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Week 1 Fantasy Football: Top 5 Takeaways

Please, for everything that is sacred in fantasy football, don’t be the owner who overreacts after Week 1 has concluded. 

It honestly makes me sad to see when an owner panics after a loss, makes a wrong call on a start/sit and now overcorrects, and/or trades a guy because of one underperformance.

Don’t. Just don’t.

Think of it this way – you’ve probably started 0-1 before and made the playoffs. We all have. There’s even an extra week of regular season fantasy football this year, too.

So, in the immortal words of Aaron Rodgers, R-E-L-A-X.

With that being said, there are still scenarios and trends that are relevant to fantasy owners each and every week. To be the best owner out there, you have to sift through what you think is real, and what is a facade.

That’s where I come in to help.

It was a fun weekend, and I could write about nearly every team and every game. However, I narrowed it down to what I think are the Top 5 fantasy storylines to come out of Week 1. 

#5 – The New York Football Giants

There were so many questions about the Giants heading into Week 1. How much would Saquon Barkley play and will he be effective? Will Daniel Jones protect the ball? Is Kenny Golladay going to play like a wide receiver who was paid a ton of money? Will first round rookie Kadarius Toney be involved? 

Emphatically, no…To them all.

Look, nobody is mistaking the Giants offense for a fantasy football juggernaut. But players like Golladay and Barkley are in most owners’ lineups. Others took a shot on a Jones flier, a Toney stash, and in deep leagues, were hoping Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton could finally become relevant. 

The Giants were pretty much dominated in every category. This includes time of possession (35:08 to 24:52), total yards (420 to 314), and rushing yards (165 to 60).

There is so much to consume here it’s difficult to find a spot where to start.

Let’s focus on the most rostered Giant – Barkley. He looked pedestrian, finishing with 26 yards on 10 carries and just one catch. He’s obviously not ready for a full workload coming off an ACL. Also, his offensive line will be a problem all season long. It doesn’t mean he’s trash, but those people who told Barkley owners to temper their expectations are puffing out their chests right about now.

It’s hard to trust any of the Giants offensive weapons going forward. Even Golladay is benchable.

To boot, New York travels to Washington this Thursday night to go up against one of the best defenses in the league.

I’m sitting them all, even Barkley, unless my running back room is grim.

#4 – Rookie Quarterbacks

Five quarterbacks were taken in the first 15 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. Three of them were the starters in Week 1 and all five saw action. It won’t take long until we see all of them starting for their respective teams.

In terms of fantasy production, none of them really leaped off the page, but you definitely saw potential.

Trevor Lawrence threw the ball 51 times. Only nine times in the history of the NFL has a rookie quarterback attempted 51 passes in a game, let alone their first ever start. Lawrence went 28-for-51 for 332 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions. Still, he scored over 30 fantasy points, which will likely place him in the Top 12 for Week 1. 

The game script for the Jaguars will be similar the rest of the year. They’ll be down and head coach Urban Meyer will let his quarterback chuck it.

After a rough first half, Zach Wilson manufactured a near comeback win for the New York Jets. Wilson showed his athleticism and arm strength going 14-for-21 for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the second half alone. It’s exciting to see what his ceiling will get to this season.

Mac Jones was the least sexy – but most efficient – of the three starting rookies. Jones was the first rookie quarterback ever to complete at least 70 percent of his passes (minimum 30 attempts) in his rookie debut. He finished with one touchdown as well.

Both Justin Fields and Trey Lance saw limited action, but weren’t utilized enough to be relevant – yet. 

All five of these rookies will be fantasy productive, so if you invested in them for your dynasty team (or redraft, really), good on you.

#3 – 49ers RB Room

Oh man, who saw this coming? Well, me…kind of. All the buzz was about Trey Sermon this offseason. Rightfully so, since San Francisco moved up in the draft to get him. 

But according to head coach Kyle Shanahan, rookie Elijah Mitchell and undrafted second year pro JaMycal Hasty outperformed him all preseason long. Therefore, Sermon was a surprising healthy scratch.

But still, the 49ers had the electric Raheem Mostert, right? Well, not for long. Mostert looked his shifty self on his first two carries (20 yards). Then, the injury-prone back got banged up with a knee injury and was moved to Ir on Monday. He’ll likely be out a minimum 8 weeks.

That leaves Mitchell, Hasty and Sermon as the only healthy backs. And it’s Mitchell who looks to be the RB1 in San Francisco.

Not once, but twice, I mentioned to stash him in your dynasty leagues. But no way did I think he’d have an opportunity this early. He’s for sure the waiver wire pick up of the week.

It’s likely Sermon will play now that Mostert is hurt, so keep an eye out how Shanahan splits the touches. It’s clear,he prefers Mitchell over the rest of the backs.

#2 – Kyler Dealin’

I liked Kyler Murray heading into this season, as did most people. But I admit, I had a few reservations. Mostly about his comments in regards to not wanting to run the football like he did a season ago. He didn’t seem as interested.

Murray was the QB1 through about 11 weeks in 2020. A shoulder injury prevented him from using his legs much and it clearly impacted his fantasy – and real life – finish to the year. 

Now healthy, it looks like he’s on track to be that QB1 again. He threw for 289 yards, 4 touchdowns, and rushed for 20 yards and a score. This was a weekly occurrence in 2020 and Murray looks primed to repeat.

That, and the Cardinals offense actually looked competent as a whole. Maybe head coach Kliff Kingsbury has figured it out? We’ll see. 

Barring any health issues, Murray is looking to finish what he started last season.

#1 – The Zeke Dilemma

Fantasy football Twitter is wild. You should try it. From all the narratives surrounding Zeke last year to the current situation, it’s all over the board. Here’s a quick timeline/rundown of the narratives you’ll find:

  • First 5 games of 2020: Zeke looks great, he’s a Top 5 back. 
  • Last 11 games of 2020: Zeke looks slow, out of shape and washed up. In fact, his backup Tony Pollard is better. 
  • 2021 Offseason: Zeke is in the best shape of his life, he looks great. But his performance last season is worrisome. Dak is back though. So many things to think about. You can buy low now, so do it!
  • Week 1 of 2021: Zeke has 13 touches for 39 total yards. Ew.

Uh, oh. Now what? Where do you go from here?

The pro-Zeke folks will use a couple data points for their argument. This includes the fact that Zeke played 82 percent of the snaps for the Cowboys. Also, he went up against arguably the best run defense in the NFL and was game-scripted out.

The anti-Zeke people will say that Pollard was worked in the offense a lot more than in year’s past (7 touches). They’ll also say the Cowboys’ defense is still really bad, so they’re going to have to throw a bunch and abandon the run game. Lastly, there was one carry on a pitch near the goal line where Zeke had a one-on-one with a safety, but couldn’t get by him for the score. Vintage Zeke would have done so.

So, where to stand on Zeke? 

My thoughts – wait. But not too long. 

Dallas does go up against a few run defenses that looked good in Week 1 (Chargers, Eagles, and Panthers). I’m willing to bet the Cowboys emphatically and purposefully get him involved. When they do, his fantasy trade value will go up. That’s when you’ll have a decision to make. Cash in, or see if he continues the positive trend.

Let’s be honest, his value is so low right now you’ll have a hard time getting what you want for him. So stick it out and see what happens.

Honorable Mention

  • I’m not going to go deep into the Packers loss because it gives me heartburn, plus, Jordan already did. But don’t worry about their offensive studs. They’ll be fine. 
  • Fantasy players have been talking about the “Big 3” tight ends for a while now and waiting for the position to get deeper. If week 1 told us anything, there will be much more depth. There were 12 tight ends that received at least six targets. The names include the likes of James O’Shaughnessy, Ryan Griffin, Adam Trautman, and Cole Kmet. Now, none of them scored a touchdown, but volume is king in fantasy, so get ahead in your waiver wire pick-ups.
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