Two weeks of the NFL regular season are in the books. There have been some early surprises, a few monumental disappointments, and as was the case last season, plenty of scoring. Today I'm going to give a quick rundown of my two teams, evaluate the preseason columns I wrote, and post some general assessments of what's happened thus far.
My East Coast Team (1-1)
Week 1 was brutal. My defense scored in the red, my quarterback played like Ryan Leaf, and my first round pick was in street clothes. It had me questioning everything I thought I knew about the NFL and fantasy, and had me bracing for a very long season in our quest to defend our league title. Miraculously, Cam Newton's record-tying debut almost single-handedly carried us to a win. Until, that is, Sebastian Janikowski's equally record-tying, 63-yard field goal dashed those hopes in the wee hours of Monday night.
As is typical in this fickle game, things turned completely around in Week 2. The squad rebounded nicely and posted a big number. My top pick, Arian Foster, was back, only to re-aggravate his hamstring injury, but the Pittsburgh defense returned to form, as did their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and Kenny Britt continued his onslaught on the league's cornerbacks.
Britt has been an absolute monster through two games. He's on pace to eclipse 100 catches, 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. I'm not expecting him to achieve any of those lofty milestones, but so far he looks every bit the part of an elite wide out.
Newton is a study in hilarity. After the draft I was hammering myself for allowing my partner and I to select him instead of locking up Ben Tate as Foster insurance. While having Tate would be nice considering his success thus far and the continuing ailments of our top pick, Newton has barn-stormed the fantasy world averaging 427 passing yards, and setting a pace for 40 total touchdowns. Everyone laughed in the draft room when we selected him, oops.
Worst Pick:Austin Collie - 7th Round
The Colts are terrible. I should have known this, we all should have known this. Peyton Manning has had the "Jordan Effect" on his teammates for years, elevating their play well beyond their talents. With Kerry Collins at the helm and no timetable for a Manning return, Collie is floating dangerously close to making an unceremonious exit from my roster. He is getting targets, and lord knows they'll be trailing in plenty of games, so I'm going to give him a couple more weeks to change my mind. Thankfully we scored Jordy Nelson off waivers last week to pick up his slack.
There was discussion in the comments on this site regarding our lack of quarterback depth on this team leaving the draft table. I have a habit of finding serviceable starters at the position late, and it seems Newton will carry on that trend. Foster's situation has been a headache (albeit an anticipated one) and his unreliability, typical of his position, is precisely why I draft for running back depth. I still have hopes he'll return to dominance in the second half and for the playoff run, but for the foreseeable future it's going to be a challenge. Roy Helu's emergence last week has me somewhat concerned about my favorite sleeper, and Foster replacement, Tim Hightower, but I expect him to keep getting touches, and touchdowns. Our biggest hole on this squad is at tight end, and will need to be addressed. Brandon Pettigrew has been a colossal disappointment thus far considering the numbers the Lions' offense is putting up. Darren McFadden and Britt look to be headed towards career years and should lead us to a playoff birth.
My West Coast Team (1-1)
The no-shows of the Pittsburgh defense, Foster, and Vincent Jackson in Week 1 were too much to overcome. We almost pulled out a win Monday night when Rob Gronkowski and BenJarvus Green-Ellis fired out of the gates, but "The Lawfirm" essentially disappeared the last three quarters.
Week 2 we got up from the canvas and delivered a beat-down. Led by Matthew Stafford's dissection of the hapless Chiefs, huge games from Jackson, Gronkowski, and Miles Austin, we almost posted 200 points.
As Stafford limped off the field with cramps in Week 1 my stomach was firmly lodged in my throat. I'm sure they'll be more moments like that to come, but this guy is firing right now, seven touchdowns in two weeks. He's carrying our team and Detroit looks like an offensive juggernaut.
"Gronk" is a beast. He is absolutely uncoverable in the red zone. It appears the Patriots have no desire to run the ball, so the big games should keep coming. As I stated in the initial recap of my draft for this league, Aaron Hernandez got all the hype this summer, but Gronkowski would be more consistent.
Worst Pick:LaDainian Tomlinson - 10th Round
If your worst pick is in round 10, you really aren't doing so bad. The thing that hurts a little is we were considering Ryan Fitzpatrick here. He was a favorite of mine leading up to the draft, but we took Eli Manning the round before and I almost always side on taking running backs. I should've known better than to take "Darth Vader".
Over and over this summer I wrote in support of Foster as a first round pick. And over and over I added the disclaimer to be okay with his selection, you had to draft Tate. So what did I do? Yup, I blew it. Twice. Luckily, it appears we have a top-5 quarterback, two elite receivers, a great tight end, and a solid defense. It feels like this team has enough to make the playoffs, but it doesn't feel like a title contender. Unless, of course, Foster comes roaring back down the stretch.
Pre-Draft Article Assessments
This is the position I nailed more than the rest. Finding undervalued passers seems to be a skill that coincides nicely with my aversion to drafting them in the first couple rounds. I suggested Stafford, Fitzpatrick, Newton, Sam Bradford, and Mark Sanchez. With the exceptions of Fitzpatrick coming up 28 yards short, and Bradford's lone TD, the group has at least 500 yards passing and four touchdowns.
My group of sleepers here started fast, but slowed considerably in Week 2, with one exception. I suggested Hightower, Reggie Bush, James Starks, and Isaac Redman. Hightower lost carries to Roy Helu, Bush to Daniel Thomas, and Starks to John Kuhn. Each guy still holds value, and hopefully you aren't relying on any of them to start. Redman was the lone bright spot, running well and punching in a TD versus the Seahawks.
Can we strike this column from the record please? Mulligan? Pretty much a total whiff here, with Brandon Lloyd's Week 1 about the only contribution so far. In fact, I don't even want to list the guys again, it's not pretty. In my defense, however, I did state the strategy for the position this year should be to get two of the top twelve, ten of whom have started strong.
It's a little better here, but not much. I advised against Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley, which looks smart through two weeks. Of the players I suggested; Jimmy Graham, Pettigrew, Marcedes Lewis, Hernandez, and Ben Watson, only Graham looks like a solid weekly starter. Hernandez was off to a blazing start, but went down in Week 2 with a knee injury.
My final column leading up to drafts was a grand slam. If only coming in the first inning. This is the NFL, and everything could change by next week. Drew Brees and Tony Gonzalez are the only players of the 27 I advised against in my bust column who are off to great starts this fantasy season. By heeding my advice you could have avoided such disasters as; Jamaal Charles, Steven Jackson, Shonn Greene, Marques Colston, Mike Williams, Danny Amendola and Chad Ochocinco. Other notable underperformers to this point listed in that article were: E.Manning, Donovan McNabb, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Grant, Dwayne Bowe, Dez Bryant, Clark and Finley.
Around the League:
You have to love when players do the right thing and it works out for them. After demanding a trade out of Carolina, and who could blame him after being freed of Jake Delhomme only to suffer through the Matt Moore/Jimmy Clausen era, Steve Smith recanted on his demand and has struck up a beautiful connection with "Colossus" Newton. With 334 receiving yards through two games, Smith has an early foothold on Comeback Player of the Year.
I can't help but think 90|PERCENT| of drafts next summer will start Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers. Those guys are playing in a different stratosphere. The top-drafted back never finishes there. In the twenty-plus years I've been playing, I can only think of two times it's happened, once with Tomlinson and once with Priest Holmes. And of the consensus top five backs, only Ray Rice is producing anywhere near his draft slot.
It only took two weeks. Virtually everyone knew it would happen at some point this year, but with Michael Vick's concussion Sunday night many owner's fears were realized a lot sooner than they had hoped. As bad, and heartless as it might sound, from a fantasy perspective, it's probably the "best" injury that could have befell the two-time $100 million man. He's like watching a NASCAR race. The speed is thrilling, but you know there's a crash coming soon.
LeSean McCoy is a fantasy beast. He was solid a year ago, spectacular in PPR, but this year he's scoring touchdowns. He's got four already, to go along with his 253 yards from scrimmage. Each time he gets the ball it seems he's one defender from breaking it to the house. I'm predicting 15 touchdowns minimum this year.
Fred Jackson needs some love. I was recently in Buffalo, driving on Route 5 when I saw a billboard of none other than Mr. Jackson. I was floored, but it shows the football acumen of the folks from the Falls. He's averaging 6.76 yards on 38 touches through two games.
The year of the quarterback has reached dizzying heights. The evolution of the air-it-out attack has vaulted the following also-rans into the upper ranks; Chad Henne, Jason Campbell, Rex Grossman, and Matt Hasselbeck. Wow, yeah, it's a passing league.