Timeshares can be a blessing and a curse in fantasy football. We’d all prefer to start a Le’Veon Bell (or a James Conner) and enjoy about 30 touches in a given week. But there’s nothing wrong with a good “thunder and lightning” combo now and then — as long as it produces a pair of fantasy-relevant backs who complement each other well.
Chris Thompson: What a start for Washington’s backfield. Adrian Peterson defied conventional wisdom yet again by gaining a total of 166 yards from scrimmage at age 33. But in some ways, Thompson’s 11 touches for a total of 128 yards and a touchdown were even more promising.
Yes, we’ve seen this kind of dynamic impact from Thompson before. But we didn’t know how quickly he would return to form after suffering a broken fibula last season. Even Thompson himself suggested last month that he might not truly feel back to 100 percent until November.
But as ESPN Redskins reporter John Keim wrote, Thompson said he started to feel like his old self about a week before the season opener.
“It was huge,” Thompson said of his return performance. “Once that clock started and I got on the field, that was the best I had felt since my injury.”
Although the Redskins’ goal for Thompson is just 12 to 15 touches per game, he has proved he can do enough with that workload to make a fantasy impact, especially in PPR leagues.
Austin Ekeler: It was even more surprising to see the Chargers produce two backs with more than 100 yards from scrimmage in Week 1. But Melvin Gordon owners shouldn’t worry after Ekeler gained a career-high 126 yards and a touchdown on a total of five carries and five receptions. Gordon is still a true “RB1,” while ESPN Chargers writer Eric D. Williams said Ekeler is more of a “changeup guy.”
But Williams does think Ekeler should get enough touches to be a fantasy consideration and wrote this week about how well they feed off each other. Gordon’s desire is to be the workhorse back this season, but he’s willing to share some of the spotlight.
“We’ve been doing it all camp, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do,” Gordon said.
Phillip Lindsay: Finally we have the biggest surprise of all among Week 1 running backs — the undrafted Broncos rookie who went from being owned in 2 percent of ESPN leagues last week to 58 percent after gaining 102 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on 17 touches.
What was most unexpected was how even the rushing split was between Lindsay and fellow rookie RB Royce Freeman (they both got exactly 15 carries for 71 yards, while veteran Devontae Booker had two carries for 4 yards).
ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold said he still thinks the 6-foot, 238-pound Freeman will wind up leading the Broncos in carries and could push the 250 mark, particularly if they get more leads in games. But Legwold said the 5-foot-8, 190-pound Lindsay is going to get work as well.
“They like [Lindsay] too much, and he’s simply done too well whenever they put him in,” said Legwold, adding that it’s too early to decipher how the backs will be used in the red zone. “They’ll take the hot-hand approach in their rotation, and that will frustrate some fantasy folks. But I think Freeman is still the lead guy because he is the bigger, more physical of the two.”
Stephania Bell wonders if there will be enough work to go around for both Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay to be fantasy relevant.
Tight end replacements
It was a tough start for top-10 fantasy tight ends. Delanie Walker is expected to miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle and ligament damage. And Greg Olsen will miss at least “a few weeks” after refracturing his ankle.
If you picked up San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle on waivers (or if he is somehow still available), you should have no qualms about starting him. ESPN 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner said he doesn’t expect 90 yards from Kittle every week, but he thinks he has a chance to be a top-five to top-seven tight end in fantasy by the end of the season. He labeled Kittle as the 49ers’ breakout candidate heading into the season. The concern with Kittle is his injury history, but you should use him while he’s healthy.
Oakland Raiders veteran Jared Cook was another popular waiver-wire pickup after his monster Week 1 performance (nine receptions, 180 yards). ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez said that was “most definitely” a result of the game plan, since the Los Angeles Rams‘ cornerbacks are so good. And he wrote about how Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and coach Jon Gruden want to get the ball downfield to the receivers more after Carr checked down so often in Week 1 (Amari Cooper had just one catch for 9 yards). But Cook obviously looks like an outlet Carr trusts.
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Meanwhile, Tennessee Titans reporter Turron Davenport, Carolina Panthers reporter David Newton and Seattle Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson all had similar wait-and-see advice on young tight ends Jonnu Smith, Ian Thomas and Will Dissly, respectively. But they agreed that all three could be worth a fantasy flier, especially in deeper leagues.
Smith will replace Walker in Tennessee — and Davenport wrote that the second-year pro has a similar skill set. The Titans will likely make up for Walker’s absence with a collective team effort (perhaps even getting backup receiver Taywan Taylor involved more).
Newton said the Panthers will probably also spread the ball around during Olsen’s absence. Top receiver Devin Funchess should see an uptick in production, as he did last season when Olsen was out. But the rookie Thomas is a “smooth” receiver who stood out this summer even when Olsen was healthy. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said this week that Thomas has “everything you want in a premier tight end.”
Dissly, another rookie, wasn’t anywhere on the fantasy radar before he caught three passes for 105 yards and a TD in his NFL debut. And Henderson said he doubts Dissly will post huge fantasy points, but that Dissly is worth keeping an eye on. He explained that Dissly has a reputation as a standout blocker, but it was telling that he played almost as much as fellow TE Nick Vannett (33 snaps vs. 35) even though the Seahawks didn’t run the ball much.
Eagles: It’s nice when a coach helps to define roles for fantasy folks — and Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson did just that with RB Jay Ajayi. ESPN Eagles reporter Tim McManus wrote that Pederson said Ajayi will be a “workhorse” this season and that he was limited at the start of last Thursday’s season opener only because he had been nursing a minor foot injury. “Moving forward, we’ll see him more,” Pederson said.
Seahawks: Likewise, Henderson wrote that Seattle coach Pete Carroll said RB Chris Carson took “the lead” over rookie Rashaad Penny in their tailback battle based on Week 1 performances. Although we expected that to be the case before Week 1, Carroll said Carson looked “really good” despite a lost fumble, while Penny looked “rusty.”
Field Yates and Matthew Berry talk about Deshaun Watson’s ability to turn it around in Week 2.
Texans: Quarterback Deshaun Watson didn’t let himself off the hook after one of the NFL’s most disappointing Week 1 performances, saying, “I think it was terrible on my part” and, “I just feel like you can put the L on me.” ESPN Houston Texans reporter Sarah Barshop said she expects better days to come — particularly with big-play receiver Will Fuller expected back from a hamstring injury. But last season’s breakout numbers will be hard to replicate with Houston’s struggling offensive line. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Watson was under duress on 23 of his 42 dropbacks (55 percent) — the highest pressure rate on any quarterback in the past two seasons.
Patriots: The New England Patriots‘ backfield picture is always muddled. But for Week 2, anyway, ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss thinks it’s pretty clear that runner/receiver James White is a good guy to ride with in fantasy leagues. Veteran Jeremy Hill just went on injured reserve with a torn ACL, while Rex Burkhead (concussion) and rookie Sony Michel (knee) have been limited in practice. Once everyone is healthy, Reiss said all three backs could see a slight uptick in production in Hill’s absence — with Burkhead and Michel both candidates for more goal-line opportunities.
Giants: Odell Beckham Jr. is back from last year’s broke ankle, and ESPN New York Giants reporter Jordan Ranaan wrote he looked every bit as good as he did before the injury. He caught 11 passes for 111 yards — and Ranaan pointed out that it could have been a lot more.
Saints: Running back Alvin Kamara handled his role as the New Orleans Saints‘ leading man just fine as Mark Ingram began serving his four-game suspension. As ESPN’s Saints reporter, I wrote that Kamara actually managed to find another gear after his breakout rookie season, cruising to 141 yards from scrimmage, three touchdowns and a two-point conversion on a career-high 52 snaps. … One other Saints note: Coach Sean Payton explained that WR Cameron Meredith is “doing well” from a health standpoint, but he was inactive in Week 1 because he is still “getting up to speed” with his timing and consistency after missing some time during training camp with an unspecified ailment.
Packers: Whether quarterback Aaron Rodgers can actually walk on water as Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer suggested this week, ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter Rob Demovsky has pointed out that Rodgers has performed well in the wake of past injuries.
49ers: Wagoner wrote that the 49ers are still sorting through their RB situation in the wake of Jerick McKinnon‘s torn ACL. “In other words,” Wagoner wrote, “if you’re counting on [Matt] Breida or [Alfred] Morris to play a substantial role for your fantasy team, now is not the time to push your chips into the middle of the table.”
Dolphins: ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter Cameron Wolfe wrote that the departure of receiver Jarvis Landry in the offseason has put fellow veteran Kenny Stills in the team’s top slot. Also, QB Ryan Tannehill‘s return from a torn ACL inspired confidence.