Week 1 fantasy football winners and losers: Brees, Winston shine

— -- You win some, you lose some.

It's the how you win or lose that makes your Sunday fantasy football experience: that hunch you had to start a rookie quarterback who promptly went off, or that No. 1 pick who unexpectedly let you down.

Each Sunday, we'll 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.


Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: Say hello to our scoring leader from the Sunday 1 p.m. ET game block, as Brees dropped 30 fantasy points on the perceived-by-many-to-be-up-and-coming (including by this columnist) Oakland Raiders defense. It's the 83rd time during his career that Brees has reached the 30-point threshold, second-most in history behind only Peyton Manning's 105.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints: Cooks' performance played a large part in driving Brees' points total, particularly a 98-yard receiving touchdown during the third quarter. It was the longest receiving play in a regular-season or postseason game since Eli Manning and Victor Cruz connected for a 99-yard score during Week 16 of 2011, and it helped Cooks to a career-best 27 fantasy points.

Willie Snead, WR, Saints: Cooks wasn't the only Saints wide receiver who got into the action. Snead had a productive game of his own, setting a new personal best with 23 fantasy points.

Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A preseason breakout pick by many (again, this columnist included), Winston got off to a good start to 2016, scoring 25 fantasy points to finish tied for fourth at his position through the Sunday 4 p.m. ET games. What was particularly unusual about it was the opponent; the Atlanta Falcons, hosts for this contest, typically rein in the passing game, evidenced by the fact that Winston's fantasy point total was the most by any individual quarterback against the Falcons since Aaron Rodgers managed 27 against them in Week 14 of 2014.

It's also a good sign for the second-year signal-caller, in that only six other quarterbacks since 1950 have scored more fantasy points during Week 1 of their sophomore seasons: Cade McNown (33, in 2000), Dan Marino (32, in 1984), Daunte Culpepper (30, in 2000), Phil Simms (29, in 1980), Drew Bledsoe (28, in 1994) and Norm Snead (26, in 1962). In addition, Winston now has 286 fantasy points through his first 17 NFL contests, which places him seventh all time through that many games, behind Cam Newton (364), Robert Griffin (344), Culpepper (324), Kurt Warner (312), Marino (294) and Andrew Luck (288).

Winston's 60.0 percent ownership, and especially his 15.7 percent start percentage during Week 1, in ESPN leagues is certain to rise as a result.

Spencer Ware, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: As expected, Ware got the start in place of the injured Jamaal Charles (knee), and he made it count, his 25 fantasy points matching C.J. Anderson's total from Thursday night for the lead among running backs through the 4 p.m. ET games. Curiously, it was Ware's receiving exploits that fueled his point total, as he caught seven of eight targets for 129 yards, resulting in a 32-point day in leagues that use PPR scoring. That's more targets, catches and receiving yards than Ware had in all 13 of his career games entering the season combined, and it hints that he could be a factor in the receiving game even after Charles' healthy return. Ware, incidentally, is owned in 79.8 percent of ESPN leagues and was started in 57.6 percent.

Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts: Did anyone start Doyle? Heck, does anyone own Doyle? Check the stats: The highest-scoring Week 1 tight end, through the 4 p.m. ET games, was owned in 0.02 percent and started in 0.01 percent, but he scored two critical fourth-quarter touchdowns in the Colts' heartbreaking 39-35 loss.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts: Perhaps all he needed was a full-time opportunity to claim the Colts' tight end targets; Coby Fleener's offseason departure granted Allen that chance entering 2016 (Doyle's Week 1 explosion notwithstanding). It paid off, for Week 1 at least, as Allen's 13 fantasy points set a new personal best, after he had managed only five double-digit efforts in his first 43 career contests, and never more than 12 in a single game (Week 1 of 2014). He remains available in 62.1 percent of ESPN leagues, incidentally, and had the performance that is much, much more sustainable.

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts: Thanks in part to his tight ends' performances, Luck captured the week's top score through the 4 p.m. ET games, tallying 35 fantasy points in what was an expected high-scoring affair against the Detroit Lions. Though Luck already had 12 career games with at least 25 fantasy points to his credit, with six of those coming in his breakthrough 2014 (and most recent fully healthy) campaign alone, this was the first time that he had ever scored this many.

Incidentally, Luck now has 1,040 career fantasy points, in 56 games played. Cam Newton is the only quarterback to score that many through as many career contests; he scored 1,061 fantasy points through his first 56.

Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: Few were so bold as to use Wentz -- he was started in just 2.7 percent of ESPN leagues, and is owned in 10.8 percent -- but his 19 fantasy points on Sunday was still a good start, though granted it came against a bad Cleveland Browns defense. Only 14 other quarterbacks since 1950 managed more fantasy points in their NFL debuts than Wentz.

Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers: How disappointing was his 2015 rookie campaign? Here's one way to quantify it: Gordon's two rushing touchdowns on Sunday were two more than he had in all 14 games in which he played last season. In fact, since 1950, Gordon's 217 total touches without a touchdown in 2015 were tied for seventh-most, behind only Marcel Shipp's 258 in 2003, Adrian Murrell's 242 in 1999, Kevin Faulk's 241 in 2003, Harold Green's 237 in 1993, Preston Carpenter's 220 in 1956 and Jess Phillips' 220 in 1973.

Those scores fueled a 17-point fantasy day for Gordon, which is not only more than he had in any single game in 2015, but also more than he had in any two-game span in 2015 (his two-game best was 14, Weeks 2-3).

Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants: Consider it a win for him even if more from a personal perspective than a significant fantasy storyline, as in his first game since Week 6 of 2014, Cruz caught all four of his targets for nine fantasy points. Cruz is owned in 18.9 percent of ESPN leagues, which should only rise if he keeps this up.


Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: The No. 1 running back selected on average, and No. 3 player overall, in ESPN drafts this preseason, Peterson let his owners down in a major way, scoring only three fantasy points on 19 rushing attempts. That matched his worst fantasy performance in a game with at least that many opportunities; he also had three fantasy points on 19 rushing attempts during Week 5 of 2008. It's a poor first step for Peterson, who at age 31 is trying to become the first player since Thomas Jones in 2009 (221 fantasy points, age 31) to manage a 200-point fantasy season at the age of 31 or older, and the 10th different player to reach that threshold at his age or older. In Peterson's defense, however, it is not the first time he has been held to single-digit fantasy points during Week 1, as he actually did it in 2015 (5 fantasy points) en route to a 217-point final season total.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons: Don't take out all of your frustrations on Peterson; 2015's top-scoring running back, Freeman, had an almost equally disappointing Week 1, with only four fantasy points on 15 touches. Especially disconcerting was that Tevin Coleman, widely regarded as Freeman's backup, had the clearly superior game, with 11 fantasy points of his own (as well as a 16-8 advantage in PPR scoring). Freeman was the No. 5 running back and No. 9 overall player off the board in average ESPN drafts this preseason, and he was started in 99.3 percent of ESPN leagues. Coleman, incidentally, was the No. 50 running back off the board in drafts, is currently owned in only 51.8 percent of leagues and was started in 2.6 percent.

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Bad news on the injury front, as Allen suffered an apparent torn right ACL on a non-contact play on the first snap after the two-minute warning during the first half of Sunday's game. Before departing, Allen had been off to an outstanding start, with six fantasy points (12 in PPR) on seven targets. His season is almost assuredly over, which is devastating news to his owners who helped make him the No. 16 wide receiver off the board during the preseason. (For help with potential replacements, check out Eric Karabell's column Sunday evening.)

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills: Owners in 37.0 percent of ESPN leagues saw Taylor's favorable Week 1 matchup and started him, and those owners received a mere five fantasy points from him. It's only the second time in his past 17 games that he finished in single digits, and in fact was his worst score in any of his 15 NFL starts.

Gary Barnidge, TE, Cleveland Browns: With two of the most heavily owned tight ends, Rob Gronkowski (100.0 percent owned in ESPN leagues) and Tyler Eifert (84.3 percent owned), sitting out Week 1, Barnidge wound up the sixth most-started player at the position (77.7 percent of leagues). Unfortunately, he failed to come down with either of his two targets, his zero representing his worst fantasy performance since Week 17 of the 2014 season.

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys: One of the most buzz-worthy players of the 2016 NFL preseason, Prescott had a forgettable regular-season debut, scoring 10 fantasy points on 45 pass attempts (the third-most attempts by any player through the 4 p.m. ET games). Though his wide receivers hardly did him many favors, Prescott's 16.6 percent start rate in ESPN leagues isn't especially likely to rise in Week 2.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys: He deserves more of the blame for Prescott's pedestrian fantasy point total, as out of his quarterback's 45 pass attempts, Bryant saw five targets and caught only one of them for 8 yards and therefore a big, fat fantasy doughnut. It was only the third time in his career Bryant has been shut out, but bear in mind that both of those were games missed by Tony Romo: Week 12 of 2010 and Week 14 of 2015. In 14 career games Bryant has played during which Romo was entirely absent, Bryant has 103 fantasy points (7.4 average); he has averaged 11.5 fantasy points per game when Romo has participated for at least one snap.

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