Welcome back to another edition of Spin’s Fantasy Factory! The chaos of the inaugural week of the new NFL season has wrapped, and the attention of fantasy managers now turns toward Week 2. Hopefully you were able to win your first fantasy matchup out of the gate, though if you didn’t, it may be because you started a player or two that failed to live up to his projections (Cam Akers owners, you know the feeling). Alas, there’s still hope for managers on the fence about which players they should roll with as fantasy starters this week, and which players they should leave on the pine.
As UConn’s self-proclaimed “fantasy expert,” I’m here to help you with your decisions! For each of the three main skill positions (WR, RB, TE), I’ve listed a player that you should shy away from if you’re in between starting them or benching them in Week 2:
Sit: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys vs. CIN
This may be a tough pick for fantasy managers to swallow, as Lamb was among the top 12 receivers selected off of draft boards during fantasy drafts this summer. Though he received almost universal WR1 treatment, Lamb was a non-factor for fantasy purposes after his abysmal performance in Dallas’ opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even though he managed to draw a juicy 11 targets during the contest, Lamb was only able to convert on two of those attempts for an unimpressive 29 yards.
The issue with Lamb doesn’t necessarily have to do with him as it does with the situation he finds himself currently in. The Cowboys will be without quarterback Dak Prescott for the foreseeable future after he underwent surgery to repair a fractured thumb, thrusting Cooper Rush into Dallas’ vacant QB1 spot. The addition of Rush into the starting lineup will not bode well for any of the Cowboys skill players, and the team will likely fall into a more run-heavy approach on offense. Not to mention that beyond Lamb, Dallas has a severe lack of depth at the wide receiver position, making Lamb the only true threat and thus the only player worth covering on defense — we saw this during the game against Tampa Bay. Though he’s still set to see a drastic target share, Lamb will be tightly defended regardless of what team he plays, and he will be receiving throws from a bottom-tier starting quarterback.
The Cowboys will take on the Cincinnati Bengals at home this Sunday. Though Cincy doesn’t possess an overwhelming defense, they managed to hold Mitchell Trubisky to 194 passing yards in a game where Joe Burrow handed the ball to Pittsburgh’s offense five times. No matter how you look at it, it’s hard to start Lamb with the same confidence that managers had entering the season. Until he and Rush prove that they can form a dynamic tandem, I’ll be good leaving this wideout on the bench.
Sit: Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Atlanta Falcons at LAR
Patterson proved to be a diamond in the rough when he took over as Atlanta’s primary running back and became a dangerous fantasy asset in the middle of last season. However, following a rough final few weeks, fantasy managers weren’t very high on this veteran, as they perceived his elite production and efficiency to be a fluke. But in Week 1, all Patterson managed to do was set new career-highs in rushing attempts (22) and rushing yards (120) while also reaching the end zone for a score. His production and the relative lack of experience amongst the other Falcons running backs should have fantasy managers ecstatic to plug Patterson into a starting spot. However, he finds himself on the list of players to avoid in Week 2.
Patterson’s Falcons will travel to Los Angeles to take on the reigning Super Bowl Champion Rams. LA was the sixth-best team last season in terms of rushing yards allowed, and fifth-best in rushing yards allowed per attempt. As Patterson is known more for his pass-catching abilities than his abilities as a rusher, the Falcons may need to chase points in a game that the Rams are heavily favored to win. While his upside remains high because of this, LA possesses multiple playmakers on defense that are likely to cap Patterson’s ability to make big plays with the ball on both passing and running plays. It’s also worth mentioning that Patterson was able to manage last week’s impressive stat line following an injury to backup RB Damien Williams. It’s more than likely that Atlanta will have another RB activated on Sunday to reduce Patterson’s workload, whether it be Tyler Allgeier or Caleb Huntley. Regardless of who suits up for the Falcons, this matchup alone scares me enough to keep Patterson on the bench.
Sit: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. NE
After being selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Freiermuth has shown tremendous signs of growth as he continues to solidify himself as the top tight end in Pittsburgh. Dubbed a breakout candidate in fantasy at the tight end position entering this season, Freiermuth delivered for those that believed in him in Week 1 against Cincinnati with five catches for 75 yards. He saw 10 looks from Trubisky, second on the team to target-hog Diontae Johnson. At a position with very few household names, Freiermuth’s reliability and his red zone prowess have meant that he’s been a viable fantasy starter.
Freiermuth’s next contest will come Sunday when his Steelers play host to the New England Patriots. Last season, New England allowed the least amount of fantasy points to players at the tight end position in the NFL. That trend continued into the team’s Week 1 contest against the Miami Dolphins, where the Patriots allowed Miami tight ends to combine for a measly two catches for 15 yards. In Week 1, Pittsburgh’s George Pickens and Chase Claypool managed to combine for only five catches and 21 yards against the Bengals. Those two are likely to see their number of touches increase as the season progresses, meaning it’s likely that Freiermuth is unlikely to sustain the double-digit targets that he received to open the season. Not to mention that the Steelers, known for being a run-first offense in the past few seasons, will try to establish some sort of momentum on the ground when they take the field for the first time on Sunday. None of these reasons should make fantasy managers optimistic that Freiermuth will be a fantasy star this week.