By Joshua Hudson
Before we get to my Week 2 Plays and Fades, I just want to take a second to be grateful for football.
This year has been weird. We were quarantined due to a pandemic that forced many people to lose their jobs. We lost sports for a time — ALL SPORTS — and there were legitimate questions about whether we would even have an NFL season. We buried ourselves into anything we could for a sense of enjoyment and for some of us, that was Fantasy Football.
And we made it through one week. Let’s not take advantage of this. Let’s enjoy it, embrace it, and not be too vocal about our disappointment in some players. We can do better, people.
If you read this column last week or in the preseason, you have a good idea as to what my Confidence Plays represent. It’s essentially a start/sit column featuring players I think will boom (play) versus those I think will bust (fade). I try to focus on some middle-of-the-road and streaming options, as you’re likely playing your top guys regardless of the matchup, but some of those top guys may land on the Fade side. (Some matchups suck — what do you want me to do?) Don’t interpret this as “I have to sit Patrick Mahomes to play Derek Carr because Carr is a Play this week.” Don’t be that fantasy player. But maybe put some of them in your DFS lineups to maximize upside or play them as your RB2 or WR2 or in your FLEX. Or, you know, stream them.
QB Kirk Cousins (MIN) – Indy’s defense was just destroyed by Captain America (Gardner Minshew) and his insane efficiency (95% completion!). The last two years, Cousins has a 70.1% and 69.1% completion percentage. Last week, he was at 76%. He also had a perfect passer rating on his deep passes (158.3), completing 4 of 5 for 2 TDs, both to Adam Thielen. One thing that may work to his disadvantage is former teammate Xavier Rhodes, who happens to be a Colt now. I’m all about revenge games, but when you put up the 13th lowest coverage grade among CBs, per PFF, in Week 1 for your new team, I’m not worried.
QB Josh Allen (BUF) – I said last week that Miami struggles against quarterbacks with the ability to run, right? Cam Newton was QB12 (6 points/pass TD) and didn’t have a passing touchdown. Allen accounted for three touchdowns in Week 1 (1 rush) and was QB4. Miami gave up two rushing touchdowns to Newton, who had 80% of New England’s 10-zone rush attempts (and 50% of their rushing touchdowns). Allen accounted for 20% of the team’s rushing attempts inside the 10-zone and scored the lone red zone TD. Allen should be a top 10 QB this week with ease.
RB Todd Gurley II (ATL) – at DAL. Gurley, Ito Smith, and Brian Hill were all used fairly similarly in the receiving game. What you love to see is Gurley commanding 67% of the team’s rushing attempts. The next closest to Gurley’s 14 carries was Hill with 3. Gurley also had all of the team’s rushing attempts inside the 10-zone and scored the lone rushing touchdown. Dallas just got shredded on the ground by Gurley’s former team (124 yards and 2 TDs) so I don’t think it’s crazy to think Gurley has a top 24 week.
RB Ronald Jones II (TB) – Looks like Carolina picked right back up where they left off in 2019 after getting absolutely shredded by Josh Jacobs and the Raiders. Even with the addition of Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones held a 33 to 9 advantage in snaps over Fournette in the Bucs loss to New Orleans. This may be the week Bruce Arians works Fournette in more, but I think Jones — who fought hard for those 66 rushing yards — does enough to hold off Fournette for another week. 75 yards and a TD shouldn’t be out of the question for RoJo this week.
RB Nyheim Hines (IND) – GB targeted their RBs 25% of the time Week 1 against MIN, who allowed 9 receptions to RBs. Minnesota gave up 9 receptions to GB RBs last week. In Week 1 against Jacksonville, Philip Rivers targeted his RBs 36.9% of the time. They hauled in all 17 targets for 142 yards and a touchdown. Nyheim Hines is about to go off again.
WR Marquise Brown (BAL) – You almost feel bad for Houston. As if 2020 hasn’t been hard enough on everyone, they start their season facing off with the last two MVP winners. Mahomes threw 3 TDs against that secondary. Lamar Jackson should have some fun this week. His number one receiver, Hollywood Brown, was on point in Week 1, hauling in 5 for 101 yards on 6 targets. I feel like this is a good time to remind everyone that Sammy Watkins went for 7/82/1 against this secondary. Give me all the Hollywood this week.
WR Sterling Shepard (NYG) – Kyle Fuller and rookie Jaylon Johnson held their own on the perimeter for the Bears against the Kenny Golladay-less Lions on Sunday. Much of there focus will be on Darius Slayton, leaving Shepard open in the slot. All of Danny Amendola’s 5 catches for 81 yards came when lined up in the slot. Buster Skrine is the weak link in the Bears secondary and Shepard, who lined up in the slot 73.8% of the time, should see plenty of targets as a result.
WR Emmanuel Sanders (NO) – No Michael Thomas, no problem. With Michael Thomas expected to miss a couple of weeks with a high ankle sprain, Emmanuel Sanders ascends to the WR1 role for the Saints. Las Vegas has some issues in the secondary — they gave up 6/115/1 to Robby Anderson — and if Sanders has anything left in the tank, I expect a solid WR2 day with top 12 upside. A savvy vet like Sanders should have some fun with rookie Damon Arnette, who allowed 4 catches for 110 yards and Anderson’s TD in his debut. Sanders has two touchdowns on deep receptions the last two years and could easily add a third Sunday.
TE Logan Thomas (WAS) – George Kittle played hurt and the Cardinals still allowed 6 receptions to TEs on Sunday. Logan Thomas is proving to be a thing for Washington as a safety blanket for Dwayne Haskins. The Eagles were one of the best against TEs last year — 5th fewest fantasy points allowed — and gave up 4 receptions and a touchdown to Thomas. I’m not expecting a big yardage game with Budda Baker likely in coverage, but Thomas will find himself in fortuitous situations and add a TD or enough catches to put up a top 12 showing.
TE Jonnu Smith (TEN) – I beat the drum for Jonnu Smith all offseason and Tennesse looked to get him involved often. He had only one fewer target than A.J. Brown and Corey Davis (both with 8) and added a TD. They use him in the screen game also, which you don’t see much from TEs across the league. Jacksonville gave up 69 yards to TEs last week and allowed the 8th most touchdowns to TEs a year ago, so even if Smith doesn’t score, he has a solid yardage floor, which is hard to come by at the TE position.
QB Deshaun Watson (HOU) – Even without Earl Thomas, the Ravens defense is good and Deshaun Watson looked average against Kansas City in Week 1. Maybe with 10 days to prepare, things get better, but I’m not banking on it. BAL was one of the stingiest a season ago against receiving backs (a negative for David Johnson) and they held OBJ to a 30% catch rate (a negative for Will Fuller/Brandin Cooks) last week. Watson will have to gain yards with his legs, and BAL allowed the 3rd fewest rushing yards to QBs a year ago. Tough sledding this week for Watson.
QB Carson Wentz (PHI) – The Eagles are beat up. They had only three starters on their offensive line from a year ago and were missing their starting running back. Wentz tried to do too much, forcing a lot of throws and it did not go well. Going against Aaron Donald and the Rams front 4 isn’t a way to get things going when your line is beat up. Wentz was sacked 8 times last week. A west coast team traveling east is helpful, but I’m not expecting Wentz to have a 300/3 kind of game, especially if PHI can’t get the running game going — which, if Miles Sanders is out again, will not happen.
RB Malcolm Brown (LAR) – Staying in Philadelphia, I’m not expecting Malcolm Brown to repeat his Week 1 performance. The Eagles allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to RBs last year and allowed only 63 rushing yards to WAS in Week 1 (2.17 YPC). Washington’s Peyton Barber had two short TD runs, something Brown also had last week. The Rams led the league in rushing scores inside the 5 a year ago so this is probably a terrible pick, but I’m banking on DE Derek Barnett and DT Jason Hargrave to return to action to plug holes on the line.
RB Kenyan Drake (ARI) – So, um, the Washington Football Team has a run defense. Look, I get it, they faced Boston Scott (everyone’s favorite late-round sleeper) and Corey Clement with Miles Sanders out with a hamstring injury. But did you know they have not one, not two, but five former first round picks in their front seven? It was only a matter of time before they blossomed. The Eagles were given the 2nd lowest run blocking grade of the week by Pro Football Focus. You know who had the lowest? Arizona. WAS allowed only 55 rushing yards and gave up four receptions. Kenyan Drake is in for a frustrating day in Week 2.
RB Melvin Gordon (DEN) – The Steelers gave up 6 rushing yards to Saquon Barkley in Week 1. SIX! I get it, the Giants offensive line is trash, but like — six yards?! If Gordon stands a chance at producing even FLEX-worthy numbers this week, it’s in the passing game. Drew Lock targeted his backs only five times against TEN and the Steelers allowed 7 receptions to RBs (6 to Barkley). If Courtland Sutton is out again (and add in Phillip Lindsay’s expected absence, as well), we could see more involvement for Gordon in that regard, but I doubt it’s enough.
WR D.K. Metcalf (SEA) – The Patriots were hands down the best passing defense in the NFL last year. I know DeVante Parker missed some of Week 1 after a hamstring injury, but Preston Williams and company didn’t perform any better against them to start off 2020. Metcalf is likely to see A LOT of Stephon Gilmore, last year’s reigning DPOY, so I think Russell Wilson leans more on Tyler Lockett, who was in the slot on 68.4% of his snaps. Some things just don’t need too much explanation.
WR Will Fuller V (HOU) – Whether it’s Marcus Peters or Marlon Humphrey, Will Fuller will have his hands full in Week 2. Peters was CB5 and Humphrey CB21 in coverage grade, per PFF, in 2019. They held OBJ to 3 catches for 22 yards on 10 targets as the primary outside receiver (only 15.2% of his snaps were out of the slot) in Week 1. Not having a quality safety like Earl Thomas behind them will hurt as Fuller’s biggest asset is his speed, but Watson only targeted Fuller deep three times (out of 11 targets) against KC, connecting on one for 31 yards. Expect a so-so game this week.
WR John Brown (BUF) – After the acquisition of Stefon Diggs this offseason, it was nice to see John Brown have a quality Week 1. That could be more difficult this week. Miami’s secondary, stock full of new acquisitions, played well against New England’s group of wide receivers, limiting them to 96 yards on 10 catches. They held Jakobi Myers and Damiere Byrd without a catch and Julian Edelman caught only one ball on the outside (four in the slot). Brown and Diggs are outside receivers so I think this may be a game where Cole Beasley shines more than the team’s number two pass catcher.
TE Mike Gesicki (MIA) – As the “big slot” for Miami, Gesicki had only two catches in Week 1 from the slot. Buffalo’s Taron Johnson allowed eight receptions when covering the slot, three to TE Chris Herndon. How many yards did he have on those three catches? 19. Gesicki is struggling with separation so I’m not expecting a boom game here against one of the better secondaries in the league.
TE Jimmy Graham (CHI) – I’m going to make this real simple: just because Jimmy Graham scored a touchdown in Week 1 doesn’t mean you rush to pick him up! For as bad as the Giants defense was and for how much everyone hyped up Eric Ebron in his Steelers debut, the Giants held Steelers’ tight ends to 2 catches for 21 yards on 4 targets. This is a game for Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. Don’t get sucked back in to rostering Graham. It’s not 2013!