Week 1 Fantasy Football Believe It or Not: Benching Curtis Samuel and Ben Roethlisberger?
Heath Cummings takes a look at some surprising Week 1 results and tells you what you can believe and what you can ignore.
Sunday of Week 1 always starts with such excitement and this year was no different. Surprisingly, the football pretty much lived up to the hype. We had a pair of overtime games, a 50-point outburst and a handful of rookies broke out in enormous ways. It was so much fun.
Of course as the day winds down and we begin to start thinking about Week 2, the fun starts to wear off. Now it's time to decide what actually matters moving forward. Did anything happen in Week 1 that should change our priors?
That's what we'll tackle in Week 1 Believe It or Not. I've also included the results of Twitter polls on each subject just so you can see what the crowd is thinking.
Lamar Jackson is a must-start quarterback until further notice.
In the most shocking result of the day, Lamar Jackson threw five touchdown passes and led his team to a 59-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Jackson simply looked like a different passer on Sunday. He connected twice with rookie Marquise Brown for long touchdowns and he found almost all of his success in the pocket. Part of that was because of the lack of pass rush, but these are just not throws he made in 2018.
Jackson was the No. 1 quarterback in Fantasy in Week 1 with just 20 pass attempts and six rush yards. In a more competitive game I'm sure we'll see more rush attempts. When you combine that threat with his improved passing there are very few quarterbacks I'd rather have.
Verdict: Believe it.
Yes, I know bad the Dolphins defense is. It's the worst in the league. So you won't get five touchdowns every week, fine. But just take a look at Jackson's schedule over the next five weeks:
Arizona, at Kansas City, Cleveland, at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati
I'm not sure there's a good defense on the schedule until late October. And I'm not sure how much defense is going to matter if Jackson plays like this.
The Chiefs lost Hill for the foreseeable future on Sunday, but they still hung 40 on the Jaguars and Watkins was a big part of it. He caught nine of 11 targets for 198 yards and scored three times. That was enough to make him the No. 1 wide receiver in Fantasy heading into Monday night. He won't keep that pace up but for as long as Hill is out you should expect to see Watkins in the top 10.
Verdict: Believe it.
I wrote about this in the offseason when we were concerned about a suspension for Hill. Watkins' pace when he was healthy last year was for more than 1,000 yards and those games were with Hill. If he's the number one wide receiver for Patrick Mahomes in an offense that also features Travis Kelce I have little doubt he'll be a top-12 receiver every week he suits up. The Hill injury could hurt this offense a little bit, but it's a big boon for Watkins' value.
It's time to panic about Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay offense.
The new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers could not have been much worse in their home opener against the 49ers. Winston threw three picks against a defense that only intercepted two passes in 2018. O.J. Howard fumbled and only finished with 32 yards. Mike Evans caught just two of five targets for 28 yards. Chris Godwin scored, but only had 53 yards receiving. If you were heavily invest in this offense in 2019 you might start making other plans.
Verdict: Don't believe it.
Not yet anyway. We were so excited about Bruce Arians' new system that we may have forgotten to account for an adjustment period. It's not abnormal for a team to struggle in their first game in a new system. I still believe in the talent in Tampa Bay and I believe in Arians' system, so I'm not adjusting my expectations too much based on one lousy performance.
That being said, the Buccaneers play on Thursday night at Carolina. I completely understand if you don't feel comfortable starting Winston in this matchup and I fully expect to have a streaming quarterback in the position preview you can start over him. Just don't give up on the offense entirely.
Our first look at the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers was even less impressive than what we saw from the Buccaneers. JuJu Smith-Schuster did not look like a No. 1 receiver who could beat double coverage, James Conner barely factored into the game and Ben Roethlisberger averaged under 6 yards per attempt. All in all they looked lost without their No. 1 receiver and it's fair to wonder whether we misdiagnosed this defense without it's best receiver.
Verdict: Don't believe it.
Smith-Schuster caught six of eight targets for 78 yards. That's what the Patriots do to No. 1 receivers. Brown himself averaged six catches for 75 yards against the Patriots. As long as the injury Smith-Schuster suffered in the final minutes is minor I'll confidently start him as a No. 1 receiver moving forward.
The Patriots have always been tough on Roethlisberger and this offense. Maybe I should have factored that into my Week 1 rankings more but I'm not going to change my preseason opinion because they got stopped by a team that often stops them. What's more concerning for Roethlisberger was the play of Donte Moncrief, who looked incompetent. The opportunity is only growing for James Washington, who made a nice play on Roethlisberger's longest throw of the game.
You can't start Curtis Samuel until something changes.
We spent much of the preseason hearing about about Samuel's imminent breakout and I spent much of that time questioning what the Panthers were going to change to make that happen. In Week 1 at least, the answer was nothing. Samuel saw just four targets on Sunday despite Cam Newton unleashing 38 pass attempts. Until he's more involved in the offense you need to leave Samuel on your bench.
Verdict: Believe it.
In this game Christian McCaffrey, Greg Olsen and D.J. Moore combined for nearly 80% of the teams total targets. That's the type of consolidation we love in Fantasy, but it doesn't leave any room at all for a Samuel breakout. This makes sense, because Newton has always leaned heavily on McCaffrey and Olsen when they've been healthy and Moore is a better receiver than Samuel. I'm still holding him with the hopes the target share will change, but I can't imagine he'll be on my bench through the byes if it doesn't.
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