For those of you who passed on a career in the NFL due to a fear of helmet hair or, you know, a concussion, there’s always the next best thing: fantasy leagues.
They’re a staple in every sport, allowing the average guy (or girl) to manage a team to the best it can be, whether the “manager” is in the whole thing for the money or simply office bragging rights.
I currently manage teams in a 14-team league and a 10-team office league; I’ve been stumbling and fumbling through the world of fantasy football for the past nine years. Each week, I’ll bring you some waiver wire advice (who to grab and who to pass up), the upcoming week’s ranking by position, and this week’s top sleeper candidate.
• James Starks: When was the last time a Green Bay RB had a 100-yard game? October 2010. There have been 44 regular season games since the Pack had a 100-yard rusher. There’s no telling when Eddie Lacy will return to the Packers backfield, but in the meantime Starks has earned at least a time share (and possibly goal line carries) moving forward. He lacks the burst and lateral movement that Lacy brings to the table, but he’s a power runner who has a knack for finding holes and hitting them hard. Temper your expectations and Starks could be a solid flex/RB2 if Lacy misses considerable time.
• DeAndre Hopkins: Overlooked in many drafts, Hopkins officially had a coming-out party this past Sunday. He is only owned in 49 percent of Yahoo! Leagues and that number is getting higher each passing day. Most defenses will focus attention on Houston’s Andre Johnson, leaving Hopkins in single coverage most afternoons. Johnson left this week’s game early due to a concussion, and that could mean even more targets for Hopkins moving forward. Regardless of Johnson’s status, Hopkins is a must-own in all 10-team leagues moving forward.
• Bernard Pierce: It’s no secret that Ray Rice has been banged up over the past few seasons. He left Sunday’s game with a hip flexor injury and there is currently no timetable for his return. Pierce lacks the game-breaking speed and shiftiness of Rice, but he is a downhill runner who has no problem going through defenders rather than around them. Many people believed Pierce would vulture goal line carries from Rice this season and with Rice’s current hip situation, Pierce may be looking at taking over even more.
• Fred Jackson: Everyone who drafted C.J. Spiller realized their nightmare this past week. All preseason the word out of Buffalo was that Spiller would carry the ball “until he puked.” Spiller is one of the most talented runners in the league and the thought of him carrying the ball 30 times a game upped his draft stock tremendously. The only issue for Spiller owners is that this plan has yet to come to fruition. Week 1 saw Fred Jackson total up 17 touches followed by 16 more touches in Week 2. Spiller is a more dynamic player with a tremendous amount of upside, but as long as Jackson is seeing this many carries he is worth an add in your league.
Better off without:
• Eddie Royal: Royal’s fantasy stock went through the roof after his huge performance against the Eagles on Sunday. He tallied up five touchdowns over his first two games this season. Admittedly, those numbers are jaw-dropping. He’s on pace for 80 touchdowns. Please take a moment and let that sink in. The natural laws of regression will take over, and most likely soon. Keep in mind that Royal has scored a total of five touchdowns over the past four seasons. If your team is WR starved he might be worth a flyer, but I suggest you realize that Royal could very well be this year’s Kevin Ogletree.
• Charles Clay: There aren’t many players in the league similar to Clay. The Dolphins’ coaching staff still hasn’t figured out if he’s a tight end or a fullback (eligible as a TE in Yahoo! leagues and eligible to play RB in ESPN leagues). Clay had his first ever rushing attempt on Sunday and it resulted in a touchdown. I wouldn’t suggest fantasy owners getting too excited about this just yet. Miami’s backfield is already crowded with both Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, while Clay figures to be the number four option in sophomore QB Ryan Tannehill’s passing game, behind Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Daniel Gibson. I’d flag Clay as a possible player to watch, but until we have a more defined role for him over the next few weeks he isn’t worth a roster spot.
• Montee Ball: I know this year’s second round pick from Wisconsin was heavily touted across draft boards this year but it’s been made very clear that Knowshon Moreno is the number one back in Denver this year. Ball is averaging 2.0 yards per carry and had ball security issues against the Giants this week. Moreno has shined early and has had no problem picking up blitzes and protecting Peyton Manning when need be. Unless Moreno gets hit by a bus, Ball looks to be stuck on the sidelines for the foreseeable future.
• Terrelle Pryor: Everyone loves a running quarterback. Everyone. The read-option has become a trendy offense amongst NFL offensive coordinators and a quarterback with a good set of wheels is every fantasy owner’s dream. The only problem is that we get so anxious whenever we see a quarterback have a solid game on the ground that we get overly enamored and fall in love after the first date. After Week 1 it was hard to see anything besides Pryor’s 112 yards on the ground. We all forgot about his two interceptions against Indy’s anemic pass defense. We all knew who Terrelle Pryor was while we refused to consider him at draft time, and it’s important that we don’t forget that now.
Hot start of the week: Josh Gordon WR Cleveland. Gordon is coming off a two-game suspension and he will be looking to pick up where he left off last season. He ended the 2012 season on a hot streak and he might help wake up Cleveland’s stumbling offense.
Must sit this week: Any Jacksonville Jaguar. Not even Cecil Shorts is safe matching up against the Seahawks defense.
Weekly match-up rankings:
P. Manning: Too good of an arm to do anything besides destroy the Raider’s secondary.
A. Rodgers: Cincinnati has a stout defense, but Rodgers has been in elite form so far this year.
D. Brees: Brees loves letting it fly at home in the dome and this week will be no different.
C. Kaepernick: Look for a nice bounce-back performance against Indy’s struggling pass defense.
M. Vick: The Eagles have been rattling off more plays than any other team this year. Vick has been putting up numbers reminiscent of himself as a Falcon in “Madden ‘04.”
M. Stafford: Washington’s defense hasn’t stopped anyone this year. Stafford and Megatron should be able to play pitch and catch until they’re bored and go home.
M. Ryan: Miami’s defense is proving to be strong, but Ryan simply has too many options to throw to between Jones, White, and Gonzalez.
R. Wilson: Jacksonville is just the opponent Wilson needs to get back on track after a tough match-up with San Francisco.
C. Newton: Newton’s sophomore slump might still be in effect, but his ability to move the chains with his feet will keep him in my top 10.
R. Griffin III: RG3 might not have been himself over the first two games of the season, but the Redskins seem to be playing lots of catch-up football and that means Griffin will have plenty of opportunities to air it out.
A . Peterson: Obviously…
L. McCoy: Philly’s uptempo offense bodes well for Vick, Jackson, and especially McCoy.
M. Forte: Forte has taken a liking to the Bear’s new offensive scheme. He’s averaging 27.5 touches per game.
D. Martin: Let’s face it, the Buc’s offense might end up being Muscle-Hamster-or-bust week in and week out.
J. Charles: He’s already banged up, but still totaled over 100 all-purpose yards this past week.
M. Lynch: Lynch handled the 49er’s defense as well as one could expect. He will be rewarded with the Jags defense in Week 3.
C.J. Spiller: He might be sharing the workload with Fred Jackson, but I still love Spiller’s big play ability.
A. Foster: Another top back sharing carries. Foster is still the favorite for Houston’s goal line carries
R. Bush: In typical Reggie Bush fashion, he’s already banged up. Get what you can from him while he’s still on the field.
A. Morris: Morris has had limited carries with the Redskins, constantly playing from behind, but it’s much too soon to let a back like Morris fall outside the top 10.
C. Johnson: No surprise here.
A.J Green: Green Bay’s secondary is banged up and, even if they weren’t, they would still struggle to contain Green.
D. Bryant- Many people predicted Dez would have a coming out party this year. Those people were right. He still has suspect hands at times, but as long as he’s healthy you can start him with confidence.
D. Thomas: The only thing that can slow down Thomas is Peyton Manning’s other options.
J. Jones: Monitor his knee situation this week.
B. Marshall: Brandon Marshall loves making Cutler look good.
D. Jackson: Jackson has been running wild since Chip Kelly took over in Philly.
R. Cobb: Rodgers and Cobb have been in quite the groove since last year. Don’t expect that to stop anytime soon.
V. Cruz: Carolina’s secondary is beat up and Eli will bounce back last week’s loss to Peyton and the Broncos.
W. Welker: Oakland’s secondary can’t contain all of Denver’s weapons. Look for a big day from the Broncos’ receiving core this week.