Stealing Signals: Week 1, AFC
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Identifying and acting on underdiscussed early-season trends can be a huge boost to building a championship fantasy football roster. Here are the moves I’m considering and the things I’m watching in Week 1.
Pittsburgh SteelersThere are a lot of reasons not to handcuff in fantasy football; a couple years ago we discussed some of them and why it makes some sense later in the season. Part of the reason is not knowing who the true handcuff is, as the Charcandrick West/Knile Davis example in that 2015 post illustrates. One of the most discussed backup situations this season is Le’Veon Bell’s, as it has been a fruitful role in recent years. Given the extended holdout, it’s fair to wonder how heavily they lean on him early in the season. If not, keep an eye on Terrell Watson’s workload, or in the potential absence of it, James Conner’s effectiveness. We might glean important information in these early weeks about whether Conner will really be the backup to own later on.
Baltimore RavensThe backfield split will be very notable in the early going here as well. I’ve noted my opinion on Terrance West, who has averaged 10.9 carries per game in 22 games since he first took the field for the Ravens in Week 12 of the 2015 season. Danny Woodhead will have his role, but has never handled 25 percent of his team’s carries in a season and is 32. West is 26 and has been one of my favorite RBs to target. I’m also keeping an eye on the run/pass splits in the early going for any indication of whether the addition of previously rush-heavy offensive assistant Greg Roman changes the distribution of a team that had the largest discrepancy of pass attempts versus rush attempts in 2016 by a wide margin.1
Cleveland BrownsHow quickly DeShone Kizer can assimilate will play a big role in determining the value of the assets in an offense that scored just 28 TDs last season. If you’re expecting Dak Prescott-type productivity, remember that Prescott not only had the best passer rating for a rookie QB in NFL history, he also posted a 137.8 rating in the preseason before that run. Kizer’s was 72.7, which shouldn’t be taken as anything more than a reminder that he’s a rookie and Prescott was a rare breed. Keep an eye on the tight end snap counts in Week 1 between David Njoku and Seth DeValve, the latter of which has some sneaky potential this season if Njoku is brought along slowly.
Cincinnati BengalsThe backfield split is the obvious question, but Tyler Boyd is a name who is likely available in a lot of leagues, and who Shawn Siegele sees as a breakout candidate. I noted in my AFC North preview that Boyd’s splits with and without Green didn’t increase much while Brandon LaFell and Cody Core saw huge surges on the outside, suggesting he was pigeon-holed a bit into a slot role that had a capped ceiling. With John Ross out for Week 1, keep an eye on whether Boyd’s role has expanded at all and how his targets compare to LaFell’s and Tyler Eifert’s.
- Marc Trestman was removed as Ravens offensive coordinator at mid-season. (back)