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Depth Chart Watch: Fallout From Week 1

Kenn Ruby

Kenn has been writing and editing for RotoWire since 2003. Though he attended Northwestern with the co-founders of RotoWire, he is not considered a made member of the RotoWire Northwestern mafia, as he can't trace back all of his ancestors to Dan Okrent.


Although Matt Forte had a strong game (80 yards rushing, 40 yards receiving and a six-yard TD run), Michael Bush got two one-yard scores and clearly looks like the goal-line back. Bush has 12 carries for 42 yards, and while the Bears won't play the Colts every week, that's a lot of carries for a backup to a healthy starter. Forte will still be a valuable fantasy back, but if Bush keeps eating into his carries - especially at the goal-line - Forte may not earn the high draft pick he commanded this summer.


Buffalo has a very talented duo in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, so when Jackson left the game with a knee injury, Spiller filled in and almost immediately found the end zone. For the day, Spiller carried 14 times for 169 yards and is an automatic start any week Jackson can't play. Jackson has a sprained LCL. He walked off the field on his own power, but he could miss a few weeks with the injury.


Valuable slot man David Nelson left Sunday's game with what could be a serious leg injury. The Bills are already a bit light at the position, with just T.J. Graham, Brad Smith and Ruvell Martin backing up starters Steve Johnson and Donald Jones, so don't be a surprise if they look for a free agent (Jabar Gaffney seems to be working out for everyone right now) if Nelson misses significant time.


Trent Richardson ended weeks of speculation by starting and getting 19 carries, but if Sunday's game is any indication, he may never get any room to run. Richardson gained just 39 yards, and the Cleveland passing offense was so terrible that defenses might just stack the box to stop Richardson, who wasn't exactly good enough to deserve that kind of treatment either. Of more important note, however, is that backups Brandon Jackson and Montario Hardesty got a grand total of zero carries. In other words, even a less-than-100-percent Richardson is going to get the ball a lot. It's bound to get better.


Last year Kevin Kolb was the starter and John Skelton came in and won a bunch of games. This year the tables have turned, as Skelton won the starting job but left Sunday's game with a high-ankle injury only to see Kolb lead the Cardinals to a come-from-behind victory over Seattle. Kolb will start the next four-to-six weeks.


Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams split carries fairly evenly Sunday, but neither back emerged as obviously better. Well, that's not entirely true. Wells carried seven times for 14 yards for a stellar 2.0 YPC, which looks downright dominant next to Williams' 1.1 YPC (eight carries, nine yards). Wide receiver Andre Roberts led the Cardinals in rushing yards Sunday with 15. On one carry.


Ryan Mathews has already been ruled out for Monday's game, as expected. Ronnie Brown should have a nice opportunity, but Le'Ron McClain, Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley should get a few carries too, with McClain the most likely to get the rock at the goal-line. Mathews will return in a next week or two, but if Brown or another back can prove himself in the interim, Mathews could get eased back into duty.


Though Jamaal Charles, with 16 carries for 87 yards, was much better than Peyton Hillis as expected, Hillis was still supposed to earn a lot of fantasy value by being the goal-line back for the Chiefs. On Sunday, however, that job went to Shaun Draughn, who had six carries for 29 yards and scored on a four-yarder at the end of the game. Most of Draughn's work came in garbage time with the Chiefs well behind, so he probably hasn't passed Hillis on the depth chart yet, but this development bears watching.


Although the official starting lineup featured Steve Breaston and Dexter McCluster, Dwayne Bowe is likely to be the top fantasy threat among the Kansas City wideouts. However, the diminutive McCluster was targeted a team-high 10 times Sunday (compared to just six for Bowe and four for Breaston), and with six catches for 82 yards - both team-highs - he's worth going after this week if you don't get one of the hotter free agents. Meanwhile, Jon Baldwin, a trendy sleeper pick, was not targeted even once.


The Colts decided to play it safe with oft-concussed Austin Collie, keeping him out of action against the Bears. Reggie Wayne was his usual reliable self on one side of the field, but ex-Ram Donnie Avery took Collie's spot in the starting lineup and was targeted eight times, hauling down three catches for 37 yards and a score. Rookie T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) also missed the game, so the Colts dug deep into their depth chart for Kris Adams, who caught a pair of passes for 26 yards.


While much of the pregame talk in Big D was about the availability of tight end Jason Witten (turns out he's fine), one of the top fantasy developments of Week 1 was the emergence of Kevin Ogletree as the third wideout in the Dallas offense. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant will get most of the targets throughout the year, but as Laurent Robinson showed us last year, the No. 3 receiver for the Cowboys could be very valuable. There were a lot of candidates for the role in the preseason before Dallas settled in Ogletree, who didn't disappoint on Opening Night, hauling in eight receptions - including two touchdowns - for 114 yards. He'll be a very popular waiver-wire pickup this week.


Brian Hartline (calf) practiced all week, but it wasn't good enough to get him in the starting lineup - that honor went to Legedu Naanee and Davone Bess. While Bess had a modesty output of five catches for 45 yards, Hartline was easily a bigger part of the offense than Naanee on Sunday. Hartline was targeted a team-high eight times, catching three for 50 yards. Meanwhile, Naanee was shut out and only targeted twice. Don't be surprised to soon see Hartline starting rather than Naanee, though neither figure to have much fantasy value in 2012.


It didn't take long for Maurice Jones-Drew to advance to the top of the Jacksonville depth chart. After a rough summer holdout, MJD joined the team a week ago, and although Rashad Jennings started Sunday, a knee injury pushed him out of the game, giving Jones-Drew quite a few more touches than was originally intended. Jennings was nothing special, gaining 31 yards on eight rushes, but Jones-Drew had 77 yards rushing (on 19 attempts) and three catches for 18 yards. He should assume the starting job this week and never look back.


Of all the disappointing fantasy performances on the first Sunday of the season, DeAngelo Williams' takes the cake. For years the conventional wisdom has been that either Williams or Jonathan Stewart would be a fantasy star if they didn't have to split carries with one another. On Sunday, with Stewart out with an ankle injury and what was thought to be a terrible Tampa Bay defense across the line of scrimmage, Williams was primed for a big day. Instead he rushed just six times for -1 yard. On the bright side, he had five receiving yards, so the day wasn't a total loss.


So it was Alfred Morris that coach Mike Shanahan decided to start Sunday, even though earlier in the week he was third on the depth chart behind Evan Royster and Roy Helu. Morris made Shanahan look like a genius against the Saints, running 28 times for 96 yards and scoring twice. Helu and Royster had two carries each. Expect Shanahan to ride the hot hand all year, and Morris was blazing Sunday.


Interesting shuffling at wideout in Washington as well. Pierre Garcon had a huge first quarter, including an 88-yard score, but he left the game with a foot injury. He's not expected to miss time, but Aldrick Robinson had more targets than starters Santana Moss and Josh Morgan, and Leonard Hankerson was invisible after starting most of the preseason. Robinson's production might have been because Garcon missed most of the game, but it's curious that first Morgan leapfrogged Hankerson into the starting lineup and then Robinson (who caught a five-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter) got so much playing time when it should have been an obvious opportunity for Hankerson.


With Golden Tate out with a knee injury, Braylon Edwards started and caught five passes. If he had caught the sixth one, however, he'd have a stronger hold on the starting job, as it went through his hands in the waning moments of a 20-16 loss. Tate is supposed to be back in a week or two, so if Edwards want to stay in the starting lineup, he's going to need to pull down those big ones.


Isaac Redman started and was given more carries, but Jonathan Dwyer was clearly the more productive running back Sunday night. Redman had just 20 yards on 11 attempts while Dwyer finished with a team-high 43 yards on just nine carries. There was a lot of buzz surrounding Dwyer throughout the summer, and even though Rashard Mendenhall reportedly was close to playing Sunday, it looks like he's not quite ready and Dwyer is the healthiest back on the roster. He could earn a larger role against the Jets in Week 2.


Jake Locker left Sunday's game with a separated (non-throwing) shoulder injury, he's not expected to miss Week 2. However, he was unable to return Sunday, so veteran Matt Hasselbeck was his usual mediocre self in relief.


Kendall Wright started in place of the suspended Kenny Britt and caught five passes for 37 yards. De facto No. 1 receiver Nate Washington left the game with leg contusion, so Wright could be in line for another start even when Kenny Britt returns in Week 2. That said, Damian Williams, who also caught five passes, could also be the one to take Washington's place next week.


Adrian Peterson was only supposed to get a handful of carries Sunday while Gerhart was expected to be the workhorse, but it's strange how quickly that can change when a back as talented as Peterson gets the ball in his hands. Just nine months removed from a torn ACL, Peterson was fantastic in the opener, running for 84 yards on 17 carries - two of which were short touchdowns. He's back!