Many football talking heads are suggesting that NFL defenses will have the upper hand in the first several weeks of this lockout influenced season. Given that the large majority of fantasy football hinges on the offensive side of the ball, you would be remiss to put together your Week 1 lineup without considering the implications that the strange offseason may have on your team. Veterans and players in static schemes should get the nod over rookies and players in flux while the rust is being cleaned off early in the season.
Several situations should demand even more scrutiny as you prepare to set your lineup this week.
Rumors are swirling regarding Peyton Manning’s neck and the possible need for an additional surgery. Most would agree that is unlikely that Manning will play in Week 1. But what does that mean for other Indianapolis Colts you may have on your roster? The honest answer is that nobody knows. Manning has been so durable, for so long, that we have never seen how Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark catches the ball from another quarterback for an entire game. How will defenses adjust to not having Manning call the entire game from the line of scrimmage? Will Joseph Addai find running room with Kerry Collins under center? Wayne and Clark simply have too much talent to bench, but you should lower your expectations as long as Manning is out. Austin Collie or Pierre Garcon could emerge as a dependable target for Collins, but until one of them steps up I would be hard-pressed to depend on them for fantasy production.
The running back by committee approach has become popular in the NFL in recent years. It has been equally effective at driving fantasy football owners crazy. The early season can be especially tricky as teams look to identify the talent on their roster and define a player’s roles.
The Arizona Cardinals were set to work Ryan Williams in as their main back this season before an injury ended his season. Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells inherits the job now and has said that he will be running this season with a chip on his shoulder. The Cardinals signed released running back Chester Taylor over the weekend to provide depth. Taylor is effective yet underwhelming and will steal some touches from Wells over the course of the season, but I would have no problem starting Wells in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers’ porous run defense. Wells should be a solid option as a RB2 or flex option, while Taylor gets acclimated to his new team. Don’t be surprised if at some point in the season Wells trips over that chip and misses time with an injury, but he should be fine to start in Week 1.
Reggie Bush joins the Miami Dolphins and will be paired up with rookie Daniel Thomas in the backfield. Much of the same things that have been said about Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells could be said about Bush. Bush has been often injured, inconsistent, and runs the risk of being supplanted by a rookie. The difference with Bush is that he is on a new team and has looked effective in the preseason. If you are looking for a 25 carry per game, run between the tackles back then Bush is not the guy. But if you are looking for a bye week fill-in who will be involved in several aspects of the game, consider Bush. Thomas has not burst on to the scene and Bush will likely start the season as the primary back. Bush has even more value in points per reception leagues with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, or even line up in the slot.
Every year, a sleeper wideout or two emerges and proves themselves worthy of a starting position each week. Last season Stevie Johnson came out of nowhere and produced solid numbers, hauling in 10 TDs and more than 1,000 yards. Who will be the receiver(s) to emerge this year? It is worth remembering that Johnson didn’t take off until we were several weeks in to the season last year. He had two touchdowns in Week 5, but it wasn’t until Week 7 that he had more than five catches in a game.
My point is while Denarius Moore, Greg Little, Eric Decker, Jerome Simpson, Emmanuel Sanders … and several others are highly touted candidates to emerge this season, none of them belong in your lineup right out of the gate. Temper your expectations and be patient, but don’t be afraid to add players coming off strong weeks especially early in the season. You don’t want to be known as the guy holding out hope for Jerome Harrison while Peyton Hillis continues to pile up yards.
There is more uncertainty going in to this season than ever before. Keep these factors in mind early in the season and know that as soon as you think you have things figured out they will change.