Roundtable - Week 1
Posted 9/4 by Staff, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Welcome to the first regular season edition of the 2008 Footballguys Roundtable. Feel free to eavesdrop as various staff members share their views on a range of topics in discussion format. This week, they touch on the following:
- Chris Perry, Michael Turner, Ricky Williams
- 49ers Offense
- Some RBBC Situations
- Things to watch for this weekend
- Overreacting to Week One performances
Chris Perry, Michael Turner, Ricky Williams
Chris Perry, Michael Turner, and Ricky Williams will all open as staring RBs this season. Williams has been there before, but it's been a few years. For Perry and Turner, it's their first shot at a featured RB role.
All these guys are very talented RBs, but are in what many perceive to be poor situations (playing for poor offenses behind subpar offensive lines).
What are your thoughts on Chris Perry?
Anthony Borbely: Chris Perry is finally healthy and is now the starting RB for the Bengals. He faces a tough Ravens defense in week one and it will be interesting to see how he plays. Perry was undrafted in a lot leagues that drafted prior to the last couple of weeks. Now he is an every down starter. He is risky, though, because nobody knows if he can withstand the punishment of being an every down NFL RB. I think he can, but it is far from certain.
Cecil Lammey: Odds are that Chris Perry will end up on the doubtful or out list more than he does on the "active" list. He's very talented and a great receiving threat - but when you look up injury prone in the dictionary there is a picture of Perry. Look out for DeDe Dorsey in Cincinnati, because after Perry - he's the Bengals most complete back.
Jeff Tefertiller: I agree with Cecil that Perry's health is a huge worry. But Kenny Watson, rather than Dorsey, is the guy I like best in Cincinnati, especially for the value.
Jeff Haseley: I disagree. I think Chris Perry has the most upside potential of the three RBs we're discussing, because he has the ability to catch 6-9 passes per game, along with running the football. In 2005 in limited part-time action he had 51 receptions. Coach Marvin Lewis is giving him the opportunity to be an every down back and if he is successful in that challenge, he could put up Steven Jackson-like numbers. Personally, I think he's too fragile to sustain an entire season of doing what he is being asked, but the opportunity is there. Ride him until the wheels come off.
Jeff Pasquino: I agree with Jeff H. that Chris Perry has the biggest upside. Considering that he has a high-powered passing game to compliment him, teams won't be stacking the line to slow him down. That's not the case in Atlanta for sure, where teams will focus on Turner (and Roddy White) and make the rookie QB beat them through the air.
So Michael Turner's situation in Atlanta is tougher than Perry's
Jeff Tefertiller: I actually like Turner the best of these three RBs. His role seems solidified. The Falcons want to run to keep the heat off the rookie QB, Matt Ryan. The other two RBs have veteran QBs and will open the offense more.
Anthony Borbely: I agree. I think Turner is the safest of these three RBs by far. He is almost certain to get 300 carries and seems like a lock, barring injury, to be at least a mid level RB2. He always played well in San Diego, but now he will carry the load instead of a few carries here and there. A lot of fantasy owners held Turner for a long time waiting for this day.
Cecil Lammey: Michael Turner easily has the most upside from this list. The offense won't be as bad as many people are expecting in Atlanta. Now, they're not going to light up the scoreboard on a weekly basis, but they'll be able to move the ball on the ground and in the air. Turner is a solid receiver out of the backfield and won't lose much playing time to Jerious Norwood. At the very least, when they get into scoring position Turner is one of the best inside/short yardage runners in the game. And he doesn't need a ton of carries to get his yardage. As we've seen this preseason all Turner needs is a crease and he can take it to the house on any play.
Will Ricky Williams be the comeback player of the year, or does he have bust written all over him?
Jeff Haseley: I think Ricky Williams could easily end up being a bust this season. I am not sold that he is ready for an entire season of carries. If he has more than 160 carries, I'll be impressed. He is 31 years old and has a good share of mileage on his tires. He may be pretty good in the first couple of games, but I think the wear and tear will grind him down and he won't be able to produce at the rate he has in the past. I just don't think he has the ability to carry the ball 20 times a game, week in and week out. Injury or ineffectiveness will win out eventually, plus I really like what rookie RB Jalen Parmele brings to the table. Ronnie Brown is not a forgotten man either, although his comeback will probably come full circle next season.
Jeff Tefertiller: I just do not know what to think. Williams has talent. No doubt. I question whether he can carve out enough carries to be startable.
Jeff Pasquino: Yes, Miami is a wildcard. Chad Pennington is more valuable than most think, but I don't trust Ricky to hold onto the job all year. Ronnie Brown will be 100% at some point this season, and Ricky is not the most durable guy around. If everything goes his way, he could be a great contributor - but he's the only back on this list with an elite RB breathing down his neck on the depth chart.
Anthony Borbely: Right. I would sell high early with Williams. He will likely get more work early in the year and then gradually lose touches to Brown.
Cecil Lammey: Ricky - oh Ricky, can we really believe in him? I don't think that he'll get suspended for pot again, but we're talking about a guy that basically lied to Terrell Davis on TV about how he was clean - and then was busted for a hot test about a week later. Again, too much risk to really rely on him.
The 49ers offense ranked dead last in both points scored and yards gained season, and haven't ranked better than #24 in either category in any year since the departure of Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens.
Can Mike Martz work any of his offensive magic in San Francisco this season?
Jeff Haseley: In my opinion, the success of the 49ers offense depends on Frank Gore. Sure the QB position is pivotal, but If Gore can be a productive running back, then I think the passing game will flourish, because defenses won't know who to key on. If Gore isn't successful, teams will focus on stopping the pass and that usually means fewer scoring drives. I do think J.T. O'Sullivan, or whoever is under center, will face a lot of pressure. The 49ers could very easily lead the league in sacks given up. If I had to make a prediction I'd say the 49ers will finish in the top 15 in passing.
Jeff Tefertiller: I believe in the Martz offense and its ability to make players superstars in fantasyland. While a coordinator or head coach, his teams have all finished in the Top 9 in passing yards. San Francisco is in the perfect division to continue the trend.
Chris Smith: It could happen in a year or two, Jeff, but I doubt it is going to happen this season. It just doesn't appear that the 49ers have the offensive personal right now to explode. I do think they'll be significantly better than the past few seasons but it depends on your expectations.
Can the 49ers become a top-16 offense this season? Yes they certainly can although I would not expect anything inside the top-ten. In fact, I think the high-side is in the top-15 range for this season.
Jeff Pasquino: I'm with Chris. I think that the SF offense will be much improved, but in the big scheme of things that still puts them at about the NFL average.
Cecil Lammey: Never doubt Mike Martz when it comes to the passing game. There's no reason to think that Martz won't work his magic in San Fran, although as Chris points out, it will take time. This preseason we've seen both the good and the bad in this process. At times this offense has seemed out of sync and frankly the players looked confused. Then other times this team was clicking on all cylinders led by journeyman QB J.T. O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan could be the emerging star for this team. Once the younger receivers get up to speed - and once Martz figures out how to best use TE Vernon Davis - this offense could put up good fantasy points in the weak NFC West.
Anthony Borbely: I am very interested to see how the 49ers offense does under Mike Martz. Last year, the 49ers were one of the worst offenses ever. This year, they are under the guidance of Martz. Every offense coached by Martz has had over 4200 passing yards. He does not have a lot of talent to work with in San Francisco, so it is questionable whether the 49ers can put up those huge numbers. The impressive past numbers of the Martz passing game versus the terrible past of the 49ers should answer the question, "What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?" We will find out soon.
Isaac Bruce is the only accomplished WR on the roster. Will he lead the team in receptions, or is he too far past his prime to make a big impact?
Jeff Haseley: That's a good question. Will Isaac Bruce play the Rod Smith role, leading his team by example or will he be more like Eric Moulds in Tennessee - experienced, but without enough left in the tank to make an impact? I think Bruce will have a good first couple of games, but I think he'll eventually tail off as the younger, faster, stronger WRs come into their own. It will be interesting to see, but right now I'm not that high on Bruce. I think he's an underdog to finish as a top 30 fantasy WR.
Jeff Tefertiller: I do believe Bruce will lead the receivers in receptions.
I am not a believer in Vernon Davis or Bryant Johnson.
Chris Smith: Yeah, I don't see a big season for Bruce in 2008. He'll have an impact but it will be as a marginal starting receiver and nothing more. I wouldn't expect him to encroach on a 1,000 yard season, the bench mark for fantasy starting receivers.
Cecil Lammey: I like Ike, and Mike Martz does as well. I doubt that he'll lead this team in receptions, but his mere presence on this team is very important. Bruce is locked in as a starter and more importantly he almost acts as a player/coach for this young and inexperienced WR corps. With Vernon Davis and Frank Gore in addition to Johnson and Morgan, it means that Bruce's value could be limited when taking into account only statistics. His biggest impact will be felt in mentoring the young skill position players on his new team.
Anthony Borbely: Isaac Bruce will put up big numbers as long as he stays healthy, but I don't think he will lead the 49ers in receptions.
Who's the most alluring sleeper here? Bryant Johnson? Josh Morgan? Jason Hill?
Jeff Haseley: Josh Morgan appears to have the biggest sleeper tag among the 49ers WRs. He's been downright electric so far. People are gushing over Morgan this preseason, but they did the same with Houston's Jacoby Jones last year and he wasn't too productive in his rookie year. Bryant Johnson, with his experience and first round talent seems to be the best pick for success among WRs, but then again, some say he doesn't have WR1 abilities. The one receiver that could make the most impact is TE Vernon Davis, especially if he lines up as a WR and plays more of a WR role. If he does that and becomes Martz' release valve, he could be in for a big year. Arnaz Battle is someone that not many people are talking about. Battle appears to be the 49ers WR3, which often occupies the slot position in Martz's offense. It's the slot position that Vernon Davis could occupy, but if he doesn't the next logical candidate is Arnaz Battle. This is definitely a team and situation that I will be observing in week one.
Jeff Tefertiller: Bryant Johnson is an enigma. He will begin the season as the starter, but any edge he had against the rookie is gone. The team will look for Johnson to make an impact early or the starting nod will go to the former Hokie. The sleeper here is Hill, who looked good in preseason. The 2009 49ers could be starting both Morgan and Hill. If he starts early in the season, Morgan could have a Rookie of the Year season. He is talented in a wide open offense.
Chris Smith: I'm not sure Bryant Johnson qualifies as a sleeper here unless you feel he will slot inside the top-20. Too many owners have been discussing his fantasy opportunities this year.
I think the interesting late-round flyer is Josh Morgan. He is certainly in a situation to earn a lot of playing time and has looked great in preseason. Certainly a player to take a chance on.
Cecil Lammey: It's hard to call Bryant Johnson a sleeper, and it's looking more and more like he'll be the WR1 for the 49ers. Johnson was a 1st round pick for the Cardinals the same year that Anquan Boldin was their 2nd round pick. After the week 1 performance where Jeff Blake (!) force fed Boldin against the Lions, Johnson's role was as the 3rd WR. Now he finally gets his chance to be the #1, but had a hard time fighting off rookie Josh Morgan for the starting gig opposite of Isaac Bruce.
Josh Morgan is a hard worker who has endeared coaches and teammates with his work ethic and attitude. He presents the most upside for a 49ers receiver and should get some work on special teams as well. Keep a close eye on Morgan because he has fantasy value not only this year - but in the future as well.
Anthony Borbely: I think Jason Hill is the most intriguing sleeper in San Francisco. He was very impressive at times in preseason, but was largely overshadowed by rookie WR Josh Morgan. Keep an eye on Hill early in the season. Also, Jeff H. mentioned Arnaz Battle. I think Battle will settle in at the slot eventually and could become the go-to WR.
Jeff Pasquino: Sticking with Battle for a minute, he is a solid WR, and we've seen Martz turn guys like Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald into solid fantasy guys, even though they were WR3s on their teams. Look for Battle to possibly be that WR3 to grab.
Any final thoughts on the 'Niners offense this season?
Jeff Tefertiller: I'll say that Frank Gore looks primed to be a Top 5 player in PPR leagues. He is way more talented than Kevin Jones and Jones was able to get yardage in Detroit in the Martz offense.
Jeff Pasquino: I agree. Frank Gore should be a PPR monster, if not a great rusher, but solid in total yardage. Isaac Bruce will be his regular possession receiver type, and Josh Morgan is likely to be the home run ball threat. Whether O'Sullivan can deliver that kind of ball remains to be seen, but so far you have to like Morgan.
Jeff Pasquino: Vernon Davis is another one to watch - he's an untapped raw talent, so if Martz can harness that, look out.
Anthony Borbely: Back to the quarterback position, I think the only reason J.T. O'Sullivan is starting is because he knows the offense. He is not accurate and generally makes poor decisions. There is a reason he has bounced around the NFL and mostly been a 3rd string QB. He just isn't very good. I would be selling high as soon as possible.
Some RBBC Situations
The Carolina backfield is difficult to figure out going into every season, and this season is no different. What's going to happen there?
Jeff Haseley: I see this playing out to be very similar to Jacksonville's running game the last few seasons. I think DeAngelo Williams will have more carries than Jonathan Stewart, but I see both being equally effective. Stewart will probably score more TDs than Williams, but Williams will be the one who has more carries between the twenties. Like Maurice Jones Drew, Jonathan Stewart will being the better overall fantasy play, but Williams will also have value.
Cecil Lammey: Do you have faith in John Fox? I for one, do not. For years it seems that Fox hasn't been able to get his RB combination correct. Whether it was DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis, or more recently DeAngelo Williams and DeShaun Foster, coach Fox hasn't been able to harness the best of both backs. Now the Panthers have TWO 1st round RBs, which is an exciting situation - but one that Fox may again mess up.
DeAngelo Williams is very talented, but had to learn to be a more patient runner in the NFL. While at Memphis it was easy for him to bounce runs outside on a consistent basis and pick up huge yardage. That same style does not work in the NFL where every player on defense is fast. This preseason Williams has looked really good, and flashed the big play potential that everyone knew that he had.
Jonathan Stewart was perhaps the most pro-ready RB in the entire 2008 NFL Draft class. Coming out of Oregon Stewart showed that he was not only a very powerful runner between the tackles, but he can also be relied on as a consistent receiver out of the backfield. The Panthers jumped at the chance to draft this playmaker despite the fact that he had toe surgery that was going to keep him sidelined until training camp. In the first preseason action of his career Stewart did not disappoint. His trademark power was on display, along with big play ability to match that of Williams.
It looks as though DeAngelo will begin the season as the starter with Stewart coming in on goalline situations. Coach Fox has also hinted at playing "the hot hand." This may work when rotating pitchers in baseball, but this is the NFL and most players have to get into a rhythm. If I were to guess I would say that Stewart is the back that you want on your fantasy team as he could lead all Panthers RBs in TDs, and thus fantasy points. However, this is John Fox so it may be best to avoid this situation if possible.
Jeff Pasquino: If I had to bet, I'd predict that Stewart will end up re-aggravating his foot injury, and we'll ultimately wee the bulk of the work go back to DeAngelo Williams.
Anthony Borbely: I'll take that bet, Jeff. I fully expect Stewart to be the RB who winds up with the most carries. It's simply a matter of talent and running style. They drafted Stewart to carry the load eventually. He is the power RB they have lacked since the Stephen Davis days. DeAngelo Williams is a good RB in his own right, but he is more of a complementary back than a full time carry-the-load starter. This may not happen right away, but talent usually rises to the top and once Stewart gets acclimated to the NFL, I don't think the Panthers will be able to keep him off the field.
Fred Taylor has gotten more carries than Maurice Jones-Drew in each of the past two seasons. Will that trend continue?
Jeff Haseley: I think Jacksonville will use the same formula one more time. It has been a successful one-two punch, so why would they change that approach? If Taylor can't be as productive as seasons prior, then and only then, can I see a change more in favor of Maurice Jones-Drew.
Cecil Lammey: As long as Fred Taylor stays out of trouble and stays healthy I see no reason for him not to repeat his performance from 2007. Fred has shed the label "fragile" and still remains a dynamic playmaker for the Jaguars offense. The Jags may be looking toward the future with the drafting of Chauncey Washington, but Taylor still has a good amount left in the tank.
Jeff Pasquino: Agreed! Jack Del Rio has a system that works and wins games - AND keeps Fred Taylor healthy. When you have an offense that produces two Top 20 RBs, you stick with it.
Anthony Borbely: Right. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Justin Fargas was very productive last season once he was inserted into the starting lineup for the Raiders, but Darren McFadden is viewed as a potential superstar. How will the carries be divided in Oakland this season? Does Michael Bush have a role, or is he too far down the depth chart?
Jeff Haseley: I think we'll see the majority of the carries in Oakland going to Darren McFadden, possibly upwards of 270 if he remains healthy all season long. I think Justin Fargas and Michael Bush will split the remaining carries with Bush getting more goal line looks. My thinking suggests Fargas won't be anywhere near as productive as he was last year.
Cecil Lammey: Justin Fargas had a nice 2007, but still carries the label "injury prone." The Raiders know how to move the ball on the ground very effectively, and with their lack of receiving weapons (insert Lelie/Walker joke here) they will continue to grind down the competition. Head Coach Lane Kiffin has publicly stated that he believes the Raiders could churn out a whopping 600 carries!! That means there is more than enough for everyone involved.
If the Raiders are smart they would use Fargas as much as possible. This would make McFadden even more dangerous because defenders will already be tired when the uber-talented rookie takes the field. Darren is too much of a gamebreaker to keep on the sidelines for very long. In addition to carries I expect Run DMC to see quite a few receptions from the RB position. Smart defensive coordinators also will have their teams prepared for McFadden at QB - you just never know!
Michael Bush certainly has a role on this team, as well he should. Bush is a big back, but has only started to harness the power in his running style. While at Louisville he played more like a tailback despite his size, and in high school he played SEVEN different positions. Bush will start out as the change-of-pace runner for this team, with goalline carries being his specialty.
Jeff Pasquino: I think that many will view this as analogous to the Minnesota situation last year with Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson. Taylor's role is Fargas' job, while "Run DMC" gets the Peterson role. The problems with this comparison are (1) McFadden isn't Peterson, and (2) Fargas isn't Chester Taylor. Oakland's offense is a mess, but why would they run McFadden too much too early? I think McFadden will show glimmers throughout the season as to why he was drafted high, but predicting which weeks those will be ahead of the fact will drive you crazy.
As for Michael Bush - he only becomes relevant if one of the two (Fargas / McFadden) get injured. Otherwise he's 2009 material to compliment McFadden.
Anthony Borbely: Oakland is tough to figure out. Fargas will start, but how long can he hold off McFadden? My gut says Fargas will be part of a RBBC all year and probably will do better than most think, as he did last year. I believe the Raiders will make a point to keep McFadden fresh all year. Bush will get some work, but I see his touches being limited unless someone gets hurt or is ineffective.
Seattle has a new look in its backfield this season. Is either Maurice Morris or Julius Jones NFL starting material? Will one guy pull ahead of the other? Will Duckett get the goal line carries?
Jeff Haseley: I think Julius Jones and his experience in Dallas will ultimately earn him the starting RB role in Seattle with T.J. Duckett getting the goal line looks. I don't think Seattle will forget about Maurice Morris, but I think he'll end up in a complimentary role. Getting back to Duckett - he could have 6-7 TDs, all of the goal line variety. He's a sneaky fantasy play, but his yardage totals will be minimal.
Anthony Borbely: Agreed. I think Julius Jones is a better RB than Maurice Morris and eventually he will get about 60-65% of the work. Assuming Duckett remains in Seattle, I would think he would get goal line work. If he doesn't, I'd have to question why they kept him.
Jeff Pasquino: In NFL terms, Julius Jones is NOT a starter. Sorry, deal with it. It is one thing to be outshined by Marion Barber, but when you're splitting time with Maurice Morris, you might not be a top RB candidate anymore. As far as value, "MoMo" can be had much cheaper and is just as likely to post better numbers.
Duckett is hardly worth mentioning.
Cecil Lammey: What!?! No mention of Justin Forsett??!? Let's look at this situation a little closer. Julius Jones comes over from Dallas and people are immediately giving him the starting nod when in fact it's veteran Maurice Morris that will start for this team. Both Morris and Jones are solid RBs with little upside. Leonard Weaver was recently quoted as saying that the Seahawks will definitely use a committee.
The Seahawks have almost instantly regretted the signing of T.J. Duckett. His role is next to nothing on this team, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him cut at some point during the year. If there is a goalline back in Seattle it's the aforementioned Weaver.
So where does Justin Forsett fit in all of this? Forsett is the best all around back on the Seahawks roster and earned a spot on the 53-man roster with his outstanding play during the preseason. Justin will have to earn his living on special teams, but has the ability to be a feature back for this offense. Before anyone brings up his lack of size just know this: he never missed a game in college due to injury - and he proved that he could be a workhorse for the Cal Bears. Forsett is also a very good receiver out of the backfield and is dangerous in the open field. Dynasty league players had better be all over this guy.
In Tennessee, it looks like LenDale White and Chris Johnson will begin the season by splitting the workload. What are the odds that Johnson ends up with the featured role by the end of the season?
Jeff Haseley: I think the odds are in Johnson's favor to be the featured back for the Titans by the end of the season. Coach Jeff Fisher has big plans for Johnson, and they're going to get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways (as a runner, receiver, returner, etc.) I think the Titans will use Johnson much like how the Saints used Reggie Bush in his rookie year. If that's the case, Johnson could be a top 20 RB at season's end.
Cecil Lammey: Chris Johnson could certainly be the feature back in this offense, but Jeff Fisher knows how to use him best. Pound the defense with LenDale, and then bring in Johnson to clean up. White leans on a defense and it doesn't take long for the opposition to get worn down. Defenders also get into a rhythm when defending the run and Chris Johnson is almost polar opposites of LenDale in that department.
It will truly be thunder and lightning in Tennessee, and both backs are worthy of starting most any week for your fantasy team. The Titans could once again lead the league in rushing attempts (if Oakland doesn't beat them to it) which means there's plenty of opportunity for both White and Johnson. It wouldn't surprise me to see both of these backs with similar fantasy production - with White's coming from goalline work and Johnson's coming from his big play ability.
Jeff Pasquino: Johnson won't take over the featured role. As Cecil implied, it will be a committee. The two backs will compliment one another - similar to two seasons ago with Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush (to build on Jeff H.'s comparison of Johnson to Bush). They'll share the workload and try and make everyone not notice just how bad Vince Young is at quarterback.
Anthony Borbely: Tennessee looks like a full blown RBBC right now, but I expect White to get more work than Johnson. Tennessee will use both at times and try to get Johnson in space, but when they are in ball control mode, I think White will be the man.
In Chicago, Kevin Jones looked impressive at times during the preseason. Is he a threat to end up starting over Matt Forte by midseason?
Cecil Lammey: The short answer is no. Jones used to be a dynamic runner when he came out of Virginia Tech (remember the numbers that he and Lee Suggs put up in college!?!). But KJ would be excited if he simply finished this season healthy. Matt Forte will punish defenses and prove to be exactly the type of RB that the Bears need. Kevin Jones was signed so that the other Adrian Peterson could concentrate on special teams (where he is a solid player) and Garrett Wolfe could remain the 3rd down change-of-pace RB. The only way that Jones sees starting time in 2008 is with an injury to Forte.
Jeff Haseley: I can see the Bears going with Matt Forte as their starting back early in the season with Kevin Jones playing more of a role later, especially if the Bears aren't winning games. If Jones can produce like he has in previous seasons and the Bears win as a result, we could see a role takeover with Forte having less of an impact.
Jeff Pasquino: Only if Forte is terrible or has fumbling issues. Forte is their guy going forward. Jones should get no more than 30% of the touches. They want Forte to succeed and will give him the ball this year to figure out if he's the guy for them down the road.
Anthony Borbely: I am not the biggest Matt Forte fan, but he will keep the job as long as he performs. The Bears line, however, is among the worst in the league and he might very well struggle and not necessarily through any fault of his own. If he does, Kevin Jones may get a chance to earn more work. I think a healthy Kevin Jones is a better RB than Matt Forte. But he is not 100% right now and that gives Forte a chance to put a stranglehold on the job early in the season.
What in the world is going to happen in Houston?
Jeff Haseley: I think the plan in Houston is to use Ahman Green with a sprinkle of Chris Taylor and Steve Slaton mixed in as well. If Ahman Green suffers a setback or is unproductive, then I think the role will go to whoever is producing. It could be Chris Taylor or Steve Slaton, but I wouldn't be surprised if the real winner is someone that won't be on the opening day roster.
Cecil Lammey: Nobody knows what will happen in Houston? But whatever player emerges from that cluster is one that you want on your fantasy team. Does anyone have faith that Ahman Green can finish a full 16 games? Can Chris Taylor stay healthy and prove that he's more of a tailback than a fullback? And can rookie Steve Slaton hold on to the rock when he does get playing time?
It's anyone's guess right now as to who will lead the Texans in rushing yards. Alex Gibbs has reunited with Gary Kubiak and this zone blocking scheme is so effective that even Ron Dayne was putting up respectable numbers! I do not believe in Ahman Green, and I like Chris Taylor - but injuries have robbed him of what little burst he had. This leaves Steve Slaton as the player that you may want to gamble on in your lineup. If the matchup is right - and he can get past his fumblitis - Slaton has the playmaking ability to be a dangerous weapon for the Texans.
Jeff Pasquino: Steve Slaton will be the guy by the end of the year. I'm backing way off of Ahman Green. I really thought he could bounce back and everything I read this offseason gave me that feeling, but it looks like Slaton will be the guy to own. Chris Taylor is also a possible contributor. Odds are though that Matt Schaub will have a big, big year.
Anthony Borbely: The Houston situation is a mess. Ahman Green will start, but who knows how much work he will get and more important, who knows if he can stay healthy? Steve Slaton seems like the safest bet to get consistent touches all year, but he may not get enough to be a viable fantasy RB as long as Green is healthy. Chris Taylor will likely be limited as long as Green is healthy. I think Green is the one to own right now, but I doubt he can stay healthy all year.
Things to watch for this weekend
For months we've spent a lot of our time speculating on what might happen; but this week we finally start having a chance to analyze and react to what is happening. What situations are you most interested in seeing play out this week?
Jeff Haseley: There are some pretty good matchups in week one, but I'm more interested to see how certain situations will pan out and there are a lot of situations that have my attention.
One of the more interesting situations right off the bat is in Baltimore. Will Ray Rice rise to the occasion while Willis McGahee heals from his knee injury? He has a great opportunity to make a splash in his first game in the league, facing off against the Bengals and their not-so-well known run defense. If Rice has a big game, will he be more of a presence in the offense, even when McGahee returns to action? Also, how will Joe Flacco do in his debut? Will he finally be the QB that allows Mark Clayton to perform to his potential? Will he turn Demetrius Williams into an every week fantasy start? How will he use Todd Heap?
Anthony Borbely: Right now, it's a 15-way tie for first in games that interest me, excluding the Jets game because I'm tired of Favre this and Favre that. I am very excited to see the season approaching so we can watch some real football.
If I had to pick one thing to watch, though, I am very interested to see Calvin Johnson in a regular season game. He was arguably the most impressive player in preseason. Johnson has been rising up draft boards over the last 2-3 weeks. The days of drafting him in round 5 are long gone.
Jeff Haseley: OK, just because Tony wouldn't go there, I will. Will Brett Favre's presence be that much more of a difference in the Jets offense? Jerricho Cotchery seems to be the favorite target for Favre, but how will Laveranues Coles fit in? And what about rookie TE, Dustin Keller? I definitely want to see how the targets are distributed these first few weeks for the Jets.
Anthony Borbely: Did you say something, Jeff? Sorry, I wasn't listening.
Jeff Tefertiller: For me, all of the divisional rivalries make this a HUGE week for almost half of the teams. There will be no more holding back. These games count. I want to see the health of some good RBs like Ryan Grant, Jamal Lewis, and Steven Jackson. The WRs usually start well, but these RBs need to get off to a hot start. Also, with two rookie QBs, starting week one, I want to see how their coaches adjust (and how much pressure the opponents bring).
The running back committees are one of the most interesting aspects of the
first game. In addition to the RBBC situations we discussed earlier, I'd also
like to see how Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson are used in Green Bay; how Marion
Barber and Felix Jones are used in Dallas; how Selvin Young and Andre Hall are
used in Dallas; and how Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall are used in Pittsburgh.
Jeff Pasquino: I agree with Jeff T. I want to see how the alleged RBBCs are going to be used across the league.
I also want to see just how healthy everyone is, especially Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Willis McGahee.
In addition, I want to watch the targets and production for bad teams - Kansas City, Chicago, Miami, and so on. Some fantasy value will emerge from all of these teams, we just aren't sure who just yet.
Lastly I want to see the rookie QBs get their feet wet. Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan both get starts, so who will be their go-to guys? I think Mark Clayton in Baltimore will be for Flacco, and I am not sure who Ryan will favor. It could be Hartsock at TE or it could be Roddy White - who also will be getting the most attention from defenses.
Jeff Haseley: Also, I'd like to see how the Saints are going to use Jeremy Shockey, and whether Robert Meachem can emerge as the Saints' starter opposite Colston.
There are a couple of rookie WRs I'll have my eye on as well. Eddie Royal has earned a starting role in the Broncos WR corps, and DeSean Jackson could have an important role in the Eagles offense while Kevin Curtis is out with a sports hernia injury. Either of those guys could have some decent fantasy value this season.
Overreacting to Week One performances
We just covered a lot of great stuff to watch for in week one, but is there a danger in reading too much into the first week's results? Every year in the first week of the season, some highly drafted players have lousy games and some relative unknowns are, for at least one week, superstars.
Last year QB Josh McCown threw for over 300 yards and 2 touchdowns in week one for the Raiders. Meanwhile, Drew Brees threw for only 192 yards on 41 attempts, with no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Shaun Alexander rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown, while Jamal Lewis rushed 11 times for 35 yards and no touchdowns.
Not everything is a false alarm, though, of course. Tony Romo, Adrian Peterson, Randy Moss, and Jason Witten all had huge week ones too.
Is there any trick to distinguishing the one-hit-wonders from the players who will become steady producers?
Anthony Borbely: I think the most important thing is to use your previous judgment of a player as your guide. Of course, you will see some players do more than you expected and some less, but for the most part, you have to trust yourself. If you believe in a player, you should not let one bad game change your mind. The opposite is true as well. Sometimes a player comes out of nowhere and lights it up -- remember Quentin Griffin? Again, your judgment should be your main guide, but at the same time, you have to keep an open mind about some players, especially those you were unsure of.
I also think this is a big reason why it helps a lot to see preseason games. That allows you to tell if the stats from the game are telling the entire story. A perfect example of this was last year with Ryan Grant. He was very impressive in preseason and had I not saw him play, I doubt I would have been as sure about his performance in his first start last year when he had over 100 rushing yards. Many fantasy owners were selling high on Grant at that point. Had I not seen him play in preseason, I may have done the same. I think it helps to see a player play instead of just using stats by themselves. The best way is to use a combination of the two.
Jeff Haseley: Good points Tony, especially gauging the player first, not necessarily his single performance. Chris Brown and Antwaan Randle El, to name a few, had big games last year on opening day. Are they known as breakout players? No. When determining value of a player based on a big opening week, I think you have to look at what that player had done before. If they have not been in this kind of territory before, then it's probably a good bet that it's just a fluke game and that the season won't be indicative of that big first week. If a player is not well known and he has a big game, I think then you have to consider that this player could be someone special. Cadillac Williams a few years back, Anquan Boldin, Edgerrin James, etc all had impressive debuts. If Kevin Smith has a big game opening day against the Falcons next week, I think we have to consider him as a potential breakout player. If a player like Michael Bennett has a big game, we can assume that although his performance was impressive, it's probably a once in a season game. At least that's my opinion.
Jeff Tefertiller: I think Tony and Jeff hit on some good points. Seeing is believing. This week will establish some great buy low and sell high opportunities for savvy owners. While this is just one week, some of these situations will be sorted out before the "patient" owners make up their mind.
Jeff Pasquino: Good points made already. I'll add that the opponent often matters. If a back struggles against Minnesota, I won't be upset, just like I wouldn't be too high on Matt Forte if he torches the Colts on the ground. If a team yields a ton of yards (or very few) that has to be factored into the equation.
Receivers are tricky too. If a guy like Anquan Boldin has a bad game, I'll see if the ball was heading his way often (targets) or if Kurt Warner was harassed to no end. Also if a Pro Bowl CB is all over him, that can foil many game plans to get a stud WR the ball.
That will do it for this week. Enjoy the games this weekend, and we'll see you back here next week!