What We’ve Learned After Two Weeks

Here are some things we know with two weeks of the 2012 NFL regular season in the books:

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Danny Amendola should be owned in all leagues, PPR or not. For years the rub on Danny Amendola has been that, when healthy, he is a Wes Welker-type receiver who will catch a lot of balls but will have trouble accumulating yards after the catch or reaching pay dirt. He’s been a trendy late round flier in PPR leagues, but most owners in leagues that don’t give points for receptions have not given him the time of day. That changed this past weekend, when Amendola went off with 15 receptions (on 16 targets) for 160 yards and a touchdown. Not a bad day for someone who is ridding the pine or unowned in most leagues. As long as Sam Bradford can stay upright, Amendola will put up numbers every week. He clearly has more value in PPR leagues, but he should be owned in just about any format. It’s worth nothing that his touchdown came from one yard out, proving Bradford can find him in the red zone. Remember, the Rams aren’t exactly flooded with wide received talent. Amendola has served notice that he is the #1 target in St. Louis and will be fantasy relevant for the rest of the year.

Despite popular reports, Reggie Wayne has something left. After last season, a lot of fantasy owners left Reggie Wayne for dead. Two weeks into the 2012 season, he couldn’t look more alive. Wayne has 15 receptions on 25 targets for 206 receiving yards and a touchdown through two games, all while catching passes from a rookie quarterback who has played, at times, like a rookie. When Luck finally gets his feet under him, Wayne could be even better. Will Reggie regain his position as one of the top receivers in fantasy? Probably not. But he will have value as a starting fantasy wide receiver (especially in PPR leagues), which is much more than you paid for him on draft day. At this point, you can start old, reliable Reggie Wayne with confidence.

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Even when Fred Jackson returns from his injury, C.J. Spiller will not go quietly into the night. When he first went down, many people assumed Jackson would step back into the lead role in the Bills backfield as soon as he recovered. But over the past two weeks, C.J. Spiller has set the league on fire. Against the Jets in week 1 he put up 194 total yards (169 rushing and 25 receiving) and a touchdown in relief duty after Fred Jackson got hurt – a performance that is even more impressive when you consider that the Bills were getting trounced and couldn’t lean on the run. In week 2, he followed this up by hanging 170 total yards (123 rushing and 47 receiving) and two total touchdowns on a reeling Chiefs defense. So far this season, Spiller is averaging over 10 yards a carry! Numbers aside, anyone who has seen any of Spiller’s work this year will tell you that he’s looked really good. The Bills know Spiller is more effective on a limited pitch count, and they won’t burden him with too many carries, meaning there will be some room for Jackson once he is healthy. Even with Jackson out for all of game 2, the Bills only gave Spiller about half the carries, splitting up the rest between the likes of Tashard Choice, Johnny White and Brad Smith. Jackson will be able to beat out this hodgepodge of running backs to scoop up whatever carries Spiller leaves behind, but Spiller will get his touches before any other Bills running back going forward. It’s time to adjust your expectations of Fred Jackson accordingly.

RGIII is here to stay. With two weeks in the books, the highest scoring fantasy quarterback in most formats is . . . Robert Griffin III. That’s right, RGIII has scored more points than perennial top picks Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees and early 2012 standout Matt Ryan. I don’t expect the big name signal callers to stay down for long, but the emergence of RGIII should throw some cold water on the number of quarterbacks that have been creeping up draft boards over the last few years. Getting back to RGIII, he’s putting up gaudy fantasy numbers with a healthy mix of rushing and passing points. He clearly missed Pierre Garçon against the Rams (his passing yards decreased by almost exactly the 109 yards Garçon racked up in week 1), but he replaced the passing yards he lost by rushing for an extra 40 yards and tacking on a couple of touchdowns on the ground.  RGIII is a rookie and he will have down passing games, but as long as the rushing numbers don’t dry up, he should put up some points for you whenever you call his number. He’s not as big as Cam Newton and may not get as many rushing TDs, but he will get enough rushing work to supplement what will clearly be passable passing stats.

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Ryan Mathews may have lost the Battle. The good news for Ryan Mathews owners is that it looks like he should be back on the field next week when the Chargers take on the Atlanta Falcons. The bad news is he may have a new TD vulture to contend with. A lot of the preseason hype around Ryan Mathews focused on him finally getting the goal line touches now that Mike Tolbert has moved on to Carolina. While Mathews was resting his broken clavicle, Jackie Battle, proved that they can still carry the ball, especially around the goal line (not surprisingly, Ronnie Brown just proved that he is washed up). Ryan Mathews is poised to step into a larger role than he had last year (when he was a top 10 fantasy back in 14 games), but his owners may be disappointed by the number of times Jackie Battle plunges into the end zone.

CJ2K has left the building. It’s a little early to abandon ship, but Johnson doesn’t look like the guy who broke the 2,000 yard plateau. He doesn’t trust his blocking (what little blocking he’s gotten so far) and he’s dancing in and out of holes, giving defenses time to catch up. The fact that he’s started pointing fingers and blaming his poor performance on the rest of his team is also a horrible sign. Hopefully these are just early season jitters, but right now it looks like we will not be seeing the CJ2K of old anytime soon. The Titans schedule gets worse before it gets better, with games against the Lions, Texans, Vikings and Steelers over the next four weeks, so there is every reason to believe it will be awhile before Johnson bounces back. If you picked him early you’re likely stuck with him, but it would be worth listening to trade offers if anyone else in your league still believes. The only silver lining for Johnson owners is that many of the running backs drafted around him (Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Darren McFadden, Fred Jackson) are also experiencing early season woes. It turns out there weren’t many diamonds in the rough in the second tier of running backs.

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Shaun Draughn will eat into the carries in Kansas City and could be ownable by the end of the season. Obviously, Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis are at the top of the running back hierarchy in Kansas City. But rookie running back Shaun Draughn has not-so-quietly been cutting into their workload, stealing a touchdown in week 1 and racking up 56 yards rushing in week 2. It’s too soon for the Chiefs to give up on Hillis, who they paid top dollar, but Draughn has a lot of the same skills and has looked like the better back. The Chiefs are high on Draughn, who had a great camp, and will continue to work him into the offense. You’re not dropping Hillis for him, but keep an eye out as the season progresses. If Charles and Hillis continue to struggle, Draughn could have value down the stretch. I’d think about grabbing him now if you’re in a deep keeper or dynasty league, because once he breaks out it’ll be too late.

Unless you also have Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart shouldn’t be eating up a roster spot. Coming into the season, most people thought Toby Gerhart would get the lion’s share of the running back work for the Vikings early in the season as Adrian Peterson recovered from late season knee injuries. Given Gerhart’s late season success (he was a fairly reliable fantasy running back down the stretch last year), it looked like he had a chance to carve out a role in the Vikings backfield going forward or at least carry your team through the first few weeks of the season, filling in for injured players like Peterson or Ryan Mathews. Most people were wrong. Peterson is well on his way to regaining his old form and Gerhart, who has 11 carries for 23 yards through two weeks, is in line for nothing more than spot carries absent a significant setback. Sure, you can hold onto him as an Adrian Peterson handcuff if you want, but he really doesn’t have any value outside of that.

 

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