Fantasy football highs and lows from NFL Week 2

Week 2 of the fantasy football season featured plenty of notable performances around the NFL on Sunday. What should we make of them? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft are here with analysis on the biggest performers — and duds — of the week.

What a brutal week for injuries

The storyline of Week 2, at least as far as the 1 p.m. ET games were concerned, was the injuries. A massive number, unfortunately, cropped up, at one point exceeding 15 players being ruled out within two hours of the day’s earliest kickoff.

The Nos. 1 (Christian McCaffrey, ankle) and 2 (Saquon Barkley, ACL) players selected on average in ESPN leagues were knocked from their games because of injury and were unable to return before the conclusion.

Barkley’s injury is the most significant: Per ESPN NFL Nation’s Jordan Raanan, the New York Giants fear that Barkley suffered a torn ACL in his right knee, which would almost certainly sideline the running back for the remainder of 2020. That would leave the Giants’ backfield in the hands of Dion Lewis and perhaps Wayne Gallman as part of a rotation, and while opportunity would push either player high on the list of Week 3 pickups, New York’s schedule doesn’t support either being more than a matchups-driven flex play consideration.

More troubling: The Giants don’t face an “easy” matchup at any skill position until after Thanksgiving, and bear in mind that quarterback Daniel Jones didn’t exceed 12.3 fantasy points in any of the three games Barkley missed in 2019. The rest of this season could wind up being ugly for the team’s offense.

McCaffrey left after scoring his second touchdown of the game to bring the Carolina Panthers to within a score of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and while he was seen having his ankle wrapped on the sidelines, there’s no initial indication that his injury is significant. Still, any absence warrants concern, and it’s important to point out that it was Mike Davis, not Reggie Bonnafon, who emerged at preseason’s end as McCaffrey’s primary backup as well as the one who handled the remaining snaps in McCaffrey’s place on Sunday. Davis is a wise stash considering the injury.

Here are some quick thoughts on some of the other Week 2 injuries:

Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers (knee): If the 49ers’ No.1 running back is down for an extended period of time, then Tevin Coleman will jump up the ranks. But don’t forget about Jerick McKinnon as a possible waiver-wire add. McKinnon totaled 77 rushing yards on just three carries, aided by a 55-yard explosive-play rush. And this is a plug-and-play run system under coach Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. — Bowen

Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (knee): His was reported as cramps rather than an aggravation, so we’ll see whether he can return for Week 3. Noah Fant has seen a big role in the Broncos’ offense so far through two weeks, and more of the same can be expected. — Cockcroft

Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts (knee): With Campbell down again, rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. could move up on waivers. The USC product caught 4 of 6 targets Sunday for 37 yards. There’s some upside here, too, given Pittman’s fit in the route tree and ability to run in-breakers. — Bowen

Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams (arm): Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson Jr. shared the backfield chores after Akers’ injury, though Henderson was the one who punched in a goal-line chance for a score. Henderson could be primed for a larger Week 3 role. — Cockcroft

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers (ankle): Nick Mullens failed to impress in Garoppolo’s absence, and with the 49ers suffering multiple key injuries on defense, there’s much reason to worry about the offense if Garoppolo misses extended time. Initial estimates forecast Garappolo to miss a month. — Cockcroft

Drew Lock, QB, Denver Broncos (arm): Considering their matchups, Jeff Driskel was the more impressive fill-in quarterback than Mullens, scoring 18.7 fantasy points in relief against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But make him prove it a second time against the Buccaneers (if he’s needed to start at all) before you consider the add. — Cockcroft

Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants (toe): As if losing Barkley wasn’t enough, losing Shepard long term would be even more devastating for the Giants’ offense. It’d force Jones to keep chucking the ball in the direction of Darius Slayton and Evan Engram, and that target volume might be the only silver lining. — Cockcroft

Aaron Jones does it again

For the third time in the past calendar year, Jones exceeded the 40-point threshold in terms of PPR fantasy scoring, his 45.6 the second most he has scored in any game in his career and giving him the second most by any running back since Week 5 of last season (315.0, trailing only McCaffrey’s 412.6). Jones’ emergence as a solid pass-catching running back last season has propelled him firmly into the midrange of the RB1 class, and he showed those skills on Sunday at times when Davante Adams spent 21 of the Green Bay Packers‘ 66 offensive plays on the sidelines. — Cockcroft

Ryan Tannehill continues to make believers

It’s not uncommon for a quarterback to claim a starting role, get hot during a certain season and regress to the mean the next, but Tannehill’s excellence has now extended two weeks into the subsequent year. With the aforementioned quarterback injuries, might he become a more relevant storyline? With his 26.8 fantasy points on Sunday, he now has 266.2 fantasy points in 12 starts since taking over in Week 7 of last season, a number that has been exceeded by only three players overall: McCaffrey and quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen. Tannehill has taken advantage of his weapons, and he has another fantasy-friendly matchup coming up in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings, before a pair of challenging ones in Weeks 4-5 (Steelers, Buffalo Bills). At this point, he has earned your starting lineup spot whenever the matchup is right. — Cockcroft

Jonathan Taylor shines as lead back in Indy

With Marlon Mack down for the year and Nyheim Hines‘ workload being dramatically reduced in Week 2 (one reception, no carries), Taylor has the look of a heavy-volume back in the Colts’ run-game system. On Sunday, Taylor racked up 28 touches for 110 total yards and a score. Get him behind one of the league’s best offensive fronts and cater to his downhill traits as a runner. Power, vision and footwork there. He will be an upper-tier RB2 in my ranks heading into the Week 3 matchup versus a subpar Jets defense. — Bowen

Calvin Ridley finds end zone for third and fourth times

He’s off to a historic start with multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games to begin his season. Ridley has scored 63.8 PPR fantasy points in his first two games of 2020; since 1950, that ties for 15th most by any wide receiver through that many, and is second most among those aged 25 or younger (Michael Thomas, 68.9 in 2018; and Ben Hawkins, 64.7 in 1969). That the Falcons have one of the weaker defenses in the league forces Matt Ryan to the air early and often, and that is only going to continue to work to Ridley’s benefit. While it’s tough to fuel WR1 numbers for two wide receivers in the same offense — remember that Julio Jones is still there — Ridley has a bona fide shot at a top-10 fantasy season at the position. — Cockcroft

Jonnu Smith playing like a TE1

Smith has the athletic traits at the position, plus the pass-game structure in Tennessee fit his game. And, as we saw on Sunday in Tennessee’s win over Jacksonville, the Titans will scheme targets for Smith. Through two weeks, Smith has caught 8 of 12 targets for 120 yards — with three red zone touchdown grabs. Even with lower volume than the upper-tier tight ends, the scoring upside here should put Smith into the TE1 discussion for deeper leagues. — Bowen

Buffalo’s surprising passing game

In the land of bad calls, my Josh Allen “bust” prediction is looking like just that — a bust. Yes, a gift of a Week 1 matchup against the New York Jets‘ secondary helped, but Allen’s 19-of-28 passing for 388 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on throws that traveled at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage represent a huge turnaround in his skill set and something I could not have foreseen. Sunday’s performance against a Miami Dolphins defense that has some talent in the secondary was a big step forward: Allen had 34.5 fantasy points, and he brought along wide receivers Stefon Diggs (29.3) and John Brown (18.2) for the fantasy-goodness ride. I’m now curious to see what Allen can do against stingier defenses — the Rams in Week 3 being one of those — but he’s looking like a locked-in, high-end QB1 thus far … in some ways, a “lite” version of 2019 Lamar Jackson. — Cockcroft

Kyler Murray already one of fantasy’s best QBs

That’s back-to-back weeks of 26-plus-point fantasy performances from Murray, while facing matchups that were hardly considered soft — the San Francisco 49ers (Week 1) are one of the league’s best defenses (when healthy) and the Washington Football Team’s (Week 2) pass rush looked great in the opener. He finished with a career-high 32.1 fantasy points on Sunday, the eighth time in his young career that he has exceeded 20, and his 343.7 points through 18 games in the NFL are the seventh most by any quarterback since at least 1950 through that many games. Murray now has a dream schedule for the next three weeks: the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets, none of which will be able to contain him. There’s a case to be made for Murray as a top-three quarterback for each of those weeks. — Cockcroft


David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears: You can lock in Montgomery as an RB2. The second-year back is showing some real juice in the run game for the Bears. Yes, that Giants defensive front isn’t going to shut down many running backs this season, but we have to look at the traits of Montgomery, plus the 2020 Bears offensive structure. After logging 14 touches in Week 1, Montgomery posted 127 total yards and a score on Sunday. And he did that with 19 touches — including three receptions. That’s pretty solid volume for Montgomery, and the Bears will continue to run the ball with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. He has limitations as a thrower. — Bowen

Gardner Minshew II, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Don’t sleep on this guy. I know Minshew threw the late pick (off a tip at the line) in the loss to the Titans, but he also posted 339 yards passing and three touchdown passes. That gives Minshew six touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season. He’s a timing/rhythm thrower with really good second-reaction ability. The second-year man is a lock for two-quarterback leagues, and he can also be used as a streaming option moving forward. – Bowen

James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: The undrafted rookie out of Illinois State is getting RB2 volume with the Jags. After seeing 17 touches in Week 1, Robinson checked in with 120 total yards and score — on 19 touches — in Sunday’s loss to the Titans. He’s a one-speed runner, and I don’t see upper-tier traits in his game. But the volume fits here for the rook who is getting No.1 snaps in Jacksonville. I think it’s a good play to start Robinson next week versus Miami. — Bowen

Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams: After a relatively quiet Week1 for Higbee (5-of-5 targets, 54 yards receiving), the Rams tight end scored three touchdowns in Sunday’s win over the Eagles. Both of Higbee’s red zone scores came off designed throws to beat man coverage, and the Rams also schemed him up on the “throwback” off play-action for a 28-yard touchdown. He’ll stay as a mid-to-low-tier TE1 next week versus Buffalo. — Bowen

Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers: An unexpected starter after Tyrod Taylor was scratched because of a chest injury, Herbert handled himself well in his first NFL start, scoring 22.2 fantasy points and taking a game against the Kansas City Chiefs into overtime. Herbert’s performance was a mix of good (the 14-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Guyton) and ugly (the interception late in the third quarter that ultimately let the Chiefs get back into the game), but it was plenty to almost assure his keeping the starting job ahead of Taylor for Week 3. Expect many ups and downs, and continue to regard him with more of a dynasty-league eye, but this opening effort does provide hope that there might be matchups appeal in his near future, perhaps not as soon as Week 3 against the Panthers, but maybe in Week 6 against the Jets, Week 8 against the Jaguars or Week 14 against the Falcons. Tuck this one away for future reference. — Cockcroft

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: After failing to record a catch today, Gronk has caught just 2 of 3 targets for 11 yards in his first two games with Tampa Bay. The veteran simply isn’t getting the ball in this offense, plus his overall play speed has declined based on the film I’m watching. Until we see the Bucs scheme both throws and matchups for Gronk, he can’t be started in any scoring format. — Bowen

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