This week we discuss the following:
- Can we panic yet?
- Cowboys without Dez Bryant
- Danny Woodhead
- LeSean McCoy and C.J. Anderson
- High-upside wide receivers
- Tight ends
- Would you trade ... ?
Jeff Pasquino: Ah, yes.... The Week 1 "Is the sky falling?" debate. Just like clockwork. I try and not to overreact after one week, as there are reasons to like most (not all) of these players before the season started.
Daniel Simpkins: I agree with Jeff that Week 1 can lead to overreaction from owners. This is a great time to jump in and make some trade offers for guys that may have had a bad week. Conversely, there are some situations that are legitimate cause for concern. Knowing which is which can be difficult.
It's not just that these guys came up with low scores in Week 1. It's the way in which they struggled.
Is Manning's arm shot?
Daniel Simpkins: Manning is someone I believe we need to be concerned about, but not necessarily because of arm strength. Kubiak's offense (when run properly) won't require Manning to chuck it deep. The concern has more to do with a possible rift between Manning and Kubiak. Our Cecil Lammey noted on a recent episode of The Audible that there may be some conflict between the two because Peyton wants to run his old system. The cliché saying "a house divided cannot stand" applies here. Coach and player need to get on the same page, because pulling in different directions can only lead to failure. Manning's stubbornness is well-documented. Fantasy owners can only hope that he'll put aside his pride and embrace the Kubiak system quickly.
Chad Parsons: I was avoiding Peyton Manning for 2015 before the season started. The field has been compressing on the Denver offense for some time now. Demaryius Thomas is an elite innate talent, but everyone else has their cracks in the fantasy-value armor depending on how big and swift this decline.
Ryan Hester: The end of last season and Week 1 certainly didn't look promising, but I'm not ready to call Manning done yet. While he may lack zip on the ball, he's still smart enough and has enough high-quality weaponry around him to keep him fantasy-relevant. He may not be the no-brainer, every-week start his owners drafted him to be, but his time as a fantasy starter is far from expired. He faced a tough matchup in Week 1 against Baltimore—a team that bottled up opposing runners last year and struggled in the secondary only after cornerback Jimmy Smith was injured. Smith was back, and the unit was excellent in Week 1. Denver's offense will improve. Week 2 at Kansas City on a short week isn't the best spot, but subsequent weeks will still provide flashes that Manning's unit can be productive.
Chris Feery: I'm not ready to sell yet. While he was in full bitter-beer face mode after Week 1, I expect Manning to make this offense his own pretty quickly. A quick turnaround to Kansas City this week will not help matters, but by early October the team will have adjusted to the new scheme. His arm is obviously not what it once was but he will put his enormous football I.Q. to work and figure out the best way to adapt. The uproar reminds me a bit of last year when the Patriots were smoked by the Chiefs on MNF. If you listened to everyone that week, the dynasty was over and Brady was done. How'd that turn out?
Bruce Hammond: Reports of Manning's arm-strength decline have been out there awhile, but I admit I was surprised at the overall picture Week 1 presented. We knew Manning struggled down the stretch last year but that was chalked up to a thigh injury, and we also knew Denver was going to run more and pass less this season. Coming into the season I'd taken the position that his football IQ and experience would be enough to overcome most of the physical deficiencies and he'd still have a fine season. Now I'm a lot more concerned after seeing him in Week 1. There really was little zip on the ball. All the guile he can muster still won't overcome the inability to get the ball into tight places or to go over the top when needed, and it may well be that he's reached that point where his 39 year old arm is a liability he can't overcome. Time will tell of course—it's just one game—but he sure didn't look good Sunday. Yeah, I'd be worried if I were counting on Manning this year as my starting fantasy QB.
Is Frank Gore washed up?
Daniel Simpkins: Gore's performance was merely a matter of poor game script. He did not look old or slow on his carries to me. Even missing Hilton for a time, the Colts offense will have better days ahead. Interestingly, the Colts will take on a Jets defense that will be tough, but probably will not be as staunch as the Bills were in Week 1. They'll once again be without Sheldon Richardson and will also most likely be missing Antonio Cromartie, who is dealing with a knee sprain. Gore may not have gaudy numbers in this matchup, but I predict we'll see a better showing that will leave his owners feeling more confident about his prospects for the rest of the season.
Chad Parsons: I would be buying Gore more than selling. The Colts will have more than half their remaining games to salt away positive game scripts with Frank Gore. There are plenty of weapons in Indy, but Gore will be a key goal line contributor and no running back is challenging him for meaningful work.
Ryan Hester: I don't think Gore is done yet. He's still the top running back option on an elite offense. Much like Manning's Broncos, Gore's Colts went up against a buzz saw of a defense. The calf cramps Gore had were more concerning than the overall performance. Hopefully, they are not an indicator of future injuries or body breakdowns to come.
Chris Feery: I wasn't sold on Gore going into the season. He looked to be slowing down to me last year and a running back moving to a new team at his age didn't fill me with a bunch of warm feelings. I don't think he's totally shot, but I expect to see a lot more of Josh Robinson this season than most were anticipating.
Bruce Hammond: Any time a team relies on a 32-year-old running back as lead dog there has to be worry. Running backs don't tend to slowly decline and fade away; they fall off a cliff without much warning. So even though Gore looked fine in 2014 we'll just have to see what 2015 holds. Week 1 though doesn't give us much to go on in that regard one way or the other. His line was just 8-31-0, but he was hampered by calf cramps in the game, the Colts were down 24-0 in the third quarter, and it had already been announced that Gore's workload would be managed early in the season, so it just made sense to shut him down early. We may learn in a few weeks if he's washed up, but I don't think this game indicated that.
Is the Buccaneers' offense ever going to get a running game going?
Jeff Pasquino: Tampa Bay looked pretty bad. Jameis Winston was staring down receivers all game, and Tennessee pounced on those stare-downs to pick him twice and sack him four times as well. Tampa Bay needs to get the running game going first to take the pressure off of Winston and get the rookie quarterback to look some defenders off more. The Buccaneers play New Orleans next week so maybe they can get going, but it will probably take more than just one week.
Daniel Simpkins: Even though Martin looked electric in the preseason, I had reservations about how well he would do during the regular season when Tampa Bay is trailing significantly and needs to pass. I think they'll be in that scenario often this year, as their overall defense is awful. There will be very few games this year that you can start Martin with any confidence.
Chad Parsons: The leads may be few and far between for Tampa Bay this year, but Doug Martin will be passable in a vacuum. I would bet the under on eight touchdowns from Tampa Bay running backs.
Ryan Hester: The answer is yes, the Buccaneers will establish a running game at some point, but good luck predicting when it will come. This team is going to struggle all year long, which will provide poor game scripts for the running game. Week 1 was a home game in which Tampa Bay was favored (generally the best forecasting situation for running backs), and the game completely flipped as they were blown out and did next to nothing on the ground. At some point, they will surprise an opponent and control a game as an underdog, but figuring out when that will come will be very difficult.
Chris Feery: Yes. Things escalated quickly on Sunday and there was not much of a chance to establish anything. Winston must settle down and I think he will, but it may be a few weeks. Until that time we can expect some more frustration for Buccaneers running backs ad their owners.
Bruce Hammond: I hope those who drafted Doug Martin did so without great expectations that would cause anyone to panic. We already knew this was a bad team that would be behind in a lot of games, with a rookie quarterback and a poor defense, and those things are not a formula for great running back stats. Martin looked good in the offseason and his 11-52 line for this game was good on a per carry basis, but he just wasn't going to get many carries when his team was getting blown out by halftime. The Buccaneers won't be this bad every week and Martin will have his days, but again, expectations shouldn't have been real high in the first place.
Are Sammy Watkins' targets going to be severely limited this season?
Jeff Pasquino: The game script for Buffalo didn't need Tyrod Taylor to throw much in Week 1. I haven't seen the number of snaps yet for Watkins, but if the Bills play defense and run the ball like they did in Week 1, I would not expect too many passes from Tyrod to any Buffalo receiver this season.
Daniel Simpkins: Sammy Watkins was targeted three times but put up a goose egg for owners. I think this result had more to do with game script and less to do with Watkins. The Bills were pounding the rock and spreading the ball around through the air sparingly to their other receiving options. It was working, so there was no need to fix what was not broken. It also doesn't help that Watkins was smothered by Vontae Davis all day. The casual fan may not realize that Davis really came on last year and has quietly become a really good cover corner. While the Bills will want to win games in the way they did against Indy, there will be games where they'll have to play from behind and open up the passing game.
Chad Parsons: Watkins had one of the toughest matchups in the NFL to open the season, I give him a pass.
Ryan Hester: Watkins' Week 1 is easily the most worrisome on this list. While Doug Martin ended up with poor results, there was never any reason to stick your neck out for a running back on a team predicted to be rather poor. Watkins, however, is supposed to be a true number one receiver, someone who will still command five-to-seven targets in even the least pass-heavy game plans. While some of his lack of usage can be attributed to shutdown corner Vontae Davis (avoid playing WR1s against Indianapolis), a good portion of it can be chalked up to the team not needing to get him the ball. Any execution that leads to an efficient offensive performance and an easy win doesn't exactly provoke change in the plan. Watkins may be open more often in subsequent weeks, but whether or not he's fed the ball consistently will be difficult to predict. Buffalo's defense will keep them in most games and allow for a conservative offensive game plan.
Chris Feery: I wouldn't be too concerned about Watkins off of Week 1. There was really no need for him to be involved as the game set up perfectly for the Bills preferred ground and pound ways. Percy Harvin's big day may actually be a blessing for Watkins going forward. He may not be the sole focus of top defenders as he was on Sunday.
Bruce Hammond: I wouldn't over-react to Sammy Watkins' zero catches in Week 1 but it does demonstrate that he will be limited by an inexperienced and mediocre starting quarterback. I think Watkins is a huge talent and will have some huge weeks. I also think he has a quarterback in Tyrod Taylor who has made the decision not to lock onto and force the ball to his stud receiver, cautiously taking what the defense gives him at this point. While their connection should grow if Taylor develops as hoped, the statistics will most likely remain inconsistent this season.
Greg Olsen had only three targets as well. Given that he was used so much as a blocker in Week 1, is there more concern with him?
Jeff Pasquino: Greg Olsen is a great bounce-back candidate for Week 2. The Texans gave up a big day to Travis Kelce in Week 1 and Olsen could have a big Week 2 against Houston. Olsen had three targets and a touchdown called back due to a questionable push-off for Olsen, so I think he will be back on track next week.
Daniel Simpkins: Olsen is not someone I'm worried about at all, simply because he's going to get insane volume. Funchess showed in game one just how unprepared he is to take the lead role. Cotchery, Ginn, and Philly Brown are complimentary options at best. While Carolina didn't need to open up the offense against the tepid Jaguars defense, there will be plenty of games this year where they will need to do so. As Jeff said, I look for Olsen to bounce back in a big way against a Texans team that didn't cover the tight end well in their Kansas City matchup.
Chad Parsons: Olsen's lack of targets was more curious than Watkins'. I am firmly on the side of 'question Cam Newton until he shows legitimate progression as a pocket passer' making anything pertaining to the Carolina passing game return to Newton. Olsen should be the sustaining element for the Panthers, but with a streaky quarterback, anything goes on a game-by-game sample size. I would not shy away from Olsen in Week 2 and expect a bounce back performance.
Chris Feery: Yes, Olsen was a more peculiar case than Watkins in Week 1. He should be the top option in the passing game for Newton, but chances are opposing defenses have caught on to that. Absent more productivity from Panthers receivers going forward, Olsen may not be a lock for the monster year most people thought he was in line for.
Bruce Hammond: I think Olsen will be fine and I wouldn't worry about Week 1 at all. He's Cam Newton's go-to guy with Kelvin Benjamin out and that won't change. They'll study and learn from Week 1 and come out with a plan to get Olsen the ball.
How will the Cowboys' offense adjust to losing Dez Bryant for possibly a couple months? Does Terrance Williams become a fantasy TE2? Will Jason Witten keep getting more than a handful of targets each week? Does Cole Beasley become a safe PPR play?
Daniel Simpkins: When the Bryant injury was initially reported, we were hearing a 4-6 week return was possible. Now, we are hearing that it's more likely going to be in the eight week range if recovery progresses as planned. This is the slate they'll face in that time: Eagles, Falcons, Saints, Patriots, Giants, Seahawks, Eagles. None of those pass defenses scare me in their present state. I think the Cowboys will be able to get by with what they have by spreading the ball around and relying more on the run. Randle was not Murray, but he was serviceable. Sadly, I believe Williams is too inconsistent in his play to be counted on as more than a WR3. In the passing game, I see Witten and Beasley getting the bulk of the targets. If this happens as I predict it will, Beasley is indeed a great PPR play.
Chad Parsons: Dallas was already playing 'small ball' against the Giants before Bryant left the game with short-range passes and a ball control mentality. Terrance Williams remains a WR3/4 with WR2+ upside any given week. Jason Witten and Cole Beasley are the biggest beneficiaries with volume upticks. Beasley is a WR4 for now. Devin Street rises from afterthought to 'on the waiver wire radar' in deeper leagues and dynasty format.
Jeff Pasquino: Cole Beasley will start and suck up short passes on quick routes, then he will run "sluggo" (slant and go) routes to open the middle behind him for Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar—or even Lance Dunbar. Tony Romo will spread the ball amongst all four of those guys plus Terrance Williams to keep defenses guessing and keep everyone in single coverage. Romo knows how to read a defense very well and manipulate the coverage to get a good matchup—and then target whoever gets open first. I like both Beasley and Dunbar to get 5+ catches a game now and Witten to dominate Red Zone targets.
Ryan Hester: Williams may be the best pickup or trade target for someone who lost Bryant, but he certainly won't fill those shoes. Williams has been a very inconsistent player throughout his career—and that's even relative to the small expectations of him so far. Now that he'll be looked upon (and covered by opponents) as the team's number one receiver, the inconsistency will only show to a wider audience. He'll have some WR2 weeks and maybe even some WR1 weeks mixed in when he displays his penchant for long touchdowns, but his lows will be quite low. Very tough break for Dallas and Bryant owners.
Chris Feery: They will take a sum of the parts approach by spreading the ball out more. Williams will hover around WR3 level for now, but it will be interesting to see what he does with the opportunity. I was in the camp of believing that Witten's decline was being overstated going into 2015. He will see a bump in both targets and red zone looks. Beasley is definitely in play for PPR, he should quickly carve out a significant role in Dallas.
Bruce Hammond: The short answer is the Cowboys won't adjust very well in my opinion. You can't replace Dez Bryant in an offense because what he can do is unique to only a handful of receivers in the league. Dez is one of those special receivers who is open even when he's covered. I think Dallas will not try to make Terrance Williams fill Bryant's shoes but instead spread the ball around, meaning a smallish uptick for Williams, Beasley, and Witten. Devin Street will get involved some too. And they will want to run more and generally be a more conservative offense while Dez is out.
Can you start Danny Woodhead as an RB2 in 12-team non-PPR leagues, or will his role be too unpredictable from week to week?
Daniel Simpkins: While I'm all in on Woodhead in PPR leagues as an RB2 or a flex play, I don't think his role from week to week will allow him to have consistent value for us in non-PPR formats. He's not going to splash into the end zone every game, so don't get too carried away about his weekly potential if you own him.
Chad Parsons: I see Woodhead as more predictable than most in RB2/3 territory. He sees red zone work and is the best passing down option on the roster. The San Diego offense is deep with talent and the rising tide should lift all boats this season.
Jeff Pasquino: Yes, why not? Woodhead had a ton of yards on the day as a receiver and as a rusher plus two scores. Points are points. That's Rule number one in Fantasy Football. If Woodhead is productive in that role, the Chargers will keep going to that well. Wouldn't you?
Ryan Hester: Sure. Woodhead obviously excels in PPR leagues, but he's serviceable in standard as long as his team continues giving him looks and looking like a better offense with him on the field. He had two targets, six carries, and one catch inside the red zone in Week 1 and converted two of the carries (from the nine and from the one) into touchdowns. San Diego apparently isn't married, like so many teams, to the idea that big backs are obviously superior goal line options.
Chris Feery: Definitely. Safer play for PPR but viable in non-PPR formats as well. Woodhead will see plenty of red zone opportunities based off of his Week 1 performance and will not be supplanted as the passing down back anytime soon. If anything, I think his role becomes more predictable going forward.
Bruce Hammond: In PPR I'd probably say yes, but since the question is non-PPR I'll go with no. It was eye opening to see Woodhead as the goal line back last week, but I don't see him getting the volume required to be a non-PPR RB2, plus there's no certainty the goal line work will continue consistently. Rookie first rounder Gordon's role will develop over time, and we don't know how or how fast that will evolve. Gordon was benched part of the game last week after a fumble and that contributed to Woodhead's bump in activity, especially the goal line looks which shouldn't be expected regularly.
Daniel Simpkins: Surprisingly, I think Anderson's value has dropped more. Anderson got dinged again and was spelled more frequently than his owners would have liked by Ronnie Hillman. The fact that Manning and Kubiak seem to be having a power struggle over the offense also hasn't left owners with a warm and fuzzy feeling about owning him.
Chad Parsons: LeSean McCoy. He had far more name value and was expected to see uber-volume in Buffalo. Plus I think Karlos Williams is a better pure talent than Ronnie Hillman as a three-down back as competition for touches.
Jeff Pasquino: Anderson, no question. There is no allegiance to Anderson from Gary Kubiak, and Ronnie Hillman looked better and had 12 carries in Week 1. If Anderson does not get healthy and command the ball back, he may be the backup to Hillman.
Ryan Hester: As someone who wasn't very high on McCoy to begin with, it's definitely Anderson for me. His entire offense looked out of sync, his line couldn't create holes for him, his quarterback's arm looked dead, and he was injured (albeit, it appears minor at this point). That said, if I owned him (and I do in my favorite home league), I wouldn't be looking to unload for 75 cents on the dollar. Denver is still coached by a great offensive mind and led by one of the smartest quarterbacks of all time. They may not be the 2013 Broncos, but they should right the ship enough for Anderson to still deliver low-RB1/high-RB2 production.
Chris Feery: Anderson for me. The offense looked out of sync in Week 1 and while I think they'll turn it around by October, it may be with a different lead back. Ronnie Hillman outperformed Anderson throughout the preseason and received plenty of carries in Week 1. If Anderson doesn't turn it around over the next few weeks their roles may be reversed.
Bruce Hammond: Unless due to significant injury or role change, I really can't get behind the concept of changing trade value after one week of football. If you liked either of these guys seven days ago you should like him today. The season is full of statistical ups and down. Some of them just happen to take place in Week 1. So, for me, the answer is neither, pending further evidence.
Daniel Simpkins: If we're talking about most potential upside, give me Moncrief. One thing that was not an apparition in Sunday's opening slate was how bad Andre Johnson looked. Whisperings from his former team about how Johnson is used up may have turned out to be true. Remember, this team fell for the same thing with Hakeem Nicks last year. Moncrief will get a temporary bump from Hilton being indisposed, but if Johnson is truly spent, look for this to be the season the changing of the guard begins.
Chad Parsons: I will go with the best quarterbacks of this group. Donte Moncrief played a ton in Week 1 and has Andrew Luck—with a bad matchup already in the rear-view mirror. James Jones has Aaron Rodgers and, despite eroded physical skills, gets the benefit of contested targets in high-leverage situations like Week 1. Kendall Wright and Stevie Johnson have good floors (say WR3/4 on a weekly basis), but top out as WR2 options for the rest of the season in terms of upside.
Jeff Pasquino: I think the answer is Stevie Johnson. He has the third-best quarterback (James Jones is number one with Aaron Rodgers, with Moncrief a close second with Luck) and has one of the weaker defenses of the group.; I scratch off Wright as I don't believe Mariota will target Wright 8+ times a week, but Johnson can command that attention. Moncrief has Luck, but that's not the only good fortune he has right now. He benefits from T.Y. Hilton's injury that makes Moncrief the WR1/2 in this offense opposite of Andre Johnson, and Luck will certainly look at Moncrief—up until Hilton comes back. That's the difference-maker for me. Johnson should be a big factor for San Diego all season long, while Moncrief will go back to being a WR3 in October or sooner. James Jones may be the WR2 (or "2B" to Davante Adams) for Green Bay, but they can run the ball and play defense. I see Rivers having to throw a ton this year, which adds value to Stevie Johnson.
Ryan Hester: The answer for me here is Moncrief, and it's not close. Being a top receiver for an Andrew Luck offense means big time fantasy potential. In Week 1, Moncrief already was one of the team's top receivers. In terms of snaps played, the Colts receivers broke down like this: T.Y. Hilton (52), Andre Johnson (63), Moncrief (57). Hilton left with injury, which kept his total lowest. In terms of targets, it went: Hilton (14), Johnson (10), Moncrief (11). Hilton's injury obviously played a small role in Moncrief's large role, but it wasn't the only factor. Hilton played deep into the third quarter, and Moncrief only had one target (and zero catches) in the fourth after Hilton departed.
Moncrief's value lies not in what he "took" from Hilton being absent but in what he is going to "steal" from Johnson. Our Cecil Lammey spoke to Adam Schefter, and they both had the same source in Houston tell them that it was easy for the Texans to let Johnson go because he was old and slow. Sure, there's a narrative that will say, "the Colts didn't being in Andre Johnson to be a third or fourth receiver," but what did Indianapolis do with Hakeem Nicks last season when he looked washed up? They played him less as the season went on. They also let go of an icon in Reggie Wayne this offseason.
This team is in a championship window as long as they have Andrew Luck, but they can't surround him with inferior weapons and expect to win a Super Bowl. Regardless of age and experience, this team is going to put the more talented players on the field. They learned how not doing that can negatively impact the team with the Trent Richardson fiasco. Moncrief already had more catches than Johnson and caught a touchdown in Week 1. Their snap counts will begin to creep in the opposite directions.
In regards to the others on this list, I'll take the number two receiver playing 60 or so snaps per game with Andrew Luck over an aging third option for Aaron Rodgers. Jones and Rodgers do have a significant rapport in red zone situations, but Green Bay won't have a terrible second or third corner to target every week as they did in Week 1. They'll also lean on Eddie Lacy in many goal-to-go situations too. As for Kendall Wright, it is nice to see him finally have a quarterback, but Week 1 may end up being Tennessee's best offensive game of the season.
Steve Johnson is great and finally playing with an excellent quarterback. He probably has the most WR3-level starts out of anyone in this group, but I'll take my chances with a player whose ceiling to get me high-end WR2 starts in Moncrief—even if his chances of hitting that ceiling are lower than the others.
Chris Feery: Ranked in order: Moncrief, Jones, Wright, Johnson. Moncrief should quickly bypass Andre Johnson for WR2 in the offense. Johnson looks like he has seen better days and the Colts will not force a situation if it's clearly not working. Jones and Rodgers have underrated chemistry. Playing with a Top two fantasy quarterback makes him a preferred option over the next two names on the list. Wright should be solid this year as the top option for Mariota, but it's pretty safe to say there will be growing pains along the way and every week won't go as swimmingly as Week 1 did. Johnson should be in WR3/4 mix, but I don't see him jumping past that level with the other options in the Chargers offense.
Bruce Hammond: Kendall Wright. Two years ago Wright caught 94 balls. He could approach that again this year. In 2014 injuries, a quarterback mess of Locker, Whitehurst, and Mettenberger, and the coaches' decision to have Wright run routes differently (less freelancing), resulted in just 57 catches. He's going to be Mariota's go-to guy this season and should be a target hog. I like Stevie Johnson a lot but I think Rivers will spread it around and there will be games Johnson does little. Moncrief is third or fourth in the WR/TE pecking order generally (or possibly lower once Dorsett picks things up) and won't put up Week 1 numbers typically. James Jones was an interesting Week 1 case, and I was really surprised Rodgers went to him as he did. He got a lot of that activity at the expense of Davante Adams and I don't expect to see that continue.
A number of tight ends had performances in Week 1 that surprised a lot of people. Let's focus on three of them that might have particularly high upside potential:
For each of these players, what's the likelihood that he'll work his way into the upper tier of fantasy tight ends this season?
Daniel Simpkins: Out of the three, Eifert is the guy I'm touting as a potential game-changer for this season. He was a forgotten man due to an injury that ended his 2014 season, but we saw a flash of how involved the Bengals intended him to be in that first game. Now that he's healthy, the team will use the big man extensively.
I'm enthusiastic about the potential of Seferian-Jenkins this year, but I think he'll be just outside that upper tier. He is clearly a mismatch for most that would try to cover him. Some will argue that his Week 1 production was a fluke and he made his greatest impact in garbage time. We saw Winston look to him both when they were still in the game and when they were out of it. Even if that assertion were true, there will be a lot of garbage time for a very bad Buccaneers team.
Jordan Reed won't end up in the top-tier tight end group by the season's end because he won't play a full sixteen games. Jordan Reed will certainly be targeted more with DeSean Jackson out, but can he stay healthy long enough to benefit? I say no. Health, not talent, has always been the concern with Reed. He's never played a full season in his three year career. It is not wise for owners to bank on a player who has had such a poor track record with his health.
Chad Parsons: Tyler Eifert and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are at the top of this list on my board and top-6 options for the season. Both have high draft pedigree and enviable physical traits. Jordan Reed looks healthy now, but is a walking injury report throughout his career and has the worst quarterback and offense of the three—plus the lowest touchdown upside. I give Eifert and Seferian-Jenkins greater than 50% chances to finish in the top-6, with Jordan Reed in the 30-40% range.
Jeff Pasquino: I'm on board with Eifert. Andy Dalton needs someone reliable outside of his running backs and AJ Green to move the chains, and it hasn't been Sanu or Marvin Jones. Everyone wants to grab that "big splash" tight end, and we all tend to forget just how hard it is for a rookie to come in to the NFL and make a big debut in his rookie season. It takes 2-3 years for a tight end to come up to speed, and Eifert lost Year two due to injury. Now, in Year three, Eifert has two years of experience including one as an observer in his second season. We should have all seen this coming as a Year three tight end can really blossom, especially a first round pick.
Now Reed needed a few things to break his way to be a TE1—to be healthy, to get reliable quarterback play, and to become an integral part of the game plans. All of that has happened with the move to Kirk Cousins and the injury to DeSean Jackson. That part is temporary, however, so I would "rent" Reed and look to deal him soon if I could.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (or "ASJ" as we like to abbreviate) is third on my list. Knock one = Year two for the young but talented tight end. He's a big target, but here's knock two—his quarterback is too inexperienced. Young quarterbacks love to have a big target over the middle, and that screams ASJ, but Winston looked terrible in Week 1 as he stared down targets, drawing the defense to where he was focused. I just don't see Winston maturing quick enough for ASJ to reach his full potential. He's a 2016 prospect for me.
Ryan Hester: The clear answer here is Eifert. He's in a tier to himself among the names listed here. Eifert has a first-round pedigree, had offseason hype that he would be a big part of the offense, and then was unveiled in a big way right out of the gate in Week 1. With many "buzz" players, they flash early and fade (remember Jared Cook's massive Week 1 at home against Arizona a couple years ago), but Eifert's game and usage in Week 1 suggest that this may not be his high watermark this season, particularly in the yardage department as 104 yards is certainly attainable.
Distant to him, but in second of the three, is Seferian-Jenkins. Much of the offseason buzz around him was his elite athleticism and the fact that Jameis Winston showed a propensity for throwing high to tall targets (Kelvin Benjamin) and often to his tight end (Nick O'Leary). Seferian-Jenkins checks both of those boxes. And while he had a huge Week 1, one of his touchdowns was in true garbage time (42-7 before the score). Additionally, Mike Evans' impending return lowers Seferian-Jenkins' ceiling.
Jordan Reed and Kirk Cousins have shown excellent rapport in limited time together, but putting any chips on an offense so poor is a risky proposition. Aside from that, there's no guaranteeing that Cousins will be the quarterback all season. Calling his Week 1 performance "average" would be kind.
Chris Feery: Eifert has the best chance of the three. He should be the number two option in the passing game going forward and receive a boatload of red zone looks. A somewhat forgotten entity going into 2015, owners that had the foresight to draft him should be pleased at the moment. A Top five tight end season is well within reach.
Seferian-Jenkins has the next best chance. He will receive plenty of targets from the rookie quarterback but will be held back until Winston settles in. Similar to Winston, expect some bad weeks surrounding a few decent ones and maybe one or two big weeks. Add it all up and ASJ is a step behind Eifert on this list. He will go as far as his quarterback takes him, if Winston settles in quickly he could be in line for a surprisingly (to some) big year.
Reed has the talent to be at the top of this list, but a horrid injury history and the dysfunction in Washington will hold him back. While Reed will benefit in the short term with the injury to DeSean Jackson, I can't put my chips on him over the course of a full season.
Bruce Hammond: Eifert was my dynasty TE5 entering the season, so I've been all in on him even before the breakout game in Week 1. Only an elbow injury in the first game last year kept the 2013 first rounder from proving himself last year. He's the real deal and should be on everyone's buy list (though it's now probably too late). I put him behind Gronkowski obviously, and behind Graham and Kelce, but he certainly has the potential to hang with Olsen, Bennett, Cameron, etc.
Whenever Reed plays he gets numbers because he's and excellent pass catcher. However, it's not just ability but also availability that matters when talking about the elites, and his succession of injuries and concussions during his first two seasons have me cautious entering his third year. So far so good in Week 1, but one solid hit and he may be in concussion-land once again. That (and to some extent the quarterback group in Washington) holds me back from fully endorsing him. If I own Reed I'm happy to take what he gives me for as long as he's in there, but don't think I will ever be able to trust enough to consider him elite.
Too early to know, I think, what Seferian-Jenkins will do this year. With Mike Evans out and no real suitable replacement at receiver (Louis Murphy?), and the Buccaneers getting blown out early, there were a lot of targets coming his way on Sunday. That game could be a good sign for Seferian-Jenkins or an aberration. To this point I've not been a huge fan of his talent so for now I'm going to stay on the fence concerning him.
In a redraft league, would you trade ...
Daniel Simpkins: I still believe Tannehill is a lock for top ten potential where these others are not. Tannehill did not look bad in Week 1. Washington tried to win the game by playing keep away, but when Tannehill had the ball, he was able to drive down the field rather easily. Mariota was getting the ball out awfully quick against a bad defense. We need to see what he will do when receivers aren't getting open early in routes and the pass rush is in his face. Nothing has changed in Kansas City to suddenly vault Smith from a QB2 to the QB1 stratosphere. Smith had a good week, but his numbers were inflated by turnovers that created a short field for him to score. Denver's offense may be in disarray right now, but the defense is firing on all cylinders. Get ready to see him turn back into a pumpkin this week. Out of this group, Palmer offers the most promise, but I'm skeptical that he can stay healthy for a full 16 behind that banged-up line. New Orleans doesn't have much of a pass rush. He'll have a great many divisional games this year where he will see significant pressure.
Chad Parsons: I would not. Miami had a strange game in Washington where they had five minutes of time of possession until their two-minute drill scoring drive at the end of the first half. DeVante Parker will be a key addition in the coming weeks for Tannehill as well. Jarvis Landry is nice, Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills are quality depth, but Parker can unlock Tannehill's ultimate upside.
Jeff Pasquino: I would take Palmer over Tannehill if I knew that Palmer would last all year long. Palmer took some shots in Week 1 and that's the concern there. If he can stay healthy, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd will be a great trio of targets in Arizona. I would be daring and make the move as I still think Miami wants to run more than pass, so Tannehill has limited upside from a fantasy perspective. I would keep Tannehill if I was offered Alex Smith or Mariota.
Ryan Hester: Palmer would be the only player here who I'd consider. He's such a great fit for his offense. He has the arm strength to make the vertical throws that are a Bruce Arians staple, and he's not afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit if it means delivering the ball and making a play. His weapons are quite talented as well.
That said, Tannehill is still a few slots above Palmer here. Miami had a bad Week 1, but don't confuse that for the notion that Miami is a bad offense. Tannehill's ground game will separate him from the others on this list.
Chris Feery: I wouldn't make any of these three deals. Mariota looked outstanding in Week 1 but we need to keep it in perspective. He's a rookie and the wall will come. I will happily admit I was wrong if he goes through the entire year without struggling. I'm higher on Smith and the Chiefs offense than most but would still pass on trading Tannehill for him. Best case scenario, Smith finishes the year better than Top 15 while Tannehill could push well into the Top 10 with a strong year. As Jeff mentioned, Palmer is intriguing but too much of an injury risk for me so I would have to pass.
Bruce Hammond: No! Tannehill showed major growth in 2014 and that will continue in 2015. Veteran receivers Jennings and Stills, rookie first rounder Parker, and tight end Cameron are new to the team. They'll get on the same page with Tannehill before long. Landry is a solid possession guy. The talent around him is there. He'll be fine. Mariota was fabulous last week but let's not go crazy; he's a rookie and he'll have his struggles. Smith and Palmer are known quantities and we shouldn't be swayed by one game over the body of work the last few years for these veterans.
Daniel Simpkins: It's very close, but if I owned McCoy in a standard league, I would try to make the trade for Ivory. McCoy didn't look like he was running inside very well, a problem that many have noted when watching his tape from last year. Hamstring injuries are always tricky for running backs, and though he seems to have escaped this game unscathed, I wouldn't be surprised to see him battle problems with it throughout the year. In contrast, Ivory looked great running inside. He was confident and comfortable in this offense. The team relied upon him in the red zone, and I believe they'll continue to do so going forward. This is one of those trades that your league mates will say is crazy now, but might make you look really smart by the end of the year.
Chad Parsons: In non-PPR I would do this deal, but McCoy offers enough as a receiver to hold him in PPR. Ivory looked very good on tape in Week 1, running hot and through contact.
Jeff Pasquino: I would want Ivory over McCoy, even though the season long rankings screamed the opposite. Buffalo will run the ball with McCoy, Karlos Williams, Bryce Brown, or even Tyrod Taylor if they need to, but Ivory owns the show for the Jets.
Ryan Hester: Neither are terribly attractive, despite a great Week 1 from Ivory. Two-down runners on teams who will be losing in most of their games aren't ideal plays. I like Ivory's youth better, though, and he wasn't dinged up this offseason on top of significant workload over the last few years like McCoy has been. Ivory also did get some work in the passing game, suggesting that he could be a three-down player at times. So, yes, despite their draft positions making it seem silly just one week into the season, I'd prefer to have Ivory.
Chris Feery: Tempting off of Week 1 but I would pass. I like Ivory a lot and think he's in line for a solid year, but he's not worth a McCoy at full strength. I think Week 1's performance from McCoy was more due to playing it safe with him. If he's fully healed and shows no signs of setback, I fully expect him to be the bell cow for the Bills. Ivory should definitely hold that designation for the Jets as well, but the team's history with personnel and scheme decisions does not instill me with a ton of confidence.
Bruce Hammond: Ivory will be a solid back for the Jets, but not a chance I'd let Ivory's performance against Cleveland influence me here. McCoy could be top-5. With Buffalo's great defense and Rex Ryan's commitment to the run, McCoy should be among the league leaders in touches this year if he stays healthy.
Daniel Simpkins: I would deal Thomas for Hopkins. I am a bit concerned about the Manning vs. Kubiak power struggle that's apparently going on in Denver right now. I believe that if Manning continues to be stubborn about running his own offense, it could be a recipe for disaster. Hopkins is more talented in his own right than people realize. The fact that Mallet may end up starting from here on out is great news for Hopkins, as he has a better arm and isn't as prone to mistakes as Hoyer seems to be. Arian Foster's return should open things up more for Hopkins, too.
Chad Parsons: I give elite talents like Demaryius Thomas a long runaway to prove me wrong production-wise. Hopkins is a high-level talent as well, but Thomas gets plenty of short-range targets to emphasize his after-the-catch ability. While I do not expect a huge swing back to elite status by Peyton Manning, the Denver offense will have better days than the 'sky is falling' Week 1 showing.
Jeff Pasquino: Demaryius Thomas has too much talent not to get 1,000 yards this year, but the same can be said for Hopkins. I like both to have Top 20 performances this year, but this one is the closest call for me. It hinges on Peyton Manning. I still think he's better than Hoyer or Mallett, whoever they trot out there, Week 2 or going forward.
Ryan Hester: I still would not do this one, despite their respective Week 1 performances. Even if Peyton Manning isn't the guy we all remember him to be, I'd still take my chances with him than a Ryan Mallett/Brian Hoyer committee. Denver's offense had a very difficult matchup in Week 1, and they do again in Week 2. Thomas is a nice buy-low candidate after this week. Remember: he started slow in 2014 as well, and we know how that righted itself.
Chris Feery: Not making this trade. I expected Thomas to take a dip this year due to the change in offense and an aging Manning, but think his upside is still greater than Hopkins over the course of the season. Hopkins has a world of talent but the unsettled quarterback situation does not paint a rosy picture for his full season stats.
Bruce Hammond: Thomas led the league in targets last year. Even with Manning's possible / likely decline, I'll take him over Mallett or Hoyer. Hopkins is a high performer, but Thomas is a stud you want to keep.
That will do it for this edition of the FanDuel Roundtable. Please join us again next week.