5 things I care about
Aaron Jones is still the centerpiece of the Packers offense
The crux of my love for Aaron Jones in fantasy this season was all about the idea that he would replace Davante Adams as the focal piece of the offense alongside Aaron Rodgers. Week 1 was disconcerting as Jones wasn’t a fixture in the passing game and AJ Dillon assumed more work than Jones.
Head coach Matt LaFleur was hard on himself publicly for letting that happen. He backed up his words with actions in Week 2.
Jones was on the field for 60 percent of the team’s offensive snaps and touched the ball 18 times. He was top-three on the team in routes run and the team got him in space to make plays. Jones averaged 10.7 yards after the catch per reception. He found the end zone twice, once through the air and once on the ground. He averaged 10.8 yards per touch against the Bears.
Jones looked like exactly what he is; the most explosive player on the offense.
He needs to remain the engine of the offence. Now, Dillon is a really good back. He’s a grinder with more fluidity in the passing game than you’d think. He had a nice night too with 19 keys and several big plays when both he and Jones were on the field together. This isn’t an anti-Dillon stance.
Jones just has so much more juice and is the far more explosive player on an offense that lacks those qualities in the receiver corps. I feel confident that LaFleur and especially Rodgers realize that and he’ll remain the engine of the offense. As long as “the assumption of rational coaching” comes through, the one-week, Aaron Jones stress-fest is over.
Garrett Wilson rocketing up the depth chart
I am a huge fan of both the Jets’ young wide receivers. Elijah Moore was a big fantasy-draft target of mine this year because I thought Garrett Wilson might take a little bit of time to get ramped up.
So far, he doesn’t look like he needs it. The rookie Wilson got some intensely promising usage in Week 2.
Wilson ran more roads than Corey Davis against the Browns and got a team-high 14 targets for a 32.6 percent share. He also handled 44% of the team air yards along with five red-zone targets, three of which came in the end zone. Wilson took 51.6% of snaps in the slot, which means he’s officially pushed Braxton Berrios out of the offensive rotation.
Wilson turned all this into eight catches for 102 yards and a pair of scores. He’s arrived—and he’s good.
Moore still ran a route on 93.6% of Joe Flacco’s dropbacks and has bright days ahead. But, at the very least, it might be time for the rankings gap between these two players to start closing the rest of the way.
Amon-Ra St. Brown might be a WR1
What’s stopping him from being ranked as a top-12 receiver going forward?
Amon-Ra St. Brown is absolutely balling out through two weeks and it’s a perfect continuation of what he did last year. He’s run a route on 91% of Jared Goff’s 2022 dropbacks and has a 33.8% target share with three end-zone targets to his name.
Best of all: He’s so good at the game. He’s earning this volume and the Lions are designing the passing game around him. There is no reason to think he’ll slow down.
St. Brown might well be a second-round pick if we redrafted today. That would put him near the top-10 receivers. He’s earned that treatment.
The Dolphins receiver corps
I said this offseason that the only way Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle would both repay their aggressive ADPs would be if either Tua Tagovailoa took a huge step forward or all other Miami pass-catchers were rendered irrelevant.
After two weeks, it looks like both things might be true.
In a dominant Week 2 showing, Waddle and Hill became the only pair of wideouts in NFL history with 170-plus-yards and two touchdowns each — in the same game. The duo handled 88 percent of the air yards and 64 percent of the team targets combined.
Tight-end Mike Gesicki got back in the mix with a full complement of routes and a touchdown catch in the back of the end zone, too. That may have had to do with the comeback game script. Overall, though, almost no other Dolphins player has been a consistent part of the passing game outside of their dynamic receiver duo.
On the second point, it’s time to give Tua some respect. We still don’t know where he ranks among the pantheon of NFL quarterbacks but it’s clear he looks more comfortable than ever in this offense.
He’s good enough to get it done, the offense is heavily concentrated and this Miami receiver duo is unreal. It’s wheels up for Hill and Waddle.
Allen Robinson is fine
Sean McVay said he knew he needed to get Allen Robinson more involved after Week 1’s nightmare—and he was true to his word.
Robinson was the target of Matthew Stafford’s first throw of the day, resulting in a 15-yard catch. He also secured the first touchdown of the game and was just some bad luck away from two more scores. Stafford just barely overthrew him on another fade route. That was the normal one.
The Rams then lined Robinson up in the backfield — we love to see that — then threw him the ball for his second touchdown which ended up being wiped out due to a medical timeout. Robinson was already in the end zone when the whistle blew. Haven’t seen that one before.
All in all, Robinson was on the field for 90.5% of the team snaps and drew two end-zone targets. He’ll be a mid-to-low WR2 with touchdown upside every single week; you can safely ignore Week 1.
5 things I don’t care about
Darnell Mooney’s preseason ranking
The Bears have some talented players with potential on offense but it’s looking like none of them are going to come close to steady fantasy options.
Darnell Mooney was the favorite to emerge as a fantasy factor simply because of volume. However, this is the problem you run into when you expect a guy who projects best as a fine No. 2 receiver or great No. 3 receiver to handle No. 1 receiver volume simply because “there’s no one else to catch the ball.” There can always be someone else.
Through two weeks, Mooney has a 17.9% share of the team targets. He’s averaging 17.2 air yards per target but those deep shots have been too sporadic and infrequent. Winning down the field is Mooney’s specialty but he’s not a true full-field No. 1 wideout. Justin Fields has found timing with bit receivers like Equanimeous St. Brown in the intermediate area. Again, there can always be someone else.
Fields dropped back to pass just 17 times against Green Bay. We’re not trying to dig for a lot of gold in this type of environment. So if Mooney isn’t going to dominate the targets in Chicago, he’s going to struggle to be a trustworthy weekly option. He’s a good player but he’s going to drop down the rest-of-season rankings.
Christian Kirk’s contract
Christian Kirk’s surprising free-agent contract took up a lot of oxygen this offseason. If you’re still focusing on that, you’re missing the point.
Through two weeks, Kirk has a 27% target share and has inhaled 30.7% of the Jaguars’ air yards. He’s lined up in the slot on 71.6% of his snaps but he’s been able to win from a variety of alignments. He found the end zone twice on Sunday and has 12 catches for 195 yards over the course of his first two Jaguars games.
Kirk looks like one of the best value picks in fantasy football and he’s been awesome for the Jaguars in real life, as well.
Not only do I not care about Kirk’s contract for fantasy football, but it might also be a silly discussion point all around. So far, the Kirk acquisition has been a huge win for Jacksonville, contract be damned.
Judging Colts too quickly
If it sounds like I’m making excuses for the Colts, fair enough. This team should not be 0-1-1. However, they always start slow in September, weirdly lose to the Jaguars and do have a reasonable explanation for why they weren’t good on Sunday.
The Colts were already a shallow passing team and were down their two best guys in No. 1 wide receiver Michael Pittman and explosive rookie Alec Pierce. It’s hard to overstate how big of a loss Pittman is to this team. He’s going to be a consensus top-15 real-life wide receiver very soon. That’s how good he is.
When you consider the guys who have to step up and replace him, it’s a huge problem for the Colts to not have Pittman out there. We’re talking about Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin and Michael Strachan. That’s a rough group of guys who aren’t legitimate full-time players. The Colts will look better when they aren’t rolling out that group.
Another problem for the Colts is that the pass protection has sprung up some leaks. That’s always going to be an issue with matt ryan at quarterback. He was a bottom-three quarterback in EPA per dropback when pressured in Week 2.
If the offensive line can get it together and Pittman returns healthy, we’ll probably look back at this as just another one of their slow September stretches.
Rashod Bateman’s low route percentage
If you were a big Rashod Bateman backer, you’re loving his explosive start to the season. The second-year receiver has stacked back-to-back games with monster big plays.
Bateman executed a beautiful route against Xavien Howard and then took off for a 70-plus-yard catch-and-run touchdown in Week 2. He has more juice than he’s shown at any point in the prior two seasons (2020 in college, 2021 in the NFL) because he’s fully healthy now.
Yet, despite all that, there will be some small hand-wringing over Bateman’s playing time. He was on and off the field in Week 1. He had a 57% snap rate and only ran a route on 70% of Lamar Jackson’s dropbacks in Week 2.
I’m not worried about it. The Ravens are rotating their receivers for certain packages. It looks like they want other guys like Demarcus Robinson on the field for rushing downs or three-tight end sets. Oh well; doesn’t matter.
Bateman is inhaling targets when he’s on the field. The air yards have been beefy through two games. He looks every bit the part of not just a high-upside weekly WR2 but one of the many young star receivers in the league. Bet on those guys.
Stressing Cooper Rush
Listen, if Cee Dee Lamb is going to push for 11 targets every game, it doesn’t matter if Cooper Rush is starting for Dallas. He’s not going to have the same ceiling as he would in a better ecosystem with Dak Prescott at the helm but things aren’t as bleak as they seemed a week ago.
Lamb dominated Dallas’ air yards in Week 2 with a 56.7% share. He made big plays but was also efficient in moving the chains with four first downs. He also got a big boost with Noah Brown emerging as a big-play threat on the other side. Brown averaged over 15 air yards per target and earned a first down on all five of his targets. Lamb needed someone to stretch out the defense.
Rush looks like a guy who can keep the ship afloat. He’s now won both of his starts with Dallas. Frankly, Dallas’ ecosystem looked much better overall this week than it did in Week 1. Then again, given the way the Saints offense just got obliterated by Tampa Bay, I’m starting to think that Bucs’ defense is just really good.
Lamb should still be able to have his breakthrough season as a legitimate top receiver. It won’t be as explosive as we thought but he’ll still get there — even with Rush for a stretch.