Fantasy Clicks: Post-Week 1 Rules to Live By
Julius Jones: Otto Greule, Jr./Getty Images
You remember Jeremy Shockey, right? The man with zero TDs in 2008 (with Drew Brees throwing him the ball) went largely undrafted in fantasy leagues last month. And yet, on the strength of two easy-cheesy touchdowns in Week 1 against Detroit -- capping a monster day of four catches for 31 yards -- some fantasy owners are now ready to hand him the keys to their fantasy hearts, along with their ATM card and password (BSCO?). (As god as my witness, I received this Tweet around 7 a.m. Friday: I've got Shockey and Tony Gonzalez at TE. Who should I keep and who should I look to trade?)
The way I see it, there are two ways to confront the ridiculousness of the above paragraphs: Either sit back, be a good parent and watch you make lineup mistake after mistake after mistake. Or, I could lay out a few simple, easy-to-follow rules for Week 2 -- after the delirium from Week 1 has subsided, of course:
1. Play your stars: There's a reason WHY you took Forte as high as No. 1 overall. There's a reason why you danced a jig in front of your buddies after landing Slaton at the top of Round 2. There's a reason why Chris Johnson is still the fastest gun in the South and the Titans' best fantasy stud (by a mile). But they're also human, and they occasionally run into stout defenses who were expertly designed to stop 'em in the short term. Deal with it.
The best example of this creed comes in the story of Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, circa 1997. After two sub-Sanders-esque games of 33 and 20 yards to begin the season, Sanders went on a rampage for all time, rushing for a "low" of 105 and high of 216 yards for the next 14 weeks ... on the way to a 2,053-yard campaign. But I'd be willing to bet that some of his owners traded him out of haste after Week 2, simply because some no-name scrub looked great coming out of the gate.
2. What goes up ... usually comes down: Here's a list of Week 1 studs from recent years who crashed and burned immediately after amazing showings on Opening Day -- Frisman Jackson(8 catches, 128 yards, 1 TD with Cleveland in 2005), Glenn Foley (415 yards, 3 TDs as the Jets' QB in 1998), Joey Harrington (195 yards, 4 TDs as Detroit's QB in 2003) and Bucs tight tight end Alex Smith from 2005 (4 catches, 34 yards, 2 TDs) -- in a performance remarkably similar to Shockey's from last week. Smith's two scores, by the way, were his ONLY touchdowns of that season.
3. Respect the East Coast bias: Did you know that ... in 2008, West Coast teams had a record of something like 2-18 against East Coast clubs for 1 p.m. kickoff times (EST)? For whatever reason, the Cardinals, Raiders, Chargers, 49ers and Seahwaks have had a miserable time adapting to the early Sunday starts, and that malaise trickles down to fantasyland, as well. For Week 2, Arizona travels to Jacksonville ... to face an unfamiliar opponent, while sporting a double-hangover from a Week 1 loss and crushing Super Bowl defeat. On top of that, Steve Breaston and Anquan Boldin are less than 100 percent. Add it all together, and it spells trouble for the Cards (except for the infallible Larry Fitzgerald).
4. Don't be intimidated by rain: Wet balls still travel well amid the warm September air. In fact, it's probably a little slice of heaven for quarterbacks -- especially ones with large hands -- who know the cornerbacks and safeties will be slip-sliding out of their breaks all day.
5. Respect 'The Julius Rules' Code: While doing a round of fantasy-related interviews on sports-talk radio this week, I curiously answered several Julius Jones queries mostly from callers convinced that JJ has turned a corner in his fantasy metamorphosis. With this stunning revelation still on the brain, it's time to dust off The Julius Rules, a series of hard-and-fast measures for sitting or starting fantasy football's most confounding primary back:
**Always start Julius against mediocre-to-bad defenses AT HOME: Against the Rams, 49ers, Cardinals, Lions and Bucs, he's a certifiable lock for 110 total yards and/or one touchdown this season.
**Only consider Julius as a flex starter against good-to-great defenses AT HOME: This includes the Jags, Bears and Titans in 2009. Yes, those defenses are highly respected, but Julius gets great bounce off the Flubber turf at Qwest Field (averaging 92.9 total yards and .66 TDs his last nine games at Seattle).
**Never start -- or even considering starting -- Jones on the road: His last 100-yard game on a roadie was October 2006 (vs. Philly), while playing for Dallas. Enough said.
Here's a list of prominent players who'll bounce back in Week 2 -- I promise:
1. RB Chris Johnson, Titans (good luck stopping him back-to-back)
2. RB Michael Turner, Falcons (rocked the Panthers for 4 TDs last year @ home)
3. WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles (Kevin Kolb, meet your new best friend)
4. RB Matt Forte, Bears
5. TE Dallas Clark, Colts
6. WR Roddy White, Falcons
7. RB Reggie Bush, Saints (I would kill for him in a PPR league this week)
8. WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos (he's too talented not to succeed against the Browns)
9. RB Larry Johnson, Chiefs (you knew Week 1 would be a clunker ... so don't sweat it)
10. WR Terrell Owens, Bills (like the Buffalo coaches aren't going to give the home folks what they want)
Back by popular demand, my up-to-the-minute rankings for the top 30 running backs:
1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
2. Michael Turner, Falcons
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
4. Matt Forte, Bears
5. Chris Johnson, Titans
6. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
7. Brian Westbrook, Eagles (looks healthy and motivated -- what a combo!)
8. Brandon Jacobs, Giants
9. Steve Slaton, Texans
10. Steven Jackson, Rams
11. Frank Gore, 49ers
12. Marion Barber, Cowboys
13. Clinton Portis, Redskins
14. Ryan Grant, Packers
15. Darren McFadden, Raiders
16. Joseph Addai, Colts (showed flashes of his '07 self against Jacksonville)
17. Kevin Smith, Lions
18. Thomas Jones, Jets
19. Ray Rice, Ravens
20. Cedric Benson, Bengals
21. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers (the injuries are an obvious concern)
22. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
23. Marshawn Lynch, Bills
24. Fred Jackson, Bills (you can't go wrong with the Lynch/F-Jax handcuff)
25. Chris "Beanie" Wells, Cardinals (you'll have to trust me on this one)
26. Darren Sproles, Chargers
27. Derrick Ward, Buccaneers
28. Leon Washington, Jets
29. Pierre Thomas, Saints
30. Mike Bell, Saints (what can he do for an encore?)
**BONUS: Tim Hightower, Cardinals (I can just hear Timmy yelling, Hey, Fantasy Lama ... how about a little something, you know, for the effort?)
1. New Orleans @ Philadelphia
2. Cleveland @ Denver
3. Minnesota @ Detroit
4. Seattle @ San Francisco
5. N.Y. Giants @ Dallas
Aside from my upcoming wedding/honeymoon in October, ANY time is a perfect time to hit me on Twitter (@SI_JayClemons) for any lineup-related questions within the fantasy realm. In fact, I see that some of my loyal followers have already peppered my Inbox with start/sit queries:
@B4him13 asks: Would you take Frank Gore/Donald Driver for Joseph Addai/Vincent Jackson?
Answer: It's sometimes dangerous to greenlight trades without knowing your full roster or league scoring rules. But just for fun, at face value, I'd rather have Addai/V-Jax for the season -- but barely. The way I see it, Addai and V-Jax can easily be top 20 guys at their respective positions, whereas Driver (and his low TD rate) will have to fight tooth and nail to keep up with the receiving Joneses. Plus, be weary of rookie RB Glen Coffee pushing Gore at every turn (read: vulturing goal-line carries) by midseason.
@arl314 wonders: Help me with these starters -- RBs (3), WRs (3), Flex (1): Steve Slaton, Clinton Portis, Reggie Bush, Leon Washington, Fred Jackson, Jonathan Stewart ... for WR: Calvin Johnson, Marques Colston, Eddie Royal, Earl Bennett, Austin Collie, Chris Henry.
Answer: Wow! I had to think about this one for a little bit. But for running back, let's go F-Jax (vs. Tampa Bay), Portis (vs. St. Louis), Bush (@ Philly). For WR, let's ride Calvin (vs. Minnesota), Colston, Royal (vs. Cleveland) ... AND for the Flex, let's commit to Slaton (although Washington is a fine choice, too).
@Ang9000 wants to know: Whaddya think ... Philip Rivers (vs. the Ravens) or take a chance on Jason Campbell vs. the Rams? And please pick two RBs out of the following three: Frank Gore, Darren McFadden, Fred Jackson.
Answer: I actually have Campbell rated ahead of Rivers this week ... and I'd go D-Mac and Gore (even though F-Jax will get 100 yards and/or one TD -- guaranteed). Now, if you want to start Rivers -- because a certain know-it-all begged you to "play your stars early" -- that's fine. But let's also remember that playing stars isn't always a priority when the Rams, Chiefs or Lions defenses are involved.
@thebocskay asks: Do I start Leon Washington, Jamal Lewis or Kevin Smith? Thanks.
Answer: The following insight has nothing to do with JamLewis' stiff neck, which probably won't limit his carries whatsoever against Denver; but I'd rank 'em 1) Smith 2) Washington 3) Lewis for Week 2.
@davidmosher wonders: I know it's early, but do you dump LaDainian Tomlinson to pick up someone better?
Answer: David, let me be the first to congratulate you for making today's Fantasy Clicks. In other words ... HECK NO! Seriously, unless I see certifiable proof of the tibia or fibula bones sticking out of LT's leg in the next four weeks (and even then, it's not a clear-cut decision) ... I better not hear ANY stories of you cutting him out of haste. Are we clear? Are we clear?
1. Roddy White vs. Carolina
2. Larry Fitzgerald @ Jacksonville
3. Santana Moss vs. St. Louis
4. DeSean Jackson vs. New Orleans
5. Reggie Wayne @ Miami
6. Calvin Johnson vs. Minnesota
7. Nate Burleson @ San Francisco
8. Greg Jennings vs. Cincinnati
9. Hines Ward @ Chicago
10. Randy Moss @ N.Y. Jets
11. Eddie Royal vs. Cleveland (Brandon Marshall may score, as well)
The 2009 Sports Illustrated/Citizen Sports Fantasy Football Game (presented by Pepsi Max). For those who haven't accessed this amazing application yet on Facebook ... what are you waiting for? (Week 1 has come and gone) And for those whose fantasy-football lives were compromised looooooooong before Michael Crabtree skipped his first regular season game, check out Jeffrey Ma's omnipresent fantasy blog on Citizen Sports.
Michael Turner: AP
As you'll recall from last week, I couldn't enter the "Battle of the Sexes" fantasy league draft room (due to computer error) and was left with a disheartening "autopick" team from the No. 4 draft slot. On the plus side, the computer took Michael Turner, Peyton Manning, Santana Moss. On the bad side, it grabbed a second defense, Heath Miller and David Garrard. And on the "good pick, but taken-wayyyyy-too-high" side ... I now own Steve Smith, Antonio Gates, Stephen Gostkowski and the Ravens defense/special teams.
Anyway ... my team, as expected, got shellacked in Week 1, prompting me to hopefully disassemble the unit and build 'em back up -- on the fly -- the way I see fit. First to go: Peyton Manning. Yes, he threw for 301 yards last week against Jacksonville, but I've never been comfortable with taking a QB in the first three rounds of a draft (although I'd certainly be keeping Drew Brees in the same scenario). Besides, Peyton still holds tremendous value in fantasyland, so much that I'm hoping to deal him, Carolina's Steve Smith and Wills McGahee (2 TDs in Week 1) to a non-divisional opponent -- while yielding Carson Palmer, Brian Westbrook and Darren McFadden in return. (Obviously, this proposal looked a heckuva lot sweeter before Jake Delhomme tossed four INTs against Philly.)
After that, it'll be time to move Michael Turner for two studs and one potential diamond in the rough. Of course, I can only arrange this coup once The Burner scores four TDs in a game -- like he did last year against Carolina ... and not unlike Al Bundy's crowning achievement in the 1966 Chicago All-City championship game for good old Polk High!
Whoever wrote this epic speech from a classic Married With Children is an absolute geninus. (Although, the YouTube poster omitted the episode's final scene, a remarkable parody to Eight Men Out.) Thank god TBS still airs this show on repeats ... albeit at 4:30 a.m. EST.
1. Michael Turner vs. Carolina
2. DeAngelo Williams @ Atlanta
3. Adrian Peterson @ Detroit
4. Ryan Grant vs. Cincinnati
5. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Arizona
6. Darren McFadden @ Kansas City
7. Brian Westbrook vs. New Orleans
8. Chris Johnson vs. Houston
9. Steven Jackson @ Washington
10. Fred Jackson vs. Tampa Bay
11. Matt Forte vs. Pittsburgh
12. Frank Gore vs. Seattle
A receiver is only as good as his quarterback ... and the number of opportunities he gets to make a catch (known as Targets -- an absolutely critical stat for PPR leagues). This underrated category is the best way to safeguard against one-hit wonders during a long, long, long fantasy season. To wit, SI.com presents a list of the 28 wideouts with 8 or more Targets from Week 1:
1. Randy Moss, Patriots -- 16 Targets
2. Wes Welker, Patriots -- 16 Targers
3. Reggie Wayne, Colts -- 14 Targets
4. Earl Bennett, Bears -- 13 Targets
5. Calvin Johnson, Lions -- 13
6. Steve Smith, Panthers -- 13
7. Nate Burleson, Seahawks -- 11
8. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- 11
9. Justin Gage, Titans -- 11
10. Santonio Holmes, Steelers -- 11
11. Derrick Mason, Ravens -- 10
12. Laurent Robinson, Rams -- 10
13. Hines Ward, Steelers -- 10
14. Roddy White, Falcons -- 10
15. Mark Clayton, Ravens -- 9
16. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks -- 9
17. Muhsin Muhammad, Panthers -- 9
18. Louis Murphy, Raiders -- 9
19. Antwaan Randle El, Redskins -- 9
20. Donnie Avery, Rams -- 8
21. Isaac Bruce, 49ers -- 8
22. Andre Caldwell, Bengals -- 8
23. Michael Clayton, Buccaneers -- 8
24. Devery Henderson, Saints -- 8
25. Greg Jennings, Packers -- 8
26. Bryant Johnson, Lions -- 8
27. Steve Smith, Giants -- 8
28. Chansi Stuckey, Jets -- 8
1. Cadillac Williams, @ Bills (say hello to 8/9 defenders in the box)
2. Ben Roethlisberger, @ Bears (zero chance of another 300-yard day)
3. Tim Hightower, @ Jaguars (don't say I didn't warn you, OK?)
4. Louis Murphy, @ Chiefs (rookie falls back to earth -- for one week)
5. Andre Johnson, @ Titans (you'll have to wait one more week for The Breakout)
One good turn deserves another. Here are the 16 tailbacks with 5 or more Targets from Week 1:
1. Tim Hightower, Cardinals -- 14 Targets
2. Kevin Smith, Lions -- 9 Targers
3. Kevin Faulk, Patriots -- 8 Targets
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars -- 8 Targets
5. Fred Jackson, Bills -- 7
6. Mewelde Moore, Steelers -- 7
7. Darren Sproles, Chargers -- 7
8. Chester Taylor, Vikings -- 7
9. Joseph Addai, Colts -- 6
10. Reggie Bush, Saints -- 6
11. Jerious Norwood, Falcons -- 6
12. Steve Slaton, Texans -- 6
13. Leon Washington, Jets -- 6
14. Frank Gore, 49ers -- 5
15. Willis McGahee, Ravens -- 5
16. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers -- 5
1. WR Andre Caldwell (@ Packers)
2. RB Ladell Betts (vs. Rams)
3. WR Dennis Northcutt (vs. Vikings)
4. TE Anthony Fasano (vs. Colts)
5. WR Michael Jenkins (vs. Panthers)
That Adrian Peterson is averaging ONLY 114.25 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns against Detroit in four career outings. So, before anyone just assumes that AP or AD (University of Oklahoma grads hate 'AP') will threaten to break his own NFL single-game rushing record of 296 in Week 2 ... give the Lions' porous defense some credit for not being historically awful all the time.
And while we're breaking out AP tidbits, did you know Peterson only has one career touchdown catch -- and that it occurred on his inaugural NFL reception wayyyy back in 2007 (a 60-yarder vs. Atlanta)? In the immortal words of Paul Harvey (or Rich Hall) ... It's true ... it's true!