I hope everyone has caught their breath. Week 1 did not disappoint. Unless of course, you played against Tyreek Hill or Michael Thomas, in which case, you probably lost. Also, can we take a moment to acknowledge the New Orleans – Tampa Bay game? Every fantasy relevant player went off, sending point totals into outer space. Aaron Rodgers did Aaron Rodgers things, capping off the Sunday action with a Packers win, relieving all those owners who spent an early pick on a QB. Finally, Monday showed us that Todd Gurley is still a great football player. I can’t predict what will happen in week 2, but I can tell you who are risers and fallers, so let’s get to it!
Patrick Mahomes – QB (KC):
Chances are if your team name is Rollin’ Wit Mahomies you did alright this week. And roll he did, posting a 256-4 stat line, finding Tyreek Hill on two of those scores. Heading into week 1 many people were concerned about his matchup against the Chargers and their top 5 defense from a year ago in both points allowed and fantasy points scored. As the game progressed, we were reminded of his preseason connection with Tyreek Hill, and those concerns quickly disappeared. The Texas Tech product had a very efficient game, posting a 71.4% completion percentage with the 5th fewest dropbacks of QBs with at least 15 attempts. Combine the efficiency with Hill’s speed, Hunt and Kelce for relief and support, and he looks to have a safe floor moving forward. Speaking of moving forward, he has a mixed bag of defenses around the corner – KC plays the Steelers next, who looks solid on paper with help from the weather in week 1, then they get the 12th and 6th worst pass defense thus far with San Francisco and Denver. These are favorable matchups to start Mahomes in before he faces a stronger Jacksonville secondary in week 5.
Joe Mixon – RB (CIN):
Bellcow alert! Of all the risers and fallers thus far, I believe this is the safest bet. Joe Mixon was on the field for 78.6% of snaps against Indianapolis in week 1. With the exception of Gio Bernard’s lone rush attempt, the Oklahoma product took all rush attempts for the team, totaling 17 attempts for 95 yards and 1 score. Add in 5 receptions on 7 targets for 54 yards and fantasy owners were pleasantly surprised to have gone with this high draft pick. Only A.J. Green had more targets or receptions, with 1 a piece. If we continue to see this, Mixon will be a serious RB1 contender, especially in PPR leagues. Giovani Bernard was on the field for just 12 snaps, 8 of those being pass plays. He only saw 1 reception. I don’t want to overreact here because they were playing the Colts, the 2nd worst DST from 2017. Eventually, they will have tougher matchups, namely the Panthers and Falcons in weeks 3 and 4 respectively, and the game script will change to incorporate schemes for positive plays. Even still, when you find a standout running back in 2018 you get excited, and I am doing everything I can to get Mixon on my team right now.
Case Keenum – QB (DEN):
For years the Broncos receiving group has been in need of a QB, and they’re finally in luck. Supporting a WR1 (Thielen) and a WR2 (Diggs) last year, Keenum is rising and will be a welcomed breath of fresh air to both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Graded an 82.3 last season from Pro Football Focus, the Broncos take a huge step forward from their highest graded QB in 2017, Trevor Siemian at a grade of just 53. After Denver proved in week 1 they can run the ball, Broncos fans everywhere should be excited. Keenum’s first week wasn’t perfect, but good enough to be the QB13, going 25 of 39 for 329 yards and three TDs and INTs each. This is generally good news because Keenum finished as the QB14 last season, so if you were able to grab him off waivers as a replacement, you have a good sample size and a good floor when considering him as a starter. Moving forward he has three matchups against defenses in the bottom half of pass yds/gm allowed, so don’t be afraid to fire him up over QBs like Ryan, Carr, and Mariota. Per PFF, those three face a combined average 13th best pass D/ST over the next three weeks compared to Keenum’s 21st best.
Jay Ajayi – RB (PHI):
Head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday that Ajayi will be the “workhorse” going forward, rising up the depth chart, despite not technically starting in week 1’s matchup against the Falcons. He finished the first half of week 1 with only 3 carries, sending fantasy owners like myself into a frenzy after he went as the RB20 in ESPN PPR leagues. Ultimately, he accounted for 57.7% of the team’s rush attempts last week, scoring twice, and now looks poised to increase that percentage. The Eagles received Pro Football Focus’ #2 run-blocking offense, so a workhorse in this system will pay off big.
Last season Ajayi finished as RB36 in PPR leagues and you really never knew what was going to happen. Would he have 20+ attempts or less than 12 as he did in six games? He also only had 1 rushing score all year, as Corey Clement got a lot of the goal line work, and that scared some people heading into 2018. It scared me enough to bench him in Week 1, to see what happened before making any hardcore lineup commitment. Pederson said that with a clean bill of health we will “see him more”, and owners and Eagles fans alike will be hoping for a 2016-like season where he rushed 260 times and scored 8 TDs. He will see Tampa Bay and Indianapolis the next 2 weeks who have thus far been serviceable defenses against the run, with one week of sample size.
Derrick Henry – RB (TEN):
I proclaimed my concerns about Henry before the season started, citing his ceiling as a pass-catcher being virtually nonexisting. Through college and his two seasons in the NFL, he hasn’t caught more than 17 passes in a season. In two professional seasons he’s caught 13 and 11 balls and currently has 1 catch in 1 game, so you could say things are looking up if you’re an optimist. Looking past the pass-catching stuff, he has always had competition, first with DeMarco Murray and now with Dion Lewis. Lewis proved he could handle that last season in New England, who averaged 5 YPC on just 180 touches. Henry’s YPC went down from 4.5 his 1st year to 4.2 his 2nd, while his attempts went up from 110 to 176.
Against the Dolphins in Week 1, Lewis was on the field for 49 snaps to Henry’s 20. Lewis rushed 16 times for 75 yds at 4.7 YPC. Henry rushed 10 times for 26 yards. Lewis had five receptions for 35 yards on eight targets while Henry had a lone target, caught for five yards. Once again Derrick Henry is splitting the workload, not in his favor, and statistically doing so against someone better than himself. If you want to chase TD possibilities be my guest, but if not you should shop him now.
Sammy Watkins – WR (KC):
Did we not see this coming? Excluding last year in L.A., Watkins’ targets and receptions have reduced each year, and his TD count fluctuates. Yes, he was a beast in the red zone last year, scoring 7 of his 8 TDs from less than 10 yards out per PFF. Again, if you want to chase TDs be my guest, but in 2018 with the Chiefs, he has a better tight end and a QB with a rocket for an arm throwing deep bombs to the fastest player in the NFL. He could still get a few scores from close range, but his volume coupled with Pat Mahomes’ tendencies is the most concerning factor. Watkins has 11 targets in 2018, including the preseason, compared to Tyreek Hill’s 22. I like this stat line because in both the preseason and Week 1 Hill has been targeted twice as much. We know Mahomes has a cannon, and that big play ability seems more likely than Sammy Watkins being involved in the red zone, as we have seen since the preseason. 44% of Mahomes’ pass attempts in week 1 were 10+ yard targets, and Watkins saw just two of those. From 20+ yards out, Hill was targeted three times, amassing 64 yards compared to Watkins’, with no targets. Moving forward the sample size will grow and we can better predict an outcome for his season, but to date, there is no reason to expect Watkins can provide ROI on his ADP.
Jimmy Graham – TE (GB):
If owners want a return on their investment in Jimmy Graham this year, it’s going to come in the form of touchdowns and big play ability. By now, you know my stance on chasing touchdowns. That being said, I still think Graham will finish as a TE1, if for nothing more than poor TE involvement across the league. Graham has averaged 88 targets since 2015 with the Seahawks, which is 30 fewer than the Packers have averaged to their top tight end in the same timespan. In week 1 Green Bay had three total targets in the red zone, none going to Graham who had 4 total targets in the game. As the season progresses, especially if either Devante Adams or Randall Cobb see injuries, we could easily see a change here. Graham is athletic enough to play off the line and make big plays, and game scripts will change to get him involved if Rodgers’ top targets are sidelined. In the case of Graham, he is athletically gifted, but volume is the main concern. Look for TDs to offset the lack of volume here.