After a long summer, the NFL finally returned last week, as did millions of fantasy leagues across America and beyond. Some of the week’s stars came via the usual suspects like Tyreek Hill and Christian McCaffrey, continuing to be the great fantasy performers they’ve been for years.
However, as always, there were a few surprises, with big weeks for the likes of Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers, two guys not necessarily high up on many draft boards this year.
Going into Week 2, we’re going to look at eight NFL receivers from across the league and talk about whether or not you should put them in your lineup this week or leave them on the bench.
AJ Brown (Eagles vs. Vikings)
First, we have a two-time Pro Bowler, AJ Brown of the Philadelphia Eagles. Brown had a decent game in New England on Sunday, with 79 yards from seven catches, as the Eagles ground out a solid, if not eye-catching, win over a good defensive unit.
This week, we see Brown having a better time of it. This week’s opponents, the Minnesota Vikings, had the 2nd worst passing defense in the league last season, giving up nearly 300 yards a game.
It’s not hard to imagine Brown having a field day against Minnesota’s new-look secondary and racking up big plays all Thursday night. And while DeVonta Smith can expect his share of targets, Brown remains the number one guy in Philly as he sets about repeating last season’s near 1,500-yard effort.
Chris Olave (Saints vs. Panthers)
Last season’s 11th overall pick, Chris Olave, had a stellar rookie season, with 1,042 yards for the Saints, and on Sunday against the Titans, he showed no signs of slowing down. Olave picked up 112 yards off eight receptions in his first game with Derek Carr under center and appeared to be Carr’s favorite target despite the return of Michael Thomas.
Any new QB-WR partnership can expect to have teething problems, but Carr and Olave appear to have hit the ground running so far, and Monday night could be a further showcase of that against an average-at-best Panthers defense.
With Alvin Kamara still suspended and the Saints unable to get the running game going well on Sunday, expect another pass-reliant game in Carolina, with Olave continuing to establish himself as the number 1 receiver in the offense.
Calvin Ridley (Jaguars vs. Chiefs)
Calvin Ridley made his long-awaited return to the NFL on Sunday in Indianapolis and immediately reminded fans of what they had been missing last year. Ridley scored the game’s opening touchdown and finished the game on 101 yards as his new team in Jacksonville enjoyed a week one victory.
Ridley was brought in as a number-one receiver as the Jags aim to reach the next level this year. So far, Trevor Lawrence seems to agree, as the Alabama alumnus was targeted 11 times more than any other Jaguar during the game.
Ridley showed no signs of rustiness against the Colts, but we imagine he will steadily improve as the year progresses and he rediscovers his 2020 form. We will predict another big showing against Kansas City, who underwhelmed in week one and allowed Jared Goff to pick his way down the field.
Brandon Aiyuk (49ers vs. Rams)
The 49ers were one of the most impressive sides in Week 1, brushing aside the Pittsburgh Steelers in a match Vegas had down as a three-point game. Part of the reason for that was an impressive showing from Brandon Aiyuk, who had a two-touchdown game and 129 yards through the air from eight receptions.
Aiyuk’s two touchdowns both came in the first half as the Niners took a 20-0 lead early on, and they will be hoping to do something similar this week against their divisional rivals, the LA Rams. The Rams’ defense fared well last week against Seattle, but this San Francisco unit is entirely different.
Future first-ballot Hall of Famer Aaron Donald could limit the 49ers on the ground, meaning Purdy is more likely to turn to his receiving threats in this one. With George Kittle listed as questionable for Sunday, don’t be surprised to see Aiyuk’s number being dialed slightly more in this one.
George Pickens (Steelers vs. Browns)
Pittsburgh was a major Week 1 disappointment; getting blown out at home and only putting up 239 total yards as an impressive San Francisco side shut them down. George Pickens was held to just 36 yards on Sunday from five catches as the Steelers offense stuttered through the contest.
Pickens’ position on the depth chart is unclear, as Allen Robinson had one more target on Sunday than the former Bulldog. While Diontae Johnson is doubtful, this might not translate to more balls thrown Pickens’ way, and against a Browns defense that held Joe Burrow to 82 yards last week – he might not be the guy for your team at the weekend.
Zay Flowers (Ravens vs. Bengals)
Flowers had a decent NFL debut on Sunday afternoon, although it should be noted his 78 yards from 9 catches did come against one of the league’s very weakest sides in the Houston Texans. This week is a more challenging prospect against AFC North holders, the Cincinnati Bengals, and we’re not predicting Flowers to be quite as productive.
One crucial reason for this is the expected return of Mark Andrews. Andrews is one of the league’s premier tight ends when healthy and has been one of Lamar Jackson’s favorite targets over his time in Baltimore. This, coupled with the potential ascension of Odell Beckham Jr. as a real threat in this offense, will likely lead to a reduced workload for Flowers this week. Keep an eye on him as the season progresses, however.
Garrett Wilson (Jets vs. Cowboys)
Given the Monday night events in New Jersey, it’s not a huge surprise to see Garrett Wilson here this week. Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending (career-ending?) injury has led to an entire re-think of expectations at MetLife, with the much-maligned Zach Wilson looking like the Week 2 starter.
Garrett Wilson is an excellent receiver, but with such a substantial downgrade at quarterback, it’s impossible not to feel that his fantasy stock has gone down this week. His opponents in week 2 are the Dallas Cowboys defense, arguably the best in the league, who carried out a four-quarter beatdown on Sunday night against New York’s other side.
With all this in mind, I’d consider other options at receiver this week, as this could get ugly for the Jets.
Terry McLaurin (Commanders vs. Broncos)
Finally, we come to ‘scary’ Terry McLaurin, Washington’s top receiver in the last four seasons. McLaurin had a quiet Week 1 against Arizona, with just two catches for 31 yards through the air, as new Commanders starting quarterback Sam Howell shared the ball throughout the 20-16 victory at FedEx Field.
In theory, McLaurin is WR1 on the depth chart, but with the potential rise of Jahan Dotson and the constant presence of Curtis Samuel, last week’s game could be a sign of things to come as a relatively evenly spread receiving corps. Add in an impressive Denver defense, which held Las Vegas to 261 total yards last week, and we believe this week could be another quiet one for McLaurin.
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