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Fantasy Football Week 1: What We Learned

C.D. Carter breaks down the most important fantasy football lessons of week one including what to make of Jamaal Charles’ pedestrian performance.

Jamaal Charles
Jamaal Charles

Sep 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) carries the ball against the Tennessee Titans in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Jamaal Charles, headed into the Chiefs’ season opener against the Tennessee Titans, had established himself as one of just a few truly matchup-proof running backs. Put simply, Charles has tormented everyone as the centerpiece of Kansas City’s offense.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid managed on Sunday to do what had previously been impossible: he made Charles ordinary. Reid made a consensus top-3 fantasy pick useless.

Charles, held to 34 yards on 11 touches as the Chiefs were dismantled by Tennessee at home, finished as the week’s 31st best running back.

“He’s their horse, he’s their game-breaker and by having a good game plan, by being able to contain him, it forced them to have to win the game with their other options,” Titans safety George Wilson said in a post-game interview. “We just liked our chances in those matchups and we took advantage of those opportunities today.”

This should worry us a little, as the pending return of Dwayne Bowe isn’t exactly a huge boost to Kansas City’s offensive weaponry. Perhaps even more concerning to those who invested a first-round pick in Charles, the injury-riddled Chiefs’ defense could create many scenarios this season similar to the one that played out against a mediocre Titans’ offense.

The 2013 season isn’t walking through that door for Kansas City. They won’t be able to sit on giant leads as their defenders pick on the league’s worst offenses, like they did a year ago. And if this is the way Reid will use Charles while his team hemorrhages points to opponents, we might have a problem.

The silver lining in this pitch-black cloud hanging above the heads of Charles owners everywhere: Kansas City’s offense was designed to run through their electrifying runner. I think it would be fair to assume Reid knows his offense can’t run through Donnie Avery. Or Anthony Fasano. Or Alex Smith.

Remember though, we’re talking about a running back coming off a season that saw him score 30 more fantasy points than Adrian Peterson did during his incredible 2012 campaign. Charles has notched 5.6 yards per carry during his career with the Chiefs. He’s overcome questionable usage and terrible Chiefs teams before, and I don’t have much doubt he’ll do it again in 2014.

This is the week to pounce on the fears and anxieties of your league’s Charles owner. There will be more than a few fantasy footballers willing — even hoping — to sell their No. 1 pick at his rock-bottom price. Throw out a low-ball trade offer for Charles in the next 24 hours and see if you can net an elite running back for the low, low price of a No. 2 receiver.

Trust that things can’t get worse for Charles in 2014. Trust that Andy Reid understands that his team will be circling the drain before Halloween if Charles isn’t more involved — much more involved — in the coming weeks.

The fantasy panic surrounding Charles is almost palpable. Take full advantage.

Below are a some more valuable lessons we learned about what the fantasy football landscape might be like in 2014.

  • Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns torched the Eagles’ secondary after getting the start over an injured Cecil Shorts. The long of it, put shortly: Hurns, an un-drafted free agent who caught 14 balls for 232 yards and a touchdown during the preseason, only has every-week usefulness if he gets predictable snaps and opportunities. That’s yet to be seen, as the veteran Shorts is expected back this week. We’ll see a lot of people blow a chunk of their free agent budget on Hurns this week. A whole lot of receiver-hungry owners will use their top waiver wire pick on fantasy’s current No. 1 receiver. I wouldn’t.
  • There has been — and will continue to be — real talk in fantasy circles about Steve Smith as the No. 1 receiving option in Baltimore (he caught seven passes for 118 yards and a score in Week 1). I don’t think the Steve-is-superior-to-Torrey chatter will subside anytime soon, giving savvy owners time to act on widespread misguided perception. Steve Smith has proven spectacularly inefficient over the past few seasons, and I don’t expect that to suddenly turn around during his age-35 season. Make no bones about it: Torrey’s matchup was among the worst of any No. 1 receiver this week, taking on Bengals’ excellent cover guy Leon Hall all day. That shouldn’t be forgotten here. I believe Torrey has top-12 upside in 2014 as the primary target in Gary Kubiak‘s offensive scheme, and I don’t expect his miscommunications with Joe Flacco to persist. Torrey is a premiere buy-low candidate this week.
  • Relax, Nick Foles owners. Your guy started slow against a much-improve Jacksonville defense, only to finish with 322 yards and two touchdowns. We saw a glimpse of Foles’ coming efficiency regression, as predictable as the sunrise. The great thing for Foles’ owners is that he doesn’t need to maintain his otherworldly efficiency to post elite fantasy numbers. He’ll be just fine.
  • Martellus Bennett was targeted 10 times in the Bears’ opening day loss to Buffalo, finishing the day with eight grabs, 70 yards, and a score. That target total might not sound like a lot until you remember that Bennett saw an average of 5.5 targets per game in 2013. Yes, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery missed time with various ailments during Chicago’s loss, but Bennett was seeing looks from Jay Cutler before the team’s receivers gimped off the field. There was some fairly quiet talk from Bears beat writers this summer about Bennett taking on a bigger role in Marc Trestman’s fantasy-friendly passing attack, which has room for a tight end to feast on short-range passes that have been a staple of Trestman’s system. While Bennett won’t be elite in 2014, I don’t think that precludes him from being an every-week fantasy starter. Play him with confidence until further notice, and especially if Jeffrey misses time due to injury — a distinct possibility, according to media reports.
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