Week 1 fantasy football highs and lows


Week 1 of the fantasy football season featured plenty of notable performances. What should we make of them? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft are here with analysis on the biggest performers — and duds — of the week.


Cam Newton is a great fit in New England scheme

Based on Newton’s performance today — in a Patriots offensive system that catered exclusively to his dual-threat ability at the position — the veteran needs to be in the QB1 mix next week versus Seattle. Yeah, it starts with the designed run concepts: QB power, sweep, more. And scheme him up on those runs to get both leverage and numbers. Stealing, really. Newton led the Patriots in both carries (15) and rushing yards (75), plus he found the end zone twice. Now, mix in a highly efficient play-action passing game that allows Newton to throw crossers and attack open windows. He finished 15-of-19 for 155 yards passing, and I believe those numbers can climb. It’s the combination of Newton’s ability to consistently create conflict for opposing defenses and the playcalling here in New England. — Bowen

Just Cam being Cam. Of his 25.7 fantasy points, 19.5 were scored on rushing plays, obliterating the Patriots’ previous single-game record for rushing fantasy points scored by a quarterback (Tom Brady, 13.7 in Week 16 of 2011). If you want to compare him with his predecessor, Newton’s rushing point total was just 1.9 shy of Brady’s entire 2019 season total (21.4). — Cockcroft

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski disappoint in Tampa Bay debut

It’s amazing what playing from behind can do for a quarterback’s fantasy stat line, but Brady’s 20.5 points masked what was an otherwise mediocre Buccaneers debut. He was just 23-of-36 passing and looked rusty in doing it, most notably making an ill-advised throw in the early stages of the third quarter that was returned for a pick-six by Janoris Jenkins. The No. 7 quarterback and No. 61 player taken overall on average in the preseason, Brady seems more name than true value, and it’s important to point out that he averaged 14.4 fantasy points in his final 10 regular-season games last season. Gronkowski, who followed Brady to Tampa during the offseason, had a quiet Buccaneers debut of his own, catching 2 of 3 targets for 11 yards and a 3.1 PPR fantasy point day. Gronkowski was the No. 7 tight end and No. 67 player taken overall on average in the preseason, but he averaged only 9.0 PPR fantasy points in his previous 12 regular-season games played — and those came in 2018. The matchup here had a bit to do with both players’ struggles, but that signals a possible matchup-dependent campaign in both of their futures. — Cockcroft

It’s Josh Jacobs time in Vegas

We know Jon Gruden wants to run the ball. And that’s going to translate to consistent volume for Jacobs as a downhill hammer in the Raiders’ offense. His physical style of play jumps on the screen, too. In the win over the Panthers, Jacobs carried the ball 25 times for 93 yards and three rushing scores. There’s your anticipated run game production. Jacobs also added another 46 yards receiving on four catches. If he can continue to add numbers as a pass game target, then you can lock in Jacobs as an RB1 for both PPR and Non-PPR formats. — Bowen

He just keeps getting better. Jacobs’ 35.9 PPR fantasy points were more than he scored in any of his 13 games as a rookie in 2019, and the four catches and 46 receiving yards were also personal bests. I’m entirely on board with Jacobs as an RB1, even though he has a handful of pretty tough matchups on his 2020 schedule. — Cockcroft

Potential shakeup in Colts backfield

If Marlon Mack is out for an extended period of time, then Colts rookie Jonathan Taylor will elevate to the midtier RB2 range in my ranks. I believe he will get the run game volume behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. And, as we saw on Sunday, Taylor has more receiving game traits than he’s given credit for. The prized rookie caught six passes for 67 yards. Get him rolling on screens, unders, swings. There’s a lot of upside to his game. — Bowen

I think there’s enough here that both Taylor and Nyheim Hines can make a fantasy impact. Per Pro Football Focus’ Nathan Jahnke, Taylor played 21 snaps and Hines 20 in the game’s second half after Mack’s early exit, and that wasn’t entirely the product of a pass-heavy game plan. Still, I think Hines is an underrated pass-catcher, and if Mack misses extended time, he’s going to be needed as a change of pace to the rookie Taylor. — Cockcroft

J.K. Dobbins makes immediate impression

Judging by the Week 1 returns — not to mention the practice reports heading into it — the Ravens’ backfield has the makings of an unpredictable, yet necessary, fantasy headache. After the rookie Dobbins was inexplicably listed as the No. 4 running back on the depth chart earlier in the week — though No. 3 Justice Hill was subsequently ruled out due to a thigh injury — Dobbins scored both of the team’s rushing touchdowns and played a backfield-leading 23 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Dobbins already looks like the high-upside play in what should be one of the highest-scoring offenses, though it’s important to consider the usage patterns: Mark Ingram II played 21 snaps and Gus Edwards 15, and of the team’s seven goal-to-go plays, Dobbins got the ball on two (both converted for scores) and Ingram one, with the other four passing plays (though three of those occurred within 15 seconds of the end of the first half). — Cockcroft

I’m with Tristan here. This has the look (at least early in the season) of a straight-up committee approach for the Ravens. However, if I am evaluating the running back room in Baltimore, Dobbins is the guy I want on my roster. He’s got more juice through the hole, and the burst is there to bounce the ball outside. Given the run game volume we see with this offense, I believe Dobbins has the traits to develop into the lead role as the season progresses. — Bowen

The evolution of Josh Allen

That was a heck of an improvement by Allen in terms of accuracy, as he completed 64.3% of his passes that traveled at least 10 yards downfield, after completing only 44.5% of those in 2019. He also completed 2 of 3 passes that traveled 20-plus yards, after posting an awful 22.2% success rate on those last season.

But here’s the fair question: Was it more of an endorsement of Allen’s growth, or damning of the Jets’ secondary? My guess is the latter, in which case it’s worth pointing out that the next three quarterbacks to face the Jets are Jimmy Garoppolo, Philip Rivers and Drew Lock, none of whom was drafted anywhere close to the QB1 tier (hello, streaming choices). It’s also possible that Allen is making some advances in his game. Allen is a definite start again in Week 2 against the Dolphins, and then he’ll perhaps provide his first true answer to that question when he faces the Rams in Week 3. — Cockcroft


Quick-hitters

Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers: His 41.6 PPR fantasy points represented a new single-game personal best, and he enjoyed a whopping 41.5% target share (17-of-41) in doing it. So much for the fallacy that when opposing secondaries know which receiver to key on, they can shut him down; it didn’t seem like a problem for the Packers here. — Cockcroft

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: After Sunday’s performance, would you have guessed that Rodgers averaged only 12.7 fantasy points against these Vikings in his four games against them in 2018-19? This was the 19th time in his career that Rodgers has reached the 30-point plateau in fantasy. — Cockcroft

Gardner Minshew II, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Minshew can play. He’s a rhythm thrower who wins with ball location. And we know he has the second-reaction ability to go off-script. In the win over the Colts, Minshew was dialed in too, completing 19 of 20 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns. He also chipped in another 19 yards rushing. Minshew will have streaming upside this season, and is a prime fit for 2QB leagues. — Bowen

Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets: Crowder did get loose on a 66-yard score in the Week 1 loss to the Bills, which boosted his final numbers (seven receptions, 115 yards, one touchdown). However, in Adam Gase’s offensive system, the slot man is going to see volume. That’s why you can roll with Crowder pretty consistently as a WR3 in PPR formats for a Jets team that will be forced to throw the ball to compete. — Bowen

James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: After posting 91 total yards on 17 touches in the win over the Colts, Robinson should jump into the RB2/Flex discussion heading into the Jags’ Week 2 game versus the Titans. I thought the rookie played with pretty good vision in his first pro start, and there is enough wiggle in his game to make defenders miss at the second level. — Bowen

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers: Ekeler totaled 84 yards rushing on 19 carries in the Chargers’ Week 1 win over the Bengals. But with rookie Joshua Kelley also seeing run game volume (12 carries, one rushing score), should we be concerned with Ekeler’s low receiving numbers? In a very conservative pass game approach from L.A. with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Ekeler saw just one target all afternoon, finishing with 3 yards receiving. Something to monitor here heading into Week 2 given Ekeler’s high-level traits as a receiver. — Bowen

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals: How about the volume for Hopkins today in his first game with the Cardinals? The veteran wide receiver caught 14 of 16 targets for 151 yards — against an upper-tier 49ers defense. And, in Kliff Kingsbury’s system, the Cardinals can move Hopkins’ alignments for the best matchups and to make him the primary read in Kyler Murray‘s progressions. He’s in line to produce monster numbers (again). — Bowen

Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: No record-setting stat line and no win, granted, but Burrow’s NFL debut caught my eye for sure. He displayed poise in the pocket, showed the kind of mobility — 46 rushing yards and a score on eight carries — that make him a capable QB2 for fantasy, and almost orchestrated a comeback against a pretty decent defense. If you look at Burrow’s schedule, he should be an easy call to start when the matchup is right, such as Week 4 against the Jaguars, Week 11 against Washington, Week 12 against the Giants and Week 13 against the Dolphins. In retrospect, I’m disappointed I didn’t push harder for him in my 2QB league, but his 16.3 fantasy points might look ordinary enough to the casual observer that he might be able to be acquired via trade. Hey, it’s worth a shot. — Cockcroft



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