Week 1 fantasy highs and lows: Joe Burrow struggles, Michael Thomas shines


Week 1 of the 2022 fantasy football season featured plenty of notable performances — both good and bad — around the NFL. What should we make of them? And which are worth reading into? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft offer their analysis.


Joe Burrow, Bengals’ offense sputter against Steelers

The defending AFC champions began Sunday’s game flat, Burrow himself turning the football over four times before halftime (five overall) leading to a career-worst (in 27 games) minus-3.14 fantasy points at the half before his team ultimately lost on an overtime field goal. Additionally, Tee Higgins left midway through the second quarter with a concussion. Things picked up for the Bengals shortly thereafter, however, and while the team ultimately settled for a 20-20 tie with the Steelers, Burrow concluded his day with a respectable 18.22 fantasy points. Much of that was thanks to the brilliant connection Burrow continued to have with his No. 1 receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, who absorbed 11 of 42 targets after Higgins’ departure and finished his day with a second-best-among-wide receivers 28.9 PPR fantasy points.

Were the Bengals’ early struggles a sort of mini-Super Bowl hangover? It hardly matters, because Burrow-Chase is looking like one of the — if not the — game’s best quarterback-to-receiver connections, à la Aaron Rodgers-to-Davante Adams in the past, and even a lengthier absence by Higgins shouldn’t hinder our optimism with the two in fantasy. Chase is a flat-out star, and Burrow is a capable top-10 quarterback. — Cockcroft

Michael Thomas finds end zone twice after missing all of 2021

Thomas caught 5 of 8 targets for 57 yards — with two scores — in the Saints’ Week 1 win over the Falcons. That was good for 22.7 PPR points. And I really like how New Orleans set him up in the low red zone during the second half. Fade ball throws versus Falcons corner A.J. Terrell. A high-level matchup — that Thomas won twice. Those are physical plays, now. Beat tight coverage. And finish plays on contested throws. From what I could see, Thomas looked powerful in his movements. With a Week 2 matchup versus the Tampa Bay defense, I’ll have Thomas on the WR2/3 line in my rankings. — Bowen

Packers have no answer for Justin Jefferson

He’s an incredible talent, absolutely capable of carrying your fantasy team single-handedly, as he did on Sunday. Jefferson scored more PPR fantasy points before halftime (33.8) than any player did in all of 2021, and finished with 39.4 points, only two-tenths of a point shy of his personal best (39.6, Week 6 of 2020). He has a position-best 237.06 points since Week 10 of last season — and remember that Cooper Kupp has been awfully good in that same time span. Best yet, Jefferson did it while facing a tough matchup against the Packers in what ultimately was a statement game of his WR1 overall capability. — Cockcroft

Another rough Week 1 for Aaron Rodgers

His 2022 season began very much the way his 2021 one did, with a 3.70 fantasy point stinker that resembled his 1.32 point disaster against the Saints a year ago, and in both games, Jordan Love came on in relief late once the game got out of hand. The concerns surrounding Rodgers this season were widely discussed, and he didn’t seem to find a rhythm with anyone in his group of mostly young receivers. That said, that group should improve with experience, and the Packers were without starting offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, not to mention No. 1 wide receiver Allen Lazard. Don’t let one game change your Rodgers evaluation, though I maintain that he’s more of a matchups-driven, borderline top-10 fantasy quarterback than one who will carry your team on his own. Things at least should improve for him in a slightly stronger Week 2 matchup against the Bears. — Cockcroft

Jalen Hurts gets it done through the air and on the ground

The Eagles’ quarterback passed for 243 yards and added another 90 yards rushing — with a score — on 17 carries. Yes, Hurts can be more efficient with the ball in the passing game, but we saw the boost that wide receiver A.J. Brown (10 receptions, 155 yards receiving) brings to this offense. He adds an element that was missing last season in Philly. With a true No.1 target, who can win at all three levels, plus the dual-threat traits to break down defenses as a runner, Hurts will be a top-5 play for me in Week 2 versus the Vikings. — Bowen

Saquon Barkley‘s burst is back in big win

Barkley dropped 33.4 PPR points on the Titans’ defense today. The play speed was there. So was the downhill juice in the run game. And the sudden movement ability. The game-changing traits we saw with Barkley before the knee injury in 2020. The Giants running back racked up 194 total yards (on 24 touches) with a rushing score and a 2-point conversion in the win over Tennessee. Given the volume he saw today, plus the explosiveness he showed with the ball in his hands, Barkley will jump into my RB1 rankings for next week’s matchup versus the Panthers. — Bowen

A.J. Brown is the No. 1 target in Philadelphia

I already mentioned Brown — who dropped 25.5 PPR points on the Lions’ defense — as the clear No.1 for Hurts. He had 13 targets in his first game with the Birds. And we saw his ability to consistently play through contact versus that Detroit secondary. The physical-play style jumps. The catch-and-run juice, too. And the vertical-matchup traits pop. Even in an Eagles offensive structure that will be run-heavy at times, Brown will see a target share that puts him in the WR1 mix. — Bowen

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Eric Moody explains what A.J. Brown’s early fantasy success means for managers going forward.

Jaguars ride the hot hand in backfield

Travis Etienne‘s NFL debut was hindered by a pair of missed opportunities — an overthrow on an easy touchdown by Trevor Lawrence, plus another prospective score that he dropped — and watching the Jaguars’ game flow, it seemed that they shifted to the hotter hand, Robinson, as things progressed. That’s something that bears watching heading into Week 2, and it’ll perhaps cloud fantasy managers’ plans regarding this backfield. Etienne’s 8.5 PPR fantasy points on six total touches paled in comparison to Robinson’s 19.9 on 12 touches, though the two did play exactly 50% of the offensive snaps apiece, with Etienne running 20 routes to Robinson’s 15. Perhaps for now the wisest takeaway is to regard Robinson getting the edge on early downs, with Etienne leading on passing plays, but I still think the latter has more standard-league, long-term potential because of his receiving ability. — Cockcroft

Devin Duvernay blazes past the Jets

He scored a pair of touchdowns on deep throws from Lamar Jackson, fueling a 21.4 PPR fantasy-point day, albeit on only four targets total. The usage patterns supported the Ravens’ listing of Duvernay as their starter across from Rashod Bateman, and it’s a sensible choice considering the third-year player’s raw ability and the lack of competition on the depth chart. I’d expect the big fantasy days to rotate among Ravens wide receivers and tight ends from week to week, especially considering the team’s run-heavy nature, but Duvernay clearly seems to be regarded part of their plans right now. — Cockcroft

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0:58

Tristan H. Cockcroft explains why Devin Duvernay is worth adding in deeper fantasy leagues.

Other observations

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: In his first game without Tyreek Hill in the lineup, Mahomes cooked this Arizona defense, completing passes to 10 different targets. Five touchdown throws. 360 yards passing. And his 34.9 fantasy points led all Week 1 quarterbacks heading into the Sunday night game. The Chiefs could be even more multiple from an offensive perspective this season given their current pass-catching personnel, and that will create opportunities for Mahomes to attack opposing defenses at all three levels of the field. — Bowen

Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders: Adams is a scheme transcendent player. Put him in any system and he will give you high-level numbers. In his first game with the Raiders, playing in Josh McDaniels’ offense, Adams caught 10 of 17 targets for 141 yards and a score. Volume and production — with elite route-running traits. After posting 30.1 PPR points on Sunday against the Chargers, Adams can be locked in as a top-5 wide receiver in Week 2 versus the Cardinals. — Bowen

Michael Carter and Breece Hall, RBs, Jets: All preseason, the lot of us expected Hall to run away with (pun intended, I suppose) this backfield, that is, until offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur termed Carter the “heartbeat of our offense” on Thursday. Carter did dominate work in the game’s early stages, finishing his day with 17.0 PPR fantasy points on 10 carries plus 7 of 9 catches, but Hall did see 10 targets to go along with six carries, scoring 10.1 PPR fantasy points. Hall’s stat line was yet another one of the rookie-debut disappointments that littered Week 1 scorecards, and his time-share status is understandably bothersome. I’d wait to see more, though, before passing any judgments on his full-season potential. — Cockcroft

Taysom Hill, TE, New Orleans Saints

Hill caught his only target in the passing game, a 2-yard reception, but let’s focus on how he was utilized on designed rushes from QB/wildcat alignments in Week 1 versus the Falcons. Hill ripped off a 57-yard run to start it. Power scheme. Pull and kick-out to get an extra number to the play side. And then he found the end zone on sweep call. Attack the edge. Hill finished with 81 yards rushing on four carries. While Hill’s tight end designation makes him an interesting play moving forward, I want to see if this running-game package grows in the Saints’ offense. Hill will be a TE2 in my rankings next week. — Bowen

Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, RBs, Browns: Stay on Chubb and Hunt again in Week 2 when the Browns face the Jets. Look, with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, this offense in Cleveland will be schemed around the running game — and the usage of both Chubb and Hunt. On Sunday, Chubb (15.3 PPR points) logged 22 carries for 141 yards. He’s a top-5 runner in this league. And the two scores Hunt produced (one rushing, one receiving) placed him as RB3 after the early games, with 23.0 PPR points. Chubb will once again be near the top of my RB2 ranks, with Hunt as an easy flex play against New York. — Bowen

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: Edwards-Helaire posted 22.4 PPR points in the Week 1 win over the Cards — on only 10 touches. But let’s focus here on how coach Andy Reid schemed targets for the running back with the ball in the low red zone. Edwards-Helaire caught a flat route for a touchdown on a concept designed to get the running back loose versus man coverage, and he also scored on an inside shovel pass from Mahomes. While I would like to see more total volume with Edwards-Helaire, his usage and deployment in the red zone will keep him in the RB2 range in my rankings for the Week 2 game versus the Chargers. — Bowen

Jahan Dotson, WR, Commanders: Perhaps Week 1’s most impressive rookie — and from a 1 p.m. ET games scoreboard standpoint, he was the highest scorer among freshmen — Dotson caught a pair of scores from a surprisingly capable Carson Wentz, including the game winner with 1:46 remaining. It’s a performance that will put Dotson, 43.3% available in ESPN leagues, high on the Week 2 pickups list, and perhaps the big plays will earn him more looks from Wentz. Still, I’ll stress that he saw only 5 of 41 targets, fourth on the team, so the direction that number goes next week will have a say in how quickly he can contribute for our purposes. — Cockcroft

Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Atlanta Falcons: A popular choice to be 2022’s biggest regression victim, Patterson scored 22.6 PPR fantasy points, the fifth-most in any of his 144 career games, while touching the football a personal-most 25 times. Opportunity knocked in this one, as buried-on-the-depth-chart rookie Tyler Allgeier was a healthy scratch, then a Damien Williams rib injury paved the way for Patterson to dominate touches. Still, it was a reminder that the veteran hybrid player — though to be clear, he is RB-only in ESPN leagues — is plenty capable of generating flex-caliber stats when given the chance, which he should again in Week 2. — Cockcroft

Mike Williams, WR, Chargers: Perhaps Sunday’s most disappointing wide receiver performance came from Williams, started in 83.2% of ESPN leagues (16th most at the position) but held to 3.0 PPR fantasy points. He managed but one target through three quarters of the game, finishing in a seven-way tie for the team lead with four, but he easily paced the team’s wide receivers with his 92.3% offensive snap count and 31 routes run. Remarkably, despite Williams’ quiet day and Keenan Allen’s early exit due to a hamstring injury, quarterback Justin Herbert scored 23.26 fantasy points with a spread-it-around approach. That’s not something I’d expect most weeks, and certainly not so in a need-to-throw Week 2 game against the Chiefs, or a great Week 3 matchup against the Jaguars. — Cockcroft

Khalil Herbert, RB, Chicago Bears: Starting running back David Montgomery logged 20 touches on Sunday, including 17 carries, but he lacked efficiency as a ball carrier. And it was Herbert who saw a late red zone carry for a touchdown. The second-year back was much more decisive in the running game for Chicago. Let’s see if his total volume increases in Week 2 versus the Packers. — Bowen



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