Week 2: Player Upgrades
I can't remember Monday Night Football double dip more entertaining than the pair of contests in Week 1. The Jets' defense lived up to the hype, but their offense has some serious flaws. Mark Sanchez isn't ready to be a big time quarterback, their best wide receiver (Santonio Holmes) is suspended, and their best running back (Thomas Jones) now plays for Kansas City. Baltimore on the other hand looks like a legitimate contender in the AFC. I am not wacko for Flacco -- he made a number of mistakes and poor throws Monday night -- but Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh give the Ravens' offense a new dynamic that might put them over the top.
Growing up in New England as a Patriots fan, I despise the Jets, but I must say they are very entertaining. Rex Ryan is great for the league. He is an entertainer in the truest sense of the word, and is one of my favorite coaches in the league already, but on Monday night his offense was abysmal. He may be the greatest defensive mind in the game, but his offense certainly isn't good enough. The Jets will have a difficult time in Week 2 against a young Patriots defense that played very well against the Bengals this past weekend.
The Kansas City Chiefs' additions this past offseason on the sideline and on the field paid dividends in their victory over perennial division power San Diego. Dexter McCluster provided what would turn out to be the game winning touchdown by returning a punt 94 yards for a score in the 2nd Quarter.
San Diego has some serious issues of their own. Antonio Gates is still an elite tight end, but their other weapons in the passing game might not be ready to step up into the spotlight. The losses of Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil certainly hurt the Chargers on Monday night.
After a pair of exciting Monday night games, we reflect on the weekend in fantasy football and move forward. You already know the hot pickups for Week 2: Michael Vick, Mark Clayton and Brandon Jackson to name a few, but since they have been talked about enough in detail in the other articles here on FFToolbox.com, Week 2 Player Upgrades is focusing on players whose stock is on the rise following strong performances in Week 1.
The mantra will remain the same all season in this Player Upgrades column: "Fantasy football is a marathon, not a sprint." Hopefully last week's article, (which hit on almost every player profiled) helped you load your squad with breakout players who will be major factors in leading your squad to a fantasy championship. This Week 2 edition of Player Upgrades features: Matt Forte, Arian Foster, Darren McFadden, Dexter McCluster, Hakeem Nicks, Eddie Royal, and Wes Welker.
Best of luck to all fantasy owners in Week 2! Be sure to read all of the great advice here on FFToolbox.com as well as check out the FFToolbox Week 2 radio show with your host Ben Standig and this week's guest, Evan Silva from Rotoworld.com.
Lets be honest, Forte's monster fantasy performance in Week 1 was largely a product of the tasty matchup against the rebuilding Detroit Lions defense. Forte racked up over 200 total yards in the Bears' victory and scored both of the team's touchdowns. Forte out ran the entire Lions defense on a screen pass, going 89 yards to pay-dirt and then made an acrobatic 28 yard reception to nail down the go-ahead touchdown for Chicago. Forte has owned the Lions so far in his career, but his rebound performance isn't a one week fluke.
The knock on Forte last season was that he had lost his explosiveness and was being underutilized as a receiver out of the backfield. Forte set out to dispel both of those notions this past weekend when he flashed his break-away speed and pulled down seven receptions for 151 yards. The comparisons to Marshall Faulk in Mike Martz "Greatest Show on Turf" offense are a little off base, but Forte's fantasy value is back on the rise after a sophomore slump. Forte's outstanding rookie season may have set the expectation bar a bit too high, but he clearly looked a step slower last season (and the poor play of the offensive line didn't help either). Forte's fantasy value should continue to rise over the next couple weeks, but the schedule won't do him any favors with match-ups against Dallas, Green Bay, and the New York Giants.
How did an undrafted running back (who was projected as a third string backup on the 30th best rushing offense in the league) turn in the best fantasy performance of Week 1? Arian Foster took advantage of a classic scenario that has propelled many a running back to fantasy greatness: combine talent with opportunity. Foster would have been a no brainer first day draft choice if he had chosen to leave college early as a junior. Instead, Foster chose to return for his senior year and lost his job to Montario Hardesty at Tennessee. Foster went on to finish second all-time in rushing at Tennessee and despite a track record of success and a 6-1, 227 pound frame built for punishing opposing defenders, Foster went undrafted before being signed by the Texans as a rookie last season.
Foster was profiled in the Week 1 edition of Player Upgrades -- mainly because of his strong play in the preseason --but nobody saw this kind of performance coming. You already know the storyline: The Indianapolis Colts had no answer for Foster, who rumbled for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns on 33 carries this past weekend. Believe me, opposing defenses know who this guy is now, and will make sure he is contained in the coming weeks. Foster's fantasy value has shot into the stratosphere; it can't get any higher, which makes it the perfect time to deal him. If another owner in your league is willing to overpay to adopt your Foster child, I suggest you cash in now.
My bold prediction this season was that Dexter McCluster would be the dark horse candidate for rookie of the year. Kansas City drafted the Ole Miss standout in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft after he dazzled scouts with his route running skills at the Combine. McCluster certainly has the ability to take it to the house if he gets an ounce of daylight and is easily the most dynamic weapon in the Chiefs' offense not named Jamaal Charles, and will line up all over the field either at running back or as a slot receiver.
McCluster showcased his electric big-play ability in sloppy conditions on Monday night against San Diego. McCluster broke to his left, juked a Charger defender and sprinted down the left sideline for a 94 yard punt return touchdown, the longest punt return touchdown in Chiefs history.
The Chiefs will use McCluster primarily as a slot receiver, where he can maximize his run-after-the-catch skills and breakaway speed this season. The weather had a big role in the Chiefs' offensive struggles on Monday night, but fantasy owners can be sure they will find ways to get the ball into McCluster's hands going forward. With his big-play ability, the upside is off the charts.
I went all in on Darren McFadden last season, I wrote about him as a late round target this summer, I drafted him in the USA Today expert's mock draft, I have been driving this bandwagon for awhile now, so it certainly feels great to see McFadden finally translate his elite talent into fantasy value. With Michael Bush inactive for Oakland's season opener against Tennessee, McFadden handled the starting running back duties and turned in a solid performance.
McFadden totaled 95 yards on 18 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, but it was his ability as a receiver out of the backfield (6 receptions, 55 yards, 1 touchdown) that made his performance stand out in a blowout loss to the Titans. McFadden drew praise from head coach Tom Cable after the game, "I thought Darren played extremely well when you got a chance to look at the film. So there was some improvement in that area. If you remember in the preseason that was my concern. I didn't think we were very consistent in running the football." While Bush may be the better running back, McFadden is healthy and contributing right now. If McFadden can continue to produce, he may hold onto the starting job for good. Fantasy owners -- especially those in point-per-reception leagues --should target McFadden going forward.
Hakeem Nicks caught only four passes in the Giants' season opener against Carolina, but he made them count -- 75 yards and three touchdowns -- leading New York to a blowout 31-18 victory. Nick's benefited from Carolina double teaming the Giants' Steve Smith throughout the game and was virtually unstoppable. Nicks was a breakout candidate heading into this season after a strong rookie year last season. Nicks has excellent speed, ability to stretch the defense deep downfield, and as the biggest of the Giants' primary receivers, is the biggest red-zone threat (especially with tight end Kevin Boss sidelined).
Nicks gave a tip to his fantasy football owners saying, "I would start myself every week." Nicks just seems to know how to make big plays and his fantasy value continues to rise after a huge performance against a solid pass defense in Week 1.