There is a reason fantasy football leagues don’t open waivers until Tuesday or Wednesday. It is to keep their systems from tilting as managers watch months of research and preparation go up in smoke.
This season’s opening Sunday was full of surprises and disappointment, as evidenced by the number of mea culpas and mockery riding the Twitter waves. Experienced fantasy football aficionados know why Monday is called “Overreaction Monday.” It is time to take a breath and rationalize what is the reality in fantasy versus what is fantasy in reality.
Before the circus began…
After years of relative calm in quiet Pittsburgh, the California atmosphere set off an innate desire in Antonio Brown to be a nonconformist. His unfortunate choice of footwear in a cryogenic chamber resulted in frostbite and lost days in training camp. Then came Brown vs. the Board of Helmet Education and more missed practice days. The Oakland Raiders remained officially supportive, even as GM Mike Mayock delivered his “all in or not” quote.
When Brown learned he was fined, he left the team. Then, he came back with a tearful apology. When he secretly recorded and released a conversation with Jon Gruden, the coach claimed that was alright. But when Brown got news of additional fines and the voiding of contract guarantees, he put his request for release on Instagram. Oakland obliged him and minutes after Brown became a free agent, he was a New England Patriot. Let the conspiracy theories rage.
There were other games played, too
Chicago and Green Bay almost set the NFL and fantasy football back a few decades with a snoozer on opening night. Fortunately, things were back to normal on Sunday.
We learned Lamar Jackson has a second dimension to his game, and watched dreaded committees complicate our running back selections.
We were reminded rookies are notoriously unreliable, but learned that rookie tight ends might have value after all.
Injuries reared their ugly head and could affect far more players than those in slings and walking boots.
Even before the Monday Night Football games play out, there is much to consider for Week 2.
Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” offense drew a lot of mixed expectations leading up to opening day. For three quarters, it looked like a repeat of the 2018 Cardinals’ fiasco was on tap, with the rookie quarterback posting dismal numbers. But a fourth-quarter comeback highlighted Murray’s throwing ability, and made the ageless Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson fantasy-relevant again. Murray’s final line made him a Top 10 Fantasy Quarterback on the week. Can he put four (or even two) quarters like that together next week? Well, Murray faces a tough Ravens defense in Baltimore, so expect more debate.
Cincinnati’s John Ross never saw more than seven targets, or scored more than 13 fantasy points in a game before Sunday. Under a new offensive coordinator (and in the absence of AJ Green), Ross saw 12 targets and racked up 34.8 PPR fantasy football points.
Ross and Tyler Boyd ran about even in targets (12-11). With a suspect 49ers defense coming to Cincinnati next week, can Ross repeat? Or will Boyd be the touchdown maker in Week 2?
Detroit’s passing game never had much use for tight ends. But a new coordinator made rookie TJ Hockensen the TE-2 for at least one week.
Did Adam Gase find his new Jarvis Landry? Jets’ slot receiver Jamison Crowder saw a whopping 18 targets. Volume is king as he captured the WR-10 (PPR) slot without a touchdown or 100 yards.
Lamar Jackson proved he can throw a football, putting on a show in front of his hometown fans to the tune of 40.7 fantasy points (324 yards, 5 touchdowns) in just three quarters against the hapless Dolphins. Can he do it against a better defense? We’ll have to wait to find out because Jackson takes on the Cardinals in Baltimore next.
Running back by committee is the most feared and hated entity known to fantasy football managers. But after months of conjecture, some of what we will face in 2019 became clearer.
Adam Gase and Jets followers spoke about a measured dose of Le’Veon Bell and more Ty Montgomery than we might expect. But, in the opener against Buffalo, Bell was on the field for 100% of the offensive snaps, even lining up wide in four-receiver sets.
Todd Gurley felt “great” after splitting carries 50-50 with Malcolm Brown. Gurley topped 100 total yards, but it was Brown who scored twice and landed among the top-12 scorers.
LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams split time effectively. McCoy (93 total yards) looked better than Williams (65), but Williams’ 6 catches and a touchdown gave him the fantasy edge. Their roles might expand or change in the absence of Tyreek Hill. (More on that later.)
Washington made Adrian Peterson a healthy scratch to feature Derrius Guice. Unfortunately, the Redskins running game didn’t reward Guice owners as we might have expected.
Branden Bolden got a first-series carry and Sony Michel saw a bunch of snaps, but it was Rex Burkhead and James White who scratched out top-15 running back performances for New England. The addition of AB and Bill Belichick’s committee approach will make any Patriot an iffy play next week.
Likewise, despite some excitement from Miles Sanders, neither Sanders nor Jordan Howard finished the fantasy week with more than Darren Sproles’ 11 PPR points. The game situation (Philly trailed early) probably played a role, but how much remains to be seen.
Buffalo’s rookie Devin Singletary racked up 70 yards on just four carries. Will that prompt the team to give him more of the carries that went to Frank Gore on opening day?
Austin Ekeler handled exactly 75% of the Chargers’ offensive snaps, while rookie Justin Jackson took the remaining quarter. Ekeler exploded for the RB-2 total of 39.4 points. Jackson is a touchdown-dependent flex at best.
Sammy Watkins (46.80) and Christian McCaffrey (42.9) finished with over 40 points. In leagues where passing touchdowns are worth 6-points, Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott broke 40 as well.
Only five players rushed for more than 100 yards, led by Marlon Mack’s 174. Fourteen wide receivers and three tight ends topped 100 yards receiving.
Marquise Brown (WR-4), Terry McLaurin (WR-12), Hockensen (TE-2), and Kyler Murray (QB-10) were the only rookies among the top-line scorers in their position. Devin Singletary (RB-13) was the top rookie rusher on Sunday.
Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew II made a good run at it with a QB-13 performance in relief of the injured Nick Foles.
Speaking of injuries:
Nick Foles is out indefinitely with a fractured left collarbone. Coach Doug Marrone pointed out that Gardner Minshew, the backup, got most of the preseason snaps and was prepared to step in. On the other hand, one would think Leonard Fournette would get a boost from a starting quarterback injury. However, he still could not finish as a top-20 scorer in Week 1.
Patrick Mahomes came up limping with what was later called a sprained ankle. “You just tape it up and go back out there,” said Mahomes who finished the game, albeit a little gimpy on his follow-through. Kansas City’s bigger problem though is Tyreek Hill who left with a dislocated collarbone. He was hospitalized as a precaution, but team doctors report Hill dodged a bullet as far as the position of the bone. He could be back in a few weeks as opposed to the worst-case scenario of several months.
Sammy Watkins looks healthy and ready to pick up Hill’s receiving chores. Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy’s rushing roles might be altered to cover some of Hill’s more creative plays too.
Tevin Coleman left the 49ers’ locker room in a walking boot and will have an MRI on his injured foot. Matt Breida left in the first half with an ankle issue but played in the second half. Raheem Mostert might have a bigger role in Week 2.
Devin Funchess broke a collarbone, too. Indianapolis’ offense was efficient, with TY Hilton (WR-5) and Marlon Mack (RB-6) leading the way. It is unlikely Funchess’ injury does anything more than increase the red zone targets for the Colts’ tight ends, who were invisible in Week 1.
Derrius Guice will miss a few weeks with a knee injury. This is the knee that gave Guice problems in his college years, not the one he had surgery on last season. Adrian Peterson will scratch his way back into the lineup.
Cincinnati is hopeful Joe Mixon can play in Week 2 after spraining an ankle. We’ll have to wait for the MRI to see how valuable Giovani Bernard might be next week.
Likewise, we await further evaluation of Mike Williams’ knee injury to see if the Chargers Dontrelle Inman becomes a value.
Albert Wilson was a hot sleeper as the season approached. He left early with a calf injury. His effectiveness will be further complicated by the shattered spirit of the collective Dolphins’ offense, slated to be led by Ryan Fitzpatrick again in Week 2.
Baker Mayfield’s throwing hand was wrapped and iced after the game. X-rays were negative. The team is calling it a bruised wrist.
When the Jets’ linebacker CJ Mosely left the game with a groin injury, Buffalo’s offense finally saw some light. If Mosely misses Week 2, it could help Cleveland bounce back from their Week 1 woes.
Atlanta lost their starting center to a bruised foot. We’ll have to see how that affects the Falcons’ this week.
Making sense of it all
One week of fantasy football does not make a pattern and should not result in wholesale changes to your roster. However, if injuries or irrational hopes of rookie contributors have you looking for help, you might consider some of these additions from the waiver wire.
Wide receiver: Danny Amendola (5% owned)
Obviously, you will be tempted to make a grab for the hot rookie wide receivers like Marquise Brown (28%) and Terry McLaurin (1%) or the somewhat available Sammy Watkins and Jamison Crowder.
But if you get edged out of those Week 1 wonders, go for Danny Amendola. In case you are wondering, Amendola plays for the Lions this season. He grabbed 7 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown against Arizona.
While we all argued whether Golladay or Jones was the WR-1, Amendola (and tight end TJ Hockensen) were fed early and often by Matt Stafford.
You might also consider John Ross (6%), KC’s DeMarcus Robinson, and Jaguars not names Westbrook (DJ Chark and Chris Conley).
Running back: Chris Thompson (12% owned)
Malcolm Brown (8%) will be the most sought running back on waivers. While committees make for shaky results, splitting the Rams’ rusher responsibilities 50-50 brings some value. Brown’s two touchdowns and handcuff value will have everyone claiming him.
Chris Thompson should be easier to pick up. Fantasy football managers were wary of Thompson’s recovery from a gruesome knee injury and felt he lost a step. He might have lost half-a-step, but that was still good enough for 7 catches, 68 yards, and a few rushes for good measure. He will be Case Keenum’s best friend soon enough. His relationship with Jay Gruden already helps.
Adrian Peterson might be worth a look in Guice’s absence, but a projected passing script could make Thompson the more valuable back in coming weeks.
Giovani Bernard (7%) brings some value as a backup, but if Mixon is hobbled at all, that value jumps quickly. Likewise, Raheem Mostert (0%) looked good in relief Sunday. If Cohen misses any games, Mostert could be the number one in front of an already-limping Breida by Week 2.
Quarterback: Josh Allen
Believe it or not, there are a handful of leagues where Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott are still available. Those are two season-long adds that can save a season.
Buffalo’s Josh Allen faces the New York Giants next. That could save your Week 2 and maybe more. Allen is a rushing quarterback who might not have come across as dramatically as Jackson but is known to throw a pass or two, as well. Buffalo invested in a receiving corps and offensive line this season. It helps.
Case Keenum is fending off a rookie replacement. His QB-5 finish should have folks considering him as a worthy addition in two-QB leagues.
Tight End: Blake Jarwin
Vernon Davis stepped in for Jordan Reed and did his usual fill-in job. Most of his damage came on one play, a 52-yard touchdown.
That’s why I’d rather add Blake Jarwin. Jason Witten might be back, but the veteran is very wary of interfering with the leadership of the team, as well as the development of the next Cowboys’ tight end. Witten won’t complain about Jarwin “stealing” touches or touchdowns, which there should be plenty of in the weeks ahead.
CJ Uzomah provides consistent targets and a decent tight end floor in Cincinnati. Any week he scores a touchdown, he’ll be a top-ten fantasy play. That’s not bad for the position.
Defense/Special teams: Carolina (8% owned)
Carolina had a tough time of things in 2018, but I still did a double-take when I saw they were only 8% owned. With the Buccaneers and Cardinals next up on their schedule, they are certainly worth a streaming pick, if not a regular roster spot.
If CJ Mosely returns, the Jets could harass Baker Mayfield as much as Tennessee did. New York is an especially good streamer if the Browns’ starting left tackle winds up suspended for kicking one of the Titans in Week 1.
What else will Week 2 bring?
Who knows what will happen in Week 2? We’re still trying to make sense of Week 1. Whatever happens, we’ll be here to figure it out for you.
All we know for sure is no one is eliminated from their league championships yet, and there are plenty of wild times still to come.
Remember to send us your fantasy football questions on Twitter or Facebook. We’ll do our best to answer them all by game time.