Jameis Winston, Victor Cruz, Keenan Allen Replacements
Welcome to the first regular-season edition of The Fantasy 40. Every Tuesday, I’ll drop in with 40 names and the fantasy-relevant developments attached to them. And sometimes I’ll write an intro. Like this, that you’re reading now. That’s it. (Nailed it.)
Marvin Jones: Four catches? Boooo. Eighty-five yards? Better. Ten targets? Huzzah! Jones looked like Matthew Stafford’s favorite target, and I expect the Lions to continue to be a good, pass-happy, uptempo offense.
Carson Wentz to Jordan Matthews: Good on them. As my podcast co-host Andy Benoit told everyone for the past six months: Wentz, despite coming from a small school, was the most pro-ready rookie quarterback to enter the league since Andrew Luck. He looked it on Sunday. But then, a lot of people will look pro-ready against the Browns defense. This will probably go down as one of Wentz’s best games of 2016. But one takeaway is that Jordan Matthews is going to be his go-to receiver, making him a borderline top-25 wideout going forward.
Victor Cruz: Good! It was nice to see Cruz out there taking on a big role, and the Giants will have three receivers on the field pretty much full-time. I’m not buying Cruz as more than a bye-week fill-in. He’s not what he once was and Eli targeted him only four times on Sunday. However, Cruz is trusted in the red zone and with all that attention going to Odell Beckham, the I could see Cruz doing the Macarena or whatever every other week.
Jameis Winston: I was bullish on Jameis leading up to the season, and obviously Sunday’s performance did nothing to change my mind. I’m not 100% sold yet, as the Falcons are atrocious defensively, a zone-heavy team whose pass rush counts to seven Mississippi every play before they go after the quarterback.
Allen Robinson: Bummer. A-Rob had only six catches and no touchdowns on Sunday, but he was still targeted an NFL-high 15 times. If you can find some panicky idiot willing to deal him, take advantage.
Theo Riddick: Danny Woodhead East. Eastern-ish? Don’t be fooled by the two touchdowns though. Riddick is stuck in a pure committee for now, but there will be weeks when the Lions fall behind, and Riddick emerged as the go-to guy. He’s a Matthew Stafford favorite, and his floor is high enough that he should be owned in all leagues.
Jeremy Hill: If you can find someone disillusioned by Hill’s Week 1 performance, go get him. That was his toughest matchup of the year. The Bengals didn’t really try to run on the Jets, who have an elite run defense. They’ll be much more balanced going forward.
Dez Bryant: This wasn’t completely unexpected. Dak Prescott, facing an honest-to-God NFL defense (albeit not a particularly good one) for the first time in his life, was overwhelmed, conservative and inaccurate. Dallas has to brainstorm a way to get Bryant the ball, but really, he’s a boom-or-bust guy until Romo is back.
Dak Prescott: Not a fantasy option, and probably not close to being one. Shoulda sold high in August.
Todd Gurley: Every Todd Gurley owner who stayed up late on Monday night:
Yeah, this is going to be a problem. Gurley will have the occasional breakout game because he’s just that good, but he will be facing a constant run of 53-man boxes until the Rams find a better quarterback than Case Keenum. (Might I suggest Sean Mannion, throwing left-handed and blindfolded?)
Tavon Austin: All the same problems as Gurley, but it’s not all bad: The Rams are clearly making Austin the centerpiece of everything they do in their (God-awful) passing game. When you’re being targeted a dozen times per week, your floor is fairly high.
Cole Beasley: Might have some short-term value during the Dak days. Everyone is going to use the same formula the Giants did: Double Dez at all times, let Dak throw the short stuff to Beasley and Jason Witten, and watch the Cowboys punt six or seven times a game.
Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams: Huh, looks like Pitta is the tight end to own in Baltimore. He played all but two snaps in the win over the Bills on Sunday, and is a streaming option in a Marc Trestman offense that wants to feature the tight end. If you need a replacement for Rob Gronkowski, or if you’re, say, waiting on Tyler Eifert, Pitta is a legit option.
Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard: The dream of Murray playing 90% of Oakland’s snaps is dead, but don’t be a melvin, Murray is still the RB1. Richard is just going to eat into more snaps than originally expected (and, for now, has overtaken DeAndre Washington on the depth chart). Murray is still a top-15 back, and likely a mid-season sell-high candidate after Oakland’s soft start if over.
Tajae Sharpe: Believe it! The Titans aren’t going to throw it around a lot, but Sharpe will be their No. 1 when they do.
DeAngelo Williams: In the unlikely event that you play in a league in which Williams was unowned, pick him up. (And then find a new league, because you are in a terrible league.) As I wrote during the preseason, you could have spent a top-75 pick on Williams and I wouldn’t have pointed and laughed at you. He’s a stud wile Bell is out, and worth hanging onto after Bell returns considering the starter’s injury history.
Jeremy Kerley: Kerley (or as I call him, “Curly”) pretty much stole Bruce Ellington’s bit. Blaine Gabbert is going to go heavily to his slot guy. That’s Kerley, who played about two-thirds on San Fran’s snaps on Monday night. There’s no touchdown upside, but you could do worse if you’re looking for the occasional fill-in.
A couple names in light of the Keenan Allen injury. Keenan Allen tore his ACL, in case you didn’t hear. And since I just told you that, I’m counting him among the 40…
Philip Rivers: Dude can’t catch a break. The Chargers had a razor-thin margin for error in the receiving corps with Stevie Johnson already out. Allen’s injury is literally a deathblow. Well, O.K., not literally. But it’s no good for Rivers, who figures to put up the same kind of erratic statistical performances as he did in the second half of last season.
Melvin Gordon: No, no, no. Gordon played only 23 snaps on Sunday, which is a more important number than the two touchdowns (though, don’t get me wrong, two touchdowns are nice after a season in which you score zero). Danny Woodhead was already going to take a bigger role than Gordon because the Chargers figure to be trailing early and often, but his receiving skills become even more valuable with Allen out. Gordon is a No. 2 back and TD vulture, not much more.
Danny Woodhead: I just said: His receiving skills become even more valuable with Allen out. He’s knocking on the door of top-10 RB status in ½-point receptions leagues (which should be all leagues).
Hunter Henry: I’d stash him away in deep leagues. The Chargers would probably like to run more two-tight end stuff. But as we see every year, when it comes to tight ends, it’s not easy being “green.” (You see, green also can mean “inexperienced,” so that line works on a couple levels. Good job by me.)
Travis Benjamin: I’ve been cautiously optimistic about Benjamin, but I’m not sure this really changes his role. He’s a deep threat, and Rivers will generally look downfield but quickly check it down to Danny Woodhead. We’ll see though.
Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams: Whatever. Maybe Inman holds low-end value in PPR leagues.
Back to people who are not on the Chargers…
Devonta Freeman: Did you think Devonta Freeman in Round 1 was a good idea? No. No it was not. And it’s even worse now that Dan Quinn has emphasized the committee approach in Atlanta’s backfield. If you can move Freeman for, say, an Alshon Jeffery-type (or Le’Veon Bell?), do it.
Matthew Stafford: Goodness yes. Stafford continues to thrive under Jim Bob Cooter. Looks like he’ll be just fine spreading the wealth in the post-Calvin Johnson era, and the Lions will continue to run a lot of plays and throw it often.
Marcus Mariota: Four rushing attempts? Since they’re not gonna throw it, that’s no gonna cut it.
Julio Jones: As expected, no one is paying all that much attention to Mohamed Sanu. Jones will be facing nothing but double and triple coverage. (Of course, that didn’t stop him from catching 136 passes last year.)
Quincy Enunwa: The math adds up to a guy worth a fantasy bench spot. The Jets will throw it a ton, and Enunwa’s playing time (63 of 71 snaps) is not surprising considering the Jets have zero tight ends. Don’t go nuts though. The Jets know they’re not going to win many games in which Enunwa is their leading receiver.
Terrance West: The party is just about over (and it was a pretty crappy party anyway, most of the soundtrack was Black Eyed Peas and there was not a single one of those mini-hot dogs wrapped in the flaky croissant stuff). Justin Forsett is the present, Kenneth Dixon is the future. The good news: Ravens get the Browns next week, so if you’re gonna squeeze some FLEX value out of West…
Adrian Peterson and Brandon Marshall: Will be joining Gurley in an R&B super group called “Week 1 Fantasy Poison.” (Don’t sweat it, those two will be fine).
Will Fuller:: Huh. It looks like the rookie is going to have a significant role in Houston’s offense. He dropped an easy one, but he also single-handedly turned a garbage Brock Osweiler screen pass into a touchdown to make up for it. Fuller is in the hunt to lead rookie receivers in fantasy production.
Sammie Coates: He was right there with Eli Rogers in terms of snap count, which is wonderful news. The two-catch, 56-yard performance was pretty much the most Sammie Coates performance there is. He remains one of those stash-and-see guys.
Charcandrick West: Hang onto him for now if you want, as he’s a Spencer Ware injury away from the starting lineup. But once Jamaal Charles returns, West can be set free.
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