Week 2: Player Upgrades
(Editor note: This week's Player Upgrades article comes via Jack Anderson. Hit him with questions and comments on Twitter @jackandersonIII. No, he's not related to RGIII - not that I know of-, but Jack has covered the Redskins...)
Hello and welcome to player upgrades. Throughout the year we'll be focusing on which players should receive starts based on matchups, injuries, etc. plus those rising weekly and long-term rankings.
Your opponent has a clear-cut starting QB in Drew Brees, but maybe you're saddled with Andy Dalton and Big Ben? You locked up AP with the number one pick, but forgot to take another back until round seven? Player upgrades will help you decide whom to start each week.
From the looks of it Thursday night, the Ravens defense will spend much of this season adjusting to life without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed; this leaves Joe Flacco and the offense to pick up the slack. Baltimore played an uncharacteristically sloppy game Thursday, but Flacco threw the ball 62 times and tallied 362 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His two interceptions are a bit of a concern, yet Flacco is typically smart with the football. Baltimore's schedule also bodes well - Miami, Buffalo and Cleveland in three of the next four weeks - and if they struggle to stop teams, Flacco will continue to see increased attempts.
If you're really hurting for a quarterback, then Pryor might be your go-to-guy. It was only one game, but Pryor threw for 217 yards, ran for 112 and almost led the Raiders to a come-from-behind win in Indy. Pryor threw a touchdown pass to Denarius Moore and kept the Colts defense on its heels through much of the game. He plays the Jaguars at home next week, making him an intriguing play. However, two interceptions ruined an otherwise impressive game for Pryor, who was making just his second career start. His mechanics aren't sound (which led to some off-target throws), but the athleticism and speed will lead to rushing yards that could make up for what is likely to be an inconsistent year in the pocket.
It was a lean week for running backs, but Bush played a major role in the Lions' win over the Vikings, accounting for 191 all-purpose yards - including an electrifying 77-yard touchdown reception. There was talk that Bush's all-world talent would be fully utilized in Detroit and after one week of action, it appears to be the case. Bush was targeted eight times by Matthew Stafford and received 21 carries, giving him 29 opportunities with the football Sunday. If that kind of involvement continues, Bush will be good for a big play or two every week. The Lions are a high-octane offense and Bush will play a prominent role. Injuries are a concern and Joique Bell also turned his brand of shiftiness into significant fantasy production , but as long as he's healthy, he is is a must-start every week in all formats.
Dez Bryant gets all the attention, but Austin caught 10 balls on 12 targets for 72 yards on Sunday night. Austin wasn't his typical self after contact, but the sheer volume of opportunities is enough for fantasy owners to get on board. The Cowboys frequently put Austin in the slot last night and he responded well to lining up on nickel corners. That mismatch will occur there all season and the yards after catch will undoubtedly come as they always have for Austin. He has always possessed big play capability and will likely continue to get the same attention while adding a few touchdowns to the mix.
Nelson struggled through an injury-plagued season in 2012 and was a bit of a question mark in some people's minds heading into 2013. However, we all seemed to forget that the Packers throw the ball and they throw it a lot. Randall Cobb might be the number one guy, but with seven catches for 130 yards and a touchdown against the Niners, Nelson ensured he's number two ahead of James Jones. Also note that Nelson had three 20+yard receptions and moved the chains six times, making him a clear and versatile favorite in a crowded stable of receivers. The Redskins' spotty secondary is up next.
He's long been a potential breakout fantasy player, but Cook finally lived up to the billing Sunday, catching seven passes on 10 targets for 141 yards and two touchdowns. An early fumble put a damper on an otherwise spectacular day, but the mishap came on a 47-yard reception that looked like a sure touchdown but for a terrific effort by rookie Tyrann Mathieu to punch the ball free. Cook looks like Sam Bradford's main man in St Louis and with his athleticism, there is no reason he can't put up consistent production in upcoming games against two of the weaker secondaries from Week One in Atlanta and Dallas.