Starts of the Week: Week 2

Once the season begins, the most difficult parts of any fantasy manager’s week are the start/sit decisions. These lineup choices can make or break a week, but unfortunately, not everyone has time to sit down and read lengthy fantasy advice articles on every player. That's why I'll do the work for you, and put a list of several players at each position that I like and should have a strong performance for that given week. But I'm not going to just choose the obvious studs each week. I'll go over the guys that are in the flex-worthy range.


Start of the Week:

Matthew Stafford (LAR) After feasting on the Chicago pass defense in Week 1, Stafford goes on the road to face a Colts defense that was picked apart by Russell Wilson last week. It might not have been a great showing for the Colts’ defense, but Indy has a better group of cornerbacks than the Bears do. But let’s not discredit Stafford, who did what he was supposed to do against a bad secondary. Stafford’s first TD pass as a Ram – a first-quarter missile to Van Jefferson – reminded us just how good the former Georgia star’s arm is. He’s a solid QB1 this week.

Justin Herbert (LAC) What can the rookie sensation do for an encore? Herbert’s first start of 2021 wasn’t spectacular, but it was solid. Against a tough Washington defense, Herbert completed 31 or 47 passes for 337 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, and led the Chargers to a quality road win in the sort of game they usually lost in the past. This week, Herbert gets a home date against a Dallas defense that just lost ace pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence to a foot injury. The Dallas secondary has major holes, and without a decent pass rush, Herbert has a chance to pick the Cowboys apart.

Stream of the Week:

Teddy Bridgewater (DEN) The Broncos’ new starting quarterback did what he was supposed to do in Denver’s season opener: manage the game, protect the ball and bring home the win. In other words, he wasn’t Drew Lock. Bridgewater completed 28 of 36 passes for 264 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran three times for 19 yards. Now he gets to face a Jaguars defense that somehow managed to make Tyrod Taylor look like an MVP candidate in Week 1. Jacksonville gave up 8.8 yards per pass attempt to Houston even though the Texans’ offense is as explosive as a wet bag of sparklers. The loss of Jerry Jeudy to a high-ankle sprain makes Bridgewater’s job harder, but he still has an abundance of pass-catching weaponry: Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Tim Patrick, and K.J. Hamler. Consider Bridgewater a mid-range QB2 for this one.

Running Backs

Start of the Week:

Damien Harris (NE) The Patriots probably would be 1-0 if Harris hadn’t coughed up a late fumble deep in Dolphins territory, preventing a game-winning field goal try. So, could Harris lose snaps to Stevenson, the rugged rookie who punched in five touchdowns in three preseason games? Er, probably not, since Stevenson fumbled early after a 9-yard catch (though it looked as if he might have been down when the ball came out) and only played five snaps. On the other hand, Harris played 53% of New England’s offensive snaps and had 23 carries for 100 yards. He also caught a couple of passes for 17 yards. Expect Harris to be the lead runner Sunday against a Jets defense that gave up 98 rushing yards to Christian McCaffrey.

Najee Harris (PIT) The Steelers rookie had a disappointing RB42 effort in a winning debut against Buffalo, but there are signs that he will be a stud in the coming weeks. Pittsburgh played 58 offensive snaps, and Harris was in the backfield for all 58. That’s right. He played every single snap. That’s more than even Christian McCaffrey most weeks. Whether that usage continues isn’t the point; the Steelers are committed to the first-round draft pick and will continue to use him. That means the results will come, and it starts this week against a Vegas defense that looked susceptible to an iffy Ravens running attack on Monday night.

Co-start of the Week (and hottest waiver wire pickup):

Eli Mitchell (SF) Surprise! 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan presented fantasy managers with the first major puzzle of the season. It was expected that Raheem Mostert and Sermon would divide most of the carries in a potent and alluring backfield. Mostert was indeed a prominent part of the picture in Week 1 – until he sustained a knee injury that wound up being season-ending. But Sermon was a healthy scratch, and instead of the third-rounder from Ohio State, it was another rookie, sixth-rounder Elijah Mitchell of Louisiana-Lafayette, who made noise. Mitchell played 35 of 55 snaps and carried 19 times for 104 yards and a touchdown (though he didn’t see a target). For whatever reason, Shanahan used Mitchell over Sermon in Week 1, and then Mitchell proceeded to have a good game. It seems counterintuitive that Sermon would vault past Mitchell in Week 2. I have Mitchell ranked as an RB 2 this week, and I'd look at Mitchell like a Mostert clone.

Fade of the Week:

Myles Gaskin (MIA) Considering the fears about Gaskin’s role in the offense a month ago, after Brown started ahead of him in a preseason game, Gaskin’s 54% Week 1 snap share and 14 touches were encouraging for his investors. He ran for 49 yards on nine carries and caught all five of his targets for 27 yards. Last year it was easier to run on the Bills than to throw on them, so I expect to see Gaskin’s carry total increase this week. He checks in as a low-end RB2. Brown played 16 snaps against New England, ran five times for 16 yards, and didn’t see a target. Ahmed played 11 Week 1 snaps, ran three times for four yards, and caught two of three targets for 24 yards. Neither Brown nor Gaskin is useable this week.

Wide Receivers

Start of the Week:

Mike Williams (LAC) I’m not the first one to note this, but it’s probably a good sign that Williams’ average depth of target in Week 1 was 9.8 yards. His aDOT numbers in his first three NFL seasons: 14.8, 17.8, 14.5. Sure, it can be nice to get those high-value targets deep downfield. But those deep throws tend to be completed at a much lower rate, and receivers with big aDOT numbers tend to be streakier than we’d like ( e.g., DeSean Jackson). Against Washington in Week 1, Williams had a career-high eight receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. He had 12 targets, the second-highest total of his career. The usage is very encouraging and could point to a career year for Big Mike.

Stream of the Week:

Russell Gage (ATL) This is an interesting crossroads for Gage. He was blanked last week, drawing only two targets and failing to make a single catch. But against the Buccaneers this week, Gage will go up against Bucs slot corner Ross Cockrell, who’s being forced into the lineup because Tampa’s usual slot corner, Sean Murphy-Bunting, is out with a dislocated elbow. If there’s a matchup Gage can win, it’s this one.

Deep-League Stream of the Week (Less than 50% rostered):

Tim Patrick (DEN) He’ll never be a proverbial “league winner” (good grief, do I hate that term), but Patrick seems to produce whenever called upon. The Broncos are going to need him now that Jerry Jeudy is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a high-ankle sprain, so Patrick was a popular waiver add this week. He played 70% of Denver’s snaps in the opener and was a model of efficiency, catching all four of his targets for 39 yards and a touchdown. Patrick’s matchup against new Jaguars CB Shaquill Griffin keeps him relatively low in my receiver rankings this week, but I’ve been guilty of underestimating Patrick on many occasions.

Fade of the Week:

Michael Pittman (IND) It’s not time to move Pittman into the circle of trust just yet. Following a three-catch, 29-yard opener against Seattle, he faces a tough matchup against the Rams’ Darious Williams. I have him ranked as a WR5. For now, bench him, and if you must. Drop him.

Tight Ends

Start of the Week:

Jared Cook (LAC) Need a tight end? Cook is only 36% rostered in Yahoo leagues, and his Week 1 usage was encouraging. He only played six more snaps than Donald Parham but was targeted eight times and had five grabs for 56 yards. Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski lit up Dallas for 90 yards and two TDs in Week 1.

Fade of the Week:

Juwan Johnson (NO) Johnson played only 12 snaps but ran routes on 10 of them. He caught all three of his targets for 21 yards and two touchdowns. Puny snap counts could scare people away from Johnson, but if he’s running routes on the vast majority of his snaps – and things seem to be pointing that way – then he could be a useful fantasy option. Johnson’s emergence of training camp seemed to turn people away from Trautman, but Trautman’s big snap share is a good sign. New Orleans is now fertile ground for TE speculators.

Week 2 Stashes

'Pick up & bench, if you have an available roster spot'

Tua Taagovailoa (QB - MIA) After a poor week Week 1 from a fantasy perspective, players may give up on the Dolphins leftie. This offense should provide Tua Tagovailoa with good scoring opportunities moving forward, though, with Will Fuller arriving this week and Jaylen Waddle looking like a true top-10 draft talent. Tagovailoa is worth a gamble in deep leagues if you don’t roster a top-12 QB. Although I dislike rostering a second QB, it’s not a bad idea to pop him on your bench to see it come together before starting him.

Larry Roundtree (RB - LAC) There were plenty of question marks surrounding the Chargers’ backfield in the preseason, and Week 1 cleared only some of them. Joshua Kelley was inactive while Justin Jackson played 11 snaps, primarily on passing downs. That left Larry Rountree as the clear backup to Austin Ekeler and a likely change-of-pace back who could even be startable come bye weeks. The key value comes from locking in the handcuff for a sixth-year running back who has never had more than 132 carries in a season. Rountree is a good option if you have a vacant spot and a solid starting lineup.

Cordarrelle Patterson (WR/RB - ATL) A backup RB with a WR designation? Yes please! Patterson looks like the clear handcuff to Davis and even has possible desperation-bye-week appeal. The talented kick returner has shown his rushing chops in the past and could be a valuable addition if Davis goes down, especially in deeper, non-PPR leagues.