Fantasy Football: 3 Things We Learned in Week 2
Perhaps more than anything, fantasy football is a game of adjustments. Season-long fantasy doesn't end at the draft, and smart owners learn to take the trends and data that each week of games offers and apply it to their roster decisions moving forward.
This weekly piece will look at trends from the previous slate of games and determine which trends in snaps, usage, and matchups are actionable moving forward.
Football Is a Tough, Physical Sport
After Sunday's injury debacle, fantasy managers are left wondering how much (or how little) of a roster they have left. Started your draft by selecting Saquon Barkley, George Kittle and Courtland Sutton? LOL. Better luck next year.
Sunday was a sucker punch to many fantasy managers who -- if they're lucky -- managed to lose just a couple players for a game or two.
By my count based on the most recent injury reports, players selected in the top-10 rounds of most seasonal drafts will miss 52 games (and counting) the rest of the season, and that's based on the low end of all injury expectations.
Injuries happen, we know that. But when they happen in the quantity we saw on Sunday, and to the caliber of players that were counted on to be league-winners, managers are left scrambling. This just serves as a reminder that for any fantasy league, no matter the format, no one wins their championship at the draft.
Roles change, injuries pop up, usage changes, players fall off a cliff, and hot hands emerge. We don't know the mentality of NFL coaches, so we are left to sift through the chaos after it emerges. What can be done to mitigate this?
First, drafting quality depth in any fantasy league is paramount. In those late-round, beer-goggle hours of a draft, the players who can fill a role in the case of injury or loss of job are of even greater importance. I can't tell you how many times I have been in a draft and someone says something like, "well Frank Gore is out there and I've heard of him." That is not a league-winning mentality.
Second, being too early on the players with unexpectedly secure roles is much better than being too late. Running backs escaped Week 1 relatively unscathed, so you might not think there was much need to pick up a player like Joshua Kelley at that point. You may have seen that he rushed 12 times for 60 yards with a touchdown on only a 27% snap share in Week 1 and found that interesting but ignored it because Austin Ekeler is going to be just fine.
But now that Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Le'Veon Bell are all injured, you will be spending every last dollar of FAB you have to acquire Kelley's services after he went off for 23 rush attempts, 64 rushing yards, and 49 receiving yards -- not to mention a 52% snap share.
The point is we must always be evaluating players for potential future value (whether for bye weeks or injuries) even if we don't have an immediate need. The bottom of your roster is likely built for churn, so use it to your advantage.
The Patriots Have a New Starting Running Back
You may have missed it when the New England Patriots signed their new starting back in the offseason for just $1.05 million, but he is off to a blazing start. Their new back is in the top 20 of league rush attempts for a team running the ball on almost 51% of their plays, and he leads the league in rushing touchdowns.
That back, of course, is Cam Newton, who rushed for another 47 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday night (after 75 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1). Four rushing touchdowns for Newton through two games puts him in rare territory in the history of the NFL. Since 1950, there are only six only quarterbacks who have rushed for at least two touchdowns two weeks in a row: Newton, Kordell Stewart (1997), Eric Hipple (1981), Brian Sipe (1974), Otto Graham (1964) and Johnny Lujack (1950 and 1951).
The Patriots seem to have found a quarterback who will serve as an elite bridge from the Brady era, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has perfectly tailored the New England offense to fit their new weapon.
The actionable info from this information is to simply move on from any New England running back you may be holding onto in your roster. Unless you are in a deep PPR league and James White might be of help down the road, there is simply no need to roster Sony Michel or any other Patriot back. Newton has 10 rush attempts in the red zone through two weeks while the rest of the Patriots' roster has a total of six.
Newton is their answer near the goal line this year, and I see very little reason why that would change, barring injury. Would it surprise you if Newton ended up with 18 rushing touchdowns this year? It shouldn't.
Oh yeah, and he is still a pretty good passer, as well. Newton put up 397 passing yards and another touchdown in Week 2 and has been about twice as efficient than an average quarterback on a per-drop back basis.
Thurman Thomas Would Like a Word
I could write up a list of Buffalo Bills' quarterbacks who have filtered through town since Jim Kelly left, but 2020 has been hard enough and I don't want to depress you more. If there was any doubt that the Bills have found their new franchise quarterback after they collapsed in the playoffs last season, Josh Allen is quickly putting those to rest.
Allen leads the NFL in passing yards (729), is second in passing touchdowns (6), and is third in quarterback rating (122.9) through two weeks and has chipped in 75 rushing yards on 18 attempts just for good measure.
The biggest knock on Allen last season was his lack of accuracy, and while negative regression may be coming, Allen has a 70.4% completion percentage on the fifth-most pass attempts in the league. These aren't underneath dinks and dunks, either. Allen ranks fifth among all quarterbacks with two games played with 7.7 average completed air yards. It's amazing how adding a player like Stefon Diggs can turn a perceived inaccurate passer into an elite one -- at least so far.
But the biggest transformation for Allen has been Buffalo's commitment to the pass through two games. In 2020, the Bills rank 10th in pass play percentage in the early going. And while that's impressive through the first two weeks, the shift from last season is even more profound. Here are the top five teams this season ranked passing percentage increase from 2019
|Team||Percentage Point Increase |
in Passing Rate
|San Francisco 49ers||6.39%|
What's interesting about this list is that the Eagles, Vikings, and Texans have basically been in negative game scripts since the opening whistle in Week 1, and San Francisco had only a pass-catching back who hadn't played in two years available for the last three quarters of their game in Week 2.
The Bills, on the other hand, have been in neutral or positive game scripts (neutral is within seven points of opponent) for every second of both games this season, and they are still are throwing 61% of the time. What will they do in negative game scripts? Three of the Bills' next four games are against the Los Angeles Rams, Tennessee Titans, and Kansas City Chiefs, so we may get to see the fully-unleashed Allen over the next month.