Week 2 hurt. It really hurt. So many players’ seasons ended. We have a lot of content discussing that so far (including Edwin Porras’ massive injury roundup), and I’m sure our Waiver Wire article will be more read this week than most weeks this year (and it’s already our most popular article).
So I’m doing something a little different — let’s focus on the players who aren’t hurt (or, at least, aren’t seriously hurt that we know about). I solicited our wonderful readers on my Twitter account for players who have surprised or disappointed you through two weeks of the season. I’ll give my take on why that player is performing the way he is, and if there’s reason to expect it to continue.
This week’s Tuesday Talking Points is a therapy session. Let’s get to it.
Josh Allen (QB, Buf) — We advocated drafting Allen not because of his precision passing, but because of his rushing upside and tendency to try to make big plays. We’ll live with the down weeks in the service of those massive blowup games. Well, through two weeks of the 2020 NFL season, we’ve gotten all the upside (7 total TDs, 70.1% completion percentage, QB2 overall) and none of the downside (0 turnovers). Allen’s relationship with WR Stefon Diggs is blossoming, while the Bills have allowed him to uncork the ball more than ever before — his attempt numbers of 46 (Week 1) and 35 (Week 2) rank 1st and 8th in games in Allen’s three-year career. Meanwhile, he’s still running, with a whopping 14 attempts in Week 1.
- Verdict: Allen is not a 70% passer. He’s probably not a 65% passer. He’s going to have bad games. But his skill set is conducive to fantasy success in the modern NFL, and OC Brian Daboll has been absolutely fantastic in terms of designing plays for Allen’s skillset. I can be safe and say Allen probably isn’t the QB2 the rest of the way, but is that even true? With this offense and his deep set of skill players around him, the overall QB1 is absolutely in Allen’s range of outcomes in 2020.
Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage (WRs, Atl) — These were two of the most popular names I got, and for good reason — they’ve been awesome. While Matt Ryan’s volume is a big reason for their success (Ryan’s 61 completions lead the NFL, while his 90 attempts are second to only Joe Burrow), they look the part on film. Our Greg Cosell says Ridley looks “smooth as a silk,” and he really likes Gage as a big slot receiver. Moreover, this Falcon defense has been embarrassingly bad through two weeks. Indeed, it was against Seahawk and Cowboy teams loaded with weapons, but I think Atlanta is a bottom-5 defense in pretty much every appreciable way. We projected Ryan to lead the NFL in pass attempts. I don’t see any reason we should change that projection after two weeks. In fact, these two weeks might solidify it. Moreover, Julio Jones (hamstring) doesn’t look 100%.
- Verdict: Ridley is a locked-in WR1, and though this sounds hot-takey, I think he outscores Julio the rest of the way. Gage almost certainly won’t be this good (WR11 in total fantasy points), but he should get enough volume to be on the WR3 radar most weeks.
Cam Newton (QB, NE) — The question on everyone’s mind wasn’t if Cam was worth $1 million to the Patriots — that’s a chump-change number that would have paid off even if Cam didn’t take a snap, if the Pats just got a look at him. The question was if he was healthy. Cam’s answered that beautifully in two games, rushing 26 times for 122 yards and 4 TD… while completing 71.4% of his passes. His usage in the run game suggests Josh McDaniels knows Cam is feeling great physically. The dimes he dropped against Seattle’s defense on Sunday night in Week 2 suggests his bum shoulder is healed. It was the most accurate I’ve seen Cam in years.
- Verdict: You have to ride this as long as Cam is on the field. The passing might not be pristine every week, but the rushing gives such a massive floor and ceiling that he’s a locked-in QB1. I’m inclined to believe this is real.
Gardner Minshew (QB, Jax) — Is Minshew — QB9 overall — not just good for fantasy, but good in general? That question has already been answered, our Greg Cosell has adamantly said multiple times this off-season and into 2020: “yes.” Minshew is still only 18 games into his NFL career and plenty can still happen, but he has an “it” factor, and his mobility (38 rushing yards in two games) is a nice bonus for fantasy. He’s also been an aggressive thrower — just because he’s accurate doesn’t mean he isn’t aggressive. Cosell has been adamant that if the Jaguars truly do stink, Minshew isn’t going to be the reason. In fact, he’s the reason they don’t right now.
- Verdict: I don’t know if Minshew is a top-10 fantasy QB the rest of the way, but I’m inclined to believe this is real. He’s carried over his strong 2019 play into this year, and has looked better.
James Robinson (RB, Jax) — Robinson’s success so far kind of goes hand-in-hand with Gardner Minshew’s. One of the reasons you might not have invested a bunch in Robinson — despite the camp hype — is that you expected the Jags to stink and for him to be only an early-down grinder. Well, he’s looked very good through two games, and most importantly, Minshew has the Jags competitive. In a narrow 33-30 loss to Tennessee in Week 2, Robinson posted 16/102/1 rushing, but also got 3/18 receiving on a surprising 4 targets (not common from a Jay Gruden grinder). Robinson did play just 51% of the snaps with the Jags playing from behind much of the day (Chris Thompson played 41%, so he’s the hurry-up guy), but the biggest takeaway is that he’s a pretty good runner on a team that might be better than we thought.
- Verdict: I’ll hedge a little bit here. I thought Thompson would lead this backfield in fantasy production this season, but if the Jags are a 6-8 win team, and not the 4-win team Vegas expected, Robinson has many more pathways to success. He should be rostered in every fantasy league, and is a usable FLEX most weeks. I’d still be surprised if he posts solid RB2 numbers, but he doesn’t look like a fluke.
Carson Wentz (QB, Phi) — I said the same refrain so much this summer that I was sick of hearing myself say it — I was targeting three main QBs in my personal draft plan and I typically wanted to leave a draft with one of the three: Josh Allen, Matt Ryan, and Wentz. Two of those have been amazing. Then there’s Wentz, who is playing as bad a stretch of football as we’ve seen from him since his rookie season. The main reason is mechanical, I think. Wentz’s throws are all over the place. He’s gone through rough mechanical stretches before, but he’s now compounding those poor mechanics with bad decision-making. I firmly believe there’s a fine line between being aggressive and being stupid, and Wentz is in the latter category right now. It hasn’t helped that the Eagles had two drastically different gameplans in Weeks 1 and 2 — they ran a bunch of long-developing vertical concepts when Wentz was getting creamed in Washington, but then ran a bunch of short stuff against the Rams. The first was a bad plan for the situation, the second a bad plan for Wentz’s strengths (he’s naturally aggressive, and not the most accurate short-area passer). I also can’t shake the fact that Wentz missed some practice time at the end of training camp with a groin injury. There’s so much more to unpack here that can’t be done in just a small blurb, but the Eagles are a flawed team right now.
- Verdict: I think Wentz bounces back, but you wonder how much the Eagles’ organizational decision-making has broken him. Is it irreparable? For fantasy, I’m not dropping him, but I’m totally fine benching him and his weapons at WR (throw DeSean Jackson into this mix) until we see some improvement.
Joe Mixon (RB, Cin) — We knew Mixon wasn’t going to have a great offensive line this year, and we knew Gio Bernard would remain involved. Those things are definitely hurting Mixon. But what we didn’t expect? He has no broken tackles through two games, per SportsInfoSolutions, a big contributor to his lame 3.3 YPC average. The good news is he caught 4 passes for 40 yards with the Bengals playing from behind in a Week 2 shootout against the Browns — he’s a good receiver. The Bengals signaled he’d be more involved in the passing game when they signed him to a big-money extension just before the season, but we probably need more than 3 targets per game.
- Verdict: I think Mixon’s play will improve and he’ll become the creator the Bengals are paying for, but the insistence on involving Gio stinks. Gio isn’t going away — his 12 targets are third among RBs through two weeks. That’s going to limit Mixon’s upside, and he might be more low-end RB1 than we’d like. Fortunately, Joe Burrow looks good and should give Mixon more TD opportunities than he had a season ago.
Kenyan Drake (RB, Ari) — Drake’s 26.0 PPR FP rank just 22nd among all RBs through two games… one spot behind the guy he replaced in Arizona (David Johnson). A big reason for that? Drake has just 4 targets through two games (4/14 receiving), with exactly 2 targets in each game. Drake had 4 or more targets in six of his eight games with the Cardinals last year, and had 2 or fewer just once. That’s the big reason for his disappointment so far.
- Verdict: Kyler Murray giveth, and Kyler taketh away. I’ve been thrilled with Kyler’s usage as a runner, with 21 rushes in two games. But Murray has at least 8 rushes in each of the first two games, a number he reached just twice in Drake’s eight games with the Cardinals last season. So with Murray running more instead of checking down and DeAndre Hopkins absolutely sucking up perimeter targets, there are fewer opportunities for Drake in the passing game. On the positive side, Drake has 40 touches in two games. Eventually, 20 touches per game (and hell, even 14-16) will pay off more than it has now. Start him every week.
Allen Robinson (WR, Chi) — Here’s the problem with Robinson — Mitchell Trubisky sucks. He had a massive target share (28.1%). He’s caught just 8 of his 18 targets (44.4%). However, per SportsInfoSolutions, he’s caught 100% of his targets that have been thrown accurately. We understood that Trubisky was a problem when drafting Robinson, so we have to own that. We also knew when drafting him, however, that Nick Foles could be right around the corner. The Bears being 2-0 with Trubisky being mostly bad isn’t the best of news for Robinson, nor is the fact that he’s angling for a new contract. But this isn’t a Robinson problem.
- Verdict: ARob will bounce back, whether it’s Trubisky who improves or (more likely) Foles comes in. You probably don’t have the insane WR depth it would take to bench someone with a 28.1% target share.
DJ Chark (WR, Jax) — Chark is the opposite of Allen Robinson — he’s seen just 7 targets, but he’s caught all of them (7/109/1). I was a little surprised to see his name in so many “disappointment” tweets given he’s scored double-digit PPR points in both games so far, but it’s clear many fantasy players have been expecting more, especially with Gardner Minshew playing well. It’s certainly disappointing that Chark is fourth on his team among WRs alone in targets (Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, Chris Conley).
- Verdict: There is no reason at all to panic here. Minshew is playing great football, but Chark’s volume might be a little down because the Jags have been more competitive than we thought. I think this is a blip on the radar.
Mark Ingram (RB, Bal) — “Thank God he busted one off yesterday,” said one of my followers who responded to my inquiry on Twitter. (I presume he means a long run.) Ingram has just 21 touches through two games, and has been outsnapped on the season by fullback Patrick Ricard. On top of that, he’s sharing a backfield with at least JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Yikes.
- Verdict: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Ingram, but the Ravens do not care about your fantasy team when it comes to usage in the backfield. OC Greg Roman said as much last week — According to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, expect the rotation to be different every week. “We like to keep people guessing,” Roman says. THANKS GREG! This is clearly the Ravens’ plan with Ingram, and with Dobbins looking as good as he has so far (despite Dobbins also lacking touches), I don’t expect we’ll get anything close to bell-cow usage here. Ingram is just a FLEX guy for me.
Michael Gallup (WR, Dal) — Gallup has just 10 targets in two games, catching 5 of them for 108 yards. When a team has as many weapons as the Cowboys have, it was inevitable someone was going to underperform. Keep in mind Gallup saw a good bit of Jalen Ramsey in coverage in Week 1, including on a controversial OPI late in the game.
- Verdict: I definitely would have liked to see Gallup do more against Atlanta’s woeful secondary in Week 2, but I think it’s just the luck of the draw — even in a game with 79 combined points, someone going to get the short end of the stick (it happened to Julio Jones on the other side of the ball). I think matchup was a factor in Week 1 for Gallup. He might be more of the lower-end WR2 he was drafted as than the screaming value people might have wanted from him, but I’m not panicking.
Cooper Kupp (WR, LAR) — Kupp has 9 catches for 121 yards on 12 targets in two games so far this year. The bad news is that, unlike the Rams’ final five games last year in which they went with predominantly “12” personnel looks, Kupp hasn’t scored so far — he scored in each of the final five games of 2019. The good news for Kupp is that each of his snap shares in the two games so far — above 85% — is greater than his snap share in four of the final five games last year. And the Rams are once again a predominantly “11” personnel team, playing this set 73% of the time in 2020 so far, tied for 4th-most in the NFL (Sharp Football Stats).
- Verdict: Kupp’s playing a lot. The Rams are running a significant number of 3-WR sets. The numbers are going to come. I anticipate he’ll be a high-end WR2 this year.
Tom Brady (QB, TB) — Brady hasn’t had his full complement of weapons at his disposal yet — Mike Evans was dinged up in Week 1 and Chris Godwin missed Week 2 — but his performance as the QB19 so far isn’t what many expected. His arm doesn’t look the greatest, and Rob Gronkowski has been completely useless for fantasy purposes.
- Verdict: I want to at least give Brady a couple of games when Evans is feeling 100% and Godwin is back in there. That starts this weekend against the Broncos, though it’s a challenging defense to face. Brady’s in that low-end QB1 mix.
Notable Snap Counts of the Week
Eagles RB Miles Sanders played 77.5% of the snaps and saw 27 opportunities in his season debut. That’ll work.
A week after getting injured/benched, Steeler RB James Conner essentially functioned as a bell-cow back. He played 76.9% of the Steelers’ snaps, sixth-most of any RB for the week. Benny Snell played just 15.4%.
After playing just 25.4% of the snaps in Week 1, rookie Team RB Antonio Gibson saw a backfield-high 65.2% of the work. Next up was JD McKissic (43.9%). Week 1 carry leader Peyton Barber played exactly 1 snap.
The Ravens’ backfield is a fantasy mess, though the offense is good enough for guys to be productive. Their snap leader in Week 2? FB Patrick Ricard (43%).
After falling below 50% of the snaps in Week 1, Seahawk RB Chris Carson was up at 63.5% snaps in Week 2, a more competitive game.
One week after being a hot Waiver Wire pickup, Colt RB Nyheim Hines played a career-low 9 snaps.
49ers rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk got a 72.1% snap share in his NFL debut.
With the Chiefs playing from behind for much of Sunday’s game, Mecole Hardman’s snaps rose to a 64.9% share.
Cleveland’s Austin Hooper led every Week 2 TE with a 98.3% snap share. But he had just 4 targets and 2/22 receiving.
Washington’s Logan Thomas was 6th among all TEs with a 90.9% share.