NFL Usage Notes: Week 1 Review
Week-to-week player performance can be very volatile. The worst thing we can do is miss out on a fluky big day and then chase it the following week when that player is both more expensive and more owned.
So by examining usage instead of performance, we can cut through some of the noise and figure out what’s sustainable. Here are the most important usage notes I saw in Week 1. Hat-tip to ProFootballFocus for a lot of the snap info found below.
1. Tarik Cohen is Focal Point of Gameplan
After fourth-round rookie Tarik Cohen played just one snap in the Bears’ third preseason game and got zero targets all preseason, I expected him to be an afterthought early in the season. That would have been the norm for a 5’6/181 running back out of North Carolina A&T. Instead, Cohen was the featured player for the talent-deprived Bears in Week 1, seeing three of Mike Glennon’s first four targets and finishing with 12 targets plus five carries. Cohen lined up all over the field, from a true tailback spot to out wide to in the slot and ran 21 pass routes. This is an example of a set/route I wasn’t expecting. With Cam Meredith, Kevin White and third-down back Benny Cunningham all out now, Cohen will continue to be featured.
There are concerns, however. First, everyone’s game plan against the Falcons is to throw to RBs – as noted in this article about Cohen’s performance. The Falcons gave up more receptions to RBs than any team in the league last year. Second, now that the cat is out of the bag on Cohen, defenses will be prepared. The Bucs, coming off an extended bye with speedy linebackers, certainly will be. And finally, 5-foot-6 players don’t become workhorses. Darren Sproles is a massive outlier and he only averages 3.98 carries and 4.18 catches per game for his career. All that said, the Bears’ dire situation on offense will likely force them to keep trying to highlight Cohen’s playmaking ability.
2. Falcons Lean Heavily on Austin Hooper
I wrote about Hooper a lot throughout the offseason and into the preseason because I think he’s a talented player in a high-ceiling situation. The 2016 third-round pick showed his athleticism in Week 1 with an absurd 88-yard touchdown which included a stiff arm for the ages. Some may brush off Hooper’s 2-128-1 line because it came on just two targets, but that would be a mistake. Note that he was in on 47 of the Falcons’ 57 snaps and stayed in to pass block on just two of Matt Ryan’s 33 dropbacks. Now Ryan and the Falcons get to come home for a shootout against the Packers. When these teams last met in the NFC Championship Game, Ryan went off for 392 yards and four TDs. Hooper is cheap exposure ($3,500) to that upside.
3. Ty Montgomery the Workhorse
Thanks to a history of sickle-cell related soft-tissue injuries, there was some skepticism surrounding Ty Montgomery’s ability to handle big workloads. He immediately put that to rest in Week 1, logging an outrageous 74(!) snaps compared to just six for backup Jamaal Williams. Montgomery, a converted wideout, has dominated in pass protection and bulked up since last year, ensuring he rarely leaves the field. Given this workhorse role with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and a dream matchup against a Falcons team which gave up the most receptions to RBs last season, I expect TyMont to be very popular Sunday at $5,800.
4. Kenny Golladay Takes Over No. 3 WR Role
Not many knew about Kenny Golladay, a third-round rookie out of Northern Illinois. But the hardcore fantasy football community has been drooling over him for months as he tore through the Combine, opened eyes during OTAs, dominated training camp and was PFF’s No. 4 preseason wideout among 217 qualifiers. Dubbed “BabyTron” by JJ Zachariason, the 6-foot-4 Golladay earned his role as the No. 3 wideout for the Lions. In the Week 1 win over Arizona, Marvin Jones led the way with 68 snaps followed by Golden Tate 63, Golladay 44 and T.J. Jones 18. It’s a prime example of talent rising quickly.
5. John Brown is Healthy
Brown’s struggles with the sickle-cell trait and a back issue crippled his 2016 season – even when he was active and not on the injury report he still played very limited snaps. So it was great to see him out there for 63-of-75 snaps in the opener, ahead of Jaron Brown (56) and J.J. Nelson (30). Ageless Larry Fitzgerald led the way with 74 snaps. If Carson Palmer had even played decently against the Lions, we’d be talking about John Brown as one of the best plays this week against the hapless Colts. Instead, Brown is coming off a 4-32-0 line on nine targets and will go overlooked. If Carson can find his late-season form from 2016, Brown’s star will rise.
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