Frankel’s Fantasy Files: Week 2

Is it panic time already?

A photo of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

“Frankel’s Fantasy Files” is a column by Kyle Frankel about fantasy football.

Look who’s back, the NFL and fantasy football. Seeing the NFL Redzone countdown hit zero and finally hearing Scott Hanson’s voice marks a joyous moment each and every year.

The headline of the week certainly came with the closing act, as the Jets defeated the Bills with a come-from-behind victory on a walk-off punt return touchdown in overtime! The far bigger story was what preceded, and I mean preceded way earlier. Five months of hope, hype and happiness evaporated in the blink of an eye. Without completing a single pass, Aaron Rodgers, the hero who was supposed to finally rescue the New York Jets from QB purgatory, ruptured his achilles tendon on the fourth play of the first drive of the season.

As a Jets fan, the only word I can use to describe what I feel is “broken.” It was déjà vu. This was the exact scenario that plagued QB Vinny Testaverde and the Jets 24 years ago, the last time the franchise had this much belief in their team. I woke up Tuesday hoping that it was just a horrible nightmare, but that’s just life as a Jets fan. At least I still have fantasy football (I say as a desperate coping mechanism).

Now that I got my Jets rant out of the way, here’s what you really came for…

Don’t Panic About AFC North Duds

It definitely was not a pretty week for many highly touted fantasy players, but most notably, the stars of the AFC North. Joe Burrow had probably the worst game of his career, completing just 14 of 31 attempts for a measly 82 yards and zero scores. That earned him a pitiful 20.3 QBR and just 3.18 fantasy points. Yes, you read that correctly, 3.18.

This dreadful performance obviously permeated throughout the Bengals’ wide receiver room. Ja’Marr Chase reeled in five of nine targets for 39 yards, equating to 9.1 PPR fantasy points. Cincinnati’s WR2, Tee Higgins, was going as high as the third round in fantasy drafts. He led off the season with 0.0 PPR points. Zero catches on EIGHT targets.

Everyone needs to just relax about the Bengals. They are going to be just fine and will be the team we think they are by season’s end. This debut should not be much of a surprise with Burrow making a speedy return from a late offseason calf injury. The last time he started the season after an injury, he had drastically fewer pass attempts than the rest of the year, and this situation should be much of the same. Not to mention they were playing a stout Browns defense on the road in Cleveland, a team who have been Burrow’s kryptonite — he’s just 1-4 against the Browns in his career. To sum it up, until further notice, these three should be started in all leagues.

Another AFC North QB disappointed in his season debut: Lamar Jackson. There were high hopes for Jackson, with him getting his big payday this offseason and finally having a wide receiver room with some weapons. He rewarded his believers with a stinker against a bad Texans defense, amassing just 6.56 fantasy points as a result of only 169 passing yards, an interception and a lost fumble. However, he’s going to be fine and will reveal himself as the dynamic weapon we’ve come to know. The revamped Ravens passing game had its moments too, with rookie Zay Flowers catching nine of 10 targets to lead the team. Not to mention, TE Mark Andrews, Jackson’s favorite target, did not play and should be back next week. Baltimore RB J.K. Dobbins sadly went down with another season-ending injury, though that should only increase Jackson’s carries. Lamar Jackson will be a top five fantasy QB this year.

Side note: You should definitely panic about Najee Harris. His value depends on his workload, and it’s clear that is being threatened. Sell him while you can. Jaylen Warren will be the most valuable player in the Steelers’ backfield by midseason.

Waiver Targets: Pick up Puka; the Return of Robinson?

I’ll state the obvious, it’s Puka Nacua no matter what. Working with a fantasy football website this summer I heard Nacua’s name often, but it definitely was not a household one until now. The rookie led the Rams in targets by a wide margin with 15, tied with Dolphins’ superstar Tyreek Hill for the most by any player in the league. He capitalized on his opportunity, hauling in 10 catches for 119 yards and 21.9 PPR fantasy points. The Rams had been raving about him all training camp, so while it’s actually not too surprising to see him take on a large role, no one expected this. With Cooper Kupp sidelined for the near future, Nacua is the WR1 in Los Angeles. Quarterback Matthew Stafford clearly trusts him, and he should still have a substantial role in this better-than-expected offense upon Kupp’s return. He’s only rostered in 2.8% of ESPN leagues at the time of writing; that won’t last long.

Lastly, I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but you should add Allen Robinson. I know how last season turned out. It was really ugly. Things are different in the Steel City, though. Pittsburgh has him taking the majority of his snaps from the slot and clearly plans to use him. He led the Steelers in targets with eight and despite not making the most of them, five catches for 64 yards, he will have more opportunities. Pittsburgh’s top wideout, Diontae Johnson, will also miss at least the next couple games with a hamstring injury, so Robinson will likely see even more passes thrown his way. The Steelers can’t do much worse than they did in Week One, so it can only go up from here, right? Robinson is flying under the radar, only rostered in 1.7% of ESPN leagues. He will revive his career in Pittsburgh, grab him before it’s too late.

That puts a bow on a crazy week one. While it may take me a while to recover from the Jets being the Jets, fantasy football waits for no one.

“Frankel’s Fantasy Files” runs every Wednesday.