Sports | September 19, 2017 12:22 pm

Fantasy Football Week 2 Recap: NFL Stars Singing Redemption Songs

RCLife fantasy expert Todd Range weighs in on lessons learned from the season's second week.

If you didn’t freak out and drop or trade away your entire fantasy football roster after Week 1’s sloppy conditions, pat yourself on the back: Week 2 came in like a lion that went out with the lamb, trapped him, and tore him to shreds.

“Every year in the NFL, they say that the defenses are ahead of the offenses in Week 1, and I would say it was way more pronounced this time than it has been in years passed,” says Todd Range, a.k.a. “The Tight End Whore,” who you might remember as RealClearLife‘s fantasy expert. He’s the one who listed Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt as a “sleeper pick.” (If you listened to Range and drafted plus started Hunt both weeks—like I have—you’ve been reaping the benefits.)

One of the most obvious examples of this trend was the New England Patriots’ week-over-week transformation, with quarterback Tom Brady back to form, throwing for 447 yards and a trio of touchdowns, after a dismal Week 1 showing; and tight end Rob Gronkowski reeling in 116 yards through the air and one of Brady’s three TDs. Another great example? Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who went from a pitiful 14 yards receiving in Week 1 to a commanding 91 yards and a TD in Week 2.

That said, at least one Week 1 carryover continued his, er, hunt for top fantasy player of the year status (at least through two weeks). Yes, the aforementioned Hunt, who posted the most Week 1 fantasy points of any player on any team, went on to have a solid Week 2, rushing for 81 yards and two TDs, as well as picking up 28 yards through the air. Before Week 1, Hunt was a “late-second, early third-round pick” in most of the leagues Range played in, he tells us. But his Week 1 fortunes had an astounding turn of events, says the fantasy high-roller. “The highest-stakes leagues that I play in, we did our draft after the first game [in Week 1], and overnight, [Hunt] went to the third pick in the draft,” explains Range.

Another major storyline out of Week 2 was late-round value picks coming through in a big way. For a guy like Range, Chicago Bears’ running back Tarik Cohen was already on his radar on draft day in late rounds, and after he posted a nice points total in Week 1, made for a solid Week 2 gamble. “In Week 1, I was monitoring the wait-and-sees,” says Range. “It’s always exciting in a fantasy roster when you have those guys in Rounds 10-20 [of the fantasy draft] that pop up and become really good players, because that could make your team.” In my ESPN league, for example, Cohen went undrafted and was on the waiver wire going into Week 2. So say, you were one of the poor souls that lost Arizona Cardinals’ running back David Johnson—a top-three pick in most fantasy drafts—Cohen could’ve made for a decent fill-in the following week.

Last but not least, Week 2 saw another major casualty in Carolina Panthers’ tight end Greg Olsen, who broke his foot and will be out six games. If you own him and drafted wisely, don’t fret. Or just hope that Ed Dickson, Olsen’s anointed replacement, is waiver-friendly.

To that point, we couldn’t spend time talking to the Tight End Whore without asking him about his favorite position and how it’s shaping up so far. Range says that the teams where he “went heavy on the tight ends,” unfortunately aren’t performing up to par yet, with lackluster numbers from usual fantasy studs like the Green Bay Packers’ Martellus Bennett (brother of Michael) and the Seattle Seahawks’ Jimmy Graham. But that doesn’t mean the position still isn’t valuable—or shouldn’t be viewed as such. “I still think that having a strong tight end at the top of that position [depth chart] gives you flexibility, especially if you have two of them,” says Range. Case and point: If Gronkowski, who left Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints with a groin injury, is out for an extended period of time, you’ll have a favorable replacement option (thankfully, Gronk doesn’t seem to think the injury’s serious). Range also makes a great point: Wide-receiver fill-ins come a dime a dozen on most waiver wires. But tight ends? Not so much.

Key Takeaways and Strategies Going Into Week 3 

“Just don’t panic,” says Range, echoing president Peter Schoenke’s advice coming out of Week 1. “The biggest overreaction in all of [fantasy] sports is the first Monday after [the] NFL [season begins], where you all of a sudden start forming these opinions. As Week 2 showed, just chill out,” explains Range.

Should you be looking ahead to Week 5’s bye week yet? we asked Range. (Note: The first four weeks do not have byes—if you don’t count the Miami Dolphins/Tampa Bay Buccaneers game postponed in Week 1 due to the hurricane.) His response may be somewhat surprising: “I don’t pay attention to byes at all in fantasy football,” he says. Why? “When I’m doing a draft, I just let it fly, because I don’t want to sacrifice the quality of my players over one [bye] week,” says Range. “As a matter of fact, and this is going to be kind of outrageous,” he explains, “if you come upon a bye week and you’re going to have several starters out, if I like my roster enough, I might just play a guy in a bye.” In other words, he’ll start someone who’s guaranteed to score zero points just to avoid dropping a player that might be good bet in a future week on his roster. “You might win anyway,” says Range. Food for thought for all you weekend worriers.