Strategy session: Six-pack of fantasy insight from Standig, De Lima, Murphy
1. Biggest Week 1 takeaway
Ben Standig: The Steelers are in big, big trouble. Already not in love with their fantasy options, the matter only got worse when center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a season-ending knee injury. No mere offensive lineman, Pouncey was Pittsburgh's No. 1 blocker. For the record, that's not a backhanded compliment. Some might take it as one considering the other linemen are not ready for primetime. Normally tight end Heath Miller helps, but he's out with a knee injury for a few more games. Because of his hold-the-ball ways, Ben Roethlisberger already takes a pounding. Expect even more hits. The running game is non-existent and it's a stretch to assume all ills are fixed when rookie Le'Veon Bell returns, whenever that is. Yeah, these are not your father's Steelers.
Brian Murphy: Week 1 brought us new records for passing touchdowns and passing yards in a single week. Top-end studs such as Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers performed well -- exceedingly well in the case of the former. But Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning threw for at least three touchdowns. Michael Vick scored three times. Terrelle Pryor ran for more than 100 yards. Nineteen quarterbacks threw for at least 250 yards. We said all summer that you needed to wait on quarterbacks. If you did, you are being rewarded.
Matt De Lima: Do not abandon preseason strategy and rankings. I'm receiving a ton of questions about starting guys like Julian Edelman over Demarco Murray. Or starting Kenbrell Thompkins over Hakeem Nicks. Basically, it boils down to this for me: Add "upside talent" off of waivers and start proven talent. Once some of these high potential guys prove they can hang with the fantasy big boys, then I'll stop rolling my eyes when someone asks me a question about them. I'm sure in five minutes someone will ask me if they should start Terrelle Pryor over Cam Newton.
2. 12-team league, 16-man roster. Are you keeping Shane Vereen or cutting bait?
De Lima: Cutting Vereen. Tom Brady is a rich man's Russell Wilson. He spreads the love and it's not like Vereen will suddenly be the go-to guy in Foxboro. That said, he looked good in Week 1, but don't expect him to be a weekly "must-start" sort of player. He's a strong flex play, maybe a low-end RB2 in smaller formats. Those guys come and go from week to week.
Standig: This comes down to understanding what kind of an owner you are. Me, I'm a tinker. Players occupying the final 2-3 spots on my roster should not buy unripe bananas because odds are they are not sticking around for long. The point is I don't sit pat and therefore it's often very difficult keeping an injured player around for two months, especially when in this case Vereen is not an elite player. On the other hand, if you're the type that doesn't attack waivers with regularity, holding onto a future starting option - at least at Flex - is OK.
Murphy: I would personally not hold on to Vereen. I know some people will take that chance and be OK with him tying up a roster spot. That's fine. But I think you need to be flexible. Understand that Vereen won't be available to you for basically three quarters of the season, and I don't consider him an elite player like a Percy Harvin or a Michael Crabtree. If there is someone out on the waiver wire that you need to help your team now, why pass him up for the sake of keeping Vereen? People in the other camp may argue that it's about planning for the future, for the playoffs. But you can't make the playoffs if you don't win early.
3. Who ya buying for Week 2 and beyond: Eric Decker or James Jones?
Murphy: I'll take Decker. I don't consider either player more than a WR3 in standard leagues, but Jones has made a career out of tantalizing us and then letting us down. At least Decker has a 1,000-yard season to his name. I think Jones catches more touchdowns, but Decker will be more productive overall.
De Lima: James Jones. I still like Decker, but let's not get carried away with Peyton Manning's seven-TD performance. Last season, he had ZERO weeks where he led all QBs in fantasy scoring. He's off to a good start, but there are plenty of mouths to feed in Denver. Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and our guy Decker. In Green Bay, I consider the depth chart to be Randall Cobb number one, followed by Jordy Nelson (2a) then James Jones (2b). Jones has the slightly easier path to targets and plays for the better offense. This is a new season though, so it's hard to make flash judgments off one week. Maybe the Broncos fully commit to airing it out every week; in that case, Decker takes the edge.
Standig: I'm splitting the vote, though don't consider this a Wilbon-esque PTI push. For Week 2, Jones and all the Packers are poised for fantasy greatness at home against the Redskins spotty secondary. The Eagles had open receivers throughout against Washington in the season opener, but Michael Vick lacks Aaron Rodgers accuracy. There is always a risk that Jones, who is no better than third on Green Bay's receiver hierarchy, gets limited looks. After he was shutout last week, expect Rodgers to do him right this time. On the season, Decker remains the more consistent receiver (better hands, certainly better than what he showed in the opener) while also possessing double-digit TD potential.