NFL Real Talk: Week Three

Most 0-2 owners are feeling like this
Photo Credit: Creative Donkey

After Week Two, fantasy owners tend to think they have their team figured out. If you’re off to a 2-0 start, you’re inner dialogue probably goes something like this:

“You’re amazing. You’ve got them right where you want them. Maybe a small move here, minor trade there, and you’ll have this league locked up. You’re so hot. Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me.”

If you’re 1-1, the conversation in your mind likely sounds like this:

“Alright. N-n-n-no reason to get too overwhelmed. We can still get through this. Just shore up the weaknesses, deal from our strengths, and we’ll be gravy.”

If you’re 0-2, chances are this is running through your head:

“I f’ing hate fantasy football.”

Wherever you are on your league’s totem pole, realize this: it’s never too early to start thinking seriously about whether your team is suited for a title run (particularly if you are off to a slow start). There’s no need to sit and wait a week or two later, because by then, the damage may be irrevocable. With that in mind, join me as we sift through some of the more interesting story lines that rose from the ashes of Week Two.

More after the jump:

Before we get going here on “NFL Real Talk,” I have to issue a public apology for the whole Ryan Grant thing. During an episode of “Beef,” your boy shit on James Starks and pronounced Ryan Grant the RB to own in Green Bay. So far, Starks has just six more carries than Grant, but it’s clear who has more upside. That said, this does not mean that Starks is a reliable fantasy option. On the contrary, with John “The Goon” Kuhn seeing goal-line work and Grant being used often enough to keep Starks to about 10-14 touches per game, no Packers RB is worth trusting at this point. Believe it or not, I am still holding out some hope for Grant. All it will take is a couple of uneven performances from Starks and Grant could end up in a more prominent role. After all, the team is paying Grant $4.5 mil, so you’d have to think that they’ll give him more carries if he earns them (or Starks loses them). Yet even if Grant ends up being the top dog, it’s clear that there just isn’t much fantasy appeal here, regardless of who comes out on top. If you own Starks, now would be a good time to dangle him out there and see what people are willing to pay.

“Killah” Cam Newton is… well, killing it. He’s been one of the elite fantasy QBs through two weeks, but is it time to sell high? Yes, yes it is. As great as he has been and as confident as Carolina appears in his abilities (they were using four and five wideout sets like crazy against a good defense in Green Bay), there’s only one way to go from here. Note how once the game progressed, the Packers defense smartened up after being initially shell-shocked by a pass-heavy attack from Carolina. Newton threw two hideous picks and has a modest 3:4 TD-to-INT ratio. Yeah he’s added two scores with his legs, but you have to look at the big picture. The league is now on notice about Newton, and shit is about to get a whole lot tougher for the rookie QB. If you own any stock in Newton, this is the time you take your chips to the window and cash out while the getting is good. Trust me, with all the hype surrounding him, you can definitely get something of value in return.

Preston Parker had a fine game on Sunday (six catches, 98 yards) but don’t get too worked up. Mike Williams couldn’t get any separation, Arrelious Benn sucked outside of a 25-yard TD, and Sammie Stroughter was inactive. Parker’s not a terrible player, but he’s pretty slow and is more of a possession receiver than anything. Nuttin’ to see here.

Darren Sproles has earned the right to be an every-week flex play. He has 19 targets (second among RBs to Matt Forte, who has 20) and is already looking like a favorite of Drew Brees. He won’t carry the rock too often, but who gives a shit about that when homeboy is breaking off long plays in the passing game?

Andy Dalton looked very good in Week Two. Yes, it was against the Denver Broncos, but he’s already shown some impressive traits in his brief NFL career. His throws look smooth and he has been able to hit up different receivers while making his decisions based on what the defense is giving him. Unfortunately, his maturity means that determining the fantasy value of his receiving options will be very difficult. He targeted A.J. Green 14 times on Sunday, but the Broncos were without Champ Bailey and Dalton hardly looked Green’s way when he was under center in Week One. We all thought Jermaine Gresham’s stock was pointing up after being targeted early and often by Dalton in the first half of Week One, but Gresham saw just five targets against a Broncos teams that has actually been playing TEs relatively well so far. Jerome Simpson can also make plays and Andre Caldwell is no slouch, so Dalton has a few options he can go to instead of force-feeding one or two guys. Dalton looks like a great backup QB in fantasy right now and could even play himself into a platoon role if he keeps this up. As for his receivers, Green and Gresham look like the best bets, but I’d be more comfortable keeping them on the bench and taking a wait/see approach because if Dalton isn’t going out of his way to get them the ball, they will be very inconsistent fantasy options.

Danario Alexander was an absolute beast in college and he can make circus catches with the best of ‘em. It’s a shame that his knee is being held together with rubber bands and paper clips, because the Rams will continue to limit his snaps, thus keeping him from being a fantasy starter.

Not only is Matt Hasselbeck a quality QB2 and making a case for platoon duties, but his play should give Chris Johnson owners confidence. Opposing defenses cannot simply stack the box, stop CJ2K, and win. Not when you have Kenny Britt doing work downfield. Hasselbeck will only get more comfortable in this offense as time goes on and while I wouldn’t call this a “comeback” season, he’s definitely looking like a signal caller you can safely deploy in the right circumstances (like this weekend against the Broncos).

Britt got a shoutout, but we’d be remiss not to mention teammate Nate Washington. Yes Hasselbeck loves him some True Britt, but Washington is getting in on the action as well. He had seven targets in Week One and 11 on Sunday. Washington is pretty one-dimensional as an outside burner, but we’ve seen players succeed in this role before, so there’s no reason to think Washington cannot put up career-best numbers.

If you own Frank Gore, you’re in for a long season. He still has his burst and looks capable of putting up quality fantasy numbers… just not in this offense. San Fran’s O-line has been awful so far and despite the fact that he’s commanding virtually all the carries, Gore hasn’t been very involved in the passing game (only seven targets). He should improve on his 2.5 YPC, but considering that most teams will stack the box and Gore has a checkered injury history, it just doesn’t look very promising.

Dez Bryant owners, put your drinks up and toast to Miles Austin’s hurting hamstring. Though Bryant has an injury issue himself, I feel far more comfortable about a player dealing with a “thigh bruise” than anything hamstring-related. The Cowboys don’t feel too confident in Austin being able to start this week and we’ve all seen how hamstring injuries can linger all season (especially for a player who relies so heavily on his legs). If at all possible, see if you can pry Dez away from another owner on even the most mini of discounts. He’s gonna be huge (pause).

I know feature RBs in football are rarer than an ugly chick on my notch-filled belt, but it would be wise to sell high on Michael Turner. His value is sky-high right now coming off back-to-back 100 yard games and there are a ton of selling points you can make to drive up the price: great O-line, proven commodity, feature back, pass offense keeps defenses honest, blah, blah, blah. You may be saying, “S-S-Starbonell, if there are so many ‘selling points’ on Turner, why not hold onto him?” Sure you can hang on to Turner. Just be aware that you are hanging on to a dude whose workload over the past few years is comparable to a coca plant harvester in Columbia. That workload, coupled with Turner’s uselessness in the passing game and his dramatic fade last year (3.58 YPC over last six games), should make fantasy owners think twice before dreaming up images of the Falcons RB carrying them to a fantasy title. He’ll fetch you quite a haul if you sell now, so do it.

I have to give Million Dollar Sleeper credit, that Ryan Fitzpatrick fella is alright. Don’t get it twisted, he’s still a platoon QB at best, but his real value comes from the fact that he’s made a record number of Bills fantasy relevant (the previous record was two). Steve Johnson (sorry brah, I ain’t calling you “Stevie”) looks like he will be a fine WR2 this season as long as his groin doesn’t fall off. Fred Jackson is doing work with the pass offense opening up lanes. And David Nelson, well, he’s the flavor of the week after a big Week Two performance and looks like an every-week WR3. It should be noted that the team’s offensive line has been playing well so far, but they are kind of a motley crew of dudes who were thrown together and are making it work. If the O-line starts to falter, Buffalo could go back to being the Buffoon-o Bills we all love.

Fred Davis is the mu’fucking truth.

Just wanted to point out that Jonathan Stewart is one of the best running backs in the league in terms of overall ability, in case you didn’t know. When the ball is in his hands, special things tend to happen. While the run-blocking of the Panthers hasn’t been as good as it should be, it should improve. Once Newton starts to get his bell rung, Carolina should return to a run-heavy attack and J-Stew, even in a limited role, can be a very vital fantasy component.


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.