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The 15: The Patrick Mahomes Chronicles Continue, Observations, Overreactions, and More

The Fifteen is named for No. 15 Patrick Mahomes, otherwise known as the ultimate quarterback, a chimera fashioned of equal parts Brett FavreAaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson. As always, I watched most of the games yesterday, and these are my probably inaccurate musings.

1. My “Patrick Mahomes is going to be the QB1 prediction” looks slightly less silly after a touchdown extravaganza. Mahomes ranks No. 25 in attempts but second in points after throwing for six touchdowns against the Steelers. He holds the slightest edge over Ryan Fitzpatrick in fantasy points per attempt (1.33 to 1.32).1 To give a sense of how ridiculous these numbers are, Philip Rivers sits in third at 0.74. Week 1 was the Tyreek Hill show, but Mahomes showed off the full extent of his weaponry in outdueling Ben Roethlisberger. Travis Kelce went for 7-109-2 and validated Ben Battle’s strong buy last week. 

2. Sammy Watkins is still with us. Watkins went over 100 yards receiving on nine different occasions over his first two years as a pro, but he’d only done it twice since. After a 3-21-0 line in Week 1, it was fair to panic about the 2018 prospects for one of the NFL’s highest-paid receivers. Instead, he bounced back with six catches for 100 yards and added a 31-yard jaunt on a handoff. Watkins hadn’t managed six catches since Week 3 last season, and you have to go back to 2016 to find a game where he gained more yards from scrimmage.

3. JuJu Smith-Schuster may be the offensive focal point in Pittsburgh sooner than later. It helps when your quarterback throws 60 passes, but Smith-Schuster led the NFL with 19 Week 2 targets, two more than teammate Antonio Brown. Smith-Schuster was my fourth-round selection in the Apex Experts league and my pick to crush ADP in the fourth round.2

Smith-Schuster brought a wildly undervalued profile to the NFL and then immediately emerged. We know young prospects outperform their older brethren, and we know rookie breakouts destroy the competition in subsequent year points and multiple-season scoring.

Smith-Schuster’s fast start is a reminder that Year 2 represents a unique opportunity to buy players below their true value.

4. It’s not often that you pull the Odell Beckham-Bo Jackson double, but Keelan Cole is that good. After a one-handed, pirouetting catch that instantly became the new season’s signature highlight, Cole later left the building when his momentum carried him into the tunnel on a corner end zone score. He’s thriving in a Blake Bortles’ offense and reminding us that his maligned QB has already supported a 1,400-yard, 14-TD season from Allen Robinson.

5. Kenny Golladay’s size and athleticism are standing out as he separates from Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. Golladay’s 39 fantasy points slot in just between Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins. If you bought him on our early recommendation in the spring of 2017, you’ve already realized a huge profit, but this may be just the beginning. And he’s just one of numerous players from this second-year WR class that the breakout lens picked for 2018.

Keeping in mind the graph above, we see the gap between the model’s projections and points implied by ADP.

Player Points Over ADP
Chris Godwin 48
JuJu Smith-Schuster 40
Keelan Cole 31
Taywan Taylor 20
Kenny Golladay 17
Mike Williams 8
Corey Davis -13

Corey Davis was my “avoid” at ADP, and that looks good through two weeks even though he remains a dynasty buy.

6. Will Fuller makes all the difference for the Houston offense. After missing Week 1 and watching Deshaun Watson and company put on a desultory performance in the loss, Fuller returned from his hamstring injury to post an 8-113-1 line. Not surprisingly, the impending star has had a big impact on the team’s overall efficiency the last two years.

Will Fuller helps

The impact on Watson is even more striking.

Fuller helps 2

Fuller can be a frustrating player to own due to his injury foibles, but he’s lightning-in-a-bottle when on the field. He continues to average more than 20 points per game in Watson’s starts.

7. If you drafted David Johnson over Christian McCaffrey . . . you have my sympathies. Last week it was Ezekiel Elliott over Alvin Kamara. Elliott held his own in Week 2, while Johnson cratered. It’s too early to completely write off Steve Wilks, but he needs to make some changes in a hurry. Meanwhile, McCaffrey caught 14 more passes against the Falcons. If one of your RBs is going to earn 20 to 25 touches a game, you definitely want the split to be in the neighborhood of 8/14. Eight RBs have double-digit catches through two weeks, including Zero RB favorites like Chris Thompson, James White, and Javorius Allen. Meanwhile, Johnson has six catches on 11 targets in an offense that will rarely sniff the red zone.

8. Hue Jackson and Todd Haley is a match made in a ring of hell that doesn’t exist yet. For all of the (justified) criticism of Jeff Fisher, his career record stands at 173-165-1. Sure, that’s a lot of losses, and the stunning lack of creativity over his final seasons led to a bland and ignominious end to an otherwise impressive career. Hue Jackson is now 9-40-1, and he’s 1-32-1 in his tenure with the Browns. And it’s not just that the Browns lose, it’s how they lose.

Player Week 2 Carries
Carlos Hyde 16
Taylor and Callaway 6
Chubb and Johnson 5

The Browns don’t subscribe to the “Put the ball in your playmakers’ hands” philosophy of sports. Hyde was the least efficient RB in football last year despite playing in an offense that makes every other RB a star. Through two weeks as a Cleveland Brown, his 38 carries trail only Todd Gurley and James Conner.

The fans don’t deserve this, and neither does a Browns defense that put the team in position to start 2-0.

9. You can’t always control the outcome, but you do control your own decisions – a weekly reminder to play your best players. Or, lacking good players, an exhortation to play your interesting ones.

Cardinals/Browns Wins:Josh Rosen/Baker Mayfield Experience: 0

10. Matt Breida looks like your 2018 Kareem Hunt. I’m biased here, as Breida was a key Zero RB recommendation and one of my highest-owned players, but the preseason rhetoric in San Francisco followed an odd timeline. We first heard that Breida looked so good that he might force an almost even split with high-dollar free agent Jerick McKinnon. Then, when McKinnon’s injury appeared to open things up for Breida in a starring role, we were told that Alfred Morris would be the starter. To be fair, both of these claims may be true.

Morris v Breida

Morris does own a slight edge in touches, but Breida’s explosiveness has been on full display, leading to a sizable advantage in points. Zero RB works because of these annual values.

Be sure to check out the full explanation behind our Breida ownership.

11. The Chargers know how to deploy their backs, and the result will be an unstoppable juggernaut. Few teams have a 1-2 punch like Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, and they’re even more difficult to stop in space.

team RB wk2

The Chargers sit in a tie for 16th in RB rush attempts, but they currently hold a team lead of 30-plus points over the Eagles in third place. Los Angeles foreshadowed this development, emphasizing that Gordon’s passing-game role would be expanded. That seemed unlikely given his 79 targets a year ago. But his 20 targets put him in the same space with McCaffrey and Kamara.

12. Amari Cooper lives. With 10 catches for 116 yards, Cooper offered the first inkling that his derailed path to stardom may yet feature more twists and turns. It’s an uphill battle, but he could still lead the league in targets as Jordy Nelson (2-30) appears unlikely to ding his volume potential.

13. Phillip Lindsay is not going away.

Lindsay Freeman Booker

Add that lost combine invite to our president’s discontent with the postal service.

14. If only LeGarrette Blount could find a way to get himself ejected every week. Kerryon Johnson jumped to 13 touches, averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry, and stayed on the field in some fourth-quarter passing situations. It’s not enough to justify his ADP yet, but it’s a start. John Lapinski recently reminded us of the patience we need for rookies in his excellent Dynasty Watch column.

Week1RookieScoring2014-2018B

15. Derrick Henry makes Carlos Hyde look like Barry Sanders. Henry now has 28 carries and 10 fantasy points. Or sadly, what we can also expect from the New Rex Burkhead.

As always, good luck tonight. I hope you started DeSean Jackson, didn’t have the misfortune to own Greg Zuerlein, and don’t need 30 points tonight from Tyler Lockett. But if you do, I hope you get it.

  1. Depending on the quirks of your scoring format.  (back)
  2. Occasionally he was available even later, and I labeled him my best pick in the fifth round of the Washington Post’s experts mock.  (back)
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