Six points with David Dorey

Friday’s quick look at six fantasy items to know

The NFL is full of more close games than at any time in history. That plays out with the Eagles as the only unbeaten team and seven other teams that are currently 3-1. It is very early in the season, but only 25% of the teams have a winning record. The Texans are the lone team without a win, but eight teams have just one win. Half of the league is currently 2-2 and players and teams are still transitioning to whatever they are going to be by the end of the season.

Overall, the play still seems mostly sluggish and lacks the sharpness expected after a month of playing time. There are still many situations that are evolving and injuries only add to the uncertainty. Let’s take a look at a few things entering into Week 5 of the season.

 

1.) How set are we on the top players? – We’re getting comfortable with the top players in their position since there have been four games. But how does that play out against the entire season? Let’s look at last year.

Most of the Top-10 did not stay there but mostly due to injury. The final Top-10 drew almost entirely from the Top-20 of Week 4.  But realize too that the high points that put them in the initial Top-10 are a part of the Week 17, so the ranking drops are more than what they seem. This does not bode well for Ezekiel Elliott, James Conner, or Alvin Kamara.

Looks like the Top-10 at year-end for receivers also comes out of the Top-24. This also doesn’t look good for Diontae Johnson, D.J. Moore, or Darnell Mooney.

2.)  RB Brian Robinson (WAS) – The rookie could show up as early as this weekend, and it would be a major positive for his season outlook if he could line up for a few plays. HC Ron Rivera said ““He looked solid. His conditioning will be a question, that’s for sure. But just watching him, his retention, his recall looks pretty good.” Antonio Gibson totals 53 carries for 173 yards (3.3 yards per carry), so Robinson has a chance to be the upgrade. It will take time before he’ll be ready for a full load, so the initial weeks may seem light, but he’s one to watch when he does play.

3.) WR Gabe Davis (BUF) – The third-year receiver opened the year with four catches for 88 yards and a score at the Rams. But he injured his ankle which kept him out in Week 2 and still hampered him for the last two games. Davis practiced in full this week and is finally back to health. These last three weeks saw Isaiah McKenzie score twice and have an uptick in targets. Davis should be back to form this week when the Steelers visit. Josh Allen was down to only 213 yards and one touchdown last week at the Ravens. A healthy Davis should show up this week and get the offense back on track.

4.) WR Rondale Moore (ARI) – The second-round pick of last year, Moore debuted last week after missing three weeks with a hamstring sprain. He was not effective with just one run and three catches for 11 yards. But Kyler Murray threw a season-low 207 yards in Carolina and Greg Dortch had a single catch. The Cardinals host the Eagles, so Marquise Brown will already be the most well-covered receiver. And the Cards will need to throw the ball more than usual. Moore ran a 4.29 40-time at the combine and offers needed speed. Greg Dortch was productive through the first three weeks replacing Moore, but will step back with Moore there. A.J. Green is also out this week, so Moore has to figure in and needs to show production as the starting slot receiver. Moore was added to the injury report on Thursday, so Friday’s practice should clarify if he’ll be limited this week.

5.) RB Tyler Allgeier/Caleb Huntley (ATL) – The Falcons lost Cordarrelle Patterson to injured reserve for at least the next four weeks, and that’s promoted Allgeier and Huntley into bigger roles. Even with Patterson active, Allgeier was taking six to ten carries each week and Avery Williams handled just one. Huntley was little used until Patterson went down, but then he jumped over Williams and became the No. 2 back in the win over the Browns. The Falcons’ offensive line has performed far better than expected, particularly with run blocking. The split will be interesting. Huntley rushed eight times in one series that bled over into the fourth quarter and that gave Atlanta a 17-13 lead. Allgeier is currently the No. 1 back, but the Falcons are more than happy to be run-heavy and there could be plenty for the No. 2 back, especially when he is running better than the No. 1.

6. QB Andy Dalton (NO) – Jameis Winston didn’t practice last week or this week (so far), so the expectation is that Dalton gets another start. Winston threw five interceptions over the last two games that he played and he’s out with back and ankle injuries. There is growing speculation that the Saints could be better off with the pocket passer Dalton who had no interceptions last week versus the Vikings. Michael Thomas is likely out again this week but Dalton connected well with Chris Olave (4-67, TD). Alvin Kamara is likely to return after limited practices this week. Friday will be key. Kamara hasn’t been used as a receiver much with Winston, his high game being three catches for seven yards in the season opener.  Last week, Dalton used running backs for four catches for 21 yards and tight ends for a combined six catches for 70 yards. The Saints’ offense is heading in the wrong direction with Winston, so a switch to Dalton could be in the works and would better serve Kamara as a receiver.

 

Tunnel Vision of Week 4

Tunnel Vision – a look back at Sunday for fantasy free agents, injuries and notable performances.

SUNDAY SALUTES
Quarterbacks Pass-Rush TD
 Jared Goff 378-1 4
 Geno Smith 320-49 3
Russell Wilson 237-29 3
Josh Allen 213-70 2
Tom Brady 385 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Josh Jacobs 144 rush
5-31 catch
2
Austin Ekeler 60 rush
6-49 catch
3
Rashaad Penny 151 rush
1-6 catch
2
Miles Sanders 134 rush
2-22 catch
2
Jamaal Williams 108 rush
1-3 catch
2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Justin Jefferson 10-147 1
Tyreek Hill 10-160 0
Tee Higgins 7-124 1
DK Metcalf 7-149 0
CeeDee Lamb 6-97 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
T.J. Hockerson 8-179 2
Mo Alie-Cox 6-85 2
Gerald Everett 5-61 1
Zach Ertz 6-47 1
Travis Kelce 9-92 1
Placekickers XP FG
Greg Joseph 1 5
Daniel Carlson 2 4
Brett Maher 1 4
Mike Badgley 0 4
Jason Meyers 6 2
Defense Sack – TO TD
Eagles 3-5 0
Giants 5-3 0
Cardinals 2-3 0
Seahawks 1-2 1
Raiders 3-1 1

Bumps, Bruises and Bowouts

QB Daniel Jones (NYG) – Ankle
QB Tyrod Taylor (NYG) – Concussion
QB Mitchell Trubisky (PIT) – “Picketted”
QB Brian Hoyer (NE) – Head
RB Javonte Williams (DEN) – Knee
RB Jonathan Taylor (IND) – Ankle
WR Cephus Quintez (DET) – Foot
WR Treylon Burks (TEN) – Foot
WR Laviska Shenault (CAR) – Hamstring
WR Kenny Golladay (NYG) – Knee
WR Isaiah McKenzie (BUF) – Head
WR Jamison Crowder (BUF) – Ankle
TE Jonnu Smith (NE) – Ankle
TE Cameron Brate (TB) – Concussion

Chasing Ambulances

Giants QB – Both Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor were knocked out of the win over the Bears, but Jones returned to finish the game. The Giants play in London this week, so they won’t be in their normal routine. There are no other quarterbacks on the active roster, so if either (or both) end up missing the London game, they’ll need to activate Davis Webb from the practice squad or look on the free agent market.

QB Brian Hoyer (NE) – He was already replacing Mac Jones (ankle)  and Hoyer left with a possible concussion. That meant that the rookie Bailey Zappe saw his first playing time. It’s too early to know the status of either Jones or Hoyer, but chances are the Patriots will look to add a quarterback at least to their practice squad.

RB Javonte Williams (DEN) –  The Broncos rusher will have an MRI today after being carted from the field with a right knee injury. There is a concern that it is serious and he may miss many weeks. If he is out for any games, Melvin Gordon will become the primary back and Mike Boone would figure in. Gordon lost a fumble in the game and Boone saw three rushes for 20 yards.

RB Jonathan Taylor (IND) – Injured his ankle in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Titans. He limped off and later said he tweaked his ankle. Problem is that the Colts play the Broncos on Thursday and now both teams may be without their best running back.  If Taylor misses time, Nyheim Hines will see expanded use and Deon Jackson is the only other running back on the active roster. Jackson’s only action has been two carries for a net three-yard loss in Week 2. They have D’vonte Price on the practice squad as well. Hines is the only safe bet for more fantasy value.

WR Treylon Burks (TEN) – The rookie was carted from the field and was seen later with a walking cast and crutches. If he misses time, Kyle Phillips should see more work.

WR Kenny Golladay (NYG) – Injured his knee and did not return to the game. The Giants receivers cannot get or remain healthy. The only notable part of their extensive set of injured players is that Saquon Barkley is about the only healthy one. The times they are a’changing.

WR Isaiah McKenzie (BUF) – Was concussed in the win over the Ravens. If he misses any time, the slot would be manned by Jamison Crowder though Khalil Shakir could see some more work. The Bills move their receivers all over the formation, so there’s only minimal fantasy impact from losing the No. 3 wideout. Crowder also hurt his ankle in the game, so it could end up with Shakir seeing the uptick.

Free Agents, Flops and Other Notables

RB Latavius Murray (NO) – The London game served up a double whammy – Alvin Kamara was out, and his fantasy owners that woke up in time could change their starter to his backup, Mark Ingram, which ended up to be the wrong move. The Saints called up Latavius Murray from their practice squad and he ran better (11-57, TD) than did Ingram (10-30). But they are both 32 years old and on the downside of their careers. Success often begets more opportunity. But Kamara is likely to return this week. The Saints host the Seahawks, so there will be opportunities for the backfield.

RB Caleb Huntley (ATL) – The undrafted free agent spent last year on the practice squad but was called up to the active roster and had one carry in Week 2. Cordarrelle Patterson was in and out of the lineup and Huntley was given ten runs that gained 56 yards and his first NFL touchdown. Tyler Allgeier gained 84 yards on his ten carries and Patterson ran for 38 yards on nine rushes with a score but had no receptions. The Falcons went to a three-man committee but the 29 carries were all productive. Allgeier is still the No. 2 back, but Huntley ran well in his first action.

RB Brian Robinson (WAS) – The Commanders’ rookie back is expected to be activated from reserve/NFI list this week, though it is not yet official. He’ll land in a backfield that is getting more crowded. Antonio Gibson has been the primary rusher and J.D. McKissic serves as the third-down back. On Sunday in Dallas, they also used Jonathan Williams for five runs that gained 48 yards. And they weren’t end-of-the-game, mop time runs. He was seeded in the first three quarters. Robinson will likely need time to get into game shape, but he’s a new face for the backfield and should be as talented as any of the other backs. But the Commanders rely on their committee.

TE Mo Alie-Cox (IND) – He led the Colts with six catches for 85 yards and two scores, and yet he totaled just four catches for 44 yards over his first three games combined. And last week, it was the rookie Jelani Woods with two touchdowns. The top tight end in Week 1 was Kylen Granson. Don’t expect Alie-Cox to be turning into an instant fantasy start. Granson caught four passes for 62 yards in that game. Woods gained 33 yards on his lone reception. The Colts had all their passing success with the tight ends versus the Titans.

WR Darnell Mooney (CHI) – He finally showed up with four catches for 94 yards in the Bears’ loss at the Giants. That included a 56-yard catch and run though, and without that catch, he’s back to only 38 yards. The passing yardage (174) was marginally better, but the offense still offers no fantasy relevance when they pass.

QB Zach Wilson (NYJ) – Had his first start of the year and threw for 252 yards and one score with two interceptions. Corey Davis had a season-high five catches for 74 yards and a score but Elijah Moore (3-53) and Garrett Wilson (2-41) didn’t see any boost. Hosting the Jets this week won’t make it any easier.

RB Breece Hall (NYJ) – The Jets rookie rusher was gradually taking more work each week but then jumped to 17 carries for 66 yards and one score, plus two catches for 12 yards as the Jets beat the Steelers. Michael Carter only gained 15 yards on his nine runs and caught the same two passes. Hall is already assuming the primary role.

QB Kenny Pickett – The rookie took over for the second half after Mitchell Trubisky got the hook. Pickett ran for two scores on his six rushes for 15 yards, but he threw 13 passes and none of them hit the ground. Ten went to Steeler receivers and three were intercepted. Notable was fellow rookie George Pickens gaining 102 yards on six carries. The Steelers play in Buffalo next, so Week 5 may not be any prettier.

QB Bailey Zappe (NE) – Brian Hoyer was lost to a concussion, and the seventh-round rookie saw his first NFL action starting at the end of the first quarter. He never rushed and completed 10-of-15 passes for 99 yards and a score to DeVante Parker. The Patriots went to a run-heavy script with 33 total carries, but that may be more the norm while Mac Jones is out. Zappe did help the Pats bring the game into overtime, but there’s no real fantasy value here.

WR Romeo Doubs (GB) – Everyone’s favorite sleeper wideout last summer  showed up in Week 3 with eight catches for 73 yards and a score at the Buccaneers. On Sunday versus the Patriots, he was thrown a team-high eight targets. He also dropped what could have been a winning catch and avoided overtime. But Aaron Rodgers looked for Doubs and Allen Lazard far more than any other receivers.

RB Melvin Gordon (DEN) – With Javonte Williams feared to have a severe knee injury, Gordon is thrust into the No. 2 role by default. Mike Boone is the only other running back on the active roster. Devine Ozigbo is on the practice squad but all represent a significant step down from Williams. Boone has only been a bit player for his four years in Minnesota and Denver but Gordon has fumbled three times this year, including the one that was returned for a 68-yard touchdown for the Raiders. The Broncos have one of the top-ranked schedule strengths for running backs, so there will be some value from this backfield without Williams. Gordon is the first choice, and currently Boone is the only other option.

WR Chris Godwin (TB) – Returned from his hamstring injury and tied with Mike Evans for a team-high ten targets. He caught seven for 59 yards while Julio Jones only managed one catch. Godwin did leave the game after an apparent injury to his mid-section but returned later. His presence was a boost for the Buccaneers’ passing effort and he immediately returned to being the No. 2 passing target.

Huddle player of the week

TE T.J. Hockenson (DET)  –   The Detroit tight end was stuck at sub-40-yard performances through three weeks, but the Lions were without both starting wideouts Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark. Hockenson responded with the franchise record for a tight end – eight receptions for 179 yards and two touchdowns on his 12 targets.

Salute!

Drama 101 – Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Yards TDs Tragedy Yards TDs
QB Jared Goff 378 4 QB Tua Tagovailoa 110 0
RB Caleb Huntley 56 1 RB Javonte Williams 27 0
RB Rex Burkhead 39 1 RB Jonathan Taylor 42 0
WR Jamal Agnew 50 2 WR Jaylen Waddle 39 0
WR Josh Reynolds 81 1 WR Diontae Johnson 11 0
WR George Pickens 102 0 WR Michael Pittman 31 0
TE Mo Alie-Cox 85 2 TE Dalton Schultz nope 0
PK Greg Joseph 1 XP   5 FG PK Will Lutz 2  XP 1 FG
Huddle Fantasy Points = 139 Huddle Fantasy Points = 23

Now get back to work…

Six points with David Dorey

Friday’s quick look at six fantasy items to know

The NFL is already dealing with injuries and that’s shaking up offenses. But overall, this is a much lower-scoring season and some top players  just haven’t gotten fully on track. None of the current Top-5 running backs were first-round picks other than Saquon Barkley at the end of August. It’s hard to put a finger on why the overall league is scoring less and seeing greater changes to top player in their position. But it’s all worth tracking and then mining for fantasy value as teams transition.

Here’s six things to think about this weekend:

1.) Better With Age? – The prevailing wisdom for many years is that running backs become more productive later in the year while wide receivers start out hot and then cool as passing games go against worse weather and field conditions, and team scoring invariably declines. So I compared the first three weeks from the last five years against the last three weeks of the fantasy season for the two positions. I only considered the Top-25 fantasy scorers from the position in those weeks as the likely starters. Interestingly, I was wrong.

Running backs did become more productive at the end of the year, and then they stopped for the last two years, actually declining from their earlier stats.

Wide receivers lose points at the end of the season, though nothing that dramatic. And this is for the Top-25 wideouts in each of the final three weeks. That’s still a healthy 20+ points each week on average. So less, but not that much.

Bottom line, even running backs now get worse at the end of the year. And worse year to year.

2.) Wide Receiver vs. Running Back 

The expectation here was that the wideouts would do better in the  first three weeks, and then give way to the running backs later in the season. This is the comparison between the two positions for the Top-25 scorer each week.

This was expected. Those first weeks of the season tend to have higher scoring games, the best weather, and go against many defenses that are trying to install new schemes and personnel. So yeah, wideouts are better than running backs to start the year.

The difference between the fantasy points of the 25 best fantasy scorers in each of the final three weeks of the fantasy season between running backs and wide receivers has not only changed, but it gets worse every year. There is still an argument to be made regarding week-to-week consistency, but this only considers a three-week block.

Putting this all together, top running backs and receivers decline in the final three weeks. But the running backs decline is much sharper than with wide receivers. And it gets worse every year. It bucks conventional wisdom, but don’t be afraid to stick with, or trade for, top wide receivers later in the year.

3.) WR Romeo Doubs (GB) – The second rookie that the Packers drafted attracted all the hype this summer. He was part of the basket-full of marginally productive wideouts for the first two weeks. He caught four passes for 37 yards in the Week 1 embarrassment in Minnesota, then just two receptions for 27 in Week 2. But playing in Tampa Bay against one of the best defenses, Dubs ended with eight catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. He caught each of his team-high eight targets.

Better yet, he was praised by HC Matt LaFleur, who said, “He’s got the body movement skills. He’s got the explosiveness. He plays on his insteps, gets both feet in the ground, and that allows him to get off bump coverage. And the game is certainly not too big for him.” Sammy Watkins landed on injured reserve and Allen Lazard has a lock on a starting spot. Doubs may be the rare rookie wideout that matters in Green Bay. This week against the solid Patriots defense should further define his place in the game plan. The schedule clears up nicely for the next month or so.

4.) QB Zach Wilson (NYJ) – The Jets are only 1-2, but Joe Flacco has been serviceable if not an asset. He’s thrown for over 285 yards in every game and totals five touchdowns on the year. But he was always a placeholder for Wilson who was the 1.02 pick last year. And he only managed 2,334 yards and nine scores over 13 games as a rookie. But he had almost no weapons aside from Elijah Moore, so the Jets drafted Garrett Wilson, who has already impressed.

So far, Moore hasn’t repeated his productive ways of last season. But Wilson already logged his first 100-yard game and has been better than Moore each week. There’s no denying that the schedule is not a friend this year. But there are plenty of fantasy points that will come from this offense.  This week versus the Steelers will be a great test to see what Wilson does in his first game with an upgraded set of receivers.

5.) WR Kenny Golladay et al (NYG) – The Giants just lost Sterling Shepherd to injured reserve, and he was easily the primary wideout with 13 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown. The Giants have David Sills and Richie James as the other starters, and both are playing beyond expectations though that still doesn’t say much. Kenny Golladay is spending time with the second-string which is probably a waste of his $17.750 million salary this year. Kadarius Toney is supposed to be a starter but is out with a hamstring injury and is constantly dinged up and underperforming. Wan’Dale Robinson was their second-round pick that also hasn’t played with a knee injury.

This is one of the oddest set of wide receivers in the league. The most talent of the group are either injured or fell from favor. Losing Shepherd means that they have to replace him. That should spell a chance for Golladay to start. Something has to happen on this offense in the next month to straighten out the receivers and get them productive. The Giants surprised at 2-0 but then couldn’t hang with the visiting Cowboys using a back-up quarterback. Their two-game hot start may be their only winning streak if they cannot get healthy, productive receivers on the field.

6.) Carolina PanthersChristian McCaffrey hasn’t practiced for two days with a quad injury. As not shocking as that is, the entire offense revolves around him and if he doesn’t play or is limited, things will change. His backup isn’t even clear, with Chuba Hubbard returning for his second season and D’Onta Foreman coming over from the Titans, where he covered for Derrick Henry from Week 9 and onward. The official depth chart has Foreman as the No. 2 but both backs likely play.

But the passing game has been stuck in first gear under Baker Mayfield. That’s not a killer as long as McCaffrey is cranking 100-yard games.  But he’s already hurt and the Panthers are at home in three of the next four weeks. Facing the Cardinals, 49ers, Rams, and Buccaneers are not going to be won by rushing. If McCaffrey is out this week, it pushes Mayfield to throw more than 30 passes for the first time as a Panther. And D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson are always going to lead in targets if only because there are no other real options at receiver.

The Panthers offense has been unbelievably bad outside of McCaffrey. They are going to have to make changes soon or Matt Rhule has to be on a hot seat.

 

Tunnel Vision of Week 3

Tunnel Vision – a look back at Sunday for fantasy free agents, injuries and notable performances.

SUNDAY SALUTES
Quarterbacks Pass-Rush TD
 Lamar Jackson 218-107 5
 Josh Allen 400-47 2
 Jalen Hurts 340-20 3
 Trevor Lawrence 262-6 3
 Joe Burrow 275-5 3
Running Backs Rush-Catch TD
Khalil Herbert 157-12 2
Jamaal Williams 87-20 2
C. Patterson 141-12 1
Derrick Henry 85-58 1
James Robinson 100-16 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
DeVonta Smith 8-169 1
Mack Hollins 8-158 1
Tyler Boyd 4-105 1
Amari Cooper 7-101 1
Russell Gage 12-87 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Mark Andrews 8-89 2
David Njoku 9-89 1
Travis Kelce 4-58 1
Jelani Woods 2-13 2
Will Dissly 3-34 1
Placekickers XP FG
Greg Zuerlein 0 4
Matt Prater 0 4
Cairo Santos 2 3
Younghoe Koo 3 2
Riley Patterson 3 3
Defense Sack – TO TD
Eagles 8-1 0
Bengals 4-4 0
Panthers 1-3 1
Ravens 3-4 0
Broncos 4-3 0

Bumps, Bruises and Bowouts

QB Josh Allen (BUF) – Hand
QB Tua Tagovailoa (MIA) – Back
QB Mac Jones (NE) – Ankle
RB David Montgomery (CHI) – Knee
RB Dalvin Cook (MIN) – Shoulder
RB Travis Homer (SEA) – Ribs
WR Byron Pringle (CHI) – Calf
WR Garrett Wilson (NYJ) – Ribs
WR Michael Thomas (NO) – Toe
WR Jarvis Landry (NO) – Ankle
WR A.J. Green (ARI) – Knee

Chasing Ambulances

QB Josh Allen (BUF) – Allen hit his hand on a helmet and underwent an X-ray after the game. Allen later said his hand was fine and there was no cause for concern.

QB Tua Tagovailoa (MIA) – Appeared to slam his head on the turf, then wobbled and almost fell down running to the sideline. But he was examined by doctors that said it was related to his back and that he could return to the game.

QB Mac Jones (NE) – The early diagnosis is that Jones suffered a high ankle sprain and an MRI will confirm it and indicate how much time he will miss. The initial expectation is that this will not end his season but could keep him out for several weeks. Brian Hoyer is next in line, and he’s been with the team for the last three years but hasn’t played much since 2017. The Pats receivers will be downgraded for however long Jones is out.

RB David Montgomery (CHI) – Left in the first quarter of the win over the Texans with knee and ankle injuries. But the prognosis is good according to HC Matt Eberflus, who said the star running back will be day-to-day so he may not miss any time. He’ll be evaluated on Monday for a more comprehensive diagnosis but it doesn’t initially appear to be serious.

RB Dalvin Cook (MIN) – Left during the third quarter with yet another shoulder injury but early word is that he will not miss this weeks’ game in London. But he will be evaluated during the week and may use a brace. Alexander Mattison becomes the starter if Cook ends up missing Week 4, but that won’t be known until later in the week.

WR Garrett Wilson (NYJ) – The  rookie suffered a brutal hit while catching a pass over the middle and went down for a time. He later walked off and it was described as a rib injury. Wilson later returned to the game, so there’s nothing expected to come from the injury. It initially looked bad but he bounced back.

WR Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry (NO) – Thomas injured his toe late in the loss to the Panthers and did not return to the game.  He already missed much of the last two years with a foot injury, so anything is concerning. Landry left with an ankle injury, and while they initially said he would be probable to return, he never did.  There was no information about the injuries after the game, so we’ll know more by midweek when they report injuries and practices.

Free Agents, Flops and Other Notables

RB Christian McCaffrey (CAR) – Only caught two passes for seven yards. He has just ten catches for 57 yards over his first three games. McCaffrey ran for more than 100 yards for the last two weeks, but his most dangerous aspect is his receiving. Why is he having problems with Baker Mayfield throwing to him? It’s not like Robbie Anderson or D.J. Moore are consuming any passes.

WR Laviska Shenault (CAR) – Led the team with two catches for 90 yards thanks to a 67-yard reception for a score when the Saints missed a tackle. He’ll get picked up in some fantasy leagues based on the performance, but the Panthers’ passing offense is not where you should be investing free agent dollars or picks.

RB Dameon Pierce (HOU) – Ran for 80 yards and a score on 20 carries and added two catches for 21 yards. Looked great in a road game to Chicago and he’s turning into the workhorse back that drafters wanted when they overpaid for him. At least it seemed like you overpaid at the time…

Chicago Bears – Once is meaningless, twice is a coincidence, and three in a row is more than just a trend. The Bears’ passing offense looks worse than last year, and among the worst in the last decade. They are 2-1, but it has nothing to do with their passing. Cole Kmet (2-40) and Darnell Mooney (2-23) not only turned in disappointing stats, they both actually led the team and provided their season-high performances. Justin Fields QB rating was 27.7. Winning covers a lot, but it won’t continue without the ability to pass.

RB Khalil Herbert (CHI) – Though the passing effort in Chicago is anemic, the rushing offense is outstanding with either David Montgomery or Khalil Herbert. When Montgomery left in the first quarter of the win over the Texans, Herbert stepped up to a dominating performance with 20 rushes for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 12 yards. Unfortunately for Herbert, Montgomery initially seems likely to return as the primary this week. But both backs ding each other when they play and Herbert just showed what can happen when they settle on just one back.

TE Jelani Woods (IND) – The third-round pick by the Colts was the second tight end selected in the NFL draft after his senior year at Virginia resulted in 44 catches for 598 yards and eight touchdowns over 11 games. Oh yes, he is 6-7 and runs a 4.6 40-time, which is very fast given that frame. He made his first two NFL catches on Sunday which were both touchdowns. That’s very promising for the future, less so for next week versus Tennessee. He should develop into a potential fantasy factor in the future.

The Lions backfield – D’Andre Swift is already nicked up, and he was held to 46 total yards with three receptions against the Vikings. But Jamaal Williams rang up 87 yards and two scores on 20 runs, and caught two passes for 20 more yards. That gives the Lions the current No. 4 (Swift) and No. 7 (Williams) fantasy running backs after three weeks. Never underestimate the value of an elite offensive line.

RB Rhamondre Stevenson (NE) – The Patriots’ backfield is not meant for rational people to understand, much less predict. But the summer was full of accolades for Stevenson, and they seemed untrue after two weeks of the season. Damien Harris was the primary back. Against the Ravens, Stevenson was the clearly better back with 12 rushes for 73 yards and a score and four catches for 28 yards. Harris ended with just 51 total yards, one catch and no score. But it will remain a committee.

WR DeVante Parker (NE) – The Miami transplant only caught one pass over the first two weeks, but the Pats were short of receivers on Sunday. Jakobi Meyers was out and Parker took over with five catches for 156 yards. It was good enough that it should buy more playing time even when Meyers returns, but he’ll also have to adjust to a different quarterback if Mac Jones misses time as expected.

TE Tyler Conklin (NYJ) – While Garrett Wilson rightfully  grabs the limelight and Elijah Mitchell is still waiting to regain his 2021 form, Conklin is providing a valuable outlet in the passing effort with six catches for 40 yards in Week 2, and then eight receptions for 84 yards on Sunday. Conklin ranks No. 2 in  catches (18) and No. 7 in yards (140) among all NFL tight ends. He’s not proving to be a decent bye-week filler, he’s become an every-week fantasy starter.

WR Mack Hollins (LVR) – He’s been overshadowed by  Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow, but he turned in a career-best eight catches for 158 yards and one score against the Titans while replacing Renfrow who was out with a concussion.  A great performance to be sure, but it will be hard to replicate against the Broncos this week if Renfrow remains out, and impossible if Renfrow plays.

TE Kyle Pitts (ATL) – He finally was used for more than two catches for 19 yards. Pitts ended with five catches for 87 yards in the win over the Seahawks and his eight targets were second only to Drake London (9). Seattle is the worst defense that they’ve yet faced, and Pitts has to continue to shine while facing  the Browns, Buccaneers, and 49ers in the next three weeks.

WR Tyler Lockett (SEA) – The concern over losing Russell Wilson and relying on Gino Smith was that it would negatively impact DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. That’s been half right. Metcalf totals just 16 catches for 135 yards, while Lockett has 21 receptions for 213 yards. That includes nine catches in each of the last two games.

WR Romeo Doubs (GB) – He led the Packer receivers with eight catches for 73 yards and one score and that includes catching every target that Aaron Rodgers threw to him. It’s still a committee of almost indistinguishable receivers, but Doubs stepped up against an above-average secondary. That won’t be lost on Rodgers.

WR Russell Gage (TB) – The Bucs were without Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Julio Jones when they faced the Packers. The Bucs lost with an offense that mostly disappeared and sputtered. But Gage more than doubled the production of any other receiver when he snared twelve passes for 87 yards and the one touchdown. Evans will return, but Godwin and Jones could miss more time. That favors Gage to help lead the receivers.

 

Huddle player of the week

RB Khalil Herbert  (CHI) –  The Bears No. 2 back generated excitement and hype this summer with reports that he was a better fit for the new offense than David Montgomery. That wasn’t evident in the first two weeks when Montgomery dominated the backfield touches. But once he left in the first quarter of the Texans matchup, Herbert got his chance. And he became the week’s No. 1 fantasy running back with 20 rushes for 157 yards and two scores, plus two catches for 12 yards.

Salute!

Drama 101 – Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Yards TDs Tragedy Yards TDs
QB Trevor Lawrence 268 3 QB Matt Stafford 252 0
RB Khalil Herbert 169 2 RB Austin Ekeler 53 0
RB Samaje Perine 61 1 RB Joe Mixon 37 0
WR Mack Hollins 158 1 WR Justin Jefferson 14 0
WR DeVante Parker 156 0 WR D.J. Moore 15 0
WR Tyler Boyd 105 1 WR Brandin Cooks 22 0
TE Jelani Woods 13 2 TE Darren Waller 22 0
PK Greg Zuerlein   4 FG PK Will Lutz  2  XP
Huddle Fantasy Points = 148 Huddle Fantasy Points = 28

Now get back to work…

Six points with David Dorey

Friday’s quick look at six fantasy items to know

Week 2 saw the return of scoring with seven teams topping 30 points and Tua Tagovailoa tossing for 469 yards and six touchdowns in a thrilling comeback win over the Ravens, who choked on a 35-14 lead in the fourth quarter. Week 1 saw so many teams come out rusty and unprepared. Week 2 was marked with exciting comebacks and plenty of fantasy points.

We’ve already lost Trey Lance for the year, and Dak Prescott returns anywhere from this week to November, depending on who you ask. After two weeks, there are fantasy stars from 2021 that haven’t been seen much.

Here’s six things to think about this weekend:

1.) Let’s draft WR,WR,WR,WR, RB – Had a feeling, checked it out, and was correct. The decline in rushing is significant. I compared the stats for fantasy positions between 2021 and 2022 through the first two weeks of each season. There was really no statistically significant change from last year except one position. I’ll include the full table at the bottom. But for running backs:

RB RUN RYD RTD Target Catch CYDS CTD FF Pts
2021 1,472 6,359 55 426 330 2,554 18 1,659
2022 1,294 5,651 27 423 324 2,249 16 1,372
-178 -708 -28 -3 -6 -305 -2 -287
Drop 12% 11% 51% 1% 2% 12% 11% 17%

 

None of the positions varied other than running backs. The decline in the number of runs (12%), rushing yards (11%), and rushing touchdowns (51%) was noticeably skewed. Rushing tends to rise at the end of the season with bad weather games, but can we even rely on that anymore?

2.) Da Bears – They have been unbelievably bad on offense through two games and rant at or near the bottom in almost all fantasy categories other than running back. There is no way that this will continue. Week 1 was in the rain against the 49ers, and they won. It meant nothing. They ran well versus the Packers with 170 yards and both touchdowns. But the passing game was even worse – 7-of-11 for 70 yards and an interception. HC Matt Eberflus’ offense is being  installed and was in tough venues and conditions for two games. This week, the Bears host the Texans. This is likely their weakest matchup of the year.

Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet combined for only two catches and four yards but the first two games can be explained away. Eberflus has spoken to the need to involve Kmet and Mooney and they should be force-fed this week. They are also waiting for rookie speedster Velus Jones (4.3 40-time) to heal his hamstring and stretch the field. The Bears have two road games to follow, so this is the week to take advantage. This is the week they have to show at least a return to last year, if not actual progress.

3.) Kyle Pitts – I speak for all the other Pitts owners who spent a third-round pick. We did not sign up for  consecutive 2-19-0 stat lines. It’s been brought up to the still-calm HC Arthur Smith and he said that Pitts is every bit as much a part of the game plan as fantasy leaguers hope, but coverages have allowed other players to do more – like Drake London’s 13 catches for 160 yards and a score over two games.  He said there have been plenty of plays where Pitts was the first read. The first games were versus the Saints and at the Rams. Both are above-average defenses. Pitts’ final game in 2021 was versus the visiting Saints and he turned in just two catches for eight yards. Smith said, “The ball will find him. He’s going to break out here again, and we’re going to win because of it.”

Stat rankings are hardly reliable this early, but Pitts faced the current No. 2 and No. 5 defenses versus tight ends. The Seahawks this week are No. 24. He’ll be better this week as were the Broncos (7-85) and the 49ers (1-38, TD) who played without George Kittle. If Pitts turns in another 2-19 game, then it is reasonable to start breathing into a bag. But no need to  hyperventilate yet.

4.) Cowboys receivers – It was bad enough losing Dak Prescott for a few weeks or so. But now Dalton Schultz is not a lock to play on Monday night which would bring in a tag team of rookie tight ends of Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot. Last year, Schultz turned in 79 yards in each meeting. But the receiving picture is further compounded with the return of Michael Gallup who has undergone full practices. He may be on a pitch count, but the receivers could use more help.

The question is how the Cowboys handle Gallup. Noah Brown is a fifth-year receiver that just now has been a part of the game plan. He leads the Cowboys with ten catches for 159 yards and the lone receiver touchdown of the year. He should remain in the slot, but the Cowboys need to get CeeDee Lamb into the endzone and not outplayed by a fifth-year depth receiver.

5.) Malik Willis – The Titans were dominated by the Bills last Sunday night and they finally benched Ryan Tannehill after he threw for only 117 yards, two interceptions and a 32.7 QB rating (if you just throw one incompletion and stop, you get a 36.9). He gave way to the third-round pick Malik Willis. It’s no changing of the guard, yet, and Tannehill remains the starting quarterback. But the Titans are 0-2 and if they rack up many more losses, then Wilson could get a start.

Whenever they do rely on him, the offense will change with a quarterback that ran for over 800 yards in each of his last two season in Liberty. And that probably depresses the passing production. Tannehill needs to connect with Robert Woods (5-52) better and throw a score to anyone other than a No. 2 running back. Poor blocking is leaving Derrick Henry less productive, so the Titans need to get back on track these next few weeks. This is a team that is struggling and pulling down the fantasy fortunes of their best players.

6.) Irv Smith – The Vikings tight end opened the year with no catches on two targets. Justin Jefferson took over in the win against the Packers. But in Week 2, Smith accounted for eight targets – second to only Justin Jefferson. And he caught the lone touchdown in the loss to the Eagles. It is notable that while Jefferson was being contained, neither Adam Thielen nor K.J. Osborn saw an uptick in their targets. The Vikings play the Lions this week and Jefferson should be a lock to do well. But Smith’s usage will say a lot about how this new offensive scheme regards Thielen and Osborn.

 

Below are the total from the first two weeks of 2021 vs. 2022.

QB RUN RYD RTD PASS CMP PYDS PTD FF Pts
2021 273 1,194 16 2,235 1,489 16,585 108 1,477
2022 270 1,075 10 2,234 1,435 15,526 105 1,364
(3) (119) (6) (1) (54) (1,059) (3) (113)
RB RUN RYD RTD PASS CMP PYDS PTD FF Pts
2021 1,472 6,359 55 426 330 2,554 18 1,659
2022 1,294 5,651 27 423 324 2,249 16 1,372
(178) (708) (28) (3) (6) (305) (2) (287)
TE RUN RYD RTD PASS CMP PYDS PTD FF Pts
2021 3 14 0 456 311 3,311 33 842
2022 10 93 1 441 283 2,918 18 698
7 79 1 (15) (28) (393) (15) (143)
WR RUN RYD RTD PASS CMP PYDS PTD FF Pts
2021 45 316 1 1,286 852 10,839 58 2,322
2022 66 441 1 1,296 822 10,329 71 2,331
21 125 0 10 (30) (510) 13 10

 

Tunnel Vision of Week 2

Tunnel Vision – a look back at Sunday for fantasy free agents, injuries and notable performances.

SUNDAY SALUTES
Quarterbacks Pass-Rush TD
 Tua Tagovailoa 469-1 6
 Lamar Jackson 318-119 4
 Carson Wentz 337-23 3
 Joe Flacco 307-6 4
Jared Goff 256-(-2) 4
Running Backs Rush-Rcv TD
Nick Chubb 87-26 3
Tony Pollard 43-55 1
D’Andre Swift 56-31 1
Damien Harris 71-16 1
Aaron Jones 132-38 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Tyreek Hill 11-190 2
Amon-Ra St. Brown 9-116
68 rush
2
Jaylen Waddle 11-171 2
Cooper Kupp 11-108 2
Garrett Wilson 8-102 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Mark Andrews 9-104 1
Darren Waller 6-50 1
Mike Gesicki 4-41 1
Ross Dwelley 1-38 1
Logan Thomas 3-37 1
Placekickers XP FG
Graham Gano 1 4
Daniel Carlson 2 3
Evan McPherson 0 3
Brandon McManus 1 3
Austin Seibert 4 2
Defense Sack – TO TD
Buccaneers 6-5 1
Jaguars 5-3 0
49ers 2-3 0
Falcons 1-3 1
Ravens 1-2 1

Bumps, Bruises and Bowouts

QB Trey Lance – Fractured ankle
QB Jacoby Brissett – Ankle
RB James Conner – ankle
RB Damien Harris – Knee
WR Devin Duvernay – Concussion
WR Jerry Jeudy – Shoulder
WR Mike Evans – Ejected
WR Hunter Renfrow – Head
TE Tyler Kroft – Knee
TE Dalton Schultz – Knee

Chasing Ambulances

QB Trey Lance – Fractured ankle and is gone for the year. This gives way to Jimmy Garoppolo and suddenly it’s 2021 all over again. 

QB Jacoby Brissett – Suffered an ankle injury when he was sacked near the end of the game. But he came back for the next series. He said he would play against the Steelers this week.

RB Damien Harris – He had five carries in the final two minutes but was injured on the final five-yard run with 1:51 that made the first down that allowed them to run out the clock. But he limped off the field. He later said he was fine. He’s continued with the same primary role he had last year.

RB James Conner –  Missed nearly the entire second half with an ankle injury. The Cardinals went to splitting the work evenly between Eno Benjamin and Darrel Williams who ended up leading the backfield with 59 yards on eight carries that included a one-yard touchdown. If Conner remains out, both backs will be involved again. They had similar stats, other than the one 30-yard run that Williams produced.

WR Jerry Jeudy – Reported to have injured his shoulder but had x-rays on his ribs that came back negative. He will undergo further tests but the hope is that he just bruised his ribs and can play through the injury. There were no receivers that stepped up and took his place. Courtland Sutton had 11 targets while no one else had more than four. The Broncos need Jeudy to return because the depth is very thin.

WR Mike Evans – Was ejected for fighting between downs when players were getting chirpy at each other and pushes became punches. There is still a chance that Evans would be suspended  because this hardly the first time that he’s tangled with CB Marshon Lattimore who also was ejected. The Buccaneers are thin on receivers with Chris Godwin and Julio Jones inactive this week. Breshad Perriman, Russell Gage and Scotty Miller were all involved this week to only minor impact.

TE Dalton Schultz – Injured his knee late in the win over the Bengals and left the field. He will receive tests on Monday to determine the severity, but there is a concern that he may miss time.

Free Agents, Flops and Other Notables

QB Joe Flacco (NYJ) – Led the Jets in a comeback win over the Raiders and threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns. Playing at home against the Bengals should be no worse this week.

QB Jared Goff (DET) – He may be often criticized, but the Lions quarterback threw four touchdowns against the visiting Commanders along with 256 passing yards. He’ll play at the Vikings this week which will be a tougher venue.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) – The 49ers lost Trey Lance for the season and Garoppolo slips back behind the wheel as he did last season when he passed for 3810 yards and 20 touchdowns over 15 games. He’s less a fantasy advantage as he is more reliable for keeping Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle fantasy relevant.

RB Darrel Williams (ARI) – He remained on the sideline in Week 1, but once James Conner was injured, Williams helped out for the second half and gained 59 yards on eight runs with one score. If Conner is out against the visiting Raiders this week, Williams will share the backfield with Eno Benjamin.

RB Raheem Mostert (MIA) – He started the game and out-touched Chase Edmonds 14 to 6. Mostert gained 51 yards on 11 carries and three catches for 28 yards. Edmonds only rushed five times and caught one pass. This is not an official switch of the depth chart, but a good example of how HC Mike McDonald will mix and match his backfield. Mostert is worth owning as a stash, but the backfield needs to show consistency before it can be relied on.

WR Nelson Agholor (NE) – Led the Patriot receivers with six catches for 110 yards and paired with Jakobi Meyers (9-95) as the only two receivers that mattered against the Steelers. Davante Parker failed to catch either of his targets. Kendrick Bourne is a nonfactor. And this week, the Patriots host the Ravens who were just toasted for 469 passing yards and six touchdowns.

WR Garrett Wilson (NYJ) – The rookie that was taken as the second wideout in the NFL draft has already proven he is the real deal. Wilson opened the year with eight targets for four catches and 52 yards in the loss to the Ravens. At Cleveland, he was targeted 14 times and caught eight for 102 yards and two scores. His second touchdown came with 11 seconds left to provide the game-winner. No other Jets’ wideout had more than five targets.

TE Gerald Everett (LAC) – The newest Chargers tight end opened the year with three catches for 54 yards and a score against the Raiders. In Week 2, he tied with Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler with ten targets in the loss to the Chiefs. That became six catches for 71 yards. For a tight end, that consistency and merits landing on a fantasy roster if he is still available.

WR Amari Cooper (CLE) – Had his breakout game as a Brown when he caught nine passes for 101 yards and a score versus the Jets.  That was more than double the production of any other Cleveland receiver.

WR Curtis Samuel (WAS) – Two weeks in and he’s been everything that he wasn’t last year. Samuel scored in both games and averaged seven catches for 65 yards per game.

WR Jahan Dotson (WAS) – The Commanders opened against a very light schedule – the Lions and Jaguars – but the rookie Dotson scored twice in Week 1 and then twice on Sunday versus the Lions. The home game against the visiting Eagles will provide plenty of motivation to throw the ball.

TE Evan Engram (JAC) – He hasn’t scored yet, but his first two games with the Jaguars resulted in four catches for 28 yards and then seven receptions for 46 yards this week. That’s worth bye-week coverage if nothing else.

RB Tyler Allgeier (ATL) – The Falcons placed Damien Williams on injured reserve, so the rookie was active in Week 2. He handled ten rushes for 30 yards, splitting the backfield workload in half with Cordarrelle Patterson (10-41). The new offense in Atlanta only threw one target at running backs this week – an incompletion to Patterson. Allgeier saw playing time and took the same amount of work as the starting running back.

RB Jeff Wilson (SF) – With Elijah Mitchell out, the 49ers relied on Jeff Wilson (18-84) and Tyrion Davis-Price (14-33) in the easy win over the Seahawks. But half of the rookie carries came in the last half of the fourth quarter to run out the clock. Wilson is safely the starter and will be the lead back. He’ll get a tougher challenge this week in Denver.

TE Kyler Pitts (ATL) – Apparently, the change in quarterback this year is catastrophic for Pitts production. Two weeks in and he’s turned in exactly two catches for 19 yards each time. The success of Drake London (8-86, TD) on Sunday should help, but Pitts receives the primary coverage of the defense and Marcus Mariota is not throwing to him.

RB Dameon Pierce (HOU) – It wasn’t a breakout game exactly, but Pierce owners have to like seeing him take 15 carries for 69 yards against the Broncos while Rex Burkhead had none this week. The schedule is no friend to the Texans, but Pierce is already assuming the entire rushing load for the backfield.

WR Darnell Mooney (CHI) – He turned in a career best 81 catches for 1,055 yards and four scores last year during Justin Fields’ first season. He also had Allen Robinson lining up across from him and he was the focus of the secondary. Now that he is gone -and not replaced – Mooney is the only wideout that concerns the secondary and after two weeks, he totals two catches for four yards. This week, it was one catch for a four yard loss. That’s all. Fields killed Robinson’s value last year and now Mooney is an absolute no-show. The good news is that the Bears host the Texans this week. If Mooney again only catches one short pass, stick him on the back end of your roster and forget about him until he does, well, anything.

Huddle player of the week

Tua Tagovailoa  –  There was a question as to whether Tagovailoa could justify having two elite wide receivers. The answer is yes, at least for Week 2. He passed for 469 yards and six touchdowns – tying the franchise touchdown record of Dan Marino and Bob Griese. He led the Fins from being down 28-7 to throwing the winning score with 14 seconds left to play. Both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle caught 11 passes for over 170 yards and two scores. It was a personal yardage best for Tagovailoa by 108 yards.

Salute!

Drama 101 – Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Yards TDs Tragedy Yards TDs
QB Tua Tagovailoa 469 6 QB Trey Lance 43 0
RB Darrel Williams 62 1 RB James Conner 51 0
RB Raheem Mostert 79 0 RB Ezekiel Elliott 49 0
WR Garrett Wilson 102 2 WR Ja’Marr Chase 54 0
WR Nelson Agholor 110 1 WR DJ Metcalf 35 0
WR Noah Brown 91 1 WR Brandin Cooks 54 0
TE Mike Gesicki 41 1 TE Kyle Pitts  19 0
PK Graham Gano  1 XP   4 FG PK Matt Prater   1 XP
Huddle Fantasy Points = 145 Huddle Fantasy Points = 28

Now get back to work…

Six points with David Dorey

Friday’s quick look at six fantasy items to know

The 2022 NFL season is underway and after one mostly disturbing week, we’ll hope that all the low scores and sloppy play were just a function of teams doing little in the preseason to get players “game sharp.” Only three games contained a team that scored over 31 points. There were nine last year and seven before that. It was surprising to see the Chiefs using starters in the preseason. And then they went and spanked the defending World Champs on opening Thursday night.

There was a long list of players that rose in the rankings this summer, and almost all of them haven’t yet justified the hype – D.J. Moore, Allen Robinson, Elijah Moore, Dameon Pierce, Rhamondre Stevenson, Zamir White, Isiah Pacheco, and many more. But  as always – it was only one game, and in many cases, that game will be different than all the others.

Week 1 probably sparked as many questions as it did answers. Here are six players or situations I’m watching this weekend.

1.) 49ers backfield – This is the one that everyone wants to know. Who steps up after Elijah Mitchell injured his shoulder ribs finger head knee hamstring  MCL and will miss up to two months before he is available for the next injury. In his wake are Jeff Wilson, Tyler Davis-Price, and Jordan Mason.  Wilson enters his sixth year with the 49ers as a backup they’d rather not need to use. Wilson isn’t bad, but he isn’t much more than “just another running back.” He’s only 26, but he’s never been more than a backup. Davis-Price was their 3.29 pick, but was inactive in Week 1 and hasn’t impressed in the summer. That leaves Jordan Mason, whose best aspect so far is that he’s an unknown. He was an undrafted free agent and had the most positives in practices. This is all worth tracking because of this trend:

Year Leading RB Rank
2021 Elijah Mitchell 26
2020 Jeff Wilson Jr. 31
2019 Raheem Mostert 25
2018 Matt Breida 24
2017 Carlos Hyde 11

The 49ers had a different primary running back every year since 2014 when Frank Gore’s streak ended. HC Mike Shanahan started in 2017 where this lack of consistency took a firm hold.

2.) The Cowboys – Losing Dak Prescott seems catastrophic for the franchise. While he missed 11 games in 2020, they had Andy Dalton on hand. This year, Cooper Rush takes over with just one start since entering the league in 2017. He relied on Dalton Schultz, but the rest of the receivers including CeeDee Lamb have to be devalued. There are two things to watch for – first, will Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard see higher usage?  There is every reason to want Elliott to do well, and for Pollard to add to the receivers. Secondly, I want to see if the passing game can be sustained until Prescott returns. If it looks bad, then Jimmy Garoppolo, Mason Rudolph, or other veteran quarterbacks may be acquired.

3.)  RB Kenneth Walker III (SEA) – The Seahawks’ 2.09 pick was the  second running back selected in the 2022 NFL draft, but he missed time with a groin injury. He ran just five times for 19 yards and caught an 11-yard pass in the preseason. But the Michigan State star logged 1,623 yards and 18 scores on 263 carries last year. He still has plenty of tread on the tires with just the one big year. Rashaad Penny remains the starter until he isn’t. That all depends on Walker. Penny ran for 60 yards on 12 carries last week versus the Broncos, so he’s done well on the few carries they gave him. When Walker shows up, it’s hard to imagine that Seattle will continue to only have 13 total carries in a game with two running backs of their quality. The plan this year was to run more. One of three outcomes will happen. Either Penny does the unthinkable and remains productive and healthy as the primary back, Walker outperforms him (or replaces the injured Penny), or they kill each other’s potential by sharing the workload that so far is not big enough to be split.

4.) WR Garrett  Wilson (NYJ) – The second wide receiver drafted this year (1.10) only played in little more than half of the snaps in the loss to the Ravens, but he logged eight targets for four catches and 52 yards in his first NFL game. It was a high-volume pass day with Joe Flacco tossing 59 passes, three other wideouts caught at least five passes each. But the Jets will need to throw more than most teams, and Wilson has already jumped into the fray as an equal. He only averaged 13 yards per catch, but his 4.38 speed and college history says he’ll start catching deeper passes soon.

5.) WR Chase Claypool (PIT) – The Steelers are adjusting to life without Ben Roethlisberger, though so far the results have been similar. Pat Freiermuth stepped up to five catches and Diontae Johnson remains a target-sponge with a very low average length of catch. But Hype-monster George Pickens debuted with only one catch for three yards. He was thought to have been a detriment for  Chase Claypool but certainly not yet. The Steelers opted to make Claypool their own “Deebo Samuel” by throwing him four catches for 18 yards, and six rushes for 36 yards. Najee Harris only ran ten times for 23 yards. Regardless of what happens at quarterback, Claypool as a runner was effective.

6.) RB Rhamondre Stevenson (NE) – Of the many surprises, revelations and head-scratchers last week, one that went counter to conventional wisdom and interpreted coach-speak was second-year back Rhamondre Stevenson. He was touted to take over for the retired James White. Stevenson (6-0, 246 lbs.)  may not look like White (5-10, 205 lbs.), and his resume’ was more of a workhorse, power-back. There was speculation that he’d replace Damien Harris as the primary back. With OC Josh McDaniels gone, the roles and responsibilities were up for change anyway. But Ty Montgomery entered the picture in the final part of August as another receiving back.

In Week 1, Harris gained 48 yards on nine carries and caught two passes for ten yards. Stevenson was a close second with eight rushes for 25 yards and two catches for two yards. Montgomery ran twice for a net two-yard loss and led the backfield with three catches for 15 yards and the only Patriot touchdown. But Montgomery injured his right knee and landed on injured reserve.

The coaching staff spoke to the backfield to remain limited to Stevenson and Harris. They also drafted Pierre Strong in the fourth round, but his  development has been slow. The Patriots have a solid offensive line and more reasons to run since the transition away from  McDaniels has not been smooth. This week at the Steelers they face a defense that gave 27 carries to Joe Mixon and their backfield totaled ten catches for 99 yards. This should be a very telling week for how the backfield will be sharing the ball and which back is the truly better option.

Tunnel Vision of Week 1

Tunnel Vision – a look back at Sunday for fantasy free agents, injuries and notable performances.

SUNDAY SALUTES
Quarterbacks Pass-Rush TD
 Josh Allen  297-56 4
 Patrick Mahomes 360-5 5
 Carson Wentz 313-12 4
 Joe Burrow 338-47 2
 Jalen Hurts 243-90 1
Running Backs Yards TD
Saquon Barkley 194 1
Jonathan Taylor 175 1
D’Andre Swift 175 1
Kareem Hunt 66 2
Cordarrelle Patterson  136 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Justin Jefferson 9-184 2
Cooper Kupp 13-128 1
Davante Adams 10-141 1
Ja’Marr Chase 10-129 1
Michael Pittman 9-121 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Travis Kelce 8-121 1
O.J. Howard 2-38 2
Taysom Hill 83 yards 1
Gerald Everett 3-54 1
Pat Freiermuth 5-75 0
Placekickers XP FG
Younghoe Koo 2 4
Cade York 2 4
Chris Boswell 2 3
Ryan Succop 2 4
Greg Joseph 2 3
Defense Sack – TO TD
Steelers 7-5 1
Dolphins 2-3 1
Bills 7-3 0
Vikings 4-2 0
Chargers 6-3 0

Bumps, Bruises and Bowouts

QB Dak Prescott – Thumb
QB Mac Jones -Back
RB Elijah Mitchell – Knee
RB Damien Williams – Ribs
RB Najee Harris – Foot
WR Chris Godwin – Hamstring
WR Wan’Dale Robinson – Knee
WR Keenan Allen – Hamstring
WR Tee Higgins – Concussion
PK Harrison Butker – Ankle

Chasing Ambulances

Taking a look at injury situations and what could happen.

RB Najee Harris (PIT) – He injured his foot but it was reported to not be serious. We’ll know more this week, but if he does miss any time, the rookie Jaylen Warren will become the primary and Benny Snell would also be active. The Steelers host the Patriots next week, who still have a solid rush defense.

RB Elijah Mitchell (SF) – Left the loss to the Bears with a knee injury and never returned. HC Kyle Shanahan did not know if the injury was serious or not after the game. Jeff Wilson is the next in line and the 49ers host the Seahawks for an attractive matchup. Tyrion Price-Davis was inactive while UFA Jordan Mason was active on Sunday. The 49ers running back depth chart is still changing.

WR Chris Godwin (TB) – He was just back from his torn ACL and then injured his hamstring. Julio Jones saw the biggest workload with Godwin out but is likely already on a fantasy roster. Russell Gage may see an uptick if Godwin remains out, but he wasn’t used much on Sunday night even after Godwin left.

WR Keenan Allen (LAC) – Hurt his hamstring and has been hampered by soft-tissue injuries in the past. He still led the Chargers for Week 1. Josh Palmer could see more work, and Mike Williams might even catch more than two short passes next week at the Chiefs. The Chargers will need to throw a lot in that game, so Allen’s absence will have to be compensated. And the game is on Thursday, so there is even less chance that Allen heals up in time. Jalen Guyton may see some work, but Palmer is the main one that should see a big uptick in targets.

WR Tee Higgins – Suffered a concussion when he was hit hard and was quickly ruled out of the game. Mike Thomas would move up into his spot if Higgins cannot play, but Tyler Boyd would more likely see the increased targets, along with running backs and tight ends. With Higgins out for much of the game, Joe Mixon (7-63) and Hayden Hurst (5-46) were the most targeted after Ja’Marr Chase.

QB Dak Prescott (DAL) – Injured his thumb and Jerry Jones said that Prescott will need surgery on his thumb and he will be out “for a while.” More information will be forthcoming, but it doesn’t sound promising and will mean Cooper Rush becomes the starter, assuming Dallas doesn’t want to acquire any of the better No. 2 quarterbacks out there.

Free Agents, Flops and Other Notables

 WR Jarvis Landry (NO) – The Browns’ transplant led the Saints with seven catches for 114 yards. His first game as a Saint was better than all but one of his performances for the last two years. He was the possession receiver when Jameis Winston needed to move the chains.

WR Michael Thomas (NO) – His first healthy game in two years was a disappointment until the fourth quarter in the win over the Falcons. He ended with both receiving touchdowns thrown by Jameis Winston and totaled five receptions for 52 yards on eight targets. It was encouraging for him to step up late in the game and to be the best end-zone target.

RB Alvin Kamara (NO) – Concerning that he only ran nine times for 30 yards and caught just three passes for seven yards. Winston rarely looked his way and mostly threw deeper passes downfield.

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (CLE)Amari Cooper was the big offseason addition, but he only caught three of six targets for 17 yards. People-Jones was the clear preferred receiver with 11 targets and six catches for 60 yards. It’s just one game, but Jacoby Brissett shied away from Cooper in preference to Peoples-Jones.

WR Robbie Anderson (CAR) – There were rumblings that Anderson didn’t want Baker Mayfield to come to town, but that’s no longer an issue. D.J. Moore was held to only three catches for 43 yards while Anderson led the Panthers with five catches for 102 yards and the lone receiving touchdown. That was better than the last 28 games he had in Carolina.

RB Jeff Wilson (SF)Elijah Mitchell didn’t take long to leave with a knee injury, and Jeff Wilson is next in line in the committee backfield. Deebo Samuel ran eight times, just one fewer than Wilson’s nine. Also interesting, the decision to make Tyrion Davis-Price inactive while activating Jordan Mason. He’s the UDFA rookie that made Trey Sermon expendable and a player that the 49ers targeted once the NFL draft was over.

RB Jaylen Warren (PIT) – He’s next in line if Najee Harris‘ foot injury causes him to miss time. The Steelers host the Patriots this week, so it is not a great matchup, and their immediate schedule contains tough defenses other than the Jets in Week 4.

RB A.J. Brown (PHI) – The matchup was plenty tasty visiting the Lions, but Brown blew up for ten catches and 155 yards and tied a career-high. He was thrown 13 passes while no other receiver totaled more than four. Brown immediately slides in as the Eagles go-to receiver.

TE Pat Freiermuth (PIT) – Mitchell Trubisky’s first start as a Steeler saw Freiermuth lead the team with 75 yards on five receptions. The rookie George Pickens was a nonfactor with just one catch for three yards. Diontae Johnson maintained his role as the possession guy that sticks close to the offensive line. But encouraging that Freiermuth has already connected well with Trubisky.

WR D.J. Chark (DET) – The ex-Jaguar’s first game in Detroit went well, with eight targets for four catches, 52 yards and the final touchdown that drew the Lions to within three points of the Eagles. At home against the Commanders this week should be just as attractive of an opponent. Chark was second only to Amon-Ra St. Brown in targets (8 vs. 12).

RB Nyheim Hines (IND) – He had almost no use as a rusher in a game where Jonathan Taylor ran 31 times. But Hines’ six catches for 50 yards was second only to Michael Pittman. The Colts claimed they were going to rely more on Hines as a receiver, and Week 1 said that’s true.

RB Dameon Pierce / Rex Burkhead (HOU) – The Colt’s red-hot rookie sleeper had a tough start with only 11 rushes for 33 yards versus the Colts and added one catch for six yards. The veteran Burkhead was the lead back with 14 runs for 40 yards and his eight targets were second only to Brandin Cooks. Burkhead caught five for 30 yards and his 19 touches went for 70 yards, while Pierce totaled 12 touches for 39 yards. Three of the next four games are on the road, so the receiving job may be more important than the rushing.

TE O.J. Howard (HOU) – He only caught two passes but gained 38 yards and scored on both. For a position with minimal difference-makers, Howard needs to live as depth on a fantasy roster to see if anything more happens.

WR Devin Duvernay (BAL) – The Ravens No. 2 receiver stepped up in Week 1. Rashod Bateman caught two passes for 59 yards and one touchdown – a 55-yard score in the third quarter that salvaged his game. Duvernay caught four passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns and both came earlier in the game than Bateman’s later deep strike. The next three games are against Miami, New England, and the Bills, so Lamar Jackson will rely on more than Bateman downfield.

RB Breece Hall (NYJ) – The Jets said that Michael Carter would be the primary rusher. He gained 60 yards on ten runs while the rookie Hall only ran six times for 23 yards. But Joe Flacco looked often to his running backs as receivers. Carter caught seven passes for 40 yards, and Hall ended with six receptions for 38 yards.  Hall’s ten targets were the highest on the team.

RB James Robinson / Travis Etienne (JAC) – Robinson tore the Achilles tendon in his left leg last December, so his health this summer and for Week 1 was of interest. He exceeded all expectations with 11 runs for 66 yards and a score, plus he caught a three yard pass – also another touchdown. Meanwhile, Etienne’s debut was far less impressive with four runs for 47 yards and just two catches for 18 yards. Etienne was the supposed master weapon to be used in numerous ways. So far, he’s just a third-down back and the No. 2 behind Robinson.

RB Antonio Gibson (WAS) – Following the theme of veterans who said “I’m not done yet,” Gibson had a great first game, running for 58 yards on 14 carries and then leading the Commanders with seven receptions for 72 yards.

RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) – The Chiefs’ primary back opened the year with seven runs for 42 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted only three times but was deadly effective on a team looking to fill-in for Tyreek Hill. Isiah Pacheco ran for 62 yards and a score on 12 carries but those were all late in the game when the beatdown was already complete.

WR Greg Dortch (ARI) – What would Week 1 be without guys like Dortch? He was on the practice squad last year and was signed to the active roster. Rondale Moore injured his hamstring in practice a few days ago and was out for Week 1. His replacement in the slot became Dortch, who had three career catches over his three years in the NFL. Dortch became the leading receiver in the loss to the Chiefs. He fielded nine targets – three more than anyone else – and caught seven passes for 63 yards. More than A.J. Green (2-13) or Andy Isabella (1-10). With DeAndre Hopkins still suspended for five games, Dortch may continue to play a role. Once Moore and Hopkins are in the lineup, Dortch would likely end up as the same depth player he has always been. But he’s one to send fans thumbing through their game programs.

RB Brandon Bolden (LV) – The Raiders clearly indicated that Ameer Abdullah would become an integral part of the backfield as the new third-down back. But maybe not. He had one target and no catches. Bolden was the third-down back for the Patriots last year, and came over with new HC Josh McDaniels. And he caught two passes for 21 yards and one touchdown. He also ran three times for seven yards. Josh Jacobs ran ten times as the only other rusher. This could all change next week in true McDaniels-style, but it’s a good example of the difference between what is said, and what actually happens.

RB Saquon Barkley (NYG) – He has to be mentioned. He ran for 164 yards and a score on 18 carries, and added six receptions for 30 yards as the Giants’ busiest receiver. So, yeah, waiting for the most recent injury to happen but he looks every bit as good as he did in his first two impressive seasons.

WR Kyle Phillips (TEN) – The Titans brought in Robert Woods, who was talked up this summer. He only caught one pass for 13 yards. They also drafted Treylon Burks with their 1.18 pick who debuted with 55 yards on three catches. But their 5.20 pick of Phillips led the team with nine targets for six catches and 66 yards.

Huddle player of the week

Justin Jefferson – The Vikings’ star receiver was in a tough matchup with the Packers’ returning a healthy CB Jaire Alexander, but it was not a problem. At all. Jefferson ended as the top fantasy player of Week 1 with nine catches for 184 yards and two scores. This likely turns those who skipped running backs in the first round to scoop up Jefferson a bit insufferable this week. Then again, he looked so unstoppable that this is hardly the last time we’ll have to hear from the Jefferson owners.

Salute!

Drama 101 – Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Yards TDs Tragedy Yards TDs
QB Carson Wentz 325 4 QB Aaron Rodgers 194 0
RB Dontrell Hilliard 69 2 RB Dameon Pierce 33 0
RB Isiah Pacheco 62 1 RB Elijah Mitchell 41 0
WR Devin Duvernay 54 2 WR CeeDee Lamb 29 0
WR Robbie Anderson 102 1 WR Mike Williams 10 0
WR Curtis Samuel 72 1 WR Tee Higgins 27 0
TE O.J. Howard 38 2 TE Kyle Pitts 19 0
PK Younghoe Koo   2 XP   4 FG PK Nick Folk  1  XP
Huddle Fantasy Points = 145 Huddle Fantasy Points = 20

Now get back to work…

Six points with David Dorey

Friday’s quick look at six fantasy items to know

The 2022 NFL season kicked off, and weekly fantasy points are already showing up beside your player names. Maybe not so much for Cam Akers or Allen Robinson, but all the other Rams and Bills. And we’ve already seen just how far off we were on a few things, namely the backfield usage for either Thursday night teams.

We’ll use this weekly space to discuss six players or situations that are of fantasy interest going into the weekend. The NFL constantly changes, constantly evolves, and trying to catch up or even get ahead of the transition week-to-week will pay dividends for your fantasy team.

So many things to watch in Week 1. Here’s the Top-6.

1.) Trey Lance – The 49ers’ hopes ride on the arm (and legs) of Lance who had a red shirt rookie year and now takes over. The 49ers still have Jimmy Garoppolo, so at worse, they are back to 2021. But Lance holds the promise of a wildly effective offense that is hard to defend. Lance holds the key to what Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle will do.  If Lance can maintain the same level of passing and succeed as a runner, then the 49ers will challenge for the division and return to the playoffs.

2.) Saquon Barkley – He’s already burned fantasy owners twice, so hesitancy is reasonable. But he’s looked back to form this summer in practices. Last year, he was still recovering from his 2020 torn ACL. The Giants have all new coaches, a “not as bad” offensive line, and a healthy Barkley. The Bears are about average on defense, so the test for Barkley on the road should be telling. If he looks good again, the rest of the offense gets a major boost. The passing game improves both from Barkley as a receiver, and from his presence drawing  focus away from the rest of the offense.

3.) Travis Etienne – We never saw him last year due to his torn Lis Franc, but he’s healthy again by all reports. If the same quality of player we saw at Clemson shows up this week at the Commanders, then the Jags’ offense takes a major step up. Washington sports a mostly average rushing defense and a bad secondary, so Etienne’s success should yield a solid idea for the rest of the season. With James Robinson slated to also play a role, he could be used in many ways. If Etienne meets expectations as a runner and a receiver, then the Jaguars’ offense improves significantly. If he’s just moderately effective, then last year could repeat. If he reaches what seems to be his potential, every Jaguar fantasy player improves and the offense under HC Doug Pederson blossoms.

4.) Dameon Pierce – Everyone will be watching him since he’s the rookie running back that made the biggest splash in the offseason. No matter that he was the seventh back drafted this year or that he runs behind a horrible offensive line against a terrible schedule. He looked legitimately impressive in the offseason. James Robinson wasn’t even drafted and yet he sent Leonard Fournette packing. It does happen.  Pierce has an uphill battle, but if he is successful, he makes the Texans offense much more balanced and effective. They host the Colts on Sunday, and that is no treat for any rusher. We’ll see just how good Pierce really is in Week 1.

5.) Baker Mayfield – He won the starting job in Carolina just like everyone expected. But his presence impacts the entire offense, and we’ll see what he can do when he is not playing for a run-first offense. We get to see if a new environment makes a difference. D.J. Moore turned in 1,000 yards each season despite playing with a number of sub-average quarterbacks. And Robbie Anderson topped 1,000 yards in Carolina in 2020 before disappearing last year. Mayfield could be much better than he was in Cleveland, and if he returns Anderson to more effective ways, this offense will surprise. He traded a running back that caught about one pass per game for a back that’s twice topped 100 catches in a season.

6.) Green Bay wideouts – Davante Adams took his 123 receptions to Vegas. That leaves a major void to fill. Some speculate that Aaron Jones benefits and while he may see more targets, it’s hard to imagine Aaron Rodgers suddenly becoming a check-down king and reticent to throw downfield. Allen Lazard is the default No. 1 receiver, though he’s nursing a bad ankle and may not play. But his best year was only 40-513-8. Randall Cobb is a starter, but only caught 28 passes when he returned last season. Sammy Watkins also starts but spent the last six years flopping on four different teams. Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson will figure in, though Rodgers hasn’t relied on rookies in the past.

Whichever receiver produces reliable fantasy production is entirely unclear. And yet – there will be value in this group. And it’s going to be a surprise.

So much to watch in Week 1. Once we better define the 2022 teams, we can start mining for emerging players the rest of the way. Welcome to the 2022 NFL season.

Fasten your seatbelt.

The calm before the storm – fantasy football 2022

Can’t you just smell the rain?

And so here we are.

In the springtime, we talked about rookies. We saw their highlight clips of breathtaking plays. Clutch catches and long touchdowns. A few had problematic pasts, but bad behavior ends once their bank balance suddenly goes comma-comma. Right?

Then came the NFL draft. During the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, it lasted 17 rounds and happened over the phone. Now seven rounds require three days, red carpets, several 18-wheelers of broadcast equipment, and the city of Las Vegas. Speculating when and where players are drafted is a literal industry and a new national past time. No matter that half of them will be outright flops.

As if that didn’t get your fantasy football blood flowing, they had OTA’s where we saw just how fast a guy could run in shorts with no one trying to hurt them. Nobody got tackled, but we started hearing bits and pieces about how players could pass, run or even catch the football! At the least, these new players would rock at flag football.

Training camp was next. Bits of information leaked from the hundreds of microphones that were shoved into coaches’ faces. One meaningless off-hand remark could burn with the light of a dozen suns once it hit Twitter and news feeds. Tweets were like soldiers throwing candy bars to a hungry mob of children.

Preseason games stoked the fantasy inferno up another notch. Rookie running backs carved up defenses mostly comprised of future burger-flippers, landscapers, firemen, and a couple of guys who are content to play special teams.

And so here we are.

We’ve digested all that information, listened to podcasts, and tuned into fantasy football shows. We’ve spent far more time studying our cheat sheets than we did for the SAT.

We set the first lineups of the season. We feel sadness knowing that we’ll never participate in free agency because there’s no one to drop. We finally drafted the perfect fantasy team.

But the storm is almost here.

Get ready to feel the wind and rain and hear the thunder. And to pray that the lightning bolts of fate won’t strike anyone on your perfect team. We will watch real NFL football while exclaiming, “what in the !@#$% is going on? Where’s <insert RB2>? Did someone kidnap <insert WR3>? Who in the world is <insert red-hot free agent>? Get up! Get up! Oh God no, he is not getting up!”

Week 1 is a favorite time for me. Even after 26 years of analyzing players and producing fantasy football content, there is nothing as exciting as Week 1. Much of what we’ve learned not only means nothing, it may have been detrimental. Here are a few things to remember about the summer.

  1. Most people draft like the previous season repeats, and that is the only real action to judge a player. But the NFL is constantly changing and evolving.
  2. More than ever, the preseason is worthless in fantasy terms. There isn’t much to glean. The cut-down to three games means that teams use them just to determine their final roster. Almost nothing that happened there means anything. The Top-10 quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends in the preseason of 2021 only had one player go on to play in the regular season – Rhamondre Stevenson, who did nearly nothing for the first eight weeks. The others were cut from their teams or at best ended up on practice squads.
  3. We all love rookie running backs. They are the crack cocaine of a fantasy draft. In my big-money draft last night, seven rookie backs went over the first ten rounds. And this was a year considered weak for running backs. Just two rookie rushers made the Top-24 last year (Najee Harris, Javonte Williams). And there were already three drafted in 2021 by the same 2.04 pick that selected Breece Hall this year.
  4. We have nine new head coaches and 13 new offensive coordinators. Only seven OC’s have been in their job longer than two years. That’s a lot of transition in a critical area of any team. It happens every year.
  5. We’ve made it through the preseason, and there is one terrifying reality. Honestly – I do not recall it in my 26 years of covering the NFL. No… One… Got… Hurt. The No. 3 wideout in Denver of Tim Patrick was lost. The rookie Brian “what if I say no?” Robinson tragically got shot but fortunately (and luckily) escaped any long-term damage. Anyone else? How many ACL’s and MCL’s are hanging on by a thread, just ready for that high-speed cut in Week 1? Every summer has at least one fantasy football star that gets hurt. Until we didn’t.
  6. While the primary starters are known, the depth charts for the rest of the running backs and wide receivers are about to change. Maybe constantly for some teams. We hear and see plenty about whatever player has climbed up the ladder, but nothing that happened in the last three months matters compared to what they do this weekend. There will be surprises. Delightful surprises. Maybe a few kind of painful ones, too.

Rising Stars

There are players that show up big in the summer and later exceed all expectations to become fantasy-point water cannons. But mostly not. Here’s a comparison of an expert draft at the end of May and my draft last night for the most notable among those who rose or fell over the summer.

Tight Ends 
Almost no change. The few that matter never did anything this summer. Cole Kmet rose from the 12.09 to the 8.10, and Isaiah Likely went from undrafted to the 15.01 pick.

Running Backs

NFL Running Back Now Was
NYG Saquon Barkley 2.10 3.10
HOU Dameon Pierce 4.06 6.10
MIA Chase Edmonds 5.04 7.05
SEA Rashaad Penny 6.02 8.12
NE Rhamondre Stevenson 6.06 10.12
KC Isiah Pacheco 10.05 X
PHI Kenneth Gainwell 10.10 12.10
WAS Brian Robinson Jr. 11.09 X
LV Zamir White 12.12 X
HOU Marlon Mack X 9.11
KC Ronald Jones X 9.05

Drafters are buying into Saquon Barkley again because “he looks good as new, maybe better.” And Dameon Pierce impressed while practicing versus the Houston defense. He built expectations that now go against the No. 30 rushing schedule strength while running behind the No. 30 ranked offensive line.

Isiah Pacheco may become the Chiefs’ starting tailback or just an obscure answer for a Kansas City bar’s Trivia Night. Rashaad Penny fared better mostly because Kenneth Walker III injured his groin, and now there’s a sense that Penny will hold onto the starting spot until he, too, is injured.

Brian Robinson got hot, and was winning the early-down role in Washington before dropping back a bit while recovering from his wounds. Four of the biggest movers were rookies.

Wide Receivers

NFL Wide Receivers Now Was
CAR D.J. Moore 3.09 5.07
DEN Courtland Sutton 4.01 5.05
BUF Gabriel Davis 4.06 5.09
LAR Allen Robinson 5.01 6.07
MIN Adam Thielen 6.1 8.09
JAX Christian Kirk 7.06 9.12
NYJ Elijah Moore 7.09 9.1
NYG Kadarius Toney 8.08 10.04
KC Skyy Moore 9.07 14.1
PIT George Pickens 9.12 14.12
BUF Isaiah McKenzie 10.09 X
GB Romeo Doubs 11.06 X
HOU Nico Collins 11.11 X
MIN K.J. Osborn 12.01 X
NE DeVante Parker 12.07 16.1
TB Russell Gage X 9.06
NYG Kenny Golladay X 10.01

The crazy thing is that most of this movement had little bearing on anything. Almost none of these receivers did anything new in practices or even participated in the preseason. Skyy Moore shot up the draft board but isn’t a starter as the No. 4 wideout. George Pickens did himself great favor in practices and the preseason, maybe to Diontae Johnson’s detriment.

The first ten rookie wideouts selected in the NFL draft had no notable movement. Few played in the preseason much, let alone with their starting quarterback.

Drafters must like Baker Mayfield since D.J. Moore jumped up almost two full rounds. But again – almost none of the wideouts of any note played in the preseason. It’s all been on the practice field and the actual usage of the No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers could be a surprise on many teams.

Bring it on!

We’re about to see 5% to 10% of the NFL turn in their biggest game of the year. Watch the player that was stolen one pick ahead of yours break off a 75-yard touchdown. Listen to announcers master the art of stating the obvious. All the while checking stats and changing channels.

I can only speak for myself, but standing here at the brink of the season always feels like Christmas Eve. Or like when you enter an amusement park with a pocket full of money. Or even when some hottie smiles at you from across the bar. Maybe I won’t get the BB Gun. Maybe I’ll puke riding the Zipper again. And maybe her boyfriend is just standing behind me.

But what if…

Yeah, can’t you just smell the rain?