Calm down—your fantasy football season isn’t over. Whether you won or lost in Week 1, there are still a lot of games left to be played. This means you have to keep improving your team by adding top talent.
The first week of the season showcased a lot of surprise performances from players likely available in many fantasy leagues.
While potentially fluky games such as Travis Benjamin’s (three catches, 89 yards, one touchdown) and Marcel Reece’s (three catches, 26 yards, two touchdowns) can be ignored for now, a few other players did enough to warrant fantasy consideration going forward.
Here is a look at top players to add who are currently available in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
We might have very well seen the best game of the year from Marcus Mariota in Week 1, as four touchdowns on 16 pass attempts is clearly unsustainable.
However, there is no denying that the rookie quarterback was excellent in his debut for the Tennessee Titans.
The former Heisman Trophy winner went 13-of-16 for 209 yards and four touchdowns—all in the first half. ESPN’s Louis Riddick credited the coaching staff with helping the quarterback’s transition to the NFL:
Even with a simplified playbook, Mariota showed poise in the pocket and the ability to make the right throw at the right time. As the year progresses, there is no question he can continue to spread the ball around and remain efficient in his passing attack.
Meanwhile, the first game didn’t even showcase the quarterback’s skill as a runner. He finished with six rushing yards on two carries, although he did have one nine-yard run. Once he utilizes his scrambling ability, Mariota can go from a quality passer to an elite fantasy option at quarterback.
He might not be trustworthy enough to start in Week 2, but he should certainly be on a roster.
Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots
No one was surprised when Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski hooked up for three touchdowns in the season-opening win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the revelation was the play of running back Dion Lewis.
The former Philadelphia Eagles reserve hadn’t touched the ball in an NFL game in two years but came through with 69 rushing yards on 15 carries to go with four catches for 51 yards. Head coach Bill Belichick had his form of high praise after the game, per Jimmy Toscano of CSNNE.com:
I think Dion has got a good skill set to do a lot of things. We had him returning kickoffs. He can catch the ball and have a role in the passing game. He had a couple blitz pickup opportunities that I thought were OK, and as you said, he had some inside runs, some outside runs. I think we’ve seen that all the way through since back in the spring when we worked on all those things, particularly in the passing game. Blitz pickup and things like that, we didn’t really know that much about him, but he’s shown to be dependable and reliable in that phase of the game.
Belichick has a history of loving a running back one week and hating him the next, making it difficult to trust any Patriots RB in fantasy football. However, the “dependable and reliable” part of the quote makes us believe Lewis can keep a big role within the offense going forward.
The important thing to consider is the return of LeGarrette Blount, who should regain his starting job after sitting out the first game because of a suspension.
Still, Lewis remains valuable in the passing game and should get plenty of touches. Those of you in a points-per-reception league should certainly target him and expect plenty of consistent points in the future.
Fantasy owners should also make a push for Chris Johnson, whom head coach Bruce Arians said should be the “lead dog” for the Arizona Cardinals with Andre Ellington out, according to Bob McManaman and Kent Somers of AZCentral.com.
James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers
I tried to tell you to pick him up last week!
James Jones didn’t do much with the Oakland Raiders and couldn’t latch on with the New York Giants, but he is right at home with the Green Bay Packers, with whom he re-signed just last week.
Here is a look at one of his impressive catches from Week 1 and a reminder from the NFL Twitter account about his past success with Aaron Rodgers:
Jones finished with 51 yards and four catches to go with a pair of touchdowns. He could have had another score as well if not for a holding call.
He is still only the third option within the offense behind both Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. Adams might not have scored, but he did have a team-high eight targets, so it is clear he remains a big part of the passing attack. Those who drafted him early should not give up just yet.
Still, Jones has Rodgers’ trust when he gets to the red zone and the ability to continue making big plays for the rest of the season.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Tight end is sometimes a tough position to predict with scoring so dependent on touchdowns. This means while someone like Austin Seferian-Jenkins can come through with a 23-point fantasy game, he isn’t guaranteed to replicate this performance.
Conversely, Tyler Eifert appears ready to take over as a top fantasy option at the position. The former first-round pick finished Week 1 with nine catches, 104 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets, all of which were team highs for the Bengals.
Nerdy Football’s Andrea Hangst explained that this was a breakout many expected last year:
The tight end has the tools and pass-catching ability to be a quality receiving threat all over the field, while his 6’6″ frame will especially help in the end zone. Combine his talent with his usage in the offense, and this could be a big season for the third-year player.
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