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John Norton ("The Guru") and Gary Davenport ("The Godfather of IDP") are two of the most experienced and knowledgeable IDP analysts in the fantasy football industry. Every week during the 2023 season here at Footballguys, The Guru and the Godfather will come together to answer five of that week's most pressing questions.
One week into the 2023 season, there are only the undefeated and the winless. The top and the bottom. No in-between. As some celebrate and others hyperventilate, John and Gary have gathered both to look back at the best and worst from Week 1 (and what it means, if anything, for the rest of the season) and to look ahead at the players in Week 2 who will spur IDP managers to victory or keep them mired in defeat.
After one week of the fantasy football season, there are only two types of managers—jubilant and despondent. We'll start with the happy side. Which IDPs at each major position (DL/LB/DB) exceeded your expectations? And perhaps more importantly, can they keep it up?
Guru: Drake Jackson exceeded everyone's expectations except maybe his own. The 2022 second-round pick had twelve combined tackles and three sacks as a rookie. Growth in year two was expected, but the guy equaled his rookie sack total in Week 1. Can he keep it up? I think he has the ability to do so and is in a great situation in terms of the aggressive scheme and supporting cast. My only concern is snap counts. Jackson was on the field for 28 plays in Week 1. It would make sense that after such a standout performance, his playing time would increase, but the decisions NFL teams make from week to week don't always make sense.
The biggest surprise of Week 1, for me, was Terrell Bernard starting at middle linebacker for Buffalo. After missing much of the offseason and preseason while nursing an injury, it was believed by most that his opportunity to start was lost. Not so fast, say the Bills. Bernard started, played every defensive snap, and cranked out eleven combined tackles. Not bad for a guy that was supposed to open as a backup. He won the job and did nothing in Week 1 to lose it, so there is no reason to think Bernard's production would not continue.
The fantasy value of Jessie Bates began to slip in 2021. In 2022, he all but flatlined statistically. There was optimism that the change of venue would stir the slumbering production, but how could anyone have guessed that he would be the fantasy game's number one defensive back heading to Week 2? Bates is no stranger to the top ten. He was there a couple of times while with the Bengals, then Cincinnati improved greatly, and the target-rich environment dried up. Atlanta is heading in the right direction, but they have a way to go. I can easily envision Bated adding another top-ten finish to his resume.
Godfather: It wasn't especially surprising that Miami Dolphins edge-rusher Jaelan Phillips got to the quarterback last week, although it was just half a sack. He also didn't post the stat line Drake Jackson did. But the eye-opening number with Phillips was 11—the number of stops he posted against the Los Angeles Chargers. Phillips isn't going to hit double-digits every week, but if he can average even half that and flirt with 10-12 sacks, you're talking about Maxx Crosby's 2022 season.
There weren't a ton of surprises at linebacker in Week 1, but Germaine Pratt of the Cincinnati Bengals finishing the week as a top-five fantasy option after piling up 11 total tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble makes the list. Pratt was on the field for 66 snaps—89 percent of the team's total. However, that came against a Browns team that went run-heavy in inclement weather, and Pratt's snap-share has been known to vary at times against pass-heavy opponents. However, it's worth noting that dating back to last year, this marks the sixth straight game Pratt's snap share exceeded 80 percent.
The Guru and I disagreed over the summer on who Miami's starting box safety would be in 2023, and it's possible that Brandon Jones will become a bigger factor down the road. But so far, at least, you can chalk one up for the Godfather—Deshon Elliott played every defensive snap and tallied 13 total tackles. Batterymate Jevon Holland actually had an even bigger game in the Dolphins shootout win over the Chargers, but as things stand right now for this guy, Elliott is the safety to roster in Miami.
Last Week's Disappointments
The flip side of that coin, of course, is the IDPs who fell flat in Week 1. Who was your biggest disappointment at each position, and was it just a one-week aberration or a sign that fantasy managers should be concerned?
Guru: I had, and still have, big expectations for Harold Landry this year and beyond. He delivered a near goose egg in Week 1 that I believe was a mirage. In 2021, when Landry was last healthy, he racked up 74 combined tackles and 12 sacks for a top-ten finish. After missing all of last season with a knee injury, it might take a few games for him to get back in the swing, but barring a setback in the injury department, I see Landry getting back to form by October.
Anthony Walker was one of the biggest disappointments for me in Week 1. Between signing a new contract in the offseason and the injury to Jacob Phillips during training camp, I was confident Walker would provide good, consistent tackle production. It wasn't the lack of production from him in Week 1 that bothers me. That can be explained by the way the game played out and a Bengals offense that never got off the bus. What I am most disappointed about is the 59% share of playing time. It's hard to bounce back from a bad game if you're not on the field.
Heading into last season, I avoided the Ravens' secondary like the plague. After seeing the transformation that turned their safeties into quality IDP options, I was pretty high on Kyle Hamilton this year. My conviction is wavering after getting smacked with a 2-1-0 against Houston, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel on him yet. That comes after this week if he fails to produce against Cincinnati.
Godfather: Landry was far from the only big name on the edge who disappointed in Week 1—Joey Bosa of the Chargers also turned in just a single tackle against the Miami Dolphins. The bigger problem with Bosa is that the durability issues that have dogged him in recent years have already started cropping up again—he's iffy at best to face the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 thanks to a hamstring injury suffered in Week 1. As someone who drafted Bosa in the King's Classic Butkus Division to be my DE1, this is most assuredly not the start to Bosa's bounceback year after a dismal 2022 I was hoping for.
Sticking with that same game (I seem to be rather hovering around SoFi Stadium), what the actual heck happened with Dolphins linebacker David Long? For most of the summer (and as recently as last week), Long was being talked up as a three-down starter next to Jerome Baker—and most IDP managers drafted him with that expectation. Instead, Long played all of 17 of a possible 81 snaps, getting out-snapped by a wide margin by Andrew Van Ginkel. Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said this week that opponent and gameplan will play a part in which linebacker plays more, but given what we just saw, Long not only isn't startable, but he's droppable in many IDP leagues.
In the interest of helping talk IDP managers off the ledge, I'll close this one with a defensive back I'm not overly concerned about—New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger. There's no denying that Dugger's two solos and two assists against the Eagles aren't what managers who drafted Dugger as a potential DB1 were looking for—especially in what appeared a favorable matchup. But after a fast start, the Eagles didn't look themselves offensively for much of that game. If he falters again this week against Miami's high-octane passing game, then you can fret a bit. But for now, take a breath.
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