My Circle of Life: First Impressions of New Starting Quarterbacks
Breaking down the four new starting quarterbacks, the injury bug bites again, and fantasy football!
Welcome back to My Circle of Life. If you missed the first edition, click here to see how this weekly column will be structured and what kind of content you can expect to see each Thursday.
This week, I will examine the four new starting quarterbacks in the NFL, talk season-ending injuries, fantasy football, and predict each Week 2 matchup.
In Week 1, four quarterbacks started their first NFL game. Two rookies, two sophomores: Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Trevor Siemian, and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Three of those quarterbacks won their first game. How did they fare?
Coming into the opening week of the regular season, it seemed as if there was no question about who would be the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting quarterback. It was going to be Sam Bradford, and he may have held down the job for the entire season.
Minnesota was in need of starting quarterback quarterback, however, after the Teddy Bridgewater injury. Philly could not pass up their first- and mid-round pick offer for Bradford.
That opened the door for Wentz to start right off the bat despite missing most of the preseason with a rib fracture.
Wentz’s production in college has been dismissed by some due to the level of competition, which is FCS in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The Cleveland Browns might not be much of a step up from that (I kid, I kid), but Wentz proved he doesn’t just beat up on football teams absent of talent.
A lot of his early throws were underneath routes or screen passes, and the Browns kept letting him complete those throws. Those aren’t the throws that awe you, but if the defense keeps giving them to you, why go away from it?
Those weren’t the only throws Wentz made, though. Both his touchdown passes to Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor were 20+ yards and dropped right into the breadbasket. In fact, he was 5-of-6 on throws of 15+ yards, for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
He was calm in the pocket and was able to squeeze some passes in tight holes.
It was the Browns, but Wentz made a great first impression for sure.
PFF Grade and Rank: 87.5, 2nd
I reviewed Dak Prescott’s preseason in last week’s edition of My Circle of Life and was very excited. He has a lot of potential, and you can read into more detail on that here.
Prescott had an excellent preseason and his first week of real play went no different. The rookie fourth-round pick from Mississippi State opened up completing his first five passes, and 10 of his first 11 after a drop from Cole Beasley.
Aside from getting into the end zone, Prescott was damn near perfect in this one. He had to face a tough New York Giants front — edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon were both ranked in the top 15 from PFF in Week 1. At least a little bit of the offense seems dedicated to roll-outs to utilize Prescott’s legs, which gets him away from that pass rush some of the time. But when he stood in the pocket, he either had to run or make a tough throw. He didn’t take one sack.
Like the preseason, we saw a lot of potential from Prescott, but unfortunately it wasn’t all put together, this time for a win. All the throw-aways caused his completion percentage to dip — 56 percent — and while Prescott did toss 227 yards, he never scored a touchdown.
Dallas came up just short, falling 20–19. Moving forward, though, the Cowboys still have to be happy their guy right now is Dak Prescott and not Matt Cassel or Brandon Weeden.
PFF Grade and Rank: 74, 18th
I talked last week about why Trevor Siemian is exactly what the Broncos need.
Trevor Siemian was nothing special in his first start for the defending Super Bowl champions, but he was good enough.
The former seventh-round pick got the nod over rookie Paxton Lynch because head coach Gary Kubiak trusted his ability to hold onto the ball. Siemian had two interceptions, but they weren’t bad interceptions.
The first was the product of some interior pressure from linebacker Thomas Davis and defensive lineman Star Lotulelei. As Siemian tried to float the pass to Emmanuel Sanders, Davis tipped the ball up and brought it down.
Siemian’s other interception was just a poor decision, but one that can easily be corrected. This one was the product of more pressure, as Carolina’s front opened up a path for safety Kurt Coleman that led straight to Siemian. Siemian recognized it late, threw the ball off his back foot and it fell short, right into Bené Benwikere’s hands.
After that, though, Siemian and the Broncos’ offense started clicking.
He stayed composed and made the right throws, and, most importantly, didn’t turn the ball over. The Broncos came back from a 17–7 deficit — and being minus-2 in turnovers — to win 21–20.
It was a tough defense to face for his first outing, but Siemian fared alright. He didn’t ‘wow’ with his arm or athleticism, but he moved the ball down the field.
That was the thing with the Broncos’ offense in Week 1. They moved the ball down the field and everything looked good. But the three turnovers — Siemian’s interceptions and a Devontae Booker fumble — on Carolina’s side of the field really halted their momentum. Against weaker defenses with better execution, they could be scoring 30 points without doing anything too fancy.
With the Colts coming up — who just gave up 39 points to Detroit and 340 yards to Matthew Stafford — Siemian and the Broncos’ offense could have a nice day.
PFF Grade and Rank: 75.3, 16th
Jimmy Garoppolo has spent the last two preseasons preparing to be the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback. He was let off the hook last season when Tom Brady’s suspension got appealed, but this time around, he’s actually got to suit up.
He did suit up on the opening Sunday Night Football of the year. And he looked pretty darn good.
When watching Garoppolo, it’s almost like watching Tom Brady Jr. A lot of the quirks in Brady’s game shows up in Garoppolo’s. How quickly he fakes a hand off to turn around and hit a receiver in stride. How he pump fakes with his shoulders and not just his arm and the ball.
Just like any other position on the football field, Bill Belichick has just plugged in some other player and prepared them to be just as good. It made sense at any other position, but quarterback? When they have Tom Brady? Unbelievable.
Here’s Garoppolo’s stat line from the 23–21 win in Arizona: 24-of-33, 264 yards, one touchdown, 106.1 rating. It’s not Brady, but for a second-year backup, it’ll work just fine.
PFF Grade and Rank: 55.8, 27th
The Injury Bug
For the second year in a row, San Diego Chargers’ wide receiver Keenan Allen’s season will end early. Last season, he lacerated his kidney in Week 8. This season, he tore his ACL in Week 1.
Allen is a spectacular receiver and undoubtedly Philip Rivers’ no. 1 guy. Unfortunately, the injury bug keeps on biting, and Allen will spend more time recovering than scoring touchdowns.
Cleveland’s heartache was relieved quite a bit this summer when their Cavaliers won the NBA championship. For the city’s sports fans that put more of their pride into the Browns, though, well, God bless them. They are still suffering.
Life didn’t get any easier this weekend for Browns fans when their hopeful quarterback of the future Robert Griffin III joined Allen on the Injured Reserve list with a shoulder injury.
Unlike Allen, though, Griffin could return at some point in the season. Being on IR, he must miss at least eight weeks before returning. He would be able to return for their Week 1o matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. And they could very well be 0–9 at that point.
If Cleveland can’t top Miami in Week 3 or Washington in Week 4, their chances of winning a game this season drop to, what, zero? Josh McCown could always have a good day, and maybe Buffalo or San Diego will be tanking by the time Weeks 15 and 16 come around. Any given Sunday, but it’s not looking good.
The Fantasy Football Section
Each week, I will list my favorite team (as I usually play multiple teams each week) and give some explanation on why I drafted who I drafted. For this week, since this section was nonexistent last week, I will show my team from Week 1 as well.
I play both on DraftKings and FanDuel, and I will distinguish the difference between which teams were on which sites.
QB: Dak Prescott — All aboard the hype train! I wanted to play Brock Osweiler with Bears’ CB Kyle Fuller out, but went with the cheaper option in Prescott. With no touchdowns, he only scored 10.28 points for me. But he costed $5,000, so I can’t complain much.
RB: Rashad Jennings — I was hoping Jennings would be a nice sleeper, as he was facing a weak Dallas defense. I mostly picked him because of my money situation, but I was happy to see I could get him. Unfortunately, it didn’t pay off, as he only scored 8.80 points. But, he cost $5,400, so he was a cheap buy that allowed me to spend more elsewhere.
RB: Lamar Miller — I was a little hesitant with Miller coming into the season because of his inconsistency in Miami. But, as I made up my team, I remembered: is there anyone in the Dolphins’ system that can really produce consistently? I mean, the team is a mess.
So, I played him. And it paid off. 18.70 points for $7,000 is not a bad buy.
WR: Amari Cooper — There’s not much needed to say here: the Saints have a bad defense and the Raiders have a good passing attack. Cooper got me 24.70 points at $7,200. I’ll take it.
WR: Donte Moncrief — Moncrief is my breakout receiver of the year. With a healthy Luck and a full season of no Pep Hamilton as offensive coordinator, he should have a big year.
If his Week 1 output is a sign for what’s to come for the rest of the year, I may be right. He tallied 18.40 points at just $6,000.
WR: Jordy Nelson — Despite coming off last season’s ACL injury, I thought I’d give Nelson a go with a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers that is on a mission.
I knew he wouldn’t play all the snaps, but I was hoping he would make the most of the ones he did get. He totaled 15.20 points at $7,700. Not incredible, but he was probably a reach for his first game back. So, I can’t complain.
TE: Jason Witten — Big tight ends + rookie quarterback = lots of fantasy points. Dak Prescott looked Witten’s way often, and he scored 15.60 points at just $4,100 points.
Flex: Spencer Ware — Thanks to Charcandrick West’s success last season, I almost majorly messed up and played him over Ware. But, I did a little research, saw that Ware was getting the majority of the first team snaps in practice and rolled with him.
West played just four snaps fewer than Ware. West scored 8.30 points. Ware scored 35.90 points ($4,400). Me likey.
DST: Texans — The Texans have J.J. Watt and the Bears have Jay Cutler. There was potential for the Texans DST to score 20+ points.
Cutler ended up playing pretty well and only turned it over once, so the Texans DST got me just 8.00 points. I don’t expect too much from that part of my team, so I’ll take 8.00 points.
This team had its weak parts, but ended up getting me double my $3 entry fee back, so all in all, it was a good Week 1.
QB: Marcus Mariota ($6,000) — Andrew Luck was the no. 1 rated PFF quarterback in Week 1 and the only QB to earn an elite grade. He did that against the Lions’ defense.
Mariota is not Luck, but he is going against that Lions’ defense, so hopefully he can at least get me more than the 10 points Prescott got me last week.
RB: C.J. Anderson ($6,800) — Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick had huge fantasy days against the Colts’ defense last week. C.J. Anderson had a huge week against the Panthers’ defense, which is actually good.
All signs point towards Anderson having another big day.
RB: DeAngelo Williams ($7,100) — Unlike Anderson, Williams will be facing a tougher defense from Week 1, but when he is starting for Le’Veon Bell, he just goes off.
Last week, he scored 38.1 points. In what should be a heated divisional game against the Bengals, Williams’ competitiveness could bring him to a whole new level.
WR: Kelvin Benjamin ($6,500) —Like Nelson, Benjamin was returning from an ACL injury in Week 1. He fared a little bit better, with 12 targets, six receptions, 93 yards and one touchdown. That all equated to 21.1 points.
For his talent, he’s a relatively cheap buy and Cam Newton won’t have to worry about Denver’s pass rushers. Benjamin could have a big Week 2.
WR: John Brown ($5,300) — Brown had a terrible first week of play with just one reception for eight yards (1.8 points). But, Carson Palmer likes to feed the hot hand and last week it was Larry Fitzgerald.
Brown is cheap this week and with all the focus on Fitzgerald, Palmer may look towards Brown more often.
WR: Willie Snead ($5,800) — Snead’s breakout in 2015 was not a fluke. In Week 1, he torched the Oakland secondary for nine receptions, 172 yards and a touchdown (35.2 points).
The Saints beat the Giants 52–49 last season, and Snead had 14 of those 52 points. I doubt the score gets that high this Sunday, but Drew Brees should still be throwing a lot and he should be looking Snead’s way often.
TE: Jason Witten ($4,300) — Prescott targeted Witten 14 times last week. I’ll ride with him until those targets dwindle, which might not be for a while.
Flex: Danny Woodhead ($5,200) — Melvin Gordon had a great Week 1, scoring the first two touchdowns of his young career.
And yet, Woodhead outsnapped him 50–23.
His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes it so much easier to play him. And when he also gets 89 yards on the ground, it is understandable why he gets so many snaps.
I like Gordon this season, but Woodhead will usually be a cheap buy a produces great numbers — 23 points last week. He may be able to out-grit the young Jacksonville defense in Week 2.
DST: Ravens ($3,000) — They are facing the Cleveland Browns.
This is not meant to be an advice section, but if you think my logic is sound, feel free to use it as that.
Week 2 Predictions
Week 1 record: 12–4
Season record: 12–4
Bills over Jets
Ravens over Browns
Panthers over 49ers
Texans over Chiefs
Patriots over Dolphins
Steelers over Bengals
Lions over Titans
Cowboys over Redskins
Giants over Saints
Seahawks over Rams
Cardinals over Buccaneers
Raiders over Falcons
Broncos over Colts
Jaguars over Chargers
Packers over Vikings
Eagles over Bears