Did the studs on your fantasy teams stink up the joint in Week 1? If that’s the case, you’re probably dealing with a case of the “Week 1 Freakouts.” Take a deep breath and relax. Senior FantasySharks.com writer Matt Wilson has sifted through the Week 1 action and tells us which fantasy stars will rebound next week…and which ones won’t.
Welcome to the fifth season of Traps & Trends. Every Monday during the regular season, I’ll sift through the fantasy happenings from the Thursday/Sunday NFL action and give you my take on the long-term fantasy prospects of individual players that grab the headlines because of good performances or bad ones. I rely on stats as much as possible. Sometimes, however, fantasy football acumen and old fashioned common sense are needed, especially this early in the season. I’m also not afraid to play a hunch or two, but I’ll give you a heads up when I do that.
We’re just one week into the regular season, but…
1. Hey! Mr. Gurley – how’s that arthritic left knee holding up? What? You say it’s just fine. Umm…Mr. Brown you do know that Mr. Gurley is a fantasy stud and owns the Los Angeles Rams backfield, right?
The Damage: The Rams kept hinting that the bum knee that severely hindered Gurley at the close of the 2018 season – and limited him in Super Bowl LIII – was no longer an issue, but we have reason to think differently. During Los Angeles’ win over the Carolina Panthers, he and Malcolm Brown operated in a…dare I say it…timeshare backfield. Brown (not Darrell Henderson, who logged one touch in this contest) carried 11 times for 53 and two touchdowns on runs of one yard and five yards, respectively, but wasn’t targeted in the passing game. As for Gurley, he racked up 97 scoreless rushing yards on 14 carries – the bulk of it came late in the game – and caught one pass for four yards on one target. Add it all up, and it was 11 touches for Brown with goal-line work and 15 touches for Gurley that included one target. Is the Gurley/Brown timeshare the new normal for the Rams backfield?
The Diagnosis: TREND
The timeshare is probably here to stay. While the Rams probably won’t level with us about the true condition of Gurley’s knee, it’s obvious that they’re managing his workload to save some wear and tear for a reason. By the way, he did run well in the Panthers game. I do think the split in touches between Gurley and Brown will vary each week based on game flow and competitiveness of the contest. If Los Angeles is winning big or Brown is running well, Gurley’s workload will be smaller. If the team is in a close game or facing a critical scoring situation, and Gurley is up for it, he’ll see the bigger share of touches. I don’t know if Gurley will see more goal-line action or passing-down work in the future, but his lack of it in the Panthers game and shaky RB1 value are very troubling to say the least. Brown is definitely worth a waiver-wire pickup.
2. This guy Williams is the lead dog and supposed to be the fantasy gold mine in the Kansas City Chiefs backfield, right? Then who is this supposedly washed up ball carrier from Buffalo who outrushed him? Is something “Shady” happening here?
Another backfield in a high-scoring offense suddenly has possible timeshare issues. During Kansas City’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Williams carried 13 times for 26 yards and one touchdown (he had a second rushing score nullified by a penalty) and caught six passes for 39 yards on six targets. McCoy, making his Chiefs debut, toted the rock 10 times for 81 yards and reeled in his lone target for 12 yards. Crunching the numbers, Williams amassed 65 combo yards and one touchdown on 19 touches while playing 46 backfield snaps while McCoy compiled 93 combo yards on only 11 touches while playing just 20 backfield snaps. Is Kansas City’s backfield firmly trending committee? Is Williams’ lead-dog status in jeopardy?
The Diagnosis: TREND
The answers to those questions are “yes” and “yes.” First, there’s some confusion out there about Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s backfield usage. Historically, he has preferred to rely on one tailback (hint: think of guys like Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, McCoy and Kareem Hunt). However, McCoy, an accomplished every-down ball carrier, ran well in the Jacksonville game and definitely played himself into a timeshare. I also think McCoy is a threat to take over the goal-line runner duties while Williams maintains the passing-down work. Keep in mind that Williams has an average skills set and has benefited from operating in an elite offense. If McCoy takes over the goal-line work and Williams slides into a third-down/change-of pace role, you’re looking at two low-end RB2s.
3. Is it time to haul out the bricks and lumber to start construction on a new building at the NFL Hall of Fame for this guy?
The Dude: Lamar Jackson
The Damage: Operating in the same Greg Roman-coordinated scheme that made Colin Kaepernick a fantasy star with the San Francisco 49ers for a short time, Jackson absolutely shredded a worse-than-expected Miami Dolphins defense that barely resembled a bad college team. He connected on 17 of just 20 throws for 324 yards and five touchdowns against no picks but rushed only three times for six yards. There was nothing fluky about Jackson’s passing. Looking polished, he was challenging the Dolphins downfield and confidently hitting his receivers in stride. Has Jackson joined the ranks of the must-start fantasy quarterbacks?
The Diagnosis: TOSS-UP
There’s no question that Jackson looked great slinging the rock against Miami while rushing for very few yards. While I don’t think he’s earned a must-start moniker just yet, Jackson definitely has streaming value. Before you decide that I’m being too harsh in my take on Jackson, keep in mind that he’s a second-year guy learning his second offense in as many seasons. In the Dolphins game, he benefitted from a potent ground game that let him use play action. He’ll face tougher defenses that will game plan to shut down Mark Ingram and company and force Jackson to play quarterback. Rookie wideout Marquise Brown accounted for 147 yards and two scoring grabs on four catches versus Miami. Can Brown play as effectively against a real secondary? If Jackson is one of your guys, proceed with caution.
4. Hey! Aren’t you supposed to be the Chicago Bears’ designated rookie workhorse tailback? Why did you lose carries to Mike Davis during your team’s embarrassing loss to the Green Bay Packers?
The Dude: David Montgomery
The Damage: The Bears traded up to draft Montgomery and talked him up during the preseason as the do-it-all bell cow runner that they didn’t have last season with early-down bulldozer Jordan Howard (Eagles), but Montgomery’s soft usage in an unexpected committee during the Packers game was puzzling to say the least and criminal to say the most. He toted the rock just six times for 18 yards (he looked close to breaking a few long ones) and made a spectacular 27-yard reception on his disappointing one target. Should you stay the course with Montgomery and keep him in your lineup with hopes for more productive games ahead?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
There’s too much happening here to keep rolling with Montgomery. Park the rookie on your bench and make him earn his way back into your starting lineup. Many expected Chicago head coach Matt Nagy’s sometimes weird timeshare backfield to disappear. This past season, guys like Tarik Cohen commonly lost touches to Benny Cunningham and Taquan Mizzell. Nagy apparently is attached to his committee approach. We watched Montgomery lose carries to Mike Davis in the Packers game. After Green Bay’s win, a couple of their players were quoted saying their game plan was to make Mitch Trubisky “play quarterback.” He struggled as a passer during the preseason, and it looks like opposing defenses are going to clamp down on the Bears ground game and make Trubisky beat them. That’s also going against Montgomery. Heard enough?