By Gerry Love - SPM Fantasy Staff
When you look forward all summer to the start of the National Football League season and that excitement builds after you’ve drafted what you think are championship fantasy teams in the days leading up to the opening kickoff, it can be a huge letdown when the first weekend doesn’t go as planned for your teams.
Don’t panic. Always remember this tired old cliché: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
If you thought your team was a contender a week ago, your opinion shouldn’t be swayed by rough Week 1 performances – especially this year when there were no preseason games and no OTAs to go along with many head coaching, coordinator and personnel changes.
While the overall level of play during the NFL’s first week of competition probably exceeded most of our expectations, it’s still going to take three to four weeks for teams to settle in and for us to get a solid hold on which players should be in the lineup on a regular basis and which ones to fade.
Last year I had two teams that sprinted out of the gates to 7-1 and 8-0 records only to fall back to Earth thanks to injuries and overachievers coming back to the pack. One of those teams missed the playoffs and one ended up being a semifinalist. My weakest team early in the season ended up advancing to the championship game.
Already this year, after the early games Sunday, the high opinion that I had of my teams started to wane. As I watched players who I had counted on to carry my teams underperform, my mind began racing trying to figure out how I would fix things. I couldn’t live through 16 weeks of this.
But by the end of Monday night’s games my teams had gone 3-2, and other than a couple concerning injuries – and Saquon Barkley’s struggles – I was feeling pretty good about the squads I had put together.
For those of you whose teams didn’t rebound, while I can definitely understand and appreciate your angst, remember that football is a war of attrition. Most championships are won because of the kneejerk moves that aren’t made when things go sideways early along with the savvy waiver-wire pick-ups and trades that take place later in the year.
Rewind to this time last year when Cincinnati wide receiver John Ross was the hot commodity after putting up 270 yards and 3 TDs on 11 receptions the first two weeks of the season. He finished the year with 28 catches for 506 yards and … 3 TDs.
Remember Sammy Watkins’ Week 1 showing in 2019? You probably don’t, because he ended up being a role player within the Chiefs high-powered offense, finishing the year with 52 receptions for 673 yards and 3 TDs. Week 1: 9 catches, 198 yards and 3 TDs. That’s right, he had 471 yards and no touchdowns over the final 15 games. So, don’t trade away half your team because he caught 7 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown last Thursday against Houston.
I can keep going. DeSean Jackson lit up Washington during Week 1 last year and missed pretty much the rest of the season with nagging injuries (what else is new?). He caught eight balls for 154 yards and 2 TDs vs. D.C. and didn’t play again until, Nov. 3, catching one pass for five yards. And that was it. For the season.
That’s enough evidence.
The point is that you should absolutely take notice of Malcolm Brown’s 26 Week 1 points, Peyton Barber’s 14, Dallas Goedert’s 24, Sammy Watkins’ 21, Russell Gage’s 20, Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s 19.6, Allen Lazard’s 18, Anthony Miller’s 17, Corey Davis’ 17, Willie Snead’s 16, Parris Campbell’s 14, Nyheim Hines’ 27, J.K. Dobbins’ 14, Chase Edmonds’ 13 and Jerick McKinnon’s 13. Part of the joy of fantasy football is finding the hidden gems that you can add to your lineup to improve depth or to push your team over the top. Too many times, though, especially early in the season when our top guns get off to slow starts, we move too quickly and release a player who ultimately could have helped our team in the long run in favor of a flash in the pan. It’s been written before; the moves we don’t make can be as beneficial – or more beneficial – than the ones we do. And you’ll notice some familiar faces on that list of Week 1 wonders who have teased us in the past with a huge performance here or there but never shown the consistency required to be in the lineup regularly for a good fantasy team. Watkins, Valdes-Scantling, Lazard, Miller and Davis all have tantalized us as potential waiver-wire pickups at some point in the past.
If you had injuries to key players during Week 1, of course it might be smart to pull the trigger on one of the available early surprises. It might be worth a shot, too, if one of the players you thought had upside and drafted late just didn’t see many snaps and doesn’t appear to be in line for regular playing time at this point.
But first, before you do that, a word of caution.
Don’t be swayed by huge production after just one game. Look at the number of snaps that players played, the number of targets they got and their actual number of touches instead of the total points accumulated. Consistency wins championships. If you’re going to make a move this early in the season, you want to make sure that the players you are bringing on board have the best odds of being successful over the long haul.
High upside guys can win you a week in a pinch, but it’s the high-volume players who can carry you to a successful year.
It’s a long season. Remember that if there were 10 big surprises this week, there will be 10 more next week. Give it some time. Do your homework. Search for players coaches are raving about who are being eased into the lineup for bigger roles and follow them over the first month of the season. And don’t give up on your proven players if they are in the lineup for the majority of snaps and getting opportunities.
It’s not likely that Week 1 or 2 waiver pickup will win you a championship. Sticking with the right players who have proven themselves over time while you scour NFL rosters for the players who are likely to play bigger roles or step in for injured stars later in the year can.
Don’t be the September league champs; that doesn’t pay. Instead, position yourself to be on top and in the money in December.
Those who enjoy and embrace the process are the ones most likely to be there at the end.