The NFL season is only one week old and already some of fantasy football’s lesser-known names might be in fantasy owners’ starting lineups this weekend.
We all know that Adrian Peterson, Antonio Gates, and Peyton Manning need to be started this week and every week. But which unheralded players possibly deserve a chance to play on fantasy teams this Sunday? Here are some guys to think about...
Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions
Let’s not put Hill in the same backup quarterback box that Rex Grossman, Brady Quinn, and J.T. O’ Sullivan reside in. Hill might not have been Warren Moon-like when he was with the San Francisco 49ers between 2007 and 2009, but he was a capable starter. He had a 23-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio and completed over 61 percent of his passes.
And this was while Hill was a throwing to a receiving corps that (other than Vernon Davis) was highlighted by the likes of Arnaz Battle, Josh Morgan, and an over-the-hill Isaac Bruce.
Hill does not have the arm of Aaron Rodgers or the feet of Michael Vick, but he is an accurate short passer. When he makes mistakes with his throws they usually result in incompletions, not interceptions. Hill knows his physical limitations and is intelligent, so he does not force passes into coverage, so he is not a fantasy killer in leagues that subtract points for picks.
Against an average Philadelphia Eagles secondary that ranked 17th against the pass in 2009, Hill could be primed for 235 yards and two touchdowns. You know Calvin Johnson is going to be pumped to make up for last week’s brain freeze of the decade, and the Lions should be juiced to play in their home opener.
Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans
Vince Young does not throw often, but when he does it seems like Washington is his favorite target. And while Tennessee will continue to be a run-first team as long as fantasy demigod Chris Johnson is healthy, when there is a play-action pass where Young looks long, Washington is normally the guy running the fly route.
Washington had three catches for 88 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. You would think a repeat performance would be unlikely considering Washington is facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, but remember two important things:
1. Pittsburgh just allowed Atlanta’s Roddy White to grab 13 balls for 111 yards last week. The Steelers did not let White burn them deep or get in the end zone, but they do not have a shutdown corner on either side and therefore usually employ a zone defense that bends but does not break. So Washington will not be blanketed as if he had Darrelle Revis on his back all day.
2. Washington is a former Steeler who was not brought back after the 2008 season. You think he wants to prove to his former team that it made a monumental mistake not re-signing him? This extra motivation will serve Washington well, and so will his knowledge of the Steelers secondary since he used to practice against many of them when he was a member of the team.
I think Washington will have one 30-plus-yard play up his sleeve and finish with 70 yards and a score when all is said and done.
Legedu Naanee, San Diego Chargers
Naanee is taking full advantage of the Vincent Jackson fiasco in San Diego. In the three-horse race with fellow giants Malcolm Floyd and Buster Davis to see who will become Philip Rivers’ new go-to wide receiver, Naanee took the early lead with his five receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown this past Monday night versus the Kansas City Chiefs.
Naanee is more sure-handed than the other two jokers and has not been the flop the other two have. Floyd and Davis were both expected to be better than they have turned out. Floyd has nine touchdowns in five seasons, while Davis has just one touchdown in three years. You would think that Rivers already knows what he has and doesn’t have with those two, but he still could form a bond with Naanee.
San Diego plays a Jacksonville team that has short, suspect cornerbacks Naanee could leap over like an Olympic pole vaulter. Do not be surprised if Rivers targets him more than Floyd this week and helps Naanee get another 100-yard, one-TD game.
The Kansas City Chiefs defense
We have been accustomed to watching a slow, read-and-react Chiefs defense that misses more tackles than the Olsen twins miss meals in recent years. But a combination of high draft choices and a new defensive coordinator seem to have the Chiefs D heading in the right direction.
Kansas City held high-powered San Diego to just 14 points last week. The Chiefs allowed close to 400 yards of total offense, but to be fair that had more to do with the Chiefs offense having countless three-and-out possessions and putting the defense back on the field before they could sip their Gatorade.
The Chargers did not mount much offensively until the fourth quarter when the Chiefs defense was worn down, and even then the Chiefs stood tall in the red zone and stopped Rivers and his band of behemoths before they could score a game-tying TD.
This week Romeo Crennel’s crew of former first-rounders heads to Cleveland to play a Browns team as light on firepower as a one-dollar water pistol.
Cleveland could only muster 14 points against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that is arguably the worst in the league, and now starting quarterback Jake Delhomme will likely miss this week’s game due to injury. That means backup Seneca Wallace is in charge of finding an open receiver when Josh Cribbs is double-teamed.
Kansas City’s defense should probably be given a couple more games to prove themselves before fantasy owners jump on their bandwagon, but if this is a week where your normal defense has a tough matchup—like the New York Jets defense facing the New England Patriots—then using the Chiefs against a below-average offense is definitely an option.