Well, we’ve learned some things. Or at least, we’ve been reminded of some things: One, injuries suck; and two, trying to navigate committee backfields… also sucks.
We may have been horribly wrong about San Francisco running back Trey Sermon – and I’d bet he’s at least active in most games going forward now that Raheem Mostert is done for the season – but trying to determine just how much 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is going to give the ball to the red-and-gold Cerberus that is Sermon, hot waiver pickup Elijah Mitchell, and JaMycal Hasty is a real headache. (And that’s before Jeff Wilson Jr. is eligible to return in October.)
Anyway, Week 2 offers some premium matchups – and some real duds. Let’s dive in!
Our weekly picks have been made with 0.5 PPR leagues in mind, with standard rosters of one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, and one RB/WR/TE FLEX spot.
QB Start: Baker Mayfield, Browns (vs. Texans)
It wasn’t a terrific fantasy performance from Mayfield against the Chiefs, especially in a primetime matchup that could very well be one of the deciding factors in playoff seeding down the road. But don’t let his 12.6 fantasy points deter you – even with a run-heavy offence, there will be flashes here and there of fantasy relevance, and a matchup with the Texans is one of them. Houston’s decisive Week 1 win over Jacksonville still saw them give up three touchdown passes to Trevor Lawrence. Mayfield has been one of the more efficient QBs in fantasy despite his relatively low numbers, as evidenced by him spreading the ball around to eight different receivers in Odell Beckham Jr.’s absence against Kansas City.
QB Start: Jameis Winston, Saints (@ Panthers)
Winston only threw 20 passes last Sunday against Green Bay, finishing his day with 148 yards passing and five touchdowns on an afternoon he was rarely pressured. Carolina may present a different challenge (the Panthers sacked rookie Zach Wilson six times in Week 1), but Winston showed he can distribute the ball and check down if need be – something we rarely saw when he was the starter in Tampa Bay. If Saints head coach Sean Payton can keep his QB’s more explosive passing urges in check, Winston could have quite a productive season as the new Saints starter.
Another strong starter to watch: Mac Jones, Patriots (@ Jets)
QB Sit: Sam Darnold, Panthers (vs. Saints)
On the other side of the Saints-Panthers matchup, we have Darnold, who managed to live out the revenge narrative against his old team (and with his fellow former Jet Robby Anderson, to boot) when New York came to town last week. The Saints’ defence provides an entirely different problem: they crushed Aaron Rodgers, intercepting him twice and adding a fumble recovery while limiting the Packers’ offence to just one conversion on ten third downs. Darnold has a decent schedule after this game, but bench him this week and spare yourself the pain.
QB Sit: Derek Carr, Raiders (@ Steelers)
Carr is possibly one of the least sexy fantasy players in recent memory, in large part because he’ll never be the main reason you win or lose a fantasy matchup. He probably has a pretty stable floor, but the ceiling is not all that high, either. However, there is the odd game here and there in which he’ll surpass that ceiling – and against the Ravens on Monday night, he blew the roof right off. Carr threw for 435 yards and two touchdowns while also adding 46 yards with his legs against Baltimore. Unfortunately, it’s time for the lid to be resealed, as the Raiders are on the road against a healthy Steelers squad that just limited fantasy darling Josh Allen to a relatively modest 17.2 fantasy points.
WR Start: Cooper Kupp, Rams (@ Colts)
It was a tough question to answer this off-season: which Rams WR will Matthew Stafford favour most? A Week 1 matchup with the Bears is probably too soon to answer right away, but the early stats lean towards Kupp. He dominated the target share, getting ten tosses from Stafford (four more than the next guy, Tyler Higbee). That may not prove to be the case every week, but against the Colts, who just gave up multiple touchdowns to Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and former Rams tight end Gerald Everett, Kupp should keep the good times rolling.
WR Start: Jarvis Landry, Browns (vs. Texans)
With Odell Beckham Jr. already ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Texans, Landry is your de-facto No. 1 wideout in Cleveland. The Browns’ playbook uses him in a variety of ways, in both catching and rushing plays. Head coach Kevin Stefanski runs the ball so much that even Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt need a rest sometimes. On top of that, Landry still provides great value in the passing game, even with Baker Mayfield spreading it around to various weapons. Houston may have surprised people in Week 1, but the Browns are in a very different class from the Jaguars. Even though the run game is expected to be the engine once again (read: every week), Landry getting Mayfield’s first look is enough to start him this week.
Another strong starter to watch: Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals (vs. Bears)
WR Sit: Corey Davis, Jets (vs. Patriots)
It’s a pretty safe bet that Corey Davis is going to return some very nice value all season. However, whenever you have a rookie QB going up against a Bill Belichick defence, it’s best to steer clear of that QB’s favourite toy as Belichick often sticks his best cover corner and a safety to neutralize a team’s top target. Add in the prodigious pass rush in New England, and it might be best to just stay away from most Jets in this one, period.
WR Sit: D.J. Chark, Jaguars (vs. Broncos)
Another terrific value player that will provide dividends this season, Chark appears to be the No. 1 guy in Jacksonville. This week, however, sets up a bad matchup for him. Chark had his season-opener somewhat salvaged by a 41-yard touchdown grab, and will now be tasked with taking on Broncos cornerback Kyle Fuller this Sunday. If you must start a Jaguars pass-catcher in Week 2, go with Marvin Jones Jr.
RB Start: Darrell Henderson Jr., Rams (@ Colts)
For now, it seems the Rams have largely given the backfield to Henderson, who inherited the job after an off-season injury to Cam Akers. Is it possible that newcomer Sony Michel emerges to rip away a chunk of that workload? Absolutely. But with limited time for him to learn the playbook, it feels like that day is further away than we thought. Case in point: Henderson grabbed 16 rushing attempts to Michel’s one carry against the Bears in Week 1. Receiver Robert Woods grabbed a single carry as well, but for now it looks like Henderson’s backfield to lose.
RB Start: Damien Harris, Patriots (@ Jets)
In years past, trying to decipher the Patriots’ backfield might have been a fool’s errand. The truth in 2021 is much simpler, however. With Mac Jones under centre, the team is going to run the ball – and run it a lot. Harris looked a little gassed towards the end of the game against the Dolphins last week after touching the ball 25 times, but Rhamondre Stevenson didn’t look ready for the big leagues just yet. Perhaps we see more J.J. Taylor to spell Harris from time to time, but for a backfield that rushes as much as this team does you’ll be pleased you started Harris in East Rutherford this Sunday.
Another strong starter to watch: Jamaal Williams, Lions (@ Packers)
RB Sit: Mike Davis, Falcons (@ Buccaneers)
Davis touched the ball 18 times against the Eagles last week, which is an encouraging takeaway from what was a listless loss. Less encouraging is their foreboding road matchup against a Buccaneers defence that held Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to a combined to 82 yards on 20 touches. It sure seems that through sheer availability alone, Davis will be someone you want in plus matchups – unfortunately, taking on the Buccaneers ain’t it.
RB Sit: All Texans RBs (@ Browns)
Look, this may be another copout – a la my advice on Jets running backs last week, which I stand by – but truthfully, it’s going to be virtually impossible to guess which RB will scamper in for a touchdown this Sunday. Mark Ingram had 26 carries last week, but we need to see him do it again (and maybe once more after that) before we can reliably say he’s the guy to own. Until we know more, don’t chase the points here… yet.
TE Start: Noah Fant, Broncos (@ Jaguars)
With Teddy Bridgewater in town, it was unclear how efficient this Denver offence would be. After Week 1, it sure seems fine to me. The high-ankle sprain suffered by dynamic wideout Jerry Jeudy is sure to muddy the waters somewhat, but Fant hauled in six of eight targets for 62 yards against the Giants -- the second most on the team after Jeudy – and is set to see a larger share of targets now. Add in the matchup against the Jaguars, a team that was just carved by Tyrod Taylor? I’m fanting with anticipation (and no, I’m not sorry).
TE Start: Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers (vs. Falcons)
Who’d have thought that, at this point in his career, Gronk would turn out in such a fashion to kick off the season? Seriously, if you took the over on his TD catches for the season opener last week, I applaud you. Against the porous Falcons defence, virtually every member of the Buccaneers offence is startable, but considering Gronkowski has the implicit trust of Tom Brady, he’ll continue to have a healthy share of targets in Tampa. If Philly’s Dallas Goedert can get to a double-digit fantasy outing against Atlanta in Week 1, you should feel comfortable about Gronk doing the same in Week 2.
Another strong starter to watch: Tyler Higbee, Rams (@ Colts)
TE Sit: Robert Tonyan, Packers (vs. Lions)
This is a wait-and-see situation. We already know Aaron Rodgers loves to look Tonyan’s way in the red zone. Unfortunately, the offence from top to bottom was shellacked last week – just throw the game tape out and start anew. Tonyan was targeted four times against the Saints, putting him behind only Davante Adams (understandable) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (less so). Until we see how the Packers’ offence performs at a more average level from week to week, keep Tonyan on the bench.
TE Sit: Juwan Johnson, Saints (@ Panthers)
Okay, I took a bath on the Trautman start last week – I’ll be clinging to him leading the team in targets for a while, I think – but don’t go chasing the points with Johnson this Sunday. I don’t think this needs to be said, but catching three passes for two touchdowns seems pretty unsustainable. Keep your eye on this situation for the next few weeks (who knows, maybe he’s the Tonyan of this year!), but there’s better value to be found elsewhere.