The fantasy football season is officially upon us as Week 1 comes to a close. As always, the beginning of the NFL calendar was chaotic, action-packed and unpredictable. So, let’s recap the key takeaways from from the opening slate of games.
Ravens running backs ... After losing J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill to injuries, Baltimore’s depleted running back room drew much attention in Week 1. Those who trusted undrafted free agent Ty’Son Williams Monday night were rewarded, as the rookie totaled 94 yards and a score on 12 touches — good for 18.4 fantasy points. Williams operated as the main back before suffering a potential concussion late in the game. The rookie saw only nine carries compared to Latavius Murray’s 10 as the two ended with almost identical rush play snaps (14 for Williams, 12 for Murray). A positive for Williams was that he dominated the veteran in pass snaps, with 22 compared to just seven. If healthy, Williams appears to still have the nod and is a must-own. Murray should be rostered going forwards as well.
James White returns ... New England’s receiving back completely fell off the fantasy radar with Cam Newton under center in 2020, but the veteran has returned with rookie Mac Jones now operating at quarterback. Much like he was in Tom Brady’s Foxborough days, White was heavily targeted by the rookie, hauling in six of his seven targets for 42 yards. His six catches were tied for the team lead. White might not have the upside of someone like Ty’Son Williams, but he is back to a Half- and Full-PPR FLEX option.
Keep the faith in Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney ... It wasn't an opener to write home about for the Bears’ starting receivers, but do not give up hope yet. Not only did Chicago have to open with the taunting Rams defense, but they also had to do so with Andy Dalton under center. The Bears offensive gameplan also did them no good, as Dalton threw just three passes over 10-yards. A better matchup this week — and hopefully Justin Fields soon — should lead to better days ahead for the duo.
Buy low on Ezekiel Elliott and Kyle Pitts ... After being hyped up this past offseason, Week 1 was a disaster class for Elliott, running for just 33 yards on 11 carries. However, the Cowboys’ matchup served him no favors. Dallas was forced to lean on the pass game to keep pace with Brady and Co. Plus, when they did run the football, Tampa had the highest defensive rush success rate of any team in Week 1, per TruMedia’s EPA model. Dallas should get back to a more balanced approach, so pick Elliot up for cheap is someone is eager to get rid of him. ... Pitts had a relatively quiet rookie debut for Atlanta, but volume wasn't the issue. The tight end was tied for third on the Falcons in routes run (31) and tied for the team high in targets (8). Matt Ryan was under constant pressure on Sunday, as half of Pitts’ targets actually came with Ryan under pass rush pressure. Keep Pitts locked into lineups going forward.
Sell high on Melvin Gordon III ... Gordon stumbled for 101 yards and a scored in a strong season opener for Denver. However, his big play was a 70-yard run and the veteran saw rookie Javonte Williams steal his snaps as the game went on. Williams actually out-snapped Gordon 34 to 32, while also handling more carries and total touches. Gordon could be in for another strong game against a poor Jaguars run defense in Week 2, but the Broncos’ backfield looks like it will become Williams’ sooner rather than later.
Jacksonville rushers ... Trevor Lawrence threw the ball 51 times in his NFL debut, something Urban Meyer has already said shouldn't happen again. With the pass-happy approach, James Robinson and Carlos Hyde were left with just a combined 14 rushes. It was tough to gauge how Jacksonville plans on using their two backs, but Robinson out snapped Hyde 20-17 in the second half, while running twice as many routes (18-9). Robinson appears a strong part of the Jags passing attack, but Hyde will provide value if he becomes their main rusher. He should be added.
Darrell Henderson dominates snaps ... For the first 55 minutes of the Rams’ season opener, Henderson played 100 percent of their offensive snaps. His stat line didn't jump off the page until some late work in the fourth quarter, but was matched up against a tough Chicago run defense. There’s still a chance Sony Michel sees more time as he becomes more comfortable within the offense, but the Los Angeles backfield is centered around Henderson for the time being.
The tight end dilemma ... Juwan Johnson will be a popular waiver wire add after a big fantasy performance Sunday, but Adam Trautman should be the Saints tight end you target. Trautman played 51 snaps compared to Johnson’s 12 and led New Orleans with six targets. ... Mike Gesicki was heavily featured in the slot for Miami last year, but was out snapped in the slot by rookie Jaylen Waddle 28 to 10. On top of that, Gesicki didn't catch either of his targets and played just 21 total snaps compared to Durham Smythe’s 38. He doesn't look trustworthy going forward. ... James O’Shaughnessy ran a route on 44 of Jacksonville’s 56 pass plays. While we mentioned the Jaguars will not be throwing the ball that much weekly, O’Shaughnessy looked to be a favorite target of Lawrence. He hauled in six of his eight targets for 48 yards.
Jets running backs grounded ... The Jets featured a three-man rotation in their backfield on Sunday against Carolina. While Coleman led the way with nine carries, Ty Johnson and rookie Michael Carter combined for eight. While Carter is expected to fulfill more of a lead-back role eventually this season, the trio should be avoided until the time being.
Brandon Aiyuk in the dog house ... After a hamstring injury set him back in the preseason, Aiyuk started to see rotating snaps with Trent Sherfield in the 49ers’ second preseason games. In San Francisco’s first regular-season game, Sherfield started and drew three targets to Aiyuk’s none, while playing one more snap (27 to Aiyuk’s 26). Aiyuk could still earn back a spot in San Fran’s offense, but the regression from his outstanding rookie season was not what fantasy managers were expecting.
10 waiver wire additions:
Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler, DEN: With Jerry Jeudy set to miss several weeks with a high ankle sprain, enter Patrick and Hamler. Patrick will be the main waiver wire addition, as he was already playing his fair share of snaps before Jeudy went down. He caught all four targets for 39 yards and a touchdown and should be an every down receiver moving forward. Hamler meanwhile could be Jeudy’s main replacement, as he ran six of his 20 snaps from the slot — Jeudy had 24 slot snaps before exiting. Hamler is worth a look if needed.
Elijah Mitchell, SF: With Raheem Mostert set to miss the rest of the season and rookie Trey Sermon a healthy inactive Week 1, the 49ers’ backfield looks to be Mitchell’s at the moment (we all know how Kyle Shanahan likes to operate). Sermon is still the better talent, but Mitchell ran well in Week 1 relief duties, recording 19 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. He most likely will be the most popular waiver wire addition of the week.
Cordarrelle Patterson, ATL: While Mike Davis was the clear-cut No. 1 running back, Patterson firmly established himself as the No. 2 option. One of the league’s best kick returner’s of all time showcased his versatility again Sunday, lining up all over the field and leading the team with 54 rush yards — while also recording two targets. He’s worth a look in deeper leagues.
Sterling Shepard, NYG: New York’s best receiver led the team in snaps, targets, receptions, yards, and hauled in a touchdown on Sunday. One of fantasy’s most undervalued players needs to be owned and started.
Marquise Brown, BLT: Even with Rashod Bateman starting the year on IR, Bateman is still available in a majority of fantasy leagues. He likely will eclipse the 60 percent bench mark after his Monday night showing, where he hauled in all six of his targets for 69 yards and a touchdown. He still is Baltimore’s top receivers and worth a look if he’s sitting on your waiver wire.
Jalen Reagor, PHI: A disappointing rookie season appears to be in the rearview mirror for the Eagles’ No. 2 receiver. Reagor easily out-snapped any Philadelphia wideout not named DeVonta Smith and saw six targets from Jalen Hurts — hauling in all six for 49 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles’ array of weapons could make things murky, but the volume and upside are certainly there.
Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow, LV: After a hyped-up preseason, it took Edwards nearly the entire game to make his mark in Week 1. He caught his first pass with under a minute left in the fourth quarter, but finished with four receptions for 81 yards, while coming up a half-yard short of a touchdown. The Raiders’ coaching staff is extremely high on the second-year wideout and his outside ability is noteworthy. Renfrow, on the other hand, was busy throughout Vegas’ Monday night thriller. He was second on the team with nine targets — catching six. He should rack up catches this season from the slot, making him a valuable option in Half- and Full-PPR leagues — like James White.
Tyrell Williams, DET: Despite an extremely disappointing stat line in his Lions debut, Williams operated as Detroit’s No. 1 receiver before leaving the game after a helmet-to-helmet hit. In Detroit’s 23 first-half pass plays, Williams ran a route on all 23 — no other receiver had more than 14. He’s the main Lions receiver to own, as a positive game script should also help his cause throughout the year.
That is all for this week’s recap. Leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter @iambrianhines with any and all questions about your fantasy team!