The Yays and Nays: Our Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings, Projections and Overreactions
Fantasy Football Quick Hits
- Week 2 Yays: Derek Carr (QB5), Antonio Gibson (RB6), James Robinson (RB20), Tee Higgins (WR18), Tyler Higbee (TE6)
- Week 2 Nays: Justin Herbert (QB11), Courtland Sutton (WR33), Elijah Moore (WR43), Dallas Goedert (TE10)
- Key Data Point: Derek Carr’s 85.6 well-thrown percentage while not pressured was third among all quarterbacks with 350 such attempts last season.
Last week was fun, huh? Well, it was for the fan bases that won, like the New York Giants, but it came at the expense of Tennessee Titans fans, who had to sit through a brutal missed field goal as time expired.
But fear not fan bases of teams that lost, because the entire football world win, lose, or tie (!!!) is overreacting to Week 1 with you. We’re no different. We’re just going to take a different slant.
Here are four fantasy overreactions from Week 1. However, we’re going to make the case why these overreactions might actually just be the beginning of a trend for the rest of the season.
As always, refer back to our fantasy football rankings for any questionable waiver wire or lineup decisions. As a reminder, Yays – start ‘em, Nays – sit ‘em.
The Miami Dolphins will finish as a top-three defense for the second straight season.
Let’s start by giving some love to the defenses. The Dolphins put the clamps on the New England Patriots last weekend, holding Bill Belichick’s offense to seven points, while scoring a touchdown themselves, giving Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense all the support they’d need in securing a divisional victory.
The Dolphins defense and special teams were elite last season, finishing behind only the Dallas Cowboys and the Patriots.
Yet, this year, they were being drafted as the 10th defense off the board, and oftentimes were going undrafted altogether, despite a key addition in Melvin Ingram at a position that was already a strength.
Miami finished with 48 sacks last season, good for fifth in the league, which was the main reason they had such a productive season in fantasy despite finishing middle of the pack in interceptions (14), forced fumbles (14), and overall points allowed (364). Meaning that despite finishing third last season, they have room to grow.
Led by ball-hawking safety Javon Holland and Ingram’s defensive touchdown, the Dolphins started off on the right foot in Week 1. But if you want to know why Miami could very well finish amongst the top-three defenses again this season, look no further than the schedule. Once the Dolphins get through facing Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow over the next three weeks, their next eight matchups are a defense’s dream. From Week 5 on, they face the New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers. Kirk Cousins, undoubtedly, is the best quarterback they’ll face during that stretch.
If they’re still available in your league after they finished Week 1 as the second-highest scoring defense, keep an eye on them and see if you can grab them after Week 3. With so many favorable matchups, you won’t need to stream a defense every week.
None of the second-year quarterbacks will finish in the top 15 at the position.
To recap, five of the first 15 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft were quarterbacks: Trevor Lawrence (first), Zach Wilson (second), Trey Lance (third), Justin Fields (11th) and Mac Jones (15th). If we include Davis Mills, who the Texans selected in the third round with their first pick in the draft, that’s six second-year quarterbacks that currently have the starting job – including the injured Wilson.
Here’s where those six quarterbacks finished Week 1 respectively: 24th, N/A, 27th, 23rd, 30th, 20th. That’s after Lawrence led this group last season, finishing the season 22nd, right behind Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger and ahead of Teddy Bridgewater and Jared Goff.
Among the six second-year players, only Mills (80.7%) and Jones (80.1%) had a well-thrown percentage above league average (78.1) last season. And only Wilson played on a team that attempted passes in the first half at a rate higher than the league median. In layman’s terms, these QBs play on teams that prefer to run the ball and when they do pass, they haven’t been very efficient.
There’s an argument to be made that the league has never had more fantasy-relevant quarterbacks. Cousins’ average draft position (ADP) this season was QB15. If anyone is going to break out of this group and crack the top 15, it’ll likely be on the strength of mobility and increased passing volume. The only player who has a legitimate shot to do that is likely Lawrence.
The Fab Five are head and shoulders above the rest and (barring injury) will end the season as the top five.
There’s a plethora of elite receivers. We detailed that in the offseason when we reviewed the booming receiver market. But, within that group, there are five that make up the elite of the elite and will remain projected top-10 receivers every week regardless of QB or opponent.
Coincidentally for 12-team leagues, five receivers had a first-round ADP – Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams, Justin Jefferson of the Vikings, Ja’Marr Chase of the Bengals, Davante Adams of the Las Vegas Raiders, and Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills. It’s those five receivers that make up the cream of the crop at their position. And boy did they deliver in Week 1.
Jefferson, Kupp, Adams and Chase finished as the top four wide receivers of the week. More impressively, they did this despite only average outings from their quarterbacks. Matthew Stafford struggled to a QB29 finish. Kirk Cousins finished as QB12. Derek Carr finished as QB17. Unbelievably, despite turning the ball over five times, Joe Burrow finished the week as QB6.
Diggs, the slacker he is, finished sixth. Unlike his companions, however, he’ll benefit from excellent quarterback play from his quarterback, Josh Allen, who finished the week as QB2.
There are many reasons that make these receivers great. But maybe the most striking commonality? They’ll all burn you. A burn occurs when the targeted receiver does his part to achieve a successful play (that is, a significant gain towards a first down or touchdown), regardless of the quality of the throw by the quarterback.
There were six players that accumulated at least 103 total burns last season (postseason included). Tyreek Hill and these five superstars. The word elite is tossed around a lot. Especially in fantasy where a player doesn’t have to be great at football to be extremely valuable. But at the receiver position, not only are Kupp, Jefferson, Chase, Adams and Diggs the best of the best on the field, but they’re the best from a fantasy perspective as well.
Marcus Mariota will finish the season with six weekly finishes as a top-12 quarterback
Unless you are in a SuperFlex league, you and your league mates almost certainly didn’t start Mariota this past week. But chances are someone (hopefully not you!) started Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or Dak Prescott. Well, those three combined for 21.54 points, while Mariota scored 19.8 – finishing the week as QB10.
The beauty of starting a quarterback like Mariota or Jalen Hurts is that you don’t need passing volume to have a successful week. Mariota only recorded 215 passing yards and he didn’t have a passing touchdown. However, because Mariota is such a dynamic runner, he finished with 72 rushing yards and a touchdown. That vaulted him up the weekly leaderboards.
To finish as a top-12 quarterback, you need roughly 18 fantasy points. Mariota scored 13.2 fantasy points with his legs last week. He’s projected to score just less than six points this week. But 200 passing yards, one passing touchdown and 50 yards rushing add up to 17 points.
Mariota will have more performances like this for the Atlanta Falcons. Especially when bye weeks begin and managers are looking for replacements, Mariota’s rushing floor will make him a worthy play. The former Heisman Trophy winner might not be the greatest NFL quarterback, but he’s a sleeper who will help you win a couple of weeks.
Week 2 Yays
Note: We’re comparing our rankings to the expert consensus rankings (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week. (We pulled these numbers from Thursday.) Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Derek Carr, QB (LV) vs. ARI (ECR: 9, Our Rank: 5)
Did you see what Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs did to Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1? Because Carr and the Raiders sure did. And while no one is comparing the two in terms of overall QB play, Mahomes and Carr finished fourth and fifth in passing yards last season and with the addition of Adams, Carr has the weapons to make the Cardinals pay.
Arizona was one of three teams – Las Vegas and the New Orleans Saints were the others – that didn’t record a single sack in the opener. Not getting pressure against Carr is a recipe for disaster as his 85.6 well-thrown percentage while not pressured was third amongst all quarterbacks with 350 such attempts last season.
Carr finished Week 1 as QB17, but threw three interceptions. Carr and most of the Raiders’ offensive starters didn’t play in the preseason, making this their first time on the field together. With some of those bumps and bruises out of the way, our model is optimistic about Carr’s chances of a top-five finish.
Antonio Gibson, RB (WAS) vs. DET (ECR: 15, Our Rank: 6)
Gibson had a tumultuous offseason that saw him apparently lose his job to Brian Robinson Jr, a rookie running back out of Alabama. However, after Robinson was the victim of a carjacking attempt that led to multiple gunshot wounds, Gibson regained his place in the starting lineup and immediately took advantage of the opportunity in Week 1.
Gibson averaged 6.2 yards per touch in Week 1, tied with Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns for third among all running backs with at least 16 touches. However, unlike Chubb, who never was the recipient of many passes from either Baker Mayfield last year or Jacoby Brissett in Week 1, the majority of Gibson’s value came from the passing game (seven receptions). So much so that even without a touchdown, he finished the week as RB10.
Our model sees more of the same coming this week from Gibson, whose elite volume has a chance of catapulting him to a second straight top-10 finish. He’s ranked behind Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, Austin Ekeler, D’Andre Swift and Derrick Henry, but ahead of some big names like Saquon Barkley (No. 7), Leonard Fournette (No. 9), Darrell Henderson Jr. (12th), Aaron Jones (14th), Najee Harris (16th) and Ezekiel Elliott (25th).
If you have him, you’re starting him confidently.
James Robinson, RB (JAX) vs. IND (ECR: 32, Our Rank: 20)
Last week, Travis Etienne appeared on our Nay list because of the uncertainty surrounding playing time and opportunity in the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield. Then Week 1 happened. While Etienne dropped two touchdown passes, Robinson attempted seven more rushes and even caught a touchdown against the Washington Commanders in a brilliant first showing after tearing his Achilles last season.
And our model is now reacting accordingly. After Etienne only attempted four rushes in Week 1, our model is projecting him to only receive eight touches this week compared to 16 for Robinson. In a division battle against the Indianapolis Colts, expect the Jaguars to keep things close by trying to keep the ball. Robinson is firmly in contention for a flex spot this week and is right behind Alvin Kamara (19th) in our rankings.
He’s a better option right now than the middling group that includes Rashaad Penny (27th), AJ Dillon (29th) and Jeff Wilson Jr. (34th).
Tee Higgins, WR (CIN) vs. DAL (ECR: 34, Our Rank: 18)
Higgins’ ECR is surely quite low because he left the Bengals’ Week 1 heartbreaker with a concussion. Let’s not forget, however, that Higgins finished last season 12th in fantasy points per game and as a result, had an ADP of 34 (WR13).
Remember that list of burns we mentioned for the elite group of wide receivers? Higgins finished 11th last season on the back of a strong finish. He recorded at least 95 receiving yards in seven of his final 10 games, culminating in a 100-yard, two-touchdown effort in the Super Bowl. Now, he’s facing the team that allowed the fourth-most yards per completion last season and allowed over 11 yards per completion to Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1.
If Higgins clears concussion protocol, he’s an automatic start. Trust the talent and the familiarity of that Bengals offense.
Tyler Higbee, TE (LAR) vs. ATL (ECR: 13, Our Rank: 6)
Travis Kelce once again led the tight end position in fantasy points by leaps and bounds. He’s a cheat code. Unlike the receivers, he’s clearly at the top of his position. But despite his gaudy Week 1 production, he didn’t lead the position in targets.
Lost in the absolute shellacking that the Rams experienced on opening night at the hands of the Bills was Higbee quietly producing numbers that are promising. It was his 11 targets that paced all tight ends, clearly positioning him as Stafford’s second-favorite target.
With most managers desperate for any type of production from the tight end position, there are a lot worse directions to go in than Higbee. Although our model is only projecting him for a modest output, it’s still enough to be a solid start this week.
Week 2 Nays
Justin Herbert, QB (LAC) vs. KC (ECR: 3, Our Rank: 11)
Nothing like a Thursday night bang to kickstart Week 2. Mahomes’ Chiefs vs. Herbert’s Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC West showdown worthy of prime time. And a call from our model might set the tone for the whole week. Herbert as a Nay!
There are two main reasons our algorithms are less optimistic about Herbert than industry consensus. The first is the loss of security blanket Keenan Allen. In two games last season against the Chiefs, Allen was the leading receiver for the Chargers in both games, combining for 14 receptions for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
The second is Herbert’s lack of rushing. Including Week 1 of this season, Herbert hasn’t rushed for 20 yards in a single game since Week 12 last season.
Herbert has been undeniably impressive since entering the league and he’s played his very best at Arrowhead Stadium, throwing for a combined seven TDs in two games without an interception. But our model is skeptical of Herbert’s chances of overcoming Allen’s absence to finish as a top-10 quarterback this week.
Courtland Sutton, WR (DEN) vs. HOU (ECR: 14, Our Rank: 33)
Russell Wilson’s return to Lumen Field to face the Seattle Seahawks and longtime backup Geno Smith ended with some questionable coaching decisions and ultimately, a loss. Now, the Denver Broncos head home to face the Texans in their home opener.
For Sutton, it’s a chance at redemption after a rather pedestrian showing in Week 1. He didn’t receive his first target until deep into the second quarter and that only came after Jerry Jeudy showed off his big play ability by scoring a 67-yard touchdown. Combined with Javonte Williams’ 12 targets, Sutton didn’t see the volume that some expected him to see.
Until Wilson and Sutton prove they have chemistry and the ability to produce, our model will continue to treat the Broncos offense as egalitarian. Heck, even Melvin Gordon and Andrew Beck caught two passes apiece last week. Williams, Jeudy, Sutton and Albert Okwuegbunam are all projected to catch between three and five passes in Week 2. Therefore, Sutton’s chances of meeting his industry consensus as an elite WR2 are in question.
Elijah Moore, WR (NYJ) vs. CLE (ECR: 30, Our Rank: 43)
The NFL Week 1 leader in pass attempts? Joe Flacco.
The NFL Week 1 leader in completions? Joe Flacco.
That’s a good sign for Moore.
The Jets, though, were playing catchup to Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, resulting in an abandoned game plan. Against a Browns team that likely won’t score as easily as the Ravens, the Jets are likely going to try to establish a ground attack that averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry when they did run the ball.
Unfortunately for Moore, even when they were passing, the ball wasn’t heading in his direction. Both running backs and Corey Davis had more receptions than Moore, and his five receptions were tied with Braxton Berrios. Because of how many checkdowns Flacco attempted in Week 1, our model expects some of that to continue in Week 2. Moore’s seven projected targets aren’t enough to vault him into anything more than borderline Flex contention. He’s a risky play this week.
Dallas Goedert, TE (PHI) vs. MIN (ECR: 5, Our Rank: 10)
Goedert is 10th in our model’s projected rankings this week. However, because of the jumbled nature of the tight end position outside of Kelce – and Mark Andrews to a lesser extent – the difference in projection between Goedert and Higbee is just over one point.
It essentially comes down to our model expecting Higbee to catch one additional pass than Goedert. In the Philadelphia Eagles’ run-heavy offense, Goedert only received four targets in Week 1, despite the Eagles scoring 38 points.
Now facing a Vikings squad that held the Green Bay Packers without a passing touchdown, Goedert’s chances of finding the end zone are limited. Combined with his limited opportunities, you’re just hoping Goedert can produce a big play or two as he did against the Lions when he was able to turn two of his three receptions into gains of more than 20 yards.
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