Fantasy Fallout: Can Carson Wentz Keep It Up?
NFL Week 1 - Week 1 is in the books and before we turn the page and focus on Week 2 it's time to take a team-by-team look across the league and see where things stand from a fantasy football perspective. Each week we'll delve into the stats and headlines that matter to get you up to speed on everything you need to know. Week 1 was full of its usual surprises, with rookie wide receivers shining, the Bears having more pass-catchers than expected and some high-value disappointments, yes we're talking about you Kyle Pitts, but the time to panic isn't just yet.
During Marquise Brown's time in Baltimore, he was the unquestioned WR1, but he often saw less attention than Mark Andrews did from the defense. Now, in Arizona, Brown finds himself the clear object of defensive eyes, and with the Cardinals' next best option appearing to be Greg Dortch, Brown will continue to see a lot of attention. The Cardinals offense was overmatched by a Chiefs defense that was expected to be below average against the pass, and after a Week 2 matchup with the Raiders, Brown will face a particularly tough game against the Rams. If Brown doesn't show us a good performance in Week 2, it might be time to bench him going into Week 3.
Fantasy managers who took Kyle Pitts in the first three rounds of drafts hoped that by now he might be matchup-proof, but this wasn't an easy matchup for Pitts, who has struggled against New Orleans since coming into the league. In three games against the Saints, Pitts has seen 19 targets but only turned that into seven receptions. Whilst it's annoying for fantasy managers that Pitts hasn't gotten more touchdowns in his career, he still boasted a 21.9% target share in Week 1, and all the talent is there, it might just take a little longer to produce.
It has been quite a while since we saw the Ravens deploy their running game in a way they'd like. The signing of Kenyan Drake telegraphed their thoughts on Mike Davis and the other running backs already on the roster, who managed a combined 2.9 yards per carry during the preseason. Mike Davis wasn't a good idea for fantasy before this weekend, and now he's droppable. Drake might have better days ahead as he gets used to the elaborate scheme the Ravens use, but this rushing attack hinges on J.K Dobbins' successful return. If that doesn't happen, it's wheels up on another heavy-passing Ravens attack. This week they ranked second in Neutral Pass Rate according to Hayden Winks of Underdog Fantasy.
For several years the Bills slot receiver has been a fantasy valuable play with Josh Allen frequently targeting that area. Coming into 2022, reports bounced back and forth over whether Isaiah McKenzie or Jamison Crowder had the upper hand at that spot. In the season opener, Crowder ran more routes than McKenzie, but McKenzie saw more targets and got the touchdown. It seems unlikely that either will be able to separate without an injury to the other. Because of the Bills' propensity to pass the ball so often, there might be room for both to be productive, but it's not an easy choice to make week to week. Fantasy managers may wish to bench them this week and see how things play out.
Many fantasy managers breathed a sigh of relief to see Christian McCaffrey back on the field looking somewhere close to his old self. Whilst the success of this offense will come down in part to McCaffrey's health, it was interesting to note how condensed the passing game was as the Panthers routinely favored the air attack over the ground. With that in mind, it was a little strange to see that only DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson, and Shi Smith ran routes on Baker Mayfield's dropbacks. Perhaps Terrace Marshall and Laviska Shenault can become part of the plan moving forward, but if the passing game stays concentrated, it's far easier for us to approach in fantasy. Anderson is worth a waiver wire pickup, and so is Shi Smith in deeper leagues.
Fantasy managers told themselves all Summer long that it might not feel good to draft the Bears pass-catchers, but at least the passing game would be condensed and we knew it would be almost always Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet. Week 1 showed us that as fantasy managers we might not always know what we're talking about. Mooney and Kmet put up a combined stat line of one reception for 8 yards whilst Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, and Byron Pringle all scored more fantasy points. Perhaps it's just a product of a crazy game, but if that passing attack is slightly more expanded, it might be difficult for Mooney and Kmet to live up to expectations.
In games, without an appendix, Joe Burrow has been intercepted at least four times … it's a very small sample size of one game, but what if he has lost his magic? The reality is that Burrow looked like a quarterback who needed some reps. Without a preseason, and with barely any time in training camp, Burrow made uncharacteristic mistakes that cost the Bengals the game. Burrow faces the Cowboys (minus Dak Prescott) and then the Jets (minus Zach Wilson) in the next two weeks. It's very hard to imagine he doesn't get up to speed through those games, but what is worth keeping an eye on is how often he's still being sacked. In both 2020 and 2021 Burrow averaged 3.2 sacks per game, which ranked top-three in both years, and he was sacked five times on Sunday. For the Bengals to really get the best out of Burrow, we might need those sack figures to come down.
In my daily fantasy column previewing Week 1, I noted that Kareem Hunt has played 28 career games with Nick Chubb during their time in Cleveland and averaged 14.2 PPR points, and that was the perfect precursor to Sunday when both players scored over 15 points. Hunt was undervalued by drafters coming into this season, and as long as Deshaun Watson is suspended, the Browns will have to rely on this tandem to stay in games. Hunt is startable virtually every week going forward.
With Dak Prescott undergoing surgery for a fractured thumb, it seems likely that the Cowboys will need to lean heavier on a running game going forward. The Cowboys' already-thin wide receiver room will likely struggle with the likes of Cooper Rush or Will Grier throwing them the ball. Ezekiel Elliott is by no means the player he was several years ago, but fantasy managers should seek some comfort from the fact that he rushed for at least 5 yards on 80% of his carries, whilst Tony Pollard managed just 8 yards on six carries. It might get ugly, but Zeke's fantasy output could improve nevertheless.
Javonte Williams might not have the every-down workload that can lead to a legendary running back season, but there are plenty of reasons for hope. Melvin Gordon saw 13 rushing attempts to Williams seven, but Williams saw 12 targets compared to Gordon's two. The Broncos seemed to be actively trying to involve Williams with screen passes often and on another day where Williams doesn't fumble by the goal line, he's looking at a 25+-point game in PPR formats. Gordon will stay involved heavily as long as he's healthy, but it's clear Williams is going to outscore him dramatically in fantasy.
D'Andre Swift put in a career-high 144 rushing yards and finished the Week as the RB1 overall, but his ceiling would be so much higher if Jamaal Williams hadn't vultured two touchdown runs from inside the 5-yard line. If this continues, then it's very hard to see Swift being in the top five running backs at the end of the season. Williams, meanwhile, remains one of the very best handcuffs in football and should be rostered in all formats.
Green Bay Packers
Christian Watson almost had the dream start to his NFL career before inexplicably letting what would have been a 75-yard touchdown drop through his fingers. After that Watson was targeted just three more times, and with the Packers struggling only AJ Dillon had more than five targets. This offense doesn't have the otherworldly skill of Davante Adams to rely on anymore, and the remaining receivers simply aren't good enough to play to that standard. But if Rodgers can trust them and work to find plays that help them, then this offense can be fine down the stretch. For now, though, I wouldn't play any of the receivers in fantasy unless necessary.
Dameon Pierce's hype got out of hand fast during the summer and by late August it wasn't uncommon to see him go in the first four rounds of drafts. On Sunday, managers who rostered Pierce were rudely awakened when the Texans used him on just 28% of snaps resulting in fewer than 5 PPR points. The Colts weren't an easy matchup, but if you couldn't use Pierce out of the gate, when can you? Over the next two games, Pierce will face road trips against the Broncos and Bears, which should provide more opportunities for the rookie to prove himself. But if you can make a trade in redraft, it might be wise.
Fantasy managers pushed Michael Pittman's ADP up from the sixth round in March all the way to the mid-second by August. Outside of Pittman, the Colts' options are limited, and Pittman saw a dominant target share of 26.5% and ran a route 98.1% of the time. The Colts need Pittman to embrace being the No. 1 pass-catcher and so far, so good. Next up, the Jaguars.
Jaguars fans might feel slightly aggrieved to walk away from Sunday's game with a loss, but there were positive signs nonetheless. Between Christian Kirk's preseason appearance and Week 1, he has seen 20 targets and an average 30.3% target share. Lawrence has rightly latched onto Kirk being a solid safety valve in the slot and should continue to pepper targets to the position and make Kirk an every-week starter.
Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster stole the headlines with performances that earned over 20% team target shares, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling ran more routes than either and interestingly saw a lower average depth of target (5.5 yards) than at any point with the Packers in 2021. If the Chiefs plan to use Valdes-Scantling all over the field in this offense, rather than the deep-shot specialist the Packers made him, that could have upside and change MVS from a "better in best ball" type player to one who can be rostered more heavily in redraft and dynasty.
Los Angeles Chargers
Whilst the Panthers decided to make their passing tree very condensed, the same can't be said for the Chargers, who finished the Raiders game with seven players seeing four targets but not a single player seeing more than that. Keenan Allen picked up a hamstring injury after a great start, and perhaps that changed the game plan, but fantasy managers will be disappointed after investing high draft capital in Mike Williams. Week 2's matchup against the Chiefs should provide a better opportunity for Williams to be more involved, as well as show us if the team views Josh Palmer as good enough to see a bigger workload. Gerald Everett saw two targets inside the red zone and should be a fine choice going forward.
Los Angles Rams
With Cam Akers failing to impress against the Bills, it seems fair to expect at least a few weeks of Darrell Henderson leading the team in rushing opportunities. Henderson is currently rostered in only 76% of Yahoo leagues, so no matter your format, check the waiver wire this week. In games where Henderson has averaged over 50% of the snaps, he has returned 14.4 PPR points per game. The Rams utilize spread formations so often that Henderson frequently faces light boxes and favorable matchups. With games against Atlanta and Arizona coming up, don't be afraid to send out some trade offers if Henderson is already rostered.
Las Vegas Raiders
It's time to stop worrying about elite wide receivers changing teams. Davante Adams looked completely at home in the Raiders offense and dominated with a 48.6% team target share, and he had the third-highest air-yard share amongst receivers this week. It might be far harder to make decisions with other Raiders, though, and until we see evidence Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller can both put up points alongside Adams, it might be wise to bench Renfrow. Despite seeing an identical target share to Waller (17.1%), Renfrow saw far less value in the targets thrown his way.
It was disappointing but not surprising to see Mike Gesicki out-snapped and out-targeted by Durham Smythe. When the team franchise-tagged Gesicki, it seemed enough of a vote of confidence in him that fantasy managers kept his ADP in the 120 to 140 range most of the summer. Gesicki ran half as many routes as he has averaged over the last two seasons, and if he can't find a way to make himself more relevant in Mike McDaniel's scheme, then he'll become droppable very quickly. If you can find a better option on the waiver wire, you should make the switch.
All summer long we heard Justin Jefferson hype himself up, and apparently he should have gone even earlier. Jefferson has scored 20-plus PPR points in 41% of his 34 fantasy-relevant games. We're witnessing a truly special player.
New England Patriots
As the summer wore on, it seemed that Rhamondre Stevenson might have the opportunity to be on the stronger side of any Patriots backfield-by-committee, but as is often the case, things look far different to our expectations. Ty Montgomery recovered from a camp injury to lead the backfield in fantasy points per touch (2.1) and Stevenson ran the least routes of the three-man committee. The Patriots were behind throughout much of the game and it was disappointing to see Stevenson not more involved. If Mac Jones' back injury keeps him out for a period, that might be something we have to get used to. Montgomery is worth a cheap waiver pickup in very deep leagues.
New Orleans Saints
When Alvin Kamara avoided a suspension for the 2022 season, fantasy managers breathed a sigh of relief and pushed his ADP up draft boards. Kamara responded with a disappointing season opener. The offseason talk around Kamara centered around how fantasy-worthy he might be with Jameis Winston, but the real issue might be elsewhere. Since Mark Ingram returned to the team in Week 8 of 2021, Kamara has averaged 3.00 receptions per game when Ingram has been active. In games that Ingram misses, that jumps to 4.11. This isn't limited to receptions either. Kamara's PPR points drop by over a third when Ingram is active, from 20.6 down to 12.8. Ingram looked healthy and ran well yesterday, which should concern fantasy managers who have Kamara on their teams.
New York Giants
Not even a typically iffy performance from Daniel Jones can dampen the spirits of Giants fans after Saquon Barkley put up his most fantasy points (33.4) since Week 16 of 2019, and the fourth-most of his career. Barkley's long runs stole the headlines, but seeing Barkley lead the team with a whopping 33% target share should give fantasy managers faith that he is going to be used as he should be.
New York Jets
Michael Carter has the slight edge on Breece Hall for the time being, out-snapping, out-targeting, and out-producing the Round 1 rookie, but whilst Joe Flacco starts it might not be too pretty. Carter finished the week with 17 PPR points, and Corey Davis was the only other Jets player to surpass 12. The games don't get any easier for New York with the Browns, Bengals, and Steelers completing their AFC North tour in the next three weeks. Carter and Elijah Moore might retain value with Flacco's dink-and-dunk nature, but they're hard to trust and fantasy managers might wish to look elsewhere if possible.
The Eagles got off to an explosive start, but one player was lacking in the box score. Despite running more routes than A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith saw four catchless targets. The zero on your fantasy teams is a painful experience, and one I felt heavily this weekend, but the only way is up from here for Smith. This was Smith's first goose egg of his career and over the next six weeks, the Eagles have favorable matchups that include Washington, Jacksonville, and the Cardinals. Better days will be coming.
Much of training camp was spent debating just how much "dawg" George Pickens had within him. Meanwhile, many people talked themselves out of drafting Diontae Johnso,n believing his production was a product of Ben Roethlisberger rather than thinking it might have been Johnson elevating Roethlisberger's game. With the run game stuttering, Johnson saw a 32.4% team target share and led the team in targets and receptions. The Steelers might be an ugly offense this week and there may be more stutters ahead, but Johnson should have your faith almost every week until he shows us differently.
San Francisco 49ers
There will be days for judging Trey Lance harshly, but it seems a little unfair to do so on when the pair of second-year quarterbacks were asked to play in horrendous conditions. Lance struggled more with throws closer to the line of scrimmage that layup artist Jimmy Garoppolo made his bread and butter, but when the ball is wet can we blame Lance for not getting the ball out quickly? The Niners offensive line certainly didn't help matters allowing pressure on 38.2% of dropbacks, which was 10th highest in the league. Fantasy managers won't be happy with a measly output, but as long as Lance continues to run the ball, better days should be ahead.
During Geno Smith's 2021 starts, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf were targetted on 59.4% of his passing attempts, on Monday Night Football they counted for 39.2%. Perhaps Geno is more comfortable in this Seattle offense now that it has been built around him and he's not playing as the backup, but if Metcalf and Lockett don't see an increase going forward it will make them very touchdown-dependant for fantasy, whilst being part of a team that likely won't score too many touchdowns each week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It seems a long time ago since Leonard Fournette's weight was a factor in his ADP dropping. Despite the concern about the Buccaneers offensive line, Fournette was impressive against the Cowboys, rushing for 127 yards, higher than any amount he racked up in 2021. Rachaad White is a promising prospect, but when Fournette is playing like this there is no impetus to give the rookie game time. Fournette was drafted as the RB12 on Underdog Fantasy this summer, and if he keeps a stranglehold on this job, he might look like a bargain for the second year running.
After an offseason when Treylon Burks struggled, it was a pleasant surprise to see Burks have the team's second-most catches and put up an impressive 4.2 yards per route run. More impressive perhaps was the debut of fifth-round receiver Kyle Philips, who led the team in target share (29%) and yards (66). Ryan Tannehill has never been afraid of a dink-and-dunk option, and with Phillips running 60% of his routes from the slot, he figures to frequently be in Tannehill's vision. In regular fantasy leagues, Philips is still a little bit of a risk, but in deeper leagues, with a game at Buffalo, the Titans could be pushed into a game script that sees Phillips used often.
The Indianapolis Colts saw enough of the bad side of Carson Wentz to give up on him after just one season, but Week 1 was a reminder of what Wentz can do when things click for him. Wentz passed for four touchdowns for the first time since Week 14 of the 2017 season and totaled 27.7 fantasy points, which was good for the QB3 finish on the week. Whilst the turnovers were ugly, Wentz has solid weapons in Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel, who could help him have his most productive fantasy season in years.