It never ceases to amaze me just how sloppy play is in Week One every season. You’d think with most teams having all off season to prepare for the outing and all camp to sharpen and refine their schemes that it would show that first game… But it just doesn’t. Less grueling camps with less reps for starters ultimately pay off with less soft tissue injuries and better health in general, but the trade off is less preparedness during the first few weeks of the season. It’s important to keep in mind that while the first game can show how teams will generally plan their attack and attribute touches, most of these teams are still a work in progress. Things are still evolving and it’s never a bad idea to bet on good players even if the initial results aren’t as you had hoped.
That being said, there are some key takeaways to make from Week One’s action for sure. A few I think were really noteworthy:
Julio Jones received 19 targets against the Eagles. Game flow necessitated Matt Ryan taking 43 attempts, but Jones’ 44% target share is massive. It’s clear that Steve Sarkisian schemed to engineer the passing attack to Julio, potentially even more than he had last season. Those taking bets on Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper’s development will probably be disappointed this season.
I thought Darren Sproles would retire when he got injured last season; 35-year-old running backs don’t just return to form after tearing an ACL and breaking an arm on the same play. I was pessimistic when he came back for this season, i’ll admit. But Sproles looked sharp. And not only did he look sharp, he retained his role with the Eagles. Philly gave him five carries and seven targets in the passing game and let him return punts again. Sproles should probably be on rosters in deep PPR leagues.
David Njoku was second on the Browns with seven targets but only managed three catches for 13 yards. The conditions weren’t ideal and the targets were promising, but I can’t help but to question Njoku as a breakout candidate. It seems as if while he certainly looks the part, he’s not a natural pass catcher. Maybe i’m an asshole and will look like one by the end of this season, but I don’t think I see fantasy starter out of the Browns tight end.
Joe Mixon is going to be a top five running back in PPR leagues this season if he stays healthy. His usage was off the charts in their first game-17 carries and five catches was promising. The most promising development was his usage in the passing game, getting seven targets to Gio Bernard’s one. If the Bengals feel like Mixon is too dynamic to keep off the field in favor of Bernard and inherits much of his passing down role then you should make an aggressive trade offer for him now. The Mixon-Bernard snap count on passing downs is something i’ll monitor in Week Two.
Staying with the Bengals, I was glad when they chose not to retain Brandon Lafell’s services. It allows for more snaps for Tyler Boyd and John Ross. And while Ross was the higher draft pick and was a more popular breakout choice, I think I prefer Boyd in PPR leagues. His three catches for 26 yards on five targets was pedestrian, but I think Mohamed Sanu level production could be in the cards for the youngster from Pitt.
Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron combined for fifteen targets. I think they both have more value this season than many saw coming as a result of the way Andrew Luck distributed the football under Frank Reich’s direction. Reich previously made two tight ends relevant in stops in San Diego and Philadelphia and I see it happening again. Doyle saw ten targets and Ebron five and there was a clear pecking order, but it was also clear that targeting tight ends was an emphasis with Luck throwing more short passes than he has before in his career.
Luck got 53 passes off! That’s a lot, and they were really only trailing in the fourth. While it is unlikely he sees that many attempts again and Ryan Grant posts an 8-59-9 line, both Luck and Grant benefit from a the volume of throws in the Colts short passing attack. Both have an arrow up after the first game.
Dion Lewis inherited Demarco Murray’s role and then some. He’s probably the better back than Derrick Henry overall too. Lewis is looking like a solid RB2 in PPR leagues this season.
Corey Davis breakout watch looks good. Despite Blaine Gabbert being forced into action he still managed a 6-62 line, and his 13 targets certainly helped. Davis was emphasized in the Titan’s passing game and looks primed for a breakout season.
The Dolphins passing targets looked even in Devante Parker’s absence. Those hoping Danny Amendola would inherit Jarvis Landry’s role should be ready to bail following Week One, as both Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson, slot body players, outplayed him. Aggressive owners could bail already.
Matt Breida and Alfred Morris were even on carries. Breida started and was more involved in the passing game. Both look likely to be marginal fantasy plays this season.
George Kittle may just break out. He turned nine targets into five catches for 90 yards and missed some opportunity on the way. The second year pro from Iowa consistently seperated from Minnesota’s defense and looked like a weapon worth emphasizing in the process. While Marquise Goodwin’s injury made it harder for Jimmy Guwop to throw outside the numbers against the Vikings, Kittle should be a solid tight end moving forward.
Speaking of marginal fantasy plays, Latavius Murray had 11 carries for 42 yards. The Vikings were playing with a lead and game flow necessitated running, but I think Murray has a role this season. Dalvin Cook is miles better, but his work load is being managed to preserve him. Murray costs the Vikings a pretty penny and they plan to use him.
The Texans offensive line looked bad. And given their personnel, they will continue to be bad. Their run blocking against the Patriots front looked fine, but they allowed a bad pass rushing team to harass Deshaun Watson. The Texans down field passing attack (read: Will Fuller) will suffer this season and those prospecting Watson as a top-five QB will be disappointed in this season’s results. Right tackle Seantrel Henderson (who admittedly was a poor option to start the season) also went down in the game for what it’s worth.
While on the Texans, two minor things: Alfred Blue ran as the backup running back and could be added in very deep leagues. In addition, Bruce Ellington got eight targets in the slot. With minimal protection, Ellington working out of the slot proved to be a viable safety valve for Watson. I think he’s worth adds in deep PPR leagues.
Peyton Barber ran as the clear cut starter. He got nineteen carries to Jacquizz Rodgers’ two and “Shaun Wilson”‘s one. Second round pick Ronald Jones received zero carries and can be dropped.
TJ Yeldon is the clear backup to Leonard Fournette. Corey Grant has received some hype after an impressive season last year but clearly worked behind Yeldon after Fournette went down. Yeldon may have a week to week role in the Jaguars running back heavy attack when Fournette is healthy and will be a lock start when he sits. Add the dude.
The Saints current lack of compliments to Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara was apparent. Drew Brees was an impressive 37/45 while playing comeback for most of the game and targeted Thomas and Kamara for 29 of those attempts. Cam Meredith still isn’t healthy, Ben Watson is ancient and Ted Ginn plays a specific role. Thomas and Kamara’s season long stock took a boost in my eyes on Sunday.
Kelvin Benjamin stinks out loud. It’s hard to shine with Nathan J. Peterman tossing the pigskin, but one catch for ten yards on seven targets? Gross.
Austin Ekeler has stand-alone value. The second year back was efficient in spelling Melvin Gordon, getting ten touches in 26 snaps. His five carries went for 39 yards and five catches went for 87. I don’t know if I would feel great starting Ekeler with Gordon healthy, but he’s worth an add and will be very valuable if Melvin ever gets hurt.
Mike Williams might be the Chargers WR2. He got five catches for 81 yards while Tyrell Williams caught two for eight. It should be noted that their target numbers were close, with six for Mike and five for Tyrell, but one guy clearly opened the season much better than the other.
Chris Carson seven carries for 51 yards, Rashaad Penny seven for eight. It was one game, but a good one for those betting on Carson being the better Seahawks running back.
Don’t jump all in on Will Dissly if you’re replacing Greg Olsen or Delanie Walker please. His 103 yards and a touchdown in his debut were nice, but i’m not exactly expecting Dissly to consistently have this output. He had this day with only three catches and five targets. Usage like that projects Dissly for fringe relevance, not potential replacement starter.
Brandon Marshall probably is somewhat relevant in Doug Baldwin’s absence. I prefer Tyler Lockett to him, but Marshall is available and will post 4-40 lines the next couple of weeks. Super deep league players in a bind or DFS players can do worse.
How about undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay? The former Colorado Buffalo may end up being more valuable than Royce Freeman in PPR leagues this season. He matched Freeman’s 15 carries and 71 yards on the ground and was more involved in the passing game in the two rookie’s first outings. Both have flex appeal- a major step up for Lindsay and a step down for Freeman.
Cole Beasley will probably lead the Cowboys in catches. Allen Hurns didn’t look good in his Cowboys debut and Beasley turned in his usual efficient slot performance, catching seven of eight passes Dak Prescott threw his way. That volume of eight targets is a step forward for Beasley though, and I would be willing to bet that similar numbers continue. He has flex appeal in PPR leagues.
I’m willing to bet that the gap between Geronimo Allison and Jordy Nelson’s level of play is closer than many think. The Packers were right to cut ties with their fan favorite (read: white) wideout, and Allison should really be rostered in almost all leagues.
You and I had more rushing yards than Legarrette Blount on Monday Night. He turned four carries into -3 yards and clearly has only the short yardage role this year. The only place I would roster him is in touchdown-only formats.
Jermaine Kearse’s absence helped Quincy Enunwa post a 6-63 line on ten targets, but Enunwa should be solid this season. He’s probably the better player than Kearse and Robby Anderson and showed a real chemistry with Sam Darnold. It’s worth monitoring his snaps and usage once Kearse returns, but Enunwa is likely a solid add.
What a monster Jared Cook game. While I don’t see many more 9-180 games coming for the veteran tight end, Jon Gruden used tons of 11 personnel and used Derek Carrier as a true tight end and let Cook operate as a big slot. Martavis Bryant returning and a less favorable matchup will be working against him, but I could easily see a career year for Cook. Jordy Nelson won’t replace Michael Crabtree’s production and Amari Cooper is probably overrated; a more prominent role should be there for Cook this season.
Waiver Wire Rankings
*Must be owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues to be eligible
- Jameis Winston (8.3% owned)
- Andy Dalton (21.1% owned)
- Derek Carr (30% owned)
- Case Keenum (12.8% owned)
- Sam Darnold (8.4% owned)
- Philip Lindsay (2.0% owned)
- TJ Yeldon (8.0% owned)
- Austin Ekeler (11% owned)
- Latavius Murray (46.7% owned)
- Jordan Wilkins (40% owned)
- Mike Williams (34.8% owned)
- Geronimo Allison (9.2% owned)
- Ryan Grant (9.7% owned)
- Quincy Enunwa (9.2% owned)
- Dede Westbrook (8.0% owned)
- George Kittle (37.1% owned)
- Jared Cook (27.3% owned)
- Ben Watson (35.2% owned)
- Eric Ebron (16.4% owned)
- Ricky Seals-Jones (7.2% owned)