Week 1 is in the books and what a strange week it was. Sure a handful of the usual suspects lit up the scoreboard (thank you, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson and Reggie Wayne), but just as many fantasy giants stumbled out of the gates – much to the chagrin of their owners (curse you, Jay Cutler, Michael Turner and Andre Johnson). If your team didn’t quite live up to expectations on opening weekend now is certainly not the time for panic. A few simple tweaks via trade or your league’s waiver system may be all your club needs to compete not just in week 2 but for the long run as well. In the short-term, players like Saints running back Mike Bell or Oakland wide receiver Louis Murphy can give your squad a welcome boost in production if you are lacking at those positions. Both Bell and Murphy are owned in less than 15% of standard ESPN leagues and I expect them to continue to contribute even when the injured Pierre Thomas and Chaz Schilens return to action. With that in mind, here are some other players to consider that are most likely floating around your league’s free agent pool.
Thing 1: This QB relies on accuracy and decision-making to accumulate fantasy numbers. He is young, but a strong supporting cast of playmakers takes some of the pressure of him on a weekly basis. In week 1 he went 22-36 for 229 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs. Currently this signal-caller is owned in 100% of ESPN fantasy leagues.
Thing 2: This QB depends on accuracy as well and with improved pass-catchers around him he will no longer be called upon to do too much with too little. A very intelligent player (Stanford alum), he kicked off his season going 15-25 for 212 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs. He is currently owned in 52% of ESPN fantasy leagues.
Reality Check: Thing 1 is Matt Ryan and Thing 2 is Trent Edwards. I know Edwards isn’t the sexiest option at QB but I believe in the Buffalo starter just entering his second full season. His accuracy is excellent and he has the arm strength to make all the throws. With TO in town to relieve some of the pressure from Lee Evans and a very good receiving backfield duo in Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, I think Edwards takes a big step forward this season.
Thing 1: This RB is the complimentary back in a run-first offense. He had a decent week 1 rushing for 60 yards on 12 carries (5.0 ypc) and snagging three passes for 11 yards, though he failed to get into the end zone. He is currently owned in 97% of ESPN fantasy leagues.
Thing 2: This RB is the complimentary back in a run-first offense. He also had a solid showing in week 1 gaining 55 yards on 12 carries (4.6 ypc) including a touchdown. In addition, he caught one pass for four yards. Currently, this back is owned in 13% of ESPN fantasy leagues.
Reality Check: Thing 1 is Ahmad Bradshaw and Thing 2 is Michael Bush. As any LL reader knows, I love Bradshaw but this is more a testament to Bush’s role with the Raiders (and his considerable upside in the event of a trade or injury). I like for him to get the bulk of the carries in the red zone and score 8-10 TDs this season.
Thing 1: This WR is the #1 option for a playoff-caliber team. In week 1 he was targeted frequently and hauled in 8 passes for 103 yards but did not record a TD. There are younger, more athletic receiving options on this team but this player can be counted on for production and is currently owned in 100% of ESPN fantasy leagues.
Thing 2: This WR is the #1 option for a playoff-caliber team. In week 1 he was targeted frequently and caught 7 passes for 78 yards and a TD. There are younger, more athletic receiving options on this team as well but this player is a reliable target with the trust of his QB and is currently owned in 35% of ESPN fantasy leagues.
Reality Check: Thing 1 is Hines Ward and Thing 2 is Justin Gage. Like Ward, Gage is a gutsy wideout that will make the tough catch and keep the chains moving. If he is still available in your league don’t pass up the chance at 80 catches for 1100 yards and 6 TDs (see also: Burleson, Nate – 23% ownership).
Thing 1: This TE moved to a new team and didn’t do much in the preseason. Questions about the QB position have created some uncertainty about his expected production. He made a decent showing in week 1 catching 5 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown and is currently owned in 98% of ESPN leagues.
Thing 2: This TE also changed locations in the off-season and had a quiet preseason before emerging as the leading option in week 1 with 4 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. With a young QB that will likely rely on this safety valve, this player makes an intriguing option and is owned in 0% of ESPN leagues.
Reality Check: Thing 1 is Kellen Winslow and Thing 2 is Robert Royal. No, that is not a typo for Royal’s ownership percentage but I don’t anticipate that number staying as low as it is. Brady Quinn has shown a strong rapport with his TEs throughout his young career and the spot vacated by Winslow in the off-season may be Royal’s ticket to fantasy relevance. He is not a TE1 at this point but he is worth a stash (especially in keeper leagues).
Thing 1: A big-name D/ST, this unit’s best days are probably behind them. Injuries as well as a few off-season departures have robbed this group of a bit of their swagger and big-play ability. During week one, they faced a poor offense and allowed 24 points without forcing a single turnover and are owned in 100% of ESPN leagues.
Thing 2: A fly-under-the-radar D/ST, this group is an attacking bunch that will give up some big games but will also get after the QB, resulting in sacks and turnovers (fantasy gold). In week 1 this unit shut down a decent offense to the tune of 7 points while generating 4 turnovers and 4 sacks. They are currently owned in 4% of ESPN leagues.
Reality Check: Thing 1 is the Ravens D/ST and Thing 2 is the Falcons D/ST. I like this group a lot with the understanding that they are best when matched up against running teams with average passing games. Elite QBs will be able to pick apart their secondary, but the Falcons generate one of the best pass-rushes in the game. Be sure to grab them to take advantage of a juicy match-up coming up this week against Jake Delhomme and the Panthers.