Week 1 of the NFL Season is in the books, which means it’s time to reassess our view on players. Week 1 is always the hardest. We spend months looking at rosters, watching tape on players, and projecting how we think things will work out. Sometimes the pre-season offers enough of a glimpse to confirm or disabuse us of our notions, but often it’s not until the real games begin.
As will be the case throughout the season, I’ll be taking stock of what we’ve learned each week. I’ll be offering one player per position—QB, RB, WR, and TE—who improved their stock and one who saw their stock slip. For those trying to win now and those playing the long game, it’s important to pounce at the right time. So, without further ado, here’s Week 1 of the Dynasty Stock Watch.
Stock Up: Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
About: The Saints 38-3 win over the Green Bay Packers was, perhaps, the biggest surprise of Week 1. It’s been a full season since we’ve seen Winston start a game, and it was fair to wonder what he’d be like in New Orleans, a team that is thin at receiver, to say the least. But Winston looked great, going 14-for-20 for 148 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions. He finished as QB4 on the week, and the Saints got a huge win. Taking over for a legend is never easy, but Winston made it look like it was in Week 1. I was skeptical he’d thrive in New Orleans, and it’s only been a week, but when last we saw him, Winston was a Top 10 fantasy option. It looks like he could be again despite a lack of weapons.
Stock Down: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
About: We knew the Falcons wouldn’t be a good team in 2021, but the expectation was their offense would be fun to watch. The Falcons were indeed bad in Week 1, getting blown out by the Eagles in a 32-6 loss. But the offense struggled. Despite the presence of Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts, Ryan finished 21-for-25 for 164 yards and no touchdowns. He had just eight yards rushing, too, as he’s not much of a runner. That had him finishing a woeful QB30 for Week 1. The Atlanta offense as a whole looked rough, and Week 1 against a middling defense suggests it might be more of a struggle this season than expected. Ryan’s appeal was his solid QB2 numbers with QB1 upside. We didn’t see that this week, and it’s fair to wonder if it’s a sign of things to come in 2021.
Stock Up: Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers
About: While it can sometimes be hard to handicap, you always want a piece of the 49ers’ backfield. After going in the Third Round of the 2021 NFL Draft, it seemed like Trey Sermon was the rookie to roster in San Francisco. But he was a surprise inactive for Week 1 while Sixth Round selection Elijah Mitchell was good to go. When Raheem Mostert was injured, Mitchell was the next man up in San Francisco. He carried 19 times for 104 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown run. He finished as RB15 on the day in PPR despite not having a single reception. Mostert is out a while, as is Jeff Wilson. Sermon could be in the mix, but for the time being, it looks like those who bet on Mitchell in the Third-and-Fourth Round of dynasty rookie drafts are getting a huge return on investment. He’s likely to be the top waiver claim, too.
Stock Down: Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers
About: I’m not particularly eager to kick a man when he’s down, but it’s not looking good for Mostert and those who roster him. He’s always been a decent producer on the field. On Sunday, he started the game and had 20 yards on two carries. Mostert’s issue has been that he can’t stay on the field, which proved true again as he left with a knee injury. Now, he’s out for eight weeks. The 49ers already seemed to be preparing for the future, drafting Sermon and Mitchell with Mostert in a contract year. Missing the bulk of the season, he likely won’t provide much of a return in 2021. For those with Mostert on a dynasty roster, the best hope seems to be he lands in a good spot for 2022 but right now, it looks like he might be a sunk asset.
Stock Up: Corey Davis, New York Jets
About: Corey Davis signed a splashy free-agent deal with the Jets after a solid 2020 in Tennessee. Much of the off-season focused on other Jets’ assets, specifically rookie Elijah Moore. But when opening day arrived, Davis looked like the No. 1 in New York. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson got off to a slow start, but he connected with Davis for two touchdowns in the second half. Davis finished with five receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets, tied for the most on the team. He finished as WR5 for the week and looked like a good fit in the offense.
Stock Down: Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
About: This is the third 49ers player on this list, so I guess that means we learned a lot about the 49ers in Week 1. In the case of Aiyuk, what we learned was disheartening. After a solid rookie season, expectations were high for Aiyuk entering his sophomore season. I, like many, had him rated as the highest of the 49ers receivers. But on Sunday, while Deebo Samuel saw 12 targets, catching nine for 189 yards and a touchdown, Aiyuk was an afterthought. He played 26 snaps but saw zero targets. It was a game where Jimmy Garoppolo threw for more than 300 yards, and the 49ers scored 41 points, yet Aiyuk posted a goose egg. These things happen, but it is certainly cause for concern for those counting on Aiyuk to take a step forward in 2021.
Stock Up: Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints
About: The Saints were one of the big surprises on Sunday, and part of that was trying to determine who was going to catch the passes. Winston threw it just 20 times and completed just 14 passes. Three of his targets went to Johnson, and the tight end caught all three for 21 yards and two touchdowns. That was good enough to help Johnson finish as TE5 for the week. The Saints need pass catchers, and it seemed logical that the starting tight end would be a good value. The assumption was that Adam Trautman would fill that role in the pre-season, but it looks as if Johnson might have the edge. Beyond the group at the top tight end can be a bit of an up-and-down position. Based on what we saw in Week 1, it looks like Johnson is worth a roster spot given the state of tight ends.
Stock Down: Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
About: From a pleasant surprise to a definite disappointment. The hope was Gesicki would have a prominent role in the Dolphins’ passing game and be a Top 12 option at the position. He was drafted that way, coming in with an ADP of TE11. The Dolphins opened the season with a win on Sunday, beating the New England Patriots 17-16. Tua Tagovailoa threw the ball 27 times, but only two targets and no receptions went to Gesicki. Getting a zero from your starting tight end is sub-optimal, to say the least. Gesicki will have better days, but it was a crowded landscape with Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker at receiver and Myles Gaskin a weapon out of the backfield. It’s only going to get more crowded as Will Fuller V returns this week. Based on the early returns, it doesn’t seem like Gesicki is getting the looks and volume in this offense to sustain week-to-week performance.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.