Heading into the first weekend of the NFL season, I bet that there aren’t many owners out there who don’t have at least one question mark with their running backs. It’s one of the most important positions for fantasy when you consider the potential to score is there on every play they touch the ball. So let’s run down the top RBs and their fantasy status for Week 1.
— Maurice Jones-Drew is back, but he’s not going to be the MJD that led the NFL in rushing last season. In fact, he’s not even going to start in Week 1. He’ll be the third-down back behind Rashad Jennings and shouldn’t make a big dent on the fantasy scoreboard. You also have to figure he won’t be up to speed after skipping the pre-season and all of training camp.
— Adrian Peterson went out and declared himself ready to play this week, just months after suffering a torn ACL. The question is how much will he play? Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has already said that AP will have “limited exposure” during the game. That should mean he’ll be lucky to get 50% of the carries and, even if Peterson was healthy, Toby Gerhart will most likely be getting the goal-line carries.
— Out west, Marshawn Lynch had some back troubles crop up and was limited in practice this week. When you couple that with Robert Turbin’s nice play in the pre-season, we should see a timeshare in Week 1. This is a good opportunity for the rookie to earn more carries going forward, especially considering Arizona’s less-than-stellar record against the run last season.
— It’s looking like Trent Richardson will play after getting his knee scoped in early August. Frankly, the Browns don’t have many better options than using the first-rounder at about 80%. Montario Hardesty was disappointing last year when he played, averaging three yards per carry and didn’t score a single TD.
— The Steelers have left the door open for Rashard Mendenhall to play on Sunday in Denver. While he definitely won’t be the main guy, it does cause some concerns for owners of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. They were already looking at some sort of timeshare, now they’re looking at a three-way situation in the backfield.
— In Carolina, Jonathan Stewart has missed some practice this week with a sprained ankle and is questionable to play against the Bucs. While the team is optimistic that he’ll play, they’ve already drawn up an alternate gameplan in case he can’t go. That would mean that DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert would be splitting the carries.
— Finally, Ryan Mathews has yet to be cleared for contact after suffering a broken clavicle in the first pre-season game, which doesn’t bode well for him being able to play on Monday night. At this point, it’s safer to look for a replacement than risk waiting until the 10 p.m. kickoff to see if he’ll be able to go.
LOOKING BACK AT WEDNESDAY
— David Wilson is the first person to finish a game in the negatives this season. After fumbling on his first carry and then finishing with a mere four yards on two attempts, the supposed fantasy sleeper finished with -1.6 points. At this point he is looking like merely a handcuff – and not a good one – for Ahmad Bradshaw and not someone who will wrestle away a bunch of carries.
— I hope you didn’t have a knee-jerk reaction to the news that Jason Witten was playing Wednesday and plugged him in your lineup. He certainly didn’t look like he was right, catching only two balls for 10 yards on three targets. Hopefully Tony Romo’s favourite target gets some more looks next game after another 10 more days to rest his injured spleen.
SIT OR START
Start: Robert Griffin III, QB, WAS at NO Never forget that New Orleans’ defence had a lot of suspended players in it up until Friday.
Sit: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT at DEN The Broncos defence should be better than last year with Jack Del Rio running the show.
Start: Shonn Greene, RB, BUF at NYJ Bills gave up second-best TDs last year and the Jets will be running it.
Sit: Stevie Johnson, WR, BUF at NYJ He did surprisingly decent against Revis Island last year, but not worth the risk.
Sit: Mike Wallace, WR, PIT at DEN Barely practiced in training camp after holdout, now faces Champ Bailey.
Sit: Cedric Benson, RB, GB at SF The Niners only gave up three rushing TDs last year and brought back all 11 starters.
Start: Dustin Keller, TE, BUF at NYJ Had his best fantasy game of the season at home against Buffalo in 2011.
Sit: A.J. Green, TE, CIN at BAL Only had two catches for 26 yards in two games against Ravens in 2011.
Start: Rashad Jennings, RB, JAK at MIN He’s the feature back playing against a defence that’s average at best.
Sit: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAK at MIN He’s only going to be the third-down back, so he can’t be counted on for fantasy purposes.
Pickup of the week
Garrett Hartley, K, NO
Sure, he’s just a kicker, but he’s now the only kicker for one of the highest-scoring offences in the league. With the Saints cutting John Kasay, Hartley has potential to be one of the top fantasy kickers in the league — just like Kasay was in 2011.
Drop of the week
Kellen Winslow, TE, SEA
Well, that should actually read formerly of the Seahawks. He nearly joined the Patriots – because THEY need another pass-catching tight end – but failed the physical. Apparently his knee is in very rough shape and if he can catch on anywhere, he won’t be practising during the week. That’s a lot of risk for a menial option at a somewhat deep position.
Rotation of the week
Vikings vs. Jaguars
If there’s one thing that the Vikings can do, it’s get to the QB. They tied for the lead in sacks last year and Jacksonville’s o-line isn’t exactly special. The Jags also have one of the worst offences in the NFL. The whole MJD-Jennings mess doesn’t help their case either.
Kevin Ogletree scored 23 fantasy points on Wednesday night against the Giants. In his entire three-year career, he only had a total of 29 points before that.