With week one in the books, many fantasy players are looking to build on a strong opening week, while others may already be hitting the panic button. In this column we’ll look at players who may be more (or less) than meets the eye. Players deemed “hot” are those who I feel have a significant shot at outperforming their current week 2 projections, while those labeled “cold” are players who probably won’t live up to the hype, at least for week two.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Newton will lead the Panthers into hostile territory against the 0-1 Atlanta Falcons this Sunday, and I’m predicting the Panthers’ first road victory of the season. I have no doubt the Falcons’ defensive scheme will be tailored to try and limit Newton, but that’s pretty much the idea every week, and Atlanta will be trying to do it without Keanu Neal. Add in the fact that Newton won’t have his big, blond safety blanket Greg Olsen, and I think we can expect a similar outcome to what we saw against Dallas. Cam Newton is locked in as QB1 this week in all fantasy formats, boasting a high floor due to his rushing prowess.
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff opened up the 2018 regular season with a strong showing, completing 18/33 pass attempts for 233 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those aren’t crazy statistics, but Goff continues to perform well in Sean McVay’s offense, and I firmly believe he will continue to shine. This week the Rams will make their home debut against the Arizona Cardinals, who will be looking to right the ship after a less than brilliant showing last week against Washington. Arizona will have to keep their defense centered on slowing down Todd Gurley (good luck) which showed open things up for Goff in the passing game. Brandin Cooks looks to be rapidly developing chemistry with his new quarterback, only adding to Jared Goff’s fantasy appeal.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Jon Gruden’s return to Oakland left a lot to be desired. Derek Carr is certainly better than what he showed against the Rams in week one, but I don’t expect him to return to form in week two. Carr will be up against a formidable pass rush for the second week in a row when as the Raiders find themselves in Denver this week, trying to stop Von Miller.. and Bradley Chubb.. and Todd Davis.. and, well, you get the point. Hopefully Carr has gotten the sloppy, across his body throws out of his system, but he’ll need to be more than “better than last week” to find success against the Broncos.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco got off to a strong start against a very weak team. In week two, Flacco and the Ravens will come up against a more worthy opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals. Baltimore’s revamped receiving corps made easy work of the Buffalo Bills in week one, but the Bengals should be able to keep the Ravens air attack in check, and Cincinnati’s offense will likely force a much different game flow than what we saw during Baltimore’s week one matchup. Joe Flacco is a middle of the pack quarterback who’s value is currently a little overinflated after the glorified exhibition game he played last Sunday.
Hot Running Backs
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Former Rookie standout Alvin Kamara managed a strong week one performance despite the shootout New Orleans found itself in against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. This week the Saints will host the Cleveland Browns, who aren’t exactly known for lighting up the scoreboard. A slower offensive pace should serve Kamara well, as it would mean more rushing work, and ultimately, a more productive night for the running back. Mark Ingram is still suspended, and Kamara is far and away the most talented runner in the Saints’ backfield. Kamara is an obvious starter in all formats this week.
Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos
The rookie out of Oregon posted a respectable stat line in his NFL debut, taking 15 carries for 71 yards. I’m expecting Freeman to supplant those numbers this week against a Raiders defense that is still reeling in the wake of the Khalil Mack trade. Freeman is a smart runner and will receive the bulk of the work on early downs and it short yardage situations, he will need to be more effective than his rookie counterpart Phillip Lindsay if he wants to receive the lion’s share of carries.
Cold Running Backs
Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Peyton Barber has essentially locked down lead back duties in Tampa. Behind him is undersized Jacquizz Rodgers, and rookie let down (so far) Ronald Jones. While Barber should continue to see good volume in the coming weeks, I do not expect it to translate to RB1 production. The Bucs’ offense will center around the passing game, and Peyton Barber is not renowned as a pass-catcher. Barber is a situational starter with flex level value.
Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers
At this point, I think it’s fair to assume Williams is keeping the seat warm for Aaron Jones as the Packers’ starting running back. Jamaal Williams lacked efficiency against the Bears, and it’s clear at this juncture that Aaron Rodgers is the key to Green Bay’s success, not a second year running back who took his only redzone carry for negative yards last week. Williams’ value is as a handcuff to Aaron Jones, nothing more, nothing less. To top things off, the Packers face a stout Minnesota defense in week two that will be looking to stifle Green Bay’s skill players.
Hot Wide Receivers
Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
Kenny Golladay is a player I have written about quite a lot, and always in a positive light. Dubbed “Megatron 2.0” by his teammates in camp last year, Golladay possesses a rare size/speed combination and seems to be living up to the hype after a week one that saw him bring in 7 of 12 targets for 114 yards in week one. I own Golladay on multiple fantasy teams and am starting to give him flex considerations. It remains to be seen how involved Golladay will be in the Lions’ gameplan from week to week with the presence of incumbent starters Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. There are also questions about Detroit’s offense as a unit after a poor week one performance, but I believe Golladay’s stock will continue to trend up in their week two matchup in San Francisco.
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Too often over the last two years, I’ve seen Keenan Allen fall well below his value in fantasy drafts. Keenan Allen is a target monster with vacuum hands, and I will not here the argument that he’s “injury prone” because he suffered a lacerated kidney while pulling down a touchdown in double coverage. The emergence of Mike Williams in the Chargers offense will impact Allen, but it’s more likely to allow Allen to see single coverage (a good thing) than it is to cut into his production. Start Keenan Allen if he’s on your roster, and pay the price in daily formats as Allen has a particularly juicy matchup against a struggling Buffalo Bills team.
Cold Wide Receivers
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders
This is not a verdict on Amari Cooper’s season, so don’t take it that way. Cooper had an unproductive season opener, 3 targets 1 catch 9 yards. These aren’t the numbers we expect to see out of Amari Cooper moving forward, but it may take more than one week to right the ship. Many chalk up Coopers lack of targets to game plan, an effort to avoid the Rams’ formidable secondary. The road to targets may not get any easier in week two, as the Raiders will be in Denver and Amari Cooper will have to find a way to weave through and around a tough Broncos defense. If you have the depth, you may want to avoid starting Amari Cooper, at least for this week.
Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
Christian Kirk in week two will be up against the aforementioned Rams defense that was able to limit Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson to a combined 7 targets. Behind future hall of famer Larry Fitzgerald, don’t expect a lot of work for Arizona pass catchers. The Cardinals’ best bet to win this game is to drag it out in a dogfight, trust David Johnson, and keep Todd Gurley off the field for as long as possible. Even if Arizona finds itself in a position where it is necessary to air it out, smart money is on the Rams secondary, namely Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to win that matchup.