Week 1 of the NFL season was a cruel time for fantasy owners. Tom Brady kicked it off with a lame duck performance against the Chiefs. Odell Beckham Jr. was a late-scratch on Sunday Night Football. Perennial top draft picks Le’Veon Bell, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Rob Gronkowski vastly under performed. Even late round “steals” such as Martavis Bryant, Ameer Abdullah, Jimmy Graham, Tyler Eifert, and Brandon Marshall didn’t instill much hope for owners that invested in them.
And then there were the quarterbacks – namely Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning and the aforementioned Touchdown Tommy – that failed to get anything going offensively. All of these players hurt countless teams, but nothing shook the fantasy world harder than the news of David Johnson's dislocated wrist – which could cost him significant time.
The consensus No. 1 overall selection in fantasy football this year, Johnson was looking to build upon a 2016 season in which he accrued over 2,000 all-purpose yards. Johnson’s ability as a dual-threat back is well-documented. He’s a talented ball carrier, but what separates him is his ability to run routes out of the backfield. Arizona’s offense is predicated on getting Johnson the ball in open space, and they rely on him to make plays all over the field.
Johnson suffered the injury late in a 35-23 loss to the Detroit Lions. Team officials are looking to get a second opinion for Johnson’s wrist, but initial reports aren’t very promising. A timeline will become clearer as the week progresses, but don’t expect Johnson to be scoring your fantasy team points anytime soon.
In the meantime, it’s likely the Cardinals will fall back on a running back by committee approach. No one player can replace Johnson’s production, and Arizona doesn’t exactly have any blue-chippers waiting in the wings. Kerwynn Williams is a name to follow that will be available in most leagues, as he was the one that ended up scoring the team’s lone offensive touchdown after Johnson checked out of the game. Former relevant fantasy running back Andre Ellington will likely see some action in passing situations, and could be looked at in deeper PPR formats.
Having said all that, Arizona isn’t necessarily a team to buy a lot of stock in while Johnson is sidelined. Palmer looked abysmal even when Johnson was on the field, and a team whose best offensive player is a 34-year old receiver can’t be relied upon.
For Johnson owners, seeking a trade or scouring the waiver wire for a respectable replacement is your best bet. Buying low on underperforming Week 1 running backs like Devonta Freeman or Jordan Howard could be in play. As for free agency, Jacquizz Rodgers is still available in 42-percent of Yahoo Leagues and is slated to be the starter in Tampa Bay while Doug Martin serves his three-game suspension. James White is available in half of all leagues, and was New England’s main bell cow in their loss to Kansas City.
Owners in PPR-leagues have a bit more leeway, and could look to add highly-targeted receivers like Shane Vereen (83-percent available in Yahoo), Theo Riddick (45-percent available), or Tarik Cohen (86-percent available). Either way, it’s going to be near impossible to replace Johnson’s production, but a crafty owner can figure out a way to get it done.
Johnson wasn’t the only major player that suffered a severe injury in Week 1 – Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson looks to be done for the season with a torn ACL. Robinson exited the game in the first quarter after recording just one catch. With QB Blake Bortles losing his top option, look for an uptick in usage for Allen Hurns and Marquise Lee.
It was a tough week for football fans and players as a whole this week, and we wish both Johnson and Robinson the speediest of recoveries.