Week 1 of the NFL season has come and gone. It's important to take note of different storylines and situations, but it's also important not to overreact on some of these circumstances and occurrences.
Last year after Week 1
- Nick Foles and Marcus Mariota were Top 10 quarterbacks - they finished 33rd and 22nd respectively.
- Carlos Hyde and Bishop Sankey were in the Top 5 among running backs - they both finished outside of the Top 60
- James Jones and Kendall Wright were ranked 6th and 9th respectively - Jones finished 30th and Wright 75th
- Jared Cook had 5 receptions for 85 yards and never had another game over 64 yards.
On the other side, Gary Barnidge, who finished as the 4th ranked tight end in 2015, had a mere three catches in last year's Week 1. Devonta Freeman had 10 carries for 18 yards and 3 receptions for 29 yards in Week 1 last season. He finished as the #1 ranked running back in PPR format. Allen Robinson had one catch for 27 yards in Week 1 last season, and he finished with 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, finishing 6th among wide receivers for the year.
The sky is not falling
Don't give up on players like Dez Bryant, Adrian Peterson, Brandon Marshall, John Brown, Kamar Aiken, Gary Barnidge, Philip Rivers, etc. Each week is different and some teams and players take some time to get going. Adrian Peterson didn't play a single snap in the preseason. John Brown was a similar story, due to a concussion. Gary Barnidge was not a key target for Robert Griffin (but that should change now that Griffin is on IR). Kamar Aiken had 127 targets last year and is capable of being a key contributor on offense.
Reasons for increased productivity
- Injury ahead in depth chart - an injury elevates a player. "Next man up" mentality is a strong motivating force
- Improved Performance - player makes an impact on the field resulting in more productivity
- Coach's decision - coach likes what he sees in his player and gives him more touches
Which players are primed for an increase?
- Tyrell Williams, SD - The ACL injury to Keenan Allen opens the door for other receivers on the depth chart, notably Travis Benjamin (who is likely already owned) and Tyrell Williams. Williams has the size and speed to make an impact. I would be shocked if his productivity doesn't increase. Don't rule out tight end Hunter Hnery either.
- Emmanuel Sanders, DEN - The word out of Denver is that Demaryius Thomas has a hip injury that could cost him some missed time. At best, he'll have to manage the injury and undergo rehabilitation. This could be enough for him to see a reduction in snaps/targets, that could mean a bump in productivy for Sanders, who led the team with 8 targets in Week 1. Oh yes, Denver hosts the Colts this week, who have injury concerns of their own, especially in the secondary.
- T.J. Yeldon, JAC - Chris Ivory (calf strain, medical hospitalization) remains out of the picture for the time being and we're not exactly sure why. An unknown injury-related reason seems to be more of a concern than not, in my opinion, so until we know for sure what's happening, T.J. Yeldon is the team's primary back. All it will take is for him to have a big game and he'll earn the lead back role, just like Devonta Freeman did last year in Atlanta. Jacksonville plays at San Diego this week, who gave up nearly 200 yards to Spencer Ware last week.
- WR Chris Hogan, NE - The Patriots are dealing with injuries all over the offense and the indirect effect is a target share of receptions by Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. Martellus Bennett is helping out against the pass rush, especially with a challenged offensive line. The end result is more snaps for Hogan. We've already seen Jimmy Garoppolo gain confidence in his ability to get open and Tom Brady went to Hogan for a deep touchdown in the preseason. The future is bright for Hogan. My gut says we'll see more from him in the weeks to come.
- RB Duke Johnson Jr, CLE - This one may be more of a hunch, but there's reason for optimism for Duke Johnson Jr. One, Robert Griffin, who is not prone to check the ball down to his running backs, is out of the picture in Cleveland. Enter Josh McCown, who exploited the efforts of Johnson last season. Not only could Johnson see an bump in targets, but he also could see more carries. He had just three carries in Week 1, but one of those carries was a fourth down run that lost 6 yards. The other two gained 11 and 17 yards. The 17 yard gain came on a first down play, which is always a good indicator of potential success. If you can run well on first down, there's a place for you in the league. I have a feeling Hue Jackson will want to get Johnson more involved. If and when that happens, I don't think he'll disappoint.
- TE Gary Barnidge, CLE - Josh McCown is the new Browns quarterback now that Robert Griffin is out of the picture. Barnidge became a Top 4 tight end last season with McCown largely his quarterback. I expect we'll see an increase in targets going to Barnidge in the coming weeks, as a result.
- WR Michael Thomas, NO - Remember what Sean Payton said about Michael Thomas? “I’ve got high expectations from him. Listen, I think he’s going to contribute early. And I don’t follow fantasy football, but, shoot, I’d try to have him. I think he’s going to do well.” Thomas was eased into action in Week 1 with six targets compared to nine each by Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead IV. The Thomas love would be much higher if he would've found the end zone in his debut. That did not happen, but he did make an impact catching all six of his targets for 58 yards as his routes stayed relatively close to the line of scrimmage. He's more of a field stretcher with the talent and skills to fight for balls deep. I see him evolving into more of that type of receiver. Game scripts for increased pasing could become more common for the Saints, which benefits Thomas.
- WR Cole Beasley, DAL - The reason why I think Cole Beasley can make a fantasy impact (at least while Prescott is quarterback) is because he thrives on the short-intermediate pass routes and ironically, so does Dak Prescott. We've already seen Beasley get targeted 12 times and Jason Witten 14 times in Week 1. Both players make a living with catches over the middle or in short range. Prescott relied on check downs an awful lot in his debut, partly due to his inaccuracy in passes 20+ yards down field. I expect he'll open up his game more in the coming weeks, but it's good to know that Beasley (and Witten) are his security blankets if the deeper throw isn't open, or if his confidence on his deep throw isn't there. Expect to see more of the same until defenses scheme to take away the short game.
- WR Victor Cruz, NYG - Victor Cruz looked like his old self again against Dallas. He lined up on the outside, in the slot and look comfortable doing so. The Giants may have quite a receiving corps if he continues to play well and earn snaps. The combination of Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz gives the Giants a formidable offense capable of moving the ball against anyone. This week's opponent is home against the Saints, who have defensive issues, especially in the secondary. Don't be surprised to see Cruz elevate himself into the team's WR2 if he continues his strong play.
- RB Chris Thompson, WAS - Chris Thompson had a mere 4 rushes for 23 yards and two receptions for 16 yards in the Week 1 game against Pittsburgh. Lost in that stat line is a one yard touchdown run. I don't expect Thompson to have many rushing touchdowns, let alone short-yardage touchdowns, but if Week 1 is any indication, Jay Gruden feels comfortable relying on him to make plays. The fact that Thompson was the backup running back behind Matt Jones instead of Robert Kelley speaks volumes. Jones is an upright runner who is prone to having bad games, let alone ball security issues. I don't see Thompson taking over the lead back role, but I do see him getting an increase in snaps and touches, which improve Washington on offense.
- Jack Doyle, IND - Andrew Luck loves to target his tight ends and that's no different this year. Coby Fleener is gone, but his replacement Jack Doyle has risen to the occasion, filling the void. Dwayne Allen may be the team's primary receiving tight end, but Doyle will surely receive a decent target share from Luck, especially in the red zone.
- Theo Riddick, DET - We may have witnessed Theo Riddick's best game of the year, but his performance also merits praise, which could see him get an increase in his workload. Riddick is definitely a top receiving back, but he showed that he is capable of moving the ball as a rusher, gaining 45 yards on 7 carries against the Colts. The Lions are not a run-first team, however it's good to see them leaning on the run game when it is working well. Jim Bob Cooter has made his mark in Detroit as the team's offensive coordinator and Cooterball is the product of his hard work and talent. Expect to see more involvement from Riddick in the coming weeks. If he continues to rack up rushing yards, don't think Cooter will shy away from him.
There are several other players who have showed promise that might continue to produce
Tajae Sharpe looks the part of the Titans primary receiver. I can see him having a rookie similar to Eddie Royal's arrival in the league. He's more than just a 10 yard per catch receiver also. We should see his average creeping up as he gains confidence in Marcus Mariota.
Will Fuller V could've had two touchdowns with 130 yards and he'd be the most talked about player entering Week 2. He was a missed catch away from being that player. We're still talking about him, but we haven't seen his best yet.
Spencer Ware filled in admirably for the injured Jamaal Charles. Based on the unknown injury situation of Charles, Ware is definitely a must start running back, who may warrant fantasy consideration even when Charles returns - because we don't know how effective he'll be.
Danny Woodhead is a weekly starter at running back until he proves that he isn't. Melvin Gordon III had a decent game with two early touchdowns and Woodhead still stole the spotlight in the end. If he continues to grab the lion's share of carries, he'll be a legit fantasy threat once again.
We've seen what can happen in Week 1. Let's bring on Week 2.
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