Dear Mr. Fantasy: The Week 1 overreaction
Deep breaths, everyone.
The best thing you can do for yourself after the first weekend of NFL action is slow down for a minute. It's only reasonable after what just happened. In a few days' time, you went from pouring over the same old data week after week to suddenly having all new data on every single player in the game. That's a lot of information to take in all at once.
And the hard part is sorting it all out.
We still don't know much. We may know more than we did a week ago, but any opinions that have changed since then are based on events that took place over a period of four 15-minute quarters. That's not much to go on.
Sure, it's OK to have suspicions and even to act on some of them, but you're likely to do more harm than good by jumping to conclusions. Why take the plunge if you can just toe the water?
Saying we now know Adrian Peterson is ready to contribute again is one thing. You're not declaring him the best running back in Fantasy and trading Aaron Rodgers for him; you're just putting him back in your lineup and entertaining the idea of dropping Toby Gerhart . Reasonable enough. But saying we now know Michael Turner is useless in the Falcons' new offense is probably making too much of too little.
It may ultimately prove true, and certainly you have probable cause to bench him right now. But what if he just wasn't a big part of the game plan last week? The Chiefs' secondary was in disrepair, after all. Cutting the player you drafted to be your second-best running back this early in the season is just asking for trouble.
I mean, Andrew Hawkins isn't worth that much.
What do you think of this trade in a points-per-reception league: Stevan Ridley and Kevin Smith for Doug Martin ? -- Victor Bustamante (via Facebook)
SW: I'm pretty sure I like it for the guy getting Martin. My judgment is warped somewhat because Ridley and Smith are both coming off outstanding Week 1 performances, but when I weigh what I do know against what I don't, the trade works out in the other side's favor.
First, Martin. Based on the Ray Rice comparisons that began in training camp and persisted throughout the preseason, I already suspected he'd carry the load for the Buccaneers and catch a fair number of passes out of the backfield. His performance in Week 1 only validated those suspicions. The concern with him, as with any rookie, was that the speed of the NFL game could expose some previously undetected shortcoming. Now, with a strong debut behind him, that concern is significantly lessened.
So he's a capable running back with a signifcant role in a scoring format well suited for his abilities. OK, then. That's what I know.
What do I know about Ridley and Smith? For the former, I know he can succeed in the Patriots offense if given the opportunity. I just saw it happen. What I don't know is if the Patriots' reconciliation with the running game was just a one-week thing. And even if it wasn't, will it be an every-week thing? To some degree, all the pass-heavy offenses we see in the NFL today exist because of what the Patriots (under current offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, mind you) did in 2007, so by changing course now, they'd be abandoning the revolution they started just when it's becoming the accepted model of success. I don't see it happening. They may run more than they used to now that they have the proper personnel for it, but the passing game is still the focus of their offense.
As for Smith, I know he does a fine job both running and catching the ball when he's the only backfield option the Lions have, but when he has to split touches with Mikel Leshoure , as will be the case when Leshoure returns from a suspension in Week 3, I don't know that he'll even be usable in Fantasy. I suspect he will at times just because the Lions have grown to trust him with Leshoure and Jahvid Best sidelined by injuries over the last two seasons, but on a weekly basis, I don't see it. With the Matthew Stafford - Calvin Johnson connection in its prime right now, the Lions live and die by the pass. They don't offer enough carries to sustain two backs.
|1.||Kevin Ogletree , WR, Cowboys||48|
|2.||Stephen Hill , WR, Jets||35|
|3.||Alfred Morris , RB, Redskins||27|
|4.||Randall Cobb , WR, Packers||17|
|5.||Jonathan Dwyer , RB, Steelers||17|
|6.||Dennis Pitta , TE, Ravens||15|
|7.||James Jones , WR, Packers||13|
|8.||Dexter McCluster , WR, Chiefs||12|
|9.||Knowshon Moreno , RB, Broncos||10|
|10.||Alshon Jeffery , WR, Bears||9|
So even though Ridley and Smith are capable running backs, their opportunities to contribute down the line are uncertain. OK, then. That's what I don't know.
One scenario I try my best to avoid in Fantasy Football is the guessing game. Once in a while is fine, but if every week is the same thing -- two similar running backs with two similar matchups -- I too often find myself saying "oops."
If you have a shot at what seems like a sure thing, you take it. Let someone else play the guessing game with Ridley and Smith.
Should I chance starting either Kevin Ogletree or Alfred Morris in my flex spot? -- @SailorJerry81 (via Twitter)
SW: Ah, yes. You just picked them up, and now you're wondering if you can use them. I suppose that's the natural progression.
My belief is you'll have occasions to start both. I'd say Ogletree has more lasting appeal than Morris, who still has to contend with Evan Royster and Roy Helu . Sorry, but I don't think a 3.4-yard-per-carry performance, which is what Morris accomplished in Week 1, is enough to win Mike Shanahan's undying loyalty. My general belief in these situations is that the talent wins out in the end, and the talent in this case is Helu. If that transition comes to pass, be it in Week 3 or Week 13, Morris will be useless in Fantasy while Ogletree will still be the third receiver in a pass-oriented offense.
But our emphasis right now is on Week 2, and for Week 2, I like Morris. He's facing the Rams, who ranked second-to-last against the run last year. Granted, this year's Rams could be different, but they didn't get a fair test against the run in Week 1, when they faced Matthew Stafford and the pass-happy Lions. Somehow, some way, a Shanahan-led team is going to get its yards on the ground, and since Morris seems to have established himself as the go-to guy for now, I think he's fine as a second running back or flex option.
The problem for Ogletree is that as long as Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are healthy, you won't be able to trust him as more than a bye-week replacement. He is third on the Cowboys' depth chart, after all. Granted, the Cowboys throw enough to give their the third and fourth receiving options a handful of big games over the course of the year, but you'll never be able to predict when they'll happen. And when they don't, you won't like the results.
Now, if Austin or Bryant goes down, which both have a history of doing, Ogletree has the potential to go all Victor Cruz on us, which is a big reason why he's so worth owning. But given the state of the Cowboys receiving corps heading into Week 2 at Seattle, I should hope you can do better than him.
Please tell me there isn't anything to worry about again this year with Chris Johnson . -- Ryan Minard (via Facebook)
SW: I had an opportunity to draft Johnson in one of my leagues this year. Fortunately, I also had the luxury of a one-hour time limit. I thought about it ... and thought about it ... and thought about it ... and eventually passed in favor of Calvin Johnson .
That was back before the preseason started, but with each exhibition game the Titans played, the question in my mind grew louder and louder: Why does everyone assume Johnson -- Chris, not Calvin -- will be all better this year?
He didn't look it in the preseason, averaging 2.9 yards carry. He didn't look it in the season opener, averaging 0.4 yards per carry. I know the latter came against a Patriots defense that is suspected to be much improved, but it doesn't explain the former. And yes, I know preseason numbers are horribly misleading, but for a player who was a colossal disappointment last year and has been a colossal disappointment this year -- one game and all -- I can't help but think they mean something.
The one bit of encouragement I can offer is that Johnson showed some improvement in the second half last year, which is why people were so quick to blame his poor showing on his contract holdout prior to the season -- he showed up late, got off to a bad start and never fully recovered -- but I think there's more to the story here.
Of course, that's just a suspicion I have at this early stage of the season. It's not justification to dump Johnson for whatever you can get. It may be justification to deal him, though, if you're offered something fairly even in return, such as Maurice Jones-Drew straight up.
Which is the best DST for this week: the Redskins (at St. Louis), the Cowboys (at Seattle) or the Vikings (at Indianapolis)? -- @DjPaUlHoWaRd (via Twitter)
SW: I think we all got a little spoiled playing the matchups with defenses last season, when the Colts, Jaguars and Rams were all abominable on offense. This season, no offense stands out as being quite that bad. The Dolphins and Browns are getting there, but after one game, I don't think I'm sure enough of them to start the Raiders or Bengals defenses this week.
It's a moot point anyway because neither the Raiders nor the Bengals are options here, but the underlying message is that I'm not sure I trust matchup information enough at this point in the season to stray from the higher-profile defenses.
Of the three you listed here, the Cowboys are the highest-profile. No, they weren't the highest-scoring last year, but they have a big-name defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan and the talent to force a bunch of sacks and turnovers.
And you know what? Their matchup might be the best anyway. The Rams seem to have a different attitude with Jeff Fisher at the helm, so I don't know what to expect from them anymore. And Andrew Luck is such an improvement over what the Colts had at quarterback last year that I expect them to look entirely different as well.
I'm still trying to figure out just what the Seahawks have in Russell Wilson , but judging by his performance against the Cardinals in Week 1, I don't think he's in for a big season statistically. If that defense held the Seahawks offense to only 254 yards, you have to think the Cowboys are a relatively safe start at Seattle.
Is Fred Jackson for Beanie Wells and Nate Washington a good trade? Would Jackson for Reggie Bush be a better trade? I have Jackson. I'd just like to know what you think before I accept or counter offer. -- George Reed (via Facebook)
SW: My initial thought is that if you can still get something for Jackson, with his knee as messed up as it is, go for it. Coach Chan Gailey doesn't think it'll be as long as eight weeks, but he doesn't know either. And eight weeks is a long time as it is. Do you want an injured player hogging a bench spot for that long? Are you sure Jackson will reclaim the job from C.J. Spiller when he's ready to return? Tough questions, both.
But again, that was just my initial thought. Gailey also speculated that Jackson could miss as little as four weeks, which is a much more manageable timetable. I don't know that it's a more realistic timetable, but in the end, I'm just speculating myself. If you discard Jackson for a bunch of scrap metal just to get him off your roster, you may regret it later. So, yeah, I'll take what I can get for him ... within reason.
Wells and Washington are exactly what I mean by scrap metal. They're good enough to own, but will they ever put up big numbers? Maybe when the stars align. Will you ever feel compelled to start them? Maybe when the bye weeks align. I know Wells was pretty good last year, but now he has company in Ryan Williams on an offense that isn't going anywhere this year. Thinking about it makes me feel yucky inside.
However you rate those two, they're not going to help make up for the loss of Jackson. In fact, together, they'll just take up more roster space. If you're going to make either of these deals, you should make the Bush one.
And I'd recommend it, sure. I never understood why everyone was so down on Bush in the first place. He looked like a candidate for the second round when he rushed for 100 yards in each of his last four games last year. I know he doesn't play for a great offensive team, which limits his potential for touchdowns, but ... he is the offense. With Brandon Marshall out of town, most of the yardage now, whether on the ground or in the air, goes through Bush. Clearly, he thrived with poor quarterback play last year, so why wouldn't he do the same this year? I imagine you'd end up starting him just about every week, which is why this trade is worthwhile.
I'll add one caveat, though: If you're the one who owns Spiller, you shouldn't be looking to trade Jackson. You know you have a stud in the Bills running back, whichever it is. If you break up that duo now, you risk not having a stud if and when Jackson returns. Granted, it'll work out great if Jackson ends up missing the rest of the season or if Spiller ends up claiming the job outright, but right now, you're not in a position to predict either of those scenarios.
Rank these tight ends going forward: Brent Celek , Dennis Pitta , Heath Miller and Marcedes Lewis . -- Zac Duffy (via Facebook)
SW: So you want to know where Pitta fits into the equation after a breakout performance in Week 1? That one's hard to figure. For starters, I don't know that he's overtaken Ed Dickson , and I'm not sure the two can coexist. Most offenses don't have enough stats for multiple tight ends.
I mean, they'll play together, but speaking in terms of Fantasy, they may prevent each other from making a relevant contribution.
Of course, it's not like you listed a bunch of studs here. If nothing else, Pitta looked good catching the ball -- more like a wide receiver than a tight end, I'd say -- so if he continues to get the opportunities he did Monday, he has the potential to surprise. I'd still rank him behind Celek -- who, despite his limited ceiling, is a safe bet for 800 yards -- but I'd gamble on Pitta over uninspiring options like Lewis and Miller.
Granted, I'm not being entirely fair to Lewis. If coach Mike Mularkey has indeed fixed the passing game in Jacksonville, Lewis could reemerge as a primary red-zone target and approach the 10 touchdowns he scored in 2010. But he has never offered much between the 20s, and touchdowns alone aren't enough to keep a tight end relevant in Fantasy these days.
As for Miller ... yeah, he plays. That's about all he has going for him, though.
In a 10-team points-per-reception league, I can only start two of Percy Harvin , Jeremy Maclin and Reggie Wayne . Who should I sit? -- Sean Curtis (via Facebook)
SW: Well, if Maclin ends up missing the game with a strained hip flexor, that's it. The decision is made for you.
In a way, it might already be. He's at less than 100 percent. He's always at risk of losing catches to DeSean Jackson . He's facing the Ravens. Honestly, I can't think of a compelling reason to start him.
But the second reason is the most interesting to me because it applies beyond just this week. Call me old fashioned, but I like the wide receivers who are the clear No. 1 options for their teams. These days, I have to keep more of an open mind because the pass-heavy schemes in New England, New Orleans, Green Bay, New York, Atlanta, Denver and Dallas are all capable of sustaining more than one stud receiver. I'm not so sure about Philadelphia, though.
True, Michael Vick is more inclined to air it out these days than when he was with the Falcons, but running is still a big enough part of his game that he's not going to be one of those quarterbacks who throws for 250-plus yards every week. His passing numbers will be erratic, and Maclin and Jackson will suffer because of it. Hey, the proof is in the pudding. Maclin had less than 60 receiving yards in six of his 13 games last year.
I'm not saying he's a bad Fantasy option or even that I'd have the luxury of sitting him in most of my leagues, but clearly, you do. Granted, Harvin and Wayne aren't exactly Calvin Johnson themselves, but both figure to lead their teams in receiving just about every week. And as we saw in Week 1, both figure to benefit from improved quarterback play this year after falling short of expectations last year.
If I shop Jacquizz Rodgers to a Michael Turner owner, what can I expect to get in return? I was thinking Alshon Jeffery . -- @BrentBeugelink (via Twitter)
SW: Well, yeah, you could probably get Jeffery for him, but if you have to dig that deep, is it really worth it?
Don't get me wrong: Jeffery is a fine sleeper and all -- I own him in a few leagues myself -- but he's at that point where he's still just one bad game from going back on the waiver wire in most leagues. Rodgers' value is a bit more established. Considering his role in the Falcons' new pass-happy offense, he's a threat to overtake Turner any given week and is, therefore, a must-have handcuff option in Fantasy. One bad game won't change that.
Granted, I don't personally feel like he'll displace Turner as the primary rusher. I don't think he's as good in that role. But given the distribution of workload between the two backs in Week 1, the Turner owner has to be freaking out right now. And you're right to take advantage.
But if you're going to take advantage, take advantage. You need a wide receiver? Try asking for Miles Austin or Reggie Wayne or Antonio Brown or Eric Decker . None of them are so high-end that the Turner owner wouldn't at least think about it, and all offer more assurances than Jeffery.
Sure, the Turner owner might just laugh in your face, but if that happens, you don't lose anything by holding on to Rodgers. Another bad week for Turner would only work to your advantage.