Welcome to the first installment of the Made-Up Mailbag. Normally, mailbags are written because they’re an easy way to repeatedly cover a topic, and the author can sit back, relax and let the ideas roll in — all the while bragging about how engaged his or her readers are. With the “Made-Up Mailbag,” I brag anyway and save my hardworking readers the trouble of topic generation, so join me each week as I respond to questions of questionable origin.
On to the mailbag!
Q: I was sitting three rows behind you at the game against Austin Peay. When the Redhawks were on defense, it seemed like you weren’t even watching the game. You’d celebrate at odd times and kept muttering things about Heath Harding even when he wasn’t involved in the play. What on earth were you doing?
A: Well, the work Redshirt senior Heath Harding does will cost a pretty penny to enjoy live in a short 12 months, so I figured I would enjoy it while I still have the chance. He is a first-round NFL talent many on campus are unaware exists on a football team they still think is awful. The casual observer may think the nickname of Biggie is ironic for a corner listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, but it was fitting on Saturday. In press-man coverage much of the day, he won the physical battle against the Governors’ larger receivers and re-directed their routes off the line of scrimmage. He allowed such little separation that on most plays, Austin Peay backup QB Jeremiah Oatsvall didn’t even look at Harding’s half of the field. He forced a turnover on downs with two splash run stops where he diagnosed the play and broke off coverage to deliver a big hit. The performance was worth a spot on Pro Football Focus’ MAC team of the week, and I was enthralled.
Q: Were the breakout performances by NFL rookies Kenny Golladay, Tarik Cohen and Cooper Kupp flukes or do you think this is just the beginning? Asking for my fantasy football team.
A: It depends. Two touchdowns is certainly not sustainable for wide receiver Golladay, but his targets are. As late as the second half, quarterback Matthew Stafford was Detroit’s leading rusher with one carry for 15 yards. The Lions are going to throw the ball a lot, and Golladay likely cemented himself as the third option in the passing game with room to grow. Either way, JJ Zachariason, fantasy analyst for numberFire, was probably right about ‘Babytron’ catching on by week five. He is definitely worth a bench stash on your fantasy football roster.
Running back Tarik Cohen similarly will not continue to be the Chicago Bears’ leading rusher AND receiver. His production in the run game was the low volume, high variance kind and, on a day when he didn’t average 13.2 yards per carry, he likely would’ve had 15 to 20 rushing yards. However, 12 targets and eight catches in the passing game now seems sustainable. The Bears — who had a dearth of playmakers before the season ending injuries to wide receivers Cameron Meredith and Kevin White — cannot afford to keep a talent like Cohen off the field. Especially after starting running back Jordan Howard’s receiving woes continued with a crucial drop on third-and-goal late in the game. Expect continued work in the passing game and look to stash both him and Deonte Thompson on your benches.
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp’s week is most likely to be “just the beginning.” Despite being pegged by many to be fourth or even fifth in the pecking order for targets on the Los Angeles Rams, Kupp looked like quarterback Jared Goff’s favorite target. Kupp is a sure-handed and skilled route runner, and it appears that he will be Goff’s trusted security blanket moving forward. Look for consistent WR3 (top 36) performances from here on out in PPR (point per reception leagues).
Q: What was your biggest takeaway from Week 1 in the NFL? (as of the completion of Sunday Night Football)
A: That for all generic catchphrases commentators spout about offensive line play, they’re probably somehow underselling its importance. The Giants, Bengals, Seahawks, and Texans all had their offenses basically cancelled by porous offensive line play. The Texans allowed ten sacks for Pete’s sake! Ten of 12 games on Sunday hit the Under in Vegas, and poor blocking around the league had a lot to do with it.
Thanks for making it through the inaugural Made-Up Mailbag, and see you next time. Also, if you’d like to make the mailbag slightly less made-up, send me questions at email@example.com or @Nschlete on Twitter, and I’ll (probably) ascribe the question to whoever you’d like.