I have to say, Week 1 delivered on all my anticipation of regular season fantasy football action. The games were great; we had upsets, we had blowouts, we had a tie and, for better or worse, kickers were a major storyline. Yet, while our overall expectations of Week 1 may have been met, certain players definitely exceeded or failed to meet their projected fantasy output.
Click here for a primer on some of the reasons we may struggle to interpret these deviations, especially in the aftermath of the first week of fantasy football. Here are some of the players whose stat lines surprised me, and what I think we can expect going forward.
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Let’s start with a positive. People were fairly divided on Barkley this offseason, but so far, it looks like the believers (Billievers?) were right. It seemed an impossible task, but former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brain Daboll looks to have the Giants on the right track.
Barkley was THE major factor in the upset of last year’s No. 1 seed in the AFC, Tennessee. He saw 18 rushing attempts and seven targets; elite usage in game No. 1. His 9.1 YPC are probably not sustainable, but you can roll confidently with Barkley next week vs. the Panthers, a team that was just carved up by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in Week 1.
Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans
Pierce was a go-to guy for Zero- and Hero-RB drafters this year. After he earned starting reps (and heaps of praise) in the preseason, the supposed clear lead back for the Texans was anything but in Week 1. Rex Burkhead out-carried him 14-11 and out-targeted him, 8-1. Perhaps the most damning stat is the snap share: 28 percent for Pierce and 72 percent for Burkhead.
Before we throw in the towel on the undoubtedly talented rookie, we should consider the context. The Texans were competitive in this game despite being the biggest underdogs of the weekend, ultimately playing to a 20-20 draw in overtime. The Colts were last season’s best run defense, allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing backs. It’s worth noting that despite the higher volume, Burkhead was no more effective than Pierce, as both guys averaged around 3.0 YPC and neither scored nor even got a red zone look (OJ Howard was the only player with a red zone target and he scored on it).
Bottom line, I’m going to continue to roster Pierce, but it might be a few weeks before he is startable with Denver, Chicago and the LA Chargers up next.
Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
I never had a lot of faith in Atlanta for fantasy purposes, excepting Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts. Maybe Drake London was the real surprise here (7 targets, 5 catches, 74 yards) after not practicing much leading up to this game, but Pitts was universally started and a major disappointment to fantasy footballers everywhere.
Although it didn’t show up in a stat line, Pitts was the most involved player on the team, leading them in snaps and tying London in target share (22 percent, seven targets each). One glaring issue, however, is Pitts' average depth of target was 2.7 yards (Marcus Mariota averaged 6.5 yards per attempt overall). Pitts is a phenomenal athlete, but he’s not turning water into wine or coal into diamonds or whatever. I’m not super-excited about his prospects next week against the Rams, but it’s too soon to give up on Pitts.
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
In a gross-weather game that the Bears somehow managed to win — or really, the 49ers managed to lose — Kmet was a non-factor. No tight end caught a ball, and Ryan Griffin actually saw two targets to Kmet’s one. However, this was not a day to throw the ball; Justin Fields threw only 17 times, completing only eight of his pass attempts.
I’m disappointed, but next up is Green Bay, Houston and the NY Giants. Tight ends are always going to be up and down, but if Kmet doesn’t see a fantasy spike in one or more of these upcoming games, and/or the Bears passing offense remains this depressed (lowest pass percentage in Week 1, 33.9 percent), I’ll throw in the towel on this talented tight end.
Some people are just better for real football than fantasy football.
Quick Hits: The Facts
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
I’m worried. With Dak Prescott now set to miss significant time, this offense is going to sputter more often than it otherwise would have. Although, to be honest, Prescott didn’t look to be in sync with CeeDee Lamb at any point in the game anyway. Elliott did average over five yards per carry against a good run defense (a much better number than Tony Pollard), but the team was never able to get him a red-zone touch as they struggled to move the ball all night long.
Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders
I’m pleased. I was into Dotson for DFS purposes this weekend, and he was one of the best value plays on Yahoo. He didn’t see as many targets as his teammates Curtis Samuel (11) or Antonio Gibson (8), but he scored twice on his five targets and two of his three catches showed off his contested-catch skills.
Dotson makes for an interesting pickup given how good Carson Wentz looked on Sunday. The team made a big deal over Dotson in the preseason and it looks like this is one case of coach-speak we can buy.
Quick Hits: The Flukes
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
He’s going to co-exist with AJ Dillon, no doubt about it, but he will have his big days, especially with the state of the receiving corps for Aaron Rodgers, who just looked disgusted for most of the day.
Devin Duvernay, Baltimore Ravens
Five Ravens had at least four targets Sunday, but only Duvernay caught 100 percent of his four and scored on two of them. He was a hot prospect and has the speed to stretch the field, so this might not be his only fluky-good game of the season, but it will be hard or impossible to trust him every week.
OJ Howard, Houston Texans
I’ve loved this guy. I really have rooted for him to catch on and be the player for fantasy I believe he could be. He finally did it in Week 1, despite being on the field for only a fraction of the offensive snaps and running only six routes. Both of his targets, one in the red zone, were caught for touchdowns.
This will not be an every-week occurrence. Howard has played for some very good coaches and there is a reason he hasn’t been able to carve out a dynamic role despite his first-round draft capital. I don’t know what the reason is, and I hope I’m wrong about Howard, but this performance screams fluke to me.