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Moving the Chains: One Down

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Late in draft season, I thought that a discounted buy on Montee Ball was the best approach for the Denver backfield. After seeing it Thursday night against the Ravens, the second thoughts are already nagging away. While Knowshon Moreno led the Broncos with nine carries, Ball finished with eight and Ronnie Hillman was given four, dicing up the team's 21 rushing attempts in a way that minimized the value of all three backs. To make matters worse, the longest run of the day was a nine-yard effort from Ball. There will be games where the Broncos are protecting large leads against weaker defenses and the output will be much better from this group, but therein lies a big part of the problem. Watch the distribution of snaps closely each week to see if Ball emerges as a more trusted option in pass protection. As for using the Denver backs, seek out matchups where Vegas forecasts a huge line favoring the Broncos. Upcoming targets include Week 3 against Oakland (home) and Week 6 against Jacksonville (also home). When games are even remotely close, the Broncos' offense will likely resemble the Saints with an overwhelmingly pass-heavy attack.

Perhaps even more difficult, is appropriately valuing tight end Julius Thomas after his five-catch, 110-yard and two-TD showing in the opener. With Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker seeing 11 targets each, Thomas matched Eric Decker with seven. Even if he's the fourth option in the Broncos' passing attack, the 6-foot-5 tight end should see a fair number of looks in the red zone over the course of the season. For owners not currently possession of a top-five option at tight end, Thomas should be near the top of the waiver priority heap.

Maybe the Ravens will scale him back after the drops, and if he takes as many bigs hits each week as he did against the Broncos, Dallas Clark won't make it through the entire season, but for those in PPR leagues scrambling at tight end and looking for a fallback behind Thomas on the waiver list, consider that Clark was targeted a team-high 12 times while hauling in seven catches for 87 yards in Week 1. This of course assumes that Jared Cook, Jordan Cameron and Martellus Bennett are already owned.

Terrelle Pryor narrowly missed a long TD pass to Darren McFadden against the Colts on Sunday – McFadden never managed to get his second foot in bounds before stepping out of the corner of the end zone. Growing pains to come? Undoubtedly, but a 7.5 YPA is acceptable and Pryor limited the Indianapolis defense to one sack. Pryor led all runners Sunday with 112 yards and 13 runs, including one that ended with a nice stiff arm on Colts safety LaRon Landry.As the Raiders' season goes, Pryor might be just good enough to keep his team in games, which will often include playing from behind in the fourth quarter, but it's also worth noting that the Colts' defense has the making of being a bottom-five unit.

As for McFadden, he salvaged his otherwise disappointing day by punching in a one-yard TD after yielding a couple of carries near the strip to Rashad Jennings. It's also encouraging that he finished the day with a dominant share of the load by taking 17 carries against Jennings' two.

A memo to new Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton: When your team doesn't possess at double-digit lead at any point in the second half, Andrew Luck needs to attempt more than 23 passes.

Ahmad Bradshaw's foot is still clearly a problem as evidenced by Vick Ballard's 13-7 edge in targets in the opener. Pursue your alternatives until Bradshaw proves healthy enough to reverse that workload split.

In case you missed it, Calvin Johnson had two near-TDs – one taken away after review and one ruled incomplete on the field – in Week 1. Here's the video of the former. Contact your congressman here as they will likely drop everything if there is a significant number of fellow Megatron owners in his/her district.

After suffering a thumb injury early in Sunday's game, Reggie Bush returned and took Matthew Stafford pass 77 yards to pay-dirt, evoking highlight memories of his USC days. Lost in the excitement of Bush's impressive Detroit debut, Joique Bell scored twice at the stripe, and should be universally owned as a hedge against a potential injury to Bush. From the 11:30 am ET folder, Mikel Leshoure was a healthy scratch for the Lions in Week 1.

Adrian Peterson's 78-yard TD run on his first carry of the season likely had his owners thinking about the prospects of a 200-yard day on the ground. It didn't happen, as the Lions kept Peterson in check the rest of the way as he finished with 15 yards on his next 17 carries. Had the Lions bottled up Peterson for seven yards on his first eight carries before the 78-yard TD, and then quieted him with eight yards on his final nine carries, would anyone have noticed?

Few took a shot at the Minnesota pass-catchers behind Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph, but those who did probably went with Cordarrelle Patterson over Jerome Simpson. Simpson had a team-high eight targets, while going for seven catches and 140 yards Sunday. Reminder: Simpson went for five catches and 50 yards in his first game of the season in 2012 (post suspension) only to fall short of those marks over his next three games combined.

Jordan Cameron as a top-10 tight end this year? Absolutely. Josh Gordon's return in Week 3 will eat up targets from Davone Bess and Greg Little (10 each) and give opposing secondaries a more legitimate threat to account for.

Disappointed Trent Richardson owners should recall that Miami had a formidable run defense last season (3.9 YPC against, 23rd in points allowed to opposing running backs). Disappointed Lamar Miller owners should hope that Cleveland has become a very good run defense in the offseason. Daniel Thomas wasn't any better (eight carries, 14 yards) than Miller (10 totes, three yards). Admittedly, this is the early game I completely avoided Sunday, but perhaps video review will reveal whether it was an offensive line problem, or a Miller problem.

Over the past two seasons, Matt Forte has been given 10 carries inside the five-yard line. On Sunday, he was given two – the first going for four yards and the second a one-yard plunge into the end zone. If Michael Bush is kept away from the vulture role, could Forte approach his 2008 value (315 carries, 64 catches, 12 total TD)?

By the way, the longest run for any of the running backs in the Bengals-Bears game Sunday was a 10-yard burst from BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Green-Ellis had 14 carries to rookie Giovani Bernard's four, while the Bengals targeted Bernard just twice as a receiver in his debut.

After a very slow start, Russell Wilson turned his Week 1 performance around in a big way including a 43-yard strike to Jermaine Kearse that held up as the game-winning score in the fourth quarter against Carolina. Even though he finished 25-for-33 for 320 yards and a TD, Wilson's performance ranks 18th among starting quarterbacks in fantasy points heading into the two Monday night games. The Seahawks used nine different pass-catchers Sunday, but it was forgotten holdover Doug Baldwin who checked in with a team-high seven catches on eight targets for 91 yards.

The Seattle defense did an admirable job keeping Cam Newton quiet, yielding just 5.4 YPA (16-for-23, 125 yards) and 38 rushing yards to the Panthers' quarterback. DeAngelo Williams was production on a per-carry basis (16-for-76, 4.8 YPC) and saw a very large share of the workload while Mike Tolbert finished with just four carries Sunday.

Is it fair to say that we really didn't learn anything about the Chiefs' offense Sunday against the Jaguars? Dwayne Bowe owners could tolerate Donnie Avery getting on the receiving end of Alex Smith's first touchdown pass in Week 1, but Junior Hemingway?

There is nowhere to go but up for the Jags' offense, but was the quiet day from Cecil Shorts (three catches for 40 yards) despite 11 targets a fluke? As we learned with Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals' QB situation last season, not all targets are created equal. Case in point: Blaine Gabbert had a 3.5 YPA, a pair of interceptions and was sacked six times.

My inexplicable lack of confidence in Doug Martin has not changed after his 24-carry, 65-yard opener against the Jets, but he's in full workhorse mode with no other player taking a carry for the Bucs out of the backfield in Week 1.

Jets rookie Geno Smith leaned heavily on veteran tight end Kellen Winslow in his debut against the Bucs on Sunday. Winslow has been productive in his last three seasons with a starting job (2009-2011) - so perhaps he belongs in the waiver-wire frenzy at tight end this week, at least in PPR formats. With seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown in the opener, the performance was Winslow's best since Week 11 of the 2011 season against the Packers. Most likely, he belongs at the bottom of the list against the players mentioned above since the Jets are going to give him one day of rest each week to limit the strain on his surgically-repaired right knee. Further, he's plodder, with a 6.3 YPT mark in his final healthy campaign with the Bucs and no season above 7.5 in his career. If you're seeking a Brandon Pettigrew-type in a less-crowded offense, Winslow is worth consideration.

If the distribution of carries and his own poor showing Sunday are any indication, the Saints are going to be done with Mark Ingram sooner rather than later. Pierre Thomas was more effective (4.8 YPC) than Ingram (1.2 YPC) while both backs were given nine totes in the win over Atlanta.

The Falcons have a Week 6 bye, which may be significant for those tracking Roddy White. After being limited by a high ankle sprain during the final weeks of the preseason, White was targeted only twice Sunday, catching two passes for 19 yards in a losing effort. With four games before extra time for rest, will White be able to get healthy enough to contribute in a more significant role in the coming weeks? Food for thought from the man himself...




Steven Jackson had a 50-yard run in Sunday's game, prompting a divide on Twitter as to whether Jackson looked fast or if he had just make the slowest 50-yard carry in NFL history. His other 10 carries on the day turned into just 27 yards, but Jackson was targeted eight times while catching five passes for 45 yards in the loss. For the record, I thought he looked faster than I expected and faster than Michael Turner in the same uniform a year ago.

Blanket advice: Stream defenses against the Steelers. They can't run the ball, but even more importantly, they can't protect Ben Roethlisberger. The offensive-line woes will only get worse with Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey missing the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee.

Jake Locker struggled in the opener (11-for-20, 125 yards) and it may not get better in the near future. The Titans' upcoming schedule includes the Bengals, Bears and Vikings before a Week 5 bye. It's certainly not great news for the team's pass catchers, who were very quiet Sunday with Nate Washington leading the offense with four catches (seven targets) and 46 yards.

Stevan Ridley was efficient with 5.1 yards per carry before landing in the doghouse following a fumble Sunday (a previous fumble was overturned in Ridley's favor by review). He remained a non-factor in the passing game, while Shane Vereen thrived with 14 carries for 101 yards along with seven catches for 58 yards on 10 targets. Does Vereen get a larger share of the workload than Ridley going forward? We may have to wait a few weeks to find out, as Vereen suffered a dislocated bone in his wrist on his first carry and will undergo surgery Monday afternoon. LeGarrette Blount was given seven carries (just 15 yards) against the Bills on Sunday and could see an increased load against the Jets on Thursday.

Also, should Kenbrell Thompkins prepare for placement next to Ridley after hauling in just four of his 14 targets for 42 yards Sunday? For good reason, Julian Edelman will be at or near the top of many waiver-wire priority lists this week after filling in the No. 2 role behind Danny Amendola with seven catches for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Consider this a reminder that Chan Gailey and his coaching staff are no longer calling the shots in Buffalo. While C.J. Spiller only had four more carries than Fred Jackson (13), and Jackson was the more effective of the two runners Sunday, Spiller should continue to be the primary weapon in the Bills' offense. A home matchup with the Panthers is on tap for Spiller in Week 2.

The Packers' secondary was without Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward on Sunday – something that seems to be overlooked in many accounts of the 34-28 San Francisco victory. Colin Kaepernick continues to be play at an elite level, and because it wasn't a full season's worth of data in 2012, those who drafted him in 2013 could be positioned for a huge windfall.

As for Anquan Boldin's monster game...his diminished ability to gain separation from defenders is less of a limiting factor with his new quarterback.

Although he was given the "Fumble = Bench" treatment after coughing the ball up in his professional debut Sunday, Eddie Lacy was given 14 carries Sunday while the Packers gave Randall Cobb a pair of runs and John Kuhn was used for a short-yardage situation once. Pushing his value upward at the end of the preseason appears to be merited, as the Packers' loyalty to the run will afford him plenty of chances, and it was Lacy – not Kuhn – who scored from two yards out when the Packers took a fourth-quarter lead.

One particularly encouraging sign for the Packers was Jordy Nelson, who looked healthy after missing time during the preseason following knee surgery. Nelson turned 10 targets into seven catches, 130 yards and a score in Week 1.

Welcome back, Larry Fitzgerald. Welcome back.

Thanks to expectations that had gone unmet in the past, my investments in Jared Cook have been minimal to this point. After a 141-yard, two-TD opener, the tune is changing quickly. The Arizona defense is not bad, and while 7.9 YPA is nothing to write home about, Sam Bradford was effective Sunday and may finally have a few weapons at his disposal capable of making him a league average passer in Year 3.

Darryl Richardson wasn't great (3.2 YPC), but 20 carries to Zac Stacy's one and five catches on six targets are good signs for those who took the chance on him. Again, the Arizona defense is better than people realize, but perhaps Richardson will hold off Isaiah Pead now that Pead has served his one-game suspension, especially when you consider that Pead has shown very limited upside when called upon in the preseason and sporadically in his rookie campaign.

Garbage time was delightful for Brandon Myers on Sunday night, while the Giants had three 100-yard receivers in addition to a tight end that caught seven passes for 66 yards and a score in the loss to Dallas. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz looked healthy, which will go even further if the running game remains a non-factor.

David Wilson lost a pair of fumbles, and that he was given a chance to return after the first one probably says more about the Giants' lack of alternatives at running back, than it does about Tom Coughlin becoming a more patient head coach. Da'Rel Scott, who is the short-term add in the Giants' backfield while Andre Brown is out, bobbled a pick-six into the hands of Brandon Carr that put the Cowboys up 12 in the final two months, but that wasn't enough to get Wilson back on the field Sunday night.

What do you think Miles Austin delivers this season - assuming 16 games with health? I'll include my line in the comments below.

The Chop Block

QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB: Isaac Redman, Mark Ingram, Ronnie Hillman, Zac Stacy
WR: Kenny Britt & Cordarrelle Patterson
TE: Brandon Pettigrew & Zach Sudfeld

What I'm Watching Tonight

1. Chip Kelly's offense

Can the new system recoup Michael Vick's fantasy value and work at the NFL level? (Side note: I only need 10 points from Vick to take down Liss in Week 1 of the #Stopa8K

2. RGIII's knee

Will he be more content to stay in the pocket until he gets further away from his injury?

3. Arian Foster

Practice reports throughout the week were encouraging, but Monday is our first real look at him. Does Foster shoulder a full workload, or will Ben Tate have a significant role in Week 1?

Predictions

Philadelphia +3.5 over Washington (Philadelphia 27, Washington 24)
Houston -4 over San Diego (Houston 31, San Diego 17)