10 Week 1 Overreactions to Avoid
Week 1 did not go as planned for James Jones’ owners.
The Packers’ veteran receiver failed to record a single reception on a pair targets despite a barrage of production from his teammates. If we learned anything from 2012, however, it’s that Jones is going to bounce back. Fantasy’s No. 16 wide receiver last year, Jones hauled in 64 balls for 784 yards and an NFL-high 14 receiving touchdowns. Consider that, during the breakout campaign, Jones was targeted fewer than six times on six occasions. That’s nearly 40 percent of his appearances. During one stretch of the season, he totaled nine targets in four games before bouncing back to average eight per-game over the next three weeks. That includes one game where he wasn’t targeted at all.
Jones remains an every-down player (he played every snap in Week 1) in the Packers’ high-powered offense. His production will be a bit inconsistent, but there’s no reason to expect fewer than 50 catches and eight touchdowns going forward. He’s a slam dunk rebound candidate.
Terrelle Pryor (QB, OAK)
There was healthy skepticism behind the thought Terrelle Pryor would be a viable fantasy player. After all, there was a reason he couldn’t move up on the depth chart for the first two years of his career, right? He had a fairly impressive preseason, but that was all against second-team defenses. His performance against Indy’s starters, however, affirmed that viability and then some.
Only LeSean McCoy had more Week 1 rushing yards and Pryor was a top-12 fantasy quarterback despite some huge scores around the league. But is that sustainable? His two interceptions and -2.2 pass rating here at PFF were also confirmation that he isn’t all that great of a passer. It’s entirely unreasonable to just assume Pryor or any other quarterback will hit 1,000 yards rushing, let alone the 1,792 yards he’s on pace for. Sure, he’ll get into the end zone to make up for some of that, but the Raiders are also operating on a week-to-week basis with their quarterbacks—Pryor was just “named” the Week 2 starter.
Still, Pryor represents upside that a lot of other QB2s do not possess. He is well worth a stash as your backup if you have the room. He might prove useful down the line. It seems he will also be a daily fantasy value until he gets expensive.
Dez Bryant (WR, DAL)
During the offseason, the prevailing sentiment was that Dez Bryant was on the precipice of greatness, but after an opening night line of four catches for 22 yards and no scores, fantasy owners might be a bit worried.
Looking at it more closely, there were some clear signs from last night’s game that the Giants’ effective strategy for shutting down Bryant won’t actually be sustainable in the long-term. First and foremost, Miles Austin delivered a performance (10 catches, 72 yards) reminiscent of his breakout 2009 campaign, and the better he performs moving forward, the harder it will be for opposing defenses to bracket coverage against Bryant. Another key factor is DeMarco Murray, whose 20/86/0 stat line isn’t cause de célèbre, but is certainly a sign that he (like Austin) is finally playing at full health.
And then there’s rookie Terrance Williams, who made an early mistake on a route that led to a 91-yard interception return by Ryan Mundy. After the mistake, Williams could be seen beating himself up on the sideline, followed shortly by the sight of Tony Romo offering the rookie some encouragement. Williams rebounded to make a big 23-yard catch on a third quarter third-and-ten play, and if he can (along with Austin and Jason Witten) effectively divert opposing defenses, the anticipated Bryant breakout won’t be far away.
Perhaps most importantly, Bryant clearly had the right attitude when asked about the Giants’ shut-down strategy and his consequently diminished opening-night stat line: “I honestly feel like it’s respect. You’re respecting me, so it’s always good to see somebody else shine.” Bryant’s clearly matured a great deal, another key reason why it’s way too early to count him out as a top-tier fantasy contributor for 2013.
Julian Edelman (WR, NE)
Edelman is currently one of the few receivers Tom Brady can trust to be in the correct spot at all times. He played a career high 84 snaps and saw nine targets in Week 1, the most he has had since 2009. While Edelman’s seven receptions for 79 yards are repeatable, the pair of touchdown grabs is less likely to be duplicated.
Redzone monster Rob Gronkowski is returning soon. Jittery rookie Kenbrell Thompkins saw only four catchable balls in 13 targets, but should soon rekindle the preseason chemistry he displayed with Brady. He and other young receivers will gain share as the season progresses. Stevan Ridley’s fumbling presumably altered their game plan, with the Patriots running on eight percent fewer snaps than during last season’s Bills contests. A heavy dose of the oft-injured Edelman is not how they drew it up.
However, with pass catching back Shane Vereen and tight end Zach Sudfeld set to miss time with injuries, the stage is set for Edelman to remain a key cog in the short term. He is a worthwhile add in PPR leagues, but only for a moderate price.
Stevan Ridley (RB, NE)
Stevan Ridley earned the wrath of head coach Bill Belichick by fumbling twice in the Patriots season opener, the second resulting in his benching. He may have earned a Week 2 reprieve, however, because the wrist injury Shane Vereen suffered will require him to miss a few weeks.
Know that Ridley would be safe to bounce back, in any case. Last season, Ridley had four fumbles, the same number as Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris, Reggie Bush, and LeSean McCoy. When you have 290 carries like Ridley did, you are going to fumble the ball occasionally. Meanwhile, Ridley had 13 or more attempts in 15 of 16 games last season. Ridley will be somewhat up and down because of his reliance on touchdowns and lack of receptions, but there is no reason to move him outside of your Top 20 because of one bad game.
Frank Gore (RB, SF)
A rusher who averages 2.1 yards per carry and a 0.30 fantasy points per opportunity (PPO) had a rough game, but luckily for Gore and his owners, Week 1 will serve as vital groundwork for the rest of 2013. The Packers absolutely sold out to stop the run, and the read-option in particular, after their 2012 playoff embarrassment.
The sledding for Gore may not be much easier against Seattle in Week 2, but quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s impressive 412 yard passing day will serve notice to opposing defenses – keeping them more honest in future contests. Plus, the 49ers will not keep their ground attack dormant for long and will unleash it on the opponents they feel are most vulnerable. Gore, who logged 82.7 percent of Week 1 snaps, will be well positioned to take advantage.
With his fantasy owners worried that the 30-year-old Gore’s production might fall off of a cliff, the Packers’ relative success against him in Week 1 after being gashed in 2012 should not be the impetus to deal him.
Eric Decker (WR, DEN)
After just one week of play, fantasy football owners everywhere are throwing Eric Decker under the bus. Was it a bad game? Absolutely. His -5.5 PFF grade was the lowest of his career. But there are still plenty of reasons for optimism.
For starters, despite just two catches, Decker was still targeted seven times. He averaged 7.5 targets per game last season, so it’s not like he wasn’t on Peyton Manning’s radar any less than last season. He was also in on 67 of Denver’s 74 snaps while newcomer Wes Welker saw 59 snaps.
Still not convinced? How about the fact that Decker ran more pass routes than both Welker and Demaryius Thomas? Decker ran 47 routes, and while Thomas (46) and Welker (43) were not far behind, this helps show that Manning and Denver’s new offense can handle three big-time receivers.
Eli Manning (QB, NYG)
Eli Manning threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday. Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Rueben Randle looked like an elite trio of receivers. This is still a great time to sell as the big game was largely fueled by Manning’s own incompetence.
Manning won’t set up his late game heroics by throwing three interceptions most weeks. This is still the guy whose 0.44 fantasy points per drop back trailed Alex Smith and Andy Dalton last season, the guy who threw for one touchdown or less on ten different occasions.
Jerome Simpson (WR, MIN)
Before you jump on the chance to pick up Simpson off the waiver wire, it is worth considering who his opposition was. The person across from him in coverage on half of his targets was second-round rookie Darius Slay. The rookie’s performance was so poor that he was benched in favor of Rashean Mathis, who also allowed a Simpson catch. Slay ended up with a -4.4 PFF rating which was second lowest for all cornerbacks in Week 1.
Additionally, there were 34 wide receivers that saw just as many or more targets as Simpson in Week 1. He hasn’t all of a sudden become a high volume receiver. His great performance was built on two big plays against poor opposition, and big plays, more than anything else, regress to the mean. It’s also only a matter of time before Cordarrelle Patterson starts cutting into Simpson’s playing time, eliminating what’s left of his fantasy value.
C.J. Spiller (RB, BUF)
C.J. Spiller rushed for only 41 yards in Week 1 en route to a -3.5 rating from PFF. Perhaps most disturbingly, he held a snap edge over Fred Jackson of only 38 to 26. Spiller owners shouldn’t be concerned. The player who led the league in Elusive Rating last year didn’t just vanish.
To put Spiller’s 2012 season in context, LeSean McCoy finished sixth in Elusive Rating but averaged a full yard per carry less after contact. McCoy tore through the Washington defense for 189 total yards and provided a glimpse of what Spiller will bring to the table when the Bills get their own high speed offense in gear. E.J. Manuel looked good on Sunday, so expect that to happen sooner rather than later.