This week we discuss the following:
- Offensive bounce-back candidates
- Rookies who won't need an adjustment period
- In-Season Fantasy Tools
- Waiver-wire strategy: quick reactions, or patience?
The lowest-scoring offenses last season were the Browns, Giants, Jets, Buccaneers, Texans, and Jaguars.
Which team has the best shot to be above average in scoring this season, and to produce a few surprise fantasy studs?
John Lee: The upside of an NFL offense is generally limited by the talent level of its quarterback and, to a lesser degree, the offensive coordinator.
Looking at the list of teams, the first candidate for a rebound season appears to be the Giants. Eli, despite having always been an interception-prone QB, has a history of leading successful teams in the NFL, picking up a few Super Bowl MVPs along the way. Additionally, the NFC East defenses all look to be horrendous in 2014—getting the chance to play against each of them twice would appear to be a boon for the Giants' offense. However, a closer look at the Giants' schedule shows that their out of conference schedule includes the AFC South (Houston at home & Tennessee away) and they also have to see those tough defenses from the NFC West (Arizona, St. Louis, Seattle, and San Francisco). Furthermore, it seems that Eli is having a difficult time adjusting to Ben McAdoo's new offense, as evidenced by Manning's putrid preseason performance. With the questions around Odell Beckham's hamstring and Reuben Randle's inability to coordinate with Eli, the outlook does not get much brighter; thus, the collective evidence does not support the Giants' offense improving much in 2014.
Of the remaining teams, the Bucs look to be in a good spot for improvement with the additions they made in the off-season. Josh McCown showed flashes of brilliance in 2013 when surrounded by talent and the Buccaneers have definitely improved on the offensive side of the ball. McCown has the twin towers of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to target as his wideouts and Austin Seferian-Jenkins has excellent potential for a rookie tight end; likewise, getting back a healthy Doug Martin could really help boost this offense past its 2013 output. Schedule-wise, they get to play the high-powered Saints and Falcons twice, which could result in a lot of scoring from the Bucs' offense; they also get to play the NFC Central and AFC North throughout the season...of those eight teams, only Baltimore is ranked in the top 10 of Dodds' preseason rankings (Ravens are 10th).
Will Grant: I'd have do disagree on the Bucs. I think much of Josh McCown's success in Chicago last season was due to the system that Marc Trestman installed. His best performances came against Washington, Green Bay, St. Louis, Minnesota and Dallas—teams that averaged 436 points scored against them last season. He definitely has the talent around him in Tampa, but the expectations of a backup QB keeping the seat warm are much different than a full time starter. McCown only threw 61 total passes from 2009 through 2011. When the Bears signed him as a backup, he was coaching High School football. I think the potential for him to fall flat in Tampa is pretty big. Chicago offenses under Lovie Smith didn't exactly light it up either.
Of that list, I like the Giants because of their schedule and their division, but as John points out, they have a lot of challenges ahead of them as well.
Ryan Hester: Obviously, that's not an attractive list. However, even if none of those teams bounce back to the top half of the league in offense, they can still provide fantasy studs. Victor Cruz could return to his old WR1 self with the west-coast offense being installed in New York. Arian Foster was on his way to his typical "stud" self last season when he was injured, and he could get there again simply due to volume. Lovie Smith may not have coached explosive offenses in Chicago, but this Tampa Bay team has Doug Martin, who has basically zero competition for touches, and what basically amounts to a basketball team of receiving targets. Leading those should be Vincent Jackson, who could be a fringe WR1 once again. Cleveland also has a running back with little competition for volume in Ben Tate. He's a solid RB2 with RB1 upside any time he takes the field fully healthy. While these teams may not put up 30 points per game, there is some fantasy value among them.
Matt Harmon: It’s a rough list, but while most of teams stand a chance to produce at least one bona-fide star, only one stands out that could produce sleepers at multiple spots. Oddly enough, that’s Cleveland. They have a proven offensive system in place with Kyle Shanahan pulling the strings. His father’s scheme has always produced fantasy players.
Jordan Cameron should be viewed as the consensus fourth best option at tight end this season. He has elite athletic upside, and is only scratching the surface of his potential. Last year was Cameron’s first run as a starter, and his season ending numbers from 2013 could very well be his floor. You could point to a rough looking supporting cast as a downside, but he succeeded in adverse situations last season as well. Cameron is proven to have some outrageous potential, and falls just a bit too far in drafts.
At running back, someone is going to exceed expectations. Ben Tate’s experience in this system has carried him to cementing the top spot on the depth chart. You also cannot discount that he’s looked pretty good running the ball this summer as well. Tate can be a workhorse back that you can draft at a discount price. If, or when, Ben Tate does succumb to injury there are two promising rookies to watch. The team obviously likes Terrance West, and I still believe in his potential playing in this scheme, despite a poor showing in the preseason. Isaiah Crowell made a strong push late, and found his way to the active roster. He is simply too loaded with talent to ignore.
The picture is less clear at wide receiver, but something could happen here. Johnny Manziel still has the innate playmaking ability to be a sneaky low-end QB1. Don’t fool yourself into think he’ll ride the bench for very long. The wide receivers are a mess. Yet, Andrew Hawkins should still have a little upside at his dirt cheap ADP. He could catch a lot of dump off passes from the slot, and he does have the move to do something with them. Hawkins could be a poor man’s Julian Edelman this season.
The Browns have some fantasy potential this season, but it's mostly a crap shoot. It’s a good thing you can buy West, Manziel and Hawkins so cheap right now. Feel free to be aggressive getting Jordan Cameron, and don’t be so turned off by Tate. They will both have stud-like weeks.
Bear Heiser: Josh McCown should do well in Tampa. It took him no time at all to thrive in Marc Trestman's system in Chicago. From what's been reported, he's one of the smartest guys in any quarterback room. Jeff Tedford has the creativity to put McCown in situations to which he can succeed. And you can't help but love the targets he has at his disposal in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. They're both huge targets who will give fits to smaller, less physical corners. The biggest wild card in Tampa is the offensive line, which has been talked about quite a bit lately. Evans and Jackson are going to be most effective down the field. So the line will need to give him enough time to allow the receivers to finish their routes. Something tells me that Lovie Smith learned a lot about the new wave of offensive football in the year he was away from football. He never was able to put together an offense that worked in Chicago. It stands to reason that a guy who has three division titles and Super Bowl appearance under his belt could make adjustments. I think that time finally has come.
Maurile Tremblay: I think the Jets and Giants could both rebound. Geno Smith played pretty well toward the end of last season, and Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory could both have decent fantasy value at RB. There doesn't seem to be much depth at WR, so Eric Decker could get a lot of targets. I like all of those four guys for where they were typically drafted this season.
The Giants could be playing from behind a lot. I get the feeling that Eli Manning will have some terrible games, but will also have some four-touchdown games when the offense clicks. Victor Cruz can be a superstar when he's healthy, and Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham round out a pretty good receiving corps. I'm in wait-and-see mode on Rashad Jennings, but I like what I saw from Andre Williams during the preseason, and figure he could make the most of his goal-line opportunities.
Jason Wood: I'm with Maurile, the Giants and Jets are the picks here. I don't EXPECT the Giants offense to be great this year but we have to realize that Eli Manning was able to guide the Giants to multiple Top 10 offensive seasons. For me it's all about that offensive line. If (a big if) it gels, I see that team as capable of putting up points. The Jets genuinely intrigue me. Good line, two talented running backs, a viable backup in case Geno doesn't elevate his game, and better (albeit not great) receiving options.
But others were drafted with an eye toward starting them as rookies, and not only if there was an injury in front of them. But here in week one, it's hard to know if it might be too soon.
Let's put aside the discussion of which rookies will have the best overall NFL careers, or even the best overall rookie seasons, and talk about who's the best bet to make a strong fantasy contribution in the first few weeks of the season.
Name the rookie you'd be most comfortable starting in weeks 1-3 this year, and discuss the advantage he has over other first-year players.
Will Grant: Wes Welker's four game suspension puts Cody Latimer in a great position to contribute from the opening week of the season. Peyton Manning likes to spread the ball around and Latimer is a big target that isn't afraid to go over the middle. With Welker on the sidelines for the first four games, Latimer is going to be out on the field from the opening snap. Manning has been working with him and Emmanuel Sanders in extended sessions and that extra prep-time could pay off huge now that the rookie will be on the field a lot. When Welker returns, it will be interesting to see what the dynamic brings, but for now at least, I'd be comfortable using Latimer as a WR3 or a flex position, especially in a PPR league.
James Brimacombe: Agree with Will that Cody Latimer has one of the nicest paths to early success this season with the Welker news and the fact that Peyton Manning is his quarterback. Another name I like is Austin Seferian-Jenkins in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers offense is starting to shape up nicely with the big targets of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans on the outside. With both those big WR's drawing coverage things should open up nicely for Seferian-Jenkins to jump out to some early one on one matchups over the middle of the field and at 6-5, 262 lbs., he should be able to power his way to some early production. The fact that the Buccaneers also traded away Tim Wright also shows that they have a plan for Seferian-Jenkins and have been impressed with him during his rookie camp.
Matt Harmon: I never thought I’d say this in May or June, but the answer is Kelvin Benjamin. I was not high on him as a draft prospect, but since arriving in Carolina, Benjamin has done everything to prove doubters wrong.
I just recently wrote about Kelvin Benjamin at Black and Blue Review. In my eyes, he looks like a completely different player than he was at FSU. His massive size is complimented by confidence, and that can be lethal. Benjamin looks lighter, faster and was 100% in the zone during preseason games; gone are the collegiate mental mistakes. He’s playing like an NFL veteran, and the team is all the way in on him.
Of course, this could just be an offseason aberration. However, there are two things that should give fantasy owners confidence. The hype surrounding Benjamin has been a consistent force this offseason. From the moment he hit the field at mini-camps he was wowing Charlotte area reporters with his skills and physique. Benjamin carried that over into training camp and then into the preseason. Why should it stop now? Secondly, Benjamin is the top option in his team’s passing game. Cam Newton will often look for Benjamin first on every pass play. That really makes a big difference, and his is the only rookie who can say that without a shadow of a doubt.
Maurile Tremblay: I don't really like any of this year's rookie running backs to make an immediate impact, but there are a few wide receivers who could contribute right from the start. Both Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews look polished already, and Sammy Watkins is going to be a reliable target from day one. Brandon Cooks will also play a big role in the Saints' offense right off the bat. In short, I think it may be a down year for quarterbacks, running backs, and tight ends to make immediate impacts, but a terrific year for wide receivers.
Bear Heiser: I think there are a few rooks who could have strong seasons. For starters, Devonta Freeman in Atlanta. What are the odds Steven Jackson makes it through a full season? Probably not great. The Falcons have been searching for a No. one back for years now. Freeman will get a chance within the first eight weeks of the season.
You guys already have touched on Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews. Both are guys who can step in right away and fill very specific roles for their respective teams. For Benjamin, he's pretty much the guy in Carolina, so he has one thing to focus on—making big plays. Narrowing a rookie's focus usually makes football concepts easier to comprehend early on. Matthews, on the other hand, will be expected to play a much different role. The Eagles already have Maclin and Cooper on the field, so if anyone is to draw a double team, it's going to be one of those guys. Matthews should be able to solely focus on finding space in the middle of the field, then using his speed to create yards after the catch.
Perhaps I'm over-thinking things in regards to those two. They just seem to be guys who get it.
Mike Evans also should have a bigger-ish season. Josh McCown showed us last year that he loves to throw at big receivers. Evans is that guy. Vincent Jackson will draw more double-teams and No. one cornerbacks. Evans' size will prove to be a mismatch in almost every game. If he can learn to use his body similar to how Alshon Jeffery does when he goes up for a higher ball, Evans will put up some big numbers.
Oh yeah, and that Sammy Watkins guy is really good, too. Don't forget about him.
Anthony Borbely: I'm going to go with Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The Saints have creative offensive minds and will find several different ways to get Cooks the ball. In addition, the Saints also have a solid offensive line and an elite quarterback in Drew Brees who is exceptional at exploiting matchups and Cooks is a mismatch waiting to happen. I expect the Saints to use Cooks at times in the role formerly ran by running back Darren Sproles in an effort to get the blazing fast rookie in space. Cooks is helped by having a stud TE like Jimmy Graham on the field because Graham will force the safeties to play deeper, which frees up the short and intermediate zones, areas which should be exploited by Cooks. With Kenny Still questionable this week, Cooks will start and play a lot of snaps and may do so even when Still returns. The Saints play two teams in the first three weeks that have weak defenses in Atlanta and Minnesota and both teams are weak in the secondary. A quarterback like Brees will find the holes in the defense and with Graham and Marques Colston drawing most of the attention from the defense, Cooks should see a lot of single coverage.
I gave consideration to a few other receiver, namely Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Kelvin Benjamin, and Cody Latimer. Evans was the most intriguing of the bunch, but Tampa Bay has a weak offensive line and despite Josh McCown playing extremely well in Marc Trestman's offense last year, I am concerned about whether he can be effective in another offense. Although I am a big fan of Watkins, I am very concerned about the Bills offense. The offensive line is not very good and EJ Manuel was downright terrible in preseason. For the time being, I would avoid Watkins. With Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant being the second and third receivers, respectively, for the Panthers, I think Benjamin could be that rare rookie receiver that will be double covered from the start. Neither Cotchery nor Avant pose much of a threat to defenses. Latimer is very interesting and with Welker out for the first four games, he is likely to have an expanded role. But even if he plays ahead of veteran Andre Caldwell, the best Latimer can be on the Broncos is the fourth option behind Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders.
There were two other players that caught my attention: Jeremy Hill and Eric Ebron. Despite Hill receiving a massive workload in the fourth preseason game, Giovanni Bernard received the vast majority of snaps with the starters and I expect that to continue, at least early in the season. Ebron is an intriguing option and may be my second choice behind Cooks, but he lined up in four different positions during training camp and preseason: as an in-line tight end, in the slot, out wide, and in the backfield. He did make some mistakes and that isn't surprising given the vast responsibilities he has. in addition, Ebron had a lot of drops in camp and preseason and that problem has plagued him since college. I think he could struggles early in the season but should improve as the year goes on.
Basically, Cooks seems to have the best opportunity early in the year. He will play a lot of snaps for an explosive offense with an elite quarterback, a creative offensive system, and a solid offensive line. I don't believe any other rookie has this many things in his favor and Cooks was an easy choice for me.
Dan Hindery: I feel good about Kelvin Benjamin's ability to make an instant impact. Many of the reasons were listed above. In addition, he and Cam Newton have spent a lot of time building up their rapport. When looking at Carolina's rebuilt WR corp and watching preseason action, it seems clear that Benjamin is the WR whom Newton trusts the most at this point. Due to this trust and the lack of other options, Benjamin is clearly going to earn a lot of targets from the very first snap of the season. Unlike other rookies, he does not have to overcome any "comfort factors" that the QB has already built up with other WRs who have been with the organization longer.
It also doesn't hurt that Newton's bruised ribs will likely keep him in the pocket more until he heals up. Fewer QB runs should translate into extra targets in the passing game. It is only a small factor, but just another aspect of the Panthers situation that sets up well for Benjamin to get off to a fast start the first few weeks.
Jason Wood: I like Latimer and think the future is bright, and I own him in quite a few leagues...yet I can't fathom starting him in Week One. I drafted him as my WR5/WR6 in all cases and game script doesn't vault him past 4 or 5 guys in a matter of days. I want to SEE Latimer's involvement before I'm putting him in over guys wit far less uncertainty in terms of role and target volume. I would absolutely start Kelvin Benjamin in Week One, the Panthers clearly intend for him to be their top receiver. At the RB position, there isn't a rookie RB I would be happy starting right now, but in deeper leagues I could get behind Jeremy Hill as a flex play. I see him immediately stepping into the role BenJarvus Green-Ellis held, only I think Hill will be more productive per touch -- ergo he's got fantasy value.
During the season, what tools do you use, or what specific writers or publications do you rely on, to help organize your fantasy football lives each week?
Ryan Hester: My internet favorites are categorized into 11 different folders, but the "Fantasy" folder is by far the one with the most links. In season, I use many of these links religiously. Some are very fundamental links, while others are pretty complex. Here's a rundown of my most frequently-used resources:
- Footballguys Projections: These are projections made by David Dodds, Maurile Tremblay, and Sigmund Bloom. They can be fully customized using the MyFBG feature. Enter your league settings and link your league to your profile. Your players (plus available free agents) will be highlighted, and the projected stats will calculate point totals based on your league's exact scoring system. Never agonize over a lineup decision without help!
- Top 200 Forward: This list of players is a ranking from the time you're viewing it to the end of the season. It incorporates schedule strength into each player's ranking. This can also be customized using MyFBG.
- The Audible Podcast: Our own Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom provide multiple weekly podcasts. A weekly recap that "goes beyond the box score" tells you not just what each player did but how they looked doing it. A weekly preview highlights players you should be looking to start, bench, and acquire.
- Daily E-mail: Our daily email provides facts on the relevant happenings of the NFL along with analysis provided by Lammey and Bloom as to how it will impact fantasy football.
- MyFBG 10-second Weekly Primer: If you're in multiple leagues and want the quickest lineup recommendations around, check out this new feature. It uses Dodds' projections and picks the highest-project lineups based on each league's lineup constraints. As you can see in the screengrab below, this is useful for crazy folks like me in more than half-a-dozen leagues.
- Living the Stream Podcast: JJ Zachariason and Denny Carter do a weekly podcast about "streaming" options. They highlight players from what they call "onesie" positions (i.e. - positions in fantasy football where only one starter is needed, such as QB, TE, and D/ST) and discuss the ones likely on your waiver wire that will fare the best in the upcoming week.
- Dreaming of Streaming: Building on the "streaming" idea, this is Mr. Carter's written version of the streaming recommendations for Team Defenses. Here's an example of Week 1's recommendations.
- Fantasy Pros: FantasyPros.com is a site that takes rankings from many experts across the internet and averages them together to give fantasy owners a comprehensive look of whom they should be starting, sitting, and acquiring each week.
- Twitter: If you aren't on twitter, you're not getting the most up-to-the-minute news and opinions available. If you're new to twitter and don't know who to follow, the aforementioned Mr. Bloom put together a list of every FBG staff member on twitter.
Will Grant: I rely on MyFBG pretty heavily. It does a lot of the work for me and integrates well with the league software that I use. It takes a bit to get it set up, but once you do, it offers you waiver wire suggestions, gives you lineup tips and really helps you manage your team without much research.
I also like the game recaps that the staffers do here. It tells you the story behind the stats—why did someone do so well or so poorly? Monday's Upgrades/Downgrades/Waiver-Wire article has a lot of good suggestions as well, laying out why a player is a good drop or add candidate and it's based on more than just stats.
As for non FBG stuff, most league software management systems will show you your team and your year-to-date points for everyone. They'll also allow you to sort waiver wire picks by year-to-date stats and some will even let you use month-to-date or 'last week' as well. They key with this is that it's more of a research tool than anything else. A lot of guys will just go by whatever player has the best stats so far that season. They'll start the players with the highest points-per-game average and drop or add the ones with that if they have an injury or bye-week concern. You can do just that and field a reasonably competitive team. But a shark will be able to use that to their advantage—proposing trades for underperforming players that have good potential to pick up or by hitting the waiver wire for guys who will do well down the stretch against the guys that did well last week.
Matt Harmon: I think everyone here is already doing an excellent job highlighting our resources here at Football Guys, as well as around the Internet. I’ll add to the chorus here by saying every episode of “The Audible” is a must listen. Cecil and Bloom go so in-depth with every matchup that the information simply is invaluable. The “what the heck flexes” are essential, and the advice there can only be found in one place. The players the Audible hosts highlight there are under the radar, but can win you your fantasy week if it all breaks right. That’s what brought me to Football Guys, and anyone who hasn’t heard it will come back for more just as I did.
Outside of FBG, there is plenty of other good information in the fantasy world. News wires such as the one at RotoWorld are the building blocks of an elite fantasy team.
One suggestion to be a little outside of the box is make sure you read Matthew Berry’s love/hate column. Berry is obviously one of the industry’s finest, whose opinion is top-notch. But also recognize that this is where the fantasy football masses will be getting their information. You can use this to your advantage. You can try to anticipate your league-mates’ moves by remembering the information Berry, and other mainstream media figures, disseminate. If they love someone, know that you’ll have to work extra hard to get that player in trades or on the waivers. Should they be lower on a player but you feel differently, it might be the time to buy low. Be the shark and go the extra mile to gain an upper hand.
Adam Harstad: I figure the MyFBG page (and the Ten Second Primer in particular) saves me 10 minutes a week per league (because I don't have to troll through the waiver wire, worry about starting lineups, etc). With 10 leagues, that's probably 100 minutes a week, or 1600 minutes a year. That's nearly 27 hours' worth of my time that is saved.
Maurile Tremblay: Yes, I'm a huge fan of the ten-second primer, and believe that's worth the price of a subscription in itself. I consider Sigmund Bloom's Upgrades/Downgrades feature a must-read, as well as Jene Bramel's Monday Injury Rounds. And if you play dynasty, This Week in Dynasty is always a good read. I also dig my nose into the stats pages both at Footballguys (especially including targets) and at pro-football-reference every week, but I'm kind of a dork.
I also consider ProFootballTalk to be a valuable resource. They're pretty good at getting breaking news posted pretty quickly along with generally worthwhile commentary. I've usually got a browser tab open on their page throughout the day.
Dan Hindery: The best fantasy specific resources have already been listed so I will not rehash those. One non-fantasy source of information that I always check on Tuesday or Wednesday is the early Las Vegas lines. Specifically, I like to combine the lines with the over/unders to get an idea of what teams the Vegas experts expect to score the most and least points. For example, in Week 1 the Broncos are favored by 7.5 over the Colts with an over/under of 55.5. Some quick math shows that Vegas is expecting about 31.5 points from the Broncos and 24 points from the Colts. Clearly, I want to get as many Broncos as I can into my starting lineup (31.5 is a huge number). If a lineup decision is close, I will break ties in favor of players on teams Vegas expects to score a lot of points. Similarly, this method helps in selecting team defenses. In Week 1, the Jets are 5 point favorites over the Raiders with an over/under of 40. The expectation then is about 22.5 points for the Jets and only 17.5 points for the Raiders. If the Jets Defense was not already on my radar, it certainly would be after seeing the 17.5 total for Oakland.
Another valuable resource available a little later in the week are the NFL Player Props. These are betting odds posted by online Sportsbooks that give an over/under for many aspects of a player's performance. For example, in the first game of the 2014 NFL season, the Packers face the Seahawks and a quick check of the player props gives a good idea of what Las Vegas experts expect in terms of individual production. Eddie Lacy's over/under for yards rushing in the game is 77.5. Lacy's over/under for receiving yards is 19.5. This info can be just as valuable (and arguably even more valuable) than projections from fantasy experts since the Sportsbooks have teams of experts with access to a lot of information from many different sources setting the betting lines.
Jason Wood: Highlighting specific Footballguys content feels kind of like choosing my favorite son, but I would agree that the 10-second primer (and myFBG more broadly) is invaluable to me. I'm hyper active on Twitter and find it my most useful news and discussion conduit (for football and many other things). I would also give a big thanks to NFL Sunday Ticket, and NFL Game Rewind. Between having two kids playing football and Eagles season tickets, I admittedly don't get to see a lot of games while they're happening. But with my Sunday Ticket and Game Rewind, I can review players and game situations quickly and that gives me clarity on whether what I saw in the box score matters or not.
Every year, there are highly drafted players who get off to a slow start, as well as guys who come out of nowhere to have huge weeks early in the season. It's always hard to know when to dump a player you've drafted in order to pick up a hot free agent. The guy who gets hot early might never again give a worthwhile fantasy performance, or he could be Kurt Warner in his first year starting for the Rams. (Warner began that year with three straight 3-TD performances, and in many leagues was not picked up until after the third one. The first two had to just be flukes, right?)
What are some general guidelines or strategies or thought processes that can help distinguish between overreacting and dawdling?
Will Grant: It's really a delicate balance and the stats don't always tell you the story. This is really where the FBG game recaps come in handy. You literally have two staff members watching every play of every game, thinking about the fantasy implications. If your stud player was shut down in week one, the game recap will tell the story. Maybe the guy fumbled on his first touch and was benched for a quarter. Maybe the defense was stacking eight men in the box, or running a cover-2 to their side of the field to prevent them from being successful. The stats don't always tell you the story, but the game recaps will help color in the picture.
So too is it with the guys who appear out of nowhere. Maybe a WR caught a seven yard slant, broke a tackle and rumbled 80 yards for a TD and then had five catches for six yards each after that. six catches for 110 yards and a TD is a great stat line, but it's not someone you might want to drop your first round pick to grab until you see more from them.
The first week is hard because you're trying to project a full season on four quarters of football. Sometimes it works and many times it fails. But if you wait, you might miss out. This is where having a detailed game recap can tell you something that you may not notice at first glance.
The game recaps feed into the player page as well, so as the season wears on, you'll start to see patterns emerge. One bad week might be dismissed, especially if they are playing a division rival or a tough defense. But two or three in a row might be cause for concern. Depending on your roster depth, you really can't afford to fall in love with any one player. If a guy you drafted in the third round isn't giving you third round value, hanging on to him for five or six weeks could sink your team. You need to be willing to trade these guys or cut them if you can't find a trade partner. Again, look at the recaps for guidance. If a receiver doesn't have chemistry with his quarterback or a running back keeps fumbling the ball, this is not a guy that's going to recover and you might end up playing the 'start 'em, sit' em' game all season long.
Waiver wire is important, and it is critical if you want to build a competitive team. But it's important to know the full story, not just the guy that posts the best stats week one.
John Lee: It's human nature to want to tinker with a team and play the role of GM after the draft...but be careful.
Last year, Terrelle Pryor was the second leading rusher and Eli Manning was the second leading passer after the Week one game slate; if you rushed to the waiver wire to add those guys and dropped Philip Rivers (25th in Week 1) or Ben Roethlisberger (26th in Week 1) to get them, you would have been sorry by season's end. Rivers finished the year as the sixth best QB in fantasy points per game, followed closely by Big Ben at eighth (Eli finished 21st and Pryor was 27th). Likewise, Eddie Royal had five touchdowns through the first two games of the season last year, but only got three the rest of the season. It's very seldom that a player who went undrafted becomes a bona fide star after one or two weeks (barring season-ending injuries).
After spending all Summer analyzing player movement, draft acquisitions, new offensive schemes, coaching personnel changes, starting position battles, player health, and the like, I almost feel obligated to wait until the first bye week (Week #4) before making any roster moves. The only exception to that rule is when a key player goes down to an injury and there is a clear cut plug-and-play replacement for him (i.e., Knile Davis for Jamaal Charles).
Ryan Hester: I agree with John that we can't overreact to all performances, whether they surprised us positively or negatively. However, we have to be one step ahead of our competitors when it comes time to make critical moves. Will made a great point by suggesting it's not the raw stats that matter from early in the season, it's how a player accumulates them. Our Game Recaps are a fantastic tool to help with this.
As for making quick decisions early in the year, it may sound counter-intuitive to spend all summer planning for a draft only to change your outlook for certain players after just one week. But isn't it just as silly as bringing a rankings list to your draft that is weeks old and includes injured players? The point is, when new information presents itself, we must use it. New information is more valuable than old information. While John showed some nice examples of not overreacting, being slow to the trigger cause owners to miss out on Peyton Hillis' 2010 season where he finished as the second overall running back. Slow-to-react owners also would have missed Michael Vick in 2010, where he finished as the third overall quarterback.
Last season, in Week two, Vick was injured for one play. He gave way to Nick Foles. Typically, in this situation, the coach calls a conservative run. But Chip Kelly dialed up a deep pass on what was Foles' only attempt. While 0-1 isn't exactly a stat line that will make anyone double-take, it did show that Kelly was confident in Foles and that he believed his system was effective enough to be run by multiple players. Foles, as we know, went on to have a fantastic year and saved many owners who struck out on quarterback early in their draft. The tea leaves are there for the reading—they just need to be read correctly.
Matt Harmon: It sounds cliché, but it’s all about finding that delicate balance. It's nice to want to be patient and let a player prove it a while before adding them to your team. But you don’t want to always miss out on the next big thing. Making these calls is what really separates a good, from an excellent fantasy owner.
A fantasy owner must also no his own team. For example, I’ve been going light on running backs in the early rounds of drafts this year. I come away stacked at WR and TE but my running backs leave a lot to be desired. I’m overall comfortable with this approach, and all the results, but I’ll have to play the waiver wire right. When there appears to be a Zac Stacy-like breakout coming, I need to be aggressive. Picking up a player like that at the earliest possible stage is a requirement. With such light RB depth charts, I cannot afford to pass up on a slight chance at even RB2 value. Most of the time, I’ll probably end up throwing the player back. However, I’ll need to just keep a rotating roster spot in search of the breakout running back.
Playing the waiver wire is all about your own team, your league and making correct assessments. Sometimes it’s based off fact, other times gut feelings come into play. Take each situation as its own.
Jeff Pasquino: I had to jump in here and say this—in big contests (high stakes, like FPC, FFPC, etc.)—grabbing players early can mean all the difference, but it has to be the right player. Someone coming out of nowhere in Week one (I still remember Anquan Boldin as one) can be a major addition. These guys will be very obvious after Week one, and cost a lot of free agent bucks to go get. No guarantees of course, but if there is clearly a guy who looks like a major addition for the long haul—go get him. Just don't go after a Week one matchup darling like Kevin Ogletree in Week one from 2012.
Maurile Tremblay: It can often be hard to tell apart the true gems from the one-week wonders. But one of the questions I ask about guys with gaudy week-one stats is: did their production come on plays that anyone could have executed (e.g., blown coverage), or did it come on plays that showed some rare ability (difficult catches, exceptional balance or acceleration, etc.)? Also, was it the result of just one big play, or was he targeted consistently? If you can't watch every game, the Footballguys Game Recaps are extremely useful for trying to distinguish between those situations.
Anthony Borbely: I want to expand on part of Maurile's comment about players with gaudy stats and whether they came on a blown coverage or was it their skill. To illustrate my point, I am going to use a player and specific play from preseason a few years ago. There was a rookie running back from the Cleveland Browns (unfortunately, I can't recall his name) and he got an enormous amount of hype because he was averaging over five yards per carry during preseason. He had an 80-yard touchdown run that drastically padded his yards per carry average. If I recall correctly, it would have been about 3.5 or possibly a little lower without the 80-yard run. On this run, a defender took a poor angle on the play and two other players missed easy tackles. None of the three players made the final roster. The running back had great speed and was off to the races, but competent defenders would have turned the 80-yard touchdown into a two or three yard loss on the play. That underscores the importance of either watching big plays or checking the FootballGuys recaps for a breakdown of the play. Use similar concepts for a player that has a big game.With respect to a backup having a big game, make sure to know how good the opposition was on the other side of the ball and the circumstances of the game (i.e. garbage time stats, etc.).
The one other thing I want to mention is you have to have a certain level of fearlessness when it comes to the waiver wire. Don't be afraid to pull the trigger on a player if you are really sold on him. Similarly, don't be afraid to cut a player you drafted early in the season. The latter seems to be an issue for some owners because they want to keep the players that were part of their draft strategy because it could be considered a sign that you used bad strategy. That is nonsense because things happen, opportunities arise from other players that will give them more value than the player you will cut.
Jason Wood: Not much to add to the conversation other than to concur with some of the central underpinnings. We take for granted certain aspects of player analysis that I still think are helpful to others. For example, Anquan Boldin's first rookie game was a "go out and grab him" event not because of the raw stats in the box score, but because of the sheer volume of his targets and the game script. He was unquestionably a major part of that passing attack and used in multiple packages and during multiple situations within the game. Whereas someone might see a WR with a 2 TD game to start the year and get very excited, but we might notice that said receiver is 4th on the depth chart, had exactly three targets all game and broke those two TDs on broken coverage from a rookie cornerback. One is legit and a reason to spend big waiver FAAB dollars. The other is someone to avoid completely.
That will do it for this edition of the Footballguys Roundtable. Please join us again next week.