By Julian Martinez
Quarterback: Disaster in Dallas
Tony Romo is consistently a top-10 fantasy performer and many who draft him at the lower end of QB1 are usually rewarded for their faith. This year, however, may not go as planned, as Romo could miss as many as eight weeks thanks to a broken clavicle.
As devastating as this is to real life football, it is equally as much an impact to owners who were counting on plugging Romo into their weekly lineup. So in the same way we looked for alternatives for Dez owners last week, let’s delve into quarterbacks who may potentially be available and give you adequate replacement value.
Carson Palmer may be harder to find depending on how many teams are in your league, but if he is out there, don’t even hesitate. Palmer is consistently one of the most underrated fantasy quarterbacks and in Arizona he has more than enough weapons to boost his value.
This past week alone, he compiled four passing touchdowns and seems to have revitalized Larry Fitzgerald, who has been stagnant the last couple years. His ownership in ESPN leagues sits at 67 percent.
The Buffalo Bills’ Tyrod Taylor should be strongly considered. Coming into this off-season, it was easy to worry about the Bills’ passing game, as Taylor, who has been a backup his entire NFL career, was competing against the less-than-stellar Matt Cassel and E.J. Manuel, who may well go as Buffalo’s greatest first round bust.
So far though, Taylor has looked adequate in the position and can potentially provide good-to-average production. This past week he found a receiver in the end-zone three separate times. He also turned the ball over three times, but no one else seems to be pressuring Taylor for playing time, so he’s a worthy option.
Jameis Winston had a bad week one, but his second career game didn’t look terrible. Winston walked into a usually tough environment playing in the New Orleans Superdome and walked out with a victory. He tallied two touchdowns, one throwing and one running.
Winston also has the long term benefit of three huge targets in Mike Evans, who will perform better coming off the hamstring injury, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who is coming off a big week one, and Vincent Jackson, who caught a touchdown in this game.
Drew Brees (shoulder) and Jay Cutler (hamstring) also face multiweek injuries. So consider the names listed above if you are seriously hurting at the position and don’t have any trade offers from other owners whom you agree with.
Running back: Anderson, Hill disappoint too early to panic?
Chances are if you roster C.J. Anderson you’ve been panicking early over his dull stat lines. It stands to reason, as most people remember it was only a year ago that many drafted former Denver running back Montee Ball with their first overall pick with the same intentions Anderson owners had coming into this year.
Anderson was an outstanding pickup for many last year, but this year he just does not look explosive. He averaged a little more than two yards-per-carry against the Chiefs on Thursday night.
Here is why you shouldn’t press the panic button just yet: he is recovering from a toe injury he suffered in week one and he was forced to go against the Chiefs on a short week. Anderson is more of a RB2 play until he shows something or at the minimum is able to outproduce Ronnie Hillman in a game.
Jeremy Hill owners are probably equally as frustrated coming out of the weekend. Hill failed to gain a fantasy point in many formats and depending on how many points your league docks players for fumbles, he may have actually gotten you negative points. Following his second fumble of the game, his teammate Giovanni Bernard took over the running back duties and began to give Hill owners an uneasy feeling in their stomach as Bernard performed well.
Hill still has all the ability in the world to land in the elite tier of all NFL running backs, but keep an eye on his fumbles. If Hill’s inability to hold onto the ball is not limited to just this past game, then it may cost Hill playing time moving forward.
Time to talk about a breakout, so why not mention one that was discussed just last week?
David Johnson, the running back out of Arizona.
Johnson was out touched by Chris Johnson against Chicago, but it is undeniable that D. Johnson was a more dynamic force with the ball in his hands. He rushed for a touchdown in this game but his most impressive play came when he returned a ball 108 yards on the game’s opening kickoff. He should see an increased amount of work as Andre Ellington is pegged to miss more time.
The last name of note that is definitely worthy of a bench stash is Dion Lewis. It’s normally tough for fantasy owners to endorse New England running backs due to the fluid nature of the position under Coach Bill Belichick, but so far there is nothing to suggest not at least owning Lewis.
LaGarrette Blount returned from suspension this past week and barely saw any action. Even if Blount’s snap count is upped over the next few weeks, Lewis should be a solid passing down back who can battle for your flex position in most PPR leagues.
Wide Receivers: Antonio Brown is awesome
Every year there is a debate as to who will be the number one fantasy wide receiver and, among talk of Dez or Julio, Antonio Brown’s name gets lost in the shuffle. Brown was last year’s number one receiver and he’s gearing up to be this year’s number one.
It makes sense, as he consistently beats the secondary, and Ben Roethlisberger has no trouble tossing it up to him. This past weekend he burned the 49ers for nine receptions, 195-yards, and two touchdowns.
Allen Robinson’s week one wasn’t pretty, but his week two was a masterpiece that should be framed in a museum. Maybe that is an oversell, but he certainly was one of the highlights in Jacksonville’s game against Miami.
On the afternoon Robinson got wide open to score the first of two touchdowns delivered to him by Blake Bortles, he added 155 receiving yards to his final line. Robinson will be a target monster in Jacksonville: he saw 12 targets in this game, and playing for the Jags he certainly has a chance to see garbage time points if his team falls behind early. On the off chance that someone in your league gave up on Robinson after his bad start, make that individual and the rest of your league pay by adding Robinson.
If you’re looking for a breakout performer, then give Travis Benjamin a good look. As bleak as the Cleveland offense looked coming into the year, Benjamin seems to be a bright spot. Benjamin only has six receptions on the year, but three of them have gone for touchdowns and, in an offense that is lacking weapons, whoever is throwing the ball, whether it be Manziel or Josh McCown, should consider Benjamin their first option.
On a side note, he returns punts too, and was able to take it to the house against Tennessee. Benjamin is owned in less than 10 percent of fantasy leagues and even though his touchdown rate is expected to drop, he should remain as a boom-or-bust WR3 for the foreseeable future.
Tight End: The year of the tight end continues
While many of the tight ends who exploded in week one came back down to earth, sans Rob Gronkowski, there were a couple more who emerged.
Eric Ebron has the talent to be a very good tight end, but after a disappointing rookie campaign it can be easy to see why many have trust issues with him. Ebron, however, was able to snag a touchdown in week one and repeated that performance by catching another one in week two.
It is too early to say Ebron is breaking out, as Matthew Stafford has had mixed results with using his tight ends and he still will lose targets to the likes of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, but at least consider Ebron. His value may very well be tied to whether or not he gets into the end-zone or not, but on weeks the Lions are playing a team with poor-coverage linebackers, he’ll be an easy match-up advantage for Stafford to locate in the end-zone.
The biggest performer at the position was Baltimore tight end Crockett Gillmore. Gillmore will have to compete for playing time against Maxx Williams throughout the year, but if the rookie continues to underwhelm, then this is Gillmore’s job for the taking.
Keep in mind that Gillmore faced the Raiders in what turned into a shootout, but considering the lack of talent behind wide receiver Steve Smith, Joe Flacco may get a player like Gillmore involved by default.
Kicker and DST: A few quick notes
As far as team defenses go, the Broncos appear to be the real deal. They’ve looked solid in the season’s early going, as the team’s offense still struggles to find consistency under the Kubiak administration. The New York Jets also did a nice job containing Andrew Luck on Monday night.
An interesting development at kicker has been the amount of missed PATs this year. In the 2014 NFL season, there was eight missed PATs for the entire season, but in 2015 there have already been nine missed.
This is obviously due to the newest NFL rule that kickers have to kick the PAT from the 15-yard line rather than the 2. It might be worth suggesting to your commissioner reducing penalties for missed PATs if the penalty is substantial as a result of the way it has been in years past.