Each week, we’ll dive into understanding the most surprising fantasy performances from the NFL action. These are the players who won – or maybe lost – your fantasy matchup. We like to think we know a few things after Week 1, but trying to decipher what’s a fact and what’s a fluke can tie your brain in knots. There are all kinds of reasons that logical decision-making falls by the wayside in fantasy football (see some of them here).
Let’s check in with a few Week 2 surprises and figure out what we should expect going forward.
Fact or Fluke?
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins
When I’m looking for preseason inefficiencies in rankings, I love finding the low-ranked QB who has multiple pass-catchers in the top tiers. In Tua’s case, his team di lui went out and found him the best available talent to all but ensure his progression di lui in his second year. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle can clearly coexist and thrive in this offense. In a back-and-forth shootout with Baltimore, Tagovailoa threw 50 passes – six for touchdowns (with 469 passing yards).
This wild performance falls into the FLUKE bin if for no other reasons than A) This Ravens team was nowhere near full strength defensively and B) Anyone with six TDs or 400+ yards is a fluke game. No one should expect that level of production every week and this is likely his best game of the season. I suspect the competitiveness of the game contributed as well, by keeping the pressure on to score again and again; the perfect storm for a fluke performance. All that said, Tua should be starting every week in all SuperFlex or 2QB leagues.
Christian Kirk, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Kirk’s six catches on six targets for 78 yards and two scores would have stood out more on a normal week. But no, we had a whopping SEVEN wide receivers catch two or more touchdowns in Week 2!
With Kirk, it’s more telling that he also had six catches for 117 yards in Week 1 on 12 targets. Trevor Lawrence was perfect for most of the first half in the big win over Indianapolis, ending the game with an 83.3 completion percentage. That won’t be a weekly FACTbut one thing should be: Lawrence’s chemistry with Kirk is real.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
What a disaster this game was for Taylor, his friends, family and fantasy managers. With an atrocious nine rushing attempts and one target for Taylor, it’s really no wonder the Colts were shut out by Jacksonville. This kind of low usage for Taylor should never happen again; he averaged 6.0 YPC on the day, slightly better than his 5.2 YPC di lui in Week 1. While I am genuinely concerned about Matt Ryan‘s ability to lead a dynamic offense, I do expect the Colts to feed Taylor next weekend vs. Kansas City and beyond.
Another note that favors a FLUKE verdict here: The Jaguars are sneaky good at taking away the opponent’s best player. They held Terry McLaurin to two catches (albeit one was for a touchdown) in Week 1, and the case that really sticks out is when they beat the Bills in Week 9 of last year. Josh Allen had his worst fantasy game of the season, with zero touchdowns, two interceptions and four sacks. Chalk up this Taylor dud in the fluke column, and start him with confidence next week.
Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Not only do most of us lovers of fantasy football think we know what teams should be doing with their (our) skill players, some of us suffer from Optimism Bias. In fact, a majority of people do, which means we are more likely to believe good news than bad news, trust positive weather reports over negative ones, and continue to start Smith-Schuster in every league, because WHY WOULDN’T HE GET BACK TO HIS 2018 FORM WITH PATRICK MAHOMES THROWING HIM THE BALL?
Week 1 was disappointing, but still ok; Smith-Schuster saw seven targets and compiled six catches for 79 yards. But Week 2 saw his targets drop to just three, of which he caught two for 10 receiving yards. Mahomes said he was going to mix it up with Hill gone and he did not lie. Five of his seven passing touchdowns di lui have been to TEs or RBs.
FWIW, I’m benching JuJu for Week 3, which, if past results are any indication of future outcomes, means he will score five touchdowns vs. Indianapolis. You’re welcome.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Again? Sigh, yes again.
In fact, it was worse, and Pitts is now TE32 in PPR scoring. From two catches on seven targets in Week 1, when the Falcons led for most of the game only to lose in the last seconds to New Orleans, to two catches on three targets in a game where the Falcons trailed the Rams throughout. Two very different game scripts with two similar outcomes for Pitts is alarming. Also, Atlanta has the fifth-lowest passing-play percentage (48.8 percent) through two weeks, with Drake London holding down to 32.2 percent target share. No other TE is taking away volume from Pitts, it just seems that Marcus Mariota and / or the offensive coaching staff do not see Pitts as the viable receiving weapon that we do. Of course, part of the equation is that defenses are taking Pitts seriously, as he’s been the target of both the Saints ‘and Rams’ star defensive coverage.
Still, if you drafted Pitts early on, you’ve hit the panic button here. It’s too soon to give up and do something drastic like dropping him, but you could hit up the leaguemate who was hoping Pitts would fall to them in the draft for a trade. There are enough tight ends on waivers to stream for a few weeks (see the Kmet blurb below, or consider adding one of my preseason favorites, Irv Smith Jr.to replace him).
If you can leverage Pitts to strengthen your RB / WR flex situation via trade, he’s doing more for you than he has been. On the other hand, we’re not quite in Sunk Cost Fallacy territory with Pitts. Yes, you invested significant draft capital in him and it hasn’t paid off yet, but the season is far from over. If you can comfortably continue to roster him; I don’t think you’ll be this disappointed all year.
The turnaround could come as soon as this weekend vs. Seattle, by far the best matchup the Falcons have seen. Plus, if you hold Pitts, your fantasy team names are endless – Pitts of Despair, Money Pitts and so on.
Quick Hits: Fact
Carson Wentz: Is Wentz the new Kirk Cousins? Or better? He’s fantasy’s QB3 through two weeks, with over 30 fantasy points in each game. There is a lot of talent around him, from rookie Jahan Dotson to Terry McLaurin to Curtis Samuel and Antonio Gibson. That, and the way this offense has been competitive and aggressive through two games have me believing.
Amon-Ra St. Brown: He’s almost single-handedly woken the Lions’ fan base from years of deep depression. Michigan can watch football on Sunday again (just in time, too, with apologies to Michigan State fans) and fantasy managers who trusted the late-season breakout of St. Brown can veto all trade offers they’re now getting for the Sun God. He has the trust of his QB and the playmaking ability to keep this prolific run going all season long.
Cole Kmet: Some things are stronger than Optimism Bias, and this is me admitting defeat when it comes to Kmet. You thought it was bad for Pitts, well, Kmet is tied at TE70 with zero fantasy points on two targets. His ADP of him was TE12. White flags are waving… go get Gerald Everett, Logan Thomas or Evan Engram.
Noah Brown: Someone had to rise up to be the WR2 when Amari Cooper left Dallas, and with the simultaneous rise of Cooper Rush, it appears to be Brown. It’s not at all uncommon for a relatively unknown receiver who has practiced with the backups to take center stage when the backup QB is promoted. CeeDee Lamb is still the guy, but Brown catching five of seven targets for more receiving yards than Lamb, including a score in Week 2, should be on your waiver radar.
Quick Hits: Fluke
In front of Adams: I’m sure this doesn’t need to be said: Don’t worry, sh * t happens. Adams dared the Cardinals to cover him, and they did, so Derek Carr let Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow have some fun. It’s humbling, but Adams will definitely bounce back.
Mike Gesicki: Full disclosure: Gesicki was my Kmet last year. I’m not a premium TE drafter, if you can’t tell. It was nice to see him get the late touchdown in yesterday’s fantastic game with Baltimore. In fact, he went 5-for-5 for 41 yards and the score yesterday which helped exactly no one who plays fantasy football. The team has said they don’t plan to feature his receiving skills, and they stuck to that in Week 1. It was also true that Gesicki wasn’t a priority in Week 2, given that Waddle and Hill shared 32 targets and the running backs saw six. Don’t rush to pick him up ahead of next week’s tilt vs. Buffalo.