Week 1. The week we're reminded that we don't really know much. Plowing through the preseason, we're relying on our projections based heavily on what happened the year before. We know it's a faulty ideal. Most teams don't remain the same year to year. But it's the best system we have. However, it also leads to a lot of freakouts and overreactions. Once we stop hyperventilating over things we didn't expect, we can start to sift through the data and make calm, level-headed decisions about who to start and who has sleeper potential heading into Week 2.
Until things again go sideways, and we harshly overcorrect in the other direction. Sigh. Here are some names.
With Keenan Allen out, that means there will need to be others picking up the slack. Insert Palmer. He was a player I liked as a late-round option to have more parts of the Chargers' passing game. It was, however, a bit surprising to see DeAndre Carter as Justin Herbert’s wide receiver of choice after Allen’s injury. I’m not saying anything Mike Williams managers don’t already know.
Nonetheless, I still believe Palmer is the next man up for Los Angeles this week. Even if Carter had more yards and a touchdown, all the other metrics went in Palmer’s favor. He was on the field more, ran more routes and had the same number of targets and receptions. This week figures to be a high-scoring contest against the Chiefs. If there’s a week to believe Palmer can be a big part of the passing game, this is it.
Lost in the conversation about what would happen with Amon-Ra St. Brown and the rest of the Lions passing game was the fortune of Chark. Apart from one big year in Jacksonville, Chark never lived up to expectations -- though the general inconsistency of the Jaguars is partially to blame. Nonetheless, it’s why Chark didn’t light any fires during fantasy draft season.
It’s going to take more than one game for us to get hyped on the Lions passing game, but Chark finishing second on the week with eight targets should make people sit up and take notice. If you dig a little deeper, Chark ran a route on 92% of Jared Goff’s dropbacks -- the same as St. Brown. There might not be a lot of target volume in Detroit this year, but if Chark is truly the second option in the passing game, he will have value. He’ll have even more value this week against a Washington secondary that struggled to stay with Christian Kirk and Zay Jones.
Speaking of Jones, he’s always an afterthought in fantasy drafts. Then he does just enough to land on a weekly sleepers list once or twice a season. I guess we’re getting it out of the way early, this year. After one week, Jones looks like the WR2 for the Jaguars, supplanting Marvin Jones in target share and running the same number of routes as Kirk.
Even in a loss, there’s reason to believe the Jaguars offense will have more life in 2022 and Zay Jones could be part of it. In Week 2, the Jags take aim at a Colts secondary that looked vulnerable in the first half -- continuing a trend of being torched by opposing wide receivers. While Jones lined up outside, he did most of his work in the seams. Coincidentally (or not), that’s where O.J. Howard hit Indy for a pair of touchdowns last week. It could be Zay Jones week!
I didn’t have high hopes for the Browns passing game with Jacoby Brissett at the helm. As expected, Amari Cooper was a non-factor, catching three passes for 17 yards. What wasn’t expected was Peoples-Jones being Brissett’s favorite target in the season opener. DPJ was targeted 11 times, snagging six of them for 60 yards. More importantly, Peoples-Jones ran short and intermediate routes in the middle of the field, throws suited to Brissett’s style of play.
Because Cleveland’s passing game isn’t going to be explosive this season, volume is going to be key. DPH won’t always lead the Browns in targets, but he could see a good number again in Week 2. Last week, rookie Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner showed well. He mostly stayed on one side of the field while occasionally shadowing Mark Andrews. If the Jets employ the same formula this week, Cooper could get a heavy dose of Gardner, potentially opening things up for Peoples-Jones.
I didn’t think I’d be saying this so soon, but there are interesting things happening with the Washington offense. Carson Wentz had a strong start to his season, and we learned that there could be more receiving options in D.C. than just Terry McLaurin. Curtis Samuel showed dual-threat potential and Dotson backed up his preseason hype with a couple of touchdowns. Yes, he had just five targets, but it looks like the Commanders want him to be a downfield threat to go along with Scary Terry.
That could lessen his dependence on having a heavy target share. Of course, it does increase his dependence on Wentz being consistently accurate beyond 10 yards. That part hasn’t always been a sure thing. But let’s think positively after a good Week 1. Adding to the good vibes is a matchup against a Lions defense that allowed the second-most yards on throws over 10 yards last season – and got bullied by A.J. Brown in Week 1. Although that last part is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens regularly. Look for a couple of Wentz YOLO balls in the rookie’s direction this week.
Was there any doubt that the effervescent Williams would be the star of "Hard Knocks?" Perpetually upbeat and eternally quotable, the Lions RB2 always draws attention. In Week 1, he drew attention for finding the end zone twice -- to the chagrin of D’Andre Swift managers. Side note: Swift had a huge day, no one feels bad for people who started him. But what we saw on Sunday could be a portent of things to come. Williams was Detroit’s running back of choice near the goal line and was efficient with his opportunities. If that indeed persists, Swift’s touchdown upside could drop dramatically.
This week, the Lions will line up against the Commanders, who had their hands full with James Robinson in Week 1. Williams and Robinson aren’t a one-to-one comparison, but JRob did solid work near the end zone. Not to mention the gap in the rushing share between Williams and Swift wasn’t extreme. That kind of workload suggests Williams could have some useable weeks in 2022. This projects to be one of them.
In the offseason, Colts head coach Frank Reich told us that fantasy managers should keep an eye on Nyheim Hines. It didn’t take long for him to be proven right. Hines was second only to Michael Pittman, Jr. in receptions and receiving yards while earning a respectable six targets. This doesn’t feel like a fluke, because, well ... have you seen Indy’s receiving corps?
Until further notice, Hines could function as Matt Ryan’s No. 2 option. Unlike Jonathan Taylor, the Colts use Hines to run actual routes, rather than being an outlet valve. Three of his six targets were more than five yards from the line of scrimmage last week. Hines only has value in a PPR world. But since that’s the timeline we currently find ourselves in, we might as well take advantage.
To this point, Anderson’s biggest moment in Carolina was learning who Sir Purr is, though his 102-yard, one touchdown performance in Week 1 ranks pretty highly. The next step is for Anderson to consistently put together strong outings for the Panthers and fantasy managers. The signs are encouraging. In the season opener, Anderson had a 100 percent route participation while leading the team in targets and air yards. He also appears to be the downfield threat in an otherwise short-yardage passing game. His 11.6-yard route depth was by far Carolina’s deepest in Week 1 -- no other player reached nine yards.
This week, the Panthers face a Giants squad that was victimized downfield repeatedly by the Titans. That’s not exactly the most feared aerial attack in the league. If Anderson continues to get deep targets and pick up chunk yardage, he could have more fantasy appeal than first believed.
The Bengals were a mediocre defensive team last year. They weren’t much coveted as a fantasy stop unit this year, either. But if you’re a streaming type, they should be a target for you in Week 2. While Dak Prescott is on the shelf, Dallas will be an offense we’re picking on with defenses. The Cowboys didn’t look very inspiring early on Sunday night while Prescott was still intact. Inserting Cooper Rush into the lineup isn’t going to make them any more potent.
If the Bengals aren’t available this week, you can stay in Ohio for another streaming option. We’re targeting the Jets offense with streaming defenses as well, mostly because they’re still trying to figure things out. For all of his eliteness, Joe Flacco isn’t escaping a ton of pocket pressure and will still occasionally throw the ball to the wrong color jersey. If you’re pivoting away from using the Dolphins or Eagles this week, Cleveland could be your squad.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who really will organize his garage one day. Send him your home improvement aspirations or fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.