Here are Ben Martinez’s Fantasy Football Risers & Fallers in value following Sunday’s Week 2 action of the NFL season. This list is based on injuries, performance, and snap counts from the slate of games this past Sunday.
With the exception of Detroit and New York’s Monday night clash, another NFL week is in the books. We saw a few surprises as well as a few bounce backs from a rough start to the season. We even saw a new record for touchdown receptions for a tight end. Congratulations Antonio Gates! One of the true greats to play the game. Week 2 is when the cream starts to rise to the top and this year doesn’t look to be much different. So here we go!
RISER OF THE WEEK: Broncos D/ST, Denver
After last Monday night’s near collapse against the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver’s defense had its work cut out for it against the offensive juggernaut that is the Dallas Cowboys. Last year’s rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott looked to put forth a formidable challenge to the Broncos vaunted defense. Denver responded in kind, absolutely manhandling Elliott and picking off Prescott twice, the second of which Aqib Talib took 103 yards to the house for the tenth pick-six of his career. Denver limited Elliott to eight yards on only nine carries and held the Cowboys to only 268 total yards in the 42-17 shellacking. Denver’s defense faces a soft Buffalo offense next week and will put immense pressure on Tyrod Taylor and the rest of the Bills’ anemic offense. Look for another big week for the Broncos D.
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Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City
Kansas City has undergone an offensive renaissance thus far in 2017 and Travis Kelce has been a huge part of it. While Kelce’s Week 1 performance took a backseat to Kareem Hunt’s breakout debut, Sunday’s matchup against the Eagles was his time to shine. Kelce proved to be a quality target for Alex Smith. Kelce was targeted ten times, hauling in eight receptions. #87 racked up 103 yards and a touchdown in the Chiefs’ 27-20 victory over Philadelphia. Kansas City heads into a tough divisional matchup next week against the Chargers in Los Angeles. The Chargers just gave up 26 yards on only three catches to Julius Thomas this week. Kelce remains a huge part of Kansas City’s passing game and looks to be a big impact going forward.
Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville
Last week’s season-ending injury to Allen Robinson opened the door for Hurns to step up in Jacksonville’s offense. He responded quite well in Week 2 against Tennessee. Even though the Jaguars dropped the contest, Hurns had a quality performance. He caught six of his seven targets and led the team with 82 yards receiving. Hurns’ fourth quarter touchdown reception pushed him into double digits for his fantasy owners. With Robinson out for the year, Hurns will move forward as the number one target in the Jags’ offense. Hurns faces arguably the best defense in the league next week against the Ravens and will have his work cut out for him.
Trevor Siemian, QB, Denver
Undrafted in most fantasy leagues, Siemian has been a pleasant surprise thus far in the 2017 campaign. Siemian followed up his two touchdown outing in Week 1 against the Chargers with a stellar performance on Sunday. Siemian threw for 231 yards and four touchdowns and a 116 passer rating in the Broncos’ demolition of Dallas. Denver’s revamped offensive line and the emergence of C.J. Anderson and the run game has allowed Siemian the protection needed to produce in Denver’s offense. The Broncos head north to take on a Buffalo team that was manhandled by Cam Newton and Carolina this week. Siemian remains a decent fantasy option against a Bills team still searching for its identity.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh
Fresh off his suspension, Bryant has enjoyed a very productive start to this season. While opposing defenses are focusing on Antonio Brown, Bryant has seen numerous favorable coverages. While he wasn’t targeted near as much as Brown or Eli Rogers, Bryant made the most of his opportunity in the Steelers’ 26-9 win. Bryant caught three passes on Sunday for a team high 91 yards and the game’s opening score. Pittsburgh’s offense has steadily improved over the last two weeks and at this point, only looks to be getting better. Bryant’s role looks to open up substantially on the back of his production this week. Pittsburgh heads to Chicago for an inter-conference matchup with a Bears team that fell to 0-2 at the hands of Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers.
Ravens D/ST, Baltimore
While Baltimore has had a feast of an early season schedule that features the lackluster Cincinnati Bengals and their perennial doormat Cleveland Browns, the defense has certainly stepped up. The Ravens have only allowed ten points in two games thus far and forced five turnovers against the Browns on Sunday. The secondary led by the veteran tandem of Ladarius Webb and Eric Weddle intercepted DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan a combined four times in Week 2’s beat down. The ageless Terrell Suggs also forced a fumble on a strip-sack of Kizer in the first quarter. Baltimore’s schedule toughens up slightly in Week 3 as they face a Jacksonville team that struggled offensively this week. Baltimore’s defense remains a must play in this matchup.
Tom Brady, QB, New England
While many pundits claimed that Brady looked “rusty,” and “simply mediocre,” after New England’s opening night loss to Kansas City, the sure fire Hall-of-Famer responded on Sunday on the road against the porous New Orleans Saints defense. Brady had the best opening quarter of his career as he jumped out of the gate for 177 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter alone. Brady finished the game 30 of 39 for 447 yards and the same three scores, silencing his critics and showing that he’s not done yet. New England’s offense doesn’t seem to be slowing after the loss of Julian Edelman. New England is back home in Week 3 against the Houston Texans and Brady is in line for another huge game.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee
No one has benefited more from the decline of DeMarco Murray then Henry. Sunday against the Jaguars, the Titans split carries between the two backs as Henry amassed 14 carries to Murray’s nine, but the huge difference came in what Henry was able to do with his work in the 37-16 win. Henry racked up 92 yards and a touchdown as compared to Murray’s 25 yard effort. Murry did catch a pass, however, but Henry definitely looks to be having a better go at it early on in the season. Murray’s struggles may push him back down the depth chart and Henry may see an increase in workload simply based on productivity. Tennessee faces a tough Seattle defense at home next week and the Titans’ offense may look to get their backs involved in the passing game.
Chris Johnson, RB, Arizona
David Johnson’s injury woes present a number of questions in Arizona moving forward. Johnson was clearly the focal point of Bruce Arians’ offense and the Cardinals struggled without him in Week 1, which led them to resign Chris Johnson to the roster. While it was far from an impressive showing, Chris Johnston still led the Cardinals in rushing in their 16-13 victory over the Colts on Sunday. While many question marks still remain Chris Johnson still looks to be an integral part of Arizona’s running game. The Cardinals face a Dallas defense next Monday night that just allowed its first 100 yard rusher in over a year.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas
While it was tough to find many positives for Dallas in Sunday’s massacre at the hands of Denver, Witten was easily one of the brightest sots. “Old Reliable” has remained a mainstay in Dallas’ offense and remains a top play at Tight End going forward. Despite Dallas’ struggles against the Broncos’ defense, Witten still caught ten passes for 97 yards and a score Sunday for another huge game. Witten definitely paid dividends to fantasy owners who had him on the field this week. Dallas squares off next week against an Arizona team that suddenly looks nothing like the Super Bowl contender many thought going into the season.
FALLER OF THE WEEK: Saints D/ST, New Orleans
This spot has to go to the miserable performance from the Saints’ defense. So much emphasis was placed this offseason in improving the defense, but it appears after two weeks not to have worked. The Saints have been absolutely demolished in their first two games, giving up 470 and 555 total yards against Minnesota and New England, respectively. The New Orleans defense also gave up a total of 65 points in the two matchups, the most in the league. Also the Saints’ defense has yet to force a turnover. New Orleans has a tough division matchup in Week 3 as they travel to Carolina and their dynamic rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. Things don’t look to be getting any easier in the Big Easy as far as defense goes.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo
McCoy certainly made a case for the faller of the week as he was completely shut down in Week 2. The Panthers defense stuffed McCoy all day long as he only managed nine yards on 12 carries. Absolutely brutal for a back that was drafted in the top two rounds in the majority of fantasy leagues. This looked to be a nice complement game to McCoy’s 110 yard effort in the opening game, but Carolina had other ideas. Things don’t get any easier going forward for McCoy either, as Buffalo plays host to Denver next week. The Broncos defense appears to be rolling after stifling Dallas’ potent offense, most specifically the running game. Might look at leaving “Shady” on the bench for this one.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota
After an incredible opening week, Diggs was high on many fantasy owners’ radar heading in to this week’s contest against Pittsburgh. The prospect highly outweighed the result however. Diggs struggled all game long, only catching two of his six targets. While the absence of QB Sam Bradford may have played a role, the drop in production is definitely a concern. Diggs only managed 27 yards on those two catches and he was completely ineffective in this game. Minnesota has a tough, tough matchup next week against a fiery Tampa Bay team who is making their case in the NFC south. Fantasy owners will want to keep an eye on Bradford’s status for next week in deciding whether to play Diggs.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Anybody else still weirded out by “Los Angeles Chargers?” Maybe that’s what’s causing Melvin Gordon some grief. Regardless, Gordon has disappointed fantasy owners so far in 2017. After struggling much of the game against Denver on Monday Night in Week 1, Gordon was primed to have a nice bounce back game this week against the Dolphins for the Chargers’ Los Angeles debut. It wasn’t meant to be however as Gordon had another rough week. Gordon carried the ball nine times only managing 13 yards. Gordon’s second quarter TD plunge from the 1-yard line saved him completely killing fantasy owners this week. Los Angeles welcomes in a brutal Kansas City defense next week and Gordon needs to get going early to have a chance in this one.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
While the Panthers are 2-0 and still winning games they should, there is some cause for concern in Carolina. Newton has struggled out of the gate this season after recovering from rotator cuff surgery in the spring. Newton hasn’t looked like the quarterback of old we’re used to seeing in the Panthers’ backfield. Newton’s accuracy has suffered this year and when he’s off he’s WAY off…Newton only has just under 400 passing yards in his first two games and the Carolina offense failed to find the end zone on Sunday against the Bills. Newton might find the going a bit easier next week as the Panthers play host to a New Orleans team that has absolutely been demolished on the defensive side of the ball.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina
While Newton’s offensive struggles are well documented in Carolina, they’re about to get worse. One of Newton’s top targets, Olsen suffered a broken foot in Sunday’s game against Buffalo. While no timetable for his return is in place as of yet, Olsen’s fantasy value definitely plummets. Fantasy owners will want to monitor the coming days for news of when and if Olsen will return to the field.
Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland
This is one of the most devastating injuries to the Browns and their fans. Coleman was emerging as one of the top receivers for DeShone Kizer and the Browns’ offense. Fantasy owners who took a flier on Coleman in later rounds were rewarded last week as he led the team in receiving and scored a touchdown. Coleman suffered what the Browns fear to be a broken hand in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. Coleman suffered a similar injury last season and it limited him to 10 games. Owners will want to monitor his status for a potential return.
Jets D/ST, New York Jets
While there wasn’t much room to fall, the Jets’ defense needs to make this list. New York was absolutely torched by Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. The Jets gave up three rushing touchdowns and three passing touchdowns, all from Carr to Michael Crabtree, in a 45-20 blowout. The Jets haven’t been able to stop anybody from moving the ball or scoring so far in 2017. Week 3 might be a little easier as Jay Cutler and the Miami Dolphins come to town but fantasy owners will still want to steer clear of the Jets’ defense until they prove they can stop someone.
Brian Hoyer, QB, San Francisco
49er fans have to be wondering, “When will it end?” Hoyer has been absolutely miserable thus far in 2017. While he had limited fantasy value to begin with, it’s definitely next to nothing now. Hoyer has yet to find the end zone so far and only managed 99 yards passing with an interception in Week 2. The Seahawks dominated Hoyer from the onset and limited him to a QBR of 7.8. That’s not a typo. That’s correct. 7.8. Things don’t get any easier as the 49ers have a short turnaround for a Thursday night contest with a Rams’ defense that has looked much improved over previous years. Leave Hoyer on the waiver wire for this one.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
The only reason Gronk makes the list of fallers, is the concern over his injury suffered in Week 2 against the Saints. Gronk was having a monster game after last week’s debacle in Foxborough. Gronkowski caught six passes for 116 yards and a touchdown before leaving with a groin injury in the third quarter of Sunday’s game. Gronk did tell reporters, “I’m good,” after the game, but his status definitely bears monitoring. If Gronkowski misses any amount of time, his fantasy value will suffer greatly.