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Week 2 fantasy football winners and losers

Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady posted another pair of strong fantasy performances on Sunday. 

Don’t make Tom angry. You wouldn’t like Tom when he’s angry.

On second thought, fantasy players most certainly would like Tom Brady when he’s angry — or in this case, reeling from an embarrassing, unexpected loss in the Thursday night Week 1 opener — as we’re the ones who reap the statistical rewards. Brady lit up the New Orleans Saints’ defense, leading his New England Patriots to a 36-20 victory in which he managed 30.8 fantasy points — best-among the early Sunday games.

Predictably, you can expect to see a lot of Patriots on the “winning” side of this week’s column.

As we do each week, we recap the week’s winners and losers from a fantasy perspective, complete with applicable game and historical data. Check back after the conclusion of the 1 and 4 p.m. ET (and, when applicable, Sunday Night Football) games for our picks of the week’s best and worst.

Winners

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: This represents the 18th time in Brady’s career that he has scored at least 30 fantasy points in a game. That’s the second-most such performances by any player, behind only Drew Brees’ 20. Remarkably, Brady’s game could have looked much different depending on how things played out, as he could have had as many as two additional passing touchdowns if not for a drop by Rob Gronkowski and an underthrown pass, and he could have had two interceptions if not for those plays being called back by penalties. Brady was the most-started quarterback of Week 2, active in 97.5 percent of ESPN leagues, and with good reason. There was little cause to doubt his ability after the opener, and this should silence any doubters.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: Another week, another big game by the rookie. Comparatively speaking, a 25.9 PPR fantasy point total probably looks like a comedown from his stunning, 45.6 point opening-week effort, but it earned Hunt the top score among running backs in the Sunday 1 p.m. ET block. It also gave him 63.5 non-PPR and 71.5 PPR fantasy points through his first two career games, both of which are second-most by any player at any position since 1950, trailing only Billy Sims’ 74.5 and 78.5 scored in 1980 Weeks 1-2. Hunt went from being started in 69.8 percent of ESPN leagues in the opener to 96.2 percent in Week 2, and with his speed and receiving ability, he’ll be rightfully regarded a weekly RB1 going forward.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders: For only the third time in his 113-game NFL career, Crabtree reached the 30-point plateau in PPR fantasy scoring, and for the second time, he scored three touchdowns in a game. He was a perfect 6-for-6 catching his targets en route to leading all players through the Sunday 4 p.m. ET games. While Crabtree’s fantasy managers who drafted him 36th overall (37.3 ADP) in the preseason were surely pleased, Amari Cooper‘s were not. After all, they drafted Cooper 23rd (23.4 ADP) and have gotten 20.8 fewer PPR fantasy points out of him (45.3 for Crabtree, 24.5 Cooper) on five more targets (18 for Cooper, 13 Crabtree), with Cooper leading the seasonal red zone target battle 4-2.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos: There’s the C.J. Anderson we saw during the final eight weeks of 2014! Anderson’s 27.4 non-PPR fantasy points represented his second-best single-game score (28.7, 2014 Week 17), and his 30.4 PPR fantasy points were best among running backs through Sunday’s 4 p.m. ET games and his third-best single-game effort. He was started in 64.9 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 2, but with his tallying 45 carries to Jamaal Charles’ 19 in the season’s first two weeks, Anderson is likely to see that number increase come Week 3.
Ty Montgomery, RB, Green Bay Packers: For the second consecutive week, he managed a top-eight score at his position in PPR formats, posting 29.0 PPR fantasy points after managing 19.3 in the opener. The 29.0 are his second-best single-game total in his 23 career NFL games, trailing only his 30.3 in 2016 Week 15, and they gave him a running back-leading 114.3 non-PPR and 142.3 PPR fantasy points in the past six regular-season weeks (since 2016 Week 14). Montgomery, started in 85.6 percent of ESPN leagues, has been reaping the benefits of a much larger role than expected, giving him a good chance at RB1 production in 2017.
Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: That’s two weeks of productive fantasy point totals, as Wentz followed up his fifth-best-among-quarterbacks 18.9 of Week 1 with a career-high 24.8 points on Sunday. He also has back-to-back 300-yard passing efforts, a feat he only accomplished once during his rookie season in 2016 (Weeks 13-14). Wentz faces his toughest test yet in Week 3, battling the New York Giants‘ defense, but he has emerged as a clear weekly starter in 2QB formats, and he’s developing into one of the stronger streaming choices in standard leagues — although you’ll probably want to avoid that matchup next week in those.
Javorius Allen, RB, Baltimore Ravens: Danny Woodhead’s fill-in had one of the most productive fantasy scores of Week 2, and don’t overlook that Allen paced the Ravens’ backfield with 14 carries to Terrance West’s 8 and Alex Collins’ 7. The result was 21.1 PPR and 16.1 non-PPR fantasy points, both of which were the third-best totals in his career. Yes, game flow probably had something to do with Allen’s rushing usage, but that’s now the second consecutive week that was the case, signaling the team’s interest in keeping West’s workload in check, and West’s 2.8 yards per carry paled in comparison to Allen’s 4.7. Allen might now be one of Week 3’s most-added players — rightfully so — in the 59.3 percent of ESPN leagues in which he remains available. To those considering him, be aware that he was the No. 4 running back in terms of PPR fantasy points (117.0) and No. 9 in non-PPR (79.0) during the second half of the 2015 season (Weeks 10-17).
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs: The top-scoring tight end during Sunday’s 1 p.m. ET block, Kelce scored 24.3 PPR fantasy points, including a 15-yard receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter that put his Chiefs ahead for good. This was his fourth game with at least 20 fantasy points in his past 12 in the regular season, and it helped him extend his position lead in the category since the beginning of the 2016 campaign (256.7).
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: Before departing with a groin injury, Gronkowski was one of Sunday’s most productive fantasy players — and be aware that he cost himself 9.2 PPR fantasy points on a costly drop in the end zone early in the game. Nevertheless, he managed 23.6 PPR fantasy points, good for second-best at his position during the Sunday 1 p.m. ET block.
Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams: Are we so sure Gurley is a sell-high candidate? After he finished Week 1 with a noteworthy 2.1 yards-per-carry average, his Week 2 mark of 5.5 is a welcome sight to fantasy players. His 23.6 non-PPR and 26.6 PPR fantasy points ranked second-most among running backs through the 4 p.m. ET games, and were the third-best single-game efforts of his career as well as his most since 2015 Week 14 (26.7 and 27.7). That’s not to say that Gurley’s stock rose significantly as a result of his Week 2 effort — he was already highly valued — but there’s still plenty of reason to believe he could challenge for a top-10 finish among running backs in 2017.
Chris Thompson, RB, Washington Redskins: Say hello to one of the most underrated players in PPR leagues, as Thompson is remarkably rostered in 43.9 percent of ESPN leagues despite his scoring the 28th-most points among running backs (147.5) and the 12th-most in Week 1 (15.6). He upped the bar on Sunday, setting new career highs with 25.6 PPR and 22.6 non-PPR fantasy points. If he’s still out there in your league, you can be sure he won’t be by next Sunday.
J.J. Nelson, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Who’d have guessed that Nelson would be the highest-scoring wide receiver during Sunday’s 1 p.m. ET block? Not many people, as evidenced by his 7.5 percent start rate in ESPN leagues. That was still quite a jump from his 0.6 percent rate in Week 1, even if it made some sense after the team scratched John Brown (quadriceps). His 23.0 PPR fantasy points were the third-best numbers in his career, and his 18.0 non-PPR fantasy points were fifth-best. Nelson has the speed to be a good risk/reward play in your WR3 slot when the matchup calls, so consider him among your Week 3 pickups.
Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots: He was another success story from the Patriots’ game, scoring 18.8 PPR fantasy points, the third-most in his career. Hogan was started in 38.5 percent of ESPN leagues, and he should continue to benefit from a healthy target total if Danny Amendola (inactive, concussion) struggles to recover quickly.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans: The Titans-Jacksonville Jaguars game was yet another of those classic “fantasy fails,” a 37-9 Titans victory in which once fantasy owners checked the box score, they realized that practically none of the Titans’ more prominent names contributed a big score. Henry’s was the one that stood out, as he managed 15.2 PPR fantasy points, the fourth time in his past seven regular-season games that he has scored in double digits, and he out-carried DeMarco Murray (14-6) for the second time in his past three regular-season games. Kudos to those of you in the 1.5 percent of ESPN leagues who were so bold as to start Henry. (Side note: Jonnu Smith, who scored 11.0 PPR fantasy points, was started in 0 percent of leagues.)

Losers

Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears: Though he played on Sunday despite being listed as questionable with a shoulder injury, Howard never got anything going and finished with a miserable 0.7 fantasy points — PPR or non-PPR — on just nine carries. It was easily the worst performance of his 17-game NFL career, and it was of particular concern because his backup, Tarik Cohen, managed another 15 total touches and 12.8 PPR fantasy points. Howard was started in 83.6 percent of ESPN leagues, a rate that is likely to drop in Week 3 with his role beginning to come into question.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys: For the first time in his NFL career of 17 games, Elliott was held to single-digit fantasy points, his 6.2 PPR and 2.2 non-PPR points easily the worst numbers of his career so far. He was started in 99.4 percent of ESPN leagues, which was actually up by more than 3 percent from his Week 1 number (96.2) despite his facing the Broncos’ defense.
Jaguars defense: What a mess their game was, as the Jaguars D/ST, started in 53.1 percent of ESPN leagues after they tied for the leading score at the position in Week 1 (29, tied with the Los Angeles Rams), finished the 1 p.m. ET block with the second-fewest fantasy points (minus-1). That said, there remain three more favorable matchups (than this one) for this defense coming up: at New York Jets (Week 4), versus Los Angeles Rams (Week 6), at Indianapolis Colts (Week 7). So exercise some patience with this squad, and don’t discard it as a streaming option.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: Although an 11.8 point fantasy score might not seem devastating on the surface, Newton’s performance on Sunday represented a second consecutive in which he fell short of expectations. After all, he’s still being started in a significant percentage of ESPN leagues — 71.3 percent, to be exact. In Newton’s two games since recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, he has now scored the 25th- (13.1, Week 1) and 12th-fewest fantasy points in his 95 career NFL starts, continuing to raise the question about his health. Things do get better for Newton in Week 3, as he’ll battle a New Orleans Saints defense that has served up 56.3 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks through two weeks, but he’ll be heavily scrutinized if he can’t reverse his performance facing that matchup.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Eagles: Though the Eagles had hinted at a possibly reduced role for him in Week 2, his fantasy managers couldn’t have forecasted he wouldn’t garner a single carry on Sunday. Blount, who was started in 26.3 percent of ESPN leagues, scored only 1 PPR fantasy point, that entirely the result of his one catch. It was his worst performance since 2015 Week 7 (minus-0.3 points in either format), and it’s most disconcerting because it hints at a reduction of his role to only short-yardage and possible goal-line work.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Saints: For the second consecutive week, Peterson was used in a limited role, following up his 1.8 PPR fantasy points of Week 1 with 2.6 on Sunday. Those now represent his third- and fourth-worst single-game performances in his 125-game NFL career. Saints coach Sean Payton is clearly using a committee approach in his backfield, and those who drafted Peterson need to re-evaluate him as more of a borderline flex play when the matchup is right.
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills: After his 15.3 PPR fantasy point performance in the opener, Clay became one of the week’s more popular pickups, his ownership percentage going from 10.0 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 1 to 33.7 percent on Sunday. Thankfully, he was started in only 17.7 percent, perhaps recognizing his challenging matchup, which resulted in a mere 2.3 non-PPR and 5.3 PPR fantasy points for Clay.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks: If you blinked, you missed his fantasy contribution to Week 2. Graham managed just one catch on his two targets for 1.1 PPR (and 0.1 non-PPR) fantasy points, his worst single-game score since 2014 Week 13 (0.0) and the ninth-worst score of his 107 career NFL games. He was started in 86.2 percent of ESPN leagues, making him one of the five most started at his position.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets: His situation couldn’t be much more frustrating, as per Pro Football Focus’ Nathan Jahnke, Powell played just 17 snaps on Sunday, nine fewer than Matt Forte, explaining Powell’s mere 1.3 fantasy points (in either format). Powell touched the football half as often in Week 2 (6) as he did in the opener (12), letting down the 29.4 percent of managers in ESPN leagues who started him. That’s two consecutive weeks in which Forte has been used more prominently of the two, out-snapping Powell 63-47 in the process. Unfortunately, while it’s probable that Powell will improve over the course of the year, mainly because he’s the younger player of the two and therefore more likely to hold up, the Jets’ weak offense caps much of his rushing upside. He’s a flex-play candidate at best.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Many fantasy players figured Fitzgerald would play a huge part for the Cardinals in the wake of David Johnson’s injury, evidenced by his 91.7 percent start rate in ESPN leagues, he managed just 5.1 PPR fantasy points (and 2.1 in non-PPR). In 204 career NFL games, only 19 times did he have a lower score.

Mike Wallace, WR, Baltimore Ravens: For only the third time in his career, Wallace was held to one catch or fewer in consecutive games — note that he had a five-game streak during 2015 Weeks 8-12 — as he followed up his-1.8 point PPR effort of Week 1 with a mere 1.7 PPR fantasy points on Sunday. While Wallace — and for the most part the Ravens’ passing game — hasn’t needed to do much while leading for a large portion of each of their games, it’s a troubling development nevertheless considering Jeremy Maclin has scored touchdowns in back-to-back games to begin his Ravens career while earning nine targets to Wallace’s four in those contests.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots: One of the most started wide receivers in fantasy in Week 2, as Cooks was active in 97.6 percent of ESPN leagues, Cooks was a total dud in his return to New Orleans on Sunday. He managed just 6.3 PPR fantasy points, his seventh-worst single-game output in 44 career contests. Cooks was targeted on just four of Brady’s 45 pass attempts, which seems more like an aberration than trend.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins: Like Newton, Cousins’ 11.9 fantasy point output wasn’t catastrophic, but it still placed him outside the top 15 at his position in a week during which he was started in 53.4 percent of ESPN leagues. Worse yet: Cousins scored that on the heels of a 10.6 point opening week, and he has showed little in the way of chemistry with any of his wide receivers. Things should improve for him in Week 3, as he’ll battle the Raiders in a home game, but he’s going to need to rebound in a major way in that game in order to avoid sinking into the “streaming” tier.

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