On Target: Saints are Cookin

Daily Fantasy Fantasy Football Fantasy Football Strategy

By Davis Mattek

We know nothing. The best laid plans of fantasy football owners went awry in Week 1, there is no way around it. By the time you are reading this, you’re familiar with the egg that Jamaal Charles laid, Demaryius Thomas‘s horrible, awful no good day and myriad surprising positive performances. What is most interesting to me is how week 1 passing plans are affected by game flow, whether it followed the Vegas point spreads or not. I think teams give us significant clues on how they plan to operate for the rest of the year. Of course, there are obviously some performances that we are capable of writing off, but disregarding new and important information is foolhardy.

First, a look at the five pass catchers we highlighted last week.

Travis KelceKelce was sort of a fantasy disappointment but encouraging signs existed. The Chiefs offense was a total garbage fire, but Kelce still earned five targets and caught three passes while playing limited snaps. If Kansas City wants its offense to get better, involving Kelce seems like a near certainty.

Jarrett Boykin
Boykin was blanked by the obviously stout Richard Sherman as he was stuck playing Sherman’s side of the field. It was a strategic decision by the Packers to keep their worst offensive player as a decoy. While it didn’t end in a win for Green Bay, I think it’s indicative of their future intentions with Boykin which are … nothing. It seems sort of obvious that they view him as a bit player at best, a contributor when needed but not a player to feature in gameplans.

Justin Hunter
Hunter didn’t score and Kendall Wright did, but I think that’s the last time we’ll ever have to type that sentence. Hunter actually had more targets than Wright for the first time in their Titans careers, and his looks were of the downfield, high-fantasy-point-yielding variety. I’m incredibly encouraged by the results, and with his Week 2 matchups against the Dallas Cowboys, this is probably your last chance to acquire him.

Ladarius Green
What can I say about Ladarius Green but “Sigh”? I really thought the Chargers would stop hating touchdowns this season with Vincent Brown released, but Green saw only two targets, catching both for 24 yards. At this point, I think he’s in a far more dire situation than Kelce because the Chargers don’t actually need him to move the ball. Until Antonio Gates is inactive with injury, Green likely won’t be startable in 12-team leagues.

Jeremy Maclin
Maclin had a fantastic day, though part of me wonders if it was result of the Jags/Eagles game going off script. Maclin gained 10 targets, which was 21 percent of Philly’s targets, an encouraging number for his owners. Most of Maclin’s production came on one 68-yard touchdown catch, but that is sort of what we expect from Chip Kelly offenses. As someone who wasn’t heavily invested in Maclin before the season began, I’m certainly glad Daily Fantasy is a thing.

Two To Trash

All fantasy performances are not created equal. Every time a wide receiver breaks out in Week 1 for a big performance the comparison is obviously Kevin Ogletree. That analysis is often lazy even if the outcomes end up being similar.

Steve Smith
Smith’s first game of the 2014 strikes me as particularly unsustainable. The Ravens have never felt comfortable putting Joe Flacco in a position to win games, so counting on that pass volume continuing is probably an unlikely outcome. 15 targets is more than we could ever project for one wide receiver, so when it happens for an aging possession wide receiver that was cut by a team that needed pass catchers, the writing is on the wall. Even more concerning, a huge chunk of Smiff’s production came on one play, and his game the last several declining seasons has been marked by a lack of explosion. There is little one could do to convince me I need spend FAAB dollars on him.

Emmanuel Sanders
Sanders is clearly a different story than Smith. He’s worth owning in every format and is usable every week, but not in the way the fantasy media was suggesting leading up to Sunday night’s game. Sanders caught each of Peyton Manning‘s first three passes and then was a tertiary option the rest of the game because Emmanuel Sanders is a tertiary player. He’s not big enough to win contested balls, not fast enough to be considered a weapon in space or excel on deep routes and not skilled enough to consistently trick defenders on option routes. Despite his nine targets and six catches, I think this is the highest his fantasy value will go. A 24 percent market share of targets in a Peyton offense is super valuable, but it seems unlikely to continue. Demaryius was really bad in the Bronco’s first game and if he has another game that bad this whole season, I’ll go a round with Floyd Mayweather. As long as Demaryius rebounds and Julius remains as important as he was in their first game, it’s hard to envision a player as unimpressive as Sanders making a huge fantasy imprint.

Three To Treasure

Cordarrelle Patterson Patterson only had five targets and three catches for 26 yards. How can he possibly be someone you want to target in your leagues? Well, probably the fact that no wide receiver has done what Patterson did on the ground in … ever. He is the first wide receiver to have 100 rushing yards since the AFL-NFL merger, which suggests a couple things depending on how you view it. To take the pessimistic approach, one could believe that because it hasn’t been done that it isn’t sustainable or we could realize that we’re deal with a special player who normal rules don’t apply too. Minnesota was up huge in this game for a significant portion, which explains the lack of looks in the passing game, but I expect those to go up. Getting carries and targets in the short passing games make Patterson a lock for week-to-week starter value, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he finished in the top 12 of WR scoring in 2014.

Brandin Cooks
Cooks was the biggest surprise for me in Week 1. Not that he isn’t talented or that I wasn’t expecting great things from him eventually but as a rookie who is at a size disadvantage relative to the players defending him, I thought it might take a few weeks for him really get acclimated. That did not end up being the case, as the Saints had only four WR active on gameday with Nick Toon inactive. Jimmy Graham (10) had more targets than Cooks’ eight, which tied Marques Colston, but Cooks had a touchdown and an astounding four red-zone targets. Fifty percent of a player’s targets coming in the red zone isn’t a long-term trend that we can expect to continue, but it’s an indication of how the Saints plan to use him in their offense. He’s a long-term building block with Drew Brees, and he should be shooting to the top of any potential acquisition board for fantasy owners.

Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski had an encouraging fantasy day despite playing limited snaps. He increased his career total to 44 touchdowns in 51 played games and was the only receiver who displayed any chemistry with Tom Brady, who was generally lackadaisical. Gronkowski is the biggest, strongest touchdown-scoring force in football, and even though he isn’t 100 percent healthy yet he still scored and had a nice fantasy day. That’s exactly what you were hoping for if you took a chance on Gronk early in drafts, and it’s only going to get better from here as Gronkowski is truly the only elite offensive option the Patriots have outside of Shane Vereen.

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