Sammy Watkins exploded for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns on nine receptions in Week 1. He scored 46.8 fantasy points, 27.3 more than expected on his volume. In the WR Explosion Report, we look at the most efficient performances during opening weekend.
Week 1 always features a handful of crazy results, but yesterday was one of the most exciting opening weekends ever. The elite tier of wide receivers was mostly held in check, but deep threats exploded for massive games while underneath targets vacuumed up ridiculous volume.
Using the RotoViz Screener, we can grab all of the Week 1 performances at the wide receiver position and look at them under the microscope. Who was the most explosive receiver of the weekend? Who scored the most fantasy points over expectation?
Week 1 Receiving Fantasy Points Over Expectation Leaders
It’s not surprising that a Kansas City receiver would lead the NFL in fantasy points over expectation (reFPOE). Patrick Mahomes almost lapped the field in this category in 2018 with 131 passing FPOE, 40 more than Russell Wilson in second place. We just expected it to be Tyreek Hill, not the 2015 version of Watkins risen from the injury grave.
Watkins’ final draft position of WR38 didn’t look out of line when considering his injury history and relatively disappointing 2018.
It’s difficult to believe Watkins could have been held below five points on four occasions last season and that he only crested 15 points three times.
Watkins looked faster yesterday than at any point last season. He pulled away from defenders and sliced through traffic on a day when most of his damage occurred after the catch.
These Week 1 numbers contrast to a 2018 performance where he gained 6.0 yards after the catch and was rarely targeted deep. He’s now caught as many passes that traveled 20 yards in the air as he did all of last season. His target share of 32% also doubled his 2018 results. As long as Hill is out, Watkins is a candidate to continue as the overall WR1.
Lamar Jackson’s performance was the biggest story of the weekend, and it completely changes the outlook for his receivers.
Brown’s projection in the rookie model was impressive, trailing only the injured N’Keal Harry. His comps in the Box Score Scout are mixed, but part of that is due to his inability to run. If reports are accurate, Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks are the only two players with similar speed.
He plummeted down rookie boards after landing in Baltimore. We saw what Jackson’s insertion did to John Brown a year ago, but that’s why it’s so important to remember the difference between Year 1 and Year 2 QBs. Assumed to be an anchor for Brown, Jackson’s play could elevate him instead. If this continues against real NFL defenses, it will make his rookie receiver among the biggest steals this decade. Frequently drafted outside the first round, Brown would be a contender for the 1.01 if drafts happened today.
The No. 61 overall pick in last year’s draft was our 17th-round selection in Reverse Engineering a Draft, and he carried his strong training camp into Week 1. Chark caught Nick Foles’ final pass for a 35-yard TD with Kendall Fuller draped all over him.
Only Phillip Dorsett gained more FPOE per play in Week 1, and Chark is in much better position to build on his success. Even with Gardner Minshew under center.
If you watched the Buccaneers yesterday, it’s easy to dream about their receivers in a new location. Jackson made that a reality for himself and immediately exploded with Carson Wentz. Still one of the best deep threats in the game, Jackson has a habit of teasing with his efficiency.
His 2019 debut actually trailed 2018 when it comes to Week 1 FPOE. It’s also a reminder of how difficult it can be to play deep threats in fantasy. Even with such an elevated target depth, he’s not necessarily going to consistently translate that into fantasy production.
Of course, those mid-season struggles really could be the work of Jameis Winston.
T.Y. Hilton – For at least One Week, Matt Jones Hit This One Out of the Park
Matt Jones used the Projection Machine to argue for buying Hilton despite the Jacoby Brissett factor. Owners who took the discount are ecstatic today. Hilton was the only receiver to accumulate more than 10 FPOE despite averaging less than 10 yards per target, but he found the end zone twice.
Hilton only generated more FPOE in a given week a single time with Andrew Luck last year, but his elevated target shares balance out concerns about sustainability.
New Sheriffs In Town
Beyond the Marquise Brown eruption, we had two other passing games that appeared to be immediately taken over by new WR1s. One comes from the top of our dynasty rankings. The other is a blazing speedster who already checked “camp sensation” off of his NFL to-do list.
KeeSean Johnson led the rookies in targets, but he struggled in Kyler Murray’s debut. By contrast, Terry McLaurin and A.J. Brown both scored twice as many fantasy points as their volume suggested, and both were extremely impressive in Week 1. Brown is an absolute stud and RotoViz favorite. He entered the season as our No. 3 receiver and No. 7 overall rookie, after spending part of the summer as our No. 2 dynasty rookie.
D.K. Metcalf also out-targeted Tyler Lockett. He could make this a rookie quartet of No. 1s.
Michael Gallup and Why You Want to Take Cort Smith’s Discount Advice
In his reader-favorite series on discount opportunities, Cort recommended buying Gallup over Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Although MVS also looked impressive against a quality opponent, purchasing Gallup paid off big in Week 1.
The volume numbers were similar for the two players, and it’s certainly not time to give up on MVS by any stretch. But Gallup’s Week 1 foreshadows a true second-year breakout.
We can’t finish without recognizing the Ben Gretch favorite. The extremely poor efficiency from Ross late in 2018 obscured his solid target market share in what had become a low-volume passing offense.
You can either believe that Ross forgot how to play football for two years after being the No. 9 pick in the 2017 draft, or you can believe that the improvements to coaching and scheme make the Bengals this year’s breakout offense.
Or, as Archer would say, little bit of A, little bit of B.
Good luck tonight, everyone. I hope you get exactly what you need from Will Fuller and Alvin Kamara and don’t have to wait for Broncos-Raiders. Although I have to admit, that last game has almost as much intrigue as it does train-wreck appeal.
Keep an eye out for the WR Usage Report from Neil Dutton and more extensive coverage of the WR position throughout the week.