Shooting stars and crashing asteroids; Week 2 recap

September 22, 2020

Week 2 is in the books, but it was hardly one to celebrate. A myriad of injuries to the stars of the leagues put a damper on this weekend’s events. This article won’t dive into the injuries and the ramifications therein, but this one did. Feel free to catch yourself up on the bad parts before diving into this week’s recap.

Shooting Stars

Cam Newton (QB2)

There were plenty of reasons to worry about Newton on the road in Seattle, but he clearly thrives on proving people wrong. Newton’s usage has shown that he can be a great fantasy option and his passing ability has rebounded after an offseason of reservations. 

But that rushing threat… man, it’s something special. Newton has 26 rushing attempts through two weeks and four touchdowns to go along with it. There are plenty of designed run plays, especially on the goal line, for Newton. This team goes as Newton goes, and head coach Bill Belichick knows it. 

Newton is on pace for 32 rushing touchdowns. Fun.

Joe Burrow (QB10)

61 attempts as a rookie signal caller gets you on this list. The Bengals want to pass the ball and the team needs to overcome another year of poor defensive play. That leads to the ball being in Burrow’s hands more often than not, whether he’s running or throwing. Between the passing volume and the rushing baseline (15 carries through two games) Burrow looks like the frontrunner for OROY. And for good reason. 

Leonard Fournette (RB4)

Ronald Jones won’t completely disappear, but this is the beginning of the end for Rojo truthers. Fournette is the better player and after a dominant display, albeit against a weak opponent, the transition begins. Jones was benched after a costly fumble, as head coach Bruce Arians tends to do, and Fournette never looked back. He made the most of his 12 carries, rushing for 103 yards and two rushing touchdowns. It might still be volatile, but the leash continues to get shorter and shorter for Jones with Fournette starring. 

James Conner (RB11)

The Benny Snell show didn’t last long in Pittsburgh as Conner took back the starter role. Conner took 16 carries to the bank, recording 106 rushing yards and a touchdown. It’s another reminder that head coach Mike Tomlin will use his bellcow until he is physically unable to. If Conner is healthy, he will get the work. If he’s not, Snell will be extremely valuable. There is no timeshare. If Snell is dropped by an upset owner, Conner owners need to prioritize owning the Kentucky product.

Terry McLaurin (WR3)

McLaurin has officially reached must-start territory. His volume has created a nice floor and his talent allows for a great ceiling. More often than not Washington will be playing from behind, creating a nice game script for McLaurin. He’s a pleasure to watch and seems set to return WR2 value for fantasy.

Diontae Johnson (WR7)

Johnson has back-to-back games with double-digit targets, leading the team in that category. The rapport is clearly growing between Ben Roethlisberger and Johnson. The Steelers should face tougher opponents ahead, which could test Johnson on the outside, but with Houston on the horizon in Week 3, good things will continue to come for the sophomore wide receiver. 

Jonnu Smith (TE3)

Well, didn’t Smith look good. The athletic tight end definitely benefited from A.J. Brown’s absence, but his profile suggests there’s more around the corner. Yards-after-catch is his bread and butter, which was on full display. The Titans’ commitment to the run game may make his floor a bit unstable, but with tight ends there are few players who can do more with less than Smith.

Dalton Schultz (TE7)

Filling in for Blake Jarwin, Schultz was a fairly unknown name outside of dynasty circles. A fourth-round pick in 2018, Schultz took the reins in his first game as the starter and never looked back. His nine receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown helped the Cowboys come back from a big deficit. It won’t happen every week — having weapons like Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliot require a spreading of the wealth — but his role in a productive offense cannot be ignored. The same excitement people had for Jarwin can be transferred, in a slightly lesser form, to Schultz. The role is the same, after all.

Crashing asteroids

Drew Brees (QB22)

Brees is now 0-2 without Michael Thomas, but the tale of the tape was far more worrisome than any score could tell someone. Brees’ arm continues to look weak and his inability to push the ball downfield has seriously hindered the Saints offense. Alvin Kamara owners may be happy, but two straight games with eight or more targets is indicative of a quarterback that wants to dump the ball off rather than look downfield. Without Thomas to help Brees out, he remains a low-end QB1 at best. Given that he was barely a QB2 against the Raiders, Brees might be worth leaving out of your lineup in favor of a streaming option until Thomas returns to health.

Kirk Cousins (QB33)

Anyone else in the Scotty Fish Bowl league? Anyone else pick Cousins for his accuracy and low turnover rate?

So much for that.

Cousins looked awful for the second week in a row against a middling Colts defense and the alarms should be going off. In some formats he finished with negative fantasy points — -19.98 fantasy points in SFBX, for example. The passing offense looks one-dimensional without Stefon Diggs, and the run game isn’t as potent as last season. Overreacting with two weeks’ worth of data isn’t the smartest thing to do but if there is no deep threat in the passing game anymore and the run game cannot set up “play action,” this offense will fail. Barring a drastic step up by rookie Justin Jefferson, this team is going to continue to fall apart. 

Todd Gurley (RB47)

It’s absolutely puzzling. Maybe it’s because of the degenerative knee, but Gurley simply was off the field way too often. Too often fullback Keith Smith or backup Ito Smith were running important plays — why? It might take a coaching change to get Gurley on the field but remember; the last time we saw Gurley he simply was not good. He ran enough routes in 2019, but led running backs in drops and ranked 48th in true yards-per-carry. Gurley lived off of red zone touches (3rd in the league) and if those do not come, owners will be unhappy. It’s the same story from the preseason — watch out.

David Johnson (RB48)

Johnson is back! Right guys? Right? Guys?

While it may have been fun for people to tout Johnson as a potential Comeback Player of the Year candidate, it was incredibly premature. Johnson could not get anything going against Baltimore, taking his 11 carries for just 34 yards. Note: that is the same amount of carries he received in Week 1 — he just did not average seven yards-per-carry this time. His involvement in the passing game was solid but catching two of four targets for 16 yards isn’t enough. With Duke Johnson likely to return next week, the passing volume could dip for the former Cardinal. A tough matchup vs Pittsburgh won’t be forgiving either.

Michael Gallup (WR61)

It just hasn’t come together for the third-year wide receiver who has been out targeted but not out snapped by almost everyone else. After a weak start, he is an intriguing buy low. CeeDee Lamb’s emergence could be enough to drive the price down and as previously mentioned, Gallup is still on the field. He led the wide receivers in snaps in Week 1 and tied Amari Cooper with the most in Week 2. Maybe the Cowboys offensive line needs to be happy for Dak Prescott to start looking Gallup’s way deep again. Either way, the production is coming for Gallup — just wait.

Jarvis Landry (WR65)

I was concerned about Landry’s scheme fit in Kevin Stefanski’s offense and the first couple weeks have failed to alleviate that fear. This team’s identity is built around the run game, which doesn’t leave much left for Landry who doesn’t provide the threat deep that is needed in a run-heavy, play action scheme. Better weeks are ahead, but for a player who doesn’t score many touchdowns and has solely relied on volume, the worry is real. 

Jared Cook (TE18)

With Brees looking like he was well on his way to the retirement home, Cook struggled, posting just two receptions for 13 yards. A touchdown salvaged his day, but it was a disappointing showing with Michael Thomas inactive. Like Landry, better days are ahead but this is the nature of most tight ends — touchdown dependent barring a blow-up in usage that can be hard to predict. Stream and look to matchups as more defense-related data becomes reliable.

Dallas Goedert (TE25)

Like Cook, sometimes it just doesn’t fall your way. The snaps were there again for Goedert despite playing second fiddle to Zach Ertz — he actually played more snaps than he did in Week 1 — but the hit didn’t land. There’s no reason to expect anything other than what we did going into the season. Both tight ends will be used, both will be good from time to time. Their dual usage puts the floor a bit lower for Goedert as the one with less snaps. Whatever you thought of Goedert last week, keep thinking that.