Real/ Not Real- NFL Week 2

Welcome to the second edition of the “Real or Not Real” article for the 2016 NFL season. In this piece, Ricky Sanders will examine whether the hype and/or recent production surrounding certain players warrants deeming them as “for real” or remaining skeptical and considering them “not for real.”

Here are Ricky’s thoughts surrounding players who opened some eyeballs with their Week 1 performances one way or another:

Jameis Winston, Buccaneers – Not much changed in the Buccaneers offense this offseason as J.R. Sweezy was really the only signing of note; he was brought on to replace the retiring Logan Mankins. Basically, any progress Winsto is going to make this year hinged on his ability to improve as a player and continue to mesh with the pieces at hand. In Week 1, he certainly did just that as he completed 23-33 passes (70.0-percent completion), 281 yards, one interception (INT) and four passing touchdowns (TDs), tying Andrew Luck and Drew Brees for the most of the week. Down the stretch in 2015, Winston eclipsed 19 fantasy points in four of his final six games and actually only struggled in two games against the Saints (allowed most fantasy points to QBs) and the Colts (rated as a mid-tier defense against QBs). Winston either threw at least two passing TDs or scored a rushing TD in four of his final games last year and continued that streak this year. His floor is so high because he is a threat to run in the red zone, even if he doesn’t run much other than by the goal line. While the matchups got awfully difficult in his last four games, Winston came through against some of the better defenses in 2015. If handicapping this one early, this feels like a talented player coming into his own and not just a flash in the pan. Mike Evans is a legit number one target and even Vincent Jackson and the tight ends (TEs) looked respectable. With solid weapons around him, a finish inside the top five of QBs is a distinct possibility. Verdict: For Real

Theo Riddick, Lions – Instead of looking like a backfield led by a workhorse and complemented by a change-of-pace back, the Lions options sure looked like options 1A and 1B. Although Ameer Abdullah popped off for 5.3 yards per carry (YPC) and 23.00 total FantasyDraft (FDr) fantasy points, he was overshadowed by Theo Riddick’s 6.4 YPC, one rushing TD and one receiving TD. Abdullah edged out Riddick in terms of touches 17-12 but Riddick gained more yards per touch in both the rushing game and the passing game. Both looked awfully explosive, but the Colts did allow the ninth most fantasy points to opposing RBs last year. In Week 2, the Lions will face the Tians who ranked in the bottom six of fantasy points allowed to the position, so that will be the real test. In 2015, the Lions relied heavily on Riddick in the passing game when they couldn’t establish a run game. This is going to reveal whether the team is truly going to be a force to be reckoned with in the rushing game, or are going to revert to last year’s 3.8 YPC (tied for 26th in the NFL). As overall weapons, it’s hard not to buy into Riddick who caught a whopping 80 passes last year. Although Abdullah and the run game may not be as potent as they displayed in the opener, Riddick proved yet again he is a viable weapon and PPR stud. Verdict: For Real (to an extent)

Spencer Ware, Chiefs – A similar phenomenon to the Lions’ RB duo occurred with Spencer Ware on Sunday. He looked sharp in both the rushing (6.4 YPC) and passing game (129 yards receiving) but the performance was against one of the NFL’s worst rushing defenses from a year ago. Now, unlike the Lions RBs, there is no possibly misconstruing of what occurred here…Ware showed a vast improvement in the hands department from last season. In 2015, Ware didn’t catch a pass after Week 12, but supposedly he worked on his receiving skills all offseason and it showed. In the near future, Jamaal Charles is scheduled to return from his second ACL surgery but the question remains whether or not he will be needed in an extensive role. As a professional, Ware has averaged 5.6 YPC on 86 total attempts so there may not be a need for Charles. Sometimes guys get Wally Pipp’d and this just feels like one of those occasions. With Ware receiving a full workload, getting the goal line work and catching passes, it’s hard to envision this all being a momentary success and nothing more. Verdict: For Real

Melvin Gordon, Chargers – Okay, so.. Melvin Gordon scored twice in Week 1, contrasted with never finding the end zone once in is rookie season, not even once. Take into account that Danny Woodhead played 50 snaps to Melvin Gordon’s 23. Yet again, even with a new coordinator (Ken Whisenhunt) in town, Woodhead played as the “weapon” and Gordon just played on mostly obvious rushing downs. When all is said and done, Woodhead out-touched Gordon 21-14, averaged 5.6 YPC to Gordon’s 4.1 and was the only one of the duo to catch a single pass. Inevitably, Gordon’s TD draught was going to end by accident due to his talent as a runner, and both came in the red zone (a positive sign). Nevertheless, declaring him a full-blown RB1 or even a consistent RB2 moving forward because of this performance would be a mistake. Gordon is still tough to trust and will only be usable on weeks he actually finds the end zone because he literally didn’t catch one pass yet again…and that’s obviously Woodhead’s specialty. To me, he is a boom-or-bust RB3 moving forward despite the encouraging open week. Verdict: Not For Real

Stefon Diggs, Vikings – No Teddy Bridgewater? No problem for Stefon Diggs, who eclipsed 100 yards with Shaun Hill under center. In his final seven games last year, Diggs was targeted with at least four passes six times, and caught at least two passes in all but the outlier game. What we have to decipher here is if Diggs can maintain this level of production, with potentially a new QB under center. Shaun Hill is not the long term solution the Vikings are looking for, despite the obvious signs that Diggs and Hill found a rhythm in their opening game.  Diggs finished last year with 740 yards and four TDs, so let’s not call him “QB-proof” just yet. We’ll see what happens when Sam Bradford takes over. Jordan Matthews, who went off in his first game sans Sam Bradford, produced 997 yards and eight TDs last year with him…but under a Chip Kelly offense. With the offense moving  slowly, I’m worried Diggs’ ceiling may be a lot lower than that. The answer here is we really do not know yet and will have to wait and see how he fares with Bradford under center. Verdict: We Just Don’t Know Yet

Jack Doyle, Colts – When Coby Fleener left town, this was supposed to be the Dwayne Allen show at TE. What unfolded was quite the opposite, as Allen’s 17.30 fantasy points actually ranked as the second most amongst TEs on his own team. Jack Doyle was targeted four times, hauled in three passes and caught two TDs in the Colts’ 39-35 loss to the Lions. Apparently the scheme is more of the same this year, and that is a bit of a bummer for Allen owners. Allen had his best season in Andrew Luck’s best season as a pro (2014), with Luck throwing  40 TDs that season (eight of which went to Allen). While I wouldn’t totally freak out and never roster Allen again because of this one game, the TE-by-committee approach is in full effect once again. These two are going to eat into each other’s value on a weekly basis, and while Allen was targeted more and remains top dog on the totem pole, most of Doyle’s targets came down the stretch in a close game. That is a concerning trend and one to watch moving forward. As for Doyle, he’s likely going to remain cheap and has TD upside on a weekly basis. If simply expecting him to be a min-priced TD who could produce enough to make him a worthwhile filler in tournaments, then he shouldn’t disappoint. Verdict: For Real if expectations are extremely limited, otherwise Not For Real