By Gene Lesser / Chris Dell
Please Note: the players listed below are owned in 50% or less of ESPN fantasy football leagues
STREAM: Ben Roethlisberger (34.9%) - The veteran Steeler disappointed in his 2021 debut, but the
volume was there with 32 pass attempts and I expect that number to go up this week as he goes up
against a relatively weak and banged up Raiders defense flying across country on a short week. Not to
mention this is the Steelers' home opener, coming off a big upset win in Buffalo in Week 1. In that
matchup, the offensive plan was a bit stagnant and conservative. That's due to change in this matchup, as
I look for this talent-laden offense to really get after it and allow Roethlisberger to put up QB1 numbers.
STASH: Tyrod Taylor (7.0%) - Another veteran takes the QB spotlight for this article in "Tygod," who put up QB1 numbers last week in Houston's route of Jacksonville. The undefeated Texans (I had to say it at least once before it's over) now hit the road to take on the 0-1 Cleveland Browns and come into this Week 2 matchup as nearly two touchdown dogs. That makes for plenty of negative game script for Taylor to improve upon his near 300-yard passing performance from last week as well as pad his 40 rushing yards on four attempts. Forty rushing yards is the equivalent of one entire passing TD, remember that, in addition to the fact Tyrod will face his former team - the Buffalo Bills - in Week 3, where he once put up top 7 fantasy numbers at the quarterback position. We could get borderline top 10 numbers out of Taylor for at least two more weeks and if his rushing continues, possibly for the majority of the regular season.
Honorable Mention: Jameis Winston (49.3%), Kirk Cousins (24.8%), Mac Jones (21.5%), Teddy Bridgewater (9.4%)
STREAM: Latavius Murray (49.0%) - It was Ty’Son Williams who started and impressed first on Monday night football, but it was the veteran Murray who ended up leading the team in rush attempts. Also noteworthy is the fact that it was Murray who was on the field in a close game in the fourth quarter and during overtime. Murray provides coach Harbaugh an experienced and solid presence at a position that's key to their offensive philosophy. The Ravens love to run the ball, and they go up against a terrible rush defense in the Kansas City Chiefs, a defense that just allowed Nick Chubb and his backup Kareem Hunt to run wild on them in Week 1 even in a negative game script for the Cleveland Browns. I believe Murray will have plenty success in this favorable matchup, regardless of the splitting of carries with Ty'Son Williams.
STASH: Kenneth Gainwell (22.7%) - The talented rookie flashed in Week 1, earning 11 total touches to Miles Sanders' 19 and rendering the veteran Boston Scott useless (zero touches). Gainwell's 2021 stock only has room to go up from here, as he was surprisingly (and promisingly) used in both the passing game (3 targets) and the goal line (the only Eagles RB to receive work there). Don't look now, but the Eagles boast one of the league's most fantasy friendly schedules and over the next two months will face potential shootout scenarios while going against the likes of the Cowboys (Week 3), Chiefs, Panthers, Bucs (pass funnel defense), Raiders, Lions and Chargers. Factor in Sanders' history of injury troubles and you could be sitting on a league-winning back that this new coaching regime went out of their way to select in this year's NFL draft. Gainwell can be safely stashed this week, and deployed with confidence in Week 3.
Honorable Mention: Tony Pollard (39.0%), Tony Jones Jr. (18.2%), Cordarrelle Patterson (6.4%), Carlos Hyde (15.9%)
STREAM: Nelson Agholor (38.6%) - Mac Jones under center has really opened up this Patriots offense, and Nelson Agholor was one of the beneficiaries of the QB change in Week 1 against a formidable Dolphins secondary in tying for second in targets and projecting to be an integral part of this passing attack moving forward. I expect the Patriots to let Jones continue air it out more and more as the season progresses, and that will only benefit this wide receiving group, one that seems to be spearheaded by Agholor out wide and Meyers in the slot. Next up for him is a favorable matchup against a relatively poor and injured-riddled New York Jets defense in Week 2. Start him with confidence as your WR3/flex here.
STASH: Sammy Watkins (24.3%) - Sammy Watkins looked good, to say the least, in his debut for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1 and wound up leading the team with eight total targets as well as making a beautiful 49-yard catch in the process. The Ravens and Lamar Jackson desperately needed weapons at the wide receiver position in 2021, and they may have found that in Watkins while the rookie Rashod Bateman recovers from his injury and stint on IR. Next up for Watkins is a "revenge game" matchup against his former team in a game that has shootout written all over it on primetime (Sunday Night Football). Watkins should continue to rack up the points as a top WR weapon in his Ravens home debut and while he's certainly a strong streamer in Week 2, he gets an absolute dream matchup with the Lions' secondary in Week 3, one in which the Ravens' offense could be 0-2 and go absolutely nuclear for the win.
Honorable Mention: Rondale Moore (19.5%), Christian Kirk (22.3%), Tim Patrick (10.8%), Emmanuel Sanders (18.4%), Bryan Edwards (16.9%), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (4.0%), KJ Hamler (3.1%), K.J. Osborn (0.9%), Cedrick Wilson (0.5%), Hunter Renfrow (5.3%)
STREAM: Jared Cook (43.6%) - It was an impressive debut for the veteran tight end, as he caught five of eight targets for 56 yards against a tough Washington defense and continued to display the quick chemistry he's developed with second-year QB Justin Herbert. Next up is a favorable matchup against a Cowboys defense riddled with injuries which had trouble containing the Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski just one week ago. Herbert’s new weapon should have no trouble topping meeting and exceeding last week’s performance in a potential shootout with Dallas' high-powered offense on the other side.
STASH: Cole Kmet (26.0%) - Tight ends typically don't break out in year two, but we could be looking at an exception in Kmet as he emerges as the Chicago Bears' clear second option in the passing game. Kmet tied Darnell Mooney with seven targets in Week 1, hauling in five catches for 42 yards and completely took over the snaps and routes run over Jimmy Graham at the top of the Bears' TE depth chart. Kmet gets a nice matchup this week against Cincinnati at home, and if he continues to build on his Week 1 performance then look out. After this Sunday he'll face the Browns, Lions, Raiders and Packers and could see an extra bump in usage once Fields comes under center, which we expect sooner rather than later.
Honorable Mention: Hunter Henry (40.1%), Gerald Everett (13.2%), Tyler Conklin (3.2%), Dalton Schultz (2.9%)
STREAM: Green Bay Packers (22.7%) - After an atrocious performance on the road against Saints, this unit is back home against one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in the NFL in Jared Goff. Not to mention, this Green Bay Packers offense will be looking to get back on track and light the scoreboard up after an abysmal performance last week. If successful, it will force Goff to go throw for throw with Rodgers and provide this defensive unit with plenty of opportunities for turnovers. Let's not overthink this one and allow our Week 1 bias' to creep in off such a small sample size. Stream Green Bay confidently in Week 2.
STASH: Arizona Cardinals (23.7%) - It's befuddling to see the current #1 D/ST still on waivers in more than 75% of leagues after its dominating performance over a much-hyped Tennessee Titans offense in Week 1, but that's exactly the case here with the Cardinals defense. Arizona is led by a premier pass rusher in Chandler Jones (five sacks in week one) with a healthy JJ Watt and young potential stars in Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, among others. The Cardinals' 10th ranked defensive line, according to Brandon Thorne from Establish The Run, faces the 21st ranked Vikings o-line in Week 2 and then get a juicy matchup with the reeling Jaguars and Urban Meyers' traveling clown show in Week 3. The stash is for next week against a rookie QB/inexperienced head coach, but Arizona is certainly streamable this weekend vs. MIN as well.
Honorable Mention: Seahawks (9.5%), Bengals (6.3%), Bears (10.0%), Chiefs (9.5%)