In Week 1, we saw our fair share of surprises, including huge performances by some undrafted rookies. After all, who really saw Cleveland’s Isaiah Crowell finishing as a top-10 RB? The one-time University of Georgia standout wasn’t expected to see the field much early on, yet injuries allowed him to turn five carries into two touchdowns and 15 fantasy points against a supposedly improved Steeler defense.
The weekend of the undrafted free agent also saw—hold you breath for a second—a JAGUARS receiver emerge as a fantasy asset. Former Miami Hurricane Allen Hurns’ 23-point outing put him behind only some guy named Megatron for the top fantasy receiver spot in Week 1. While I’m not expecting him to live up to that billing on a weekly basis, you should probably pick him up if he’s still on the waiver wire.
Crowell and Hurns proved that draft status doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to your fantasy team. Consider that top-10 picks Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans each posted just three fantasy points in their professional debuts, and you realize how important opportunity and matchups can be.
While it’s always tough to count on rookie receivers, it looks like Brandin Cooks of the Saints is absolutely the real deal. George and I pegged him as our Offensive Rookie of the Year choice, and he lived up to the hype in Week 1. Drew Brees’ newest toy caught seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in New Orleans’ loss to Atlanta. His 14 points put him as the No. 9 fantasy WR. The arrow is only pointing up for him.
As good as Cooks looked, he wasn’t even the most impressive rookie receiver from Week 1. That honor belonged to Carolina Panthers first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin. I’ll admit I wasn’t high on him coming out of FSU. Despite incredible size, he displayed shaky speed, lapses in concentration and inconsistent hands. Well, just look at his sick touchdown snag over the back of Mike Jenkins if you have any questions about those mitts. Benjamin is firmly entrenched as Derek Anderson/Cam Newton’s No. 1 receiver and should continue to see plenty of targets on a weekly basis.
Of course, these performances could simply be outliers, especially in the case of young players. Can Hurns really make more magic with Chad Henne behind center? And is Crowell capable of scoring at such a proficient rate? Meanwhile, will Watkins and Evans live up to their draft status, or will Cooks and Benjamin build upon their Week 1 success?
That’s the great thing about football. You just never know. But that’s the beauty of fantasy football; each week is a calculated guessing game. Matchups matter. Injuries matter. Heck, every Tweet or news blurb about a player is scrutinized to the umpteenth degree. So as we try and figure out which rookies are really useful and which ones should be left on the waiver wire, it’s important to remember to not be swayed by a standout debut. Consistency is what we aim for in a successful fantasy team. Remember, championships aren’t won in Week 1. Take your time, do your homework and figure out which rookies can help put you over the top in your league.
That said, here are my Week 2 Best and Worst Plays with some matchup analysis.
Players I’m Banking On
Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals: Even with all the distraction about Larry Fitzgerald’s lack of targets, I’m high on this offense. First, Michael Floyd is a stud. Second, rookie John Brown is the perfect T.Y. Hilton impersonator in Bruce Arians’ offense. And third, the Cardinals are playing a Giants defense that just got ripped apart by Matthew Stafford and the Lions last week. Palmer threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-point effort against the Chargers in Week 1 and has a chance to do even better than that against a defense that is simply overrated. He’s my No. 10 QB this week and could easily be near the top five.
Montee Ball, RB, Broncos: George and I were riding the Montee Ball bandwagon all summer. Unfortunately, the second-year back averaged just 2.9 yards per carry against a weak Colts defense. Luckily, he did score a touchdown and finished with 13 fantasy points. This week, he gets to face a Chiefs defense that just lost run-stopping stalwarts Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito to season-ending injuries. Tennessee just ran for 162 yards against Kansas City, and the Broncos offense is far more potent than that. I could easily see Ball going off for 100+ yards and at least one touchdown.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos: Don’t be scared off by Thomas’ nondescript four-point performance. His talent is simply too immense for him not to get back on track. And don’t believe for a second that Peyton Manning will allow his most talented weapon to go unfed. Kansas City’s defense just let Jake Locker look like a competent quarterback. Can you imagine what Peyton will do to them?
Players to Be Cautious With
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: Hate to bet against Tom Terrific, but this isn’t exactly a tasty matchup for the Patriots. Brady’s offensive line will have to block Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Anthony Barr of Minnesota. Just ask Patriots fans how that unit did against the Dolphins’ duo of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. The Pats offense got little production from anyone not named Julian Edelman. Maybe a healthy Aaron Dobson helps Brady get out of his rut, but I’m not exactly fond of the two-time MVP’s chances against Mike Zimmer’s defense.
Joique Bell, RB, Lions: Love the player, but I’m wary of the matchup. Bell did score 11 points in Week 1 despite averaging less than four yards per carry. He’s obviously more suited for passing-down duties, though the Panthers boast a strong linebacker group capable of covering. Carolina’s defense is not one that I’d be fond of going against, especially with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis running the show.
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: One week after pegging Allen as a guy I was high on, he’s on the other side of the equation for me. This simply comes down to the matchup, as he’ll be taking on the Legion of Boom. San Diego also lost center Nick Hardwick for the season with a neck injury, which shakes up an already average offensive line. Perhaps he’ll be able to avoid facing Richard Sherman every down, but the rest of that Seahawks defense looked pretty scary to me in their Week 1 win over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Photo page for Mark Runyon can be found here.