A weekly piece here to deliver instant reactions to Week 1 and what trends and players were noticed.
The NFL has put an emphasis on scoring over the past few seasons. The recent rule changes protecting quarterbacks against nearly any contact combined with favoring the receives is not only prolonging careers, it is raising scores to historic rates.
Following 2020 where defenses weren’t allowed to prepare coming to the season, I expected overall scoring to be down compared to last season. Not counting MNF Week 1, the average game totals for this week is 47.2 points. In comparison, in 2020, the average at this point was 49.2 points. The takeaway here is that it is possible that a major decline in scoring is not going to be as severe due to the many changes in rules the NFL has created.
NFL Category Leaders
Simply put, the more 3rd down conversions, the more plays, and opportunities. Efficiency is another crucial statistic not to be ignored. Still, there is no denying Investing in offenses that are able to consistently convert third downs return a much higher likelihood of fantasy points. There are currently nine teams that have a third-down conversion rate over an efficiency of 50; Chargers (73.7), Chiefs (69.2), Patriots (68.8), Texans (57.1), Rams (54.5), Cardinals (53.8), Cowboys (52.9), Saints (50.0), Giants (50.0). Investing in offenses that are able to consistently convert third downs return a much higher likelihood of fantasy points.
Finding an offense that is ranking in the top half of the NFL for yards per game is another good strategy for finding players to buy into this year.
The current Top-10 teams in this category are; Browns (457), Cowboys (451), Texans (449), 49ers (442), Eagles (434), Buccaneers (431), Lions (430), Chargers (424), Broncos (420), Cardinals (416).
Lastly, finding players that have the ability to be Top-3 in rushing, receiving, passing and combined yards is a recipe for success.
The Top-3 rushers are: Joe Mixon, Melvin Gordon and Damien Harris. The Top-3 receivers are: Tyreek Hill, Brandin Cooks and Ja’Marr Chase. The Top-3 passers are: Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes and Trevor Lawrence. The Top-3 combined yard leaders are: Tyreek Hill, Joe Mixon and Brandin Cooks.
Brandon Aiyuk is currently the hot name to discuss after posting a goose egg stat line. Here is what Kyle Shanahan had to say when asked about Aiyuk’s absence from the game.
When it comes to a fantasy lineup the confidence once instilled in Aiyuk is no more. I am going to need to see at least next weeks involvement before I can start to trust his production in a fantasy starting lineup.
Jalen Hurts showed that he was more than a bonified running back this week after giving Atlanta a thrashing. Hurts had numerous opportunities to bail from the pocket and rush but chose instead to stick in and make his reads. The concern with Hurts, as a mobile quarterback, was the diminished passing opportunity. This seems to be potentially overblown. I will be paying attention to his performance and decisions against a stout 49ers defense.
D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson had a combined 21 targets, which compiled 36.84-percent of the target share for the Lions. If you add in Jamaal Williams, they accounted for 52.63-percent of the target share. A team figuring to be in constant negative game scripts, this is a trend I am especially excited about.
Kyle Pitts posted a tremendously underwhelming fantasy production with 7.10 PPR fantasy points. However, the exciting part of his involvement is that he was tied Calvin Ridley for the team lead with 8 targets in his first career game. This was also with Pitts spending a fair amount of time inline. Pitts also shared the second highest snap share among the receivers (68-percent) with Russell Gage. His involvement is encouraging even if he hasn’t lived up to the hype yet.
Ja’Marr Chase quickly dispelled any concerns that had been circulating preseason this week. Chase not only led the Bengals in targets but in receiving yards and tied with receiving touchdowns. Had he not pulled in his 50 yard touchdown pass his line would have looked a little less alluring, but impressive none the less. To help build the hype around Chase here is a mesh of Burrow and Chase from LSU to the NFL.
Rondale Moore has been overshadowed this entire process since the draft. This week is no different even though he saw four receptions from five targets for 68 yards. That also doesn’t account for the touchdown that was called back from penalty and another theoretical touchdown if the pass had been on target. Even more impressive, Moore only logged 29-percent of the teams offensive snaps, meaning he averaged a target every 3.33 snaps.
Najee Harris put on a rather underwhelming rookie premier with only 49 yards on 17 touches. From the outside looking in, this is what I had been concerned with and the reason he wasn’t my top running back in this class. However, it is far too early to declare that this is the new normal for Harris. What is more important here is that the workload is there as he saw 100-percent of the snaps. He is the only running back in the league to have that type of opportunity, don’t overreact to a poor stat line. The key for Harris is getting more acclimated in the passing game as the rushing may be tough sledding for the year.
Kenneth Gainwell should be nicknamed Houdini, as he made Boston Scott do a disappearing act. Initially, I thought it would take a Scott injury for Gainwell to get the run; that seems to be mistaken. Gainwell was the only other running back to register an offensive snap other than Miles Sanders. The backfield snaps were split 47 to 25, in Sanders favor.
The last part is for the rookie quarterbacks, the ones that started all lost their games. Mac Jones did what Bill Belicheck wanted, take care of the ball and don’t be a liability. Trevor Lawrence had a bit of an odd game, only having a 54.9 completion percentage but throwing for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. The hardest part of this line is that this performance came against the least talented team in the NFL. Something to monitor, but Suburban Urban may be over his toes in the NFL. Zach Wilson started off very cold in the first half but the second half of the game he showed the same traits he was showcasing at BYU. Fields and Lance both came in on goal line packages for their teams and both scored touchdowns. It truly is a matter of time till they become the entrenched starter. Oddly enough Nagy stated Fields would have played more had the game been closer only heightening the saga of Matt Nagy. When it comes to Nagy nothing can be assumed and that includes Fields starting a game in the 2021 season.