Every year brings surprises and disappointments for fantasy football GMs. This year is no different.
I’ll try to make sense of a lot of situations that were positive (whether they’ll continue or not) and why some disappointments came about in today’s column.
Wow, that was surprising (positive file)
Kenny Gainwell/RB/Eagles: This was an interesting situation in Week 1. Veteran RB Jordan Howard, who was their #2 RB for most of training camp, was cut before the initial 53-man roster was set. Boston Scott, who was right behind him, didn’t play on offense last week.
And Gainwell wound up being one of only two RBs for the Eagles to touch the ball. And not only did he back up Miles Sanders, Gainwell wound up having 11 touches and scored on a red zone run.
We probably need to see one more game out of him, but Gainwell could wind up having standalone value for your flex position, so put him on your radar even if you don’t have Sanders (in PPR leagues).
Off to a Good Start File (good signs)
David Montgomery/RB/Bears: He looked great in last week’s loss to the host Rams and is another RB who is not sharing the ball. While Montgomery only had 1 target, he still had 16 carries and scored in a blowout loss.
Joe Mixon/RB/Bengals: He wasn’t running into his OL as he did too often last season and QB Joe Burrow is finally back behind center. It’s only one week, but I’m very encouraged with what I saw against the Vikings defense.
Damien Harris/RB/Patriots: He didn’t share the ball in the ground game, which we were expecting would be the case with the trade of Sony Michel to the Rams. Harris fits what they’re looking for in a lead RB; power and decisiveness. And while he won’t catch a lot of passes because of James White’s 3rd role, Harris did have 3 targets last week.
Miles Sanders/RB/Eagles: The Eagles have a top-3 OL and Sanders looked healthy and fresh in last week’s surprising blowout win over the host Falcons.
Brandin Cooks/WR/Texans: He’s going to be their top pass target most weeks and because they’re going to be behind in most games, Cooks will post a lot of high targets. He could be a nice surprise this season.
Off to a good start; I need to see more File
Jameis Winston/QB/Saints: He only had 20 pass attempts, but threw a whopping 5 TD passes. It was shocking to see how well they did against the Packers, but I need to see him play well at least 2 weeks in a row before using Winston in 2-QB leagues.
Mark Ingram/RB/Texans: The Texans should be bad this season and the Ravens didn’t want him back, but Ingram was the Texans main RB last week in their win over the visiting Jaguars.
I picked him up in the HOFL for depth and I fully understand there are going to be weeks that I won’t consider him because of matchups. Ingram strictly is a matchup player this season.
Christian Kirk/WR/Cardinals: He had a great game last week in their blowout road win against the Titans, but as we’ve seen with Kirk, he’s wildly inconsistent and is streaky.
He certainly has urgency to do well since he’s on the last year of his rookie deal. To me, he’s bench depth until I see him play with consistent production, but again, he did look good last week.
Mike Williams/WR/Chargers: Like some others on this list, Williams is on the final year of his contract (5th-year option). He had a great game against the host WFT last week, but as we’ve seen from him, Williams has had injury issues and tends to be inconsistent.
If he doesn’t do well against the visiting Cowboys today, I’d stop trusting him as an every week starter.
Jalen Reagor/WR/Eagles: He did look explosive last week, but Reagor had an up and down training camp, so I’d want to see him put up back-to-back good games before putting him in my lineup every week.
It’s Just One Week File (not a big deal, not concerned)
Aaron Rodgers/QB/Packers: Look, they got smoked. The Packers were beaten soundly on both sides of the ball by the Saints. It’s the NFL and it happens. Rodgers will go off against the lowly Lions secondary and all will be well again.
Javonte Williams/RB/Broncos: He shared snaps right down the middle with veteran RB Melvin Gordon, which isn’t surprising. All along the feeling was that Williams would eventually be their main RB by mid-season.
Aaron Jones/RB/Packers: Again, just a surprising terrible performance from the Packers last week. No way we could see that coming. I’d be shocked if they don’t overwhelm the Lions defense in Monday night’s game. Jones will be fine.
Najee Harris/RB/Steelers: The Bills played great defense last week, so they were able to limit Harris’s effectiveness. Harris is not sharing the ball and is clearly their featured RB. It will get better for him going forward.
Calvin Ridley/WR/Falcons: We knew they wouldn’t be a good team and will be playing from behind most weeks. The Eagles played a tight zone coverage, so Ridley didn’t get open much after the first quarter. That won’t happen most weeks, so Ridley should be fine going forward.
Let the other owner Panic File (go trade for him)
Antonio Gibson/RB/WFT: Sure, he hasn’t scored in his first two games, which is disappointing.
Here’s the reality; Gibson is not sharing the ball, which is what we were expecting. The only minor issue is that he’s not their hurry-up RB, which means if they’re behind or in their 2-minute or 4-minute offense, it’s J.D. McKissic in the game. However, Gibson has 7 targets in 2 games, which is still encouraging. Give me a power RB, a player whom the coaches love (could tell from my time being around the coaches in training camp), who has versatility, and I’ll trade for him all day.
From the Hang in there File (it’s a long season)
Trey Sermon/RB/49ers: What I’ve heard is this on Sermon’s inactive status last week; he needs to practice with more urgency and the message should have been received after he didn’t play. With starting RB Raheem Mostert (knee surgery) now out for the season, Sermon should now get his chance to push fellow rookie RB Elijah Mitchell for time as the season progresses. However, I want to see how he’s used starting today against the host Eagles before I consider putting him in my lineup.
Marquez Callaway/WR/Saints: Let’s keep in mind that the Saints only threw the ball 20 times in last week’s surprising blowout win. Callaway will be one of their top-2 pass targets most weeks until Michael Thomas (ankle surgery) returns to the lineup.
Not Sure Yet on This Situation (small concern)
Ezekiel Elliott/RB/Cowboys: In a high-scoring game, Elliott was mostly a non-factor last week and #2 RB Tony Pollard served as their hurry-up back on more than one occasion. Elliott didn’t look bad, but he never got untracked against the Buccaneers. They’re passing at a very high rate again (see last season before Dak Prescott got hurt) and their defense is likely going to be bad again, so Elliott’s role of getting tons of touches is unclear.
Austin Ekeler/RB/Chargers: While he scored last week, it’s hard to understand why Ekeler didn’t get one pass target against the host WFT. If you drafted him in the first round you were probably counting on new LAC OC Joe Lombardi dialing up Ekeler in the passing game, but that didn’t happen last week. If Lombardi does not dial him up in that role today against the visiting Cowboys, I’d be concerned. Ekeler is a mismatch for any LB and the Chargers need to take advantage of that.
We’ll monitor the situation File (small concern)
James Robinson/RB/Jaguars: An odd situation last week considering he was on the field for 22 more snaps than the 8-year older Carlos Hyde, yet Robinson had 4 fewer carries, but had 4 more targets. The Jaguars, once again, are going to be a bad team, but they were last year and Robinson was great. This situation needs to be monitored in order to get a better feel for it.
Brandon Aiyuk/WR/49ers: From what I’ve gathered, Aiyuk sharing snaps with Trent Sherfield last week was due to 2 reasons; Sherfield had a great preseason and practiced well in training camp (coaches felt he should be rewarded for it). And Aiyuk “coasted” too much to close camp, so Sherfield sharing snaps with him was a sign that he needs to practice harder. HC Kyle Shanahan sent a sign to Aiyuk when asked about him by their local media this week and the message seemed to be received based on his practice performance leading to today’s game.
The bottom line is we all know how talented Aiyuk is (see last year’s outstanding season), but we need to see him take the same approach as he did in 2020 before he’s in my lineup every week based on what he saw last week.
From the I’m Concerned File (not a good sign)
Josh Jacobs/RB/Raiders: Sure, he scored twice in last week’s game, but the oft-injured Jacobs now is dealing with two injuries. And if you saw him start last week’s game, he never looked right playing with the injured toe and now he has an ankle injury.
Zack Moss/RB/Bills: He was a healthy inactive last week and even if he’s active today, Moss does not have a clearly defined role. He was coming off ankle surgery, so Moss missed a lot of their off-season program while he recovered. However, he also missed parts of training camp, so he was behind in trying to push Devin Singletary for the starting job and now has to make up for lost time.