NFL

Fantasy Football: 3 Players You Can Drop After Week 1

It’s the end of only Week 1, but tension levels around the fantasy community feel like it’s Week 13.

We’ve waited so long for live football and current data to analyze that any discrepancy has caused strong reactions -- and rightfully so. Part of the game is reacting to information. Injury updates and practice reports are the trunk of the fantasy football knowledge tree. But another part to the game is knowing what to react to when information is provided. Press conferences are either dismissed as coach-speak or lauded as confirmation of long-held assumptions. Our edge comes in being able to sift through it all and make the optimal decision based on what we know.

It’s been one week. Technically, it’s been only five days. Five days after an offseason of building narratives and cases for each player. And now, we need to quickly adjust expectations for many as their usage hasn’t met our expectations.

It’s hard to recommend dropping a player after a single poor performance. Instead, a more accurate title might be "Players to Drop If You Can Get One of the Top Waiver Targets."

Roster churn is a critical aspect of fantasy football that can position your team for a championship run, and it starts in earnest now. Let’s look at a few potential players you can move on from depending on who’s currently out on your waiver wire.

Potential Drop Candidates

Jordan Howard, RB Dolphins

Yahoo! Roster Percentage: 90%

Miami signed Jordan Howard, traded for Matt Breida, and retained both Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird. Despite Howard being crowned the de facto starter, the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line was in shambles in Week 1. They finished 32nd in Adjusted Line Yards last season and just began investing in their line during the 2020 draft. Neither of these points was conducive to the success of running back whose primary production comes on the ground and who coming off a season having missed multiple games with a shoulder injury.

His RB40 ADP on BestBall10s filled a slot on the roster, but his upside was capped before Week 1 even started. At best, he’d be the goal-line back. At worst, he’d see snaps until the game got out of control and then be forced to cede touches to pass-catching options.

The reality was much worse.

Howard was the ceremonial starter and earned all of the running back touches on the Dolphins’ first two drives. Afterwards, he was out-snapped and out-touched by Gaskin. Jordan "salvaged" his day with a touchdown, but that was after both Breida and Gaskin were mixed in on the 10-play drive leading up to the score. Plus, Howard needed three tries to finally get into the end zone.

Miami’s next four opponents are the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Seahawks, and San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers were the only team to allow their Week 1 opposition to rush for 100 yards, and that was with Kyler Murray gaining 91 yards on the ground. Without any usage in the passing game and now a part of a multi-headed committee, Howard should at least be a throw-in piece in a trade offer if not dropped for players in better situations.

Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals

Yahoo! Roster Percentage: 63%

Offseason groupthink got us to lean more on an offensive philosophy than a player's talent. While coach Kliff Kingsbury may have wanted to install an Air Raid offense with three- or four-wide sets and targets being spread around, Week 1 surely shifted our opinion on the matter.

DeAndre Hopkins dominated the looks with a 40% target share in his first game with the Arizona Cardinals. Meanwhile, Christian Kirk earned five targets on multiple deep balls from Murray. His 14.0 average depth of target (aDOT) suggests a new role for Kirk (primarily on the outside) as the Cardinals continue to integrate Hopkins into the offense.

On a team that uses a lot of short passes to move the ball down the field (4.9-yard aDOT as a team), Kirk being relegated to high-variance routes drastically reduces his fantasy value. Arizona’s pace of play (third-most plays run in Week 1) will drive passing volume, but his target share is unreliable after a promising sophomore season.

Until we see more bankable usage or good red zone volume for Kirk, the optimal play is to leave him on your bench or seek a trade while there may still be some appeal.

Rob Gronkowski, TE Buccaneers

Yahoo! Roster Percentage: 96%

We expected the Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski reunion to be fantasy friendly. If fantasy managers couldn’t get multiple 20-yard passes down the seam, then red zone targets would suffice. Tight-end scoring is volatile enough that a touchdown can move a player into the TE1 ranks without much of a fight.

Gronkowski saw neither of those.

Two red zone targets actually went to O.J. Howard (one for a touchdown), and the rest went to the running backs or wide receivers. For a game in which 57.6% of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive plays came when trailing by more than one score, Gronkowski was still out-targeted by Howard at a 2:1 ratio.

The former Patriot did see the larger snap share (77%), but that suggests his primary role is blocking rather than leaking into the secondary on a route. Plus, it was a game in which Mike Evans wasn't fully healthy and was mostly a non-factor, and Gronk still wasn't used much.

Without any indication of an increase in targets moving forward, Gronkowski falls into that range of streamable tight ends until we see more high-quality usage from him in the passing game. He's not a must-hold if you can get a top waiver add, though it may be worth it to see how he does against the Carolina Panthers before truly cutting bait.

Trend to Note

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals

Yahoo! Roster Percentage: 92%

Tyler Boyd was a favorite target of many drafters in the fifth and sixth round. He gobbled up a 24% target share in 2019, and his role appeared to be least affected by the changes to the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense.

The Bengals ran 11-personnel (three-wide sets) on 82.3% of their offensive plays in 2019. Even with the return of A.J. Green, Boyd’s 73.0% slot rate appeared safe. Plus, the prevailing narrative was that Joe Burrow would continue using his slot receiver similar to his connection with Justin Jefferson while at LSU.

Well, Boyd saw the same number of targets as John Ross and C.J. Uzomah in Week 1. His first target didn’t come until the third quarter, and he got zero red zone looks. It may take some time for Cincinnati to establish its identity with a rookie quarterback. With multiple options available as long as Ross and Green stay healthy, we’ll need to monitor Boyd’s target share moving forward.