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Warning Signals From Week 1

The NFL season is finally underway and even with just a one-week sample size, there are still some indicators dictating that some of these players could experience a down year in production.

Even though we shouldn’t overreact to the first week of the season, the writing is still on the wall for a lot of these players.

While this isn't a Cut List (that's a separate article), these players bear monitoring based on a rough start to the 2020 season.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

Quarterback

Baker Mayfield, CLE

We may need to recalibrate our initial evaluation on Mayfield from his rookie season. Things have not looked good since then. He does have plenty of time to right the ship and prove he’s better than his recent performances.

Off the rip, Mayfield looked timid in his decision making. A few of his passes got batted down at the line of scrimmage. He even threw a costly interception. It just wasn’t his day and he was off-the-mark on a lot of his throws. The entire blame shouldn’t be placed on his shoulders since he didn’t receive much support from his teammates. However, from a fantasy football perspective, this is a warning signal we should not ignore.

Mediocre quarterback play affects the entire offense. Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Austin Hooper won’t be able to reach their true potential unless Mayfield gets things under control. Stalled drives, inaccurate targets, and missed opportunities will negatively impact the Browns’ fantasy production.

 

Running Back

Mark Ingram II, BAL

After a bleak rushing performance where the veteran running back could only muster just 29 yards on 10 carries, Ingram left fantasy manager wanting more. On the other side of the coin, rookie running J.K. Dobbins looked like he was ready to take over as the team's top running back, rushing for 22 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.

The sample size was small, but the investment the Ravens made to acquire Dobbins in the draft was large enough to anoint him as an immediate threat to Ingram’s workload this season. Ingram will need to come out of the gates strong next week against the Houston Texans if he wants to continue being the team’s workhorse out the backfield.

In limited action, Dobbins looked like the better back. He was very fluid with his movements and showcased the short-area quickness that made him one of the top running backs in this year’s draft class. Once he gets more acclimated to the NFL game, he will be one of the more coveted backs in fantasy.

If Ingram doesn’t produce at a high level soon, then he’s going to risk being a major bust this season. A slow start could be detrimental to his fantasy value.

Austin Ekeler, LAC

Ekeler provided a limited impact in fantasy last week. Against the Bengals, he had 19 carries for 84 yards while catching just one pass for three yards. Chargers’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor has a history of not checking it down, reducing the overall floor in fantasy for his running backs. This appeared to be evident when Taylor almost evenly distributed the ball to Hunter Henry, Mike Williams, and Keenan Allen.

After blowing up for 92 receptions for 993 yards and eight touchdowns just a season ago, it’s quite apparent that Ekeler’s fantasy value is fueled by his usage in the passing game. If this trend continues, then we could see a major downtick in his production.

Another red flag is the success of rookie running back, Joshua Kelley, who looked like an All-Pro, rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown. It’s going to be hard for the coaching staff to rationalize why they should keep him off the field. If he continues to play well, then he’s going to easily siphon a large share of the touches out of the backfield.

Outside forces can prevent a player from hitting their ceiling in fantasy. This might be the case for Ekeler who must contend with a new quarterback who neglects to target his running backs in the passing game and a talented rookie running back who is eager to be a focal point of the Chargers’ offense.

 

Wide Receiver

DeSean Jackson, PHI

Jackson was only on the field for 54 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps on Sunday against the Washington Redskins. He did manage to see seven targets but was only able to catch two of the passes thrown his way for 46 yards. Many fantasy gamers were left holding the bag after he delivered just 6.6 PPR fantasy points.

Even in a limited role, Jackson saw four targets of 20 yards or more. The deep ball attempts might be enough to keep him alive in fantasy. However, rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor might steal some of his gusto. Reagor caught one pass for 55 yards, but he is expected to run a large portion of the deep routes.

We normally see older wide receivers fall of the map. The 33-year-old wideout has produced just 1,601 yards in his last three seasons. This might be the warning signal calling out the end is near.

 

Tight End

Rob Gronkowski, TB

Tom Brady’s debut with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers failed to live up to expectations. This caused a trickle-down effect on everyone in the passing game. One of the players who was impacted the most was future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski. After coming back from retirement, he was only able to reel in two passes for 11 yards.

The most discouraging thing about Sunday’s game against the Saints was that Brady showed no favoritism to Gronkowski. O.J. Howard saw the second-most targets on the team, tying Scotty Miller with six while also scoring one touchdown.

There were many fantasy general managers who took the gamble on Gronkowski, hoping that he could rekindle the flame with Brady. The fact that Mike Evans limped into this game, means that Gronkowski will have more competition for targets once Evans is back to full health. If the rest of his season mimics what he did in week one, the odds of him finishing the year as one of the top tight ends in fantasy are slim to none.



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