Welcome back, fantasy faithful! Last year, I inherited “The Pickup Joint” space. It was an honor to follow in John Tuvey’s footsteps, and the analysis was a fun piece to work through, but the article was his and not mine. This time around, we’ll start with a fresh coat of paint.
In the spirit of The Pickup Joint, “Figures, flukes and feelings” will explore which performances and news justify fantasy responses while wading through the nonsense.
You’ll find three weekly staples in this space. The “figures” section is to evaluate interesting data points from the past week and season at large. There is enough noise during the football season to consume a fantasy owner, and the “flukes” category will sift through the debris. I’ll share observations, anecdotes, and gut feelings for the week ahead under the remaining heading.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt scored 47.7 PPR points on 22 touches in Week 1. The next two closest backs (Mike Gillislee and Tarik Cohen) combined for 47.8 on 28 touches.
Takeaway: Hunt is absolutely the real deal. This offensive system has made fantasy stars of talents Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy, as well as Jamaal Charles. New England’s run D had no answer for Hunt’s versatility, which only reaffirms what I saw from Hunt back at Toledo. He’s a must-start every week in all formats … assuming 47.7 fantasy points in a game wasn’t enough to entice you.
22.8 fantasy points: The number rookie Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer posted against Pittsburgh in his debut.
Takeaway: He looked comfortable and like the game wasn’t too fast. He’ll have bad days, of course, but Kizer isn’t going to hold back the rest of Cleveland’s fantasy weapons … all two of them.
Oakland Raiders WR Amari Cooper scored on an 8-yard Derek Carr pass, marking the third-year receiver’s first touchdown in the red zone since Week 15 of the 2015 season.
Takeaway: Get used to seeing this all season long. Two other could-have-been red zone scores went through Cooper’s hands in this game. Sticking with the “what if” theme, Coop was targeted 13 times in this game. Carr attempted just 30 passes.
Also read: Week 1 fantasy impact
Four of the top five fantasy running backs in PPR scoring were brand new to their 2017 NFL team, including three rookies in Hunt, Cohen and Leonard Fournette.
Takeaway: This helps illustrate the volatility at the position and the importance of pass-catching backs when playing in the point-per-reception scoring nuance. It also displays the longstanding notion this is the easiest skill position to learn for a young player. Don’t be afraid to start unknowns.
11: The number of touches rookie Marlon Mack received in Week 1. It also was the number of touches veteran Frank Gore handled in the opener.
Takeaway: Mack wasn’t exactly effective on the ground, despite a short touchdown, so don’t read too much into this one. The game was out of hand fairly early on, and the Colts may not of have wanted to waste Gore’s energy. Eight of the veteran’s handles came in the first half. Mack is definitely worthy a roster spot and should be monitored for the time being.
Zero: How many times Kirk Cousins targeted Josh Doctson.
Takeaway: Instead of Doctson, one of my preferred value buys this summer, Ryan Grant was worked into the game plan. He saw six targets, catching four, and finished with 61 yards. Grant was in on 37 offensive snaps. There were rumbles of Doctson falling out of favor with Grant stepping up, but in three prior years, Grant showed little reason for me to trust this was the case. Watch the snap count next week, and if I have to make a prediction, Grant will reprise his role as the WR3 of this offense.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper caught an 88-yard bomb in blown coverage and trucked his way into the end zone. His only other target resulted in a 40-yard pickup against, another missed assignment, in which he also trucked for extra yardage.
Takeaway: Big plays are awesome and all, but counting on anything of this nature is foolish. He benefits from Julio Jones seeing extra coverage, and Hooper’s lack of overall involvement makes him little more than a wild flier play most weeks.
Jacksonville’s defense pounded the Houston Texans like a drum in the opener, fueled by 10 sacks, which was more than 11 entire teams combined. Texans Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown was inactive as he only recently returned from a summer-long holdout. Houston appeared grossly unprepared for his absence, and Tom Savage was overwhelmed. Deshaun Watson didn’t fare much better.
Takeaway: There is a tremendous amount of individual talent on this team, so I won’t say it was entirely a fluke. However, this will be far from the weekly norm. There are several opportunities on the Jags’ schedule for exploitation of suspect offensive lines. Just don’t consider this unit an automatic fantasy starter quite yet. Week 2 against Tennessee will be a good litmus test.
The Patriots allowed 51.1 PPR points to the Chiefs’ running backs in the opening game, which was by far the worst display of Week 1.
Takeaway: As previously mentioned, Hunt is a beast. … New England isn’t all overly talented among its front seven. … Those points made, this defense isn’t that putrid based on one game. They were completely exhausted and Hunt, as well as awesome playcalling, gashed them. They should finish somewhere in the middle of the league, but for the next month or more the defensive-against stats will be skewed. Look at Cincy versus RBs: 155 yards and a TD, but it took 41 carries (3.7 YPA) to get there.
Denver Broncos wideout Benny Fowler caught two touchdown passes on Monday Night Football, and some fantasy gamers will be tempted to add him from the waiver wire.
Takeaway: Benny Fowler isn’t a thing, so don’t be hot to make him a thing. San Diego is strong on the outside and is focused on stopping Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. After those two, Denver has nothing left. Fowler’s only appeal should be in daily contests when Denver faces opponents with strong corners.
Gut check: Detroit Lions rookie receiver Kenny Golladay scored twice in his preseason debut before falling silent over the final three games. He exploded for a pair of scores in his Week 1 appearance, logging seven targets (plus a failed 2-point try). Six of those looks came from outside of the red zone, which highlights his weekly utility in deeper leagues. I said in the preseason Golladay could be a special rookie and then backed off that claim after three straight duds. Crow tastes delicious.
Here’s a thought: If Week 1’s drubbing of the Patriots was any indication of what is to come, Tom Brady is going to struggle. It has nothing to do with age. The 40-year-old has worked the middle of the field better than anyone for nearly two decades, and the Pats are razor thin at wide receiver, especially the kind who work the middle of the field with reckless abandon. Without this area of the field to stage the makings of how Brady distributes the ball, outside receivers struggle. This means defenses can double Rob Gronkowski and taunt Brady to take shots on the outside hashes to Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks. Consider this scribe to be cautiously optimistic the Patriots will figure it out, starting this week. Don’t rule out a trade for a wideout (Jarvis Landry would look great in a Pats jersey).
Gut check: I still believe Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee can emerge as a useful fantasy weapon, but it is abundantly clear this is Cooper Kupp’s offense in the passing game. Higbee versus the Redskins will sway my confidence in him one way or the other.
Book it: Charles Clay will be a TE1 by year’s end. The Bills have no one else to speak of at receiver right now, and LeSean McCoy cannot do it all, despite what his head coach espouses. Clay showed great chemistry with Tyrod Taylor over the final month of 2016.
It sure seems like: Theo Riddick gets no love. Good luck finding a player who tends to do more with less … I’ll take my chances with five to eight touches a week from Riddick in a PPR league than 15 from Lamar Miller or Marshawn Lynch.
I feel: Carson Palmer should have retired, my eighth-round pick of Andrew Luck wasn’t such a great value in hindsight, San Fran traveling to Seattle is exactly what Russell Wilson needs right now, and Sean Payton hates Adrian Peterson’s fantasy owners more than Peterson currently hates Payton.