Fantasy Football Week 1: How to Continue Winning or Stop the Bleeding

First fantasy week autopsy based on the RealClearLife expert panel's pre-draft picks.

September 12, 2017 11:18 am
Week 1 Fantasy Football Autopsy
Kareem Hunt #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs dives for the pylon to score a 4-yard rushing touchdown during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 7, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Now that you’ve done a deep-dive into fantasy football strategy courtesy of your friends at RealClearLife—and braved the most stressful few hours since taking the SATs by live-drafting a team—we’re meeting you, to paraphrase Walgreens, at the corner of happy and not-so-happy: the end of Week 1 of the fantasy football season. It’s the morning after, and the smell of victory—or the stench of loss—is still fresh in your nostrils.

For some of you, it’s been a week marred by crippling injuries, while for others, a parade of I-told-you-so’s. Either way, it’s been one week joyfully gilded by more than your average day-drinking, pizza/wings/nachos, and a whole lot of checking your smartphone/tablet for updates (or as you described it to your non-playing significant other, “work emails … piling up!”).

For those of you (me included!), who heeded the advice of professional fantasy high-roller and RealClearLife panelist Todd Range and drafted Kansas City Chiefs running back “sleeper” Kareem Hunt—and then started him this past Thursday—you can just rest on your laurels. After Hunt coughed up his first-ever fumble on his first-ever carry, he went on to make a mockery of the New England Patriots’ defense, logging 148 yards over 17 carries and one touchdown on the rushing side, and an additional 98 yards and two TDs receiving. Hunt was an absolute Week 1 beast—probably the biggest-deal single performance of any starter on any team.

That said, Hunt didn’t help Week 1 shed the so-so blues, explains Peter Schoenke, president of “I think the overall take was that Week 1 was pretty sloppy.” His reasoning? Quarterbacks struggled mightily, throwing a number of interceptions, as well as hucking fewer passing touchdowns compared to historical Week 1’s. “You’ll see a lot of fantasy scores that are generally lower than usual,” Schoenke tells RealClearLife. Plus, a lot of the top-drafted stars had relatively “ho-hum weeks.”

Week 1 Fantasy Football Autopsy
Baltimore Ravens running back Danny Woodhead (#39) gets carted off of the field during the NFL game against the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals on September 10th 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. (Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Of course, there were also a bunch of major injuries, which for the fantasy football amateur, could seem like the end of the world—but for the pro is just par for the course. If you read RCL‘s primer, you could’ve easily saved yourself the heartache by listening to our experts, who spoke of avoiding quarterbacks until later rounds in the draft and “handcuffs” (i.e. wasting two draft picks on, say, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott—who ended up starting Week 1, despite an iffy fantasy forecast—and his backup Darren McFadden, too). That, and keeping your eye on value running backs and wide receivers if, say, your starter were to go down with an injury. The perfect example of this, at least for my team, was Ravens running back Danny Woodhead, whom I drafted in the fifth round of my draft. Woodhead posted six quick points for my team early on but then disappeared with a hamstring injury. As he’ll reportedly be missing quite a bit of time due to the injury (and is always an injury threat), I drafted him with backups in mind, and luckily, have guys like Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles on my bench—who was a top sleeper pick for RCL fantasy panelist Chris Holland (I picked him up in Round 7 of my draft, by the way).

Other damaging Week 1 injuries included New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had to sit out his matchup with the Cowboys due to an ankle injury (the Giants got pulverized by the Cowboys); Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson, who likely went in the top two of your league draft and could be missing as much as half of the season with a wrist injury; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson, who’s done for the season with an ACL injury; as well as Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White (done for seasons) and Houston Texans tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (out with a concussion).

Week 1 Fantasy Football Autopsy
Tarik Cohen #29 of the Chicago Bears runs against the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter on September 10, 2017 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. (David Banks/Getty Images)

There were also the requisite breakout performances, which will send those who have injured soldiers scrambling to the waiver wires—or others claiming soothsayer-like qualities if they happened to nab them during their drafts. (See: Kareem Hunt.) These include Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen, who carried the ball five times for 66 yards and caught eight passes for 47 yards and a TD (one of those runs was for 46 yards alone); Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who caught four passes for 69 yards and two TDs; and Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, who had two catches for 128 yards and a TD. It’s also worth noting that Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who was one of RCL expert Eric Crain’s sleeper picks, had a huge showing with 127 rushing yards, making fans all but forget former RB Adrian Peterson—who happened to be playing for the opposing/losing New Orleans Saints.

And equally, there were some obvious fantasy busts (like Schoenke noted), including top-rated running back Le’Veon Bell of the Steelers, who probably went top-three in your league’s draft and saw just 13 carries in Week 1; Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton, who got shut out, posting four INTs; and Washington Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who racked up just 14 yards (RCL expert Ian Ritchie listed him as a sleeper, so hey, you never know).

Week 1 Fantasy Football Autopsy
Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles raises his fist as he stands during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 10, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Lastly, speaking of Dalton, there were quite a few dreadful quarterback performances—however valueless the position is in fantasyland, according to RCL expert Aram Megerian—that made the potential for Colin Kaepernick‘s return all the more probable. (Sorry, NFL, but it doesn’t look like the anthem protests are going away anytime soon.) These included pitiful showings from quarterbacks Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson of the Texans, who were only able to scare up a single passing TD between the two of them; Brian Hoyer of the San Francisco 49ers, who logged zero TDs and an INT; and Josh McCown of the ever-lowly New York Jets, who threw two INTs and no TDs.

Week 1 Fantasy Football Autopsy
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) throws to Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon (21) during a NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints on September 11, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. The Vikings defeated the Saints 29-19. (Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Of course, there were a few QB studs, including Vikings Sam Bradford, who threw for 346 yards and three TDs on Monday Night Football—and probably made more than a few fantasy owners’ nights.

So what’s the big takeaway after Week 1? “You don’t want to overreact,” advises Schoenke. “You paid for your stars, and they’re going to have some weeks that are pretty mediocre.” But you also need to be waiver-wire vigilant, he says, to the point where you’re weekly attempting to strike gold. “It’s really good to try to pick up guys, aggressively, early in the season, because if you can find a guy to help you [for the rest of the season] that makes a big difference,” notes Schoenke. “I think the mistake the novice fantasy player makes is they’re not constantly trying to improve their entire roster; you should always be looking at your bench and questioning why any player is on it.”

That, and keeping an eye on the future: seeing what weeks you’ll be hit with byes and stocking your bench with talented fill-ins like a squirrel stowing away nuts for the winter. Don’t be afraid to pick up players weeks in advance to ensure a “W” in a down-the-line matchup.

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