Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Underrated Players You Must Start Week 1
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Few people have the luxury of playing a full roster of rock-solid guys to start their fantasy football season. Those who are able to sniff out the best bargains and are willing to take some risks will strike early with a win in Week 1.
Keep an eye on the waiver wire, because that is where backup running backs and No. 2 wide receivers can sometimes get lost and end up hurting you by playing on the bench.
New additions to offenses will inevitably affect the fantasy numbers of other players, which is why I’m not as high on a guy like Matt Forte with the addition of Michael Bush.
It also helps to find the players who are dominant against a rival team.
Here are five players you may have missed on your draft board or whose worth you are questioning.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Gerhart could get be relegated to a backup role later this season, but for Sunday he is a lock to score points.
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Gerhart may not have the same name recognition as other backup running backs, but fantasy owners should stay keen on him during the 2012 season and especially in Week 1.
The oft-injured Adrian Peterson could return to being the workhorse he was when he entered the league as the most dynamic back in the league; he was for the first three seasons in the NFL.
But there will certainly be no indications of that in the Vikings’ opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Leslie Frazier has stated that Gerhart will be the primary running back in Sunday’s game.
According to Frazier via CBSSports.com wire reports, Peterson will have “limited exposure” if he plays at all, which means Gerhart will get the bulk of the workload.
Expect the third-year back out of Stanford to have a big day, especially playing at home against the lowly Jags.
Robert Turbin, RB, Seattle Seahawks
No Marshawn Lynch means Robert Turbin is going off in Week 1. Watch for the Seattle injury report.
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Much is being made over a lingering ailment Marshawn Lynch is dealing with as of late.
According to a report on Tuesday by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, Lynch’s status is questionable due to back spasms that he just can’t seem to kick. His status could give newly acquired running back Robert Turbin an opportunity to rack up fantasy numbers in Lynch’s stead.
Consider that rookie starting quarterback Russell Wilson will likely spend much of his day handing the ball off because of his regular-season inexperience and the run-first mentality of the Seahawks’ coaching staff.
Lynch’s injury—while it may cripple owners like me who drafted the starter high—has an immense benefit in Week 1 for those who snagged the relatively unknown Turbin for a bargain.
Look at it this way: If Lynch is injured, you must start Turbin.
Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos
Eric Decker and Peyton Manning will get along just fine. In fact, Decker could end up being Manning's favorite option.
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With the Broncos hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, you can bet that Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau and the Steelers personnel will do everything they can to shut down Demaryius Thomas, who crushed their season less than a year ago.
That means that the third-year wideout will have a breakout game in Mile High Stadium with new quarterback Peyton Manning.
Say what you will about the state of Manning and his neck injury, but in his first game in over a year, you can still expect the veteran to play as efficiently as he always has.
Decker fits the mold of the type of player Manning loves to target: one who is proficient at running short, quick routes. The No. 2 wide receiver on the Broncos depth chart, Decker will benefit from the attention given to Thomas and will be a great flex option in a PPR league.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears
Forget Brandon Marshall's tendency to have a run-in with the law. At least for Week 1.
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The errant offseason actions alleged of Marshall should not affect the talented wide receiver’s fantasy production.
Marshall has caught over 1,000 yards in five consecutive seasons, including in 2011 with a relatively inept passing game in Miami.
He is reunited with the same quarterback whom he caught over 200 catches for (nearly 1,600 yards) in back-to-back seasons in Denver. There is no reason to think that Marshall and Jay Cutler cannot rekindle the same chemistry the pair had in orange and blue.
There is the whole to-do made over Marshall’s tendency to make boneheaded decisions off the field and Cutler’s wild inconsistency and issue with turnovers.
But throw that all out the window during Week 1, because the Bears host the Colts on Sunday. If you have him reserved on your team, you’ve already looked over those factors.
Chicago will run the ball heavily, but when Cutler does have an opportunity to throw, most of his attention will be focused on Marshall.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers has displayed dominance over Oakland thus far in his career. It stands to reason that his excellence will continue.
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Plenty of you probably took Rivers as your first option at quarterback. In a 10-team league, however, you very well could have taken your No. 1 high in the draft.
For those of you who were able to pick Rivers up late as a backup, consider yourself lucky, at least in Week 1.
The Chargers play Monday at the Black Hole, where Rivers has been dominant in his career against the Oakland Raiders.
With a 9-3 record in six seasons against the silver and black, Rivers has thrown for an average of 227 yards, including 17 touchdowns.
Last season, in Week 17, he threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns to help squander Oakland‘s opportunity to reach the postseason.
Chargers starting running back Ryan Mathews broke his clavicle in the opening game of the preseason and there are still question marks as to if he will suit up come Monday.
According to Schefter via ESPN AFC West blogger Bill Williamson, Mathews is not likely to start against the Raiders.
Either way, expect the Bolts to go with a heavy dose of Rivers against an Oakland defense that will be improved, but still lacking.