Week 1 is in the books, and as is the case every year it seems, we have our share of injuries, flops and surprise breakouts to sort through as we look to bolster our various fantasy teams' prospects. They key to assessing who to add, and more importantly who to drop, is to find the balance between not overreacting to one week’s worth of action, while still being on the lookout for potential breakout talents that can help cover up mistakes made at the draft table. It’s never an exact science, and my goal here will always be to provide my take on the key names you will be debating in any given week as well as hopefully helping you uncover some gems ahead of the competition. If you don’t see a guy you think I missed or have a question about anything, please don’t hesitate to post in the comments below. Before we get to this week’s report, we will talk a little about Josh Gordon. As of this writing, we still have no word on a vote on a new drug policy. Rumors are spreading that a deal is in the works and that Gordon will have his suspension reversed. Obviously, this makes him a must add in any league where he is still available on the hopes that he will make it onto the field this year. He is not going to come cheaply, but you almost have to take the chance to get him, and not worry about the costs. You will have to use the knowledge of your particular league to determine how much to bid. Then ask yourself how much do you really want him if he plays and increase your bid if you are really serious.
Jake Locker, TEN - Last week, we talked about Locker as a guy to consider adding prior to the real games starting thanks to all the positive things he had going for him coming into the season. Week 1 did nothing to put a damper on things as he looked poised and comfortable in Ken Whisenhunt’s new offense. This week, he gets to face the Cowboys swiss-cheese pass defense, which not only sets Locker up for another nice week, it almost means the window to get him at a reasonable price could end this week. If you are looking for an upgrade at your QB2 spot, definitely give Locker a look this week. He has the receivers, he has the arm and he hasn’t even shown his running ability, which is underrated.
Carson Palmer, ARZ - I will be the first one to admit that I was somewhat worried about Carson Palmer’s prospects in the wake of Andre Ellington’s injury news. But Ellington played, and despite not playing his best game, Palmer did enough within Bruce Arians' offense to hang 304 yards and two touchdowns on the Chargers on Monday. Yes, he got away with some terrible throws that should have been interceptions, but as bad as the Giants looked last week, anyone looking for a streaming option has to be looking Palmer’s way at least for this week.
Blake Bortles, JAX - Sometimes, we will advocate grabbing guys early before they really make a splash. The Jaguars quarterback of the future made plenty of noise in the preseason, but the team still decided to open the season with Chad Henne under center. Henne started strong, leading the team to two early touchdowns, but he then helped turn a potential win into a 34-17 defeat with his inability to simply do the things that Bortles actually has the skills to do. It’s not meant as a knock on the veteran, it’s just reality, and it is only a matter of time before the team hands the number one pick the keys to the offense. He can be a difference maker in leagues that start two QB’s, so if you have a spot to speculate with, here’s my number one choice.
Week 1 Update
Geno Smith, NYJ - Smith didn’t have quite the debut that I predicted he would against the Raiders, He was shaky early on, tossing a bad interception, but he settled down and completed 82% (23-28) of his passes and also ran the ball ten times in the game for 38 yards. The amount of rushing attempts supports our contention that Smith will be able to build a solid floor to his weekly value on his legs. So while he didn’t set the world on fire last week, he’s worth hanging onto in deeper leagues for now.
Justin Forsett, BAL - Ray Rice’s release by the Ravens has put Baltimore's starting job up for grabs, and after Bernard Pierce fumbled early in last weeks game, veteran Justin Forsett took advantage, dashing for 70 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries. He also added another 14 yards on five catches. The unexpected news and performance will undoubtedly make him one of this week’s hottest pickups, especially for RB-hungry teams. But when deciding how much to spend on the 29-year-old, consider a few things before over-spending. First, while Pierce got benched, he will get another chance and is still the best bet to be the lead dog over the course of the season. It doesn’t mean that Forsett won’t have value going forward, or that he won’t remain the starter for the short-term. It just means there are other options here, including Lorenzo Taliaferro, meaning that the Ravens are going full RBBC. Make the move on Forsett, just don’t go overboard. You might get as much production long-term by spending a buck on the third guy in line.
Terrance West/Isaiah Crowell, CLE - We mentioned Isaiah Crowell in the column last week as the most physically gifted back on the Browns roster, and a great lottery ticket to add prior to the season. We also highlighted Crowell as a speculative add, since West was the obvious handcuff to the oft-injured Ben Tate. Tate lasted exactly two quarters of football before sustaining his first injury of the season. West took advantage of the opportunity and the lackluster Steelers run-defense to churn out 100 yards on 16 carries. Crowell made even more noise by rumbling for two touchdowns and looked unstoppable near the goal-line. As long as Tate is sidelined, the Browns will go with their rookie committee, with West being the main “runner” and Crowell being the battering-ram. My opinion on Crowell hasn’t changed. He has the most upside of any back on this roster long-term while West likely will be a little more reliable, and has the edge for at least the next few weeks. When Tate goes down for the season (you know it’s going to happen), Crowell is the guy I want to have on my roster thanks to the TD upside.
Chris Ivory, NYJ - There were plenty of people who tabbed Chris Johnson as one of their bust picks (I wasn’t one of them) partly based upon the fact that Ivory was just more skilled at this point in both of their careers. Ivory didn’t do anything to make those Johnson doubters change their tune after pounding the Raiders for 102 yards and a touchdown on just ten carries. Most of the damage came thanks to a 71-yard gallop to the end-zone, but he was on the field just as much as Johnson and as such will continue to be a solid flex play going forward.
Bobby Rainey, TB - The Bucs are not really giving us much information heading into waivers regarding the status of Doug Martin’s health. It means that if you own Martin, you have to go out and secure Rainey this week just in case Martin is hurt more than the team is letting on.
James Starks, GB - Starks is on a lot of rosters already, but he should be on every Eddie Lacy owner's wishlist this week after running well in relief after Lacy exited with another concussion. While it looks like Lacy will make it back this week, his running style leads to the type of hits that put Starks that much closer to the starting job. If he wasn’t a must-have handcuff before, he is now.
Week 1 Update
Benny Cunningham, STL - I am a Zac Stacy owner in more than one league, and I have to admit I am not feeling great about it after one week. Cunningham has forced what looks like a full-blown RBBC for an offense that was a complete disaster in Week 1. I doubt I would look to make the Rams backup a priority add anywhere, and I am even considering cutting him in one league I have him as a Stacy handcuff, since I don’t think he can wrest the job from Stacy, and I don’t see the upside from the committee work he’s going to get. Throw a buck at him in a deep league as a conditional bid if you want, but I am looking elsewhere this week.
LeGarrette Blount, PIT - It looked like a committee approach was in the works in Pittsburgh, then Le’Veon Bell went out and ran all over the Browns as a true three-down back. Drop Blount unless you have him as a direct handcuff to Bell.
Allen Hurns, JAX - Hurns is the waiver-wire darling after Week 1, thanks to his four-catch, 110-yard, two touchdown debut on Sunday. Someone in your league will take the bait and spend big on Hurns this week, thinking he just might be the next big thing. It might even be you. If he hadn’t looked so damn good all preseason, I would try harder to talk you out of it. But, the fact is Hurns has looked great and outshined my Marqise Lee, who actually had a pretty solid debut himself. The problem with buying into Hurns too much is the fact that Cecil Shorts missed the game and is expected back soon and that Chad Henne is still the quarterback. But you have to acknowledge a guy when he makes a splash like Hurns did in his first game ever. I can’t in good conscience advise you not to speculate on the undrafted rookie in the same space that I tell you to take a chance on Bortles, who could very well help Hurns reach his full potential. Throw a bid at him if you are unhappy with your WR depth, but don’t force him into your Week 2 lineup, especially if Shorts makes it back to active duty.
Jarrett Boykin, GB - As you may have already read by now, Boykin was matched up all game with Richard Sherman last week by design, meaning better days are ahead for the Packers #3 WR. He's still worth hanging onto in deeper formats and PPR leagues and the turnaround should start this week against the Jets.
Malcom Floyd, SD - I am never afraid to say when I got something wrong and by the looks of last week, I may have written the veteran Floyd off too soon as a viable fantasy asset. He looked very good on Monday, showing no effects from his offseason neck surgery. There still isn’t a ton of upside here, but he is starting and looks like a quality guy to have on your bench as an emergency fill-in.
Brian Quick, STL - Kenny Britt laid an egg in Week 1 while Quick may have emerged as the real Rams No. 1 WR. That may not seem like something to get that excited about, but they do get to face the Cowboys in Week 3. He’s really not much more than reserve depth, but he is worth rostering in deep leagues it appears.
Robert Woods, BUF - I am both a Woods fan and a believer. My opinion on him hasn’t changed since I tabbed him in my sleeper column. His four-catch, 78-yard outing I think is a fair baseline for what to expect from him, as he appears to be E.J. Manuel’s security blanket at times. He’s not going to win any weeks by himself for you, but he might just help you eke out some wins when the bye weeks come around thanks to his consistency. Some people liked Mike Williams more entering the season. They should pick up Woods this week, since he is the one on the field and making plays.
Devin Hester, ATL - I have to admit, I loved watching Hester getting involved in the game against the Saints on Sunday. It was a shootout, as expected, and with Matt Ryan logging 43 pass attempts, Hester caught five of six for 99 yards. He brings a dynamic to the offense that Harry Douglas can’t as an underneath option, so he’s worth a what-the-heck add in deep leagues (okay, really deep leagues) this week to see how this evolves.
Week 1 Update
Andrew Hawkins, CLE - Hawkins didn’t let anyone down who grabbed him as a PPR option out of the gate by hauling in eight passes for 87 yards in Week 1. Jordan Cameron’s injury actually only increases his stock in the offense and raises his floor, making him a must-own in those formats for now. If Josh Gordon gets reinstated, he’ll be harder to start, but he looks like a great guy to plug in your lineup this week.
John Brown, ARZ - While Brown looked like a rookie in his first real game action, he caught two balls and scored a touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald’s own coach said he’s no longer the “alpha-dog” in the rotation, so if you bought into Brown as Bruce Arians’ new T.Y. Hilton, you shouldn’t bail on that notion yet.
Cody Latimer, DEN - We called Latimer a stash last week, but with Wes Welker potentially getting back on the field sooner than later, and the fact that the rookie failed to see the field in Week 1, his roster spot can likely be put to better use this week. He's looking like a dynasty league hold and not much more at this point.
Dwayne Allen, IND - Allen looked like he is finally all the way back from his litany of injuries and really showed his potential upside on his 41-yard touchdown gallop, off a short pass. Coby Fleener, meanwhile, looked pretty average, although he received eight targets to Allen’s five. If you are worried about Jordan Cameron’s shoulder this week (you should be) and looking for someone who could emerge as a viable replacement, then Allen is your guy. I think Andrew Luck will continue to lean on him, especially on third-down, and he could really emerge as a red zone threat. Fleener’s shadow will keep his price tag low for now, but I think Allen has the talent to push him down into a backup role eventually.
Travis Kelce, KC - The Chiefs stunk in Week 1 and Kelce played second fiddle to Anthony Fasano in the passing game. He might get dropped by an impatient owner or overlooked by those looking only at the bottom line. The fact is he looked great in limited action and Andy Reid has already said he was wrong for not using him more. The Chiefs need his playmaking ability and he will start making noise starting this week.
Larry Donnell, NYG - As a Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle owner, I wasn’t that thrilled when Eli Manning found Donnell in the endzone for his only touchdown in a forgettable showing. But, he got the snaps, he got the targets and yes, he got the score. The Giants are a mess, but they have a history of working the TE into the offense. It puts Donnell on the TE2 map going forward.
Week 1 Update
Richard Rodgers, GB - Rodgers got hurt and Andrew Quarless looked better in relief. Toss him back for now if you took a shot.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I replaced the Lions defense with the Bucs last week after I heard Cam Newton wasn’t playing and got nothing in return. I liked them at the draft table, so I am willing to go to the well one more time since the Rams are on the docket.
Mike Nugent, CIN - Nugent will get a lot of attention this week coming off his 5 FG day. He should reward anyone who bites with a solid showing against the Falcons.