Fantasy Football Week 1: Flex Appeal
What week is it? I know the calendar says it's the first week in September which is the most anticipated week of the year. Although it's only Week 1, the injury report suggests it's Week 8.
Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Trent Richardson are all beginning the season as major question marks.
Foster was pulled from practice on Thursday, didn't practice on Friday and is now listed as a game-time decision. Marshawn Lynch hasn't practiced all week due to back spasms but came back on Friday and is also listed as a game-time decision. Peterson, MJD and Richardson have been questionable for most of the preseason. MJD's availability isn't as much injury related as it is ignorance related, but it's the same kind of headache.
For a position that is about as deep as a puddle on a Seattle sidewalk to be in as much uncertainty as it is, the waiver wire is suddenly more important than it ever has been for Week 1. And it makes this week's flex appeal that much more interesting.
The following slides hold the answers to filling in the most volatile position in fantasy football: the flex. If you're not satisfied or need last minute assistance, Twitter is your friend: @justinbonnema
Peyton Hillis and Michael Bush
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These two guys are going to be listed in this column every single week until they eventually work their way into RB2 status.
The situation with Peyton Hillis is pretty simple. And by simple, I mean extraordinarily harrowing for anyone that drafted Jamaal Charles early.
As of right now both backs are listed as starters. It's as if Romeo Crennel attended the Washington Redskins' training camp and decided that he too would like to frustrate the absolute crap out of fantasy general managers, just as Mike Shanahan does.
What we know, or what we can confidently bet on rather, is that the Chiefs are going to be a run-focused team. We also know that they have a great offensive line and that the Atlanta Falcons' defense is hardly worth sweating.
There's no telling who will get the majority of carries or if the Chiefs will even be able to stay in this game long enough to not abandon the run. But it wasn't long ago that they led the league in rushing and it wasn't long ago that Peyton Hillis was an absolute beast in the red zone (13 total touchdowns in 2010). He'll get the goal-line carries this season.
As for Michael Bush, it's kind of surprising that he ended up a backup yet again. He has the talent to be a No. 1, especially for teams desperate for a good back, such as Detroit and Green Bay. But he ended up in Chicago as a change of pace back for Matt Forte.
What makes him valuable is the same thing that has always made him valuable: goal line carries. And he's sure to see a lot of them when the Bears host the Colts.
There's nothing to suggest that the Colts' run defense is going to be significantly better than it has been in the past. But their offense is underestimated, which is why this game is going to be a lot closer and a lot higher scoring than people think. I don't expect the Bears to run a lot, but I do expect them to find the red zone a lot, and anytime they get near the goal line, it's Bush time. He's good for about 40 yards and a score.
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True story. On a sleepless Monday night not more than a week ago, I decided to peruse the waiver wire of a 12-team league I joined randomly due to boredom. I call this my "Strangers League".
Every year I like to participate in a league or two with the unwashed masses of the Internet to see who can claim fantasy gold. It's always a lot of fun to witness people's draft habits. Sometimes you end up with super-fan who drafts all Saints players. Sometimes you end up with super-reacher who drafts Tony Romo in the second round.
No matter the case, you always end up with an interesting (assuming no one completely abandons their team halfway through the season) cast of strangers. I can already tell that this particular group is going to be one of my favorites.
As our draft slowly trickled into the fourth round, I noticed something very fishy happening. RGIII, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright and Trent Richardson were all drafted by the same person. Indeed, the all-rookie team. Bold strategy.
That caught me off guard and caused a lot of players to fall to me that I didn't expect to be available. In other words, it ruined the draft.
Back to last Monday night. I couldn't sleep for a variety of reasons and when you manage several fantasy football teams and you're awake late at night, you tend to tinker. So naturally, I checked out all of the recent transactions of every league.
Just when I thought the Strangers League couldn't get any stranger, I made my first trip to the waiver wire and low and behold, Ryan Mathews.
I couldn't believe it. I slapped myself thinking that surely, any minute I'd wake up in a cold sweat and realize that it was all a dream.
But it wasn't. It was reality. Or, well, it was fantasy. It was fantasy-reality. Or realistic-fantasy. Or whatever. That's not important. What is important is that Mathews is currently on my bench. Ryan Mathews, the same guy I ranked as the No. 1 running back by strength of schedule.
So if "Team R" happens to be reading this, thanks for dropping Mathews, one of the best values pre-injury, in favor of Donald Driver. I'm pretty sure the all-rookie team will finish better than you in the standings.
The moral of this story is that Mathews shouldn't be dropped by anyone, and Ronnie Brown should be started by everyone Monday night. It's going to be a high scoring game, as in, the current over/under is set at 46.5 and I'm taking the over. Both of these teams will score a lot of points and Brown is going to benefit in a big way.
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With Stevie Johnson possibly sidelined with a groin injury, David Nelson has the potential step up and take over the No. 2 wide receiver role.
The reports suggest that despite his injury, Johnson was able to practice Friday and will most likely be ready for game time. Even if that's the case, he will be in for a quiet afternoon on Revis island. You have to like Nelson's chances for a big day with or without Johnson on the field.
At 6' 5", Nelson is a big target for Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills love to use three wide receiver sets and I expect them to be able to move the ball. Nelson has good hands, he runs good routes and he's strong. It wouldn't be surprising to see him lead the team in receptions: not just this week, but for the entire season.
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Forget all the bounty-gate stuff, all of the suspensions and all of the bad mojo that has plagued the New Orleans Saints during the offseason. This team will have no issues moving the ball.
Mark Ingram didn't have a great rookie season. And there's a lot of sharing going on in that offense. But there's no question that Ingram is the goal line back and it's rare that the Saints don't find their way into the end zone two or three times a game. Last year, they averaged 34.2 points a week. That won't change much this year. Ingram won't get tons of yards, but in a pinch, especially in touchdown only leagues, he will be a very valuable back going forward.
The Steelers' backfield is getting crowded. Isaac Redman will get the start. They recently added Chris Rainey. Rashard Mendenhall is making a speedy recovery and will apparently be back much sooner than expected.
That suggests that Jonathan Dwyer's fantasy value will have a short shelf life. Unless he has a very impressive Week 1.
He's definitely a risky option, but the Broncos defense is no reason for concern. Redman may get most of the carries and the Steelers may rely on Ben Roethlisberger more than the running game. But when the final whistle blows, I think we'll see a good stat line from Dwyer. If you're desperate, he's worth a shot. Even if he ends up with only eight carries, at least you can have faith that they will be the most important carries of the game: the ones around the goal line.
Relying on a quality start from a Patriots running back is usually fantasy kryptonite. No team distributes the ball amongst its players more than the Patriots. They love to pass. If you had Tom Brady, you'd love to pass too.
That's not to say that they won't run the ball. They did 438 times in 2011, 17th in the league. What makes Ridley intriguing is his size, 5' 11", 220, and his speed, 4.67 40, and the fact that he's pretty much the only option in the Patriots backfield for Week 1 against the Titans.
Shane Vereen is out with a foot injury, leaving only Ridley and Danny Woodhead, plus some unheard of players that will probably ruin our fantasy lives.
I'm not going to make too many outrageous claims at this point in the season, such as suggesting that Ridley is in line for 125 yards and two touchdowns (he is), or that he will be the most sought after waiver warrior come next Wednesday (he will be), but I will recommend that if you're in need of a long-shot sleeper, why not go with one that plays for one of the best offenses in football?
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Remember last year when no one was sure if Peyton Manning could play? Remember when he didn't play and the Colts went through three different quarterbacks? Remember how Reggie Wayne still managed nearly 1,000 yards and four touchdowns?
His average draft position was 33.8. This year he sank to 73.3.
What is it about Andrew Luck that makes us think Wayne won't have a better year? It's foolish, really. Rookie quarterbacks tend to rely on veteran wide receivers. And there's no question that they'll be playing from behind, which means lots of passing. Start Wayne with confidence.
Don't start Randy Moss. But if you do, and he scores a touchdown, give me credit.
It's tough to be optimistic about Anquan Boldin. Since leaving Arizona, his production has been inconsistent and irrelevant to fantasy football. He's never been speedy enough to stretch defenses and he' s never been targeted enough in Baltimore to make him worthy of a start.
One thing he is great at is yards after the catch. He'll do well playing out of the slot for Joe Flacco. Especially inside the red zone. His yardage totals won't be sexy but I like his chances to score against Cincinnati.