Brandon Jackson, RB, GB – With the news that Ryan Grant is out for the season with a major ankle injury, Jackson is easily the most sought after waiver wire pick-up this week. It remains to be seen if he’ll hold up or get goalline carries, but he’s now the lead back in what is possibly the league’s best offense. The former second-round pick probably has more raw talent than Grant, and Jackson is also a better pass catcher. So though he lacks Grant’s track record, in a way, he has even more upside. Without question, I’d spend 100% of my FAAB on Jackson.
Michael Vick, QB, PHI – If Kevin Kolb’s concussion lingers, a resurgent Vick could be an absolute fantasy monster in the Eagles’ style of offense. Sure, defenses will be able to game plan against him more than Green Bay did, but it’s not like Vick was getting many first team reps in practice either. He was very impressive Sunday, though his accuracy will always remain an issue. As long as Vick is the clear-cut starter, he is a QB1 for fantasy purposes given his blazing speed.
Mark Clayton, WR, STL – After Brandon Jackson and Mike Vick, Clayton is the next top waiver wire target. He was targeted a ridiculous 16 times Sunday. Of course, Sam Bradford isn’t going to attempt 55 passes regularly, but this was Clayton’s first game in a Rams uniform with very little practice, so he’s only going to get more comfortable in the offense. Clayton is easily the most talented WR on the roster, and while he has been a bit of a disappointment since being drafted in the first round in 2005, he has never been in a situation as ideal as he is in St. Louis. Playing in the NFC West while also facing the AFC West, with a QB who seems to have his trust, Clayton should continue to see plenty of looks on a team that should be consistently playing from behind.
Matt Forte, RB, CHI – With seven catches, 201 total yards, and two touchdowns, Forte looks like one of the bigger steals of fantasy drafts; but just 2.9 YPC at home against the Lions? And after going 0-for-4 at the goalline in Week 1, Forte has now converted just seven of his 37 attempts (18.9%) from that distance during his career. Still, he’s going to be a major factor as a receiver in Mike Martz’s offense. He could easily finish as a top-10 fantasy RB this year.
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, MIN – Shiancoe seemingly entered the year as a tight end whose value was tied to scoring touchdowns (a fluky stat year-to-year), and he was essentially worthless in games he didn’t get a TD in 2009. However, with Sidney Rice (hip) out, it looks like Shiancoe is going to be targeted far more this season. Bump him way up.
Darren McFadden, RB, OAK – McFadden played the best game of his still young NFL career on Sunday. The situation was pretty ideal – Oakland had to throw a ton, resulting in a bunch of check downs – and Michael Bush was out. Bush will take away carries (including at the goalline) once he returns, but McFadden finally showed an ability to break tackles. He has always had the speed; now he just needs to stay healthy. If Bush is out in Week 2, McFadden is a must-start at home against the Rams.
Austin Collie, WR, IND – While Pierre Garcon was dropping passes, Collie dominated in the slot in Week 1; and it’s his position for the foreseeable future with Anthony Gonzalez (high ankle sprain) hurt again. Collie had 11 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown Sunday. Peyton Manning won’t be throwing 57 times every week, but Collie was impressive in Week 1, making him a viable flex option moving forward.
Devin Aromashodu, WR, CHI –Aromashodu was targeted early and often in Week 1, receiving 10 looks compared to seven for Johnny Knox. Devin Hester was a complete afterthought (one target). It was an ideal situation at home against a secondary that was historically bad the last two seasons, but Mike Martz’s offense is going to be pass-heavy all season, and at worst, Aromashodu will be Jay Cutler’s No. 2 option. He very well could be the Bears’ leading receiver.
Wes Welker, WR, NE – So much for Welker saying how far off from 100% he is. The two touchdowns were something of a fluke – he is rarely utilized in the red zone, totaling just seven total scores over the past two seasons despite catching 234 passes – but he sure does not look far off from being totally healthy. He is obviously in a terrific situation. Welker looks like a draft day bargain.
Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ – Greene fumbled twice Monday night, losing one, and as a result, didn’t receive a single carry after halftime. He caught his first pass of his NFL regular season career yet also dropped another easy one; and while the performance came against a difficult opponent, it was highly disappointing. Coach Rex Ryan has since come out and said carries will be split evenly between Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson for the team being. Still, major upside remains. Greene’s value has definitely taken a short-term hit, but he will face easier opponents, has the best offensive line in football, and could see more work down the line with Tomlinson approaching 3,000 career rushing attempts.
Jerome Harrison, RB, CLE – I get the frustration by Harrison’s fantasy owners, but you have to realize that Pro Football Focus (which grades all NFL players and does it well) rated him the second worst running back in the league last year (62 out of 63). Harrison even received a positive in penalties – he was that bad at running, receiving, and blocking. Also, after blowing up in one game against an awful Kansas City run defense, Harrison only ran for 3.8 YPC in Weeks 16 and 17 despite two terrific matchups. A big factor in his late production was the result of the sheer volume of carries he receive (Harrison set an NFL record for the most carries over that three-game span). I’m far from an Eric Mangini fan, but maybe he’s onto to something here. If Peyton Hillis can control the fumbling, he should remain a big part of Cleveland’s backfield.
Michael Crabtree, WR, SF – Crabtree was a disaster Sunday, recording just two catches for 12 yards in the 49ers' 31-6 loss. The time he missed during the preseason while dealing with a minor neck injury really hurt his chemistry with Alex Smith. Crabtree was flat out brutal, playing a major role in two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. It’s far too early to give up on him, but few players in the NFL played worse in Week 1 than Crabtree.
Kenny Britt, WR, TEN – Coming off a terribly disappointing offseason, Britt didn’t receive a single target in Week 1. The Titans only attempted 17 passes, but still, this is highly discouraging. Britt continues to have the most talent and upside of all the Tennessee receivers, but Nate Washington is a better play right now.
Matt Moore, QB, CAR – After recording an 8:0 TD:INT ratio over the final four games last season, Moore was picked off three times Sunday, all coming inside the red zone. He also suffered a concussion, and though it is believed to be minor, his status for Week 2 remains in question. The Giants’ secondary should be improved in 2010, but Moore didn’t play well in Week 1. He needs to be better moving forward to hold off Jimmy Clausen.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, JAX – Sims-Walker has now recorded two catches or fewer in five of his past six games, totaling just 129 yards with one touchdown over that span. I’m not writing his obituary, and Champ Bailey played a part in Sunday’s zero-catch effort, but this is a concern, as is the development of the promising Mike Thomas, who should take away some targets. Don’t discount how injury-prone Sims-Walker has been throughout his career, even dating back to college.
Matthew Stafford, QB, DET – Speaking of health concerns, Stafford suffered yet another injury Sunday that could keep him out up to six weeks. The latest diagnosis suggests the injury might only keep him out 1-2 weeks, which would be great news, but he has been brittle so far in the brief NFL career. Upside remains, but Stafford needs to show the ability to stay on the field.