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    Fantasy fallout: 'Buyer beware' on Packers receivers, Anthony Miller, Sammy Watkins

    Fantasy fallout: 'Buyer beware' on Packers receivers, Anthony Miller, Sammy Watkins


    Nobody has a more stacked lineup of fantasy analysts and NFL team reporters than ESPN. It's the rare backfield-by-committee that's actually a good thing for fantasy managers. Every Tuesday, we'll ask our NFL Nation reporters a series of burning questions to help inform your waiver-wire pickups and roster decisions.

    We should have known Aaron Rodgers would do this.

    Surely, the Green Bay Packers quarterback was fueled by all of the fantasy analysts who ranked him outside of the top 10 QBs this season when he exploded for 364 yards and four touchdown passes in Sunday's 43-34 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

    Not only did he connect with go-to guy Davante Adams for a whopping 14 catches, 156 yards and two TDs, but he also hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 4-96-1 and Allen Lazard for 4-63-1.

    As ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky wrote, "Who said Aaron Rodgers needed more weapons?"

    In that article, Demovsky pointed out that Rodgers had praised Valdes-Scantling just last week for being the "receiver that I've been most impressed with, especially the last week, 10 days of camp."

    But does that mean you should use a top waiver claim or a big chunk of your free-agent acquisition budget to grab a piece of this passing-game juggernaut while you still can?

    Not necessarily.

    "Let's not go crazy over one game. But at the very least it's a sign that Rodgers is as dialed in as ever, no matter who's on the receiving end," Demovsky said. "Not saying Lazard and MVS can't be big-time producers. But we've heard all offseason about how they want to make this a run-first offense, so they're going to work that angle whenever possible. Also, don't forget who the Packers were playing against Sunday -- some of the youngest, most inexperienced corners in the league.

    "If we've learned anything about Matt LaFleur in his 19 games as a head coach, it's that he will attack what he perceives as a defense's weakness. So that means they could play a totally different way from one week to the next."

    Need more insight on some potential Week 1 waiver claims? As always, our NFL Nation reporters have you covered:

    Atlanta Falcons

    Wide receiver Russell Gage had one of the biggest days of any widely available fantasy free agent (just 3.8% rostered in ESPN leagues). The third-year pro caught nine passes for 114 yards on 12 targets.

    But he still ranked third among Falcons receivers on a day that saw Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones put up big numbers while trying to play catchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

    "The Falcons raved about Russell Gage all offseason, and he really started to emerge last season after they traded Mohamed Sanu to the Patriots," Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure said. "Gage won Matt Ryan's trust with some big third-down catches late in the 2019 season. But his big day in the opener came in large part because the Falcons trailed and needed to air the ball out. Don't expect it to be a regular thing, especially once Ryan gets a better flow going with new tight end Hayden Hurst.

    "A lot of those targets Gage got in the opener were throws former tight end Austin Hooper was getting last season. But Gage can still be effective. Former Falcons receiver and now-analyst Harry Douglas told me Gage, playing out of the slot, has a good understanding of coverages and where to sit down in the zone. Douglas can see Gage getting seven targets per game moving forward."

    Chicago Bears

    After a mini-breakout last season, wide receiver Anthony Miller flashed his potential again with four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown against the Lions. But can we expect enough consistent production to make him a top waiver priority?

    "Top priority? That's tough to say. To me, Chicago's offensive players outside of receiver Allen Robinson and running back David Montgomery are tricky fantasy plays," Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson said. "Chicago is high on the 2018 second-round pick, but he's been wildly inconsistent thus far. Miller, like the rest of the offense, was basically a non-factor through three quarters Sunday as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky played like ... well ... Mitchell Trubisky. To his credit, Trubisky caught fire in the fourth quarter.

    "I hate to call the fourth-quarter comeback fool's gold. But have you watched Trubisky play since 2017? Miller isn't a bad player to pick up on your roster, but buyer beware. The Bears' passing attack could easily crater back to reality in Week 2 and beyond."

    Jacksonville Jaguars

    Michael DiRocco wrote that "it looks like the Jaguars might have their lead back" in rookie James Robinson, who ran 16 times for 62 yards and caught a 28-yard pass.

    But what about the unheralded receivers who produced big days? Fourth-year pro Keelan Cole caught five passes for 47 yards and a TD, while rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. caught three passes for 37 yards and a TD and ran the ball twice for 10 yards.

    "I'd recommend picking up those guys only in deeper leagues, at least for the next few weeks until the receiver rotation shakes out," said DiRocco, who ranked Shenault as the better option for a high-upside stash on your bench, especially in dynasty leagues. "Cole has an up-and-down history. He made that amazing one-handed catch against New England in September 2018 then got benched the following month after he lost two fumbles and dropped several passes. He was almost an afterthought last year until late in the season.

    "Another thing to consider: Gardner Minshew really spread the ball around, with his 19 completions going to 10 different players. And from what I saw in camp, that's likely going to be the way the offense goes. I do expect Shenault's role to expand as the season progresses, though. He took one Wildcat QB snap on Sunday, and the Jaguars have said they will try to use him in different ways."

    Kansas City Chiefs

    Did fantasy managers give up on Sammy Watkins too soon? He led the Chiefs with nine targets and seven catches for 82 yards and a TD, while second-year speedster Mecole Hardman caught just one pass for 6 yards.

    "It's buyer beware on Watkins, but he is somebody to keep an eye on," Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher warned. "Remember that Watkins had a monster three-touchdown game in the opener last season and then didn't score again until the playoffs. The Houston Texans were determined not to let Tyreek Hill beat them with a big play, so the Chiefs went Watkins' way more often. I don't expect Watkins to disappear from this point as he did last year, but I wouldn't expect consistent production from him just yet."

    As for Hardman, Teicher said, "Go back to the offseason, when the Chiefs fought so hard to get Watkins to agree to a restructured contract. If they thought Hardman was ready for a bigger role, would they have fought so hard? I don't see Hardman's playing time expanding greatly from last season. Hill and Watkins are going to be on the field most of the time, and Demarcus Robinson is going to play as well."

    Los Angeles Rams

    Rams reporter Lindsey Thiry said in last week's Fantasy Fallout that rookie Cam Akers and second-year pro Darrell Henderson are the running backs of the future -- but that she expected veteran Malcolm Brown to be the lead back in Week 1. Sure enough, Brown had 18 carries for 79 yards and two TDs, plus three catches for 31 yards. Akers had 14 carries for 39 yards and one catch for 4 yards.

    "The Rams will continue to invest time into developing Akers, who started in Week 1. But it was Brown who earned a majority of the snaps (60%) and trust in the red zone," Thiry said. "It's likely, with the Rams needing to bring Akers and Henderson along, that the trio will continue to share carries and Akers and Henderson will see early-down action. However, expect Brown's number to routinely be called on late downs and near the goal line."

    Miami Dolphins

    The Dolphins' RB timeshare was already hard enough to figure out with veterans Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. So where on earth did Myles Gaskin come from, leading the way with nine carries for 40 yards and four catches for 26?

    "Gaskin's emergence (63% of snaps) was a surprise, given he had been running with the third team throughout training camp," Dolphins reporter Cameron Wolfe said. "But the second-year back had a strong camp, looking like one of the most improved players. And what makes him unique is he might be the most balanced with his ability as a runner and receiver. Howard (15%, eight touches, 7 yards, TD) is more of a power back, while Breida (23%, five touches, 22 yards) is more of a speed back and receiver.

    "The expectation was for Howard and Breida to lead the backfield, so I don't believe one head-scratching game will completely change that. Gaskin is worth keeping an eye on, especially if he continues to get a notable workload. But I wouldn't rush to add him just yet. This is an offense that is still trying to find an identity, and its early offensive struggles and unpredictable backfield rotation show that it's hard to trust any of the three backs in your starting lineup right now."

    Philadelphia Eagles

    The highest-scoring tight end in fantasy in Week 1 was rostered in only 27% of ESPN leagues. And, yes, Eagles reporter Tim McManus said you should use a waiver pickup on Dallas Goedert after his eight catches for 101 yards and a TD. "The Eagles are going to live in two-TE sets for much of the season. And as you saw Sunday, he's a dynamic playmaker whom Carson Wentz has growing trust in," said McManus -- who added that doesn't automatically spell bad news for standout Philly tight end Zach Ertz (three catches, 18 yards, TD). "I'd expect the numbers between Ertz and Goedert to balance out as the season goes along," McManus said. "But Goedert is definitely worth a roster spot."


    Running back Peyton Barber (17 carries, 29 yards, 2 TDs) and tight end Logan Thomas (four catches, 37 yards, TD) were both rostered in less than 2% of ESPN leagues before Sunday. Can we expect consistent production from either guy?
    "I'd be wary on Barber," Washington reporter John Keim said. "They like him a good bit, but they will continue to rotate the backs. He's probably more consistent but less dynamic than the others. But it does appear he'll be the one getting the ball in short-yardage or goal-line situations.
    "As for Thomas, he and quarterback Dwayne Haskins clicked in practices, too, in the red zone. So this was a continuation. He is at best a No. 2 TE on a solid offense. At best. But he is their most consistent TE target now, and it's not close. So he will get plenty of chances."

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    Great article.

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    They set up a $100 free agent budget in one of my leagues and somebody spent it all on Hines from the Colts))

    He is going to catch alot of passes for ppr leagues.....prob atleast 4-5 per game. They'll probably use Taylor/Jordan Wilkins on the ground so I don't see Hines running it much like he did last week.

    I drafted TE Fant from Denver in all my leagues but 1. Yahoo had him waaay down the list, but he's a athletic freak and he'll do damage

    Not exactly a sleeper, but RB Dobbins from Baltimore is the guy I wish I drafted. I think he'll take over from Ingram pretty quickly

    I also got WR Robby Anderson from Carolina on a few teams. He won't do what he did last Sunday all the time, but he's a little underrated and Carolina has a shit defense. They're going to be in alot of shootouts and Teddy Bridgewater isn't that bad. I'm going to try and trade for Anderson in my other leagues, but if blows up again then that will be hard.