What We Saw: Week 1

QB List staff catches you up on everything you missed during the opening weekend of the 2020 NFL season.

Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers

 

The Cardinals played the 49ers tight last year in both their meetings, so it was no surprise that they were hanging around late into the game today against the defending NFC champs. It was a surprise to see the Cardinals pull ahead late and hold on for a road win, especially since they leaned pretty heavily on a defense that had been a weakness last season. The 49ers took advantage of rookie Isiah Simmons in coverage early to build their lead, but the Cardinals defense eventually settled in, and thanks to some poor plays by Jimmy Garappolo they were able to do enough to let their offense settle into the game. A heavy dose of Kyler Murray scrambles and DeAndre Hopkins receptions led the Cardinals to a 24-20 upset victory.

 

Arizona Cardinals

 

Quarterback

 

Kyler Murray: 26/40, 230  yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks| 13 carries, 91 yards, 1 TD

 

Kyler Murray is an interesting quarterback to watch in that he very rarely takes contact despite running frequently, both on scrambles and on rollouts to extend the play. His ability to slide or get out of bounds just before someone hits him is a great sign for his longevity in this league. As a passer today Murray was a bit disappointing, mostly relying on short routes to DeAndre Hopkins and check-downs, but it was clear that he has already developed chemistry with Hopkins. Aside from a miscommunication on what Murray expected to be a comeback route the two were able to connect early and often, and paired with Murray’s ability to extend plays and drives with his rushing ability this offense should be able to do some serious damage against a weaker defense. Murray’s touchdown run was a great 22-yard rush that saw him make Richard Sherman miss in the open field before beating the other defenders in a race to the end zone. Murray’s touchdown came on a short pass that Chase Edmonds ran into the endzone, and Murray’s lone interception came on a ball that was tipped by a defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. He did more damage as a rusher on broken plays than he did on designed runs, but those designed runs will raise his weekly floor in weeks like this one where he can’t get much going through the air. Murray seems poised to join the elite fantasy quarterbacks this season and can be started with confidence.

 

 

Running Backs

 

Kenyan Drake: 16 carries, 60 yards, 1 TD | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 5 yards

Chase Edmonds: 6 carries, 26 yards | 5 targets, 3 receptions, 19 yards, 1 TD

Chris Streveler: 1 carry, 3 yards

 

Kenyan Drake briefly left this game after landing awkwardly, but didn’t miss much time and looked fine after he returned. He didn’t see the workload many expected, which may have been due to a combination of his injury leading into the season and the 49ers’ strong run defense, but he was on the field in the red-zone and is clearly the lead back for the team. He punched in a 1-yard touchdown after DeAndre Hopkins was ruled down at the 1-yard line, and was on the field when Chase Edmonds scored his touchdown. Speaking of Edmonds, he shared the field with Drake a decent amount and may have a decent role in this offense. On the Edmonds touchdown, the Cardinals had three players in the backfield with Kyler Murray as Murray faked a handoff before finding Edmonds in the flat. Edmonds is a talented backup and is worth owning if for no other reason then he would be an incredibly valuable fantasy asset if Drake were to miss any time. Chris Streveler is technically a quarterback, but the Cardinals used him as a runner to pick up a short third-down by giving him a direct snap and letting him push through the line. He’s a big, physical runner and might be deployed more in this role going forward. He’s not fantasy-relevant himself, but keep an eye on him going forward to see if his role expands as that would cut into both the running backs’ and Murray’s rushing volume.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

DeAndre Hopkins: 16 targets, 14 receptions, 151 yards

Christian Kirk: 5 targets, 1 reception, 0 yards

Larry Fitzgerald: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 34 yards

Dan Arnold: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 21 yards

 

DeAndre Hopkins wasted no time reminding everyone that it has never mattered who his quarterback is, putting to rest any doubt that he may struggle to develop a connection with Kyler Murray. Hopkins was constantly open on basically the same route, which was a quick out-route on the left side of the field, and the Cardinals were happy to keep feeding their prized offseason acquisition. Hopkins would have had an even bigger day if he hadn’t been ruled down at the 1-yard line on what appeared to be a touchdown and remains one of the truly elite receivers in the NFL. I’m not sure I’d expect this target share every week, as it was clear the Cardinals wanted to pick on the cornerback opposite Richard Sherman, and the 49ers seemed happy to allow that matchup to involve Hopkins.

 

 

Maybe Hopkins will see less usage in matchups where the top corner on the other team follows him, but it’s not worth worrying about for fantasy. The other receivers were pretty quiet in fighting for the scraps left behind by Hopkins. Larry Fitzgerald got involved on a few wide receiver screens, including a beautiful spin move that was unfortunately for nothing as the play was called back on a blocking penalty, but the days of him commanding large target numbers are clearly over with Hopkins in town. Christian Kirk couldn’t get anything going, but he was targeted deep a few times and drew two defensive penalties. He’s still involved in the offense, his stats just won’t reflect it this week.

 

San Francisco 49ers

 

Quarterback

 

Jimmy Garappolo: 19/33, 259 yards, 2 TD’s, 0 INT, 3 Sacks | 1 carry, 9 yards

 

Jimmy Garappolo had a few good moments today, but the plays that most will remember are the badly thrown balls that ended up costing the 49ers late. He threw a pair of touchdowns to the running backs, both plays where all he had to do was throw a short pass and let his playmaker do the rest, and he missed a couple of key throws down the stretch, including a corner route by Kendrick Bourne that should have been an easy touchdown, and those misses ended up being the difference in the score. Garappolo is a fine quarterback in that he can execute the offense and limit his mistakes, although in this game he was fortunate not to throw an interception after several bad throws into coverage that turned his receivers into the defensive backs. He’s good enough to support fantasy-relevant teammates, but there are probably better options as far as fantasy quarterbacks go unless Garappolo finds himself in an ideal matchup.

 

Running Backs

 

Raheem Mostert: 15 carries, 56 yards | 5 targets, 4 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD

Jerrick McKinnon: 3 carries, 24 yards | 5 targets, 3 receptions, 20 yards, 1 TD

Tevin Coleman: 4 carries, 18 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards

Kyle Juscyzyk: 1 carry, 7 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 41 yards

 

In case anyone forgot, Raheem Mostert is fast. Mostert took a short pass from Garappolo, beat his man, and then ran away from the entire defense for a 76-yard score.

 

 

Mostert was the clear lead back for the 49ers, and if he continues to get around 20 touches a week he will be an easy start in fantasy leagues. Tevin Coleman was questionable in this game due to concerns about the air quality, and only recorded one touch in the first half. He got a little more involved in the second half, and I think he still has a solid role in this offense going forward assuming he doesn’t have to worry about the air quality in the future. Jerrick McKinnon was one of the best feel-good stories of Week 1, returning after missing two years with knee injuries to score a touchdown on a short reception. He was brought in to this offense to be a dynamic receiving threat out of the backfield, and as he works himself back into game shape his role should only increase. Fullback Kyle Juszcyk caught a wheel route for a big gain and continues to be a key real-life component of this offense. Mostert is the only one of the three I would start going forward, but McKinnon and Coleman are worth holding onto to see how their roles develop.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

George Kittle: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 44 yards

Kendrick Bourne: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 34 yards

Trent Taylor: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 7 yards

Jordan Reed: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 12 yards

Dante Pettis: 1 target, 0 receptions

 

George Kittle got off to a strong start, recording four receptions in the first quarter before leaving the game with a knee injury. Kittle returned, but he was much less involved in the offense and it looked like he was a step slower for the rest of the game. Being able to return to the game is obviously a good sign, but be sure to monitor Kittle’s injury going forward. With Brandon Ayuik and Deebo Samuel missing this game with injuries it was Kendrick Bourne who emerged as the 49ers’ top receiver. He could have had a much better game had Garappolo not missed him for an easy touchdown, and then again on an out-route that would have extended the 49ers’ final drive. He’s worth an add as Samuel is currently on IR and Ayuik is a rookie, but he’s probably not worth starting until we see a little more production out of him. The rest of the receivers were unimpressive, and it’s likely that until everyone gets healthy this passing offense will run more through the running backs.

 

-Dan Adams (@Dadams0323 on Twitter)

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