NFL Fantasy Football Week 2 Review

Jim McCormick@@_JimmyMcCormickFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2016

NFL Fantasy Football Week 2 Review

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    The NFL season moves quickly. Fantasy football moves even faster, as the regular season in most leagues is 13 weeks long, which means we'll be just over 15 percent of the way into the fantasy campaign at the conclusion of Monday's game in Chicago.

    Even though it feels early, telling trends and serious injuries are already influencing the market.

    Some big quarterback performances—like Cam Newton's four-touchdown explosion for the Carolina Panthers—and a wave of running back injuries serve to define this week in fantasy football. In this piece, we delve into a series of meaningful topics in the wake of Week 2, such as the top stars, buy-low assets and impact injuries to evaluate.

    Join us in canvassing the results of Week 2 with a specific eye on the fantasy football marketplace.

Fantasy Football Week 2 Statistical Stars

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Each week a collection of statistical superstars shifts the outcomes in fantasy football. In this section, we highlight at least the top three most influential, slate-shifting performances at each position.

    So it's clear to readers, when we reference a player's positional ranking in fantasy points, we're using ESPN's scoring leaderboard as the source.

    Star Signal-Callers

    Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

    Newton delivered big numbers for his investors on Sunday afternoon against the San Francisco 49ers with 390 total yards and four touchdowns to lead the position in scoring in ESPN leagues this week.

    The Minnesota Vikings head to Carolina in Week 3 and claim a sound defense, but Newton remains an elite option regardless of matchup metrics, particularly at home. The real rewards are still to come, as the Panthers play the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Bucs and the New Orleans Saints in the subsequent stretch of matchups.

    Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

    The Oakland Raiders surrendered 419 yards in Week 1 to the Saints and now ceded 396 to Ryan and the Falcons. It's early, but having some fun with extrapolating Ryan's solid start to the season projects to 5,840 yards and 40 touchdowns. Sure to regress at some point when tougher matchups await, like a three-week stretch against the Panthers, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks beginning in Week 4, we can at least deploy Ryan with supreme confidence as the Falcons visit the Superdome to play the Saints in Week 3.

    Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

    Thanks to such a vertically-inclined offensive scheme, Palmer produced 308 yards and three scores on just 18 completions against the Bucs on Sunday—good for 16.7 yards per completion. One of the most consistent fantasy producers of 2015, Palmer is once again regularly delivering multi-touchdown outings for investors.

    A trip to face a reeling Buffalo Bills' defense that just saw the New York Jets' Ryan Fitzpatrick tally 395 total yards this past Thursday proves inviting for Palmer and his talented receiving corps.

    Honorable Mention:

    The Raiders' Derek Carr is averaging 22.5 fantasy points through two weeks, a rate that would have ranked second last year at the position if maintained over the longer sample. A visit to face the Tennessee Titans' blitz-happy defense isn't entirely avoidable, but serves as a fine test of Carr's statistical stock.

    The Bills' Tyrod Taylor and Miami Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill both badly needed big games to untrack after quiet Week 1 outings. Both responded with strong yardage and touchdown performances in Week 2, but it's Taylor whom we trust more as the enduring fantasy starter, as much of Tannehill's work was due to a huge deficit Miami faced against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

    The San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers again proved capable of producing fine fantasy numbers sans Keenan Allen, while meetings with the Saints and Raiders over the next two weeks appear entirely inviting.

    Top Tailbacks

    Matt Forte, New York Jets

    All that talk of even split in the backfield this preseason with Forte and Bilal Powell has given way to Forte earning a vast majority of touches and snaps. Forte is playing on 77 percent of the Jets' offensive snaps. For some context, Forte played on 67.5 percent of the Bears' snaps last season.

    The real story is Forte delivering 132 total yards per game and having scored three times this past Thursday in a workhorse 30-carry effort. A tough stretch against the Kansas City Chiefs, Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals waits over the next month, but things look nice for the fantasy playoffs if Forte can withstand this massive workload.

    Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns

    Coach Hue Jackson told anyone who would listen this past week that the team planned on feeding Isaiah Crowell with a heavy workload going forward, and it turns out it wasn't merely coach speak, as he tallied 19 touches for 148 yards from scrimmage in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens. Much of the damage was done on an 85-yard touchdown run, but Crowell flashed impressive speed on the scamper. Soft setups against the Dolphins and Washington Redskins over the next two weeks support high-end RB2 upside for Crowell.

    DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers

    This 33-year-old marvel continues to shine in place of the suspended Le'Veon Bell, as Williams has accrued 303 yards from scrimmage and three total scores through two weeks. The Philadelphia Eagles are up next and have ceded the seventh-most receiving yards and 10th-most receptions to backs since the start of last season, as well as the fourth-most yards per rush and 2,014 yards on the ground to the opposing backfield—the most in football.

    Honorable Mention:

    Who needs receiving work when you can average 25.5 carries per game? Not LeGarrette Blount, that's for sure. The New England Patriots' early-down bruiser produced 123 yards and a touchdown in an impressive showing that included a highlight hurdle of a Dolphins' defender in Week 2. At least until Tom Brady returns in Week 5, and even then he could still sustain value, Blount should continue to consume heavy work.

    The San Diego Chargers' Melvin Gordon finally saw a heavy workload with Danny Woodhead bowing out with a potentially serious knee injury early in Sunday's blowout of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gordon nets the Colts, Saints and Raiders in the next three weeks and could rise to RB1 status for this stretch.

    We advised patience with the Cincinnati Bengals' Giovani Bernard last week, and he tallied 117 yards from scrimmage as a reward in Week 2.

    Winning Wideouts

    Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings 

    Your league leader in receiving yardage is Diggs, as he's topped 100 yards each week and absolutely torched the Packers in Sam Bradford's debut for 182 yards and a score. With such a hot start to the season and such shifty breaks out of routes, Diggs is a rising fantasy star. 

    Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

    Newton completed all but one of eight targets to Benjamin for 108 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers. Newton is 13-of-18 with three touchdowns targeting Benjamin this season after completing less than 50 percent of his passes to Benjamin in 2014. No matter the matchup, this massive wideout is a weekly threat to score given the obvious rapport with Newton.

    Travis Benjamin, San Diego Chargers

    It was a fine week to own receivers named Benjamin, as the Chargers' speedster also netted two scores and topped 100 yards in a blowout over the Jags. The Colts and Saints are next, with Benjamin poised to produce high-end WR2 output, if not better, over this fantasy-friendly stretch.

    Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns

    The status of Josh McCown, who injured his shoulder in the loss to the Ravens in Week 2, could prove vital for Coleman's rising fantasy stock. The rookie scored two first-quarter touchdowns and is now averaging over 86 yards per game as a pro. This would equate to 1,384 yards over a full season, while even topping 1,000 this season would be a massive success for the Baylor product. 

    Honorable Mention:

    The Detroit Lions' Marvin Jones is clearly the team's top fantasy receiver and could easily enjoy career bests in the reception and yardage departments.

    The Baltimore Ravens' Mike Wallace has Joe Flacco's eye downfield and has three scores already. Soft matchups with the Jags and Raiders are up next. It's possible the Jets' Eric Decker is the safest fantasy commodity in the league, as he's a weekly touchdown machine at this point.

    Top Tight Ends

    Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

    Olsen enjoyed Newton's huge day as he hauled in a career-long 78-yard touchdown reception in the 2nd quarter. Olsen caught the pass 36 yards downfield, the second-most air yards on any reception of his career. It's early, and we're just having fun with numbers, but Olsen is on pace for 1,560 yards. The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski has the all-time record with 1,327 yards in a season at the position.

    Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots

    The breakout sans "Gronk" didn't come in Week 1 for Bennett, but he sure did show up in Week 2 with the second-highest fantasy score at the position behind Olsen on the week. It will be intriguing to see how Bennett produces once Gronkowski and Brady return to the field.

    Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans

    Last season's positional leader in receptions and yards, Walker hauled in all six of his targets for a fine fantasy outing in Week 2. Signal-caller Marcus Mariota relies on Walker heavily over the middle, thus we trust TE1 production going forward.

    Honorable Mention:

    The Ravens' Dennis Pitta had a position-best nine catches in Week 2 and is reviving his valuable rapport with Flacco. You can find Pitta available in nearly 90 percent of ESPN leagues as of press time.

    Decisive Defenses

    The Denver Broncos are again an elite fantasy group, which isn't surprising since they retained essentially the same roster as last year's dominant unit. The Arizona Cardinals are also among the most talented defensive rosters and should be in all lineups for a trip to Buffalo in Week 3.

Fantasy Flops in Week 2

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Not all players can deliver value each week, and some downright leave us in the lurch. This crop of disappointing performances felled fantasy teams this week. For clarity, we don't count injuries in this section, as we don't blame players for getting hurt in this brutally physical game. We instead focus on poor performance and frustrating fantasy results.

    Eli Manning, New York Giants

    Despite completing 78 percent of his passes for 368 yards, Manning didn't net a touchdown in a choice matchup and disappointed investors in Week 2. This is simply an example of a quality real game not matching fantasy metrics. Manning is due for a nice performance against the Washington Redskins at home next week.

    Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

    We could have guessed that the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck would struggle in Denver this week, but Wilson failing to score a touchdown against the L.A. Rams is simply deflating. A matchup with a seemingly exploitable San Francisco 49ers' secondary is up next, but the slow start for Wilson has been tough on his owners.

    Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

    Given his lofty draft price, Gurley's 98 total rushing yards through two weeks is tough to stomach for his owners. The Tampa Bay Bucs and Arizona Cardinals are up next, but both have been sound against the run since last season. We'd love to call Gurley a buy-low, but the matchups don't soften too much this season on a difficult NFC West schedule.

    Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

    For the dude out there who started his draft with Gurley first and Ingram second, we feel you, man. Gurley has 10 fantasy points on the season in ESPN leagues to Ingram's 11. Ingram has 88 rushing yards—just 10 fewer than Gurley. It's been ugly so far, but we suggest buying low on Ingram given his perch on a top offense. Just make sure the price is deflated enough, as Ingram's rushing schedule isn't very soft this season, either.

    Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

    The San Diego Chargers' Jason Verrett earned the second-best coverage grade among NFL corners on Pro Football Focus last season, so maybe it shouldn't have been surprising to see Robinson struggle in Week 2. Either way, we'd like to see more from "A-Rob," as he's yet to score and has just nine catches after delivering a league-leading 14 touchdowns in 2015. A meeting with the Baltimore Ravens' suspect secondary could spell a breakout for Robinson in Week 3.

    Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers and A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

    We'll group these superstars since they both disappointed when their teams went to battle against each other this week. We're not worried in the least about either, as smothering coverage limited the upside for both. Bigger box scores are ahead.

    Gary Barnidge, Cleveland Browns

    If Josh McCown misses any significant stretch with a shoulder ailment suffered in Week 2, then it's actually not too early to discuss Barnidge and the "B" word, as in bust. With just 37 yards on the season and a tough matchup with the Vikings ahead, shopping for available shares of the Ravens' Dennis Pitta could make sense.

Waiver Watch for Week 2: Top Pickups to Consider

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    We've selected six players who are all available in at least 40 percent of ESPN leagues and capable of building on strong Week 2 performances.

    Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings

    Adrian Peterson left Sunday night's victory over the Green Bay Packers with a knee injury, per ESPN's Ben Goessling. We don't have much detail as to the severity of the injury, but Peterson was carted off to add some context. McKinnon is a rare athletic specimen with some real upside if he nets the starting workload in place of Peterson going forward.

    Fozzy Whittaker, Carolina Panthers

    Owned in less than one percent of ESPN leagues, Whittaker rumbled for 100 on the ground and compiled 131 yards from scrimmage in place of an injured Jonathan Stewart in Week 2.

    Coach Ron Rivera admitted increased concern for Stewart's hamstring injury, per Max Henson of the team's website. With the potential for double-digit touches in place of Stewart next week and possibly beyond if the hamstring injury lingers, Whittaker is a nice addition for those seeking support at this shallow position. That, and you get a dude named Fozzy on your roster.

    Clive Walford, Oakland Raiders

    Walford is third on the Raiders in targets and fourth in routes run through two weeks and just delivered a solid outing on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. At a shallow tight end position and with some sound matchups on the way over the next three weeks, Walford is a fine addition to consider for those waiting on Tyler Eifert of the Cincinnati Bengals or struggling with shares of Gary Barnidge of the Cleveland Browns.

    Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens

    Pitta produced the most receptions at the position in Week 2 and has a proven rapport with Joe Flacco dating back to a strong seven-score 2012 effort. Yes, it's been a long time and an inspiring return from serious injuries for Pitta, while he's available in nearly 90 percent of ESPN leagues.

    Sammie Coates, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Even when Markus Wheaton eventually returns from a lingering shoulder injury, we could see Coates retain some valuable exposure as the team's top vertical threat. Coates is a boom-or-bust asset, no doubt, but already has 153 yards on the season and has averaged a team-high 29.25 air yards per target. No other player on the Steelers is averaging more than 12 air yards per target.

    Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets

    The Jets' third receiver is seeing healthy usage with 14 targets on the season. For some context, Brandon Marshall has 17 and Eric Decker has 15 targets on the year. With the Jets essentially foregoing any usage for tight ends, Enunwa is the over-the-middle asset for the team and should be added in all leagues of at least 10 teams. He is a flex commodity already in point-per-reception formats.

Fantasy Football Week 2: Impact Injuries

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    With such speed and physical play found on every snap, injuries arise each week in the NFL. In this slide, we discuss the notable impact injuries around the league.

    It was a brutal week for running backs, so let's examine the carnage from Week 2.

    The Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson was carted off with a knee injury on Sunday night, was seen with a large brace on his right leg and needed to use crutches, per ESPN's Jeff Darlington  (h/t Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports). An MRI in the morning will reveal more information, but we suggest adding shares of understudy Jerick McKinnon wherever possible.

    The San Diego Chargers lost star wideout Keenan Allen to a devastating, season-ending knee injury last week and are now dealing with the loss of dynamic tailback Danny Woodhead to a knee injury. Sporting News columnist Alex Marvez reported there is some optimism the injury isn't season ending, but we'll wait for official MRI results before making any decisions with Woodhead.

    The Tampa Bay Bucs' Doug Martin suffered a hamstring injury and isn't sure when he'll be ready to return to action, per Roy Cummings of WFLA News Channel 8. Shares of Charles Sims are now entirely valuable if Martin misses time.

    Max Henson of the Carolina Panthers' team site reports coach Ron Rivera is a "little bit" concerned about Jonathan Stewart's hamstring injury. In his place, Fozzy Whittaker topped 100 total yards and is widely available if Stewart missed any time.

    The Indianapolis Colts' Donte Moncrief is in concussion protocol, per Mike Chappell of Fox 59. If Moncrief misses next week, we can vault speedster Phillip Dorsett as a strong sleeper to consider.

    Superstar wideout Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons missed a few series in Week 2 with a leg injury, but ESPN's Vaughn McClure reports that the team doesn't consider the injury as serious.

    The Seattle Seahawks' Doug Baldwin suffered back spasms throughout Week 2's loss to the L.A. Rams and will get an MRI on his knee due to an injury suffered in the game, per ESPN's Sheil Kapadia. The team also saw tailback Thomas Rawls suffer a leg injury, but it's not considered serious, per Kapadia. 

    The Detroit Lions' Ameer Abdullah was seen wearing a walking boot after Week 2 with a foot injury, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    The Miami Dolphins' Arian Foster is already dealing with soft tissue problems, as he left Sunday's loss in New England early with a groin injury that could prove somewhat serious, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. 

    The New England Patriots' Jimmy Garoppolo was on fire to the start the game against the Miami Dolphins, producing three scores and 234 yards in fewer than two quarters of play on Sunday. A shoulder injury suffered on a diving tackle from the Dolphins' Kiko Alonso put Garoppolo out for the game, as he's expected to miss Week 3 with a sprained AC joint, per's Tom E. Curran. A return for Week 4 is possible, however, per Curran.

    The Cleveland Browns' Josh McCown suffered a shoulder injury that will require an MRI. ESPN's Pat McManamon reports the injury could prove serious and threaten McCown's availability for Week 3, but we'll await further confirmation from the team. 

Buy-Low Targets After Week 2 in Fantasy Football

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The market in fantasy football can quickly shift from week to week, as we tend to be an overreactive bunch. With that in mind, what players coming off of disappointing Week 2 performances might we be able to poach at a discount with an eye on securing future dividends?

    Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks is due for better statistical days after producing just one touchdown through two weeks. If his owner in your league is soured on him and would take a sizable discount to move Wilson, pursue him aggressively as we've seen Wilson start slow and eventually prove to be a league-winning asset, such as in 2015.

    The Indianapolis Colts' T.Y. Hilton struggled in Week 2 and his investors might think the team's passing game is inconsistent given its struggles in Denver, but this was a uniquely poor matchup, and any discounts on his price are inviting.

    The Detroit Lions' Golden Tate is due for better production after a sluggish start. Tate was fourth in the league in routes run last season and has a high-percentage rapport with Matthew Stafford. Strong PPR value remains, so get in while the price is depressed.

    The Buffalo Bills' LeSean McCoy has struggled to find efficiency so far, but a high-volume role in a league rife with committee backfields should incite interest in cheap shares. Better box scores are ahead for Shady, as he still looks good on tape.

    Any discounts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' Allen Robinson are intriguing, as he was just shadowed by a top cover corner in Week 2 and had a league-high 15 targets in Week 1. Big days are coming, while the price should be artificially low after a slow start.

    DeVante Parker's owners likely don't even appreciate the rising stock they have on their hands, so make a reasonable bid for the Miami Dolphins' second-year wideout before the market wakes up to his growing target share after a strong Week 2 showing.