drafters, don’t panic. Anderson drafters should sell high because you won’t get this kind of production every week.
Story #4: Dallas Goedert out-produces Zach Ertz.
While Ertz fights with the Philadelphia front office for a new contract, TE2 Goedert made him look expendable on Sunday. I mean no slight to Ertz, as the three-time Pro Bowler has been one of the league’s best tight ends. I mean it purely to highlight how good Goedert looked.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 13, 2020
He caught eight of his nine targets in the game. In contrast, Ertz caught just three of seven. Goedert was the lone bright spot in an otherwise disappointing game for the Eagles, and they’ll have to get a lot better on offense if they want to compete this year.
If Goedert is on waivers, add him; if he’s not, consider trading for him. I compared him to 2019 Darren Waller in the offseason, and I’ll stand by that comparison even with Ertz still in Philly.
Meanwhile, Ertz is a real-life trade candidate this year. His drafters can rest assured that the lack of other receiving options in Philadelphia gives him a stable floor, but his contract situation is definitely one to follow.
Story #5: Logan Thomas and Peyton Barber impress for Washington.
Just like Terry McLaurin headlined Week 1 waiver-wire articles last year, Thomas and Barber should be popular pick-ups this year. Thomas led Washington in targets with eight, one more than McLaurin, and he scored a touchdown. Barber earned 17 carries and scored twice.
Thomas was a lot more effective than Barber with his touches, however, as the tight end averaged 9.3 yards per touch to Barber’s 1.7. I believe that he’s the smarter add, as Washington won’t always be able to just ground-and-pound with Barber, and Dwayne Haskins will need to throw to more than just McClaurin in passing situations.
While I can’t recommend starting Barber next week, I must say that Thomas has the looks of a viable streaming option at tight end. He even earned some comparison to Darren Waller in the offseason.
Story #6: Kareem Hunt out-touches Nick Chubb.
This development is going to get blown out of proportion, so I’ll try to get ahead of the spin here. The Browns played most of Sunday’s game from behind, so it makes perfect sense that passing-down back Hunt earned 17 touches to Chubb’s 11. Chubb owners should not be that worried, as the Browns won’t get blown out every week.
Also, Chubb looked good when he touched the ball. He earned an 11-yard gain on the first play of the game, and he added a 29-yard run later in the first half.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 13, 2020
Chubb’s 6.0 YPC is excellent, and it was better than Hunt’s 5.5 YPC. As long as the Browns’ defense can keep them in games against worse opponents, Chubb should continue to be a low-end RB1.
Story #7: Stefon Diggs and John Brown: WR1A/1B?
In the offseason, I had Diggs penciled in for most of Brown’s workload in Buffalo. The two are similar receivers, as they both use their impressive speed to be long-range weapons for Josh Allen. It seems that diagnosis was premature, as Brown out-targeted Diggs ten-to-nine.
If Week 1’s game against the Jets is a sign of thing to come, both receivers should receive relatively equal usage moving forward. Cornerback matchups may cause Allen to target one more than the other, but it doesn’t yet look like he has a preferred option yet.
You can consider Brown and Diggs as low-end WR2s/high-end WR3s moving forward. Their speed gives them some long touchdown-based upside, but I don’t think there’s enough volume to go around in Buffalo to project them as anything more.
Story #8: Myles Gaskin out-produces Jordan Howard for Miami.
As a Howard truther, this is not a story I wanted to write. The Patriots shut Howard down on Sunday — the running back earned just seven yards on eight carries. In contrast, Gaskin earned 40 yards on nine carries, while Matt Breida earned 22 on five. Gaskin also added 26 yards on four receptions.
Thankfully for those who started him, Howard saved his fantasy day with a one-yard touchdown run.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) September 13, 2020
I don’t think that anyone expected Gaskin to be Miami’s most productive back in Week 1 after they paid Howard and traded for Breida, but that’s where we are. However, New England’s defense looked surprisingly good against Miami despite the offseason departures and opt-outs, so it could’ve been a matchup problem.
Howard and Breida owners shouldn’t overreact and drop their guys. They should definitely leave them on the bench for now, but I want to see what they can do against Buffalo and Jacksonville before I make a decision. Oh, and don’t add Gaskin off waivers. Miami will try to make things work with one of these two guys before they turn the ball over to him.
Story #9: James Robinson looks great in Jacksonville.
What was the biggest surprise of Week 1? In my opinion, it has to be the Jaguars’ upset over the Colts. Weeks after trading away three of their best players, Robinson and Gardner Minshew took down a divisional rival. Nice.
Minshew looked great, but we saw him play last year, so he’s not the story here. Instead, that honor goes to undrafted rookie James Robinson, who totaled 90 yards on 17 touches. He vastly out-touched fellow running back Chris Thompson (2), and Laviska Shenault was the only other skill-position player to log any carries.
Robinson was a must-add on waivers this week, so you probably can’t get him anymore. That said, I wouldn’t add him, as the Jaguars can’t possibly keep this up. They could easily get blown out next week against the Titans, and that would limit the number of times that Robinson touches the ball. Value Robinson as a mid-tier RB3 for now, and remember that Ryquell Armstead’s eventual return could limit his value down the line.
Story #10: J.K. Dobbins scores two touchdowns.
Dobbins’ massive fantasy day may lead some to conclude that he’s already beaten out Mark Ingram in this backfield. I don’t think that’s true, as Ingram out-touched the rookie 10-to-7. Neither player earned any passing-game work or ran for over 30 yards.
The Dobbins owner in your league will almost certainly start him next week. That’s a mistake. The Ravens have a three-headed committee, and Lamar Jackson’s presence ensures that some of the touchdowns will get vultured in the future.
While we can appreciate how good Dobbins looked in Week 1, I just can’t get behind him as an RB2 — yet. You should leave him on your bench for Week 2’s game against the Texans.
Story #11: Is Adrian Peterson the leader of Detroit’s backfield?
Peterson led the team in carries on Sunday with 14. He doubled Kerryon Johnson’s seven carries, and Peterson logged 11 more than D’Andre Swift. Both Peterson and Swift caught three passes, while Johnson was uninvolved in the passing game.
The veteran was also the most efficient back today. His 6.6 YPC was better considerably better than what Johnson (4.6 YPC) and Swift (2.7 YPC) put together. Although Swift scored the only rushing touchdown of the day, he also dropped a game-winning pass in the end zone.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 13, 2020
The Lions got out to a big lead (which they then blew), and that would usually skew the numbers in favor of the backups, but the Lions didn’t deviate much from their game plan even when up big. The continued to pass frequently with Stafford, so it’s not like Peterson’s just numbers got bloated by running plays meant to drain the clock.
Peterson looked good early, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lions play the hot hand, and it’ll be hard for Peterson to stay in control of a three-man committee. If you have him, consider selling high after Week 1.
Story #12: Aaron Rodgers isn’t washed up.
Tons of analysts faded Rodgers in the offseason, but at least for now, it looks like they’re wrong. While Green Bay’s decision to draft Jordan Love means that Rodgers’ days are numbered in Wisconsin, they’ll still have to lean on the franchise quarterback. He threw 44 times in Week 1 and completed 32 of his passes for 364 yards and four scores.
Davante Adams did most of Rodgers’ dirty work. The veteran wideout caught 14 of his 17 targets, and while Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard added touchdowns, neither of them earned even half of Adams’ looks. Tight end Jace Sternberger also failed to record a catch.
Continue to start Rodgers each week. If he can still pop off four-touchdown games, then he’s too good to leave on the bench.
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