Fantasy Football: 4 Tips for Shaking the 0-2 Blues with Your Underwhelming Team
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Whether you've incurred two gut-wrenching defeats, or served as cannon fodder for a pair of seismic blowouts, there's a singular shame that goes with starting a season at 0-2.
In a roundabout way, it's the fantasy equivalent of walking around with a Scarlet Letter adorned to your favorite NFL jersey. (Marketing idea for Madison Avenue?)
But all hope is not lost for the momentarily downtrodden...provided they can accept the grim reality that, in highly competitive 12- 14- or 16-team leagues, an 0-3 club faces long odds of winning a championship.
So let's roll up our sleeves and focus on four methods for Shaking The 0-2 Blues, while preserving the obvious goal of earning a much-needed victory in Week 3:
1. Trade your high-end backup quarterback to a contending club
For those who targeted running backs, wide receivers and tight ends (specifically Rob Gronkowski/Jimmy Graham) in the early rounds of August drafts, they're likely mired in a situation where Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Peyton Manning are the week-in, week-out starting quarterbacks.
And for 10 or 11 weeks of the NFL season, that's a good thing.
But as we've already witnessed from two weeks of action, the above names might have trouble carrying their fantasy squads for an entire season. They'll likely require the help of a similarly stellar asset with an equal or potentially higher ceiling of production.
Enter Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.
In recent years, I have modified my stance about rostering/starting rookie quarterbacks, mainly thanks to Cam Newton's absurd success last season (4,757 total yards, 35 TD). I have also come to realize that, in a short window of time, the Redskins and Colts offenses have been expertly designed around the talents of Griffin (650 total yards, five TD) and Luck (563 total yards, three TD), adding to their short-term fantasy viability.
Did you watch Redskins-Rams on Sunday? Griffin essentially had a hand in every big Washington play (minus one long sideline run for Alfred Morris), and he's flush with in-their-prime playmakers like Morris, Fred Davis, Roy Helu, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson, Evan Royster and a reliable veteran in Santana Moss.
And as part of Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' training-camp declaration, lightning-fast wideout Donnie Avery (nine catches, 111 yards vs. Minnesota) has quickly developed into a poor man's version of Steelers wideout Mike Wallace (Arians was Pittsburgh's O-coordinator from 2007-11).
Throw in the major contributions of Indy's Reggie Wayne (four-game average: 8 catches/13 targets/96 yards/0.5 TD), speedy rookie wideout T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener (the next big thing at tight end)...and Andrew Luck may be worthy of 10 fantasy starts from this point forward. Perhaps more.
Which brings us to this: Given the Griffin mega-hype after just two weeks, his fantasy owners should ask for the moon—and expect the stars—when conducting open-auction talks with interested parties.
After all, Griffin could easily be the final piece of a championship puzzle for Owner B...even if he's nothing more than a backup QB to Eli Manning on your fantasy squad.
2. Throw a friendly lifeline to the guy/gal who drafted Fred Jackson but not C.J. Spiller
I advocate trading viable bench depth at RB in bulk—like Ben Tate, Kevin Smith, Alfred Morris, Doug Martin, Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman— to land a premier receiver. To heighten the coup, I would even support the notion of dealing Darren Sproles (zero carries in two games) in standard-scoring leagues (he's virtually untouchable in PPRs).
For example, in one 12-team league—where the other owners are all lifelong acquaintances—I'm happy to help a friend bolster his Jackson-less rushing corps (at least for the next month)...with something in the realm of Morris (185 yards, two TD), Tate (125 total yards, two TD) and Pierre Garcon for Hakeem Nicks (237 receiving yards, one TD) and tight end Brent Celek (eight catches, 157 yards in Week 2)—as part of a 3-for-2 mini-blockbuster.
Bottom line: In September, it's beneficial to craft win-win trades for both sides, even when you're holding all the cards. Chances are you'll need that owner again at the November trade deadline. Establish a level off trust right off the bat.
3. Consider trading name-brand receivers with inefficient catches-to-targets ratios
Obviously, two weeks does not a season make; but it's an adequate sample size for gauging which QB-WR relationships might be less fruitful than originally expected back in August.
**Santonio Holmes (seven catches/19 targets/96 yards/one TD) certainly looked great on his slant-pattern touchdown against the Steelers in Week 2. But on the whole, he's had a sluggish start to the season (ahem, stone hands).
Yes, Mark Sanchez has targeted his No. 1 receiver at least eight times in both games, but it's also fair to wonder if he's forcing balls into Holmes...or if opposing defenses are rolling coverage toward the enigmatic receiver—given the Jets' lack of receiving depth. (It also doesn't help Holmes that Dustin Keller has been sidelined with a hamstring injury.)
**Vincent Jackson (nine catches/20 targets/175 yards/one TD) gets a tiny free pass here, since his relationship with Bucs QB Josh Freeman is just getting off the ground. Plus, V-Jax is one of the rare receiving commodities who can rack up 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns on only 60-plus catches per season.
But here's the deal: After Sunday's high-scoring affair with the Giants, this might be the perfect time to upgrade at running back, courtesy of a Jackson deal.
**The fantasy case of Steve Johnson (six catches/15 targets/111 yards/two TD) isn't necessarily a judgment for/against the talented wideout. It's more of an endorsement/condemnation of Ryan Fitzpatrick's capacity to post strong numbers for an entire season.
When talking to the Twitter masses, I get the feeling that half the population likes Fitzpatrick's long-term potential...with the latter half believing he's nothing more than a garbage-time hack. As such, an upside trade involving Johnson may be desirable.
**Before this season, I would have never considered the nuclear option of trading Larry Fitzgerald (five catches/16 targets/67 yards) in November, let alone mid-September.
But when paired up against the likes of Victor Cruz, Roddy White, Andre Johnson, Mike Wallace, Hakeem Nicks and Wes Welker, Fitzgerald will likely finish the season seventh (or last) in targets among the group.
That's not a knock on him—it's an unabashed thumbs down Kevin Kolb, John Skelton or whatever limited QB the Cardinals can find to guide an otherwise playoff-ready club.
Verdict: If the Lions—knock on wood—somehow lost Matthew Stafford for the season, you'd immediately consider trading Calvin Johnson with Shaun Hill or Kellen Moore as his season-long quarterback. Well, the same rationale applies to Fitzgerald's current plight in Arizona.
Yes, he's associated with a winning ballclub...but at what fantasy cost?
4. Replace a kicker and/or defense on your roster
I typically don't endorse knee-jerk reactions with veteran kickers, but if you don't like your guy after two games, cut him and don't look back.
Not only are kickers dime-a-dozen assets in the fantasy realm, but this crop of rookies (Blair Walsh, Justin Tucker, Greg Zuerlein) might be the NFL's best of the last 20 years. And that doesn't even include perhaps the most heralded talent of the bunch, Houston's Randy Bullock (on IR with a groin injury).
On the veteran side, Jason Hanson (six field goals) and Shayne Graham (five field goals) would be solid waiver-wire pickups this week. Both kickers have workable schedules (full of NFC West and/or AFC South opponents) and serve as clean-up hitters for offenses that flood the red zone six or seven times per week.
As for defenses, be leery of high-profile teams that aren't prodigious in sacks (Jets, Broncos, Redskins, Saints) or creating takeaways (Cowboys, Steelers, Chiefs). And don't fall in love with a special teams...unless you can identify their punt- and kick-returners within 10 seconds.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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