FANTASY PLAYS: Less chaos, but plenty to learn from openers


By Nando Di Fino - Fantasy Sports Network



Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (15) runs past Chicago Bears free safety Adrian Amos (38) to score a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


Philadelphia Eagles' Jordan Matthews celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Bradley McDougald (30) tackles Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


Running backs Jalen Richard and Spencer Ware and tight end Jack Doyle highlighted an opening Sunday for fantasy football that had far less chaos and surprise than previous opening weekends. While there’s less to learn long-term from 2016’s opening frame, there’s still plenty for fantasy owners to consider:

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INJURIES

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen injured a knee in the second quarter Sunday against the Chiefs. While there’s no official diagnosis, a worst-case scenario of major structural damage could have Allen out for the year.

It’s a crushing blow for both fantasy owners (Allen was a consensus second-round pick who already had six catches for 63 yards when he went down) and anyone with a sense of humanity (Allen has been sidelined before in his career by a litany of injuries). Fantasy owners may want to consider Allen’s presumed replacement on the waiver wire, Dontrelle Inman. In just eight career starts, Inman has five games of 75 or more receiving yards.

Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III also will miss at least eight games after breaking a bone in his left shoulder. Josh McCown becomes the Cleveland starter while Griffin is out.

Other injuries to keep an eye on this week: Russell Wilson, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu as they deal with ankle injuries.

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FUN WITH SNAP COUNTS

Two quick things to look at when the dust settles on a football week: targets for wide receivers and running backs, and Nathan Jahnke’s Twitter account (PFF_NateJahnke ). The director of analytics at Pro Football Focus, Jahnke’s feed is brilliant on Sundays, sharing snap counts for nearly every team, revealing to fantasy owners which players were in the game for the most plays.

Interpreting some nuggets from Jahnke this week:

• Patriots receiver Chris Hogan had the second-most snaps of all the team’s receivers (56), suggesting his usage is very real.

• Seahawks running back Christine Michael saw more snaps (52) than Thomas Rawls (22), which might continue for a couple weeks as Rawls works his way back from injury.

• Despite two touchdowns for Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, he was badly out-snapped (50-23) by Danny Woodhead, meaning the big fantasy day may be tougher to replicate if his play is limited.

• Tevin Coleman had the bigger numbers, but Devonta Freeman still out-snapped him, 36-32. Still, the pendulum can swing either way for Atlanta.

• Victor Cruz played 49 snaps to Odell Beckham’s 55 and Sterling Shepard’s 53, which likely means he’ll continue to be a big part of the Giants’ offense.

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FLY EAGLES FLY

The Eagles may be the team offering the most long-term fantasy impact given standouts the first week.

Jordan Matthews (14 targets, seven receptions, 114 yards, and a touchdown) and Nelson Agholor (5/4/57/1) were two of the more overlooked receivers this draft season. But with the Chip Kelly regime gone and a talented rookie quarterback in place in Carson Wentz, the offense looked more traditional, and Matthews and Agholor fit right in.

Fantasy players expected good things from Ryan Mathews (22 attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown) and Zach Ertz (six catches for 58 yards) and we got our five targets to Darren Sproles. But Matthews and Agholor were a welcome surprise.

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WILL FULLER GETS HIS OWN SECTION

Quickie version: he’s worth adding if you can.

The Texans rookie receiver had five receptions on 11 targets for 107 yards and a touchdown. And the numbers would have looked even better had he not dropped a long pass at the end of the first half.

Fuller had a sparkling preseason and earned raves from his coaches. But as exciting as the debut was for Fuller, would-be fantasy owners should note two small caveats: the Chicago secondary hasn’t been great in years, and Fuller is a speedy wideout who may only catch half of his targets, including one or two receptions of the 40-60 yard variety.

He’s better than the “boom-or-bust” label on a week-to-week basis — and could compare favorably with players like Martavis Bryant or Mike Wallace (non-Vikings version). Fuller is worth a fantasy add (and will likely be one of the most-added players across all fantasy leagues), but he may have a few three-point games as the season unfolds.

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IS JOE FLACCO A TOP 12 QUARTERBACK?

Yes.

Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (15) runs past Chicago Bears free safety Adrian Amos (38) to score a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_112407124-fc3eecd215894a76b69ec18ac14624dc.jpgHouston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (15) runs past Chicago Bears free safety Adrian Amos (38) to score a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Philadelphia Eagles’ Jordan Matthews celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_112407124-f36652c627b54cb49b6fe20404c967ee.jpgPhiladelphia Eagles’ Jordan Matthews celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Bradley McDougald (30) tackles Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_112407124-93c966dd021844e8822fdf43aadf01e0.jpgTampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Bradley McDougald (30) tackles Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

By Nando Di Fino

Fantasy Sports Network

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com .

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com .

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