10 Fantasy Football Thoughts: After injury influx, time to be a vulture

New York Giants running back Dion Lewis tries to break free from Chicago Bears cornerback Buster Skrine. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Week 1 was fun, but it certainly didn’t prepare us for the agony and craziness that we would experience in Week 2. We saw the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Davante Adams, Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton and others all leave their respective games due to injury.

Long story short, you’ll be OK.

Here are 10 thoughts on fantasy football following the second week of the season:

1. Don’t panic, believe in your process and stay the course

So you’re 0-2, huh? Breathe. Relax. Don’t hit accept on that desperation trade just yet.

And listen: it will be ok, I promise.

It’s 2020, so we expect crazy things to happen. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. If you’ve got injuries, sure that hurts, but there’s always a way around it. No one ever won a fantasy football season without an injury or two, so play the waiver wire and find others who are desperate to make a trade. Be a vulture, channel your inner Mike Tolbert!

Now is the time to acquire cheap value like handcuff running backs or players off to a slow start. Someone might be fed up because Kenny Golladay hasn’t played the first two weeks of the season. Go get him. Julio Jones had a terrible week in which the Falcons scored 39 points, so somebody might have soured on him. Find that person who wants him gone.

Be proactive, not reactive. You’ll thank me later.

2. Injuries put a cloud on a fun fantasy week

Injuries can never truly be predicted, but this season you could make the argument that a lot of the early injuries were predictable. Teams didn’t start ramping up their intensity level until the week leading into the first game of the season, meaning that players were coming into the opening week with almost no game-like situations due to the lack of pre-season. Soft tissue injuries were almost certainly going to be a problem.

So the question is, how do you manage through these injuries?

The easiest way to navigate is, of course is to play the waiver wire. But what happens if you miss out on guys like Mike Davis and Dion Lewis, among others?

Be creative with trades.

It’s OK to be perceived to “lose” a deal if you trade two very good players to get a guy that you think will be a stud performer. Or you can take your depth and trade for someone like Christian McCaffrey or Michael Thomas who you know will be back and help provide a late-season push.

The Big Show
Matt Marchese talks NFL injuries, impact on fantasy football and waiver wire options
September 22 2020

3. Maybe now they’ll “Let Russ Cook”

For those who have rostered Russell Wilson for years on their fantasy teams, Sunday night’s game was an indication of what he can do if Pete Carroll just unleashes him and lets him throw the ball. Wilson’s monster day included 288 yards passing and five touchdowns.

Currently the QB1 overall, Wilson has nine touchdowns to one interception through his first two games and has shredded both the Falcons and Patriots’ defences. He has always been one of the most entertaining players to watch and, if you’ve got him on your team, it makes it that much more enjoyable.

Listen Mr. Carroll, we know how much you love to pound the rock, but you know what’s much more enjoyable and appeasing for our football palate?

Letting Russ cook!

4. The Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs connection is fantasy gold

Stefon Diggs is exactly the guy the Bills have been looking for in their offence since they drafted Josh Allen with the seventh pick in the 2018 draft. Diggs is one of the best route runners in the NFL and one of the best deep threats, the perfect combination for an emerging Allen.

Diggs looks like he is right back on the WR1 radar, with a league-leading 239 receiving yards on 16 catches through the first two games, while Allen will once again be a QB1 — but with the added wrinkle that he can actually be a threat in the passing game.

Allen did basically all of his damage through the air on Sunday, with 417 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, resulting in another top-five weekly finish. The criticism will always be there with Allen, but with a completion percentage of 70.4 per cent through the first two games, his accuracy issues might be behind him.

The Bills have deployed the most pass-heavy offence in the NFL, which is a bit surprising, but if they keep this up, Allen and Diggs will continue to blossom.

5. Good luck trying to figure out the Ravens’ running back situation early on

If you had Gus Edwards leading the Ravens in rushing yards and attempts on your running back bingo card this week, I applaud you. But I have a feeling my hands won’t get too sore from clapping.

This situation really looks like the Ravens are trying to keep all their guys fresh because they know they’re going to lock down the top seed in the AFC North (and yes, I’m aware that we just finished Week 2).

The carries for the Ravens were as follows on Sunday:

Lamar Jackson – 16

Gus Edwards – 10

Mark Ingram – 9

JK Dobbins – 2

Add in two catches for Ingram and one for Dobbins and it doesn’t change a thing: this backfield is difficult to predict without an injury. How does Dobbins get two touchdowns and seven touches in Week One, then just three touches in Week Two? The simple answer is that he and Edwards basically switched roles. Ingram’s role seems to be pretty secure — getting around 10 touches per game — but after that it’s murky at best.

Dobbins is a great buy-low candidate because he’s got the highest upside of all three running backs in the event of an injury, so keep an eye on him.

6. Tight end touchdowns on the rise?

It’s a small sample size, but it’s definitely something to monitor: through two weeks, we have seen a 4.5 per cent increase in tight end receiving touchdown totals from last year’s end-of-season total. The tight end position has accounted for 30 per cent of receiving touchdowns across the league, but I’m sure you’re thinking, “It’s only been two weeks and we shouldn’t read too much into it.”

Maybe so, but we can look back on last year’s totals through the first two weeks to compare:

2019: 21 of 105 total receiving touchdowns (20 per cent)

2020: 34 of 113 total receiving touchdowns (30 per cent)

Last season, tight ends caught 197 of 777 touchdowns for a 25.3 per cent clip. So if we use last year’s league-wide touchdown total as our point of reference, it would put this year’s pace at 233 touchdowns, good for an extra two touchdowns per week. That might seem like an insignificant number. But in fantasy terms, it’s not — because those two touchdowns could be yours!

Why are we seeing such an increase in touchdowns for tight ends?

The answer is pretty simple to me: we’ve never seen this much talent at the position as it continues to evolve. Sure, we still have those pedantic blocking tight ends, but we also have athletic freaks like Darren Waller, George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant and of course Travis Kelce, all of whom create nightmares for opposing defences.

Think about players that you could have gotten with later round picks who have had great starts. Fant, Hockenson, Dallas Goedert and Jonnu Smith are some of the names that come to mind.

How good have tight ends been through the first two weeks? Seven players are in the top 50 fantasy scorers in both PPR and standard scoring among skill position players — and that’s with Kittle missing most of the first two weeks.

What I’m telling you is, don’t be afraid to use your flex on tight ends, especially with all these injuries!

7. Gardner Flint Minshew II is the real deal in fantasy football

There’s a lot to like about this guy, whether it’s his great ‘stache, his gunslinger mentality or the fact that despite all the talk of the Jaguars tanking for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, Gardner Minshew has shown up for your fantasy team.

Currently QB11 on the season, the Washington State product has been far better than many thought, completing 75.4 per cent of his passes (4th) for 512 yards (18th), to go with six touchdowns (t-2nd) and adding 38 rushing yards (12th). He’s becoming a weekly starter in one-QB leagues and a must start in two-QB leagues, giving you a very good floor, especially in a peach matchup this week against the Dolphins — who just gave up 417 passing yards to Josh Allen.

In his next four games, Minshew takes on the Dolphins, Bengals, Texans and Lions, who have all been hammered by opposing offences so far.

Put him in your lineup, set it, forget it and enjoy the fruits of Minshew Mania.

The Big Show
Jason La Canfora discusses mask fines, amount of injuries in Week 2 and the Cardinals
September 22 2020

8. Emmanuel Sanders won’t be a thing in New Orleans, my apologies in advance

If there was ever a time for Emmanuel Sanders to make an impact in his new digs, it would have been this past week against Las Vegas.

Well, there goes that!

Sanders through the first two weeks has been a shadow of himself, through fault of his own or not, and it hasn’t looked pretty. He has four catches for 33 yards on eight targets, including a terrible drop in Monday’s game against the Raiders. Very unlike him.

Tre’Quan Smith fits the Michael Thomas role a lot better, as he’s the bigger-bodied receiver, and he showed out with five catches for 85 yards this past week.

It’s safe to say that Sanders can be dropped in 12-team leagues, a real shame because of that draft capital you probably used to get him.

9. D’Andre Swift will be worth your draft pick, just be patient

Many people were perplexed by the Lions’ drafting of Swift in the second round of this year’s draft, but you cannot deny he’s the most talented running back on the roster. Through the first two games, Swift has played the most snaps among Lions running backs, posting eight catches and a rushing touchdown.

Kerryon Johnson can’t stay healthy, Adrian Peterson has to slow down at some point and the Lions are dreadful on defence, which means that Swift, who is the superior pass catcher among that group, will be on the field more and be given plenty of opportunities.

Talent usually wins out.

I say usually because Matt Patricia is harder to figure out than a New York Times crossword puzzle. Swift is another guy with whom plenty of people won’t be impressed based on his early output, so he should be someone you target in a trade.

10. Robby Anderson isn’t a mirage; he’s the perfect running mate for D.J. Moore

Sorry to all the Curtis Samuel truthers out there, but this is the way it’s going to be. It hurts for me too, as I was one of them for a while.

Anderson is one of only two players with a pair of 100-yard receiving games in the first two weeks, alongside Calvin Ridley. It’s surprising, yes, but we’ve seen this from him before. The only difference is that we usually see this at the end of the season as opposed to the beginning. He has had a great chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater thus far and I would expect it to continue, especially since the Panthers are awful defensively and they’re going to be throwing the ball a lot.

I expect Anderson to cool off, but he looks well on his way to a WR3 finish with some splash WR1 weeks because of his deep ball ability. It’ll be something for Panthers fans to look forward to, because it doesn’t look like winning football games is something they’ll get to celebrate much!

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