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We Must Overreact Immediately! Week 1 Outliers


Every week of the NFL season players break out with huge statistical performances. Some of these performances come from certified studs that have done it before, some come from players that may be on the verge of breaking out, and some performances are merely flashes in the pan.

It’s important to identify things such as target share, volume of carries and yards-per-pass-attempt to help determine whether certain breakout players are here to stay, or one-week wonders.

Now, here is a breakdown of a few Week 1 outlier performances to help guide you setting your lineups down the stretch.

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Lamar Jackson (QB, BAL)

Week 1 Stats: 17 of 20 passing, 324 yards, 16.2 ypa and five TD

To put Lamar Jackson’s ridiculously high yards per attempt into perspective, in 2018 during his MVP season, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes highest yards-per-attempt for a single game was 11.7 yards. The Miami Dolphins are not a good football team this year, and the Baltimore Ravens offense had the Dolphins Defense on their heels the entire game. Jackson will surely have some more great passing days this year, but it’s doubtful he repeats 16.2 yards-per-attempt and throws a touchdown on 25% of his throws.

Bottom line: Don't expect too many more performances like this but be encouraged enough by his progress to make him a QB1 in 12-team leagues.

 

Sam Darnold (QB, NYJ)

Week 1 Stats: 28 of 41 passing, 175 yards, 4.3 ypa and one TD

The New York Jets number-one wide receiver and deep threat, Robby Anderson, was held in check by Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White for much of the day. As a result, Sam Darnold was forced to throw shallower passes to slot receiver Jamison Crowder and dump it off to running back Le’Veon Bell. It’s rare for a quarterback to throw for such a low yards-per-attempt average (4.3), but Darnold may have given us a roadmap for the future, showing us that Jamison Crowder will be in for a big day if the opposition has a lock-down cornerback on the outside capable of shutting down Robby Anderson.

Bottom line: Darnold belongs on the bench or waiver wire in all formats other than two-QB or Superflex leagues.

 

Sony Michel (RB, NE)

Week 1 Stats: 15 carries, 14 yards

In 2018, the rookie out of Georgia was slow out of the gates as well, rushing a total of 24 times for only 84 yards in his first two games combined. The Patriots backfield is always tough to navigate, but it appears the Patriots are committed to using Michel as their early-down running back. Although Michel was ineffective, he did have decent volume, and he should maintain that volume throughout the year as he did in 2018 when he carried the ball 13 times or more in 13 of the 16 games he played. Michel only played on 33% of the Patriots offensive snaps in Week 1 which is a little concerning, but he did touch the ball on 65% of the snaps which he played. This game should be an outlier for Michel based on his body of work.

Bottom line: Be patient with Sony Michel, he will be fine as a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3 in 12-team leagues.

 

Malcolm Brown (RB, LAR)

Week 1 Stats: 11 carries, 53 yards and two TD

Brown may have been the 14th highest-scoring running back in PPR formats in Week 1, but he only achieved that mark because he scored two touchdowns. Brown only played on 21 snaps against the Panthers while starting running back Todd Gurley was on the field for 54. Gurley out-touched Brown 15-11 and was responsible for 101 total yards of offense, which is almost double Brown’s yardage total. Brown’s Week 1 effort was touchdown dependent, and it’s too early to tell if Brown is the Rams goal-line running back or if he received those carries against the Panthers by pure chance. Brown should be added as Todd Gurley’s handcuff if he’s on the waiver wire but it’s too early to tell if he will have stand-alone value in the future.

Bottom line: Malcolm Brown looked great out there on Sunday, but he needs to play more snaps before you can actually count on him to consistently produce.

 

Tyler Lockett (WR, SEA)

Week 1 Stats: two targets, one catch, 44 yards and one TD

In 2018, Tyler Lockett had just 57 catches on 70 targets for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns in 16 games played. Lockett’s 2018 campaign averages out to 4.38 targets, 3.56 catches and 60.3 yards-per-game. At a glance, it does not appear that Lockett’s efficiency is sustainable based on such small volume of targets, but when you consider that his quarterback is Russell Wilson, you need to think twice. Since 2015, Russell Wilson has thrown touchdowns on 7.0%, 3.8%, 6.1% and 8.2% of his passes. During that same span of time, the NFL average for touchdown rate has ranged between 4.2% and 4.8%. For his career, Wilson’s yards-per-attempt has ranged from 7.2 to 8.3 while the NFL average during that same time-frame has ranged from 7.1 to 7.4 yards-per-attempt. Lockett is able to sustain decent production off of incredibly low passing volume. Due to Wilson’s efficiency throwing the football, Lockett should be able to flirt with 1,000 yards again in 2019, even if he has a few low-volume weeks.

Bottom line: It may be ugly at times, and he may stress you out due to low target-volume, but Tyler Lockett should be rolled out as a WR2 each week in 12-team leagues.

 

Phillip Dorsett (WR, NE)

Week 1 Stats: four targets, four catches, 95 yards and two TD

Dorsett was involved in the Patriots passing game in Week 1, but even though he came through with 25.50 points in a PPR, he was still tied for fourth in the targets pecking order. Julian Edelman led the way for the Patriots with 11 targets, Rex Burkhead had 8, James White had 7, while Dorsett and Josh Gordon each had 4 passes thrown their way. Throwing newly-acquired wide receiver Antonio Brown into the mix will not help Dorsett’s cause in the Patriots passing-attack, and it’s very likely that his best game of the 2019 season came in Week 1.

Bottom line: Dorsett should remain out of your starting lineup in 12-team leagues because another performance like this is unlikely to happen unless Antonio Brown doesn't suit up based on recent allegations.

 

A.J. Brown (WR, TEN)

Week 1 Stats: four targets, three catches, 100 yards

AJ Brown is not the number-one receiver for the Titans, it’s Corey Davis. Davis drew a tough matchup against Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward on Sunday and Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota only looked his way a total of three times because of it. Mariota only put the ball in the air 24 times in a low-volume passing offense, completing 14 for 248 yards and 3 TD. Mariota’s yards-per-attempt was an explosive 10.3 while his career mark is only 7.5, indicating that his Week 1 passing performance was an outlier and it's unlikely that Mariota will be able to sustain Brown's explosive production off such a small number of passing targets. Finally, Brown only played on 43% of the Titans offensive-snaps in Week 1 which is another indicator that his Week 1 level of receiving production is not sustainable.

Bottom line: This was an outlier performance from the rookie that's unlikely to be repeated based on his low snap-share and inconsistent pass offense.

 

John Ross (WR, CIN)

Week 1 Stats: 12 targets, seven catches, 158 yards and two TD

Ross’ longest catch of the day came on a 55-yard-prayer that was thrown up by Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Regardless of that one fluky play, Ross was consistently involved in the Bengals passing attack. It’s likely that Ross will continue to have a legitimate presence in the Bengals offense even after AJ Green (ankle) returns from injury based on the wide receiver snap-rates from Week 1. Ross played on 81.82% of the Bengals Week 1 offensive snaps, Tyler Boyd played on 79.22%, while Damion Willis, who started in place of Green, led all Bengals receivers in snap-share at 89.61%.  This indicates that three wide receivers will be heavily involved for the Bengals this season, and those three receivers will likely be Green, Ross, and Boyd once Green is healthy, making Ross a viable option for the remainder of 2019 barring injury.

Bottom line: Ross looked great on Sunday and should continue to be involved in the Bengals offense moving forward.  He should be owned in all 12-team leagues but he needs to have another decent performance before he's placed in your lineup as a WR3 or flex, unless you're in a tough spot as a Tyreek Hill or Antonio Brown owner.

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