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Tue Sep 15th 2020

2020 Week One Review

Let Russ Cook!

NFL football is back! Given the circumstances of 2020, it was even more special to watch NFL games this weekend and watch to our dynasty season get underway. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

I had a mediocre week, personally. My dynasty teams finished 5-3 this week. Win or lose; it's a joy to watch football all weekend and cheer on my teams.

After following all of the games this week, here are my thoughts on what we learned after week one and its impact on our dynasty teams.

Week One Observations

Quarterbacks Cooking

  • This offseason, there was a lot of chatter about if Seattle would let "Russ cook." They sure did in week one, but he was not the only quarterback in what was thought to be a run-heavy offense to "cook" on Sunday. Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers were also cooking. Wilson and Rodgers scored 42 fantasy points by throwing four touchdowns and more than 300 yards. Josh Allen had his first 300-yard game of his career combined with one rushing touchdown and two passing touchdowns to score 35 fantasy points. One week cannot be called a trend, but one would hope these coaches can see what happens when these quarterbacks are unleashed and free from conservative run-first approaches. Hopefully, they let these studs cook!

Murky Backfields

  • A few backfields were murkier than expected, causing dynasty owners to reconsider the value of these players. Cleveland was pretty quickly pushed into a pass-heavy game script. Even so, Chubb owners were alarmed to see that Hunt had three more carries and five more targets than Chubb and fifteen more yards from scrimmage. Seattle was pretty far ahead of Atlanta by the middle of the third quarter, but it was still surprising to see Carlos Hyde had one more carry than Carson. Hyde had a touchdown on the ground while Carson had two through the air. Most expected a split backfield in Buffalo, and that's what they did. Singletary and Moss each had nine carries. Singletary had two more catches, but Moss had the touchdown catch. Most surprising to me was the split in New Orleans where Murray out carried Kamara 15 to 12, and he ran far better than Kamara too (48 yards compared to 16 yards). Kamara caught five passes compared to Murray's zero, and he scored both of the touchdowns, one on the ground and one in the air. Still, if it were not for the goal-line touches that turned to touchdowns, Murray would have had the better day. Finally, the Rams split time pretty evenly between Brown and Akers, but the 2015 undrafted free agent (Brown) looked significantly better than the 2020 second-round pick (Akers). These backfields could be a headache for dynasty owners a the start of the year. Hopefully, this is not the long-term plan of the coaches. If so, all of these players' dynasty value drops a little bit.

Early Target Distribution

  • It's only week one, but some teams' target distribution was quite surprising, whether wide or narrow. In the last week or two, I have been shopping my shares of DeAndre Hopkins. I would not give him away, but I was willing to move him based on fears of him never having as much of a target share as he did in Houston. However, he was peppered with 16 targets and caught 14 passes for 151 yards in week one. If he gets this kind of workload in Arizona, I'll be very glad that I did not find a buyer before the season started. The Jets were expected to have a very narrow target tree with Crowder and Herndon leading the team. This expectation proved true in week one when Crowder had 13 targets and caught 7 for 115 yards and a touchdown, and Herndon has seven targets, catching 6 for a measly 37 yards. The rest of the team had 15 targets combined. As expected, the Packers funneled most targets to Devante Adams (17), and he turned them into a 14-catch, two-touchdown, 156-yard day. What was surprising, though, was that Marquez Valdes-Scantling was the second most targeted receiver (6) ahead of Lazard (4), whom everyone presumed would be Rodgers' number two. Other teams distributed the ball to three wide receivers almost equally. In Atlanta, Jones, Ridley, and Gage, each had 12 targets. Carolina's trio, Moore (9), Samuel (8), and Anderson (9) had nearly the same. Dallas, a team with expected close target share among their trio, did not. Cooper had 14 targets compared to 6 for Lamb and 5 for Gallup. Target count is one of the best predictors of fantasy points, so it's important to monitor which players are being targeted most on their teams.

Rookie Running Backs Make a Difference

  • All of the top rookie running backs played a lot this weekend, and even the second-round rookie running backs played a lot. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (1), J.K. Dobbins (2), D'Andre Swift (1, but should have been two), Zack Moss (1), and Joshua Kelly (1) each scored touchdowns in week one. Jonathan Taylor answered his critics by catching six passes. Ke'Shawn Vaugh and A.J. Dillon were the only top tier rookie draft picks not to make an impact. It proves the point again that running back is the easiest position to translate from college to the NFL. Even when there are no preseason games, it's easy to make the jump.

Running Backs Get Paid

  • Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara signed their second contract days before the season started. Each of them threatened to hold out or "hold in" this offseason. They and their GMs finally came to their senses and found a reasonable deal. It seemed like the odds of stud running backs signing a second deal with their teams were going to become a thing of the past, but teams and running backs have settled on a workable price - between $12-15 million a year. This news is a positive sign for the great new and upcoming classes of running back entering the NFL, and it's excellent news for dynasty owners who now have the hope of holding a rookie running back that they draft for 8 to 10 years.

Week One Injuries

As a reminder, I write these articles on Monday afternoon, so this does not include injures during the Monday night games. These articles often get posted before full medical reports on these players have occurred, so the full extent of the injury and timetable to return has not yet been announced.

Miles Sanders

  • Sanders was an early scratch, not even taking the team plane to Washington. All of the positive reports came to a crashing end on Saturday when it was announced that Sanders was out. I wonder if there was a bit of arrogance by the Eagles, thinking they could go into Washington and win without Sanders. While the whole offense was stymied in the second half by Washington's dominant defensive line, Boston Scott and Corey Clement showed that they're not near Sanders' talent. The Eagles' injuries at the offensive line position this offseason could prove to be more costly that I thought. After the loss, Philadelphia should be plenty motivated to get Sanders and lineman, Lane Johnson, back in their line-up. Hamstrings are tricky, so this could be a season-long problem for Sanders. While Sanders' dynasty value remains firm, his fantasy value this year has taken a significant hit. Boston Scott is a worthy flex play while Sanders is injured, but he's not a potential top-12 back like Sanders is when he is healthy.

Kenny Golladay

  • Golladay was also a surprise scratch this week after injuring his hamstring in the middle of last week before game one.  Quintez Cephas was the primary beneficiary this week.  He was the most targeted wide receiver for Detroit with ten targets, though he only caught three passes for 43 yards.  Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, and T.J. Hockenson did more with their targets than Cephus.  As long as Golladay is out, I'd expect Jones and Hockenson to outscore Cephus, but it was good to see they had confidence in the rookie.  Cephus' dynasty value is rising as a result.

Blake Jarwin

  • Jarwin suffered what appears to be a torn ACL on Sunday night, which is hard to see since this was supposed to his breakout year. If I were in a league without IR spots and depth at tight end, I would be willing to drop Jarwin. There are other tight ends worthy of picking up off the waiver wire, as you can read below. Dalton Schultz was the next tight end up Sunday night, but he did not do much. I don't expect Schultz to contribute much this year as a result of Jarwin's injury. CeeDee Lamb will benefit the most as Dallas will have to rely on three-wide receiver sets and distribute the ball exclusively to their star receivers and Zeke.

Marlon Mack

  • Mack tore his Achilles on Sunday and will be lost for the season. Unfortunately for Mack, he is in a contract year, which means he will not be top of mind for other teams next year since he will not play this year. Mack's dynasty value has to fall quite a bit, given the injury and pending free agency. Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines stand the most to benefit. Taylor was already poised to take over the lead running back role for the Colts, but now it is inevitable. His dynasty value was already near the top, in my opinion, so he is not moving up. He just gets to prove it sooner. On the other hand, Hines should see his dynasty value rise significantly, especially after his eight catches and two touchdowns on Sunday. The predictions that Rivers would make Hines the new Ekeler appear to be right after week one, at least. 

Devante Parker

  • Parker injured his hamstring in the middle of the game Sunday and could not return to the game. Mike Gesicki and Preston Williams should become the primary targets in Miami, and Isaiah Ford and Jakeem Grant should fight for the third-most targets while Parker is out. I'm still not interested in picking up Ford of Grant off the waiver wire. Parker's injury does not move the needle on any of the Miami wide receivers' dynasty value; it only makes starting Williams or Gesicki a little easier decision. The whole offense looked pitiful on Sunday against Miami, but I think better things are to come this year and in the years to come with Tua.

Le'Veon Bell

  • Leading up to the start of the season, there was a debate about whether Bell did or did not have a hamstring injury. Now there is no doubt. He left the game on Sunday and did not return. Rookie, La'Mical Perine, could have had his opportunity to prove himself, but he is also injured. Josh Adams came in and scored a touchdown on two carries, but I am not interested in Adams. I've seen enough of him to pass on picking him up. That means, while Bell is hurt, the aged veteran, Frank Gore, should be the lead back in New York. I'd consider him a flex play if Bell misses more games, but it does not move the needle on Gore's dynasty value. Bell's injury is one more reason to have him fall even more in my dynasty rankings. He's steadily fallen ever year since his year-long holdout. I sold my last share of Bell last year.

Week One Waiver Wire

As a reminder, I play in leagues 27 to 30-man roster leagues (true dynasty leagues), so the players I list here are for deep leagues only. If you play in shallower leagues, there are certainly better players than these to pick up off the waiver wire. That said, for those of you in true dynasty leagues, here is who I would be looking to pick up this week. I list them in the order that I would prioritize them.

Logan Thomas

  • Thomas was getting a lot of buzz nearing the end of training camp and was picked up in several of my leagues before the season started. However, he's available in many of my leagues, and he would be my number one waiver wire priority this week in dynasty leagues. He was the most targeted pass catcher in Washington on Sunday and caught a touchdown. The training camp reports of his rapport with Haskins proved right on Sunday. It's hard for me to believe that this former college quarterback could become a top-tier tight end in the NFL, but he could be a great tight end to add for depth and start when the match-up or situation warrants.

Scott Miller

  • Tom Brady appears to have a new Julian Edelman, and he's available in almost all of my leagues. Miller caught five of six passes for 73 yards on Sunday. I'd probably only make a bid for Miller in PPR leagues, and I don't think I would drop any high-upside player to acquire Miller since he'll never become a number one target. I would drop a similar WR-3 on a team for him, though, a Danny Amendola type.

Washington DST

  • Washington's defensive line is a force to be reckoned with this year. They will rack up sacks and force interceptions as they did against Philadelphia on Sunday. I'm upset with myself because I almost picked up Washington last week right before the season started, but I did not. Now others will be fighting me to get them. Ron Rivera is a defensive-minded coach who can coach up his star players and make this defense respectable. They should be a great streaming defense this year and years to come.

C.J. Uzomah

  • Uzomah was an active part of the game plan on Sunday and was Joe Burrow's first read on many of his receptions. He often split out wide. He was quick in his routes and fast after the catch. He caught four passes for 45 yards. 11.3 yards per catch is impressive for a tight end. Like Logan Thomas, he could be a good depth piece at tight end on a dynasty roster. Unlike Thomas, he will never lead the team in targets in a game. Cincinnati has too many weapons, and its spread offense would prevent that, but he's still a good depth piece to pick up this week if you're light at tight end.

Week One Trades

Here are my thoughts on trades that were made in my leagues this week. I hope these trades give you an idea of how other active owners value these players and future picks.

Bryan Edwards, Mark Andrews, and a 2021 2nd round pick <-----> Justin Herbert, Parris Campbell, and a 2021 1st round pick

  • This trade took place in a super-flex, tight end premium, 14-team league. The team that traded for Herbert only had one starting NFL quarterback, so they were willing to give up a lot to get Herbert, who will likely become a starter at some point this year. I think he gave up too much, even though he needed a quarterback. That's what you have to do in a super-flex league when you only have one starter. At least he was able to get a first-round pick out of it. I like Herbert and own him in several leagues because I believe he will be a franchise quarterback. Parris Campbell is intriguing, but I worry about who will be his quarterback after this year. Andrews is a top-five tight end on a high scoring offense. While he does not get as many catches, docking his value slightly in tight end premium leagues, he is a red zone threat (scoring twice in week one). Edwards has incredible upside in Vegas and is already in the starting line-up as a rookie. 

Kyler Murray and Mike Gesicki <-----> Mark Andrews, J.K. Dobbins, and a 2021 2nd round pick

  • This trade took place in the same super-flex, tight end premium, 14-team league. The team that traded Murray had four starting quarterbacks. The team that traded for Murray had one. Given that fact, I really like the package the team received to trade away Murray. Andrews is my #3 ranked tight end. Dobbins is already my #11 ranked running back. Both are on an offense that is young and should be among the most high-scoring teams for years to come. Murray has a super high price tag in super-flex leagues. This package is about what it takes to get him. Still, if I had three other starting quarterbacks on my roster, I would make this trade. The owner that traded for Murray has Patrick Mahomes as his other quarterback, so I can see the appeal of starting those two for the next decade.

D.K. Metcalf <-----> Devin Singletary and Chris Herndon

  • This trade took place in a 12-team PPR league. I like the Metcalf side of this two-for-one trade. Metcalf's upside is too immense in Seattle with Russell Wilson. Whereas Singletary already has competition for the RB-1 role in Buffalo. The team that traded for Singletary and Herndon was weak at tight end, but the gamble on Herndon is too much for what I see as a sure thing in Metcalf.

Devonta Freeman and Brandin Cooks <-----> 2021 1st round pick

  • This trade took place in a 12-team half PPR league. This one is close, but I like the Cooks and Freeman side of this trade even if Freeman does not side with a team this year, but that's mostly because I like Cooks more than any analyst I know. This trade context is that one team is in rebuild mode while the other is in win-now mode. The team that received the 2021 1st round pick now has five 1st round picks, which is not a bad strategy given his roster. The team that acquired Cooks fears that the 2021 rookie draft will be far less certain this year, given the number of college teams not playing this year. I can see that side of the argument too. Plus, his first-round pick should be somewhere between picks 8 and 12.

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