Tunnel Vision of Week 1

By David Dorey
SUNDAY SALUTES
Quarterbacks Yards TD
 Kyler Murray 289 Pass
20 Rush
5
 Patrick Mahomes 337 Pass
18 Rush
4
 Tom Brady 379 Pass 4
 Jared Goff 338 Pass
14 Rush
3
 Jameis Winston 148 Pass
39 Rush
5
Running Backs Yards TD
Christian McCaffrey 21-98 Rush
9-89 Rcv
0
Joe Mixon 29-127 Rush
4-23 Rcv
1
Jamaal Williams 9-54 Rush
8-56 Rcv
1
D’Andre Swift 11-39 Rush
8-65 Rcv
1
Nick Chubb  15-83 Rush
2-18 Rcv
2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Amari Cooper 13-139 2
Tyreek Hill 11-197 1
Deebo Samuel 9-189 1
Adam Thielen 9-92 2
Corey Davis 5-97 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Rob Gronkowski 8-90 2
T.J. Hockerson 8-97 1
Travis Kelce 6-76 2
Dallas Goedert 4-42 1
Noah Fant 6-62 0
Placekickers XP FG
Robbie Gould 5 2
Joey Slye 4 3
Greg Zuerlein 2 3
Chris Boswell 2 3
Dustin Hopkins 1 3
Defense Sck-TO TD
Saints 2-3 0
Cardinals 6-3 0
Steelers 3-1 1
49ers 3-1 1
Cowboys 0-4 0

Bumps, Bruises and Bowouts

This seems delightfully short but last year also started with few injuries in Week 1. Just wait – it will get worse.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Hip
RB Raheem Mostert – Knee
RB Rashaad Penny – Calf
WR Jerry Jeudy – Ankle
WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside – Ankle

Chasing Ambulances

Not much reason to stand in line at your waiver wire this week.

QB  Ryan Fitzpatrick – Early prognosis suggests that Fitzpatrick will miss at least a few weeks with a hip injury, but there are fears he might have broken the bone.  Taylor Heinicke is a fourth-year quarterback on his third NFL team. He’s only had one start back when he was with the Panthers in 2018, so he’s not exactly “seasoned”.

The coaches have been encouraged by him this summer, but it is hard to see them stick with Heinicke all season if that came to be. The Football Team faces the Giants, Bills and Falcons next, so there should be an increased need to pass the ball.

RB Raheem Mostert – Early speculation is that Mostert did not tear and ACL so it is likely just a sprained knee. An MRI will confirm his status for this week. The 49ers opted to make Trey Sermon inactive even though their official depth chart has him as No. 2 and Elijah Mitchell as No. 4.

But Sermon sat out and Mitchell blew up on the Lions with 104 yards and a score. If Mostert misses time, it is expected that Sermon would be active for games. There should be more news coming out not only about Mostert’s knee, but about the roles and expectations for the backfield ongoing.

WR Jerry Jeudy – The Broncos’  starting flanker injured his ankle. While it seemed to be severe, there is hope that it is just a high-ankle sprain. That would see him miss at least a month if so, and that should promote K.J. Hamler though Tim Patrick could also be worked more.

Hamler (3-41) and Patrick (4-39, TD) both saw four targets on Sunday, so there’s no one receiver that stands to inherit all of Jeudy’s targets.

Free Agents, Flops and Other Notables

QB Jared Goff – Hard to believe that he’s the No. 4 fantasy quarterback for Week 1 with 338 passing yards and three touchdowns. But Goff only totaled 92 yards and one score in the first half when they trailed 31-10. The rest was trash time production. There may be more games where the opponent gives away yards or scores later in the game, but not reliably.

QB Jameis Winston – The entire matchup with the Packers was surreal, but credit Winston with an impressive game that included 14-of-20 passing for148 yards and five touchdowns. Winston even ran for 37 yards. The next two games playing at the Panthers and Patriots will be better indicators of what he can do.

QB Jalen Hurts – Impressive opening for Hurts when he tossed three touchdowns with 264 passing yards. But he was also the leading rusher among quarterbacks with 62 yards on seven runs and that helps his consistency with fantasy points.

RB Elijah Mitchell – As noted above with the Raheem Mostert injury, the 49ers sixth-round pick was the No. 2 back in the game and took over once Mostert went down. He’ll be scraped off waiver wires this week, but he faced a terrible Lions defense,  and was all alone once Mostert left. That won’t happen in maybe any other week. More should be known about Trey Sermon’s apparent one-week demotion, so Mitchell’s ongoing value is still very unknown. If you are dumping a player who landed on IR, then holding Mitchell to see what happens makes some sense. But the odds are not in his favor that this is more than a one-game event.

Broncos backfield – They already had the best rushing schedule in the NFL and Week 1 backs that advantage. The worst that could happen is for both backs to look good – which is likely – and that neither distinguishes themselves enough to receive a bigger share of the touches. Javonte Williams ran for 45 yards on 14 carries and caught one pass for a net four-yard loss. Melvin Gordon accounted for three catches for 17 yards and was stuck at ten rushes for 31 yards until he broke a 70-yard touchdown at the end of the game. Facing the Jaguars and Jets next is going to make both of them still look good.

RB Damien Harris – The Patriots went with a run-heavy attack versus the Dolphins, and Harris dominated the rushing with 23 runs for 100 yards plus two catches for 17 yards. He also lost a fumble at the Bengals’ 11-yard line that prevented a game-winning field goal or touchdown. Rhamondre Stevenson was a star in the preseason, but he fumbled a reception in the first quarter and never saw the field again. Harris ran well, but it is too early to be comfortable with him consistently taking such a big chunk of the workload.

RB James White – With the Patriots shifting back to a more standard passing scheme with Mac Jones staying in the pocket, White resumed his role as a favored relief option when he caught six passes for 49 yards.

RB Zach Moss – The Bills running back was a healthy scratch on Sunday and all Bills coach Sean McDermott would say was that it was about “numbers.” Singletary went on to gain 72 yards on 11 rushes while Matt Breida  turned four runs into four yards. Assumedly more information will come out regarding Moss, but the success of Singletary versus the Steelers doesn’t bode well for Moss.

Cardinals backfield – Despite Chase Edmonds atop of the depth chart, James Conner still maintained a significant role with 16 rushes for 53 yards in the win over the Titans. Edmonds settled for 12 carries for 63 yards and added four receptions for 43 yards. And, of course, the only rushing touchdown belonged to Kyler Murray. Edmonds is the better fantasy play with receptions included, but Conner is not just a change of pace back.

RB Tony Jones – The back that suddenly became the No. 2 when Latavius Murray was released turned in 11 runs for 50 yards and caught one pass for three yards. That was effective but went against a Packers team that was one of the worst rushing defenses last year, and just never showed up in Week 1. He’s a handcuff for Alvin Kamara but hasn’t offered stand-alone fantasy value so far even in a game where there were 31 rushing attempts by the backfield.

RB James Robinson – He faced what should have been a dream matchup in Houston, but the new coaching staff leaned more towards Carlos Hyde (9-44) than they did Robinson (5-25) who also added three catches for 29 yards. Hyde ended with two receptions for 14 yards, and it appears that HC Urban Meyers has ruined the only part of the offense that worked last year.

RB Mark Ingram – The Texans collected as many mediocre running backs as they could in the preseason, but at least they settled on Mark Ingram (26-85, TD) in Week 1. Phillip Lindsay (8-25, TD) didn’t figure in much until the game leaned heavily for the Texans. David Johnson ran three times and scored on his three catches for 18 yards. This is a committee, but in the likely rare case they can rely heavily on rushing the ball, Ingram is the clear preference.

Eagles backfield – Miles Sanders ran very well on his 15 runs for 74 yards and he added four catches for 39 yards for a busier than usual workload. But Kenneth Gainwell also had nine carries for 37 yards and a touchdown, along with two short catches. Both the rookie and Sanders were effective rushing, but hosting the 49ers this week can confirm if the ratio will be consistent each week.

WR Brandon Aiyuk / Trent Sherfield – His standout rookie season had Aiyuk as the leading receiver for the 49ers, so when the same offense and quarterback returned for Week 1, it was a surprise that he never received even one target. HC Kyle Shanahan explained that Aiyuk’s playing time was reduced (eliminated) because of the time he missed with a hamstring injury, even though he was not on the injury report and playing in the same offense he already knew. Trent Sherfield is a fourth-year wideout with 28 career catches, but he was chosen to start over Aiyuk. Sherfield only caught two passes for 23 yards but one was a five-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Aiyuk became the starting punt returner.  This is a surprising and seemingly sudden decision to phase out the previous No. 1 wideout.

WR Deebo Samuel – After injuries limited him to seven games last year, Samuel was expected to remain the No. 2 wideout to Brandon Aiyuk. Instead, he posted a career-high 189 yards on nine receptions and one score in the win over the Lions. At the least, it shows he is healthy for now and a preferred target for Jimmy Garoppolo. George Kittle was held to four catches for 78 yards in the opener and will be more involved this year, but Samuel lays claim to the No. 1 wideout.

WR Christian Kirk – What little was said about Kirk this summer was not good, and the focus was more on the rookie Ronald Moore (4-68) and even a supposedly rejuvenated A.J. Green (2-25). But Kirk caught all five of his targets to gain 70 yards and score on 26 and 11-yard touchdown receptions. He didn’t have more targets than the rest other than DeAndre Hopkins, but he burned the weak Titans secondary. His next two opponents are the Vikings and Jaguars, so he could reassert his role as a receiver.

The Big 3 – The first wide receivers taken in the draft all debuted to impressive games as one of their team’s top receivers. Ja’Marr Chase (5-101, TD),  Jaylen Waddle (4-61, TD), and Devonta Smith (6-71, TD) all scored and played on winning teams.

Compare those to the top running backs drafted – Najee Harris (16-45 rush, 1-4 receive). Travis Etienne (injured reserve), Javonte Williams (14-45 rush, 1-(-4) receive), Trey Sermon (inactive), and Michael Carter (4-6 rush, 1-14 receive). But sure, running backs are plug-n-play while wide receivers take time to learn their position.

WR/TE Juwan Johnson – The Saints receiver is listed as either a wideout or a tight end depending on where you look. But the second-year receiver from Oregon only caught four passes as a rookie and yet turned in three receptions for 21 yards and two touchdowns in the beatdown of the Packers. His second score used his 6-4 frame to outleap the defenders. He was a wideout last year, but the current depth chart has him as the No. 3 tight end. Jameis Winston’s first start used him as a red-zone target while Adam Trautman settled for a scoreless three catches for 18 yards. Trautman was the most targeted player with six passes, so Johnson isn’t reliable after just one game. But worth tracking.

WR K.J. Osborn – The Vikings rarely used the No. 3 wideout last year, and Ihmir Smith-Marsette was their 5.13 pick this year that received minor hype this summer. But Week 1 saw last year’s fifth-round pick K.J. Osborn assume the third wideout role. He never caught a pass as a rookie  but turned in seven catches for 76 yards in the loss to the Bengals. Only Thielen (10) had more targets than the nine for Osborn and he outgained Justin Jefferson on the day. That’s no reason to grab him as a fantasy starter, but a name to remember if either Jefferson or Thielen miss time.

WR Nelson Agholor – His first start as a Patriot saw him assume the No. 1 top fantasy spot with five catches for 72 yards and one score. Jakobi Meyers was the best wideout last year, and he ended with a team-high nine targets for six catches and 44 yards. That’s a favorable sign that the top two wideouts were the biggest targets during Mac Jones’ debut. The Pats upcoming opponents include the Jets (twice), Buccaneers, Texans, Cowboys, and Chargers by midseason.

TE Kyle Pitts – The highest-drafted tight end in NFL history had a quiet start with only four catches for 31 yards during the sputtering debut of  HC Arthur Smith’s new offense. There are reasons to be concerned about Pitts already, though none stem from his abilities. The Falcons looked unprepared in the blowout loss to the visiting Eagles. But Pitt’s eight targets tied with Calvin Ridley for the team lead. Better days will come, but this offense looks like a slow starter and has to play at the Buccaneers, at the Giants and and then host the Football Team over the next three weeks.

TE James O’Shaughnessy – The Jaguar’s tight end can sit on the waiver wire for now, but this is a new offense with a new quarterback. And O’Shaughnessy caught six passes for 48 yards in the opening loss to the Texans. Lawrence still relied more on the top three wideouts, but the eight targets for his tight end are worth notice.

TE Pharaoh Brown –  Also a watch instead of a free agent grab, but the Texans’ tight end only managed 20 catches over his three-year career. He became the No. 2 receiver for Tyrod Taylor on Sunday when he caught four passes for 67 yards. His five targets were more than all but Brandin Cooks. While there is a new head coach in David Culley, his offense is still directed by the same offensive coordinator of Tim Kelly. But a lack of wideouts could prop Brown up to having fantasy value.

Huddle player of the week

Kyler Murray  –  The Cardinals star quarterback started 2021 with a bang when he threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns and ran in a score on his five rushes for 20 yards.  All four scores went to the two starting wideouts, which was a way of saying “you cannot stop me.” Judging by his schedule for the next month, this may not be the only time he ends up here.

Salute!

Drama 101 – Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Yards TDs Tragedy Yards TDs
QB Jared Goff 338/14 3 QB Aaron Rodgers 133 0
RB Jamaal Williams 110 1 RB Ezekiel Elliott 39 0
RB Elijah Mitchell 104 1 RB Aaron Jones 22 0
WR Sterling Shepard 113 1 WR Brandon Aiyuk 0 0
WR Christian Kirk 70 2 WR Julio Jones 29 0
WR Zach Pascal 43 2 WR Mike Evans 24 0
TE Pharaoh Brown 67 0 TE Kyle Pitts 31 0
PK Joey Slye  4 XP 3 FG PK Mason Crosby  1 FG
Huddle Fantasy Points = 146 Huddle Fantasy Points = 21

Now get back to work…


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