Fantasy Football Week 2 Rankings: Position-by-Position Breakdown

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2012

Fantasy Football Week 2 Rankings: Position-by-Position Breakdown

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    There is little time to think after the whirlwind of Week 1 with the NFL's second week fast approaching. Waiver wires and trade offers will be abuzz with activity, but who is going to perform this week?

    Fantasy rankings for Week 2 are in flux as it is still early, but here are some of the best and worst fantasy starts for the week ahead.

Quarterback

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    Best Starts

    Cam Newton

    He was not quite as good in his 2012 opener than he was in his rookie debut, but Newton still surpassed 300 passing yards. 

    Newton gets to go up against the Saints, who just gave up 25 standard fantasy points to rookie Robert Griffin III. The Saints managed to keep Newton in check last season, so take this with a grain of salt.

     

    Peyton Manning

    He had a nice fantasy day against the Pittsburgh defense. He gets the Atlanta defense, which lost their best corner, Brent Grimes, for the season.

    Manning smells blood.

     

    Robert Griffin III

    It was a magnificent debut for Griffin—on the road, no less. Can he continue his momentum against the Rams?

    Mike and Kyle Shanahan have drawn up a great offensive plan for the rookie, one that is tailored to Griffin's skills and abilities. The Rams managed to pick Matthew Stafford off three times, but Griffin could avoid the dreaded turnovers by virtue of the plan.

     

    Safe Bets

    Matt Ryan

    The fifth-year quarterback absolutely shredded the short-handed Chiefs in Week 1. While the Broncos have Champ Bailey and should prove to be a tougher test, Ryan should pass that exam with flying colors.

     

    Jay Cutler

    We saw what Cutler can do when he has some real weapons on offense, and that should continue against the Packers. While they, too, should be a tougher test than the Indianapolis defense, Cutler should have another great game.

     

    Worst Starts

    Michael Vick

    It goes from bad to worse for Vick, who had an abysmal game against the Browns before eking out a victory. The only thing that made him look good was Brandon Weeden's passer rating of 5.1 that day.

    He goes from an underrated Browns defense—at least while Joe Haden is playing—to a perennially stout one in Baltimore.

     

    Matthew Stafford

    This is less of a reaction to Stafford's troubling three-interception day that nearly cost the Lions a victory and more to do with San Francisco's stifling defense.

    The Lions are a bit more balanced than the Packers, and they have all-world receiver Calvin Johnson, but expecting a huge game out of Stafford would be ill-advised. 

     

    Mark Sanchez

    Is Sanchez following in Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco's footsteps, or was his Week 1 performance merely a mirage? Injuries might have left Pittsburgh's defense less mighty than usual, but they are a good bet to at least pressure Sanchez, something the Bills did not do.

     

    Sleepers

    Matt Cassel

    He spent much of the day trying to catch up to Matt Ryan and the Falcons, but Matt Cassel had a fine fantasy day in the process. He gets a Buffalo defense that allowed Mark Sanchez to torch them in Week 1.

Running Back

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    Best Starts

    The Studs

    Adrian Peterson is healthy, scoring 20.7 fantasy points on nearly five yards per carry (YPC). Arian Foster is fine, though he had to work to get his fantasy points. Matt Forte got his, despite two vultured touchdowns from Michael Bush.

    Ray Rice needed just 10 carries and three receptions to score 21.3 standard points. LeSean McCoy got 136 total yards despite the Eagles calling 61 pass plays for Michael Vick.

    Barring injury, these are the cream of the fantasy crop.

     

    C.J. Spiller

    The Bills looked like they took three steps backwards this offseason as they got crushed by the Jets. Adding injury to insult, Fred Jackson—their starting running back—was injured and could miss several weeks.

    Then, C.J. Spiller exploded for 169 yards and a touchdown. Even if you remove his 59-yard touchdown scamper, Spiller averaged an eye-popping 8.46 YPC, though much of that came in the second half after the game was all but over.

    With no Fred Jackson to compete with for playing time, Spiller is a solid fantasy starter going forward.

     

    Jamaal Charles

    His comeback from an ACL injury was short-circuited by the big lead Atlanta took in Kansas City's Week 1 loss, but Jamaal Charles looked good when he was in the game.

    The electrifying back showed he is all the way back from his injury, severely outperforming his backfield dance partner, Peyton Hillis.

     

    Maurice Jones-Drew

    So much for a limited workload.

    MJD carried the ball 17 times and caught three passes on five targets in Jacksonville's heartbreaking loss to the Vikings.

     

    Safe Bets

    Reggie Bush

    The Raiders looked stout against the run versus the Chargers, but they were going up against Ronnie Brown and Curtis Brinkley.

    At this point, Reggie Bush is the Miami offense. He had a good fantasy day against the Texans considering he did not get into the end zone. He is a better PPR start than in standard leagues, but Bush should be a solid RB2 all year long.

     

    Stevan Ridley

    A Bill Belichick running back? Safe?

    Ridley took the starting job and ran with it, and the Patriots suddenly have a balanced attack. The Cardinals gave up decent yardage to Marshawn Lynch, who had just returned from back spasms.

    Considering they will have to deal with an explosive passing game as well, Ridley should find himself with another nice fantasy score at the end of the day.

     

    Doug Martin

    Greg Schiano has himself a bell cow, as Doug Martin answered the starting bell for the Buccaneers.

    The Giants gave up good yardage against DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys. Considering Schiano's penchant for running the ball, Martin should have a fine day.

     

    Worst Starts

    Kevin Smith

    The good news is that Kevin Smith did not injure himself in Week 1. He had a fine performance, getting to the end zone twice, and the second touchdown secured a Lions victory in the waning seconds of the game.

    The bad news is that Smith gets the vaunted 49ers defense next. This is the same defense that held Cedric Benson to a lower-than-usual 2.0 YPC last week and Jahvid Best to just 37 yards rushing last season, one week after Best had gone off for 163 yards.

     

    Michael Turner

    The Falcons got to a big lead on the Chiefs, meaning plenty of clock-killing rushing yardage for Michael Turner, right? 

    Much like his decline during the second half of last season, Turner was underwhelming in this high-scoring affair. He rushed 11 times for 32 yards, a yawn-worthy 2.9 clip.

    The Broncos did not afford Isaac Redman much running room last week, though Jonathan Dwyer had a decent output in limited duty. Consider Jacquizz Rodgers this week's Jonathan Dwyer in Atlanta.

     

    Shonn Greene

    plod (pld)v. plod·dedplod·dingplods v.intr. 1. To move or walk heavily or laboriously; trudge: "donkeys that plodded wearily in a circle round a gin" (D.H. Lawrence). 2. To work or act perseveringly or monotonously; drudge: plodding through a mountain of paperwork.

    Move along.

     

    Alfred Morris

    Alfred Morris had a Tim Hightower-esque line of 28 carries for 96 yards—a 3.4 YPC average.

    Of course, he also got into the end zone twice, causing a run on Alfred Morrises on waiver wires across the globe. 

    Not only is Morris part of a Mike Shanahan backfield—not to be trusted—but 28 carries per game is just not in the cards. The Redskins had the luxury of handing him the ball over and over again because they had a lead.

     

    Michael Bush

    Unless you expect Bush to score 32 touchdowns, he is a risky start on a weekly basis. Matt Forte is the main man in that backfield, with Bush brought in to spell him and to use in goal-line situations. 

    He had a pedestrian 3.5 YPC against the Colts—artificially deflated because of the goal-line carries, to be sure, but about par for the course for Bush, who has never been a playmaker.

     

    Sleepers

    Jonathan Dwyer

    The Steelers are impressed enough with Dwyer—and depressed enough with Isaac Redman—to give him an increased role going forward, at least until Rashard Mendenhall's return.

    The Jets have a good defense, but C.J. Spiller had a rather big game against them. Dwyer might not go for 169 yards and a touchdown, but he could have a nice day. 

     

    Mark Ingram

    He had an abysmal Week 1 thanks to the lead the Saints spotted the Redskins. Ingram was simply not on the field very much as the Saints used Sproles most of the game while they played catch-up. But do not give up on him just yet.

    The Panthers were pounded into submission by Doug Martin and the Buccaneers. While the Saints are not exactly committed to running the ball with that frequency, Ingram should see a much bigger role. 

    That is unless the New Orleans defense lets Cam Newton pull a Robert Griffin III pulling a Cam Newton.

Wide Receiver

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    Best Starts

    Brandon Marshall

    In case you hadn't heard, the Bears acquired a rather good receiver during the offseason.

    As predicted, Brandon Marshall resumed his role as Jay Cutler's binky in the season opener, garnering the second-most targets in the league at the position with 15. He caught nine of those for 119 yards and a touchdown, though he did have a patented drop in the end zone as well.

     

    Reggie Wayne

    Speaking of oft-targeted receivers, Wayne led them all with 18 in Andrew Luck's debut. It looks like Wayne will be Luck's go-to guy for now. He wound up with nine catches and 135 yards, which would have been a fantastic fantasy day had he gotten into the end zone. 

     

    Stevie Johnson

    The Bills' best receiver managed to get off Revis Island early by way of an injury and garbage time, racking up 55 yards and a touchdown. He gets a much easier assignment against Kansas City, though Brandon Flowers is no slouch if he makes it back from injury.

     

    Kenny Britt 

    This is a bit of a gamble. Then again, if you drafted Britt, you're a gambling wo/man.

    Britt was incredible in his short time as a starter last year before injury took him down. He might not be putting up the second-best fantasy numbers like he was last season before the injury, but he is a dangerous weapon for Jake Locker and that Tennessee offense.

     

    A.J. Green

    The Ravens did an excellent job of bottling up Green and the Cincinnati offense, but he still managed 70 yards.

    He was heading for another tough day before getting a reprieve with Joe Haden's suspension. The Browns were surprisingly stingy against the Eagles, but losing Haden will hurt. Expect Green to take full advantage.

     

    Safe Bets

    Dwayne Bowe

    The Falcons did a good job of limiting Bowe despite the Chiefs throwing the ball often. He gets to go up against a Buffalo defense that allowed a raw rookie to shred them last week.

     

    Demaryius Thomas/Eric Decker

    Thomas torched the Steelers again in Week 1 while Decker took a back seat, but this could be a duo that trades off from week to week based on what Peyton Manning sees.

    Manning should have a nice day with Brent Grimes lost to an Achilles tear for the Falcons, and the Falcons will be hard-pressed to keep these guys down from a fantasy perspective. 

    This has the look of a shootout, which is a lip-smacking thought for anyone who owns one of these two.

     

    Worst Starts

    DeSean Jackson

    Haden made Jackson's day miserable in Week 1, but his fantasy prospects do not improve much against a vaunted Baltimore defense.

     

    Nate Washington

    Kenny Britt's return spells relegation for Washington, who will go back to being the No. 2 receiver. He will have to compete with Kendall Wright, Jared Cook and Chris Johnson for targets unless Britt is not ready for a big workload coming off injury. Do not expect much out of him for the time being.

     

    Randy Moss

    A touchdown catch sealed a triumphant return to NFL action for Randy the Grey—his predecessor LaDainian has ascended to the White—but what do the numbers really say about Moss' fantasy value? 

    In reality, Moss ran just 10 pass routes the entire game. There are players who run three times as many week in and week out who do not sniff the end zone for weeks at a time. 

    Granted, this is Randy Moss, one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game, but his limited opportunities will make starting him a crapshoot each week unless the 49ers get him in the game more often.

     

    Kevin Ogletree

    Be honest with yourself: Do you expect Ogletree to run amok two weeks in a row?

    He did his damage against New York's fourth- and fifth-string cornerbacks while the Giants were preoccupied with keeping Dez Bryant and Miles Austin in check.

    More importantly, Ogletree was in on less than 50 percent of all offensive snaps, a normal rate for the No. 3 receiver on his own team.

    He might put up decent numbers all season, but it is difficult to imagine him going super nova in consecutive weeks.

     

    Stephen Hill

    Here is my question to you, soon-to-be fantasy owner of Stephen Hill (because, let's face it, nobody owns him): Do you think Mark Sanchez can do it again?

    Hill was labeled "raw" going into the draft, and he looked the part during the preseason. All that didn't matter against the Bills, as Hill hooked up with Sanchez for two scores to help New York throttle Buffalo.

    Sanchez has never been known for his consistency, and Hill is still a raw rookie. Starting him is akin to buying 100 new lottery scratchers after winning $100 with your first one.

     

    Sleepers

    Andre Roberts

    The third-year receiver was targeted nine times opposite Larry Fitzgerald, catching five for 54 yards and a score. Playing alongside Fitzgerald has its benefits, as defenses will key on the stud receiver. 

     

    Brian Hartline

    In just 37 snaps played, Hartline caught three passes for 50 yards. This may not seem like much, but his playing time should increase now that he appears to be fully healthy.

     

    Justin Blackmon

    Perhaps the Vikings keyed on the rookie, as he caught just three passes for 24 yards, but Blackmon is Blaine Gabbert's big-time target. He should bounce back.

Tight End

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    Best Starts

    Jermichael Finley

    He had a good stat line against the 49ers, but a couple of costly drops seemingly had him in Aaron Rodgers' doghouse late in the game. No matter—he gets the Bears this week, who allowed six catches for 82 yards to rookie Coby Fleener.

     

    Greg Olsen

    Olsen had a relatively quiet day against Tampa Bay, but he was targeted seven times, catching six of those for 56 yards. He is no longer splitting pass-catching duties at tight end with Jeremy Shockey, so expect that kind of target count to be a regular occurrence—if not better.

    He goes up against the Saints, who were shredded by RGIII last weekend. Fred Davis had a quiet game himself, but it seems like he and Griffin have yet to strike up a rapport in the passing game. Olsen will be a factor.

     

    Worst Starts

    Jermaine Gresham

    The Bengals' starting tight end was targeted seven times himself, but he and Andy Dalton do not seem to be on the same page—his wrong route led to Ed Reed's pick-six. He has always had potential, but Gresham has never lived up to it in terms of fantasy scoring.

     

    Marcedes Lewis

    Much like Emily's suitors on the most recent Bachelorette, Marcedes Lewis went an entire season without scoring. He got into the end zone in his first game of 2012, but does that mean he is back?

    With so many options at tight end—and the likely fact that you will have to spend a waiver pick to get him—it is best to wait and see with Lewis in that offense.

     

    Martellus Bennett

    Bennett had a nice debut in Giants blue, scoring on Eli Manning's only touchdown pass against his former team on national television.

    He also had some drops, and he only had 40 receiving yards. Much like Jake Ballard was a fantasy tease for much of last season, Bennett will likely be too inconsistent a scorer to rely on week to week.

     

    Safe Bets

    The Top Five

    Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, Aaron Hernandez and Vernon Davis are all sure bets to be a big part of their respective offenses. Never think twice about playing them if you are an owner.

     

    Sleepers

    Owen Daniels

    The Houston tight end had a nice day against the Dolphins; he was a touchdown away from a great fantasy score. His eight targets were second only to Andre Johnson, and he plays against the Jaguars, who allowed five catches and 67 yards to second-year man Kyle Rudolph last week.

    It is not exactly a must-start situation for Daniels, but if you need a spot start or you play in at two-tight end league, Daniels is one unpredictable touchdown away from a great day any given Sunday.

Defense and Special Teams

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    Best Starts

    Houston Texans

    Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars seem to be improved from last year, but the Texans get another tasty defensive matchup against their divisional rivals.

     

    New England Patriots

    Bill Belichick seems to have rehabilitated his defense after several down seasons, and they get a nice matchup against Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals.

     

    Cincinnati Bengals

    They had a horrific start to 2012, but they get a spoonful of sugar in Week 2 to help the medicine Baltimore gave them go down. Cleveland is perpetually experiencing growing pains on offense, and the Bengals could tee off on Brandon Weeden.

     

    Safe Bets

    None

    There are no safe bets when it comes to fantasy defenses.

     

    Worst Starts

    Chicago Bears

    They had a fine time against rookie Andrew Luck and the Colts, but the fun could be over as they face Aaron Rodgers' Packers on Thursday Night Football. The 49ers had a good game against Rodgers, but they did not exactly score a ton of fantasy points. 

     

    New Orleans Saints

    Expecting a bounce-back game from the Saints? Don't. Not against Cam Newton.

     

    Sleepers

    Minnesota Vikings

    They did a decent job against the Jaguars, and they get to go up against rookie Andrew Luck in Week 2. Luck could easily bounce back at home, but any time a defense goes up against a rookie not named Robert Griffin III, it is a good opportunity for some fantasy points.

     

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