Each week, Neil Greenberg will give you three players to start and three to sit in your fantasy football league.
If you got out of Week 1 with no major injuries on your roster, consider yourself lucky.
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson, a consensus top-3 pick, left the game with a sprained wrist and is expected to miss the next two to three months. Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson is out for the season with an ACL tear. Baltimore Ravens running back Danny Woodhead took himself out of Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. New England Patriots wideout Danny Amendola was diagnosed with a concussion. And the Chicago Bears lost their top receiver for the second time this season when Kevin White fractured his scapula.
You know what they say — next man up! Here are some smart moves to consider for Week 2.
Javorius “Buck” Allen, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Allen hasn’t started a game in the NFL since 2015, but he played 33 snaps for the Ravens on Sunday, the most among the team’s running backs, and is going to assume Woodhead’s role as third-down back. He carried the ball 21 times against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1, forcing one missed tackle with 37 of his 72 yards coming after contact.
He was targeted just once on Sunday but has shown he can make plays in the passing game. In 2015, his 1.72 yards per carry were the sixth-most among qualified running backs per the game charters at Pro Football Focus.
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Carson was featured heavily in Seattle’s third preseason game, playing 27 snaps (nine run, 17 pass) producing 46 yards on the ground (37 after contact) while hauling in both his targets for 44 yards, including a 37-yard catch against Kansas City Chiefs starting outside linebacker Dee Ford. On Sunday against the Green Bay Packers he was again the featured back, playing 27 snaps resulting in 39 yards (23 after contact with three missed tackles) with a 10-yard catch, which also included a broken tackle and seven yards after the catch.
At 5-foot-11 and 218 pounds he should also be an excellent RB for the red zone, especially in goal-to-goal situations.
Why the Chris Carson hype? This truck-stick plow at the goal-line last weekend probably has something to do with it: pic.twitter.com/7cuzwmRrdC
— Matt Franciscovich (@MattFranchise) August 17, 2017
Eddie Lacy has yet to assert himself as the team’s No. 1 option, Thomas Rawls is dealing with a high-ankle sprain and C.J. Prosise is the team’s change-of-pace back — when healthy — giving Carson the green light to rack up yardage against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Lee did not have many opportunities to catch a pass on Sunday (three targets) with quarterback Blake Bortles throwing just 21 times, but he caught 63 passes for 851 yards and three touchdowns last season and figures to be more involved in the offense as a result of Robinson’s injury. According to Sharp Football Stats, Lee had a success rate that was 4.6 percentage points higher than average last season, excelling at passes within 14 yards from scrimmage and deep passes down the middle of the field.
“Of course, I’ll be ready for the challenge,” Lee told John Oehser of Jaguars.com. “This is what we play football for, to come in and do what we have to do. … I’m preparing the same way I’ve been preparing. Nothing for me in my mind has escalated. I’ll probably get a little more attention on the outside. I’m not worried. It is what it is.”
Plus, Jacksonville’s Week 2 opponent, Tennessee, was expected to have the 20th worst secondary heading into the season and allowed 255 net passing yards plus two touchdowns to the Oakland Raiders in Week 1.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don’t start any wideouts against the Denver Broncos.
Since 2015, opposing quarterbacks have a 75 passer rating against the Broncos, the lowest in the league and just two receivers have caught more than one touchdown in a game against them over that span. No wideout produced more than 100 yards receiving against Denver’s secondary in 2016.
Over the past two seasons, receivers who have played the Broncos have averaged 7.8 points in point-per-reception, or PPR, leagues and 10.4 PPR points against every other defense.
Still not convinced to shelve a second-round fantasy pick such as Bryant? In Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib yielded just 34 yards on 65 snaps in coverage. They ranked No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, last season among 79 qualified corners for yards allowed per cover snap per the game charters at Pro Football Focus.
And just in case you’re still thinking of starting Bryant, one more thing: Over the past three seasons, Bryant scored 3.36 PPR points per target against cornerbacks rated in the bottom 25 of PFF ratings. That drops to 0.81 PPR points per target against a cornerback rated in the top 25.
Rob Kelley, RB, Washington Redskins
Kelley carried the ball 10 times for 30 yards, his longest run a six-yard gain, earning him the 11th lowest grade of Week 1 among running backs.
The lack of production could be blamed on how the game played out. Washington found itself trailing for a large portion of the contest, and that affects the play calling. The Redskins called a running play 45 percent of the time when they were tied or ahead on the scoreboard last season. If they trailed, the team called a rushing play just 32 percent of the time — so right away we know that if Kelley is to have a big day, the Redskins need to be in command of the game. Based on what we saw on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, that isn’t likely to happen.
Washington’s offensive line allowed 16 total sacks, hits and hurries in Week 1, the third-most in the league, with the Eagles needing just 2.58 seconds, on average, to sack quarterback Kirk Cousins on Sunday. That’s shorter than the average during the 2015 (3.36 seconds) or 2016 (3.2 seconds) regular season. And it could be even worse on Sunday when they face the Los Angeles Rams with Aaron Donald back in the lineup.
Without Donald the Rams’ defensive line created four sacks, one hit and five hurries in addition to returning two interceptions for touchdowns, forcing a fumble and causing a safety. With him they could be far more daunting.
Austin Hooper, TE, Atlanta Falcons
The good news: Hooper had two catches for 128 yards on Sunday, including an 88-yard touchdown, the longest touchdown catch by a tight end in Week 1 in NFL history.
The bad news: He was targeted just two times by quarterback Matt Ryan. Last season, 28 tight ends caught a touchdown pass despite seeing just one or two targets; none scored a touchdown in their next game.
The other bad news: This week’s opponent is the Green Bay Packers, a defense that allowed five touchdowns to the tight end position last season, one less than the average team, and held Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham to three catches for eight yards in Week 1 of the 2017 season.
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