Let's examine what we think of players with the preseason over and the season ahead.
For Real/Fool's gold
Matt Waldman: Explain which end of the spectrum you fall on these Week 1 performers.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Phillip Lindsay
- Geronimo Allison
- Jalen Richard
- Dante Pettis
- Austin Ekeler
- Will Dissly
We're making these calls based on fantasy value, not talent. Still, feel free to comment on talent and skill if you wish.
Daniel Simpkins: Ryan Fitzpatrick is for real. Fitzpatrick has been around the league for a while, so we have some previous data points with which to work. We’ve seen him play well and get off to hot starts before. He remains one of the better backups in the league and is working with an above-average set of pass catchers.
Do I believe that he’ll erupt for four or five scores in a week again this year? It’s unlikely, but I do believe he is a serviceable option if you are desperate for a quarterback. This week’s matchup against Philadelphia is probably not one I would actively seek to use him in, but his next draw against Pittsburgh would seem to be favorable based on what I saw out of their defense in week one.
Jason Wood: Stop the ride, I want to get off! As a fellow Ivy Leaguer, I’ve always had love for Ryan Fitzpatrick, but his performance against the Saints was as unpredictable as the weather at the turn of seasons. Fitzpatrick is not an unknown commodity. He’s 35 years old, was a seventh-round draft pick back in 2005, and has played for seven teams. Believe it or not, he has four top-20 seasons under his belt, including two QB1 seasons (12th with Buffalo in 2011, and 11th with the Jets in 2015).
The Buccaneers skill players are immensely talented, and Fitzpatrick has at least two more games under center – and may keep the job over Jameis Winston if he keeps playing this well. However, we’ve seen enough from Fitzpatrick to know Week 1 was an anomaly, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a viable contributor in superflex or two-quarterback leagues. VERDICT: Sell as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback, Buy as a fringe QB2.
Sean Settle: Haven’t we all seen this story before? Fitzpatrick goes out and dominates a team who had already looked past him, but then the next few teams scheme to take away his options and he throws up a dud. This past week was the perfect storm of Fitzpatrick having an underrated receiving core and facing a defense that thought they were going to dominate simply because of what they did last season.
Fitzpatrick may be an option in a deep two-quarterback league but should not be relied on in a traditional format. Right now, he looks like a very shiny Fool’s Gold.
Maurile Tremblay: For real. I declined to draft a backup quarterback in several leagues this season under the theory that I could add Jameis Winston in Week 2 or 3 and be happy with his upside potential. Change of plans: I'm now picking up Ryan Fitzpatrick wherever I can instead. His performance in Week 1 offered a lot of reasons to jump on the bandwagon.
He's always been a heady quarterback and an adept game manager, but his deep ball on Sunday looked fantastic -- and so did his deep targets. The match between Fitzpatrick on the one hand, and Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Godwin on the other could be magical all season.
Or Fitzpatrick could fizzle out over the next few weeks and carry Winston's clipboard thereafter. It's a chance well worth taking because the upside could be -- well, I won't say Kurt Warner 1999, but I think it's higher than most historical Week 1 waiver-wire pickups.
Matt Waldman: I'm with Daniel and Maurile on this one because the mismatches that Evans, Jackson, Godwin, and O.J. Howard provide. As questionable as the Saints defense is, this quartet of options creates easier decisions for the quarterback when used the way they were last week. Godwin and Howard are excellent talents who are demonstrating that rookie-to-year-two emergence.
When an offense can spread the field, it poses problems for most defenses — even ones superior to the Saints on the Buccaneers' schedule.
I'm not expecting Fitzpatrick to deliver consistent top-five production so if you're taking the question to be "Is his elite production for real," then he's Fool's Gold. If the expectation is that Fitzpatrick can deliver low-end fantasy QB1 production in 12- or 14-team leagues, then he's for real.
Danny Tuccitto: Fitzpatrick is Fool's Gold. This is not a typo: His Yards per Attempt (YPA) against New Orleans was 14.9 and his Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt was 17.8! To put that in perspective, the league average YPA heading into this season was 7.3 and in Week 1 it was 7.0. Fitzpatrick's True YPA with Tampa Bay was 7.1 before Week 1 and his now 7.5 afterward.
All signs point to his stats coming back down to earth, so why buy high? Furthermore, his next two games are against the Eagles and Steelers. And if he somehow holds onto the starting job even after Jameis Winston returns from suspension, the Buccaneers visit the Bears in Week 4. Good luck.
Justin Howe: During the five extended appearances he replaced Jameis Winston, Fitzpatrick topped 275 yards four times. But he’ll balance those with an erratic, multi-turnover game before his tenure is through. Still, he's obviously for real.
Phillip Lindsay is in the process of snatching the change-of-pace role entirely from Devontae Booker, who might not be long for pads on Sundays. Royce Freeman is exciting, but he’s not a complete back, and Lindsay brings bounce-outside and pass-game chops to the table. He’s probably locked into 8-15 weekly touches, though the swings will be maddening for anyone depending on him.
Tremblay: Lindsay is for real from an NFL perspective; Fool's Gold from a fantasy perspective. Lindsay reminds me of Austin Ekeler — he combines a lot of hustle with a versatile array of skills, and he will add value to his team.
But he's also got Ekeler's main drawback: Barring injury to his backfield mate, he's not going to get enough touches to be a fantasy starter. His ceiling isn't high enough for me to value him as a waiver-wire pickup.
Settle: All signs pointed to Royce Freeman as being the clear starter, but the hometown hero in Lindsay is really pushed that week one. Freeman only saw about 40 percent of snaps and was in for a single passing down. The Broncos do not trust him yet and really like the change of pace that Lindsay provides.
The Broncos did not run the ball much on the Seahawks side of the field but when they did it was Freeman. Lindsay is going to lose out on goal-line work but will make up for that in third down and passing situation. Lindsay looks very much like the real deal until Freeman can establish himself.
Wood: Confirmation bias is tricky. Everyone was so focused on the coachspeak regarding Devontae Booker versus Royce Freeman; we failed to pay attention to the camp reports praising Phillip Lindsay. His Week 1 performance may have felt surprising, but it was 100 percent in line with the talk from beat writers all summer.
He and Freeman had similar workloads in the game, and the film shows Lindsay was better. I’m not willing to discount Freeman long-term, but why would we presume Lindsay’s role was a fluke? The only thing going against him is size – he’s 5-foot-8, 190 pounds. However, as long as he’s healthy, the Broncos have a two-man rookie committee on their hands. Verdict: Buy as a PPR flex option, at least until he gets hurt.
Simpkins: Phillip Lindsay is for real. The constant camp buzz should have alerted us to the fact that Lindsay will be the complimentary back to Royce Freeman. Sean mentioned Freeman's snap percentage, and clearly, the team doesn’t trust him completely as a blocker.
On the bright side for Freeman, it is notable that the Broncos ran only one rushing play inside the Seahawks 20-yard line and that snap went to Freeman. I believe when they are in goal-line situations, you will see primarily Freeman used. Though Freeman can catch passes, the team will also give Lindsay a chance to excel in that role. Just don’t count on Lindsay to put up this type of stat line every week-- there will be weeks when Freeman has the better game script.
Waldman: Lindsay is a satellite back who had a few good runs up the middle this weekend but despite his fourth-quarter carries, Freeman earned the rock in the late fourth quarter when it was time to close out the contest and Freeman delivered. Lindsay performed well enough that he will be a part of this offense but I don't recall seeing him as a blocker and his use was meant to get speed on the field against Seattle's linebackers.
At best, think of Lindsay as a 2017 Tarik Cohen complement to Royce Freeman's Jordan Howard. Lindsay will have weeks as a fantasy starter and out-score Freeman but Freeman will earn the majority of touches in the red zone and close-out situations for a team with a good defense. At worst, Lindsay is a back who will earn 3-5 pivotal looks per game and if he hits on one, he'll earn more opportunities during the game.
Lindsay will be an inconsistent option who will frustrate fantasy players who acquire his services. Freeman may not deliver top-12 production like Howard but I expect his volume and production to climb as Devontae Booker's appearances decline.
Tuccitto: Reading through my colleagues' comments, it seems there's wide misconception about Lindsay's actual usage on Sunday. On 12 of Denver's 14 drives, he played behind both Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker, even on passing downs.
On two drives, one in each half, he was given carte blanche. If that doesn't tell you this was not a hot-hand situation, there's also the fact that he returned to the bench for a long stretch of plays immediately following his touchdown reception.
If he does have some defined role in Denver's offense based on Week 1, it's not as a passing-down back. (Heck, a significant number of his snaps were runs out of two-tight end formations.) And it's not as a back to use when he's the hot hand. Rather, it's as a back who gives his stablemates a breather for one drive per half. That's not the kind of usage I'm willing to bank on going forward, so Lindsay's a clear Fool's Gold for me until something changes.
On the other hand, Geronimo Allison will never be Fool's Gold as long as Aaron Rodgers is on the field and Allison remains a starter in Green Bay's default 11 personnel packages. That's not to say he'll be overtaking Davante Adams anytime soon, but it does mean that he has the highest floor of any player in this list; which is the antithesis of fool's gold.
Waldman: Allison is a poor man's JuJu Smith-Schuster in terms of his skill set and usage. He's a smooth receiver who finds the open zones and can get open along the perimeter but he needs the Packers offense to create confusing coverage situations for opponents that could create busted assignments.
If we're defining "for real" as a weekly fantasy starter in leagues with 3-4 receivers, Allison is Fool's Gold.
Howe: I love Allison’s outlook, and I’ll be shocked if he’s overtaken by a big but raw rookie like Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Equanimeous St. Brown. Allison has long been a low-key favorite of Aaron Rodgers’, so if the future Hall of Fame quarterback can suit up for Week 2, he’ll remain entrenched in the game plan.
Wood: Nothing about the Bears-Packers game was normal. It’s hard to judge a game where the Packers are neutered for a half, fear their franchise quarterback is done for the season, only to have him pull a Willis Reed and lead them back in the fourth quarter.
Waldman: On behalf of the young people, who is Willis Reed?
Wood: Don't even start with me, Wildman...Allison was an integral part of the game plan, and I see no reason he can’t continue to be one of the three or four most targeted Packers depending on the game script. There will be forgettable weeks, and impressive weeks. But there will be volatility which makes him ideally suited as a fantasy No.3.
All of this hinges on Aaron Rodgers’ health. If he misses significant time, all Packers take a huge hit, and Allison becomes someone worth cutting in favor of an intriguing free agent. My verdict: Legitimate as a high-floor, low-ceiling WR3.
Simpkins: Allison is for real in the sense that he’s in Rodgers’ offense, he’s assignment sound — where he needs to be when he needs to be there — and he’ll often draw the worst coverage of the three receivers. As he proved this week, he’s got a shot at a touchdown on any given week. If Rodgers ends up missing significant time, I believe he virtually loses all value. DeShone Kizer can’t support the offense at this stage in his development.
Settle: Aaron Rodgers has this uncanny ability to make just about any receiver look good. Allison is a promising third-year receiver that seems to put himself in the right place at the right time, but he is a distant third behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb.
Allison also now has to contend with Jimmy Graham for targets in the red zone. Buyer beware with Allison. There will be games this season that Rodgers makes him look like a legitimate WR1, but there is just too much competition for targets in Green Bay to consider Allison a real deal.
Tremblay: An offense led by Aaron Rodgers is capable of supporting three fantasy-worthy wide receivers, but when looking for an NFL WR3 with fantasy upside, I'd rather take a chance on Dante Pettis or Kenny Golladay.
I believe Allison will remain behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb in targets all season, while I think that either Pettis or Golladay have a better shot at surpassing one or both of the receivers currently ahead of them on the depth chart. While Allison is worth picking up, I am not prioritizing him as highly as most others seem to be.
I also think Jalen Richard is Fool's Gold. The game flow against the Rams was just weird. Richard earned 11 targets from the backfield, but I don't expect that to happen very often.
The Raiders' running backs and tight ends collectively got more than three times as many targets as the wide receivers on Sunday. On a more normal game day, Richard will be third in RB looks behind Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin, not first as he was against the Rams.
Simpkins: Begrudgingly, Jalen Richard is for real.
Waldman: What did he ever do to you?
Simpkins: Richard showed us on Monday night that Gruden prefers him to Lynch in clear passing situations, that's what. It’s a shame because I believe Lynch has the capacity to be fine as a pass catcher and it better disguises your intentions when you have a back capable of both between-the-tackles and pass-catching work on the field.
I also noted that the Raiders got away from using their larger personnel to impose their will in the trenches late in the game, which is a big reason they ended up losing. Hopefully, the coaching staff looks at the tape, sees that this was working before they went away from it, and learns a lesson here.
Waldman: I agree that Oakland left the ground game too early and I also agree that Richard is a PPR bye-week option in three-back fantasy lineups because he's been in-tune with Derek Carr as a check-down receiver for the past two years and nothing has changed this season. However, a PPR bye-week option doesn't make him for real as much as it makes him barely functional.
Wood: Richard has the talent, but he’s still the third back in the pecking order. Since I expect the Raiders offense to be toward the league bottom, it’s not generally a good idea to invest in pieces of the roster, particularly backups. He's Fool's Gold.
Settle: After trading Khalil Mack, it is almost impossible to predict what the Raiders are going to do. Lynch looked solid on the first drive and scoring his touchdown and then the Raiders shifted gears and fed Richard down the stretch when they were behind.
Richard is the real deal in a passing sense. He is not going to take away carries from Lynch on the goal line, but he will see third down work as well as clear passing situations. Richard is going to be the real deal until the Raiders look at the tape and see they success they were having with the power run game and if they ever start throwing to Lynch out of the backfield then Richard will lose almost all value.
Tuccitto: I didn't even realize Richard was a booty to be bamboozled by. Yes, he had 11 targets, but his first opportunity came in a two-minute drill at the end of the first half, and he didn't touch the ball again after the break until the Rams took a 20-13 lead into the fourth quarter; which got worse from there.
I suppose if you think getting run roughshod will be a regular recurence for the Raiders, then Richard is for real. I don't.
Howe: I’m still bracing for a Le'Veon Bell trade, but in the meantime, Richard slots in nicely as the change-up back behind the Raiders’ plodding veterans. Richard averages 6.2 yards per touch over his career, and with his receiving skills, he’s the quintessential Jon Gruden back.
I can't say the same about Dante Pettis. Pettis is only fantasy-relevant if Marquise Goodwin is forced to sit out his thigh bruise. The rookie had a nice touchdown catch and carries a second-round NFL Draft pedigree. Still, he didn’t do much else in relief, and if Goodwin is fine then Pettis isn’t rosterable going forward.
Simpkins: Dante Pettis is a real talent, but it’s going to depend on the opportunity he gets. That, in turn, will depend on Marquis Goodwin’s health going forward. Goodwin already has a deep thigh bruise and is day-to-day.
That said, it may not be a bad idea to pick up Pettis now. He won’t be the most expensive commodity on the waiver wire and with Goodwin’s track record, Pettis just may get a shot to emerge.
Tuccitto: As was telegraphed in San Francisco's third preseason game, Pettis is the backup to Marquise Goodwin, not Pierre Garcon (Garcon's backup is Kendrick Bourne). That's a double-edged sword, however. It's a plus because Goodwin's position rarely, if ever, leaves the field.
For example, he's the lone wideout in 22 personnel (i.e., two running backs and two tight ends). Pettis assumed this exact role after Goodwin's injury. On the other hand, it's a minus because the above also means Pettis will rarely, if ever, see the field when Goodwin's healthy.
Talent-wise, he's for real. In terms of fantasy value, however, I'd definitely add Pettis if Goodwin is going to miss time, but in full anticipation of dropping him when Goodwin returns.
Waldman: The nice thing about the Pettis that you guys could be underestimating is that the 49ers cited his position versatility when they drafted him in the second round and the team has used him at all three positions during the preseason.
The steady plan from April through September is that Pettis could be used in a variety of spots in the lineup. He's making it difficult for the 49ers to keep him on the bench for extended periods of time. He's for real as a talent and for real in leagues with at least 20 roster spots where you can stash him as an option that spells Goodwin, Garcon, and Taylor enough that he'll earn playable volume as a bye-week option.
Tremblay: I agree with Matt in the sense that it is too soon to say "For Real," but I'm confident saying he's a worthwhile investment with better upside potential than most wide receivers on fantasy waiver wires this week. Part of my optimism about Pettis stems from my distrust of Marquise Goodwin or Pierre Garcon to become true NFL WR1s.
I think Pettis is more talented than either of them -- although I'm not at all sure he'll put it on display this season with any consistency. Still, his ceiling makes him worth a shot.
Settle: This is entirely dependent on what happens with the injury to Goodwin. Both receivers have a very similar skill set and the ability to run past just about any corner in the league. If Goodwin ends up missing time, then Pettis will have huge boom-bust implications. He has the ability to take the ball to the house on almost every play. He is the real deal but will content for targets with Goodwin if healthy.
Wood: A certain talented analyst named Matt Waldman pens a must-read analysis called the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. It’s my go-to source for evaluating collegiate skill players. Waldman’s thoughtful analysis rated Pettis as the top rookie receiver — ahead of Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore. And I agree with him.
So it’s no surprise seeing Pettis making highlight-reel plays in his first NFL game. Pettis’ value in redraft leagues hinges on whether Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin stay healthy. But he should be a 49ers starter next year one way or another. Verdict: Buy as a compelling bench option, and consider starting if Goodwin or Garcon miss time.
He’s dynamic. He can run between the tackles and is among the best-receiving backs in the AFC. The Chargers have found a way to keep Melvin Gordon III the workhorse without marginalizing Ekeler.
In an era where 1,000 yards from scrimmage and a handful of touchdowns makes you a viable fantasy commodity, Ekeler is the top waiver wire grab in most leagues. My verdict: Buy as a compelling PPR WR2/Flex with RB1 upside if Gordon gets hurt.
Settle: Something good happens almost every time Ekeler touches the ball. He proved he was the real deal last season and continued to do so this year. He carries a 5.8 yards per carry average and 11.4 yards per catch. Gordon is going to be the workhorse for the Chargers, but Ekeler cannot be ignored. He is definitely the real deal and is going to cause a lot of frustration for Gordon owners as he takes more and more touches away.
Howe: I still shake my head in dismay at those who screamed through the preseason that Ekeler was losing his job to seventh-round rookie Justin Jackson. Ekeler was a college workhorse before acing his pro day and producing a video game-like 7.9 yards per touch as a pro.
Waldman: Shake your head all you want but as one of those who believed it was a true possibility, Jackson was a college workhorse in the Big Ten, performed well at the NFL Combine, and got off to a fast start during the first couple of days at camp until a hamstring injury sidelined him for all but the final week. The fact that Los Angeles kept Jackson despite missing most of training camp should tell you that Ekeler's job may be safe this year but not necessarily long-term.
It's very possible that the only reason we're not mentioning Jackson in the same breath as Lindsay is that hamstring.
Howe: Touché. For this year, Ekeler is the clear-cut handcuff to a fairly injury-prone starter, one who takes his share of rests and sometimes cedes whole quarters to his reserves, Ekeler is an ideal fantasy RB4, and a weekly starter if Gordon goes down.
Tuccitto: Ekeler is far more for real than Richard insofar as a) he's actually used from time to time in non-desperate situations, and b) he has the all-around skill set necessary to loosely approximate Melvin Gordon III's fantasy production should Gordon get hurt; which before last season he was apt to do. In leagues with deep rosters, the case for non-Gordon teams stashing Ekeler is significantly stronger. In shallow leagues, however, he's unequivocal Fool's Gold.
Tremblay: He made some big plays against the Chiefs, but he won't get enough touches to be a consistent fantasy producer. As long as Melvin Gordon III III stays healthy, Ekeler has flex upside at best.
The player I'm higher on than most is Will Dissly. While watching YouTube highlights of him leading up to my rookie drafts in dynasty leagues this season, I kept rejecting the notion that he's just a blocker.
To be sure, I view blocking ability in a tight end favorably. Blocking gets tight ends on the field, especially in goal-line situations, more than failing at blocking does.
But more importantly, while the Washington Huskies didn't throw Dissly the ball very much, but when they did, he showed the ability to move well for his size, and showed some naturally soft hands. Dissly would be pretty low on my waiver-wire priority in redraft leagues, but I think people are wrong to dismiss him completely.
Howe: We just saw the best game of Dissly’s career. He created two chunk gains, one on a play-action rollout, and the other on a Marshawn Lynch-like pinball down the field. But he’s a block-first type, one whose receiving contributions will likely be limited to those specialty plays. And opportunity for those will dry up quickly.
Settle: Seattle found a flaw in Denver’s defense; not the next Rob Gronkowski. Dissly is pure Fool’s Gold and will revert back to the blocking tight end he is next week. The bigger story here is the Broncos continued inability to cover tight ends and is something to look at when streaming a tight end.
Simpkins: Will Dissly is the Fool’s Gold among this bunch. Dissly is the blocking tight end for this team and the coaching staff was just exploiting a hole they had identified in Denver’s coverage. What is for real is the fact Denver is still struggling to cover tight ends. We should take that into account when we are looking for tight end streamers or matchup plays.
Wood: I don’t think Dissly’s name appeared in a beat writer report this summer without some mention of his blocking ability. Categorized by everyone as the Seahawks new blocking tight end, of course, it was Dissly who led the team in receiving yards in Week 1. I’m still reluctant to expect consistent target volume or big plays, so he remains a fringe roster option in all but the deepest of leagues. Verdict: Fool's Gold.
Tuccitto: Dissly is for real. Whether or not he was scouted and pigeonholed as a blocking tight end is less relevant to me than his usage against Denver. If he's just a blocking tight end, why was he, not Nick Vannett, the only tight end on the field in 11 personnel, which is typically a passing down package, especially for an offense like Seattle's?
I mean, it clearly wasn't for pass protection, as he was usually flexed off the line and almost always ran a route — not to mention that he gave up at least two sacks in the first half that I noticed. Watching the coaches' film, Dissly would have far outpaced Vannett in final snap count if not for two things:
- Dissly came off the field for an extended breather after every long target or long reception.
- Seattle switched from mostly three-wide sets in the first half to mostly two-tight end sets in the second half.
I will agree that he had significant separation on at least two of his three receptions, but where's the crime in that?
Waldman: When you're slow and the defense he faces has a past history of poor play against tight ends.
Tuccitto: Still, George Kittle benefits from being wide open all the time due to game-planning and play design, yet we don't hold it against him. Besides his touchdown catch, which was indeed blown coverage on a wheel route, Dissly simply ran the deep seam or post that what was called and identified the soft spot in Denver's zone. That's a routine occurrence in the NFL, not some anomaly dependent on the Broncos being especially bad against tight ends.
Waldman: When you misidentify an assignment or you're slow to pick it up, it is. Denver's linebackers have this issue and it showed up on tape. He might still get the target but two of these plays were pretty egregious errors. The two big plays he had outside of the touchdown were targets where the middle linebacker Todd Davis completely misplayed his assignments. Even a slow tight end can beat zone when the linebacker either misses the assignment or fails to drop with the proper depth.
Tuccitto: Maybe, but I was expecting to see some big galoot making body catches and falling down instead of a bona fide athlete. Dissly's 66-yard reception required breaking two tackles (from four defenders) and running 45 yards after the catch. His 22-yard reception required a leaping hands-only grab with the balance to stay on his feet for yards after the catch.
Waldman: He's fluid and coordinated as a receiver, no doubt. But he's slow and you're not getting the next Greg Olsen. Maybe the next poor man's Gary Barnidge.
Tuccitto: I'm not ruling out that he has a long-term future as a fantasy option. The one argument I will accept — because I already believe it based on reams of data — is that Dissly is a rookie tight end; and rookie tight ends almost never provide fantasy value over the course of a full season.
But even there, just last season saw Evan Engram produce as a rookie tight end, primarily because his team's No. 1 target was lost for significant time. And lo and behold, Seattle's No. 1 target appears unlikely to play for the next month.
I think Dissly is a massive case of narrative-fitting based on prior beliefs, whether they be from scouting reports or Denver's difficulties against tight ends in years past.
Waldman: Discuss AT LEAST THREE of the backfields listed below. Name the runners that have weekly fantasy value (you may choose "none/neither" or "both/all" if applicable).
- Adrian Peterson-Chris Thompson
- Royce Freeman-Phillip Lindsay
- Dion Lewis-Derrick Henry
- Rex Burkhead-James White-Jeremy Hill-Sony Michel
- Carlos Hyde-Duke Johnson Jr-Nick Chubb
- Bilal Powell-Isaiah Crowell
- Marshawn Lynch-Jalen Richard-Doug Martin
- Frank Gore-Kenyan Drake
Explain your choices and if there are specific matchups where they are more or less valuable.
Simpkins: I believe Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson can have fantasy value in any given week. Despite being an older player, Peterson has kept himself in fantastic shape and really has only lost his long speed, a trait overrated by fantasy players. Peterson had a nice 52-yard gain in the passing game this week, but don’t lose sight of the fact that Thompson is the preference of this team in the passing game. Stout run defenses may pose a problem for Peterson’s production, but for the next three (Colts, Packers, Saints), it should be smooth sailing for him.
The Jets’ offensive line didn’t get tested by fire against the Lions as they will be by better defensive fronts, but they did show their commitment to impose their will in the trenches and let their young signal caller grow into his role. Both Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell will get about equal touches per game, but the team seems to favor Powell in the targets department.
I still see analysts and fans dump on Frank Gore and I’m sick of the ageist hot takes. He’s still proving himself to be in excellent shape and possess an understanding of how to run the football that few backs in the NFL ever will achieve. The near-equal workload that Gore and Kenyan Drake had against the Titans should tell you what the team thinks of the notion that Gore is too old to be productive. I still expect Gore to be the more effective of the two between the tackles.
Wood: I'll give a quick hit on each backfield.
- Adrian Peterson-Chris Thompson – Peterson probably (but I need to see it for more than a week) and Thompson definitely.
- Royce Freeman-Phillip Lindsay – They split touches and Lindsay was better, but I still like Freeman over the long haul. For now, neither can be counted on as No. 1 or No 2s, but both are viable flex options.
- Dion Lewis-Derrick Henry – Yes, to both. Henry had a long touchdown run called back on a penalty that had no impact on his run, and Lewis showed he could be productive while healthy.
- Rex Burkhead-James White-Jeremy Hill-Sony Michel – Not yet. Too much variance to count on any of them, although Hill’s ACL tear does free up touches for the other three.
- Carlos Hyde-Duke Johnson Jr-Nick Chubb – Hyde is a borderline No. 1 as long as he’s healthy, and Chubb is a non-factor as a result. However, Chubb is immensely talented and could do more per touch than Hyde if he gets a shot now, or more likely in 2019. Johnson concerns me now that the Browns have legitimate receivers to target.
- Bilal Powell-Isaiah Crowell – Strongly prefer Crowell, but both are flex options for now.
- Marshawn Lynch-Jalen Richard-Doug Martin – Only Lynch is a weekly fantasy option. Martin and Richard would split touches if Lynch gets hurt, and the Raiders should struggle, so I’m avoiding everyone here.
- Frank Gore-Kenyan Drake – Drake is an every week starter, Gore is not.
Settle: The Peterson-Thompson presents value to anyone who touches the ball. Peterson turned back the clock this week and looked closer to his Minnesota days than Arizona; while Thompson looked healthy and ready to contribute.
This is going to very easily be a case of riding the hot hand for Washington for early-down work. Peterson has more value around the goal line as well as overall experience, but he has never been great about catching the ball out of the backfield.
Thompson is going to take almost all of the passing down work as that has always been the biggest hole in Peterson’s game. The next three contests are against the Colts, Packers, and Saints and should not be an issue for either back.
Week one should prove to be a blip on the radar for Henry. The Titans were playing from behind and dealing with the weather. Lewis was proving to find more success against Miami, but it is going to be Henry over the course of the season who sees the majority of the work, especially around the goal line.
The snap count looks ugly, 49 to 20, but that is not what we are going to see over the course of the season. It will take just one big game from Henry to correct the snap count and better conditions next week against Houston should do just that.
There was not a great sample size of carries in the red zone for Denver, but it would appear that Freeman has the upper hand in that department. Lindsay is going to be one of the biggest waiver pickups this week and the initial return should pay off for fantasy owners.
Tuccitto: Peterson and Thompson have weekly value, but I'd rather have Thompson. With so much uncertainty in fantasy football, we have to take advantage of roles as clearly defined as the ones in this backfield.
I prefer Thompson because there are more pathways for him to produce fantasy points, which gives him a higher floor. His scoring is independent of whether Washington is winning or losing, whereas Peterson's depends on them winning (a la the Arizona game).
One might argue that the solution is to start Peterson when Washington's favored, and start Thompson when they're not. If Vegas spreads were that easy to decipher, there wouldn't be a Vegas to begin with. Case in point, Washington was a road underdog last week, yet won by 18 points. Peterson had his day because they defied the odds. Thompson would have had his day irrespective of the odds.
Barring injury, Freeman is the only runner who will have weekly fantasy value. As I detailed earlier, he's on the field for rushing downs. Devontae Booker is on the field for passing downs. Lindsay gives those two a full-drive breather once per half.
At least this was their usage in Week 1. Perhaps if Lindsay were to fully claim Booker's role, then I'd change my answer to "both," as his superior skills will extract more value out of it than Booker.
When it comes to Crowell and Powell, I want to say neither on general principle, but Crowell is clearly a weekly FLEX starter. I say "on general principle" because him being stuck in a true 50-50 split is the type of lunacy good coaches don't exhibit.
Crowell can do anything Powell does, but better, and they paid him all that money. When a coaching staff shows me who they are, I believe them. Therefore, unless I don't have better options, I'm staying away from this situation entirely.
Howe: Derrick Henry simply doesn’t look like a special runner. He’s not much of a creator for a 247-pounder, and he rarely works his way into a rhythm, with both 10+ carries and 4.0+ yards per attempt in just 9 of 31 career games.
I’m only prioritizing him in games the Titans are favored, which would give him the script to rack up late-game yards and explosive runs against tired defenses. Considering the Titans’ current climate, I’m not holding my breath. In my eyes, Henry is a boom-or-bust RB3 each week, while Dion Lewis is seizing RB2 value. Lewis is smallish, but a more decisive runner who doesn’t leave many yards on the field.
Call me a pessimist, but I don’t foresee Adrian Peterson’s awesomeness carrying over for the year. We saw this movie last year, when Peterson joined the Cardinals and immediately went off for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns, only to sink back into grim reality. He averaged just 3.0 yards per rush after that.
Waldman: Yards per carry isn't a great stat, and it doesn't show much context about the state of the offensive line in Arizona. Peterson didn't turn into a pumpkin; he lost a line to create creases and he had to use the elite athletic ability that he still possesses to get whatever he could.
Howe: Regardless of whether we agree, given Peterson's age and recent injury record I think we’ll be asking this question about Samaje Perine at some point this year. Running backs simply don’t stay upright long at 33. Thompson is a crucial piece of Jay Gruden’s offense -he continues to stay involved after so many injuries and so much turnover in the backfield.
Drake and Gore flip-flopped their expected Week 1 roles. Drake was largely bottled up, while Gore broke off chunk runs and outpaced the explosive youngster. That seems a bit odd, but serves as a reminder that (a) Gore is a future Hall of Famer who rarely makes mistakes, and (b) Drake is a part-timer at heart, one who’s never topped 133 carries in a season, college or pro.
There’s no easy answer to this backfield; both will play extensively and offer unpredictable fantasy value. But it will be capped for both, so exploring trade offers after one has a huge game seems shrewd. It’s unlikely the Dolphins will ever hand the full-time gig to either, especially Drake.
Tremblay: Peterson-Thompson is a tough one because I'm torn on both. I'm a little skeptical of Peterson based on his age, but he looked really good on Sunday. I'm skeptical of Thompson because he never seems to get enough touches, but he nonetheless has a strong track record based on efficiency. I guess you can count me as lukewarm here.
I like Freeman as a potential difference-maker down the stretch once this offense finds its identity. I find Danny's analysis of Lindsay's usage compelling and have nothing to add to it.
In New England, I think Sony Michel has the best upside here. One way this could go is, in typical Patriots fashion, different running backs could take turns providing solid fantasy performances but in an unpredictable pattern that leaves fantasy managers frustrated.
Another way it could go — which I think people are discounting more than they should — is that Sony Michel will become this backfield's clear frontrunner over the second half of the season and into the fantasy playoffs. I like Michel has a high-risk, high-reward trade target.
Waldman: I couldn't agree more about Michel as a good upside play. Like Jamaal Williams last year, Michel is an excellent blocker who can help this team immediately. Unlike Williams, Michel has good speed. If he can hold onto the ball, he could earn a huge share of volume.
Tremblay: In Oakland, Lynch is the only one I have much interest in, and it is moderated by my fear that this offense will not score a lot of points. Jalen Richard's strong Week 1 was the by-product of an unusual game script, and Doug Martin doesn't have the big-play ability he once had.
In Miami, Kenyan Drake is the answer here based on upside potential. At this stage in his career, Gore can be a workmanlike compiler — and there's nothing wrong with that. Yards are yards. But if one of these two backs is going to break out into a top-fifteen fantasy finish, I think the heavy favorite is Drake.
great week/great year
Waldman: Of the Week 1 studs below, which ones simply had a great week as a top-10 option at their position and which ones will have a great year as a top-10 option for the rest of the season?
- Patrick Mahomes II II
- Tyrod Taylor
- Joe Mixon
- Adrian Peterson
- Kenny Golladay
- Kenny Stills
- DeSean Jackson
- Jared Cook
- Eric Ebron
What say you?
Simpkins: I think Mahomes and Mixon are the only options in store for a great year.
- Patrick Mahomes II II: I was effusive in my praise of Mahomes in last week’s roundtable, so I won’t gush about him again. Just know that I believe he finishes within the top options at his position this year.
- Tyrod Taylor: Taylor played wonderfully and had the kicker not missed, we would be talking about how the Browns upset the Steelers this week. A top-10 finish is a little too strong for me considering all the great fantasy quarterback options, but Taylor finishing as a top-15 option is a virtual lock.
- Joe Mixon: We saw the shift to make Mixon the primary back begin last year and now the team is trusting Mixon to do even more. A top-10 finish is likely for Mixon.
- Adrian Peterson: Summarizing what I said earlier in the roundtable, Peterson is not too old to produce. I’m not a believer that he’ll achieve a top-10 finish in a typical PPR league, but concluding the season as a top-20 running back is do-able.
- Kenny Golladay: I like Golladay, but probably more because of the situation he’s in than his talent as an individual. The coverage focus is on Marvin Jones Jr and Golden Tate, leaving him free to take advantage of inferior corners. I’m skeptical that Golladay can achieve a top-10 finish. He’s more likely to end up among the top-25 range.
- Kenny Stills: The volume will be there for a top finish, but I question how he will do when matched up against better corners. Placing him in the 20’s seems like a more likely outcome.
- DeSean Jackson: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I believe in the talent of Jackson, but he tends to get banged up. He’s already got a concussion and is questionable for the Eagles game. I’ll say finishing in the 30’s is the more probable outcome.
- Jared Cook and Eric Ebron: I’m going to say no to both of these guys. They have their moments when they flash dominance, but they also have a track record of inconsistent play and disappearing for games at a time. Sell them while they are hot commodities.
Tremblay: Mahomes may have an up-and-down year with some disappointing weeks, but his big arm, aggressive attitude, and terrific downfield targets will yield him plenty of big games as well. If he stays healthy, I'd give him a slightly better than 50 percent chance to finish in the top ten for the season.
Taylor is actually in a better situation this year with the Browns than he was last year with the Bills. Fans will be calling for Baker Mayfield to start at some point, but Taylor is an underrated passer who can also score fantasy points with his legs. Throwing to Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon (as well as talented receivers at tight end and running back) can only help. I expect him to finish as a top-ten fantasy quarterback this season.
I was skeptical of Mixon heading into the season, but Week 1 went a long way toward changing my mind. I feared that Giovani Bernard would have a significant role in the offense based on his receiving skills, but Mixon looked great as both a runner and as a receiver against the Colts. "Against the Colts" is the caveat here (as they may make many opposing running backs look good this season), but his all-around game looked good enough to leave me believing he is at least even-odds to finish around RB10 this year.
Adrian Peterson was impressive in Week 1, but it's easy for me to list a dozen running backs I'd take ahead of him in a fantasy draft held right now. I don't view him as a solid contender to finish as a top-ten running back.
Daniel wrote that he likes Golladay's situation better than his talent. I hold the opposite view. He's the third receiver on his NFL team, which is never a great fantasy situation in my view. But it looks to me like he's talented enough to potentially rise above Golden Tate or Marvin Jones Jr Jr. in the pecking order. He's a huge underdog to finish as a top-10 fantasy wide receiver, though.
I considered Jarvis Landry to be a sneaky productive fantasy wide receiver when he was in Miami, and I look at Stills the same way. He's easy to overlook, but he keeps making plays. I don't see him finishing in the top ten at his position, however.
DeSean Jackson is not top ten material at this point. He forms a terrific trio of wide receivers in Tampa Bay with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but I'd probably rank him third in that group.
It's hard to trust Jared Cook. Entering his 10th season in the league, he's always had terrific talent as a pass-catcher, but he's never finished as a top-ten fantasy tight end. His Week 1 performance against the Rams was the result of David Carr avoiding passes to his wide receivers all day and checking down underneath instead. I'm not buying it.
The quick answer for Eric Ebron? No. The longer answer: He was fourth on his team in targets in Week 1 behind T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle, Ryan Grant, and Nyheim Hines. I think Jack Doyle is bound to remain ahead of him all season. The second tight end on the Colts will not be a top-ten tight end in the league.
Howe: Let's separate the two. First, the players with a great week but won't have a great year.
- Peterson isn’t “done,” per se. He’s looked efficient behind Washington’s stout line thus far. But I don’t trust his body to hold up as a featured back for 6 more weeks, let alone 16. There couldn’t be a better time to deal him to an overzealous league mate.
- Stills has always been efficient with small workloads, but if he’s cast as Miami’s No. 1 option for a long period, I’m not banking on any more two-touchdown weeks. Ryan Tannehill remains a bland, mediocre downfield passer, which doesn’t fit Stills especially well.
- Jackson will be utilized in more of specialty role at age 31. The Buccaneers look committed to playing Chris Godwin extensively, and he carries far more upside than Jackson, who doesn’t get to play the Saints’ awful slot defense every week.
- Ebron’s touchdown was nice to see, but he won’t be consistent enough for fantasy consideration unless Jack Doyle goes down. Andrew Luck loves his tight ends, but Doyle is a (usually) sure-handed guy who fits the Colts’ dink-and-dunk offense better than Ebron. The ex-Lion has yet to develop into a threat in the red zone, too.
- I love Mahomes’ arm talent; it’s a fiery one that’s always trying to make a play. And as long as he insists on force-feeding Tyreek Hill, he should produce plenty. Mahomes loves utilizing his arm strength, but he’ll start running into defensive walls if he can’t diversify beyond Hill.
The group below will legitimately have a great year.
- Mixon looked amazing against the Colts, and it’s not surprising. Here’s a guy who posted a truly elite 118.40 speed score prior to last year’s draft, then trimmed down under 220 pounds before his second season kicked off. Handed the clear workhorse role, Mixon can finally get into a rhythm as a ballcarrier, and he’ll operate behind a much-improved front line. He’s an RB1 going forward, barring another Cincinnati collapse on offense.
- Golladay was phenomenal in Week 1, beating Tremaine Johnson for a pair of downfield throws and pacing the entire Lions offense. His size/speed combination, catch radius, and knack for making plays in traffic have not been exaggerated. Golladay looks poised to trade off high-usage days with Marvin Jones Jr, so while he won’t be fun to roster, he’ll often be a blast to start.
- Cook’s line was monstrous, of course, but his role atop the Raiders pass game shouldn’t be too surprising. Last year he drew 5 targets or more in 12 of 16 games; Derek Carr loves his dynamism down the seams. Just a year after catching a career-high 54 balls, Cook looks like a fair bet to top 60 in 2018.
- Taylor looked wildly erratic in Week 1, completing just 15 of his 40 throws. But he also showed a willingness to dial up downfield — something past Browns passers have struggled with mightily. With more rapport building weekly with Josh Gordon and company, Taylor looks a bit boom-or-bust play – although he actually boasts a better outlook than many give him credit for. He’s routinely graded near the top of the league in terms of downfield volume and efficiency; Week 1 was no fluke.
Tuccitto: There are five on this list with a great season in store and four who merely had a great week.
Patrick Mahomes II II: Great year. If he can torch a consensus top defense on the road in his first real start, who am I to doubt him? Alex Smith ranked 11th last season, and Mahomes has a higher ceiling.
Tyrod Taylor: Great week. My opinion isn't so much about Taylor as it is about my conviction that Baker Mayfield will start at least four games this season. That removes any chance of Taylor finishing Top 10.
Joe Mixon: Great year. His 80 percent snap share wasn't a mirage, as Giovanni Bernard didn't even see the field until Cincinnati's ninth play of the game. Mixon was in on 8 of the first 10, and 13 of the first 17. Then Bernard got a full, five-play "breather" drive, and then Mixon returned for the next eight consecutive snaps until Cincinnati faced 3rd-and-24. With that kind of usage, Mixon can easily finish 2018 in the Top 10.
Adrian Peterson: Great week. As I mentioned in my answer to the backfield question, Peterson's ceiling is limited because his usage is too situation dependent. I doubt 50-yard receptions are going to be a weekly occurrence.
Kenny Golladay: Great week. My reasoning here is a mix of Mahomes and Taylor. Namely, like Mahomes, the writing's already on the wall that Golladay has the talent and skills to be a Top 10 player at his position. But like Taylor, I also think he won't receive enough of a season-long volume share to produce enough points to finish Top 10.
Kenny Stills: Great season. He's finished in the Top 30 each of the past two seasons, and now target-hog Jarvis Landry plays in Cleveland. Based on Week 1, the historical narrative surrounding a lack of chemistry or shared skill sets or whatever with Ryan Tannehill appears to either have been sorely mistaken or no longer an issue.
Jared Cook: Great season. I identified two months ago that Cook was criminally undervalued in Best Ball drafts. In Jon Gruden's 16+ years at the NFL position coach level or higher, he's never had a tight end as physically gifted as Cook. (Seriously, look it up.) 2016 Jordy Nelson is not walking through that door, so Oakland's non-running back targets were always going to be funneled through Cook and Amari Cooper.
Eric Ebron: Great week, though this is the toughest call of the bunch. Unless he produces an otherworldly Touchdowns per Route Run, Ebron's usage won't be enough to result in a Top 10 season. Then again, fantasy tight end is such a shallow position this season that No. 10 is on pace to score a mere 90 standard points, which therefore wouldn't require said otherworldly efficiency.
Settle: Only two players on this list are in store for a great year.
Patrick Mahomes II II had a great week. Mahomes was one of the biggest surprises in week one but I see a lot of regression to the mean in this case. There are several weapons at his disposal but there are just too many options in a very top-heavy quarterback class. Mahomes will finish closer to top 15 than within the top 10.
Tyrod Taylor will have a great year: One thing Taylor has that Mahomes does not is the ability to run the ball consistently. Couple that with the potential to be playing from behind and a lot of garbage points, and Taylor will have one of his best years. IT was also great to see him take a risk and go for it with the ball late to Josh Gordon (too bad it was intercepted) but this may mark a shift in playing style to be more aggressive.
Joe Mixon will have a great year. Mixon is the clear starter in Cincinnati and should be slated in as their three-down workhorse. He has shown the ability to run the ball and catch it out of the backfield. Look for a break out season from Mixon and a top-10 finish. Adrian Peterson had a great week. As much as I would love to relive the dominant years with the Vikings, Peterson showed he has enough in the tank for spurts. The long reception was a fluke and his only real value come the end of the season will be around the goal line. We are going to see a top 25 finish for Peterson this year.
Kenny Golladay had a great week. The biggest problem with Golladay is there will be too much competition for targets in Detroit. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr will receive the majority of the targets and both finish ahead of him by the end of the season.
Kenny Stills had a great week. It would have been a much different stat line had it not been for Stills 75-yard touchdown reception. Davante Parker is looming with a broken finger and Amendola is still looking to define his role. Stills finishes top 20 this season but does not crack the top 10.
DeSean Jackson had a great week.It was definitely a great week for Jackson, but he is already showing the same injury concerns that he has in the past. Mike Evans does a great job opening the field up for him but if he isn’t healthy then he can’t perform. Jackson falls somewhere between top 15-25 depending on health.
Jared Cook had a great week. Get out while you can. Cook always seems to flash a bit of brilliance and then completely disappears. If you have him on your roster look for some unsuspecting trade partner to take over the eventual disappointment.
Eric Ebron had a great week. It is not so much competition from all of the other tight ends in the league but the competition on his own team. Jack Doyle has a better chance of finishing in the top 10 than Ebron. Try and sell while the numbers are up.
Wood: I have three of the eight in store for a great season.
- Patrick Mahomes II II – The most impressive quarterback performance of Week 1. With the talent at his disposal, I’m inclined to lean toward a great year even though I was skeptical this preseason.
- Tyrod Taylor – Great week. Tyrod has always been a better fantasy quarterback than real-life quarterback, as he was in Week 1. But the Browns aren’t going to keep Baker Mayfield on the sidelines all year.
- Joe Mixon – Great year. A quiet preseason masked an immensely talented emerging star. Mixon can do it all and should be the Bengals three-down workhorse.
- Adrian Peterson – Great week. Father time plays favorites, and Peterson is charmed. He looked good, but he averaged 3.7 yards per carry and had a 50+ yard reception, which we know was a fluke.
- Kenny Golladay – Can I say great weeks? Golladay is talented enough to be an every week fantasy starter, but it’s hard to look at the Jets game and see a game script the Lions plan on following in future weeks.
- Kenny Stills – Great year. Stills was quietly a top-30 receiver last year and now has the No. 1 role all to himself with Jarvis Landry in Cleveland and DeVante Parker on the trainer’s table.
- DeSean Jackson – Great week. The Buccaneers aren’t going to score 40+ points very often, if at all, again this season. Jackson is already banged up, and Chris Godwin is younger with a better all-around game. Expect Godwin and Mike Evans to be Tampa Bay’s go-to playmakers.
- Jared Cook – Great week. Jared Cook is the NFL’s version of the siren who lures sailors into the rocks. If you have him on a roster, sell him now before your league mates wake up from the alluring song.
- Eric Ebron – Great year. Andrew Luck can support two fantasy-worthy tight ends. Jack Doyle will keep a ceiling on Ebron, but the floor is too enticing not to roster and start most weeks.
thoughts after week 1
Matt Waldman: I know some of you well enough to know you have already formed a strong opinion about the season or have a perspective on a subject that you believe fantasy owners should understand. Your thoughts can be about a player, a unit, or a team.
For example, I think Tampa Bay's receivers and tight ends are among the best in the league and if they continue spreading the field successfully, there's strong fantasy value.
Please use this question as an opportunity to express it, or engage with another writer's ideas.
Wood: It's wise to avoid running backs on bad teams, and my decision to avoid LeSean McCoy and David Johnson are going to serve me well. However, I fear the Cowboys may be one of those bad offenses, in which case I grossly mishandled the Ezekiel Elliott situation.
Waldman: Offensive lines are so important to running back play and the loss of center Travis Frederick is huge because he's the one responsible for communicating pre-snap information to the line. Frederick is one of the great young centers in the league. Former NFL starter Geoff Schwartz highlighted on Twitter how the right side of the Cowboys line didn't communicate well and it failed to make an adjustment that would have resulted in a huge run for Elliott.
Atlanta became a strong ground attack when it acquired Alex Mack. Mike Sullivan has been a good center for the Vikings and Rams. His addition and subtraction helped and hurt a pair of teams. Frederick's loss really hurts Elliott.
Settle: As a Vikings fan, I really loved seeing Adrian Peterson score his 100th touchdown and actually catch a ball out of the backfield for a positive gain. After watching him forced out of New Orleans when they did not use him to his skill set and then flounder in Arizona behind a banged-up line and terrible offense, it is refreshing to see him get another chance.
However, Washington will move away from Peterson and continue to feed Thompson as he gets healthier. I believe his usage dips and he eventually becomes ineffective once again as he does not get enough touches to make his power run game work. It is tough to admit, but I think this may be the final tour for one of the best backs to play the game.
Tuccitto: I think it’s important to note the sheer, blinding gold that is the Pittsburgh offense. No fewer than four Steelers generated starting fantasy weeks – and more than that, in most cases. Tight end could be a black hole for most of the year, but there’s no reason Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and a running back can’t all post top-notch weeks simultaneously.
However, in oddball fashion, that doesn’t make Ben Roethlisberger a very good fantasy quarterback. He’s too often bogged down in the red zone, limiting touchdown opportunity and hurting his week-to-week cause. And he’s still awfully careless with the ball, winging too many interceptions on the whole. Interceptions don’t doom a quarterback – in fact, they usually tell us whether a guy is willing to take chances or playing to sanitized to care about. But Roethlisberger is capable of wrecking strong fantasy days with a barrage of turnovers.
Simply put: never, ever bench a Steeler skill-position guy. But even on the best of days, you can probably do at least a little better than Roethlisberger.
Simpkins: A theme that’s resonated with me this week is to be intellectually honest about your evaluations and what you are seeing on the field. I’ve had to admit to myself this week that several of the things I had prognosticated over the offseason just aren’t going to come to fruition this year.
I really thought that Karl Joseph was going to be the starter for the Raiders, despite his odd usage in the preseason. I believed that the Saints defense had a chance to be one of the better units to own this year. I predicted that the Bengals pass rush was going to eviscerate Andrew Luck behind a weak offensive line.
I was wrong. And you know what? That’s perfectly ok!
What’s not acceptable is to draw a conclusion and then stubbornly cling to it when you see evidence to the contrary. So many take that route, and it’s unfortunate because they mislead not only themselves but others who misguidedly respect their opinion. .
Tremblay: A common predicament early in each NFL season is how much weight we should continue to give our preseason predictions in comparison to the new information we take in once the season starts.
There's no easy answer. Certainly, there's no one-size-fits-all answer.
For each issue under consideration, it will depend on:
- How strong a foundation we had in our original opinion.
- How much the new piece of information differed from our original expectations.
- Even if the difference was substantial, whether it was within the normal weekly variation we'd expect based on our original expectations.
- The quantity of the new information, for example, a disappointing yards per carry on 25 carries means more than a disappointing yards per carry on 10 carries,
- The plausibility of the explanatory narratives we can concoct to interpret the new information versus their seeming randomness.
So it's not like we can just say, "give your preseason expectations 75 percent weight and give the Week 1 results 25 percent weight." I personally made thousands of (albeit interrelated) predictions in Week 1, and I got thousands of them wrong, and each specific case has its own explanation with its own factors to consider and its own weight pushing me to update my beliefs to a greater or lesser extent.
Let's focus on Ryan Fitzpatrick's yards per pass attempt as an example. Heading into last week, I had him pegged as something like a 7.0 YPA kind of guy. In Week 1, he averaged 14.9 yards per attempt. His Week 1 performance was not really within normal expectations given my original view. Which number merits greater weight going forward?
My original estimation was based on decades and decades of passing stats by starting NFL quarterbacks in general, as well as more than a decade's worth of passing stats by Ryan Fitzpatrick in particular. His Week 1 performance was based on 28 pass attempts. That tells me that my original estimate is probably way closer to the truth than the number he produced in Week 1.
My new estimate for his 2018 YPA will be somewhere in between my original estimate and his Week 1 performance, but it will be at least 90 percent of the way — maybe 95 percent — in the direction of my original estimate.
In other words, if Fitzpatrick attempts 28 passes again next week, I'd expect him to end up a lot closer to 218 yards than to the 418 yards he put up in Week 1. Averaging 14.9 yards per attempt is not sustainable. Not even close.
But does that mean that I'm not substantially revising my overall per-game projections upward for him? It doesn't mean that.
For one thing, if I revise my estimated YPA for him up to 7.5 from 7.0, that's significant in itself. It's roughly an extra 15 yards per game or 240 yards over a 16-game season. It's not huge but can move him multiple spots in the rankings.
More importantly, not everything else remains constant. Relatively greater efficiency means having the offense stay on the field longer, more red zone opportunities — and in Fitzpatrick's case, a greater likelihood of starting more games. Moreover, it's not just his mean (or median) expectation that creeps upwards in those categories, but his ceiling as well, which is of greater importance when judging fantasy backups. The chance that Fitzpatrick will be at least a moderately decent fantasy starter went up a bit, but the chance that he'll be a top three or four fantasy quarterback probably more than doubled (from a small number to another small number, but still).
In part, that's because the explanatory narrative is plausible. Fitzpatrick's strength has always been his ability to read defenses and spread the ball around. In Tampa Bay, it's evident that he's in a system he can feel comfortable in, and it's also evident that his array of receivers are a good fit. He's got 3-4 wide receivers and 1-2 tight ends that are all pretty dangerous, and he'll find the one that the defense neglects. His deep ball was also very accurate last week.
So when I try to consider all the factors worth taking into account, I'm not bumping his projected efficiency stats all that much, but I am bumping his relative ceiling quite a bit, and he is the fantasy backup quarterback I am trying to acquire in my own leagues this week.
Waldman: Can't top that, Maurile. Good luck to everyone this week.
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