Week 2 Fantasy Football News & Notes: Grab Mecole Hardman, trust JuJu Smith-Schuster
Ben Gretch looks at all the latest news and notes around the league.
In Week 1, Hardman played 53 of a possible 59 snaps after Hill exited, and ran a route on 79% of Patrick Mahomes' dropbacks. That's incredible usage, especially considering the offense didn't appear to miss a beat without Hill. After torching the Jaguars for 491 total yards in Jacksonville, they look primed to be just as explosive in 2019 as they were in 2018.
Hardman wasn't very involved on the stat sheet, but the team also hadn't game-planned him into such a big role in his NFL debut. Moving forward, they'll be preparing with the knowledge he'll be in the game alongside Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce, who won't be able to combine for 286 receiving yards every week, as they did in Week 1. We also knew going in that Jacksonville planned to shadow Hill, so their game plan, to some degree, centered around limiting his productivity. It's reasonable to think that when Hardman -- whose 4.33 speed made him someone the Chiefs traded up to acquire after Hill news broke during the draft -- took over the Hill role, the Jaguars didn't suddenly adjust everything about their game plan.
There will be matchups where the Chiefs scheme things for Hardman and/or he is the guy forgotten about by the defensive game plan. As we've seen for more than a year now, the Chiefs have too many weapons for even good defenses to scheme against. Hardman caught six passes for 88 yards and two scores this preseason, and one of his touchdowns came on a tip pass designed to get him in space, a staple of Hill's role. Don't be surprised in the Chiefs get him some similar easy touches early in Week 2 to get him involved.
Tomlin optimistic about JuJu
One of the more mind-boggling Week 1 injuries was JuJu Smith-Schuster coming up with a toe ailment in the final minutes of a major blowout, simply because there's not much reason why he was still on the field. Mike Tomlin did say he's optimistic JuJu will be able to play in Week 2, and X-rays were negative, which is good news because the matchup is fantastic.
The Steelers play host to the Seahawks in Week 2, one week after Seattle allowed Andy Dalton to throw for 400 yards for the first time in his career. In Week 1, JuJu was shadowed by Stephon Gilmore of the Patriots; Gilmore ranked No. 2 in PFF coverage grades among cornerbacks in 2018.
There has been plenty of discussion about whether JuJu can handle a No. 1 role, but it's worth noting he wasn't completely shut out in what was one of the worst possible situations in Week 1. He finished with six catches on eight targets for 78 yards, though three of his catches came in the fourth quarter when the game had long been decided and the Patriots eased off with their coverages a bit.
Earlier in the game, the Steelers really struggled to get much going, and Donte Moncrief notably had four drops, while Vance McDonald was shut out until the game's final drive. The lack of production from the other receiving options will likely mean JuJu will continue to garner plenty of defensive attention, but there are very few elite corners on the level of Gilmore. Meanwhile, the lack of secondary receiving production will also mean that Ben Roethlisberger will be more willing to lock onto JuJu as his No. 1. I've been high on Smith-Schuster all offseason, and for me it's very clear the number of targets he's in line for far surpasses any concern about added defensive attention, especially in a matchup like the one the Steelers get in Week 2 against the Seahawks. I expect a big performance if that toe is right.
- A lawsuit has been filed accusing Antonio Brown of rape and sexual assault from three separate incidents in 2017 and 2018. The Patriots announced that the NFL is investigating the matter.
- Bill O'Brien expects Kenny Stills' role to grow moving forward. Makes sense, given his late-game heroics that nearly helped the Texans take down the Saints in New Orleans. Stills ran a route on 20 of Deshaun Watson's 38 dropbacks in Week 1, but had just three catches — two tip passes for a combined zero yards and the long touchdown with under a minute left. He'll still be behind Will Fuller for the majority of downfield looks, and won't be much more than a deep league option.
- The Jets traded a sixth-round pick to acquire Demaryius Thomas from the Patriots. In Week 1, the Jets didn't sub much, as each of their main five starters in 11 personnel . The addition of Thomas might change that, and it's Quincy Enunwa's role that would be in jeopardy as Thomas is unlikely to steal snaps from Jamison Crowder in the slot or Robby Anderson as the team's deep threat. He's a long shot to be Fantasy-relevant.
- Bruce Arians noted Peyton Barber will remain the team's starting running back, which isn't too much of a surprise. Barber didn't exactly play bad, rushing eight times for 33 yards. But he also totaled just 12 receiving yards on four targets, and looked like just a guy, which is more or less how he looked all of last year. Meanwhile, Ronald Jones stood out, and the team utilized him more as the game went on, while Dare Ogunbowale led the team's backs in routes run while playing a passing downs role. Barber appears headed for a reduced role unless he makes significant improvements, while Jones remains the highest-upside back of this trio.
- Greg Olsen plans to play Thursday, but noted the short week is not ideal. Olsen missed Monday and Tuesday practices while managing a back issue, so we'll have to keep an eye on the injury report ahead of the Panthers' on Thursday night matchup with the Buccaneers. Olsen's playing time in Week 1 was very encouraging, and he's certainly someone worth hanging on to, but this isn't a great early-season sign for a guy who has missed 16 of a possible 32 games over the past two seasons.
So who should you sit and start this week? And which surprising quarterback could lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 2 rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.
Fantasy Football Today Newsletter
Get tips, advice and news to win your league - all from the FFT podcast team.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Fantasy Football Today Podcast
Join our Free $1,000,000 Parlay Challenge
SportsLine's advanced computer model reveals start-sit advice for Week 3
Will Marlon Mack play? What's up with the Packers running backs and Saints quarterbacks? We...
Dave Richard goes through every game on the schedule for Week 3, identifying risky plays, sneaky...
You want as much exposure to this week's Ravens-Chiefs game as possible, and that's where Jamey...
Whether you're 2-0 or 0-2 or somewhere in between, now is the perfect time to swing a trade....
Are you sure you're setting your best Fantasy lineup? Dave Richard went through every matchup...