The season has finally started, and now those teams you drafted have already started to fill you with joy and pride over the picks, or agony and questions on whether you made the right decisions. With the first week of the NFL season almost over, except for the two Monday games tonight, it is time for a weekly look at the top performers from the games on Sunday and Thursday. After going over my thoughts on the top performers at each position, I will also select a few other players who either performed above expectations, or that early round pick who left you wondering if that was it.
The goal of this article is to highlight those top guys, and if you can expect some similar performances in the future from them or if it was a flash-in-the-pan. I will also cover whether you should be worried about top picks in drafts that put up less than stellar performances to start their season. So without rambling on longer in this intro, let's take a look at those who performed well in week 1.
QB - Andrew Luck 385 Passing Yards, 21 Rushing Yards, 4 TD's, 1 Two Point Conversion, 35 Fantasy Points
This was the Andrew Luck everyone expected to see last year. The one who was not afraid to throw the ball deep down the field, while putting his receivers in great spots to be the ones who come down with it. It was a sluggish start to the game for him, but he turned it on later posting the highest point total of the week. While this performance was against a weaker defense in the Lions, Luck has the skills and receivers at his disposal to put up more games like this. He was drafted as a top 5 QB, and will finish as such.
QB - Drew Brees 423 Passing Yards, 5 Rushing Yards, 4 TD's, 1 Fumble Lost, 30 Fantasy Points
Another top 5 QB who did what he always does best, putting up big performances at home. Just like Luck, Brees was a QB who was drafted in or around the top 5 in fantasy leagues this year. You can expect these types of games to happen again in the future, especially if he starts to unlock Coby Fleener and his skillset.
QB - Alex Smith 363 Passing Yards, 15 Rushing Yards, 2 Passing TD's, 1 Rushing TD, 1 INT, 27 Fantasy Points
The first big shock of the season came from a guy who has probably the least amount of upside at the QB position every year. While Smith does deserve some credit for what he was able to accomplish on Sunday, the Chargers defense looked awful in the second half. The fact that the Chiefs were down 21-3 at half led to Andy Reid letting Alex Smith air the ball out all second half. While it is good to see that Smith could have a little bit of upside, I don't think we will be seeing many games where the Chiefs are down by over 17 at half all that often going forward. Smith should still be seen as the bye week fill in who gives you what you expect each and every week.
RB - Spencer Ware 11 Carries for 70 Yards and 1 TD, 7 Receptions for 129 Yards, 25 Fantasy Points
Once Jamaal Charles was ruled out, it became clear that Spencer Ware was a must start. What we expected out of Ware was a nice game on the ground where he probably scores a TD. What wasn't expected was for Ware to have more receptions and yards in this one game than he had all of last season. Last year Ware had 6 receptions for 5 yards. I really have no clue if Ware will be continued to be used like this in the passing game when Charles is out, but I just can't see Ware getting anywhere close to what happened this week. For now look at Ware as a top 15-20 back when Charles is out, but when Charles starts to play again, he is relegated back to handcuff duties.
RB - C.J. Anderson 20 Carries for 92 Yards and 1 TD, 4 Receptions for 47 Yards and 1 TD, 25 Fantasy Points
Anderson burned fantasy owners last season with his terrible start and losing playing time to Ronnie Hillman. This year he is trying to show us that he was that guy we foolishly trusted as a borderline first rounder last year. Against a tough Panthers defense, Anderson looked every bit like the guy who showed up last year in the playoffs. He contributed not only on the ground, but also in the passing game. With Anderson being trusted to be on the field for pass protection, his receptions should see a nice uptick from the 25 he saw last year. If we can trust this version of Anderson (which I think we can) then he has top 10 RB written all over him.
RB - Theo Riddick 7 Carries for 45 Yards and 1 TD, 5 Receptions for 63 Yards and 1 TD, 22 Fantasy Points
Not only was Riddick the 3rd highest scoring back this week, his teammate Ameer Abdullah was tied for 4th. On draft day Riddick was always being viewed as a slightly lesser Danny Woodhead. While that may not have sounded appealing on draft day, these are the types of games that type of player can perform. One thing that is working against Riddick was the effectiveness of Abdullah in the passing game. While I doubt this will cut into Riddick's playing time or targets, it is worth monitoring going forward. Riddick should be viewed as a potential FLEX options most weeks, while also being the perfect 3rd or 4th back who you can plug and play whenever necessary. Obviously for PPR leagues Riddick is an RB2 who should be starting most weeks, as he should be getting around 5 receptions every week.
WR - Brandin Cooks 9 Targets, 6 Receptions for 143 Yards and 2 TD's, 1 Carry for 11 Yards, 27 Fantasy Points
The main beneficiary to the big Drew Brees game was Brandin Cooks. His numbers are inflated due to a 98 yard TD reception where he just beat his corner, but it does show the speed and skills off the line of scrimmage Cooks has. We know that Cooks will be the number one target for Brees, but if Fleener starts to get more involved in the offense, or Michael Thomas does without it impacting Willie Snead's production, Cooks will at worst be a borderline top 15 receiver, with easily top 10 upside.
WR - A.J. Green 13 Targets, 12 Receptions for 180 Yards and 1 TD, 24 Fantasy Points
This is why I loved A.J. Green this preseason. With Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu gone, with Tyler Eifert also out to start the season, the volume was bound to go Green's way. While maybe not as many receptions as this every week, production where we are seeing Green get at least 7 receptions per game shouldn't be out of the question, but rather expected. This offense runs through Green, and will continue to for the rest of the season.
WR - Willie Snead 9 Targets, 9 Receptions for 172 Yards and 1 TD, 23 Fantasy Points
Well when Drew Brees plays as well as he did, you are bound to see another receiver here. Snead had a solid year last season, and now with Michael Thomas and Coby Fleener in the mix, these game are crucial to him keeping his targets up. While I do expect Fleener to be more involved going forward, this is the type of performance that will keep Michael Thomas out of the starting lineup. As I said before with Brees and Cooks, the Raiders pass defense didn't look good this week, so that does play a factor here in his performance. Going forward Snead should be viewed as a borderline top 30 receiver, which is good for being either a WR3 or FLEX for most teams.
TE - Jack Doyle 4 Targets, 3 Receptions for 35 Yards and 2 TD's, 15 Fantasy Points
Nothing to see here. Doyle may find himself as the beneficiary to a prolific Andrew Luck, but shouldn't come close to being on your radar. He is nothing more than a redzone vulture unless Dwayne Allen gets hurt.
TE - Dwayne Allen 6 Targets, 4 Receptions for 53 Yards and 1 TD, 1 Two Point Conversion, 13 Fantasy Points
The TE that you want to own from the Colts though is Dwayne Allen. While he doesn't provide yardage upside, his ability to be a reliable target on 3rd down and in the redzone makes him a starting TE in fantasy. His season will most likely end with him finishing in the top 12, unless he succumbs to injuries yet again. That really is the only thing holding Allen back from a top 12 finish this season, as he will be on the field for a majority of snaps.
TE - Julius Thomas 5 Targets, 5 Receptions for 64 Yards and 1 TD, 12 Fantasy Points
To end last season, Thomas put up 316 yards with 4 TD's over the last 7 weeks. While those aren't earth shattering numbers, they would be good enough for just under 8 fantasy points a game from the TE position. That would have been good enough to be the 7th best TE last year. It looks as though his role in the offense is going to be similar to that 7 game stretch last year. The numbers this week are proof that Thomas is a top 10 TE for the year, who does have the potential to finish in the top 5 if all goes well.
Now a look at a few of other performances that stood out to me from Sunday's games:
QB - Carson Wentz 278 Passing Yards for 2 TD's, 1 Rushing Yard, 19 Fantasy Points
The top rookie QB for the week was not Dak Prescott like many people expected. No, that honor belongs to the number 2 pick in the draft Carson Wentz. Say what you will about his opponent for the week in the Cleveland Browns, but he was making throws that you would expect to have seen from veterans. His fade pass to Jordan Matthews for the first TD was a perfect throw where only Matthews could get it. Now there will be growing pains with Wentz this season, but if he can continue to build on this success, he may just be a borderline top 15 QB. A matchup against the Bears next week, who is a little better on defense may give us a true taste of how good Wentz may be this season.
RB - Devonta Freeman 11 Carries for 20 Yards, 4 Receptions for 20 Yards, 4 Fantasy Points
While you shouldn't be fully jumping off the ledge if you are a Freeman owner, I am worried about him going forward. I was worried about Freeman before the season and how he would bounce back from his terrible finish to the season. Well those worries are still here now, but now the playing time concern that I had may come earlier than expected. While Tevin Coleman also struggled on the ground against a tough Bucs front, Coleman surprised by adding more than Freeman in the passing game. Coleman looked like the better talent this week, and I don't think that will go without reward in the future. Freeman will be given more chances for the next few weeks, but if he continues to underwhelm, Coleman will become the lead back for that offense.
WR - Tyrell Williams 5 Targets, 2 Receptions for 71 Yards, 7 Fantasy Points
While we don't have official reports yet on Keenan Allen, the word coming out of San Diego isn't good. They believe that Allen has suffered a torn ACL, which would keep him out for the rest of the season. While that is terrible news for Allen and his owners, the replacement may not be too far away. Tyrell Williams was generating a lot of buzz during the preseason as a guy who was similar to Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd as a big deep threat for Philip Rivers. The thing that was standing in his way was presumably Travis Benjamin it appeared. It now looks like that spot opposite Benjamin is open, and I think Williams, not Dontrelle Inman, is the guy who will take a hold of that spot. We have seen Rivers make this type of receiver fantasy gold in the past, and while we shouldn't expect that to happen right away, If Williams is on the waiver wire in your league, you need to pick him up. The upside and opportunity have now mixed and are perfect for him to get his extended look as a starter outside.
Want thoughts on a specific player? Leave a comment on who it is, and I will respond with my thoughts on that guy's performance and where he stands going forward.