Welcome to Week 1 of the football season. The purpose of this article will be to identify good values on a week-to-week basis taking into account role changes as well as matchups. It’s easy to recommend playing Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson and Arian Foster but how you fill out the rest of your roster is what will determine a winning lineup. Also, occasional advice will be a spot to think about from a strategy standpoint. As always, comments and questions are encouraged.
Jake Locker, TEN, $6100 – Locker has a decent matchup against the runner-up from the Super Bowl which means this could be a shootout. While he’ll be missing Kenny Britt this week, Locker still has 1,000-yard receiver Nate Washington, speedster rookie Kendall Wright, Damian Williams and Jared Cook at his disposal. Chris Johnson should keep the New England defense honest and Locker has better than average mobility for a quarterback that could add some fantasy points in the way of rushing yards.
Russell Wilson, SEA, $5400 – With his outstanding preseason, the rookie out of Wisconsin won the starting quarterback job even after the Seahawks gave Matt Flynn $10 million guaranteed this past offseason. Wilson has shown good accuracy in the preseason and like Locker can add fantasy points with his legs. Rumor is the Seahawks had him ranked third overall in this year’s draft despite being less than six feet tall. He has some solid options in the passing game with Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin in the slot.
Stevan Ridley, NE, $5500 – The Patriots were fine with letting the non-fumbling BenJarvus Green-Ellis walk considering they spent a second and third round pick on Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the 2011 draft. Ridley has been the running back working with the first team during the preseason and Vereen is banged up with a lower leg injury. As a result, Ridley should see a lot of snaps and get work as the goal-line back for the Patriots. Keep in mind that in the red zone New England isn’t always a throwing team as Green-Ellis had 24 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons. Given his youth and explosiveness, Ridley has much more upside than Green-Ellis.
Robert Turbin, SEA, $4500 – This recommendation is only warranted if Marshawn Lynch ends up not playing Sunday. Turbin fits the mold of a backup who can be not only fantasy relevant with a lot of touches but could be considered a top-15 running back. Turbin has a fascination with “The Hulk” and if you Google any pictures of him, you’ll see the resemblance. Arizona’s offense outside of Larry Fitzgerald and Ryan Williams has very limited upside that means their defense should be on the field a lot of the time. Again, this is only a good play if Lynch is ruled out for sure in Week 1.
Kevin Smith, DET, $5000 – Yes, I know Smith has never been able to stay healthy since he entered the NFL. However, there aren’t many other good options for the Lions in their backfield with Mikel LeShoure suspended for the first two games of the season and Jahvid Best on the PUP list. As a result, Smith should be on the field a lot Sunday as the Lions face the Rams. While the Rams should have improved coaching under Jeff Fisher, this is a team that gave up some huge rushing games last season (think DeMarco Murray and Beanie Wells). The Rams will likely be focused on stopping the passing game which will give Smith some nice lanes to run in.
Eric Decker, DEN, $6000 – It appears from the preseason that Peyton Manning and Decker are on the same page. Manning made household names out of Austin Collie and Jacob Tamme, and Decker has more upside than both of those players. While Pittsburgh has traditionally had a solid defense, Manning looks healthy and Ryan Clark (and his 100 total tackles) won’t be playing due to sickle cell anemia. Don’t expect Decker’s price to stay this cheap for long.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, OAK, $5400 – With both Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford banged up, DHB should be the main target for Carson Palmer on Monday night. He narrowly missed a 1,000-yard receiving season last year and enters the season with the best quarterback he’s ever had professionally. Palmer has had plenty of time to work with Heyward-Bey and with the defense being questionable in Oakland, they could throw often this season.
Kyle Rudolph, MIN, $4900 – It’s tough to put a ton of stock into preseason reports, but it’s encouraging to hear rave reviews for Christian Ponder. Keep in mind that Ponder didn’t only miss out on full camp due to the lockout, he wasn’t the starter until Donovan McNabb fell on his face last year. Now with a full offseason, it shouldn’t be surprising if Ponder has taken the proverbially “next step.” Rudolph is a huge tight end who makes for a good red zone target, especially while Jerome Simpson is out. Visanthe Shiancoe is no longer in town which should make Rudolph the second target in the passing game.
Tip of the Week
Don’t invest a lot in a kicker. Yes, there is a difference between the elite kickers in the league and the average. But week-to-week it’s very random as to who will have a big week. Even looking at over/under totals doesn’t help; if it’s a low over/under it could mean a field goal extravaganza.
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