Fantasy football analyst Sal Vetri will use this space to deliver his keys to victory every week of the 2023 NFL season.
Finding No. 1: The best (RB) spot of the week belongs to Rachaad White
He saw elite usage in Week 1. White was the clear three-down back, playing 79% of the snaps and earning 19 touches. Only two RBs earned a higher snap rate in 2022.
White showed great improvement as a pass-blocker, which will keep him on the field more. This week the Bucs are a three-point favorite at home against the Bears. In similar spots, starting RBs with this type of usage average over 14 fantasy points.
Remember, this Bears team allowed Aaron Jones to post 127 yards on just 11 touches in Week 1.
Finding No. 2: The sketchy spot of the week is Packers vs. Falcons
This game features two of the bottom three neutral pass rate teams from Week 1. This means, when the game was close, these two teams chose to run significantly more than they passed. This is concerning for fantasy because it leads to fewer overall plays as the play clock continues to run.
The slower pace of play is reflected in the Vegas total. It’s one of the lowest on the week at just 40 points. All three RBs (Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier and AJ Dillon) are playable from this game — with Aaron Jones expected to be sidelined with a hamstring injury — but I’d avoid starting any of the WRs. Luke Musgrave and Kyle Pitts are fine to use as we are mostly just looking for a TD at the TE position.
Finding No. 3: The Pick Up & Play is Kendrick Bourne
Bourne ran 93% of the Patriots' routes in Week 1 and was the clear WR1 for Mac Jones. Bourne earned 11 total targets and was targeted on third or fourth down five times.
He flashed some serious fantasy cheat-code usage. Those cheat codes for a WR are red-zone targets and downfield usage. Bourne ranked seventh in downfield usage in Week 1 and earned two red-zone targets.
The Patriots surprisingly threw at a top-five rate when the game was close, and Jones looked much better in this new Bill O’Brien offense. All of this is good news for Bourne, who is a top-24 WR for Week 2.
Finding No. 4: James Cook is trending up
He operated as the Bills' primary back in Week 1. Cook played 61% of the snaps and earned a strong 18 opportunities. Backup RBs Damien Harris and Latavius Murray combined for just seven opportunities.
His Week 1 matchup was tough against the Jets who put up the third-best defensive grade of Week 1. This week, however, he takes on the Raiders as a 10-point favorite. As mentioned in the White blurb, starting RBs in similar matchups average 14 fantasy points.
Finding No. 5: Khalil Herbert is trending down
Herbert saw just 36% of the snaps in Week 1 but this is a bit skewed. He actually saw 55% of the first-half snaps but then lost snaps in the second half as the Bears trailed by two scores.
Rookie Roschon Johnson took these snaps. Johnson appears to be the passing down back. He played 67% of the third-down snaps and posted a team-high seven targets. D’Onta Foreman was also involved early in the game. He earned 28% of the snaps and eight opportunities.
Then there’s Justin Fields. He continued to be the Bears' leading rusher with nine carries for 59 yards.
After Week 1, it’s clear this Chicago team, and Fields, hasn’t improved all that much. The Bears will likely trail often this year. Based on Week 1, this would mean fewer Herbert snaps and more Johnson. The news Sunday morning that Foreman is expected to be a healthy scratch is another sign Johnson is on the rise.
Finding No. 6: Joshua Kelley a must-start
Austin Ekeler is dealing with an ankle injury that will keep him out in Week 2, which means Joshua Kelley instantly becomes a top-12 running back this week.
Kelley played 45% of the snaps in Week 1 and split the backfield evenly with Ekeler. Both backs earned 16 carries and Kelley was efficient on these touches. He earned 5.7 yards per touch, which would have ranked top-five last season.
The Chargers ran the ball significantly more under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Kelley would have been a FLEX option if Ekeler played, but now becomes your RB1.
Finding No. 7: A concerning sign in LA
The high run rate for the Chargers is good for their running backs, but it’s awful news for the passing game. In Week 1, the Chargers threw at the lowest rate in the league in neutral situations. This means when the game was close, they ran at the highest rate in the NFL. For comparison, in 2022 the Chargers threw at the fourth-highest rate in the league.
If this continues, it would significantly tank the upside and outlook of Justin Herbert, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. For example, the Chargers played in a game that had 70 combined points in Week 1.
Despite the high-scoring environment, Herbert threw for just 228 yards.
Finding No. 8: A new star WR
Michael Pittman Jr. scored the eighth-most WR points on the 15th-best usage in Week 1. This far exceeds the WR30 range he was being drafted at this summer. This production is likely to continue because the Colts ranked seventh in neutral pass rate.
They were passing at a top-10 rate during close-game situations, dropping back to pass 68% of the time. This is higher than the preseason expectations for this offense, but it’s not shocking. Head coach Shane Steichen did the exact same thing with Jalen Hurts and the Eagles last season.
In Week 1, Pittman ran a route on 98% of the Colts' passing plays, leading to 11 total targets.
Here’s the fun part: 89% of these targets were catchable. Pretty dang good for the inaccurate college QB in Anthony Richardson. This speaks to how good of a coach Steichen is.
Finding No. 9: The middle-round star
David Montgomery may already be the best middle-round pick in fantasy. He’s a top-10 running back this week after his elite usage in Week 1.
He earned 77% of the snaps, leading to 21 touches. This is the role we expected out of the bigger, 220-plus-pound back.
Now, here’s the thing: While he had a solid 13.4 points in Week 1, things should only improve moving forward.
He only averaged 3.5 yards per carry in Week 1. This isn’t likely to remain this low as the Lions' O-line ranked top-five in run blocking in Week 1. Montgomery also saw zero targets. In fact, the Lions RBs combined for just TWO total targets. This is surely to go up as Jared Goff targets his RBs closer to 20%+ of the time; it was just 7% in Week 1.
Expect Jahmyr Gibbs to earn more work moving forward, but this is Montgomery’s backfield on early downs and in the red zone.
Finding 10: The QB dream
Trevor Lawrence finds himself in the same spot that Tua Tagovailoa was in last week. Lawrence is a 3.5-point underdog with a 50.5-point game total. This is the best game environment of the week.
Historically, the best spot to target QBs is when they’re slight underdogs in big game totals. It often leads to more pass attempts. Higher pass attempts correlate most with fantasy production. Last week, in this exact same scenario, Tagovailoa produced 466 pass yards and was the QB1 on the week with 28.1 points.