The NFL season is upon us and what a glorious first Sunday it was.
Just like every fantasy week, there were bad performances, good performances, and great performances, too. You never know who is going to have a career game as we witnessed this week when Ryan Fitzpatrick scored a career-high 42.3 fantasy points against a highly touted New Orleans Saints defense. However, you also never know who will be the dud in your lineup, a player who you start and expect big things from, but doesn’t really pan out for you. Week 1 was no different as we saw Travis Kelce struggle in what looked to be a pass-happy Kansas City Chiefs offense.
No matter if the performance was good or bad, there are players who rise to the occasion, increasing their ownership percentage and grabbing a start in your lineup next week, and there are guys who fail to live up to their fantasy projections, maybe losing your trust or even earning themselves a spot on your bench next week. I’m going to run you through some of the notable risers and fallers from week 1 of the 2018 NFL season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Here we have a player who many fantasy owners thought would be the quarterback who fills in for Jameis Winston until he returns from his three-game suspension. Someone who isn’t worthy of being owned simply for the fact that he won’t be the starter in a few weeks. That may not be the case anymore. The NFL journeyman who’s seen his fair share of game action certainly showed some veteran savviness on Sunday for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Owned in just 1.15 percent of ESPN leagues and only in .47 percent of starting lineups, Fitzpatrick brought those lucky few a performance they won’t soon forget.
Fitzpatrick carried some fantasy teams to a Week 1 win. He led all quarterbacks on Sunday by scoring a career-high 42.3 fantasy points, besting his previous high of 39.3 fantasy points, back in Week 13 of the 2014 season when he was playing for the Houston Texans. He threw for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns. Peterson also ran for 36 yards and a rushing touchdown of his own. Fitzpatrick will find himself a popular waiver claim target for many teams this week, especially ones that need a quarterback. But, be cautious here as Fitzpatrick isn’t known to perform like this that often. He won’t be the quarterback to give your team 30-plus points a week. He’s a streamer quarterback who faces a good defense in the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2. He is a good option to pick up and be your QB2, for now.
James Conner: Talk about taking advantage of an opportunity. After Le’Veon Bell extended his holdout into the regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned to Conner to be their starting running back and he made an immediate impact. Deservedly so, he was one of the past week’s most popular fantasy adds after the news that Bell was not traveling with the Steelers broke. Every fantasy owner knows that the Steelers like using their running back in the offense, whether it’s by rushing or receiving. In his first career start, His ownership percentage jumped from just 12.6 percent last a week ago on Monday to 83.5 percent by the time the Steelers game in Cleveland kicked off. He was started in 63.8 percent of leagues. Conner showed all of the NFL why the Steelers believe in him as much as they do.
Conner racked up 34.2 PPR fantasy points behind 135 rushing yards, 5 receptions for 57 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. He became the eighth player to join a prestigious group of running backs who scored 30-plus fantasy points in their first career start. He joined the ranks of players like Maurice Jones-Drew, Pierre Thomas, and as recently as last season, Kareem Hunt. As long as Bell continues his holdout, Conner should become a mainstay in starting lineups. He’s worthy of your RB2 or Flex spot and will be the Steelers starter for weeks to come barring injury or a Bell return.
Adrian Peterson: Just when you thought he was washed up and on the brink of retirement, Adrian Peterson showed the NFL on Sunday he’s still here and ready to produce for the Washington Redskins. The 33-year-old veteran first caught the eyes of fantasy owners when he gained 56 yards on 11 carries during the Redskins’ third preseason game. He saw his ownership percentage climb as the season grew closer to 84.9 percent in ESPN leagues. In his regular season debut for Washington, Peterson ran for 96 yards on 26 carries, caught two passes for 70 yards, and added in a rushing touchdown while only starting for 31.1 percent of fantasy teams. After losing a fumble, Peterson’s fantasy point total ended up at 22.6 PPR points. This, of course, came against his former team in the Arizona Cardinals. In his Cardinal debut last year, Peterson scored 25.4 PPR fantasy points, and this season his debut went nearly as well.
Peterson was given 26 carries on Sunday, marking the fifth time in his last seven regular season games he had 20-plus carries. Last season, his usage declined as the weeks went on for the Cardinals, but that may have been because the team was not in the playoff hunt. Now, on a team that is coming off a season-opening win and saw their promising rookie Derrius Guice tear his ACL and be out for the year, Peterson could be their workhorse running back all season. He has a great matchup in week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts and should be started for weeks to come.
Emmanuel Sanders: It looks like there could be a blossoming connection brewing between Emmanuel Sanders and new Denver Broncos Quarterback Case Keenum. Keenum has always had a certain kind of love for slot receivers. After making Adam Thielen a household fantasy name, Keenum started off doing the same thing for Sanders on Sunday. Sanders hauled in 10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown for a total of 29.5 PPR fantasy points. He saw a team-high 11 targets and made the most of those opportunities by scoring the highest amount of fantasy points since he racked up 32.7 PPR fantasy points in Week 3 of the 2016 season.
Now, Sanders was already owned in 94 percent of leagues, but he found himself on the bench for 59.6 percent of lineups. After his performance, that number is bound to increase. With Demaryius Thomas on the outside, Sanders will not produce this kind of numbers each game as Thomas will earn his fair share of catches and yards as well. On Sunday, it looked that Sanders was the No. 1 option for Keenum and should be a starter from this moment on. He has a good matchup against a shaky Oakland Raiders defense in week 2 and may bring about another string performance.
Alfred Morris: This is the case of another popular pickup over the past week. After Jerick McKinnon tore his ACL and was ruled out for the entire season, every fantasy owner rushed to the waiver wire to see if his replacements, Alfred Morris and Matt Breida, were available. Morris ended up being the more popular choice among fantasy owners as he was added in 72.8 percent of ESPN leagues over the past 8 days. Breida was only added in 42.6 percent of ESPN leagues. This was due to the fact that it was believed that Morris would be the early-down back, getting carries for the 49ers offense. However, that wasn’t the case. His workload almost mirrored Breida’s. Morris carried the ball 12 times for a total of 38 yards and lost a fumble in the process, bringing his total to 1.8 PPR fantasy points. Breida saw himself get 11 carries and ran for 46 yards while also having a 5-yard catch out of the backfield.
To give Moris credit, he was going up against a very tough defense in the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Nevertheless, Breida outplayed Morris and showed fantasy owners that Morris may not be the workhorse running back people were expecting. For now, sit him on your bench and see what happens in the next few weeks. There is no foreseeable reason to start him in week 2 against the Detroit Lions. That game will help owners see who the true starting RB is for the San Francisco 49ers.
Travis Kelce: When you see that the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers by a score of 38-28, you may think that the team’s star tight end Travis Kece had a lot to do with that. However, that assumption would be wrong. Kelce found himself struggling on Sunday, hauling in only one pass for six yards, amounting to a measly 1.6 PPR fantasy points. This total was his third fewest in his 65 career NFL games. As a guy drafted as TE2 right behind Rob Gronkowski, fantasy owners expect consistently good performances from their starting tight end. With Patrick Mahomes leading a pass-happy offense, it was not good to see Kelce get only one target in the red zone on Sunday.
There is a reason to be optimistic, though. The Chiefs wide receivers were able to get open deep down the field on Sunday, something that won’t happen every game. When the time comes that they can’t do that, Mahomes may just find Kelce to be his security blanket and feed him the ball on short and intermediate routes. We don’t know if that time will come next game, in a few weeks, or even at all, but it doesn’t matter because Kelce has earned enough trust over the past few seasons for owners to start him week in and week out and not be worried about the results. He’ll bounce back after a rough week 1 performance.
Chris Hogan: When you look at the New England Patriots wide receiver depth chart, you see a familiar name in Chris Hogan, followed up by players like Phillip Dorsett and Cordarelle Patterson. Players fantasy owners know are not too much to be looked into. Entering Sunday’s game, Hogan was supposed to be the guy for Tom Brady, catching passes all game long and maybe scoring a touchdown or two as well. His 2.1 PPR fantasy points were not what any owner starting him in their lineup expected. Yes, the Houston Texans secondary is a solid unit, but this performance is still disappointing.
As the game went on, it seemed like Brady was getting better and better, yet Hogan was not seeing the targets. Instead, Gronkowski hauled 7 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown while Dorsett also caught 7 passes, amounting to 66 yards. Now, one performance shouldn’t put Dorsett over Hogan in the fantasy aspect of the NFL. Hogan is still the No. 1 wide receiver for the Patriots until Edelman returns from his 4-game suspension, but with a tough matchup at the Jacksonville Jaguars next week, Hogan may be seeing the bench more than he did this past week. For now, he can be seen as a flex option until his number of targets increase.
Ben Roethlisberger: As for quarterback performances this past Sunday, it could be argued that Ben Roethlisberger had the most disappointing game from a fantasy perspective. Anyone who plays fantasy football knows that Roethlisberger is historically worse on the road than he is at home. His total of 9 fantasy points at the Cleveland Browns marks the 11th consecutive road game in which he hasn’t scored 20 points or more and even worse, it is the eighth time in his last 22 road games where he’s scored less than ten. Not the type of statistics you want to see for a consensus top 10 fantasy quarterback. Roethlisberger was started in 59 percent of ESPN leagues, making a lot of owners unhappy seeing less than ten points from a position that routinely scores them 20 or more.
Since 2014, Roethlisberger’s 13 highest-scoring fantasy games have all come at home. Over this span, he also scores 9.4 more fantasy points per game more at home. Keep this in mind when you are setting your lineups in the coming weeks, but he gets a home matchup in Week 2 against a shaky Kansas City Chiefs defense, so if you still trust him, throw him out there and see what he can do for you, but I don’t blame you if you seek other options for now. He can be a guy you stash on your bench until he gets hot.
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