Ah, the first week of the regular NFL season. Emotions explode for eager fantasy leaguers—hope, joy, sorrow, awe, happiness, rage—and this all in the first half of the Saints-Vikings game Thursday. As the dust of the first week settles, owners begin to critically assess their draft results. Roster strengths are confirmed while weaknesses are identified, pondered, and perhaps addressed. Waiver wire action may become furious, particularly in shallower leagues where often the unclaimed talent pool may run deep. Owners in such leagues may not even need to consider so-called “expert” waiver advice; however, for those challenging themselves in more competitive exhibitions of fantasy acumen, consider the following:
QB: Michael Vick, PHILADELPHIA. Kevin Kolb was one of the most hyped fantasy quarterbacks never-to-have-done-anything coming into this season. Many pundits even listed Kolb among their top 10 or 12 at the position; whether lofty praise or sad testament to the fantasy-scoring scarcity at the position, these rankings bewildered me. Sunday, Kolb was concussed, opening the door for Michael Vick to re-enter the fantasy fray. For those newer to fantasy, note this—the pre-dogfighting Vick was one of the more desirable fantasy options at quarterback, particularly in leagues where passing TDs were de-emphasized (i.e., 4 points or less). Vick would at times put up electric statistics, rushing well in excess of 50 yards, adding rushing scores, and throwing for 150+ yards. Sunday’s fill-in performance turned back the clock, as Vick rushed for 100+ yards and threw for 175 and a score.
Vick is many years older and has served time in prison. Further, Kolb is the designated present and future at quarterback in Philadelphia. Regardless, high-risk, high-reward tolerant owners should consider grabbing Vick now. Vick may prove a worthy spot fill-in were he to be given a start in the next week (against Detroit), or two starts as the Eagles understandably may choose to play it safe with Kolb’s head injury. If so, Vick certainly represents more fantasy upside both to Kolb as well as Matthew Stafford owners than would a Shaun Hill (see below), for example.
RB: Peyton Hillis, CLEVELAND. Hillis received the same number of carries (nine) against Tampa Bay as starter Jerome Harrison. While Harrison rushed for a few more yards, Hillis tallied 41 and a TD. Plus, Hillis received five targets in the passing game, nabbing four for another 24 yards. Hillis could be a sneaky match-up play and would be worth a roster slot, particularly in deep and PPR leagues.
RB: Brandon Jackson, GREEN BAY. If Jackson remains available in your league, scoop him up. Ryan Grant injured his ankle against the Eagles, and Jackson is in line for increased touches in one of the league’s highest-powered offenses. The Packers face the Bills this week, so Jackson could be a nice fantasy fill-in. While Jackson’s understudy status in a fantasy-powerful offense was no secret coming into the season, he was owned by a mere 1% of players in ESPN leagues. Grab him while you can.
WR: Legedu Naanee, SAN DIEGO. Which of the following is the player that looks likely to receive the most WR targets in San Diego’s high-powered passing offense? (a) Malcolm Floyd; (b) Ki-Adi-Mundi; (c) Qui-Gon Jinn; (d) Plo Koon; (e) Mace Windu; (f) Kit Fisto; (g) Legedu Naanee. Contrary to what many fantasy pundits predicted, the answer appears not to be (a) Malcolm Floyd (owned in 98% of ESPN leagues), but (g) Legedu Naanee.
Naanee is no mystery: a sleeper darling during the pre-season, Naanee has owners in 38% of ESPN leagues already jumping on his bandwagon. However, these statistics suggest better-than-even odds that Naanee may not be rostered in your league. Sunday, Phillip Rivers hooked up with Naanee for a 59-yard TD. Rivers also looked Naanee’s way in several must-convert situations, as well as at least once in the red zone, where the pass went incomplete. Naanee certainly will play second fiddle to Antonio Gates in the passing game, but if he is available, he makes a nice roster addition, especially in PPR formats. The force appears to be with him.
WR: Mark Clayton, ST. LOUIS. Clayton, tabbed on last week’s “Watch them” list, graduates to “Snatch them” this week as he looks to be the leading fantasy candidate at wideout in St. Louis. While one week does not make a season, the Rams targeted Clayton an impressive 16 times. He hauled in 10 of those throws for 119 yards. With production like this, Clayton is worth stashing away on most fantasy rosters.
WR: Mike Williams, SEATTLE. Another graduate from last week’s “Watch Them” list, Williams received six targets and caught four passes for 64 yards. A Pete Carroll legacy and former first-round pick, Williams looks like he will be the WR1 in Seattle.
QB: Shaun Hill, DETROIT. Matthew Stafford is out and someone has to throw the ball to Megatron, among others. However, until Hill proves he can put up better than a 40 QB rating, defenses will stack the line to stop Jahvid Best and roll coverages over to Calvin Johnson to limit his explosiveness. Still, Hill is the starter, and owners in deep leagues or those desperate for QB help should observe how he progresses. At this time, he is not worth adding to rosters unless an owner has no other options at quarterback.
RB: Albert Young, MINNESOTA. Adrian Peterson owners who missed this handcuff should consider adding him as Young received significant playing time and touches against New Orleans. Young looked serviceable (how many backs look “great” playing alongside Adrian Peterson), experiencing game-action and touches in a variety of down and distance situations. Young produced a mere 14 yards officially, catching two passes for eleven yards and rushing three times, but getting stuffed. However, officials nullified an eight-yard pass play to Young in the second quarter due to offsetting face mask penalties. Despite these pedestrian totals, if these utilization trends continue, Young ultimately may add value to fantasy owners in PPR or very deep leagues. If anything impacted Adrian Peterson’s playing time, Young’s value would skyrocket. As of kick-off in the Saints-Vikings contest, less than 1% of owners in ESPN league included Young on their rosters. Accordingly, he presents an area of opportunity in almost all fantasy leagues. Watch, wait, and pounce when the time is right.
WR: Michael Jenkins, ATLANTA. I thought about putting Jenkins in the “Snatch Them” category out of the shoot, not so much because I believe he is elite, but rather because I noticed Roddy White received an astonishing 23 targets against Pittsburgh. Matt Ryan’s fixation on White shows both how important Roddy is to the Falcons passing offense as well as how little confidence Ryan has in White’s peers with Jenkins out of the lineup. Jenkins has been banged up, so fantasy owners should watch the injury and practice reports this week. If Jenkins is a healthy start in Week 2, he could be worth a flier in deep leagues. However, I would recommend watching his performance and number of targets and then evaluating whether Jenkins makes a worthy waiver wire pick-up going into Week 3.
WR: Greg Camarillo, MINNESOTA. Camarillo received two targets, catching one for 29 yards versus New Orleans. Ho-hum. Significantly, however, his yardage total led Minnesota wide-outs. Minnesota’s down-field offense looked disjointed; perhaps Sidney Rice’s absence will prove significant indeed. Visanthe Shiancoe was by far Brett Favre’s favorite and most productive target, reeling in four catches among seven targets while adding 76 yards and a score. Opposing defenses will react as the Saints did in the second half, by taking Shiancoe away until someone else from Minnesota steps up in the passing game. While players like Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian would seem the likely candidates, Camarillo–a reliable possession receiver and strong route-runner–could emerge as Brett Favre’s security blanket. Comparisons to Wes Welker are vastly overstated, other than that each is a former Miami Dolphin. Nonetheless, fantasy owners desperate for wide receiver help, particularly in PPR leagues, should watch Camarillo’s targets in the next couple of weeks and consider adding Greg if his workload increases.
WR: Nate Washington, TENNESSEE. Someone has to catch the ball in Tennessee. Washington made the most of his four targets Sunday, catching three passes against the Raiders for 88 yards and a touchdown. With Kenny Britt imploding and Justin Gage banged up, Washington looks to be first in line for continued targets in Tennessee. He may not light the world on fire, but certainly could make a nice bye-week fill-in depending on his match-ups.
WR: Davone Bess, MIAMI. The Dolphins targeted Bess seven times and he rewarded them, hauling in six passes for 51 yards. Bess is not going to light up fantasy scoring sheets, but he may possess more upside now than players such as Nate Burleson, whose status as the WR2 in a Shaun Hill-led offense spells fantasy doom.
WR: Brandon Lloyd, DENVER. The former Fighting Illini played pitch and catch with former Boilermaker, Kyle Orton, to the tune of five receptions for 117 yards as the Broncos targeted Lloyd eight times. Note, however, that one of Lloyd’s receptions went for 41 yards. Absent this big play, his performance was adequate at best. Given the number of options Denver has at receiver, Lloyd’s situation merits further study in the coming weeks. However, I would hold off adding him in all but the deepest leagues as better options probably exist on most waiver wires.
TE: Marcedes Lewis, JACKSONVILLE. Two TDs in one game should get anyone’s attention. Lewis stepped up against Denver and now resides on the fantasy radar. Don’t run out and cut a more consistent point producer now merely to add Lewis to your bench. Rather, monitor him as a potential bye-week pick-up in must-start TE leagues.
TE: Tony Scheffler, DETROIT. Scheffler probably was drafted if your league requires owners to start a TE since he was a popular “dark horse” pick coming into the season. Matthew Stafford’s injury likely spells doom for Nate Burleson’s fantasy outlook, but not necessarily so for Scheffler. Many newly-installed quarterbacks look to the tight end as their security blanket, a safety valve to bail them out of trouble with short and medium dump offs. Look at how Zach Miller remained somewhat relevant in Oakland despite abysmal JaMarcus Russell throwing to him. Now, note that I am not recommending that owners run out and add Scheffler for the same reasons discussed above in regard to Marcedes Lewis. Rather, watch and learn. See how often the Lions target Scheffler in the coming weeks. He may make a worthy bye-week fill-in and likely will be off many owners’ radar screens completely.
WR: Nate Burleson, DETROIT. With Matthew Stafford injured, Burleson’s upside appears almost non-existent. Whereas Shaun Hill may look to Tony Scheffler in a pinch, he otherwise will (in order) (a) be running for his life, (b) chucking the occasional medium to deep pass to Calvin Johnson, or (c) dumping the ball off to Jahvid Best. Burleson does not factor into this equation.
In anything but very deep leagues, I recommend dropping Burleson in favor of one of the many better options likely available at the WR position. Again, barring situations in which a player (or in this case, a related, supporting player) suffers a significant or season-ending injury, I generally do not recommend dropping players outright after only one or two weeks of the season. Burleson is an example of a decent player whose stock has dropped due to changes in his supporting cast. With Stafford’s injury, players like Mark Clayton and Seattle’s Mike Williams appear far better fantasy plays.
Scott Rozmus is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Scott in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Goose.
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