2021 Fantasy Football Week 2 Value Plays: Loves & Hates
A week in the books—it took a long time to get here but after a photo finish in Vegas on an electric Monday night, every team is either 0-1 or 1-0. For you fantasy owners, however, it’s another week of knowledge in the books and an opportunity to add another to the win column in your league. Welcome back to my Fantasy Football Weekly Loves & Hates.
In this series, we identify the best and worst value plays at each skill position for fantasy football purposes. We take into account matchups, game scripts, advanced statistics, and any other relevant news. This won’t be your spot for trying to rank the top players at each position or suggesting deep waiver wire digs every week. Rather, whether you are playing DFS or season-long formats, your start/bench/cut decisions can be informed based on the players that stand out the most at each position—the ones that could go off (loves) and the ones that could disappoint and lose you a matchup (hates).
Starting this week, we will review the previous week’s picks and grade our performance before giving out picks for the upcoming week. I firmly believe that the most important part of the process of winning is to evaluate your winning and losing decisions. We’ll do exactly that in our evaluations of the previous week’s picks.
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Week 1 Review
My Week 1 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for me in parentheses.
I liked the value of Kirk Cousins a lot—so much so that I was given one flaming hot take of the week by Fantrax and I chose Cousins to get me an electric performance that landed him near the top of the Week 1 leaderboards.
Guess which one is mine. 👀
Hint: I addressed this take in my Loves & Hates article this morning. 😎
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) September 9, 2021
While Cousins didn’t quite make me look like the prophet of the century, he was still a good start for the price you got him at on draft night. Against a battered Bengals secondary, he utilized the red zone talent of Adam Thielen and passed the rock in bulk and in style. Cousins completed 36 of his 49 passes for 351 yards, 2 passing touchdowns, and no interceptions. He finished as the QB12 of the week.
If you went with the streaming option at quarterback in your redraft league, Cousins was one of the best options to get the job done last week but he won’t always get favorable matchups like these so don’t get carried away; keep the ball rolling to someone else if the potential is better.
On the other hand, I hated the fantasy potential of Derek Carr on Monday Night Football. While I did end up winning a Week 1 pick ‘em pool thanks to my Raiders +4.5 pick, I still cited the Ravens defense as one that is capable of restricting the big play and stifling the run game. Instead, Carr ran all over the Ravens in the absence of cornerback Marcus Peters and fired up one clutch play after another, including a game-winner to Zay Jones in overtime. Carr went 34/56 on throws for 435 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, and 1 interception. He finished as the QB10 on the week, making my hate pick a poor one as he got the job done as a low-end draft-price player at his position.
Running Back (F)
What a disaster. James Robinson, my love pick of the week at running back, emerged as one of the biggest preseason risers of the year after the injury to rookie running back Travis Etienne Jr. Making his first career appearance in the NFL’s top 100 player list, I expected Robinson to showcase his talent all over a Texans team that I thought would also fall to Urban Meyer’s Jaguars. Chalk it up to a terrible read on the whole game—Robinson finished the game with low volume, low production, and no scores. He, in fact, wasn’t even the Jacksonville running back with the most touches on Sunday.
|James Robinson||5 carries, 25 yards, 0 touchdowns||3 catches (6 targets), 29 yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Carlos Hyde||9 carries, 44 yards, 0 touchdowns||2 catches (2 targets), 14 yards, 0 touchdowns|
A puzzling situation to keep an eye on in future weeks, Robinson and the Jaguars get a tough matchup against the Denver Broncos in Week 2.
Speaking of wild running back situations, it has been hard recently to predict performance for anybody in the Detroit backfield, let alone the coexistence of two solid talents in that RB room. We saw an excess of riches for the Lions’ fantasy production. Despite T.J. Hockensen eating as the #1 option on the Lions offense, both Jamaal Williams and my hate pick D’Andre Swift produced big for their fantasy owners.
|D’Andre Swift||11 carries, 39 yards, 0 touchdowns||8 catches (11 targets), 65 yards, 1 touchdown|
|Jamaal Williams||9 carries, 54 yards, 1 touchdown||8 catches (9 targets), 56 yards, 0 touchdowns|
Both Swift and Williams finished among the top 5 PPR running backs of Week 1 and despite Swift’s injury concerns that had him listed as the second option for Detroit at running back headed into the game, he took 63 offensive snaps, beating out Williams by one.
Wide Receiver (C)
In what ended up being a wild week for a deep class of wide receivers, things again did not go ideally for my calls. My hate pick, Tyreek Hill, was more of a DFS play as you are not avoiding him in redraft leagues or dynasty fantasy football. Against a team that I thought would restrict the big play by one of the most explosive weapons in NFL history, Hill proved me wrong on the entire basis of my agenda. Not only did he eat up volume with 11 receptions on 15 targets but he also utilized a 75-yard adjustment catch on an underthrown ball by Patrick Mahomes to find the end zone. Hill finished the game with an absurd 201 scrimmage yards and was a top-2 wide receiver for Week 1 in all formats.
This is ridiculous. Mahomes x Hill, my goodness.pic.twitter.com/REFBwb9tFO
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 12, 2021
On the other hand, my wide receiver love Keenan Allen did do his job but didn’t reach the explosive heights I was hoping. Against a solid defensive matchup in the Washington Football Team that did a great job at restricting the big plays in 2020, I thought Mike Williams would be stifled, opening doors up for Allen to have a big fantasy performance. Instead, Williams showed that he is more than just a one-trick pony and ended up matching Allen in volume and beating him in fantasy production due to the end zone.
While Allen put up 9 receptions on 13 targets for a perfect 100 yards, he did not score a touchdown. Meanwhile, Williams gobbled up 8 receptions on 12 targets for 82 yards and scored a touchdown, outdoing Allen in all fantasy formats for Week 1. Allen’s solid performance still had him as a low-end WR1 but this wasn’t the boom value I was seeking out of my love pick.
Tight End (B+)
It wouldn’t be a true Week 1 if we didn’t have one of these wild stat lines—the craziest outcomes of the week come from my tight end picks. My love pick, Jordan Akins, was a deep dig into the bag of sleepers. Unowned in most leagues, I viewed Akins as a chance to emerge out of a chaotic Texans pass-catching unit as one of the primary big targets. Instead, he surrendered some of his role in the offense to Pharoah Brown, who tallied 67 yards on 4 catches (5 targets). Furthermore, Akins scored the same number of fantasy points I did on the football field as he made 0 receptions on just 2 targets.
Beware, however! I would still not give up on the potential of Akins in deep leagues as both his targets were in the red zone. Touchdowns win you fantasy matchups and Akins’ potential to perform in that department is there; the volume, however, was a drawback.
On the other hand, my hate pick of Mike Gesicki also got 2 targets—and also hauled in 0 catches! Against a tough New England defense, the Dolphins veered more towards Durham Smythe among their tight ends, who out-snapped Gesicki 38-21 on Sunday. Even Smythe was unproductive as he logged only one catch for 9 yards. Gesicki continues to be an able body to score touchdowns in future but his low floor was on full display against the Patriots.
Week 2 Loves & Hates
The start to the season was rough but as mentioned before, this series is one of growth. Champions often start 0-1 and for us, we need to step it up to find the value and avoid the ugly for Week 2.
Love: Teddy Bridgewater (DEN)
In 2020, only two teams allowed more passing touchdowns than the Jacksonville Jaguars, and only one team allowed more net yards per attempt than the Jacksonville Jaguars. With not much ability to pressure the quarterback, the Jacksonville defense provides a value matchup for a value player in Teddy Bridgewater, who is still unowned in a huge chunk of one-quarterback leagues. Granted, Bridgewater’s last game was with Jerry Jeudy for a majority of the contest, who will not be a factor in Week 2. However, in Jeudy’s absence last season, Tim Patrick stepped up just fine, particularly in the red zone where he produced four touchdowns on the season.
In Week 1, Bridgewater dotted the Giants’ defense, going 28/36 on passes with 2 touchdowns, 264 passing yards, and 0 turnovers. Expect an even better performance from him in Week 2.
Hate: Matt Ryan (ATL)
In Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Falcons displayed why they are yet again not anywhere near a complete team. Despite the talent in pass-catching, Matt Ryan’s offensive line was a complete mismatch against Philadelphia’s defense. Ryan finished the game 21/35 on passes with 164 passing yards and no touchdowns. He was completely irrelevant from the fantasy equation and, by the way, it gets worse in Week 2 against the generational front seven of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2020, Tampa Bay’s 27.5% quarterback pressure rate as a defense was the third-best in the NFL—in fact, the Eagles were one of the only two teams better.
Already having faced the Falcons once in 2020 in a close contest, the coaching staff of the new-look Buccaneers will likely be more prepared than they were last season when the Falcons held a 17-0 lead that dissolved when Tom Brady got it together. Even if Ryan gets some room to pass the ball late in attempts to come back, scoring will be a suspect commodity and Ryan is therefore unplayable in fantasy matchups in Week 2.
Love: Antonio Gibson (WSH)
A Thursday Night Football pick! I’ll keep this one brief because this really shouldn’t need much explanation even though social media overreacting makes me feel like Antonio Gibson has to be stood up for here.
While Gibson was not of supreme fantasy relevance in Week 1 against the Chargers, that was primarily due to his inability to find the end zone. The workload, on the other hand, was at an elite level and the talent? I’ll go ahead and say it—Gibson is by far the best offensive player on this team. In Week 1, he got 20 of the 23 Washington running back carries (4.5 yds/carry) and 5 of the 7 Washington running back targets in the air. Now with the switch at quarterback to the rush-capable Taylor Heinicke, Gibson’s ceiling of volume is pushed up even further as Heinicke is rightfully not considered the type of passer Ryan Fitzpatrick would be.
Hate: Jonathan Taylor (IND)
This is a hotter take than you think but I’m not trying to be controversial, I’m trying to find the serious traps and avoid them. If you invested a high draft pick in Jonathan Taylor, you are likely starting him but there is reason to be worried about a “Zeke-like” performance from Week 1 Thursday Night Football. Indeed, Taylor received a palace of goods with regards to volume in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks. He rushed for 56 yards on 17 carries and caught 6 passes for 60 yards. Even though he didn’t score, he was still very much in the fantasy-equation, especially in PPR formats simply due to the workload.
The Rams are built from a different cloth, however. In 2020, no team had a better EXP (expected points contributed) from their rushing defense than the Rams, only two teams allowed fewer yards per game on rushes than the Rams, and only three teams allowed fewer touchdown rushes than the Rams. With Carson Wentz playing through some injury concerns, the elite Rams might put this game out of reach on both sides of the ball earlier than the market might suggest. If this gets out of hand, not only are you not getting scores from Taylor but you’re also getting a reduced workload. The floor is too obnoxious to deal with for Taylor this week, making him an auto-avoid in DFS formats.
Love: Mike Evans (TB)
Another look at the Falcons-Buccaneers game; might be boring for some but I can’t get over how fantasy-revealing this game could be going forward.
Opening night in the NFL was an electric showing for many fantasy owners of the Cowboys and Buccaneers. Still, the WR1 on Tampa Bay was left out as Mike Evans hauled in 3 of 6 targets for 24 yards and no scores. In Week 2, Evans is projected outside of the top 15 fantasy wide receivers but there is no reason he shouldn’t crush those expectations. With nobody in the Atlanta Falcons secondary that Tampa Bay should be overly-intimidated by, the leader in Tom Brady (who captioned a picture of him with Evans on Instagram with Brother) will look to spam the ball to his big, athletic top target, especially in the red zone.
In the 2020 meeting between these teams, Tampa Bay came back to win a thriller and Evans caught 6 passes for 110 yards. In 2020, only three wide receivers scored more touchdowns than Evans and he has a golden opportunity to put that talent on display against Atlanta and break the scoresheet via the end zone.
Hate: Deebo Samuel (SF)
Another team that is expected to turn heads of fantasy owners all season long, the 49ers trounced all over the Lions as expected but in the high-scoring affair, Deebo Samuel emerged as the #1 receiving option for San Francisco’s present starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. Samuel recorded 9 receptions on 12 targets for an eye-popping 189 yards and a touchdown. Impressed? Sure. Carried away? Classic early-season overreaction.
In Week 2, Samuel draws a significantly tougher matchup in cornerback Darius Slay, and the 49ers as a whole should be afraid of the Eagles defense; as previously cited, very few teams pressure the quarterback better than Philadelphia and Garoppolo will no longer have the luxury of flinging it with time. All 49ers wide receivers are risky plays in Week 2 but I’m singling out Samuel because his Week 1 performance has commanded that kind of attention.
Love: Cole Kmet (CHI)
Whether or not you like it, this is what you will commonly see in the tight end section of this series—the tiers at this position are so disjoint the real loves will usually come from deep sleepers that might win you a matchup out of seemingly nowhere. That’s exactly the type of performance Akins had the potential to do last week and 22-year-old Cole Kmet has this week. While Kmet may not be as far of a reach as Akins, he is still unrostered in several leagues and is being started even less frequently in one-TE leagues. Why?
The Bengals defense is not good—we established that with the Kirk Cousins love last week. In 2020, only two teams allowed more receiving yards to tight ends than the Bengals and only five teams allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than the Bengals. Further beaten up to begin this season, this could be another close game for Cincinnati and if so, Cole Kmet’s athletic profile might just be the difference-maker for the Bears, particular in the end zone where Kmet called home twice in 2020.
Hate: Jared Cook (LAC)
On paper, you might think that the Dallas Cowboys defense is a soft matchup for the veteran Jared Cook. On second thought, even Cook will tell you that he’s clearly not even a top 3 option on offense for Justin Herbert. With a well-paid, versatile running back in Austin Ekeler and two outstanding wide receivers, the Cowboys have enough problems to deal with on the defensive end and Cook’s floor is a complete lack of relevance in the fantasy game. The Cowboys, although a historically bad pass defense in 2020, were above average restricting fantasy points to tight ends and Cook is far from a safe start in Week 2 despite his serviceable 5-catch-56-yard showing against Washington in Week 1.
Are you on board with Ahaan’s Week 2 Loves and Hates? Also, make sure to check out the rest of our Week 2 Rankings and Analysis!
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