Can you believe we are more than 10% through with the fantasy football season already (assuming you play in a sane league that ends before Week 18)? While it may feel like we’re just getting started, this is a very short game we play; this is why it’s so important to make the right moves early in the season.
While we don’t want to overreact, it’s hugely important to correctly identify trends early in the season and jump on them before your leaguemates do. That’s what I try to do here, so let’s get right into it.
Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons
- Kyle Pitts saw fewer targets than not just Drake London and Bijan Robinson, but also Mack Hollins and fellow tight end Jonnu Smith but I’m still not giving up on him just yet. With a team-leading 35 routes, zero pass-blocking snaps, and only 8.1% of his routes coming from in-line, Pitts has literally everything you could want in a fantasy tight end … except points, of course. Still, even in this dud, he saw back-to-back targets in the end zone (one of which doesn’t show up in the box score thanks to DPI). If he caught one of those, he would have had a top-10 tight-end performance this week. Given that my other option is usually a random wavier tight end with not much better production and hugely inferior underlying metrics, I’m going to keep rolling out Pitts wherever I have him.
- With back-to-back weeks of at least five targets, rookie WR Jayden Reed is on the fantasy radar. The return of Christian Watson isn’t going to hugely impact him, as he runs the vast majority of his routes out of the slot. In PPR leagues especially, Reed could be a flex play as a high-volume low-ADOT option in this offense.
- It’s unfair to compare anyone to Bijan Robinson, but it’s clear that Tyler Allgeier is by far the less talented half of this running back duo. Last week, I said he could maintain standalone value as long as he was the preferred goal-line back; this week, Bijan played four of the Falcons’ six snaps inside the 10. Neither back actually saw a goal-line carry, so there’s some room for hope, but Allgeier won’t be a startable player if that trend continues, especially considering he saw zero targets in this one as well.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Buffalo Bills
- The Bills attempted seven rushes inside the Raiders’ six-yard line. Not one came from James Cook. I hate to be down on one of the league’s most efficient rushers coming off a 21-touch, 159-yard performance, and I’m by no means entirely out on him … but it’s almost impossible to have consistent RB1 or even RB2 production with zero goal-line touchdown equity.
- Josh Jacobs had negative two rushing yards this week. He salvaged a few points with five receptions for 51 yards on six targets, but this was still ugly. But I wouldn’t panic: The Bills’ run defense is among the best in the league, and he’s still one of just a handful of backs who can claim to be a true workhorse, with an 85% RB rush share through two weeks.
- If James Cook isn’t getting the Bills’ goal-line attempts, does this mean Damien Harris or Latavius Murray (who both punched one in this week) can be fantasy-relevant? Eventually, maybe, but not if they continue to split whatever work is left over by Cook so evenly: Neither has reached 25% of snaps yet so far this season.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
- Unsurprisingly, this Ravens’ backfield is looking like an ugly committee. Justice Hill played more snaps (57% to 43%), ran more routes (23 to 10), saw more targets (three to 0), and had more rushing attempts (11 to 10) than Gus Edwards. But Edwards was much more productive, with 6.2 yards per carry to Hill’s 3.7, and scored a goal-line TD (although Hill got the first attempt, failing to get in from the one-yard line). Both are fringe flex options, with Hill slightly ahead, especially in PPR formats.
- Joe Burrow has not been himself to start this season and has now re-aggravated his preseason calf injury. If he’s your QB, you need to be looking at the waiver wire. But other than that, this isn’t really a problem to worry about too much in most fantasy leagues. Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and even Joe Mixon (who has been seeing great usage, btw) are still must-start players even with a backup QB. You can try to acquire them cheap, but I doubt their managers are panicking — you certainly shouldn’t be if you have them.
- Zay Flowers caught four of his five targets in Week 2, including a very impressive deep catch that went for 58 yards. But all three of his other receptions came behind the line of scrimmage, bringing his season total to nine of 13 receptions coming behind the LOS. I think he has the talent to contribute in a more traditional WR role, but until we see that he’s mostly appealing in full-PPR leagues where those short receptions are still worth a full point.
Seattle Seahawks @ Detroit Lions
- I was very worried about the Seahawks’ offense without their two top tackles … and I was half right. Kenneth Walker struggled mightily, averaging just 2.5 yards per attempt, but the Seattle O-line held up well enough in pass protection to let Geno Smith cook the Detroit secondary. The passing game should continue to bounce back from their Week 1 flop, while Zach Charbonnet (who saw four carries for 16 yards in this game) may start nipping at Walker’s heels if the second-year back continues to struggle.
- David Montgomery suffered a thigh injury, which he said after the game would take “a couple weeks” to heal, while Head Coach Dan Campbell says he is considered day-to-day. Fantasy Twitter is very upset at Craig Reynolds’ involvement, but Jahmyr Gibbs played 71% of snaps and saw far more touches than Reynolds following Montgomery’s injury. Reynolds is only a short-term pickup in deep leagues, but Gibbs (who saw an incredible nine targets on the day) could be a bona fide RB1 as long as Montgomery is out.
- The hope for Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s rookie-year fantasy value was that Seattle would play plenty of three-WR sets, but they are running 11 personnel on just a league-average 55% of first-down plays. This led to the rookie running just 28 snaps on 45 Geno Smith dropbacks this week. In theory, JSN should become more involved as the season goes on, but I struggle to see him beating out D.K. Metcalf or Tyler Lockett. Barring injury, expect a lot more performances like this week’s from the first WR selected in this year’s draft, with a handful of targets on low ADOT out of the slot in three-WR sets.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
- Anthony Richardson was on his way to an insane breakout fantasy football performance before it was cut short by a concussion. Thanks largely to two rushing TDs, he racked up 17.74 fantasy points in one quarter and 30 seconds of play. His early departure means he may be being overlooked, but he should be rostered in every single league — to give you some idea of how bullish I am about Richardson going forward, I added him in a 10-team 1-QB league, where I already had Josh Allen, before this week.
- There is reason to be optimistic about this Texans’ passing offense, as C.J. Stroud is looking relatively competent for a rookie QB and they will be behind often. But don’t get too excited about the gaudy target totals put up by Nico Collins, Tank Dell, Robert Woods, and even Dalton Schultz this week. Stroud attempted 47 passes this week and 44 the week before, both top 10 single-game numbers thus far in the season. That is going to regress and will bring their target numbers down with it.
- In his first game of the season, Zack Moss played all but one of the Colts’ offensive snaps. I don’t care who they are or what offense they are on, any RB with that role is a must-start.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars
- I spent the last few weeks of last season predicting regression for Jerick McKinnon … I guess I was just a year early. Now playing even fewer snaps than he was last year (less than 35% in both games so far) and seemingly having lost his lucky TD-guaranteeing four-leaf clover, he’s droppable in all but deep Full-PPR leagues.
- I was premature in writing off Christian Kirk as the Jaguars’ WR3 based on his Week 1 usage. He did benefit from both Zay Jones and Calvin Ridley missing occasional snaps with slight injuries, but it appears he would have been heavily involved regardless and finished with 11 catches on 14 targets for 110 yards. I still wouldn’t start him until we see him play a full-time role in a game where all three WRs stay healthy, but he’s firmly back on the fantasy radar heading into Week 3.
- Death, taxes, and Kadarius Toney posting insane per-snap and per-route numbers in a limited role. He caught all five of his targets (and carried the ball once) on just 15 snaps, making it the second straight week he saw an opportunity on well over a third of his snaps. He’s still my favorite stash out of the motley crew of Chiefs WRs, just due to his upside if he can ever carve out a full-time role.
Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Justin Fields wasn’t a great NFL quarterback in the second half of last season, but he was a great fantasy quarterback, thanks mostly to his consistent production on designed runs. Starting in Week 12 of last season, when his fantasy breakout began, Fields averaged 7.6 designed runs a game. Through two weeks of this season, he has five designed runs total. He still has an insane weekly ceiling thanks to his scrambling ability, but he’s not a must-start without that guaranteed rushing work.
- On the other side of this game, Baker Mayfield is outperforming expectations as Tampa Bay’s starter. He hasn’t been perfect, missing Chris Godwin on what should have been an easy touchdown in this one, but he’s done enough. Expect both Godwin and Mike Evans (who has already started hot) to outperform their ADPs as long as Baker stays competent.
- D’Onta Foreman was a healthy scratch this weekend, leaving Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson essentially alone in the Bears’ backfield. Everyone is very excited for the rookie Johnson, but Herbert still played 60% of snaps to his 42% and saw 10 opportunities to his six. If the Bears can be slightly more competitive, expect Herbert to have solid RB2 weeks as long as he can hold off Johnson.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Tennessee Titans
- Josh Kelley was obviously disappointing in Week 2 with Austin Ekeler out, but I would start him next week if Ekeler is out again, which is looking very likely given that Brandon Staley said Monday that he is “without a timetable for return.” The Titans’ run defense is one of the best in the league, and Kelley’s usage was exactly what you want to see, with 79% of snaps, a 72% RB rush share, and a 66% route participation rate.
- While some of his rookie-year efficiency metrics were very impressive, Chigoziem Okonkwo is not worth considering in normal Redraft leagues at this point. He saw four targets this week, but played 50% of his passing snaps in-line, never a good sign for the fantasy viability of a tight end. The Titans’ offense is also still very run-heavy, not leaving enough targets to go around for a traditional tight end.
- First-round rookie WR Quentin Johnston played just 10 snaps this week, but I wouldn’t give up on him just yet in deeper leagues. He did get a jump-ball target in the end zone on his limited snaps, and I have to imagine he passes up Josh Palmer on the depth chart soon … right?
New York Giants @ Arizona Cardinals
- I like the potential of Michael Wilson as the X receiver in this Cardinals’ offense, but this week was not a good sign for his fantasy value. After running 31 routes on 34 Joshua Dobbs dropbacks in Week 1, he ran just 18 routes on 32 dropbacks this week. Hopefully his usage returns closer to Week 1 going forward, otherwise he’s not worth rostering.
- Speaking of rookie wide receivers who have flashed talent but aren’t playing a large enough role to be fantasy-relevant yet … Jalin Hyatt. He did have two big plays on Sunday, but he ran only 12 routes. You can leave him on your watch list and the waiver wire for now, but add him quickly if that number grows, as he has the potential to be the most talented WR on this team.
- Through two weeks, this Cardinals offense looks competent. That’s great for all their players, but most important for James Conner. UDFA rookie Emari Demercado is cutting into his passing-down work, but he is seeing absolute workhorse volume on the ground. As long as Arizona can stay competitive, he should be a rock-solid flex or fringe RB2.
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams
- As a 49ers fan, this was the worst game I’ve seen Brock Purdy play. He missed both Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel on what should have been walk-in TDs, plus Jauan Jennings on a big potential third-down conversion. Taking a positive fantasy spin on this, he usually hits at least one of those, which would have put him around 20 fantasy points for the week. With the amount of open weapons Kyle Shanahan is providing for him, I expect Purdy to be a fringe QB1 all season long.
- Out of nowhere, Cam Akers was a healthy scratch on Sunday. We’ve seen this story before, but I don’t think he makes it back this time, at least not in LA. Kyren Williams, who saw an insane 95% snap share and exploded for 25 fantasy points, is a must-add and a must-start in his absence.
- Speaking of insane RB workloads, Christian McCaffrey played every single snap for the 49ers this week. Kyle Shanahan did say afterward that Elijah Mitchell will be involved more often going forward, but he’s just a handcuff at this point, while CMC is the second most valuable player in fantasy after Justin Jefferson … at least.
New York Jets @ Dallas Cowboys
- Garrett Wilson was one play away from a one-catch, 15-yard outing. Yes, that big play counts, but even he isn’t going to be able to simply run away from the defense once a week. I wrote this week that I would be looking to trade Wilson away even at his lower price with Zach Wilson under center, and I stand by it. The Wilson-Wilson connection is that bad.
- With Brandin Cooks out with a knee injury, Jalen Tolbert was arguably (and slightly) more involved in the Cowboys’ passing game than Michael Gallup. He played four fewer snaps, but ran one more route and saw two more targets. Unfortunately, what this likely means for fantasy is that neither will be consistently productive, especially when Cooks returns.
- While Breece Hall only seeing four carries is obviously not good, that’s not the metric that I think is the most concerning for his value for the rest of the season. What I’m most worried about is Michael Carter playing a third of the Jets’ snaps, especially on passing downs. Hall can certainly overcome splitting carries with Dalvin Cook, but if both Cook and Carter remain involved, he’s going to be hard-pressed to be more than an RB2 in this lackluster offense.
Washington Commanders @ Denver Broncos
- The Sean Payton Broncos have gotten their fair share of flack for starting 0-2, but things are actually looking up in Denver, at least from a fantasy perspective. The Broncos scored 33 points this weekend, more than they did in any game in 2022, and were just let down by a seemingly worsened defense. Russell Wilson is the QB4 so far, and could easily continue to produce low-end QB1 numbers if this trend continues.
- You wouldn’t know it from looking at his fantasy production, but Jahan Dotson is actually the Commanders’ leader so far this season with 11 targets. Given that Sam Howelll has been at least serviceable, I like him as a trade target if his current manager is disappointed in his current WR67 rank.
- The third member of our Week 2 trio of rookie WRs who had big weeks in small roles, Marvin Mims had the most extreme of both, with 113 yards and a touchdown on just 16 snaps. Like Wilson and Hyatt before him, he’s also worth watching in case his role expands, but not someone who needs to be on rosters at this point except in deeper leagues.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
- Miami’s RB2 Salvon Ahmed left this game early with a groin injury, but it is reportedly minor. Even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be too interested in De’Von Achane, who saw fewer carries and only two more snaps in the backfield than WR Erik Ezukanma. This is Raheem Mostert’s backfield, and he is a weekly RB2 at this point, with true home-run speed still at age 31 — he has reached the second-fastest speed of any ball-carrier so far this season, behind just teammate Tyreek Hill.
- Two weeks into the season, Hunter Henry is the fantasy TE2, and it’s not a fluke. He’s lining up in the slot or out wide on nearly 70% of snaps, running a full complement of routes, and has seen at least six targets in both games. Add him if you need tight end help and he’s available.
- If you’re in a deep or 2-TE league and Henry’s not available, I still like what we’re seeing from Durham Smythe, although his production obviously leaves something to be desired. The sixth-year tight end has led the Dolphins in routes run in both weeks so far, and in Week 2 lined up out wide or in the slot over three-quarters of the time, while only pass-blocking once. It’s possible he’s just out there running cardio, but eventually defenses will leave him wide open while running around after Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.