Around the NFL week 1 — Gauging fantasy value for every team
Who stood out, and what numbers are behind the numbers that predict future fantasy success? Is it time to sell high or buy low?
Everyone loves to overreact after one week of games. Some owners refuse to make moves early on until they know for sure if their team stinks, but the reality is that week one is often the best time to make a move. If you can pick up on a pattern before your league mates, it’s a great opportunity to make an early move.
It’s important you don’t just look at the numbers — look at the stats behind the numbers like targets, redzone opportunities, time on the field, etc. We have one full set of data about usage and opportunity now and that matters more than anything else in fantasy.
So, let’s take a trip around the league. What have we learned?
Denver 21, Carolina 20
The Broncos struggled on both sides of the ball early. The defense gave up plenty of yardage, so keep an eye out there. They may not be must-start this year and, more importantly, didn’t see to be must-avoid for your stars. This definitely looks like a run-oriented team now and that makes C.J. Anderson a top-10 running back candidate. He looked terrific. Demaryius Thomas looked good but will likely see less targets this year in the new offense, and he may miss a few weeks with injury. That makes Emmanuel Sanders a short term WR2.
I was out on Cam Newton in fantasy this year but one game reminded us how awesome he is. That was a good fantasy game especially against a top defense. He is must start and might be well worth the pick you invested if he doesn’t get killed out there. Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen both looked the part. I think we all forgot just how uncoverable Kelvin is in the redzone. He had 6/91/1 on 12 targets and is clearly the go-to guy, looking like at least a WR2. Olsen saw plenty of looks as well and should be a safe top tight end.
Minnesota 25, Tennessee 16
The fantasy scene for both these teams looks bleak. Adrian Peterson was a huge disappointment. Outside of one nine-yard run, he had 18 carries for 22 yards and no catches. He’s not a bust, but teams will load up the box more than ever on Minnesota and you’re going to get some games like this. Don’t panic, but I’d sell for DJ or Zeke if I could. No one else on this offense is usable in fantasy. Rookie Laquon Treadwell didn’t have a single target and can be dropped in redrafts. Don’t ignore the kicker and defense position in season, a big mistake many fantasy owners make. Both Blair Walsh and Minnesota D/ST have a chance to be #1 at their position and hold real value. Walsh had six FG attempts, and the defense looks Broncos-Super-Bowl-level good.
It was pretty ugly for Tennessee and it doesn’t look like Mariota is comfortable in the new power run game. And that’s a power run game that features DeMarco Murray for now. Murray had 13 rushes to 5 for Derrick Henry and, more importantly, 7 targets to none for Henry. That included a remarkable 5 redzone targets, best in the league. Murray is the sort of guy you might target from another owner trying to sell high. He won’t be this good but he looks like a high end RB2, maybe better. Tajae Sharpe is worth a waiver stash with 7/76 on 11 targets especially if you’re in PPR but don’t play him yet.
Green Bay 27, Jacksonville 23
Not a ton of efficiency from either side here, but could be a case of two pretty solid defenses. Aaron Rodgers looked great at times but produced a mere 59 percent completions with 5.9 YPA. Lots of short dump-offs. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both had three red zone targets, but they’ll need to convert them to keep top value if the passes remain so short. Green Bay needs a vertical game.
T.J. Yeldon had a great opportunity with Ivory out, and my favorite preseason sleeper didn’t really take advantage of it. He had just 21 carries for 39 yards, though he did get into the end zone and had 6 targets. Allen Robinson had a nondescript 6/72/0 line but his 15 targets make him look worth the price.
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Baltimore 13, Buffalo 7
Oof. Not much to see here. Baltimore literally has nothing of fantasy value right now. Steve Smith did have nine targets but did nothing with them. Mike Wallace could be a lottery ticket if you’re desperate, hoping for a long ball. Don’t get too excited about Breshard Perriman until he sees more snaps and targets. Terrance West and Justin Forsett split work pretty evenly and neither did anything of value. There’s no real need to own a single Raven right now.
The Bills really struggled, and this is not the Ravens defense of old. It’s time to panic on Sammy Watkins and maybe the whole Bills offense if he misses extended time. You might try to sell on LeSean McCoy if you can get comparable value. I liked him a lot preseason and he’s always produced if healthy, but no Sammy should mean defenses collapse on him and he’s got the Jets, Cards, and Pats next so it could be an ugly stretch. You can probably drop Tyrod Taylor until Watkins is back. I’m not sure any Buffalo receiver is worth a look with Watkins out, but Charles Clay could be startable at TE.
Houston 23, Chicago 14
The Texans had two first-round fantasy picks and both looked good. Lamar Miller was the only RB over 100 yards on Sunday. Will Fuller looks worth a waiver pick up. He had 11 targets, including three in the red zone, and added a TD and a hundred yards. Could the Texans have three relevant fantasy players? If they do, Brock Osweiler would need to turn into a fourth.
Don’t worry too much about the Bears, whose main players did fine especially considering they had under 40 percent possession. Stay the course on Alshon Jeffery and Jeremy Langford. You should temper expectations on Kevin White for now. He had seven targets but Eddie Royal had six too, so he’ll be inconsistent.
Philadelphia 29, Cleveland 10
The Eagles have a pair of Mat(t)hews worth our attention. Jordan Matthews was a stud with 7/114/1 on 14 targets, second most in the league, including three RZ looks. Carson Wentz won’t normally have 37 attempts (or play a JV team) but Matthews has been a top 25 fantasy WR the last two seasons and rookie QBs love to lock onto a favorite target, so he could be a real WR2. Ryan Mathews looked good too. He had 22/77/1 including 8 red zone rushes, most in the league. He didn’t see a single target in the pass game but he could be a Jeremy Hill type player and at least a RB2 spot start.
Cleveland is a dumpster fire. Duke Johnson was especially disappointing. He was good when he had he ball but had only six touches in a game the Browns trailed all day and you’d have expected him on the field for passing plays. Isaiah Crowell is the clear starter for now. He had 78 yards and a TD and the Browns only had the ball for 20 minutes, so he might be useful. The best Cleveland fantasy player for now may be one that didn’t get a single yard Sunday: Gary Barnidge. With RG3 out for the year, it’s Josh McCown’s show now and Barnidge was a top-two TE with McCown last year. Go get him while he’s cheap. This is great news for Josh Gordon too.
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Tampa Bay 31, Atlanta 24
The Bucs were awesome in week one with Doug Martin, Mike Evans, and especially Jameis Winston all looking like stars. Martin got five targets which could boost his value and add something to his game. Jameis was terrific with 67 percent completions and 8.5 YPA with his 4 TDs. Be careful with Tampa though. Between now and October 23 they go Arizona, LA, Denver, Carolina, bye. That’s a brutal stretch. If you can sell high on Jameis in particular, go for it. You’ll be relying on garbage time for awhile now.
The Falcons were a bit of a surprise, and owners are probably panicking on Julio Jones and especially Devonta Freeman. Julio did almost nothing most of the game but got a TD late and finished with 4/66/1 on eight targets. With a more balanced attack and Sanu taking some targets, he may not be a superstar again but he’ll still be very good. Sanu by the way looks worth a stash. He had 5/80/1 matching Julio’s eight targets. He looks like a playable WR3 and might be a WR1 in the inevitable few games Julio misses. Devonta Freeman did not look anything like last year’s #1 RB, and it looks like a full-blown RBBC in Atlanta. Devonta had 11 carries and 4 targets to Tevin Coleman’s 8 carries and 6 targets, and Coleman was more explosive in his touches. The biggest problem is the passing game, the one area Freeman was supposed to definitely hold his value. Don’t sell him for nothing, but get some value if you can — or think about buying him if someone is auctioning him for nothing. We know what he can do. At some point one of the two will probably miss some time, and the other becomes an RB1. Stash Tevin Coleman if you have room. He’s not usable now but has huge longterm upside.
Cincinnati 23, NY Jets 22
A.J. Green was the stud of the week with a monster 12/180/1 game including a patented A.J. bomb touchdown. Be careful here — this is what Green does. He usually has a couple gigantic games each season that boost his overall ranks, and you probably just saw his best game. He was a first round pick so I’m not sure what you’d really sell high for, but I’d sure try to find out. I’m still skeptical. Jeremy Hill had just 9/31/1 on the ground without a target but that’s Hill. This was a tough matchup and Hill scored nine points, a great example of him holding value even in a poor game. Stay the course.
The Jets have a brutal upcoming schedule and this loss doesn’t bode well for their season, but they look great in fantasy. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker were somewhat disappointing but had eight and seven targets, so they should be fine. Marshall had four red zone targets. Buy low if he’s available. Decker’s value could be tempered a bit if Quincy Enunwa keeps seeing many targets. Leave Enunwa on waivers for now. The big news here was Matt Forte looking like a fantasy stud again, and he’s a RB1 now until proven otherwise. He had 155 yards and five catches on seven targets. He looked healthy and may well be a top-five RB yet again. It might be too late to get him — but try anyways.
Oakland 35, New Orleans 34
It’s a bit disappointing for a team that scores 35 to have such average fantasy days for the key players like Latavius Murray. Murray got just 14 of his team’s 24 handoffs, so though he did finish with 72 yards and a TD, be careful long-term here. Amari Cooper looks the part of a stud WR with 6/137 on 11 targets, though he still continues to be ignored in the red zone with only one target there, which is slightly worrying.
The Saints passing game was awesome, and you already know Drew Brees is going to have games like this. Brandon Cooks did Brandon Cooks things, with lots of short looks and an occasional speedy long ball. He had 6/143/2 but that includes a 98-yard TD. Without it, Cooks was at 5/45 which is more of what you’ll see week-to-week with shorter targets. Then again, he had three red zone targets too. I’m still cautious, but jury’s out here. Willie Snead was awesome, catching all nine targets for 172 yards and a TD. He’s at least a WR3 like he was last year and definitely worth a roster spot.
Kansas City 33, San Diego 27
Fantasy owners celebrated a diamond in the rough with a monster Spencer Ware performance with a TD and almost 200 yards — but be careful here. Ware was terrific but had only 11 carries. Most of his value came in the passing game where he had 7/129 on eight targets, but Charcandrick West also had 6 targets. Temper your expectations here, and sell high especially to the Jamaal Charles owner if someone will give you a season-long starting RB. I’d buy from a panicked Charles owner too.
The Chargers are the perfect example of why stats don’t tell the whole story. Melvin Gordon excited owners with the first two TDs of his career and a 20-point game, but be very careful. He had 14 carries without a target and played only a third of the snaps, even with a big Chargers lead all game. The RB to own in San Diego is still Danny Woodhead. Woodhead had more runs than Gordon, a shocking fact, and he saw seven targets as well. Buy low on Woodhead, and sell Gordon. Keenan Allen is out for the year. That sucks. You’ll hear a lot of talk about Tyrell Williams, but Travis Benjamin looks promising especially in PPR leagues. He had 8 targets including four in the red zone. Antonio Gates could see a value renaissance too. Rivers definitely loses value without Allen all year.
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Seattle 12, Miami 10
Yikes, Seahawks. So much for being the Super Bowl favorite, not for now with that tepid home performance. Russell Wilson’s ankle injury scares me. He could either miss games or be ineffective, and his fantasy and real life value lie in his ability to move around in the pocket and keep plays alive. I would trade him for any of the other top fantasy QBs right now including Brady. Neither Christine Michael nor Thomas Rawls stood out, splitting the carries with 15 and 12 each. That’s better news for Rawls, as Michael missed a chance to stand out. I hated Doug Baldwin’s value preseason but he looked excellent and like a clear top target with 9/92/1 on 11 targets; three in the red zone. He may hold his WR2 value but needs Wilson healthy, so be careful. Everyone’s favorite sleeper Tyler Lockett was disappointing but did have eight targets, and Seattle may have to be creative with him if Russ is hurt.
Miami’s fantasy players weren’t bad, considering the tough matchup and the fact that Seattle ran 24 more plays. Jarvis Landry had 10 targets and remains a PPR stud. Arian Foster had 100 yards and saw five passing targets. He remains a must-start as long as he’s healthy and his receiving value make him somewhat matchup proof. He was worth your pick. Don’t sell high, just enjoy the value until he gets hurt.
Detroit 39, Indianapolis 35
There’s some gold in Detroit and a lot of guys you might be able to buy. Everyone loves to sell high, but not every player is a worth selling. Detroit’s guys should be bought. Matt Stafford had 340 yards and three TDs and didn’t even have a ton of pass attempts. He’s been much more efficient under Jim Bob Cooter and has been a top-5 fantasy QB since the two were united mid last season. He could be an every week starter, especially with a crazy easy schedule. Both Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick had nice games, both over 100 yards and a TD, each with five receptions. Detroit won’t score 39 every game but these guys both look usable as a flex at least in PPR and could be better.
One guy to keep your eye on: Marvin Jones. Tate is the assumed WR1 in Detroit but had seven targets almost entirely on short routes. Jones had 4/85 and didn’t stand out but his 10 targets did. It’s at least possible he could take over the Calvin Johnson role, and that gives him WR2 upside. Go get all these Lions. They have a great schedule and a friendly offense.
Andrew Luck had a monster game, but he also struggled early, reminiscent of a couple years ago when the Colts went down early and had to pass a lot to play catch up. Indy needs to stop pretending to be a running team and just let Luck do Luck things. Moncrief and Hilton were about as expected, but stash Phil Dorsett if you have room. He was on the field a lot and has high upside if either of Indy’s WRs miss time. The ageless Frank Gore was supposed to be sharing his duties but he saw 18 touches to just three from each of his backups. He was boring and solid and looks like a passable RB2 again.
NY Giants 20, Dallas 19
The Giants ran only 54 plays, and they did pretty well considering. All three WRs looked good. Victor Cruz had just four targets but looked like his old self, with two in the red zone and a TD. I was high on Sterling Shepherd preseason and he did have a TD too, but it looks like Cruz may be more usable for now.
The Cowboys are always interesting. I really like Dak Prescott and he was pretty good, but it was check-down city for the Cowboys. That was money for Jason Witten and Cole Beasley in PPR leagues. Witten had 9/66 on 14 targets, second most in the league, including three in the red zone. He won’t stay this hot but there’s no point selling high on a tight end, so just enjoy the value on a guy I told you to target. Beasley saw 12 targets too. He could be an Edelman lite in PPR.
Ezekiel Elliott may have disappointed some with only 52 yards, but he looked like a work horse. Dallas scored on five of its first six drives, and Zeke had four red zone carries, so he looks every bit the part to me. Buy him if an owner has cold feet. There’s a little more reason to be concerned with Dez Bryant who was absent with just one catch for eight yards, and just five targets. It’s easy to blame Dak on checking down, but the Giants were defending Dez well and forcing the ball elsewhere (and paying for it). Bryant should still be OK, but these games may come from time to time.
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New England 23, Arizona 20
Man, how do the Patriots miss out on both Brady and Gronk and go across the country, start Jimmy G for the first time on the road against a Super Bowl contender, and still get a win? Crazy. The Pats offense wasn’t even very good, fantasy wise. I still like LeGarrette Blount. He was fourth in the league in carries and had a very Blount TD. He is what he always is — a guy to play when the Patriots are ahead and grind out the clock. That will happen often this year and Blount will usually be a playable RB2. James White was disappointing. He was fine in the passing game with 5/40 on seven targets, but he had only one carry. He is not Dion Lewis. Martellus Bennett owners had high hopes with Gronk out but he was mostly a blocker. Keep those two on your bench for now.
Arizona looked awesome on offense … how did they lose this game? David Johnson looks like an absolute stud. He played all but three snaps and had 132 yards and a TD. He could be the #1 RB and has a shot to be the top fantasy player this season. Get him while you can. Larry Fitzgerald was amazing with 8/81/2 but don’t forget what happened in Arizona last year, with a new flavor of the week WR each game. Don’t dump Fitz but sell him for another top WR if one is available, and keep Michael Floyd and John Brown still. I have high hopes for Floyd in particular, and his three red zone targets help.
Pittsburgh 38, Washington 13
Surprise, surprise — Antonio Brown and Pittsburgh’s RB are fantasy superstuds. Nothing new to see here, except a note to do anything you can to get LeVeon Bell if he’s available for some reason. Eli Rogers looks like the WR2 in Pittsburgh and worth a waivers stash but don’t flex him yet.
Washington definitely looks like a passing team, though that was probably by design against a defense that stunk against the pass last year. Cousins was disappointing without a TD, and Matt Jones had just seven carries and one target, losing the one goal line opportunity as well. The good news is that he looked healthy and Rob Kelley didn’t see the field, but he’s a flex for now. Jordan Reed looked like the stud you drafted with 11 targets, the #1 receiver in a passing offense. DeSean Jackson was terrific, and Jamison Crowder could be a waiver pickup in PPR leagues if you need a spot starter. I think I’d play him over Pierre Garcon. These guys can’t all hold value, especially once Josh Doctson gets healthy.
San Francisco 28, Los Angeles 0
Carlos Hyde ran well and looks healthy. He had five red zone rushes and three targets, and he looks like a stud — don’t forget this is a very talented Rams defense. Hyde was a value RB before the season and looks the part, but he has a really rough upcoming schedule. He’s going to have some bad games with Gabbert under center so don’t be afraid to sell if you get a strong offer. Keep an eye on Jeremy Kerley, especially if your league is PPR or counts return yards. Kerley returns both kicks and punts for the 49ers and he had 11 targets, and this for a guy that just got signed a week ago. Don’t forget Chip Kelly’s offense has produced a top fantasy WR every year in the NFL.
The Rams were a giant turd sandwich. Todd Gurley owners should be worried. His one catch was forced, and his 2.8 YPA was terrible against a 49ers defense that is definitely not that good. He gets Seattle and Arizona two of the next three weeks. It might be too late, but swap him for another high pick if you can. He’s still super talented but there will be plenty of weeks like this with Case Keenum under center. The Rams were just terrible. Tavon Austin had 12 targets so I guess that’s something.
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