Hello patrons of the football world. I’m Jones and I’m here to help you earn respect for your unceasing and uncanny prowess of all things immaterial, most notably fantasy football. Like most Americans I like cheese, hot sauce, and football and over the years I’ve garnered a wealth of useless knowledge about all three subjects. I’ll be writing a weekly target column for you this year in which I will break down the top targetees of the week and make suggestions about waiver pickups and such. So you know, I will rarely focus on top tier players as they will obviously be started, unless I see a concerning trend. Therefore, I will primarily focus on mid-level talent and guys who may be available on waivers as these guys will be the ones who will most likely factor into your lineup decisions.
In addition to my comments, my enthusiasm for each player’s potential will be measured out of five tacos. Since we live in America where more is better, the more tacos I rate a player, the more I like him. Why tacos you ask? Well our goal in this fake world is to fill our rosters with so many dominating players that we effortlessly pummel our hapless victims. This pummeling inevitably manifests itself into delight equivalent to a vinegar stroke. If you’ve ever watched The League you’ll know what vinegar strokes are and since this is a family show I won’t go into an in-depth explanation. You’ll also know that the term was coined by “Taco,” which provides the logic for my use of tacos as positive denotations. That and the fact that I obviously love a good taco. It makes sense in my head. Let’s get started.
Reggie Wayne- Droppin’ hits like Lil’ Wayne, Reggie was big time productive on his way to a nine catch 135 yard performance. What’s more impressive is the fact that Wayne caught only half of his targets, a percentage that is sure to go up as Luck finds his footing. It’s been clear through the preseason, and now into the regular season, that Wayne is Luck’s favorite target and Reggie Wayne owners should expect a resurgent year from the long time WR1. I’d expect regular 100 yard performances as the Colts will surely be playing from behind in a lot of games this year. I’d hesitate to call Wayne a slam dunk WR1 for the shear fact that his touchdown potential will be a bit limited. Expect the Colts to improve in that area as the year goes on, however. I’d try to snake Wayne from an unsuspecting owner if at all possible and he should be inserted into starting lineups until further notice.
Darren McFadden- It’s rare that a running back leads the NFL in targets and receptions but that’s exactly what DMC did Monday night. A few things were clear after watching that game. The “Black Hole” is no longer a figurative term, Carson Palmer looks like an old Carson Palmer, and the Raiders will do everything in their power to get McFadden the ball. Though he was a bit (understatement) stymied in the run game (32 yards on 15 carries) he was a beast in the passing game, catching 13 of his league high 18 targets for 86 yards. He was also inches from the endzone on one of those receptions. Though he’s a guy you’re obviously starting anyway, I’m going to not go out on much of limb and declare him the overall points leader if healthy.
Kevin Ogletree- Ogletree played like a redwood on Wednesday night and fantasy owners want to know if his value will continue to grow. He led all Cowboy receivers in every statistical category against the G-men, including targets (11), catches (8), yards (114), and touchdowns (2). In short, I think it’s perfectly natural to Ogle over Ogletree, especially since there is precedence in Dallas for the understated third receiver to have success. Fantasy players should think back to last year when Laurent Robinson stepped onto the scene after Austin went down with a hamstring injury. Robinson even outperformed Austin when the two were on the field at the same time averaging 10.8 fantasy points per game, .8 more than Austin and 1 point more than Dez Bryant. He even led the Cowboys in receiving touchdowns (11). As far as talent is concerned, Ogletree is at least on par with Robinson and Romo has liked his development throughout camp. It’s also relevant to note that though Austin had a respectable fantasy day with four catches for 73 yards and a score, he was only targeted four times and merely beat out the Giants fifth string cornerback for his touchdown. Watching the game, I got the feeling that Romo wasn’t really looking his way, which could be the result of his lingering hamstring issue. Either way, I’m willing to bet that Austin and Bryant will miss time this year and Ogletree will be there to pick up the slack. Even with the two on the field, I see Ogletree as a decent flex option with WR2 potential going forward.
Lance Moore- Moore was really the only Saints receiver to get anything going against the stalwart Redskin defense on Sunday (sarcasm?). Leading the team in receptions (6) and yards (120), Moore did take a backseat to Colston in targets (11 to 10) but not in productivity. Plagued by injuries a year ago, Moore wasn’t able to live up to his hype as a PPR punisher but I like his chances of filling that role this year. The absence of Meachem only helps his cause, and the nice thing about Sir Lancelot is that Brees looks for him in the endzone. In only 14 games a year ago, Moore tied Colston to lead the Saints WRs in receiving touchdowns (8) and was second to Colston in FFPPG. The big concern is that there are a lot of mouths to feed in New Orleans, but in deep or PPR leagues I see him being a steady flex option with low end WR2 potential.
Randall Cobb- Those on a fantasy diet may want to start munching on some Cobb salad after his steady performance against the stingy 49er secondary. As expected, Rodgers was slinging the ball everywhere to everyone so It’s no surprise that Cobb saw respectable numbers. What was a surprise was that he was the most productive receiver on the field, catching all nine of his targets (2nd most—Finley) for 77 yards. Despite his strong game, Cobb finds himself in a similar, somewhat unenviable position as Lance Moore. He’s in a high octane offense, but is one of several weapons, which makes it difficult to depend on him on a weekly basis. However, what really stood out to me while watching the game was the number of offensive sets that Cobb was involved in and the effort the team put into getting the ball in his hands, even including him in the run game. While it’s difficult to rely on him on a weekly basis for top end numbers, I think he’s a much safer bet than the feast or famine James Jones and I really wouldn’t be surprised if Cobb leads the team in receptions this year. He’s more valuable in PPR but he’s a solid pickup anywhere.
Nate Burleson- The burly one was second to Pettigrew in targets (10 to 8) and put up respectable numbers in a game that Stafford would soon like to forget. Though he’s never going to overtake the role of Calvin Johnson or even Brandon Pettigrew, his production is somewhat unexpected for those who believed that Titus Young was the third option in the motor city. Looking more young than titan, Titus only managed to collect one of his meager three targets for a paltry 14 yards. Burleson meanwhile, caught six of his eight targets for 69 yards. With the Lions clearly reliant on the passing game, there is certainly room on fantasy rosters for the third option in Detroit, and if Burleson is that guy he deserves the spot. I hesitate to declare Burleson’s production and Young’s lack thereof a trend after only one game but it is certainly a situation worth monitoring in the coming weeks.
Alshon Jeffery- Jeffery’s production was easily eclipsed by teammate Brandon Marshall’s 15 target, nine catch, 119 yard and one touchdown performance, but his involvement in the offense this early in the year bodes well for his potential to emerge as fantasy relevant sooner rather than later. The talented but somewhat raw playmaker looked good in a three catch, 80 yard performance and let’s not forget his spectacular 42 yard touchdown grab on a nice ball by Cutler. While I’d expect some consistency issues over next few weeks, I like Jeffery as a grab and stash guy who could really help you out later in the year when it matters most. Plant the seed and watch him grow.
(short term) (over the long haul)
The Entire Ravens Starting Lineup-The Baltimore no-huddle offense looked outstanding Monday night, reducing the Bengals to sad, whimpering kittens. I was particularly impressed with Dennis Pitta and just how often Flacco looked for his big man. Pitta led the Ravens with nine targets, catching five for 73 yards and a touch. I’m not ready to declare Pitta a TE1 yet but he’s certainly a man to monitor in the coming weeks. Boldin was a surprise second in targets with five, catching four for 63 yards and a score. A bit disappointing was Torrey Smith, as he was only targeted three times, catching two for 57 yards. His catch on the first play was electric however, and I still expect him to be big this year. With Flacco slinging it like a champ I like all offensive weapons to take a step up.
Randy Moss- A rolling stone gathers no moss and Randy was certainly on a roll Sunday. Moss made the most of his opportunities, catching all four of his targets for 47 yards and an easy touchdown. While Moss can provide a big play at any time, he’s only involved in a handful of packages. As a Niners fan, he’s a guy I love having on my real team, but not someone I’m going to feel great about playing on my fake team. In standard scoring leagues he’s worth a flier or spot start, but for now I’m tempering my enthusiasm.
Dexter McCluster- McCluster looked McNasty at times on Sunday, catching six of his team high 10 targets for 82 yards. While he outplayed touted teammates Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe, I refuse to believe that this will be the standard going forward. While a nice complement to aforementioned teammates, I haven’t heard much about McCluster coming out of camp which leads me to believe that this was more of a game specific performance. I need to see a bit more out of him before I advise you to waste a precious waiver claim on him.
Stephen Hill-Don’t get me wrong. I think that Hill is worth a pickup based on principal alone but I’m not ready to make mountains out of Stephen Hill’s quite yet. I just can’t tell if the Jet offense is really that good or if the Bills defense is just that bad. I could be a bit prude on this one but I need to see how the Jets perform against a solid Steelers D before putting him in my starting lineup. For now, I’d take Cobb or Ogletree over him, but I would find a spot for him on my bench after a five catch, 89 yards and two td performance on his six targets (2nd—Holmes).
Rod Streater- Filling in for injured teammates Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford, the undrafted FA out of Temple put up respectable fantasy numbers due to his touchdown receptions. He was also targeted 10 times but was only able to haul four in as Palmer and the Raider offense simply looked out of sync. It’s a nice story but in the fantasy world Streater should be left on the highway, especially when Moore and Ford come back into the picture.
Larry Fitzgerald- Though the QB situation is in shambles, it is no worse than it was a year ago and he’s going to get his. He was still the fourth most targeted player in the league despite his pedestrian stat-line (four catches, 63 yards). Don’t panic yet.
Marques Colston- See Larry Fitzgerald and add the fact that he was a little dinged up and Brees was a bit off.
Wes Welker- Three catches for 14 yards on five targets is pretty concerning, but Brady takes what the defense gives him and that simply didn’t include Wes Welker on Sunday. While the addition of Brandon Lloyd hurts his potential a bit, I’d be a bit more patient before hitting the panic button. If you look at his historically dominant seasons, including last year’s 122 catch 1,500 plus yard performance, you’ll find some hiccups along the way. For example, he put up a two reception, 22 yard game against KC and a four catch, 41 yard performance against Denver a year ago. Be patient, kimosabe.