Fantasy Football Week 2 Takeaways: Surprises & Disappointments (2022)
Week 2 was a wild installment of NFL football and had a bit of everything.
There was no shortage of remarkably improbable comebacks, including the Jets coming back from 13 down in the final two minutes to beat the Browns, the Dolphins overcoming a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to down the Ravens and the Cardinals beating the Raiders in overtime after trailing 20-0 at the half. Then there were the Falcons, who came up just short of rewriting their tragic Super Bowl history by battling back from down 28-3 against the Rams.
There were also a bunch of eye-opening statistical performances and plenty of under-the-radar shifts in usage patterns that will be dissected here and over the rest of the week.
Let’s get to it!
Top 5 Surprises
Tua Tagovailoa posts 469 passing yards and SIX touchdowns
Opinion has always been divided on Tagovailoa, and I’ll freely admit I’ve been in the skeptical camp. But this performance will (at least temporarily) silence the doubters. The truth is, Tua doesn’t have to be Patrick Mahomes to be successful when he gets to work with an innovative play-caller like Mike McDaniel and two of the slipperiest receivers in the game in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. But, of course, it also doesn’t hurt when you are going up against an opposing secondary decimated by injuries like Baltimore’s was this week.
It is no great surprise to see Tua connect with his receivers on some big yards-after-catch (YAC) opportunities, much like Jimmy Garoppolo did under Kyle Shanahan and McDaniel in San Francisco last year. But Tagovailoa also connected with Hill for two deep touchdowns in this game. Of course, his detractors will point out that those passes were under-thrown, but perhaps he can get away with that in this offense. Time will tell.
There are a lot of similarities between St. Brown and Kirk, from their physical attributes to their role as the unquestioned top receiver in disrespected offenses. Both have also been severely underrated in fantasy circles, but their recent performances should be putting an end to that once and for all.
St. Brown’s breakthrough dates back to December of last year. He now has at least eight catches and 10 targets in eight straight games and has also averaged a touchdown per game over that stretch. Neither D’Andre Swift nor T.J. Hockenson — or anyone else for that matter — is a threat to St. Brown’s alpha role in the Lions’ passing game, as we discussed here last week.
On the other hand, Kirk is taking on top dog responsibilities for the first time this year after moving from Arizona to Jacksonville in free agency. While he had the occasional big game for the Cardinals when DeAndre Hopkins was out, Kirk didn’t see nearly the target volume he can expect to receive with the Jaguars, who handed him a massive four-year, $72 million deal this offseason. He’s off to a terrific start with his new team, hauling in 12 passes for 195 yards and two TDs through two games. If Trevor Lawrence can take a big step forward this season, Kirk’s upside is through the roof.
London got his NFL career off to a very respectable start in Week 1 by catching five balls for 74 yards against a tough Saints defense. But he was even better in Week 2, posting eight receptions on 12 targets for 86 yards, including a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Wilson similarly had a solid first game in Week 1 (four receptions for 52 yards) before going nuclear in Week 2 with eight catches on 14 targets for 102 yards and two scores.
London and Wilson are both terrific talents from blue blood universities who went among the top 10 picks in the NFL draft, so it isn’t hard to envision either or both breaking out this season. The biggest obstacle would seemingly be the Falcons’ and Jets’ questionable QB situations, but that obviously hasn’t been a problem so far. Wilson will also need to continue to fight for more snaps, where he is still behind Elijah Moore and Corey Davis. Unlike London, he is not stepping right into the WR1 role on his team.
Following an opening game in which he caught just three passes for 17 yards, it was fair to wonder if Cooper was just going to be a roster clogger in redraft leagues — at least until Deshaun Watson returns from suspension. But Cooper could have had a much bigger game if Brissett hadn’t missed him on a deep ball and Panthers cornerback CJ Henderson hadn’t interfered with him on a potential 34-yard touchdown grab.
That big game came one week later, as Cooper brought in nine of his 10 targets for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Jets in Week 2. No other Browns player saw more than five targets from Brissett, including number two receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who got just one target after seeing 11 in Week 1. Cooper’s upside will undoubtedly be capped until Watson returns. However, he and Brissett showed a promising enough rapport against the Jets to believe that WR2 value is still in play for Cleveland’s top receiver.
Rams, Dolphins, Texans backfields get flipped on their heads (again)
Things can change fast at the running back position, especially early in the season. That was on full display in Week 2 in L.A., Miami and Houston.
One week after he barely saw the field, Cam Akers was given 18 RB opportunities (carries plus targets) compared to only 10 for Darrell Henderson. Henderson still played more snaps, but this is clearly a volatile situation that could shift from week to week. That’s still not exactly what Akers managers were hoping for when they drafted him in the third or fourth round, but at least it’s not an utter catastrophe like it appears to be after Week 1.
In Miami, Raheem Mostert slightly overtook Chase Edmonds as the lead back in Week 2, after Edmonds enjoyed a roughly 60-40 edge in snaps in Week 1. Interestingly, while Edmonds was still the preferred back in long down and distance situations, Mostert ran plenty of passing routes himself, something he was never really asked to do in San Francisco. If that and his snap advantage stick, Mostert could have plenty of RB2 juice for however long he can remain healthy.
Finally, there’s Houston, where Dameon Pierce out-snapped Rex Burkhead 39 to 22 in Week 2. Texans coach Lovie Smith said he wanted to get Pierce more involved after the rookie played only 29% of the snaps in Week 1, and that’s exactly what happened. The division of labor was just about what I expected it to be coming into the season, with Pierce dominating early down work and Burkhead handling third downs and the two-minute drill. Burkhead could still come out on top in games with negative game script, but Houston’s defense looks better than expected so far, which is good news for Pierce.
Top 5 Disappointments
Trey Lance injures leg, out for the season
The sky was the limit for Lance’s potential — and it was going to be fascinating to see if he could reach it. But that will now have to wait until 2023 after Lance suffered an ankle injury requiring season-ending surgery. The injury is a brutal gut punch to Lance, 49ers fans and the fantasy managers who invested in him — especially those in SuperFlex and dynasty leagues.
However, Lance’s absence creates a very intriguing storyline as Jimmy G returns to the starting job in San Francisco. For most of the offseason, it appeared all-but-certain that Garoppolo would be wearing a different uniform this year, but now he will be counted on to lead the 49ers deep into the playoffs, as he’s done twice before. Garoppolo was the QB17 for fantasy last year and will be a weekly QB2 in SuperFlex leagues with some streaming potential in single-QB formats. In addition, his return to the starting lineup may improve the fantasy appeal of the 49ers’ pass-catchers and running backs.
Kyle Pitts totals two catches for 19 yards — for the second straight week
Well, this isn’t going according to plan. Many in the fantasy community envisioned Pitts rivaling Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews for tight end supremacy, but Falcons coach Arthur Smith may have other ideas. Smith was unapologetic for Pitts’ light usage in Week 2, making clear in his post-game press conference that he doesn’t care about our fantasy teams.
Pitts’ occasional use in pass protection has been frustrating for fantasy managers, but he’s still run as many pass routes as Drake London has through the Falcons’ first two games. Pitts still has a great chance to settle in as a top-five tight end, and perhaps even top-three, but putting him in the same class as Kelce and Andrews was always a stretch.
Russell Wilson‘s cooking tastes bad using Nathaniel Hackett’s recipe
The Hackett-Wilson era in Denver has gotten off to a rocky start (see what I did there?), as anyone could tell from the boos raining down on Empower Field. Unlike Week 1, the Broncos’ offensive ineptitude didn’t cost them the game, but it cost plenty of fantasy managers’ theirs. Hackett’s decision-making has been questionable so far, to put it mildly, and Wilson has not looked remotely comfortable running the offense.
Hackett and Wilson both have a strong track record of success, so perhaps these are just growing pains. But until we see this offense start to click, expectations absolutely need to be lowered.
Jerry Jeudy catches just one pass before leaving with an injured shoulder
Speaking of Denver’s offensive struggles, missing Jeudy for any length of time probably isn’t going to help. The Broncos’ wideout left in the first quarter after suffering what appears to be an injury to his sternoclavicular (SC) joint.
Should Jeudy miss time, it would solidify Courtland Sutton‘s standing as the number one target in Denver. Sutton caught seven of his 11 targets for 122 yards in Week 2, operating as Wilson’s clear top target in Jeudy’s absence. Depending on the severity of Jeudy’s injury, KJ Hamler could be a worthwhile waiver add. Hamler missed the Texans game for what Hackett called “maintenance” of his surgically repaired knee and hip, but he could be back in Week 3.
Injuries are always a concern when rostering Conner. He showed off his RB1 upside when healthy by playing 15 games last season but exited Week 2 early with an ankle injury. Conner remained in uniform and was in the locker room after the game, so the injury does not appear especially severe, but we’ll have to wait to learn more. If he were to miss time, it looks like the Cardinals would deploy a fairly even committee between Eno Benjamin and Darrel Williams.
Schultz left Sunday’s game late in the fourth quarter, and although there is reportedly no concern about an ACL tear, he will undergo an MRI on Monday that will give us a better idea of how long he will miss. Even prior to suffering an injury of his own, Schultz’s fantasy value took a hit last week when Dak Prescott went down with a thumb injury. He is still worth stashing for the upside he can provide down the stretch, but it is looking less and less likely that he will be a reliable TE1 over the first half of the season.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle became the first teammates in NFL history to each have 10+ catches, 170+ receiving yards and two receiving TDs. Maybe Tua Tagovailoa can support two viable fantasy receivers after all.
Chris Olave became just the fifth player to top 300 air yards in a game since 2016. The others were Mike Evans, Marquise Brown, Julio Jones and AJ Green. Olave also became the first player to have an average depth of target over 25 yards on 13 or more targets since Pro Football Focus began tracking it 17 years ago. It didn’t result in a particularly huge fantasy day, but the usage is obviously promising.
Curtis Samuel has almost as many targets (20) through two games as Terry McLaurin (12) and Jahan Dotson (10) combined. But let’s see how the targets get distributed when Washington isn’t in a shootout — if that ever happens!
Jonathan Taylor wasn’t a top-30 PPR RB for the first time since Week 3 of 2021. Taylor played 74% of the snaps and even ran seven more pass routes than Nyheim Hines, so let’s just say JT will be fine.
Fantasy managers always want to be invested in the best offenses — and those could be changing. After two weeks, the Lions, Dolphins, Commanders and Falcons all rank in the top-10 in scoring, while the Bengals, Packers, Broncos and Cowboys all rank in the bottom-10 — with the Colts dead last. It’s too early to say this will stick, but it is worth watching closely. High-scoring offenses tend to produce fantasy breakouts, and struggling offenses generate fantasy busts.
It’s still very early. We don’t ever want to be late to emerging trends in fantasy football because change can happen really fast in this league. But at the same time, we are still working with very little information. Just look at how the usage patterns for several backfields shifted so dramatically from Week 1 to Week 2. Tua Tagovailoa could still come crashing back to Earth, and Kyle Pitts could still explode. We need to strike the right balance between closely monitoring trends and not jumping to conclusions. It’s early.
The 49ers’ offense should look a lot like it did in seasons past. The one thing that happened in Week 2 that is certain to have lasting implications is Trey Lance’s injury. Simply put, Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo are about as different as it gets at the quarterback position. San Francisco should remain a run-heavy team, but more of those rushes will now go to running backs instead of to Lance. Meanwhile, the 49ers should be able to move the ball adequately through the air under Garoppolo, but the potential for a truly elite passing offense is probably out the window. That means the floor has been raised for guys like Deebo, Aiyuk and Kittle, but the ceiling has been lowered.
Alright, that’s it for this week. If you like what you see here, you can get more of my thoughts on waiver wire pickups, buy-low/sell-high candidates, rest-of-season player values, and more by subscribing to get on the same page and going to ROSrankings.com.barely saw the field@andrew_seifter.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.