It’s Week 2 of fantasy football and I’m back to unload my notebook for the latest fantasy news and notes around the league. This week, I take a look at the Colts backfield with Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor, what might happen with Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, if Benny Snell can unseat James Conner, the potential of Gardner Minshew in the new Jaguars offense, and what value Robby Anderson brings to the Panthers.
Week 2 Fantasy Football: Is it Nyheim Hines or Jonathan Taylor in the Colts backfield?
While few saw a 27-20 loss in Jacksonville coming for the Colts in Week 1, a lot about this team for fantasy football in Week 2 and beyond was revealed. First of all, at this stage of his career and his propensity for putting the ball in harm’s way, Philip Rivers simply cannot be attempting 46 passes per game. With the way Indianapolis is constructed, and with their excellent offensive line, that is a losing formula. Expect Frank Reich to get that corrected immediately.
Also, Marlon Mack was lost for the year on Sunday, which opens up all kinds of possibilities for Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. Hines ended up leading the Colts in rushing, but with just 28 yards on the ground. In the second half without Mack in the equation, Taylor and Hines played the same number of snaps. Taylor now sets up with minimal obstruction to be Indianapolis’ leading rusher (and possible Offensive Rookie of the Year) going forward.
Taylor, a questionable receiver coming out of college, was targeted six times in Jacksonville. While that passing game usage is unlikely to keep up, it is still very promising. Taylor could now be a league-winner. But Hines should still have a significant role.
To further expand upon the Colts offense, what we know about Rivers is that he will heavily target his running backs and slot receivers. Hines has a lot of Austin Ekeler in him as a route runner and with his abilities after the catch. On throwing downs, the backfield should belong to Hines, which gives him significant value. But if the Colts stay on script and stay ahead of the chains on early downs (plus, they have a very favorable schedule), they might be able to avoid third and long situations to some degree.
Now, back to the slot receiver situation. This could be a great buy-low opportunity to pick up T.Y. Hilton. But remember – Parris Campbell led Indianapolis in receptions and receiving yards, although both players were targeted nine times.
Campbell is the Colts slot receiver but doesn’t share many similarities to Keenan Allen, who Rivers fed the ball to a great deal in recent years. Campbell is a supreme athlete and playmaker with the ball in his hands, though, and should continue to rack up fantasy points in this offense. In fact, Campbell is on the cusp of being every week fantasy starter. Folks in your league might not yet recognize Campbell’s potential.
What’s the latest Week 2 fantasy football news regarding Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley?
No offense in Week 1 targeted their running backs at a lower percentage than the Chargers. This is hugely concerning for Ekeler. But on the other hand, Ekeler carried the ball 19 times in Cincinnati, which is a career-high. The Chargers gave Ekeler a new contract this offseason and certainly will be using him plenty, but fantasy football owners would prefer that the ratio favored the passing game much more than it did in Week 1.
Ekeler’s touches are as efficient as last year, especially with Joshua Kelley looking like Los Angeles’ goal-line runner. This became evident after Justin Jackson was injured. Kelley is a good looking prospect that has immediately acclimated to the league. He is going to be a factor. Could he assume much of the Melvin Gordon role in this offense? Could we see it as early as Week 2 as it relates to fantasy football? Maybe.
And that would be terrible for Ekeler, especially if Tyrod Taylor, who prefers to tuck the ball and run rather than dump it off late in the down, isn’t going to throw it Ekeler’s way nearly as much as Philip Rivers did last year.
Ekeler was out on pass patterns quite a bit, though, so maybe we shouldn’t jump the gun too much after just one game. But it is safe to say that Rivers would target Ekeler more than Taylor and that Kelley will be very fantasy relevant.
Is Benny Snell a RB I should consider adding to my Week 2 fantasy football team?
On Monday night in New York, James Conner got injured…again. Snell became the lead back when Conner went down, and although we got a real small sample size from Conner, Snell was the more effective player of the two.
Snell handled 16 of the Steelers 17 running back carries after Conner’s exit from the game, and we know that head coach Mike Tomlin prefers one bell cow runner rather than a committee. Snell is Conner’s immediate handcuff and will be a fantasy asset when Conner is sidelined, but the question is whether or not Snell can truly push a healthy Conner for playing time.
As of this writing, Conner’s Week 2 status is unclear, but the safe bet is that Conner will regain his job if he dresses against Denver. However, his leash has to be shorter now. Much as Le’ Veon Bell did after his rookie season in Pittsburgh, Snell trimmed weight this past offseason and looks much quicker and more light-footed than last year.
It should be noted that Anthony McFarland was inactive in Week 1, but could quickly factor into this backfield equation if Conner is out.
Is Gardner Minshew a quarterback worth streaming?
Gardner Minshew was nearly perfect, missing just one throw, as the Jaguars upset the Colts on Sunday. He was very crisp and comfortable, getting the ball out quickly, on time, and accurately. Minshew and new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden look like a perfect match for one another.
Minshew only threw for 173 yards, but did toss three touchdowns and showed decisiveness and accuracy in the tight quarters of the red zone. Minshew’s clear top weapon, DJ Chark, only accounted for 25 yards but should bring much more production from now on.
An exciting weapon that showed up immediately in his first NFL game is Laviska Shenault, who Gruden will use in various ways. This isn’t a terrible offense. Also, don’t forget that Minshew is one of the better running quarterbacks in the league and racked up 344 rushing yards last year in 14 games played.
Minshew isn’t the most gifted quarterback, but he continues to get it done and looks like an even improved player in his second season.
Is Robby Anderson a WR I can trust this year in fantasy football?
A notorious short passer, Teddy Bridgewater did push the ball downfield quite a bit last week, and Anderson benefited to the tune of six catches for 114 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. Anderson is a long strider with great long speed.
He is a fine player and a fine talent that Matt Rhule is very familiar with, but the big play nature of his game lends itself to inconsistency as a producer, and yes, he did get a lot of his production on one play last week.
But, his usage at all levels is certainly encouraging, and Anderson is more than just a deep burner. The Panthers top three wide receivers distributed the work very evenly last week against a weak Las Vegas defense.
DJ Moore only got one more target than Anderson and Curtis Samuel. Counting on Anderson week after week (and Carolina will play tougher defenses in the future) might be a bit of a rollercoaster, but this is a very encouraging start to the season.
Matt Williamson is a Senior NFL Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @WilliamsonNFL.