Fantasy Fallout: Mariota, tight ends steal Week 1 headlines

Making accurate throws from the pocket was not a problem for Mariota in Week 1. Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

It's MAR-ee-OH-tah. (Sort of like "Mario," plus a soft "tah.")

Nobody's going to mispronounce Marcus Mariota's name now, at least not if he continues to perform like he did during his NFL debut.

Mariota threw four touchdown passes, becoming the second rookie to throw that many in his debut (Fran Tarkenton is the other) and the first to throw that many in a single half in his debut, per the Elias Sports Bureau. He was 13-for-16 passing, becoming only the second rookie to have more touchdown passes than incompletions in a game (Robert Griffin III was the first). Mariota amassed 209 passing yards, resulting in 24 fantasy points, third-best among quarterbacks in Week 1 thus far.

But perhaps most importantly, Mariota's 24 fantasy points put him in exclusive company among quarterbacks making their NFL debuts. Here is the list of the best debuts by signal-callers:

Mariota's 24 points, incidentally, were accrued in exactly three quarters' action: Backup Zach Mettenberger played the entire fourth quarter, with his team up 42-7. That means Mariota was on a pace that might've had him contending for the top spot on this list. Consider that in the four other games on this list for which we have play-by-play data (those since 1994), Cam Newton had 25 fantasy points through three quarters, Griffin had 21, Marc Bulger had 13 and Ryan Fitzpatrick had 6.

Tarkenton, incidentally, had both a passing and rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter of his debut, so while we don't have specific yardage by quarter, it's highly likely that he, too, had fewer than 24 fantasy points at the beginning of the fourth.

All in all for Mariota, not bad for a player selected in the 13th round of ESPN fantasy drafts on average (ADP: 122.2) in the preseason, and owned in only 35.6 percent and started in just 4.3 percent of ESPN leagues as of his game's kickoff time.

Week of the tight end

If Week 1 felt like it was particularly tight end-friendly, it's because it was.

Four different tight ends -- with Monday's two games still to go -- managed at least 20 fantasy points (Rob Gronkowski had 27, Austin Seferian-Jenkins had 23, Tyler Eifert had 22, and Travis Kelce had 22), and 13 scored in the double digits, which is the most tight ends to reach either of those marks in a single week since 1960.

In addition, through the first 14 games, 273 total fantasy points have been scored by tight ends, for an average of 9.75 per game. That average is the most in any single week since the merger, topping 1983's Week 7 (9.39), when Todd Christensen scored 33 fantasy points en route to a then-tight-end-record 190 fantasy points in a season.

Here are the leading weeks since the merger, going by average total fantasy points per team in the given week:

Gronkowski is a household name, but how about the significant number of less-owned players gracing the leaderboard?

Seferian-Jenkins: His two touchdowns matched his entire 2014 rookie-season total, his seven targets were one shy of his 2014 single-game best (8, Week 10), his five catches tied with that same week, and his two vertical targets (15-plus air yards) tied for his single-game best (Weeks 4 and 5). With usage like that, he'd contend for a top-10 tight end finish, though his value is likely tied to touchdowns due to his size (6-foot-5, 262 pounds).

Eifert: A popular sleeper pick this preseason, Eifert in Week 1 has paced all tight ends with 12 targets, three more than his previous single-game best (9, 2013 Week 10), and, like Seferian-Jenkins, he got two touchdowns to match what had been his career total entering the day. Eifert was also targeted twice in the red zone, an extremely encouraging trend that makes him a bona fide top-10 candidate.

Darren Fells, 14 fantasy points: His five targets were easily a career high, but don't forget that he accrued nine of his 10 total targets in 2014 in the final four weeks of the season. It's possible that Fells might have more of a role in the passing game this season, but he'll need more than one game's worth of production to earn fantasy owners' trust.

Ladarius Green, 13 fantasy points: The fill-in for the suspended Antonio Gates, Green matched or set new career bests with six targets and five receptions, and he came within one point of his best fantasy day (14, 2013 Week 12). Green is worth consideration in the short term, but it's unclear whether he'll have a meaningful role following Gates' return in Week 5.

Jordan Reed, 12 fantasy points: He has been an underrated source of targets and receptions, yet his 11 targets in Week 1 tied for his second-best single-game total (his best was 14 in 2013 Week 8), his seven receptions were two off his career high, and only once did he score more fantasy points (19, 2013 Week 7). Injuries have been the problem for Reed; he's a potential 120-point fantasy tight end if he can stay healthy enough to play a full 16.

Eric Ebron, 11 fantasy points: This represented his career best, two points better than his best score during his rookie 2014 (9, Week 4). That he still got looks from Matthew Stafford following a drop early in the first quarter was a good sign, and Ebron could be worth a stash for those seeking upside at the position.


• Counting his final five regular-season games of 2014, Peyton Manning has scored 53 total fantasy points in his past six regular-season contests. That's his worst six-game stretch -- counting only games in which he has played healthy -- of his career since his first six in the NFL, when he got 48 points in Weeks 1-6 of 1998.

Manning's five fantasy points on Sunday were also his worst in a season opener since he scored four in Week 1 of the 2003 season; he averaged 29.3 fantasy points in his previous three season openers for the Denver Broncos. This week's result is particularly disconcerting considering Manning is 39 years old and his performance did nothing to dispel the lingering questions about his arm strength that were raised by his sluggish finish to 2014.

• On a day when C.J. Spiller was inactive, Mark Ingram managed 11 fantasy points behind career bests of eight receptions and 98 receiving yards. To put those into perspective, Ingram had 53 receptions and 288 yards in his career entering the game, and his 98 receiving yards more than doubled his previous single-game best (39, 2003 Week 15). They gave Ingram 19 points per reception in fantasy points, his fourth-best performance during his five-year career, and while he might struggle to repeat it once Spiller returns, any expansion of Ingram's role in the passing game would be a plus for his value.