James Morris hails from Rio Rancho, NM and has been playing fantasy sports for just over 15 years. Not only does he write the Bengals fantasy section, but he also does the Miami Dolphins fantasy section. Crossing over, Morris writes the fantasy sections for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA. Just send him an email and he will reply back the same day with your answer. Or, find him on Twitter (Fantasyguy23) and get all your NFL news before it hits the national media.
Here we are Bengals fans, Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season! And, more importantly, Week 1 of the fantasy football season. You have drafted your team, you have looked over the waiver wire to make sure you didn’t miss any diamonds in the rough, and now you have to set your lineup in the hopes of starting the season out 1-0.
There are a few key injuries that we need to talk about before getting to the rankings:
Rashard Mendenall was a full participant at practice on Wednesday, but there has been no official word on if he will play this weekend or not. It is hard to imagine he will play meaningful minutes after not taking a single preseason rep, so I am not playing him until the Steelers say he is a 100 percent go.
The Vikings have already said that even if Adrian Peterson suits up for Week 1, his action is going to be limited at best. Peterson took his first upper-body hits without limitations during Wednesday’s practice, so time will only tell how his body reacts. Toby Gerhart is going to be the RB this week, and you should leave AP on your bench until further notice.
Marshawn Lynch is dealing with back spasms, and his status is going to be a true game-time decision. If you own him, make sure you go grab Robert Turbin as a handcuff and be ready to make the switch on short notice.
Stevie Johnson is dealing with a groin problem that required offseason surgery. He is going to be a guy to pay close attention to as we get closer to Sunday.
Matt Ryan – QB, Atlanta: With an ADP (average draft position) of 66, Ryan fell to Round 7 in standard drafts and that is a steal. Julio Jones is going to finish the season as a top 5 fantasy WR, and it is because of what Ryan is going to do with the ball. I would play Ryan over guys like Tony Romo and Peyton Manning without hesitation.
Andrew Luck – QB, Indianapolis: Luck is more for 14-team and deeper leagues, but this kid is for real. He looks like one of the most NFL ready QBs we’ve seen in the last decade, and the Colts are going to use him as if his last name was Manning. The Bears secondary has long been their weak spot, so I have Luck finishing the week as a top 12-15 QB.
Doug Martin – RB, Tampa Bay: Martin has been named the starting RB in Tampa Bay, ahead of incumbent LeGarrette Blount. He was taken on average at the tail end of the 5th round, which makes for very nice value considering I have him ranked as a top 12 RB this week. The Panthers run defense doesn’t scare me, and the addition of Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark should take some of the focus off stopping the run.
Stevan Ridley – RB, New England: Ridley is coming off a strong preseason in which he racked up 152 yards on 34 carries (4.47 YPC), and Shane Vereen is still nursing a minor foot injury. The Patriots won’t use the ground-and-pound approach to running the ball, BUT Ridley could be a sneaky bet for some red zone touches and enough yards to make him a top 15 RB play this week.
Eric Decker – WR, Denver: Peyton Manning made even Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon look like WR studs, so you can only imagine what he can do for guys with actual skill like Decker and Demaryius Thomas. I would have no problems at all putting a top 20 WR ranking on Decker and a top 25 ranking on Thomas this week.
Titus Young – WR, Detroit: Everyone is well aware of who and what Calvin Johnson is, but Young is overlooked because of it. Young has been getting high praise from beat writers who cover the team, and with so much attention being paid to Megatron each week, Young has a unique opportunity to have a major fantasy season. The Rams secondary was one of the worst in the league last year, and because of that I would put a WR3 value on Young this week.
Greg Olsen – TE, Carolina: Cam I Am is a beast at the QB position, and he is going to make a fantasy stud out of Olsen this season. TE is an all-or-nothing position in fantasy football, with many leagues going the route of a WR/TE flex spot. However, Olsen hauled in five catches for 62 yards in three preseason games, and I envision him as a sneaky TE1 this year because of his TDs.
Seattle Seahawks Defense: The Seahawks defense isn’t given nearly the respect it deserves. On average Seattle was the 8th defense off the draft board, despite finishing last season ranked 5th when the 2011 season finished. The Cardinals have problems at every position except WR1, and I would put the Seahawks defense No. 1 in my board this week because of it.
Russell Wilson – QB, Seattle: There has been a lot of hype surrounding the rookie out of Wisconsin. As good as this kid is, you can’t ignore his lack of weapons to throw to. The Seahawks feature a WR corps that consists of Sidney Rice, Braylon Edwards and Doug Baldwin, with Zach Miller at TE. I don’t have a problem owning Wilson, but he’s not someone I would look to start until he proves he can make something out of nothing.
Robert Griffin III – QB, Washington: The Redskins are dealing with much of the same problems as the Seahawks, a lack of weapons for the QB to utilize in the passing game. Pierre Garcon isn’t someone I am overly excited about as a WR1, and Josh Morgan as a No. 2 option doesn’t help at all. The lone bright spot I see is Fred Davis at TE. But, with a 3-way RBBC brewing and a lack of receiving options, I would leave this rookie on the bench until he gives us a reason to play him.
Trent Richardson – RB, Cleveland: As good as Richardson may be, the rookie has some major hurdles to deal with on the offense. Even if his knee is healed from the scope, he still has Brandon Weeden at QB, and a WR corps that consists of Greg Little, Josh Gordon and Mohamed Massaquoi. At best he is a flex play this week, and probably someone I would rather leave on my bench if at all possible.
Rashad Jennings – RB, Jacksonville: Maurice Jones-Drew ended his holdout, but that didn’t put him back in the Jaguars RB driver’s seat. Even with Jennings leading the pack until MJD is back into game shape, the Vikings run defense is a tough one for even the best running backs in the NFL to deal with. The reality is that Jennings will hold the starting job for Weeks 1 and 2, and then turn the reigns over to MJD in Week 3. The Jaguars face the Vikings and Texans in the first two games of the season, neither of which is encouraging for Jennings owners.
Justin Blackmon – WR, Jacksonville: I am one of the rare people who thinks Blaine Gabbert is going to surprise people around the NFL this season. That being said, Blackmon is dealing with both hamstring and ankle issues, and the Vikings are sure to blitz Gabbert all game long. If you must play him, a low-end WR3 ranking is the best I can give him until he is fully healthy.
Malcom Floyd – WR, San Diego: Floyd was taken in the 12th round in most drafts, which puts him in many flex spots to start the season. The problem I have with him is that the Chargers face the Raiders in a division rivalry game, and Robert Meachem has not found his groove with Philip Rivers as of yet. Floyd has shown big games against the Raiders in the past, but there is added pressure since the Chargers are also without RB Ryan Mathews.
Jacob Tamme – TE, Denver: Tamme was taken far too high (ADP of 114 in the 12th round) and he only managed to amass four catches for 43 yards and no touchdowns in the preseason. As much as Manning can do for his WRs and TEs, Tamme didn’t get the looks this preseason and he is not someone I would want on my team entering the season. Instead go grab Kyle Rudolph from the Vikings and let someone else deal with Tamme this season.
San Francisco 49ers Defense: The Niners defense was the first one off the board, going in the 6th round (59.9th pick). There is nothing wrong with that pick, except that they open the season up against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. If you own the Niners defense, go grab someone like Bills or Broncos as a one-week filler.
Q: Hi James, thanks for your great Fantasy Insider columns on bengals.com and your advice last season. I draft with nine other savvy veterans in a 10-team PPR (no auction values, just straightforward) league. For the middle rounds, I am thinking Denver WRs (thinking Peyton has gas in his tank). Do you suggest any WR or RB running under the radar for the middle rounds based on latest info (for example, I am eyeing Tampa Bay's RB)?
A: I like Thomas and Decker in Denver a lot, but if Peyton goes down ... JUMP SHIP! RBs I like Kevin Smith, Doug Martin, Reggie Bush and Cedric Benson for the second half (when it gets cold up in Green Bay and they need to run); WRs would be Kenny Britt, Torrey Smith, Justin Blackmon, Austin Collie (No, I'm not worried), Titus Young, Brandon LaFell.