Vegas odds-makers had a strange week where they nailed identifying the two games with the highest over/unders but completely whiffed on the one of the three teams (Seahawks) tied for the top implied total (27). In other words, if relying solely on the lines, you would have been heavily on both Andrew Luck and Drew Brees (the top two scoring quarterbacks (QBs)) but would have fallen into the Russell Wilson trap as well. While it’s difficult to quantify Luck’s outing against a mediocre defense led by an offense who likes to air it out, the vibes were a whole lot more absolute for the other duo. Brees looked fantastic and the Saints offense looked as loaded with weapons as ever considering both Willie Snead (9 RECs, 172 yards and a TD) and Brandin Cooks (6 RECs, 143 yards and two TDs) both went off. On the other hand, Wilson battled through an ankle issue all game and the offense clearly missed the presences of both Russell Okung and Marshawn Lynch. The offensive line is bad and the Seahawks look to be a team who received too much preseason love based on reputation alone (although their defense is still nasty).
Here are some of my other DFS-relevant observations from Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season:
Dak Prescott, Cowboys – While most are going to come away disappointed with Dak Prescott’s debut performance as a pro, I actually was pretty impressed. The scorebook shows Prescott only completed 25-45 passes (55.6-percent) for 227 yards and rushed for 12 yards on two attempts (ATT) with zero total TDs. On the surface, the game can be misconstrued as a flop, but Prescott displayed some important attributes. For one, Prescott continued a trend from college of hanging onto the ball as he attributed to exactly zero turnovers. Secondly, if actually watching the game, Dez Bryant dropped a jump ball he should have caught for a TD and Cole Beasley dropped a slant pass that would have led to him walking into the end zone. In other words, if things played out slightly differently, the perception would be night and day heading out of this game. Instead, the story is going to be the meme of his disappointed face after the loss and the fact that he only managed a 69.4 rating. Assuming his price remains low, I’m going to be targeting him yet again in upcoming weeks.
Christine Michael, Seahawks – Later in the week, reports surfaced suggesting Christine Michael had supplanted Thomas Rawls as the number one back on the depth chart. Here are the final snap counts for the backs against the Dolphins: Michael 52, Thomas Rawls 22 and C.J. Prosise nine. The Seahawks managed to squeak out a win late and the impact of Michael’s 4.4 yards per carry (YPC) on 15 ATT cannot be overstated. While Rawls carried 12 times himself, Michael looked like the best back on the team and it wasn’t even close. If Week 1 is an indicator of what’s to come, Michael is going to handily lead this backfield in touches. Furthermore, he received a goal line attempt late in the game but was stuffed at the goal line. After this performance, Michael’s workload should only be on the rise, so look for his touches to increase and Rawls’ to slowly dwindle.
Ameer Abdullah/Theo Riddick, Lions – Instead of Ameer Abdullah emerging as the bellcow in the offense like expected with only three active running backs (RBs), Theo Riddick’s production damn near forced an even 50/50 splits. Okay so Abdullah still led the team in touches and actually looked fantastic himself but Riddick rumbled, bumbled and stumbled his way to 6.4 YPC and five RECs for 63 yards and a TD. Instead of two backs with virtually opposite skill sets such as the duos in Cincinnati and Cleveland, both these backs rely on speed and their excellent set of hands. Somehow, someway they made this unique tandem situation seem viable in Week 1 against a mediocre Colts defense. Last year the Lions struggled to run the football but they focused on offensive linemen in draft, selecting three with their first five picks. Both backs looked explosive and more like options 1A and 1B instead of a clear-cut superior talent and/or producer paired with a change-of-pace guy. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future but both backs will be worthy of consideration on a weekly basis because both contribute via the passing game and that translates quite well to the FantasyDraft point-per-reception (PPR) scoring format. Whichever one finds the end zone on a given week is likely going to be the superior option but it wouldn’t be shocking if both pushed 65-70 RECs this season.
A.J. Green, Bengals – Well, it turns out A.J. Green is still amongst the absolute elite wide receivers (WRs) in the game as he almost decided to buy real estate on “Revis Island” by the time Sunday afternoon’s contest was finished. Despite facing one of the game’s better pure cover corners, Green roasted the Jets for 12 RECs, 180 yards and a TD (39.00 fantasy points). If judging solely on Pro Football Focus grades, Darrelle Revis is a bit overrated as he ranked outside their top 30 at the position in 2015…but still. Green’s prospects should have been upgraded this year regardless after the team lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu and lost Tyler Eifert to injury for at least the first three weeks. Like Julio Jones last season, Green is quite clearly above and beyond their best option in the passing game and should see a gaudy amount of targets on a weekly basis from here on out. Jones led the NFL in targets with 203 last season and it wouldn’t be shocking for Green to finish with a similar total if he were to remain healthy.
Allen Robinson, Jaguars – Last year, cornerback Sam Shields graded much higher than Revis to the point where it wasn’t even close, per Pro Football Focus. On Sunday, he full-on shadowed Allen Robinson which led to a quiet first half (just one catch) and he had to battle like hell to finish with six RECs for 72 yards. There is nothing to be ashamed of having a reasonably quiet day against a top corner…and it didn’t even turn out to be that quiet. Chalk this one up to a bad matchup and continue to value him like the true number one WR that he is. Hell, the guy received 15 targets and he’ll probably see a similar amount next week. Yet again, he’ll face a tough cornerback matchup next week (San Diego possesses two of the best in the business) but afterwards the positive regression should begin (facing Ravens in Week 3).
Stefon Diggs, Vikings – Phew. Deciding what to make of Stefon Diggs sans Teddy Bridgewater was a difficult task but Diggs proved he was pretty much QB-proof with a 7 RECs, 100-plus yard day. Down the stretch in 2015, Diggs was targeted at least four times in six of his final seven games and caught at least two passes in all but the outlier game. He finished with 740 yards and four TDs but flashed the potential of a receiver with a bright future (only 22-years old). Either next week or the week after, Sam Bradford is going to take over and there will have to be another period of adjustment (although that period didn’t last long, or even exist really, with Hill). For that reason, I would temper for expectations for Diggs at least slightly. If expecting Diggs to finish as a low-end WR2 or high-end WR3, he should meet expectations. Anything more is a bit of a stretch despite the talent and big season debut. I strategically placed Diggs immediately after Robinson in the article because he will square off against Shields and the Packers next week. We all saw what he did to Robinson so next week may be a week to avoid the Diggs experience and hop back on if you’re a believer the following week. I remain skeptical that any receiver is going to be overly relevant in a Bradford-led offense.
Jack Doyle, Colts – So much for the “Dwayne Allen is going to eat up nearly all of the tight end (TE) targets on the Colts” argument I attempted to make all week. Sure Allen got his (four RECs, 53 yards and a TD) but Jack Doyle led all TEs in fantasy points this week. Doyle only caught three passes but two of those went for TDs and Andrew Luck was targeting him in important spots down the stretch in a close game. When all said and done, Allen was targeted six times to Doyle’s four. While I had hoped Allen would emerge as the clear top dog, the Colts seem to be reverting to a similar scheme from last year that is conducive to both TEs. This vultures a bit from each other’s value and makes them difficult to predict on a weekly basis. If Luck’s reemergence is for real, both can flourish to a degree in this environment. If Luck tops out at 30-35 TDs, this situation is going to prove to be as frustrating as ever. Before getting too bullish on either TE, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach, especially in cash games.