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Ridley, Spiller impress in Week 1
Robert Griffin III, Redskins
Concededly, the Saints defense has more holes than the plot to Independence Day, but given the heightened expectations, Griffin III did not disappoint, racking up 320 passing yards, adding another 42 on the ground and finding the end zone twice in Washington’s win over the Saints. If the Redskins o-line is able to provide sturdy protection throughout the season, RG3’s duo dexterity on the soil and in the sky will make him a fantasy force. As for the Independence Day reference…really, Jeff Goldblum’s computer virus was compatible with the alien workstation? Looked to me Goldblum was rocking a PC versus the extraterrestrial’s Mac mainframe.
Matt Ryan, Falcons
Speaking of amplified anticipation, Matty Ice’s opening performance was a step in the right direction to validating the Atlanta arm’s preseason hype, tossing for 299 yards and three scores in the Falcons’ victory over the Chiefs. Ryan put the finishing touches on his exhibition of excellence with a ground score for good measure. Equally impressive was Ryan’s accuracy, going 23-for-31 and hitting six different targets. Armed with his most talented and explosive receiving arsenal to date, Ryan’s well on his way to reaching the top echelon of fantasy field generals this campaign.
C.J. Spiller, Bills
Now there’s why the Clemson product was a top-10 pick in the 2010 Draft. After Fred Jackson succumbed to a knee injury, Spiller stepped into the spotlight, lighting up the Jets for nearly 200 yards of total offense (169 rushing, 25 receiving) in substitute duty. Spiller’s worth for the rest of the season derives from the severity of Jackson’s injury, as a Jackson return hampers Spiller’s ceiling as a fantasy starter. However, even if Jackson’s ailment is slight, Spiller’s showing has at least made the case of a split-back situation in Buffalo.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots
No disrespect to past Patriots rushers (meaning I’m about to inadvertently affront this group), but Ridley could be the first exceptional backfield mate to Tom Brady since Corey Dillon. Factoring New England’s penchant for accruing early leads in contests, Ridley could be in line for monstrous workloads in the later stages of ballgames. Though his speed and strength were on full display in Nashville, Ridley’s aptitude in the passing game, both receiving and in protection, are the talents that will keep the second-year man on the field, and as a corollary, relevant in the rotisserie realm.
Alfred Morris, Redskins
Just me, or does “Alfred” convey the profession of a European dignitary or butler rather than a bruising back? No? Well then…
Despite Evan Royster standing atop the depth chart on Labor Day, Morris earned the start for Washington in Week 1 and exploited the opportunity, making two excursions to pay dirt and posting 96 yards against the Saints. Morris wasn’t necessarily efficient, evidenced by 28 carries, though with the Rams on the upcoming slate, the rookie out of Florida Atlantic is a safe bet for continued fruition in Week 2. Well, at least until Mike Shanahan names Roy Helu the starter three hours before kickoff.
Reggie Wayne, Colts
The nine receptions and 135 yards will garner fantasy aficionados’ attention this morning. These figures are certainly noteworthy, yet the more astonishing integer is 18, as in 18 passes from Andrew Luck in Wayne’s direction. The soon-to-be 34-year-old’s draft stock plunged thanks to a disheartening 2011 (though you’d put up less-than-stellar stats too if Curtis Painter was your quarterback) and concerns about a neophyte under center. While owners should caution from putting too much emphasis on a single conquest, the Colts should find themselves in similar circumstances – forced to attack from the air due to an early deficit – often in 2012, correlating to a plethora of box-score bonanzas for Wayne proprietors.
Lance Moore, Saints
Mentioned in one of our preseason pieces, the exodus of Robert Meachem could prove the catalyst for El Dorado dividends for Moore. The Week 1 returns look promising for this prospect, as Moore grabbed six balls for 120 yards and a touchdown. Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston endure as the primary targets for Drew Brees, though it’s worth mentioning Moore received 10 looks in his vicinity. As a No. 3 fantasy receiver, owners could do a lot worse than Moore.
Stephen Hill, Jets
Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow may have taken the brunt of the criticism for the Jets’ August shortcomings, but Hill’s proclivity of preseason drops was one of the more disconcerting developments. Keeping this instability in mind, Hill’s execution against the Bills (six targets, five receptions, 89 yards, two touchdowns) was one of the more pleasant surprises on Sunday. Santonio Holmes harbors the most name recognition, yet don’t be surprised if Hill takes the reins as the No. 1 wideout for Gang Green.
Coby Fleener, Colts
We knew Luck and Fleener had built-in affinity from their days at Stanford; unfortunately, this sentiment somewhat hit the backburner after a so-so August act from the tight end. That Fleener left the Windy City with six catches for 82 yards should bring that outlook back to the vanguard.
Cheer up, Dawg Pound. Sure, you just wasted a first-round pick on a dude who turns 29 in October, but you defense isn’t too shabby. That helps alleviate those woes a little bit, right?
Honorable Mention: Peyton Manning, Broncos
The stats (19-for-26, 253 yards, two touchdowns) don’t properly articulate the authoritarian rule Manning had over one of the better defensive units in the league Sunday night, especially when the Broncos rolled in the no-huddle. Still too early to proclaim his return to form, yet in his abbreviated appearances against San Fran and Pittsburgh, owners have to be licking their lips with No. 18 back in the saddle.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Granted, fellow young guns Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill looked more uncomfortable than Vince Vaughn’s character in Rudy, but those two entities aren’t owned in the majority of leagues. The same cannot be said for Wilson, whose meteoric rise to starter status and opportune Week 1 matchup led to elevated roster implementation. Though Braylon Edwards did the cat no favors, Wilson underwhelmed, going just 18-for-34, including the final five pass attempts falling incomplete, for 153 yards, one touchdown and two turnovers. Seattle’s schedule is far from arduous, giving Wilson more than his fair share of opportunities to contribute in the fantasy realm. Alas, he’s nowhere near the product we were promised by Pete Carroll. (I know, Carroll overselling a player, that never happens, right?)
Michael Vick, Eagles
Four interceptions against the Brownies? That’s what we in the pigskin business call “not good.” Thing is, it could have easily been five or six picks given the copious amount of wayward flight forays from the Philly cannon. On the plus side, Vick remained relatively upright and injury-free, so owners got that going for ‘em, which is nice.
Chris Johnson, Titans
Johnson looked hell-bent on erasing last year’s infamous stumble out of the gate during the preseason, looking energetic with a stronger upper body. This offseason overhaul culminated in…four rushing yards. Not a misprint. Four yards. Not forty. Four yards, leading to many four-letter words dropped by Johnson investors. To his credit, the Tennessee back brought in six receptions for 47 yards. Of course, the counter of “four yards” nullifies this defense, so let’s move on.
Trent Richardson, Browns
The Browns brass did not hold back on unleashing Richardson despite concerns on his knee, with the All-American allotted 19 carries and thrown to three times (one catch) against the Eagles, a capacity that owners would have been ecstatic with before kickoff. It’s also safe to say managers were left frustrated with a meager 44 total yards on these touches, as Richardson was unable to find the light of day. The Philadelphia defense is a formidable foe, and he will continue to be a vital component in the Cleveland attack, yet not exactly an auspicious debut for Richardson.
Peyton Hillis, Chiefs
A lesser man would use this pulpit to boast on his assertions that Hillis would not be utilized as much as believed, that the bulky back was obtained by Kansas City for insurance rather than application, and, despite his comeback from injury, Jamaal Charles would be sharing the spotlight with no one. That is what one low on humility would state. Luckily for you, I’ll let Hillis’ seven carries for 16 yards and three receptions for eight yards, most which came in garbage time, speak for themselves.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
With Jonathan Stewart sidelined against a team that surrendered the most rushing yards in football last season, Week 1’s horizon looked bright for Williams. To say the Carolina rusher fell short of these hopes would be like saying Tebow occasionally employs the word “excited.” Williams finished in the red, taking six carries for minus-1 yard against the Bucs. Not exactly what we call gettin’ it done.
Greg Jennings, Packers
Hey, everyone is entitled to a substandard game. Many would claim the San Francisco 49ers are the best defense in the NFC, and Jennings was still targeted by Aaron Rodgers nine times. Nevertheless, that likely will fail to nullify that sting felt by managers after Jennings finished with five receptions for just 34 yards.
Wes Welker, Patriots
The 14 receiving yards were bad enough. That Welker was only on the field 64 percent of the time had to be hard to swallow for his owners. Is Welker being de-emphasized on offense in regards to his contract situation? Calling shenanigans on that one. Bill Belichick is a lot of things, but pretty sure he wouldn’t go to those lengths out of spite. More credible theory: Welker’s new hair plugs are slowing him down. Again, just a theory.
Fred Davis, Redskins
The Washington air attack accentuated the quick-hit throws that we expected out of a rookie quarterback, which should have translated to fantasy fulfillment for Davis. Such was not the case, as Davis hauled in just two passes for 38 yards. Word on the street says the Redskins may bring back Chris Cooley, a move that would encumber Davis’ rest-of-season worth.
So much for that revamped defense, eh? Whenever you make the Sanchize look competent, time to go back to the drawing board.
Dishonorable Mention: Titus Young, Lions
Alluded to above, you want to pump the brakes from making bold assumptions after one game. HOWEVER…Young’s head-butt that landed him on the sidelines was another bump in the road that’s been a rocky ride for the talented-but-troubled receiver. Considering Young was ordained with sleeper status as the envisioned No. 2 target in a pass-happy scheme, that achievement looks slightly shaky at the moment.
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