Week 1 is in the books and it’s important not to overreact to the results, despite the fact that every fiber of your being is demanding that you do. You’ve been without the sweet heroin that is fake football for so long that it’s easy to forget that we play this maddening game for 16 or 17 weeks. This initial surge of fantasy stimuli is enough to drive some managers to madness – managers who would hastily kick the disappointing likes of Chris Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, and Cam Newton to the curb for the waiver wire flavors of the week – but not you! Not you, faithful follower of The Fake Football! You know that a fantasy championship isn’t won in the first week of the season and that the best managers tiptoe a shrewd line between patience with their drafted players and opportunistic waiver claims. The following players will aid you in your quest for fantasy glory, but only if you know when it’s correct to pass on them and hold fast with the players you drafted.
Mark Sanchez, NYJ – Chances are you still have a QB worth starting over the Sanchize, but as far as backups go, you could do a lot worse than the Jets’ quarterback not named “Tebow”. If you rolled the dice with Fitzpatrick or you’re the Roethlisberger-owning sap who just watched the Pittsburgh O-line sublimate to a fine mist in front of your fantasy QB, picking up and starting Sanchez doesn’t seem like such a bad idea right about now.
Alex Smith, SF – Yes, that was really Alex Smith (the one with the small hands) scoring as many fantasy points as Tom Brady and more than each of Stafford, Newton, Vick, Manning the Younger, Roethlisberger, and Schaub in Week 1. No, you shouldn’t go forward starting him over those guys (well, maybe Roethlisberger and his aforementioned Swiss-cheese line), but you can feel better about keeping Smith as your backup in a standard league or as a mid-level starter in a 2-QB league.
Blaine Gabbert, JAC – After an abysmal rookie season, Gabbert seems to have figured out how to not be a complete fantasy football liability. You’re not starting him outside of your starter’s bye weeks or 2-QB leagues, but with Weeden, Tannehill, and KevJohn Skelkolb occupying the basement, Gabbert has found his way into a room on the ground floor of the quarterback hotel.
Kevin Kolb, ARI; Matt Hasselbeck, TEN – Nothing to see here, just more scraps for the 2-QB managers to fight over as Skelton and Locker were injured in Week 1. Early reports are that Locker injured his non-throwing shoulder and will be ready for Week 2. Skelton, on the other hand, has a high-ankle sprain and figures to miss 4-6 weeks. Despite the optimistic outlook on Locker, both Kolb and Hasselbeck are worth adding in 2-QB leagues.
Matt Flynn, SEA – Russell Wilson didn’t quite deliver on the hype he amassed in the preseason, so if you’re really digging deep for potential QB adds, consider Matt Flynn. He’s an expensive second-stringer, so he may get a crack at the starting job if Wilson continues to struggle.
C.J. Spiller, BUF – If for some reason Spiller wasn’t drafted in your league, it’s time to burn the bulk of your FAAB dollars to add him. Fred Jackson went down with a nasty-looking knee injury on Sunday and Spiller dazzled in replacement duty with 194 total yards and a touchdown. Spiller is a must-add in all formats.
Alfred Morris, WAS – Morris scored the second-most fantasy points among running backs on Sunday with 21, behind only Spiller (22). With 28 carries on the day, it’s clear that Morris’ “#1 RB” label isn’t a hollow title. A.L.F. is also a must-add, especially in leagues awarding points for dead cats.
Michael Bush, CHI – Matt Forte eventually got a sympathy touchdown late in their game against the Colts, but when it mattered, Bush was Chicago’s goal-line back. More than a mere handcuff, Bush is a reasonable flex play going forward.
Jacquizz Rodgers, ATL – It’s only a matter of time before Michael Turner’s tired act gets cancelled and the ‘Quizz Show gets picked up for primetime. Stash Rodgers now if you can.
Jonathan Dwyer, PIT – Dwyer was the only Steelers running back I would consider drafting in the preseason and my considerations were validated on Sunday as Rashard Mendenhall didn’t play and Isaac Redman averaged less than 2 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Dwyer ran for 43 yards on 9 carries and did so with quickness and authority. He nearly cashed in a TD as well, but review showed that his knee was down with the ball at the 1-yard line. Eventually, the Steelers will see what the rest of us see and give Dwyer the bulk of the carries. Grab him if he’s available.
Kendall Hunter, SF – Like Dwyer, Hunter barely missed a TD in Week 1. Unlike Dwyer, Hunter doesn’t have a clear path to the starting role. Frank Gore ran well on Sunday, but he’s never been the picture of health, so Hunter is a nice speculative add if you have an available roster spot.
Dexter McCluster, KC – While Jamaal Charles finished with zero receptions, McCluster led the Chiefs with 6 on his way to 82 receiving yards working out of the slot. Somewhat surprisingly, there are suddenly a lot of mouths to feed in the Kansas City offense, so don’t expect this kind of production from McCluster every week. Still, he’s worth a look if you need help at RB, especially in PPR leagues.
Knowshon Moreno, DEN – Moreno was largely overlooked for fantasy this year in favor of rookie Ronnie Hillman, but Hillman was inactive on Sunday and Moreno carried the ball 5 times for 13 yards and a TD backing up Willis McGahee. Hillman will get more involved in time and McGahee is still the starter, but Moreno can deliver value even as a backup in deep leagues.
Kevin Ogletree, DAL – Tony Romo loves his WR3s and you should too. Keep in mind that most secondaries the Cowboys face going forward won’t be as thin or as disrespectful of Ogletree as the Giants’ was, but he’s going to continue to get targets while Jason Witten is hobbled and opposing defenses key on Dez Bryant & Miles Austin.
Alshon Jeffery, CHI – The Bears rookie wideout caught 3 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in his debut. Jay Cutler was targeting Brandon Marshall for most of the game, but as defenses aim to take Marshall out of the game, Cutler should learn to rely more on Jeffery as the season continues.
Stephen Hill, NYJ – Like Mark Sanchez, Hill is making his case for the Jets offense to return to fantasy relevance. With only 6 targets, Hill’s 2 TDs are a bit of an anomaly, but someone besides Santonio Holmes has to catch passes in that offense. Don’t break the FAAB bank to add him, but Hill could be a sneaky waiver acquisition this week while other owners grapple for Ogletree.
Randall Cobb & James Jones, GB – Jones garnered more fantasy points thanks to his TD, but Cobb is the Packers wideout to grab here. The return specialist caught all nine of his targets on Sunday for 77 yards, working primarily as the 3rd-down back for Green Bay. Jones also had a nice game (6 targets, 4 catches, 81 yards, 1 TD), but most defenses the Packers face this season won’t be as stout as the 49ers’ and Jones will be less involved as Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson find more openings against worse defenders.
Donald Jones, BUF – Jones has secured the #2 WR job in Buffalo opposite Stevie Johnson and he made the most of his opportunity in Week 1 with 5 catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. He’s not flashy, but Jones will produce for the Bills as long as Johnson is healthy and holding the attention of opposing secondaries.
Brandon Gibson, STL – I was all-in on the Rams #2 WR, but it turned out to be Gibson and not Steve Smith. Gibson’s upside is somewhat limited because of the offense he plays in, but considering the St. Louis defense (or lack thereof) the Rams should be throwing a lot this season and Gibson is well positioned to turn those targets into fantasy points.
Cecil Shorts, JAC – As long as Blaine Gabbert isn’t a complete disaster, his wide receivers will have some value. Shorts has grabbed hold of the starting job opposite Justin Blackmon, so give him a look if you’re desperate for a wide receiver.
Martellus Bennett, NYG – The Black Unicorn has finally emerged from the shadow cast by Jason Witten (The White Unicorn?) and he had 4 receptions for 40 yards and a TD against his former team in the season’s opening game. You won’t play him over the fantasy tight end varsity team, but Bennett deserves starting consideration over guys like Brent Celek, Jared Cook, Kyle Rudolph, and Owen Daniels, depending on the matchups.
Coby Fleener, IND – The Colts defense is still bad, so Andrew Luck is going to throw a ton this season and as long as Austin Collie is out, Fleener will be a nice TE value play. His 10 targets on Sunday tied for the second-most among tight ends with Jimmy Graham and Brandon Pettigrew (behind Jermichael Finley with 11). Fleener didn’t find the end zone, but it’s only a matter of time before he does.
Jacob Tamme, DEN – So much for the demise of Jacob Tamme and the rise of Joel Dreesen, right? Peyton Manning targeted Tamme five times and Tamme caught each one for a total of 43 yards and a touchdown. The Week 1 tight end fantasy scores were relatively homogeneous, with 10 players finishing between 9 and 11 points (even before the Monday night games). In that context, Tamme’s “nice” game was more of an “average” game, but so were the games of the nine other TEs in that point range.
Scott Chandler, BUF – The Bills stated in the offseason that they wanted to get Chandler more involved in the offense and he delivered on Sunday with 38 yards and a TD. He started off last season strong as well, but couldn’t keep up the production over the entire season. Again, it’s hard to separate the TE wheat from the chaff in Week 1 because so many guys had 30-60 yards with a touchdown, but Chandler has a chance to maintain that type of production because the Bills don’t have as many offensive options as other teams.
Marcedes Lewis, JAC; Heath Miller, PIT – These veterans finished toward the top of the tight end heap in Week 1 with 11 fantasy points in standard leagues, but neither is more than a bye week fill-in for your TE starter outside of deep leagues.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL UPDATE
Dennis Pitta, TE, BAL – Pitta led the Ravens in receptions and receiving yards on Monday night, beating out Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and most importantly Ed Dickson. Looking back to the end of last season, it’s clear now that Pitta is Joe Flacco’s preferred tight end target. Slot him in between Coby Fleener and Jacob Tamme in the TE waiver wire ranks above.
Rod Streater, WR, OAK – Streater found the end zone in garbage time against the Chargers. As long as Denarius Moore is out, Hot Rod warrants consideration in deep leagues. He ranks right behind Brandon Gibson in the WR waiver ranks.
Andrew Hawkins, WR, CIN – Hawkins came out of nowhere in Week 1 to lead the Bengals in receiving yards with 86. I’m not totally buying this outburst, but any time a receiver catches 8 passes in a game, we have to take notice. If opponents go all out to take A.J. Green out of games, Andy Dalton will need to find other receivers, so why not Hawkins? Still, he comes in at the bottom of this week’s waiver ranks for wide receivers.