Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire
The Bucs have the best offense in the league, Patrick Mahomes is on pace for 80 touchdowns, and there have been two ties in two weeks. The Saints, Eagles, and Patriots might be bad (probably not). The Dolphins, Bengals and Broncos are off to fantastic starts. Besides the Browns desperately not wanting to end their losing streak, does anyone really know what is happening in the NFL? With all of the uncertainty floating around, which players that made their mark in Week 2 are legit fantasy options moving forward?
Will Fuller V (WR, Houston Texans)
The Texans’ #2 WR made his debut Sunday afternoon and proved that DeAndre Hopkins is not alone in the receiving game. He finished the game with 8 receptions for 113 yards and an impressive 39 yard touchdown to take the lead in the 4th quarter. Prior to his injury last year, Will Fuller V, was putting together an impressive campaign and, with 7 touchdowns in just 10 games, he showed he could be a reliable touchdown target. As long as he can stay healthy, which he has shown trouble doing, Fuller should be a consistent high-end WR 2.
John Brown (WR, Baltimore Ravens)
John Brown (4 rec, 92 yds. 1 TD) is a large part of what is shaping to be the weirdest WR core in football. The Ravens are part of a small selection of teams that does not have a true #1 WR. Brown, Willie Snead IV, and Michael Crabtree are the three feature WRs that are essentially splitting the receiving game. Both Brown and Snead have 14 targets while Crabtree has 16. Brown has been the most impressive receiver through 2 games: he leads the team with 136 yards and is the only receiver with 2 touchdowns. However, due to the crowded nature of the Ravens’ receiving game, Brown will never be able to be safely played as more than high-end WR 3; if he were to consistently score touchdowns he could move up to a low-end WR 2.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers)
Big Ben has a new second favorite target! In the absence of Le’Veon Bell, JuJu Smith-Schuster is quickly racking up the targets. In the shootout against the Chiefs, Roethlisberger targeted JuJu 19 times; they connected on 13 of those for 121 yards and 1 TD. Through two games, JuJu has 28 targets for 18 receptions and 240 yards (The Steelers ran the ball 22 more times against the Browns than the Chiefs which contributed to his low target count). If he were to keep this pace (he should as long as Le’Veon spends Sundays on his couch), JuJu will operate as a low end WR 1.
Kenny Golladay (WR, Detroit Lions)
Through two games, Kenny Golladay has emerged as the Lions’ second best, but most reliable receiver. He leads the team in yardage while being just one reception short of the team lead. He has looked like the team’s most talented receiver and had 6 receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. I would expect his targets to increase (especially in the Red Zone) and Golden Tate’s to decrease. This would leave Golladay as a solid WR 2 throughout the season if he can avoid injury (missed 6 games as a rookie).
The Jacksonville Jaguars…passing game…?
As a Patriots fan, this game was tough to watch. I guess the game plan was to make Blake Bortles beat them and holy shit. DID. HE. EVER. Bortles shredded what was supposed to be an improved Patriot defense for 377 yards and 4 touchdowns on 29/45 passing. Keelan Cole never seemed to have a defender within 10 yards of him (also had an early entrant for Catch of the Year). Dede Westbrook turned a slow, 5-yard slant into a 61 yard touchdown; the Patriot defense didn’t seem interested in tackling him. Corey Grant, who had just 1 touch in the Week 1 game against the Giants, had 10 yesterday and seemed to break the first tackle every time. It was an unusually atrocious showing from the Patriots that lacked the usual discipline that has led them to consistent success. The Jaguars offense looked impressive and versatile, but I cannot express to you enough that these receivers were WIDE OPEN THE WHOLE GAME. However, looking at the Jaguars schedule, they do not play any incredibly tough defenses so this might happen consistently. Once Leonard Fournette returns from his injury, Bortles passing attempts will decrease along with the production of his receivers. But for the time being, Bortles is only owned in 10% of ESPN Fantasy leagues and could be used as a streamer against bad defenses. Keelan Cole is now locked in as a low-end WR 2 (Bortles’ abilities as a passer will never let him reach his true ceiling) and Westbrook as a low WR 3. If you are in need of an RB to fill in a PPR league, Corey Grant should be a nice play while Fournette is on the sideline.
The funny thing about yesterday’s Pats Jags game is that it is like a Superbowl win for JAX. It is likely the high point in their season. For the Pats, I think they always treat the first games as just trying stuff out and seeing what works and who is going to step up. I wouldn’t be too worried about anything long term. Do you think that they will make some adjustments? If anything, they now know some things that don’t work! Although I do own some Bortles shares, I realize that he is borderline roster worthy despite yesterday. I would not use any JAX WR and expect that to be reliable. You know what this team will do – play defense and run the ball. They switched the script with great success yesterday, but I doubt that is how it goes long term. Can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t a setup for a playoff matchup. If NE loses week 2 but wins in week 19, they will take that. I didn’t watch the game, but it sounds like NE was playing the run if everyone was wide open. That said, I do think that NE needs to make a few smart moves sooner than later as that scheme can go so far without talent and Brady is wearing out. They have been shedding talent faster than acquiring it for a while… which hasn’t mattered yet.
It was a really weird game to watch. They didn’t look like a typical NE team. I do think that Belichick knows that he will meet JAX at some point in the playoffs and doesn’t like to show what he wants to do in that game. He consistently played man defense as every DB was getting torched, and occasionally switched to the softest zone where JAX WR’s sat in pockets (See the link by Cole’s name). There will probably be a similar performance when they play the Chiefs in a few weeks. But regarding the fantasy impact of the WR’s, I think as long as Fournette is out, Cole is absolutely playable. They play BAD defenses the next few weeks and there will likely be room to pass.