Fantasy Football Week 2: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
We're one week into the 2021 fantasy football season, and many managers are already panicking.
That's what happens when your first-round running back gains less than 10 yards in the opener, like Green Bay's Aaron Jones. Or when your high-end quarterback throws for only 133 yards and tosses two picks, like Aaron Rodgers. Or when your WR2 gets zero targets and gets passed on the depth chart, like San Francisco's Brandon Aiyuk. Or when your running back isn't even active on game day, like Buffalo's Zack Moss.
Other than that, though, everything went fine.
However, the season is a marathon, not a sprint. All you can do after a rocky Week 1 is dust yourself off and get ready for Week 2.
I'm here to help you do just that. As is the case every week, I have combed through questions on the Bleacher Report app and selected some to answer in an effort to help fantasy managers set winning lineups in Week 2.
Let's get started, beginning with that aforementioned vanishing wide receiver for the Niners.
Et Tu, Aiyuk?
PPR league. I have (Brandon) Aiyuk as a second receiver. Should I sit him for Sterling Shepherd or Marvin Jones Jr.? -- @theboyzzz
If Week 1 was any indication, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will not be receiving many Christmas cards from fantasy managers. Not only was rookie running back Trey Sermon a surprise scratch in favor of Elijah Mitchell (who went on to gain 104 yards on 19 carries after Raheem Mostert got hurt), but Brandon Aiyuk played only 26 snaps and wasn't targeted once.
On Monday, Shanahan told reporters that giving Trent Sheffield more playing time at Aiyuk's expense was an easy call:
"He's got a better person behind him this year in training camp and with Aiyuk missing some time and how well Trent Sherfield played, and especially with Aiyuk missing some time heading into that game, it wasn't a very tough decision (to play Sherfield more). We were going to rotate them throughout the game. I think Trent ended up having 29 plays and I think Aiyuk had 25. So, that was about how we expected it to go. We wanted to split time like that."
Until that changes, fantasy managers can't start Aiyuk. The question now becomes whether Sterling Shepherd of the New York Giants or Marvin Jones Jr. of the Jacksonville Jaguars should get the nod.
Both veteran wide receivers were productive in Week 1. Each was targeted nine times. But Shepherd takes on a Washington team that allowed the sixth-fewest PPR points to receivers last season, so Jones has the narrowest of edges heading into a matchup with the Denver Broncos.
The Call: Marvin Jones Jr.
A Good Problem to Have
Pick two out of the three. .25 PPR. Amari Cooper, Tyler Lockett, Antonio Brown -- @JayWopp
It's good to be loaded with talent. But lineup decisions can be nerve-racking with that many good players.
Of this trio, the worst matchup belongs to Amari Cooper of the Dallas Cowboys. He's facing a Los Angeles Chargers team that gave up the fifth-fewest PPR points to wide receivers in 2020. But after racking up 13 catches on 16 targets for 139 yards and two scores against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the seventh-year veteran is a must-start.
Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks had a monster game of his own last week, catching four passes for 100 yards and two scores. Antonio Brown of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also had a big 2021 debut, piling up five catches for 121 yards and a touchdown on seven targets against Dallas.
Both Lockett and Brown also have primo matchups in Week 2. The Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans each ranked inside the top five in fantasy points given up to wideouts last season.
It's essentially a coin-flip situation. But Brown has to contend with both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans for targets, and Tom Brady might focus on the latter after his quiet Week 1. Lockett is a clear No. 2 behind DK Metcalf, but he faces a Titans team that Kyler Murray just sliced into bits last week.
It's close, but Lockett gets the second spot.
The Call: Amari Cooper and Tyler Lockett
Fear the Yips
PPR. I ran with all my starting RBs last week and got killed. Who do I go with this week? Zeke (Elliott), (Aaron) Jones, (Joe) Mixon, (Myles) Gaskin, Ty'Son Williams, Elijah Mitchell? -- @seang13
Week 1 was rough for a number of high-end running backs. Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys managed only 33 yards on 11 carries. Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers had an even worse game, finishing with nine yards on five carries.
Those miserable outings have some fantasy managers second-guessing the viability of their first-round picks. They are in danger of acquiring a malady that can derail an entire fantasy season: the yips.
Elliott's down game came against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that allowed a league-low 80.6 yards per game on the ground last year. That was the second consecutive season in which Tampa led the NFL in run defense. Jones' horrible game came in a contest where the Packers were blown out and the game script got out of hand in a hurry.
Those backs were early-round picks for a reason. You shouldn't sit them after only down one week.
San Francisco's Elijah Williams unexpectedly exploded for 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries after Raheem Mostert went down, and Baltimore's Ty'Son Williams had a decent showing on Monday Night Football. But you can't start either one over Cincinnati's Joe Mixon, who rushed for 127 yards and a score on 29 carries against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1.
Don't overthink this.
The Call: Ezekiel Elliott, Aaron Jones, Joe Mixon
Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood
Jalen Hurts or Aaron Rodgers? Made the wrong decision last week and it cost me. -- @ATLHO
If anyone saw Aaron Rodgers' disastrous Week 1 coming, I hope they also purchased Powerball tickets, because they can apparently see into the future.
The Green Bay Packers' blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints' was one of the worst games of Rodgers' Hall of Fame career. He finished with only 133 passing yards, zero touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 36.8.
Meanwhile, Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles had perhaps the best start of his NFL career in Atlanta. In addition to picking up 62 yards on the ground, Hurts finished 27-of-35 for 264 yards and three scores without an interception. His passer rating was almost 90 points higher than Rodgers' was.
Yet of the two, Rodgers is the better Week 2 play.
This is all about their respective matchups. On Sunday, Hurts and the Eagles host a San Francisco 49ers team that surrendered the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2020. Meanwhile, Rodgers draws a Lions defense that gave up the most points in 2020, one which Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo lit up for 314 passing yards in Week 1.
Rodgers is assuredly seething after last week's embarrassment. The Packers are now heading home to face perhaps the league's worst defense in primetime.
Rodgers won't just want to win. He'll want to run up the score and pad his stats.
The Call: Aaron Rodgers
Welcome to the Twilight Zone
Saquon (Barkley), Julio (Jones), Mike Williams or Corey Davis? Need a Flex and a WR. -- @sethlewis
So this is where we are one week into the 2021 season. Bizarro-land.
I say that because the first player ruled out here is New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley. Not only does he face a Washington team that allowed the third-fewest PPR points to running backs in 2020, but he's still working his way back from an ACL tear and didn't get close to his usual workload in Week 1.
The first "yes" call is Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams, who tallied eight catches for 82 yards and a score in Week 1. Williams appears to be a much bigger part of the Chargers offense this season, and he faces a Cowboys defense that gave up the fifth-most PPR points to wide receivers last season and was lit up by Tom Brady in the season opener.
That leaves two players—Julio Jones of the Tennessee Titans and Corey Davis of the New York Jets—for the final spot. Davis was far more effective in Week 1, hauling in five passes for 97 yards and two scores, while Jones finished with three catches for 29 yards on six targets.
While Jones' Titans debut was not what fantasy managers hoped for, he draws a much more favorable matchup in Week 2 than Davis, who could easily see bracket coverage from the Patriots.
It's a gamble, but the guess here is that the Titans make an effort to get Jones more involved Sunday against a suspect Seattle secondary.
The Call: Mike Williams and Julio Jones
Which Back to Back?
Start J-Rob (James Robinson), Damien Harris or (Melvin) Gordon? -- @paul_fart
Hey, I don't make these usernames up.
Of this trio, Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III turned in the best game in Week 1. He finished with 101 rushing yards and a touchdown on only 11 carries thanks to a 70-yard score.
However, he's also the first back ruled out here despite a favorable matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He's mired in a timeshare with rookie Javonte Williams, and his Week 1 line would have been uninspiring if not for that long touchdown.
If we lived in a world where things made sense, Jags running back James Robinson would be the play here. But instead of allowing Robinson to operate as a featured back against the Houston Texans, Jacksonville head coach Urban Meyer gave him only eight touches in the 37-21 loss.
That leaves Damien Harris of the New England Patriots, who racked up 100 yards on 23 carries against a solid Dolphins defense in Week 1. However, his fourth-quarter fumble put the kibosh on New England's comeback.
Bill Belichick doesn't have the backfield depth to banish Harris to Siberia for that miscue, so he should be in for another solid workload against a Jets team that just gave up 187 total yards to Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers in Week 1.
It's a close call, but Harris gets the nod.
The Call: Damien Harris
A Question in Three Parts
Who to Start? Saquon Barkley or Elijah Mitchell? Antonio Brown or Will Fuller? Mark Andrews or Jared Cook? -- @blandy
OK, we'll take this one guy at a time.
We've already run through the workload and matchup concerns for Saquon Barkley. Elijah Mitchell is everyone's favorite waiver add after setting a Niners record for rushing yards in a debut, and he now appears to be San Francisco's lead back with Raheem Mostert on injured reserve.
The rookie is the play at running back.
The wide receiver call is an easy one. Antonio Brown of the Buccaneers topped 100 yards and scored in Week 1, while William Fuller V of the Miami Dolphins sat out while serving the final game of his suspension. Given that we don't yet know how Fuller will fit into the Miami passing game, Brown is the play.
Tight end is also easy. If you read any of my fantasy articles here at Bleacher Report over the summer, you know Jared Cook was a favorite value pick of mine. Against Washington in Week 1, he had five catches on eight targets for 56 yards. Meanwhile, Baltimore's Mark Andrews was a disappointment against the Raiders, managing only three grabs for 20 yards.
With that said, Andrews was drafted inside the top six at his position in most drafts for a reason. He's a key component of the Baltimore passing game. And since the Ravens will almost certainly have to throw the ball more than normal Sunday night against the Chiefs, Andrews is set up well for a rebound game.
Give him another shot.
The Call: Elijah Mitchell, Antonio Brown, Mark Andrews
DraftKings DFS Question of the Week
In DK's Fantasy Football Millionaire Contest, who is your pick from (Tom) Brady, (Justin) Herbert or (Jalen) Hurts at QB? Anyone a better value --@AlbeenoPacino
We'll answer this one in reverse.
Were Odell Beckham Jr.. playing Sunday against the Houston Texans, I'd feel a lot better about Baker Mayfield [DK DFS Value $6,000] of the Browns as a value play. But given that Beckham has been ruled out, the young quarterback who stands out as the best discount option is probably Joe Burrow of the Bengals [DK DFS Value $5,800]. He's traveling to face a suspect Bears secondary that Matthew Stafford just lit up.
Now to the trio at hand.
Tom Brady of the Buccaneers [DK DFS Value $6,900] looked closer to 24 than 44 while lighting up the Dallas Cowboys last week, and Atlanta's defense looked awful against Philadelphia in Week 1. But this is a game where the Bucs could get a big lead and spend much of the second half working more on the clock than moving the ball.
Jalen Hurts of the Eagles [DK DFS Value $6,500] looked great against the Falcons, and his rushing ability offers added fantasy upside. But he also draws the worst matchup of the bunch against the Niners.
That leaves Justin Herbert of the Chargers [DK DFS Value $6,700] against the Dallas Cowboys. This could easily be one of the highest-scoring games of the week, the Dallas pass defense was a sieve against Brady and the Buccaneers in the season opener and now the Cowboys best pass-rusher (Demarcus Lawrence) is out two months with a broken foot.
Stacking Herbert and either Keenan Allen or Mike Williams isn't a bad idea.
The Call: Justin Herbert
As is the case every week, we'll wrap this week's edition of Start/Sit with some rapid-fire answers to reader questions.
Have more Start/Sit questions? Leave them in the comments. I try to spend a few hours in there on Friday and/or Saturday answering as many as possible.
Deebo or Julio PPR? -- @ZachAllStar2021
I remain confident that Julio Jones will get things rolling in his new home in short order. But San Francisco's Deebo Samuel is the unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver for the 49ers, and he's coming off a huge game against the Detroit Lions. Samuel all day.
James Robinson, Tee Higgins or Darrell Henderson for flex PPR? -- @supermonkey3000
Generally speaking, I tend to favor running backs over wide receivers in flex spots. But Urban Meyer has seemingly forgotten that James Robinson is on the Jaguars, and Darrell Henderson Jr. wasn't especially impressive for the Rams in Week 1. With the benefit of PPR, give me Cincinnati's Tee Higgins, who caught four passes for 58 yards and a score in last week's win over the Vikings.
How y'all feeling about Mark Ingram? -- @MississippiBoy
Mark Ingram II was a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers in Week 1, grinding out 85 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. But that's still less than 3.5 yards per carry, and that came with the Houston Texans playing with a lead all day. That isn't likely to be a regular occurrence, which makes him a low-end flex play at best Sunday against the Browns.
Chase Edmonds, Chase Claypool or Laviska Shenault at flex in a full PPR league? -- @tclark16hcs
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. each have the potential to post big scores in the right matchup. But both are also high-variance "boom/bust" fantasy options. Meanwhile, Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds amassed 16 touches and over 100 total yards against the Titans. Edmonds is the play.
Robby Anderson or Brandin Cooks for WR2 full PPR? -- @bryandawson
Carolina's Robby Anderson made the most of his lone catch last week, hauling in a 57-yard score. But while he was targeted only three times, Brandin Cooks of the Texans caught five of his seven targets for 132 yards. With Houston likely to be playing from behind against Cleveland in Week 2, Cooks should yet again see a healthy target share.
Josh Allen or Aaron Rodgers…who has the better bounce-back game? -- @blacknate
I have already mentioned that I expect Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers to pour it on the hapless Lions in Week 2. Rodgers also has a better matchup than Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. But in two starts against the Dolphins in 2020, Allen averaged almost 320 passing yards and 3.5 passing touchdowns per game. Both are great Week 2 fantasy plays, but Allen has more upside of the two.
Start Mike Davis or Leonard Fournette? -- @kjstixx
Most weeks, this decision would be obvious. Mike Davis of the Falcons is an unquestioned lead back, while Leonard Fournette of the Buccaneers shares touches with Ronald Jones II and Giovani Bernard. But in Week 2, Davis faces Tampa's league-leading run defense, which just completely stymied Ezekiel Elliott. Fournette isn't a great play, but he's the better one.
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Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.