Fantasy Football Week 1: Biggest takeaways from all the action

Source: Tony Ding/AP

Week 1 of fantasy football is almost in the books, and if you’re like me, you’ll be doing your best throughout the upcoming week to make sense of it all. There are several key takeaways I’m focusing on. Many players can be targeted in trades after Week 1 whose stock may have fallen. There are several other players who had good games that are still good buy-highs.

Lions RB D’Andre Swift is matchup-proof and is a weekly must-start

I can barely contain my excitement over RB D’Andre Swift’s outstanding Week 1 performance. Let’s start with the circumstances and context.

A heavily-favored San Francisco 49ers team traveled to Detroit. The 49ers feature a phenomenal defense, and Detroit lost starting LT Taylor Decker to a finger injury late in the week. Reports out of Lions camp suggested Swift could be limited early in the season as he was managing a groin injury.

Minutes before kickoff, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Swift was “expected to have a limited role” and that complementary RB Jamaal Williams “will carry the load.” There were nothing but bad signals for Swift heading into this game.

D’Andre Swift then rattled off an eye-popping stat line while splitting the backfield opportunities with Williams:

  • 11 carries, 39 rushing yards
  • 8 catches on 11 targets, 65 yards, 1 TD

A week ago, I listed Swift as a breakout candidate. I noted his impressive 31 catches on 39 targets in his first nine games in the NFL. His 8 catches and 11 targets yesterday have serious fantasy implications. His 11 targets ranked as the 11th-most targets in the league and most among RBs in Week 1.

If you’re unfamiliar with Swift, he’s not just a pass-catching back. He has the physical profile of a workhorse and he will lead the Lions in carries, assuming health. But he has a combination of speed and agility that makes him dangerous both on the ground and through the air.

Detroit was trailing for much of the game, as expected. Detroit will be trailing in a lot of games. If Swift is in line to see 6-12 targets every week, he has an extremely high floor and ceiling combination. He could potentially be in league-winning position considering his preseason status as a middle-round draft pick.

The major fantasy football takeaway from Swift’s performance in Week 1 is that he will be a force to be reckoned with in 2021.

Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase is a Top-24 Fantasy Option

As an offseason investor in rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase, I was very nervous for his debut. Chase’s struggles were highly-publicized in the preseason. I was bracing myself for an unproductive game, with Chase watching from the sideline for an uncomfortable amount of snaps.

Instead, Chase led the Bengals in targets, catches and receiving yards. Chase posted 5 catches on 7 targets, 101 yards, and a TD. Chase also had a carry for -2 yards.

This is why fantasy players have to factor in draft capital in today’s game when evaluating players. Bengals WRs Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are great players, are more experienced, are accomplished as pros, and actually played football last year (unlike Chase, who opted out of his third season at LSU).

But the Bengals were ready to give Chase, their #5 overall pick, an opportunity to be the alpha dog in his first game. The Bengals had a vision when they drafted Chase instead of addressing their suspect offensive line. They weren’t interested in waiting around to realize that vision.

If yesterday was any indication, Chase could already be the #1 receiving option in the Bengals offense. The Bengals won yesterday, but they are still a bottom-half team in the league that will be trailing frequently. Chase could be in line for a monster season if he produces 100-yard games on the regular.

This may seem like a bold fantasy football takeaway after only Week 1, but if you added WR Justin Jefferson last year after his breakout game, you likely rode him all the way to the playoffs. A similar impact could be in the range of outcomes for Chase. He’s worth trading for despite his rising stock.

Buy the Denver Broncos Offense

The Broncos offense was underwhelming yesterday from a fantasy perspective in their win against the Giants. This offseason, I had my eye on TE Noah Fant, WRs Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, and rookie RB Javonte Williams.

Jeudy left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, and appeared fortunate to avoid a dreaded dislocation or broken bone. Although unfortunate for Jeudy, the time he will miss as a result of his injury opens up a bigger opportunity for his teammates.

Fant put up a promising 6 catches on 8 targets for 62 yards. He’s a big-time buy for me in all formats, but especially in redraft leagues, where he was mostly overlooked in drafts. He should have a reasonable price tag and could be in line for a major breakout.

Sutton was a big disappointment with only 2.4 PPR points, there’s no doubt about that. But considering he’s coming off a torn ACL, I’m still very willing to consider starting him moving forward. Sutton could be in line for additional targets while Jeudy rehabs his high ankle sprain.

Williams was overshadowed by veteran RB Melvin Gordon’s long touchdown run. But make no mistake, Williams will take over this backfield eventually. He only produced 5.1 PPR fantasy points, but had 14 carries and 1 catch on 1 target. He’s a very interesting buy as he should build momentum throughout the year.

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