Patience Or Panic: Week 1
Winning in the here and now is vital to every fantasy roster as no win comes easy. That said, keeping an eye on the future and recognizing what players you can jump on ahead of the curve will give you a clear advantage over the rest of your field. Last season it was Tyreek Hill and Jordan Howard, who will be the big names for 2017? It’s not all about the good thought. Sometimes the ship is sinking and you need to head for the lifeboat. Which names might be worth shipping off on name-appeal alone for more value than a simple waiver pickup. Here are just a couple names to watch in the Week 2 games: players that didn’t quite make theirs in Week 1.
The season’s first premier matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers saw a defensive standstill. Aaron Rodgers against the stout Seattle front was expected to be the highlight of the game. Somewhat unexpected was the offensive struggles from Russell Wilson and company against a much improved Packer defense. Offensive line problems persisted as Wilson was sacked three times, hit on seven different occasions behind the line of scrimmage. The run game saw similar problems with backs averaging 3.5 YPC.
One of the key bright spots is that Wilson connected with his favorite receiver Doug Baldwin on all four targets. The concern was that he was not able to find Baldwin until the end of the first half on a vital 36-yard reception. His next two primary options Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham demanded the majority of Wilson’s attention.
It will be important to watch how the Seattle offense evolves given the team’s Week 1 struggles. 20 of Wilson’s 27 passes were on shorter routes as the line failed to give him any reasonable pocket. If he can protect the ball and manage to avoid any turnovers, the offense will be able to avoid working from behind the eight ball. Taking on a San Francisco defense that allowed a number of opportunities to the Panthers’ stagnant offense last week, the Seahawks will be able to create scoring chances (they simply need to convert).
Philadelphia’s front seven is among the best in the league. The combination of Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham was more than enough to make up for the loss of Ronald Darby in the secondary. Cousins was sacked four times, hit nine times and it was no surprise to see him finish with three turnovers (1 INT, 2 FUM). Despite the regular stress behind the line, Washington still saw their offense find some rhythm through the passing game. Cousins’ 240 yards through the air and 40 yards on the ground kept the Redskins in the game late.
A key missed point in Sunday’s performance was the dropped touchdown from Terrelle Pryor that would have tied the game early. While everyone wanted to point the finger at Cousins for his inability to protect the ball (deservedly so) and the desire to instead talk about his role as a franchise quarterback, some attention should be directed to the presumed number one option for failing to make a number of plays that resulted in an ultimately forgettable effort for Pryor.
Washington takes on a Rams defense this week that could do no wrong in the opener against Indianapolis. Cousins is unlikely to make the errant throws of Scott Tolzien, but the pressure felt by the Colts should persist to some extent. Los Angeles was among the strongest passing defenses per attempt last season, something they’ll look to continue in 2017. It will be a big opportunity for Cousins who found Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed for a combined 50 yards.
It is not quite time to jump ship on DeMarco Murray in belief that Derrick Henry is the new guy (like many believe will happen). Murray still saw twice as many reps as the former Heisman winner and was not far off on yards per carry. The immediate concern comes from Tennessee’s playcalling. In a game where they were never trailing by enough to warrant extreme passing (until the fourth quarter), one of last season’s best rushing attacks only carried the ball 17 times in the first thee quarters.
Whether it was simple fear of Khalil Mack (sometimes triple-teamed in blocking) or the adrenaline of opening day and new toys at receiver, Marcus Mariota threw the ball more times in Week 1 than in 14 of 16 games last season. It’s worth noting he also threw 41 passes to open 2016. The likes of Corey Davis, Eric Decker, and the returning weapons should have a positive impact on the run game as defenses should no longer stack the box. That said, if the offense steers too far away from the run game, the identity it established last year is gone.
Tennessee has never won a game where Mariota threw the ball more than forty times (only once did they lose by more than one possession: 9 points to MIN). The Titans are on the road this week against another stout defense. Jacksonville gave the Houston offense fits and held Lamar Miller to 65 yards on 17 carries. Noteworthy: Houston’s longest run was a 9-yard scramble by Deshaun Watson. The Jaguars front seven regularly brought pressure in Week 1, something that will force Tennessee’s hand with a likely number of ineffective run plays. Murray will again be the feature back, but poor efforts early may result in more carries for Henry.
There is no uglier sight than the Indianapolis Colts’ offense without Andrew Luck. Scott Tolzien created more points for the Los Angeles Rams than he did the Colts. Week 2 will see Hilton not only be without his quarterback (another nightmare situation), but he is also going up against one of the best corners in the game (Patrick Peterson). In 11 games without Luck over the past two plus seasons, Hilton has surpassed the 100-yard threshold once. He’s collected more than five receptions just twice.
Hilton’s lack of success in the season opener did not come as a lack of trying. He was targeted seven times, and his fumble was a result of trying to dive for extra yards. Will it matter? Indianapolis lacks a true third option, and their running game mustered a measly 3.1 YPC against a defense missing Aaron Donald. Any optimism for Hilton rests on the shoulder of Andrew Luck or a miracle turnaround of the offense with Jacoby Brissett.
Chuck Pagano will not commit to a quarterback for this week, but chances are Brissett will again see the field. Watch for Hilton’s route tree and usage in the offense. Patrick Peterson is not the guy to target, but if Tolzien/Brissett attempt to force the ball, that’s a good sign moving forward. If the Colts’ pack it in and use Hilton as a deep decoy as they’ve often done, his value is not looking too great in the short-term.
It is rare for a receiver with two receptions to garner the optimism of so many owners. Janoris Jenkins exhibited why he’s a $62.5 Million man as he kept Bryant in check for nearly the whole game. Bryant displayed why so many are high on him this season. Dez tallied a whopping four end zone targets in the win over the Giants, the high for all targets in the league. While he did not convert on any of those chances, he’s proven to be a strong red zone threat and an offseason with Dak Prescott is looking to yield greater utility.
The primary question for Bryant is will this usage sustain. Prescott looked his way regularly against one of the better 1v1 corners in the league despite a lack of success. Heavy targets force defenses to remain honest and keep them from shading to the other side of the field, suggesting the chances should be plentiful. It’s not all positive though as Bryant still only converted on 22.2% of his chances.
Bryant will continue to be tested over the next two weeks with a strong Broncos’ secondary in Week 2 and Patrick Peterson in Week 3. It’s been quite some time since his last matchup with either team, but Peterson had the upper hand back in 2014 when he held Bryant to 2 receptions on 10 targets. Likely to struggle for quantity yardage in the early weeks of the season, his role as a red zone threat will be a tell tale sign of whether or not he can withstand some of his more difficult matchups.
Week 1 was a disaster for the Seattle offense. They held the ball nearly 20 minutes less than Green Bay and ran just 48 plays compared to the Packers’ 74. Throughout the night the offensive line collapsed and there was no time for plays to develop, something that hurts Graham’s value. Despite the ability to work downfield or garner real chances in the red zone, Graham still played a major role in the passing game.
His seven targets account for nearly 25% of Wilson’s pass attempts. One of the concerns is that only one of his seven targets came inside the Packer 20-yard line. Seattle ran just five pass plays in the red zone and four different receivers were targeted: Tanner McEvoy, Tyler Lockett (twice), Richardson, and Graham. Far from the player he once was, Graham has regressed into being more of a TD-reliant name like many other tight ends. If Wilson is unable to find him in traffic, Graham’s value is significantly hurt.
Seattle returns home to take on San Francisco this week. On one drive alone, the 49ers left tight ends Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson wide open for touchdowns (Newton simply missed those chances). If San Francisco makes those same mistakes, Wilson has the arm to hit Graham when he can create for himself. Most important will be how Graham is utilized in the red zone. If he is only one of many options once there is traffic, it may be time to move on from the 30-year-old.