Each week of the NFL season I’ll aim to give you my quick hit rundowns and fantasy worthy notes. These are not intended to be exhaustive, but simply to highlight things that may have been missed.
We’ll mix in a dose of twitter takes to support the observations in an effort to give you a rundown from my own views on the week that was supported by the best in the industry. Or trolls. Or both.
I believe an awful lot in numbers, in particular relative target and opportunity share within an offense, so you’ll see a fair bit of that injected but the ultimate intent of this article is simply to tell you what I took away from the weekend’s games. There will be a week ahead to look at matchups and to substantiate further with facts and figures.
Here goes… in no particular order.
JuJu Smith Schuster might be the WR to start in Pittsburgh
In season long formats you’ve already got your hands on either Antonio Brown or JuJu Smith Schuster, but for DFS gamers its worth noting that the 2nd year receiver has been getting a lot of attention from Big Ben through two weeks. Opponents have to pick their poison with the Pittsburgh offense and, rightly so, they’ve been keying on Antonio Brown to start the year. AB is still making plays and I don’t expect that to stop, but JuJu has proven incredibly apt at taking advantage of the space that that creates in the defense and has carried over some momentum from late last season into 2018.
If you’re into reading lips, it seems that Brown doesn’t like the attention that his fellow receiver is getting. And that Ben doesn’t care an awful lot:
On that failed third and goal pass to Juju, Ben waved off AB and then said this about him. Given everything we’ve seen from AB on the sidelines in this game, I’d say there is a problem. pic.twitter.com/RDaVw6kVZB
– Kraig Riley (@KraigRiley) September 16, 2018
And the Pittsburgh media has taken note. For his part, Brown hasn’t taken too kindly to critics.
Once again, Antonio Brown cares more about his stats than about the Steelers winning.–>> https://t.co/0ak9TftWAj via @PittsburghPG
– Ron Cook (@RonCookPG) September 17, 2018
None of this noise is relevant to the product on the field and please don’t mistake this as me suggesting that the demise of Brown as a fantasy stud is near… just saying, if you see a plus matchup on the slate for the Steelers I’d dig a little deeper into the numbers before I auto-add AB.
The Chiefs are a Fantasy Buffet
You don’t need me telling you this as it relates to the offense, and there are much brighter people breaking down Patrick Mahomes‘ early career dominance (I will say I’m impressed with his ability to read coverages, and to choose the ‘right’ throw to fit a situation, he’s got more zip on his throws than just about any QB but knows when to execute a touch pass as well). So, I’ll focus on the defense.
Unless this two week start to his career as a starter is some kind of beautiful mirage (and indeed, 10 TDs through two weeks is not going to continue) we can count on the Chiefs to put up points all season. We can’t, however, count on their defense to hold opponents in check with similar ferocity. In fact, the unit has been a sieve through two weeks. Admittedly, that comes against two strong offenses and they’ll eventually get Eric Berry on the field, but I would expect Chiefs’ games to approach 60+ total points regularly.
Last season, the Chiefs yielded top-8 FPPG to QBs and top-2 to WRs. They haven’t looked like a unit prepared to reverse the trend through the season’s first two weeks.
The moral here, pick both sides of their games. Particularly opposing pass catchers. Looking ahead to Week 3, I wouldn’t be surprised to see KC find another early lead and force Jimmy G and company to the air. Goodwin (if he returns), Garcon and company are all worth starting.
Michael Thomas is a top-3 WR in almost any matchup
For all the talk about the pieces that New Orleans has added this offseason, Thomas continues to be the lead dog. He posted a ridiculous 12 catch (13 target) 89 yard line with a score to go with his 16 reception Week 1. He won’t average 14 grabs a week but the passing offense runs through him. In a week where the Cleveland Browns’ offense did a great job of keeping Drew Brees out of rhythm and otherwise causing problems for the Saints moving the ball – and by the way, they may do that to more teams than you originally thought this year, this young D is no joke – Thomas still found a way to get his.
With volume like that, and with the trust of his future Hall of Fame QB Thomas is as matchup proof as they come. Again, he won’t catch 14 balls a week the rest of the way, but I’d be willing to take wagers on him setting the single season reception record as long as he stays healthy.
Michael Thomas could legitimately break the receptions record this year. The volume is insane.
– Robert Mays (@robertmays) September 16, 2018
Quincy Enunwa appears to be Sam Darnold‘s Favorite Target
Which is important for his own value, but also may have an impact on Robby Anderson‘s value over the course of the season.
Analysts were on top of the trend of Robby Anderson‘s relative target share after the Week 1 distribution against the Lions, and it didn’t get any better in Week 2.
Quincy Enunwa > Robby Anderson and it was never close. pic.twitter.com/JX6wi1PQST
– Miguel Chapeton (@DynastyGuruFF) September 11, 2018
Anderson scored in Week 2 and has now done so in both games this season, but he’s had just six targets through the team’s two contests vs. Enunwa’s 21. Terrelle Pryor has been in the mix as well, and at least for the early part of the season it seems that Anderson’s weekly targets and therefore his fantasy stability are significantly more at risk.
The shine is coming off Peyton Barber
It may have been missed in the midst of another Tampa Bay offensive outburst; and really Fitzmagic is going to dominate the news cycle for the team this week… not for another 400 yard, four TD performance, but simply for this:
Ryan Fitzpatrick is stealing Jameis Winston‘s job: https://t.co/HZ1lwcuIp3 pic.twitter.com/PgvD07bFwo
– Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 16, 2018
And yet, despite a big day for Tampa through the air that should have opened up a few holes Barber struggled on the ground. Ronald Jones III was inactive yet again, but a strong preseason will only carry Barber so far.
He dominated the workload this week (16 carries vs. five for Jacquizz Rodgers) but netted just 22 yards, bringing his season total to 35 for 91 through two games. And, he’s not being used in the passing game either (just two targets). If you’re a Barber owner you’ve likely already taken note, but the message here for now is not to get distracted by a hot start from the Bucs, and ultimately to keep an eye on Jones who could find his way into the lineup before too long.
As for Fitzpatrick, you can stunt like that when you ball like this:
Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick so far this year: 40-53, 742 yds, 8 TDs, 1 INT.
– Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 16, 2018
Get him on your roster. The Bucs have a tough decision to make in a few weeks and there is no guarantee he starts the rest of the season, but it’s worth riding this wave.
Kenny Golladay looks like an every-week start
Golladay, put simply, looks the part. We’ve all been attentive to a hopeful year two breakout from Corey Davis that has yet to fully materialize and yet Golladay has shone through two weeks. He’s still available in a high percentage of leagues (38% available in Y!) and might be someone you can still trade for with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate continuing to get looks, but, Golladay is flashing significant upside through two weeks.
The Lions look like they’re going to continue to (have to) pass the ball plenty this year and his 21 targets over the first two weeks of the season could be a sign of things to come.
.@Chris_Liss & @Jeff_Erickson discuss Kenny Golladay‘s fantasy value after his performance Monday night and how he will impact the other Lions WRs production going forward on @RotoWire #FantasyFootball pic.twitter.com/SSLIL0yEli
– Fantasy Sports Radio (@SiriusXMFantasy) September 11, 2018
David Johnson is in trouble
Friend of the site Chris Meaney points out that the buy-low window on Johnson exists, and he’s probably right, but I wouldn’t give up anywhere near his draft day cost to acquire him.
Just a brutal week for me with my SU picks and I told people to fade Amari Cooper 🤦♂️ – I may be wrong on him as the volume should be there and we’ve seen the upside, but I’m selling high. Also time to buy DJ is now while the price is low. Concerns? Sure, but what’s the cost?
– Chris Meaney (@chrismeaney) September 17, 2018
Johnson is running behind a struggling offensive line on a team that looks like it has no offensive identity. And one that seems to have forgotten how to use him.
Don’t assume that Josh Rosen will be the key to him figuring it out, either. For one, as rough as it has been for Sam Bradford to start the season the team doesn’t appear to be in a rush to start the rookie QB.
Cardinals’ Steve Wilks wasn’t tempted to play Josh Rosen in loss to Rams. https://t.co/HZLjZWm0Ym pic.twitter.com/sq4TiRHxv5
– theScore (@theScore) September 17, 2018
For another, it would be foolish to underestimate the impact of Bruce Arians’ retirement on the team in general and the offense specifically. While the below tweet represents just one ‘fun fact’ of the change in use that Johnson is seeing so far in 2018, it highlights that he is playing in a different scheme. And, so far… no good:
In 2016, David Johnson lined up outside of the backfield for 36% of his snaps and 41% of his pass routes.
Today it was 3% of his snaps and 5.9% of his routes. https://t.co/YsPjJjAGrL
– Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) September 17, 2018
Ultimately, Johnson should find a way to stay involved in the receiving game and expand (he had nine targets in Week 1 so certainly this week’s two looks is an aberration) but we are seeing a lack of creativity from the offense and a general poor looking team overall. The latter will continue over the course of the year, and it makes Johnson hard to trust among the elite RB1s.
Update: this almost hilarious usage chart showing his virtually-exclusive inside runs from Week 2 suggest that the path to fixing the problem might be easier than you think. That said, a few shots to run outside don’t solve the overall offensive woes that look to be destined to plague the Cardinals through two weeks.
Many are upset with how David Johnson is being used in the passing game, but Arizona is also just running him mainly inside. Could mix in some more outside runs for someone with Johnson’s athleticism. pic.twitter.com/pWtBlrOp4o
— Joey (@NFLDraftJoey) September 17, 2018