New year. New teams. New offenses. New teammates. New coaches. New roles.
Same fantasy football results.
One week does not make a fantasy football season. You should not be trading Tom Brady for Terrelle Pryor or Adrian Peterson for Julian Thomas just because Pryor and Thomas jumped out of the gate like greyhounds.
But there were some skilled-position players that fantasy owners thought would improve heading into the 2013 campaign, and unfortunately the first week of the season proved that it is probably not true. The players in this column have the same fantasy faults they had last season.
So here are six players who have not changed at all since last year. This is not to say a couple of them might not turn things around and improve later in the season, but these first impressions did not breed confidence in fantasy owners.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (QB)
Smith has been known as a weak-armed game manager who prefers throwing to his tight ends and running backs more than he does downfield to his wide receivers. Putting on a Chiefs uniform has not appeared to squash that scouting report.
Many fantasy pundits were worried about how Smith being installed at QB would adversely affect top target Dwayne Bowe’s production, and Kansas City’s opening contest made those worries appear legitimate.
Even though the Chiefs scored 28 points, Smith only threw for 173 yards despite completing 21 passes, with just a fraction of the yards from Bowe. Bowe had four receptions for 30 yards and no scores, eerily reminiscent of the weekly numbers he would post when Tyler Palko and Brady Quinn tossed to him in recent years.
Kansas City might call more pass plays than run plays with pass-happy head coach Andy Reid calling the shots, but it still does not seem that Smith will have many 300-yard games or be among the league leaders in yards per pass attempt. He remains a No. 2 fantasy QB at best, and he should only be used if your No. 1 is on bye or injured. Bowe’s fantasy value is questionable until Smith starts finding him regularly.
David Wilson, New York Giants, and Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots (RB)
Wilson and Ridley have a lot in common. Both are the top tailbacks on their respective teams. Both are important parts of high-powered offenses and should be in line to put up superb touchdown and yardage numbers. And both were ranked in the top 15 among fantasy running backs by many if not most fantasy owners.
The problem is they also shared a tragic flaw—fumbling. It has given both of them trouble in the past and it reared its ugly head during Week 1 when both players lost fumbles and subsequently benched after not even registering 50 yards for their flabbergasted fantasy owners.
Fumbles are going to cost these two yards, touchdowns and playing time unless they correct their ball protection faster than an English teacher corrects poor spelling on a term paper.
Ridley and Wilson are very lucky, though. Neither has a backup at the moment that can steal their starting spot. Multi-talented Shane Vereen could have overtaken Ridley on New England’s depth chart, but his broken wrist will sideline him until Week 11.
Wilson’s understudy, Andre Brown, is out with a fractured leg, and newly-signed Brandon Jacobs has barely played the past couple years and is a situational back at best. So head coach Tom Coughlin has no choice but to go the same route he did with Tiki Barber and fix Wilson’s fumbling problem.
Breaking news for Ridley owners! He did not fumble against the New York Jets in his second game of the season, although he really wanted to when he bobbled an ill-advised toss from Tom Brady late in the game. Why New England would call for a toss play to Ridley when he has hands of stone during a rainstorm astounds me. Ridley ran for 40 yards on 16 carries, so his fantasy output was virtually non-existent, but at least he played the entire game.
Danny Amendola, New England Patriots (WR)
The knock on Amendola has never been about his route running or his hands or his quickness. It has been about his durability. The guy’s body breaks down like a gingerbread man. Amendola only suited up for 12 of a possible 32 games between 2011 and 2012 because of major injuries.
Putting on a Patriots uniform is obviously not like putting on a coat of armor. Amendola could not survive one full game without suffering an injury. He tweaked his groin against the Buffalo Bills and already missed New England’s second game and could miss several more.
Shaking the injury-prone tag is tougher than shaking Darrelle Revis on a crossing route. For those fantasy owners who hoped Amendola could put up Wes Welker-like numbers in New England’s offense, they were half-right. He will put up similar numbers when he plays. The problem is Amendola will never play in as many games per year as Welker.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns (QB)
I thought that there was a chance that Weeden, whose scattershot accuracy and love for locking on receivers, could greatly improve under the expert guidance of new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Any change in his way of quarterbacking was not evident in Cleveland’s first contest, however.
Weeden pumped out interceptions and incomplete passes against the Miami Dolphins faster than Bravo pumps out reality shows. He was 26-for-53 for 289 passing yards, one touchdown toss and three interceptions.
During a week where quarterbacks set an NFL record for the most combined touchdown passes thrown in a single week, Weeden was one of the few QBs whose fantasy numbers were below-average. And it's not like Miami entered the season with a reputation for having a staunch secondary.
Give Weeden a few more weeks before kicking him to the fantasy curb. His arm is top-notch, so if coached correctly and surrounded by a solid supporting cast, he could be a decent fantasy option on certain weeks. But for now there is no evidence to support the thought that Weeden will be a much better fantasy quarterback in 2013 than he was in 2012.
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (QB)
Gabbert was good enough during training camp, even though he did not play much in the preseason due to an injured thumb to beat out veteran Chad Henne for Jacksonville’s starting signal caller gig. And this is when fantasy owners threw up in their mouths.
Gabbert did nothing to inspire confidence against the Kansas City Chiefs last week. Zippo! Zilch! Nada! He was 16-for-35 for 121 yards and two interceptions.
And on top of the worst boxscore line for any quarterback from Week 1, the guy hurt his hand. He is injury-prone, erratic and never completes passes over 10 yards. In his defense, if hand-offs were a fantasy category, he would have some value. Gabbert always sticks the football right in Maurice Jones-Drew’s bread basket.
Henne is starting Jacksonville’s second game while Gabbert recuperates. Henne will elevate WR Cecil Shorts’ fantasy value tenfold. Remember how last season Justin Blackmon was as bad as A.J. Jenkins among rookie receivers with Gabbert throwing to him, but then when Henne took over Blackmon was pass patterns like Jerry Rice? It just proves how a quarterback can drag down a receiver’s fantasy worth like a 10-ton anchor.
I would set the odds at 15-1 that Gabbert gets his job back when he is healthy. Henne is competent, makes the players around him better and gives Jacksonville a greater chance to win each week. The new Gabbert looks like the old Gabbert—a fantasy football failure.