Week 1: The week we realized we knew less than we thought. A number of big-name quarterbacks flopped. Several rookies exceeded expectations. A few under-the-radar players made big splashes. And the tight end position was a minefield. And that’s before we talk about the injuries.
Aaron Rodgers and J.K. Dobbins went down for the season. Diontae Johnson and Greg Dulcich could miss multiple games. Who knows what’s up with Austin Ekeler?
But it wasn’t all bad. We found a few diamonds in the rough. Just enough to make us believe we weren’t totally fumbling around in the dark. But that was last week. In Week 2, the counter resets and our quest for hidden gems begins anew. At least now, we’re armed with a week’s worth of data.
Anyway, here are some names.
- 2023 fantasy football flex rankings: Top 150 RB/WR/TE options in Week 1
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Quarterbacks
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Running backs
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Wide receivers
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Tight ends
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Defenses
No one expected Jordan Love to be Aaron Rodgers. And we were right. He scored more fantasy points in his first career start than Rodgers did in his first career start. I kid, of course. But Love showed that he could be a credible fantasy (and real life) quarterback option. It’s easy to dismiss against a shaky Bears defense, but on film, Love looked the part.
He’ll get a slightly tougher test this week against a Falcons defense that beefed up its secondary in the offseason. Those moves paid dividends in last week’s win, with Jessie Bates picking off a pair of Bryce Young passes. This new Green Bay offense won’t remind you of past Packers powerhouses, but it should provide more production than the Panthers (alliteration is fun) — especially if Christian Watson returns this week but even if he doesn’t. Love is a nice streaming option and should be started in two-QB formats.
Don’t look now, but Mac Jones might be turning into a legitimate fantasy option. Dating back to last season, the Patriots signal-caller has had four straight games with at least two touchdowns passes. On Sunday, he logged his first career game with 300-plus yards and three passing scores. It seems Bill O’Brien’s return to Foxboro is already paying off.
In Week 2, Jones and the Pats face the division-rival Dolphins. Miami didn’t allow a ton of yards to Justin Herbert last week, but the Bolts were able to do a lot of work in the intermediate part of the field. That’s where Jones and O’Brien should attack to be successful. This contest won’t be as high-scoring as the Fins’ game last week, but Jones can do enough to be a quality option for anyone streaming the position.
Mayfield has learned what other Bucs quarterbacks before him already knew. Mike Evans is down there somewhere. Baker targeted the big man 10 times and connected with him on a deep touchdown pass on the way to a QB11 finish last week.
Mayfield is a matchup-based fantasy starter, and Chicago is a good matchup. The Bears surrendered 23 fantasy points to Jordan Love (QB3) in Week 1 — and helped make him a Week 2 sleeper. This year’s Bucs offense won’t have the same passing volume as the attacks we’ve seen in the past. But Mayfield knows where his bread is buttered. Expect him to feed Evans and Chris Godwin plenty this week. Another top-12 finish wouldn’t be a surprise.
For anyone who’s been paying attention, it wasn’t a shock that Williams got a lot of work in the Rams’ passing game last week (while he wasn’t heavily targeted, he ran the same number of routes as Tyler Higbee). What caught us off guard was just how much he contributed to the running game. Williams took 38 percent of the rushing attempts, compared to 56 percent for Cam Akers. And that is somewhat misleading, since many of Akers’ carries came late with the Rams pulling away from Seattle.
This week’s matchup against San Francisco isn’t a fun one on paper. The ceiling might be low on both backs. But if I’m going to choose one, it’s the guy who has the chance to catch more passes. I’ll take Williams over Akers — just not as anything more than an RB3 or flex.
Yes, I like Baker. Yes, I think Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will see plenty of targets. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for someone else in the Bucs’ offense. Last week, White saw a lot of volume but wasn’t particularly efficient. Even he was unsatisfied with his play in Week 1.
He’ll have a chance to rectify that in Week 2. A lot of the damage done against the Bears defense last week came courtesy of Aaron Jones the pass catcher. White isn’t likely to give you 80-plus receiving yards, but he is a player Tampa would like to involve in the passing game. If there’s ever a week for it to happen, this is it. White’s floor is as a low-end RB3 or flex in deeper leagues.
Moore’s fantasy numbers weren’t great in Week 1, but there were lots of things to appreciate about the Browns WR2 in the opener. He was heavily involved running routes and earned targets at a high rate. He even had a couple of carries, validating chatter that he could occupy a Deebo Samuel-like role in Cleveland’s offense.
But it’s more of his Brandon Aiyuk-like traits that make him interesting this week. Moore does most of his work in the middle of the field, similar to Aiyuk last week versus Pittsburgh. Moore hasn’t quite been the YAC player Aiyuk is, but he’s not terrible. If he sees the same level of utilization that he did in Week 1, the breakout season many predicted could begin in Week 2. Think of him as a solid WR2 candidate in fantasy.
Burks’ overall fantasy outlook took a hit when DeAndre Hopkins landed in the Music City. Being the second target option in a low passing volume, run-heavy offense isn’t a recipe for prosperity. It gets even worse when you factor in how poorly Ryan Tannehill played last week.
Ideally, the Titans want to run the ball and keep the Chargers’ offense on the sideline as much as possible. But Tennessee’s poor secondary against L.A.’s potent passing offense might negate that strategy. If this turns into more of an up-tempo game, Burks will be a downfield option for Tannehill. His value is limited outside of deep leagues, but he has WR3 upside.
Jordan Love didn’t give his wide receivers a lot of work in Week 1, but when he was throwing to his wideouts, rookie Jayden Reed was one of his choice targets. Reed led the Pack’s wideouts with 48 yards on five opportunities. More importantly, Randall Cobb’s (second) departure from Green Bay created a vacancy in the slot, a weak spot for the Falcons’ secondary in 2022.
Atlanta was a bottom-12 defense last year when it came to stopping slot targets. Statistically, the Falcons looked much better in that respect last week, though it’s likely a case of the Panthers not having the weapons to really challenge them. The Packers’ passing game won’t be the Falcons’ toughest test this year, but Reed should earn some targets. He could be a flex or WR3 in deeper leagues this week.
You probably noticed that the tight end position was a veritable disaster in Week 1. Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews were out. Darren Waller and George Kittle struggled. Dallas Goedert gained the unfortunate power of invisibility. We’re optimistic that things will get better this week. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking for options at the thinnest position in fantasy.
Enter Cole Kmet. The axiom about tight ends being a security blanket for young quarterbacks hasn’t proven to be entirely true. (Also, does Justin Fields still count as a young quarterback?) But what Kmet offers is a chance at easier throws for a QB needing to find a rhythm. It also helps that Tampa Bay was bad against tight ends last season. They didn’t start this season very well either, allowing double-digit fantasy points to T.J. Hockenson. Kmet has low TE1 upside this week.
In the past, Thomas was a cardio king. He’s often been relegated to running routes with few targets to show for it. That wasn’t the case in Week 1. Sam Howell threw eight balls in his direction. Thomas turned it into four catches for 43 yards — good enough for a top-12 finish last week.
This week, the Commanders face a Broncos defense that hasn’t been very inviting to opposing passing games. With the secondary likely locking down on Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, Howell could need some quick, easy options in the passing game, and Thomas is more than a quick outlet. His seven-yard average depth of target (aDOT) isn’t bad. If the Commanders struggle to get the ball downfield to their wideouts, Thomas could have another TE1 week on tap.
The debut of Eric Bieniemy’s offense in Washington was … not great. Sam Howell was constantly under pressure and sacked six times. The Commanders didn’t get much from the top two weapons in the passing game. At a plodding three yards per carry, Brian Robinson was the most productive runner in an inefficient ground attack. And this was against a Cardinals team widely believed to be the league’s worst. The blitz-happy Broncos (42 percent blitz rate in Week 1) should be able to make Howell uncomfortable. That could lead to takeaways in what should be a low-scoring battle.
Let’s give the Browns’ defense its flowers for last week. It’s easy to blame the bad weather in Cleveland. Or to say the Bengals had a bad day. But maybe the Browns helped cause that bad day? Cleveland made offseason moves to get better up front on defense. Oh, they also still have Myles Garrett. The Browns might not dominate the Steelers the same way the 49ers did last week, but they should do enough to slow down Kenny Pickett and a Diontae Johnson-less offense.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who is tired of descaling his coffee maker. Send him your mundane household tasks or fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.
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