This season, I will be writing a weekly article for In-Between Media (IBT), giving you my takes on the fantasy football “winners and losers” after each week of NFL action. This will be an exciting topic to cover, and I will include my reasoning behind the judgments, along with actionable analysis when possible.
My goal and basic format each week will involve presenting my winners and losers for each skill position (QB, WR, RB and TE), but the results of each week will dictate which players make each list. There will be plenty of well-known players on both ends of the spectrum, but in striving for a modicum of originality, I will mix in some players with less obvious and more subtle reasoning. That is where I believe some of the actionable advice will lie.
Week 1 was a roller coaster of injuries and unexpected or downright shocking results across the NFL. Week 2, of course, turned a few of our Week 1-based takes on their heads.
For example, one of my Week 1 losers was Jaguars’ WR Christian Kirk. In their Week 1 matchup with the Colts, Kirk ran 90%+ of his routes out of the slot and earned less than 10% of the targets. It looked as if Kirk’s teammates Calvin Ridley and Zay Jones would hog the WR targets, with Kirk being the odd man out. So what happened in Week 2? Kirk dominated the Jaguars’ passing market, earning 14 targets for a 34.1% target share, which is the seventh-highest of Week 2 so far. Meanwhile, Jones had zero catches on six targets.
We analysts do our best to predict what will happen each week, or to put it more accurately, try to predict what is most probable to happen. The volatility of the first few games of every season can be frustrating. As a data-driven analyst, I try to avoid small sample sizes at all costs, but it’s unavoidable this early in the season. The key is determining how much weight to assign to the small sample size of one or two weeks of results, versus the historical data and analysis leading into the season.
I think Week 2 is the week every year when I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing
The results of Week 1 collide with all the analysis leading up to it & it seems like a fool’s errand (with me as the fool) trying to assign the appropriate significance to those Week 1 results
— Scott Rinear (@MunderDifflinFF) September 18, 2023
Fantasy Football Winners & Losers: Week 2
Jayden Reed (WR, Green Bay Packers)
The 2023 NFL season has been the year of the rookie WRs, just not the ones we thought.
Four rookie WRs are currently Top 20 (PPR) for Week 2. Just not the ones we thought would be there.
— Scott Rinear (@MunderDifflinFF) September 18, 2023
Jayden Reed joined the party in Week 2 with 19.7 Points Per Reception (PPR) fantasy points. Currently the PPR WR17 on the week, Reed’s day was amplified by two receiving TDs. But it is not the TDs that make Reed a Week 2 winner, although it is often TDs that put rookie WRs on the fantasy leaderboards, as opposed to high volumes and chunks of receiving yards.
In Week 1, the Chiefs’ rookie Rashee Rice ended up with a solid day, finishing with double-digit fantasy points and a top-40 finish. However, Rice caught just three passes on five targets for 21 yards. His target share was only 13.9% and he was on the field for just 30.8% of the team’s snaps. But he got in the end zone. This isn’t a knock on Rice, but rather why he was nowhere near consideration as a Week 1 winner.
Touchdowns do count and Reed’s top-20 finish doesn’t happen without them. But the reason he is named a winner is because he also showed staying power as a key piece of this passing offense. Reed was targeted eight times against the Falcons, which was twice as much as the next-highest on the team.
Reed’s 32.0% target share is the ninth-highest of Week 2, tied with Garrett Wilson of the Jets. Yes, both Aaron Jones and Christian Watson did not play on Sunday, and I don’t see Reed maintaining a 30% target share (few do). But Reed turned in an 18.5% target share in Week 1, as well as a snap share well above 50%. Even with Jones and Watson back in the fold, Reed has carved out his role in the Packers’ passing attack. I would rather have Reed over Romeo Doubs rest of season.
Zack Moss (RB, Indianapolis Colts)
Zack Moss is a player who has toiled in fantasy purgatory for what seems like an eternity, but that ended in Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season. If you were able to grab Moss off waivers and then had the stones to start him, you were treated to 20.7 PPR points. He is currently RB10 on the week. Moss turned 18 rush attempts into 88 yards and a TD while also snagging all four of his targets for 19 receiving yards.
The writing was on the wall that Moss would get a decent crack at this backfield with rookie Evan Hull on Injured Reserve (IR) and RB Deon Jackson having one of the most inefficient 10+ carry performances in recent memory. But I doubt anyone predicted a 100% RB opportunity share (OS; calculated by rush attempts plus targets divided by total team RB rush attempts plus targets). Coincidentally, he wasn’t the only complete bell cow RB on the day, as the 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey also hit the 100% mark. Rams’ RB Kyren Williams also came close to what would have been an unprecedented third 100% OS in Week 2, but one lonely target to second-year RB Ronnie Rivers bumped Williams down to 96%. Either way, such high opportunity shares are rare in the current NFL.
Here are the top-give weekly OS from the 2022 season:
- Jonathan Taylor: 96.0% (Week 12)
- Saquon Barkley: 95.8% (Week 13)
- James Conner: 95.5% (Week 15)
- Leonard Fournette: 94.7% (Week 3)
- Dalvin Cook: 93.3% (Week 6)
Now, this is likely a short-term situation, with Jonathan Taylor eligible to return in Week 5. But that still gives you a minimum of two weeks for a workhorse RB running behind an offensive line ranked 10th by PFF entering the season.
Starting center Ryan Kelly did leave in the third quarter with a concussion and will need to pass through the NFL protocol to suit up in Week 3. QB Anthony Richardson also got knocked out of the game with a concussion and is questionable for Week 3. But if Richardson were to miss time, it would likely be a good thing for Moss’s fantasy prospects. Without Richardson, Moss would be the lead RB for early downs, passing downs and goal-line work. Moss could still be the goal-line option if Richardson clears protocol, as Richardson had a concussion scare on a goal-line carry in Week 1 and was concussed in Week 2 on a rushing TD.
Nico Collins (WR, Houston Texans)
Nico Collins backed up his 11-target, 26.2% target share in Week 1 with a ceiling game in Week 2. The former Michigan Wolverine exploded in Week 2 for 146 yards and a TD on seven catches. His target share dropped to 20.9%, but Texans’ rookie QB C.J. Stroud threw 47 passes against the Colts, second only to Matthew Stafford’s 55 pass attempts. A target share percentage can look pretty “meh,” but you have to look beyond that single number to make an accurate assessment.
For example, Davante Adams had a 34.8% target share in Week 2. It’s not unusual for Adams to dominate the target market on his team, and he had a great fantasy day with 84 yards and a TD. However, Collins out-targeted him, with one more target but a 14% lower in target share because Raiders’ QB Jimmy Garoppolo only threw 24 passes. Collins has stamped his name as the Texans’ top WR, and this team looks like it could end up with one of the higher pass rates in the NFL this year.
Cam Akers (RB, Los Angeles Rams)
In a move that surprised everybody (outside of the Rams), Cam Akers was a healthy scratch for the Week 2 divisional tilt with the 49ers. There is still little clarity to the situation, and even Akers posted on social media that he’s “just as confused as everybody else.”
I’m just as confused as everybody else. I’m blessed though ??♂️
The only information trickling out is that the Rams are actively trying to trade Akers. Outside of a TD, Akers had a horrendous Week 1, rushing for 29 yards on 22 carries, good for 1.32 Yards Per Carry (YPC). Williams out-snapped and out-played Akers in Week 1, so there was already speculation that he would take over as the leadback. But not necessarily like this.
It seems apparent that Akers has probably taken his last snap with the Rams. With whatever is going on behind the scenes, Williams shined in Akers’ absence against a tough 49ers defense. With the current RB market, it’s difficult to envision the Rams getting much in return for the former second-round pick. And whatever is helping fuel this seemingly hasty reaction by the Rams front office and coaching staff (we may never know what’s behind this) could add risk to a potential buyer, driving down the price even more. Akers is in the final year of the four-year contract he signed in 2020, so the Rams may just release him. His dead money would only be $512,371, so if they can’t find a late-round pick for him, they may just cut bait.
Kyle Pitts (TE, Atlanta Falcons)
This one is painful. I still and likely always will believe in Kyle Pitts’ talent. But I’m not sure you can keep starting him and hoping that this is the week he finally makes the difference you expected for the draft price you paid. Week 1 was a dumpster fire for all Falcons pass-catchers not named Bijan Robinson. The immediate panic was real, with some examples of low-ball trades for Drake London hitting the social media streets. London was even dropped in some redraft leagues. But the WR bounced back from his Week 1 goose egg with 67 yards and a TD on seven targets in Week 2. The Falcons found themselves in a negative game script early and often against the Packers, and Desmond Ridder threw a whopping 32 passes, which is just below this young season’s league average.
With head coach Arthur Smith’s propensity to run the ball 60% of the time, a negative playing-from-behind game script has been the beacon of hope for Pitts. However, that happened on Sunday, and Pitts still only ended up with two catches on five targets for 15 yards. That followed a three-target day in Week 1. Pitts’ target share sits just above 17%, which typically is a solid number for a TE. But he finished as the PPR TE20 in Week 1 and currently sits at TE36 in Week 2. The icing on the cake for Pitts making this list is that his TE36 performance is exactly 20 spots lower than his teammate, TE Jonnu Smith.
Not What It Seems: Fantasy Football Panic Meter
The following players were fantasy disappointments in Week 2, but my concern is low moving forward (for now):
- A.J. Brown (WR, Philadelphia Eagles)
- Dallas Goedert (TE, Philadelphia Eagles)
- Trevor Lawrence (QB, Jacksonville Jaguars)
- Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Miami Dolphins)
- Ja’Marr Chase (WR, Cincinnati Bengals)
Here are players who were disappointments in Week 2, and I am concerned about them moving forward:
- Justin Fields (QB, Chicago Bears)
- Alexander Mattison (RB, Minnesota Vikings)
- Dameon Pierce (RB, Houston Texans)
- Antonio Gibson (RB, Washington Commanders)
- Dalvin Cook (RB, New York Jets)
- Samaje Perine (RB, Denver Broncos)
- George Kittle (TE, San Francisco 49ers)
- Gerald Everett (TE, Los Angeles Chargers)
The following players ended up with decent fantasy days in Week 2, but I am not optimistic from a season-long lens:
- Gabe Davis (WR, Buffalo Bills)
- Nelson Agholor (WR, Baltimore Ravens)
- Kalif Raymond (WR, Detroit Lions)
- Dawson Knox (TE, Buffalo Bills)
Thanks for reading my Week 2 fantasy football winners and losers. As always, find me on Twitter, talking fantasy football, joking around, posting GIFs and lending my support where it’s needed @MunderDifflinFF.