Mark Sanchez, Jets
Slim pickings in the Moving Up category, unless the ascension of Jimmy Clausen in Carolina or Bruce Gradkowski in Oakland excites you. (For me those would be a “No” and a “Maybe…as a backup.”) Sanchez chewed up the Patriots in Week 2, proving either that he’s capable of bouncing back or that the Patriots pass defense is even worse than people thought it would be. Sanchez dinked and dunked his way to 220 yards and three touchdowns while completing 21 of 30 passes.
Joe Flacco, Ravens
Two games, one mediocre performance last week and one absolutely dreadful performance against the Bengals this week, which included one touchdown pass, four interceptions, and just 154 passing yards. Flacco was a preseason breakout candidate due to the acquisition of Anquan Boldin, and that prediction was bolstered by the signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh just prior to opening day. However, Flacco now looks like a matchup quarterback after struggling against solid defenses in New York and Cincinnati.
Jason Campbell, Raiders
So much for Campbell coming to Oakland and finally providing the Raiders with some respectable play at the quarterback position. Head coach Tom Cable benched the team’s key offseason acquisition at halftime of this week’s game against St. Louis in favor of backup Bruce Gradkowski. Despite the Rams bringing a decent pass rush, Gradkowski led the Raiders to a come-from-behind victory, finishing 11 of 22 for 162 yards with one touchdown and one interception, which came on a tipped ball. With all things in Oakland revolving around owner Al Davis, it’s also worth noting that Gradkowski had a nice rapport with 2009 first-round pick (and supposed Davis favorite) Darrius Heyward-Bey, who caught six balls for 80 yards in the most impressive game of his young career.
Vince Young, Titans
Unless you reside on another planet, you know how inconsistent Vince Young can be. However, there’s inconsistent and then there’s absolutely pathetic. Young got yanked this week after throwing two picks out of only ten passes in a home game against the Steelers that most expected Tennessee to win.
Matt Moore, Panthers
There’s pretty much no reason for Panthers head coach John Fox to stick with Moore. Simply put, he’s been horrible during the first two weeks of the season. After going 14 of 33 for 182 yards with a touchdown and three picks to open the season against the Giants, Moore followed that one up with another stinker this week against a suspect Buccaneers defense, completing just six of 16 passes for 125 yards with a touchdown and an interception. With a young team clearly in a rebuilding phase, there’s little point to sticking with Moore when second-round pick Jimmy Clausen is clearly the team’s future quarterback.
Jahvid Best, Lions
Hello, RB1 status. Best was pedestrian in Week 1 against the Bears, putting up solid fantasy production courtesy of two touchdowns but managing just 36 yards on 19 touches. No such problems this week against the Eagles. Best went wild, racking up 78 rushing yards, 154 receiving yards, and three touchdowns on 26 touches. After this performance, look for the Lions to get Best major touches on a weekly basis.
Jason Snelling, Falcons
After Michael Turner left with a groin injury, Snelling ran over the Cardinals defense in a home win. He racked up 129 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, and he pitched in on the receiving end as well with five receptions for 57 yards and a score. The Falcons have indicated that Turner could have returned, but his services weren’t required in a blowout win over the Cardinals. Nonetheless, giddy up to the waiver wire to see if Snelling is available, since there is mounting evidence that Turner cannot stay healthy.
Mike Tolbert, Chargers
Two games, two Ryan Mathews fumbles—and an ankle injury this week for good measure. Tolbert got the work this week, picking up 82 yards and two touchdowns on six carries in the Chargers’ crushing defeat of the Jaguars, Don’t get excited on this one; the Chargers are clearly heavily invested in Mathews. Two points worth noting: We now have evidence that Tolbert can produce when given an opportunity, and he—not Darren Sproles—was the Chargers’ go-to guy with the lead and with Mathews out.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
Tomlinson has outperformed starter Shonn Greene in two straight games to open the season. With Greene benched for fumbling in Week 1 against the Ravens, Tomlinson piled up 78 total yards on just 13 touches. This week against the Patriots he had 102 total yards on 15 touches and is now averaging an impressive 6.3 yards per carry, and he looks much better than he did in 2009 with the Chargers.
Brandon Jackson, Packers
I basically was forced to put him in the Moving Up category last week since he was taking over as the starter for the high-powered Packers offence. But even with the Bills and their pathetic run defense on tap in a home game, I knew there was a chance Jackson would be “Moving Down” after Week 2. Sure enough, he proved how completely mediocre he is, with just 29 yards on 11 carries against Buffalo. His fantasy line was saved, however, by a touchdown. Here’s my math on this one: The Packers want to go to the Super Bowl, they have the potential to go to the Super Bowl, and the odds of them not acquiring a running back to supplant Jackson seem incredibly low. Even a general manager who loves draft picks as much as Ted Thompson loves them would still love going to the Super Bowl more. No?
Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice, Cowboys
Two games, 132 yards rushing and 43 receiving yards. That’s low-end RB2 or high-end RB3 fantasy production for any single player. Unfortunately, that’s what Barber, Jones, and Choice have combined for during the Cowboys first two games, both of which were losses. Perhaps the Cowboys offensive line is actually worse than advertised.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
As noted above, two games, two fumbles. The rookie first-round pick is clearly pressing and in danger of losing playing time if he can’t control his fumblitis.
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
I generally don’t follow the “take away a play” kind of analysis, but let’s go there in Mendenhall’s case. Take away the 50-yard touchdown run in overtime against the Falcons in Week 1 and Mendenhall has 139 yards and no touchdowns on 44 carries, which averages out to 3.2 yards per carry. Also, the Steelers have scored only one offensive touchdown in two games. They are also down to third-stringers Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich at quarterback. If somebody in your league wants to pay up for Mendenhall, it’s definitely worth listening.
Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers
It’s nice that the Bucs have given Caddy 49 carries so far this year. Not so nice that he’s turned those carries into 126 yards and no touchdowns. Backs that average 2.6 yards a pop start to lose touches pretty quickly in the Not For Long league.
Devin Hester, Bears
Last week Hester looked like a fantasy albatross, with just one target during the Bears victory over the Lions. However, the Devin Aromashodu experiment is apparently over (see below), and Earl Bennett is no threat to unseat Hester from the starting line-up. The end result this week against the Cowboys was four receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Kevin Walter, Texans
Houston head coach Gary Kubiak seems like a perfectly smart coach, and the Texans have won twice to open the season. It’s easy to imagine Kubiak getting Walter even more involved, since so far he’s caught all 13 passes thrown his way—for 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Looks like the whole Jacoby Jones versus Walter preseason debate was a waste of time since there are plenty of touches to go around in Houston with tight end Owen Daniels missing from action, at least for the early part of 2010.
Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
Read Jason Campbell above. With Gradkowski in for the second half against the Rams, Heyward-Bey caught six balls for 80 yards, which moves him into WR4 with upside status. Murphy gets the same rankings courtesy of a six-reception, 91-yard, one-touchdown performance.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Meet Denver’s new number one wide receiver. Although Eddie Royal has been solid over the Broncos first two games, he is clearly better suited to fulfilling the number two role, with the 6’3”, 230-pound Thomas taking over for the departed Brandon Marshall in the team’s offence. After missing Week 1 with a foot injury, Thomas was targeted nine times in his debut against Seattle, catching eight passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. He’s not starter-worthy just yet but definitely worth grabbing on the waiver wire, if he’s available.
Mario Manningham, Giants
Hakeem Nicks is the breakout candidate and Steve Smith is coming off a 107-reception season. But it’s Manningham who has led the Giants in receiving yards in each of the first two games.
Devin Aromashodu, Bears
In Week 1 he was the Bears receiver to own, courtesy of his ten targets. Different story in Week 2, with no playing time and no targets against the Cowboys. Earl Bennett played with Devin Hester and Johnny Knox in three-receiver sets.
Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Ravens
Mason’s been targeted 11 times this year and has caught three for 52 yards and a touchdown. Houshmandzadeh’s been targeted 10 times this year and has caught one for 27 yards. Maybe the Ravens got Houshmandzadeh because they thought Mason was washed up. As it turns out, they’re both washed up.
Steve Smith, Giants
I’m not giving up on him yet, but the bottom line is that he’s caught nine of 17 targets for 78 yards in two weeks—a far cry from his 2009 production of 107 receptions for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. Sure, the Giants struggled this week against the Colts, but it’s clear that Nicks and Manningham are far more explosive players than Smith.
Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
In Week 1 when backup tight end Tony Scheffler got seven targets to Pettigrew’s two, it seemed that Pettigrew’s recovery from a last season’s torn ACL might relegate him to more of a blocking role, at least for the early part of 2010. However, he came back with a vengeance this week with seven receptions on eight targets for 108 yards. If wide receiver Nate Burleson’s ankle injury causes him to miss some time, Pettigrew will be in line for an increased workload in the coming weeks.
Dustin Keller, Jets
After suffering through a sophomore slump in 2009, Keller is getting more opportunities this year, and he took advantage of that in Week 2. Against the Patriots, Keller caught seven of nine targets for a cool 115 yards and a score. He was shaping up as a marginal backup entering the season but now looks like a quality backup with upside, especially in dynasty leagues.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
Well, I feel like I have to put somebody here, so of the underachieving tight ends, I’m going with Gonzalez for a number of reasons. First, he’s the oldest, and age is no friend to NFL players. But more important than his age is how he’s being utilized. With Michael Jenkins out of the lineup, you would think Gonzalez would be getting more opportunities. Instead, after two games, he has just four receptions for 54 yards with no touchdowns. Surely he’ll come around, but it’s worth noting that his targets were way down in his first year with Atlanta, and there’s nothing to suggest that will change following these first two games.