Each week here on Fantasy Football Today, I’ll bring you a few guys at each position whose stocks are rising and falling based on recent performance compared to their previously perceived value.
We’re basically weighing one game against preseason theories and 2013 statistics. Since it’s only one week, we shouldn’t entirely dismiss (good) preseason theories, but we also can’t ignore what actually happened on the field.
Matt Ryan grabbed everyone’s attention with 448 yds and 3 TDs, leading all Wk 1 QBs.
Matt Ryan, ATL
This weekend showed just how strong the Falcons pass offense can be with Julio Jones and Roddy White each on the field and healthy. Ryan attempted only one more pass than his counterpart Drew Brees, yet threw for 115 more yards. The Saints were supposed to be the team with a much-improved pass defense. Ryan’s week one puts him into “start no matter what” territory until further notice.
Jake Locker, TEN
Locker completed 67 percent of his passes to eight different Titans receivers against a Chiefs team that was a relatively heavy favorite at home this week. If Locker can continue to spread the ball around like he did this week, he could turn into a very strong streamer and/or bye week fill-in in 2014.
EJ Manuel, BUF
He isn’t a priority yet, but it’s time to at least put him on your radars. After a bad preseason, Manuel was being written off as an NFL quarterback, much less a fantasy quarterback. Against the Bears he showed good decision-making ability. If he continues that and runs it a few times a game, he could go from the ranks of left for dead to actually serviceable if called upon in fantasy.
Tony Romo, DAL
Something clearly was not right with the Cowboys passing game against San Francisco. Romo and his receivers seemed to be on a different page throughout the entire game. There are any number of contributing factors to Romo’s wretched performance: San Francisco’s defense, Romo’s lack of preseason playing time, or perhaps Romo’s back is still a major issue. Whatever it is, I’d be nervous right now in any league where I’m depending on Romo.
Robert Griffin III, WAS
RGIII strength as a fantasy quarterback ended after his rookie year, when he tucked it and ran . In Week 1 against the Texans, Griffin had three carries for two yards. If this trend continues, Griffin might have to be considered a streamer, not a weekly must-start.
Tom Brady, NE
I’m sure you saw the stats in the preseason that said Brady is an amazing fantasy quarterback when Rob Gronkowski is playing. Well, Gronk played in Week 1 and led the team in targets, so why did Brady complete barely over 50 percent of his passes? He is still Tom Brady, but don’t be afraid to bench him if the situation calls for it.
Knowshon Moreno, MIA
Remember that time when Lamar Miller was going to be the man in Miami? Me neither. Once he was given a chance, Moreno seemed to run away with the Dolphins starting running back job. The Dolphins could still give Miller some run, but Moreno’s performance was too impressive to ignore by Dolphins coaches and by fantasy owners.
Terrance West, CLE
Early in the summer, many in the fantasy world thought that West could outright take the job from Ben Tate. Late in the summer, it became clear that Tate was going to be the lead guy with the Browns after clearly outplaying West. Then, in Week 1, Tate left the game and West entered. Six carries and 100 yards later, West looks like he can be a solid fantasy contributor if Tate misses an extended period of time. Teammate Isaiah Crowell is also rising after scoring two touchdowns, but West looks like he would be the one who leads the a Tate-less Browns in carries.
Chris Ivory, NYJ
The box score looks great: 102 yards and a touchdown. That’s not the full story, as 71 of those yards came on one long run. The important thing to look at though is the carries: 10. If Ivory can get around 10 carries per game switching off with Chris Johnson, he could bring back some decent fantasy value. I wouldn’t call him a weekly starter, but someone who could be considered a viable start when the Jets are matched up with a poor run defense.
Bernard Pierce, BAL
You’d think with the Ray Rice news, Pierce would be well on his way up. A 2.3-yard per carry performance before getting yanked due to a fumble has to make us question Pierce’s stranglehold on the job in Baltimore with Rice gone. I think he’s still the most likely guy to be the Ravens starter, but it’s not as set in stone as we might have thought a few days ago.
Toby Gerhart, JAC
Gerhart owners got exactly what they hoped for when they took him: a majority of the carries –- 18, despite missing some game time with an injury. The problem is what he did with them. I’m not sure if it’s him or the Jaguars offense – both backup running backs also averaged under three yards per carry – but that Week 1 performance has me concerned. I’d stick with him because of the workload, but with lower expectations.
Doug Martin, TB
Martin’s Week 1 could be chalked up to facing the Panthers defense, but even against the staunchest of opponents, a supposedly elite running back should average more than one yard on his carries. With the awful week one and now a leg injury to keep an eye on, Martin owners seem like they might be facing another season like 2013.
Allen Hurns, JAC
Whenever a wide receiver comes out of nowhere to put up a big game in Week 1, people will almost always react the same: “Is he the next Kevin Ogletree?” Sure, it’s possible Hurns will be a one-week wonder, and he will continue to be in the Jaguars offense, so I wouldn’t go too crazy acquiring him. But four catches for 110 yards is nothing to sneeze at, and someone does need to emerge as Chad Henne’s top receiver (in theory). I wouldn’t mind using an excess roster spot on him to see if he can keep it going.
Markus Wheaton, PIT
With the departures of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, someone needed to fill those voids. Wheaton was the obvious choice, but we still had to see him perform first. And perform he did. Wheaton tied Le’Veon Bell for the team lead in Week 1 targets with seven, hauling in six passes for 97 yards. Antonio Brown is still the man in Pittsburgh, but there are plenty of Ben Roethlisberger passes to go around to keep Wheaton on the WR3/Flex radar.
Kelvin Benjamin, CAR and Brandin Cooks, NO
I’m lumping these two together. There was a lot to like about these two heading into the season, but both came with one huge caution flag: They’re rookies. Rookie wide receivers generally take time to adjust to the NFL. After seeing these two each produce in Week 1 though, it appears safe to say that we can look past their rookie status.
Vincent Jackson, TB
Jackson tied for the team lead in targets (nine9 but could only catch four of them for 36 yards. It’s a good sign that he is getting the targets, but the Josh McCown-led offense might hold him back from his true potential as a WR1. Like with Doug Martin, this performance could potentially be brushed off as a rough matchup, but there might be more to worry about here than just the Panthers being tough.
Torrey Smith, BAL
There was some chatter coming into the season that Smith might finally reach WR1 status. At the very least, he’s expected to come in as a solid WR2, based on where he was going in drafts (late fifth round). After a Week 1 where we saw two different Baltimore receivers more than double Smith’s target total, I’m thinking we may have the same old Torrey Smith. He’ll have his big weeks, but the fourth-year wide receiver still isn’t an absolute must start.
Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
If you watched the late Monday Night game, you saw ESPN reference it over and over again: Palmer was spreading the ball around to everyone but Fitzgerald. I get that big time receivers will have their down games, but this was down to the point of major worry. Fitzgerald ended the game with only one catch on four targets. It’s great for the Cardinals if they are able to spread the ball around as much as they did against San Diego, but bad for Fitzgerald if they are spreading it and he’s not first in line.
Dennis Pitta, BAL
Pitta and teammate Steve Smith Sr. tied for the league lead with 15 in Week 1 targets. I don’t think Smith will remain among the league leaders in targets, but I wouldn’t entirely rule it out for Pitta. I don’t think he’s the playmaker to ascend to the status of the elites (Graham, Gronkowski, Thomas), but he could be a reception machine that gives his owners a healthy score from week to week at the tight end position.
Martellus Bennett, CHI
Being a Bills fan, I watched every single play of the Buffalo-Chicago game on Sunday. At times, it seemed like Cutler was clearly looking for Bennett ahead of the two big name wide receivers. Brandon Marshall did end up leading the team in targets with 12, but Bennett came in a close second with 10. Sure, Alshon Jeffery did leave midway through the game, but Bennett was getting the looks while Jeffery was on the field. His upside is limited with Marshall, Jeffery and Forte around, but Bennett should be able to maintain low-end TE1 status throughout the year.
Larry Donnell, NYG
With all the excitement over high upside tight ends (think Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce and Ladarius Green), Donnell flew completely under the radar. After leading the Giants in Week 1 targets, receptions and receiving yards, Donnell won’t be under the radar any longer. When the Giants got deep in Lions territory, it was clearly Donnell that Eli Manning was looking for. With his wide availability, Donnell should make for a nice injury or bye week fill-in for fantasy owners this season.
Jason Witten, DAL
The Cowboys passing game was an all-around disaster in Week 1, so it’s tough to tell for sure if Witten’s bad week was his fault or Tony Romo’s. He did tie Dez Bryant for second-most targets on the team (six), but Witten only ended up with two catches for 14 yards. Until the Cowboys show they are a competent team or Witten shows he’s still the same guy he’s always been, Witten might be off the list of “must start” tight ends.
Charles Clay, MIA
Clay was an interesting guy in drafts this summer. He hovered in the weird zone between clear-cut starters and high upside fliers. People who crave consistency loved making Clay a late-round target, though. One problem: Consistency suggests putting up solid scores weekly. In a game where the Miami Dolphins scored 33 points, Clay only wound up with two receptions. If Week 1 is a sign of things to come, the Dolphins are a running team that will look to Mike Wallace first when it’s time to throw. Clay will have useful weeks, but he’s also not a must-own, depending on your options.
Jordan Reed, WAS
When you draft a player that missed a lot of games last year and was dealing with an injury in the preseason this year, the last thing you want to see is that player leaving the first game of the year. Reed still has enough upside to wait through the current hamstring injury, but it’s also worrisome to depend on a guy that just can’t seem to stay on the field.