The Huddle enters our twenty-first season and the first Thursday night game started out with a bang! I’ll be back each week with a quick overview of six points I want to make about players, football in general or just something I want you to know. Grab a chair, prop your feet up and let’s get this started.
- Alex Smith is a Week 1 God – Oh sure, you already knew that Smith would not throw for 368 yards and four scores every week. But did you know that he’s just continuing his trend? Smith only had one 300-yard game last year. He passed for 363 yards and two scores plus rushed in a third one against the Chargers – in Week 1. In 2015, he only had one game with three passing touchdowns – Week 1. I’ll bet we saw his best game of the year for the third season in a row.
- Rookie Running Backs – It was surprising to see that five rookies fell into the Top 20 running backs according to the Average Draft. You no doubt saw this in your own league. They were Leonard Fournette (11), Christian McCaffrey (12), Dalvin Cook (14), Kareem Hunt (17) and Joe Mixon (20). That seems rather high but the reality is that it could happen.Consider the number of Top 30 backs that were rookies that year – 2012 (5), 2013 (5), 2014 (5), 2015 (5) and 2016 (4) considering standard performance fantasy points. And Kareem Hunt was the sixth back drafted this year and he just laid down 246 yards and three touchdowns on the reigning NFL champs in their stadium. That was the most yards for a player making his debut in NFL history. Cannot wait to see what the others do this week.
- Patriots backfield – It was everything we feared it would be. The recent news blurbs that downplayed Mike Gillislee or promoted Rex Burkhead were not written by Bill Belichick, Burkhead had a very minor role. He only had four touches for 23 yards. James White was the initial rusher and ended with 38 yards on ten carries with three catches for 30 yards. He lost a touchdown on a penalty. Mike Gillislee was the goal line back and scored all three times from the 2-yard line or 1-yard line.There is still no certainty what happens next week in New Orleans. Not only will the Patriots continue their maddening tendency to constantly change the rotation, but Week 1 is often very different from the rest of the season. Do not get comfortable yet. Do not get comfortable ever. But do listen to trade offers for Gillislee.
- Searching box scores – I try not to draft the same team in every league. But I drafted about 22 times and ended with several players that I guess were an irresistible value. The most common names over my teams were Jameis Winston, Philip Rivers (backup), Dalvin Cook, Doug Martin (go figure), Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Williams (but almost never Ty Montgomery), Hunter Henry, Kelvin Benjamin, Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson.The draft order affects the first three or four rounds but then I have to fight the tendency to build the same team over and over. This is my favorite time of year. Far as I know, I own 22 different championship teams. I’m going to savor that feeling for two more days.
- Change my mind, please – Granted, one week never defines a season. But this is when we get to see teams with all new offensive schemes. Both the 49ers and Rams have been so bad on offense for so long that it is hard to comprehend the fact that they will be better. The 49ers may be short on talent but
there’s a free agent quarterbackHC Kyle Shanahan was brought over expressly to breathe life into the offense.And Sean McVay takes over the Rams with the same directive. What if Jared Goff was actually limited as a rookie in a terrible offense? I don’t expect much change for the Redskins, Bills, Falcons, Broncos or Raiders. And the Jets look like they just don’t have the personnel no matter what the offense is. But the Rams and 49ers will benefit the most.
- Magic-8 ball says – Hunting for sleepers – AKA undervalued players – tends to mostly be deciding which players who have changed teams will exceed expectations. Or who had a really bad year but will improve. Player value is largely set according to what they just did the previous year. So there has to be something new to the player that common knowledge and popular opinion cannot factor in.This happens a lot with wideouts. Always follow those “new to team” guys in the initial weeks of the season. That includes Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Ted Ginn, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Pierre Garcons, DeSean Jackson and Terrelle Pryor who are all in a new situation. Guaranteed at least a few will have much bigger years than expected.My money is on Marshall, Maclin, Garcon and Wright all outperforming their draft spots. Maclin, Britt and Cooks will repeat their norm. Pryor drops more since he is no longer a #1 receiver and of course, Watkins and Jeffery will get injured sometime along the way.
And an extra point – best of luck to everyone! This season already started out with a very surprising game so try to keep on top of the changes. Remember – the best wide receiver free agents come in the first three weeks. The best running back free agents show up around midseason or later when a starter gets injured. But wideouts with big performances only matter if they are one of the two starters. Don’t be fooled by a No. 3 wideout having a freak big game. On average 1 in every 16 players will have their best production of the year this week.
Wonder if that includes Kareem Hunt? We better all hope so or those Hunt owners are going to be awfully hard to live with.