(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)
Welcome to Week One, dear reader, I am Brennen Gorman and I will be in charge of our weekly Wax (increase in value) & Wane (decrease in value) column. These articles will focus on bubble and bench players that could make an impact this week, even if they might not make an impact every week, and on bubble and bench players that might not make an impact this week.
Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears [ESPN Ownership: 23%]: Mitch Trubisky has several pieces working in his favor that he lacked in 2018, namely Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, and Anthony Miller. New Head Coach Matt Nagy is expected to be aggressive in his offensive playcalling and Chicago will likely be working from behind in most games. Green Bay let up the 23rd most passing yards in 2017 with 236.8 per game. I believe this game should be a close one as Chicago’s defense may be able to stifle Green Bay’s offense, but if they don’t, Trubisky will be letting it fly.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars [ESPN Ownership: 11%]: Jacksonville lead the league in rushing attempts with 527 attempts, yet the team the team also threw the ball 527 times (they also had the most amount of offensive snaps). The New York Giants allowed the second most passing yards last year (4,038) and allowed the most amount of passing touchdowns (32). While New York’s offense has improved with Odell Beckham Jr.‘s return, its defense should still be exceedingly beatable even with several key additions ( and healthy players). Even with the loss of Marqise Lee, Bortles should throw the ball well enough to be a relevant play in Week One.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks [ESPN Ownership: 98%]: Despite finishing 2017 as the league’s top quarterback, Russell Wilson is in for some regression in 2018. In Week One, Seattle will be utilizing a running game more frequently, led by Chris Carson and 2018 first round pick Rashaad Penny. Moreover, Doug Baldwin is already dealing with a knee injury and while he may play, his effectiveness could be limited. Wilson uses his legs to prop up his value, but if Denver is able to keep him in check, Wilson is looking at an incredibly average week.
James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers [ESPN Ownership: 80%]: The ship has largely sailed on James Conner whose ownership jumped 67% this week in the wake of the news that Le’Veon Bell could continue sitting out. Even if Bell reports today, Conner should still be in line for a start on one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses. Although he will not get the carries that Bell would, he should receive enough work to be worthy of a flex stream in Week One.
Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers [ESPN Ownership: 76%]: From footnote to starter largely in part to Ronald Jones‘ struggles, Peyton Barber is set atop Tampa Bay’s depth chart. Ryan Fitzpatrick is at the helm while Jameis Winston serves his suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy and there is a budding star in Chris Godwin to compliment superstar Mike Evans. There should be plenty of work for Barber against New Orleans, with his only threat for carries being Jacquizz Rodgers. New Orleans should again have an average rushing defense, Barber has RB2 upside this week.
Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins [ESPN Ownership: 98%]: After the trade of Jay Ajayi and three successful weeks near the end of last season (out of five starts), Kenyan Drake‘s stock skyrocketed in the offseason. Drake reportedly will see 15-20 carries a week, the bulk of which I would expect depends on how far out of the game Miami is each week. Tennesee had one of the most effective defensive lines, with their defense only letting up 1,420 rushing yards all season (4th best in the league). Expect Tennesee to stifle Miami, forcing them to throw early and limiting Drake’s effectiveness in Week One.
Waxing Wide Receivers
Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers [ESPN Ownership: 92%]: Right now, Devin Funchess, is only getting started in 30% of leagues. Funchess is the top receiver in Carolina and should see comparable targets to last season (112), even an uptick if Carolina uses Christian McCaffery as a more traditional back now that Jonathan Stewart has moved on. Dallas let up 2,179 yards and 20 touchdowns to wide receivers last year and should provide a soft matchup for Funchess as WR2 in Week One.
Allen Hurns, Dallas Cowboys [ESPN Ownership: 72%]: On the other end of the game, Allen Hurns is set to be the top receiving threat in Dallas (and the team’s only receiver with significant experience) and should be Dak Prescott‘s first look in the red zone. Despite Dallas’ run-first offense, Prescott will need to throw the ball and when he does, the Week One targets will come up Hurns. There is a sneaky WR2 upside to Hurns this week.
Waning Wide Receivers
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs [ESPN Ownership: 99%]: While Tyreek Hill finished as the league’s fourth-best wide receiver in 2017, he did so through extreme boom or bust earning a whopping 80% of his points in eight games. Although Hill performed well against the Chargers last season, the Chargers let up the third least amount of receiving yards (3,156) and are returning a unit that should again be stout against the pass. Patrick Mahomes has sky-high expectations and should throw much more often, but be wary of Hill when starting him (you should be starting him), but expect WR2 production this week.
Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns [ESPN Ownership: 98%]: Jarvis Landry is being started in 76% of leagues, buoyed largely by a captivating 2017 season in Miami. In Cleveland, he will have a better quarterback and receivers around him, but Landry could well end up as a WR3 in Week One if Josh Gordon eats most of the shares and Antonio Callaway takes some as well. Landry’s risk is more from potential use and against a stiff Pittsburgh pass defense – he could be boom or bust, hedging the toward a bust.
Waxing Tight Ends
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts [ESPN Ownership: 89%]: Post-drafts, Jack Doyle is the tenth most owned tight-end and fringe start in most leagues (started in 52% of leagues). Doyle has a chance to truly break out into superstardom with Andrew Luck back. Doyle had the fifth highest catch percentage (74% on 108 targets) and should continue to be in the mix for Indianapolis. Week One against a subpar Cincinnati defense should do much to boost Doyle’s fantasy value.
Waning Tight Ends
Evan Engram, New York Giants [ESPN Ownership: 97%]: Odell Beckham Jr. is back this season, Sterling Shepard is healthy, and Saquon Barkley is New York’s freshly minted budding star — Evan Engram has a lot more internal competition than last season for targets. If New York opts to block more with Engram, his value would continue to dip. Beyond a questionable target share, Engram is only recently out of concussion protocol so New York may try and ease him back into play. There are plenty of question marks that downgrade Engram’s value in Week One.
Tennesee Titans D/ST [ESPN Ownership: 54%]: The Titans were an average defense in 2017 and were serviceable in all but five weeks. Their first draw is against what is expected to be a hapless Miami offense with no clear offensive star to take charge. In Week One, Tennessee should be viewed as a high floor, low ceiling play.
Patriots D/ST [ESPN Ownership: 88%]: Against a potent Houston offense lead by Deshaun Watson, Sunday’s game in Foxborough should be a shootout. Although New England’s defense had a revolutionary second half compared to their first half, the risk that Houston puts up 35+ points dampens the unit’s Week One value significantly.