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SoS

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If your fantasy squad survived the prior two weeks with a total of 9 teams hitting their early bye week, I have good news: Week 7 provides a bit of breathing room with only the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans taking the week off. If you limped through these last two weeks desperate for some roster stability, I have bad news: The heaviest bye weeks are fast approaching in Weeks 8 & 9, so it may be prudent to load the end of your bench with the future in mind. 

With that said, it's time to help out those who may be scrambling to fill the space for guys like WR DeAndre Hopkins and QB Matthew Stafford. This column will of course become more expansive over the next few weeks as more teams enter their bye, but this should provide a solid foundation for what to expect. As a quick run through of the rules, I will discuss one-week fill-in options for each position in a buy or sell model, which should shed some light on who I'm fading and who I'm prioritizing to add. All players will be <50% ownership per ESPN so it applies to larger leagues. 

 

QB

Jared Goff vARI: Buy 

Sitting at just under 20% ownership and trending down after posting 1 TD to 3 turnovers in his last 2 games, Jared Goff may seem like a tough name to trust in your starting lineup this week. There's reason for optimism. In 3 home games this season, Goff has averaged 271 yards through the air as opposed to 224 on the road. Also, sitting at a 47.5 point total in the Vegas odds -- the third highest total of the week -- this should be a game where both offenses are playing catch-up with the other. CB Patrick Peterson is also looking questionable for Sunday's game with a quad injury that removed him from last week's game against Tampa Bay, which would only further improve Goff's outlook. If you're wondering how to replace Stafford or Deshaun Watson, or maybe even insurance for Jameis Winston, look no further than the developing sophomore. 

Tyrod Taylor vTB: Sell

This one might seem confusing. I mean, Tampa Bay has been getting shredded through the air and the Bills are coming off their bye week. Even so, Buffalo will be without TE Charles Clay and WR Jordan Matthews, which eliminates a large portion of this Bills aerial attack. With Winston certainly at less than 100% on the other side, I'm forecasting a low-scoring, run-oriented football game that gives RBs LeSean McCoy and Doug Martin a chance to breakout. Taylor has gone over 20 points once this season in standard scoring, providing owners with very little upside if they're in need of production from the QB position. You could certainly do worse considering the positive context for the Bills,  but I would prefer a riskier option like Eli Manning, who should be forced to throw a ton against a Seattle defense that has been sturdy against the run as of late, or whoever starts for the Browns, considering how bad the Titans secondary has been and the anticipated game script for the Cleveland offense. 

 

RB

Charles Sims @BUF / Marlon Mack vJAX / Devontae Booker @LAC: Buys

As you can see, this is tailored more for those in PPR leagues, but these just happen to be the <50% owned backs that I like this week. Starting with Sims, his fantasy points have increased every week this season and his receiving role seems to have stabilized with 9 receptions on 12 targets over the last 2 weeks. With either a shell of Winston or pop-gun Ryan Fitzpatrick behind center, Sims should be relied upon underneath as a safety valve so Tampa Bay isn't forced to throw downfield. Mack's hype wagon is gaining even more steam as Colts heartthrob Robert Turbin looks to be out for the season after an injury on Monday night. The Jaguars suffocate opposing passing games, which should mean a heavy dose of Gore and Mack for this Colts offense. Finally, Booker looked like the most electric RB on the Broncos roster on Sunday night, tallying 78 receiving yards on only 4 catches. With CJ Anderson struggling mightily to get it going between the tackles and the Broncos seemingly unwilling to increase Charles' workload, Booker could be a very sneaky breakout candidate against a Chargers defense that leads the league in missed tackles. 

Elijah McGuire @MIA / Alex Collins @MIN / Darren McFadden @SF: Sells

It's time to close the book on the Elijah McGuire experiment for fantasy purposes. Sitting at just below 35% ownership, that number should plummet after last week's showing against a paper thin Patriots defense. In fact, outside of a wide open 69-yard TD run against the Jaguars, McGuire has averaged 2.2 YPC over his last 30 carries. Those are his 3 games with double digit carries, providing owners with a reasonable enough sample size to determine that McGuire will not capitalize on the short-term absences of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. Alex Collins touch rate is encouraging, but facing a suffocating Vikings run defense on the road shouldn't be the spot where he's inserted into your starting lineup. This should serve as a reminder that Zeke Elliott is still not suspended (and probably won't be for the entirety of this season), so keep Run DMC out of your lineups. 

 

WR

Robert Woods vARI / Taylor Gabriel @NE / Ricardo Louis vTEN: Buys

If Goff is my favorite streaming option at QB this week, it only makes sense that his top wideout would be amongst my favorite streaming WRs. It's a bit silly that Woods sits at a 12.5% ownership rate considering the fact he leads a hot Rams offense in routes, targets, and receiving yards. Sammy Watkins may have the name value here, but Woods clearly has the chemistry with his QB. With Patrick Peterson limited and/or focused on Watkins, Woods should be able to take advantage and post his 4th 5+ catch game in his last 5 outings. Gabriel should be a popular pickup this week as Sanu battles an injury and the Falcons draw a Patriots secondary that gives up passing yards by the boatload. This contest sits at a Vegas point total of 54, which is by far the highest of the weekend. That should signal lots of scoring opportunities in New England. Maybe I'm foolish for going back to the well on Louis, especially since we aren't 100% certain who the Browns will play at QB for four quarters, but Louis appears to clearly be their top receiver with Corey Coleman out, and the Titans had been getting gutted through the air before meetings with Jay Cutler and Jacoby Brissett the past two weeks. To be fair, it's not like Louis has anything better. 

Donte Moncrief vJAX / Marqise Lee @IND / Roger Lewis vSEA: Sells

I imagine some people might try point chasing this week after Moncrief posted a season-high 5 catches and 67 yards last week. My advice....don't. He draws a suffocating Jaguars pass defense that should make life on Jacoby Brissett and the Colts offensive line miserable. The Jaguars should focus on making this a short game with Fournette & Ivory, limiting the Colts offensive opportunities. This is the exact reason why I'm also fading Lee, who might otherwise appear to be in a good situation against a bottom-tier Indianapolis secondary. Even so, the Jaguars will look to limit Bortles attempts as much as possible, severely limiting Lee's upside. If you're thinking Roger Lewis deserves another chance to shine in your starting lineup, I'd recommend giving it another week or two. He'll face a Seattle secondary capable of eliminating perimeter threats....if we want to call Lewis that. 

 

TE

Ed Dickson @CHI / Jack Doyle vJAX: Buys

In case you're worried about Dickson after his relative clunker last week, don't be. He saw his highest snap % of the season and a season-best of 8 targets. Better days are ahead as QB Cam Newton was even more inaccurate than normal. What's important is knowing that he's been heavily involved the past 2 weeks. Against a Chicago defense that has been better against the run than the pass, Dickson should once again have his chances. Doyle had a big game on paper against the Titans, but looked brutal with a handful of drops and/or fumbles. Even so, he's the top interior target on this team and the Jaguars are making a living off taking away the oppositions perimeter threats with Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye. Doyle should see high volume again. 

Zach Miller vCAR / Benjamin Watson @MIN 

Miller's fluky touchdowns the past two weeks might fool silly owners into thinking he's a viable streaming option this week, but you know better than that. Despite being one of the best receiving options on the Bears, Miller hasn't exceeded 3 catches since Week 2 and hasn't gone over 50 yards all year. There's incredibly little upside with playing him. This is an offense that prefers to run the ball every play if they can. Watson might be in consideration when you think the Vikings have struggled with TEs this season and Flacco won't have much help on the outside with a less-than-healthy Jeremy Maclin. Even with the projected volume, Watson is dead last in YPC for TEs since Week 2 and the Ravens are a nightmare on offense this season. 

 

Whether you're desperate to fill lineup vacancies or simply looking for end-of-bench stashes to get ahead of the upcoming waiver interest, these should be useful names to file away as guys available in the majority of leagues. 

 

Let us know what you think of this weeks topic and format so we can continue to improve the material we produce. Your feedback is welcome and appreciated! 

SoS

What We Learned
Week 1 

Some people see the cheesy back-to-school ads floating around this time of year and bellow at its symbolism. Summer nearing its end. Money to be spent and organizing to be done. The return of Dancing With The Stars (seriously, who still watches that?). But for some, it's arguably the greatest time of the year. One last chance for a sunny vacation. On the brink of playoff baseball. Amidst the season of moving and graduating and grand life transitions. 

But, most importantly, it signals the start of football season. For us, it signals the beginning of fantasy football season. Pre-season rankings can be thrown in the wood chipper as far as I'm concerned. Allow this weekly article to succinctly summarize all of the fantasy relevant happenings across the league, game-by-game. Schools back in session and my pencil pouch is stocked. Let's take a look at "What We Learned"  after the opening week of NFL football. (note: this section will likely become shorter as the year goes on and fewer things are considered "lessons")

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Kansas City Chiefs v. New England Patriots

Right atop my notes from the opening game of 2017 was the fantastic play of Chiefs hot seat QB Alex Smith. With the Kansas City brass having invested so much in Texas Tech rookie QB Patrick Mahomes, Smith had to display marked improvement to fend off any undertones of a QB controversy. And display he did. With two 75+ yard TD passes, the biggest difference in Smith's latest outing -- arguably the best game the 11-year veteran has had to date -- was his willingness and confidence in pushing the ball downfield. The Kansas City Star has noted throughout the offseason that Smith had been practicing more on his deep ball, and that was evident Thursday night. With playmakers like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt in the fold, Alex Smith could be headed for a career year. As of now I view him as a mid-range QB2 and could certainly see myself dropping someone like Joe Flacco or Andy Dalton for him if I needed a more stable backup. At the very least he'll be a legitimate streaming option this season. Speaking of RB Kareem Hunt....you're probably thinking it's blasphemous that he didn't lead off this section. Breaking an NFL record for most yards in a rookie debut, Hunt displayed the same vision, balance, strength, and wiggle that made him such a special prospect at Toledo. I think it's fair to assume this will be his biggest game of the season, but that doesn't mean it was a fluke. Hunt is an every-week RB1 in an Andy Reid offense that churns out valuable fantasy backs. If you were able to snag Hunt in your draft, enjoy the ride. The last thing we learned from this Chiefs team is that WR Tyreek Hill was no rookie fluke. With the departure of Jeremy Maclin, Hill was presented with a massive opportunity as the team's top target hog and he responded. After concluding the 2016 season with 4 straight games with a 60+ TD, Hill reminded fantasy owners why he was worth the investment with a 75-yard TD reception early in the 3rd. With Hill's big-play ability paired with his high-volume role, there's little reason to suspect he won't finish as a top 20 WR this season.

Well...they're not who we thought they were. All offseason long fans heard the talking heads go on and on about how this might be the best Patriots team New England has fielded in the Brady era and that the rest of the league was on notice. Apparently the Chiefs didn't get that memo. The big takeaway from the Pats is that RB Mike Gillislee has a very clear and valuable role for this offense. In an offense that generates a ton of opportunities inside the opponents 10-yard line, Gillislee is going to threaten LaGarrette Blount's 18-TD 2016 season as a much more efficient short yardage back. Considering the hamstring injury that delayed his insertion into the lineup, it's fair to assume that Gillislee is only going to get more touches and become more comfortable in the offense going forward. Owners who took the gamble on the highest ADP Patriots RB have to be excited for what's to come, especially with New Orleans on the horizon for Week 2. He's looking like a solid RB2 option on the season, albeit a TD-dependent one. From there, some relatively minor notes remain. WR Chris Hogan is not going to serve as a Julian Edelman replacement. In fact, it's looking much more likely that WR Danny Amendola is going to be Tom's new go-to receiver over the middle, but we'll have to keep tabs on that. He's currently week-to-week with a concussion scare. Hogan remains worthy of a bench spot, especially with the injury designation to Amendola, but he doesn't deserve to sniff starting lineups for now. Amendola, meanwhile, could prove to be a sneaky WR3 play, especially in PPR leagues. With Malcolm Mitchell placed on IR, that leaves recently acquired WR Philip Dorsett as the next man up. Despite this, he is safe to leave on the waiver wire in all but the deepest of leagues until further notice. Fantasy owners need not worry about TE Rob Gronkowski

 

New York Jets v. Buffalo Bills

I'd like to say we learned that the Jets are miserable on the offensive side of the ball, but if that's new information than you haven't been paying attention. This team is in full tank mode and if there's any overarching takeaway, it's to avoid the Jets for fantasy purposes unless you're targeting a streaming D/ST that faces them (which I strongly advise as your weekly strategy). Seriously, this Jets offense has a chance to be historically bad. Maddening to fantasy owners, promising young RB Bilal Powell split work almost evenly with RB Matt Forte (12 touches to 9). There's very little sensible reasoning behind keeping Forte involved in the game plan, which means his primary function in fantasy is to siphon value from Powell. While it's promising that Powell reeled in 5 receptions and won't fall victim to gameflow-related variables, it has to be concerning that he was only able to generate 8 fantasy points in full PPR leagues with that many catches. Powell should eventually be a high-volume PPR asset with RB2 upside, but until Forte is squeezed out of the offensive game plan, he's going to be an untrustworthy weekly option. While WR Robby Anderson drew most of the offseason puff pieces, newly acquired WR Jermaine Kearse surprisingly led the team in catches, targets, and yards (7/9/59). The Jets are likely to be throwing a ton this season as they play from behind early and often, which makes Kearse an interesting end-of-bench WR5 opton, especially in PPR leagues. Anderson should only be owned in deep leagues at this point, though he has a chance to bounce back Week 2 against Oakland. Don't worry about any other name on this Jets offense until TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins returns.

It's not so much what we learned about the Bills as it is what they reaffirmed for us. This is an offense that is going to run as frequently as possible behind a top run blocking line. QB Tyrod Taylor is going to struggle in the traditional sense with mediocre WR play, but his rushing numbers will continue to boost his fantasy performances. It could have been a much better game for Taylor if not for a goal line interception, so this might be a good time to stash him as a QB2 bench option if he's still available in your league. His connection with WR Jordan Matthews and WR Zay Jones should only strengthen as the year progresses. Both of the receivers lines look sub-par, but it's very encouraging to see a high snap count for both guys, cementing their status as the top dogs on the outside of this offense. I still think both WRs are value WR4/5 options in PPR leagues and should have much bigger days ahead when the Bills can't simply rely on RB LeSean McCoy. Speaking of which, Shady is a locked-and-loaded high-volume high-end RB1 who's only concern is durability, in case you didn't know that before this game. He exited the game shortly and ceded a TD to backup Mike Tolbert with what appeared to be a stinger, but he came back into the game allowing fantasy owners to breathe a sigh of relief. The other player to keep tabs on from this game is TE Charles Clay. He led the team in targets and has the most familiarity with Tyrod from the receiving group, highlighted by his 2 endzone targets and 1 TD. He was lost in the shuffle this year amidst a deep TE group for fantasy, but Clay could prove to be a solid high-end TE2 option the rest of the way if health is on his side. I'd personally rather have him than guys like Fiedorowicz, Engram, and Brate. 

 

Atlanta Falcons v. Chicago Bears

Similar to the Bills, we got much of the same from the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The Bears underrated defense was able to hold them in check relatively, but the recipe was familiar. It is clear that, even with new OC Steve Sarkisian calling the plays this year, this is going to be a team that focuses on getting their top two RBs 25-30 combined touches per game with a near even distribution when both are healthy. RB Devonta Freeman can't help but lose some of his value with that in mind. Despite how high-powered this offense might be, he is going to struggle with consistency with how often RB Tevin Coleman spells him. Coleman owners aren't getting much from the deal either, as he's little more than a boom-or-bust RB3 option with a shaky injury history. Continue to fire up Freeman as a mid-range RB1 with huge upside if Tevin goes down. QB Matt Ryan had a fairly shaky day against what should be a porous secondary, but TE Austin Hooper did a great job inflating his numbers with an 88-yard TD propelled by a grown man stiff arm. Ryan remains a solid mid-range QB1 whereas Hooper should be one of the hotter waiver pickups from the TE group. He plays in a high-powered offense that has a history of feeding TEs in the redzone. He should already be owned in most leagues as a high-potential TE2 type with great size and a growing rapport with his QB.

The Human Joystick. Mighty Mouse. Rik. Quite frankly I don't care what you decide to call him, but RB Tarik Cohen needs to be owned everywhere ASAP. In his NFL debut the North Carolina A&T product led the Bears in receptions, targets, receiving yards, rushing yards, and broken tackles. Though obviously not of the same position, Cohen flashes Tyreek Hill-like playmaking ability from just a season ago. Don't hesitate to put all of your eggs in this basket, as the Bears absolutely love this kid. He was an offseason sleeper of mine who is panning out beautifully for more than one of my teams. Cohen showed tremendous burst and vision on his runs and great suddenness in his routes. Did I mention Mike Glennon loves him? He is a PPR RB3 going forward as I expect the Bears to continue to manufacture touches his direction, giving him potential RB2 upside if his rushing role expands. So....what does this mean for 2016 stud RB Jordan Howard? Well, nothing good, especially after he dropped an opportunity to keep the Bears hopes of stealing the home opener alive. After leading NFL RBs in dropped passes a season ago (8), Howard is going to find himself hard-pressed to remain on the field in passing situations. Considering negative gameflow is expected to work against him more times than not, Howard is suddenly looking like an incredibly risky RB2 play going forward, particularly in PPR leagues. The nice thing is that the Bears are looking for ways to get both he and Cohen on the field, which should only open up space for him to operate. He'll be rather TD-dependent going forward without the guaranteed volume owners were expecting. The only thing else of note is that WR Kevin White simply cannot stay healthy. He's running out of chances in the pros. 

 

Baltimore Ravens v. Cincinnati Bengals

One of the bigger takeaways of the game from Baltimore was another devastating early-season injury for RB Danny Woodhead. Woodhead came out hot with 3 catches on the first drive and showcased why he was considered such an underrated value pick in PPR leagues. Unfortunately that's all we got to see of him as he came up holding his hamstring at the end of the drive and had to be carted off the field. Word from Maryland is that the team fears the injury is significant and could hold Woodhead out for an extended period of time. Would you believe me if I told you, despite his injury, he leads the team in receptions after Week 1? That really is just a nice segue to tell you that QB Joe Flacco was little more than mediocre in this contest. The Bengals offense was such a joke that he only had to complete 9 passes to get the 20-0 victory. As of right now, he's only rosterable in deep leagues. WR Jeremy Maclin only caught 2 of 4 targets (albeit one for a TD) as he fell victim to the product of gameflow. Maclin should still be a consistent weapon on this offense going forward and should pose as a low-end WR3/4 type until further notice. WR Mike Wallace and WR Breshad Perriman were scarcely involved and neither should touch starting lineups until we see Baltimore open up the offense. Luckily for the Ravens, they were able to lean on RB Terrance West and RB Buck Allen to close this game out for them. The duo combined for 40 carries, 150 yards, and 1 TD. West is immediately vaulted into the TD-dependent RB2/3 range with the injury to Woodhead, whereas Allen becomes one of the more interesting waiver adds of the week. He brought a mediocre skillset over from USC and hasn't shown much efficiency at all in the pros, but could be a versatile piece to an offense that relies on throwing to the RB position. He's an RB4 stash in PPR leagues until further notice on Woodhead. 

Fantasy owners will look at QB Andy Dalton's Sunday numbers and berate him, but it's hard to operate when the defense is constantly breathing down your neck. That's what Dalton faced Sunday and the condition of the Bengals offensive line was one of the most ignored subjects in fantasy circles this offseason. They were abysmal, rarely giving Dalton time to go through progressions and push the ball downfield with any authority. With that said, the OLine isn't changing any time soon, and Dalton isn't going to suddenly turn into Russell Wilson. I had high hopes that the Red Rifle might have another sneaky season in him, but 2017 is not looking like the answer. I'd feel comfortable dropping him for someone like Alex Smith or Sam Bradford if I'm looking for a more secure QB2 option. Unlike the OLine, one of the bigger offseason storylines in Cincinnati was the muddied RB situation. Very little came to fruition on Sunday, as the backfield touch split was 11:8:7 in favor of RB Joe Mixon and RB Giovani Bernard. Mixon had absolutely no room to breathe on most of his carries while Gio looked surprisingly spry for a player returning from an ACL tear. RB Jeremy Hill isn't exactly going away either. A lot has to go right for Mixon to eventually capture the value so many owners were projecting when they drafted him. For now, neither he or Hill should touch starting lineups. Bernard is an interesting low-end RB3/4 type in PPR leagues. With the rest of the Cincinnati offense struggling, it only makes sense that TE Tyler Eifert would lay an egg as well. The needle doesn't move for him as a mid-range TE1.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers v. Cleveland Browns

Well, I suppose you can say we learned that WR Antonio Brown is still really, really good. He absolutely throttled the Browns undermanned secondary and is arguably the biggest reason why the Steelers didn't come away with a loss in Cleveland. The only thing else fantasy owners could ask for is a TD, but I have a feeling Brown owners will see plenty of those over the coming weeks. AB continues to show why he's the safest 1st round pick of the last decade. The other bright spot for this offensive unit was TE Jesse James, who was 2nd on the team behind only Brown in targets and receptions. Not to mention the two redzone TDs he had. James certainly won't reproduce these numbers with any type of consistency, which relegates him to more of a dart throw streaming option and mid-range TE2. While Ben does love the big bodied TE near the goal line, I can't imagine we'll see him outpace Martavis Bryant and Le'Veon Bell again. The Steelers acquired Vance McDonald for a reason (hint: because James is nothing special). Speaking of WR Martavis Bryant, I think it's only fair that owners temper expectations for the recently suspended ascending talent. Bryant is still going to have some monster games, but may need a ramp up period to get reacclimated as the Steelers #2 outside threat. If he struggles again Week 2 against Minnesota (not unlikely), Bryant will start trending toward a strong buy-low candidate. Finally, RB Le'Veon Bell taught us that he's not literally superhuman. Coming off an extended holdout, the only reason it's a mild surprise that he has some rust to shake off is due to the incredibly high standard he's set for himself in the past. It's a shame he had to waste a matchup against a Cleveland front that should have no business bottling him up, and it becomes even more disappointing when owners realize that he won't face the Browns again in the 2017 fantasy season. 

We also learned that the Browns aren't completely dead-in-the-water with rookie QB Deshone Kizer behind center. He will certainly have his ups and downs in his first season and I wouldn't advocate for him as anything more than a mid-range QB2, but it's nice to know that the Cleveland QB play won't completely torpedo the rest of the offense like in years past. That is very good news in particular for WR Corey Coleman, who Kizer has taken a fondness to. Coleman led the Browns in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs. He is looking like a very solid mid-round choice as the #1 WR in an offense with a big-armed QB and plenty of positive gameflow. Expect him to flirt with WR3 numbers all year long. WR Kenny Britt had to be one of the more disappointing cases of the first regular season Sunday. Coming off a highly effective contract-year with the LA Rams, Britt caught 1-of-3 targets for 13 yards with a brutal drop to boot. Hue Jackson is already skeptical to outright name him the #2 guy, which should seriously scare owners. With all of that said, the Browns aren't exactly rich for depth at WR (though Kasen Williams lurks) so Britt should continue to get opportunities to shine. We also found out that RB (WR?) Duke Johnson is still not close to earning meaningful reps as a ballcarrier, so much to the point that Coach Jackson had to reiterate to the media that Duke was still considered a tailback. Consider him as a PPR RB3 going forward, albeit a shaky one as Kizer aims downfield more often. I didn't take too much away from RB Isaiah Crowell's performance. The Steelers were clearly intent on stopping him and he's not the type of player who's going to make several men miss to maximize his yards. I wasn't high on him going into drafts for several reasons, but he still has to be considered a low-end RB2 until the sample size is large enough to prove otherwise.

 

Arizona Cardinals v. Detroit Lions 

I wouldn't be able to start Arizona's summary without first mentioning the absolutely devastating wrist dislocation to near-consensus #1 overall pick RB David Johnson. Before I talk fantasy, thoughts go out to Johnson. I wish him nothing but a swift recovery. You may be irate that your blue-chip investment is lost after only 3 quarters of football (I get it, I have him on a team), but let's not forget that this is a real person dealing with a serious injury. Anyways, though he struggled throughout the game behind an offensive line creating little push, fantasy owners cannot replace the production DJ would have brought them. If you have an I.R. spot, DJ should comfortably sit there until healthy. If you're without an I.R. spot, well, it might be time to move on depending on how deep your league is. Arians has said he doesn't expect his star RB to return to the field until December. With that said, it leaves an interesting situation for RBs Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington, and the artist formerly known as CJ2K, Chris Johnson. Let's start with Williams. It's amazing to me how much hype he's getting on waiver wires this week considering the fact he averaged 2 yards per carry and 2 yards per catch in his short Week 1 playing time. This is by no means an above average runner and I already touched on how shaky the Cardinals run blocking looked before DJ went out. People are dismissing the arrival of CJ?K, but the Cardinals didn't bring him in to play special teams. Ultimately I foresee a situation where Williams and Johnson largely siphon each other's value, rendering both more or less useless in starting lineups week-to-week. Ellington might have value in PPR leagues, but don't go thinking 2014 Ellington is coming back. Beyond that, QB Carson Palmer struggled mightily against a mediocre Detroit secondary, and it's fair to question if he's officially past his time of being an above average NFL QB. WR Larry Fitzgerald should still enjoy success, but I expect volatile weeks from WR John Brown and J.J. Nelson.

Maybe QB Matthew Stafford was worth all that money after all? Teasing aside, Stafford looked incredibly on-point in Sunday's matchup against what should be one of the more imposing defenses in the NFL. I'll admit I had soured on Stafford's fantasy stock following the departure of WR Anquan Boldin and loss of talented young LT Taylor Decker, but he's a back-end QB1 until further notice. A big reason for that is the sudden emergence of Northern Illinois rookie WR Kenny Golladay. Golladay garnered a lot of preseason hype for his large frame and redzone prowess, and that was on full display in the 4th quarter of this contest. Stafford is the type of QB who is going to throw to the guys who make plays, so I don't expect Golladay to experience the normal ups and downs of rookie WRs. He's entrenched as the Lions #3 WR and this team utilizes a ton of 11 personnel, so Golladay should have plenty of opportunities to shine. He's a low-end WR3 going forward, with room to grow. One man's proposal is another man's love lost. That's the case for TE Eric Ebron, who was widely expected to emerge as the Lions go-to redzone option with the aforementioned Boldin retired. Ebron will certainly have better games than this, but the play of big-bodied Golladay will undoubtedly have a negative impact on his stock moving forward. Whereas before he was a high-end TE2 with room to grow, he should now sit in the mid-TE2 range and an end-of-bench type player. In smaller scope, other important notes include WR Golden Tate continuing to be an underrated WR2 and thriving in his expanded role in the slot, RB Theo Riddick continuing to be a PPR asset even with the return of RB Ameer Abdullah, and Abdullah's struggles as the lead runner after such a strong start in 2016. To be clear, I fully expect Abdullah to have better days. The Cardinals front can be imposing, but I was encouraged by his usage. He'll be another buy-low candidate moving forward. 

 

Tennessee Titans v. Oakland Raiders

One of the main storylines of the preseason was the potential of QB Marcus Mariota to join the 2nd tier of QBs after Brady/Rodgers/Brees. While he certainly didn't look bad, it remains that he came up short of expectations, at least for the first week. With the bevy of weapons he has around him and his ability to produce points with his legs, it's hard to imagine a scenario where he doesn't finish the season as a QB1. If he's somehow a buy-low candidate in your league, make an attempt at him. Again, at least for the first week, we learned that RB Demarco Murray's workload is not in jeopardy with RB Derrick Henry waiting behind him. The production was far from ideal, but a 3:1 touch ratio with the sophomore back is about in line with what fantasy owners should have expected. Murray remains a low-end RB1 with some risk for me, whereas Henry is an end-of-bench stash RB5 type with high potential for growth. Perhaps the most interesting nugget from this game was the early involvement of blue-chip WR Corey Davis. After missing most of the preseason with a hamstring ailment, Davis burst onto the scene by leading the Titans in targets with 10 on Sunday, converting 6 of those tries into 69 yards. He looked like a top 5 draft pick and should continue to progress as Tennessee ramps up his reps (he logged the 3rd most snaps of the WR group). It's mostly good news for the rest of the pass catching corp. Both WRs Eric Decker & Rishard Matthews and TE Delanie Walker also saw 8+ targets, which is a great sign that Mariota was able to spread the ball and keep all of his weapons involved. It's going to be tough for fantasy owners to trust this group as a whole, including Davis, because there are naturally going to be weeks where one or two guys produce while the other 2 falter. Good luck with that guessing game, though Decker and Matthews should pose as the most volatile options. Walker remains a top 8 fantasy TE as Mariota's most reliable target.

From a fantasy perspective, the biggest takeaway from Oakland was their very clear attempt at force feeding WR Amari Cooper, especially in the redzone where Cooper failed to scored a single TD last year. The good news is that he punched one in with one heck of an effort after the catch. The bad news is that he completely lost the opportunity at having a monster day by dropping back-to-back-to-back endzone targets. Absolutely brutal if you're a fantasy owner watching this game. Even with that and the overall inefficient day (38% catch rate), Cooper is a locked-and-loaded back-end WR1 with room for growth if he refines his redzone prowess. QB Derek Carr showed that he will remain in the back-end QB1 group and the addition of TE Jared Cook looked like the perfect upgrade from the Raiders subpar TE play last year. Cook is working himself into potentially the top of the TE2 group as the clear-cut receiving TE on a proficient offensive unit. I would be remiss not to mention the fact that RB Marshawn Lynch looked very spry in his first game since taking a year off, and any fantasy owner who invested in him as a RB2 should be pleased after this first game. He logged 19 total touches which answers some workload questions people had in the preseason. Going forward he looks like a relatively high-volume, high-TD potential RB2 option. At least for now, RBs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard aren't even ownable assets for me in most leagues. Even if Lynch goes down, those two are going to form a siphoning committee. Neither guy is anywhere near playable when he's healthy.

 

Philadelphia Eagles v. Washington Redskins

The biggest question mark for the Philadelphia Eagles heading into this 2017 regular season was how the RB committee might shake out. After somewhat of a down preseason, RB LaGarrette Blount was raising serious doubts over his ability to maintain the lead job of this ground game. At least for one week, that question was answered in the form of Blount logging by far the most carries of any Eagles back. Threatening sophomore RB Wendell Smallwood only logged 5 total touches and did little to nothing with his work. This should assure Blount at least a few more weeks of volume work. I would personally sell-high at the first moment he has a good game or stretch of games. QB Carson Wentz didn't generate a ton of preseason hype, though he was tabbed as a sleeper option by some pundits. He made those pundits look good on Sunday by tearing up a Redskins defense that was blowing through the Eagles OLine and locking down WR Alshon Jeffery with Josh Norman. Wentz should be considered a high-end QB2 going forward considering the sudden multitude of receiving options he has to choose from. Speaking of Jeffery, he's a player I'm particular worried about after Week 1. He was 4th on the team in catches and has often times relied on heavy volume to produce as the WR2 people expect. Wentz doesn't appear to be the type of QB to force the ball to a covered receiver, so Jeffery may struggle to return value on his draft position on a weekly basis. Welcome to the big leagues WR Nelson Agholor. After two very disappointing professional seasons, Agholor burst out after receiving plenty of preseason hype and finished 2nd on the team in targets. He's officially an asset worth owning in most leagues, especially PPR as he replaces some of Jordan Matthews production over the middle. Let's make quick mention of TE Zach Ertz, who showed why some tabbed him as a PPR sleeper top-5 TE after the departure of Matthews.

The Redskins offense was more or less a mess on Sunday, which is not exactly what most fantasy owners expected when they invested in several of their key players. QB Kirk Cousins was clearly off his game, missing WR Terrelle Pryor on several occasions and killing his team late with a questionable fumble. Cousins will almost definitely rebound and I'd tab him as a buy-low candidate after Week 1 if an owner is already devaluing him. The biggest concern for Cousins outlook actually has nothing to do with the passing game and everything to do with the success of the run game. RB Robert Kelley did little to alleviate those concerns by averaging a measly 3.0 YPC. It's not entirely his fault though. The Redskins offense line was getting whooped by the Eagles DLine on most plays, which seriously limited what the offense could accomplish. I mentioned Pryor earlier, but coming back, fantasy owners have to be thrilled by his target share after the first week. TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, two highly anticipated target hogs, wound up taking a backseat to Pryor and that could be a theme going forward. If that's the case, Pryor is an easy WR2 rest of season. Both Reed and Crowder appeared on the injury report but both guys looked fine on Sunday. I'm not worried about Reed at all as Cousins annually favored target, but I had my doubts about Crowder this offseason and that skepticism bubbled to the surface with his day to forget. With Ryan Grant and Josh Doctson earning more reps, Crowder is going to be an inconsistent WR3/4 type, even in PPR leagues. 

 

Jacksonville Jaguars v. Houston Texans

First things first, is there finally a little sauce behind the sizzle of the Jaguars D/ST? For years fans have anticipated this unit to make marked improvements with various acquisitions, and they've generally disappointed. They absolutely terrorized Houston's QBs on Sunday, but lets' not forget that the Texans have perhaps the worst OLine in the league right now. I notice many leagues being bashful about adding them after only 1 good week against a bottom tier offense, but looking ahead at their schedule, this may very well be a unit that you start 75% of fantasy weeks. That's when a unit becomes an asset in my book. Beyond that, blue-chip RB Leonard Fournette should be the talk of the town. HC Doug Marrone preached heavy run-favored game scripts this season, and that's exactly what the rookie got against Houston, registering 29 touches for 124 yards. Fournette also had a TD vultured away from him, so he's just scratching the surface on his potential. It will be interesting to see how Fournette performs when game script doesn't favor him, but for now fantasy owners can ride the wave. The other major storyline from the Jaguars was the season-ending knee injury to WR Allen Robinson. Just as I said with David Johnson, I genuinely hope for a smooth rehabilitation process for ARob. Robinson's injury obviously hurts owners who invested in 2016's underachieving WR, but the vacancy leaves a huge chance for WR Marqise Lee to further showcase his ability. Lee turned it on late last season and looked like the Jags best receiving threat, though he finished Sunday's game without a catch. Even so, I expect him to be the most consistent producer in this passing game, with WR Allen Hurns inevitably having boom-or-bust type production. 

The Houston Texans, on the other hand, were an unmitigated disaster. The offensive line was offensive, coming in at #32 on PFF's rankings for OLine play for the first week. This is largely why statuesque QB Tom Savage had no chance to succeed, and the sledding shouldn't get much easier for QB Deshaun Watson despite the hype. Watson isn't even a starter in 2 QB leagues yet, and I wouldn't waste a roster spot on him unless it was the deepest of leagues. The good thing to come from the anointing of Watson is the anticipated spike in production from WR DeAndre Hopkins. It's tough to say if his fantasy day was saved by Watson or the fact the Texans were in garbage-time catch-up mode for the majority of the second half, but fantasy owners don't care how or when he gets his points. With that said, Watson made a living off of force-feeding Mike Williams at Clemson, and I expect that pattern to continue with Nuk as his only viable target. Hopkins will continue to be a volatile back-end WR2 play in PPR formats. RB Lamar Miller still managed 96 total yards on 19 touches, which is exactly the type of workload that makes him a solid RB2 candidate. The Texans offensive line has to be cause for concern, however, as well as HC Bill O'Brien stating that D'Onta Foreman would be more involved moving forward. I'm not too worried about Miller in general, but I'd definitely want Foreman as a handcuff. TE CJ Fiedorowicz was unfortunately placed on I.R. following his second concussion over the last few weeks.

 

Indianapolis Colts v. Los Angeles Rams

Outside of their injured QB, the Indianapolis Colts may very well have the worst top-to-bottom roster in all of football. I realize you should be expected to lose road games with your backup QB starting, but the Colts got ran out of the Coliseum by a sub-par Rams team that was missing their best player (DT Aaron Donald, in case you didn't know). With that in mind, it becomes very difficult for me to recommend playing any of your Colts skill position players until QB Andrew Luck returns. The problem is, we still have no idea when that might be. Luck still has not resumed throwing, so I'd say we're still at least 2 weeks out from his return, and maybe longer. Jacoby Brissett being inserted as the starter might cushion that slightly, but I'm still looking at WR TY Hilton as a volatile WR3, WR Donte Moncrief as an unstartable WR4, and TE Jack Doyle as an unstartable back-end TE2. Savvy fantasy owners may see this as an opportunity to buy-low on a guy like Doyle, who should return TE1 value upon Luck's reinsertion into the lineup. RB Frank Gore ceded a lot of work to South Florida rookie RB Marlon Mack, who HC Chuck Pagano loosely compared to Jamaal Charles in the offseason. Mack is a must-own handcuff, regardless if you own Gore, because he has the potential to supplant the 34-year-old for the starting job by the time Luck returns, at which point his value would sky-rocket. It has to be concerning for Gore owners that Mack got the only goal line carry of the day, especially when you consider how inefficient Gore was in those situations last year. 

Wow. That has to be the first thing you say after the drumming the Rams gave to Indianapolis. QB Jared Goff looked like a different player from the guy we saw in 2016, and I'd consider him as a back-end QB2 or high-end QB3 for 2 QB or deeper leagues. Let's not forget, however, that he was throwing against a Vontae Davis-less Colts secondary. It was a good tune up game for the sophomore, but let's see if he can carry it over against tougher opponents. At least for now, the outlook of WR Sammy Watkins has to be positive as he showed nice rapport with Goff, snaring all 5 of his targets in a game where the Rams didn't need to push the ball downfield much. He's still little more than a volatile WR3 option, but that's honestly more than I was expecting heading into the season. WR Cooper Kupp is looking like a PPR stud in the making as Goff's clear preferred slot target. I would expect his role to expand even more as the year goes on, making him a very solid buy option from any owner who is cute enough to "sell-high" while they can. Despite the solid fantasy day, RB Todd Gurley looked much of the same from his disappointing sophomore season. A mediocre Colts front 7 was able to hold him to just above 2 YPC, but the receptions and TD masked his deficiencies. Despite HC Sean McVay's insistence that Gurley will shine again this season, the results speak for themselves. He's going to have a very tough time giving owners the production they need with a rough upcoming schedule. I'd view this week as your sell-high opportunity.

 

Seattle Seahawks v. Green Bay Packers

This is another offensive line that can't seem to get out of their own way. There were multiple instances last week where QB Russell Wilson was literally running away from 4 defenders as his 5 offensive linemen chased their assignment. Wilson was viewed as a sleeper candidate with his renewed health, but that offensive line is going to seriously hinder his potential to put up bulk numbers. The Seahawks have promised to speed up the tempo of their offense, which should present Wilson with more opportunities to make plays, so you could make the argument that he is a solid buy-low candidate after Week 1. The good part for Wilson is that he has viable weapons all over the field. WR Doug Baldwin was dinged up throughout the game, but still showed that he's the best weapon on this Seattle offense and he will undoubtedly have bigger games in the near future. If you drafted him, you had to expect the ups and downs that come with it. He remains a high-end WR2. WR Paul Richardson is a name for deep leaguers to get on their bench. The former 2nd round pick is finally 100% healthy and is back to making signature acrobatic catches look easy. He is a speedster that the team likes to get involved, though his target share should diminish as WR Tyler Lockett sees more reps. For what it's worth, I'd rather have Richardson rest-of-season. TE Jimmy Graham was nothing short of disappointing on Sunday, but that should only provide a glorious buy-low window for him. I still fully expect him to finish the season as a top-5 TE as the Seahawks offense irons out their issues. The biggest question mark in Seattle remains their crowded backfield, where RB Chris Carson surprisingly got the start against Green Bay, and for good reason. He looked like a legitimate playmaker out there, routinely making guys miss behind the line of scrimmage to extend plays and maximize his yardage. With the condition of Seattle's OLine play, RB Eddie Lacy is going to have a tough time getting into a rhythm as he's not great at making first-level defenders miss. The return of RB Thomas Rawls should be viewed as the nail in the coffin to Lacy's potential, and a serious hit to Carson's. Rawls will be the starting RB for this team when healthy, making him the guy to own, but Carson has to be owned in all leagues for his potential to take over a high-value role. 

There was far more good news on Green Bay's end of the field. QB Aaron Rodgers looked as crisp as ever despite getting hunted by the Seahawks ferocious defensive line rotation. It goes without saying that he's an every week QB1 regardless of matchup. Perhaps the biggest fantasy relevant news out of Green Bay was the confirmation that RB Ty Montgomery will be counted on as the lead dog of this backfield. He played on just over 90% of the teams offensive plays and was featured in both the run and pass game, collecting 23 total touches. The yards aren't overly impressive, but let's not forget that this was against arguably the best front 7 in the league. I was skeptical of his role in the offseason and warned fantasy owners willing to take the plunge, but it looks like that gamble will pay itself off. Montgomery is a locked-and-loaded RB2 with room for more if he continues this kind of heavy usage in this offense. RB Jamaal Williams is still a valuable handcuff to keep rostered. In the passing game, forgotten-man WR Randall Cobb surprisingly led the way with 9 catches on 13 targets. You'd be crazy to expect that volume weekly, but this game served as a nice reminder that Cobb still has tremendous upside in this offense. With that said, I'd predict that it was much more game-specific as Seattle's boundary corners worked to take away WR Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. Jordy is a locked in WR1, but owners may be panicking slightly over Adams extremely quiet outing. Adams is still going to have great games throughout the year, but this game should serve as a reminder that there are a lot of mouths to feed in that Green Bay offense and guys like Adams, Cobb, and even TE Martellus Bennett will have unpredictable usage week-to-week.

 

Carolina Panthers v. San Francisco 49ers

The Carolina Panthers did exactly what they were supposed to do, which is handle a bottom 5 team in the league and assert their dominance on both sides of the ball. QB Cam Newton could have had a far better fantasy game if not for missing on several passes. Fantasy owners will pretty much have to ride his growing pains out as he adapts to running less and dumping it off in the flats more. Speaking of which, RB Christian McCaffrey had a solid if not unspectacular NFL debut. Starting with the good, you have to love the fact he garnered 18 touches and 7 targets in his first game. It shows a willingness from his QB to get him the ball in space, which will be vital to his fantasy value this season. The bad news is that he was widely ineffective on a per-touch basis, especially when you consider just how abysmal the 49ers run defense was last season. People are speculating that this is McCaffrey's floor, but I'm not nearly as optimistic. Fire him up as a low-end RB2 in PPR formats for the time being, with obvious room for growth. RB Jonathan Stewart actually ended up taking 20 total touches, including a redzone reception for a TD. If that's the type of usage we can expect in the future, Stewart will be a draft-day steal. It will be interesting to monitor the touch distribution from here on out. Stewart can currently be trusted as a RB3, though you'll want to choose games with positive game script before starting him. WR Kelvin Benjamin was one of the biggest disappointments of Sunday as he brought in 1 catch for a 20% catch rate. Kelvin will of course have better days moving forward and I'd include him as a buy-low candidate, but fantasy owners have to be concerned by Newton's comments that he won't be forcing the ball to anyone this season. That means trouble for TE Greg Olsen as well, though I wouldn't move him out of my top 5 rankings just yet. Game flow was not in the Carolina pass catcher's favor this week.

The San Francisco 49ers are arguably the least interesting team this season for fantasy purposes. QB Brian Hoyer is okay, but certainly shouldn't be owned in most/all leagues. Ultimately there's too much working against him with a very shaky OLine, sub-par weapons at best, and a defense that struggles to get off the field. He'll have positive game script working in his favor more days than not, but there's very, very little upside here. RB Carlos Hyde has to be the most intriguing name of the bunch, and he looked very good all things considering. This is a tough Panthers front, especially when you don't have any other threats on offense. Fantasy owners, particularly those in PPR leagues, have to love Hoyer's affinity for dumping it down as he targeted Hyde 6 times on Sunday. Hyde will move forward as a volume-based low-end RB2 in PPR leagues, health permitting. WR Pierre Garcon is far from a sexy name, but he should be one of the more consistent PPR assets out there this season. He is clearly Hoyer's #1 target in the pass game and Garcon has excelled as the #1 in Kyle Shanahan's offense before. The biggest problem is that he's never had a penchant for scoring TDs, and he now plays for an offense that will struggle with that same task. WR Marquise Goodwin is an interesting name for deep leaguers due to his blazing speed, though Hoyer's deep ball isn't anything to write home about and Goodwin dropped a great look on Sunday. Rookie TE George Kittle is another name to look out for, especially in Dynasty leagues. He's very similar to former Redskin Chris Cooley. 

 

New York Giants v. Dallas Cowboys 

Let's face it, the Giants offense is hard to watch when WR Odell Beckham Jr. is out. QB Eli Manning is arguably the most overrated signal caller in the league right now as he lives on name and rings alone. In his defense, the offensive line is sub-par, but he has to do a better job utilizing his weapons. He's a mid-range QB2 at absolute best, and that's assuming OBJ is playing. WR Brandon Marshall had to be one of the most disappointing Week 1 storylines as he gained quite a bit of hype as the Robin to Odell's Batman. That didn't take shape on Sunday night as Marshall was thrust into the Bat Mobile by himself, falling behind WRs Sterling Shepard and Roger Lewis & rookie TE Evan Engram of the receiving group. The fact he finished 5th on the team in targets and didn't record his first reception of a game the Giants were playing catch-up in is extremely alarming for his future prospects. Fantasy owners need to hope desperately that Odell's return is a spark plug for Marshall, otherwise he's a low-floor WR4 option in fantasy. I would not rush to buy-low on Marshall just yet. Another guy I'm worried about is RB Paul Perkins. I was not a believer in him taking advantage of the opportunity considering his line play and size, and Perkins reflected my concerns on Sunday, averaging just over 2 YPC and losing significant work to RB Shane Vereen. Vereen is looking like the back to own in PPR leagues and he's a guy I banged the table for in the preseason. He's Theo Riddickesque for an offense that loves to dump it down. He has a chance to usurp Perkins for the lead job as well. If you own Perkins, I would make sure to add Vereen ASAP.

The Cowboys, while not optimally efficient in settling for FGs, looked just as strong as they did last season and should continue to bully teams up front. Despite all of the offseason drama, they leaned on RB Ezekiel Elliott, who turned in a grown man's performance with 100+ yards on the ground and another 36 over 5 catches. The legal battle looms, but fantasy owners should enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts. Zeke is a lock-and-loaded top 2 RB in fantasy with little to no risk aside from the power of Goodell. His appeal seems destined to push this thing out until the 2018 season, but owners should still prioritize handcuffing him with RB Darren McFadden. Dak looked as dialed in as he did his rookie season, and though he only threw 1 TD, should be considered a very reliable high-end QB2 from here on out despite a tough schedule. WR Dez Bryant also falls victim to that tough schedule as he draws some of the tougher cover corners in the league over the next few weeks. He remains a no-doubt WR1 due to his volume and knack for the endzone, so there's not much to takeaway from this game on him. WR Terrance Williams had one of his better games on Sunday, but I wouldn't suddenly expect him to turn his career around. He can be left on waivers save deep leagues.  TE Jason Witten is the ageless wonder, having been on the receiving end of Prescott's only TD pass, and he should be continue to serve as a solid, unspectacular TE2. 

 

New Orleans Saints v. Minnesota Vikings

There was a lot of questions for this Saints team heading into the season, and with questions comes lessons. The biggest of those questions was just how HC Sean Payton would manage a backfield including bruisers RB Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson, as well as dynamic rookie RB Alvin Kamara. The result was very unexpected. It wasn't the most tenured back on the team getting the bulk of the work. It wasn't the future Hall of Famer playing against his former team, either. Instead, it was Kamara who led the trio in snaps, carries, and rushing yards. He was also clearly the preferred receiving option out of the backfield before Ingram collected some garbage time receptions. Despite all of this, he was not considered amongst the highest priority waiver pickups this week, and I think that might be a big mistake for whoever passes on him. I don't think this game was a fluke and I expect Kamara to continue to control a healthy portion of this timeshare. Ingram is clearly the safest of the three backs to own, simply because he can be relied upon to close out games the Saints are winning, but he is also an underrated receiving threat out of the backfield if they are in catch-up mode, as they were Monday. He remains somewhat of a boom-or-bust RB3. I was very low on Adrian Peterson entering the season, and this game only echoed my preconceived notions. Peterson is a one-dimensional threat at this stage of his career and frankly limits what this offense can do when he's on the field. I may be taking this a step too far, but my bold prediction is that his friction with coach Payton will continue to mount and the team will eventually release him. Obviously this would be huge for Kamara and Ingram. WR Michael Thomas had a tough matchup in this one, but he's still a no-doubt WR1 in my book. Try to buy-low if you can. TE Coby Fleener is the other story from this one, as he looks like a truly viable high-end TE2 while WR Willie Snead is out. Streamers take advantage.

One of the top stories of the week was just how brilliantly perfect QB Sam Bradford looked in the Vikings home opener. Keeping in mind it was against perhaps the worst defense in the league, Bradford looked like a former #1 overall pick, placing the ball with pinpoint accuracy and fantastic decision making, finishing with an 84% completion and closer to 90% without dropped passes. It's hard to say if this performance was simply a product of the opposition, but Bradford is worth a pickup with potential to be a high-end QB2. The Vikings offense has the weapons around him to excel and Bradford finally gets a second year in the same offensive system. RB Dalvin Cook answered any questions about his role and ability to transition to the NFL. He looked big and fast, plowing through Saints defenders in the open field. I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of him as a prospect and feel as though he will definitely prove less efficient in games against real defenses, but you have to love his high-volume role in an offense that looks like they should be able to sustain drives and lean on their defense. He's an entrenched RB2. WR Stefon Diggs is making an early case as one of the steals of the draft this year. It's never been a question of talent with Diggs, but durability. He said in the offseason this is the best shape he's ever been in and it looked like it on Monday. I'm a believer in this Vikings offense, and I think Diggs will finish the year as a WR2 as a homerun threat with consistent volume. WR Adam Thielen's performance was more likely to be a byproduct of the Saints defense, as I don't think owners can expect near those numbers most weeks. TE Kyle Rudolph will eat into his target share more than what we saw on Monday, even though the redzone machine scored another TD. Rudolph remains a very safe top 7 fantasy TE. 

 

Los Angeles Chargers v. Denver Broncos

This game had the smell of a blowout before QB Philip Rivers mounted an unlikely comeback jump-started by a Broncos offensive fumble. Rivers seems to be perennially underrated in fantasy circles, and this is perhaps the best cast of weapons he's had around him in his career. Despite the tough early season schedule, he should pay big dividends for those who waited and pounced on him. WR Keenan Allen is back and healthy and showed us why he is a PPR monster. It is very evident that he remains Rivers' favorite target and he should continue to eat in this volume-based role. He's a high-end WR2 while healthy. WR Tyrell Williams turned in a surprisingly effective performance against the #1 secondary in the league and answered questions about his role with a healthy Allen in the lineup. He did not fade, but rather became Rivers next check after Keenan. The big bodied third-year receiver should hold low-end WR3 value for most of the year, and I love him as a Keenan Allen handcuff if owners can acquire him. RB Melvin Gordon continued to show that he's a surefire top 5 RB when healthy in this high-octane offense. Despite his consistently mediocre YPC average, Gordon has a knack for finding the endzone and has a rare unquestioned workhorse role in his offense. TE Hunter Henry was perhaps the most surprising fantasy tidbit out of this game, as the ascending young TE was invisible in this contest, leaving the game without a single target. It just goes to show that Henry is going to be a boom-or-bust options on most weeks due to his dependence on scoring TDs to return value.

This was the week of weak-armed QBs excelling pushing the ball downfield, and QB Trevor Siemian was the final chapter of that story. He looked pinpoint and decisive in his distribution of targets and it's hard to imagine sophomore Paxton Lynch ever truly challenging him for the starting role this offseason. Siemian plays in a conservative offense that wants to control the clock and rely on their defense, so the needle doesn't move much on his fantasy stock. He's a low-end QB2. Though RB C.J. Anderson didn't get great fantasy results, fantasy owners have to love his usage going forward. The main thing to worry about now his how the return of RB Devontae Booker might impact his volume. Until we find that out, Anderson is a mid-to-low RB2 based on volume alone. RB Jamaal Charles looked solid as well, though I doubt we see him take on a truly fantasy relevant role this season. He's worth a speculative add in deeper leagues. Though Siemian was good, he could not help WR Emmanuel Sanders turn in an acceptable fantasy performance. He just missed out on a deep TD, so I wouldn't be overly concerned heading forward, as his risk was built into his draft cost. The real takeaway is that WR Demaryius Thomas is clearly going to be the #1 in this offense with OC Mike McCoy back calling plays, who Thomas had a career year for in 2014. 

 

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Tune back in next week for a thorough rundown of everything fantasy related for ALL 32 teams (sorry we couldn't talk about you this week, Bucs and Phins). 

The LBC

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Cardinals RB David Johnson exits Sunday's game vs Detroit with a wrist injury.  Credit: SI.ocm


So you finally landed the #1 overall pick in your fantasy draft and were feeling great about picking David Johnson as a stud RB you could hitch your wagon to.  You even had a juicy Week 1 matchup against a Lions defense that gave up the 8th-most fantasy points to opposing RB’s last season.  Then not only does DJ lay you a skimpy 2-burger in that matchup, his final play of the day goes from bad – a touchdown that could-have-been – to worse: Dislocated wrist, pending-surgery, and now a trip to IR which means the soonest you might see him back is Week 10.  As someone who got to experience this in two different leagues, let me echo your collective, “Ouch!”

In this article, I’m going to roundup and discuss the injuries from Week 1, give an educated guess on the impact of those injuries, and provide you with some recommendations for waiver wire pickups to hopefully salve those wounds.

Quarterbacks:  None
     Surprisingly, particularly when you consider that two different offenses gave up at least 7 sacks in Week 1, all starting 32 starting QB’s remained entirely unscathed; the worst of it being Tom Savage (bruised ego) who was benched after only one half of football.

Running Backs:

  • David Johnson (dislocated wrist): As noted above, the Cardinals have already placed DJ on Injured Reserve as he’ll undergo surgery later this week.  The tricky thing with this kind of injury, particularly for a running back, is that isn’t not just a heal-and-you’re-good thing, there’s a good amount of range-of-motion and grip-strength rehabilitation in Johnson’s future and that makes his timetable extremely more volatile.  If your league affords you the option of an IR slot, pop him in there and hope he’s available to you for a late season playoff surge.  If you don’t and you’re in a league with 5 or less bench slots, you’ve got a real decision on your hands that’s really going to depend on how deep your roster is beyond him.  Chances are, you’re going to be starting someone already on your roster in his place this week, so holding onto him to see if the Cards manage to turn things around and look like they might compete for a playoff spot is my recommendation.  I bring this up because if they’re not in the playoff race come Week 10, they may just decide to shut him down and let him come back in 2018 at full strength versus rushing him back.  

    The Cardinals’ other move that coincided with putting DJ on IR was to re-sign Chris Johnson.  While Kerwynn Williams has been the hot waiver wire add (understandably because he was #2 on the depth chart), what we’re ultimately looking at here is a three-headed committee consisting of Williams, CJ2K, and Andre Ellington (at least until he gets injured again).  Of them, I’d actually expect CJ to be the most consistent option of the three – I have Kerwynn pegged as a TD-dependent FLEX – and even then he’s not someone I’d rush out to burn waiver priority of more than $2-3 FAAB dollars on.
     
  • Danny Woodhead (hamstring): Worth noting that this is the same hamstring that he was nursing during the preseason that he’s now re-injured, so to me this says expect the high side on the recovery timetable – which, as of a couple hours ago according to Sleeperbot, is 4-6 weeks.

    ** On a side note, go download the Sleeperbot app if you’re not already using it; once you get past it setting off your phone with alerts on the regular, it’s an invaluable resource to get injury news and updates as soon as they hit the wire/Twitter. **

    Woody’s vacancy will clearly create more opportunities for Buck Allen – likely in the passing game, but I’m not convinced that the Ravens are going to script passing plays, particularly in the red-zone for Allen the way they were going to for Woodhead.  As such, I’m actually giving Terrance West a bit of a boost for added red-zone and particularly goal-line touches, and I’m putting more value on Allen in PPR formats.  The Ravens under OC Marty Morningwheg are going to pass to the RB plenty, so the volume is likely still there for Allen, I’d just be concerned with the week-to-week consistency of that volume as his value is likely to be game-script (i.e. match-up) dependent.  With that in mind, there are more games than not on Baltimore’s schedule in the 6 weeks Woodhead should be out (PIT, @OAK, @MIN) that he definitely merits a pickup, I’d just avoid spending a lot of FAAB on him ($5 would be my max), because that volume goes away once Woodhead returns.

Wide Receivers:

  • Allen Robinson (ACL): Horrible thing to happen to a guy, especially in a contract year, but A-Rob’s year is done after less than a minute and a half of regular season play.  Given that contract year and you have no clue where he’s going to be next season, I’d say it’s safe even in Dynasty or Keeper leagues to cut bait and not worry about crowding your IR slot, if you have one.  This now leaves Marquise Lee and Allen Hurns as the de facto starters in Jacksonville; whether Hurns continues to operate from the slot on three-wide sets remains to be seen, but I don’t expect Arrelious Benn to pose much a threat to either.

    Of the two, my inclination is towards Lee more fits the bill for the type of player who finds the most success in Marrone/Coughlin’s preferred brand of offense, but outside of PPR leagues – where he has some FLEX value – you’re probably looking at someone who is more likely than not to be giving you 2-3 pts/start, save for a few unpredictable weeks where he’ll find the end-zone.  The script in Jacksonville appears to be to put as little reliance on Blake Bortles to drive the offense as possible, so even though both will undoubtedly see an uptick in targets, I’m not sure it’s enough to make them all that enticing.  Both were targeted the same amount (4), in a game where Bortles only threw 21 times, but given that Bortles is a career sub-60% passer, even more throw-happy game scripts don’t give me much faith in dependable production.  There are simply more attractive options on the waiver wire with better upside.
     
  • Golden Tate (ring finger): Tate was spotted after Sunday’s game with his left ring-finger in a splint.  This almost assuredly means a sprain and with the Lions not playing again until Monday night, I honestly wouldn’t be too worried about it.  It just bears monitoring, with knowledge that the soonest we’re likely to get a real picture – given that Monday game – is Thursday’s practice.  If you were planning on starting him against the Giants defense, go for it, but if you have a comparable option with a better matchup, I’d go that route (and I am where I own Tate).  It’s anyone’s guess who among he and Marvin Jones get the Janoris Jenkins treatment, but whoever it is will likely put up a stinker.
     
  • Danny Amendola (head injury): Let’s call it what it is, particularly given his history, Amendola is likely in the league concussion protocol right now.  Not that I expect him to be on many rosters, but I bring this up because, with Edelman already out, and given what we just saw the Bradford/Diggs/Thielen trio put up against the New Orleans defense, Amendola’s injury has me looking for big weeks out of both Brandon Cooks and Chris Hogan.  Cooks, I expect, is already roster in just about every league, but Hogan could still be sitting out there on waivers and is a sneaky start this week who should at least put up solid FLEX value.

    The reality is that one of the two is going to line up in the slot, which the Saints were covering more than half the time last night with a linebacker, and given that the Saints are at home (and Brees’ home/road splits are quite noticeable), I expect this to be a more competitive game than either team was in last week.  Gronk will cut in – most notably because he won’t have Eric Berry on him this week – as Brady will almost assuredly look to get him back on a roll, but Hogan and Cooks should both eat as well.
  • Kevin White (collarbone): Broken collarbones were what ended promising prospect Charles Rogers' career and I'm going to go out on a limb and say they've just done the same for Kevin White.  Long on hype and short on delivery, White was someone who at the very least was attractive based off the opportunity for sheer volume which was only multiplied when Cameron Meredith went down with a torn ACL.  That lasted all of one half.  Presumably Josh Bellamy and Kendall Wright become the starters, with Bellamy being perhaps the favored red-zone target - I'm basing this largely off the game-winning pass he dropped in the end zone.  But Mike Glennon's completion percentage was barely above 50% and 12 of his 40 attempts targeted Tarik Cohen.  Cohen is the skill position player in Chicago to own, then probably tight end Zach Miller who was second in targets.  It's certainly possible that with time and practice one of Wright or Bellamy could emerge as a serviceable option, but I wouldn't want to depend on them as much more than an desperation bye-week fill, particularly given the Bears' schedule up to their bye, save for New Orleans in Week 8.
     

Tight Ends:

  • CJ Fiedorowicz (concussion): After suffering two concussions in the span of 3 months, the Texans puts Fiedorowicz on IR today.  Worth noting is that every tight end on the Texans’ active roster left Sunday’s game on the injury list, three (CJF, Ryan Griffin, and Stephen Anderson) with concussions.  Griffin and Anderson are both doubtful to play this week (the game is Thursday, so we can pretty much rule them out), leaving Evan Baylis likely to be called up from the practice squad and a street free agent to be signed at some point (keep an eye out for this to be a Gary Barnidge landing spot) as whoever the starter (yes, BOB is still “undecided”…) has to work with.

    What this likely means is more targets for DeAndre Hopkins.  What it also means, given what we saw of an already weak OL with Duane Brown continuing to hold out and starting RT Derek Newton on the PUP list, is that whoever the QB is will be running for his life and Cincinnati’s defense is likely to feast.
     

Defense:

  • Ronald Darby (dislocated ankle): Darby, the Eagles’ best corner, is going to be out at least 4 weeks and probably closer to 6 weeks.  This leaves the secondary down to sophomore Jalen Mills, rookie Rasul Douglas, and journeymen Patrick Robinson and Dexter McDougle.  Now, granted, the Philadelphia pass-rush is still significant and can cover up for a weaker secondary – to an extent – but give an extra uptick to any volume receiver facing the Eagles during that time period (T. Hill, O. Beckham, B. Marshall, K. Allen, T. Williams, L. Fitzgerald, J. Brown, K. Benjamin).
     
  • Stephon Tuitt (biceps): At first it sounded like Tuitt’s season was done due to a torn biceps, ironically suffered only days after signing a lucrative contract extension.  Today it has come out that Mike Tomlin expects him to play this weekend against the Vikings.  It’s certainly possible the Steelers attempt to limit Tuitt’s reps, rotating Tyson Alualu in more, to ease the load on him, but it sounds like as long as he can manage the pain, he’ll play.  Continue to start the Steelers defense as you normally would.
     
  • Reuben Foster (high ankle sprain): Foster turned out fortunate as this injury looked a lot worse when it happened than it turned out to be.  That said, the Panthers didn’t have much difficulty running on the Niners on Sunday and with Foster out, opposition RB’s should be able to put up solid production against them (though it may come as much, or more, from the short-passing game as it does from actual rushes).  Slight uptick in production expectations for Thomas Rawls, Todd Gurley, Chris Johnson, and Frank Gore/Marlon Mack.
     
  • Jerrell Freeman (pectoral): The Bears put the starting ILB on IR with a torn pectoral (as well as a concussion), and one has to imagine this will make them more susceptible to the run and to receivers out of the backfield (though moreso the former than the later as pass vs run coverage is more presumed-replacement Christian Jones’ strength).
     

Waiver Wire Pickups:

Quarterback: If you’re streaming this week, which I really only imagine you’re doing if you were counting on Andrew Luck, I present to you Sam Bradford (26% owned in Yahoo; 11% owned in ESPN leagues) who should continue to be a viable streamer this season.  However, and I realize this will sound nuts, Alex Smith at home against the Eagles would be my recommendation if you need a one-week fill.  As noted, Philly will be working out how to deal without Darby in the secondary and the Chiefs’ running game has shown to be vastly superior to what Washington put on the field.  I don’t believe the Eagles have anyone in their secondary who can handle Tyreek Hill.

Running Back:

  • Tarik Cohen (CHI) ESPN: 24% owned, Y!: 16% owned: I’m currently kicking myself because I’d picked him up and dropped him right before Week 1 kicked off.  Let’s face facts, Jordan Howard can’t catch (sub-50% catch-rate) and if/when the Bears get behind in game, the script is going to dictate increased reps for Cohen who is flat out electric.  This, to me, is a poor man’s scenario reminiscent of Tyreek Hill in KC last season – in that I won’t be surprised, given the injuries that have happened, if Cohen leads the Bears in receptions this season.  In PPR leagues, that’s a weekly starter at the FLEX spot at minimum, the equivalent of what you’re used to getting from the likes of Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead, though I would contend with more upside because of less competition for targets.  He is someone you’re going to get something out of every week, even in standard leagues (might only be 4-5 points, but it should be consistent week-to-week), which is more than I can say for anyone from the Arizona committee-to-be.  In PPR leagues, this is the kind of guy you can – particularly if you have a need created by a David Johnson injury – faithfully invest 20% of your FAAB (I’m doing it myself).
     
  • Marlon Mack (IND) - ESPN: 2% owned, Y!: 9% owned: As long as Andrew Luck is out, the Colts are going to limit Frank Gore’s touches so that they don’t flat out burn him out.  Mack already looks to have surpassed Robert Turbin if Sunday’s game is any indication, and was given multiple red-zone opportunities – resulting in one TD and another that should have been if Chuck Pagano hadn’t brainfarted and opted not to challenge versus get cute.  Even when Luck comes back, I won’t be surprised to see Mack still have a very viable role.  This is the option if you want to take the more conservative route with your FAAB dollars than making a big run at Cohen (who you are definitely going to have to spend big to get)  Well worth a $5 FAAB investment.
     
  • Javorius “Buck” Allen (BAL) - ESPN: 1% owned, Y!: 6% owned: As mentioned above, Danny Woodhead’s has opened up this opportunity for Allen, but I would want to avoid overspending because there is a ticking clock on his utility, most likely.  If you’re in desperate need I’d go as high as $5, but really I’d want him for $1 or $2 and would be happy to pursue some of the Week 1 underachievers who might get cast off for the sexier-of-the-moment guy.
     
  • Chris Johnson (ARI) - ESPN: 1% owned, Y!: 2% owned: Another mentioned above.  The Cardinals aren’t going to use Kerwynn Williams as a bell-cow and are likely to adjust their gameplans now that David Johnson isn’t available to them anymore.  We’re looking at a committee situation and I’ll trust the guy who has at least produced in this offense in the past in similar circumstance.  I’d rather let someone else dive on the Kerwynn grenade and hope they drop me someone with a better shot at consistency like a Thomas Rawls.
     
  • Thomas Rawls (SEA) - ESPN: 94% owned; Y!: 62% owned: Speaking of… yes, Chris Carson has looked effective and Rawls has already battled an ankle injury this season.  But Eddie Lacy showed me all I need to see from him on Sunday and the lion’s share of rushing reps for the Hawks are there to be seized.  Rawls has shown he can do it in the past and Pete Carroll has already said he’ll play against the Niners this Sunday.  Carson is likely the future (which could start whenever Rawls gets injured again), but I’m willing to toss a lifeline of a couple bucks Rawls’ way on the chance he seizes that job on Sunday and doesn’t look back.  If I owned Lacy, I’d be dropping him for Rawls if he was available.
     
  • Alvin Kamara (NO) - ESPN: 6% owned, Y!: 15% owned: This is one I’m waiting on, but I’d rather grab him a week early than risk being a week late on him and missing out, particularly in Dynasty or Keeper leagues.  Go look at the Saints’ schedule going into the bye week, it’s rough (NE, CAR, MIA) against the run (trust that Belichick will figure out how to work around the Hightower MCL sprain if he can’t play).  Game-script dictated that Kamara saw more snaps than probably intended last night, but it also showed that if the Saints get behind early, this is something we can expect.  He’s got PPR value that’s certainly worth a flier if you’ve got the roster space to accommodate him.

Wide Receiver:

  • Cooper Kupp (LAR) - ESPN: 21% owned, Y!: 29% owned: The Rams may have traded for Sammy Watkins and he’ll likely be integrated more into the offense as the season progresses, but it seems pretty clear that Sean McVay has made an effort to reboot Jared Goff from zero, giving him plays where he’s not asked to make a full slate of reads just yet.  And being the dependable, precise route-runner Kupp looks like he’s earned the “safety-blanket” designation that should earn him 8+ targets (he had 6 in a game where the Rams were out to an unthreatened lead from jump).  Particularly in PPR leagues, he’s a viable FLEX starter in 12-14 team leagues.
     
  • Nelson Agholor (PHI) - ESPN: 16.5% owned, Y!: 16% owned: If you’re looking for someone as a short-term fill with some upside to stay productive all season long, Agholor’s your guy.  More than likely at Arrowhead, he’s the guy who is going to draw Stephen Nelson covering him, which was the one KC corner the Pats were able to produce against consistently.  And he showed Sunday to have an established rapport with Carson Wentz – who appears to be happy to throw early and often.  Week 4 he gets the Chargers who showed last night – courtesy of one Bennie Fowler – that while they can defend the perimeter, they’re relatively hopeless defending the slot, especially in the red-zone.  Two consecutive 9-10 point weeks (which I’m projecting Agholor for) is worthy of a plug-and-play pickup and 5% of your starting FAAB budget.  Owners of Indy receivers looking to ride out till Luck’s return – here’s your guy.
     
  • Kenny Golladay (DET) - ESPN: 21% owned, Y!: 21% owned: I’m actually a Kenny Golladay believer, but I’m also looking at his schedule and I think he’s a better post-hype sleeper candidate.  As in right now, he’s a hype sleeper.  This week the Lions play the Giants and there’s a decent chance whoever picks him up ends up disappointed by the return they get from him.  The two weeks after, the Lions play the Falcons and Vikings.  Be honest, if you picked up Golladay off waivers because of his 2-TD day and he went the next three weeks with only 1 TD (definite possibility), you’d likely be dropping him for the new flavor of the month, right?  So don’t be that guy.  Be the one who waits till that guy drops him after Week 4 and is able to then roll him out against Carolina (as a third option and big-target in the end zone, he can produce against them) and New Orleans.  And at that point if he hasn’t produced, you’ve got an easy excuse to part ways because he’s on bye Week 7.  I honestly think Golladay’s another guy like Kerwynn Williams where he stands a better chance to get a guy you could more readily use dropped when he’s picked up by someone else than he does to bring immediate returns to your roster.

Tight End:

  • Charles Clay (BUF) - ESPN: 12% owned, Y!: 11% owned: Outside of LeSean McCoy, he looks like he’s going to lead the Bills in receptions and he’s Tyrod Taylor’s first read in the end-zone.  That’s got PPR value for days (as a average/above-average but also consistent contributor) with some good TD upside.  He’s not going to catch a TD every week, but you’re not going to find a TE on the waiver wire who will.  If you stream TE’s like I tend to, you’ll find yourself coming back to this well at least a couple times during the season.
     
  • Jason Witten (DAL) - ESPN: 72% owned, Y!: 61% owned: Ol’ reliable.  Look, the Cowboys appear willing to throw the ball more this season and to open Dak up some.  Dez is clearly the favored target and local hobbit Cole Beasley is clearly Dak’s safety blanket.  But… there are definitely going to be as many weeks, if not more, like this last one where Witten out-targets everyone else but Dez and there’s value in that because Old Man Winter is sure-handed and knows how to get himself open.  He’s been a low-key Top 15 fantasy TE for more years than I can remember, he just hasn’t finished in the Top 5 for a while.  But this is the kind of consistency you love to find on the waiver wire.
     
  • Jared Cook (OAK) - ESPN: 16% owned, Y!: 19% owned: Despite the draft profile that once was, there’s nothing really sexy about Jared Cook.  However, in this particular case we’re talking about a tight end who looks to have surpassed Clive Walford on the depth chart, and had as many catches as Amari Cooper (only one less than Michael Crabtree), on less targets.  Most weeks he’s likely to bequeath his red-zone targets to Seth Roberts as he did this past weekend, but against teams like the Jets, who gave up over a 10 Yds/catch average and a trip to pay dirt to Charles Clay, he’s a sound bet for those looks, especially if Cooper starts dropping red-zone passes again.  Washington, Denver (better matchup for TE’s than WR’s), and the Chargers are 3 of the 4 opponents that follow the Jets in Weeks 3-6.
     
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