Fantasy Football Week 1: Takeaways & Analysis

Looking at the fantasy landscape and a few takeaways from Week 1.

With the NFL regular season starting up, it’s time for us to shift our attention away from preconceived notions generated in the preseason and look at the actual performances in front of us on a week-to-week basis. 

Each week we’ll take a look at the main takeaways and analysis from a fantasy football perspective as we continue to further grasp on to what’s going on across the NFL. 

Below you’ll find a handful of quick nuggets from week one action that can help your fantasy football squads both in the short and long term. 

Get As Much of Tampa’s Passing Offense As Possible

This doesn’t need to be too long or in depth because it’s pretty obvious if you watched that Thursday night game. Tampa Bay looks like the league’s most potent team and Tom Brady played absolutely incredible, aided by a loaded group of playmakers. You should absolutely want as much of this offense as possible and I’d be actively targeting both Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, especially. 

Don’t Panic With Ezekiel Elliot, Najee Harris 

Ezekiel Elliot and Najee Harris absolutely disappointed fantasy owners with their respective performances during week one. 

Elliot’s Cowboys went ballistic offensively on Thursday Night Football, yet he only caught two passes for six yards and totaled 33 yards rushing without finding the end zone. Harris and the Steelers won their first game against Buffalo, but the rookie first-rounder turned 19 opportunities into 45 rushing yards and just one reception. 

I’m here to tell you that panicking and selling low on both of these pedigree backs would be a huge mistake for your fantasy teams: 

+ Elliot was still on the field more than 70% of the time despite the Cowboys having to throw the ball 50+ times in their Thursday night loss. He did run 44 routes, was forced into pass protection against Tampa Bay’s potent front, and Dallas was without superstar offensive lineman Zach Martin. The Cowboys also play the Chargers, Eagles, Panthers, and Giants over the next four weeks – all defenses that can be beat on the ground. 

+ Mike Tomlin has strictly used a three-down back for the last several years in Pittsburgh and the Steelers’ front office used a first-round pick on Harris as well. He was on the field ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT of the time and still accumulated nearly 20 total touches, so the usage rate is already above several other backs across the league. Pittsburgh wants to run the ball and keep their star-studded defense rested, so Harris is going to consistently get touches. He’ll also draw the Raiders and Bengals as his next two opponents. 

If someone in your league is tilting over Elliot or Harris, shoot them an offer and target these two when their value is low. It’s one week and they both definitely have star fantasy upside at the running back position. 

T.J. Hockenson – Elite Tier Tight End

Prior to this season, nearly everyone drafting in fantasy football recognized three players as the “creme de la creme” of the tight end position: Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle. 

After this 17 game campaign comes to a conclusion, however, I’m pretty confident that former top-10 pick T.J. Hockenson of the Detroit Lions will etch his name into that tier. 

Hockenson is the unquestioned number one option on the Motor City’s team and while that might not sound incredibly appealing, it means he’ll soak up a large amount of Jared Goff’s targets. Goff’s usage rate was through the roof yesterday; he threw the ball 57 times and honestly should have more, given how the game was going. Detroit’s defense is really bad and they don’t play the easiest of schedules, so the expectation should be that Goff will throw the ball 30+ times more often than he does not. 

If that’s the case, Hockenson is going to be swimming in targets for a large majority of the season. He commanded 10 looks on Sunday, catching eight of them for 97 yard and a touchdown. His talent, athletic profile, and target market share is certainly going to be enough for him to put up elite level numbers at the tight end position.

Corey Davis Is A Safe Weekly Contributor 

The Jets signed Corey Davis to a three-year, $37.5 million contract this off-season after the former first-round pick had a resurgent 2020 season in Tennessee, nearly eclipsing the 1,000 yard receiving mark in the Titans run heavy offense. 

Now, with Zach Wilson at the helm and not a whole lot of impact talent around him, Davis looks like the unquestioned number one option for New York’s young star quarterback. He was on the field quite often, tied for the team lead in targets, and hauled in five passes for 97 yards and scored twice. 

Much like the Lions’ situation mentioned above, the Jets defense is fairly poor and I’d expect them to be in a deficit more often than not. If you believe in Wilson’s as a quarterback talent, which I do, and you combine that with a team that’ll be trailing quite often, Davis is going to consistently see targets. Even with Elijah Moore and others around him, he’s the “X” receiver in this offense, so a high floor on a week-to-week basis is certainly in play. 

Jags’ Receiving Options…All Playable?

It seems like people have forgotten that the Jacksonville Jaguars are still a really bad football team that was picking No. 1 overall for a reason, just because Trevor Lawrence is now their starting quarterback. 

Their defense is pretty atrocious, amongst the league’s worst, and that was on full display during Sunday’s game when the lowly Houston Texans torched them for 37 points. 

Lawrence didn’t play all that well, but he did do something positive for the fantasy community – throw the ball 51 times. Jacksonville likely won’t rely on their rookie quarterback to throw the ball that much on a weekly basis, but it all circles back to the same concepts highlighted above with the Lions and Jets. The Jaguars’ defense is really bad and they’re going to give up points, resulting in Jacksonville having to throw the ball more often than not. 

Even though Lawrence struggled in his debut, I’m absolutely not giving up on him as a prospect by any means. He’s still incredibly talented and was drafted to be great with the expectation that he would be, which is very much still in reach. If that’s the case, then a quality quarterback throwing the ball a lot because his team can’t keep other teams off the board is usually a good thing for fantasy. 

All three of D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones Jr., and Laviska Shenault Jr. saw nine or more targets with Chark’s 12 leading the group. They all also turned in serviceable fantasy performances and quality receivers capable of doing work with the football in their hands. You should absolutely be rostering all three of these players and likely even starting them, unless the matchup is extremely out of their favor. Jones Jr. should be the most consistent play with both Chark and Shenault serving as more boom-or-bust options. Either way, things are trending positively for fantasy purposes in Jacksonville. 

Chase, Waddle, Smith All Perform 

This year’s rookie wide receiver class was touted, prior to the most recent NFL Draft, as an elite tier type of group that could be the next wave of star receivers. Several inconsistencies and learning curves during this preseason clouded that, but the first three receivers selected back in April all showed well in their debuts: 

+ Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase was the poster child for early criticism during training camp, especially because of his consistent drop issues that plagued the former LSU Tiger. Still, Chase was widely regarded as a generational receiver talent for a reason and he showed us why on Sunday. Joe Burrow’s apparent favorite target led the team in targets, catching five balls for 101 yards and he brought in a 50-yard bomb touchdown from Burrow, too. 

+ Like most fantasy folks expected, DeVonta Smith paced the Eagles in basically every receiving category and he caught a touchdown, too. Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner was targeted eight times, catching six of them for 71 yards. He’ll continue to be their top option throughout the season and you can play him on a weekly basis with confidence. 

+ Waddle was certainly surprising, as we weren’t really sure how much of an opportunity or what role he’d play in the Dolphins’ non-explosive offense. He did command six targets, one shy of the team lead, and caught four balls for 61 yards, scoring once. Still, I don’t have much confidence in Tua Tagovailoa’s ability to sustain multiple fantasy threats and Will Fuller returns from suspension next week. Waddle is extremely talented, but his fantasy stock is the most volatile of this trio. 

Jalen Hurts: Star Fantasy QB?

Sticking with the Eagles, Philadelphia’s offense looked rather impressive against Atlanta’s lowly defense and Jalen Hurts was right at the forefront of it all. He completed 27-of-35 passes, didn’t turn the ball over once, and threw for three touchdowns, too. 

Hurts’ line was impressive, but it did come against one of the league’s worst defenses as a whole and he certainly had an easy matchup here. They won’t play the Falcons each week, so some regression in the passing department could certainly be coming soon. 

But what makes Hurts so valuable for fantasy and what gives him such a high floor is what he can do with his legs. He was on pace to run for 1,000 yards last season and ran seven times in this game, totaling 62 yards on the ground. Quarterbacks that can run will always have a high floor because of how rushing is scored in fantasy football and Hurts absolutely fits into that group. 

Should he improve as a passer from what we saw last season, Hurts can really bolt himself up into the top seven quarterback conversation because of his speed. You should be starting him on a week-to-week basis unless you were able to scoop up a truly elite option (Murray, Mahomes, Jackson, Allen, Prescott, Brady) early in your draft. 

Damien Harris Gets 25+ Opportunities 

New England’s offense over the last two seasons has made something abundantly clear: they want to run the football. 

The Pats did just that on Sunday, running the ball 30 total times despite trailing Miami for a decent chunk of the game. With one of the league’s best offensive lines and a rookie under center, it’s not surprising that Bill Belichick wants to get his ground game involved. 

Even with Rhamondre Stevenson active, New England gave the rock to starter Damien Harris 23 total times and he turned that into 100 yards. Harris also caught two of three targets for 17 yards, equaling 26 total opportunities for the former Alabama running back. 

The desire to get Harris involved as much as he was is absolutely something to take away from this Patriots’ offense, especially with the rookie Jones under center. New England’s offensive line and their stellar defense suggests to me that they’ll keep running the ball a lot, which raises Harris’ floor and increases his ceiling should he find the end zone. 

You can start him with confidence and expect some loud weeks, especially because the Pats play the Jets twice, Dallas, and Houston over the next six weeks. 

Scoop Up K.J. Hamler

Jerry Jeudy went down with a high ankle sprain injury on Sunday afternoon and he’s expected to be out for a good chunk of time, opening the door for K.J. Hamler to shine in Denver’s offense. 

The former Penn State receiver is an absolute burner with clear 4.3 speed that plays on the football field. He gets open with his wheels and can be a dynamic weapon out of the slot for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the short game, which is where Bridgewater is especially successful. 

Courtland Sutton should slot into the “X” role in the Denver offense now that Jeudy is gone, but someone other than the SMU standout will have to command targets. I’d fully expect that guy to be Hamler with Tim Patrick sprinkled in a bit, too. Pick him up in PPR leagues, especially because Denver plays Jacksonville and the Jets over the next two weeks. 

Stafford, Rams Shine on SNF

Matthew Stafford and the Rams’ offense from top to bottom looked relatively sharp on Sunday night, so much so that they mostly did whatever they wanted against Chicago’s typically stout defense. 

Stafford himself threw for 321 yards and three scores on 26 attempts, completing 77% of his passes. Darrel Henderson scooped up 70 rushing yards on 16 carries and also scored, while both Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee were open enough for Stafford to securely get them the ball. 

The biggest takeaway from this game is the ease and rhythm of which the Rams were able to do things against Chicago’s defense. They marched up the field a few times and it looked like Stafford was rarely ever flustered in the pocket. This looked like the prototypical dominant Sean McVay offense we saw a few years ago and prepare to reap the fantasy rewards throughout the season if that’s the case. 

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