Fantasy Faceoff: Week Two
Entering week two, we learned significantly more information in the last seven days than we have over the last couple of months. After building up storylines and becoming entrenched in lines of thinking; adjusting and not merely maintaining anchored positions can be difficult. Simultaneously, overreacting can be tempting as we see players disappoint or confirm our priors. As we move forward, we must keep these truths in mind and defend ourselves from these biases. Simultaneously, we need to find opportunities to exploit these biases in others.
Last week’s article only looked into three plays, one of which was voided by Kittle’s absence on Sunday. With that in mind, week one went about as well as possible with a 2-0-1 start.
D.J. Moore may have underperformed expectations in week one but not as much as the anemic Amari Cooper. Cooper saw six targets, reeling in three of them. The average depth of his receptions measured a meager two yards downfield. With bottom-end quarterback play, it will be difficult for Amari Cooper to top anyone before Deshawn Watson returns.
The tight end matchup I recommended last week did not count, but we can look back at one half of the equation. The targets were a bit more condensed towards Adams than I anticipated, but Waller looked locked in as the second fixture in this receiving corps. Box score scrapers may see six targets for both Renfrow and Waller, but Waller’s were considerably more valuable. Waller saw 83 air yards compared to 29 for Renfrow. Especially given the weather in the San Francisco @ Bears game, I expect Waller was the better side to be on had this matchup occurred.
Monday night’s showdown went even better than I had theorized. There was near no point in the night where Wilson looked ready to pull away from week one’s lord and savior, Geno Smith. Wilson and the Broncos moved the ball well, but the Seahawks held with a “bend but don’t break” strategy. Geno picked apart the Broncos. Seattle ranked in the top 6 of pass rate over expected, a confusing strategical alteration after they refused to let Russ cook for years.
Hopefully, we can build upon the week one success, but those results should not be a weekly expectation.
Dallas Goedert (+1.5) vs Dalton Schultz
Dallas Goedert (+1.5) vs. Dalton Schultz should be an interesting divisional matchup to play this week. They have quite different playstyles and manners in which they score fantasy points. Goedert thrives with efficiency and explosiveness; meanwhile, Schultz succeeds with volume and reliability.
The main reasons to take Schultz in this matchup revolve around the current environment. On the season, Schultz may have a higher median performance by a couple of points, but his outlook took a meaningful hit on Sunday night. Dak Prescott, the Xth graded passer according to PFF, got injured and will miss this week's game. Replacement Cooper Rush has thrown 63 passes in the NFL since being drafted in 2017. Relying on Cooper Rush pass volume to lift Schultz over the 1.5 point cushion afforded to Goedert may be a bridge too far this week. When it comes to Schultz, temper expectations.
Prognosticators vigorously debated the potential offensive philosophy for the Philadelphia Eagles this year. Last season the Eagles started as one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL, but the results left more to be desired. When they switched to a run-first offense, they excelled and went 7-3 down the stretch. Following the A.J. Brown trade, the Eagles looked poised to shift back to their early season pass-first offense. Using week one as an indicator, this looks to be the case as they threw two percent more than expected, according to rbsdm.com. This change will unleash Goedert, who measured as the most efficient tight end last season. When put to the test, Goedert has proven himself. These factors make Goedert a high upside play every week.
The environments these players operate within create lopsided situational differences this week. Philadelphia sports a 26.5 point team total, whereas sportsbooks mark Dallas with a paltry 16.5 point team total. Being pegged for ten more points, Goedert should have more opportunities to score this week.
Take the points with Dallas Goedert as we enter week two. Schultz could serve as the safety blanket to overcome his other deficiencies in this matchup, but I would be hesitant to count on it.
James Conner over Josh Jacobs
At running back this week, I have my eyes on James Conner to outscore Josh Jacobs. While speculators anticipated strong offensive units from Arizona and Las Vegas, Arizona disappointed in week one. Even in garbage time, Arizona struggled to move the ball.
Jacobs started the preseason playing in the Hall of Fame game, creating an unignorable negative buzz on fantasy Twitter. Since then, Jacobs has been the apparent lead back. The Raiders confirmed this, giving Jacobs 10 of the 13 running back carries in last week’s game. This usage should encourage managers, especially as Zamir White did not see the field or take any touches from the four-year veteran. Opposing these positive signs, McDaniels, the Raider’s coach, favored using 32 year-old Brandon Bolden and 29 year-old Ameer Abdullah through the air. Seeing the bulk of the ground work figures well for Jacobs, but the passing work going elsewhere severely limits Jacobs's high-value touches upside.
Conner picked up similarly to where he left last year as the Cardinals go to back in all situations. The box score makes it seem Eno Benjamin ate into Conner’s workload. Contrary to this, nearly all of Benjamin’s work came in the fourth quarter when the Cardinals never had a higher win probability than 0.2%, according to ESPN. The major question for Conner entering the season was whether he would maintain the workhorse level he saw when Edmonds got injured last year. If week one gives any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. The output from week one only saved by a touchdown should not spook anyone, the work for Conner to excel remains.
James Conner and Josh Jacobs should be a close matchup this week, but one side receives most of his team's running back work and projections for higher value touches. This projection makes Conner the easy choice in the Las Vegas vs. Arizona game come Sunday.
Trey Lance over Justin Fields (+1.0)
Last week, Lance and Fields faced off in the monsoon bowl; It rained so much the paint came off of the field. Fields had the more impressive week one but look out for the former number two overall pick, Lance, to redeem himself this week. This pair of second-year single callers have a surface level resemblance, however, when you delve beneath the surface there are considerable differences between environments and styles of play.
The 49ers coaching staff uses Lance extensively in the run game. Last week Lance ran 13 times, the second most of any quarterback, and totaled 53 yards on the ground. Given the frequency at which Lance runs and scrambles, he has a built-in floor each week. Lance’s rushing totals may be even higher with the loss of Elijah Mitchell in week one. The talent surrounding Lance far outclasses the talent around Fields. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are both extremely talented after-the-catch receivers averaging 10.8 and 5.9 yards after the catch last year, respectively. The 49ers have the environment for Lance to succeed in both the short and long term for fantasy purposes.
Unlike Lance, the Bears have given Fields limited talent to work with. Following a tough rookie year, the Bears’ primary offensive additions were Velus Jones Jr, Equanimious St. Brown and Byron Pringle. Most talent evaluators thought the Bears reached on Jones, an archaic rookie with limited college success. Pringle and St. Brown struggled to succeed with two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. The lack of talent surrounding Fields may require him to make more plays and could push him to run more, as he is uber-athletic.
The Bears' week two matchup does not appear conducive to fantasy points. Both the Bears and Packers will look to run the ball first and take their time on offensive drives. Week one demonstrated that the Packers plan to drive their offense through their running backs. Over the last couple of years, the Packers have taken 31.1 seconds per play, 32nd out of 32 teams. The slow pace of play will limit the volume for Fields in week two.
Fields and Lance are both intriguing prospects. While they have disappointed relative to expectations given their high draft capital to this point in their careers, supporters have plenty of reasons for hope in their still burgeoning careers. Lance’s opportunity to prop himself up in fantasy through rushing production and an advantageous scheme should propel him over Fields in fantasy this week. Back Lance over Fields (+1.0) this coming week.
Last week was an exciting start to our TopProp journey. Taking reflective time to analyze each matchup should help us diagnose if there is an exploitable edge. Agree or disagree, join me in the TopProp streets this week, where you can put your money where your mouth is.
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Routes run data is from PFF, TPRR is courtesy of the 33rd Team and Sports Info Solutions, and pace of play data came from Sharp Football Analysis.