Target Analysis: Week 1 (2020 Fantasy Football)
We’ve seen it time and time again. Volume is the clearest indicator of fantasy success, as it’s rare for a player to be a fantasy football stud without the opportunity to convert touches into points. Pass-catching opportunities, especially in PPR leagues, are often a more significant determinant of fantasy success than the talent of a player or his circumstances.
So, every week of this fantasy season, I will diagnose the target landscape in the NFL. Who’s seeing the highest share on a team? Who’s trending downward? And most importantly, what takeaways can we draw from this data to ultimately help you make better fantasy lineup and roster decisions?
Here is your Week 1 Target Analysis.
Despite all of the concern around the fantasy community that DeAndre Hopkins couldn’t possibly live up to his 150+ target output from his days in Houston, the Arizona Cardinals fed their No. 1 wide receiver as if he had cost more than a second-round pick. Hopkins received a whopping 16 targets from Kyler Murray, more than three times the amount of any other pass-catcher on the day. Despite the difficult matchup versus San Francisco’s secondary, Hopkins proved to be a target monster. The other surprise was the running back split, as Chase Edmonds out-targeted Kenyan Drake; while this isn’t likely the norm, these two backs could see relatively even work in the receiving game going forward.
If there was any doubt before, it is all but gone now. Hopkins is a clear-cut WR1 and will receive plenty of volume. Unfortunately for those who thought Kirk could have a breakout year with Hopkins receiving bracket coverage, there simply aren’t enough passes to go around. Kirk and Fitzgerald will be spot-starts until Kirk starts to win his matchups and demand a larger target share consistently. Edmonds’ proclivity in the receiving game makes him a viable desperation play each week, while Drake’s lower target total than expected limits his upside to that of an RB2.
Who’s the No. 1 wideout in Atlanta? While the answer is still Julio Jones, you couldn’t tell by the stat sheet. The top three wide receivers on this team all received 12 targets and went over 100 receiving yards, with only Calvin Ridley finding those targets leading him to multiple scores. While I highly doubt this even distribution persists week-in and week-out, it demonstrates that all of these receivers possess fantasy relevance and have double-digit target upside. While Hayden Hurst underwhelmed with just five targets, I wouldn’t condemn him yet; the Seattle cornerbacks were an easier matchup than the linebackers and safeties. Todd Gurley, while having success on the ground, managed five targets in his first start for the Falcons.
The massive volume from Atlanta and heavy target distribution to the wide receiving core tell me Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley can BOTH finish as WR1s. While we expected this from Jones, it is nice to see some early affirmation to those that predicted Ridley would be this year’s Chris Godwin. Gage’s usage seems to be an outlier, but he’s certainly worth keeping on your bench to see if his production continues. Hurst still has TE1 potential in this offense, but he’s going to be the No. 3 target on this offense at best; he’ll have some boom weeks, but consistency is far from promising. Gurley’s usage is promising given his injury concerns, but he’s unlikely to return to his 2018 form.
|Willie Snead V||4|
The Ravens are back and are still the dominant rushing attack we all know and love. The only trustworthy pass-catchers in this offense are Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown, who were tied for the team lead in targets with six apiece. Still, the total may be skewed downward given this game was firmly in Baltimore’s control before half-time. The other ancillary pieces, such as Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay, did not do much to impress in their season opener.
Mark Andrews, who played considerably more snaps than he did last season, looks again to be in that elite tier of tight ends, while Marquise Brown can take the next step and become a mid-WR2. Brown has that deep-play ability, but given the Ravens’ rushing dominance, it’s unlikely he will ever provide the necessary volume to be consistent every week. Interestingly, both of the Ravens running backs, Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, did not log a single target. As long as both runners remain in a time-share, they’ll be touchdown-dependent options to put in your lineup.
Josh Allen seems to have taken the next step as a passer, completing over 70 percent of his passes and throwing two touchdowns in his first 300-yard passing game. With Allen’s progression as an NFL quarterback comes increased fantasy viability for his wideouts. John Brown led the Bills in targets this week with ten total looks, followed closely by new arrival Stefon Diggs with nine. While many expected Diggs to be a target hog in this offense, it appears the split between both Brown and Diggs will be closer than we thought. Cole Beasley and Devin Singletary added seven targets of their own. At the same time, third-round draft pick Zack Moss had four pass-catching opportunities, including a red-zone target that he converted into a score.
Diggs will be an every-week start given his talent and potential volume, but I would pump the brakes on John Brown right now. Brown is undoubtedly one of the most underrated receivers in the league, but this team faced one of the worst secondaries this past week. While they do get Miami next week, they’ll have tougher matchups coming up with the Rams, Titans, and Chiefs in three of the next five weeks. The runners in Buffalo seem to split the work relatively evenly, with Singletary edging out Moss in pass-catching work in Week 1. I would expect each runner to have enough receiving upside to make them viable FLEX plays weekly, but they remain touchdown-dependent given their near 50-50 split in touches.
Teddy Bridgewater’s first start in Carolina ended up with a pretty even target distribution amongst his wideouts. D.J. Moore led the team with nine targets, while Curtis Samuel and Robby Anderson had eight targets apiece. I still contend Moore will end up being the most-targeted receiver in this offense by a large margin, while Samuel and Anderson alternate fantasy relevant weeks. Nonetheless, the high passing volume by this Panthers offense is promising. The biggest surprise by far was Christian McCaffery only seeing four targets; although that’s low for McCaffery’s standards, it’s still a solid output given how the Raiders were getting beat deep.
Moore was projected to build upon his 2019 breakout, and that’s still a possibility given the volume he’s seeing and how bad the Carolina defense looks to be. Samuel and Anderson are viable FLEX plays, but it will be challenging to project week-to-week. Aside from those options and Christian McCaffery (who will be fine), there aren’t many more notable options.
Allen Robinson is once again building on his dominance from 2019, having led the Bears in targets with nine in Week 1. New addition Jimmy Graham surprisingly saw seven targets, while slot receiver Anthony Miller trailed him by one pass-catching opportunity. In the running back room, David Montgomery saw more targets than Tarik Cohen, despite the latter being one of the better scat-backs in the NFL.
It’s difficult to trust the Chicago passing attack, but at least we can be comfortable in Allen Robinson seeing heavy volume for a second consecutive year. I would not overreact to Jimmy Graham’s Week 1 target output, but it’s nice to see Graham will have some streaming viability for those that punted the position this year. Anthony Miller will have FLEX-appeal, but it will be difficult to trust him with Robinson seeing most of the looks in this offense. While Montgomery’s three targets don’t provide him with any more upside than expected, Cohen’s two targets are gravely concerning given he had over 100 targets last season. I wouldn’t drop him yet, but I don’t blame you if you did.
Welcome back A.J. Green! Green returned to live game action for the first time since 2018 and led the Bengals in targets with nine total looks. Four other Bengal pass-catchers were tied for second with five total targets. Tyler Boyd disappointed given many had him pegged as a viable WR2, but given the talent of the Chargers secondary, I wouldn’t fret too much about his underwhelming involvement. The player I would worry about is Joe Mixon, who only caught one of his two targets.
A.J. Green was always expected to be the No. 1 wideout so long as he is healthy, so the nine targets aren’t surprising in the least. He has WR1 upside, but we will have to wait and see how Joe Burrow develops before assuming that Green can return to fantasy dominance. Boyd is still a reliable WR3 option and will bounce back against a more porous Cleveland secondary this Thursday Night. Again, the coaching staff favoring Bernard over Mixon is slightly concerning, but let’s give it another week before dooming Mixon’s fantasy upside.
|Odell Beckham Jr.||10|
How do you get ten targets in a blowout loss and only catch three of them? Well, ask Odell Beckham and Baker Mayfield. While OBJ received the necessary volume we all expected, his receiving output was abysmal, so don’t let the high number of looks detract from his performance. Jarvis Landry corralled five of his six targets and was the leading receiver on the day, which is a positive sign given he was expected to be on a pitch count. Newly-extended Kareem Hunt returned to his prominence as the Browns’ pass-catching running back, seeing six total targets and once again out-scoring his counterpart Nick Chubb in fantasy.
Beckham is reluctantly still a WR2 in fantasy, but it’ll be tough for fantasy managers to feel comfortable putting him in their lineup. He should have an easier matchup versus Cincinnati this Thursday, but if he can’t convert his volume into fantasy production for a second consecutive week, I will fade him entirely. Landry and Hunt will once again be high-floor, low-ceiling options in PPR, so you should feel confident putting them in your lineup if you want 10-12 PPR points. However, if you drafted Austin Hooper to be your TE1 this season, you may be in some trouble. Consider pivoting if you can, as his outlook as a pass-catcher in Cleveland looks bleak despite David Njoku’s recent injury.
For those who faded Amari Cooper this week because of his matchup versus the $100-million-man, Jalen Ramsey, I am sorry for the 28.1 PPR points you left on your bench. Cooper saw 14 targets on Sunday night, more than doubling the next most-targeted receiver. CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup saw nearly the same amount of targets, so we will need to wait a while longer to see who wins the WR2 job in this offense. Ezekiel Elliot’s involvement in the passing game was also a pleasant surprise, as he converted three of his four targets into 31 yards and a touchdown.
While Amari Cooper’s target output was great to see, we can’t forget his fantasy volatility after one game. This Cowboys team has many options on offense, so the ball could be spread around much more evenly in the coming weeks. Gallup and Lamb will both have fantasy relevant weeks and can be started in deeper leagues. With Blake Jarwin’s unfortunate season-ending injury, we can expect all receivers to see a slight uptick in volume. His backup, Dalton Schultz, does not provide any upside for fantasy managers.
With Courtland Sutton missing the Broncos’ home opener with an A.C. joint injury, Jerry Jeudy stepped right in and became the primary beneficiary of Sutton’s absence. Jeudy saw eight targets and made some splash plays with his opportunity; it’s doubtful Jeudy will sustain such a high volume once Sutton returns to the lineup, but it was nice to see how the rookie fared with his increased usage. Noah Fant had a breakout performance in Week 1, catching five of his six targets for 81 yards and a score; he appeared to be the safety blanket for Lock. Without Phillip Lindsay, Melvin Gordon saw a bulk of the running back touches and managed to catch all three of his targets for a pedestrian eight yards.
Even though Jeudy is likely to see less opportunity once Sutton returns, he’s a viable FLEX-play in deeper leagues. He has the athleticism and big-play ability to make the most of his targets. Fant’s performance is reminiscent of Darren Waller’s breakout a year ago, as the second-year player averaged over 16 yards per catch and shook off tackles with ease. He’s locked and loaded as a top-twelve tight end this season if he can continue this pace. If Lindsay misses any significant time, Gordon will see a slight boost in his ceiling, as he’ll have little competition for those running back targets
We all knew Quintez Cephus was going to lead the Detroit Lions in targets this week, right? I mean, who else would it be? Kidding aside, the rookie became a reliable option for Matt Stafford and saw the most volume on the day, followed closely by Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. With Kenny Golladay missing in action, this target distribution is bound to be skewed, but the top-two wideouts in this offense should see enough volume to make them both quality starts week-in and week-out. Rookie second-round pick D’Andre Swift did see a decent amount of receiving work in his first NFL game, but his crucial 4th quarter drop in the end zone will be all that’s remembered.
If Golladay is out for an extended period, Marvin Jones will have WR1 upside, and Quintez Cephus will be an intriguing deep option in case of an emergency. However, once Golladay returns, I expect him and Jones to dominate in target share. With Swift’s crucial drop last week, I would be hesitant to start him any time soon in shallow leagues. You know Matt Patricia would be just giddy to give Adrian Peterson 25 touches per game.
Green Bay Packers
Remember, we all joked that the Packers would have to throw every ball to Davante Adams since they failed to pick up another starting wideout this offseason. Well, they took us seriously! Adams was targeted a league-high 17 times in Week 1, showcasing his potential for the highest-scoring fantasy wideout on the season. Meanwhile, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Aaron Jones saw six targets apiece, while Allen Lazard and Jamaal Williams saw four targets. While many predicted Lazard would slot in as the WR2 for this offense, Aaron Jones may end up with the second-most targets on this team when all is said and done.
Don’t expect 17 targets to be the standard for Adams, but his weekly total won’t be far from it. Adams could be this year’s Michael Thomas and break records in terms of single-season targets. Valdes-Scantling and Lazard will be a gamble each week to put into your lineup, but if Rodgers keeps playing as he did on Sunday, they each have a chance to provide some boom weeks. While many (including myself) believed Aaron Jones would suffer in terms of fantasy production this season due to touchdown regression, he may very well make up for it in receptions if he can keep up his pace from Sunday.
Someone had to fill DeAndre Hopkins’ 150-target void, and it looks like the primary beneficiary will be Will Fuller. While Fuller wasn’t able to get open deep down the field, he more than doubled the number of targets of the next highest player on the team and became a safety blanket for Deshaun Watson. Brandin Cooks, despite being a game-time decision for this week’s matchup, still saw five targets and caught two balls for 20 yards. David Johnson was next on the list, catching three of his four targets from Watson and averaging over eight yards per target. Meanwhile, Randall Cobb and Duke Johnson saw next to no volume despite the game script demanding short-passes.
We all expected a high-ceiling from Will Fuller, but the floor was supposed to be low. However, it’s great to see that he can become a high volume wideout and provide consistency week-to-week. It remains to be seen whether he’ll continue to be fed in this offense as the de facto No. 1 wide receiver, but Watson’s reliance on him makes Fuller a weekly FLEX play. Cooks, on the other hand, saw little work; this may be because of his recent injury, but you’d have to be desperate to start Cooks next week against Baltimore. The other safety blanket in this offense seems to be the dual-threat David Johnson, who could provide a concrete floor if he’s continued to be utilized out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. With the Texans likely to be in another malicious game script next week, we could see a similar target distribution play out.
In Philip Rivers’ first start in Indianapolis, Rivers had 46 passing attempts and sent 17 percent of them Nyheim Hines’ way. Fans expected Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor to split most of the running back touches, but Hines surprised nearly everyone as he was heavily involved and became a PPR stud. T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell were tied for the team lead in targets with nine each, while second-round pick Taylor had six targets of his own. Jack Doyle, whose position Rivers has tended to favor throughout his career, only saw four targets in this matchup.
Hilton will have weekly fantasy upside as the deep threat in this offense, while Campbell and Hines are high-floor PPR options you can trust will receive a heavy dose of volume from Rivers. While Marlon Mack only had three targets, his absence will only give Taylor and Hines more upside as the season progresses. I wouldn’t bail on Doyle as a streamer just yet, but it’s discouraging to see how underutilized he was in this scheme.
I know this is a target article, but can we just appreciate Garnder Minshew for a second. He went 19/20 for 173 yards and three touchdowns in a game where his team was a heavy underdog; whether the Jaguars like it or not, he’s a good quarterback. Nonetheless, he knows how to spread the ball around. No player on this team saw more than five targets, with Keenan Cole ending up with the most on the week. I don’t expect this to continue, as D.J. Chark is amazing, Laviska Shenault is a swiss-army knife on offense, and Chris Thompson is a veteran scat-back. Still, I would have expected higher passing volume from a team projected to finish with the worst record in the NFL.
Their respective touchdown catches saved Chark and Shenault’s fantasy days, but I wouldn’t be too concerned about their prognosis going forward. Chark is still a weekly start at WR2, and Shenault has FLEX appeal weekly. Thompson may have out-targeted James Robinson on the day, but neither runner was utilized in the passing game. Robinson is fantasy viable given his work on the ground, but if Thompson doesn’t see more work in upcoming negative game scripts, he will certainly be a draft bust.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Super Bowl champions once again looked like a high octane offense, but the target distribution was vastly different than we suspected. Week 1 hero Sammy Watkins outpaced all Chiefs with nine targets and 21.2 PPR points, while Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill saw a decent six targets apiece. The real surprise was the Chiefs expected No. 3 wideout, Mecole Hardman, only saw one target to Demarcus Robinson’s six looks. Meanwhile, the avid pass-catching rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was held catchless off of only two targets.
We’ve seen the Sammy Watkins flash in the pan before (nearly one year ago, to be exact); after seeing 24 targets through the first two weeks of the 2019 season, Watkins only managed 66 targets through the remaining 14 games. Let’s pump the brakes before overreacting. The same goes for Edwards-Helaire, whose two lone targets were more of a product of game script than anything else. With this being his first game and him having a pedigree in college for pass-catching, I’d expect heavier involvement down the road. The real takeaway is Hardman, who only saw one target on 28 percent of the snaps; if you drafted him as a FLEX piece, you might need an injury or miracle to insert him into your lineup with any confidence.
Las Vegas Raiders
Darren Waller picked up where he left off last season, leading the team in targets and putting up a decent fantasy performance. However, the most significant development is Josh Jacobs seeing six targets. After an offseason in which many speculated receiving backs like Jalen Richard and Devontae Booker would siphon away all of his upside, Jacobs quelled his detractors and became a major factor in the passing game. Meanwhile, rookie Henry Ruggs made quite the impression with five targets and several spectacular plays in his first start for Las Vegas.
Waller’s eight targets are promising, especially since many believed the addition of Ruggs and Edwards would cause Waller to be the forgotten man in this offense. If you drafted him as your TE1, you’ll keep him out there. As I mentioned, Jacobs targets help his RB1 campaign, but let’s hope his usage in the receiving game continues against the Saints in Week 2. Ruggs could be a solid FLEX play in the coming weeks, but he’ll have a much harder time seeing success versus the likes of Marshon Lattimore.
Los Angeles Chargers
Tyrod Taylor must have lost to Austin Ekeler in his fantasy championship last year because he will not throw one of the most dynamic receiving backs in the game more than one pass. While everyone is panicking that they wasted a draft pick on last year’s RB4, I’m confident he will see more targets as the Chargers face tougher competition in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and Hunter Henry all thrived with 8+ targets apiece and impressive fantasy performances.
Despite the impressive performance by the Los Angeles pass-catchers, I am bearish on their outlook in the coming weeks. Taylor is historically a low-volume passer, and it is unlikely he will be able to support three different pass-catchers. If I had to guess, Mike Williams would be the odd man out. Meanwhile, if Ekeler does not get more than one target next week, I may start to panic.
Los Angeles Rams
Robert Woods is really good at football. Not only did he lead his team in targets, but he had a 75 percent catch rate and went over 100 yards receiving. Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee were successfully able to co-exist despite the worries about the change in personnel, but neither did anything remarkable with their opportunities.
Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee should still be in your lineup every week despite the performance of the latter two. These three will likely alternate fantasy boom games, with Woods being the most consistent; still, they will all receive their fair share of targets. Outside of the top-three on this offense, no one else is quite relevant as a pass-catcher (and no, I am not buying into Malcolm Brown’s reception total).
When going against Bill Belichick, your offensive performance is likely to be suboptimal. I am not going to read too much into DeVante Parker’s four target performance, especially when he was matched up against last year’s defensive player of the year for the entire game. However, with his apparent hamstring injury, he may miss some time. Preston Williams recovering from his 2019 injury and seeing seven targets is an excellent sign for his improvement. Matt Breida was nowhere to be found despite his assumed role as the team’s scatback.
With Parker possibly out, Preston Williams will likely lead the Dolphins in targets once again. Still, he’d face one of the best young cornerbacks in the game, Tre White. Given the brutal schedule ahead for Miami, it’ll be difficult to project how these pass-catchers will fare. I wouldn’t feel confident about starting any Dolphin.
If you were concerned about how Adam Thielen would fare with the departure of his long-time teammate Stefon Diggs, you have to feel much better now. Thielen converted his eight targets into six receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Thielen is the clear-cut first option in this offense and can finish as a WR1 this season. Meanwhile, the remaining options saw four targets or less, with Dalvin Cook putting up a measly one catch for negative two yards off of two targets.
Unless you are in deep dynasty leagues, the only pass-catcher on this offense you should feel comfortable starting Thielen. Justin Jefferson still needs time to develop, and Bisi Johnson has minimal upside. Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith seem to cannibalize each other’s value at the tight end position, so neither are in the streaming category. I wouldn’t worry too much regarding Cook’s lack of targets, but it’s worth watching to see how much time he splits with Alexander Mattison.
New England Patriots
This ain’t Tom Brady’s offense. Cam Newton had the same amount of carries as he had completions, and he passed the ball less than 20 times. 65 percent of Newton’s targets went to his two starting wideouts, the veteran slot receiver Julian Edelman and the promising second-year receiver N’Keal Harry. Nonetheless, this offense will not have enough passing volume to sustain any fantasy player for the long-term.
Julian Edelman is startable, but that’s as far as I will go for this team. This is not the New England Patriots of old; they are a power-run team that will win low-scoring games. Start Edelman if you dare, but every other pass-catcher on this team is a risk.
New Orleans Saints
The extent of Michael Thomas’ injury will widely affect this target distribution, but we can examine the data we have. Thomas was shut down for the most part on Sunday, only seeing five targets and disappointing fantasy owners everywhere. Alvin Kamara was heavily utilized on screens and dump-offs versus a tough Buccaneers pass rush, while Jared Cook could get loose over the middle of the field and corral seven targets.
With Michael Thomas’s injury keeping him sidelined for the next several weeks, everyone in this offense will see a nice target boost. Emmanuel Sanders will benefit the most, making him a great start as Drew Brees’ No. 1 option. Kamara will continue to see more dump-offs on screens and short throws, while Jared Cook’s red zone utilization is ultimately increased.
New York Giants
Given the Giants failed to top 30 rushing yards or 1.5 yards per carry against Pittsburgh on Monday Night, they were forced to try to attack one of the best secondaries in the NFL through the air, culminating in 41 attempts for Daniel Jones. Darius Slayton and Saquon Barkley led the way with nine targets each, becoming favorites of Daniel Jones early on. Evan Engram was targeted seven times, but only caught two balls for nine yards; Shepard caught all six of his targets and averaged nearly eight yards per reception.
Golden Tate’s absence skews this target distribution slightly, but it is clear that Slayton is continuing to build off of his hot finish from last season. He’s edging out Shepard as the WR1 in this offense and showcasing big play ability. Barkley was ineffective on the ground, but this team knows they have to get him the ball no matter what, so the star running back will still provide a concrete floor even on his bad days. Engram’s target share was impressive, but the lack of production combined with his health concerns is frightening. He deserves another start, but don’t be afraid to pivot if he fails to produce yet again. You can feel comfortable about putting Slayton into your starting lineup as a WR3 with WR2 upside, but he’s the only Giant wideout that I am willing to throw out there.
New York Jets
Man, this offense was tough to watch. Still, it looks like Jamison Crowder will presume his status as a target monster. Crowder converted seven of his 13 looks into 115 yards and a touchdown, leading all other Jets receivers in catches, yards, and touchdowns. Herndon was serviceable as a streaming option, catching six of his seven targets for 37 yards. All other receiving options for New York were disappointing.
You can feel comfortable starting Crowder as a high-floor option, as he’ll see enough volume to provide a 10-point floor in PPR. Still, I would avoid everyone else on the Jets. With Bell being placed on I.R. due to his hamstring injury, this offense will continue to look atrocious against San Francisco’s defense next week.
In a game script not many of us saw coming, the Eagles had to come from behind as Washington took the lead in the fourth quarter. Dallas Goedert led Philadelphia in targets, converting eight of his nine looks into 101 yards and a score. Meanwhile, Desean Jackson, Zach Ertz, and Greg Ward were tied for second on the team with seven targets apiece. The rookie Jalen Reagor didn’t do much outside of one catch for 55 yards.
Dallas Goedert has entered the conversation as a potential breakout at tight end, especially since he out-targeted and out-paced his running mate Zach Ertz. He’s a must-start in the tight end spot unless you drafted Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or Mark Andrews. Although Goedert did have a great day, Ertz is still this team’s TE1 and should be treated as an elite option at the position until Goedert strings together a few more performances like he did on Sunday. Jackson was projected to have a great day, but Wentz missed him on five of his seven targets; he’ll have weekly FLEX appeal as the deep threat in this offense. We will see how the targets shake out once Miles Sanders returns from his injury and if any running back can command more than two targets.
Despite an early fumble and some unfortunate drops, Diontae Johnson delivered on the hype that he had garnered all offseason. He was the favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger, seeing double-digit targets and looking like the perfect compliment to Smith-Schuster. This game wasn’t great for him fantasy-wise, but the usage was extremely promising. Smith-Schuster returned to form with Big Ben back in the lineup, leading the team in yards and catching two touchdowns on the night. The big storyline from this game is James Conner, who saw a great deal of usage until suffering (another) injury. If he’s healthy, he’ll be heavily involved; the key question is, do you risk putting him in your lineup?
Smith-Schuster looks to be a solid WR2 with WR1 upside, as he’s back to the status quo with Roethlisberger under center. Johnson is a solid WR3 with WR2 upside; as he develops more rapport with his quarterback, we are bound to see some blow-up games. The other pass-catchers on this offense will be very hit or miss, as Washington, Claypool, and Ebron will all look to thrive off of whatever remains after Smith-Schuster and Johnson get their touches.
San Francisco 49ers
We need Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel back. With the two young wideouts missing in action, Jimmy Garoppolo decided everyone deserved an equal amount of targets. Five different players had five targets on Sunday, with Tevin Coleman being the odd man out with two targets. While Kittle did miss some time during the game, it’s strange he didn’t command more looks in a very favorable matchup for him. Nonetheless, Garoppolo tends to spread the ball around and will continue to do so in this scheme.
I am positive Kittle will bounce back and should see better days ahead. His 2020 campaign started rough, but he still can beat out Travis Kelce for the TE1 spot. Mostert’s involvement in the receiving game is a good sign for his chances of being a high RB2, as it was assumed McKinnon would siphon most of the receiving duties in this backfield. Until Aiyuk and Samuel return from injury, Kittle, Mostert, and McKinnon are the only 49ers I would be comfortable starting.
Russell Wilson’s stellar performance against Atlanta put him in the early MVP conversation and made those with shares in him very happy. His main receiving options, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, saw eight targets each while no other wideout topped three targets. Chris Carson saw six targets against a team notorious for allowing uncontested catches by the running back, and the veteran Greg Olsen out-targeted his other tight end teammates with a four target performance.
Seattle finally unleashed Mr. Unlimited, but I need to see more before believing this team has finally learned their lesson. If Wilson has finally gained command of this offense, both Lockett and Metcalf will have high WR2 upside; if they revert to their run-centric approach, it’s unlikely they will both have great games in any given week. I am not buying Carson’s usage as a pass-catcher, as Atlanta simply does not care if the running back catches the ball. If he maintains this pace, Carson could easily become a top-twelve running back for fantasy; still, given his snap percentage and the outstanding matchup, I’m not confident it continues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady’s first game was a bit of an oddity, as Mike Evans was hobbled all game and facing one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Lattimore. Nonetheless, Brady spread out his passes relatively evenly, with Godwin barely edging out Scotty Miller and O.J. Howard for the team lead in targets. While a healthy Evans and Godwin are bound to see more usage down the road, don’t expect them to be volume monsters like they had been with Jameis Winston. Tom Brady’s going to spread the ball around, so Evans and Godwin are not going to have the elite upside that they once did.
So long as they are healthy, you are starting Godwin and Evans every single week. They may not top 10 targets in any given game, but they’ll be reliable when Brady develops more rapport with his team. Miller is an interesting option for a spot-start, but I am inclined to think his increased usage was due to Evans’ health more than anything else. Nonetheless, he’s worth a bench spot until we can figure it out. Howard and Gronkowski will likely be neck-and-neck in targets for most of the season, with their main fantasy appeal coming from their touchdown upside. And until the backfield situation settles itself out, Jones and Fournette are risky options to put in your lineup.
Do not panic, A.J. Brown supporters; the 2019 rookie sensation will be just fine going forward. Despite only posting five catches for 39 yards, Brown was tied for the team lead in targets and nearly salvaged his fantasy day with an end-zone target at the end of the fourth quarter. While the target distribution was relatively even for the final game of the Week 1 slate, Brown will undoubtedly be the predominant focus in the passing attack going forward. As for Corey Davis, I believe his eight targets are nothing more than fool’s gold, as he is the AFC South’s Sammy Watkins. Let’s pump the brakes before calling for his fourth-year breakout.
Again, I am not going to put too much stock in this game from a target perspective. I doubt we see a similar distribution of pass-catching opportunities as we move forward in the season. Even Henry’s three targets are more of a byproduct of Darrynton Evans’ injury than his increased utilization in the passing game. The only conclusion I feel confident drawing from this game is that Jonnu Smith will be a relatively safe start as your TE1 going forward, as he was heavily utilized in various formations.
Washington Football Team
|Steven Sims Jr.||3|
You knew a football team was going to win in Week 1, but you just didn’t think it would be THE Football Team (sorry, I couldn’t help myself. At least you are at the end of the article). Dwayne Haskins had a solid outing versus the Philadelphia Eagles, targeting tight end Logan Thomas eight times and second-year potential breakout Terry McLaurin seven times. Meanwhile, rookie Antonio Gibson failed to get much work through the air, as J.D. McKissic was favored as the scat-back in Week 1.
Although Thomas did end up leading Washington in targets, I expect McLaurin to be the de facto No. 1 receiving option as the season progresses. Thomas is nothing more than a streamer until we see a few more games under his belt. Although McLaurin didn’t have a fantastic fantasy day, he should see stable volume and be a great WR2 to put in your lineup. I also expect Gibson to get more touches through the air, as he’s still learning the system and had a massive workload thrust upon him with the release of Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson. Given he was sniped at the goal-line by Peyton Barber twice, this may be a great time to buy Gibson low from those overreacting to Week 1.
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