Averaging 414 yards per game and 6.41 yards per play, the 2-0 San Francisco 49ers boast one of the league’s most potent offenses so far.
And with 72 total points, the Niners are the NFL’s highest-scoring team which hasn’t had the luxury of facing the shipwreck in Miami – i.e. trailing only the Ravens (82 points) and Patriots (76).
It’s hardly a surprise given the production head coach’s Kyle Shanahan’s offenses have shown in his previous stops, but mining individual fantasy gold from the 49ers’ collective is proving to a tough endeavor.
Tight end George Kittle likely is the first San Fran. fantasy option who comes to mind for many, and while he leads the team in targets (13), receptions (11) and receiving yards (108), his relatively low touchdown totals – none so far this season and just seven among 142 career receptions over three years – are what is keeping him from being a full-fledged, no-doubt member of the elite fantasy TE club.
The Shanahan family coaching hallmark has been highly productive ground games, and this year’s Niners are no exception with 357 total yards (fourth in the league entering Monday night) while averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
But another Shanny tradition is relying on multiple backs to shoulder the load, and that’s most definitely been the case so far with Raheem Mostert leading the team in yards from scrimmage (191), Matt Breida tops in touches (28) and Jeff Wilson Jr. pacing the contingent with two TDs. The latter, in fact, scored both of his on short runs Sunday hours after joining the active roster.
All three have totaled between 15.4 (Wilson) and 25.1 (Mostert) fantasy points so far.
Also don’t forget about versatile fullback Kyle Juszczyk who has only two touches for 11 total yards this season, but he’s played a backfield-most 68 snaps and is a proficient pass-catcher who can vulture a touchdown when your fantasy hopes can least afford it.
And we’ve still yet to mention Tevin Coleman, the 49ers’ presumed top back entering the season who’s currently out for a few weeks with a high-ankle sprain after posting 56 total yards on eight touches early in Week 1.
It’s a similar situation with the San Francisco wide-receiver corps as the team’s most coveted preseason fantasy asset, second-year wideout Dante Pettis, has been a non-factor so far with a seven-yard reception on his only target. The team’s other four wide receivers, Deebo Samuel, Marquise Goodwin, Richie James Jr. and Kendrick Bourne all have between five and 10 targets, with the top three – Samuel, Goodwin and James – each with a TD reception and at least 10.6 fantasy points (standard scoring).
Even quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been a good but not startable option in the majority of leagues with 463 total yards, four TDs and 39.8 fantasy points to come out of Sunday ranking as QB18.
It’s quite the fantasy conundrum with only Kittle locked in as a weekly starter. Mostert, Breida and even Wilson are flex options where you’re hoping for a TD while the same applies to Samuel and Goodwin as big-play WR options. Samuel, the talented second-round pick, is the wideout with the most upside as he leads the team wideouts in snaps (88 out of 139), targets (10), receptions (eight) and yards (104) and also has two rushing attempts for seven yards.
Struggling in Carolina
Between Drew Brees’ thumb injury and Jameis Winston’s turnover troubles, it hasn’t been the smoothest of starts for NFC South quarterbacks this season, but the QB with the fewest fantasy points of the foursome so far is the Panthers’ Cam Newton, ranking 27th overall at the position after two games.
Newton has thrown for 572 yards (11th overall through Sunday) but only has completed 56.2 percent of his passes for no touchdowns while losing a pair of fumbles.
Most alarming, though, for fantasy purposes is Newton’s season rushing season stat line: Five attempts, minus-2 yards, no TDs.
Double that concern considering that Newton easily leads all quarterbacks with 934 carries, 4,806 rushing yards and 58 ground TDs – a full 40 more than anyone else – since he entered the league as the top overall pick in 2011.
Cam has averaged 116 carries, 601 rushing yards and 7.25 ground TDs per season over his first eight campaigns with his 359 yards and 90 rushes in 2016 marking his career season low.
And whether it’s a foot sprain lingering from the preseason or a collective decision to better protect his twice surgically repaired shoulder, Newton isn’t running so far in 2019 and it has zapped much of his effectiveness – in fantasy and reality – for the 0-2 Panthers.
Here are the facts: In his 131 career starts, including the postseason, Newton has rushed for nine or fewer yards 21 times. In those games, the Panthers are 9-12 and Newton has finished with 15.1 or fewer fantasy points in two-thirds (14) of those 21 contests.
There is still ample time for Cam to turn things around and assume his customary ranking among the top-10 fantasy quarterbacks in 2019 – witness Andrew Luck’s revival only last season after slow start amid health concerns – but it’s going to take his legs to get him there.
Scuffling in Tampa
Another highly touted NFC South preseason fantasy pick off to a disappointing start is Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard.
And while Howard’s Bucs were upending Newton’s Panthers 20-14 last Thursday night, the tight end stunningly wasn’t targeted, marking only the second game among the 26 he’s played in since 2017 that’s failed to have a pass thrown in his direction.
That followed the season opener in which Howard caught four of his five targets for 32 scoreless yards vs. the 49ers.His target and reception totals so far have him tied for fifth and fourth, respectively, on the team – a brutal start for a player who many believed would have the same overall ranks among league tight ends at this point.
Still, don’t panic just yet.
All of the Bucs’ pass-catchers not named Chris Godwin (15 targets-11 receptions-174 yards-2 TDs) are off to sluggish starts as Winston and Co. get a feel for head coach Bruce Arians’ new offense, and things almost certainly will improve as everyone settles in going forward.
On the flip side, be ready to pounce if an impatient Howard owner in your league decides to cut bait and you’re looking for help or an upside upgrade at tight end.
- After blistering the defenseless Dolphins with five TD passes in Week 1, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson threw for 272 yards and two scores Sunday against the Cardinals and also rushed for a career-high 120 yards on 16 attempts. That makes him only the second quarterback ever to pass for at least 250 yards and rush for 120 or more in game, joining the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (263 passing, 181 rushing), who accomplished the feat in a 2012 playoff game against the Packers. Through play Sunday, Jackson was tied for the league lead in TD passes (7) and led all QBs with 126 rushing yards – 45 more than second-place Dak Prescott.
- Speaking of elite quarterback performances, 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes lit up the Raiders with 443 yards and four TDs Sunday to enter Monday night as the highest-scoring Week 2 fantasy QB. In truth, Mahomes’ second quarter alone (278 yards, four TDs) would’ve put him eighth on the weekly list.
- Through Sunday, Washington RB Chris Thompson leads all running backs with 18 targets this season and is tied with Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler for the position lead in receptions with 12. Thompson’s 116 receiving yards trail only Ekeler’s 163 among backs. Thompson, though, only has logged five rushing attempts for 13 yards so far while McCaffrey (35-165) and Ekeler (29-124) each have had at least 29.
- The nearly forgotten Carlos Hyde logged 20 rushing attempts for 90 yards Sunday in the Texans’ 13-12 win over the Jaguars. Only four players – Aaron Jones (23), Ezekiel Elliott (23), Peyton Barber (23) and Sony Michel (21) have toted the ball more in Week 2 (through Sunday), and he’s outrushed (30-173 to 15-88) and outtouched (31-19) Texans backfield mate Duke Johnson on the season. Look for that to continue, especially in neutral or positive Houston game scripts.
- While Andy Dalton has gone wild with 93 pass attempts and 729 passing yards, both ranking second in the league through two weeks, the Bengals’ ground game has been nothing short of brutal with Cincy ranking dead last in the league in rushing play percentage (24.4), rushing yards (59) and yards per attempt (1.8). Battling an ankle issue, starter Joe Mixon has rushed for only 27 yards on 17 carries while catching five of eight targets for 17 yards and Giovani Bernard hasn’t fared much better with 27 yards on 13 rushes and three catches for 49 yards on six targets. Consider trading Mixon if someone is still willing to give you close to preseason high-end RB2 value, but you’re likely going to have to sit tight and hope Cincy gets its ground game figured out.
- Broncos rookie Phillip Lindsay was a fantasy running back revelation a season ago, but so far this season, it’s been a straight 50-50 timeshare with fellow 2018 rookie Royce Freeman. Lindsay has more rushing attempts (24-21), receptions (8-6) and total touches (32-27) through two games, but Freeman has actually been more productive with a 110-79 rushing-yard edge and a 163-132 advantage in total yards. Cementing the timeshare, the backs have each played an even 50 percent (72) of the Broncos’ 144 offensive snaps.
- Staying in the Mile High City, fantasy GMs who took a late-round flier on Emmanuel Sanders, a 32-year-old wideout coming off Achilles surgery and also a procedure on his other ankle, have been rewarded handsomely with PPR’s No. 4 wideout so far. Through Sunday, Sanders was tied for ninth among league wide receivers with 20 targets and fourth with 16 catches for 184 yards. He’s formed an immediate veteran bond with new Joe Flacco, accounting for a team-best 25-percent target share and a 100 percent share of the team’s TDs (2) and two-point conversions (1).
- Julio Jones smashed Sunday night with five catches for 106 yards and two TDs, including the game-winning 54-yarder, in the Falcons’ gutty 24-20 win over the visiting Eagles and now owns the league’s longest TD game streak with a score in six straight contests, dating back through Week 14 of last season. Jones has totaled eight touchdowns during that six-game span – amazingly as many as he had in his previous 34 games combined.
- Ravens second-year TE Mark Andrews is living up to his off-season hype and then some, ranking as fantasy’s top tight end through two weeks with 16 grabs for 220 yards and two TDs on 17 targets. Andrews leads or is tied for the position league lead in all four categories aside from targets where he ranks fourth behind Zach Ertz (23), Evan Engram (22) and the ageless Greg Olsen (18).
- It’s beyond unfair, but it appears as if the Patriots will boast one of the league’s top defenses along with ageless QB Tom Brady and his stellar offensive crew. Sunday in Miami, the Pats not only pitched shutout but they added a pair of pick-sixes in the 43-0 embarrassment. On the season, New England easily ranks as fantasy’s No. 1 D with a grand total of three points allowed, eight sacks, seven takeaways and the two return scores. Next up on the Pats’ schedule are contests against the Jets, Bills, Redskins, Giants and Jets again. Lock them into your starting defensive slot and forget about it for the next five weeks.