Ten Things We Learned in Week 2 (Fantasy Football)
Phew….. this was a rough one. If you follow the games closely, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There were a massive amount of negative storylines flying off the shelves this week, and we will get to a couple of them in this list. Between the injuries and the very tragic story from Sunday Night, this week was a tough reminder of the human element to the game we all know and love. Let’s check out the ten things we learned this week, with a little bit more specific examples as sample sizes increase:
1. Injuries Will Always be the Worst
Fantasy football is a blast, but it’s also a game for most of us. These players put their entire life into this and sacrifice their body and brain to try and win games. Injuries are going to happen every season, but try to remember that even when it feels familiar, it is absolutely crushing for the people involved – and they are people, not just fantasy roster spots. They are human beings that worked their butts off to be in this position just to have a massive chunk of time taken away from them on a freak play. Seeing Saquon Barkley go down for what appears to be the rest of the season was gut-wrenching from a fantasy standpoint, but reading the relentless injury updates during the early games was flat out tough. The fallout will be covered more below, but I just want to leave this here.
2. Summer, Fall….. then…. Jonathan Taylor SZN
If you follow me on Twitter or caught Jeff Greenwood’s Fantasy Day Trader series, then you were right there in my living room going nuts for JT as he crossed the century mark in his first game as the Colts’ bell cow. He finished the contest with 101 yards rushing and found the endzone on a strong burst through the tackles. He was targeted only twice, but the running backs weren’t utilized in the passing game much at all this week. Nyheim Hines (or Nyheim Hinesight as I coined him) was an afterthought and should remain on your bench until we see more security in their gameplan. Taylor looked great and the Colts clearly view him as a do-it-all back, which is more valuable than any stat could be in his first week. The modern NFL makes it difficult for players to be true three-down workhorses, but Taylor appears to be the newest one to emerge and should be coveted in dynasty leagues. I’m all in on Taylor as a top ten back for the rest of the season, but it’s safe to assume his buy-low window is closed in most leagues.
3. Joe Burrow is Going to be Special
Superflex leagues should be on notice because Joe Burrow isn’t just another rookie. From the second I watched him play in the SEC championship game, I have been talking up his future to anyone that would listen. Burrow is one of the better prospects I’ve seen since I’ve been a football nerd, but for a different reason than most that emerge later in the scouting process. When you watch him play, it just looks like he’s playing at a different speed than other players on the field, and he doesn’t seem to be phased by anything at all. It’s tough to quantify, but he has something that stands out in a way that resembles Mahomes, Russ, Brady, Rodgers, etc. He casually tossed over 60 pass attempts on Thursday night and was making throw after throw that most vets took a long time to master. He will take his lumps behind that Cincinnati offensive line for sure, but the sky is the limit if they can build around him. I think Burrow could be the next great quarterback in this league, and I’d be aggressive in targeting him in dynasty leagues if you can.
4. The Russell Gauge is Flashing its Highest Level in History
I don’t blame you for closing the browser because of that pun, but you have to admit it works. Russell Gage was on the watch list for a while now since Mo Sanu left Atlanta, but it’s time to roster him if you have space. After a triple-digit performance in week one, Gage caught another touchdown on the back of six receptions and eight targets. The entire Atlanta passing attack is worth considering in your lineup every week, but Gage should be available on a lot of waiver wires. He will likely become a hot commodity during bye week season, so it might be worth snatching him up now if you have space. Ridley and Julio are going to be the top dogs in that offense of course, but both Gage and Hayden Hurst have value that should be considered after a solid two-week sample size.
5. The Browns Backfield Can Coexist
Thursday was fun, especially if you started Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt in your fantasy lineup. They both went crazy in different ways, but it was obvious just how talented their backfield can be when the two of them get it going. The concerns about Chubb appear to be warranted based on his ADP, but that doesn’t mean he’s a complete bust. He’s way too good to be anything but productive, it’s just a matter of how productive. Hunt was a top-five fantasy back at one point, so it should be expected that Cleveland would get him on the field. The key to their production is the same as most running backs in fantasy, it’s dependent on their overall yardage output, goal-line opportunities, and offensive line play. I’m sure there’s a bar in Cleveland already inventing the “1-2 Punch” as a drink on their menu, and I don’t blame them. This could be a lighter version of the Kamara/Ingram days if Baker can be consistent, but you’re starting these two if you have them. I still don’t buy the Browns as a contender for the division title, but the fantasy impact should be fairly positive most weeks.
6. The Late Round TE Strategy is Paying Off
Every year the mid-round tight end strategy is one that a lot of people despise, but a lot of others embrace. Last year we saw OJ Howard, Evan Engram, and Vance McDonald blow up a lot of teams and this season a handful of players crept up to uncomfortable levels of ADP. If you didn’t snag Kelce, Kittle, or Andrews – hopefully you held off until the late rounds. Both Jonnu Smith and Mike Gesicki balled out in a big way, and Noah Fant turned in another TE1 performance. There appears to be a large subset of quality tight ends that are emerging, which is a bit of a pivot from previous seasons. Hold on to these three if you snagged them on waivers because this should be a trend, not a flash in the pan.
7. The Cowboys are Confusing
I was all over the Cowboys passing game from a fantasy standpoint and I still expect big things from their offense, but I’m confused. The matchup with Atlanta this past weekend was bizarre, to say the least, and it doesn’t get any more clear in the box score. If you would’ve told me there would be 950 combined yards and 79 combined points racked up in this game, I would’ve bet my bank account that all of the big names delivered for fantasy owners. Ryan, Ridley, Dak, and Hurst certainly did, but Zeke was a letdown and Julio was a complete ghost. Prescott fell into the endzone three times which must’ve added some grey hairs to Zeke drafters, and Dalton Schultz will be a painful reminder to all of us (especially Mike Wright) that Blake Jarwin caught a bad break and could’ve been a stud. I’m still not totally sure how to view the Cowboys since a lot of the production was in garbage time that turned into winning time, and there’s not a lot of continuity in the target distribution. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb will all have their games, but right now I haven’t made up my mind about who should emerge as a fantasy value. You’re starting most of these guys week in and week out, but there may be some rough times ahead compared to preseason expectations.
8. It’s Time to Respect Ryan Tannehill
Serious question: why did everyone avoid Tannehill as an obvious late-round QB target? He completely dominated last year from a fantasy standpoint, and almost nothing changed about his situation except his net worth and the Titans confidence in him skyrocketing. After a four-touchdown day this past Sunday, it’s time to consider him as a top tier streamer or an every-week starter most of the time unless the matchup is brutal. His efficiency should remain towards the top of the league because of Tennessee’s tendency to use play-action and Derrick Henry‘s tendency to be a monster, and his rushing ability adds to an already solid floor. I’m rooting for Tanny as all of us should because he belongs in fantasy lineups.
9. Diontae Johnson is a Thing
The Steelers pass catchers have quietly been solid through two weeks, and the leader of the offseason hype train is emerging in a big way. Johnson had a brutal first half in week one which covered up his solid production in the second half. In week two he went all out 2019 Chris Godwin and notched nearly 20 fantasy points while making Sportcenter level catches for his quarterback. Johnson has 23 targets through two games which are more than JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington combined, and his air yards numbers are in the top ten of the whole NFL. Johnson is about to explode, so if you have someone still on the fence about him as a fantasy asset, go ease that person’s mind by stealing a player on the verge of a breakout.
10. Tyler Higbee is The Rams TE1
I cheated a bit here… I didn’t learn this on Sunday, because I already laid it out for the #FootClan four months ago. Nothing about the situation I laid out has changed, except maybe a few skeptics crossing the line into Higbee-ville. After an absolute monster game and the overall TE1 finish for week two, I’m just going to leave this here and drop the mic. Let’s hope it continues because my victory lap on Twitter will be electric.