It’s hard to stay up to date with absolutely everything that went down in NFL Week 1. Obviously you know the big storylines—Jameis Winston and Kyler Murray lighting up their respective opposing secondaries plus the duo of D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams being fantasy darlings—but it’s important to also note minor storylines, ones that might have more actionable fantasy football takeaways.
I’ve gone game-by-game to bring you the biggest fantasy narrative to come out of each game.
Ravens at Raiders: Darren Waller, Darren Waller, and a Touch More Darren Waller
The story to come out of Monday night’s showdown—other than just it being an amazing game and Jon Gruden icing his own kicker for the game winning touchdown—was Darren Waller being as dominant has a living human can be. Waller saw 19 targets, catching 10 of them for 105 yards and a score. Unsurprisingly, those 19 targets led the Las Vegas Raiders in a BIG way.
Darren Waller tonight:
🔥 19 TGT
🔥 10 REC
🔥 107 YDS
🔥 1 TD
Unstoppable. #RaiderNation #BALvsLV
— NerdBall Fantasy Football (@nerdballff) September 14, 2021
Derek Carr was laser-focused on Waller without looking anyone else’s way for much of the game. Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, and even Henry Ruggs made a few plays down the stretch, but in a game that a) went to overtime and b) Carr threw almost 60 times in, not a single receiver saw double-digit targets. Even with the off-season hype, I think it might be worth selling your Raiders’ wide receivers.
Also, Ty’Son Williams played the most snaps for the Baltimore Ravens and looked really good running and catching the football. He’s Baltimore’s RB1 until further notice. Week 1 Sammy Watkins finished with a team leading 8 targets and 96 yards. You know you love it.
Eagles at Falcons: Jalen Hurts Can Support Multiple Fantasy Receivers
There were plenty of people this off-season—myself included—who were skeptical about just how good Hurts would be in his second season. If Week 1 was a taste of what he can do in his sophomore campaign, I’d like to personally apologize for ever doubting him.
Jalen Hurts finds Devonta Smith for the Eagles TD ♨️
That Alabama connection
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 12, 2021
Against a bad Atlanta Falcons’ secondary, Hurts put up 264 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air, spreading those scores between Devonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, and Dallas Goedert. Both Smith and Reagor finished with six catches and Smith’s eight target led the team. Smith is from now on a must-start and Reagor is a great waiver add.
Steelers at Bills: Najee Harris’ Production Will Come
In a Week 1 where the rookie quarterbacks and receivers balled out, it wasn’t as successful a debut for Harris (and Kyle Pitts *sad face*). Harris finished with just 45 yards on 16 carries and 4 yards on 1 catch. However, Harris managers shouldn’t fret because there is hope on the horizon. Harris recorded 100% of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back rushes and played EVERY SINGLE SNAP in his NFL debut. This is exactly the workload fantasy managers were expecting Harris would see with the exact inefficiency we warned you about. Harris will have some weeks like Week 1 but it’s comforting knowing that when there’s a juicy matchup on the schedule, he’s going to see all the action.
Jets at Panthers: Corey Davis Is the WR1 We’ve Been Telling You He Is
In his first game with the New York Jets, Davis finished with 5 catches on 7 targets for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns. Zach Wilson looked Davis’ way multiple times throughout the game for the big home run play and they connected more often than not. Davis’ 19.4 yards per catch was fifth-highest in Week 1 among receivers with at least five receptions. With the Jets’ defense looking suspect—they gave up the 13th-most passing yards in Week 1—the game script will likely regularly force the Wilson to throw the ball and throw it downfield to his No. 1 receiver.
Zach Wilson on the run hits Corey Davis for his first career TD 🔥#Jets #NYJvsCAR
— NerdBall Fantasy Football (@nerdballff) September 12, 2021
Quick note on the Panthers’ passing game: D.J. Moore led the receivers in target share with 24%. Next up was rookie Terrace Marshall who saw almost 19%. Sam Darnold loves his slot receivers…
Vikings at Bengals: Joe Burrow/Ja’Marr Chase Duo Gonna Be Fun As Hell
After an off-season and preseason filled with Chase dropping footballs and panic in the streets about whether he’d make a successful transition into the pros, the stud rookie receiver came out in Week 1 and torched the Minnesota Vikings’ secondary. In his first NFL action, Chase had 5 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.
This angle of Ja’Marr Chase’s FIRST NFL TD 🔥
— Overtime (@overtime) September 12, 2021
Clearly the wild speculation surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals’ first-round pick was not warranted. Burrow targeted Chase a team-high seven times and Chase even got a carry added to his stat-sheet (though it went for -2 yards).
Also, Joe Mixon had 33 touches in his first game without Giovani Bernard and took those for 150 total yards and a touchdown.
49ers at Lions: Raheem Mostert Is Already Injured and It’s Not Trey Sermon Time
Quite possibly the biggest fantasy narrative to arrive out of Week 1 was the fact that Raheem Mostert went down early with a knee injury and it wasn’t third-round rookie Trey Sermon who took over the backfield. No, Sermon was a healthy scratch in this game. Instead, sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell came in a ran all over the Detroit Lions’ defense for 104 yards and a score.
Elijah Mitchell takes it straight to the house 🏠 pic.twitter.com/zkf8mz7vOt
— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) September 12, 2021
Mitchell has the elite game speed similar to Mostert and according to Kyle Shanahan, simply outplayed Sermon in camp. That’s not great news for all those people out there—*cough* me *cough*—who drafted Sermon thinking he’d be the guy in San Francisco’s explosive ground game. Mitchell is a must-add wavier target and a RB2 for however long he has the starting RB gig.
Also, welcome back Deebo Samuel.
Jaguars at Texans: Maybe D.J. Chark Is Still the WR1 in Duval
The Jacksonville Jaguars vs Houston Texans game went about as strangely as you could expect for an AFC South showdown between two just bad teams. While Mark Ingram’s 26 carries or Brandin Cooks’ 132 yards could have been the lead story here, I’d be remised not to mention the TWELVE targets Chark saw in Week 1.
📺: #JAXvsHOU on CBS pic.twitter.com/9GbDmFmny4
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) September 12, 2021
Now Chark only managed to haul in 3 of them for 86 yards and a score, but 12 targets easily put Chark atop the team in target share. Preseason favorite Laviska Shenault and sleeper-extraordinaire Marvin Jones both tied for second with nine.
Who knows if this target distribution was just a product of game script and needing to throw their way back into the game. However, double-digit targets to the forgotten man in Jacksonville’s passing tree the first week of the season is worth noting.
Seahawks at Colts: Nyheim Hines Is Going to Be a Target Hog
Carson Wentz threw the ball 38 times against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. Of those 38 pass attempts, 21% of them where in Hines’ direction. The Colts’ running back led the team in targets with 8, catching 6 of them for 48 yards. He also added 34 yards on the ground on 9 carries. In a game where the Colts needed to keep up with the Seattle Seahawks’ explosive passing attack—Russell Wilson casually tossed for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns—Hines was clearly Wentz’s go-to target.
Cardinals at Titans: The Cardinals Are Going to Share the Wealth
DeAndre Hopkins saw eight targets against the Tennessee Titans Sunday. A.J. Green saw six. Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore both saw five (both of whom make for great waiver targets). In the backfield, Chase Edmonds had 12 carries and 4 catches while James Conner had 16 carries. Basically, Kyler Murray was spreading the ball around to all his receivers and the backfield was literally an even split in terms of touches. The approach led to a 38-13 dismantling of the Titans. I wouldn’t be surprised if we continue to see a pretty balanced approach the next few weeks.
Chargers at Washington: Austin Ekeler Didn’t See a Target
It’s wild to say this but Justin Herbert threw the ball 47 times against the Washington Football Team and not a single one of them was to Ekeler. On the ground, Ekeler ran the ball 15 times for 57 yards and a score. It was only the seventh game of his career with 15 or more rush attempts. The first where he had 15+ attempts and zero targets.
With the passing game expected to be such a large part of Ekeler’s workload this year, it’s a little unnerving to see him literally get nothing in Week 1. Fantasy managers certainly shouldn’t panic, especially given the strangle-hold Ekeler had in the red zone. There’s nowhere to go but up for Ekeler’s passing game work.
With only one game left to play in week one, the league leader in red zone rushing is Austin Ekeler with 7 attempts.
Just like we all predicted.
— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) September 13, 2021
Browns at Chiefs: This Is Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s Backfield
I know the total stat-line is disappointing for CEH. The second-year back only managed 43 yards rushing on 14 carries and 29 yards through the air. Still, fantasy managers should take solace in the fact that of the backfield touches, CEH accounted for 90% of them. That is bellcow-level touch share. We know how dynamic and explosive the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense can be and a running back who’s set to see almost all the work out of the backfield is recipe for fantasy success.
Also, Odell Beckham Jr. might not be as ready to go as we initially anticipated after not suiting up for Week 1. Just something to worry about.
Dolphins at Patriots: Damien Harris Is a Must-Start From Now On
There really isn’t much fantasy-wise to draw from this game as everything kind of look like I expected it to. It’s definitely worth noting that, like we expected, the New England Patriots’ offense is built to run the football and run the football they did with Harris.
Damien Harris goes for 35 yards on the first play of the game! @DHx34 #ForeverNE
📺: #MIAvsNE on CBS
📱: NFL app pic.twitter.com/DCh5svmTCs
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2021
Harris finished with 23 carries for 100 yards and also added 17 yards receiving. James White was Harris’ closest backfield rival with just four carries (he did have seven targets). Harris is in-line for 20+ carries per game on and offense looking to run. Harris has officially gone from flex play to your starting RB2.
Packers at Saints: Aaron Rodgers Wasn’t Ready for Football
Yes, Jameis Winston and his five touchdowns certainly is a major takeaway from this game. It’s why if you find yourself in a QB bind, you should be doing all you can to get him off waivers and onto your fantasy roster. He’s a locked-in QB1 from this point on.
I wanted to instead talk about the Green Bay Packers’ offense that looked really out-of-sync in Week 1 thanks in large part to Rodgers playing very un-Rodgers-like. Rodgers threw the ball 15-for-28 for just 133 yards and 2 interceptions. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket—one that was missing start left tackle David Bakhtiari—and was late on a lot of his reads. He just looked like someone who hadn’t played football in a while because you know what, he hasn’t.
Pick off the NFL MVP in your first NFL game @AdeboPaulson_ 🙌#GBvsNO | 📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/zKEYId7kVQ
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 12, 2021
I have no doubt that Rodgers, and in turn Davante Adams and the rest of the Packers’ offense, will get his shit together in the coming weeks, but it might be a bit slower than fantasy managers anticipated.
Also, Adam Trautman saw a team-high target share and played 82% of the Saints’ snaps.
Broncos at Giants: Tim Patrick Next Man Up
I hate to already be talking about injuries but Jerry Jeudy suffered a high-ankle sprain against the New York Giants that looked like it could have been a LOT worse. With Jeudy sidelined, receiver Tim Patrick filled in admirably, catching all 4 of his targets for 39 yards and a touchdown. Jeudy is likely going to miss a fair amount of time with his injury which makes Patrick a great waiver target (3% rostered in Sleeper).
Bears at Rams: Cooper Kupp Is Matthew Stafford’s Go-To Guy
Matthew Stafford’s arm was on full display Sunday night as he lit up the Chicago Bears’ defense for 321 yards and 3 touchdowns. Over 38% of his targets and 33% of his yards went to Cooper Kupp, who had 7 catches on 10 targets for 108 yards and a score. He almost had a second touchdown but his knee was down right before the end zone.
It’s bombs away tonight for Matthew Stafford and the Rams 💣#RamsHouse #CHIvsLAR pic.twitter.com/5JH0mPM4ir
— NerdBall Fantasy Football (@nerdballff) September 13, 2021
Kupp was getting open with ease against Chicago and Stafford was regularly looking his way. Stafford also heavily targeted tight end Tyler Higbee who should now be a weekly starter at the position given his apparent target share. The odd man out in Los Angeles might just be Robert Woods who saw 4 targets and only 27 yards. He’s night was saved by a late touchdown. As someone who was very high on Woods this off-season, I can’t say I loved what I saw.
my cabin in the robert woods is not a fan of these copper kupp matthew stafford tea parties
— pete astronaut aboard the pitts-8 rocket rogers (@petemrogers) September 13, 2021