Pickups that make you look smarter than your CST scores suggest, as well as this week’s version of “High Fives” and “Low Fives”
Jackson Prince, staff writer
As the Sept. 5 showdown between the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens inches closer, the fantasy football community licks its metaphorical lips in anticipation of another chance at proving its prowess. Depending on the players you selected during your draft, you are either anxiously fearing Week One, or eagerly awaiting its arrival. Regardless, the choices you made during your draft are irrelevant now. Boys and girls, there is a championship to win, and win you must. With the right pickups, trades and start-sit decisions, you can propel your team to fantasy football glory. A seemingly hopeless team can join the elite class with a few crafty, in-season moves. However, without an understanding of the importance of these vital week-to-week decisions, your team may become buried at the bottom of the standings. A successful season cannot be accomplished alone. You might be asking, “Where can I find that partner to lead me to the holy grail of fantasy football?”
If I must.
Jackson Prince, three-time fantasy football champion, at your service. I, a self-proclaimed “teenage guru”, am here with priceless advice (literally priceless, because I’m not allowed to charge you for my services) to aid you on your quest of reaching the fantasy football “promised land”. A successful fantasy football player is confident, and, to boost your confidence, here are the first-ever editions of “Prince’s Pickups” (players that, if not already on someone else’s roster, would be wise additions to your team), as well as my “High Fives (players that will shine this week) and Low Fives” (players that will, putting it politely, not live up to expectations this week). Finally, in each edition of The Jackson Fives, I will invite a guest from the Norman community for his/her sage advice. This week, my column will include the “The Sachs Trio,” as senior and Norman varsity wide receiver Eli Sachs provides the finishing touches to this column. Enjoy.
E.J Manuel – Don’t let his recent knee surgery scare you away. E.J. Manuel has the potential of being a top-20 quarterback this year, which, in two-QB leagues, is a blessing. If Manuel is held out of Week One, he’ll assume his starting role upon his return in Week Two. With Kevin Kolb out for the season, there is no competition. C.J. Spiller’s presence will take pressure off of Manuel, allowing him to control the game and find holes in defenses. The Bills will be playing from behind a lot, and Manuel has decent pass-catchers in Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods and Scott Chandler. It is much wiser to take Manuel (who has a huge upside) rather than a safer option (such as Matt Schaub or Philip Rivers) as your third quarterback.
Week One Projection (vs. NE, assuming he plays): 220 pass yards, TD, INT, 20 rush yards
Season Projections: 3,150 all-purpose yards, 18 passing TDs, 3 rushing TDs, 14 INT
Knowshon Moreno – Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball struggled heavily during the preseason. After many fumbles and lackluster plays, it is Moreno who will see the most time on the field in the Broncos’ Week One matchup against the Ravens. As Peyton Manning’s most trusted running back, he figures to be a factor in the running, blocking and receiving aspects of the game. Moreno, the superior pass-protector and pass-catcher of the three Bronco backs, will gain the most fantasy points in Week One, and will continue to do so until Hillman or Ball break out. Though Ronnie Hillman has been declared the Week One starter, he will by no means be the most productive running back (in fantasy terms) on the Broncos.
Week One Projection (vs. BAL): 40 rush yards, TD, 4 catches (25 yards)
Season Projections: 450 rush yards, 4 rush TDs, 25 catches (125 yards), receiving TD
Kenbrell Thompkins – The Patriots’ Kenbrell Thompkins is no longer a fantasy secret. More than that, he is Tom Brady’s favorite target, making him a “must-own.” An undrafted free agent, Thompkins placed himself on the first-team offense with his speed and his sure-handedness. He will be playing through the “X” slot in the Patriots’ offense (the position in which Brandon Lloyd caught 74 passes for 911 yards and four TDs last year). Thompkins ended his first preseason with 13 receptions for 116 yards, and a solidified connection with Brady. If he’s on waiver wire, pick him up as a high-upside fourth receiver.
Week One Projection (@ BUF): seven catches (75 yards), TD
Season Projection: 80 catches (1025 yards), 8 TDs
Jared Cook – Last year, there was much hype around Cook, as he was advertised as a sure-handed, speedy tight end. The failure of the Titans’ offense last year led to his own individual underachievement. When he became a free agent, teams with young, up-and-coming quarterbacks at their helm heavily pursued the athlete. One such quarterback is Sam Bradford, whose past struggles can be blamed on the lack of offensive weapons around him. So, the Rams gave Cook his payday. He has heard nothing but high-praise since his arrival in St. Louis; for example, NFL columnist Peter King said (regarding Cook), “I have not seen a better offensive weapon… this preseason.” Cook is expected to make an immediate impact and, if he is on your waiver wire, take a chance on the athletic big man. Reap the rewards throughout the season.
Week One Projection (vs. MIA): five catches (40 yards), TD
Season Projection: 65 catches (750 yards) 6 TDs
Indianapolis Colts Defense – A defense on the rise is that of the Indianapolis Colts. Linebackers Pat Angerer and Robert Mathis, as well as former Jet LaRon Landry and former Dolphin Vontae Davis solidify the Colts’ defense. They will challenge the mess that is the Raiders’ quarterback situation. Expect a tough time for the Raiders’ offense, and a strong week from the Colts defense.
Week One Projection (vs. OAK) : 10 PA (points allowed), 2 INT, 3 sacks
Michael Vick – Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Vick is back. And “Philadelphia Eagle Michael Vick” seems to be performing his best impersonation of “Atlanta Falcon Michael Vick.” Chip Kelly’s college-type system favors the QB’s tendency to scramble, and LeSean McCoy poses a threat on every play (giving Vick more room to work). Vick’s only downside is his proneness to injury. However, if Vick can give the fantasy world 13 healthy games, he’ll prove to be a high-end second quarterback. In Week One, he’ll play like the well-seasoned veteran that he is. Especially because no team has faced the revamped Eagles offense at full-throttle, Vick will be lethal.
Week One Projection (vs. WAS): 240 pass yards, 2 TDs, INT, 45 rush yards
Cecil Shorts – With Justin Blackmon suspended for four weeks, Jaguar (and yes, I just love picking a team from JACKSON-ville) Cecil Shorts is the deadliest receiver on the team. This game will be close, and Maurice Jones-Drew won’t be able to carry the entire team in Week One. Gabbert likes to throw to Shorts, and the second year quarterback has looked good as of late. Look for a big week from Shorts against the Chiefs.
Week One Projection (vs. KC): six catches (80 yards), TD
Lamar Miller -The running back competition in Miami is over: Lamar Miller is the Week One starter. Though there were reports throughout the preseason that Daniel Thomas had a chance of splitting time with him, it is believed that these were publicly released in order to motivate him. Last year (his rookie season), Miller only received 51 carries, and still rushed for 250 yards. Imagine the possibilities now that he has assumed a starting role. He’ll also be used out of the backfield as a receiver, adding to his value. He’s talented and, in a game in which Miami might be ahead, he’ll be in use a lot. Look for his second NFL touchdown to come against the Cleveland Browns, and look for many more throughout the season.
Week One Projection (@ CLE): 80 rush yards, TD, 3 catches (20 yards)
Brandon Myers – Last season, now-NY Giant Brandon Myers caught 79 balls for 806 yards from Carson Palmer in an anemic Raiders’ offense. This year, the focus placed upon the various factors of the Giants offense will be on Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle in the passing game, and on David Wilson, a breakout candidate at the running back position, in the running game. If Myers ends up the forgotten man by the Cowboys’ defense, he’ll make them pay for it in the red zone.
Week One Projection (vs. DAL): five catches (50 yards), TD
Cam Newton – You’re starting Panther Cam Newton. Period. End of story. You may be thinking, “Why is he in the ‘Low Five’ list, Jackson?” Well, my fantasy owner friend, Cam Newton will be playing the Seattle Seahawks this week, a team that prides itself on having the stingiest defense in the league. Against Seattle last year, he completed 12 out of 29 passes for 141 yards and rushed seven times for 42 yards, for a total of zero touchdowns. While Cam Newton is ranked as an elite quarterback this year (a ranking with which I agree), temper your expectations of him for Week One. I just don’t see any running quarterback succeeding against the Seahawks. Start him, but don’t expect him to carry your team to victory this week.
Week One Projection (@ SEA): 200 pass yards, TD, INT, 20 rush yards
Chris Johnson – According to Fantasy Sharks, Chris Johnson is ranked as the 28th running back this week. This ranking doesn’t so much reflect the Titans running back’s ability as it does the strength of his opponent. Although Johnson ran well in the preseason, showing the speed and agility that brought his fantasy owners championships, note that, in 2012, the Pittsburgh Steelers gave up the fewest fantasy points to the running back position. If you have depth in the running back position, think about looking to another option this week. Week One will not be one of his best this season.
Week One Projection (@ PIT): 75 rush yards, catch (10 yards)
Eric Decker – I have a hard time believing that all three Denver receivers (Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker) will post top-20 numbers each week. Although Peyton Manning is capable of perform magic, the Week One matchup against the Ravens will not allow all three men to meet their high expectations. Demaryius Thomas has proven his ability to be elite every week, and Welker has the ability to destroy the game plan of any team he desires. Eric Decker possesses neither of these traits. So, in what is to be a tight, competitive game against a solid Ravens ball club, Decker is most likely the odd man out.
Week One Projection (vs. BAL): four catches (40 yards)
Antonio Gates – While Gates is entering the 2013 season healthy (a rarity for the veteran tight end), fantasy owners won’t see the Antonio Gates of old in Week One. First, I’m not a believer in the San Diego Chargers’ offense, or in the ability of Philip Rivers getting the ball to Gates routinely. Second, he plays the Houston Texans, a tough matchup for every aspect of the Chargers’ offense. Last, Gates, in the past couple of years, hasn’t proven his consistent ability of separating himself from defenders. His cuts have been lacking sharpness, and his routes their usual crispness. Don’t expect a superstar output from the former superstar.
Week One Projection (vs. HOU): three catches (35 yards)
The Sachs Trio
Steven Ridley – “Ridley has the perfect storm this week. He is playing the Bills, the second worst rushing defense in the league in 2012, and the team that allowed the most rushing TDs last year,” Sachs said. “The Patriots are looking for playmakers with Welker, Hernandez, Gronk, and Brandon Lloyd all departed. There should be no reason not to expect a touchdown each week. Consider him a must-start.”
Week One Projection (@ BUF): 95 rush yards, TD
Cincinnati Bengals Defense – “They play a new look Bears team whose offense was dominant this preseason,” Sachs said. “With a new coach (who is looking to win games through the offense), combined with the already lethal Brandon Marshall/Jay Cutler connection, this is a bad matchup for the Bengals. While the Bengals have a solid defense this year, and are normally a must-start, let them sit this week out.”
Week One Projection (@ CHI): 31 PA, two sacks
“The Tampa Bay Defense will score more fantasy points than whichever Jets quarterback is put on the field. I wish I was joking, but it’s a shame that there are no points awarded for ‘butt-fumbles.’ Don’t touch the Jets, fantasy owners,” Sachs said.
Thank you, Mr. Sachs.
Well, there you have it. Week One of the NFL season officially begins on Thursday (a fantastic excuse to hold Rosh Hashanah services in the television room). Good luck to each and every one of you, except for those of you who happen to be in leagues in which I’m competing.
Let the fun begin.