We spent all week preparing for Sunday. Finally the magical day came and went (then so did Monday). In all honesty, it was absolutely worth the wait! The NFL was just as crazy as I remember: the Raiders, Bills and Chargers all almost pulled off huge upsets. The NFL’s week 1 had more touchdown passes than any week ever in league history. In tune, there was a whole boat load of fantasy goodness to go around. After the smoke settled, we had a whole lot of information to decode. Don’t worry, that is what I am here for. Without further ado, here are the players whose values changed significantly in the first week. Remember, I try my best not to be so obvious with the players I choose.
Terrelle Pryor – For all the non-believers of both rookie and running quarterbacks, let Pryor’s opener be a lesson: this is a new age of the NFL. While pocket passers may always have a place in the league, mobile QBs are the future. Terrelle Pryor is not accurate and not on the most talented team but the math is simple: QB2 + RB2 = QB1. If you take an average quarterback and add a decent rushing week every week, combine it and you get a usable starter. Pryor had better than a decent rushing week. In fact, he is the NFL’s current rushing leader. In just his first week, Pryor finished as QB13 in a standard 4 point passing TD, 6 point rushing TD league. He only threw for 217 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT. It is not unreasonable to believe he can continue that sort of production. Will he have ups and downs? Sure, he’s a rookie. However, he proved to me that he is absolutely worth owning in all 2 QB leagues and as a backup in standard leagues.
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Victor Cruz – So much for the heel injury concerns. Despite being limited in practice, Cruz suited up and was full go. The stat line showed it: Cruz had five catches for 115 yards and three touchdowns. For those that had Hakeem Nicks to immediately step in as Eli’s primary target, I say, “not so fast my friend!” Cruz is absolutely healthy and seems primed for another dominant season. Cruz’s career highs in receptions, yards and touchards are 86, 1536 and 10. If he stays healthy, he has a chance to give all of those numbers a run for their money.
Joique Bell – “Who’s calling me a handcuff?” Joique impressed me in week 1 showing that he and Reggie Bush can both have a role in the offense. Despite both Bush and Bell’s strong points being as a receiver, both were deployed in situations to maximize their value. At times, Bush was set out wide while Joique lined up in the backfield. Not once, but twice, Joique came in and cleaned up Reggie Bush near touchdowns and turned them into TDs of his own. I don’t expect Joique to score two touchdowns every week but 5 catches and 67 yards may become standard. Bush will no doubt get some of the goal line carries/targets, but there should be enough production to go around in one of the league’s best offenses.
Brandon Bolden – Remember this guy? The one that had a random outburst to the tune of 16 carries, 137 yards and a touchdown in week four of last season. Then the following week, Bolden received another 14 carries. Do you remember him now? If you have forgotten it is because he hasn’t carved out much of a role since then. Shane Vereen proved to be the more effective back of the two. Now, Shane Vereen has been put on IR and is not eligible to return until week 11. Stevan Ridley is already in coach Belichick’s dog house. LaGarrette Blount has one skill: running people over. In my opinion, this gives Bolden an opportunity to earn a signifcant role in the Patriots offense. Besides Vereen, it looks like Gronkowski, Amendola and Sudfeld are iffy at best to play this week. Yes, Bolden himself is questionable, but if he plays he seems like a lock for touches. The Patriots offense spreads the ball around plenty. They aren’t going to rely on just Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman for all the offensive production. Even assuming Bolden misses this week, he has a long time until Vereen is back. As a speculative add, there aren’t more with better upside right now.
Brent Celek – Oh no, the Eagles drafted another tight end (Zach Ertz). I’m not sure just how effective the Chip Kelly offense will be. Vick didn’t seem to like his tight end last year so he’s probably not worth anything this year. If you were like me, you over thought this situation and said things like the previous three statements during draft season. After just one week of watching Kelly’s hyper-speed offense, I’m 100% sold on it. For fantasy purposes, there will be plenty of production to go around. I understand the 50+ plays in the first half were inflated because of Washington turnovers but they will be top five in plays regardless. More plays breeds more opportunities and more opportunities means more production. Vick seemed to have a great understand of the offense and wanted to spread the ball out. Kelly used his tight ends plenty in college and Celek seemed like the tight end of choice. Celek made the most of his three targets with two catches, 56 yards and touchdown. This offense looks like it may just turn Celek into a boom or bust type TE1, which is a significant upgrade from his TE2/undrafted status at this time last week.
Jared Cook – Besides Peyton Manning, Jared Cook was the most impressive player of the weekend in my opinion. As I stated on Twitter, I couldn’t stop thinking that he reminded me of a young Antonio Gates. He looked fast and was consistently open. Since he was always open, he was targeted 10 times (3 in the red zone) and caught 7 passes. What he did with the passes was the impressive part: he had three receptions of over 20 yards and a total of 141 yards and two touchdowns. If you watched the game, most of the yards were accrued in yards after the catch. Literally having the ball stripped on the 1 yard line cost him a third TD. Cook is no doubt the #1 target in this Rams’ offense and why wouldn’t he be? He looked unstoppable. I’m calling it now: Jared Cook will finish as a top 5 TE this season. Book it.
Ben Roethlisberger – Is it just me or does it feel like the Steelers are just a horrible football team? No run game or a true #1 WR, a below average offensive line and a defense that is no longer a throwback dominant Steeler D spells a disaster type season. The combination of a terrible running game and no top target means there is a very limited ceiling for Big Ben. Someone needs to take the pressure off of him for him to succeed. Numbers will likely go up for Big Ben from the 191 yards and one touchdown he produced in week 1, but not by much. If you took Ben as a QB2 in a one quarterback league, I think you should try and trade his name value. Otherwise, consider dropping him for a QB with more upside such as Pryor or E.J. Manuel. It is going to be a looooooooooong year for him.
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Lamar Miller – 0.3 yards per carry? Seriously? For a guy I saw touted as “this year’s Doug Martin,” he certainly left plenty to be desired. Let’s be fair: Cleveland’s defense is certainly improved. At the same time, the Dolphin’s offensive line did Miller (or Daniel Thomas) no favors. The even bigger problem I have with Miller is that Thomas received 8 carries which included a carry inside the five for a touchdown. If Miller isn’t going to be receiving the goal line carries, he is going to be no more than a very poor man’s Ahmad Bradshaw of the last few years (on a less explosive offense). Miller may still prove me wrong but he left a lot to be desired in a terrible dud of a first week.
Giovani Bernard – Why won’t BenJarvus Green-Ellis go away? Bernard is clearly the more talented back. Obviously, the Cincinnati coaches trust “the Law Firm” coming off a 1000+ yard year as opposed to the unproven commodity. For a team that seems destined for the playoffs, it is hard to blame them. I expect Bernard’s role to grow as the season progresses, but it seems like it is going to be a slower process than we all wanted. Consider Bernard nothing more than a FLEX option going forward as opposed to a RB2. If and when he proves something more, we can again alter expectations.
Eric Decker – Even in one of the league’s most elite passing offenses, there is only so much production to go around. The best quarterbacks are going to find the guys that will make plays for them. Eric Decker didn’t seem motivated to do so in week 1. Decker had some terrible drops including one in the end zone that led to a Wes Welker touchdown on the next play. Considering the fact that Decker is competing for targets with Welker, to put it in simple terms, that was not good. Beyond Welker and Demaryius Thomas looking great as expected, Julius Thomas emerged as a legitimate threat. As a former basketball player, he is athletic enough to line up in the slot as a receiver. Basically, Decker seems to be sliding down the totem pole. The Broncos’ offense is so explosive that Decker will no doubt have a big week here and there. Unfortunately, I don’t see him being consistent this year. He was no doubt the most over-drafted receiver on this team and I doubt he comes anywhere near the numbers he produced last season (especially the 13 TD). 60-65 receptions seems much more reasonable.