First Tom Brady goes down for the season. Then Nate Burleson follows him, Vince Young needs to miss a few weeks, Shawne Merriman schedules his knee surgery ... geez, the first week was a bummer, huh? If you drafted Brady, probably among the top five picks, try to prevent yourself from wrapping your mouse cord around your neck for a few more days. Pick up Matt Cassel, say a prayer, and hope for the best. After all, he did start some games as recently as his senior year of high school, right?
Week 1 of the fantasy season was pretty interesting. Here are some of the important things we learned:
• Michael Turner is a bad man. For four years, Turner averaged 5.5 yards per carry backing up LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, and every time he had a brief but spectacular performance, fantasy owners would think, “God, if this guy ever becomes a starter …” Then he signed as a free agent with the Falcons and we all got skittish, letting him drop to the fifth round in the average FOXSports.com draft. If you got Turner that late, consider yourself very lucky – he gained 220 yards with a pair of touchdowns against the Lions on Sunday. And with a rookie quarterback to protect, the Falcons are going to run Turner and Jerious Norwood until they drop. Turner could be a top-five running back if he gets enough carries.
• The reports of Willie Parker’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. People always seem to find a reason to overlook Parker. Last year "Fast" Willie was going to lose carries to Najeh Davenport. A few years before that he had to deal with Jerome Bettis, and this season the Steelers drafted Rashard Mendenhall in the first round. However, Mendenhall had some fumbling issues in the preseason, and Parker — who averaged 1,337 yards and eight TDs from 2005-07 — exploded out of the gate with 138 yards and three scores against the Texans. Mendenhall’s still going to get some carries, and might be a vulture around the goal line, but Parker’s still a stud.
• Darren McFadden may have been slightly — or not so slightly — overrated. Here’s a great example of a rookie being overhyped: Parker’s Average Draft Position (ADP) at FOXSports.com was 30.61, meaning he was taken in the third round of the normal 12-team draft. McFadden — who would love to be Parker when he grows up — had an ADP of 29.71. We all forgot that the Silver and Black has another pretty good running back in Justin Fargas, and even though Fargas won’t have an 18-9 carry edge over McFadden every week, expecting McFadden to be an instant star is unrealistic.
• There are some pretty good rookie running backs. Now it’s my turn to overhype. Chicago’s Matt Forte had 123 yards and a TD against the Colts, and there’s not a big threat behind him. Chris Johnson of the Titans got 93 yards while carrying the ball the same number of times (15) as LenDale White. The Cowboys’ Felix Jones (nine carries, 62 yards, one TD) runs like the Tasmanian Devil after a case of Red Bull. These guys, and others, are going to make a fantasy impact.
• Eddie Royal is … well, we’re not sure what he is. Wide Write favorite Brandon Marshall will be back this week for the Broncos, and he just might catch 120 balls in 15 games. But after a week-high nine receptions for 146 yards and a TD, the speedy rookie Royal is hard to ignore. Unfortunately, he might have already been snatched off your league’s free agent wire by the time you read this.
• And speaking of the Broncos, Mike Shanahan still hates fantasy owners. In Monday’s blowout win over the Raiders, Andre Hall had 10 carries for 61 yards, and Selvin Young added seven carries for 36 yards and a touchdown. For all we know, Young might carry 25 times this week while Hall sits on the bench. Or, someone we’ve still never heard of could have a breakout game for the Broncos. Don’t ever, ever, EVER pick a Bronco back if you want to stay sane.
Let’s move on to this week’s pick to start at quarterback, running back and receiver (either WR or TE). As usual, they’ll be players who aren’t permanent fixtures in fantasy starting lineups:
Jon Kitna, Lions — Kitna’s stock dropped when offensive coordinator Mike Martz left town, and that was probably premature. Remember that Kitna has two monsters at wideout in Roy Williams and Calvin "Consensus Best Receiver in the NFL by Week 6" Johnson. The Packers’ D is pretty good, but look for another nice outing from Kitna in the Lions’ home opener.
Jason Campbell, Redskins — We hate to go back to the well on Campbell after whiffing on him in Week 1, but we need vindication. Campbell’s going to face a soft Saints pass defense at home this week, so look for him to start fulfilling his preseason sleeper promise. As for his 133-yard outing in Week 1, since we’re Giant fans we’ll chalk it up to an outstanding, suffocating, ferocious defensive effort by the champs.
Sammy Morris, RB, Patriots — With Brady out, the Pats are certain to rely more on their ground game. As was the case when he was healthy last season (384 yards and three TDs in six games), Morris is half of a pretty effective platoon with Laurence Maroney, and he’s not nearly as famous as his teammate. We’re a little worried about the Pats running into a sky-high Jets buzzsaw at the Meadowlands this week, but Morris is still worth a shot if you’re looking for a back.
Steve Slaton, Texans — Ahman Green sprained his ankle in Week 1, and his status for this week’s matchup with the Ravens is uncertain. The only other active running back on the Texans’ roster is Chris Taylor, who missed 2007 with a knee injury. Slaton had just 43 yards on 13 carries versus the Steelers in Week 2, but he’s a threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball. We’re calling a home run for the West Virginia rookie this week.
John Carlson, Seahawks (TE) — Carlson was drafted in the second round during the offseason because they needed a pass-catching tight end. Now they just need a pass-catching anything, with Burleson done for the season, and Deion Branch and Bobby Engram both expected to miss this week’s game. The remaining active wide receivers on the Seahawks’ roster, Logan Payne and Courtney Taylor, have nine NFL receptions combined. Matt Hasselbeck’s going to be looking for someone this week against the 49ers, and Carlson seems like the best bet.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles — Yeah, we know you know you should start him after a six-catch, 106-yard performance in his NFL debut. But since he’s still only owned in 21.5 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, we thought a lot of you might need a reminder. With Kevin Curtis out, Jackson is Donovan McNabb’s best target.
John Halpin covers fantasy sports for FOXSports.com, writing a morning fantasy blogSundays through Fridays and baseball columns once or twice each week, depending on the season. His "Wide Write" appears every Thursday during the NFL season on FOXNews.com. Send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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