We are two weeks into the season and we're starting to get some clarity, which is always a good thing, no matter if it's good news or bad. It's the unknown and making important decisions involving the unknown, that makes this hobby a challenge. The more we know, the better off we are. I say we, because I'm in the middle of this journey with you. I'm learning and figuring out the intracasies of the 2017 NFL season right along with you.
In the early weeks - Weeks 1, 2 and 3 we need to absorb as much information as we can, so we can make educated, sound decisions when it comes to these five crucial determinations:
- Immediate waiver wire considerations (Trevor Siemian, Javorius Allen, Chris Carson, Chris Thompson, James White, Rex Burkhead, Alvin Kamara, D'Onta Foreman, Samaje Perine, Marlon Mack, Ben Watson, Allen Hurns, J.J. Nelson, Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Lockett, Rashard Higgins)
- Trade proposals / buy low (Devin Funchess, Larry Fitzgerald, Le'Veon Bell, Christian McCaffrey, Jordan Howard, D'Onta Foreman, Corey Davis, Doug Baldwin, Odell Beckham, Sammy Watkins)
- Proactive waiver claims (Chris Johnson, Rashard Higgins, Alex Collins, Geronimo Allison, Malcolm Brown, Torrey Smith,)
- Sneaky waiver claims (Willie Snead IV, Will Fuller V, Doug Martin, Austin Seferian-Jenkins)
SO WHAT DO WE KNOW?
Fact: These teams are the highest scoring through the first two weeks, so the assumption is, the more players you have on these teams, the better off you are.
- 71 OAK
- 69 KC
- 66 DEN
- 66 LAR
- 63 NE
- 57 ATL
- 53 TEN
- 50 PHI
The fewer players you have on these teams, the better off you are
- 9 CIN
- 12 SF
- 13 NYG
- 20 HOU
- 21 SEA
- 22 IND
- 24 BUF
Obviously, there are exceptions to both, but fantasy football is based on points scored. If you have players in your lineup who are on teams that aren't scoring (enough), it's going to hurt your chances of winning.
It's definitely a possibility, and perhaps more of a likelihood, that one or more of these teams will improve or decline in the next few weeks. Some will stay the same. It's the ebb and flow of the league. Some matchups are better than others and the results tell the tale.
But what about Sammy Watkins and DeMarco Murray? They are on high scoring teams but have not yet produced to meet expectations. The key word is yet. I'd hold onto both as long as I could, because one of the worst feelings is knowing you dropped a player only to see him produce and be picked up by someone else.
Sammy Watkins is a concerning receiver, but you probably drafted him as a WR3 or at worst a WR2. Despite two so-so weeks of activity, Watkins is tied with Cooper Kupp for the most receptions on the Rams wide receiver corps, and he has caught all seven of the targets that have come his way. He was targeted just twice in Week 2 against Washington and was not fully shadowed by Josh Norman as some expected. Perhaps Norman's presence was enough for Jared Goff to look elsewhere for offense? Watkins 83 offensive snaps (38 Wk1, 45 Wk2) is second among Rams wide receivers, behind only Robert Woods who has 88. Watkins is going to be a key fixture of the offense, which still gives promise for a rosy fantasy season. We'll know a little more about his potential 2017 outlook this week when the Rams travel to San Francisco. The 49ers have allowed a touchdown to a wide receiver in both games this season (CAR, SEA) - two teams whose offense is among the lower scoring tier after two games. Don't give up on Watkins just yet. Remember Golden Tate last year?
DeMarco Murray on the other hand is someone I am getting concerned about, because now an injury is involved. Murray has 84 snaps thorugh two weeks compared to Derrick Henry's 48 and yet Henry is outproducing him with a higher Y/R (5.9 vs. 3.3) and more touchdowns (1 vs 0). Murray has a few years of heavy usage, which might be taking a toll on him either directly or indirectly this season. A hamstring injury has slowed Murray down, which could shelve him for Week 3 and potentially Week 4. That's an injury that should not be rushed back. If Murray rests and rehabilitates, Henry may have the chance to stake his claim as the Titans go-to back. Even when Murray returns to form, Henry isn't going away. Luckily on Murray's side the Titans will play home vs SEA and at HOU in the next two weeks - two teams whose defense is above average. Keep Murray on your roster, but there's reason to be concerned.
WHAT ELSE DO WE KNOW?
The Texans are still trotting Lamar Miller out as their primary back, but rookie D'Onta Foreman is getting more looks each week and he could carve out a role that would turn the rushing duties into a running back by committee approach. I'm buying Foreman and selling Miller before the window to acquire Foreman closes.
Javorius Allen is the last back standing in Baltimore, but he's more than happenstance option. Terrance West is dealing with a "soft tissue" injury and may miss Week 3. If so, Allen becomes a legit start against Jacksonville (in London). Ben Watson could be this year's Dennis Pitta, in that he's the veteran Joe Flacco turns to who knows the offense and can be a key contributor. The waters are still muddy in Baltimore and they have one of the worst schedules against the run in the league.
The Bengals have not scored a touchdown this year, but change is on the way with the firing of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and the hiring of Bill Lazor. Lazor employs a Chip Kelly style of spread offense that may take some time to develop in Cincinnati, but it benefits Giovani Bernard and Joe Mixon. I see Jeremy Hill as the odd man out, which is not good for his contract year season. Perhaps Hill is on the trade block? If I'm his agent, I'm calling Philadelphia and Arizona.
Through two games, James White leads all Patriots backs with 73 snaps, followed by Mike Gillislee with 54 and then fullback Joe Devlin with 43. Down the list is Dion Lewis (20) and Rex Burkhead (18). Gillislee dominated rushes last week against New Orleans, which was largely due to the team playing with a sizeable lead (21 point in the first quarter). White looks to be the lead receiving back this season with the opportunity to put up some rushing numbers any given week, especially if the matchup dictates it. Danny Amendola looked to be the team's replacement for Julian Edelman in Week 1, which was a bit shocking considering Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan have experience playing out of the slot. We'll see if Amendola continues to be a factor when he returns from a concussion either this week or next. My gut says the team wants Amendola in that role, which is good news for those who have him on their roster.
I'm convinced that there is a possibility that the leading rusher on Philadelphia isn't on the team yet. At least it sure seems like it could evolve into that. Darren Sproles led the team with 10 carries last week - he can't sustain a lead back role. LeGarrette Blount didn't have a single carry in the last game and now Donnell Pumphrey, who was not considered lead back material anyway, is out for the season with a hamstring injury. Wendell Smallwood has not amounted to much in his limited opportunities, which leaves nobody else. Stay tuned. DeAngelo Williams is still out there and there's always the possibility of a trade. Dion Lewis comes to mind, as does Jeremy Hill or maybe even Jamaal Charles - Denver has a surplus of backs.
The go-to fantasy wide receiver has not yet been determined in Chicago, but right now the candidates (if there are any relevant candidates) are Kendall Wright (10 targets last week), Deonte Thompson (4-57-1 last week) and Josh Bellamy (4-51 last week). To say the waters are muddy in this situation, would be an understatement.
Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee look to be the Jaguars top receiving options with little competition for target shares. Blake Bortles has passed for 125 and 223 yards respectively in the first two games, which doesn't sound like good news for either receiver. However, the next closest wide receiver (Keelan Cole) has only 3 targets. I still see fantasy relevance even if the passing yards continue to be on the lower side. This will hopefully become more clear as the season wears on, but I can see a dual approach at wide receiver for Jacksonville all year long. They recently added Jaelen Strong from waivers, but I don't expect him to play much of a role anytime soon.
Outside of Brandon Coleman and Ted Ginn Jr making a few plays here and there, the Saints have not had anyone step up at wide receiver, which is good news for Willie Snead IV, who will be returning to action once his three game suspension ends. Coby Fleener has started off strong with two touchdowns in two games. He is averaging 5 targets per game but he has made good on his chances. He can leap into a Top 10 fantasy rank if the touchdowns continue. I don't see enough volume coming his way to assume that will happen going forward, but don't rule it out.
The Lions look to be giving Ameer Abdullah every chance to be the team's lead back and so far he has produced enough to keep the carries coming. He will struggle some weeks and flourish in others. Picking those games may be difficult, but right now, he's a decent RB2 option. Marvin Jones Jr and Golden Tate are the top receiving options and threats for Matthew Stafford. Kenny Golladay is getting opportunities, but Jones and Tate are dominating the snap count. Week 1 seems more like a fluke than a trend for Golladay. He'll have periodic big plays and even scores, but I don't see him as a reliable fantasy option, just yet.
The trio of Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson Jr are leading the way for the Seattle wide receiving corps. The Seahawks have lined up with just one wide receiver (Baldwin) several times, which is probably in place to help the offensive line. In doing so, Baldwin has accumulated more snaps than Lockett and Richardson, but all three have contributed in one fashion or another. Rookie Chris Carson looks to be the back Pete Carroll wants to lead the offense, at least for now. Carson has impressed on a few occasions to get to this point. His volume received (20 carries last week) is welcomed, but I haven't seen that "wow" moment from him just yet, which curbs my enthusiasm. Plus Seattle's offensive line and offense in general continues to be a concern. Carson is a nice roster stash for now until he proves he can be a reliable fantasy back. Right now he has "an opportunity" but he needs to cash in and he hasn't done that for me yet.
I mentioned the Titans running game ealrier in the article, but the receiving game is also one to discuss. Corey Davis is still having some hamstring issues that might take some additional rest. If that's the case, look for Eric Decker and Rishard Matthews to play more of a role. The three headed monster for the Titans at wide receiver could be reduced to two if Davis sits this week vs. Seattle.
it's time to fine-tune
If you started off 0-2 or 1-1, it's not too late to turn things around. Sometimes, one player in your lineup with a big game can make the difference between a win and loss. There are plenty of players who have yet to have a big week and some are probably on your roster. Make the right waiver picks and lineup decisions and don't be afraid to make a trade that could change your season for the better if he hits. Sometimes you have to overpay for the player you want, but if it works for your lineup, I say do it.
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