Fantasy & Reality: A Week 1 warning
Did Kevin Ogletree, Jared Cook and other Week 1 wonders of years past teach us anything? As our Dave Richard writes, history suggests those out-of-nowhere studs quickly become duds.
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The anticipation for the NFL season to kick off can be overwhelming. The league gets us fired up for training camp, then they're on our televisions with preseason games (where we overanalyze every little thing) and then there's that lull over Labor Day where we have no action and everyone sulks.
And then ... football is played.
And when that initial week is over, this chaotic overreaction to everything that happened in Week 1 kicks in. The stud running back everyone took first overall had just 11 touches and now there's panic. The high-powered offense in Dallas melts down against a good defense and people start cutting guys. And there's always an undrafted rookie having a big start to his career who is undoubtedly the next big thing, unless he's not.
The truth of the matter is that Week 1 is just like any other week of football, minus the hoopla. Some guys are going to have bad games, others will have great performances. Some are big-name players you expect big things from, others are people you have never heard of. And it's those unknowns that make people go nuttier than a lady squirrel dancing with Mr. Peanut in a mixed nuts factory in Walnut Creek, California.
The recent track record of Week 1 surprise players isn't good. How many have played well in Week 1 and gone on to finish as a top-shelf Fantasy option at their position? Over the last two years, the answer is two: Alfred Morris in 2012 and Julius Thomas in 2013.
Two! Over two years.
Still want Justin Forsett?
Remember last season when Jared Cook erupted for 24 Fantasy points and then fell off? He had 64 Fantasy points over the rest of the season! And don't forget the two 2012 Week 1 sensations -- Kevin Ogletree and Stephen Hill. In Week 1, Ogletree led all receivers with 23 Fantasy points and Hill was third with 20 Fantasy points. Combined, Ogletree and Hill tallied 58 total Fantasy points in Weeks 2 through 17, though injuries played a role in Hill's case.
But just going back over the last two seasons, a whopping 56 players that had a big game in Week 1 (20-plus points in standard formats for a quarterback, 10-plus points for everyone else) failed to finish as a Top 24 option at their position the same season. Narrow that to just running backs and receivers and you have 45 opening acts-to-cellar dwellers, with 17 receivers in each season going from robust to busto. That's the position to be especially wary of.
Still want Allen Hurns?
Look, it's not fair to look at past history involving other players in other situations and merely assume a completely different player is going to fail. It's unfair to say "forget about Hurns" just because Ogletree's career peaked over a four-quarter period on Sept. 5, 2012. But it is fair to say that just because some random has a surprising Week 1 doesn't mean he'll become a hero.
What's hot today could be hot garbage tomorrow. Procure your waiver claims carefully and aim for the guys who have potential to play regularly and contribute regularly. The Browns running backs are dandies since Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell could have a path to regular work so long as Ben Tate is sidelined, for however long that is.
Hurns' expectations might be through the roof because he scored twice and had over 100 yards in his first quarter in the NFL, but at the very least he'll have a shot at contributing for the Jaguars. He'll deliver his fair share of stinkers. As for those Ravens running backs, my take in a nutshell is to have lowered expectations with an eye cast toward rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro eventually getting a piece of the action.
Fantasy & Reality
Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) from around the league.
Fantasy: Tony Romo and the Cowboys will put up big points in a shootout with the 49ers. Romo came out of the gate like a deer in headlights, throwing passes off target and basically breaking Dez Bryant in half on one target (he's fine, thank the Fantasy gods). He missed four passes in the first half and three of them were intercepted. His O-line did him no favors either, a shocker considering how good it looked in the preseason. I'll give the Cowboys the benefit of the doubt, but in two weeks they play at St. Louis. If the line is still a mess protecting Romo by then, there could be some major worries.
Reality: Kelvin Benjamin is a Fantasy Football animal. A wild Fantasy Football animal, with a huge catch radius and faster-than-advertised speed. On his touchdown grab it looked like Buccaneers cornerback Mike Jenkins was trying to crawl inside his jersey. That's how close he was. Benjamin still made the catch around Jenkins, delivering what was the touchdown that put the game out of reach for good. There was a reason why Cam Newton was ga-ga for Kelvin all preseason long and now we've got a glimpse as to why. In closing, any receiver who can make Derek Anderson look good belongs in a Fantasy lineup (right Braylon Edwards?).
Fantasy: This is the beginning of the end for Keenan Allen. Allen had nine targets on Monday night but converted just five for 37 yards against a tough Arizona secondary. Allen might have another nine targets on Sunday against an even tougher Seahawks secondary but probably isn't a safe bet for any more than 50 yards. Take advantage -- after Week 2 the Chargers take on the Bills, Jaguars, Jets, Raiders and Chiefs. Allen might score in all five games. Set a reminder on your calendar now: Make a good trade offer for Allen on Sept. 15.
Reality: I can't quit Mark Ingram. From the moment the Saints drafted him until now, there have been only two people on the planet who have bought into Ingram: me and Sean Payton. Payton holds the keys to the Saints offense and he's the one who called for runs 13 out of 20 times when Ingram was on the field Sunday at Atlanta. Yep, just 20 snaps for Ingram, yet he still averaged 4.6 yards per carry and scored twice. I'm not calling him a must-start guy every week, but if the Saints are going to threaten defenses on every down with Jimmy Graham, Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston ready to snare a pass from Drew Brees, then whoever's in that backfield is going to run against six in the box.
Also of note: Ingram had nine of his carries and both touchdowns in the second half after a slow start (four carries, 11 yards). If the Saints wanted to play the hot hand, they would have stuck with Khiry Robinson (35 yards on four carries with a touchdown). Instead, it was Ingram late and fairly often inside the red zone (five of his 13 carries on the day inside the red zone). I won't call Ingram a guy to sell the farm for in trade, but I will say he has a chance to have a very good year in New Orleans.
• A public service announcement regarding Thursday Night Football and the impact it has on Fantasy: Running backs tend to rule. That's because, in theory, defensive players as a whole have less time to get their bodies back to normal and digest a completely new game plan and opponent while a running back can maintain himself on his own (versus 11 people) and has basically a similar plan each week. Coaches might also opt for the more vanilla game plan on a short week, which also favors the run. You were already starting Le'Veon Bell but this week be prepared to put Bernard Pierce and/or Justin Forsett in your Flex.
• The Patriots lost consecutive games in Weeks 2 and 3 of the 2012 season. And again in 2011 they lost in Weeks 8 and 9. Before that you'd have to go back to 2009 (Weeks 12 and 13) to find consecutive losses. Point is, the Pats don't lose back-to-back games very often, but after seeing the Patriots O-line disintegrate at Miami, I'd give the Vikings a shot to beat them at their (temporary) place on Sunday. Mike Zimmer annihilated Tom Brady last season when he was with Cincinnati and his defense this season, while not as stout as those Bengals were, is still pretty good. And while Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner doesn't have a good history against Bill Belichick (1-5 in their last six), he might finally have his ace-in-the-hole in Matt Cassel, who will take on the Patriots for the first time in his career. Laugh all you want -- we'll see how close the game is on Sunday.
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