Fantasy Football Impact Week 1: Pass the receivers, hold the running backs

Are receivers the new running backs? We saw the newest strategy amount to a bit of a draw Sunday.

What we do know, is running backs aren’t what they used to be in fantasy. Among the once mighty running back position, Lamar Miller led all rushers with 108 yards – and was the only one to hit the 100-yard mark. You have to go back to Thursday for the second best rushing effort with CJ Anderson (92), followed by David Johnson's 89.

Also it pays to do homework looking ahead at great passing matchups. Eight quarterbacks passed for 300 yards or more and a ninth, Jameis Winston came close, but slung a week-high four touchdown strikes to tie Andrew Luck. Among the passing defenses exploited? The Raiders (28th vs. the pass in 2015), Lions, (27th), Colts (26th),  Chargers (25th), Jets (24th), Buccaneers (23rd), Saints (22nd), Falcons (20th).

More top three-round pass catchers had bigger days than their running back counterparts. Receivers picked in the top three rounds for Average Draft Position were safer on Sunday, led by Brandin Cooks (143 yards, 2 TDs), Larry Fitzgerald (81 yards 2 TDs) and AJ Green (180 yards, 1 TD).

On the surface it looks pretty close in terms of positional disappointments. Top ADP receiver goats: Odell Beckham, Jr., Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Sammy Watkins. Top ADP running backs that disappointed: Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy, Devonta Freeman, Doug Martin, Mark Ingram, Thomas Rawls.

But draft day strategies targeting middle round running backs like Jeremy Hill, Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray, LeGarrette Blount, Jeremy Langford, Ryan Mathews and Arian Foster look like safer bets due to the lower risk investment made in them. For many their ceilings won’t be as high – but the basement isn’t as deep.

Is the "do the opposite" pick receivers early trend the new normal? At least for now it is.

Pickup of the week: Willie Snead (9 catches, 172 yards, 1 TD)

One of the best ways to gauge how involved your receiver is in their offense is to look at targets, how many times he was thrown to. Snead’s huge day against the Raiders looks like a safe trend in part, because he tied No 1 receiver Brandin Cooks with a team-best nine targets each.

New Orleans won’t face the Raiders secondary every week (sadly) but this is a trend to jump on.  Ohio State rookie Michael Thomas was the trendy pick in preseason to be the second option for Drew Brees, but Snead in his second year in the Big Easy, has the inside track and it showed.

Grab these guys:

Tajae Sharpe, Titans: The receiver options in Tennessee are about as attractive as Miss Siberia, but this U-Mass rookie is a bright spot. Sharpe had  team-high 11 targets (second-highest was seven) to go with his 7 catches, 76 yards receiving and has almost no competition.

Travis Benjamin/ Tyrell Williams Chargers: Moment of silence for Keenan Allen. For the second straight season the injury gods reared their ugly head just as he was on a torrid pace to lead the league in receiving (despite the sample size) he had 6 catches for 67 yards in barely over a quarter before injuring his knee.  There will still be plenty of passes to be caught in San Diego and both Williams and Benjamin will play much bigger roles in Allen’s absence.

Spencer Ware, Chiefs: Absolute insurance for those with Jamaal Charles. Ware was a yardage beast against the Chargers and if he wasn’t snared on draft day be prepared to stand in line. Charles could be back in just a couple weeks, but Ware’s production could mean a platoon and a starring role of some sort possibly the rest of the way.

Victor Cruz, Giants: A triumphant return for him included two touchdowns for Cruz who has been sidelined for way too long. But is he the No. 2 in New York? Prized rookie Sterling Shepard tied him with four targets each. With such a small sample size after nearly two years of  being missing, walk – don’t run – to the waiver wire.

Only for the desperate: DeWayne Washington, Lions. Ladies and gents, the Lions may have found a goal line specialist. The rookie is easily the biggest of the runners on the roster and scored on his second attempt at the stripe against the Colts.

Bust of the Week: Devonta Freeman

Tampa Bay ranked 27th against the run in 2015 and Freeman mustered less than two yards a carry.

Sound the “by committee” alarm. Not only did he get outgained by his backup Tevin Coleman on three less carries (11-20 yards vs. 8-22) but receiving wise, Coleman added 95 yards which led the team which is positively frightening.

Last year Coleman won the job before losing it to injury. It is only one game, but everything about Coleman’s apparent shared workload screams that he is not going away any time soon, which could cut into Freeman’s numbers.

Runner-ups: Dez Bryant, Adrian Peterson.

Doubting Thomas

After missing almost all of preseason save for two carries, seven yards in the fourth exhibition game, anyone drafting Thomas Rawls should have had a buyer beware alarm bell going off. The Rawls regular season debut left a lot to be desired but more concerning is former ‘hawk and NFL vagabond Christine Michael (15 carries, 66 yards) who vastly outshined Rawls (12-32). Hopefully Rawls owners handcuffed Michael because although it’s early, Michael may have shoehorned in a permanent spot in the rotation and could even steal the starting job at some point this season.

Thursday thought

The panic button should be pressed firmly for owners of Denver receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The Carolina game was Exhibit: A as to why both lasted a round or two later than their average draft positions from years ago. The Panthers new-look green secondary was ripe for the picking and  new Denver QB Trevor Siemian was not good. At the first sign of a good game for either receiver, try to sell them off to an unsuspecting owner. CJ Anderson will be the first, second and only reliable option in Denver.

About the Author:

David Komer is a web producer/multimedia journalist for FOX 2. He is a former fantasy sports columnist for SportsIllustrated.com where he wrote for three years and he has won more than 20 Michigan Press Association awards in news and sports coverage in his career.

 

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