Fantasy football: Who to start — and sit — in Week 4

Thursday night is starting to become a lot of fun.

The games selected for Thursday night haven’t always been competitive, high-scoring affairs, but that’s starting to change.

Last week we had Baker Mayfield’s debut and this week we had a shootout between the Vikings and Rams.

Jared Goff recorded the first 400-yard, five-touchdown game on three days’ rest in NFL history. He had a perfect passer rating to boot.

Here’s a look at who else you should start, and sit, in Week 4.

START THESE GUYS

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: He gets to face the 49ers who are in the bottom-10 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. They’ve already given up eight TD passes through three games.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: Though A.J. Green is battling a groin injury, the Bengals have a good passing matchup against the Falcons. Dalton is building chemistry with Tyler Boyd, a third-year receiver looking to break out.

Case Keenum, QB, Broncos: The Chiefs have given up 1,127 yards passing, which is worst in the league. Keenum will be playing at home against a team that is second worst in points allowed to quarterbacks.

Gio Bernard, RB, Bengals: Bernard filled in well for an injured Joe Mixon last week, rushing for 61 yards and making five receptions for 25 more. He has a great matchup this week against he Falcons. They’re third worst in points allowed to running backs.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Browns: The Raiders allow 5.1 yards per carry and Hyde is on a scoring streak. Having Mayfield start could open things up even more for the running back.

Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks: The Cardinals are second worst in points allowed to running backs, allowing five rushing touchdowns to the position. That’s the most in the league. Carson eclipsed 100 yards on 32 carries last week.

Allen Robinson, WR, Bears: Facing the Buccaneers is a good thing for a guy who gets targeted as much as he does. Tampa Bay has given up 595 yards through the air to receivers. They’ve surrendered 56 receptions to receivers which is last in the league.

Geronimo Allison, WR, Packers: Randall Cobb is dealing with a hamstring injury and Allison has yielded solid production. I’m betting he gets more than four targets, like he did last week, against the Bills this week.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants: He’s the No. 2 wideout in N.Y. and has an outstanding matchup with the Saints. Shepard should build upon his 80-yard, TD performance last week.

SIT THESE GUYS

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: He hasn’t thrown for more than 170 yards in a game yet this season and he has just as many picks as he does touchdown passes. The Lions are in the top-10 in terms of limiting fantasy points to quarterbacks.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders: The Browns are actually really good at limiting quarterbacks in fantasy scoring. They intercepted Ben Roethlisberger three times and held Drew Brees to 243 yards and two touchdowns. Those are pedestrian numbers for an elite quarterback. Carr isn’t an elite quarterback.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars: He was outstanding two weeks ago against the Patriots, but in his two other games he failed to eclipse 200 yards passing. Bortles faces the Jets, a team that has allowed three touchdowns while making five interceptions.

Alex Collins, RB, Ravens: Fantasy owners are pulling their hair out every time they see Javorius Allen make the most of a red zone opportunity. The back up running back is cutting into Collins’ production tremendously.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins: He hasn’t gained more than 53 yards rushing in a game and has put up two duds in three weeks. He’s very dependent on touchdowns at this point and the Patriots have allowed just one on the ground so far this season.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: There’s good reason to believe the Packers will lead this game. And there’s no good reason why McCoy should be in the game while dealing with a rib injury. He’s expected to play, but you can’t trust he’ll be that productive.

Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots: Tom Brady isn’t throwing him the ball. Wait until Hogan has a decent game before you start him. Honestly, if he doesn’t perform this week, you can cut him.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Raiders: I’m not going to get fooled by his big performance last week. He had two huge gains after showing next to nothing the first two weeks. If he strings two good games together we can start thinking about inserting him into the lineup.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: This week could be telling for him. If he can somehow be productive while nursing a hamstring and playing with a rookie quarterback, you might be able to start him again. Just don’t do it yet.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy Football: Week 4 Rankings

Matchups are having a big impact on this week’s rankings. Make sure you are aware of who your usual starters are up against. You may have to switch things up in Week 4. Also, bye weeks start. The Panthers and Redskins are off so plan accordingly.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

 

 

Fantasy football Week 3 recap and top waiver wire picks

Sunday was wild.

So much history made, so many upsets and quite a few break out performances highlighted Week 3.

Drew Brees broke the record for career completions on the way to 396 yards and three touchdown passes in an overtime win over the Falcons. He also rushed for a couple touchdowns with the help of a pretty sweet spin move and a game-winning QB sneak over the top.

Opposite Brees, Matt Ryan threw for 374 yards and five touchdowns. And despite leading many fantasy teams to wins, he was a loser Sunday.

On the bright side, Ryan looks to be building a nice rapport with Calvin Ridley. The rookie has been better week after week and should be a high priority waiver wire addition.

That overtime clash would have been the main story of the week if there weren’t so many big upsets.

The upsets were some serious head-scratchers, but the Vikings, who were favored by more than two touchdowns, falling to the Bills was unbelievable. The Bills took a 27-0 lead into the fourth quarter before winning 27-6. Josh Allen rushed for two scores and threw another, but I don’t think you should rush out and add him to your team.

Outside of Adam Thielen, who had 14 receptions for 105 yards, this game was somewhat of a fantasy points wasteland. Kirk Cousins turned the ball over three times while Stefon Diggs caught four passes for just 17 yards. The Vikings rushed just six times in the game. That’s astounding and was a big reason Latavius Murray didn’t cash in on a start in place of injured Dalvin Cook.

The Sunday night game also offered up a surprise. The Lions, with the help of a break out performance from rookie running back Kerryon Johnson, topped the Patriots 26-10.

The Patriots offense struggled mightily. Tom Brady threw for fewer than 150 yards and was intercepted while Rob Gronkowski had just four receptions for 51 yards.

Johnson helped salt away the win with some tough gains and became the first Lion to rush for at least 100 yards since 2013. He tops my list of waiver wire picks.

Top waiver wire picks:

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions: Johnson ended the streak of rushers failing to gain 100 yards for the Lions in Sunday night’s win over the Patriots. It’s a good sign that his 16-carry, 101-yard effort came in a win. Hopefully that means he has earned the Lion’s share of touches. (Sorry.)

Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons: Targeted eight times through the first two games, Ridley had a coming out party on Sunday as he caught seven passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns. The first-round pick is progressing toward becoming the No. 2 receiving option in Atlanta.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals: I guess people aren’t trusting him yet because he’s still widely available in a lot of leagues. He just had his second straight game of making six receptions and scoring a touchdown. Boyd did that on the way to gaining 132 yards.

Mike Williams, WR, Chargers: Williams scored twice this week on the way to gaining 81 yards. That brings his totals to 189 yards and three touchdowns.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Raiders: It’s a little weird to have him as a suggested waiver wire addition, but some owners probably had enough after two dud weeks. He caught six passes for 173 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Miami Sunday and looks like he’s getting comfortable with Derek Carr.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns: Don’t get crazy, but you can pick him up to stash until he makes it clear that he can string a few good games together.

Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks: Teams tend to stick with what works. The Seahawks were favored at home against the Cowboys, but they were 0-2 with previous gameplans. This week they handed the ball to Carson 32 times for 102 yards and a win.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants: He caught six passes for 80 yards and scored a touchdown in the Giants’ first win.

Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers: If the Bucs stay with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Godwin should be a decent play for WR2 status. He’s scored in each week so far, including a five-catch, 74-yard performance Monday night.

Vance McDonald, TE, Steelers: He’s been targeted at least five times in each of the first two games he’s played in. Jesse James was barely visible Monday night, getting targeted just once. McDonald has the skills to be a TE1, evidenced by his 75-yard score.

Javorius Allen, RB, Ravens: His fantasy scoring has been consistent, but it’s hard to imagine him scoring a touchdown in every game. That’s the only way he’s been valuable through the first three games. He has 29 touches for just 102 yards but has scored four times. Add him, but be aware.

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: Don’t look now but Flacco is starting to put up decent fantasy numbers. He hasn’t thrown for fewer than 236 yards in a game this season and has six TDs versus just two picks.

Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals: He’s starting to warm up, finishing with seven catches for 90 yards in Week 3. Strike now before he has a serious break out.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins: With bye weeks coming up, you’ll want a decent fill-in and Tannehill has been better than decent. He’s thrown seven touchdowns against just two interceptions in three weeks. Not to mention he’s rushed for 74 yards in that span as well.

Dallas Goedert, TE, Eagles: Add him if you’ve got room on your bench because he could end up paying off. Carson Wentz returned to the lineup and utilized the rookie effectively. Goedert caught seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. Philly is hurting at the WR spot, so they’ll look to get both Zach Ertz and Goedert involved.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football: Who to start — and sit — in Week 3

All of a sudden the Cleveland Browns look like they’ve got a few options to start on your fantasy squad. Baker Mayfield entered Thursday night’s game against the N.Y. Jets and led the Browns to their first win since Dec. 24, 2016. With Mayfield inserted into the lineup, Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway get an increase in value. Landry should remain the top target for the rookie QB, but Mayfield also had a nice rapport with fellow rookie Callaway in the preseason. The trio will deserve to be started in the near future. Here’s a look at who else should start, and sit, in Week 3.

START THESE GUYS

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers—Yes, he’s on the road, and yes Antonio Brown threw a fit this week. Big Ben should be fine, however, as he takes on the Buccaneers. They’re in the bottom 10 in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks.

RELATED: Fantasy Football Week 3 Rankings.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buccaneers—Ride the Fitzmagic wave as long as you can. Not only does he get to face the Steelers, second-worst in points allowed to quarterbacks, but his defense isn’t great. Both quarterbacks in this matchup should be productive.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions—The Lions will have to score points in order to keep up with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots. New England is in early-season, beatable mode. Kenny Golladay looks like another solid option for the veteran signal caller.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons—It’s a simple rule, really. If Devonta Freeman is out, start Coleman. He’s coming off a game in which he gained 125 yards on 20 touches. The Saints have been good at limiting running backs, but they faced Peyton Barber in one of their best defensive efforts against a rusher.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals—He’ll fill in for Joe Mixon and has the skill set to stay on the field for the most part. The Panthers aren’t good at limiting running backs in terms of yards per carry.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins—He’s getting double digit touches per game but he’s only had one good week. Facing Oakland should yield a productive day out of Drake, who is sharing carries with the unsinkable Frank Gore.

Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagle—With the return of Carson Wentz, Agholor might have even better results. So far he’s caught eight passes in each of the first two games. Agholor should remain the top target Sunday, especially with Mike Wallace out.

Will Fuller, WR, Texans—The Giants are third-best in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, but those numbers have come against the Jaguars and Cowboys. Tavon Austin scored on a big play last week against N.Y. Fuller’s speed makes him a danger to defenses if his hamstring is healthy enough to play.

Allen Robinson, WR, Bears—Chicago is moving the receiver all over the field to make sure he’s involved. The Cardinals are decent at limiting wideouts’ fantasy points, but that’s mostly due to their first-week success against Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson. Last week they gave up 159 yards to Brandin Cooks.

George Kittle, TE, 49ers—Last week’s performance will scare you, but he should bounce back against a Chiefs squad that got torched by Pittsburgh’s tight ends.

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Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers—I hate sitting Rivers, but he’s got a very tough matchup this week as he faces the Rams’ league-best defense in limiting quarterbacks in fantasy points.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans—He’s already dealing with an odd injury that is giving him tingling in his throwing hand. Even if he were fully healthy, I would sit him against the Jaguars’ pass defense.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders—Carr hasn’t been a good fantasy player this season yet, though he had a great completion percentage in Week 2. It would be a big surprise if he managed to be productive against a good Miami defense on the road.

Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers—He’s highly inefficient, gaining just 91 yards on 35 carries through two weeks. He also has just one reception for seven yards. The Steelers are a tough matchup and the game should be a passing affair anyway.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills—Not real sure there’s anyone in Buffalo that could start on your fantasy team at this point. McCoy is dealing with a rib injury that he may not even play through. He faces a tough Vikings defense to boot.

Colts running backs—A tough Eagles defense that allowed just 74 yards rushing to the Falcons and 43 yards to the Bucs won’t let any one Indy rusher have much success.

Seahawks receivers—Doug Baldwin is out and the Cowboys have been good at limiting receivers with the help of a solid pass rush. Nobody for the Panthers gained more than 45 yards receiving while Odell Beckham had just 51 yards last week against Dallas.

Corey Davis, WR, Titans—Mariota isn’t a slam dunk to play and Davis faces a big challenge against the Jaguars.

Redskins receivers—The Packers should have a decent day holding down Washington’s receivers. They were torched by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen last week, but Richardson and Crowder are definitely a lower-tier group.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals—I keep thinking he’ll turn it around now that he’s healthy. He’s had minimal success thus far and the Panthers are middle of the road in defending the position.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football Week 2 recap and top waiver wire picks

Some of the overreactions after Week 1 turned out not to be overreactions at all.

Pat Mahomes became the youngest quarterback to throw six touchdown passes in a game a week after throwing four touchdowns in Week 1. His ten touchdown passes is the most through two games in NFL history.

The Chiefs, and Alex Smith, started out great last season as well, but the situations are different. Smith was letting it all hang out as he had Mahomes over his shoulder last year. That start was an anomaly for Smith and he came back to earth after a while. This start by Mahomes could just be the norm for the second-year quarterback. He’s certainly used to putting up ridiculous numbers from his college days. The way he carved up the Steelers, utilizing Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce was masterful.

The Chiefs are set up to be productive all year. They are clicking on all cylinders and their defense is so bad that they’ll have to keep pushing for more points in most games.

Speaking of which, the Steelers put up a lot of fantasy points in that contest. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 452 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for another score.

JuJu Smith-Schuster led Pittsburgh with 13 receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. Though Antonio Brown had nine receptions, he gained just 67 yards in a mild disappointment. James Conner had a terrible day rushing but managed to get into the end zone. He also caught five passes for 48 yards to make for a solid outing.

Ryan Fitzpatrick also lit it up once again, tossing for more than 400 yards and four scores for the second week in a row. That’s the first time that’s ever happened in franchise history.

The veteran could end up keeping the starting spot, even when Jameis Winston returns, if he continues to play with the confidence and swagger he displayed in his post-game press conference. The guy looked like Conor McGregor with an assist from DeSean Jackson’s wardrobe.

Speaking of Jackson, he started the day off right, catching a 75-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage to give the Bucs an early lead. He finished with four catches for 129 yards and his second straight 100-yard game. Jackson was in danger of missing this week after suffering a concussion in Week 1.

Both Jackson and Fitzpatrick, alongside Mike Evans, should have success next week against the Steelers as well.

Another strong passing attack in Week 2 was that of the Vikings. Kirk Cousins is earning his money, connecting on 35 of 48 passes for 425 yards and four touchdowns. He distributed the ball well, targeting Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen 13 times each. Diggs finished with nine catches for 128 yards and two scores. Thielen led the team with 12 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. The TD he scored to tie the game late was unbelievably improbable, but Cousins dropped the ball perfectly inbetween two defenders on the play.

The most successful running backs were the usual suspects with a few exceptions. Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley all had good days. Gurley and Gordon each scored three times while McCaffrey and Barkley each had 14 receptions.

The more surprising performers were Matt Breida and Corey Clement. Breida didn’t get as many touches as Alfred Morris in the 49ers backfield, but he was more productive as he rushed for 138 yards and a score. Clement filled in for Jay Ajayi who was briefly injured. Clement had 85 total yards and a touchdown.

The biggest disappointments of the day had to be Rob Gronkowski, David Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. Gronk was held to just two catches for 15 yards in a tough loss to the Jaguars. Johnson has some serious issues in Arizona. The offense can hardly move the ball at all. It might be Josh Rosen time soon. Thomas was the odd man out in the Broncos’ attack, catching five passes for just 18 yards.

Top waiver wire picks:

Matt Breida, RB, 49ers: He has three straight good matchups coming up.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: Tampa Bay’s passing attack is on fire and Jackson is still available in a fair amount of leagues.

Antonio Callaway, WR, Browns: Callaway caught three passes for 81 yards and a touchdown and Josh Gordon is gone.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons: The rookie caught four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Bears defense/special teams: They have 10 sacks through two games, which leads the league. They’re on pace to top the NFL record set by the ’84 Bears.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars: He can surprise you every now and then. This week he did it to the tune of 377 yards and four touchdowns.

Javorius Allen, RB, Ravens: He’s scored in two straight games and has five catches in each of those contests.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals: So far he’s outplaying John Ross as the Bengals’ No. 2.

Gio Bernard, RB, Bengals: Joe Mixon is set to miss at least two weeks after a procedure on his knee.

Cowboys defense/special teams: The pass rush looks to be for real. They’ve notched at least three sacks and a turnover in each of the first two weeks.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks: Lockett caught a touchdown pass for the second game in a row and could remain a useful player as long as Doug Baldwin is out.

Dan Bailey, K, Vikings: He’s the new kicker for the Vikings and they score lots of points and set up for lots of field goals.

Eric Ebron, TE, Colts: Two weeks, two touchdowns.

Keelan Cole, WR, Jaguars: He’s the guy to own if Bortles starts stringing good games together.

Dede Westbrook, WR, Jaguars: He displayed big-play ability and was targeted five times.

Will Dissly, TE, Seahawks: He’s still available in a lot of leagues and he scored in his second straight game.

Jesse James, TE, Steelers: Five catches for 138 yards and a touchdown in Week 2 makes him another option at the position.

Bilal Powell, RB, Jets: He’s had at least 65 yards from scrimmage in each of first two weeks and could be added for depth.

Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers: If Fitzpatrick stays hot, the top three wideouts for the Bucs are worth owning.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football: Who to start — and sit — in Week 2

A.J. Green may have already won the week for you (or dealt you a loss) by catching five passes for 69 yards and three touchdowns Thursday night, but it’s never over until it’s over. So have a look at who I think should have strong games, and who you should avoid, in Week 2.

START THESE GUYS

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers—The Chargers had a good offensive game against the Chiefs last week and that should continue against the Bills. Rivers threw for over 400 yards and three scores in Week 1 and gets to face a defense that allowed three TD passes last week.

RELATED: Fantasy Football Week 2 Rankings.

Alex Smith, QB, Redskins—If you’ve got a nice advantage over your opponent this week, starting Smith could be a nice safe play. He threw two touchdowns last week and should be able to take advantage of the Colts pass defense.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers—He faces the Lions who made Sam Darnold look like a first-ballot Hall of Famer after his first pass. Garoppolo had a rough game in Week 1, but that was against a tough Vikings defense. He’ll be productive enough to start.

James Conner, RB, Steelers—Le’Veon Bell is not walking through that locker room door. And until he does, Conner is an RB1. He gets to face a Chiefs defense that gave up 166 total yards to Melvin Gordon in Week 1. Conner should match that in addition to probably finding the end zone.

Lamar Miller, RB, Texans—He’s had good success against the Titans while playing for the Texans. The amount of touches he’s guaranteed weekly is very valuable for fantasy.

Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins—I still don’t think he’ll be able to sustain his efficiency over the season, but he’s doing his best to prove me wrong. He rushed for 65 yards on just five carries last week against the Cardinals. Thompson was a big part of the winning formula last week so there’s no reason to change.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns—Landry is getting targeted downfield now that he’s with the Browns. He wasn’t just a short route receiver in the first week. Now he gets to face the Saints, who gave up 361 yards and four touchdowns to the Buccaneers.

Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles—The Buccaneers gave up a league-high 23 receptions to wide receivers last week. Agholor caught eight passes in Week 1, albeit for just 33 yards. That total should rise against the third worst team at limiting fantasy points to wideouts.

Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins—He’s a big-play receiver, but he caught just four passes last week. Luckily, two of those receptions went for touchdowns. I like him as a flex play this week if you are looking for a high-ceiling option.

Jack Doyle, TE, Colts—He was targeted 10 times in Week 1 and the Colts with Andrew Luck still throw way more than they run. Washington held tight ends to just 19  yards in Week 1, but that was against a bad Cardinals passing attack.

SIT THESE GUYS

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans—Without Delanie Walker in the mix, I don’t think Mariota plays well against the Texans. Add to that he’s dealing with an elbow injury. The Texans allowed three touchdown passes last week, but that was against Tom Brady.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buccaneers—Fitzpatrick was outstanding in Week 1, but that wasn’t against a Super Bowl caliber defense. That’s what he faces this week against the Eagles. Philly didn’t allow a touchdown pass to Matt Ryan last week and will be tough to score on.

Sam Darnold, QB, Jets—The rookie had a strong debut after making a mistake on his first throw against the Lions. It should be a different story against the Dolphins, who haven’t allowed more than one TD since Tom Brady threw four against them in Nov. of last year.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Lions—The Lions threw passes on over 3/4 of their plays in the first week. That’s not a winning formula for Blount. I would even stay away from rookie Kerryon Johnson as the Lions face the 49ers. San Francisco allowed just 82 yards rushing to running backs last week.

Duke Johnson, RB, Browns—Though Cleveland faces a Saints defense that gave up a lot through the air last week, they allowed just one reception to a running back.

Jordan Wilkins, RB, Colts—The Redskins held David Johnson to 67 yards from scrimmage last week and Wilkins will share time with Nyheim Hines. Marlon Mack, might even play after practicing on a limited basis this week.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Raiders—Targeted just four times in Week 1, Nelson hauled in three passes for 23 yards. I don’t expect him to fare well in Denver either.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs—Keep him on your bench until he starts clicking with Pat Mahomes. Watkins had just three catches for 21 yards in Week 1 when Tyreek Hill was going off.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Bills—Josh Allen will get his first start and you shouldn’t feel comfortable starting any Bill at this point.

Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons—The Panthers allowed just 18 receiving yards to tight ends last week. Hooper isn’t a solid start after catching just three balls for 24 yards in Week 1.

Fantasy football: Week 2 Rankings

What a first week of NFL action. Huge performances highlighted the first week of the fantasy football season. Let’s look forward to Week 2 and try to get you to 2-0. Or if you had a rough start, here’s how you’ll right the ship. Without further ado, here are my Week 2 fantasy football rankings.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

18 for ’18: Fantasy Football predictions for the 2018 season

You can take many routes to fantasy football success. You can conduct dogged research and statistical analysis. You can watch a lot of preseason action, trusting the eye test over all. Or you can go with your gut. Ideally, your preparation is a well-rounded mix, but there’s a lot to be said for that gut feeling. With the NFL season a week away from kicking off, here are 18 gut predictions for the upcoming fantasy football year.

RELATED: Top 250 overall rankings.

1. David Johnson will rush for 1,000 yards and gain 1,000 yards receiving. I led off with this prediction last year, but things didn’t break the right way, so to speak. Johnson was out after the first game as a result of breaking his wrist. He was the consensus first pick in fantasy last year and an argument could be made that he should still be No. 1. It’s not like he had to deal with an injury to one of his wheels. Recovery from a broken wrist isn’t as dicey as coming back from a torn ACL for example. Johnson possibly could have played at the end of last season had the Cardinals been alive in the playoff picture.

2. Matt Breida will make 50 receptions. Jerick McKinnon was lost for the season Saturday before he had a chance to be featured by Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Last season Carlos Hyde, who hadn’t caught more than 27 passes in a single season in his career, was targeted 87 times and hauled in 59 of those. Shanahan’s offensive philosophy is what made Hyde a passing weapon and it’s what will allow Breida to post a career high in receptions.

3. Saquon Barkley will make it three straight rookies to lead the NFL in rushing yards. Two years ago Ezekiel Elliott was a bit of a surprise selection by the Cowboys, but he turned out to be worth the pick. He led the league with 1,631 yards. Last season when Spencer Ware was injured in preseason, rookie Kareem Hunt shot up draft charts and ended up leading the league with 1,327 yards. It’s Barkley’s turn. We haven’t seen much of him this preseason, but what we did see was outstanding. The Giants have turned into a sneaky pick for some to surprise a lot of people. The passing game should be much improved with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., helping keep the pressure off of Barkley.

4. Royce Freeman will be the second-highest scoring rookie running back. Freeman has been productive in the preseason and signs point to him carrying it over to the regular season. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored in each of the first three presason games. Freeman has to fend off Devontae Booker who has been a disappointment in his career thus far, despite having ample opportunity. Booker has a career average of 3.6 yards per rush attempt. Freeman will have competition from fellow rookies Kerryon Johnson and Rashaad Penny, but I give Freeman the edge.

5. Sammy Watkins won’t catch more than 60 passes. Eight touchdowns last season hid the fact that Watkins caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. He didn’t miss a lot of action either, playing in 15 games. Tyreek Hill will be the leading wide receiver in Kansas City, and I don’t think it will be close. Travis Kelce will be a red zone target, but Watkins may have some success for the Chiefs. He’ll have to, if fantasy owners will enjoy a productive season out of the fifth-year receiver. If Watkins doesn’t find the end zone on a consistent basis, his workload won’t be enough to be a legitimate starter for you.

6. Marshawn Lynch will eclipse 1,000 yards rushing this season. Jon Gruden wants to run the ball. Lynch has looked better this preseason than he did last year. He rushed more than 200 times last season, proving he could still carry a good load. Lynch broke off a 60-yard score during the preseason, but the play was called back due to penalty. He was running away from the safety in the effort. It’s possible he has a bounce-back year and he won’t have to worry about Doug Martin taking away many touches.

7. Latavius Murray will frustrate Dalvin Cook owners by scoring eight rushing touchdowns. Murray is a solid goal-line back and there’s no reason why the Vikings wouldn’t use him in that role. I think their offense could be outstanding this season, with weapons like Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, not to mention reliable tight end Kyle Rudolph. Cook should lead the team in rushing if he’s the running back he was before tearing his ACL last season, but I see Murray turning into a touchdown vulture this year.

8. Rex Burkhead, though a fantasy expert darling all offseason, won’t finish as a top 24 running back. This could be the year. It could be the year the Patriots finally start to fall off. Tom Brady is 41 and father time has to catch up to him eventually. There’s not a clear standout running back on the team. Burkhead has gotten quality touches as a Patriot, but I’m thinking he ends up outside RB2 status. James White is still a pass-catching expert and I don’t see New England giving Burkhead more than 12 carries a game.

9. Dion Lewis will outscore Derrick Henry in the Tennessee backfield. Lewis, a former teammate of Burkhead, has flashed in previous seasons but finally put it all together last year. He rushed for 896 yards and six touchdowns while catching 32 passes for 214 yards and three more scores. Lewis was especially good in the last part of the season, scoring seven times in the final eight games. I think he takes the lead role in Tennessee this year. Henry had a couple of big games last season, but he averaged just 2.3 yards per carry in his final four games.

Running back Dion Lewis #33 of the Tennessee Titans rushes against M.J. Stewart #36 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of a pre-season game at Nissan Stadium on August 18, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

10. Keelan Cole is the wide receiver to own for the Jaguars. With Marqise Lee going down, Cole will lead the Jaguars in receiving this season. He has competition in Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief, but Cole has been trending in the right direction. He ended last season with 42 receptions and 748 yards. I’d guess he scores more than three touchdowns this year. Cole caught 20 passes for 426 yards and two scores in the final four games of last season. I see him continuing to be productive with the run-first offense.

11. Nelson Agholor will be the wide receiver to score the most fantasy points for the Eagles. I was already thinking this was going to happen before news broke that Alshon Jeffery was going to miss at least two games to start the season. Jeffery has missed games in three of the six seasons in which he’s played. He played in 16 games just twice in his five years with Chicago. Jeffery started off right with Philly, playing in all 16 contests and helping the squad win its first Super Bowl last season. It’s important to note, however, that Agholor actually caught five more passes than Jeffery. Agholor also finished with 768 yards and eight touchdowns, just 21 yards and one touchdown shy of Jeffery’s numbers. If healthy, Agholor should be the most productive wide receiver.

12. Peyton Barber will outscore rookie Ronald Jones in the Buccaneers backfield. Jones is struggling in the passing game with Tampa Bay. He hasn’t been productive in that aspect of the game in his entire football life. Peyton Barber is ahead of him on the depth chart and Jones hasn’t looked good in the preseason. Though Barber won’t be too special, he’ll do better than Jones by virtue of staying on the field, getting more touches than the rookie.

13. Trey Burton will be a top-4 tight end. Once Burton got out of Zach Ertz’s shadow in Philadelphia, fantasy owners everywhere took notice. Whenever Burton filled in for Ertz last season, Burton more than pleasantly surprised. In the Eagles’ 43-35 win over the Rams last year, Burton stepped in to catch five passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns. I think that was a sign of things to come as a starter. He’ll be a nice safety blanket for second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky as the apparent go-to guy in Chicago.

14. Kenyan Drake will rush the ball 205 times and top 1,000 yards. Last season Drake had to split carries with Jay Ajayi, understandably. Ajayi is a talented back who is now in Philadelphia. Drake rushed the ball 133 times for 644 yards and scored three times. The Dolphins will have 138 carries (the number Ajayi had last year) to dole out this season. Though Frank Gore is now in Miami, I think Drake gets the majority of those carries, giving him at least 200 rushes. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry so he’ll cross the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy.

15. John Brown will outperform Michael Crabtree. Brown has had a pretty outstanding training camp and preseason. He’s already connected on a touchdown with Joe Flacco and is looking like he could be the No. 1 wideout in Baltimore. In 2015 he caught 65 passes for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns. The year before that he scored five times as a rookie. Brown has had a couple of disappointing years related to his health, but he looks great now. Crabtree rejuvenated his career once already, but I don’t know that he’ll be able to do it with the Ravens.

16. Kenny Golladay will double his receptions and touchdowns from last season. Golladay had a decent rookie campaign, catching 28 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns. Matt Stafford can support two 1,000-yard receivers like he did last season with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. That could repeat, but Golladay has a shot and digging into some of Jones’ numbers. Also, Eric Ebron and his 86 targets are no longer on the team. Those will be redistributed among the three wideouts.

17. Christian McCaffrey will top 250 touches. The second-year running back had 197 touches last season and gained over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. With Jonathan Stewart now with the Giants, I think McCaffrey takes on a bigger role. He just needs 16 touches per game to get to 250, and his offensive coordinator has talked about getting McCaffrey 25-30 per contest. I don’t think he gets 400 touches, which is what 25 per game would total, but he’ll definitely see more action on the ground this year.

18. Mike Williams will replace Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry as an effective red zone target, catching 6 touchdowns.Williams has already out-muscled a defender for a touchdown in the preseason. Expect to see more of that as the Chargers are in need of a big red zone target after losing Hunter Henry. Gates just rejoined the team but Williams will carve out that role.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football players rising, falling and ones to watch: NFC East

Fantasy football is just around the corner. Be sure to check back frequently for up-to-date fantasy football rankings. Keep those rankings in mind as we take a look at each division’s players on the rise, on the decline and ones to watch for all 32 teams. Here’s a look at the NFC East.

Cowboys

Rising

Allen Hurns, WR—I don’t think he’ll light the fantasy world on fire, but if you can grab a No. 1 receiver in the ninth round, it could pay off. There are some mock drafts where he’s going as late as the 11th round. Taking Hurns there would be a tremendous value. He had an outstanding second year in the league in 2015—catching 64 passes for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns—so he has the ability. He’s missed 11 games in the last two years, however.

Falling

Dak Prescott, QB—It’s hard to make a case for Prescott when he’s lost a big percentage of last year’s targets. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are no longer options for the third-year quarterback. He has the newly acquired Hurns, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin and rookie Michael Gallup. It’s a corps that doesn’t excite you. On the bright side, he’ll be available for free in drafts as he’s currently the 20th signal caller getting drafted.

One to watch

Rico Gathers, TE—The former basketball player had a great preseason last year, but a concussion derailed any shot at a breakout. With the job now open, Gathers likely has one more chance to make an impact. Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin are also in the mix to replace Witten, but neither has the natural ability as Gathers in my opinion.

Giants

Rising

Eli Manning, QB—Manning had a season to forget last year, but things should be looking up for the 37 year old. He gets Odell Beckham Jr. back and will have help in the backfield with rookie Saquon Barkley taking some pressure off. Barkley’s also a solid receiver out of the backfield. Add to that, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, and you have a lot of weapons for Manning. He’s being drafted in the 13th round so you can fill out your team before adding the veteran.

Falling

Jonathan Stewart, RB—Raise your hand if you knew Stewart is a Giant now. Ok, you probably knew he signed a two-year deal with his new team after the Panthers released him. But it probably wouldn’t have mattered if you didn’t since he’s likely to serve solely as backup to Barkley.

One to watch

Sterling Shepard, WR—Outside of missing five games last season, Shepard has been a solid fantasy contributor. He caught 59 passes for 731 yards and two touchdowns after reaching the end zone eight times in his rookie year. If the Giants can get things clicking offensively, Shepard can find himself as a solid flex play.

Redskins

Rising

Jamison Crowder, WR—The presence of Josh Doctson and the addition of Paul Richardson aren’t making me think Crowder takes a step back. He caught 66 passes for 789 yards and three touchdowns last year and is hooking up well with new QB Alex Smith, according to reports. Fantasy owners have gotten the memo, as Crowder is being taken late in the seventh round. A nice spot to find a No. 1 receiver.

Falling

Jordan Reed, TE—Despite a long history of injuries, Reed is still getting drafted as high as the sixth round. That’s too expensive for someone that has yet to play a complete season in five years. Frankly, he’s on my do-not-draft list, given how you can’t trust his health. He’s only played more than 12 games once in his career.

One to watch

Chris Thompson, RB—This is a very interesting player to watch. He was ridiculously efficient in an injury-shortened season last year. He rushed 64 times for 294  yards and two scores. Thompson made his biggest impact catching the ball out of the backfield, hauling in 39 receptions for 510 yards and four more scores. He gained 7.1 yards on average per reception in 2016, but that shot up to 13.1 yards in 10 games last season. Derrius Guice will be the main man on the ground, but Thompson could still be relevant if he carves out a role on passing downs.

Eagles

Rising

Jay Ajayi, RB—Ajayi was having a rough year last season before he was moved to Philadelphia from Miami. With the Dolphins he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry through seven games. With the Eagles, Ajayi rushed for a whopping 5.8 yards per rush in his final seven games of the season. He’ll be running behind one of the best lines in the league and should hold off Corey Clement for most touches out of the backfield. Ajayi is currently being taken in the fourth round of drafts, which isn’t too expensive for a running back of the Super Bowl champions.

Falling

Alshon Jeffery, WR—Jeffery played 16 games for the third time in his six-year career last season. He had a productive fantasy year, but he was very touchdown dependent. He caught just 57 passes for 789 yards. Jeffery’s nine touchdowns made his season. His low reception amount wasn’t from a lack of trying, however. Jeffery was targeted 120 times last year which means he caught less than half the passes that came his way.

One to watch

Nelson Agholor, WR—Since I’m wary of Jeffery, I think Agholor could end up having a better year than last season. He put it all together last year, catching 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. I could definitely see him leap-frogging Jeffery as the top wideout for the Eagles since he nearly was last season.

Division previews

AFC North

AFC South

NFC North

NFC South

AFC East

AFC West

Fantasy football players rising, falling and ones to watch: AFC West

Fantasy football is just around the corner. Be sure to check back frequently for up-to-date fantasy football rankings. Keep those rankings in mind as we take a look at each division’s players on the rise, on the decline and ones to watch for all 32 teams. Here’s a look at the AFC West.

Broncos

Rising

Royce Freeman, RB—I’m willing to bet Freeman gets the starting job before too long. He only has to beat out Devontae Booker, who has averaged just 3.6 yards per carry in his career. Freeman is currently being drafted in the fifth round, behind Sony Michel, but I think he ends up being the fourth rookie running back taken after Saquon Barkley, Derrius Guice and Rashaad Penny.

Falling

Devontae Booker, RB—Though Booker could end up being a value—he’s being drafted in the 11th round—Freeman has the ability to take that starting job quickly. Booker isn’t a productive runner, but he does have catching ability. He’s hauled in 61 passes over two years and that may give him his biggest shot to contribute. Booker being named starter in camp just offers you a discount on Freeman.

One to watch

Emmanuel Sanders, WR—Before last season (47 catches, 555 yards, 2TDs), Sanders had three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Last year the quarterback situation in Denver was atrocious. Now that Case Keenum is in town, I’d expect Sanders to be a candidate for a nice bounce-back season.

Chiefs

Rising

Sammy Watkins, WR—Watkins’ value will depend on how well Patrick Mahomes plays. Watkins reportedly injured his hip during practice on Monday, but signs are that it isn’t serious. Despite his seemingly underwhelming play in four seasons, he’s actually scored 25 touchdowns. Watkins is getting drafted in the sixth round, and if this injury knocks him down further, you could find yourself a value.

Falling

Spencer Ware, RB—Kareem Hunt solidified himself as the main rusher for Kansas City as he led the league in rushing last season. Hunt will have to get injured or falter spectacularly if Ware is going to gain fantasy relevance.

One to watch

Patrick Mahomes, QB—The Chiefs believed in Mahomes enough to let Alex Smith leave for Washington. The range of outcomes for Mahomes is pretty wide, however. In college he threw an interception in 21 of his 32 games. His rushing ability could be the x-factor that makes him fantasy relevant.

Raiders

Rising

Amari Cooper, WR—Cooper hit a major regression last season, but he still scored seven touchdowns. Fantasy owners are taking him early in the fourth round, which seems a bit high after a rough season. The targets will still be there, especially with Michael Crabtree in Baltimore.

Falling

Derek Carr, QB—Carr looked like he might enter the elite fantasy QB tier before last season, but he fell into mediocrity, throwing just 22 touchdowns and a career-high 13 interceptions. He lost Crabtree in the offseason, but will have to replicate his play from two years ago if he’s going to help you win in your league. He’s getting drafted behind quarterbacks like Jared Goff, Mahomes and Marcus Mariota.

One to watch

Martavis Bryant, WR—I very much like that Bryant is being drafted in the 12th round. He could end up providing a big return on a small investment. Jordy Nelson isn’t getting younger and he’ll be the main competition for Bryant. Much was made of Jon Gruden’s criticism of Bryant Saturday, but the coach ended his comments expressing confidence in the receiver.

Chargers

Rising

Keenan Allen, WR—Allen finally topped his great rookie season in his fifth year. Injuries have plagued his career, but he finally put it all together in 2017. Allen and the Chargers should continue to put up points this season. Melvin Gordon will get it done on the ground while Allen produces through the air.

Falling

Tight end—With Hunter Henry falling to injury before training camp even started, it looks like there will be a pretty big void to fill at the position. The Chargers may end up luring Antonio Gates out of retirement. If not, Virgil Green will likely start.

One to watch

Mike Williams, WR—Williams is having a great training camp and it looks like he’s itching to be the No. 2 target in Los Angeles. With Hunter Henry going down, Williams could help take pressure off Allen and prove to be a tremendous value. He’s being drafted in the 11th round.

Division previews

AFC North

AFC South

NFC North

NFC South

AFC East

AFC West

NFC East