Smart, level-headed fantasy owners should always take the results from NFL Week 1 with a grain of salt, good or bad, especially for years that don’t involve preseason action.
The general rule of thumb: If you perceive a player to be great all season, he’ll likely live up to that standard in relatively short order; and if you view a fantasy asset as overvalued, chances are this narrative will play out, as well.
So, don’t sweat it too much, especially if a Week 1 defeat gives you a premium spot on the waiver wire (the following Wednesday).
Of course, there are other benefits to dealing with assets which fall short of expectations in the early going.
Their trade value might have softened a bit, to the point where another owner can swoop in and reap the benefits of a surprising September swap.
BATSBY Sports offers up seven diminished players who will likely be attainable later in the week, via trade or free-agent acquisitions; and trust us, you’ll want all seven on your roster as the weeks and months progress.
BUCCANEERS QB TOM BRADY
By any metric, Brady (239 yards passing, 2 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Saints) looked painfully ordinary in his Bucs debut.
If it wasn’t for the miscommunications on downfield routes, or the horrible placement of sideline balls, the future Hall of Famer generally appeared old and slow in the pocket for long stretches of Sunday’s game.
That’s the bad news.
On the positive front, Brady’s chemistry issues with the Tampa Bay pass-catchers will surely improve over time; and it’ll be a lot easier to throw downfield when Mike Evans (one catch vs. New Orleans) can be a full go on his tender hamstring.
Plus, it’s hard to fathom that Leonard Fournette (19 total yards) and Rob Gronkowski (2 catches, 11 yards) won’t have clearly defined roles in the Bucs offense. They’re too good to be this invisible all the time; and they’re playing for a coach (Bruce Arians) who will never take his foot off the proverbial ‘gas,’ when attacking opposing defenses.
Here’s one more thing to celebrate: Brady’s Bucs will encounter some of the NFL’s softest pass defenses (based on last year’s numbers); and climate-wise, Tampa Bay might not have an inclement-weather game all season.
COLTS RB NYHEIM HINES
We never cheer for injuries in this game, out of respect for the players (who earn every cent of their paychecks) … and the cruel karmic fate that often comes with being a jerky pundit.
That aside, Hines couldn’t be in a better situation with the Colts, earning a battlefield promotion to No. 2 spot on the depth chart (the result of Marlon Mack’s season-ending injury) and likely serving as Indy’s second-best passing option (after T.Y. Hilton).
On Sunday, Hines accounted for 73 total yards and two touchdowns, off merely 15 touches. Within that goodness, he posted terrific tallies with catches (eight) and targets (eight) — leading all running backs in both categories.
The North Carolina State product also looked faster and more decisive than last year, which can only help Hines’ chances of becoming the AFC South’s version of Austin Ekeler.
WASHINGTON WR TERRY MCLAURIN
Sorry to be a Debby Downer here, but fantasy owners shouldn’t expect a ton of flex-worthy mileage from tailback Peyton Barber (29 total yards, 2 TDs vs. Philly) and tight end Logan Thomas (4 catches, 37 yards, 1 TD), moving forward.
Consequently, if anyone’s destined to enjoy a breakout campaign within Washington’s so-so offense, it’s McLaurin — the second-year speedster with the built-in rapport with quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (teammates at Ohio State).
The stats from Sunday (5 catches, 7 targets, 61 yards) were largely benign; and as such, savvy fantasy GMs should pounce on McLaurin’s enhanced availability, especially if the current owner seeks a lateral upgrade at running back or quarterback.
Why so high on McLaurin?
In his rookie season, Scary Terry collected seven-plus targets eight times, corralled five-plus catches six times, cracked the 100-yard threshold three times and found the end zone seven times.
What’s more, McLaurin scored a touchdown in consecutive outings three times in 2019.
RAIDERS TE DARREN WALLER
Fourteen different tight ends (including Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz) scored at least one touchdown over the weekend, a high number compared to most season openers.
Waller didn’t reach the end zone against the Panthers but still posted top-five tallies with catches (six) and targets (eight) among his positional brethren — which should be a regular occurrence throughout the year.
So, why not buy at a somewhat lower price right now?
Raiders QB Derek Carr completed 73 percent of his passes on Sunday, and it’s only a matter of time before the touchdown distribution shifts slightly from tailback Josh Jacobs (139 total yards, 3 TDs vs. Carolina) to the club’s best pass-catcher.
****Of his final 11 games last year, Waller (90 catches, 117 targets, 1,145 yards, 3 TDs last year) owned solid averages of five catches, 72 yards and 0.3 TDs.
****For that same stretch, Waller enjoyed a catch-to-target ratio of 71 percent.
****The 2020 Raiders draw the Browns, Bucs, Chiefs, Jaguars, Falcons and Colts, comprising some of last year’s most forgiving defenses against tight ends.
****The front office inexplicably passed on Alabama wideout Jerry Jeudy in the April draft. The upside to that mistake: Waller should be a healthy lock for another campaign of 90 catches and 115-plus targets.
BROWNS RB NICK CHUBB
It’s quite astounding, really.
On Sunday, the Browns’ high-profile backfield tandem of Nick Chubb (66 total yards) and Kareem Hunt (81 total yards) cumulatively averaged 5.74 yards per carry against the Ravens … and the club still lost by 32 points.
That’s some next-level mismanagement from the coaches, in terms of concocting a balanced attack and then subsequently letting a game that started out promising devolve into an unwatchable blowout in the second half.
Which brings us to this: With Hunt outpacing all Browns playmakers in total touches (17), there might be a temptation to assume he’s Cleveland’s No. 1 back for September and beyond; but just look at the numbers.
Chubb collected 20-plus touches 10 different times last year; and there was no discernible drop-off from Weeks 1-15 then, when Chubb averaged 120 total yards and 0.6 touchdowns over a 14-game span.
Bottom line: New head coach Kevin Stefanski obviously merits time to figure out how to properly feed the mouths of Cleveland’s many playmakers. (Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. combined for eight meaningless catches).
However, it shouldn’t require many brainstorming sessions to realize Chubb’s potential greatness every Sunday.
BILLS WR JOHN BROWN
Brown enjoyed a robust outing against the Jets, collecting six catches, 10 targets and 70 yards and one touchdown.
But ay the rub: Brown should have the benefactor of a second scoring pass from Bills quarterback Josh Allen (above clip) … who inexplicably missed the wide-open Brown by a mile on a bootleg pass.
In other words, go ahead and assume the Brown owner in your league didn’t see Allen’s woeful miss in the red zone. Find out if they’re still viewing Brown as a relative afterthought in the Buffalo offense (summertime Average Draft Position: 155th overall).
Of course, that’s not the smartest idea.
Last year, Brown was one of only 20 wideouts to post eight games of eight-plus targets … and seven outings of seven catches, 95 yards and/or one touchdown.
LIONS RB D’ANDRE SWIFT
As a Detroit native and lifelong Lions supporter, Swift’s game-winning catch/drop against the Bears absolutely killed my Sunday.
There’s really no excuse for a sure-handed back like that squandering the most golden of opportunities in the final seconds — especially with no fans in the Ford Field stands.
Moving on, though, it won’t take long for Swift to find redemption in the Detroit offense. Yes, Adrian Peterson looked great in Honolulu blue, accounting for 114 total yards (93 rushing) in his first game with the new club.
However, it’s just not a sustainable model of fantasy success, considering how the Lions coaches are heavily invested in the under-25 development of Swift (23 total yards, 1 TD on Sunday) and Kerryon Johnson (only seven carries vs. Chicago).
Does that mean Peterson will be relegated to the bench sooner than later?
No, it’s merely the inescapable fact that neither Peterson nor Johnson can match Swift’s every-down versatility, especially in key passing situations.
So, while other short-sighted fantasy owners focus on Swift’s gut-wrenching drop, let’s take the positive here:
The kid remained on the field during crunch time. Plus, Swift ran a picture-perfect route before the infamous drop.