Fantasy Football 2012: Big-Name Boom or Bust Picks for Week 1
There’s an oft-spoken rule to which all good fantasy owners adhere: Start your stars. Start them every week, regardless of the matchups.
With the exception of injuries and suspensions, that’s pretty sound advice. They’ve been labeled “stars” for a reason. I’m talking about guys like Tom Brady, Ray Rice, Larry Fitzgerald and Drew Brees.
Sure, those guys have bad games, but more often than not you’re going to get above-average production from them any given Sunday (or Monday…or Thursday). This may still feel like salt in the wound for the owners who benched Ray Rice against the Steelers last season. Three touchdowns for 235 yards of total offense in two games. Break out the bandages.
It’s a new season, Rice owners. And I guess for all you other owners, too. Start your stars, but be wary. Some will exceed your expectations. Others will make you weep. It’s a necessary gamble that will pay off when you laugh your way into the playoffs.
I'm talking about stars, so even on a day they may "bust," the end result is a decent fantasy stat line. But don't plan on winning your matchup based solely on the production of the second half of this list.
Here are the stars you should bank on in Week 1. Put them in your lineup and sleep soundly.
Boomer: Arian Foster
Foster is poised for another stellar season, and it begins this week at home against Miami. The Dolphins defense is extremely underwhelming, and Houston should have no problem hanging 30-plus points on the board.
Foster is as healthy as he’s been in a couple years. He’s the staple of Houston’s offensive attack, and even with Ben Tate likely to steal some touches early in the season, Foster will have a top-shelf fantasy performance Sunday. Don’t think twice about starting him this week.
Production prediction: 25 touches, 130 total yards, two touchdowns
Boomer: LeSean McCoy
Cleveland is feeling the effects of injuries and suspensions in its front seven. Starting defensive tackle Phil Taylor is still out after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in the offseason, while fellow tackle Ahtyba Rubin still isn’t at full strength after undergoing surgery on a torn pelvic muscle (also in the offseason).
The Browns fielded a strong overall defense last season, but came up well short of being a significant run-stuffing defense in 2011. They yielded 4.4 yards to opposing runners and probably won’t do much better in the early going this season.
Look for "Shady" to put together an admirable performance this week, despite Andy Reid’s claims to limit McCoy’s carries this season. Philadelphia will take some shots downfield, but only after McCoy does his share of damage on the ground.
Production prediction: 27 touches, 142 total yards, one touchdown
Boomer: Calvin Johnson
Is there ever a reason to worry about Megatron? He’d be a good start if he were throwing the ball downfield and running after it himself.
Johnson was a monster last season, regardless of which three defensive backs were covering him at a given time. And there’s nothing about the Rams secondary that should scare you this week.
Matt Stafford is healthy, Johnson is healthy and both will post healthy fantasy stat lines on Sunday.
Production prediction: 10 catches, 145 yards, two touchdowns
Boomer: Cam Newton
Newton proved last season he can do almost anything, and he can do it against almost anyone.
Newton set a slew of records during his breakout rookie season, and owners should expect an equally impressive sophomore campaign. He can run. He can pass. He can single-handedly carry your fantasy team to the playoffs.
Tampa’s secondary will likely be much improved from a year ago, but will struggle against Newton’s dual-threat attack. Look for Carolina to run away with this one, while Newton does some impressive running of his own.
Production prediction: 14-for-23 passing, 210 passing yards, one touchdown, 68 rushing yards, two touchdowns
Boomer: Julio Jones
Jones is going to have a monster year. Write it down. Tell your friends.
Jones is a must-start receiver this season, regardless of who is lined up across from him. He has the size, speed and ball skills to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Teams will be forced to game plan for Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and a three-pronged rushing attack, and someone is going to benefit from it. That someone is you, Jones owners.
Kansas City was sixth in the league last season in passing defense, but the Chiefs simply cannot account for all of Atlanta’s talented offensive weapons. Look for Jones to slip coverage and catch at least one long touchdown pass on Sunday.
Production prediction: six catches, 116 yards, one touchdown
Bust: Mike Wallace
The holdout is over, but don’t expect Wallace to be at full speed for at least a few more weeks. He’s had almost no time to practice in Todd Haley’s new offensive system, while Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders flourished in the preseason.
Wallace is always a threat to slip behind the defense, and Ben Roethlisberger is capable of getting him the ball, but Big Ben had an entire preseason to develop chemistry with his other receivers. If he doesn’t see a deep ball or two against the Broncos, Wallace likely won’t find the end zone.
Brown is a much safer play if you were lucky enough to draft both, but don’t hesitate to start Wallace. He’s still a must-start receiver due to his big-play ability and blazing speed, and that shouldn’t change from week to week.
Production prediction: five catches, 72 yards
Bust: Maurice Jones-Drew
This one should be a no-brainer. MoJo ended his holdout less than a week before the team’s opener and will likely need to be eased back into the offense. Head coach Mike Mularkey said Jones-Drew will probably be relegated to third-down duties until he gets fully acclimated with the offense again.
Although signs point to limited playing time, MJD could put together a productive performance against the Vikings. He’s a dynamic player on a team with a poor passing game and few playmakers.
Jones-Drew probably won’t yield the kind of production we’ve been accustomed to the last few years against Minnesota, although he could prove to be a viable option if your running back cupboard is looking a little bare.
Production prediction: 15 touches, 70 total yards
Bust: Aaron Rodgers
This is not a “sit or start” debate. Start him. Just don’t expect a top-five quarterback performance from Rodgers this week against the 49ers.
Rodgers looked a little shaky at times in the preseason, but he was without Greg Jennings, and let’s face it, it was the preseason. Don’t worry about Rodgers this season. Just start him with realistic expectations Sunday.
San Francisco’s defense was one the best in recent history last year, and there’s no reason to expect it to be any less potent in 2012. With Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis bringing pressure and Donte Whitner, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown in coverage downfield, expect Rodgers to put up slightly more pedestrian numbers than his owners are used to seeing.
Production prediction: 20-for-34, 245 passing yards, two touchdowns
Bust: Rob Gronkowski
As long as Gronk is healthy, he is a must start in all leagues. Right now, the record-setting tight end is healthy and should see his share of targets against the Titans in Week 1.
Temper your expectations, though. Teams have had an entire offseason to plan for New England’s dominant tight end duo. Bill Belichick has expressed a desire to re-establish the Patriots running game with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, and even if the Pats still pass as much as usual, there are a lot of targets at Tom Brady’s disposal.
Brady will do his best to spread the ball around, so starting Gronk could be a roll of the dice in the early going. Don’t rest your Week 1 hopes on him Sunday.
Production prediction: five catches, 77 yards
Bust: Steven Jackson
I still consider S-Jax a premier back, but his days are numbered. Jackson has always had issues breaking free and finding the end zone, and he will struggle to do that against a stout Detroit defensive line.
Jackson will still get his share of touches and could put up adequate yardage totals. He’s still a solid option in Week 1. He is not, however, a surefire top-10 back this week.
If you’re thin at the running back position, don’t sweat starting Jackson. In most formats, he will likely be a first or second running back option and a pretty good one at that. But if Jackson can’t find the goal line, his fantasy upside is limited. Start him at your own risk.
Production prediction: 29 touches, 105 total yards