By: Kris Perez
Here are my five takeaways from Week 1 in the NFL.
Lamar Jackson is legit
Jackson had a great start to the 2019 season. With 5 passing TDs, 323 yards, and an 85% completion percentage, Jackson was the best fantasy QB in Week 1. He did all this while only having 6 rushing yards on 3 carries, which is arguably his best skill. According to Football Outsiders, Jackson had a league-leading 124.1% DVOA, which is similar to WAR in that “represents value, per play over an average quarterback in the same game situations.” Now, I understand that this was against a bad Dolphins team (see #2), but Jackson looked confident and calm on film, and with a favorable schedule, Jackson has the potential to be a QB1 with Top 5 upside in fantasy in 2019.
The Dolphins are really, really bad
The Dolphins had a dreadful start to 2019, which is probably putting it kindly. It was so bad that sources said “multiple Dolphins players reached out to their agents following the loss and asked them to get them traded out of Miami.” The Dolphins gave up 643 total yards on 8.8 yards/play in Week 1 against the Ravens. They had less than 20 minutes of possession time, and 8 out of their 10 possessions ended in a Turnover or Punt. For fantasy purposes, I would cut ties with any and all Dolphins because this offense is ineffective, regardless of the talent of some of the weapons. On the other side, I would stream any starters, especially RBs who are playing the Dolphins, as their defense in 2018 ranked 29th in total yards/game with 391.1 and 31st in rushing yards/game with 145.3. This season looks like it will be a long one for Miami as they are fully embracing “Trusting the Process.”
Antonio Brown and his fantasy impact
Week 1 got off to a hectic start before any games were played when Antonio Brown was cut by the Raiders and a few hours later was a Patriot. This sent the NFL community into a frenzy. This move has large fantasy implications for many people involved. For the Raiders, without Brown they looked great Week 1, with Tyrell Williams looking like a legitimate WR1 and Darren Waller looking like a TE1 this season behind Derek Carr’s solid performance. Now for the Patriots, I expect Julian Edelman’s stats to fall slightly but not dramatically. Brown has proven that with a solid QB, he can fit with another talented WR. In 2018, JuJu Smith-Schuster accounted for roughly 25% of the targets and averaged 7 receptions and 89 yards per game. Brown also accounted for similar numbers as he had roughly 25% of the targets and averaged 7 receptions for 87 yards per game. These stats made both Top 10 fantasy WRs in 2018. I don’t expect Edelman to be a Top 10 WR as he is not as explosive as Smith-Schuster, but I don’t see his value decreasing from where he was drafted. I do, however, expect Gordon’s value to drop as he is a big play reliant WR, and with targets being taken away for Brown, there will be too much volatility in Gordon’s chances moving forward. This analysis is on the basis that Brown plays, this week there was some troubling news surrounding Brown so stay alert for more information.
Dalvin Cook and the Vikings' running game are solid
Cook looked dominant in Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons. He rushed for 111 yards on 5.3 yards/carry and had 2 TDs. Throughout his career, Cook has been productive, averaging 4.7 yards/carry. His problem thus far has been his injury history. In 2018, even with missing 6 games due to injuries, Cook finished as the number 30 RB in fantasy. Cook is finally healthy and looked great on film in Week 1. With Cook being healthy, he is running more aggressively and confidently which was evident against the Falcons, where Cook averaged 3.3 YAC/carry (yards after contact) as compared to 2.0 YAC/carry in 2018. With a solid offensive line and stifling defense, the Vikings will have a formidable rushing attack this year.
Dak Prescott is an elite QB
The return of Ezekial Elliot to the Cowboys was a huge move for the team as it puts them in contention for a Super Bowl. The Cowboys have maybe the most balanced offense in the NFL with a Pro Bowl caliber RB and WR to compliment Prescott. Prescott opened 2019 with a stellar performance against the Giants, passing for 405 yards, 4 TDs, on a 78.1 completion percentage, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The addition of Cooper to balance this offense has allowed Dak to improve dramatically. Last year, in games with Cooper, Prescott averaged 72% on passes, a passer rating of 102, 1.55 TDs/game, and 274.22 yards/game. When these averages are taken over a full 16 game season, Dak would rank 2nd in completion percentage, 8th in passer rating, 13th in TDs, and 8th in yards. Prescott has faced some criticism in the past but I think his Week 1 is a sign of what is to come for Prescott who is a QB1 in fantasy, and should be a solid play every week.
And here's my Week 2 advice for your fantasy teams.
Sit: Devonta Freeman
The matchup this week for the Freeman is not ideal coming off a poor Week 1, where he rushed 18 times for 24 yards and lost a fumble. He is going up against an Eagles team that only gave up 79.2 rushing yards/game and 14 rushing TDs total in 2018. Unlike Freeman’s poor Week 1, the Eagles rushing defense got off to a great start, as they held the Redskins to 28 yards on 13 carries. The game script could be similar to last week for the Eagles, in which the Falcons will be forced to abandon the run to try and catch the Eagles. This situation does not look good for Freeman, which makes him a Must Sit in Week 2.
Stream: Derek Carr
Carr had a tremendous Week 1 going 22/26 with 259 yards and 1 TD against a solid Broncos defense. Head Coach John Gruden and Carr had a solid game plan to get rid of the ball fast to neutralize the pass rushers for Denver. I would imagine that in Week 2, the Raiders will have a similar game plan for the Chiefs. In Week 1, the Chiefs gave up 350 passing yards and 3 TDs to the Jaguars QBs, which included rookie Gardner Minshew going 22/25 for an 88% completion percentage. The statistics totals for the two QBs would have placed them as the number 9 QB in fantasy. The Chiefs made significant changes defensively during the offseason, but this remains an excellent option to stream against. This matchup is good for Derek Carr, and he is a Must Stream in Week 2.
Stash: Malcolm Brown
The LA Rams rushing attack had an interesting Week 1. Todd Gurley looked like the old Todd Gurley rushing for 97 yards on 14 carries for a productive 6.9 yards/carry. However, it was Brown that had the most impactful fantasy plays, scoring twice at the goal line. Besides the two TDs, Brown also had a productive day rushing for 53 yards on 11 carries. This is a situation to monitor moving forward, if Brown continues to get the goal line carries, then he has the potential to be an RB2 each week. Beyond that, Gurley missed time last year with a lingering knee injury which could affect him this year. If you are in a deep league, Brown should be picked up immediately with the potential he carries this year. Regardless of what type of league you're in, Brown is a Must Stash in 2019.