Keith Bulluck: Week 2 bouncebacks, hope for Kyle Pitts and more in his debut column for The Athletic

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Welcome to my first ever fantasy football column. Why was I chosen to do this and not some NFL TV expert? I don’t know!?! What I do know is that I’ve been playing fantasy football for over 10 years and have claimed multiple championships across various leagues. Unfortunately last year I was runner up the first year in my new league, which consists of washed NFL Pro Bowlers and NBA All Stars. Most of them are just donating to the pot because their general manager skills stink or they were too busy draft night and got hosed by auto draft. In all seriousness, though, most fantasy perspectives come from a fantasy expert or former player from the offensive side of the ball. Did you know linebackers are considered the quarterbacks of the defense? Our perspective, focus and attention to detail is second to none. We are in the middle of the action and responsible for the entire defense being ready to play before the ball is snapped. I plan to bring a former player’s perspective into the fantasy world, hoping to provide you a little insight into how NFL players may think and approach the game.

So let’s get to it!

Week 1 is in the books and a lot of teams were turned upside down. Aaron Rodgers down for the year! J.K. Dobbins down for the year! On top of that, there were a lot of dud fantasy numbers from some of last year‘s top earners. Not all of it was bad…some of last season’s usual suspects showed up and showed out Week 1 — the Cheetah lost his spots and flexed his new Lions Mane, making him Week 1’s Fantasy King of The Gridiron. Run CMC (Christian McCaffrey), Austin Ekeler and Stefon Diggs were also Week 1 beasts, picking up where they left off in 2022. The teams with some of these top earners can expect to cash in all year.

Fantasy players with Week 1 underperformers are definitely going into Week 2 with uncertainty and questions. What must be understood about this relatively new shortened preseason is few starters participated. So Week 1 has become more like the first test run for starters and coaches. Coordinators are trying to work new weapons into their game plans as teams continue to install schemes and packages on both sides of the ball. So in the words of Green Bay Aaron Rodgers; RELAX!

Week 2 bouncebacks

In my personal league, I have Tee Higgins, Kyle Pitts, and Lamar Jackson — who all had trash Week 1 fantasy performances. I am high on them this week because…:

With J.K. Dobbins out, I expect Lamar Jackson to unleash his total package, utilizing his legs and arms to rack up points. We’re all familiar with what Lamar can do, and it seemed in Week 1 the running game plan was to go through Dobbins. With Dobbins down and a lackluster performance from, you have to anticipate the former MVP to come out and show he’s worth every penny of the new contract he received this offseason

The Cleveland Browns just seem to have Joe Burrow‘s number, as he has now lost five of six against them. This is a surprising stat and I have no explanation, but it is evident the Browns have The Burrow Blueprint. New Cleveland defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defense executed to perfection, sending the NFL’s highest paid QB to the bench, giving the “Elves” — as Ja’Marr Chase referred to the Browns — a huge opening day win. That being said, I do not expect Tee Higgins to put up another goose egg. And Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase should have a great Week 2, as I see them all getting back on track.

Kyle Pitts also stunk it up from a fantasy perspective, but that is no fault of his. You absolutely have to expect head coach Arthur Smith to get first round draft pick Bijan Robinson into the game plan on opening day. I don’t see this happening in back-to-back weeks. Expect both of these ballers to get a heavy workload, winning their respective matchups and being Top Earners in Week 2. What no one foresaw was Tyler Allgeier being a bigger part of the Atlanta game plan than Drake London and Pitts. London is a baller and will definitely have a big game this weekend. I’d like to say I don’t see the Pitts usage happening back-to-back weeks but since last season, Arthur Smith hasn’t really used Pitts in his offense as he did Pro Bowler Delanie Walker for years in Tennessee. I have to be honest, drafting Kyle Pitts was me rolling the dice on his potential and anticipating him being a bigger part of Smith’s offense this year. Week 1 didn’t give me much hope, but I do know the tight end position can be a young quarterback’s best friend. I’m hoping Desmond Ridder and my guy Pitts start to become best friends this week — and every week this season.

We still have a lot of unanswered questions

With a ton of questions still to be answered all we can do is watch and see. Are the Cowboys and Rams defenses the real deal, or were Seattle and New York unprepared?

Is Brandon Aiyuk the new Deebo Samuel or does Deebo get on track this week?

Questions like these can be better answered as the season continues. There is no way to tell one game into a new season how good a team really is. We have seen teams start the season off as hot as summers in Yuma, Arizona, and end as cold as winters Syracuse, New York — playing with no momentum or playoff chances. So until the real coaches get it figured out, us fantasy players are left to set our lineups, tune in ,and hope one of our players become Week 2’s Fantasy King Of The Gridiron!

Some players I like in Week 2

Trevor Lawrence: I expect a big day from Trevor Lawrence going up against Patrick Mahomes. The Jaguars took steps as a team last year and won the AFC South, which has given them a ton of confidence. I think Trevor Lawrence takes the next step this year with the weapons he has, and with the addition of Calvin Ridley that offense has become even more explosive

Derrick Henry: Derrick Henry only had 16 carries — four of them coming in the second half — last week, as the Titans lost by one to the Saints. The formula for success for the Titans has been through Derrick Henry. Although he is in a contract year, he still needs to be the focal point of the Titans offense until someone else proves to be a better option. The Titans cannot win a shootout with the Chargers, they need to control time of possession. The best way to do that is with their 255-pound running back getting the ball at 25 times — as long as they are converting third downs and controlling time of possession.

Rashid Shaheed: Rashid Shaheed proved to be a nice addition into the Saints’ offense. Week 1 he showed Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and QB Derek Carr that he can make plays in big moments. This should create more touches for Shaheed, especially with Kamara out of the lineup another two weeks. Shaheed’s speed makes him a threat whenever he’s in the game.

And if they’re healthy and good to go, I’m also liking Jaylen Waddle and Breece Hall.

(Top photo of Keith Bulluck: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

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