Stars of Week 1
QB: Russell Wilson, SEA: 31-35, 356 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs (3 carries, 29 yards, 0 TDs)
RB: Josh Jacobs, LV: 25 carries, 93 yards, 3 TDs
WR: Davante Adams, GB: 14 catches, 156 yards, 2 TDs
TE: Mark Andrews, BAL: 5 catches, 58 yards, 2 TDs
Before we dive into the awards for Week 1, just want to take a moment to express gratitude that we’re able to have an NFL season for 2020. Football didn’t look likely even a few months back, but advancements in rapid, daily COVID-19 testing and dedication by football players and their organizations to mask up has led us to the gift of the sport we all love. May the good work continue, and everyone please be safe out there.
Alright, now back to football. Looking at the honor roll for Week 1, we see chalk all the way through. Starting us off is Mr. Unlimited, aka Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Pete Carroll must have followed Seahawks Twitter this offseason, as he uncharacteristically agreed to “let Russ cook” against the Falcons. And cook Russ did, to the tune of 356 passing yards and 4 TDs. If Carroll leaves the chef’s hat on Wilson, then he will elevate to the Patrick Mahomes – Lamar Jackson tier 1 level as a fantasy QB. For the avoidance of doubt, Wilson already sits in tier 1 as a real life QB.
Moving to RB, second year stud Josh Jacobs found the end zone thrice against the Panthers in the Raiders’ first ever game repping Las Vegas. Jacobs sits solidly as an RB1, and should be started weekly.
We next move from an RB1 to a top two overall WR in Packers’ WR Davante Adams. Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target consistently produces mind-boggling receiving numbers despite being the only non-RB receiving option on the team who elicits fear in defenses. Adams is a special player and should only be out of lineups during the bye week.
We end with last year’s breakout tight end, Mark Andrews from the Baltimore Ravens. Andrews emerged as QB Lamar Jackson’s favorite target, catching 10 TDs in 2019. Continuing right where he left off, Andrews found the end zone twice in an easy win against the Browns, and he remains a weekly start as well.
Week 1 Takeaways – A Closer Look
Each week we’ll take a closer look at a handful of performances and sort out what such performances mean going forward.
- Cam Newton, QB – NE: 15-19, 155 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs (15 carries, 75 yards, 2 TDs)
Analysis: In an offseason unprecedented for many reasons, we take a closer look at a specific, football related element of the unique offseason - the QB movement. Philip Rivers took his dad-gummit backbreaking interceptions to the Colts, Jameis Winston ensured he’ll throw less than 30 INTs in 2020 by signing up to be Drew Brees’ backup, the G.O.A.T. left New England and the Hoodie to head to Tampa Bay, and former league MVP Cam Newton left Carolina to replace Tom Brady in New England. Perhaps the most fascinating new NFL partnership belongs to that of Belichick and Newton. Belichick possesses the league’s smartest coaching mind, and Newton presents a diametrically opposite skillset to that of Brady. With no preseason games, one could only guess how Belichick intended to deploy Newton. We got our first glimpse of Belichick’s plans in the Patriots’ opening week matchup versus the Dolphins, and what we saw shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Belichick has mastered the ability to tailor his game plans not only to attack the opponents’ weaknesses, but also to suit his players’ greatest strengths. Newton’s greatest strength as a QB has always been to keep defenses honest with his bullying rushing ability, and then take advantage of defenses’ heavier boxes to connect with his pass catchers. Against the Dolphins, Newton carried the rock 15 times, finding the end zone twice. In the passing game, he made high percentage throws but didn’t sling the ball around too much. As mentioned, Belichick will scheme his game plans based on opponents’ weaknesses, but the takeaway here with Newton is that he’s a high floor, low ceiling QB option due to his production in the rushing game. He should be good for 40+ rushing yards most weeks, with 8-10 rushing TDs this season. Combine that with modest passing numbers and you have yourself a low end QB1.
- Marlon Mack, RB – IND: 4 carries, 26 yards, 0 TDs (out for year)
Nyheim Hines, RB – IND: 7 carries, 28 yards, 1 TD (8 catches 45 yards, 1 TD)
Jonathan Taylor, RB – IND: 9 carries, 22 yards, 0 TDs (6 catches, 67 yards, 0 TDs)
Analysis: This week we will be examining three different team RB situations, starting with the Indianapolis Colts. Marlon Mack started at RB in the opener against the Jaguars, but unfortunately he suffered a torn Achilles and will be sidelined for the remainder of the year. With Mack out, Nyheim Hines and prized rookie Jonathan Taylor shared carries, with both backs playing pivotal roles in the passing game as well. Looking at the snap count, Hines took the field for 39 plays to Taylor’s 26. How will the Colts’ backfield play out as we move forward? The Colts spent a second round pick on Taylor for a reason – to become the team’s lead rusher. This will happen in short order, likely as early as week 2. Taylor runs a sub 4.4 40, but also has tremendous power and vision…he’s a stud. But expect Hines to continue to have a meaningful role in the backfield as well. Look for Taylor and Hines to share snaps somewhere along the lines of 55-45 in favor of Taylor, with Taylor taking a larger portion (but not all) of the early downs, and Hines taking most (but not all) of the third down snaps. Taylor’s the better runner, and Hines’s the better receiver, but both backs are capable in the other respective skill. As we move forward, Taylor becomes an RB2 and Hines a flex, both relatively safe players. In case Hines is available in your league, he should be the top waiver claim.
- Malcolm Brown, RB - LAR: 18 carries, 79 yards, 2 TDs
Cam Akers, RB – LAR: 14 carries, 39 yards, 0 TDs
Analysis: Cam Akers comprises a big part of the touted 2020 RB rookie crop, and the fantasy community has big expectations for the Florida state alumnus. However, it was longtime Rams’ backup Malcolm Brown who played the leading role at RB in the team’s opener against the Cowboys. Brown had a whale of a game, running with purpose, moving the chains and finding the end zone twice. Brown also outsnapped Akers by a 44 to 24 margin (per ESPN), so the coaching staff viewed Brown as the top option coming into the game. If you own Akers, do not panic! It’s only week 1, and take into account the fact that teams did not play any preseason games, nor did they have any offseason programs – so a ramp up period is to be expected. Also consider that the Rams would not have used a second round pick on Akers, and a third round pick on Darrell Henderson in 2019, if they saw Brown as their long term featured back. It’s fair to be concerned about Brown getting the goal line carries, but hang tight if you own Akers, as he will continue to get a larger share of the snaps. He’s too talented to take a back seat, and should pilfer the lead role from Brown as the season moves forward. In the mean time, snag Brown in case he’s available in your league, as he has near term value.
- Ronald Jones, RB – TB: 17 carries, 66 yards, 0 TDs
Leonard Fournette, RB – TB: 5 carries, 5 yards, 0 TDs
Analysis: Low and behold, perhaps Coach Bruce Arians wasn’t yanking our chains when he mentioned that Ronald Jones would remain the Bucs’ starting RB, even after the signing of Leonard Fournette. One game does not a season make, but the opening game against the Saints was a positive result if you own Jones, and not so much if you have Fournette. Per PFF, Jones outsnapped Fournette by a 33 to 9 margin, with LeSean McCoy also on the field for 25 plays. Jones looked quite spry on the field, with good push and gaining yards after contact. Fournette looked stiff in his few carries, but then again, we’re talking about a small sample size, and also consider that Fournette joined the Bucs roughly ten days ago. All things considered, I would rather have Jones than Fournette going forward. For my money, Jones is the better RB, and he also offers more value in the passing game. But this doesn’t mean that Jones is home free – Coach Arians gets grumpy fast, and he could put Jones – or any Bucs player – in the dog house on a moment’s notice. Moving forward, view Jones as an RB2 in good matchups, dropping to RB3/flex in tougher matchups. Fournette should remain on your benches until further notice. If you play in a shallow league and need the bench space, it’s fine to drop Fournette, but otherwise he’s worth keeping stashed in case the grounds change in Tampa Bay.
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR – GB: 4 catches, 96 yards, 1 TD
Analysis: The Green Bay Packers’ biggest weakness in 2019 was the lack of a viable second WR option for superstar QB Aaron Rodgers. Davante Adams has become a superstar WR for the team, but the cast that auditioned for the seconding leading role did not cut it. So, the yells and screams couldn’t have been louder for the Packers to use a top 2020 draft choice to select a WR. Given the incredible crop of WRs in the 2020 class, the suggestion made all the sense in the world. Well, the team picked a QB and RB with its top two selections, did not select a WR at all in the draft and essentially lit Packers nation on fire. Was the Packers’ front office correct that the team’s second WR already sat on the roster? It’s too early to tell after week 1, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling certainly believes so. Aaron Rodgers targeted the third year WR six times against the Vikings, connecting with MVS four times for 96 yards, with one of those receptions a TD. Is this a sign of things to come, or just another peak with an accompanying deep valley to follow? MVS’ history doesn’t bode well for expecting consistency. In 2019, MVS had one game with 100+ receiving yards, two at 50+ and the rest were under 50, many of which were substantially below. MVS also suffers from drops, which he had in the Vikings game despite the strong numbers. The verdict here – if you need a WR, then MVS is worth a flier. But he’s more of a grab and hold player, rather than a plug and play. We’ll know in a few weeks if he’s really turned the corner, or if inconsistent play will continue.
Rapid Fire Pickups
Each week we’ll throw out potential free agent pickups from each position for deeper leagues, in each case 1) someone who has NOT been featured above, and 2) a player available in more than 50% of leagues.
QB: Gardner Minshew, JAC
RB: Benny Snell, PIT
RB: Joshua Kelley, LAC
WR: Laviska Shenault, JAC
WR: Russell Gage, ATL
TE: OJ Howard, TB