For those of you that play survivor pools, picking on the bad teams is the best strategy. If you chose the Browns opponent every game they played last year, except for some divisional games where you couldn’t choose the same team twice, then you probably did very well in your pool. Just two weeks into 2018, we’re already seeing which teams will probably be at the bottom of the standings all season long. The five teams that stand out are the Bills, Cardinals, Browns, Colts, and Raiders. So which of these teams actually have players worth owning in fantasy the rest of the season? And who are they? Let’s break it down team by team.
The Buffalo Bills are a mess. They can’t get their offense going and their defense can’t stop anyone. It seems as though the players are very aware of the direction this team is going as well. Their starting cornerback and two-time Pro Bowler Vontae Davis decided to retire at halftime. Trailing the Chargers 28-6 at halftime, Davis just took his ball and went home. That’s probably the opposite of what HC Sean McDermott had in mind on a day where their rookie QB needed all the help he could get in his debut against a solid Chargers team. In addition to that, LeSean McCoy continued to struggle behind arguably the worst offensive line in football. Through two weeks he has 16 carries for 61 yards. That’s right, a guy who was going in the 2nd/3rd round in fantasy drafts this year is averaging 8 carries per game. McCoy has less rushing yards than Blake Bortles. It doesn’t help that they’re always playing catch up and don’t have any other true offensive threats to take defensive attention off McCoy. I don’t see any fantasy players on this team at the moment that I would be happy having in my starting lineup.
Verdict: Stay away
Top 5 fantasy pick, David Johnson. He was a no-doubter, a clear stud. But while he is one of the most talented running backs in the league, the play-calling has been horrendous. Johnson has been forced to run inside the tackles almost exclusively and has not been given the ball in the passing game. That means he almost never has the ball in open space, AKA where he makes his money.
Johnson also has minimal help around him. You can make the argument that Larry Fitzgerald requires significant attention from opposing defenses but if their QB play is as bad as Sam Bradford is showing right now, Fitz looks like he’s running routes for show at this point. Bradford through two games has only 243 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs. The Cardinals have put up a total of 6 points in their first two regular season games. Thanks to the poor QB play, Arizona rarely even has the ball on their opponent’s side of the field, so DJ and Fitzgerald’s TD potential is capped as well.
Verdict: Start Johnson for the upside but things are not looking good
Andrew Luck is back, the Colts of old are back! Not so fast. Luck is far from the answer to make the Colts contenders again. Week one, the defense let the Colts down as they allowed 34 points to the Bengals making Andy Dalton look elite. The defense showed up in week two, holding the Redskins to only 9 points which was a great turn around. However, I am not convinced the defense will be consistent enough to win many games. On offense, Luck has a three-man backfield of Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins which is solid. Fantasy-wise that crowded backfield is enough for me to avoid despite the improved offensive line. It is a little nerve-wracking not knowing who will be getting the carries on a given week. Mack is the listed starter, but I also see the Colts going with the hot hand throughout the season. As for wide receivers, T.Y. Hilton is the only one on the Colts worth owning. He has great chemistry with Luck. Last time Luck was healthy, T.Y. led the league in receiving yards. The fact that the Colts are not a good team that will be winning a lot of games benefits T.Y as the Colts will be throwing, playing catch up (4th most passing attempts in the NFL). The tight end position in Indianapolis this season is frustrating for fantasy owners. Jack Doyle seemed like the guy that Andrew Luck was going to target a lot and that is true, but Eric Ebron has been getting more targets in the redzone. Luck has targeted the two tight ends a combined 24 times in total the first two weeks (Doyle 15, Ebron 9). In these weeks combined, Ebron has outscored Doyle 19 to 6 when it comes to fantasy points. They are a great combination for the Colts and Andrew Luck but not so much for fantasy teams.
Verdict: Start Luck and Hilton, avoid entire backfield and tight ends.
The Browns are an interesting team when it comes to fantasy. They have a lot of good pieces that have the ability to contribute great numbers but they haven’t come together as a unit yet. It doesn’t help that Josh Gordon is no longer on the team. He would stretch the field which opened the run game as well as giving other Browns receivers some space to run free. With no Gordon, I still like Jarvis Landry, especially in PPR leagues. He’ll get a larger share of targets with no Gordon. David Njoku should also receive more targets with Gordon now on the Patriots. Njoku got a lot of hype from fantasy owners in the preseason. With a lot of weapons in the offense, the idea was Njoku would be open on many plays as a safety blanket. He received 7 targets in both of the first two games of the season, however, and only caught half of them. Tyrod Taylor is not the most accurate QB around but with Gordon out of Cleveland, it’s hard not to like Njoku the rest of the season. As for Taylor, a lot of his fantasy points have come from rushing yards in the past. But they will need to be effective in the pass game to be taken more seriously. Tyrod is third to last in passer rating only ahead of Sam Bradford and Josh Allen. It doesn’t help that Tyrod has taken the second most sacks (10) in the league so far. Much of it can come from his inability to read defenses the way most other starting QBs can. If Baker Mayfield becomes the starting QB on the Browns, we are more likely to see an efficient offense but until then; poor Browns.
Verdict: Start Landry, Njoku, stream Taylor, keep Baker on radar
The Raiders led by new head coach Jon Gruden are not off to a hot start. After being dominated by the Rams in the second half last Monday, they blew a 4th quarter lead to the Broncos to lose 20-19 in week two. The defense has not played well enough to make up for its lackluster offense. Jared Cook was a surprise in week one with 9 catches for 180 yards. No surprise that didn’t continue, as he had 4 catches for 49 yards in against Denver. The main target in Amari Cooper was nowhere to be found in week one where he recorded just 1 catch on 3 targets for 9 yards. Week two against a good Broncos defense he had 10 catches on 10 targets for 116 yards. Cooper may have an up and down season as Derek Carr is not impressing anyone. Carr has only 1 TD and 3 INTs on the season. In the backfield, Lynch is getting the bulk of the carries. At his age though, it’s unlikely he gets over 20 carries in a game like he used to. Doug Martin will get a couple carries here and there and Jalen Richard will remain the pass catching back but all in all, not an attractive backfield for fantasy owners. Lynch is worth a start because of the volume he gets but with this offense is not scoring much, it is a turn off for all fantasy owners that roster a Raider.
Verdict: Start Cooper, flex Lynch, avoid everyone else