Fantasy

Five Fantasy Takeaways from NFL Week 1

A.J. Brown

Welcome to The Five Takeaways! Every Monday morning from here on out, this article will bring you the top need-to-know storylines for Fantasy Football in 2022. Enjoy!

Fly, Eagles Fly!

The Philadelphia Eagles kicked off 2022 with a neutral game passing rate of 50.0%, which is 4.7% higher than what the team averaged through the final 11 weeks of the 2021 season, per TruMedia

A “neutral” game can be defined as a one-score game (ie. a team is either trailing or winning by seven or fewer points). That excludes statistics generated in the final two minutes of the game’s first half. The latter is done to remove the influence of the two-minute drill and, on the whole, it shows us who a team wants to be. After acquiring wide receiver A.J. Brown via trade this offseason, the Eagles have begun their ascent to the pass-first ways of the modern NFL. 

Hurts completed 18-of-32 pass attempts for 243 passing yards, zero touchdowns and zero turnovers. His rushing production was not at all hurt by the passing increase, as Hurts’ 90 rushing yards led all NFL passers, and he was one of just four starting quarterbacks to score a rushing touchdown. 

Wide receiver A.J. Brown caught 10-of-13 targets for 155 receiving yards, and his outrageous 33.3 targets per route run rate had him tied for sixth most at the position. His 3.97 yards per route run ranked fourth, among wide receivers with at least 4 targets, per TruMedia

Both tight end Dallas Goedert and No. 2 wide receiver DeVonta Smith had 4 targets come their way, but Smith failed to secure any of his while Goedert caught 3 for an efficient 60 receiving yards. 

The fantasy community was reluctant to embrace the idea the Eagles could work their way towards a modern, pass-first offense. However, their fine Week 1 showing erased all concerns on that front. Hurts and Brown should push for top-five positional rankings on a weekly basis, while Goedert is a locked-in TE1. Smith will have to work his way into the best friend ranks of Hurts and Brown but we ought not to forget Smith’s 2021 rookie year targets per route run (20.1%) and yards per route run (1.77) marks were quite promising. 

Michael Thomas Is Back

Michael Thomas returned from his lengthy injury-induced absence and looked like his old self. 

Slot receiver Jarvis Landry had the best coverage matchup of the day, working against former Canadian Football League cornerback Dee Alford. Landry led the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards, but it was Thomas who commanded targets in scoring position, punching in a pair of red zone touchdowns, from inside the 10-yard yard line. The table below includes data provided to The 33rd team by TruMedia.

NO WRs Routes Run Targets per Route Run Rate Yards per Route Run Stat Line
Michael Thomas 33 24.4% 1.73 5/8-57-2
Jarvis Landry 32 28.1% 3.56 7/9-114-0
Chris Olave 33 9.1% 1.24 3/3-41-0

Saints coach Dennis Allen feeling comfortable with Thomas running the same number of routes as 22-year-old rookie Chris Olave is a great sign Thomas’ hamstring injury is behind him. Count on Thomas as a fantasy football WR2, with WR1 potential, as he continues to shake off the rust.

A Changing Of The Tennessee Guard

Titans coach Mike Vrabel has begun ushering in a new era in Tennessee. No. 2 running back/passing game specialist Dontrell Hilliard is now a regular part of the Titans’ offense, and rookie wide receivers Kyle Phillips and Treylon Burks are the team’s Nos. 1 and 2 wide receivers. 

Running behind a Tier 6 offensive line, 29-year-old Derrick Henry managed just 3.9 yards per carry (YPC) on 21 rushing attempts against the New York Giants. 3.9 YPC is bad but sometimes that average can be a product of a situation more than talent. 

The damning data lies in his 3.29 yards after contact per carry. Should that rate hold, it would be the lowest average he’s produced since 2017, per TruMedia. The Giants’ front seven has a few standout players, but this is hardly a group to write home about absent rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux. 

Hilliard, for his part, played very well. Operating as a receiver out of the backfield, Hillard earned 4 targets on 7 routes and took his 3 caught passes for 61 receiving yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns. 

The 27-year-old back was a terror with the ball in his hands, averaging a team-leading 13.67 YAC per reception. Among NFL running backs with at least four targets in Week 1, Hilliard’s 57.1% targets per route run rate and 8.71 yards per route run both ranked No. 1, per TruMedia. His 2 carries for 8 rushing yards were the cherries on top. Expect Hilliard to earn more snaps in Week 2.

Phillips, the fifth-round rookie wide receiver out of UCLA, announced his presence as the Titans’ new starting slot receiver. He secured 4-of-6 slot targets for 38 receiving yards, en route to an overall stat line of 6 receptions, 9 targets and 66 receiving yards. 

All three marks were team-highs. Burks, the first-round rookie wide receiver out of Arkansas, has to be working his way out of Vrabel’s dog house after putting up a wonderfully efficient outing.

He finished with 13 routes run, 3 receptions, 5 targets and 55 receiving yards. In fact, per TruMedia, the Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver duo actually managed to lead all NFL rookie wide receivers (minimum 5 targets) in both targets per route run and yards per route run. 

TEN Rookie WRs Targets per Route Run Rate Yards per Route Run
Kyle Phillips 42.9% 3.14
Treylon Burks 38.5% 4.23

Hilliard, Phillips and Burks are all smart waiver wire adds in season-long, full-PPR scoring formats. Veteran wide receiver Robert Woods (26 routes, 2 targets, 1 reception and 13 receiving yards) looks more like a mentor than anything. 

Baltimore Ravens Passing Attack

Coach John Harbaugh’s pass-catching corps is finally coming together. Tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Rashod Bateman are the clear-cut Nos. 1 and 2, while Isaiah Likely and Devin Duvernay appear to have won the Nos. 3 and 4 roles — at least for now.

BAL WR/TE Routes Run Slot Routes Run Final Stat Line
TE Mark Andrews 32 22 5/7-52-0
WR Rashod Bateman 25 3 2/5-59-1
WR Devin Duvernay 18 6 4/4-54-2
WR Demarcus Robinson 17 6 2/4-19-0
TE Isaiah Likely 18 13 0/4-0-0

As shown above, via data provided by TruMedia, the Ravens largely punted on the idea of utilizing an actual slot receiver. They instead cycled their top-two tight ends in and out of the interior. 

Likely had an awfully disappointing day, but he has no real positional target competition outside of Andrews, and he is integral to Baltimore’s two-tight end scheme. He will get more chances.

Duvernay, on the other hand, likely sealed shut Demarcus Robinson’s chances of carving out a role on his new team. Duvernay’s perfect day was highlighted by a team-best 3.00 yards per route run. The third-year receiver looks like a 2022 fantasy football breakout candidate, at least in deep leagues, and his punt return role adds spiked week viability via potential special teams touchdowns. 

The fantasy community already knew Andrews is one of the NFL’s best tight ends. Questions lingered as to whether Bateman was the real deal though, and this was a very promising start. A Week 2 date with the vaunted Miami Dolphins’ secondary will be a stiffer test for the developing downfield receiver. 

The Green Bay Packers No. 1 Wide Receiver

Fourth-round rookie Romeo Doubs out-played the rest of the Green Bay wide receivers. 

GB WRs Routes Run Targets per Route Run Rate Yards per Route Run Final Stat Line
Romeo Doubs 25 20.0% 1.48 4/5-37-0
Christian Watson 29 13.8% 1.17 2/4-34-0
Sammy Watkins 28 10.7% 0.64 3/3-18
Randall Cobb 27 11.1% 0.52 2/3-14-0

Fellow 2022 draft pick, second-rounder Christian Watson, was given opportunities early, but the rust from his injury-stunted preseason was evident. He let what should have been a 77-yard touchdown slip between his fingers, early in the first quarter. 

Doubs failed to spectacularly seize the No. 1 role, while fifth-year wide receiver Allen Lazard recovers from an ankle injury, but the rookie earned targets at a respectable 20.0% targets per route run rate, as shown above, per TruMedia

Running backs A.J. Dillon (6 targets) and Aaron Jones (5 targets), as well as tight end Robert Tonyan (5 targets), were the de facto leaders of Green Bay’s passing attack this week and all three should maintain a healthy target share moving forward. 

That said, there is still room for at least one Green Bay wide receiver to emerge as a top-36 fantasy option in the coming weeks. Team brass has played exceptionally coy with Lazard’s ankle sprain diagnosis, which is hardly reassuring in and of itself. In the event that Lazard suffered a high-ankle sprain, it is not unreasonable to think Doubs has more than a month to secure his place as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver. 

In a 2020 ankle sprain explainer article written by Dr. Edwin Porras of FanasyPoints.com, Dr. Porras stated 39% of NFL players miss two-to-three games with the injury, while an additional 21% miss between four and six. Dr. Porras cited a 2013 study in which head team doctors from all 32 teams agreed that high-ankle sprains can continue to impair player performance for four-to-six weeks upon their return from the injury. 

Again, we don’t yet know what Lazard’s ankle injury diagnosis is, but the range of potential outcomes in this scenario is vast enough that Doubs needs to be a priority add off of the waiver wire this week. The race to gain Aaron Rodgers’ trust is on and Doubs pushed himself to the front of the pack with his better-than-the-rest showing in Week 1. 

WATCH MORE: Listen to how Chris Long Thinks the Packers Are Fine as Long as Aaron Rodgers Is Under Center

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