There was so much excitement in fantasy circles for rookie Christian McCaffrey, I wondered if he’d be overrated. I saw him ranked 14th among running backs on one draft board, one spot ahead of Kareem Hunt, who has the Chiefs’ backfield to himself. I went the other way, ranking him 20th because of his timeshare with Jonathan Stewart.
Though McCaffrey didn’t have the point total in Week 1 to match the hype, it’s clear the potential for major production is there.
Even with Stewart getting 20 touches, McCaffrey had 18, and he led the team with seven targets (five catches, 38 yards). Stewart outscored McCaffrey in ESPN standard PPR scoring 16.2-11.5, but that’s because Stewart had a rare touchdown catch, only the seventh of his nine-plus-year career.
The best evidence is in the playing time. McCaffrey took part in 47 plays. The only non-quarterback skill-position player with more was tight end Greg Olsen, who was in all 67 plays. Stewart was on the field for 29. Coach Ron Rivera said he’ll be careful not to wear out McCaffrey, but he seems up to the challenge.
McCaffrey’s versatility puts him in the RB2 conversation every week. He took a snap out of the wildcat and converted a third-and-15 play on a pass he caught in the backfield. Cam Newton’s accuracy downfield still looked shaky, so he’ll need McCaffrey in close range.
Stewart still is playable as a flex. With the Panthers leading 23-3 in the fourth quarter, he carried the ball on six consecutive plays, gaining 28 yards. But McCaffrey provides more chances for points. He didn’t come close to Hunt’s league-leading 45.6 points, but over the long haul, McCaffrey might prove to be just as valuable as a featured back.
Bills’ Taylor made it
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor passed concussion protocol in time for Week 1 and exploited the Jets for 18.8 points, seventh-most at the position. Last season, Taylor scored in the top 10 only five times, but he’s a great option for two-quarterback leagues because of his running.
His 38 yards in Week 1 ranked second among QBs. He led the position in rushing last season with 580 yards and tied for the lead with six touchdowns. So while the offense goes through running back LeSean McCoy and lacks top receivers, Taylor can make up for some of that with his feet.
Is James out of tight spot?
On Aug. 29, the Steelers sent a fourth-round draft pick to the 49ers for tight end Vance McDonald because they weren’t pleased with their tight-end play in the preseason.
The trade lit a fire under incumbent Jesse James, who had six catches on eight targets for 41 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. McDonald dropped the one pass his way. James is in a prime position to produce in such a high-powered offense. Stay tuned.
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WEEK 2 PICKS
Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston: With great speed at receiver and reliable targets at tight end, he could exploit any more breakdowns the Bears have in coverage.
Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch: Ten of Lynch’s 18 carries in the Raiders’ win came in the fourth quarter. He should close out another win against the Jets.
Ravens WR Jeremy Maclin: Joe Haden isn’t playing cornerback for the Browns anymore. Maclin has at least one big play in him here.
Titans QB Marcus Mariota: The Jaguars’ defense looks legit. Even with an improved supporting cast, Mariota’s numbers could suffer.
Redskins RB Robert Kelley: A stout Eagles defense held him to 30 yards on 10 carries, and he doesn’t figure to do much better against a tough Rams defense.
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant: He had a difficult time with the Giants’ Janoris Jenkins, a top cover man. He gets another one this week, the Broncos’ Chris Harris.
WEEK 1 PICKS
Ben Roethlisberger: 263 yards, 2 TD passes
Todd Gurley: 96 total yards, TD
Cardinals WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, 74 yards; J.J. Nelson, TD
Dak Prescott: 268 yards, TD pass
Kareem Hunt: 246 total yards, 3 TDs
Keenan Allen: 35 yards, TD