- Fantasy football, NFL analyst for ESPN.com
- Member of Pro Football Writers of America
- Founding director of Pro Football Focus Fantasy
- 2013 FSTA award winner for most accurate preseason rankings
The Fantasy 32 analyzes the NFL from a fantasy perspective, with at least one mention of each of the league’s 32 teams. Though efficiency will be discussed plenty, the column will lean heavily on usage data, as volume is king (by far) in fantasy football. Use these tidbits to make the best waiver-wire, trade and lineup decisions for the upcoming week and beyond. Be sure to check back each week of the season for a new version of the Fantasy 32.
Note that data from Monday Night Football may not immediately be reflected in charts.
Throughout the below team-by-team rundowns, I’ll be referencing “OFP” and “OTD”. OFP stands for opportunity-adjusted fantasy points. Imagine a league in which players are created equal. OFP is a statistic that weighs every pass/carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player’s opportunity to score fantasy points, or his “expected” fantasy point total. For example, if a player has an OFP of 14.5, it means that a league average player who saw the same workload in the same location on the field would have scored 14.5 fantasy points. FORP is the difference between a player’s actual fantasy point total and his OFP. OTD works the same way, except instead of fantasy points, it’s touchdowns. Volume is king in fantasy football, so this is not information you want to overlook.
That said, here is the post-Week 2 OFP Leaderboard:
*Complete OTD and OFP positional leaderboards will be posted at ESPN+ this week
Next, here are the players who exceeded their OFP by the largest margin this past week and are thus candidates to see a dip in fantasy production moving forward, assuming they see a similar workload:
And these players who fell short of their OFP by the largest margin last week and thus you shouldn’t be too quick to overreact to their performance when making lineup, trade or waiver decisions:
Arizona Cardinals — Kyler Murray appears to be well on his way to a breakout season. The 2019 first-overall pick impressed with 230 pass yards, 91 rush yards and a pair of TDs against a good 49ers defense in Week 1. He followed that up with 286 pass yards, 67 rush yards and three scores against Washington in Week 2. Murray is fantasy’s No. 4 scoring quarterback thus far, and his combination of passing and rushing production locks him in as a top-five weekly fantasy play. He’s an elite option this week against a Detroit defense that struggled against Mitchell Trubisky and Aaron Rodgers.
Atlanta Falcons — Atlanta’s high-volume pass offense made slot man Russell Gage an intriguing deep sleeper during the offseason. So far, he’s been even better than expected. Gage has been targeted at least nine times in three consecutive games tracing back to last season. The 2018 sixth-round pick posted a 9-114-0 receiving line on 12 targets in Week 1 and a 6-46-1 line on nine targets in Week 2. Gage has been on the field for 73% of Atlanta’s offense snaps and sits 11th among wide receivers in fantasy points (believe it or not, Atlanta has two top-11 fantasy receivers and one is not Julio Jones). Gage’s OFP ranks fifth among wide receivers and suggests that his production has matched his opportunity. Still, we know Jones, Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst will remain focal points of the offense, so Gage figures to settle in as more of a flex option. Atlanta faces a much tougher Chicago defense this week, so while Gage should be on rosters, he’s not yet a must start.
Baltimore Ravens — One week after pacing the Baltimore RB room in snaps, J.K. Dobbins tied Gus Edwards (20 each) behind Mark Ingram II (27) in Week 2. Dobbins led the group with a 40% snap share in the opener and Ingram played 42% on Sunday, which speaks to the fact that the Ravens are, in fact, utilizing a full-on committee. The plan has worked well for Baltimore — the trio combined for 182 yards on 21 carries on Sunday — but not in fantasy. Ingram (21 touches for the season) sits 36th in fantasy points, with Dobbins (10) 28th and Edwards (14) 58th. None of these players are recommended starts right now, though Ingram is your best bet.
Buffalo Bills — Granted he was beating up on weak Dolphins and Jets defenses, but Josh Allen is on a roll. The third-year QB has completed 57 of 81 passes for 729 yards, 6 TDs and 0 INTs. He also has 75 yards and a score on 18 carries. At least through two weeks, Allen has drastically increased his efficiency compared to years past (70% completion percentage, 9.0 YPA) and sits second among quarterbacks in fantasy points. The good news is that Buffalo is operating the league’s pass-heaviest offense (seriously), and the team’s schedule isn’t very intimidating in the coming weeks, which makes Allen a strong QB1 option. The bad news is that Allen may not be your best play come playoff time. Buffalo exits its Week 11 bye with games against the Chargers, 49ers, Steelers, Broncos and Patriots. It doesn’t get much tougher than that.
Carolina Panthers — Christian McCaffrey went down with an injury after playing 64% of the Panthers’ snaps on Sunday. In his place, Mike Davis out-snapped Trenton Cannon 23-to-0. Davis carried the ball only once but caught all eight of his targets for 74 yards. Curtis Samuel was involved in the backfield, as well, matching a career high with four carries. McCaffrey is expected to miss four to six weeks, so it’s worth noting that Davis has the size to handle the bulk of the carries, and we obviously saw his passing-game chops on Sunday. Davis should be considered a flex option against the Chargers in Week 3.
Chicago Bears –– Ted Ginn Jr. was a healthy scratch on Sunday, which opened the door for fifth-round pick Darnell Mooney to step into No. 2 duties opposite Allen Robinson. Robinson, of course, led the unit with 52 snaps played (81%), but Mooney (39) worked ahead of Javon Wims (28) and Anthony Miller (26). The rookie was targeted only three times but did his job with a 3-36-1 receiving line. Mooney is a long shot for consistent production in a low-volume, low-scoring pass game that spread its targets around to 12 different players on Sunday. Mooney is worth rostering only in deep and/or dynasty leagues.
Cincinnati Bengals — A.J. Green’s return to the lineup hasn’t gone as planned, with the veteran receiver totaling eight catches for 80 yards through two weeks. The lack of production is a bit of a concern, but the good news is that Green has received a ton of volume. He played 66% of the team’s snaps in Week 1 and handled nine targets. On Thursday, he played 61% of the snaps and was targeted 13 times. Green is Joe Burrow’s favorite target, and it’s not particularly close. He sits 61st among wide receivers in fantasy points but second in OFP. Volume is king in fantasy football, and you can expect it to convert into production over time. Green isn’t a bad player to target in trades this week.
Cleveland Browns — Austin Hooper hasn’t seen much action in the Cleveland passing game during the first two weeks of the season. Hooper has played a hefty 108 (or 86.4%) of a possible 125 snaps but has only four catches for 37 yards to show for it. Hooper’s playing time will lead to better days, but he appears to be a long shot for consistent fantasy production in a Browns run-first offense that leans heavily on its running backs and top two wide receivers. Hooper does not need to be on rosters in most formats.
Dallas Cowboys — Blake Jarwin was a popular tight end sleeper during the summer, but if Sunday is any indication, his season-ending injury will instead lead to a breakout for teammate Dalton Schultz. The 2018 fourth-round pick exploded for a 9-88-1 receiving line on a team-high 10 targets during the comeback win against Atlanta. Schultz played 70% of the snaps, and his heavy usage vaulted him to seventh among tight ends in OFP and 13th in fantasy points this season. Schultz figures to settle in as a TE2 in what is developing into a fairly deep tight end position.
Denver Broncos — Noah Fant appears well on his way to a breakout second season. The 2019 first-round pick followed up a 5-81-1 receiving line in Week 1 with a 4-57-1 showing against Pittsburgh on Sunday. Fant has been on the field for 98 (or 75%) of Denver’s 130 offensive snaps this season and sits third at tight end in fantasy points. Drew Lock’s injury is an obvious concern, but Fant did most of his damage with Jeff Driskel under center against a tough Steelers’ defense on Sunday. If there’s one concern, it’s that we need to see more targets (he has 10 in two games). Consider Fant a fringe TE1 against Tampa Bay this week.
Detroit Lions –– It may not seem like it, but rookie D’Andre Swift has led the Lions’ backfield in snaps during each of his first two NFL games. Of course, that’s not really saying a ton, considering he played 30 of 72 snaps (42%) in Week 1 and 20 of 58 (35%) in Week 2. The usage hasn’t allowed much rushing production (eight carries, 20 yards, 1 TD), but it has helped him to decent receiving numbers (10 targets, 8 receptions, 75 yards). The latter includes a 5-60-0 receiving line on Sunday. Swift needs more work to become a weekly fantasy starter and, while that may happen later this season, it doesn’t appear imminent. He should be on benches. Kerryon Johnson (18 snaps on Sunday) and Adrian Peterson (15) also shouldn’t be close to lineups.
Green Bay Packers — No surprise here, but Allen Lazard has settled in as the No. 2 wide receiver behind Davante Adams. Lazard was on the field for 87% of the offensive snaps in Week 1 and played 83% in Week 2. Despite the generous playing time, Lazard has been limited to exactly four targets in both games (that despite Adams missing half of Week 2 with an injury). Lazard’s receiving lines (4-63-1, 3-45-0) are clearly not enough to make him worthy of flex consideration, but the young receiver will be in for better days when Green Bay has to throw more often. He’s a fine bench/depth option.
Houston Texans — One week after producing eight catches for 112 yards on 10 targets, Will Fuller V was not targeted against Baltimore in Week 2 (he totaled one carry for zero yards). The dud is obviously disappointing, though a down game was expected against one of the league’s best cornerback rooms. Fuller played 36 snaps in the game (63%), which was below his 79% rate in Week 1, but also not enough to panic. Fuller’s schedule gets much lighter after this week’s showdown with Pittsburgh, so consider trying to trade for Deshaun Watson’s top target over the next week or so.
Indianapolis Colts — Jonathan Taylor emerged as the Colts’ clear lead back in the team’s first full game without Marlon Mack on Sunday. Taylor racked up 26 carries for 101 yards and one TD while playing 44 (66%) of the offensive snaps. Taylor was targeted only twice, however, with Jordan Wilkins (17 snaps) and Nyheim Hines (eight) also involved in the comfortable win over Minnesota. Surprisingly, Hines was targeted only once and had zero carries in the game. Underrated Wilkins was effective as usual with 40 yards on nine carries. Taylor is a fringe RB1, Hines a bench player in PPR leagues and Wilkins is Taylor’s insurance.
Jacksonville Jaguars — After completing 95% of his passes and tossing three touchdowns in Week 1, Gardner Minshew II threw for 339 yards and three more scores in Week 2. Minshew, who also has 39 yards on nine carries, sits 11th in fantasy points. Minshew appears to be the real deal, and his rushing ability only adds to his fantasy appeal. He shouldn’t yet be considered a must-start, but he’ll be on the weekly streaming radar moving forward. That includes this week, as the second-year quarterback should be in lineups in a plus matchup against Miami.
Kansas City Chiefs — Clyde Edwards-Helaire played 67% of the offensive snaps and carried the ball 25 times but was targeted only twice in the Chiefs’ season opener. On Sunday, he carried the ball 10 times and saw eight targets while playing 63% of the snaps. The rookie wasn’t quite as effective this week (70 yards on 16 touches), but the combination of the strong snap share and increase in targets suggests he’ll remain a weekly RB1 option. As for his insurance, note that Darwin Thompson (15 snaps) appears to have leapt Darrel Williams (eight) on the depth chart.
Las Vegas Raiders — Reaction coming Tuesday.
Los Angeles Chargers — Austin Ekeler might be the lead back in Los Angeles, but it’s become evident that rookie Joshua Kelley won’t be too far behind in usage. Or, in Sunday’s case, ahead in usage. Kelley (41 snaps) was three behind Ekeler (44) in playing time but handled 23 carries and three targets (113 total yards). That’s compared to 16 carries and four targets for Ekeler (148 yards). Ekeler is still in the weekly RB1 discussion, and Kelley, who ranks fifth in the NFL with 35 carries, is in the flex conversation in a light matchup against Carolina in Week 3.
Los Angeles Rams –– Cam Akers went down with an injury on his third snap during Sunday’s win. Both Malcolm Brown (36 snaps) and Darrell Henderson Jr. (28) were busy in his place, with Henderson enjoying what very well could be his breakout game. The second-year back exploded for 81 yards and a score on 12 carries, adding 40 additional yards on three targets. Brown took a step back from his big Week 1 performance, producing 47 yards on 11 carries (he wasn’t targeted). The Rams appear committed to a “hot hand” committee attack, so it’s going to be hard to recommend any of these backs as weekly starts. Of course, Brown and Henderson will be more appealing flex fliers if Akers misses time.
Miami Dolphins — Despite playing only 57% of the offensive snaps, Mike Gesicki exploded for an 8-130-1 receiving line on a team-high 11 targets. Tracing back to last season, Gesicki has now been targeted at least five times in four of his past five and six of his past eight games. Even in tight end-unfriendly Chan Gailey’s offense, Gesicki appears to be secure as one of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s top targets. He’ll be on the TE1 radar weekly, and that’s especially the case this weekend against a Jaguars’ defense that allowed a 4-84-2 receiving line to Titans’ TE Jonnu Smith in Week 2.
Minnesota Vikings — Irv Smith Jr.’s second season is off to a very slow start, as the 2019 second-round pick has managed only two catches for 14 yards on five targets through two games. Smith has played 61% of the offensive snaps, which is barely above his 60% rookie-season rate. That’s compared to 65% of the snaps for Kyle Rudolph. Smith may break out at some point this season, but he certainly doesn’t need to be rostered except in leagues that start multiple tight ends.
New England Patriots — I think it’s fair to say Cam Newton is healthy. The former league MVP is on fire out of the gate this season, especially after a Sunday Night Football effort in which he threw for 397 yards, ran for 47 yards and put three touchdowns on the board. Newton is off to a career-best start as a passer, but he’s also on his way to one of his most-productive rushing seasons. He currently leads all quarterbacks in carries (26), rushing touchdowns (four) and carries inside the 5-yard line (five). In fact, Newton’s 4.6 OTD is easily the highest in the entire NFL. Newton sits third at the position in fantasy points and second in OFP. He’s worked his way right back into the every-week QB1 mix and should obviously be lineups against Las Vegas in Week 3.
New Orleans Saints — Reaction coming Tuesday.
New York Giants — Saquon Barkley went down with a torn ACL on his eighth snap during Sunday’s loss. Dion Lewis was the clear next man up, playing 54 (87%) snaps and producing 56 yards and one touchdown on 14 touches. Lewis played so much because No. 3 RB Wayne Gallman was a healthy scratch. Both Lewis and Gallman are worth adding to your bench until this backfield sorts itself out, but it’s very possible neither emerges as a reliable RB2 (the team could also sign a free agent like Devonta Freeman). At least for now, Lewis is the better receiver and the preferred add. Consider him a shaky flex against a beat up 49ers’ defense in Week 3.
New York Jets — With Le’Veon Bell sidelined on Sunday, it was Frank Gore who unsurprisingly (but still kind of surprisingly, right?) handled the bulk of the backfield workload for the Jets. The 37-year-old played 58% of the snaps and inexplicably carried the ball 21 times for 63 yards in a 31-13 loss. Rookie La’Mical Perine played eight snaps in his NFL debut, with Kalen Ballage (seven snaps) and Josh Adams (five) also involved. The trio of backups combined for 34 yards on seven touches. Gore is obviously the best fantasy play here, but “best” is a relative term, as he should be nowhere close to lineups. Perine has the most upside of the group but is worth stashing only in deeper leagues with Bell due back in a few weeks.
Philadelphia Eagles — Indications were that Miles Sanders would be a feature back this season and that was, in fact, the case in Week 2. Sanders was on the field for 53 offensive snaps (77%) and converted 20 carries and seven targets into 131 yards and one touchdown. That snap share was the fifth highest of Sanders’ young career and was well ahead of Boston Scott (19%) and Corey Clement (4%) on Sunday. Sanders was fantasy’s No. 3 running back once he took on a feature back role down the stretch last season, and it seems clear he’ll have the touches to produce consistent RB1 numbers throughout 2020.
Pittsburgh Steelers — James Conner returned from injury on Sunday, and there was zero question that he was the team’s featured back. Conner played 49 (or 77%) of the offensive snaps, compared to 10 for Benny Snell Jr. and five for Jaylen Samuels. Granted, most of it game on a late 59-yard run, but Conner’s numbers were solid with 106 yards and one score on 16 carries and 15 yards on a pair of targets. Conner will be a weekly RB2 (at worst) as long as he’s playing such a significant role in a good Steelers offense. He should be locked into lineups this week against a Houston defense that has already been gashed by both Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the Ravens’ backfield committee.
San Francisco 49ers — Brandon Aiyuk and Mohamed Sanu Sr. made their 49ers’ debuts on Sunday. Aiyuk played 42 (or 71%) of 59 snaps, whereas Sanu was on the field for 13 plays. Kendrick Bourne (43 snaps), Trent Taylor (27) and Dante Pettis (10) were also in the mix. Though the generous playing time suggests better days ahead for Aiyuk, he was limited to only 21 yards on three targets in the game. In fact, Bourne was the only 49ers’ receiver to clear 21 yards in a game that saw Jimmy Garoppolo go down with an injury at the midway point. George Kittle is expected back in Week 3 and Deebo Samuel in Week 4, so while Aiyuk figures to hit for the occasional big play this season, he’s unlikely to provide consistent fantasy production in the 49ers’ run-first scheme.
Seattle Seahawks — DK Metcalf’s second NFL season is off to a hot start. Fantasy’s No. 7 scoring wide receiver has posted receiving lines of 4-95-1 and 4-92-1 while playing all but one of the team’s offensive snaps. Metcalf is unlikely to put up consistently high target numbers (he has 14 in two games), but that is mostly offset by his vertical role (his 14.8 aDOT ranks seventh among wide receivers targeted more than 10 times this season) and Seattle’s high-scoring and suddenly pass-heavy offense. Metcalf is a borderline top-10 play against Dallas in Week 3.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Coach Bruce Arians claimed Ronald Jones II would remain the team’s lead back even after the addition of Leonard Fournette. Well, that lasted a week. Fournette played 25 snaps (44%) on Sunday, compared to 20 for Jones and 10 for LeSean McCoy. Fournette produced 12 carries for 103 yards and a pair of TDs, as well as 13 yards on five targets. Jones stumbled to 27 yards and one score on nine touches. McCoy was targeted seven times and hauled in five for 26 yards. Jones’ days as a featured back appear numbered, and it would be an upset if Fournette isn’t the main man moving forward. Consider Fournette a strong flex play against Denver this week, with Jones best left on benches.
Tennessee Titans — Jonnu Smith exploded for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns on five targets against Jacksonville on Sunday. Smith was on the field for 88% of the team’s offensive snaps, which is actually higher than his 74% rate during a Week 1 game in which he was targeted seven times and scored a touchdown. Smith sits second among tight ends in fantasy points, and his OFP ranks 10th. Granted A.J. Brown was out on Sunday, but it’s clear Smith is going to remain one of Ryan Tannehill’s top targets. Smith is a borderline TE1.
Washington Football Team — Logan Thomas has played 79% of the Football Team’s offensive snaps this season, racking up 17 targets during the span, which is tied with Terry McLaurin for most on the team. The heavy usage has helped Thomas to the second-highest OFP among tight ends, but hasn’t been met with good efficiency, as he’s been limited to receiving lines of 4-37-1 and 4-26-0. The volume is enticing, but Washington’s underwhelming offense may not lead to many big days. Consider Thomas a solid TE2.
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