Fantasy Football Week 2: Super-Sleepers Who Will Lead You To Victory
Whatever ESPN intern snapped out this tweet on the NFL’s opening night probably thought he was pretty clever. So did the 547 people who retweeted the quip. But that makes a total of 548 people who don’t understand fantasy football very well.
Because fantasy football success depends more on opportunity than established success. In retrospect, is it really surprising that Ogletree did what he did? Jason Witten barely has a functional spleen, Miles Austin has an injured hamstring, and even Dez Bryant missed some of training camp with a bad knee. So what did you expect? It's not like Tony Romo is going to have zero passing yards against a Giants defense missing two of its top three cornerbacks.
So yes, maybe it is a bit surprising that Ogletree outperformed his entire career in one night (Ogletree had 21 fantasy points over three seasons before scoring 23 in standard scoring leagues on Wednesday). But the fact that the number two option in a Tony Romo offense succeeded against a injury-ravaged defense should surprise no one.
Names can be misleading -- opportunities are not. So in that vein, forget names as you start your new fantasy season, and just look at opportunity. These are some players who wouldn't normally be in starting lineups, but could perform above established players this week.
The Vegas Extrapolation (Brandon LaFell)
The Saints lost to the Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III (RG3, if you're down with that) last week, but they are still the Saints. They are still the team who won nine straight games before falling to the 49ers last year.
Or maybe not. At least according to Vegas.
The Saints opened as five-point favorites for Sunday's game against the Panthers, but the line has since shrunk to one point. Yes, that's correct: Drew Brees and the mighty Saints are one-point favorites over a team that has lost 25 of its last 33 games.
The line seems kind of outrageous, but there is nothing more foolish than questioning Vegas' omnipotence. And after comparing the Panthers and Redskins, it becomes clear that Vegas may have trumped "common sense." Consider these facts:
RG3 made a strong point for his rookie of the year candidacy. Newton already won.
RG3 had the privilege of handing off to rookie sixth-round pick Alfred Morris. Newton will have first-round pick and Pro Bowler DeAngelo Williams behind him.
After Pierre Garcon left with an injury, RG3 was forced to throw to five-foot-ten-inch stumps by the names of Aldrick Robinson and Santana Moss. Newton will throw to five-time Pro-Bowler Steve Smith and six-foot-two-inch Brandon Lafell.
So the obvious call would be "Start Newton and Smith!" and yes most people will. But the true beneficiary of the Saints leaky secondary will be third-year receiver Lafell. The Saints like to take away team's primary scoring option and force secondary players to make step up. Last year the Saints essentially conceded easy touchdowns in an effort to stop Calvin Johnson. In that game, Nate Burleson led the Lions with 93 yards on five catches. Just for the record, Lafell is a hell of a lot more talented than Nate Burleson.
Only 1.4 percent of ESPN Fantasy Football players have Lafell in their starting lineups this week. This week, I would confidently start Lafell over Roddy White (100 percent), Mike Wallace (97.7), and Dwayne Bowe (70.6). Am I crazy? Maybe. But big names and projected points don’t win fantasy games. Points do. And more often than not, inconsistent and unreliable players like Lafell end up toping weekly fantasy charts. This is one of those weeks.
Anyone who stayed up to watch the second Monday night game last week witnessed a laughable effort from the Raiders. Backup long snapper Travis Goethel sent two snaps skipping along the ground and allowed a defender to streak past to block a third punt. As a result, the Chargers looked much better than they are, as they won by allowing the Raiders to self-destruct.
But amid immense boredom, Raiders QB Carson Palmer threw for 297 yards on the Chargers without top targets Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore. It takes a pretty poor pass defense to let that happen.
On Sunday, the Titans travel to San Diego for the Chargers' first true test of the season. The problem with the real-life Titans offense is that it lacks balance, because of the worst run blocking line in the NFL (ESPN Analyst KC Joyner graded only 2 of the Titans 11 rushes last week as well-blocked). But a lack of balance makes Locker's fantasy prospects that much more appealing.
A struggling Chris Johnson means more passing plays, including passing plays meant to replicate an effective rushing game. After watching the Chargers defense smother Darren McFadden, the Titans must realize Chris Johnson’s twinkle toe routine in the backfield will lead to a lot of 3rd-and-12s this week.
If the Titans want to succeed, they will use check down and screen passes to supplement their ineffective rushing game. This means Locker will get credit for what are essentially rushing yards as he drops off quick passes to Johnson and rookie receiver Kendall Wright.
It has started already. Last week Chris Johnson had four yards rushing and 47 yards receiving. And one more sign the Titans have no intention of running this year: Jared Cook played 60 of 65 snaps last week. Jared Cook does not block. Jared Cook runs passing routs. Don't be surprised to see Locker hit 300 yards passing and 40 yards rushing in this game.
So who would I start Locker (1.2 percent) over this week? Michael Vick (79.7), Phillip Rivers (57.2%), and Ben Rothlisberger (19.9).
That’s all for this week. May Locker and Lafell lead you to week two fantasy glory.
P.S. Don’t start Michael Turner. Like ever. He’s really bad. Drop him and pick up Tiki Barber. I know Barber retired in 2006 but at least you won’t be tempted to play him.
Reach staff writer David Tobia here.