Stars of the Week
QB: Lamar Jackson, BAL 17-20, 324 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs
RB: Christian McCaffrey, CAR 19 carries, 128 yards, 2 TDs
10 catches, 81 yards, 0 TDs
WR: Sammy Watkins, KC 9 catches, 198 yards, 3 TDs
TE: Evan Engram, NYG 11 catches, 116 yards 1 TD
Football is back! We’ve got some fresh names atop the week 1 honor roll, and to borrow from Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson’s post-game media session, he had himself pretty good day for a running back! With more performances like this past Sunday, he’ll continue to posterize Bill Polian and others who insisted that LJ should enter the league as a running back. We’ll take a closer look at Jackson’s performance below. Running Back Christian McCaffrey started the year off with a monster game against the Rams, and his dual role as the primary rusher and a key receiver for the Panthers are what elevate him to top 3 overall status in fantasy football. Moving along to wide receiver, no surprise that our top pass catcher comes from Kansas City, but who would’ve thought Sammy Watkins would be here instead of Tyreek Hill? We’ll also take a closer look at Watkins’ performance below. Finally, Evan Engram was one of the few Giants who showed up against the Cowboys. Engram and Saquon Barkley will continue to be the Giants’ offense this year, keeping the team fantasy relevant even if not league relevant. Engram comfortably sits as a top 5 tight end.
Week 1 Takeaways – A Closer Look
Each week we take a closer look at a handful of performances and sort out what such performances mean going forward.
Lamar Jackson, QB - BAL 17-20, 324 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs
Analysis: Lamar Jackson’s game, as it translates to the NFL, has been a polarizing topic since his days at Louisville. Jackson took over for Flacco during last year’s stretch run and led a run heavy offense reminiscent of college ball. With word circulating this preseason that the playbook would open up for Jackson, we were treated to a week 1 performance which left the Ravens’ QB on pace for 80 TD passes! Granted the performance came against the worst team in the NFL, but nevertheless he stuck throws that would move the chains against legitimate NFL defenses, not just the Dolphins. Perhaps the most interesting stat is that Jackson only had 3 carries for 6 yards. That’ll uptick going forward. The added bonus with Jackson is that he comes with a high floor due to his rushing abilities. In games where the passing game isn’t flowing, he’ll at least make up for it somewhat by rushing the ball. So what to make of Jackson for this year? He’s not a weekly start (only 5 or so QBs have that status), but he’ll be a QB1 most weeks based on matchups, including week 2 against the Cardinals. Jackson will be providing a generous ROI to those who drafted him.
Todd Gurley, RB - LAR 14 carries, 97 yards, 0 TDs
Malcolm Brown, RB – LAR 11 carries, 53 yards, 2 TDs
Darrell Henderson, RB – LAR 1 carry, 0 yards, 0 TDs
Analysis: No elite player’s value was harder to tie down on draft day than Todd Gurley. The Rams’ star RB was drafted anywhere between rounds 1 through 3, with the end of round 2 being his most common landing spot. This past Sunday we got our first look at Gurley’s intended usage, and the data received appears in line with draft expectations. In terms of snap count, the breakdown resulted in 54 plays with Gurley on the field, 21 for Brown and 2 for Henderson. In terms of carriers, Gurley received roughly 54% of the teams’ running back totes, and as a general ballpark you should expect him to be in the 60% range from week to week. With Gurley’s rushing skills and his role in the Rams’ prolific offense, that’ll result in a solid high-end RB2, but not higher. The volume just isn’t there to be an RB1 at this point, but you should still expect around 1,200 rushing yards and 8-10 TDs. As for the players behind him, Malcolm Brown is the clear second chair for now, but it remains to be seen if Darrell Henderson will start siphoning off carries. Brown has value in deep leagues (12 plus teams) as a matchup dependent flex, while Henderson should remain stored on your bench, but should not be in any lineups at this time.
John Ross, WR – CIN 7 catches, 158 yards, 2 TDs
Analysis: John Ross ran his way into the top 10 of the 2017 draft by setting the combine record with a 4.22 40 yard dash. Since entering the league, however, Ross has been a massive disappointment, due both to injury and non-production when healthy. Just how disappointing has Ross been in his first two years? Well, through one game of the 2019 season, he’s more than two-thirds of the way towards matching his total2018 output (210 yards). Was Ross’ breakout performance against the Seahawks evidence that he’s finally turned the corner? It’s still too early to declare a full leap, but the thought here is that Ross will in fact take the next step. New head coach Zac Taylor unveiled a very WR friendly, pass heavy scheme against the Seahawks, and there’s no reason to think that emphasis on the passing game will change. With his speed, Ross will always have avenues to shed coverage, and this coaching staff will continue to work on the finer points of route running with Ross. Ross does come with issues, however, as he drops too many balls and doesn’t have a body of work demonstrating any level of consistency. But his upside is tantalizing and his opportunity in the Bengals’ offense couldn’t be better. Ross is a must add in all formats, but be forewarned that he’s an add based on potential, with high risk / reward outcomes.
Sammy Watkins, WR – KC 9 catches, 198 yards, 3 TDs
Analysis: Welcome to the fantasy penthouse Sammy Watkins! The Chiefs WR came into the league as one of the most highly touted pass catchers in years, only to produce a so-so career at this point. Watkins has teased us every season with a couple of explosive games, only to retreat to modest production for the balance of the season. So one week into the season, Watkins explodes for 3 TDs and just under 200 yards in game 1…of course! Is this yet another bulb that will dim, or does this Watkins have staying power? A few key factors point to Watkins having his most prolific season to date. First off, the Chiefs’ lead WR Tyreek Hill suffered a shoulder injury and appears to be out several weeks, so those throws will be redirected in part to Watkins. Second, Watkins enters year 2 in Andy Reid’s offense with all universe QB Patrick Mahomes, so the familiarity will play a huge role in the offense going forward. Not rocket science, but nevertheless an important factor. Don’t expect him to become DeAndre Hopkins, but Watkins should post WR2 numbers with Tyreek Hill out, making him a must start every week. Expect Watkins to remain at least flex relevant when Hill returns as well.
TJ Hockenson, TE - DET 6 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD
Analysis: TJ Hockenson garnered comparisons to Rob Gronkowski during the 2019 NFL draft. That’s an unfair expectation to put on any incoming tight end, but the early results are promising in terms of Hockenson becoming a top tier tight end. Hockenson broke the record for yardage by a tight end in his first game, and found himself targeted 9 times by Matthew Stafford against the Cardinals. Only Danny Amendola was targeted more by Stafford. Rarely do rookie tight ends make a major impact on the fantasy side, but it appears that Hockenson will be the exception. He’s got great hands, superior athleticism and will be an impossible cover for linebackers and defensive backs alike. Hockenson should be viewed as a TE1 immediately. In case he’s available in your league, he’s a must add.
Rapid Fire Pickups
Each week we’ll throw out potential free agent pickups from each position for deeper leagues, in each case 1) someone who has NOT been referenced above, and 2) a player available in more than 50%of leagues.
QB: Derek Carr, OAK
RB: Justin Jackson, LAC
RB: Chris Thompson, WAS (with Guice out, he’s the guy to own ahead of AP)
WR: Jamison Crowder, NYJ
WR: DK Metcalf, SEA (last chance to snag DK)
WR: Marquise Brown, BAL (top WR add)
TE: Darren Waller, OAK (last chance to snag Waller)