Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Brand-name stars typically don’t always fantasy football leagues. They sure didn’t help in Week 1.
Le’Veon Bell, Tom Brady and Julio Jones all left investors wanting more after quiet starts to 2017. At least they stayed healthy, unlike David Johnson and Allen Robinson.
Many of the weekend’s top performers flourished from the waiver wire. Although Alex Smith isn’t now poised for an MVP campaign, his huge outing will cause a frenzy of free-agent claims. A more understated debut by another AFC quarterback, however, could yield greater long-term dividends.
Following a confounding Week 1, here’s a look at the hottest fantasy pickups with special attention paid to some top choices.
Week 2 Waiver-Wire Targets
QB Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings
QB DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns
QB Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
QB Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
RB Kerwynn Williams, Arizona Cardinals
RB Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
RB Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
RB Javorius Allen, Baltimore Ravens
RB Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts
WR Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
WR Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
WR Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars
WR Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
WR Jermaine Kearse, New York Jets
TE Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills
TE Zach Miller, Chicago Bears
TE Jesse James, Pittsburgh Steelers
K Giorgio Tavecchio, Oakland Raiders
D/ST Jacksonville Jaguars
DeShone Kizer, QB, Cleveland Browns
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Although more attention will go to Smith’s deep-ball party against the New England Patriots and Jared Goff’s rebranding under a new coaching staff, DeShone Kizer quietly had one of Week 1’s best fantasy outings under center.
That says as much about a slew of underwhelming starts from stars, but the Cleveland Browns rookie opened his career by going 20-of-30 for 222 passing yards and scoring touchdowns of both the passing and rushing variety. He kept Cleveland competitive in a 21-18 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers, an early Super Bowl contender who yielded the fifth-fewest fantasy sports to opposing quarterbacks in Yahoo Sports leagues last year.
Browns cornerback Jason McCourty, who watched Marcus Mariota develop in his last two years with the Tennessee Titans, praised the 21-year-old newcomer’s work ethic to ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano:
“I like him. The one thing we’ve all seen that we like and respect is that he’s putting in the work. If you’re a rookie and you play some other position, you might be able to get away with slapping around, getting by on just your talent. But when you’re a rookie quarterback, you’ve got to be about the work and about being a leader from Day 1. And he has that.”
It’s not setting a high bar to say Kizer should become the best Browns quarterback since the reintroduction of the franchise in 1999. Fantasy gamers, however, need a little more than surpassing former Brown Josh McCown. Although unlikely to produce great numbers through the air, Kizer can make up the difference outside the pocket.
His running ability opens the door for being a strong second-tier fantasy quarterback. While a Week 2 showdown with the Baltimore Ravens isn’t a favorable play, another solid outing against a tough AFC North adversary would prove his worth as a Week 3 play at the weaker Indianapolis Colts.
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Dylan Buell/Getty Images
This is the last call to reserve a seat on the Chris Carson bandwagon.
Fantasy drafters spent the preseason speculating over the Seattle Seahawks backfield, only to see Russell Wilson lead them in rushing with 40 yards in Week 1. Carson, a popular deep-league sleeper by the end of training camp, probably won’t top everyone’s list after converting six carries into 39 yards.
Let’s hope that’s the case, as the seventh-round rookie is ready for takeoff.
Those tame stats still represent the most encouraging opening-week performance from a Seattle RB. Expected to make a heavy impact in the passing game, C.J. Prosise instead ran for 11 yards without receiving a single target. After getting stuffed for zero or negative yards on his final three of five carries, Eddie Lacy vanished from the field with three total yards.
As noted by Pro Football Focus’ Nathan Jahnke, Carson received the most playing time of the trio:
Nathan Jahnke @PFF_NateJahnke
Seahawks final HB snap count: Chris Carson 27, CJ Prosise 15, Eddie Lacy 7. Out of 49
Seattle totaled 225 yards in a disappointing performance, but it should turn the corner this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers. No team allowed more fantasy points to running backs in Yahoo Sports leagues last year, and the Niners opened 2017 by relinquishing 167 total yards to Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey in a 23-3 loss.
The Seahawks should also stuff quarterback Brian Hoyer’s offense, penning a game script perfect for more rushing opportunities. Thomas Rawls could ruin a potential Carson breakout by returning from a high-ankle sprain, but Carson needs to be owned in case he seizes the spotlight.
Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
So this is this Kenny Golladay fellow everyone kept touting as a late-round sleeper. Not everyone listened, as he’s owned in 17 percent of Yahoo leagues on the Monday following a breakout debut.
Experienced fantasy managers have seen too many hyped preseason players disappear once the actual games start. This was the case through three quarters of Week 1’s contest between the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals.
Then Golladay sparked a fourth-quarter rally with two touchdowns. Photos of both scores, courtesy of Detroit’s Twitter account, depicted the high difficulty rate of the catches:
Detroit Lions @Lions
Have a day, Golladay❗️ https://t.co/D6YXjuWqtA
Per the Detroit Free Press‘ Jeff Seidel, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell tried his best to temper expectations and avoid hyperbolic praise.
“One game doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Caldwell said. “Let’s look at it over a period of time. But do we expect him to be a good player? Yes. We do expect him to be. But he’s got to go out there and prove it.”
OK, fine. Maybe he won’t finish the season with 32 touchdowns. But he clearly has a role in a prolific Detroit passing offense that will continue to work in overdrive since the putrid rushing attack averaged three yards per carry against Arizona. After gradually moving the field with short strikes last season, Matthew Stafford now has a 6’4″ vertical threat capable of making plays in traffic.
He’s not a superstar or trustworthy fantasy starter just yet, but Golladay at least needs to be owned in all fantasy formats.
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Austin Hooper is the top tight end addition if available, but that shouldn’t be the case in a competitive league with 12 or more teams. Although he doesn’t garner the same breakout appeal, Charles Clay is quietly morphing into a useful contributor.
Without Sammy Watkins, Tyrod Taylor directed just eight of his 27 passes to wideouts in Week 1. Clay instead led the team with nine targets. More importantly for fantasy managers, Taylor found the 6’3″ tight end for a one-yard touchdown.
Last year, Clay didn’t find the end zone until Week 14. Yet he did develop a late-season rapport with his quarterback, as pointed out by FantasyPros’ Mike Tagliere:
Mike Tagliere @MikeTagliereNFL
#Bills TE Charles Clay’s last four games with Tyrod Taylor at QB: 32 targets, 22 receptions, 262 yards, 5 touchdowns. #FantasyFootball
While Clay will never be mistaken for a star fantasy option, he has recorded over 50 receptions in each of the last four seasons. He’s a steady hand in line for a major workload, so consider him a strong matchup play.