Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season wraps up with Monday Night Football as the Las Vegas Raiders play host to the Baltimore Ravens. Here is my fantasy football preview to the game, offering up my starts and sits for Monday night action.
Lamar Jackson should see a two to three carry increase on the 11.15 carries per game that he’s averaged through two full seasons as a starter. At 6.6 yards per tote, that has the potential to nearly erase an interception from his fantasy box score. The uptick in volume is due to Nos. 1 and 2 RBs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards landing on Injured Reserve with a pair of torn ACLs, while No. 4 RB Justice Hill landed IR due to a torn Achilles. The recent loss of CB Marcus Peters (ACL/Injured Reserve) will also indirectly impact Jackson as opponents will be able to pick on backup CB Jimmy Smith, which should push the Ravens’ offense to keep a high octane pace. The fourth-year signal caller will compete with Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Kyler Murray for overall QB1 honors this week.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown will be the No. 1 WR on the field come Monday night, but tight end Mark Andrews will be the No. 1 target. Stud rookie Rashod Bateman is stuck on Injured Reserve and the ancient Lizard King, Sammy Watkins will be running cardio as the supposed X-receiver. Andrews could finish atop the NFL’s TE pile this week as he’ll be covered by some combination of SS Jonathan Abram, who’s career PFF coverage grades of 30.1 and 46.2 leave a lot to be desired. Seven catches, 100 yards, and a pair of scores are within Andrews’ sights this week. Hollywood could get loose for a long one with that kind of lacking coverage, making him a risk/reward flex option and a great choice in DFS.
Devin Duvernay steadily improved as a rookie last year and has a chance to secure a role in the offense this week. Don’t bet on him in redraft but a few DFS lineups with his name in them could pay off. His kick/punt return work is the cherry on top.
Rookie receiver Tylan Wallace was a much-discussed late round pick. He’s more relevant in dynasty than he is in redraft at the moment but as always a DFS dice roll could be warranted.
Ty’Son Williams has been the only constant from preseason to regular season in the Ravens backfield. Williams is a Matt Waldman favorite whom Waldman referred to as the man who “could be the Isaiah Crowell of this class”. Crowell was never a game-breaker but he was a proficient rusher who could perform at an above average level. In Baltimore’s rushing attack, that kind of ability plus lead back usage puts Williams on the RB2/3 borderline.
Devonta Freeman & Latavius Murray are the most likely backs to be active behind Williams on Monday night. With Murray the only other back to participate in a full training camp and the preseason, he’s the best bet to assume No. 2 RB duties, perhaps in the mold of a 10-touch workload. He is only an option in very deep leagues though as he and Freeman could end up splitting 12 or so touches between the two of them.
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr should continue his high-floor/low-ceiling fantasy ways this week. His perimeter receivers may be able to take advantage of CB Jimmy Smith from time to time but overall, this unit lives and dies by Carr’s connection with TE Darren Waller. Speaking of, Waller should route these fools and push Travis Kelce for TE1 honors in primetime. Some combination of safeties Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, and slot CB Tavon Young will be tasked with stopping Waller and while Clark has respectable coverage abilities, none of them are on par with the pass catching phenom. Carr is a fine 2QB/Superflex starter and Waller is as elite as they come at the tight end position.
X-receiver Bryan Edwards played so well in the preseason that the team was willing to cut 2021 free agent signee John Brown. A flex start could be considered, although Edwards was mostly a dud as a rookie in 2020.
Z-receiver Henry Ruggs should probably stay on redraft benches as he largely flopped in his downfield role last season. Ruggs’ true potential could be unlocked if they diversify his route tree. We need to see that to believe it though.
Slot receiver Hunter Renfrow is an interesting option this week as he’ll be squaring off with the aforementioned, once promising, Tavon Young. Young earned himself the NFL’s highest nickel cornerback contract in 2019, a celebratory feat after suffering a season ending ACL tear in early 2017. Shortly after Young signed the deal though, he suffered a neck injury that kept him out for the entirety of the 2019 season. Disaster struck again in Week 2 of 2020 when Young re-tore the surgically repaired ACL that he injured in 2017. He’s reportedly fully recovered at this time but it’s tough to know what kind of shape he’ll be in. Banking on Renfrow to produce in a typical redraft league might be a bit too bold but in a deep league, and for DFS purposes, he absolutely warrants consideration.
The happenings of the Raiders’ backfield under Jon Gruden are well documented at this point. Gruden says he wants to use lead back Josh Jacobs as a dual threat bellcow and then he signs one or more above average pass catching backs who sap all of Jacobs’ passing game prospects. Jacobs has only ever scored twice in Raiders’ losses—he’s extremely game script dependent given his rush-only usage. With the Ravens expected to walk away victorious and LG Richie Incognito out with a calf injury, Jacobs’ outlook for Monday has to be in the RB3 range at best. Kenyan Drake, the primary pass catching back, could be viable in multi-flex full-point PPR leagues.
Update: It’s looking like Josh Jacobs will suit up tonight. He’s a flex at best though given the state of the offensive line. Kenyan Drake is only a factor in full-point PPR formats.
Jacobs was listed as Questionable with an illness on Sunday which is not a good sign. Players often play while under the weather but the fact that the team felt it necessary to downgrade his status should send Jacobs’ managers to the waiver wire, searching for Drake. Even if Jacobs were to play while sick, he can’t be trusted as more than a low ceiling flex option. Drake has an outside shot at a full 20-touch workload in prime time this evening and anyone in need of a solid RB2 candidate should add him ASAP. His backup would be north/south banger Peyton Barber. Barber is not on the streaming radar at this time.