Week 1: PPR Watch
Year after year the PPR game continues to grow. More crusty old "standard" leagues convert over all the time, and new PPR owners are desperate for good advice. Let's hope I have some! Welcome to PPR Watch 2012.
Sure Thing - In 2011 the Rams allowed the 5th most fantasy points to RBs. With new Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams suspended, it is unlikely they will take any big strides forward despite some improved personnel. Though Smith's injuries are well documented, when he did start, he was 12th in fantasy points per game. Like everyone else, I doubt Smith's long term durability, and think he'll quickly lose carries to Mikel Leshoure in week 3; if you drafted him, there is no better time than now to get your money's worth. Who knows, he's shown he can excel in this offense. There's always the chance he runs away with the job and becomes a first half fantasy difference maker. Either way, he has value between the tackles and as a receiver; assuming he survives a full game, he is a can't miss week 1 start against the Rams.
Confident - I loved Gerhart's value in PPR drafts this year, and was happy to take him away from Adrian Peterson owners who didn't understand the vital need for a handcuff. He certainly is nothing near the exciting back Peterson is from a football standpoint, but from what we saw at the end of last year, he might not be a substantial drop off for fantasy purposes. In 4 games in December he averaged a mighty 5.7 YPC, and added 15 catches for 107 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jacksonville isn't a fantastic matchup, but they aren't prohibitive either. While I obviously don't see Gerhart producing at the same level as AP behind a mediocre Vikings line, he'll be an active part of the offense with no real competition for carries or goal line until Peterson comes back. Just pay attention before kickoff and be wary of the bait and switch should Peterson talk his way onto the field.
Confident - To get Austin you probably had to take him in the first 6 rounds, and are planning to start him anyway. Still, a lot of teams are deep at wide receiver this year and with recurring hamstring issues and an early Wednesday game, I imagine a few owners are debating what to do. Well, Austin says he's ok, Jerry Jones says he's 100%, and with Robinson gone, this is the situation you were hoping for right? He's going to play, so if he's not really healthy now, what hope is there he will be the rest of the season? Play him. Bryant should draw the doubles. While the Giants' corners may be a bit better this year, the secondary is still not the strength of their Defense. This is likely to be a high scoring affair and Romo threw 6 TDs against the Giants in 2 meetings last year. It's a division rival on national television to kickoff the NFL season. It's now or never for Austin and the Cowboys.
Confident - There was a lot to like about what we saw of Blackmon in his first pre-season. The rookie caught 4 passes and a touchdown in week two, and followed it up with another 4 catches for 72 yards in week 3. I know people are worried about Blaine Gabbert and his reluctance to stand in the pocket, but since when did we start expecting rookies to look like poised vets their first year? Gabbert had no weapons at the WR position, and was trying to adjust to a system very unlike what he had in college after a lockout shortened season. Oh yeah, and he had pretty poor pass protection too. Mularkey did a nice job with Matt Ryan; I think it is fair to give Gabbert a second chance. The Vikings personnel have been revamped in the secondary, but they have a long way to come after being one of the worst pass defenses in 2011. Blackmon is a solid WR3 in week 1 and I expect him to see double digit targets.
Caution - Many a savvy owner planned their TE draft strategy with Jermaine Gresham as a focal point. As the second best option in the Bengals' passing game, I applaud that choice. Unfortunately, a week 1 assignment against Baltimore may be the kind of matchup that scares a lot of owners out of their draft day convictions. Always a strong defense, the Ravens were particularly tough on TEs in 2011, allowing the second fewest fantasy points per game. Good news: The matchups get a lot easier for Cincinnati after this game. Gresham should have many opportunities to shine, but if you took advantage of the depth at TE and have someone else ready to roll on your bench, this might be a good week to consider them.