Saquon Barkley, Cortland Sutton, Nick Bosa, Soloman Thomas, Bruce Irvin, Tavon Young, Marquise Blair. What do you all these names have in common? I’m sure you already know. All of these players tore their ACLs on Sunday. The seven of them join a dozen other names that had already lost their 2020 season to a torn ACL (Blake Jarwin, Jalen Hurd, and Kelvin Harmon, to name a few). Many analysts have predicted that the waiver wire will be of the utmost importance this fantasy season. That prophecy seems to be coming true. Week 2 was certainly a rough weekend for everybody. Your fantasy football team may look quite different now than it did just two weeks ago when the season started. But, we must carry on and adapt.
Saquon, my Saquon
While I did not include Barkley or Sutton in this column, I would like to briefly speak on them. Barkley was the consensus #2 dynasty asset (in 1 QB leagues) this preseason. Now his value is much harder to pin down. Running backs already have short shelf lives, whether because of injuries or contract situations.
A season-ending injury takes away a good chunk of their window to perform. Believe it or not, though, I don’t think Barkley’s value should drop much at all. Sure, if you’re a contender, it makes sense to trade him now for somebody like Ezekiel Elliott or Alvin Kamara. However, if you’re looking towards the future, Barkley is still a top running back. Next year will be Barkley’s fourth-year in the league, and the Giants are likely to pick up his fifth-year option. That gives him at least two more years on the Giants before potentially hitting free agency. Barkley’s talent also makes him a great candidate for a long and successful career, a la Adrian Peterson, who is still playing and (sometimes) fantasy-relevant at the ripe age of 35.
Cortland Sutton is not quite in the same boat. A talented player for sure. But the Denver Broncos used two early draft picks on wideouts this year. If Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler can step up to the plate in their rookie year, Sutton might not have the volume to be a top receiver when he comes back next season. It is an unfortunate time to sell as Sutton’s value has dropped quite a bit. He might be worth shopping to a team in a rebuild if you can get a solid veteran in return.
But alas, this is not the “Weekly Injury Report” (though there were enough players this week to make up a ‘Nate’s Nine’), but rather the “Weekly Stock Report”. So we’ll carry on.
We were blessed with a great Sunday Night Football game this week. The over/under set at just 45 total points, the two teams combined for 65 points in an unexpected shootout. The game had everything we could have asked for and ended with a poetic goal-line stuff by the Seahawks. But the biggest takeaway was just how good a healthy Cam Newton looked. Against the Seahawks defense, Newton had 444 total yards of offense. He accounted for 3 TDs (1 pass, 2 rush), and had a completion rate of 68%. Josh McDaniels did a good job of mixing in pass plays with designed QB runs (well until the final play) to keep the defense on their heels, and it led to Newton’s fifth game with over 400 yards of total offense.
We’ve always known that Cam has been able to run the ball and get the ball in the end zone when near the goal line. Sunday, he showed off improved accuracy and decision making. Julian Edelman had a career-high 179 receiving yards. The team was able to move down the field while playing from behind. Cam Newton and Bill Belichick have found early success, and I see no reason at all to assume that it won’t continue to equate to significant fantasy football production.
There were a lot of questions marks for the Jacksonville Jaguars going into the 2020 season. Leonard Fournette was unceremoniously released. This leaves Ryquell Armstead and Devin Ozigbo as the two candidates for the lead role out of the backfield. A couple of weeks later and neither one of them has even taken a snap yet. James Robinson, an undrafted free agent out of Illinois State, has become the talk of Duval County. Against the Titans on Sunday, he went for over 100 yards (6.4 ypc) and caught three of his four targets. After that individual performance and the overall performance of the Jaguars offense, Robinson is looking like the real deal. Not only does he look like a potential league winner this year, but he might just be good enough to keep the job going into next year’s season.
The RB9 in Week 2, Robinson doesn’t have any competition in the backfield as of now and is getting looks in the passing game. His value will only increase over the next four weeks as the Jaguars have a running back-friendly schedule. He’s a great buy now.
There was a lot of Jonnu Smith hype this offseason; I didn’t believe it. I mean, I understood why people were excited. Smith is uber-athletic and made some explosive highlight plays last year, but the efficiency had to come down. I was wrong. It doesn’t matter what expected regression should or should not have happened already. Jonnu Smith and the Tennessee Titan’s offense are an efficient group. It’s similar to the Baltimore Ravens offense, where the players don’t need a ton of volume to be fantasy-relevant.
The absence of A.J. Brown only further drives up Smith’s production as the Titan’s, and Ryan Tannehill look for playmakers in the passing game. Smith had a 64-yard catch and run against the Jaguars on Sunday (the longest play by any tight end this year). His ability to gain yards in space sets him apart from the ‘normal’ player at his position. Jonnu Smith has gone ahead and stamped his name onto the list of top TEs we want on our fantasy football teams.
Rookies have never been known to be models of consistency in fantasy football. Clyde Edwards-Helaire should not be expected to be the outlier. All rookies have ups and downs as they get up to speed in the league, even on top teams like the Chiefs. On Sunday, Edwards-Helaire was not the only member of the Chiefs offense to struggle. The Chiefs had to go to overtime to beat the Chargers (with a surprise start by a rookie QB) and still only put up 23 points.
Nonetheless, Edwards-Helaire saw improvement as he was more utilized in the passing game, six catches on eight targets, and was trusted with more opportunities to pass-block for Patrick Mahomes. Though the expectations are high for this first-rounder, I wouldn’t hold his 38 yards rushing against him. The Chargers have a good defense and always play the Chiefs tough. The production will come for Edwards-Helaire, he’s only played two NFL games so far.
One of my favorite pickups this offseason was Michael Gallup, who out-targeted Amari Cooper on a per-game basis last year. The Cowboys defense getting worse, and Mike McCarthy coming in, Gallup looked poised for an incredible year for fantasy football. So far, he hasn’t been able to live up to that hype. Week 1, his performance was tainted by the dramatic showing that Jalen Ramsey put on for the refs, leading to an offensive pass interference call at the end of the game.
In the Week 2 shootout versus the Atlanta Falcons, Gallup only managed two receptions for 58 yards. It’s still early in the season, but Gallup has been out-targeted by rookie CeeDee Lamb in both games and has been a disappointment for fantasy owners. For now, I’m still holding. The talent is there, and the volume should be there for all three of Cooper, Gallup, and Lamb. The Cowboys have some good matchups coming up, and Gallup would do well to take full advantage.
In a Thursday night performance that sticks out as one of the least efficient of all-time, AJ Green only pulled in three of his 13 targets. Despite having 227 Air Yards against the Browns, Green finished with only 29 receiving yards. For Green, it was certainly one to forget. The fact that Joe Burrow looked to Green often shows promise for those who have him on their fantasy football teams. Statistically, this game was an outlier, and if given the same volume again, the results would be much improved. That’s what we hope for. We hope that it’s just the result of a weird offseason and a quarterback not being on the same page as his wide receiver. Some may say Green is washed up and just too old at this point. Still, Green is only 32 and was getting open. He just wasn’t able to consistently produce with those opportunities. Week 3 brings a matchup against the Eagles. Green and Burrow should have every opportunity to show off an improved rapport.
One of my favorite statistics from Week 2 is that Kirk Cousins scored a whopping -19.98 fantasy points in Scott Fish Bowl X. If you’re not familiar with this year’s scoring for the tournament, quarterbacks lose points for incompletions as well as sacks. So not only was Kirk Cousins bad, he was really bad. While part of it was the Colts defense, it was also that the Vikings offense is not set up for success.
First of all, the defense is bad. It is hard to stick to a run-first gameplan if you’re chasing points early. Second, losing Stefon Diggs was a much bigger deal than the team would have liked you to believe. Justin Jefferson has not been able to fill that hole, and Thielen is only capable of so much. I believe Sunday’s performance has less to do with Kirk Cousins, but rather the entire offense. Either way, it’s not good for fantasy football. Therefore, I’m staying away from Cousins going forward until I see some significant changes in Minnesota.
He was touted as a top running back this year. However, Joe Mixon is currently the RB34 on the season, granted it’s only been two weeks, but it is concerning. The problem isn’t just with Mixon’s production through the first two games, but also with his opportunities on the field. When the Bengals start chasing points and have to move the ball quickly, Zac Taylor gives snaps to Giovanni Bernard rather than Mixon, and nobody is quite sure why. This is a bad sign for Mixon in 2020, as the Bengals are expected to be playing from behind often this season. Don’t forget about the Bengals work-in-progress offensive line either.
Bernard’s presence in the passing game limits Mixon’s upside, and the all-too-common game script of playing from behind furthers that disadvantage. Mixon has talent, but his situation is not as golden as it looked in the preseason. Mixon does have the recent contract extension giving him security going forward, but fantasy-wise he might continue to struggle as the Bengals try to find their feet this season.
The Entire 49ers Offense
Ouch. That really sums it up, doesn’t it? Everything that could go wrong for the 49ers on Sunday just about did. They did get out of MetLife Stadium with their first win of the season. It likely did not feel like a win once they were able to review their injury report. Not only did they lose top starters on their defensive line, but Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, and Tevin Coleman all left the game with lower-body injuries. Those players are expected to miss Week 3, at least. Nick Mullens will be the starting quarterback against the New York Giants. Mullens is not the quarterback to get Brandon Aiyuk up to speed in this offense, nor throw the ball down the field to Kendrick Bourne. Usually, that would be okay because the 49ers can win with running the ball and their stout defense. Even those things are now question marks.
Going forward, I would be wary of playing any offensive player on the 49ers. Jerick McKinnon is the best bet to lead the backfield in carries and also has receiving upside, making him the best fantasy football option right now. As long as Garoppolo is sidelined, playing any 49ers wideout would likely be ill-advised. Once he comes back, even George Kittle will be an iffy option if he hasn’t taken the appropriate amount of time off and completely healed. Proceed with caution.
It was a long weekend, and that called for a long column. I pray that this coming weekend will be much kinder to not only our fantasy football teams but the health of every single player out on those football fields. While it does suck for us to lose our first-round pick, it is much worse for every single player that has to go through the pain, the disappointment, and the hard recovery process that comes along with these injuries. While fantasy football is important, a player’s health (both physical and mental) trumps our game about a game.
The waiver wire is already bare this year, and I hope you had lady luck on your side when you woke up on Wednesday morning to see which of your claims went through. If you have a bench spot open right now due to injury, I would go ahead and fill it with the first backup running back you can find. Just about every player on an NFL roster right now has a chance of being fantasy-relevant for at least one week this year.
Once again, I’ll preach to be over-prepared; this year, it matters more than ever before. Make sure you’re staying on top of the news and rumblings surrounding your players. Dive deep into the rosters to see who is the next man up and who had the coaching staff’s eye during trying camp. Don’t get caught up in the past injuries and disappointments; keep both eyes forward and focus on how to win your next matchup.
Come see me here
So hit me up on Twitter @NateNFL if you have any questions on who to pick up, who to start/sit, and of course who you should be keeping an eye on as the rosters start to get thinner. My DMs are always open and I love to interact with others in this community. You can also find more of my work here on DynastyNerds.com, where I write for a number of different categories and also contribute to the site’s the Superflex rankings. I also co-host a podcast called Dynasty Rewind (@DynastyRewind) that has a weekly waiver wire show on Tuesday nights as well as a live podcast on Friday nights. Feel free to reach out to me or any of the other guys on the show with any of your questions.
I’m staying optimistic and hoping for less ACL tears and more shootouts in Week 3. Be quick, be smart, be patient. Just don’t be the last buffalo to the watering hole.
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