The season has finally started, and now those teams you drafted have already started to fill you with joy and pride over the picks, or agony and questions on whether you made the right decisions. With the first week of the NFL season almost over, except for the two Monday games tonight, it is time for a weekly look at the top performers from the games on Sunday, and on Thursday. After going over my thoughts on the top performers at each position, I will also select a few other players who either performed above expectations, or that first round pick you were cursing out as his coach hardly used him (I'm looking at you Andy Reid and Jamaal Charles!)
The goal of this article is to highlight those top guys, and if you can expect some similar performances in the future from them or if it was a flash-in-the-pan, and also whether you should be worried about top picks in drafts that put up less than stellar performances. So without rambling on longer in this intro, let's take a look at those who performed well in week 1.
QB - Matt Ryan 448 Passing Yards, 15 Rushing Yards, 3 TD's, 30 Fantasy Points
This is the kind of performance that fantasy owners were waiting for out of Matt Ryan with Julio Jones and Roddy White at his disposal. Although Matt Ryan lost Tony Gonzalez from last year, it doesn't appear that will hurt his production, as long as Julio Jones stays healthy. In the five games that Jones played in last year, Ryan averaged just under 330 passing yards, and 2 TD's a game. Small sample size beware, but all of the reasons he was looked at last season as someone who could make the leap into top 5 status still exist today. This will be his best performance of the year, and he may have a week here or there where everything goes wrong, but in most weeks he will give you 300 yards and 2 TD's, which puts him in consideration for top five at the position for the rest of the year.
QB - Peyton Manning 269 Passing Yards and 3 TD's, 22 Fantasy Points
Picking up right where he left off last season with another top level performance. The question all season long will be whether or not it was worth the first round pick or not. Manning will need to separate himself from the middle tier of QB's for that first round pick to be worth it. This is a nice baseline game for him, so expect him to have some games where he throws for 350+ and 4 TD's.
QB - Jake Locker 266 Passing Yards, 14 Rushing Yards, 2 TD's, 19 Fantasy Points
Ken Whisenhunt has always had his teams run a downfield throwing offense, and that appears to still be his gameplan in Tennessee. The biggest question surrounding Locker's fantasy value over the past two years hasn't been about his production for fantasy teams on the field, but rather will he stay healthy? One game can't give us the answer to this question, and he did play a Chiefs defense that lost Derrick Johnson to an Achilles injury during the game. If you have a spot available for a backup QB, take a chance on Locker breaking out this year, but you are playing with fire if you try to trust him as the only QB on your roster with his checkered injury history. This is the perfect guy to get if you own Cam Newton, as he can start in the meantime while healthy, but once Cam is back, he becomes a trade chip if the market is there.
RB - Marshawn Lynch 20 Carries for 110 Yards and 2 TD's, 1 Catch for 14 Yards, 24 Fantasy Points
After spending the preseason writing about how I thought Lynch's career would start to deteriorate, I was given a performance that probably should quiet those talks. That is until you remember that they were playing in Seattle against a Packers team that allowed the seventh most points to opposing Running Backs last year. The fact that he still got 20 carries in this game should make them feel good about his future, but don't be surprised when Robert Turbin and Christine Michael start to siphon more and more touches from him as the season goes along. This is probably the highest Lynch's value will ever be, so if you can get peak in a trade, do it immediately.
RB - Le'Veon Bell 21 Carries for 109 Yards and 1 TD, 6 Catches for 88 Yards, 24 Fantasy Points
Tying Marshawn Lynch's 24 point effort on Thursday night was Le'Veon Bell, although he got his points in a different way. Last season Bell showed off his pass catching abilities, and was on his way up the draft boards until two events occurred, and both revolve around one guy. LeGarrette Blount was signed by the Steelers, and immediately it was assumed that he would take on a vulturing role, with the chance to do some damage on first and second down. The second event was his incident with the law while with Blount. While both cases did warrant his push down draft boards, maybe we went a little too far down. Was all of Bell's value last season tied into his ability to score? I don't think it was, as had a lot of receptions, and was able to make the most out of them. Blount didn't take any work away from Bell other than a vultured TD, so let's put him back into that conversation as a top 10 RB.
WR - Allen Hurns 9 Targets, 4 Receptions for 110 Yards and 2 TD's, 23 Fantasy Points
Well it wouldn't be week one without some relatively unknown player making a big splash leaving owners to wonder, should I pick him up and trust him? Hurns went undrafted this year and made the squad after a very solid performance during the preseason. Jacksonville was so confident in Hurns and the rest of the receiving corps, that they didn't even promote a practice squad player to their roster Sunday. While the injury to Cecil Shorts that kept him out of the game was a big factor to his production, he took the opportunity and ran with it. Behind Shorts, Lee and Robinson on the depth chart before the season, it looks as though he has jumped ahead of Robinson for the time being, and holds value as long as Shorts is still hurt, and possibly still after. Chad Henne has been a QB who just kind of throws the ball up and hopes for the best, which can lead to up and down fantasy days for his WR's, and that is how you should view Hurns. In deeper 14 team or larger leagues, pick him up off of the waiver wire, and see what happens to his targets in a game where Shorts is playing to see if this is legit or not. For those in shallower leagues, if you have a dead spot on your roster because of an injury, or a lesser role than expected, like Aaron Dobson, pick him up and do the same.
WR - A.J. Green 9 Targets, 6 Receptions for 131 Yards and 1 TD, 19 Fantasy Points
A.J. Green is still the same guy as before, and expect this to keep on happening. Keep valuing him the same as before, and continue to reap the benefits of drafting a stud receiver in the second round.
WR - Cordarrelle Patterson 5 Targets, 3 Receptions for 26 Yards, 3 Carries for 103 Yards and 1 TD, 18 Fantasy Points
These are the kind of performances you can expect to see out of Patterson. His calling card is not that he is a better receiver than everyone else, but rather that he is a better athlete and open field runner then almost everyone in the league. The way Norv Turner used him in this game was the same and different than last season at the same time. Last year the Vikings tried to find ways to get Patterson the ball, whether it was on returns, quick throws, or even carries via jet sweeps or lining up in the backfield, they recognized the special talent he is, and Norv sees the same thing. What is different than last season is the fact that they let Patterson run actual routes, and tried to get him to use his size and leaping ability to his advantage. As long as those two trends continue, Patterson will be a threat every week to have that big play. He was drafted as a WR2 before the season, and those people who took him are being shown the potential he truly has.
TE - Julius Thomas 8 Targets, 7 Catches for 104 Yards and 3 TD's, 28 Fantasy Points
He is still really good, and when Peyton is throwing you the football, good things will happen. Finishing Sunday as the second leading scorer at all positions is a nice way to start the year. Spending that early draft pick on him is already giving dividends, so just keep riding him out to another monster season from the TE position.
TE - Vernon Davis 6 Targets, 4 Catches for 44 Yards and 2 TD's, 16 Fantasy Points
Like with Lynch, I said that Davis was being drafted too high this preseason, and will see a big decline in stats with a healthy Crabtree for the entire season. Davis went out and had a very good game scoring twice against the Dallas Cowboys. While the Cowboys pass defense is probably the worst in the league, the numbers are not the important take away from the game. The fact that Davis was targeted more than Crabtree and Steve Johnson, shows his value won't take as big a hit as once thought. While Crabtree's four targets can probably be chalked up to his nagging injury, I actually now see him taking more targets away from Anquan Boldin than Davis. The big redzone presence that he is, I undersold his value going into the year, and this week for that matter, and would bounce him up to the fourth rated TE behind the big three.
TE - Greg Olsen 11 Targets, 8 Catches for 83 Yards and 1 TD, 14 Fantasy Points
Well someone had to catch the ball in Carolina, and as we figured it was Greg Olsen. Expect his number not to come from a high yards per reception, but from the bulk of receptions he will have each week. I see him hovering around this 60 yards per game, with a 50 percent chance of him scoring. He will be almost as safe as they come at the position, so just sit back and relax as he boosts your point totals every week.
Now a look at a few performances that stood out to me from Sunday's games:
QB - Tony Romo 281 Passing Yards for 1 TD and 3 INT's, 9 Fantasy Points
Do not be discouraged by what Tony Romo did on Sunday, as that is just who he is. Tony Romo will always give you performances like this, and then he will come back and have a 300+ yard game with 3 TD's. He has never been a consistent option at the QB position, but the end numbers will still look good, so just grit your teeth during the bad weeks, and then celebrate the great ones.
RB - Chris Ivory 10 Carries for 102 Yards and 1 TD, 16 Fantasy Points
The New York Jets Running Back situation looks to be a timeshare, as long as Ivory can stay healthy. If Ivory can show that he is still the same guy the Jets thought he was last year, he will overtake Chris Johnson as the early down back, getting a bulk of the carries. Ivory is on his way towards that, as he had a 71 Yard run for a TD in the fourth quarter which helped open up their lead to two possessions. Pick him up if you can, and keep tabs on his situation with Johnson going forward.
RB - Jamaal Charles 7 Carries for 19 Yards, 4 Catches for 15 Yards, 2 Fantasy Points
Seeing a statline like this if you were not watching the game you may wonder if Charles got hurt. The answer is that he was not hurt, that he played the entire game and was just barely used. I have no rational explanation on why Charles was used so little. Maybe Andy Reid was thinking about his old Punt, Pass, and Kick days as a youth.
Andy Reid's Punt-Pass-Kick Bomb (via thesportsgeeks)
Just shrug off this week as games like this did occur for Charles back in 2012, and he still finished that season with over 1,700 total yards and 6 TD's. If you are a Marshawn Lynch owner, and the Charles owner wants to make a swap straight up after this week, do it fast as that deal only comes around once.
WR - Markus Wheaton 7 Targets, 6 Catches for 97 Yards, 9 Fantasy Points
A solid start to the season for the number two receiver on the Steelers. Wheaton is a guy I talked up a little bit in the preseason, since Pittsburgh likes to run a heavy passing offense. Ben Roethlisberger had a good connection going with him, as he only had one incomplete pass while throwing his way this week. That does wonders to build up that chemistry between the QB and WR. Roethlisberger already has a great connection with Brown, but if he can continue to work on getting Wheaton the ball, he will put up some good numbers you can use as your FLEX option each week.
Want thoughts on a specific player? Leave a comment on who it is, and I will respond with my thoughts on that guy's performance and where he stands going forward.