It is amazing how an injury to one player can impact numerous fantasy football rosters. On Sunday night of Week 1, one such injury changed the landscape of the NFC East in general and the Dallas Cowboys in particular.
It has become common practice in the NFL for a team to save money by having a journeyman backup and pray their starter doesn’t get injured. For the Cowboys and QB Dak Prescott, that prayer went unanswered.
Prescott had surgery Monday to repair his throwing thumb with a six- to eight-week timetable for his return.
There were questions surrounding the fantasy stock of Cowboys players before Prescott went down after the team traded Amari Cooper and lost Michael Gallup and James Washington to injury.
Now, everyone’s value on the team comes into question. If the organization decides to go with backup Cooper Rush, who is a backup for a reason, what is CeeDee Lamb’s value? If defenses don’t have to respect the pass, what does that do to the value of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the run game?
Even the Cowboys kicker is rendered moot.
It’s difficult to believe that one player can make that much of a difference to so many others, but the Cowboys may be dead in the water one game into the season – much to the delight of fans who don’t like the self-proclaimed America’s Team. For fantasy owners, the loss could have devastating implications.
Here is the Week 2 Fantasy Football Market Report.
Fantasy Football Risers
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley – Barkley ran for 164 yards (his most since 2019), caught six passes (tied for his most since 2019) and scored a touchdown (and the game-winning 2-point conversion) in the Giants upset win over the Tennessee Titans. While it is too early to say that Barkley is back to his pre-injury form, with a schedule that includes three straight home games against the Panthers, Cowboys and Bears, there is plenty of reason to be excited about the investment made in Barkley on draft day.
Indianapolis Colts WR Michael Pittman Jr. – Quarterback Matt Ryan has had a history of locking in on a favorite receiver and consistently putting up some gaudy numbers. In his Colts debut, he chose Pittman to be his main guy in an unexpected tie with the Houston Texans. Pittman caught nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown while being targeted 13 times – almost double any other Colts player. It seems clear that, while Jonathan Taylor is the focus of Indy’s offense, there is room for Pittman to have some huge days if his target share remains this high.
Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt – I have suggested in the past that, given the unique styles of Browns running backs Hunt and Nick Chubb, a case could be that both could start in weekly fantasy lineups. They bolstered that case again in a Week 1 win over the Carolina Panthers. Both did what they do best Sunday – Chubb ran for 141 yards while Hunt rushed for 46 yards, caught four passes for 24 yards and scored two touchdowns. Chubb was drafted to be a RB1 in anyone’s lineup that has him. Hunt wasn’t, but he continues to be one of the better running back sleepers in the game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Julio Jones – When the Buccaneers signed Jones in the offseason, many wrote it off as being what the Bucs always seem to do – sign some guy who had a great career somewhere else but is at the end of the line as an NFL player. In Week 1, Tom Brady only threw 27 passes and five of them went to Jones, who caught three of them for 69 yards and narrowly missed catching a 40-yard bomb that would have put him over 100 yards in his Bucs debut. He also ran twice for 17 yards and was on the field for 52 percent of the Bucs’ offensive snaps – second only to Mike Evans among wide receivers. Jones flashed the spark of the Julio of Falcons vintage and, if he stays healthy (or Chris Godwin doesn’t), he could be one of the steals of the 2022 fantasy draft.
New Orleans Saints “TE” Taysom Hill – In the fantasy league that matters to me (TE mandatory), I locked down a top-notch tight end and decided to make my second tight end a TEINO (Tight End In Name Only). I likely won’t play Hill unless there’s an injury to my main guy, but what tight end lines up at quarterback and finishes with a stat line of two yards receiving and 81 rushing yards and a touchdown?!
Fantasy Football Fallers
Los Angeles Rams RB Cam Akers – It’s no secret that Rams head coach Sean McVay has wanted Akers to be his go-to back. In the four-game Super Bowl run, Akers had 67 carries – 14 more than all other Rams players combined – coming off a torn Achilles. Yet in Week 1, Akers had just three carries for no yards and was only on the field for 12 of the Rams’ 67 offensive snaps, while fellow running back Darrell Henderson was on the field for 55 snaps. Was this a one-week anomaly? Stay tuned.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers – There were concerns before Green Bay’s humbling Week 1 loss to the Minnesota Vikings that being without veterans Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown would create a void. It didn’t help that the best remaining receiver (Allen Lazard) and both starting offensive tackles were inactive Sunday. Before being benched late, through three quarters Rodgers had thrown for just 112 yards and looked extremely mortal. The Packers have limped out of the gate before in seasons past – last year they were crushed by the Saints in Week 1, only to win 13 of their last 16 games. But this time things look a little different.
Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler – Ekeler has climbed near the top of fantasy draft rankings because he is coming off a huge year and has the ability to be a three-down back. However, in the regular season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, Ekeler was on the field for less than 50 percent of the offensive snaps and finished the game with 14 carries for 36 yards and four receptions for 36 more. Those who invested heavily in Ekeler are hoping this is an aberration that won’t repeat itself, but for a player who went No. 2 or third in a lot of drafts, those weren’t the kind of numbers anyone was looking for.
Philadelphia Eagles WR DeVonta Smith – Smith knew when the Eagles traded for A.J. Brown that his role was likely to change, but who could have guessed it would be so pronounced? In the season-opening win against Detroit, quarterback Jalen Hurts attempted only 32 passes. Of those, nine were targeted to Brown, who caught 10 passes for 155 yards. Smith, who was on the field for all but three plays (seven more plays than Brown), was only targeted four times and, for the first time in his career, didn’t catch a pass. The Eagles are changing their offense on the fly, but this can’t be a good sign for Smith.
Chicago Bears RB David Montgomery – The Bears want Montgomery to be their primary running back, but he did everything he could Sunday to play his way out of playing time. In a monsoon, he led the team with 17 carries but gained just 26 yards, while backup Khalil Herbert almost doubled his production in half the attempts – rushing nine times for 45 yards and a score. A 1.5-yard average per carry isn’t going to keep you as the featured back for very long if things don’t change.