“Round Robinson”: Flexual Tension (The RB/WR Hot List for Week 2)
Seems like every season, we come into the year with a pretty good handle on how things are going to play out. And like clockwork, we find after one game that so many of our expectations have been turned upside down. The trick is deciphering which of the unusual outcomes from the first week of the season are real and which are nothing more than mirages. A popular theme to this week’s list will be deciding what players we’re buying into after a surprise performance last week as well as others we refuse to overreact on despite lackluster production.
Before jumping into the Week 2 prognostications, let’s take a look back at my calls from Week 1:
Week 1 Hits:
DeMarco Murray: Standard scoring: 17 pts; MLFS scoring: 21.15 pts
Percy Harvin: Standard scoring: 9 pts; MLFS scoring: 20.5 pts
C.J. Spiller: Standard scoring: 12 pts; MLFS scoring: 16.85 pts
Pierre Thomas: Standard scoring: 8 pts; MLFS scoring: 15.9 pts
Markus Wheaton: Standard scoring: 9 pts; MLFS scoring: 15.7 pts
Justin Forsett: Standard scoring: 14 pts; MLFS scoring: 19.4 pts
Week 1 Misses:
Frank Gore: Standard scoring: 6 pts; MLFS scoring: 6.6 pts
Emmanuel Sanders: Standard scoring: 8 pts; MLFS scoring: 14.8 pts
Cecil Shorts III: Injured, DNP
Kenny Britt: Standard scoring: 0 pts; MLFS scoring: 0 pts
Not a bad opening salvo if I do say so myself. If there’s two calls I’m especially happy with, it’s Wheaton and Forsett. Wheaton proved to be a capable and competent option across from Antonio Brown and put up strong numbers (7 Tar, 6 Rec, 97 Yds) despite Brown having a fantastic day himself (6 Tar, 5 Rec, 116 Yds, 1 TD). Big Ben had quite a game as well, but this was not purely a volume play as Roethlisberger threw the ball just 34 times against Cleveland, tied for 17th-most in Week 1. What this proves to me is that the Steelers are fully capable of supporting two starter-worthy fantasy receivers as a majority of the targets are going to Brown, Wheaton and Le’Veon Bell. Wheaton joins Brown and Bell as confident every-week starts going forward.
Justin Forsett was the beneficiary of the Stevan Ridley-like benching of Bernard Pierce. Pierce’s early fumble relegated him to just six carries and 17 yards as the Ravens stuck with Forsett for the duration of the action. He rewarded trusting fantasy owners with 11 carries for 70 yards and a TD while tacking on 5 catches for 14 yards to further reward PPR players. The Ravens RB situation has become cloudy to say the least over the last few days, and I’ll have more on what I expect from them in Week 2 in this week’s list.
I expected more from Gore and Sanders than they returned in their juicy, opening-game matchups. A trip to the end zone is all that separated Sanders from a top-10 day, so needless to say I’m still incredibly high on his prospects. Gore is a little more troublesome, but he gets another tasty matchup against the Bears this week; the same Bears team that surrendered 193 rushing yards to Buffalo in an overtime loss. San Francisco ran just 54 plays, a function of Tony Romo and the Cowboys being in such a giving mood early on. Gore received over twice as many carries as rookie Carlos Hyde but was not nearly as productive as the former Buckeye. Should that trend continue this week, Gore might see his workload decrease sooner than expected.
Have to admit, I completely swung and missed on the Kenny Britt call. Can I chalk it up to confusing Britt and Quick’s names? I mean, if you say them fast enough, maybe aren’t paying attention, maybe had one too many drinks before the game… it’s an easy mistake to make. Regardless, there was a five-lettered WR who did have a decent game for the Rams (9 Tar, 7 Rec, 99 Yds), proving my point that despite Sam Bradford being lost for the season, there is still some potential in a Rams receiver if you can nail down who that’s going to be. That being said, going from Shaun Hill to Austin Davis this week is where I draw the line (should Hill miss the game which it looks like he will). I refuse to trust any QB whose name sounds like the main character of a CW teen drama. Nope, no Rams WR is going to make the cut for me this week.
With Week 1 now fully in our rear view, time to unveil this week’s Hot List and see which RB and WR you need to make room for in your lineup this week:
Larry Fitzgerald, WR (ARI) – Rumors of Fitzgerald’s demise seem to be greatly exaggerated after his one catch performance on Monday night. Even Fitz Sr. took to social media to voice his displeasure with how Jr. was used during the game. But let’s pump the brakes before jumping to conspiracy theories about the Cardinals phasing him out of the offense. It was one game, folks. And now the Cardinals get to take on a Giants secondary that let Calvin Johnson run wild on them. If the G-Men plan on giving Fitzgerald the same treatment as Megatron, meaning they think they can throw Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on him and be alright, then look for Fitz to bounce back in a big way. Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer are no fools and they know they’ve still got an All-Pro level WR in their back pocket. For the record, I still like Michael Floyd more than Fitzgerald for the season, but this will be a strong bounce back game in which #11 reminds us he’s still got plenty left.
Expectation: Top-15 WR, outperforms Michael Floyd
Shane Vereen, RB (NE) – Hard to imagine that a back who nets only 36 yards rushing could be seen as having a successful day, but that’s exactly what Vereen did against the Dolphins thanks to a rare rushing TD and 35 yards on five catches. With New England’s O-line looking awfully shaky last week, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Vereen get even more opportunities out of the backfield on quick-hitting plays to keep Tom Brady upright. Just so happens that the Patriots take on a Vikings squad that allowed running backs to catch over 100 balls last season. Vereen could very well run for just 36 yards again, but the eight catches and 70 yards receiving he has to go with it will make his day look mighty fine.
Expectation: Top-15 RB
Bernard Pierce, RB (BAL) – Surprise, surprise. For as much as I liked Forsett last week, I’m jumping ship and riding Pierce Thursday night against a vulnerable Steelers run defense that just gave up 183 yards on the ground to Cleveland. Why the sudden change of heart? It’s all about circumstance. Last week, the Ravens had no problem letting Pierce and Forsett piecemeal it together as a stopgap because they were getting Ray Rice back in Week 3. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you now know that this is not the case anymore and the Ravens’ brass has let it be known that they view Pierce as the leader and workhorse back of this lot. With everything that has happened this week in Baltimore, I fully expect the Ravens to come out with an inspired effort against Pittsburgh. The leash now becomes a whole lot longer for Pierce and he will be given every opportunity to take this job and run with it, starting tonight.
Expectation: Top-20 RB
Terrance West, RB (CLE) – Speaking of those Cleveland Browns, the inevitable happened about as quickly as it could as Ben Tate suffered a sprained knee and is expected to miss the next 2-4 weeks. As high as I’ve been on Tate, those who read my preseason sleeper article should know that I also implored Tate owners to pick up West for just this occasion. I’ve heard plenty of love being thrown Isaiah Crowell’s way, and if you’re desperate to pick up a back for this week, he’s not a terrible option. But some have gone on record saying his upside is higher than that of West and I’m just not buying it. Yes, Crowell did put it in the end zone twice last week and figures to be the favorite to get the goal line work (Crowell had three red zone carries last week; West just one), but I’ll take volume just about every time. The Saints run D is better than that of the Steelers, although they did just give up 123 yards rushing to the mess that is the Falcons backfield, so there’s nothing to fear here.
Expectation: Top-25 RB
Justin Hunter, WR (TEN) – You can call me a homer, but I’ll say this about the Cowboys D in Week 1: They didn’t look nearly as terrible as I thought they would. Maybe talk of them being the worst defense in the NFL… and in team history… hell, in NFL history, was a bit overblown. Or maybe their awfulness just didn’t stand up relative to the atrocious, interception-filled day turned in by one Antonio Ramiro Romo. Let’s face it though, this defense, especially the pass defense, is still very, very bad, so you know at least one of the Titans’ receivers is going to turn in a big game. Kendall Wright is about as steady as they come, but I’m going for the home run pick and saying that Sunday will be Justin Hunter’s breakout performance. I expect to see him get loose on at least one long bomb as well as notching his first touchdown of the year. My only fear is that Hunter’s big yardage day gets cut due to long Dallas pass interference calls, of which there could be a few. And no, his knee injury earlier this week in practice does not have me worried one bit.
Expectation: Top-25 WR
Brandin Cooks, WR (NO) – Hey, at least I left him out of last week’s hot list. That’s been about the only time I haven’t been singing the praises of Cooks since the Saints traded up to draft him, and that was just for some variety. He didn’t let me down last week, and has a ton working for him this week against Cleveland. I expect Joe Haden to be on Marques Colston for the majority of the snaps and, even if Kenny Stills is back for this matchup, he will be limited. I could see this being a big Cooks/Graham game. You can yell all you want about the Saints offense not being the same on the road as it is at home, but the Browns were just carved up by Roethlisberger last week. Drew Brees has to be licking his lips at the opportunity to go at this defense and forget about that disappointing loss to the Falcons, and it’ll be Cooks on the end of another 7+ passes this week.
Expectation: Top-25 WR
Golden Tate, WR (DET) – Carolina made Josh McCown look utterly foolish last week, reminding the world they still have a playoff-caliber defense. But Matthew Stafford is not Josh McCown and this is the most loaded Lions offense I can remember since the days of Barry Sanders, Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton. If Golden Tate turns into the 2014 version of Johnnie Morton, I think Detroit fans are going to be ecstatic. Common sense tells me that the Panthers will pay just a little bit more attention to Calvin than did the Giants, meaning Tate will have every chance to prove how valuable a commodity he is as a #2 WR. Megatron’s numbers slip from last week, but Tate’s do not and he has a chance to tally his first 100-yard receiving game for the Lions.
Expectation: Top-30 WR
Greg Jennings, WR (MIN) – If you can name a pass catcher that’s taken more for granted that Greg Jennings, I’m all ears. Quietly he just goes about his business and keeps putting up respectable numbers despite all the attention the fantasy community is giving Cordarelle Patterson (and rightly so). Jennings and Cassel seemed to have developed a nice rapport dating back to the end of last season. In fact, in the last six games that Cassel has started for the Vikings, Jennings has 38 Rec for 423 Yds and 3 TD. Those numbers may not fly off the page, but you’d be hard pressed to find that level of production and consistency this far down the ranks. You can bet that New England will have all eyes focused on containing Peterson and Patterson (new nickname: Peter-Patter?), leaving Jennings to pick up any slack. Solid, if unspectacular, play at your flex or WR3 spot.
Expectation: Top-35 WR
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB (IND) – Now we get to the deeper plays, and I love me some not-Trent Richardson. Bradshaw was on the field about 50% more than T-Ditch and I expect that kind of usage pattern to continue this week against the Eagles. Philly has been staunch in their commitment to stopping the run, something that was evident in their win over Jacksonville when they held the Jags to just 64 yards rushing. But Bradshaw can hurt opposing defenses doing more than just taking handoffs from Andrew Luck. His 5 Rec and 70 Yds once again showed the versatility we’ve come to expect from the former Giant. For the second week in a row, the Colts look to be headed into a shootout and Bradshaw owners look to be the beneficiary.
Expectation: Top-35 RB
Darren McFadden, RB (OAK) – It pains me just to have to type this name, but if you’re going for an absolute Hail Mary at one of your running back spots this week, let me make the case for Run-DMC. A lot of the optimism here centers around the status of his backfield mate, Maurice Jones-Drew. Currently, MJD is listed as day-to-day with a hand injury and he’ll probably end up a game-time decision. Should he be forced to miss the Raiders’ home opener, McFadden will shoulder the load against a Texans defense that surrendered five yards per carry to Washington. If you just can’t stomach the idea of dragging McFadden’s name to a starting roster spot on your team, keep in mind also the name Latavius Murray. Murray, a sixth-round pick last year who spent the entire season on IR, could very well be the breakout RB of 2014 considering the circumstances in front of him. This game might just be his entry point. Before you do anything though, keep checking on Jones-Drew’s status entering Sunday.
Expectation: Top-40 RB
Major League Fantasy Football Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts Sunday September 14th from 11am-12pm EST for another episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio on the Sports Palooza Radio Network. This week Ryan Ingram will be joining us to discuss this weeks great QB and TE plays along with some games that we see providing a lot of fantasy points. Be sure and check out Ryan’s articles that come out every Friday that are about QB and TE plays for the week. You can listen to us online or anywhere you can get an internet connection. Also, we will be taking live callers so if you have any questions that you want answered you can get us at 646.915.8596. You can also call in and listen to the show from that number. If you decide you want to ask a question on air just press the number 1 on your phone and that will put you in the host’s queue. Also, if you are a dynasty league player be sure and check out Real Deal Dynasty Sports that is run by one of the MLFS writers Bryan Luhrs.