It was a topsy-turvy Week 1 in the NFL and for fantasy football managers. Some top picks delivered as expected. Some sleepers came through, too. But plenty of players expected to perform well underwhelmed. And the rookie class mostly left us thirsty for more, with solid debuts just about all around.
Our 32 NFL Nation reporters did their best to help you out in Week 1 based on questions asked weekly by ESPN fantasy sports researcher Kyle Soppe. They’re back for more, and so is Soppe, armed with the most burning and pertinent questions for what promises to be an exciting Week 2.
Which players will bounce back? Will the big waiver-wire pickups deliver? How will the load be split in the backfield in places such as Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Houston and Jacksonville?
The time has come for the questions and answers for Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season. Away we go:
Any concern about Josh Allen going 2-of-12 on balls thrown 15-plus yards last week?
Mild concern might be appropriate, but nothing dramatic. Allen might not reach his numbers from last season, and accuracy on big throws has been an issue in the past, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have success downfield this year. The Bills came up against a tough Steelers defense last week. In coordinator Brian Daboll’s offense, Allen will continue to have the ball in his hands, and he should improve in his connections with his strong receiving group downfield. No need for alarm just yet. — Alaina Getzenberg
Will Miami continue to struggle on the ground (23 carries for 74 yards in Week 1 at NE)?
The Dolphins have struggled for the most part to run the ball against Buffalo over the past few seasons but averaged 4.5 yards per carry in last year’s 31-28 loss in Week 2. However, they got plenty of support from their passing game (328 yards) in that contest. Myles Gaskin turned in a strong preseason and averaged 5.4 YPC against the Patriots — he’s the clear leader in this backfield and should be a safe bet in fantasy considering his contributions as a receiver. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Nelson Agholor led this team in receiving in Week 1 (72 yards); will that continue?
Agholor led the team in receiving in Week 1 because the Dolphins’ coverage dictated as much, and rookie quarterback Mac Jones stayed true to the function of the offense by following his reads and making sure the football was delivered to the right place. It’s hard to know how that will unfold on a weekly basis, but one thing to take to the fantasy bank: Agholor is in the team’s top-two grouping at receiver, so he’s going to be on the field a lot, regardless, along with Jakobi Meyers. That’s usually an important first step for an offense that liberally mixes up its personnel groupings. — Mike Reiss
Field Yates outlines why Nelson Agholor could lead the Patriots in receiving yards the entire season.
Is Corey Davis the only skill position player with a locked-in role?
It might appear that way, based on Week 1, but the answer is no. Rookie Elijah Moore, coming off a rough opener, is WR2. Jamison Crowder, who missed the first game, is expected to return this week in his usual role as the slot receiver. It didn’t show last week, but Tyler Kroft is their pass-catching tight end. QB Zach Wilson needs to do a better job of distributing the ball. — Rich Cimini
It really depends on whether Williams gets more in sync with Lamar Jackson. Williams was the more effective back in the opener, but the Ravens leaned more on Murray in the second half after Williams had some hiccups with Jackson on a handoff and on a couple of swing passes. If Baltimore splits the reps like Week 1, Williams should get 13 to 15 touches and Murray will receive around 10 to 12. To further complicate matters, Ravens coach John Harbaugh insinuated that Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell could get more involved. “We have four good guys in here, and those guys are all going to be a big part of what we’re doing going forward,” Harbaugh said. — Jamison Hensley
Does the big Week 1 make you think Ja’Marr Chase will lead this team in targets? Fantasy points?
I need to see a bigger sample size. For one, Joe Burrow‘s passing volume was much lower than anticipated. And while Chase did lead the team in targets, he had only two more than Tee Higgins, who is another key outside target. One more week should give us a better indication of what the Bengals’ distribution will look like this season. — Ben Baby
Mike Clay, Field Yates and Stephania Bell discuss Ja’Marr Chase’s hot start to the season.
Can this offense support two fantasy viable pass-catchers when Odell Beckham Jr. gets healthy?
Probably not. This is a run-first offense, and Baker Mayfield has shown a penchant for spreading the ball around to a multitude of receivers and tight ends. For now, Jarvis Landry appears to be the only viable pass-catching option. — Jake Trotter
Will this offense eventually challenge downfield, or is that a thing of the past for Ben Roethlisberger (longest pass play in Week 1 was 24 yards)?
I don’t know that it’s something completely in the past, but the Steelers probably aren’t going to be one of the more prolific long-ball teams. Roethlisberger’s arm is plenty capable of the throws of 20-plus yards, and he can even go deeper if there’s a look he likes, but the Steelers’ offense — at least right now — is more about the short and midrange game. In some ways, it’s similar to last year’s plan of throwing short and letting the WRs go to work, but this offense will mix in a few more longer throws. It just won’t be all about taking the deep shot every time. — Brooke Pryor
Can we bank on Mark Ingram II being “the guy” in this backfield this week? How about the rest of the season?
It’s hard to tell after just one week, especially because the Texans led for most of the game. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said Ingram running the ball 26 times was more a product of him having a hot hand and finishing runs well. But if there is one thing that points in Ingram’s favor for Week 2 and for the rest of the season, it’s the way he was used Sunday. David Culley said this week that 13 personnel is the Texans’ best personnel group. Of the 13 times Houston ran the ball with three tight ends on the field, Ingram had all 13 carries. If the Texans continue to increase their plays with 13 personnel, that could mean good things for the veteran running back. — Sarah Barshop
Field Yates shares his thoughts on how fantasy managers should approach bringing in Texans RB Mark Ingram.
Will Jonathan Taylor continue to be as involved in the pass game as he was in Week 1 (seven targets)?
The six receptions against Seattle in Week 1 tied his career high, which he set in 2020, also in Week 1. Taylor will continue to be able to catch passes out of the backfield for the Colts because the coaching staff doesn’t want quarterback Carson Wentz to hold on to the ball too long in the pocket. The Colts will definitely need Taylor to be part of their underneath passing game to withstand the Rams’ pressure if starting offensive tackles Braden Smith (foot) and Eric Fisher (Achilles) miss the game. Wentz was sacked three times and hit 10 additional times against the Seahawks in the opener. — Mike Wells
Robinson is still the lead back, and Meyer said they have to get him more involved in the offense. He had five carries and eight total touches against Houston, which were the fewest carries and touches he has had in his career, but you can expect the carry total to at least double against the Broncos. Hyde will still get work, but Robinson is the Jaguars’ best back and his future workload will show it. — Michael DiRocco
Should we read anything into the four targets for Derrick Henry in Week 1?
No. Henry’s targets came as a way to combat the onslaught of pressure the Cardinals brought last week. Although Henry has been working diligently to become a more natural pass-catcher, it’s hard to picture him carving out a consistent role in the passing game. However, a well-timed and executed screen pass against the blitz could lead to a huge play for the Titans. — Turron Davenport
Who will see the biggest increase in role with Jerry Jeudy injured?
If you’re talking about the biggest increase from Week 1, it will be from Courtland Sutton. He was targeted three times in the opener and finished with one catch. Jeudy will miss four to six weeks, so things will somewhat adjust each week, partly because Teddy Bridgewater has shown his willingness to move the ball over the field — he completed passes to nine players in the first half against the Giants. Overall, Sutton will see an uptick in production in the weeks ahead. — Jeff Legwold
Will Clyde Edwards-Helaire continue to dominate the running back usage moving forward?
Edwards-Helaire is clearly RB1 for the Chiefs. But I am surprised at how he dominated the snap counts (47 plays to a combined 18 for Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon) in Week 1. I don’t see the job-share continuing at this percentage. It’s a long season, and the Chiefs will look for ways to get their other backs involved. — Adam Teicher
Do you expect Kenyan Drake to fill only the pass-catcher-specialist role, or will his usage in the run game increase with time?
Drake was signed not only to be that pass-catching back but also to spell Josh Jacobs, who has yet to play a full season in his young and dinged-up career and will miss Sunday’s game because of toe and ankle injuries. So yeah, Drake’s usage in the run game will increase as the season wears on, if for nothing else than to keep Jacobs fresh as he chases his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season. When healthy, Jacobs will be the go-to player at the goal line, as evidenced by his two scores against the Ravens while rushing for only 34 yards on 10 carries. — Paul Gutierrez
Was health to blame for Austin Ekeler‘s zero-target performance?
No, it just didn’t happen for him. He ran 24 routes on his 46 snaps, and the ball never went his way, although Justin Herbert did complete passes to eight pass-catchers in the win over Washington. That will likely change against the Cowboys this week based on what coach Brandon Staley said about working Ekeler into the passing game. — Shelley Smith
When all is said and done this season, who will lead in targets?
The quick answer is Amari Cooper because of the time he has had with Dak Prescott since coming to the Cowboys in 2018. He remains their best receiver, a deft route runner and productive. But with Michael Gallup out at least the next three games because of a calf strain, CeeDee Lamb will play more on the outside. He was targeted 15 times in the opener, and in the five games Prescott has started and finished in his career with Lamb, the receiver has averaged nearly nine targets a game. Cooper still gets the nod because he is more reliable at the moment, but Lamb has a chance to make the bigger plays, especially with Gallup out. — Todd Archer
Two weeks in, what are your impressions of Saquon Barkley and your expectations for the next two weeks?
Barkley looks, well, like a player getting used to his new knee, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But there are reasons to be encouraged. He’s knocking off rust, hit a respectable 20.3 mph on his 41-yard run against Washington and played 83% of the Giants’ offensive snaps. With 10 days to rest and get ready for Atlanta and his workload increasing, things are looking up for Barkley and those who made the substantial early-round investment. — Jordan Raanan
Will Jalen Hurts make a huge leap in completion percentage in 2021?
Yes. His 77% completion rate was 25 percentage points higher than his rookie average (52%). This offense was designed to maximize his strengths and is largely about the quick passing game, whereas the Eagles last year led the league in vertical routes run. Hurts has a firm command of the scheme and will prove to be far more efficient in it relative to last year. — Tim McManus
Field Yates and Matthew Berry express confidence in Jalen Hurts having a strong Week 2 fantasy performance vs. the 49ers.
Is the short passing game going to be a staple of a Taylor Heinicke-led offense?
To a degree, yes. In his 11 quarters playing for Washington, he has attempted 15 passes of at least 20 air yards. That’s good for ninth-most among all quarterbacks during that time. So I don’t think they’ll just rely on the short pass, but it’ll be a bigger emphasis for him. One of the areas these coaches felt Heinicke had improved since they had him in Carolina was his willingness to throw deep. The Giants played coverages that forced them to go underneath. That said, Heinicke does not have the strongest arm, so he relies on anticipation and accuracy to move the ball. He’s willing to rely on the cliched “take what’s there” and keep the chains moving. But keep in mind: Against Tampa Bay last season, he attempted five passes of 20 air yards or more. When it’s there, he’ll try to make it happen. But it will not be his primary desire. — John Keim
The Bears didn’t have a 20-yard completion in Week 1. Product of Andy Dalton or of the Rams’ stout defense?
The correct answer is both. The Rams’ defense certainly schemed to eliminate the Bears’ vertical passing game, but Chicago’s offensive line has to shoulder part of the blame for its inability to protect Dalton for extended periods of time. The Bears were down to their fourth option at left tackle, Elijah Wilkinson, before the Los Angeles game ended. The Bears believe they will have more success downfield versus the Bengals — who play a lot of man coverage — but the jury is still out. — Jeff Dickerson
Week 1 was definitely a result of the game flow against the 49ers and the fact Swift missed a ton of practices to nurse his groin injury, so they gave the starting nod to Williams. It’s no secret that Swift is Detroit’s No. 1 RB, but the backfield duo could put up strong numbers regularly because of their ability to run and catch equally. During Sunday’s loss to San Francisco, that was the first time two Lions RBs each produced at least 100 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown in the same game since Sept. 11, 2016. On Monday, Williams returns to Green Bay, where he was a fan favorite due to his production and his infectious personality, and he could produce another solid game. For the first time in years, the Detroit ground game is one of the team’s strengths, so who’ll get the most snaps is a good problem to have. — Eric Woodyard
Field Yates and Matthew Berry question how much the Lions’ run game will be hampered by a weak offensive line.
Did the Week 1 disaster change your opinion on any player’s role moving forward, or is it a throwaway game?
It showed just how much more they’re going to need from running back Aaron Jones and the run-blocking unit, especially if teams copy the Saints’ defensive plan of sitting back in coverage and try to take away Davante Adams in the intermediate routes and Marquez Valdes-Scantling deep. The question about Jones, however, remains the same as before the season: Will they actually devote the touches to make Jones a go-to back? They’ve never done that with him before, but they might need to start now. — Rob Demovsky
Anything to K.J. Osborn‘s nine-target Week 1 in Cincinnati?
Osborn emerged as Minnesota’s WR3 on a day in which he played 67 of a total 83 snaps and caught seven passes for 76 yards. That’s a workload he can expect to continue if he keeps on making big catches on third and fourth down that help extend drives and give Kirk Cousins another threat in the passing game aside from Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. The 2020 fifth-round receiver seems to be headed toward a consistent role in an offense that wants to deploy more 11 personnel with its tight end group expected to be without Irv Smith Jr. for the season. — Courtney Cronin
Yes. The Falcons had only two running backs up in Week 1 (three, I guess, if you count fullback Keith Smith), but there’s little reason to think Patterson won’t continue to be very involved. He provides a good outside rush option and, combined with Davis, gives Atlanta formation flexibility no matter the personnel in the game, which is what Arthur Smith is striving for. How he’s used might depend a bit by the week, but at this point Patterson is a smart player to roster in fantasy because he’ll have a role throughout the season as a runner and receiver. — Michael Rothstein
Matthew Berry and Field Yates discuss the Falcons’ backfield and whether Cordarrelle Patterson can take carries from Mike Davis.
Yes. McCaffrey is going to take receptions away from everybody. When healthy in 2018-19, he topped 100 catches, and the way this offense is designed for quarterback Sam Darnold to use his safety outlet (McCaffrey), he’s well on his way to do that again with nine catches on nine targets in the opener. — David Newton
Five touchdowns and six incompletions: Are we going to see a new version of Jameis Winston all season?
I don’t think you can rely on any of the specific numbers we saw in Week 1 (I’ll take the under on 5 TD passes and 37 rushing yards per game and the over on 20 pass attempts and 148 passing yards). But I do think you can genuinely buy into the efficiency — and the idea that Winston is a very good quarterback with big-play ability who is now surrounded by a great coach, offensive line and defense that will put him in position to succeed. — Mike Triplett
Can 32-year-old Rob Gronkowski produce on a weekly basis, or will they manage his snaps with time?
Gronk is in terrific health right now, while the Bucs’ other tight ends — O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate — are still shaking off some rust and making up for time lost to injuries. Gronk’s health is always worth monitoring, but he missed zero games last year and has shown no signs of injury now. Bruce Arians also does an excellent job being proactive with injuries and giving veterans days off, even without injuries. — Jenna Laine
Should we assume that Chase Edmonds is the preferred back in the pass game moving forward?
The thing about Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is its unpredictability, especially in the passing game, but it’s safe to say that Edmonds will be the first passing option out of the backfield. If Arizona gets through another game or two without any targets to James Conner, then it’ll be clear. But one game isn’t enough to firmly say Edmonds will be the preferred receiving option in the backfield. — Josh Weinfuss
Coach Sean McVay remained steadfast after a Week 1 win over the Bears that Henderson is the go-to running back. “Darrell has definitely established himself as our starting back,” McVay said, although he also said that Michel, who was acquired with 2½ weeks remaining in training camp, was expected to play more than three snaps. However, the flow of the game and limited offensive snaps kept Michel on the sideline. Going forward, expect to see a lot of Henderson, with occasional spells from Michel. — Lindsey Thiry
What happened to Brandon Aiyuk in Week 1?
Coach Kyle Shanahan indicated it was a combination of a couple of things: Aiyuk having just one week of practice coming off a hamstring injury and the emergence of Trent Sherfield. But it’s naive to think those are the only reasons. Could Shanahan be looking to light a little fire under Aiyuk after he tailed off in the second part of training camp? It’s worth noting that Aiyuk started camp strong but had some drops in preseason games and then had the hamstring issue. Still, Aiyuk is too talented not to become a prominent part of the offense at some point. Getting the message from Shanahan, being further removed from the hamstring issue and playing on a grass surface in each of the next 10 games should help Aiyuk’s usage normalize a bit, but it might take a little time. — Nick Wagoner
Gerald Everett scored but had just two targets in Week 1. Will he be used enough to count on weekly?
It’ll be hard to regularly count on anyone in the Seahawks’ passing game aside from Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf because of how many other weapons they have. Everett barely out-snapped fellow tight end Will Dissly in the opener. But he had another nice gain called back by a procedural penalty, and one of Seattle’s other weapons, rookie receiver Dee Eskridge, might not play this week because of a concussion. — Brady Henderson