NFL Week 2 fantasy football start 'em or sit 'em


QUARTERBACKS


START: JOE BURROW, CINCINNATI BENGALS

Joe Burrow made his NFL debut against the Los Angeles Chargers and finished the week as the QB20 overall (16.3 fantasy points). This was on the back of his “sneaky” rushing upside — he had four scrambles for 46 yards and a touchdown.

Mobility is the skeleton key to finding great fantasy quarterbacks, and that was clearly on display in Week 1 for Burrow. Burrow’s final passing line in Week 1 — 23 of 36 for 193 yards and zero touchdowns — left a lot to be desired, but it could have been better had any of his receivers come down with one his four passes into the end zone. Only Burrow and Tyrod Taylor threw at least four end-zone passes in Week 1 but came away with no TDs. 

As I referenced in my buy-low trade targets piece, wide receiver A.J. Green had a touchdown called back on a questionable offensive pass interference call. This was a huge aspect of Burrow underperforming versus expectation. His expected fantasy points in Week 1 were 19.5 fantasy points, which would have landed him as a top-14 quarterback. This week I have him ranked No. 12 overall.

Part of his ranking also has to do with the matchup against a very beatable Cleveland Browns defense. They allowed the fourth-most fantasy points and fifth-most rushing yards to the quarterback position in Week 1. Now, that was against the reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, but with Burrow’s ability as a runner and arsenal of offensive pieces, he should be in for a productive outing on Thursday night.

Burrow should also be able to generate some explosive pass plays — something he was unable to do in Week 1. The Browns are likely to be without starting cornerback Greedy Williams. Without him last week, they allowed eight passing plays of 15 or more yards and the highest yards per attempt (10.9) in the league.


SIT: CARSON WENTZ, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Carson Wentz was a disaster in Week 1 because the fierce Washington Football Team front seven was all over him. He was sacked eight times and was under pressure at the fifth-highest rate (40%) in Week 1. His passer rating under pressure was 69.4 (15th).

Wentz's Week 2 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams is going to present a similar challenge, as that defense pressured Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott on over 42% of his dropbacks — the third-highest rate on the week.

Prescott still managed to salvage his day against the Rams (17.6 fantasy points) by throwing a touchdown and posting a 109.2 quarterback rating from a clean pocket, but Wentz didn't do the same when kept clean in Week 1. 

It’s actually alarming to realize that Wentz was almost just as bad from a clean pocket — his passer rating without pressure was 73.7, which ranked 30th out of all 32 starting quarterbacks and both of his interceptions came on clean-pocket throws.

These are all reasons to keep Wentz on the bench until he proves he can rise above all of the injuries the Eagles’ offense has endured. Dare I say it, but I’d rather grab Mitchell Trubisky off the waiver wire and start him.


RUNNING BACKS


START: ZACK MOSS, BUFFALO BILLS

Rookie running back Zack Moss saw his fair share of high-value touches in Week 1, with five opportunities (two targets, three carries) coming inside the Jets' 5-yard line.

This usage is encouraging enough for me to slot him into my starting lineup this week against the Miami Dolphins, who have faced the fifth-most plays from inside their 10-yard line since the start of the 2019 season. That's exactly where the team ranked in Week 1 against the New England Patriots, too. I’ll be very surprised if Moss doesn't come away with a TD this week — and he should also put up solid rushing numbers.

In Week 1, the Dolphins allowed over 200 rushing yards to Cam Newton and company. To running backs specifically, they allowed 4.6 yards per attempt and 119 rushing yards, which was eighth-most in the league.

Of all players listed , Moss had the second-highest differential (12.8 fantasy points) from what he actually produced in Week 1 (11.7) versus what he was expected to produce (24.5 fantasy points).

If the Bills live up to being 5.5 point favorites in this matchup, I fully expect Moss to see plenty of opportunities to score and to help churn out yardage toward the end of the game. If for some reason the Bills fall behind, rest assured that Moss will still be involved as pass-catcher in some regard — he saw four targets in Week 1.


START: RONALD JONES, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Ronald Jones needs to be started across all formats with Carolina his next victim the Carolina Panthers on the schedule — they allowed the most fantasy points to the running back position in Week 1 and earned the league’s lowest PFF run-defense grade (38.4). 

Last week, Jones emerged as the clear-cut No. 1 running back and led all Tampa RBs with 19 touches, which was more than three times Leonard Fournette‘s workload (six). Jones also saw all the carries inside the 20-yard line.

Despite the tough matchup against a stout New Orleans defense, Jones still managed to rush for 66 yards on 17 carries.


SIT: KAREEM HUNT, CLEVELAND BROWNS

Kareem Hunt saw encouraging usage in Week 1, finishing his day with more carries (13 vs. 10) and more targets (five vs. one) than Nick Chubb.

But these final game day stats can be misleading, as Chubb didn't play a single snap in the fourth quarter as the team was being blown out by the Baltimore Ravens.

In the fourth quarter alone, Hunt accumulated nearly half of his carries (six). I fully expectthat Chubb will see his workload rise significantly in what should be a much closer game with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals defense allowed the second-most rushing attempts (33) and rushing yards (148) to the running back position in Week 1.

That leaves Hunt to rely on receiving production to be worth a spot in fantasy lineups, but the Bengals allowed just one catch to the running back position last week. Keep in mind that Chubb ran more routes than Hunt in just three quarters of play (16 vs. 13), and four of Hunt’s five total targets came in the second half.

Even worse, Hunt might not be running as many routes as last season, when he was constantly moved into the slot (eight slot snaps per game) or out wide (four wide snaps per game) to create mismatches. Last week, Hunt saw just one snap from the slot and three out wide; Chubb saw seven out wide.


WIDE RECEIVERS


START: ODELL BECKHAM JR., CLEVELAND BROWNS

It has not been pleasant to have OBJ as an option in fantasy football since his trade to Cleveland, and that trend continued in Week 1 when he put up an absolute dud of a performance: three receptions on 10 targets for 22 yards, including one drop. His expectedfantasy points differential (11.4) was the second-highest among all wide receivers.

But what’s encouraging looking ahead is that he saw a massive target share (25.6%) and air yards share (37%). Plus, the matchup in Week 2 is so much better than Week 1.

The Bengals allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2019 but were particularly vulnerable to boundary wide receivers. They allowed the third-most targets and ninth-most completions to outside wide receivers last season.

This trend continued during Week 1 of the 2020 season when they allowed the third-most targets (16) and fifth-most deep attempts (three) to outside wide receivers.

Considering Beckham plays most of his time on the boundary, he is going to continue to see ample opportunities to make plays in this game. David Njoku is on IR and Jarvis Landry is banged up, so Baker Mayfield will have no choice but to target Beckham.

The last time Beckham faced the Bengals was in Week 17 of the 2019 season when he posted three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.


SIT: COOPER KUPP, LOS ANGELES RAMS

When Cooper Kupp was melting faces Weeks 1-8 last season as the fantasy WR3, he was predominately playing out of the slot (74.1%). But his fantasy production drastically fell off toward the second half of the season when he only played 59.7% in the slot. 

That trend has continued into the 2020 season — Cupp played just two more snaps in the slot (16 vs. 14) than teammate Robert Woods (53.3% vs. 48.3%). Like last year, this was not good for his fantasy output, as he scored a meager 6.9 fantasy points on just four targets.

To make matters worse, even when Kupp lines up in the slot in Week 2, it will be againstNickell Robey-Coleman, who allowed the fourth-lowest fantasy points per route run (0.21) among slot cornerbacks in Week 1 and the sixth-lowest yards per coverage snap during 2019.

Kupp has seen more than six targets only twice over his last nine games. I'm out on him until we see him see a steadier target share. Last week, Kupp saw a lower target rate on routes run (13.3%) than Woods (20.7%) and tight end Tyler Higbee (18.2%).  


TIGHT ENDS


START: LOGAN THOMAS, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

I highlighted Logan Thomas in my waiver wire column for Week 2. If you were lucky enough to get him off waivers, you will surely want to play him this week against the Arizona Cardinals.

If it had not been for an injury, George Kittle would have easily exceeded his four receptions for 44 yards stat line last week, considering those numbers all came in the first quarter against Arizona.

The Cardinals are still the target for tight ends in fantasy football, so you need to exploit the matchup by starting Thomas. It’s also encouraging that Thomas ranked third among all tight ends in air yards in Week 1, which is a great indicator of future fantasy production.


SIT: ROB GRONKOWSKI, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Rob Gronkowski narrowly edged O.J. Howard in routes run (21 vs. 19), but Howard was hyper-targeted by Tom Brady, earning a 31.6% target rate on routes run — No. 1 at the tight end position in Week 1.

This is not good news for Gronkowski, who we all assumed would be Brady’s go-to tight end target. He drew only three targets, hauling in two for just 11 yards last week.

The appeal with Gronkowski in Week 2 would be tied to his touchdown potential, but that upside may be hard to come by even against a bad Carolina Panthers defense. Since the start of the 2019 season, the Panthers have allowed just four receiving touchdowns to tight ends.

Also, let it be known that the Buccaneers ran the football at the third-highest rate (63.6%) in a neutral game script last week, so the passing volume might not be there for Gronkowski to see additional targets if Tampa hammers the rock against Carolina’s atrocious run defense.


DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

START: ARIZONA CARDINALS

The Cardinals will get the opportunity to face off against second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who took three sacks and struggled under pressure in Week 1. His adjusted completion percentage (33%) ranked fourth-worst, and he is sure to be under some duress in Week 2.

The Cardinals sacked Jimmy Garoppolo on 33% of his pressured dropbacks last week, which ranked third-highest among all quarterbacks. 

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