Disaster Recovery, Week 1 - Studs Turned Duds

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Welcome to Disaster Recovery, where each week I'll examine why your studs played like duds. This isn't a place to find out why you should have benched a player for somebody on your bench. Disaster Recovery is to examine the guys who you didn't think twice about benching, and deciding if you should be panicking at all about their value moving forward.

The players covered in this column will usually have to be in the RotoBaller top 10 at their respective positions, but it may vary depending on the status of the players each week.

As for this week, it's only Week 1, so I'll do my best to avoid overreacting on anything.

Editor's note: Purchase any NFL Lineup Optimizer pass (including daily DFS cheat sheets), and you also get access to NBA and NHL Optimizers and DFS cheat sheets.

 

Week 1 Duds

Le'Veon Bell (RB, PIT) (#1 RB)

What Happened: Bell, a consensus top two player heading into the 2017 season, had just 10 rushes for 32 yards and three receptions for 15 yards.

How Did It Happen: It was a sloppy performance for Pittsburgh all around, only beating the rebuilding Cleveland Browns by 3. Pittsburgh back ran the ball just 14 times and when Antonio Brown goes 11/11 on his targets, you're going to continue to feed him the ball. Bell also missed the entire Pittsburgh preseason due to a contract dispute.

Panic Meter: Low. We should give Le'Veon Bell the benefit of the doubt here. He may have just needed a week to shake off the rust. Bell played 73% of Pittsburgh offensive snaps and got a carry on both of Pittsburgh's red zone appearances. It's too early to panic for Bell.

 

Dez Bryant (WR, DAL) (#10 WR)

What Happened: Bryant caught just two passes on nine targets for 43 yards.

How Did It Happen: Since joining the Giants in 2016, cornerback Janoris Jenkins has blanketed Dez Bryant when they go head to head. Dez had two receptions for 18 yards on 14 targets last season against the Giants. This week was actually Bryan's best performance against Jenkins since he's joined the Giants. Both Bryant and Jenkins are fierce competitors and I'm sure they both have a Week 14 rematch circled on their calendars.

Panic Meter: Low. Bryant has never been the most consistent fantasy performer and has had fits dealing with Jenkins in the past. Bryant still led Cowboys receivers in targets, including four times in the Red Zone, and the Cowboys had no reason to force him the ball thanks to a comfortable lead for most of the game. There were a lot of positives to take away from this negative performance. Expect better things from Dez in the coming weeks.

 

Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE) (#1 TE)

What Happened: Gronk caught two passes for 33 yards on six targets in a loss to the Chiefs.

How Did It Happen: Eric Berry gave Gronk fits and essentially took him out of the equation. It was a matchup of two alpha dogs at their respective positions, and Berry came out on top.

Panic Meter: Low. Here's the biggest silver lining for Gronk owners: in a game where numerous players including Berry suffered major injuries, Gronk came out of the game unscathed. With Danny Amendola suffering a concussion and Malcolm Mitchell heading to the IR that already features Julian Edelman, the Patriots are going to need Gronk now more than ever. If he can't bounce back against the Saints next week, then it'll be time to panic.

 

Tom Brady (QB, NE) (#2 QB)

What Happened: Tom Brady completed just 44% of his passes for 267 yards and no touchdowns in a loss to the Chiefs.

How Did It Happen: As mentioned above, the Patriots were already missing Julian Edelman before losing Amendola and Mitchell, and the Chiefs took his best weapon out of the game by blanketing Rob Gronkowski. An always dangerous Chiefs defense came to play and gave Brady and the defending champions fits all night. Brady was just 3-12 on deep passes, connecting with Amendola once and new target Brandin Cooks twice.

Panic Meter: Medium. Am I going to sit here and say I doubt Tom Brady will come back from this game? Absolutely not. But am I concerned that a guy who was typically drafted as a top two quarterback may fail to live up to that expectation this season? Absolutely. Losing the three aforementioned receivers hurts and the Patriots need to hope Amendola, a man with a history of concussions, recovers quickly from his concussion. Brady will have to rely heavily on Cooks, Gronk, and his running backs in the passing game in the coming weeks. He didn't connect well with Chris Hogan and Dwayne Allen in Week 1, and newly acquired Phillip Dorsett is a mystery at this point.

And I know the media has beaten this horse to death this week, but Tom Brady is 40 years old. Even if a regression is unlikely, it's not out of the question. We should have more clarity on what Brady's season outlook will look like after next week.

 

Isaiah Crowell (RB, CLE) (#10 RB)

What Happened: Crowell ran 17 times for 33 yards, caught two passes for 33 yards and scored a two point conversion in a loss to the Steelers.

How Did It Happen: The biggest knock on Crowell heading into the season was that he isn't that good of a real life football player. In Week 1, he still did not look like a good football player. Crowell averaged four yards per rush, something that he achieved four times last season. Even with rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer playing well, the Browns refused to abandon the running game, and drove Crowell into the ground all day long. His fantasy day was salvaged with a two point conversion late in the game.

Panic Meter: Medium. As of now, it doesn't seem like Crowell's carriers are going anywhere, but owners should still be panicking a bit. If any other Cleveland running back has a breakout game, there isn't much on Crowell's resume that justifies him staying as the starter. He needs to have a solid game in the coming weeks to reassure not only fantasy owners but the entire Cleveland Browns staff that he deserves to be a starter. Crowell had an eight game stretch last season where he ran for 211 yards on 84 carries. All we can do is hope for is that he does the opposite of that.

 

Saved By The Pie Line

Each week I'll touch briefly on guys who may have appeared in the Disaster Recovery column, but had their fantasy day saved by a touchdown.

Low Panic Meter: DeAndre Hopkins (WR, HOU) - Hopkins had just 55 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, but was targeted 16 times by the stable of Texans quarterbacks. At this point he's the only proven talent on the Texans offense, and literally every single tight end on the Texans offense was injured in Week 1. Rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson should only improve as the season goes on. Hopkins will have high volume and should see higher production than he did this week.

Medium Panic Meter: Todd Gurley (RB, LAR) - There's too much to unpack with Gurley's performance on Sunday, but the positives are that he received a ton of touches, looked good catching the ball, and defenses should have to respect the passing game more in the coming weeks. Even with the serious red flags in the Rams rushing attack, Gurley should improve on his abysmal 2016 season. The only question is how much.

High Panic Meter: Jordan Howard (RB, CHI) - Sound the sirens, ring the alarms, Jordan Howard is entering a timeshare. Howard had 16 total touches for 66 yards and a touchdown, while rookie Tarik Cohen had 13 total touches for 113 yards and a touchdown. I'd suggest owners don't sell low on Howard and see how the situation plays out, but the panic meter is at full tilt right now. It's hard to imagine Howard putting up a repeat performance of his rookie year with Cohen still in the mix.

 

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