From a fantasy perspective, Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season was an absolute disaster for many people. Logic was thrown out the window. Big names simply did not perform up to their standards. Little-known sleepers won a lucky few lots and lots of money in daily games. David Johnson, who must have gone first overall in a ton of season-long leagues, was injured and will miss up to three months recovering, thus sending his fantasy owners into a frenzy on the waiver wire.
One of the reasons why NFL fantasy games are so popular and addicting is partially due to the fact that football is usually predictable. Star players usually perform up to their capabilities. Bad defenses usually struggle. Using Vegas lines, simple and advanced statistics and optimized projections, we now have a seemingly unlimited amount of tools at our disposal to roster the best-possible squad in the hopes of putting up big scores on a weekly basis.
But, for many, including myself (who had both Tom Brady and Drew Brees in my season-long league and didn't hit on any player except LeSean McCoy in daily games), it was an absolute disaster. And it wasn't because I didn't do my homework. In fact, I put in about 25 hours of research in advance of the slate, looked at data, listened to podcasts, radio shows and read countless articles from reputable sources.
But, it all ended up being worthless for one simple reason: this is a new season. How could we possibly predict anything in Week 1 based on last year's rosters? How could we have possibly projected outcomes when tons of personnel moves occurred involving both players and coaches?
Now that Week 1 is over, we know a bit of information in terms of tendencies, patterns and game-flow. Since sleepers are arguably the most important aspect of the entire fantasy world (they are undeniably in large-person daily tournaments), here are two guys to consider rostering in Week 2 with a bonus deep-sleeper at the end.
Sleeper No. 1: Javorius "Buck" Allen (RB, Baltimore Ravens)
Checking in at just $4,100 on DraftKings and $4,900 on FanDuel, Allen also becomes an elite streamer option in season-long leagues this week as his Ravens take on the Cleveland Browns. Since Danny Woodhead will miss quite a bit of time due to a hamstring injury that he suffered in Week 1, Allen and Terrance West are the only two running backs that should find the ball in their hands in Week 2.
After Woodhead's injury in Week 1's victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Allen carried the ball 21 times for 71 yards, thus seeing the elite amount of volume that we're searching for from the running back position. The most telling aspect of the game, however, was that Joe Flacco attempted just 17 total passes, including three in the entire second half. Perhaps still recovering from an offseason back injury and not fully at 100 percent health, the Ravens seemed perfectly fine with eating up time by keeping the ball on the ground, trusting their defense to hold the lead. Against the Browns, a similar game script could very reasonably occur, which could mean big things for Allen and Baltimore's rushing attack as a whole from a fantasy perspective.
West rushed the ball 19 times for 80 yards with a touchdown in Week 1, and while it's very possible that he serves as the primary early-down back, Allen could make a large impact in the passing game out of the backfield in third-down situations if he's used primarily in that role. In fact, Flacco has targeted running backs an NFL-leading 153 times out of the backfield since the beginning of last season. In my point of view, that fact alone places Allen over fellow Week 2 waiver-wire stud Kerwynn Williams of the Arizona Cardinals, who should garner a lot of ownership in his matchup against the porous Indianapolis Colts defense.
And if you don't think Allen is capable of putting up huge numbers, think again. In Week 13 of his rookie season in 2015, he rushed the ball 17 times for 63 yards and caught a whopping 12 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Miami Dolphins.
If he comes close to that again this week, he will make me (and everyone else who rosters him with confidence) very, very happy.
Sleeper No. 2: Adam Thielen (WR, Minnesota Vikings)
I won't get into it here, but if you're not familiar with Thielen's story, you should take a few minutes and find out how a guy went from being a virtually unknown athlete to someone who has posted 100-yard, 150-yard and 200-yard performances in three of his last five games dating back to last season.
Last week against the New Orleans Saints, Thielen, who costs $5,000 to roster on DraftKings and $5,800 on FanDuel, caught nine of 10 balls thrown his way from quarterback Sam Bradford for a game-high 157 yards. While it's important to note that every secondary probably isn't as terrible as New Orleans', it's also apparent that Thielen has emerged as one of Bradford's most-trusted targets.
While running back Dalvin Cook certainly impressed in his NFL debut, the real story was Bradford's Monday Night Football dominance in Week 1, as he completed 27-of-32 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. When evaluating receivers, it's always a sound strategy to identify which quarterbacks pass the ball at a high volume. Over the last five games of the 2016 season, Minnesota put their faith in Bradford, as he averaged 40.8 pass attempts per contest to close out a record-breaking season in which he completed 71.6 percent of his passes.
One of the most attractive aspects of Thielen's game is the fact that high-percentage passes are usually thrown his way, as evidenced by the fact that he caught 69-of-92 targets last season and 9-of-10 last week. Since Stephon Diggs' two-touchdown performance will likely make him more popular in daily games, Thielen is a solid pivot and will undeniably come with lower ownership.
Although the Steelers have a talented cornerback group that includes Joe Haden and Artie Burns, volume is volume, and Bradford should approach the 40 pass attempt plateau, especially if the Steelers attempt to blitz or crowd the box as they made a habit of doing last week. In duress, Bradford will look to Thielen on short patterns from the slot where the duo has proven to be productive, which makes him a very solid sleeper play for Week 2 and a strong candidate for PPR-based lineups.
Deep Sleeper of the Week: Alvin Kamara (RB, New Orleans Saints)
While Kamara's Week 1 output of seven carries for 18 yards and four catches for 20 yards might appear to make him an afterthought this week, especially since he's third on the depth chart behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson, think again.
To the dismay of New England Patriots fans everywhere, I have to bring up their God-awful Week 1 defense against the Kansas City Chiefs. Giving up 42 points to a defensive-minded team was uncharacteristic for a Bill Belichick-led team coming off of a Super Bowl victory, but it also proved a very exploitable fact: the Patriots simply do not have the defensive personnel to handle pass-catching backs. Kareem Hunt rushed 17 times for 147 yards and caught five passes for an additional 98 yards with three total touchdowns in Week 1. Unless the Patriots somehow employ a member of the secondary to spy on passing routes out of the backfield, their linebackers might have a very hard time bottling up the elusive Kamara.
While it's important to note that Belichick and company have had all week to practice and make sure that kind of performance doesn't happen again in the future, it's also completely plausible to think that the New Orleans Saints will want to mimic some of what the Chiefs did in what should be an absolute shootout in Week 2.
In the Week 1 loss to the Vikings, Ingram rushed six times for 17 yards and caught five passes for 54 yards (most of the receiving yards occurred in the game's final minutes when playing from behind). Peterson had just six carries for 18 yards and played nine total snaps in the game. He also shouted at coach Sean Payton during the game from the sidelines which might not bode well for him moving forward.
Therefore, Kamara may be third on the depth chart, but it's clear that the Saints coaching staff has enormous faith in the rookie out of Tennessee. They wouldn't have embarrassed and overlooked AP in his return to Minnesota for someone who wasn't a part of their future plans. In fact, Kamara played 31 of the Saints' 62 offensive snaps, proving that his third-string status really means nothing.
At just $3,500 on DraftKings and $4,700 on FanDuel, the rookie is certainly worth a look.
Shoot me a message on Twitter @DanielKarpuc to let me know what you think or leave a comment below!