Fantasy football is back, baby! And with all the hooplah and fantasy goodness everyone is praying for in week 1, there are still a lot of last second decisions to be made as you pick your final line-up as rosters lock.
We’ve already seen a possible every week starter emerge as if from nowhere in Kevin Ogletree, which is why I am admittedly short-sighted in my fantasy views. As Nick and I discussed on the Podcast this week, I drafted the same defense (the Detroit Lions) in every single league as they were up against the Rams in week 1. Then it’s stream and pick the best available in week 2. One week at a time.
That’s the same strategy I use for my last RB, WR or Flex spots as well. I drafted BenJarvus Green-Ellis in a number of leagues, but he’s not getting a starting nod in any of those line-ups. I know the Ravens aren’t quite as stout a D as we’ve seen in year’s past, but I still want to play the match-ups and try someone with more upside.
If this is your first year checking out my “Last Second Decisions” piece, I pick five guys not started in enough leagues and five guys started in too many leagues that should be benched, along with their % started in ESPN leagues and Yahoo leagues, respectively. And remember, these picks are not suggestions for direct 1-for-1 swaps if you own players in both sections, but merely picks for guys not started enough and started too often.
Toby Gerhart, RB Minnesota (34.1%, 22%) I absolutely love Gerhart to gash the Jaguars this week, even if Adrian Peterson is active with all the confidence in the world. If so, Peterson will only get a handful of touches, and it’s not like they are going to be effective unless he got a replacement knee like Will Smith’s new arm in I, Robot. Gerhart was limited as early as week 3 of the preseason to prepare for a huge workload today, and with a Blaine Gabbert-led Jacksonville offense coming into town, it’s going to be a big lead for Gerhart to keep racking up the stats. Over 100 total yards and 1-2 touchdowns is easily what I see for Gerhart this afternoon.
Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts (23.0%, 25%) When you’re a feature back in 2012’s NFL, you need to be started. It’s pretty much that simple. Andrew Luck and the Colts are going to be a serviceable offense, and while Brown won’t be a top-15 running back this year unless the Colts have a Cinderella season, he’s still a week-to-week fantasy starter. Sure it’s a tough test at Chicago, but Brown is going to get the work, not only in the running game, but will be a dump off option as well for an inexperienced QB. We’ve already seen what he can do in the passing game this preseason, plus he’s the goal line back. 90 total yards and 5 catches is a conservative estimate.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle (4.0%, 5%) People of the world… Join hands… Start a hype train! Hype train! Admittedly, I am right next to the conductor of the hype train. But the ingredients couldn’t be more ideal for Wilson. Going against a very inconsistent Cardinals offense that is going to give him numerous opportunities via turnovers and punts and a lead back that is very questionable (read below) will yield a heavy reliance on the passing game. We’ve seen the highlights, we’ve seen the preseason stats, and it doesn’t mean squat. But in an ideal matchup with the reigns to the offense, I think we’re going to see a splendid rookie debut that is a bona fide start in 2-QB leagues and very deep 1-QB leagues.
Mario Manningham, WR, San Francisco (6.4% ,3%) Completely overlooked heading into this year (but not by me – maybe because I’m a Michigan fan and I’m biased), Manningham dealt with lingering knee issues and the emergence of Victor Cruz that ended his stint on the Giants on a sour note last season. That said, Manningham has the absolute perfect matchup to begin his career as a 49er with a bang against the Packers. With Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss on the edges demanding the deep help, Manningham is going to have all day in the slot on crossing patterns and the underneath routes, ala Kevin Ogletree last Wednesday. The Niners are going to have to throw and Manningham will be constantly used as the safety valve. I like him to rack up 7 catches and 60-70 yards with maybe a TD.
Super Deep: Devery Henderson, WR, New Orleans (0.6%, 1%) With Marques Colston questionable with a foot injury (although it’s looking like he’ll play) and Darren Sproles returning from an injury keeping him out of preseason action, Devery Henderson is the healthiest target aside from jimmy Graham the Saints will have against the Redskins today. I know he’s a poster child for inconsistency and hasn’t been the big-play threat many had hoped, but I see him surprising this week. At home with a rabid crowd hoping to put Bounty-Gate behind them and roaring for a blowout, I could see Henderson not only getting a big play, but actually getting a lot of looks. 80 yards and a score isn’t unfathomable in the least, and don’t forget Henderson’s best weeks last year were the first two of the season.
Son Of A Bench
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland (78.7%, 62%) Even with Adrian Peterson recovering as quickly as he has from an ACL tear, Trent Richardson is the proud owner of the most talked about knee heading into the season. Despite rumors coming out this morning that he’s going to start, it’s a tough mathcup against a stout Eagles D, and I see Vick and co. running up the score. As I said on the Podcast, team president Mike Holmgren doesn’t want to rush him before he’s ready. I don’t see Richardson getting more than 12-13 touches and I don’t see them as being effective either. A for sure bench for me.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville (65.9%, 43%) Another big name RB that is rife with question marks is MJD following a preseason-long holdout heading into today’s game at the Vikes. Rashad Jennings is listed as the starter, and while I see MJD getting a little more work than others are expecting, I don’t see him making too much of an impact. This smells way too much like Chris Johnson last year, and while MJD is a better model for character and I’m sure he kept in shape and kept tabs on the playbook, he’s just not gonna be ready for season action. No way you can start him with confidence.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle (81.0%, 71%) Oh Skittles and the back spasms… The same injury that kept him active one week last year and he never saw the field. I have a feeling Lynch isn’t going to play today (he’s listed as questionable at the time of this posting), but even if he does, one helmet hit to the back and he’s toast. If somehow Lynch is still the feature back, I think this is Russell Wilson’s week (see above) and Lynch won’t do much with his workload. But I do see a lot of Robert Turbin work getting in there either way and Lynch ending up as a huge bust when 2012 is said and done. Keep yourself updated on his status if you need to play him, but I’d want a backup in there.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver (66.8%, 64%) If you drafted Peyton, you’re probably a full-fledged believer and nothing I’m going to say here is going to sway you from benching him. The Steelers are going to try to MASSACRE him with blitz after blitz. Until Peyton can beat them deep, it’s going to be a long night in the pocket. I still think he will have a decent stat line, but if you grabbed Peyton you probably nabbed another top-12 or 13 QB like Jay Cutler or even opponent Big Ben, both of whom I like more until we see Peyton be effective again in regular season action.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay (87.6%, 74%) There wasn’t really a bigger hit-or-miss wide receiver last year than Vincent Jackson, and trading out Philip Rivers for Josh Freeman isn’t going to exactly solidify his constancy. Uber-talented, sure, but I think Jackson is a sit this week. Freeman had trouble finding his WRs last year against the Panthers (he only played in their week 16 48-16 loss at home – Sammie Stroughter was the Bucs leading receiver with 52 yards) and Freeman should have lit up the stat line while behind. Given with Mike Williams as your #1 target it’s going to be tough to lock in on your wideouts, but the Panthers defense is health(ier) than last year and I see Jackson getting bottled up. I’d go to my bench if I had a viable option.
If you have any last second decisions, shoot me some comments, or tweet me @jbgilpin. Good luck to everyone today and in 2012!