It’s hard to believe but we’re already a quarter of the way through the NFL season. If you’re lucky, your fantasy team got off to a strong start and, like the Rams, Bills and Lions, you’re feelingly surprisingly good about your team. Or maybe, like the Browns, Giants and Chargers, your team is 0-4 and feeling pretty hopeless. (It’s worth nothing that your shitty fantasy team probably has more fans than the Chargers these days.) Either way, there’s still a lot of season left and players who have looked great could slow down or get hurt even as players who have slumped or been injured finally get back on track. In the meantime, let’s take a look at five early season storylines that have stood out through the season’s first quarter.
Todd Gurley is Back
It’s early but the Los Angeles Rams seem to have found new life under new head coach Sean McVay. Nowhere is this spark more visible than the rebirth of Todd Gurley, who leads all running backs in fantasy points and has been a monster in both rushing and receiving yardage. McVay has committed to getting Gurley the football behind a re-tooled offensive line and it sure seems to be working: Gurley is averaging 29 fantasy points per game and is showing no signs of stopping. With Gurley averaging over 21 carries and five catches per game, his owners have to be thrilled with his early work this year. Look for the Rams to continue to provide lots of opportunity for this offensive juggernaut.
ACDC and the Raiders are a Mess
New Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing has been ineffective in play-calling for this talented offense. Amari Cooper (AC) has ghosted on the season, tallying only 12 catches thus far. Couple this with Derek Carr’s (DC) lower back injury and you have a recipe for fantasy disaster. Carr is slated to miss as many as six weeks and the Raiders will have to handle his situation delicately. Backup QB E.J. Manuel does not provide the kind of downfield ability that Carr possesses and which is so important to the team’s offensive gameplan. To go along with the struggles of ACDC, the Raiders have hardly gotten anything from Marshawn Lynch. The preseason hype that Lynch garnered was due mainly to a supposed “high-caliber” offensive line. Lynch is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry and has found the end zone only once. If you’re an owner of anyone from the Silver and Black, your best bet might be to place them on your bench until they can prove that they’re worth a start.
Rookie Running Backs are Golden
The 2017 rookie running back draft class is shaping up to be one for the ages. Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs has the 2nd most yards from scrimmage after four games for a rookie in NFL history. If he’s on your roster, he could single-handily be saving your team on a week to week basis. Leonard Fournette has powered his way to an impressive start with the Jaguars and has vaulted to solid RB1 status. Tarik Cohen has lit up the passing game for the Bears. Before his devastating injury, Cook was on is way to a 1,000 yard season in Minnesota. Other rookie running backs that have shown flashes include Christian McCaffrey in Carolina, Samaje Perine in Washington and Elijah McGuire on the Jets. Look for this batch of backs to provide some keeper value this off-season and for their auction values to skyrocket next fall.
Stacks are Whack
It’s a common fantasy tactic to pair a QB with their top WR but that strategy has not gone according to plan so far in 2017. The aforementioned combination of Copper and Carr is in shambles and other “stacks” have been under-producing as well. Julio Jones and Matt Ryan have been subpar, Antonio Brown has been tossing Gatorade coolers after not clicking with Big Ben while Dak Prescott is still having trouble meshing with Dez Bryant. In fact, the most productive stack thus far this season has been Tom Brady and Chris Hogan. Probably not the duo you’d imagine at the beginning of the season. Like any fantasy fad, the stack concept has to have a little bit of luck and the right offensive system for it to thrive, and so far this year things having lined up.
Double Digit Defenses
Scoring from the D/ST spot is almost always hit or miss but if you were fortunate enough to draft or pick up Jacksonville, Detroit, or Buffalo you’ve been enjoying a nice uptick in your fantasy points. Under the radar and often underrated, each of these defenses are opportunistic. They can get to the quarterback, force a bevy of turnovers and have been known to take the ball back to the house. Early on, they’ve been stellar, but like all D/STs there is always a chance that these teams will suffer a fall from grace. If you like to play roulette with multiple defenses over the course of the year, it’ll be increasingly important for you to monitor matchups each week. There are some painfully bad offenses in the league this year and defenses have been much tougher to solve; the result has been a lot of spiking defensive scores. Look for that trend to continue as the year goes on.