You win some, you lose some.
It’s the how you win or lose that makes your Sunday fantasy football experience: that hunch you had to start a rookie quarterback who promptly went off, or that No. 1 pick who unexpectedly let you down.
Each Sunday, we’ll recap the week’s winners and losers from a fantasy perspective, complete with applicable game and historical data. Check back after the conclusion of the 1 and 4 p.m. ET (and, when applicable, Sunday Night Football) games for our picks of the week’s best and worst.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: Say hello to our scoring leader from the Sunday 1 p.m. ET game block, as Brees dropped 31 fantasy points on the perceived-by-many-to-be-up-and-coming (including by this columnist) Oakland Raiders defense. It’s the 83rd time during his career that Brees has reached the 30-point threshold, second-most in history behind only Peyton Manning’s 105.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints: Cooks’ performance played a large part in driving Brees’ points total, particularly a 98-yard receiving touchdown during the third quarter. It was the longest receiving play in a regular-season or postseason game since Eli Manning and Victor Cruz connected for a 99-yard score during Week 16 of 2011, and it helped Cooks to a career-best 27 fantasy points.
Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A preseason breakout pick by many (again, this columnist included), Winston got off to a good start to 2016, scoring 25 fantasy points to finish second at his position through the Sunday 1 p.m. ET games. What was particularly unusual about it was the opponent; the Atlanta Falcons, hosts for this contest, typically rein in the passing game, evidenced by the fact that Winston’s fantasy point total was the most by any individual quarterback against the Falcons since Aaron Rodgers managed 27 against them in Week 14 of 2014.
It’s also a good sign for the second-year signal-caller, in that only six other quarterbacks since 1950 have scored more fantasy points during Week 1 of their sophomore seasons: Cade McNown (33, in 2000), Dan Marino (32, in 1984), Daunte Culpepper (30, in 2000), Phil Simms (29, in 1980), Drew Bledsoe (28, in 1994) and Norm Snead (26, in 1962). In addition, Winston now has 286 fantasy points through his first 17 NFL contests, which places him seventh all time through that many games, behind Cam Newton (364), Robert Griffin (344), Culpepper (324), Kurt Warner (312), Marino (294) and Andrew Luck (288).
Winston’s 60.0 percent ownership, and especially his 15.7 percent start percentage during Week 1, in ESPN leagues is certain to rise as a result.
Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: Few were so bold as to use Wentz — he was started in just 2.7 percent of ESPN leagues, and is owned in 10.8 percent — but his 19 fantasy points on Sunday was still a good start, though granted it came against a bad Cleveland Browns defense. Only 14 other quarterbacks since 1950 managed more fantasy points in their NFL debuts than Wentz.
Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers: How disappointing was his 2015 rookie campaign? Here’s one way to quantify it: Gordon’s two rushing touchdowns on Sunday were two more than he had in all 14 games in which he played last season. In fact, since 1950, Gordon’s 217 total touches without a touchdown in 2015 were tied for seventh-most, behind only Marcel Shipp’s 258 in 2003, Adrian Murrell’s 242 in 1999, Kevin Faulk’s 241 in 2003, Harold Green’s 237 in 1993, Preston Carpenter’s 220 in 1956 and Jess Phillips’ 220 in 1973.
Those scores fueled a 17-point fantasy day for Gordon, which is not only more than he had in any single game in 2015, but also more than he had in any two-game span in 2015 (his two-game best was 14, Weeks 2-3).
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: The No. 1 running back selected on average, and No. 3 player overall, in ESPN drafts this preseason, Peterson let his owners down in a major way, scoring only three fantasy points on 19 rushing attempts. That matched his worst fantasy performance in a game with at least that many opportunities; he also had three fantasy points on 19 rushing attempts during Week 5 of 2008. It’s a poor first step for Peterson, who at age 31 is trying to become the first player since Thomas Jones in 2009 (221 fantasy points, age 31) to manage a 200-point fantasy season at the age of 31 or older, and the 10th different player to reach that threshold at his age or older. In Peterson’s defense, however, it is not the first time he has been held to single-digit fantasy points during Week 1, as he actually did it in 2015 (5 fantasy points) en route to a 217-point final season total.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons: Don’t take out all of your frustrations on Peterson; 2015’s top-scoring running back, Freeman, had an almost equally disappointing Week 1, with only four fantasy points on 15 touches. Especially disconcerting was that Tevin Coleman, widely regarded as Freeman’s backup, had the clearly superior game, with 11 fantasy points of his own (as well as a 16-8 advantage in PPR scoring). Freeman was the No. 5 running back and No. 9 overall player off the board in average ESPN drafts this preseason, and he was started in 99.3 percent of ESPN leagues. Coleman, incidentally, was the No. 50 running back off the board in drafts, is currently owned in only 51.8 percent of leagues and was started in 2.6 percent.
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Bad news on the injury front, as Allen suffered an apparent torn right ACL on a non-contact play on the first snap after the two-minute warning during the first half of Sunday’s game. Before departing, Allen had been off to an outstanding start, with six fantasy points (12 in PPR) on seven targets. His season is almost assuredly over, which is devastating news to his owners who helped make him the No. 16 wide receiver off the board during the preseason. (For help with potential replacements, check out Eric Karabell’s column this evening.)
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills: Owners in 37.0 percent of ESPN leagues saw Taylor’s favorable Week 1 matchup and started him, and those owners received a mere five fantasy points from him. It’s only the second time in his past 17 games that he finished in single digits, and in fact was his worst score in any of his 15 NFL starts.