Week 2's Sobering Sunday Injury Fallout
We’re all enduring the negative byproduct of this unique season together, especially the injuries! In back to back weeks there have been a buffet of waiver options and numerous situations have imploded after a litany of injuries plagued players in week 2. It was so overwhelming on Sunday that we had to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves not to overreact. A less frequently uttered phrase though is that we never want to under-react early in the season either.
There’s a responsibility we all have to our fantasy team at this point. We have to gauge what we covet in waivers and trades. Meaning, there’s a quantity vs quality conversation embedded and our teams’ roster construction should dictate what path we take. Do we need long term help or do we chase the highest upside play regardless of longevity? Our team needs can answer those questions for us but we also want to alter our mentality when setting our starting lineups. If we just lost an elite player from our fantasy team in redraft we should be making decisions like starting DeSean Jackson over a safer option with a higher fantasy floor. We need to find ways to replace the points we’ve lost to the trainer’s table. Even if it poses more risk.
So let’s go through the most important injuries for fantasy teams and some of the more fluid situations that come with immense upside.
SAQUON BARKLEY is Saq-gone for the season and some folks could think their fantasy team is doomed to the same fate. But remember, multiple rosters from around your league lost players this week, and the expression “you don’t win your league at the draft!” exists because of weeks like these. Redraft managers have all season to try and make up for their bad luck, and in dynasty, it opens a rare buying window for an elite RB. Saquon’s injury sucks, but suffering it so early in the season allows for a full recovery by the beginning of 2021. Barkley will be a top 5 dynasty startup pick next year so if the team manager in your league is competitive and impatient throw the kitchen sink at that manager to try and acquire Saquon.
The fallout is interesting because the Giants signed DEVONTA FREEMAN and he’s immediately being sold as an RB2 in fantasy, but I would think of him more like an RB3 if we’re lucky, and the results won’t be instantaneous. The Giants play San Francisco this week and I’d expect Freeman to see limited snaps out of the gate for New York.
DION LEWIS is the number two back for the Giants and with or without Freeman I think that was bound to be the case. WAYNE GALLMAN was the back who may have taken the early down work with Dion as the pass catcher. ELIJAH PENNY is a name to know as well because he’s playing ahead of Gallman this season with involvement near the goal line, and is a threat to dress over Gallman.
The Giants’ starting RB is not someone to rush out and acquire. The situation is bleak for fantasy and there are probably defined roles. DION LEWIS was involved after Saquon went down, punching in a goal line TD on 4th and goal late in the game. With the game on the line on a 4th and 4 Daniel Jones threw a low ball that Neon Dion scooped up for the 1st down to keep the drive alive. The team likes him so Lewis will be involved, and the Giants have about 30% of their passing game to replace all of sudden. The passing game is drawing my attention far more than the running backs though and we should expect New York to throw the ball and temper our expectations from the running backs. Even with Saquon over the past two seasons the Giants have been bottom 5 in red zone carries and have fewer than 10 rushing touchdowns in back to back seasons. Devonta Freeman will not break the long runs that Saquon is famous for.
Freeman is not the same runner he was in 2015 and the only excuse he has to offer in recent seasons is situation, but low and behold, he’s landed in another environment that is less than ideal for fantasy this year. Besmirching Freeman is not my intention, but he would have cost you a lot on waivers and those who drafted him might inaccurately feel like they’ve hit a lottery ticket, elevating his value into a realm we’re not comfortable with. Last season, Freeman was inefficient, he lacked big plays and didn’t score. He had one of the worst yards per carry in 2019 and he hasn’t posted a 100 yard rushing game since 2017. His first rushing TD came in week 14 last year and his former TD upside is limited in this Giants offense. Additionally, we anticipate Dion Lewis will catch passes leaving Freeman’s alternative path to fantasy upside capped as well. Adding him in waivers is still the play but we should be looking to trade him immediately.
WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS
CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY is the other devastating injury from the Sunday massacre. Losing the top two picks in almost every fantasy draft, and multiple defensive studs during the same week is an example of what these dudes go through physically on the gridiron. High ankle sprains like the one he suffered on his second TD come in different grades. CMC said himself he was told his timetable is 4-6 weeks and that signals that it is a severe high ankle sprain but he also added that he took that recovery time as a challenge, but with the Panthers placing him on the 3 week injured reserve we will be without him for at least the next 3 games.
CMC will come back strong, but what is left (aside from the pressure on Teddy as the new leader in this offense) is a gaping hole in our lineups and pure fantasy sorrow considering we hadn’t even seen CMC spread his wings yet this season outside of touchdowns. Not unlike Saquon owners, we can’t replace a stud like McCaffrey, but to find some relief we could look internally.
MIKE DAVIS should soak up the majority of the vacated volume and that will be very valuable, particularly in PPR leagues. With McCaffrey’s excellence in the passing game as well as the state of the Panthers’ offense, volume should be expected. They open week 3 against the Chargers as 7 point underdogs already. The journeyman Mike Davis had 8 catches for 74 yards receiving in week 2 and he is unequivocally the RB2 in this offense when McCaffrey is healthy.
An RBBC is always in the range of outcomes and it would include expanding FB Alex Armah’s role a tad as well as Trenton Cannon being more involved which might hurt Mike Davis’ upside in the passing game. Cannon’s special teams contributions have kept him in the lineup early on this season which is more than we can say for Reggie Bonnafon.
Reggie will dress and he could spell Mike Davis on early downs or help in the passing game, we have seen him used in both facets in his limited exposure but Bonnafon isn’t beloved by the team because the Panthers elected to put him through waivers over the others early in September. The ex-Jets fan and current Panthers head coach Matt Rhule could choose to add a RB like Bilal Powell too.
MIKE DAVIS has the potential to be a crucial early season add for a fantasy squad and we’ve seen him have success in the league before. In 2017 with the Seahawks Davis had just under 150 touches for over 700 yards from scrimmage and added in the passing game which was the encouraging aspect of his week 2 performance. What’s extra alluring is in 2017 on his 15 catches Davis posted over 11 yards after the catch per reception and we saw the same thing on Sunday against a talented Bucs linebacker group. The YAC ability is thanks to Mike D’s elusiveness. We saw that in his season with Seattle when only Dion Lewis and Alvin Kamara had a higher avoided tackles per attempt (0.22 per PFF min. 100 att in 2017). Mike Davis has the hot hand and the coaches trust right now and there’s no reason he has to relinquish that before CMC returns.
BUCKED UP BRONCOS
Drew Lock going down is the less impactful and shorter-term injury between himself and Courtland Sutton due to the quarterback replacing him. JEFF DRISKEL unexpectedly took the wheel at quarterback against Pittsburgh and he came in and did what he’s done his whole NFL career, he lost a football game...but he looked damn fine doing it! He is 1-7 as a starter in the NFL but Driskel has been far from useless for fantasy football.
Last year, Driskel filled in admirably for the Lions and Matt Stafford, putting up over 20 fantasy points per game for 3 weeks. In fact, in weeks 10-12 last year Driskel was the QB7 and this past Sunday Driskel had almost 19 points in limited work against a stellar Steelers defense! What Driskel has going for him is that he adds value with his legs. He’s averaged almost 6 carries and over 35 rushing yards per game in his 8 NFL starts and not unlike Drew Lock, Driskel will throw deep (6 of his 34 attempts on Sunday were deep balls).
The newest news is that Denver signed Blake Bortles to be the “backup” quarterback and he adds value for fantasy in the rushing department as well, but that’s about it. In John Elway we trust… except when he’s evaluating Quarterbacks. The concern for the starting Broncos QB though is that they no longer have an alpha WR.
COURTLAND SUTTON was among the laundry list of crushing blows delivered in week 2 and yet again, a knee injury causes a star player to miss the rest of the 2020 season. It’s so unfortunate after he had an unbelievably difficult schedule last year, and he was the only show in town resulting in Sutton having 36% of the Broncos receiving yards in 2019 (2nd most in the NFL). He also accounted for the highest share of his team’s air yards (43% per nextgenstats). If his injury took place in 2019 it would have made that season an even bigger catastrophe than it was. In 2020 Denver is insulated against this exact scenario with the addition of Jerry Jeudy, the maturation of Noah Fant, and the ancillary pieces in Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, Tyrie Cleveland, and...I guess…DeaSean Hamilton. They have some of the best depth at the WR and TE positions after having none last season.
JERRY JEUDY has looked outstanding despite some mental errors. He is tied for the league lead in drops and the other 3 players have average depths of target above 18.0 yards where Jeudy’s is under 15. To me, this is a classic example of drops signifying how often a player is open and targeted. Jeudy has both commanded targets, and gotten open at will. What we have to monitor though, is whether Jeudy is asked to replace Courtland Sutton because that could result in Jeudy having to win in different ways that he’s done in the first 2 weeks.
Over 75% of Jeudy’s snaps have come in the slot so far this year along with 13 of his 16 targets. Denver will move him all over the formation, but once we get into the weeds the Broncos have half a dozen receivers who can play out of the slot, but nobody we have ultimate confidence in going up against opposing teams top cornerbacks. K.J. Hamler has game breaking speed, but he was a slot WR in college and 15 of his 32 snaps so far this season came from in the slot. Noah Fant is another capable slot player as we saw last year (Just under 30% slot snaps in 2019), and this season 23% of Fant’s snaps have come in the slot, including a TD catch. DeaSean Hamilton can man the slot as well and likely gets a lot of play going forward. The takeaway is that It could be in short order that we have to analyse cornerback matchups for Jerry Jeudy.
With Sutton lost for the year and no Drew Lock or Phillip Lindsay in the short term, it should be a heavy dose of Melvin Gordon and an offense funnelling through Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant in the passing game. The Broncos do have enough pieces in the puzzle to create a spread out pie though. K.J. Hamler or Tim Patrick would be the guys I’m looking at adding in my leagues if I was diving into those depths. Patrick will see a slightly larger slice of the pie whereas K.J. Hamler will see a more delicious piece complimenting his 4.3 speed.
PARRIS CAMPBELL (PCL), another young player coming into his own had his season cut short in week 2. He’s yet to decide between surgery or rehab but he should be dropped in redraft leagues and the expectation is that he misses the entire 2020 season. It’s a travesty after missing last season and being involved in a car accident that resulted in a concussion this offseason. Campbell’s dynasty outlook is quickly becoming as fragile as he’s been in his early career.
Parris was playing exclusively out of the slot in weeks 1 and 2 showing that some of Phillip Rivers’ tendencies followed him to the Colts from the Chargers, and propensity to pepper his slot WR is one of them. ZACH PASCAL will “slot” into that role in this offense but outside of very deep PPR leagues we aren’t overly interested. Campbell’s injury isn’t the reason the Colt’s ran the ball more in week 2 compared to week 1, it was just a coincidence because that’s the identity we assumed for Indy in 2020 and we saw that against the Vikings on Sunday who were coming off a game where their secondary was torched.
Jonathan Taylor had 20 touches in the 1st half against Minnesota and that’s the reason I’m skeptical when it comes to the pass catchers in Indy. I don’t trust Phillip Rivers and don’t know if Frank Reich does either. Indianapolis gets the New York football Jets in week 3 though, so we should get a good idea of what they want to do and they’ll probably look good doing it.
T.Y. HILTON shareholders are going to see some down weeks in 2020 if this offense doesn’t start to gel, but he also remains the far and away best option in the passing game. MICHAEL PITTMAN is the hot commodity and he is a high end talent but my beef is that he’s reliant on specific work to be impactful for fantasy and I’ve lost confidence in Rivers being able to deliver to his outside wide receivers at this stage of his career. Everything points to their elite offensive line and stud rookie running back with a side plate of pass catching by the running backs and tight ends. The wide receivers will have to take what they can get and they could also be welcoming a new body in light of Parris being unavailable. Marcus Johnson worked out for the Colts on Monday. He has familiarity and would operate as their WR 3 or 4, immediately pushing Dezmon Patmon, Ashton Dulin, and Daurice Fountain down the depth chart.
MO ALIE-COX might be the sneaky add in Indy knowing the TE market share historically for both Rivers and Frank Reich. Jack Doyle could miss week 3 and he is one of the least durable players in all of football. More Mo could be in the cards with or without Jack because Alie-Cox led the Colts in receiving by far in week 2 with 111 yards and I’ve been dying for him to breakout since he was Andrew Lucks third tight end!
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
STERLING SHEPARD’s injury will fly under the radar because of Saquon going down. The Giants WR will be out for a while with turf toe, likely ending up on IR which means he’ll miss a minimum of 3 weeks. Over one third of New York's passing pie disappeared into thin air in week 2 and arguably their top guys on the totem pole are gone. To put the loss of Sterling and Saquon into a week by week context, they combined for 11.5 targets per game last year!
GOLDEN TATE’s 5 catches for 47 yards led the team in week 2. Those totals won’t have anybody rushing out to trade for Golden Tate, but he could turn into a target magnet in the short term! Durability and playing time were what stood in his way, but he’ll enjoy close to a 20% target share in Shepard’s absence. If the Giants really want to bore us all to death and reign in Daniel Jones, we could see Tate closer to 25% of the targets.
DARIUS SLAYTON is the player who could explode. He’s already made some bank this season but we haven’t caught a glimpse yet. The deep targets haven’t quite been there, and they weren’t as extravagant as you might think last year either. In 2019 Slayton had 20 deep targets (20+ yards). That led the team, however Golden Tate had 17 of his own and scored 4 deep ball touchdowns last year! That’s work we’d love to see transfer to Darius Slayton. He’s already at 36% air yards market share so when Jones does let it fly, Slayton will benefit.
Daniel Jones may be averaging close to two turnovers per start in his career, but he’s also shown the ability to dial up the big play, and deep passing is his best attribute. That skill set aligns perfectly with Slayton and those two have great chemistry and rapport. In addition to volume and positive air yards regression, Slayton is now an every down player after playing on only 66% of New York’s snaps as a rookie.
Slayton could easily be the player to lead this team in target volume due to the injuries, he was already tied with Saquon Barkley for the team lead in targets in week 1. Slayton’s 6 catches in the season opener were tied for the team lead as well. If the playing time, volume, or air yards hasn’t sold you then let’s talk touchdowns!
Slayton led all rookie wideouts in touchdowns last year and has a pair already in 2020. He scored one on his lone deep target of the season and the other was in the ten-zone. Slayton is currently tied for the league lead in WR targets inside the 10 yard line, and his TD upside is borderline elite considering the marker has shifted in spiked TD seasons at the WR position overall. Considering Slayton is the WR3 or Flex on our rosters, he should win the debates we have between him and other players because of the upside and all of the ways he could blow up for fantasy. Slayton is the only guy who’s health we aren’t worried about in this passing game.
EVAN ENGRAM is the other easy fantasy buy in this offense post-injury fallout. He and Shepard can co-exist and so can Golden Tate, but like my outlook on Slayton, Evan Engram suddenly has that huge ceiling and he’s playing almost every down. Through 2 weeks he’s been in on 94% and 97% of the team’s snaps. With Shepard gone there’s a clearer path to more of those snaps coming in the slot as well. So far, the air yards haven’t been there, and his average depth of target is out of character for Evan Engram, but that could suppress his price for fantasy gamers looking to trade for him.
RAHEEM MOSTERT and TEVIN COLEMAN went down for the 49ers. Mostert was on fire while Coleman looked like he’s on his last rung. The prolific run game in San Francisco is down to two active players right now: Jerrick Mckinnon and Jeff Wilson. JaMycal Hasty will be signed from the practice squad after they designated him as their lone protected player this week. That’s the 3 headed RBBC we should expect in week 3 and 4.
Mostert will immediately assume the lead role again once healthy and his 76 yard catch and run TD in week 1 was only surpassed by his 80 yard TD run in week 2. Last year, Mostert helped people win their leagues and he was one of just three backs in 2019 to score over 1.1 fantasy points per touch on 150 or more touches. The other two were Aaron Jones and Christian McCaffrey. After 2 weeks this season, Mostert is the only RB with 20+ touches to have over 1.5 pts/touch in fantasy.
Mostert is dealing with an MCL sprain and he will be back earlier than Tevin Coleman who has been placed on IR and will miss several weeks at the least. Coleman was having a disastrous outing before the injury, meanwhile JERRICK MCKINNON blew up on limited touches. Mckinnon should get a significant portion of the passing work in this backfield and he probably splits early down rushing volume with JEFF WILSON. Wilson will be the goal line back and we saw him score 4 rushing TDs on 18 attempts in just a two game span last year. Wilson scored all 4 from inside the 5 yard line and this happened in weeks 2 and 3 which was before the 49ers offense came into their own. Kyle Shanahan is famous for fantasy production at the running back position. A large part of that fame is because a number of them have been undrafted free agents (See: Mostert, Raheem). So if JAMYCAL HASTY gets a hot hand he could hold onto it with a tight grip until Mostert returns.
We could also note that the 49ers were decimated on defense and are already without their man cover corner Richard Sherman. Losing Nick Bosa to a torn ACL can’t be understated for quarterbacks facing San Francisco, but Solomon Thomas who was just coming into his own was also lost to the same injury, and he could have played his last snap as a 49er. We don’t have to perceive the 49ers defense as a daunting fantasy matchup anymore though, and their offense overall could be in trouble as they head into a tough stretch of their schedule where wins will be hard to come by for the reigning NFC champs.
THE BATTERED RAMS
CAM AKERS left with “separated rib cartilage” according to the Rams head coach. McVay is impossible to glean information from so when we hear that Akers “could play” and that he “should be okay” it tells us nothing. Akers did hold up to punishment at FSU playing behind some of the worst offensive lines in college football, but there’s reason for concern if you invested in Cam Akers in redraft. We saw his scary range of outcomes play out for DARELL HENDERSON last season, and in week 2 we saw Hendo finally break onto the scene. His box score was impressive by itself but the use in the passing game is what entices me the most and if not for a slight overthrow by Jared Goff, Darrell Henderson would have had a receiving TD against the Eagles to go along with the goal line rushing TD.
MALCOLM BROWN also left the game with a pinky finger injury! He did fracture it but according to Stu Jackson, a respected Rams reporter, Brown will play with a splint.
WHO IS #2 BEHIND ADAMS IN GB?
DAVANTE ADAMS' injury isn’t thought to be serious and Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said Adams wanted to go back into the game against the Lions in week 2. Hamstring injuries can linger and are easily re-aggravated so we’re not brushing anything off. This offense is humming so harmoniously right now though so would it make a difference if Adams took week 3 off?
We may have underestimated Aaron Rodgers’ deep ball accuracy, his passing volume, and even the chip on his shoulder. So Adams or no Adams we‘re adding Marquez Valdez-Scantling and holding our breath every time he’s targeted. MVS is 2nd in the NFL in deep targets, 1st in catchable deep targets and regrettably, he’s tied for the most drops in football. MVS is ahead of Allen Lazard right now despite the stigma associated with Aaron Rodgers’ adherence to trust and reliability. The second best option in the potent GB passing game is really Aaron Jones though. His ability to curve Aaron Rodgers’ career RB target share and Jones’ ability to score at a higher rate than any other RB since entering the league are two reasons it's hard to keep him out of the elite running back conversation.
FAILURE TO LAUNCH
Bresaud Perriman’s ankle injury compounds the hamstring injury that had Perriman at risk of missing the game against the 49ers altogether. Final destination: ankle injury. Braxton Barrios and Chris Hogan are the adds and Chris Herndon might be a drop! That is the extent of the failure that is this Adam Gase offense. I am adding none of these Jets and I’m out of breath with Gase. After he put out one of the worst offenses of the past decade in 2019, the Jets look poised for an impossibly worse year in 2020. From the fantasy lens it comes down to play volume, yards per play, 3rd down efficiency, red zone trips and consequently the TD totals. These are important drivers to a competent offense and they’re figures that are astonishingly, if not historically low in Adam Gase offenses. I was even lower on Herndon than I wanted to be because Gase has never had an offense where the TE position scored over 9.1 PPR points per game. There is just zero upside starting a Jet in your fantasy lineup in 2020 while Gase is still the head coach.