For all the bad and weird news of Week 1, DFS games were largely chalk. Several of the PFF Fantasy analysts took to Twitter to crow about how well their DFS plays went, which (a) had to be disheartening for people who didn’t do as well, but (b) shows what good analysis can do.
And that’s noteworthy, because Week 1 (for obvious reasons) is traditionally one of the weirdest DFS weeks of the season, as we go from conjecture and predictions to actual concrete data. After Week 1, things usually start to go more according to expectations, which — if that continues — could mean a lot of profit in 2018 for DFS sharps and their readers.
The odds are that probably won’t happen. James Conner will fall flat, or Emmanuel Sanders will have a bad week. But for the start of the season, there are a lot of happy DFS players out there.
This is my weekly look at some of the best and worst fantasy situations of the week, powered by the stats and analysis in our Pro Football Focus database. Here’s hoping you can profit in Week 2 like our bragging PFF writers did in Week 1.
Mismatch of the Week
Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Arizona Cardinals
Jared Cook, everybody! The veteran tight end had 9 catches on 12 targets for 180 yards Monday, making him the top fantasy tight end of Week 1 despite not finding the end zone. This can mean one of two things (or both):
• This is a breakout for Cook, who has been in the league since 2009 and never finished a year as a top-10 fantasy tight end or ever averaged 10.0 PPR points per game.
• The Rams’ daunting secondary and front-seven, but less formidable linebacking corps, make them a funnel for opposing offenses to target their tight ends.
If my wording there didn’t make it obvious, I’m opting for the latter. The Cardinals get the Rams in Week 2, which means it’s Seals-Jones’s turn to be the only way a team can attack the Rams. He had 28 targets on 68 routes last year (41.2 percent); he was the only player with targets on more than 40 percent of his routes (min. six targets), and he and Julio Jones (30.5 percent) were the only WR/TE options at more than 30. He had six targets in Week 1, showing the team will keep him involved, and against the Rams, bet on him setting a new career target high.
Alex Smith, QB, Washington
The temptation when looking at a team facing the Colts is to pick its top receiver and go nuts. After all, A.J. Green had six catches for 92 yards in Week 1 while John Ross had his first career reception for his first career touchdown. The problem, though, is that we don’t really know who that is for Washington. Jamison Crowder should be, but he had only two targets in Week 1. Paul Richardson might be, and he led the team’s receivers with five targets in Week 1 and profiles as a deep threat, but then his average depth of target was only 3.6 yards. Josh Doctson? He is probably safe to be dropped. With them, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Chris Thompson, the target share in Washington is going to be so divided that recommending one of them against Indianapolis Sunday is too difficult. So the heck with it, go with the guy throwing the ball.
James White, RB, New England Patriots
Dating back to 2017, and counting the playoffs, White has had four or more targets in seven straight games, and 14 of his last 18 since the start of last year. He tied Rob Gronkowski for the team-high in Week 1 with eight. You know who didn’t tie for the team high? Any of the New England receivers. Phillip Dorsett had seven, Chris Hogan had 4 and Cordarrelle Patterson and the since-dropped Riley McCarron had one apiece. The Patriots just aren’t going to do a lot through their wide receivers until Julian Edelman returns, and that’s before taking into consideration their matchup against Jacksonville. White and Gronkowski are the team’s top receiving weapons right now.
Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
Robinson didn’t light up the stat sheet in Week 1, with only four catches for 61 yards. But he got back on the field for the first time since the first few plays of 2017, which was good in itself, and his seven targets paced the Bears’ offense. The problem for Robinson and fantasy owners was that the Bears turned conservative too early in the game; all seven of Robinson’s targets came either before the Bears got up 20-0 or after they fell behind, 24-23. He was essentially absent from the team’s second half. Fantasy players might see his Week 2 opponent (Seattle) and be intimidated by the past, but after the top three Denver receivers combined for 243 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1, that isn’t Seattle anymore.
Jonnu Smith, TE, Tennessee Titans
People who came out of Week 1 happy with their starting tight end: Rob Gronkowski owners and Jordan Reed owners. Maybe George Kittle owners, though he wasn’t started everywhere. That’s pretty much it. Effectively no one used Will Dissly, Jared Cook or Eric Ebron. Zach Ertz had a great 10 targets, but only 48 yards was disappointing. Kyle Rudolph scored, but had only two targets. Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker are hurt, while Evan Engram, Jimmy Graham, and Travis Kelce combined for five receptions. There’s a decent chance you’re on the lookout for a tight end in Week 2, and Smith is my favorite of the widely available options. The Titans will have plenty of targets to soak up and will have at quarterback either Blaine Gabbert or a banged-up Marcus Mariota. Either of those scenarios lends itself to targets for Smith and Dion Lewis.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
If the Packers have a successful full season, we’ll be seeing clips of that second half Sunday night for years. We probably will either way. But there’s no small history of adrenaline carrying players through injury, only for time to rear its head and render the player worse off in subsequent games. All indications are Rodgers will likely play, but there’s no way he’ll be 100 percent, and against a formidable Minnesota pass defense, he’s an absolute a stay-away designee in DFS.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Cleveland Browns
The conditions in Sunday’s game meant you would be excused for giving all Browns and Steelers a Week 1 mulligan, but I’m nervous about Hyde. He averaged only 2.8 yards per carry on 22 attempts Sunday, while Nick Chubb (admittedly on only three carries) averaged 7.0. Hyde’s PFF rushing grade was 63.4; Chubb’s was 79.0. Better conditions in Week 2 should lead to more work for Duke Johnson, David Njoku, and/or Josh Gordon, while the Saints offense showed in Week 1 it would be powerful, meaning the Browns are going to have no choice but to pass more than run to keep up.
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions
Kenny Golladay missed six games in 2017. In those games, Jones was targeted on 22.2 percent of his routes. In games Golladay was active, Jones’ target percentage fell to 13.9, while Golladay’s was 16.7. That continued Monday, with Golladay targeted on 21.2 percent of his routes and Jones sitting at 14.6. Golladay and Jones perform much the same function, and as long as the second-year Golladay is healthy, I’m staying away from Jones in almost all leagues.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
It won’t be this bad for Kelce all year long. There’s no way. And if he’s your full-season tight end, he’s starting for you. Too bad, you drafted him and you’re sticking with him. But in DFS, he’s a total stay-away for me until things change. As our Scott Barrett noted, Kelce this season is going from the quarterback who targets tight ends most often (25.3 percent over the last 10 years for Alex Smith, first among 42 qualified quarterbacks) to one in Patrick Mahomes who didn’t even have a tight end in college (zero targets to tight ends at Texas Tech). Mahomes’s eschewing of the position obviously won’t continue, but it’s fair to say he’s never going to be Smith. Until we see how things level off, Kelce worries me.
Daniel Kelley is the fantasy editor for Pro Football Focus.