November 28, 2020

10 Fantasy Football Thoughts: Cam Newton back on QB1 radar

9 min read
There was some concern that without a pre-season the overall play in Week 1 of...

There was some concern that without a pre-season the overall play in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season was going to be sloppy, full of penalties and might not give us an indication of what to expect from players, coaches and teams alike.

Were we ever wrong.

Here are 10 thoughts on fantasy football in the wake of Week 1 of the campaign:

1. Superman is back on the fantasy map

It didn’t take long for Cam Newton to make his mark as the new face of the New England Patriots as he scored on a four-yard scamper early in the second quarter on Sunday afternoon to give his club the lead, something we didn’t know how much we would see in his new home. Many were worried about the health of the 2015 MVP, but those concerns look to be out the window.

Newton would go 15-of-19 through the air for 155 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, but on the ground is where he did most of his damage. The former Carolina Panther would gain 75 yards on 15 carries and had two scores in leading the Patriots to a victory over the Miami Dolphins. He could have had an even better fantasy day if it weren’t for second-year wideout N’Keal Harry’s untimely fumble near the goal line late in the third quarter.

This was exactly the performance fantasy players who have rostered Newton were hoping for – the ability to be a dual-threat quarterback and rack up easy fantasy points on the ground. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels built a game plan for Newton to be successful and they realize he will have to use his legs to do so. Newton is right back on the QB1 radar and if you used a late pick on him in the draft, it looks like you will be handsomely rewarded.

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2. Jonathan Taylor will move into the RB1 conversation

Unfortunately, it took a season-ending injury to incumbent starter Marlon Mack, but Taylor was going to get there anyway. It was just a matter of time. The Wisconsin product had a team-high nine carries for only 22 yards, but grabbed all six targets thrown his way for 66 yards. Not a bad debut for a guy who wasn’t able to make an impact until the starter went down.

Taylor will be involved in all facets of the offence, including the red zone, which should prove to be very fruitful as it looks like the Colts will be in some high-scoring tilts. Philip Rivers targeted Colts running backs 17 times against the Jacksonville Jaguars, fitting right into the narrative of how the former Chargers quarterback loves to incorporate his running backs into the passing game.

Taylor is going to be a valuable asset in both standard and PPR scoring, so be sure to try and take advantage of those in your leagues who are afraid of rookie running backs.

3. Kyler Murray will be a league winner

Murray didn’t get off to a great start against the 49ers vaunted defence, but did he ever help you forget about his start with the way he finished. The 2019 first-overall pick went 26-of-40 for 230 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and added an incredible 91 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Kliff Kingsbury’s offence did what many expected last year and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins is already paying dividends, giving Murray another weapon. The second-year QB’s decision-making was better, he was more comfortable, and when he needed to run, he slid to avoid contact, looking like a young Russell Wilson. At times, Murray made San Francisco’s defence look like a Pop Warner team.

Murray will be able to get the “easy” fantasy points on the ground and will continue to rack up points in what should be a very good offence, despite having the eighth-toughest schedule. The Cardinals defence still leaves a little bit to be desired, so there will be plenty of opportunity for Kyler to shine.

4. Joshua Kelley is the new Melvin Gordon for the Chargers

Austin Ekeler is still the guy in L.A. and this is not a shot at him, but Kelley is going to make a fantasy impact. The former UCLA Bruin is rostered in only 13 per cent of Yahoo leagues and registered 60 rushing yards on 12 carries while adding a touchdown, making for a pretty good rookie debut. With Justin Jackson hurt, Kelley stepped in and showed the solid running ability that made him worthy of a fourth-round pick by the Chargers.

Tyrod Taylor only targeted the running back position on three per cent of his throws against Cincinnati and any targets will go to Ekeler, so Kelley’s value will be capped in the passing game. But even in PPR formats, if Kelley is getting 15 touches a week, there’s plenty of value to be had. Kelley had four red-zone carries to Ekeler’s three, so one must think that could be a trend going forward.

Kelley will be a hot add on the waiver wire, so get him on your roster.

5. The New York Jets are going to be a fantasy wasteland

No one should be surprised by this comment as Adam Gase is fantasy kryptonite. His leash in New York has to be short, which could be a good thing for Jets players, but proceed with caution for now.

Granted, the Jets played against a very good Bills defence but it was a complete tire fire until garbage time. Sam Darnold only threw for 212 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Breshad Perriman, who was a big signing for them, only registered three catches for 17 yards. Jamison Crowder was the lone player that had any sort of an impact, but did more than half of his damage on one catch that he took 69 yards to the house. Le’Veon Bell is hurt and you can’t trust the ageless wonder Frank Gore, so the running backs are a not options right now.

If this hasn’t been spelled out enough: unless you are desperate, stay away from the Jets.

6. Davante Adams makes his case to be the WR1 overall

This isn’t a hot take by any stretch of the imagination and has nothing to do with Michael Thomas’s lacklustre performance or his injury in Week 1, but Adams was an absolute beast for the Packers against Minnesota.

The Packers wideout finished last year as WR22 in PPR in 2019 despite missing four games and was on pace for 169.3 targets, 110.6 catches for 1,329.3 yards and 6.6 touchdowns, and picked up on Sunday right where he left off last year. Adams caught 14 of his 17 targets for 156 yards and two touchdowns, and, as expected, drew the first look for Aaron Rodgers on plenty of occasions. Last year, Adams had 18 red-zone targets, just four fewer than Thomas in four fewer games.

Adams is one of the best route runners in the NFL and is a physical receiver who creates great separation off the line of scrimmage. When you pair that with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time who always looks his way, it will make for another great season.

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7. If you’re not on the CeeDee Lamb train, you better jump aboard now

It wasn’t a “wow” debut for the 2020 first-round pick, but it was an optimistic one with five catches for 55 yards on six targets. It wasn’t the stat line that should make you go out and acquire him, but the season-ending injury to Blake Jarwin that should. Dallas was already coming into this season with the second-most vacated targets and plenty of those were going to go to Jarwin.

Enter Lamb.

The rookie played 82 per cent of the offensive snaps and showed why he was selected with the 17th-overall pick by the Cowboys. Dalton Schultz isn’t Blake Jarwin, so Lamb should walk into targets going forward.

This is a star in the making and there shouldn’t be any surprise if Lamb breaks the 1,000-yard mark and is in the borderline WR2 conversation at season’s end.

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8. Miami backfield: Abort Mission

The Jets offence being a mess wasn’t a surprise, but the Miami backfield usage certainly was. The Dolphins signed Jordan Howard and traded for Matt Breida, and neither of them led the team in rushing attempts or targets.

Wait, what?

This week’s winner of “who the heck is going to be Miami’s leader in backfield touches” was none other than, you guessed it, Myles Gaskin. If you had him in your Miami running back bingo, be sure to collect your prize. Howard had eight carries for seven yards and a touchdown, Breida had five carries for 22 yards and neither were targeted in the pass game. Gaskin, on the other hand, had nine carries for 40 yards and added four catches for 26 yards.

This backfield situation is scarier than Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers chasing you down a dark alleyway, and just like that dark alleyway, avoid it at all costs.

9. Bryan Edwards was everyone’s fantasy sleeper and may still be sleeping

Edwards rocketed up ADP charts over the last month with a great showing in camp and many loved him as one of their “sleepers” for this season. In fact, he was in such a deep sleep that it felt like he missed most of Sunday’s game.

It almost seemed as though Derek Carr didn’t even know his name, as evidenced by his one catch for nine yards.

This is not to say Edwards won’t be a good player, but you shouldn’t be relying on him for fantasy purposes any time soon. There’s a reason why he was the 14th wide receiver off the board in this year’s draft – he has talent but it’s going to take time, especially without a pre-season.

He’s not in the same category as guys like Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb, so don’t expect the same early season success.

10. Please, no more kickers

I will say this: I am not a fan of having kickers on fantasy rosters as they are just the most frustrating, unpredictable players on your roster and are almost completely interchangeable.

This week was, of course, one of those unpredictable weeks.

We saw 19 missed field goals out of 67 attempts (72 per cent completed) including an amazing three out of four missed from Stephen Gostkowski in the second Monday nighter. If we are rostering players that are so unimportant that they can be added and dropped every week based on matchups, what the weather is and which way the wind is blowing, then why should they be able to decide your weekly matchups?

Let’s be done with the kickers.

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