Every week, at least one player becomes my fascination of whether he’s worthy of a fantasy football start or bench. The decision can be a mental wrestling match, but for the purpose of brevity, only one player can be chosen as the fantasy football gamble of the week.
The best fantasy football gamble for Week 2
Tracking my predictions: 0-1-0
Win: Player produces ≥ 75% of projected fantasy points
Loss: Player produces >75% of projected fantasy points
Tie: Player is ejected or leaves with an injury
Week 1 summary: Barf.
The case for San Francisco 49ers running back Trey Sermon was laid out rather convincingly, if I do say so myself … until it all crumbled down upon me in a Kyle Shanahan-induced, Jenga-like heap of gameday inactives. Sermon being a healthy scratch was one of the most shocking gameday personnel decision I’ve see in the NFL in some years.
Not at all bitter. Nope. Nuh uh. Not one bit.
I stand by the decision with steely commitment. My logic was sound … how was anyone to know Shanny would play games with not only Sermon but WR Brandon Aiyuk.
My reasoning proved true after RB Raheem Mostert (knee) exited early (c’mon, everyone should have seen that coming!) and paved the way for backup rookie Elijah Mitchell to run roughshod over the lowly Detroit defense. All told, a pair of San Francisco backups totaled 24.2 PPR points. My Sermon projection was 22.5. It’s not a win, nor even a push.
I’ll take the “L” and move on to Week 2, but first, I will apologize if my advice led to Sermon being stuck in someone’s lineup given how close we were to kickoff before anyone had a clue he’d be inactive. Being wrong isn’t what bothers me the most … costing someone else a win gnaws at me.
TE Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Last week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski was good for 90 yards and a pair of scores on his five grabs, illustrating Tom Brady isn’t the only one with indecent pictures of Father Time.
Cook is no Gronk, and the way the latter stuck it to the ‘Boys is not even the basis for the well-traveled veteran being the focus of this article. I’m not going to pretend like it doesn’t help my argument, but the real driving factor here is what Dallas is doing at linebacker in passing situations. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith — superior players against the run — come off the field in favor of Micah Parsons and Keanu Neal.
There is no question the Neal-Parsons combo provides more athleticism in coverage, but this duo is about as inexperienced as it gets in the NFL playing coverage linebacker. Neal, a former safety under current Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in Atlanta, transitioned to the position just this offseason. And Parsons, for as ridiculously talented as he is, remains a rookie with one whole NFL game under his belt, regardless of position.
These two guys are dynamic and rangy, covering territory far faster than their run-stuffing counterparts, but the NFL is such a mentally quick game that even a pro moving from a similar position — in-the-box safety — is bound to have hiccups at first, let alone for a rookie.
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (foot) won’t be available to apply pressure on Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. The second-year Oregon product is unflappable and showed a nearly seamless transition between a collegiate offense to the pros in 2020 and now to yet another new system in ’21.
The Bolts have two strong receivers, especially with Keenan Allen, for Dallas to be preoccupied with stopping. Mike Williams is coming off his most catches ever in a game last week. The Chargers really don’t have a bona fide WR3 at the moment, and running back Austin Ekeler wasn’t even targeted in the passing game, much to the dismay of his PPR owners.
That leaves Cook. The veteran came over from New Orleans in the offseason, following Joe Lombardi, LA’s new offensive coordinator. The system concepts are more than familiar for the 34-year-old tight end. Maybe Cook isn’t quite as athletic as he once was in his prime, but there is wisdom that comes with experience, and he understands nuance better than at any point in his career. He also has seen a serious scoring uptick in the past few seasons. One of my favorite value buys this draft season, here’s what I wrote about him entering the year:
He scored 25 total touchdowns in 117 appearances prior to his two-year stint with the Saints, a 29-game stretch in which he registered 16 TD grabs.
While Cook didn’t find the end zone in Week 1, he landed five of his eight targets for 56 yards. Williams isn’t going to see 12 looks every game, and some of those extra plays will go Cook’s direction. Unless Ekeler gets a major boost in receiving work this weekend, Cook is a strong bet to outperform last week’s 10.6 PPR points.
… That is, so long as he isn’t a surprise healthy scratch prior to kickoff!
My projection: 6 receptions, 64 yards, 1 TD (18.4 PPR points)