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Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season has come and gone. It's important to take note of different storylines and situations, but it's also important not to overreact to some of these circumstances and occurrences. Let's dig deep and try to decipher some clarity in this wonderful hobby of ours.
To quote a friend of mine on Twitter @calvinandhobby "If you're only focusing on the fantasy points in your analysis, you're doing it wrong."
He is absolutely right about this. Chasing points is real and it's a slippery slope. We've all done it. Player X has a huge week (on your bench), so you do what any self-respecting fantasy enthusiast would do, you start him the next week and he is a disappointment. So now you've lost out on the first week of success and you followed it up with a dud in the second week. What do you do in the third week? We've all been there. Every single one of us. That's the downside of chasing points. The upside of course is racking up the points each week. How can you predict those who will have a successful outcome and those who won't? It's tricky, but there are signs, triggers, and factors. I'll get to that...
Don't worry too much about Week 1 failures. Some teams take some time to right the ship, figure out their blocking schemes, find the right mix of personnel to handle an assignment, the right coaching decisions, play the right opponent, get a healthy player back, etc. Take a look at last year, for example...
- Joe Burrow had 193 yards passing with 0 touchdown passes and 1 interception in his NFL debut against the Los Angeles Chargers. He went on to record five 300-yard games in his next nine games.
- Antonio Gibson had 9 carries for 36 yards with 0 touchdowns in his debut. He finished as the RB13 in 2020.
- Justin Jefferson went 2-26 in his debut. We know how he turned out.
- Chase Claypool 2-39
- Mike Evans 1-2 (with a touchdown)
- Keenan Allen 4-34
- Observe snap counts. How often were they on the field?
- Examine the depth chart around them. Is there an opening for this player to thrive moving forward?
- What are players or coaches saying about this player?
- Did an injury open the door for more involvement?
- Was a particular matchup the main reason for their success or failure?
- Did their points come in garbage time? Will this be a commonality with his team?
- Did their production come from one or two big plays?
- How many red-zone targets did they have?
- What was their target share% compared to the rest of the team?
- Was their fantasy production touchdown-dependent or were they consistent throughout the game?
— Joe Bryant (@Football_Guys) September 14, 2021
Which fringe players who had success in Week 1 are contenders and who are pretenders?
- Jalen Hurts, PHI - One of the concerns heading into 2021 was Hurts' low completion percentage. He finished 2020 with a 52.0% completion percentage with 6 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions in five starts. So far this year (and maybe you can pin some of this on the Falcons defensive struggles), Hurts has 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and a 77.1 completion percentage. He has weapons in all positions at his disposal, plus he has dual-threat ability. He's a contender to finish in the top 10.
- Jamaal Williams, DET - The Lions coaching staff indicated that D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams would be the 1a and 1b in terms of usage and involvement. After one week of action, this appears to be the case. The Lions have few big names at wide receiver, and it looks like both Swift and Williams will have double duty as rushers and receivers in this offense. The Week 1 game script against San Francisco called for more passes, but this could be a common occurrence for Detroit this season. Both Swift and Williams have fantasy value and it's unclear yet which player will be the better fantasy commodity. I suppose that's not a bad thing.
- Antonio Brown, TB - Some players are just good. Antonio Brown may be a wide receiver diva with questionable decision-making tendencies off the field, but he is Hall of Fame quality player on the field. Usually, Hall of Fame candidates don't just stop being good at football. An injury or father time eventually takes over. Brown has shown that isn't the case just yet. He knows the game well. He knows how to bait defenders, or get them to move their hips before he makes his route cut. He knows how to draw a flag on contested catches. He has all of those characteristics and a guy named Tom Brady throwing him the ball. He's not going anywhere when it comes to on-the-field play. Anything off the field is completely up for grabs. If he can keep his house in order, he'll be a reliable fantasy option this season.
- Mark Ingram, Houston - The Texans scored 37 points and Mark Ingram had 26 carries and scored one of Houston's four red-zone touchdowns. It was a dominant performance, but it was against arguably the worst team in the NFL, Jacksonville. All three Texans running backs scored (Ingram, Lindsay, Johnson) but Ingram's 26 carries was miles ahead of the others (Lindsay 9, Johnson 3). Ingram is a 31-year old back in a young man's position on a team that is projected to finish with 5 wins or less. The present may be bright, but the future is dimly lit. Houston could surprise the league with a complete reverse of fortune, but it's not likely. This may be Ingram's best game of the year with unfavorable game scripts in the majority of their games still to come.
- Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco - This is a tough one to gauge. I could be completely wrong about this, but we cannot forget about Trey Sermon. Yes, he was a healthy scratch in Week 1, which is puzzling, but the 49ers are going to need him going forward with Raheem Mostert out for the year with a knee injury. We know Kyle Shanahan likes to utilize multiple backs in his offense, often going with the hot hand for stretches. This does not feel like an offense that will feature Mitchell as the primary back. In all likelihood, he will wind up sharing duties with Sermon in what becomes a full-blown committee backfield. If that's the case, there will be inconsistent fantasy results from both backs. Both could be fantasy-relevant options, but the rosy outlook pinning Mitchell as a premier back fantasy option may be a bit premature.
The sky is not falling but we need to read the tea leaves in some situations
Don't give up on players who have shown success in the past who may have struggled in Week 1. Each week is different and some teams and players take some time to get going. At the same time, we have to come to the realization that in some instances, expectations and reality may not be equal.
Saquon Barkley, NYG - We need to realize that it may take a few games or half of the season for Barkley to truly feel comfortable in his cleats making sharp cuts. There is a non-zero chance that he won't ever be the same back that we've become accustomed to seeing.
Aaron Rodgers, GB - Why does it look like Aaron Rodgers has aged ten years since his 2020 MVP season? His conditioning and preparedness are at question here, but eventually, he should figure it out unless of course, he's still bitter about the whole off-season fiasco. If he struggles this week at home against Detroit on Monday night, well then...yeah, then it's time to worry.
Derrick Henry, TEN - The Titans no longer have Arthur Smith running the offense, so there is a known offensive personnel change compared to last season. New offensive coordinator, Todd Downing may need a game or two to get his offense in order. Plus Arizona's defense (Week 1 opponent) may be for real. Henry is too good to struggle for too long.
Brandon Aiyuk, SF - Aiyuk was dealing with a hamstring injury but he fully practiced on the Friday before Week 1 and was not on the injury report. He had one of the more impressive rookie seasons for a wide receiver scoring a touchdown or gaining 100 yards in 9 of the last 11 games he played in. After this week, it's 9 of the last 12. The talent is there but if the 49ers coaching staff may feel Deebo Samuel has a better understanding of the system they run and it may mean a reduction in involvement for Aiyuk. It feels like this is a one-week anomaly, but don't be shocked if it takes some time before he is fantasy-relevant again. For all we know, he may have tweaked his hamstring, hence the lack of usage. If someone drops him, it would make sense to snatch him up.
Marquez Callaway, NO - Callaway had 1 catch for 14 yards on two targets but remember, Jameis Winston had 148 yards passing with only 14 completions. Winston now holds the NFL record for fewest passing yards in a game by a quarterback with 5 touchdown passes. Callaway's two targets led all Saints wide receivers. The volume was down in this game. There was not a need to pass often, plus Green Bay has a pretty decent cover corner in Jaire Alexander. Let's see how Callaway does this week against Carolina. If you remember, it was against Carolina where Callaway had his breakout game last season (8-75 on 10 targets).
A few tidbits worth noting
Players who scored with 4 targets or less
- 2 TDs Juwan Johnson, NO
- 1 TD Deonte Harris, NO
- 1 Van Jefferson, LAR
- 1 Tim Patrick, DEN
- 1 Robby Anderson, CAR
- 1 Zay Jones, LSV
- 1 Robert Woods, LAR
- 1 Logan Thomas, WAS
- 1 Trent Sherfield, SF
- 1 Gerald Everett, SEA
- 1 Chris Manhertz, JAC
- 1 Albert Okwuegbunam, DEN
- 1 Chris Hogan, NO
15+ PPR points without a touchdown
- 27.7 Christian McCaffrey, CAR
- 19.0 Keenan Allen, LAC
- 18.2 Brandin Cooks, HOU
- 17.6 Jonathan Taylor, IND
- 17.3 Miles Sanders, PHI
- 15.9 Stefon Diggs, BUF
- 15.4 D.J. Moore, CAR
Red Zone Stats
Red zone targets for Carolina wide receivers.
- 2 Terrace Marshall
- 0 everyone else
- 2 Javonte Willims
- 0 Melvin Gordon
- 4 (HOU, ARI, CLE, NO)
- 0 (GB, ATL)
Defenses with 5+ sacks
- 6 Arizona
- 5 Minnesota
- 5 Carolina
Defenses who allowed 15 points or less (all from the AFC).
- 3 New Orleans
- 6 Philadelphia
- 13 Arizona
- 13 Denver
- 14 Carolina
Defenses with 2+ interceptions
- 3 Houston
- 2 Dallas
- 2 New Orleans
Defenses with 2+ Fumble recoveries
- 2 Arizona
- 2 Dallas
- 2 Miami
- 2 Detroit
- Las Vegas
How do we feel about players going forward? I set to twitter to get the consensus scoop.
Which unexpected Week 1 wide receiver darling shows more consistent production for the rest of the year over the other three?— Jeff Haseley (@JeffHaseley) September 14, 2021
Which RB would you rather have on your roster for the rest of the year?— Jeff Haseley (@JeffHaseley) September 14, 2021
Which yet-to-hit potential gem running back would you rather have on your roster for the rest of the year?— Jeff Haseley (@JeffHaseley) September 14, 2021
Which RB are you LEAST concerned about this season?— Jeff Haseley (@JeffHaseley) September 14, 2021
Which lesser tier potential waiver claim RB is a better target? (redraft)— Jeff Haseley (@JeffHaseley) September 14, 2021
Which wide receiver with Week 1 success will be more fantasy-reliable than the other three?— Jeff Haseley (@JeffHaseley) September 14, 2021
Which potential waiver wire tight end would you rather have on your roster over the other three this season? If the last one, share which one in the replies.— Jeff Haseley (@JeffHaseley) September 14, 2021
Which high-profile disappointing player in Week 1 are you most concerned about?— Jeff Haseley (@JeffHaseley) September 14, 2021
Questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcome. Hit me up on Twitter.