By Eric McClung, Player Profiler
Special to Yahoo Sports
Fantasy players are feeling a wide range of emotions after Week 1. Thankfully, between the victory laps for making the right call and the regrets at missing out on something great lies the actionable information that we can use to improve our rosters.
Was that breakout performance for real? Should you look to unload a disappointing early-round player now, before it’s too late? Thanks to the extensive data set and game charting done at PlayerProfiler, here are three things that really mattered from Week 1, plus an ugly result that has sparked a buying opportunity.
1. Chris Godwin is a star in the making
In the season opener — a stunning road victory against the New Orleans Saints — Godwin caught three of his four targets for 41 receiving yards and a touchdown, and will be a hot addition off the waiver wire this week. While Godwin’s own performance is noteworthy, DeSean Jackson — now 32 years old — is in the concussion protocol after hitting the turf hard. His day ended with five catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns, but don’t forget that it was Godwin who was a popular breakout candidate throughout the offseason. As a rookie last year, Godwin was targeted six or more times on four occasions and averaged more than 85 yards per game in those contests. Furthermore, Jackson was tried in the slot during training camp in order to get Godwin on the field more frequently. Tampa even went so far as to list Jackson and Godwin as co-starters.
Even though Godwin entered the league in a fairly crowded situation for targets, he has an extremely impressive profile that had many believing he would ascend the depth chart in short order. Godwin exceeded 1,100 receiving yards as a sophomore at Penn State and earned himself a 19.5 (77th-percentile) Breakout Age. At the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, Godwin posted very exciting workout metrics. An impressive broad jump and average vertical jump yielded a 124.2 (68th-percentile) Burst Score on PlayerProfiler, while an elite 20-yard shuttle time boosted Godwin to a 11.01 (72nd-percentile) Agility Score. On the whole, Godin earned himself a 128.3 (95th-percentile) SPARQ-x athleticism score. With or without Jackson in the lineup, Godwin’s progress cannot be stopped.
2. Joe Mixon is a bell-cow running back
In addition to seeing 92 percent of the backfield touches for the Cincinnati Bengals while on the road against the Indianapolis Colts, Mixon played on 78 percent of the offensive snaps. In the box score, Mixon ran 17 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. In the passing game, Mixon caught five of his seven targets for an additional 54 yards. Meanwhile, backup Giovani Bernard was only given two touches. Mixon earned himself the fifth-highest score in Weighted Opportunities per PlayerProfiler, a metric that calibrates total opportunities by discounting carries and enhancing the value of targets based on the average fantasy points generated by each type of touch.
Taken in the second round of last year’s NFL Draft, Mixon has the traits and abilities to become a high-level, all-around running back in a similar mold as Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson. While being fairly average in burst and agility, Mixon posted a 91st-percentile collegiate yards per carry average and an 81st-percentile target share while at Oklahoma. Despite hitting a number of bumps during his rookie season, Mixon managed to finish with a very respectable average of 1.54 Yards Created Per Carry; ranked 13th among qualified running backs.
During the offseason, the Bengals wisely improved one of the worst offensive lines in the league. In addition to trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn, a first round pick was invested in center Billy Price. Even though the thirst for running backs was extremely high during fantasy football draft season, Mixon and his all-terrain skill set was still available in the late second round, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Those who bet on Mixon’s talent and saw the surefire rebound of an offensive unit coming off the fourth-lowest average in offensive plays per game since 2014 are going to be rewarded.
3. Jared Cook is the hero we need
After rolling up 180 yards on nine catches against the Los Angeles Rams during the Monday Night Football doubleheader, Jared Cook was bound to be among the most added players this week. However, critical injuries suffered by Greg Olsen (fractured foot) and Delanie Walker (fractured ankle) automatically pits tight end-needy owners against each other in a scramble to replace a key starter in their fantasy lineup. Cook began his 10th pro season with a team-high 12 targets, four of which were converted into receptions that went for 20 or more yards. Not only does the weak connection between Derek Carr and Amari Cooper continue to sputter, only five of Carr’s 40 pass attempts were caught by an Oakland wide receiver.
Cook entered the league back in 2009 as a workout metrics marvel. On PlayerProfiler, Cook sits at the 97th-percentile or better in Speed Score, Burst Score, and Catch Radius. Now, without Michael Crabtree to fall back on, Carr will either try to resolve the ongoing struggles he has with Cooper or continue to lean on Cook going forward. Even though Cook ended 2017 as a fringe TE1, his name can’t even be found on Fantasy Football Calculator’s final ADP report of the top-21 tight ends. Despite a history of frustrating results, Cook has the physical traits to age extremely well and now the opportunity to become extremely relevant in fantasy.
4. Chris Hogan’s Week 1 disaster doesn’t matter
As draft season unfolded, Chris Hogan saw his fantasy stock continue to rise to the point where he was ranked as a top-15 wide receiver on PlayerProfiler and nearly cracked the top-40 overall players on Yahoo. However, Hogan laid a massive egg in the season opener against the Houston Texans. His five targets were only good for fourth on the team, two fewer than Phillip Dorsett. And the results — only one reception for 11 yards — will send many fantasy players into a panic. Making matters worse, Hogan and the New England Patriots travel to Jacksonville in Week 2 for a rematch of the AFC title game against Jalen Ramsey and the Jaguars.
Thankfully, we can take advantage of our rattled opponents. After a near air ball, it’s understandable Hogan owners hoping to avoid the Jaguars’ elite pass defense will look elsewhere. They might also fear that the return of Julian Edelman in a few short weeks will further damage Hogan’s value. But the data available at airyards.com shows that Hogan had the opportunity to absolutely smash in Week 1. Among all wide receivers that saw at least six targets, Hogan’s 25.2 Average Target Distance tied for the league lead. Looking at all of New England’s pass catchers shows that Hogan led the team with a 37 percent share of the available air yards. And his Weighted Opportunity Rating (WOPR) tied Rob Gronkowski. Hogan is a player to acquire from any fantasy owner that’s suffering from buyer’s remorse right now.