Keenan Allen was the 24th player off the board by average draft position. He made it 28 minutes before wrecking his knee, ending his campaign essentially before it started and torpedoing the high hopes for the Chargers’ offense. Allen went down in non-contact fashion, tearing his right ACL four years after a torn left PCL ended his college career and tanked his draft position. Allen, understandably, was in tears as he was carted off the field.
The injury is the latest in a long line of them for the would-be fantasy star, and ensures he’ll play fewer games than the previous year for the third straight season. Allen made 15 appearances as a rookie, 14 as a sophomore, eight as a third-year pro and now just one. Thankfully for Allen, he was one of the lucky ones when it came to extension timing, signing a new six-year, $46.671 million deal in June.
The Chargers? They’ll once again be forced to mix and match in an offense far too used to injury. Travis Benjamin is the new the No. 1 receiver, a role he wasn’t exactly born for, but had success in for the 2015 Browns. A big-play threat locked into volume, Benjamin should be a weekly WR3. Behind him is Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman. A second-year UDFA, Williams has four career catches, two of which came Sunday. Inman should pencil into the slot, a position he played about a quarter of the time as an injury fill-in last season. Inman has averaged a respectable 13.5 yards on 48 career grabs. He’s worth a look in PPR leagues.
Then there’s the expanded roles. There will be more targets for Danny Woodhead, solidifying his RB3 status in standard leagues. There will be less competition for Antonio Gates in the red zone, jacking up his already high touchdown floor. Will there be more opportunity for second-round TE Hunter Henry? More two-TE sets stand to reason for a team that now has a thoroughly unimposing three-receiver alignment.
Allen has become used to next year being his year. Hopefully 2017 is actually it.
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Five Week 1 Positives
Raiders UDFA RB Jalen Richard’s first NFL game. More specifically, Richard’s first NFL carry. Richard scored a 75-yard touchdown, tying the game 27-27 in the fourth quarter. He added two more carries for nine yards, giving him 84 on the day and making him the league’s No. 5 Sunday rusher on only three totes. The production was significant not just for its impact on the game, but the Raiders’ depth chart. Battling DeAndre Washington behind Latavius Murray, Richard obviously out-produced Washington, but also out-snapped him 10-8. It’s now quite possible Richard has a leg up for No. 2 duties, an enviable job behind a starter who has been put on notice. Richard is worth a flier for 12-14 team leaguers desperate at running back.
Spencer Ware’s explosion. Coach Andy Reid did his damndest to convince the fantasy community Ware was headed for a committee with Charcandrick West, but when the dust settled, it was after Ware raised it for 199 yards on a mere 18 touches. Ware rushed the rock 11 times for 70 yards and a score, adding an eye-popping 7/129 as a receiver. He out-touched West 18-9, and remained Reid’s choice over his supposed passing-down specialist teammate even as the Chiefs went into second half comeback mode. If Jamaal Charles sits again in Week 2, Ware will be a no-brainer RB1 against the Texans. He’ll be an RB2 even if Charles makes his return.
Tevin Coleman’s breakout. You can’t claim the Falcons didn’t see it coming. The Dirty Birds telegraphed increased usage for their sophomore back all offseason, and committed to it in Sunday’s loss, giving Coleman just two fewer touches (15-13) than Devonta Freeman on only four fewer snaps (36-32). Coleman out-gained Freeman 117-40, and led the Falcons in receiving (95 yards). It wasn’t all roses, as Coleman’s eight rushes produced only 22 yards (2.75 YPC), but his home run hitting ability was on full display as Matt Ryan’s primary checkdown target. Freeman has a real problem on his hands, while Coleman’s owners have a plug-and-play RB3 with room to grow.
Lamar Miller’s usage. When the Texans lavished $26 million on Miller in the opening minutes of free agency, we figured it wasn’t to kid gloves him the way the Dolphins did. It took one game for the theory to come true, with Miller’s 28 carries easily the most of his five-year career. That’s six more than Miller ever got in Miami. In all, he handled the ball a whopping 32 times, a number that figures to be matched or surpassed league-wide only a few times all season. Miller could have had more yards to show for his trouble — just 117 — but the Texans aren’t masking their intentions. Miller is their lead back, one not subject to the whims of the coaching staff or artificial touch limits. He’s an RB1, both in the real world and fake.
Will Fuller’s Bears scorching. The No. 21 overall pick due in large part to his 4.32 wheels, Fuller put them on full display en route to a 5/107/1 performance. Fuller’s score was an 18-yard screen where he slashed and burned through the defense, quickly proving he plays as fast in pads as he does in shorts and t-shirts. The jets were also fired for what would have been an 83-yard touchdown, but Fuller flat dropped it. If the miscue made for a sort of full “Fuller Experience,” the day as a whole reminded it’s far more good than bad. Fuller will have plenty of bust afternoons, but the booms are coming earlier than we could have hoped.
Five Week 1 Negatives
Coby Fleener’s no-show. The preseason word on the street was that Fleener was behind on the playbook and lacking in chemistry with Drew Brees. The Sunday reality was the same, with Fleener drawing only four targets and being held catch-less before the fourth quarter. The Saints generated 507 yards against the Raiders. Fleener had six of them. That doesn’t look like a situation that’s going to correct itself in only one week. Fleener remains a TE1, but has fallen from high-end status to boom or bust. If there’s light at the end of the tunnel, it’s that Fleener’s Week 2 opponent the Giants coughed up nine receptions to Jason Witten on Sunday.
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott’s NFL debuts. After tearing up the summer, regular season reality hit Dallas’ electrifying rookie duo like a ton of bricks. Elliott managed just 51 yards on 20 carries, a wheezing effort backup Alfred Morris came close to matching (35 yards) on only seven totes. Unlike Prescott, Zeke did find the end zone, but unlike Zeke, Prescott’s stats didn’t tell the whole story. Although an unimpressive 25-of-45 for 225 yards (5.0 YPA), Prescott had a touchdown dropped by Cole Beasley and another bobbled by Dez Bryant. A third incompletion clanged off Jason Witten’s hands after getting lost in the sun. Prescott continued to show better-than-expected ball placement, and avoided mistakes. There will be better days ahead for both players, though Washington’s improved defense provides a stiff Week 2 test.
Robert Griffin III’s continued durability woes. It’s one game, one injury for Griffin in Cleveland, who needs an MRI after racking his non-throwing shoulder trying to truck Eagles DB Jalen Mills. Not that the issue marred an otherwise excellent afternoon. Griffin could complete just 12-of-26 throws (46.1 percent), and accounted for zero touchdowns, one interception and one (recovered) fumble. Griffin found each of Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor for 40-plus yard gains, but was otherwise 10-of-24 for 88 yards (3.6 YPA). The performance, coupled with an unimpressive preseason, just about extinguishes any hope there was for a Griffin bounce-back.
T.J. Yeldon’s surprise start. With Chris Ivory a shock scratch as he dealt with a “general medical issue,” Yeldon got an unforeseen opportunity to prove to the Jags that their committee plans were not necessary. He failed miserably, turning 21 carries into a pathetic 39 yards (1.85 YPC) while adding just 30 yards as a receiver. A touchdown saved face for cheeky fantasy owners who inserted Yeldon at the last minute, but Yeldon confirmed what the Jags thought in March: He isn’t ready to be an early-down back, especially behind a leaky offensive line that requires a powerful runner capable of creating his own yards. Jax’s timeshare is here to stay, and Ivory will be the one cashing the checks near the goal-line.
Tyrod Taylor’s first game as a franchise quarterback. Given a pay-as-you-go six-year deal by the Bills last month, Taylor may already have the team thinking about opting out after completing just 15-of-22 passes for 111 yards (5.04 YPA). Taylor also failed to make plays as a runner (5-11), not that it prevented him from taking too many big hits. Taylor is a dual-threat that has too many games where he doesn’t threaten and too many scrambles where he doesn’t protect himself. It’s a formula for rollercoaster play not just from week to week, but quarter to quarter. Playing on only three days' rest against the Jets, Taylor is a tough-sell QB2 for Week 2.
1. Can we at least drop the “exotic” yet, Titans?
2. Was that woke enough for you, Christine Michael owners?
3. At least you dominated time of possession, Dallas?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Stats of the Week
Zero. That’s how many career games Russell Wilson has missed. Although his ankle injury is clearly a concern, the fact that he played through it for nearly an entire half Sunday suggests he’ll be ready to go against the Rams after missing some practice time.
Eight. That’s the modest amount of snaps Sammy Watkins missed, but the New York Daily News reports he has “severe discomfort” in his surgically-repaired foot, and could miss “weeks.”
Including Sunday’s opener, Aaron Rodgers’ yards per attempt has been below 6.0 in five of his past six games.
Victor Cruz went 721 days between career catches 264 and 265. He went one minute between 265 and 266.
Which brings us to this nugget from Joe Giglio: Carson Wentz had 275 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 100-plus QB rating in his NFL debut. That’s something Sam Bradford has done twice in 63 career games.
Tweet of the Week, Amazingly From Raiders Coach Jack Del Rio: “Good thing ESPN isn’t coaching the Raiders,” was Del Rio’s response to ESPN Stats & Info’s tweet that going for two at the end of Sunday’s win was not the percentage play.
Most Absurd Moment of Week 1: Terrance Williams failing to get out of bounds at the end of Cowboys/Giants, letting the clock expire. It was reminiscent of then Bears RB Marion Barber doing the opposite against the Broncos during the Tebow Year.