This week we discuss the following:
Name a belief you held a week ago that last week's games caused you to change your mind about.
Mark Wimer: Heading into the first game of the season, I believed that starting Shaun Hill would be a viable option for 2014. He's NOT a viable option (and that's not solely due to his quadriceps injury). The Rams' offense looked inept regardless of who was under center against Minnesota. The big guys up front on the offensive line allowed five sacks in one game, for crying out loud!
Right now it looks like Greg Zuerlein is the only viable fantasy option from St. Louis at this early stage of the season. I'm avoiding Rams on the waiver wire and in the Daily Games until further notice.
Scott Bischoff: Coming into the season I had very little faith in the Dolphins ground game, with all the change on the offensive line and the offense as a while. Sunday's game against the Patriots was an eye-opener to be sure, with the Dolphins pounding the ball right at the Patriots defensive front. Knowshon Moreno ran with the ball 24 times and registered 134 yards and a score while Lamar Miller went for 59 yards on 11 carries. The Dolphins hit the Patriots for 5.5 yards per carry, and that's a very impressive showing for a team with a lot of change up front.
Jeff Pasquino: I'll echo Scott's thoughts on Miami's offensive line, and I think the Dolphins may actually push the Patriots hard for that AFC East title. If Tom Brady cannot get better protection, it could be a rough start to the year and people will have to find some way to erase that prediction of New England Patriots, AFC East champs that is written in ink every year.
Justin Bonnema: There's a strong correlation between Peyton Manning and the upside of his respective running backs, and going into the season I thought that effect would translate beautifully to Montee Ball; I didn't see it Sunday night. Ball's final score was saved by a late touchdown on what would have otherwise been a flop start. We already knew he would have to outperform his metrics in order to be a successful running back in the pros, which he did in many ways against the Colts, but if the opportunity isn't there, we may have an early sell-high candidate. I blame this more on the offensive line and their atrocious run-blocking than on Ball, but I expected an improved Broncos defense to create a more run-friendly environment. As it stands, Ball is great in pass protection which will keep him on the field. That's always great news for fantasy owners of any running back. However, blocking doesn't win championships.
Or maybe this is just a long way of saying the Colts run defense is much better than I thought it would be.
Adam Harstad: Be wary of overestimating how good Denver's running game was last year, Justin. Knowshon Moreno was at 3.3 yards per carry or fewer in fully half of his regular season starts. He had fewer than Ball's 67 rushing yards in nine of his 16 games, and he had fewer than Ball's 23 carries in 14 of his 16 games. Basically, Montee Ball's performance against Indianapolis would have qualified as a good night for Knowshon Moreno in 2013... and yet Knowshon Moreno in 2013 was still a top-5 fantasy back.
If anything, my biggest takeaway of the week was the exact opposite of yours. Knowshon Moreno didn't play a single game last year where he played more than 70% of the team's offensive snaps. In his first game of the season, Montee Ball played in 90% of Denver's offensive snaps. Denver had been talking all offseason about how Montee Ball was going to be a workhorse, but I was relatively skeptical. I'm much less skeptical today. We'll see how his snap count changes when Ronnie Hillman returns (Hillman was a game-day inactive), but I'm thinking Ball is going to play more and receive a substantially bigger workload this year than Knowshon Moreno did last year.
Dan Hindery: I agree with Adam on Ball. While Indianapolis did a very good job containing him, Ball's usage was extremely encouraging. He is clearly "the man" in Denver's backfield which is a very nice situation to find himself in. Ball should score a lot of touchdowns this season and is going to have some big rushing games along the way as teams devote extra men to trying to stop the Broncos' explosive passing game weapons.
Justin Bonnema: Workload is the reason I drafted him in several leagues. I'm not worried about anyone else taking snaps from him and that's the best thing anyone could ever ask from their fantasy bell cow. But if the Broncos run-blocking continues to struggle, Ball could end up being a stud pass-blocker. And I don't want to come off the wrong way here, I still love Ball's outlook for the rest of the season. When the Broncos build their inevitable leads he should be a fourth quarter horse. I just worry that he finishes a lot lower in the standings than I thought he would in preseason as Manning spreads the ball around. Sell high.
Dan Hindery: What running backs would you be willing to trade Ball for?
I guess for me personally, it's the "Big 4" and maybe Demarco Murray, Le'Veon Bell or Marshawn Lynch. Ball seems like a solid top eight RB (Lacy and Foster round out the top 10). There is not another RB other than the ones listed I would trade Ball for. With Murray, Bell and Lynch having big Week 1 performances, you would probably be hard pressed to get their owner to part with them.
Would you be willing to sell Ball at something below top 7-10 RB value?
Justin Bonnema: It will be hard to pry Murray away but he would be the target. This is a wait-and-see situation. I just hope for a couple of good games from Ball and then evaluate the market. I'm sure I'll be alone on the "sell Ball wagon" but overreaction is so much fun.
Andy Hicks: Week 1 is causing me to re-think my idea that third-year players who suffered a sophomore slump should be expected to bounce back. It makes sense to me that players who shined or showed great promise as a rookie, but stumbled a bit in their second year, would be likely to recover in their third season. Week 1 of this season, however, was not kind to that assessment.
If we look at all the offensive skill-position players who were in the top 100 picks of the 2012 draft, we can divide them into three categories. The first comprises players who are out of the league, or of little or no expected impact this year—guys like David Wilson, A.J. Jenkins, Stephen Hill, Isaiah Pead, Brock Osweiler, and so on. The second comprises players who played well in their second years—guys like Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, T.Y. Hilton, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Alshon Jeffery, et al. The third is the one we're interested in: players who showed some promise as rookies, but then had a disappointing second season. This last category consists of: Robert Griffin III III, Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Dwayne Allen, Ronnie Hillman, Bernard Pierce, Chris Givens, and Lamar Miller.
In a countdown order of ADP let's look at the remaining five:
The result was 14 Rushing yards, a fumble and a benching and a lot of disappointed owners.
Lamar Miller ADP82—Most people expected Lamar Miller to be the main back and Knowshon Moreno to be complementary at best. After a very disappointing 2013 where he split time with Daniel Thomas, most Miller owners had reserved confidence this year.
The result after Week 1 was 59 rushing yards, four receptions for 19 yards and a TD. Overall a good result, but the dominance of Moreno will put a dampener on Miller owners.
Robert Griffin III III ADP70—With a new coaching group and Griffin on his second year player after his torn ACL most expected a bounce back season for Griffin.
The result after one week was 267 passing yards, two rushing yards and 0 touchdowns.
Trent Richardson ADP64—To say Richardson regressed in his second year would be a massive understatement. Excuses were made about his in season trade last year, niggling injuries and whatever else took peoples fancy. The Colts were committed to him and his ADP was a reflection that he would surely improve.
Twenty rushing yards, three receptions for 31 yards and 0 touchdowns were as good as it got for his owners in week 1.
Nine carries for nine yards and one reception for seven yards, with an injury on top, is a very poor result on a second round pick.
Obviously the result of these third year players after Week 1 is extremely disappointing and while I don't want to tarnish every future third year player in the same situation it does cause me to re-examine this for next year and do further studies to see if this is a group of players that rarely bounce back or consistently perform well under ADP expectations. I can think of a few in years past who did the same, but need to understand this better before commenting further.
I know we've only had one week and any or all of these players could improve, but the prospects of all five at the moment is extremely negative, with Lamar Miller possibly being the only one who may get close to their ADP.
Jeff Pasquino: Heading into Week 1, I believed that Eli Manning and the Giants would be able to put up points in the passing game. After that debacle on Monday against Detroit, I just do not see it. Maybe against weaker teams, but Manning looks completely out of sorts and I could see 20+ interceptions easily this year.
Mark Wimer: I agree with Jeff on Manning, though I do think that tight end Larry Donnell has some potential as a fantasy TE2 and possible flex starter. It looks like Manning will be checking down and dumping off to Donnell a good bit going forwards, so I am investing some salary cap in Donnell this week in one of my dynasty leagues where I need help at tight end.
Jeff Haseley: I honestly thought Antonio Gates would eventually be phased out of the offense, while Ladarius Green is ushered in as his heir apparent. Green is arguably the fastest or one of the fastest receivers on the team and logic would suggest that he would see an increased role this year as the team’s primary receiving tight end. In the words of Lee Corso – “Not so fast.” Antonio Gates, at least for now, is still entrenched in the Chargers offensive game plan and Philip Rivers is still targeting him at will. Could this change in the coming weeks, just like Keenan Allen took a few weeks to find his niche last year? Yes, but for now Gates is still a viable fantasy option that I wasn’t anticipating.
Adam Harstad: I actually wrote an article this week about Bayesian inference and how we shouldn't be changing our minds based on Week 1, we should instead be updating our opinions slightly to account for this new information. I feel like I cannot in good conscience answer this question without appearing like a hypocrite.
But seriously, while I'm not changing my mind on much, I'm certainly becoming more open to certain possibilities. As I mentioned to Justin, I'm more open to the possibility that Montee Ball is going to get a bigger workload this year than Moreno had last year. I'm more open to the possibility that Cordarrelle Patterson will sustain his rushing numbers. I'm revising my estimate of Percy Harvin's total touches upward. There's not really anything I'm doing a complete 180 on, just a bunch of little things that I'm slowly coming around to.
Dan Hindery: The biggest lesson I took from Week 1 is that Matt Ryan is good enough to produce despite a porous offensive line and the loss of Tony Gonzalez. I was already a little bit worried about Ryan's protection even before LT Sam Baker went down with a season ending injury during the preseason and after Baker's loss, I dropped Ryan down a few spots in my QB rankings. In Week 1, Ryan simply looked fantastic as he was able to manage the pocket incredibly well to avoid the Saints pass rush and find open guys. I also was not expecting players like Devin Hester and Levine Toilolo to be so effective in picking up the slack for Gonzalez.
Like Adam, I do not want to overreact too heavily to one week so I will be keeping a close eye upon Ryan's performance in Week 2 on the road against a very tough Bengals defense. If Ryan thrives again, it will erase all doubts about his ability to be a top notch fantasy producer in 2014.
Mark Wimer: I was delighted with Levine Toilolo's roe in Week 1 as I have him rostered in multiple leagues as my second/third tight end. I think he'll continue to get some action week to week as a chain-mover and also down in the red zone in scoring situations. I feel more comfortable about inserting him for my lead tight end in the various leagues during weeks where I have an exceptionally bad passing matchup or bye week to deal with based on how the Falcons used Toilolo and how he performed in those opportunities. I think the widespread assumption that Toilolo was going to be restricted to blocking duties this season was shown to be erroneous given how the Falcons' included him in their attack last week.
Ben Tate left the game at halftime and Terrance West ran for 100 yards and Isaiah Crowell scored two touchdowns. Is this going to be a three-headed monster? Will any of these guys have sustained fantasy value this season?
Scott Bischoff: Ben Tate is a very talented back with the ability to play on all three downs, but his injury history is extremely suspect, and it reared its ugly head during the first week of the season. It's not about toughness, as evidenced by his ability to play through broken ribs last year, but it is very difficult to rely on a player who struggles to make it through games. It's unfortunate because this is a great situation for a running back as the Browns have a lot of talent up front.
One of the things that keeps younger backs on the bench is the inability to be reliable in pass protection, and both West and Crowell struggled in college to be effective players in this area. West came off the field on third downs while at Towson and while Crowell is an extremely talented runner, he isn't reliable in pass protection either. I think Tate sees the bulk of the action when healthy and it becomes a committee when he misses time.
Justin Bonnema: The biggest takeaway from this game is that the Browns running backs were effective despite the game script working against them. If not for his injury, Ben Tate would have had 100 yards and a score. When he’s healthy he will be the lead dog with Terrance West sprinkled in. When he’s not healthy, this is a volatile RBBC that will frustrate owners foolish enough to gamble on them. Tate is the only one I want on my team.
Andy Hicks: The performance of the two rookies was a bright spot for Cleveland and they got significant playing time a lot earlier than everyone expected thanks to another Ben Tate injury. Tate could still be the lead back once he returns. He had 41 yards on six carries and as Scott was saying he is a much better pass protector than either rookie at this stage. Tate is expected to miss the next few weeks, however, and that could open a door for one or both of the youngsters to improve on their deficiencies and showcase their running ability. If that happens, that dampens Tate's fantasy prospects.
Jeff Haseley: I like what Justin said about: if Tate didn’t get hurt, he would’ve had a productive game as well. The result of the flash Cleveland backfield was more a result of the Browns execution and system. Plus we could also argue that Pittsburgh’s run defense is less than desirable. Either way you look at it, the Browns running game has potential and someone is going to benefit. It’s looking like Tate will miss at least 3-4 games with his knee injury, which definitely opens the door up for either Terrance West or Isaiah Crowell. My gut says Crowell is the better, all-around back and that eventually the cream will rise to the top and the best back will remain with the most carries and the best opportunity for fantasy production. Until that is determined, expect a fantasy RBBC approach.
Jeff Pasquino: With the recent news on Tate's injury (is anyone surprised?), this now becomes a dynamic duo at running back. I am very interested if New Orleans will stack the box against them this week.
Dan Hindery: In the short term, Terrance West is the player to own. Tate is out for somewhere between two and six weeks. After Tate went down, West became the clear lead back with Crowell coming in when West got winded (which was fairly often as Cleveland went with a hurry up offense). In addition, West looked at least as impressive as Crowell, though he did not find his way into the end zone.
Longer term, Ben Tate cannot be trusted to stay healthy but will definitely be a big factor when he returns. Terrance West is a player I believe in terms of talent, character and work ethic. I do not expect he will lose the job due to Crowell due to poor performance. Crowell is a special physical talent with extremely questionable intangibles. While there is some chance that Crowell puts it all together and simply steals the job away from West, I would not bet on it.
Justin Bonnema: In the short-term, this is a running back situation to avoid. In the long-term, this is a running back situation to avoid. Justin Forsett is not good at football and Bernard Pierce has done nothing to prove he’s capable of a featured role. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ravens make a claim on a free agent like Mikel Leshoure or LaMichael James, and finish in the bottom of the league in rushing. Good news for Dennis Pitta owners.
Andy Hicks: I have to disagree with Justin here. The track record of Gary Kubiak is too good to dismiss backs that may have failings on other teams. Justin Forsett is a 28 year old back who has never been a fantasy star, but in Seattle in 2009 and 2010 he averaged 4.92 yards a carry on his 232 rushing plays, as well as adding in 74 receptions for 599 yards. With Kubiak in Houston he recorded 375 yards on 63 carries at six yards a pop in 2012 so if Rashad Jennings showed us anything last year, it's that 28 year old backs can come out of nowhere to catch lightning in a bottle. At the very least he will probably be the third down back as Pierce is a terrible receiver and Lorenzo Taliaferro is a rookie who probably won't be trusted to pass protect. With the Steelers this week, the Ravens could easily put a ton of yards on the ground. The Browns put up 183 yards on only 30 carries and they don't exactly have the best running group in the NFL so at the very least a Ravens running back could be very productive this week. Pierce was terrible last year and not much better in Week 1, so I would pay careful attention to what the coaching staff say on this. Lorenzo Taliaferro will be eased in at this stage, but may be the best prospect by the end of the year. At the moment he is all promise because he hasn't disappointed like Forsett and Pierce have in the past.
Jeff Haseley: I think we may be overreacting a bit with the early success of Justin Forsett. It’s not like Forsett is a sudden new back in the league. He has substance and some flash, but his style of play is not conducive to him seeing the bulk of the team’s carries. My take is that Bernard Pierce will get first crack as the lead back, with Lorenzo Taliaferro also getting a chance to state his claim on the role. Forsett to me is more of a change of pace back who will see opportunities, especially in the passing game, but I don’t foresee him getting many rushing attempts. I could be way wrong on this, but in his career he hasn’t been a high volume back. Baltimore will be looking for answers and if Forsett yields positive results, they would be foolish not to use him more. I just don’t see him getting more than 12 carries a game, if that.
Jeff Pasquino: Short term (Week 2) will be more Forsett with some Pierce, as the Steelers were gashed by Cleveland on the ground and it is a short week. Week 2 will go a long way in determining how these two will be used going forward. Taliaferro is a wild card, but likely no more than a third option.
Dan Hindery: This is a really tough one. On the one hand, the elements are ripe for a fantasy RBBC situation. Each guy brings a little something different to the table with Pierce’s power, Forsett’s speed and Taliaferro’s receiving skills. None of the three has a talent level that would seem to demand a high number of touches either. On the other hand, Kubiak has shown in the past that he tends to have a lead back who gets 20 touches per game which means one of the three could emerge as somewhat of a workhorse.
So where does this leave us? It’s tough to say. I suspect that in the short term Forsett will be the starter and get 15-18 touches per game with Pierce getting 8-10 touches and a good deal of the goal line work. Taliaferro is a bit of a wild card and it is possible that he could emerge in the second half of the season as a do-everything without a lot of speed.
Mark Wimer: I'm staying away from this backfield mess. I can see the Ravens going with a 'hot hand' running back by committee approach, and I don't have a good read on Taliaferro's chances to earn playing time (thereby possibly expanding the committee to a three headed monster). There are too many potential outcomes here to invest waiver wire picks, in my opinion, and also I don't care for the Baltimore offensive line's run blocking.
In short, this situation looks like a season-long headache to me.
Shonn Greene started and got the bulk of the work, while Bishop Sankey was the third RB behind Dexter McCluster. Should Greene (ADP: RB53) and Sankey (ADP: RB27) have had their draft positions swapped, or will Sankey prove to be the better fantasy producers over the course of the season?
Justin Bonnema: I wouldn’t and didn’t spend a top-30 pick on Bishop Sankey. He didn’t take a single snap with the first team offense in the preseason and so far looks to be the third option. Shonn Greene got the majority of carries and was effective between the tackles. He’s always been touchdown dependent for fantasy owners but with a potentially explosive Titans’ offense, and a great schedule in front of him, he will get plenty of goal line looks. He’s a worthy flex play until the stats suggest otherwise.
Andy Hicks: It's one week of a 17-week season. After Week 1 in 2013: Giovani Bernard had four carries for 22 yards and one reception for eight yards; Zac Stacy had one carry for four yards; Andre Ellington had one reception for 13 yards. All ranked in the top 25 by the end of the year. In 2012 the only rookies to finish in the top 25, all had big first weeks and actually finished in the top eight (Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson). The only rookies to finish in the top 30 in 2011 were Roy Helu and DeMarco Murray. Both had one carry for two yards in Week 1. In 2010 the only rookies to finish in the top 32 were Jahvid Best and Ryan Mathews and both saw a lot of work in week 1.
Without continuing a history lesson, an established vet is more likely than a rooking back to see carries at the start of the season if there is an established veteran, especially if the rookie is still learning pass protection or struggling with certain aspects of their game.
I expect Sankey to ease into a bigger workload as the season wears on. After all Greene is a 29 year old back with a history of knee issues. He defines the term average, but gives the team a veteran presence and allows the Titans to ease Sankey into the NFL.
Jeff Haseley: I think Shonn Greene can be a good back for the Titans, but I also think he benefited from a poor Chiefs run defense, especially after Derrick Johnson left the game with his Achilles injury. Eventually I do see Bishop Sankey getting increased reps but it appears obvious that the Titans don’t think he’s ready for an increased role just yet. I would be a buyer on Sankey right now, especially if you can get him on the waiver wire. Good running backs are hard to find and Sankey could be a nice addition to your lineup at some point this season.
Mark Wimer: I'm going to have to disagree with Jeff H. about Shonn Greene. The coaching staff has consistently indicated that Greene is the starter for the Titans, and they didn't waver from that in Week 1 at all—as long as Greene has over a 4.0 yards per carry average and is consistently moving the chains, I doubt Sankey gets increased reps. Though the Chiefs' rush D is not strong (especially with the loss of Johnson as Jeff H. detailed), Greene did what a veteran back should do—he gashed the weak opponent for 4.7 yards per carry, with a long run of 18. Greene is getting the job done, so why rock the boat in Tennessee?
Jeff Pasquino: Everyone thinks that Greene is overrated and done, but until the Titans think the same way as fantasy players, Greene is more valuable than Sankey. With three backs involved, Greene and his goal line work offers the most value.
Dan Hindery: I would argue that both guys should have been drafted in the RB 40-50 range. This is going to be a pass first offense and RBBC unless there are injuries. There could be the potential for RB2 or flex type production, but it is most likely Greene and Sankey are bye week fillers going forward. Greene is the safer play for now while Sankey has the higher ceiling and could emerge to some extent in the second half due to his all-around game. However, I think even Sankey does emerge as the lead RB, his production in a best case scenario would still be mid-low RB2-level and not a match to last year’s rookies like Bell, Bernard and Lacy.
Is Mark Ingram II going to separate himself from the pack here to become a decent every-week flex starter (or better)?
Justin Bonnema: There’s nothing special about Mark Ingram II but with running backs all we can ask for is opportunity. The Saints proved on Sunday that they plan to run the ball more this year and Ingram proved that he’s capable of a heavy workload. Anytime you can find a back that’s attached to a high-scoring offense and gets the majority of snaps, you’ll find yourself with a solid RB2 at minimum.
Andy Hicks: We have to evaluate Mark Ingram II on what he has in front of him and the schedule for the first half of the year is very, very soft.
We know the Falcons run defense doesn't scare anyone, but do the Browns, Vikings, Cowboys, Bucs and Lions?
Until and including week seven Ingram is going to look much better than he will for the rest of the year. His next four games after this are the Packers, Panthers, 49ers and Bengals.
Dumbing it down even further, you will be able to get excellent trade value for Mark Ingram II during his stretch of soft run defenses, but make sure you move him before he hits week eight. How much you want to play this game depends on how often the Saints will run it, as he shares carries with Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas. Ingram started to look like a real life NFL back last year once he recovered from injury so he could be useful beyond week seven, but given the Saints committee and tough mid-section of the year I would try and move him during the Saints bye week or after a huge game. Of course that huge game could be the first week so how lucky do you feel?.
Jeff Haseley: He has scored multiple touchdowns in games before, but has disappeared in future weeks. I’m intrigued by Ingram at this point, but I am no means all-in on him being a weekly fantasy option.
Jeff Pasquino: I think Ingram did last week. He had 13 carries, the most of any back, and two touchdowns. What more could you want?
Dan Hindery: I would not bank on seeing a lot of separation in the New Orleans backfield. Sean Payton has leaned on a fantasy RBBC approach throughout his tenure and has put up some pretty incredible offensive numbers with the approach. While Ingram looks a little better than in past years, I do not see a night and day difference that would force Payton to switch his approach up.
Justin Bonnema: I’m concerned Ryan Mathews wasn’t featured more, especially once the Chargers grabbed the lead, but the touchdown was encouraging. I’m holding onto him hoping his trade value grows. It’s too early to start shuffling players.
Andy Hicks: Donald Brown had two carries for -2 yards, while Danny Woodhead had six carries for five yards and one reception for six yards. Meanwhile Ryan Mathews had 12 carries, two receptions and a touchdown. Clearly Mathews is the back to own here. Depending on matchups and run/pass ratio's Woodhead should be good with the right opponent, while Brown is insurance for either. I would not be trading Mathews unless I had two better backs and could get a very good player in return.
Jeff Haseley: The Chargers never seem to hand the full load over to any one given back. Not since the Tomlinson days at least. That's why I stayed away from Mathews in drafts this year—I believed that he would split or share carries with other backs. As long as this is the case, he won’t be any more than a fantasy RB2 in fantasy terms.
Jeff Pasquino: No, as the Chargers want to run the ball as much as they can. If you can get a fantasy RB1 for Mathews then sure, but I think you cannot do much better than a fantasy RB2 value for Mathews, which is a "push" on the trade chart—so I would hold him.
Dan Hindery: Mathews is the guy to own but I would sell high if the opportunity presented itself. The Chargers know that Mathews is the most talented RB of the group, but they also know that he is not likely to stay healthy for 16 games (and possibly the playoffs) if he is given 20 touches a game. They have a long history to look at to back that up and this concern seems to be the reason that they gave Donald Brown a contract exactly on par with Rashad Jennings and Toby Gerhart (low end starting RB money). They aren't paying Brown to sit on the bench so he is going to end up denting Mathews' value and will be a part of the game plan every week.
Andy Hicks: We need to settle down a bit here, the 49ers were playing the Cowboys and Gore was sent in first to batter Dallas. Once the Romo Meltdown took effect, the 49ers were happy to introduce Hyde who looked great running into a dispirited Cowboys defense. I would expect, and always have that Hyde would take over at some point this year, but with every other back on the roster falling by the way side, there will be plenty of work for both.
Jeff Haseley: As a Frank Gore owner in multiple leagues, Carlos Hyde is scaring me a bit. Gore may still be the team’s primary ball carrier, but Hyde has shown that he can convert on opportunities, especially goal line opportunities, which is not good news for Gore’s long term outlook this season. It may not be a bad idea to trade Gore after a big game in hopes of obtaining a back with more job security like Rashad Jennings or maybe even a C.J. Spiller or Joique Bell. It’s still only one week, but yes, there appears to be writing on the wall with Hyde getting increased reps as the season goes on.
Jeff Pasquino: Gore is older and wiser, while Hyde offers fresher legs. We've been waiting for that torch to pass for a long time, but I am not ready to say Gore is done and should be the backup.
Dan Hindery: Carlos Hyde has looked fantastic and it seems obvious that eventually the 49ers' starting RB job will be his. However, it could take until 2015 until he is given the true lead role. In 2014, I expect Gore to remain the starter though Hyde should be able to force something like a 50-50 split. It probably will take a Gore injury for Hyde to emerge into a fantasy force as the main man in San Francisco this season.
Suppose you drafted Jake Locker. Would you approach the Robert Griffin III III owner hoping he'll bite on a trade offer, Locker for Griffin straight up? Or would you rather hold onto the guy you drafted?
Mark Wimer: Given the state of the Washington offense right now, I'd stick with Locker. Griffin had three rushes for two yards during Week 1, and didn't throw a TD—so you are not getting the 'bonus' rushing yards from Griffin and he's struggling as a passer as well. I'd stand pat with Locker who looks confident and capable so far this season.
Scott Bischoff: Looking at the Washington offense, it is hard to come up with an argument to Mark's point. I saw Locker as very undervalued coming into the season because of the influence of Ken Whisenhunt, but we're really talking about backups here and I think that's the biggest issue. Robert Griffin III III is a much more talented player than Locker, and Locker's injury history is something to consider here too. I see Griffin III as a player with more upside and would want him as my primary backup as I believe the Washington offense will get going to put up nice numbers.
Jeff Pasquino: I think the wheels are about to come off in Washington, and I think the Tennessee offense, in particular, the passing game, is very underrated. I would hold Locker and ride him for all he is worth as he must perform to save his job.
Justin Bonnema: Jake Locker is a hold for me. The Titans offense may be one of the best in the AFC and the best way to take advantage of that is by owning their quarterback.
Jeff Haseley: Washington ran into a tough defense in Week 1 (HOU), which made things difficult for Griffin. I think we’ll see a different result against other teams, plus Griffin will play Dallas twice, which has to count for something. I would be interested in upgrading Locker for Griffin. Chances are Locker is my QB2 so it wouldn’t be a huge risk.
Adam Harstad: I had Griffin ranked substantially higher than Locker before the season started, and one week isn't enough to change that. I would gleefully do this trade.
Andy Hicks: Like Scott I would prefer Griffin, primarily due to the injury history of Locker. I'd like to also see how Griffin does without J.J Watt barreling in on him. It's a new offense and sometimes these things take a few games to come together. Locker looks good now and may for a few more weeks at least, but like Matthew Stafford a few years before him I need to see Locker remain healthy before he stays as my backup. If we was on my roster he would be my third option.
Dan Hindery: Locker and Griffin III are two players whose fantasy values were miles apart a month ago but have been converging ever since. At this point, they are nearly equal in value. Both are good athletes that will get a handful of rushing attempts every game. Both are in pass first offenses with some nice weapons at WR. Both have been injury prone. Locker looks like he has a slightly better OL protecting him, but the one slight differentiator in Griffin III's favor is that we already know he can be a fantasy star because we saw it his rookie season. It looks like Locker may have the upside to be a QB1, but it is a bit more of a guessing game. Thus, if I owned Locker and could trade him straight up for Griffin III, I would probably pull the trigger.
On the other hand, if I was a Griffin III owner I would be looking to cash in on his name brand value and high preseason rankings right now if I possibly could. If I could trade Griffin III for a player like Locker and get something else on top of that (or an upgrade at another position in a 2-for-2 deal), I would be all over that. Griffin III does not look like a QB1 now and if I could trade him for QB1 value, that is the move.
Scott Bischoff: There is no doubts about this one, I would definitely move Foster for Charles.
Jeff Pasquino: Put another tick in the "must get Charles" column, just like everyone else. If you can get Charles for anyone but McCoy or Forte, I would do it.
Justin Bonnema: Yes, if you own Foster, you should definitely approach the Charles owner and see if he's willing to make this trade.
Jeff Haseley: I would definitely be open to trading Foster for Charles.
Adam Harstad: This early in the season, preseason ADP far outstrips early production as a tool for predicting rest-of-season production. Charles should still be considered one of the top two fantasy players this season, so I'd do this trade in a heartbeat.
Dan Hindery: This seems to be a no brainer. I would absolutely buy low on Charles if his owner is panicking after a weak Week 1 performance. Charles is still a dynamic athlete in the prime of his career. He is still involved in the passing game as much as any player in the league. Most importantly, Charles is in Andy Reid's offense which has consistently been fantasy gold for the starting RB for over a decade. Foster looked pretty good in Week 1 and should be productive if he can stay healthy but simply does not have Charles' upside at this point in his career with the current supporting cast.
Mark Wimer: The Cowboys' defense is really soft at all levels, so Tony Romo is going to be in high scoring games a lot this year. That bodes well for Bryant's chances to be an elite receiver. Brown has a great quarterback and role in Pittsburgh too—I guess I just see the Cowboys as needing to score more points just to stay competitive.
Scott Bischoff: I think an argument can be made that a team throwing a lot because they are down is a team that is going to put up a lot of passing statistics. However, it strikes me that it is not a good situation when a team is so far down that a defense has no fear of the run and can pin it's ears back to get the quarterback. The Cowboys defense might be historically bad and complicating matters is that Romo didn't have his normal mobility at all on Sunday. Mark is right about the Cowboys needing to score points to stay competitive though, and at the end of the day, Dez Bryant is still Dez Bryant. In this situation, I would trade Antonio Brown for Dez Bryant.
Jeff Pasquino: Much closer call, but Dallas is going to be in shootouts this year and I think Bryant will have big games ahead. Brown is a solid WR1, but Bryant has more upside. I would go get Bryant.
Justin Bonnema: I still think this is an easy one. If you can get the Bryant owner to make this trade with you, you should be happy.
Jeff Haseley: At this point, I’m happy with Antonio Brown, while Bryant and the Cowboys are in a volatile situation that may not always produce quality stats. I’d stick with Brown.
Adam Harstad: Guys who start slow usually bounce back. Guys who start hot usually slow down. One week is not enough to change an opinion I spent three months building. Give me Dez Bryant here.
Andy Hicks: If the Dez Bryant owner was panicking and wanting to offload him for Antonio Brown then I would reluctantly accept and dance away for the next hour. I don't think the Steelers are going to be throwing it for 400 yards a game every week and Romo can only improve on a terrible first game. Once he has his rhythm back after an undercooked preseason he will be throwing it lots to Dez and occasionally to opposing secondaries in stark contrast to his Week 1 performance.
Dan Hindery: Similar to Foster/Charles, I would definitely be looking to buy low on Dez Bryant if his owner is looking to move him. Antonio Brown is a very good WR and looks destined to put up WR1 numbers again. There are very few wide receivers that I would trade him for. Bryant is one of the guys on that short list however. Romo and the Cowboys are going to throw the ball a bunch this season and Bryant could be in line for an absolutely massive season if he can stay healthy. The factor that makes Bryant more appealing than Brown is Bryant's red zone dominance. Bryant is a near lock for double-digit touchdowns and has the potential to put together a season where he scores near 20 touchdowns. Brown's lack of size makes him less of a red zone threat and limits his upside just enough to keep his value a little bit below the top tier guys (Johnson, Green, Thomas and Bryant).
Mark Wimer: Yes, I would do this trade—I think Gates will be vultured by Ladarius Green more than Witten is vultured by Gavin Escobar this season. Also, as I noted about Dez Bryant, I think the Cowboys will be involved in a lot of high-scoring games this season—a rising tide lifts all boats.
Scott Bischoff: Gates was targeted 117 times in 2013 and he caught 77 passes for 872 yards and four scores. I thought the reports of his demise were a little premature, and we saw on Monday night how involved he still is in the Charger's offense. He saw 10 targets, catching six of them for 81 yards. Witten is a short-yardage tight end and it's tough to see the Cowboys settling for short throws if they are down by multiple scores. Witten has value, there's no doubts about that but I still see Gates as a better option to put up consistent production. I would not make this trade.
Jeff Pasquino: Great question on this one. Similar to getting Bryant, I would get Witten. Gates is going to slow down and L. Green is going to press for more targets, cutting into Gates' value in the second half of the year.
Jeff Haseley: I’m not sure I would want either of these, but would lean towards Witten in a PPR league, simply because I expect him to have more catches than Gates this year.
Adam Harstad: I wouldn't exactly be "gleeful" about a Gates-for-Witten swap since I'm low on both, but I would still rather have the Witten side.
Andy Hicks: Like Adam I'm going for a clean sweep of these trade targets. This one seems like a move for the sake of it as like Adam I think both of these veterans are low upside guys and the danger for Gates is that the younger Tight End on the roster is more ready for action in Ladarius Green
Dan Hindery: Like Scott and Adam, I am leaning towards a clean sweep for the first-week underperformers, as I would slightly prefer Witten over Gates. As mentioned, Ladarius Green is a little bit more of a threat to Gates than Gavin Escobar is to Witten. Witten is also two years younger than Gates which comes into play in terms of injuries. Gates has become extremely unreliable with regard to his health in recent years and at age 34, there is little reason to expect 2014 should be any different.
As with Locker and Griffin III, I do think these two tight ends are converging in value a bit. If I was a Witten owner and was able to get Gates plus an upgrade at another position, I would do that as I do not think the value difference between the two is significant.
Jeff Pasquino: Josh Gordon has more long term value and likely a much longer career ahead. Both are considered toxic right now, but Gordon has a much easier path to "salvation" in the NFL and is a higher producer to boot.
Adam Harstad: with news of the possibility Gordon might be reinstated in 2014, I think the real interesting comparison becomes Ray Rice against Justin Blackmon. And even in that case, I'd prefer Blackmon. I think there's a pretty good chance that Ray Rice has played his last down of professional football. Players like Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress have managed to rehabilitate their image and return to the league, but neither was a running back. Ray Rice is 27. By the time some team is going to be willing to consider giving him another shot, he'll be 28 or 29. Given how uninterested the league is in free agent running backs in general, I suspect he won't draw very much interest at all as a 28-29 year old free agent running back who has spent 1-2 years out of football and comes with a massive public-relations outcry.
It seems Justin Blackmon has serious problems, and he may never be able to get his life together long enough to play again, but Blackmon is both young and a receiver, and I think he'll have a lot more time and a lot more chances going forward than Rice will.
That will do it for this edition of the Footballguys Roundtable. Please join us again next week.