NFL Real Talk: Week One Recap

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If you paid top dollar for Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, congratulations… you just wasted your money. The play of Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III in Week One proves that you didn’t need to go crazy on the top tier QBs in order to get fantastic production at the position. Yes it’s just one game, but clearly the NFL continues to be a pass-heavy league that will see plenty of signal-callers put up numbers every week. Sure Rodgers and Brady will finish the season among the very best at the QB position, but for a way cheaper price, you could’ve gotten pretty comparable numbers.

Aside from the litany of great QB performances, there were plenty of interesting developments around the fantasy football landscape. So take my hand (don’t worry, I’m not a creepy sexual assaulter, though I do drive a shady van and am willing to offer you a bounty of candy) and join me on a wild ride through Week One in the NFL.

More after the jump:

Your boy Stat Bundles has been a Trent Richardson supporter ever since the price dropped post-scope surgery, and nothing has changed following a woeful line against the Eagles (19 carries, 39 yards). T-Rich faced a heavily stacked box throughout the game as Philadelphia dared Brandon Weeden to beat them with his arm (spoiler alert for NFL Rewind fans: he couldn’t). While Weeden’s performance was atrocious, he will end up being a better option under center than the laughable cast of characters Cleveland has trotted out the past couple of years. The important thing to take from this game is that neither Brandon Jackson nor Montario Hardesty saw a single carry all afternoon. As Richardson’s health improves, so will the numbers. Now is a great time to buy-low on one of the rare three-down backs in the NFL.

Listeners of the Aric Lee Show on ESPN Decatur know that I loved Dennis Pitta as a sleeper coming into the season. He finished last year on a tear and Pitta did work Monday night (five catches, 73 yards, TD). Pitta is the Baltimore TE to own (fuck Ed “ I Suck Mad” Dickson) and should be owned in way more leagues. He’s got a great rapport with Joe Flacco and has the athleticism to make plays after the catch.

Temper expectations for Stevan Ridley. He enjoyed a terrific season debut, but let’s not pretend like this isn’t a pass-first offense. The Patriots defense played very well in Week One, but they are relying on a lot of rookies to play key roles and were fortunate to draw such an underwhelming offense in their first game. As the sledding gets tougher, expect Tom Brady to go back to throwing the ball all over the field. Ridley will be the top RB in New England, but don’t expect many more 20 touch performances.

So Adrian Peterson really is a freak (17 rushes, 84 yards, two TDs). You couldn’t talk me into paying for him at his draft-day price, and while I still think the cost was too steep, at least it looks like he won’t be a total bust. We’re just waiting for the day that he reveals he’s some sort of mutant with Wolverine-like healing ability (or that he’s taking steroids).

Lost in the hoopla of ADP’s return was the fact that Christian Ponder looked good in his season debut. Though he didn’t throw for any scores, Ponder connected on 20 of his 27 passes and looked comfortable against an underrated Jaguars defense. His performance bodes very well for TE Kyle Rudolph, who should be owned in way more leagues since he is on the brink of a breakout.

Maurice Jones-Drew appears to be carrying on the tradition of RBs sucking after an extended holdout. Lacking explosiveness and looking lost at times in a new offensive system, MJD didn’t do much to inspire confidence in his season going forward. He’s still worth starting every week due to the high-usage he will get in Jacksonville, but my money is on his decline starting in 2012.

Sell-high on Andre Johnson. Though he had a great opening week, it came against a woeful Miami defense. Johnson is still injury-prone and the Texans remain built to run. Fortunately, Johnson still carries plenty of name value in fantasy circles, so he should fetch a nice return coming off a strong performance.

It did not take long for Michael Bush to start eating into Matt Forte’s playing time, marking the first time that a bush did the eating. Bush carried the ball 12 times (no receptions) compared to Forte’s 19 touches. Forte actually got a red zone score Sunday, but don’t expect to see that shit often. Bush is likely to be used in most of the goal line situations and will also chip in the passing game. Forte is obviously worth starting every week, but don’t expect him to come close to his points-per-game production from a year ago.

I spent the offseason trying to sell people on the offensive weapons surrounding Andrew Luck in Indy, and Reggie Wayne (nine catches, 135 yards) and Coby Fleener (six catches, 82 yards) proved me right. Those two should be heavily involved in the passing game going forward as the Colts are moving Wayne all over the field to get him open and Fleener has a strong rapport with Luck from their days in Stanford (he’s also a polished, pro-ready TE who is built to be a reliable red-zone target).

Now would be a good time to gauge the trade interest of a Roddy White owner. While it’s clear that Julio Jones is the top dog in the passing game in Atlanta, White is certainly capable of going off himself. With Jones likely to see increased attention, there’s a very good chance White will find himself in a lot of single coverage situations. White is still a WR1, but one who could be had a WR2 price.

Don’t get too worked up over Victor Cruz’s case of the dropsies Wednesday night. He still had little trouble getting open and Eli Manning still loves throwing to him (11 targets). Though Hakeem Nicks is clearly more talented, Cruz is the most valuable NY Giant in fantasy.

Speaking of running back platoons, the 50/50 workload whispers surrounding Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis certainly didn’t materialize Sunday. Charles carried the ball 16 times (87 yards) compared to seven totes (16 yards) for Hillis. Still, the fact that Hillis is a passing-game and goal line pariah should limit Charles’ production throughout the season. It’s a shame, because Charles could be one of the better RBs in fantasy with 20 touches a game.

Despite the ass-whooping the Texans laid down on the Dolphins, Reggie Bush still managed to total 115 yards on 20 touches. Say what you want about Bush never living up to his college hype, but dude has become a reliable RB2 in fantasy since joining Miami. As the only real playmaker on his team, Bush will continue to get the ball often even in blowout situations.

Alshon Jeffery scored in his first game and finished with three catches for 80 yards. Though he’s a rookie, he’s the clear second-best option in Chicago’s passing game behind Brandon Marshall. With Marshall expected to receive a lot of attention from opposing defenses, Jeffery should be open plenty. He should be owned in most leagues as he has the potential to be a reliable WR3 with upside.

Stephen Hill is another rookie who deserves ownership in most leagues. Let’s face it, the Jets are lacking playmakers and they have on in Hill. He’ll get plenty of targets in New York and is explosive with the ball in his hands.

While I’m not ready to call Chris Johnson a bust for the second straight year, there’s a reason I own him in zero leagues. He’s a HR hitter, but he will also have his fair share of dud performances as he tries too hard to force big plays by dancing instead of grinding out the yards that are available.

It’s clear that the Green Bay Packers (wisely) recognize how dangerous Randall Cobb is with the ball in his hands. He hauled in nine catches for 77 yards and even lined up in the backfield a bit. His Week One usage is not a fluke. Expect him to continue to be plenty involved in the offense and at this point, I’m willing to call him an every-week flex play.

Titus Young isn’t ready to ascend to every-week fantasy start status just yet. After an offseason of hype, Young finished with just one catch in Week One. The problem is not just that Calvin Johnson commands so many targets. Nate Burleson is still a favorite option of Matt Stafford, and the QB loves throwing to his TEs as well. The “so many mouths to feed” theory holds true here, and Young is likely to be a disappointing fantasy option for most of 2012. Plus, his fade is ludicrous.

Jonathan Dwyer was clearly the best back in Pittsburgh Sunday night and he has made major strides in his young career. With Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman battling injuries that could linger all season, Dwyer could emerge from the fray as a clear feature back. He should be universally owned even on a speculative basis.

No one paid attention to Dexter McCluster’s high-usage in the preseason, but that momentum carried over into Week One as the WR led the team in targets (10). Though McCluster failed as an undersized RB, he is thriving in his new role as a slot man. If the targets hold up, McCluster could be an every-week flex play. For the time being, he warrants ownership in all leagues.

Though I was one of the people who thought Michael Turner was being disrespected by fantasy owners, I have to say that I’m pretty happy I own no shares of that shit. To say Michael Turner looked out of place in Atlanta’s high-powered offense is like saying that I look out of place at an abstinence rally. Turner still holds double-digit TD potential as the goal line back, but his week-to-week efforts will feature bouts of inconsistency.

Do not sleep on Donnie Avery in Indy. The oft-injured receiver has serious wheels and OC Bruce Arians plans on utilizing him in the same way he used Mike Wallace during his days in Pittsburgh. Avery hauled in a red zone pass for a score in Week One, but the odds are great that he’ll be doing most of his damage on deep plays as a field stretcher for the Colts. If you play in a deeper league, he’s a nice WR to add to your bench.

Even though the final numbers don’t look great for Russell Wilson’s NFL debut, the stats don’t tell the whole story. Wilson’s anticipation was brilliant at times and you can tell that he just has an uncanny feel for where his receivers are located. Had it not been for some clutch defensive play by the Cardinals and some poor hands by his WRs, his production would’ve been a lot better. Wilson is a playmaker, and one that will force his way into fantasy starting lineups sooner rather than later.

Keep an eye on TJ Graham in Buffalo. With David Nelson’s season in jeopardy, the team will need a WR to step up. The Bills are a potentially promising pass offense with the way they spread their receivers, and Graham (the most talented weapon in the WR corps) could find himself thrust into an important role as the team looks to generate offense.

Do not write off Knowshon Moreno. Yes he’s been a bust in the NFL while struggling to stay healthy, but he still has some of the sickest cuts in football and it’s not like Denver’s RB corps are lighting the world on fire. He should be owned in all 14-team and deeper leagues and even some 12-team owners in need of RB depth should give him a look.



About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.