By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
The early weeks of any NFL season are frustrating. People you don’t expect to score big put up monster games — I’m looking at you Ryan Fitzpatrick, Will Dissly, DeSean Jackson, Randall Cobb, and Jared Cook to name a few — and your high draft picks lay eggs — WTF Travis Kelce, Amari Cooper, Kareem Hunt, LeSean McCoy, and Deshaun Watson? What happens in Week 2 is the best part.
A week of overreactions is par for the course. Everyone starts to think the guys they have suck and they need to trade Leonard Fournette for Adrian Peterson. If I’m getting the AD from six years ago, sure, let’s do it. But he’s 33. Pump the brakes. Once is an anomaly, twice is a coincidence, thrice makes it a pattern. Stay the course and don’t drop potential for someone who likely won’t have that great a week ever again.
This column is all about who to start and sit, or Play and Fade. I think the meanings are pretty simple. Play offers up a series of players that, based on my rankings, outperform their preseason rankings and draft positions. They may be obvious names but some may be diamonds in the rough. Fade focuses on the obvious players that were taken higher in drafts and won’t put up numbers relative to their norm or players with absolutely atrocious match ups. My choices are based off my weekly FLEX rankings. Go ahead, take a quick gander before making your way back to the main event.
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – Go ahead and scoff. After that whack ass performance in Cleveland last week, I don’t expect you to listen to me. But you see, Ben is at home this week. And Big Ben at home in cozy Heinz Field is a BAWSE. Yes, with an “AW” in the middle. Over his last 19 home games between 2015 and 2017, Ben has scored 551.36 fantasy points, good for 29.02 fantasy points per game (or FPPG). That includes nine games that exceeded 30 FPPG, two of which topped 40 FPPG. And oh by the way, he gets a west coast team coming east who just allowed Philip Rivers 37.96 fantasy points (or FPs) last week. Ben is my number one QB this week by a comfortable margin.
Philip Rivers (LAC) – Speaking of Rivers, I told you last year’s games against Kansas City were exactly that — in the past. I don’t always love it when a west coast team travels east, but when I do, they play the Buffalo Bills. I mean, Joe Flacco dropped 27.74 FPs on this same Bills secondary. In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock, Rivers is better than Flacco. Rivers is top five for me this week.
Patrick Mahomes (KC) – Well, I’m a believer. Yes, I know it was Week 1 and the Chiefs started out hotter than a paved driveway in the Florida heat last year as well, but damn did Mahomes and the Chiefs look downright unstoppable last week. I don’t love the cross country trip, but Mahomes did it on the road last week and he’s on the road again this week. It also doesn’t hurt that Tyrod Taylor put up 25.58 FPs on the Steelers defense last week. As long as he has Tyreek Hill on the field, Mahomes is almost a lock for 24 FPs a contest. He’s top 10 for me this week.
Alex Smith (WAS) – What a Redskins debut for Smith last week. It makes you think that last year wasn’t a fluke. Or that the Cardinals defense isn’t as good as previous seasons. The Colts, the Redskins opponent this week, made Andy Dalton a top 15 QB last week. Alex Smith to Jordan Reed will be a popular phrase among the broadcast team this week.
Todd Gurley II (LAR) – I mean, Gurley’s a no brainer but it needs to be said. He’s my number one RB this week. Did you see what old man Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson did to that Cardinals defense last week? Gurley could go for 160 total yards and 3 TDs this week.
Alvin Kamara (NO) – Kamara’s receiving efforts were better than your favorite team’s number one option against the Bucs. If not for the paltry 8 carries, I may have ranked him number one this week as the Saints welcome the Browns to town. Those same Browns just gave up 36.20 FPs to Steelers RB James Conner last week. If Kamara actually gets 15 carries, he’s rushing for 120 yards and 2 scores to go with another 7 catches for 90 yards and a score. By the way, Mike Gillislee is on my radar in 14-team and greater leagues and in DFS this week as a cheap FLEX play. He’s going to get the early down work and could snag a TD or two in short yardage.
James Conner (PIT) – Conner took center stage for Pittsburgh last week. He’s got the Steelers returning texts to Le’Veon Bell like “new phone, who dis?” I kid, but for real, Conner is good and it certainly helps that the Steelers have a good offensive line. The Chiefs gave up 51.30 FPs to Chargers RBs last week. Conner doesn’t share like Melvin Gordon had to do with Austin Ekeler last week. Conner could approach his Week 1 total of 36.20 FPs quite easily this week.
Jay Ajayi (PHI) – Being a “workhorse” in a committee kind of feels like when your wife tells you you’re in for the time of your life and then turns on a cooking show after five minutes with you. But that’s what Eagles coach Doug Pederson dubbed Ajayi this week. After his stellar second half against the Falcons — 12 of his 15 carries and his 2 touchdown runs — the Eagles apparently want to use Ajayi early and often. Game flow will obviously dictate his usage and data is inconclusive after the Bucs high-powered offense — never thought I’d ever type those words — forced the Saints to abandon the run quickly. The Eagles however want to pound the rock and have a much better defense than the Saints. Lots of Ajayi this week and I have him as a top 10 play for this reason.
Adrian Peterson & Chris Thompson (WAS) – After what I witnessed in Arizona on Sunday, I’m buying the Redskins running game — at least for this week against the Colts. Peterson turned back the clock against the Cardinals with 26 carries and 166 total yards — 70 yards receiving! — and a score. Thompson held his own as well as the perfect compliment, averaging 13 YPC, totaling 128 yards and a score. Peterson’s value will never be higher after these first two games. Start taking trade offers now!
Isaiah Crowell (NYJ) – I preached Crowell all week as a solid RB2 last week against the Lions and he did even better than I thought, finishing as RB4 last week. I’m going back to the well this week as the new look Jets welcome the Dolphins into the Meadowlands. The Dolphins allowed almost 5 YPC to Dion Lewis last week and if not for a penalty during Derrick Henry’s 60+ yard TD run, they would have allowed almost 6 YPC to the Titans as a whole. Crowell is talented and he averaged over 10 YPC last week. The only thing that worries me is Bilal Powell had two more carries and was on the field for 11 snaps to 15 for Powell. Maybe I’m banking for a big play or two, but I have faith this week.
James White (NE) – The Patriots lost Jeremy Hill for the season and Rex Burkhead is concussed (though the team expects him to play in Week 2). While the team awaits Sony Michel to get healthy, James White is the last RB standing. Against the Jaguars on Sunday, I’m banking on James White’s receiving ability to keep him in the RB2 discussion. Plus, with Gronkowski receiving so much attention from Jalen Ramsey — Gronk had only one reception in their playoff meeting last year — White will have a role to play and I wouldn’t be shocked if he has around 7 catches as a result.
Antonio Brown (PIT) – Captain Obvious, reporting for duty. Keenan Allen went for 8-108-1 on the Chiefs in Week 1 and Brown had 16 targets in Week 1. Brown is here to make all our wishes come true. Safe to say the Chiefs are not trapping this genie in a bottle come Sunday. Yes, that’s a Christina Aguilera reference and I’m okay with it.
Tyreek Hill (KC) – Cheetahs are fast. This cheetah takes the cake. In one quarter, Hill had a 91-yard punt return for a TD and a 58-yard TD reception. He could’ve missed the rest of the game and fantasy owners would’ve been satisfied with that performance. Oh, but he wasn’t done. Hill put together a 7-169-3 (1 return TD) line that makes me realize last year was just the beginning. Hill is a top 10 receiver this week and every week. Especially this week. Jarvis Landry went over 100 yards against the Steelers secondary. Imagine if Landry had speed? You’re seeing Tyreek Hill in that scenario now too, aren’t you?
Jarvis Landry (CLE) – Speaking of Landry, his 15 targets in Week 1 are exactly what we want from him. He’s going to get his catches and yards as a result. The Saints secondary was a sieve against the Bucs and being back home in Louisiana — he played at LSU — should make Landry want to show out for friends and family. Plus, I fully expect Marshon Lattimore to be covering Josh Gordon most of the game, making Landry’s matchup that much easier.
Emmanuel Sanders (DEN) – The Keenum to Sanders connection is real and I like it. I wrote off Sanders before the season but I’m coming around on him. Last week certainly helped. The Broncos get the Raiders this week and Cooper Kupp, the Rams primary slot weapon in Week 1, had 8 targets, 5 catches for 51 yards and a TD from the slot against the Raiders. Sanders ran 62.1% of his routes from the slot last week and caught all five of his targets. Give me Sanders for top 10 numbers this week.
Nelson Agholor (PHI) – It’s very difficult to have this as a receiving line — 8 catches for 33 yards. I mean, what? Those look like receiving numbers that Emmitt Smith would put up in a game. (Seriously. Look it up.) What I love were his 10 targets. Without Alshon Jeffery for another week, Agholor is going to see a ton of targets against a Bucs defense that was beat by every Saints receiver and tight end last week. I like Agholor as a top 20 option this week.
Michael Crabtree (BAL) – Crabtree had a nice debut for the Ravens, hauling in 3 of 6 targets for 38 yards and a beautiful toe tap for a touchdown. In fact, all three of Baltimore’s new receivers caught a TD pass in Week 1. Crabtree will likely see a lot of Dre Kirkpatrick on Thursday night as William Jackson’s speed is better suited to lock down John Brown on the other side of the field. Flacco will look for Crabtree and I think his numbers from Week 1 double this week. He’s an optimal FLEX this week.
Kenny Golladay (DET) – Funny thing, the Lions number 3 receiver was actually their most productive — and second most targeted — on Monday night. I know, crazy right? Here’s what I do know: the Lions still can’t run the ball, meaning that Stafford is going to throw it. San Francisco’s secondary isn’t strong, allowing Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen to combine for 9 catches for 145 yards and a score. As a WR3/FLEX, there are worse options than Golladay, who outplayed Marvin Jones Jr. in Week 1.
Jordan Reed (WAS) – Alex Smith likes TEs. Jordan Reed is a TE. The Colts allowed 5 catches for 57 yards to Bengals’ TEs in Week 1. Reed had 4 catches for 48 yards and score against the Cardinals in Week 1. Advantage: Reed.
George Kittle (SF) – This was one of the surprise Week 1 performances for me. The Vikings allowed the 3rd fewest FPs to TEs a year ago, 9.64 FPPG to be exact. George Kittle dropped 14 FPs on them in Week 1. I don’t know if this was because Marquise Goodwin missed a good chunk of the game due to injury or if Jimmy G(Q) loves hitting TEs, but Kittle is moving up the TE ladder with injuries to Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen. This week against the Lions should be fruitful as they allowed over 12 FPPG to TEs a year ago.
Benjamin Watson (NO) – Watson is a welcome addition to the Saints offense. The Bucs allowed the 4th fewest fantasy points to TEs a year ago and Watson dropped a 4-44 line on them. Against the Browns this week, I think Watson can find the end zone. He’s top 10 this week for me.
Jared Cook (OAK) – Say hello to fantasy’s number one tight end! Seriously. John Gruden hasn’t thrown this much to a tight end since the days of Rickey Dudley in Oakland. That was almost 20 years ago! If Gruden wants to play the matchup game again, I expect Cook to see a ton of targets this week against the Broncos as well. They have some great corners to neutralize Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson, leaving Jared Cook as a mismatch. Can Cook do it again? Maybe he doesn’t get 180 receiving yards, but I think he puts up top 10 numbers this week.
Streaming defenses to target this week include Chargers D/ST (at BUF), Bears D/ST (vs SEA), and the Redskins D/ST (vs IND).
Deshaun Watson (HOU) – It’s not that I don’t like Watson — I love him actually — but he was my number two QB this year and I have him ranked 11th this week. He looked rusty last week against the Patriots. He was also without Will Fuller who helps him stretch the field. Fuller is questionable again this week and even against a Titans secondary that I don’t think is as good as advertised, Watson may need another week or two to round into form. There are better options available but I can’t blame you if you roll with him. You drafted him to start and start he will. Just temper expectations.
Matthew Stafford (DET) – Stafford looked AWFUL on Monday night. The Jets made Stafford look like Nathan Peterman. And that’s no easy task. For Stafford. It’s easy for Peterman. But I digress. The Lions look discombobulated in all facets of the game and on a short week, I don’t know that they can fix it. Stafford will likely get his yards, but I’m expecting little else.
Ryan Fitzgerald (TB) – Go ahead and write this down, screenshot it, hold it over my head if I’m wrong, whatever. There is no way in HELL that Ryan Fitzpatrick has the same type of performance from Week 1 against the Eagles in Week 2. I don’t care that it’s at home. Fitzgerald will be happy to get out of Ray Jay alive with the Eagles defensive line bearing down on him. I ranked him in the top 20 out of respect for his dominant performance in Week 1, but the Eagles shut down Matt Ryan in Week 1, a former NFL MVP. Fitzpatrick will revert to the backup he is come Sunday.
Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) – The anointed one finally lost a game. Against a stout Vikings defense though so nothing to shake a stick at. He gets another NFC North team this week in the Lions, on a short week and in San Francisco. Everything is pointing up for Jimmy G(Q) in this matchup but he needs to cut down on the interceptions. Three more in Week 1 give him 8 over his last six starts. When he’s more careful with the football — throwing more TDs — I’ll look to start him in fantasy. But not before.
Dalvin Cook (MIN) – Cook’s receiving numbers were great last week — 6 catches for 55 yards — but his rushing output wasn’t great. In fact, Latavius Murray had a better YPC than Cook on six less carries. Then there was the fumble which certainly can’t make the coaches happy. I know there’s a recovery period with players returning from ACL tears so I’m inclined to be patient with Cook, but I have him as an RB2 this week versus the RB1 I had him at in preseason. Temper expectations this week even with a good matchup against the Packers.
Leonard Fournette (JAX) – He’s already banged up. That’s the only reason he’s on this list. I think he plays but a full strength Fournette is top 10 in my book. A banged up one is top 20. I hope you stashed T.J. Yeldon just in case. In the three games Fournette missed due to injury, Yeldon averaged 7.04 YPC on 27 rushes and 1 TD. Monitor his status leading up to game time.
Kareem Hunt (KC) – The 16 carries in Week 1 were sure nice. It put to bed a lot of the “Kareem Hunt is going to split carries with Spencer Ware this year” noise to bed. But when those 16 carries net only 49 yards and he had only one target out of the backfield, we have a problem. It’s one game, so I’m not panicking yet, but I don’t love the distribution. Hunt needs big plays to be a productive member of your fantasy lineups and right now, all of those are going to Tyreek Hill. He’s an RB2 for me this week.
Joe Mixon (CIN) – Last week’s game against the Colts was the medicine Mixon needed to get better. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a vaccine as the Ravens defense awaits on Thursday. Mixon should see around the same 7 targets as last week, but if he gets 17 rushes this week, I’m not expecting another 95 yards and a score. When Mixon can put together back to back strong performances versus one good performance against a tissue paper defense, I’ll buy in. He’s a FLEX for me this week.
Devonta Freeman (ATL) – He’s hurt already. He faces Carolina who just held Ezekiel Elliott to 69 rushing yards. I like Coleman more this week.
Royce Freeman (DEN) – The emergence of Philip Lindsay is a mere bump in the road for my beloved Rolls Royce. I know cars are supposed to get taken out of the garage and driven, but Elway and company apparently like looking at their’s more than driving it. Lindsay and Freeman had the exact same rushing line — 15 rushes for 71 yards — but Lindsay had 2 catches, one for a touchdown. That’s a problem. Royce needs the rock to be effective if they’re not going to use him on passing downs and needs TDs to hold his RB2 status. He’s top 30 for me this week.
LeSean McCoy (BUF) – So, um, the Bills are bad. Like real bad. And they’ve now announced Josh Allen, who I’m predicting will be a colossal bust of a first round pick, will start at QB for them this week. McCoy, I love you, but you need to pull a Le’Veon Bell and go party in Miami instead of taking the beating that awaits you against the Chargers this week. I would go so far as to say bench Shady until the Bills offense can show semblance of life.
A.J. Green (CIN) – The Ravens contained Green last year — 7 for 91 in two games — so I know they can hold Green to pedestrian numbers. With Jimmy Smith out though, all bets are off. I have Green outside my top 10 this week, the only reason he’s on this list. But the Ravens pass rush should get to the young Bengals’ line, forcing Dalton to do Dalton things. Or at least that’s what I’m banking on to make this prediction come true.
Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) – Sam Bradford was terrible last week. If it continues, Josh Rosen will be starting by Week 4. That said, Fitzgerald still had 10 targets that resulted in 7 for 76. Good numbers in PPR (WR30 last week). I love Fitz, but I think his upside is really limited in this offense. He’s a steady presence for sure, but someone had to make this list. Sorry buddy.
Marvin Jones Jr. (DET) – Marvin Jones Jr. had chances to make some seriously big plays against the Jets and straight dropped them. If he catches them, he tacks on at least 2 long TDs and makes him a top 10 WR in Week 1. Instead, his final line of 4-54 looked liked something on my bench waiting to be tagged in for a bye week. Maybe he gets going against the 49ers, but I’d rather take my chances with Tate and Golladay as they’re more than just big play threats.
Chris Hogan (NE) – Burn me once, shame on you, you get no more chances. The Patriots want to take the focus off Hogan when the focus should have been on Hogan? Fine. You do that. Now Hogan goes against Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye of the Jaguars so you get a hard pass from me. Bye Felicia!
Amari Cooper (OAK) – Another matchup against stud corners, Cooper doesn’t stand a chance against Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, and the Broncos defensive backs. Make Cooper show you he’s more than a FLEX before counting on him weekly.
Sammy Watkins (KC) – He was third on the Chiefs in targets last week. And had a drop. Never change Sammy, never change. This is the Tyreek Hill Show. Watkins is just cashing checks.
Travis Kelce (KC) – Kelce’s six targets resulted in one reception. Not cool at all. Patrick Mahomes and he clearly have some chemistry issues to work out. Safe to say, Mahomes wouldn’t last one episode on Kelce’s old dating show. It’s the end of the column and I’m tired. I don’t care how bad the joke was.
Evan Engram (NYG) – After one week, it looks like Engram is just a spectator in this offense. This is the OBJ and Saquon Show. Grab your popcorn, Engram. I still have him top 10, but another dud lands him in No Man’s Land.
David Njoku (CLE) – Gotta love Njoku’s target share from Week 1 (7 targets). He was also the only other Browns pass catcher with more than one reception. But his 3 catches went for 13 yards. The Saints shut down Cameron Brate and held O.J. Howard to 2 receptions. Until Tyrod Taylor starts trying to get Njoku in space, I can’t recommend starting him. Sorry.