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Depth Chart Watch: The Fallout from Week 1

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

Broncos RB - Was anyone even able to notice a running game in this one? As was announced in the days leading up to the Thursday night game, Knowshon Moreno started and saw the most carries out the backfield. But Montee Ball saw just one fewer rush as the Broncos turned to him in the second half once they fell into clock-killing mode. Ronnie Hillman was splashed in the early part of the game but ended up a non-factor. We still expect Ball to earn he full-time job by season's end, but for now the gig belongs to Moreno.

Bills RB -
This was supposed to be the year of C.J. Spiller with Fred Jackson turning 32 this year and coming off of two knee injuries that ruined his 2012 season. But Jackson saw 13 carries to Spiller's 17 and actually outgained his supposed successor by 26 yards. He also saw five targets to Spiller's six and logged 27 more yards through the air on one fewer catch. It's difficult to imagine the two will see such an even split throughout the year, but if Jackson continues seeing the field even half as much, then Spiller's overall value is sure to take a hit.

Patriots RB -
Fantasy owners who drafted Stevan Ridley saw red Sunday when the running back was benched by Bill Belichick after losing a fumble during the second quarter that was returned 74 yards for a touchdown. That opened the door even wider for Shane Vereen, who took full advantage of the opportunity and rushed for 101 yards on 14 carries and caught seven passes for 58 yards. Most expected Vereen's workload to increase this year, but in conjunction with Ridley, not at his expense. The benching probably won't spill over into Thursday's game against the Jets, but if he doesn't do a better job protecting the football, Ridley could be a spectator a lot more often.

Patriots WR -
Danny Amendola did his job catching 10 of his 14 targets for 104 yards, but rookie Kenbrell Thompkins, who also saw 14 targets, caught just four passes for 42 yards and was criticized for his failure to keep his footing and his inability to corral passes. Meanwhile, Julian Edelman saw nine targets and caught seven passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns. He was a big red-zone target for Tom Brady in this one and could be one to watch. Thompkins hasn't lost his job, but if this performance was more than just rookie jitters, then he could slip down the depth chart, at least in Brady's eyes.

Bengals RB -
As expected, it was BenJarvus Green-Ellis who saw the bulk of the work during Sunday's game against the Bears, as the veteran was handed 14 carries to rookie Giovani Bernard's four. Neither could get anything going on the ground, but Bernard didn't anything to warrant ascension on the depth chart. We expect Bernard to eventually supplant Green-Ellis, but that time is not now.

Dolphins RB -
The competition for the lead-back position stayed fairly close throughout the summer, but most expected Lamar Miller to win it outright. However, over the week leading up to Week 1 there was more talk about shared carries and suddenly Daniel Thomas was back on the radar. Miller received 10 carries but was only able to muster three yards while Thomas picked up 14 yards on eight carries and found his way into the endzone on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. Given the reports that came in all week, it looks like you can expect a fairly even split in carries, at least until one outshines the other.

Dolphins WR -
This was never supposed to even be a position battle, but when Mike Wallace saw just five targets to Brian Hartline's 15 and Brandon Gibson's 10, more than a few eyebrows raised. In fact, Wallace even saw one fewer target than Charles Clay. Granted, Wallace was shadowed by Joe Haden the whole time, but he was visibly upset afterward as he debuted with one catch for 15 yards. If the squeaky wheel gets the grease, then expect an increase in targets when the Fins take on the Colts in Week 2.

Lions RB -
It's tough to say this is a depth chart battle, given the numbers for Reggie Bush, but it should be noted that Joique Bell saw the goal-line work, finding the endzone twice, once from a yard out and once from two yards away. Bush still saw more carries and also saw eight targets in the passing game, but Bell should see a boost in value if this trend continues.

Lions WR -
Again, not much of a surprise given what transpired in camp, but Nate Burleson lined up opposite Calvin Johnson while Ryan Broyles was inactive. We still expect Broyles to stand out at some point this season, but he obviously has a lot to prove to the coaching staff to get himself back onto the field.

Colts RB -
Fear not, Ahmad Bradshaw owners. The split in carries that favored Vick Ballard in this one was only because the Colts want to ease Bradshaw in and get him back into game-shape before dropping the full workload on him. The difference in carries should swing in his favor as early as Week 2 when the Colts play the Dolphins.

Colts WR -
Five targets for T.Y. Hilton and four for Darrius Heyward-Bey is how the split went in Week 1. As expected, the Colts are going to utilize both receivers and the two should continue to eat into each other's targets until one beats out the other. Meanwhile, it was Reggie Wayne as the top dog with eight targets on the day.

Jets RB -
The split in carries was fairly close between Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory with Powell grabbing just an extra two on the day. The Jets' plan seems to be to get Ivory more work but with a steady increase as opposed to just handing him the full-time job. Powell will remain very much in the mix and is the better pass-catching back as well, so this situation could stay fairly even for a long time unless one has a major breakout performance.

Steelers RB -
It looks like an ugly situation just got a little uglier as the Steelers lost LaRod Stephens-Howling to a torn ACL in the season opener. With Le'Veon Bell still sidelined, that bumps up Felix Jones on the depth chart, and he should be used as the change-of-pace back to starter Isaac Redman. If Bell isn't back in the timeframe the Steelers have apparently laid out, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if they re-visited talks with Jonathan Dwyer, whom they released last week.

Steelers C -
Although center is not a skill position used in fantasy, the loss of Maurkice Pouncey for the season (torn ACL and MCL) puts a huge damper on the Steelers offense as back-up Cody Wallace is nowhere near the force on the line that Pouncey is. Pass protection for Ben Roethlisberger will suffer and the running game, as pathetic as it is, could actually get worse. If you needed another reason to stay away from a Steelers running back, this is it.

Cardinals RB -
While Rashard Mendenhall remains the lead back for Arizona, Alfonso Smith played the role of the primary backup, not Ryan Williams. It's hard to say that this was even remotely surprising as Smith is probably the better choice anyway, and there were indicators during the week that Smith had surpassed Williams on the depth chart. Mendenhall owners likely need to change their handcuff.

49ers WR -
For all four preseason games, Marlon Moore lined up as the team's No. 2 opposite Anquan Boldin, and that was the plan heading into the final week of practice before Week 1. However, late in the week that changed, and Kyle Williams was announced as the new starter. That was obviously reflected in the targets and playing time as the 49ers hardly went to a three-receiver formation. Consider Williams the new No. 2, but there doesn't seem to be a huge need to grab him given the distribution of targets to Boldin and Vernon Davis.

Giants RB -
Looks like someone's got a case of the fumbles. Much like the situation in New England, the Giants changed horse midstream after their starter, David Wilson, lost two fumbles, one of which was on his first carry of the game. Coach Tom Coughlin put Wilson on the bench early in the third quarter and went with Da'Rel Scott the rest of the way, though Scott only saw five carries as the Giants fell into catch-up mode through much of the second half. Wilson is, far and away, the better back, so expect him to get the nod in Week 2, but don't be surprised if you hear that Coughlin went all Friday Night Lights on him and duct-taped a football to his hands on Monday.