What an opening weekend! Football fans were treated to major upsets, overtime thrillers, and the Cowboys embarrassing themselves on national television. Mayhem makes for great television, but it can also be a headache for fantasy managers. Let’s break down who’s hot and who’s not heading into another week of NFL action.
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Fantasy Football Stock Watch Week 2
Stock Down: RB Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
It was a double-dose of bad news for Tony Pollard owners on Sunday night. Against Tampa Bay, the Cowboys’ backup running back ran six times for a paltry eight yards and caught just two passes. Comparing his volume to Ezekiel Elliott‘s (10 carries, 52 yards), it’s clear that any dreams of a 50/50 split backfield are far from reality. While Dallas did utilize Pollard as a receiver in various formations, it didn’t lead to much production in the passing game, although some of that can be attributed to a stingy Bucs defense. In addition, Pollard’s struggles in pass protection could keep him on the bench despite his receiving prowess.
To make matters worse, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott injured his thumb and will require hand surgery that could keep him sidelined for up to eight weeks. Even if Prescott does return in four weeks, the most optimistic projection, that’s nearly half the fantasy regular season. Without Dak, much of Pollard’s value, especially in PPR, will be diminished. The coaching staff may lean on the running game more, but the team will likely be trailing in most games with Cooper Rush at QB. Pollard is probably a hold, since his value can’t get much lower. However, it might be a while before things get better.
Stock Up: Washington Commanders WRs
The Commanders triumphed over the Jaguars last week, 28-22, thanks in large part to the exploits of their “other” receivers. While Terry McLaurin was held to just two catches, albeit one for a touchdown, Curtis Samuel consistently made plays in open space, going for 72 total yards on eight catches and four carries. Washington went out of their way to get the ball to Samuel, which bodes well for his fantasy value over the course of the season. It was only one game, but the former Panther should already be considered as a flex option.
Rookie Jahan Dotson also had quite the NFL debut, connecting with Carson Wentz on two end-zone catches. The total yardage (40) on three catches won’t wow anyone, but the chemistry between Dotson and Washington’s new quarterback appears to be real, backing up reports from training camp. With other mouths to feed, a double-digit touchdown campaign is unlikely, but Dotson’s role in the passing game should only grow stronger with each passing week. Currently a bench option, the rookie could be a major fantasy contributor by season’s end.
Stock Down: RB Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
Perhaps the most obvious stock decline we’ll witness all year, Cam Akers went from early-round pick to Darrell Henderson Jr.’s handcuff in the span of a week. Akers, who suffered a torn Achilles last season, was limited to just three carries in a 31-10 loss for the Rams last Thursday, while Henderson Jr. played a whopping 82% of all snaps. While Henderson Jr. wasn’t particularly impressive (3.6 yards per carry), the fact that Akers only touched the field for 18 snaps is concerning.
So, is there a path for Akers to be, at the very minimum, fantasy-relevant this year? The answer will depend heavily on factors out of his control. Should both Henderson and the Rams offense continue to struggle, Sean McVay should have some motivation to give the third-year RB more work. Additionally, less time playing could give Akers more time to heal his Achilles. However, until we see an increased role, Akers simply isn’t startable. The value will never be lower, so trading him right now isn’t the right move, but the current backup in L.A. needs to ride your bench until further notice.
Stock Up: WR Julio Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Julio is back! Well, sort of. He’ll never produce like he did with the Falcons, but Jones made quite the impression during his Buccaneer debut. The veteran caught three catches (five targets) for 69 yards as a third option in the passing game for Tom Brady, a la Antonio Brown last season. Unlike his disappointing 2021 season with the Titans, Julio flashed elite athleticism, especially on a 48-yard completion in the second quarter. Jones reached over 20 MPH on the play, third-fastest among all wide receivers in Week 1.
Just as important as Jones’ improved play is his role in Tampa Bay’s offense. Mike Evans is still the clear number one, but Chris Godwin‘s hamstring injury will keep him sidelined for the near future. Fellow free agent signing Russell Gage got just two receptions on Sunday, and Tampa’s tight ends (Cameron Brate, Kyle Rudolph) aren’t likely to fill the void left by Rob Gronkowski. That leaves Julio as the most logical option to pick up the slack in what should be a high-powered offense. Even if Godwin returns soon, Jones should be a quality flex this season.
Stock Down: WR Kadarius Toney, New York Giants
Lost in the hoopla of the Giants’ 21-20 upset over the Titans was the surprising lack of involvement Kadarius Toney had in the passing game, totaling just seven snaps all afternoon. One would figure that an athletically gifted player on one of football’s most talent-starved teams would get more work than that. On Monday, head coach Brian Daboll said that while the coaching staff had confidence in Toney, the team’s receiver group would be evaluated on a “week-to-week basis.” That’s the kind of conflicting coach speak that can drive you insane this early in the year.
How far can Toney’s playing time fall? Journeyman Richie James had a solid five-catch performance, but he’s certainly not part of a rebuilding team’s future plans. Sterling Shepard and Kenny Golladay‘s best years are behind them, and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson is already dealing with injury issues. Hopefully, the reason behind Toney’s disappearing act is a limited offseason where he couldn’t practice much with the team. If his playing time issues extend to the locker room, it will be difficult for him to crack the starting lineup, for the Giants or fantasy teams.