What We Learned: Fantasy Football Week 1
Finally, we’re getting some stuff figured out. What did we learn in Week 1?
Play the rookies!
There is an impressive crop of rookies this year. Add that with all the opportunity and many of those rookies became more and more intriguing as Week 1 came around.
The most impressive group of rookies was at the running back position. The rookie backs have been a topic of conversation even before the draft. Leonard Fournette was the fourth overall pick and Christian McCaffrey was eighth. Then there’s Dalvin Cook, picked in the second round. Third-rounder Kareem Hunt got some buzz in the preseason, but once Spencer Ware went down for the season, Hunt became a very intriguing back in a Kansas City offense that leans on the run and short pass. Fourth-rounder Tarik Cohen got almost no buzz.
It was a weird Week 1 for the top running backs (LeVeon Bell coming off his holdout, David Johnson’s injury), so the top spots were open for the taking. LeSean McCoy was RB4, which is around where you would expect him. The three above him: Kareem Hunt, Tarik Cohen and Leonard Fournette.
McCaffrey had a modest debut, posting 12.5 PPR points. But he out-snapped veteran Jonathan Stewart. All signs point towards him being utilized more and more as the season wears on.
Dalvin Cook finished at RB8, the fourth rookie back in the top 10. There is absolutely no doubt that he is Minnesota’s no. 1 back.
I have my doubts about Cohen, as the Falcons defense allows running backs to catch anything they want. But there’s no doubt that his workload will increase. Him upending Jordan Howard for the no. 1 job as Howard did to Jeremy Langford last season wouldn’t surprise me, though I don’t see it happening. There is no reason to doubt any of the others.
Rookie receivers had a good Week 1 as well, especially Kenny Golladay and Cooper Kupp. I’ve been a fan of Golladay since seeing him in preseason, but I’m still surprised he was utilized so much right away: seven targets, four receptions, 69 yards, two touchdowns. He was targeted five more times than Marvin Jones Jr.
Cupp got some love coming into the year with the Rams not having many proven weapons and expected improvement from sophomore quarterback Jared Goff. He edged out Sammy Watkins in targets — six-to-five —and beat him in PPR points by 6.8 thanks to an 18-yard touchdown strike from Goff. Those two will undoubtedly be Goff’s top targets going forward, and he seems to enjoy throwing to both of them. Kupp may provide the best chance for a touchdown, though Watkins should lead in receptions (for PPR folks) coming out of the slot.
The two rookie QBs that saw major time, DeShone Kizer and Deshaun Watson, both flashed some long-term fantasy potential. Both of them can run, making them intriguing fantasy plays every week (a la Tyrod Taylor). Kizer had an impressive first showing, finishing QB9. He’s a guy to consider in DFS moving forward if you hadn’t already (though maybe wait until after he gets past the Ravens this weekend).
Watson started the second half after an abysmal showing for Tom Savage and he looks to be their guy moving forward. He wasn’t great vs. that vaunted Jaguars defense, but keep in mind that he has taken limited first-team reps. As he gets more comfortable, he should become a viable option.
Average quarterbacks are good now
If I told you on the morning of Thursday, September 7 that Alex Smith, Sam Bradford and Trevor Siemian would all finish as three of the top four fantasy quarterbacks in Week 1, how many different ways would you have called me “dumb” or “ridiculous”?
Smith and Bradford had rather weak matchups, but give them credit: they took risks we aren’t used to seeing from them and they paid off. Kudos to them.
Siemian had the toughest matchup of the three, going up against an incredible pass rush of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram along with a pair of Pro Bowl corners in Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward. Siemian looked comfortable in the offense, making all kinds of different throws and even showing some ability on the ground (he recorded a rushing touchdown).
These three will obviously come back to earth and drop down the QB list, but there’s no reason to think they aren’t improved. Bradford just needed more protection and Smith just needed to step out of his comfort zone. It’s natural for Siemian; he was a first-year starter last year with a bad line.
In a day and age where fantasy players are always looking for cheap quarterbacks, these three may have deepened the field of options moving forward.
There will be a new top dog
We touched on it earlier, and here’s the full report on Cardinals running back David Johnson: he’s headed to IR with a wrist injury and will be out two-to-three months. Johnson led all players in PPR scoring last year, and with him set to miss at least eight games, there will be a new top dog this season.
LeVeon Bell, LeSean McCoy and Ezekiel Elliott (assuming he isn’t suspended) are the top candidates, but the crop of backs has grown so deep, it’s entirely possible for someone else to swoop in and take the top spot. Or maybe it’s not a running back.
Jared Goff and the Rams are alive
So many high draft picks, so many busts, so many trades, so many below average seasons. It’s just been one game, but it feels like the Los Angeles Rams finally have the group they can develop and win with. Jared Goff doesn’t look terrible, and he finally has some legitimate weapons. Todd Gurley, Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, Tavon Austin, Robert Woods. It’s an intriguing group moving forward.
Their defense is incredible, too, now under the tutelage of Wade Phillips. They scored 28 fantasy points in Week 1 and didn’t even have Aaron Donald!
The Rams are not playoff contenders, but they may help your fantasy team get there.