Saquon Barkley’s torn ACL will end fantasy seasons and topple front offices. There is no 1-for-1 replacement for the special back. For now, Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman will form a frightfully bad committee, though free agent Devonta Freeman could sign as early as Tuesday. GM Dave Gettleman will be desperate to save the 2020 season and his running back-centric project, but that ship has sailed. This is why modern executives don’t orient rosters around runners. Beyond simply being “replaceable” (an oversimplified concept), they come with the highest injury risk in the world’s most dangerous sport.
The flashpoint between Gettleman’s “what’s a computer?” old school ways and the new guard’s belief that backs are as replaceable as long snappers, Barkley’s football life has never been fair. It’s at least not over. Still only 23, Barkley is a freaky enough athlete that he already spent much of last season playing through a high-ankle sprain. He will be mended well ahead of the 2021 campaign. It will be too late for Gettleman, but there is no reason DG’s bad bet can’t remain a building block for whomever replaces him. Barkley should not have been the pick at No. 2 overall for a team that lacked a quarterback — Dave, at the very least, trade back — but he has been the player Gettleman envisioned.
That’s cold comfort for fantasy players who took Barkley at No. 2, of course. None of Lewis, Gallman or Freeman will be a magic bullet on the waiver wire. Freeman may come closest. That’s if you even secure the winning bid. The week’s top overall add is probably Carolina’s Mike Davis, who will be a more direct replacement for a rehabbing Christian McCaffrey (ankle). The Rams’ Darrell Henderson arguably offers the most upside. Los Angeles’ Joshua Kelley is somewhere in between.
Five Week 2 Storylines
Christian McCaffrey out 4-6 weeks with a high-ankle sprain. “Can he stay healthy?” was one of the only pre-draft question marks for CMC coming out of Stanford. Through three-plus seasons, he had yet to miss a game. That will now change, with the longer estimates for McCaffrey’s absence certainly in play, as the tanking Panthers have every incentive to be as cautious as possible. With Reggie Bonnafon no longer even on the roster, long-hyped Mike Davis is poised to slide in as McCaffrey’s 1-for-1 replacement, though like the Giants, the Panthers could also make a free agent addition. Competitor and freak athlete that he is, the possibility that CMC returns after only 2-3 games also can’t be ruled out.
Patriots and Cam Newton knock the cobwebs off passing attack. The Week 1 narrative was that the Pats were essentially adopting the single wing. Although Newton once again led the Pats in rush attempts and yards in Seattle — becoming the first quarterback to do so for his team in the first two weeks of the season since 1950 — Week 2 proved to be a case of classic Patriots adaptability. With Russell Wilson cooking far too many stews, the Pats had no choice but to play shootout ball, and Newton responded with 397 yards passing, the third highest total of his career. This, one game after notching the second most carries of his career. The Pats know they have a special talent they can deploy in a variety of ways, right down to turning slot man Julian Edelman into a 179-yard deep receiver. Newton’s rush attempts will present quite the physical challenge if they keep up at this rate, but the 31-year-old has already answered every question about both his health and gas tank. The Raiders are a glorious Week 3 matchup.
Injuries give Darrell Henderson the lead in Rams’ Week 2 backfield. Cam Akers got the start but was quickly knocked out with a rib injury. Malcolm Brown was the next man up, but he was much less effective than Week 1 before suffering a minor finger ailment. Enter Henderson, who was ticketed for a bigger role before the game by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and responded with by far the best effort of his young career. Henderson turned 14 touches into 121 yards, including a 40-yard rush, 28-yard catch and two-yard touchdown. Dangerous side to side, Henderson looked like a gear shifter going downhill. There are not going to be any overnight miracles in the Rams’ backfield. Coach Sean McVay seems to genuinely want a committee. But Henderson is suddenly looking like the highest-upside bet, and is one of this wild waivers week’s most intriguing adds.
Raheem Mostert injures knee and Jimmy Garoppolo suffers high-ankle sprain vs. Jets. Mostert has a “mild” MCL sprain. That’s good news, but in the COVID year of 2020, a three-week stay on injured reserve is in the cards. For Garoppolo, it figures to be a month-plus. Garoppolo is off to a poor start this season, but Nick Mullens is still a downgrade for the 49ers’ banged up pass catchers. In the backfield, Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon will form an unsatisfactory committee. Coleman appears close to cooked on early downs, but workload alone will keep him in the FLEX mix. McKinnon could be the preferred play in PPR leagues. Former goal-line pest Jeff Wilson is the wild card.
Will Fuller has zero-target nightmare. This year was going to be different for Will Fuller. Sunday was the depressing same. Coming off a Week 1 that seemed to welcome him as a matchup-proof, situation-proof top-18 wideout, Fuller failed to command a single look as the Texans went down meekly vs. the Ravens. Fuller was never announced with an injury but was seen constantly having his right leg stretched out on the sideline. He was in and out, in and out as the Texans went down and out. There will surely be more to the story on Monday, but by now we know the story. Fuller isn’t going to play 16 games this season. When he does suit up, it will be volatile. He is capable of zeros or winning your week with one catch. Week 3 at Pittsburgh is another daunting test before potential smash spots in the Vikings and Jaguars.
Five More Week 2 Storylines
Jonathan Taylor quickly and quietly puts down the Nyheim Hines insurrection. 20-1. That was Taylor’s halftime touch advantage over his backfield mate. One week after the Colts stunned with Hines’ usage, they did what everyone wanted and expected with Taylor. The rookie did not light up the stat sheet. He generated a modest 101 yards on his 26 carries (3.9 YPC), but that does not come close to telling the entire story. Taylor routinely looked a gear faster than the Vikings’ defense in the first half. The problem is that he was called on in one obvious running situation after another in a game that was never competitive. By the time the final whistle blew, Taylor had out-touched Hines by a comical 28-1 margin. That one might not happen again for Hines, but 28 will remain in play for Taylor. With Philip Rivers’ arm fading, the offense will be put on Taylor’s back. The only question will be his passing-game usage. If Taylor can manage even 3-4 weekly targets, it will give him a scarily-high RB1 ceiling while icing Hines out of PPR relevance.
Justin Herbert performs admirably in last-second start. Some days you wake up not knowing you are going to go toe to toe with Patrick Mahomes in an overtime loss. So was Herbert’s Sunday after Tyrod Taylor aggravated a previously undisclosed chest injury in pre-game warmups. That will be a matter for the NFL to sort out — gamblers and fantasy players are supposed to know about these things via the injury report — but Herbert was surprisingly composed and decisive as he nearly led this team to the upset. There were some major rookie mistakes. Herbert took a 14-yard sack one drive before passing up a wide-open first down with his legs in favor of throwing a horrifying interception down the field. But all things considered, you don’t usually spot start yourself to 22-of-33 passing for 311 yards and a score vs. the defending world champs, adding 4/18/1 on the ground. Inexplicably, coach Anthony Lynn has said he will stick with Taylor for Week 3 against the Panthers if the veteran is healthy, but the countdown clock has been started all the same. If Herbert gets the green light for that one, he will be an immediate streaming option vs. the NFC’s worst defense.
Drew Lock and Courtland Sutton’s injuries cut the heart out of the Broncos’ offense. Lock is out 2-6 weeks with a sprained AC joint, while Sutton’s season is through. Just like that, GM John Elway’s high-risk last stand has already been surrounded and forced to surrender. Lock, as feared, was off to a horrendous start. He will easily reclaim the reins from Jeff Driskel upon his return, but doing so with a supporting cast that will be missing Sutton, he will be set up to fail. Lock needed everything to go right to have a chance at becoming the Broncos’ long-term answer. Instead, nothing has. Much like Saquon Barkley’s loss in New York, these injuries figure to serve as a palate cleanser in Denver. Elway deserves fans’ infinite gratitude, but it is time for someone else to get a chance to lead this front office.
Gardner Minshew keeps cooking as Jaguars remain frisky. Minshew wasn’t quite as sparkling as Week 1, but he still brought the Jags to within one drive of their second straight upset to begin what was supposed to be a tankathon. Minshew has six scores through two weeks, and is completing 75.3 percent of his passes while averaging 7.9 yards per attempt. Those rates will fade, but Minshew has established fantasy streaming bonafides while making the Jags’ tank less painful than expected. Maybe, just maybe he will remain the starter come 2021. Minshew will maintain plug-and-play relevance for the next month — vs. MIA, @CIN, @HOU, vs. DET — before running into the Chargers’ defensive buzzsaw.
Leonard Fournette assumes control of Bucs’ backfield. Nature is healing. One week after Bucs coach Bruce Arians surprisingly stayed true to his word with Jones’ usage, Jones stayed true to his actions with mistake-prone play earning him a spot on the bench. Jones mishandled a handoff from Tom Brady and that was that. Fournette took the lead the rest of the way and finished with 12/103/2 to Jones’ 7/23/1. If the case isn’t closed, the detectives will soon have their files in order. Fournette will be a firm Week 3 FLEX vs. the Broncos, while Jones will no longer be startable.
1. What are Dan Quinn, Adam Gase and Matt Patricia’s excuses at this point?
2. Did someone tell Mike McCarthy fake punts were “analytics”?
3. Jordan Love at least getting in some good reps with the scout team?
Early Waiver Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Philip Rivers (vs. NYJ), Ryan Tannehill (@MIN), Gardner Minshew (vs. MIA), Baker Mayfield (vs. WFT), Mitchell Trubisky (@ATL), Nick Mullens (@NYG)
RB: Mike Davis, Joshua Kelley, Darrell Henderson, Dion Lewis, Devonta Freeman, Wayne Gallman, Jerick McKinnon, Myles Gaskin
WR: DeSean Jackson, Preston Williams, N’Keal Harry, Corey Davis, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Russell Gage, Laviska Shenault, Brandon Aiyuk, Jalen Reagor, Michael Pittman, Golden Tate, Tre’Quan Smith, Randall Cobb, K.J. Hamler
TE: Logan Thomas, Dalton Schultz, Chris Herndon, Jordan Akins, Drew Sample, Mo Alie-Cox
DEF: Bucs, who are 50 percent owned (@DEN), Colts (vs. NYJ), Browns (vs. WFT), Jaguars (vs. MIA), Giants (vs. SF)
Stats of the Week
The Falcons became the first team in the history of football to lose a game where they scored 39 points and committed zero turnovers. Teams had previously been 440-0 in such situations.
Mike Clay lays out Josh Allen’s early 2020 improvement: Allen’s three-year trends in yards per attempt are 6.5, 6.7, 9.0. For completion percentage, it is 53, 59, 70. His percentage of “off-target throws” has gone from 23 to 22 to 16. Even for Josh Allen, efficiency will always be the name of the game.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell lists the quarterbacks who signed for more guaranteed money than Cam Newton this offseason: Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert, Brett Hundley, Colt McCoy, Jeff Driskel, Chase Daniel, Marcus Mariota, Case Keenum, A.J. McCarron, Chad Henne, Matt Schaub, Matt Barkley and … Nathan QB1 Peterman.
As Joe Caporoso points out, the Jets have yet to score a first half touchdown, something they also failed to do until Week 6 last season. I don’t know, maybe Adam Gase is bad.
Tweet of the Week, from Dan Hanzus: 49ers just ripped off a 55-yard run on 3rd-and-31. This is the worst Jets team of my lifetime ... and that's saying something.
The Have You Ever Read A Rulebook? Award: The Falcons letting the game-sealing onside kick roll to the Cowboys instead of … not doing that.
The Emperor Belichick Isn’t Going To Like That One Award: BB literally glowing in anger after being quizzed about his team’s timeout usage late in Sunday’s shootout loss.
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