For a deeper review of players that are either new to the scene or playing differently than expected, Upon Further Review will give the respective views of John Tuvey (Start Bench List) and David Dorey (Game Predictions and Player Projections). We'll bring 47 years of combined fantasy football experience to bear and hopefully a few things to think about as you manage your fantasy team.
WR Torrey Smith (BAL)
TUVEY: I was stunned by the volume of “Should I drop Torrey Smith” questions passing through my Twitter feed this week. Really? Dude has 108 more yards than he did at the same point in the season last year and he still finished as a fantasy WR2, 23rd overall amongst wide receivers. His 25-plus yards per catch suggests he’s still a home run hitter, and with home run hitters you’re going to get a few more strikeouts than with singles hitters. Of course home run hitters also help you put up big innings, and those are most assuredly just around the corner for Smith. Plus, chicks dig the long ball.
DOREY: Here is where I differ with Tuvey. I do not like Smith. I never have. His start to the season is games with two catches each and 57 or 51 yards. I hate longballers. I hate them because they tend to be very inconsistent. You had Smith turning in two monster games last year with 150+ yards in each and a total of 4 touchdowns. But the other 14 games were about average and he rarely had more than 70 yards in any other week. He is doing that longball thing again with a 25 yard average. I think the only think around the corner is more of the same for him. He will show up for a few big games and mostly be mediocre. Granted - he is young and still developing. But far as I am concerned, catch me next year. I think he is just too inconsistent even when he gets it going this season... assuming he does.
RB Mikel Leshoure (DET)
TUVEY: Leshoure comes back, potentially this weekend… but to what role? Last year only the Bucs ran the ball less than Detroit—less than 20 times per game as a team, so it’s not as if there’s a real feature-back role there. I don’t know if I’m ready to start a guy who’s spent the last two weeks idle, especially after he was suspended for smoking weed and part of his workload depends on his conditioning. Long-term I’ve stashed him on a couple rosters, but I’m not banking on anything from him. So I guess unlike Leshoure, my hopes aren’t high.
DOREY: I would love to think that a guy could show up in Detroit and take over. Be a major piece of the offense so that a new triplet was born - Stafford, Johnson and Mr. X. But I just do not see that happening. Since Barry Sanders left, it has been a revolving door in the backfield and not one of the primary backs was able to play a full 16 game season in the last 11 years. If Kevin Smith is injured, then LeShoure becomes more interesting to me but he is still coming back after a year off, has never played in the NFL before and will support Kevin Smith. Seems optimistic on several levels to expect Leshoure to be a big surprise.
TE Greg Olsen (CAR)
TUVEY: Olsen was one of the top five drops this week according to NFL Network’s fantasy show (I’m not a big fan of the soaps so it’s on in the background, mostly because Jaime Maggio is extremely easy on the eyes and there’s always a chance Molly Qerim will bust in with some news); hope those who panicked early got to see his productive game on that very network Thursday night. I’m firmly on board with Olsen being a big producer this season: the OC is tight end whisperer Rob Chudzinski and aside from Brandon LaFell’s lukewarm rise to mediocrity the Panthers are still seeking a complement to Steve Smith. He’ll probably be one of the top five pickups next week; if somebody in your league made such a gaffe, beat them to the punch and ride Olsen as your backup plan during the bye weeks. He may even wind up out producing your current guy.
DOREY: Loved Olsen in the summer. Ranked him fairly high. Had him on a number of fantasy teams but did drop him in one league this week because that one catch for 13 yards against the Saints was really a downer. But this week he had a breakout with seven catches for 98 yards for a passing offense that needs him. You have to like him a lot and go grab him back off waivers because HC Ron Rivera was talking him up in the summer like Olsen was going to be a Gronkowski clone. That short of happened on Thursday night. I am, sigh, going to try to get him back in that one league.
QB Jay Cutler (CHI)
TUVEY: It’s extremely easy to dislike Jay Cutler. Personally, I hate him because of the double-bladed dagger he stuck in my heart a few years back with a monster game against the Vikings in Week 16 that not only took down my beloved Purple but also beat me in a fantasy championship game. Seriously, there are few worse feelings than having to walk into an auction every year knowing one jagoff is going to needle you mercilessly about Jay Freaking Cutler. But I digress. After last week’s abysmal showing against Green Bay in which Cutler called out his (lack of) protection and looked like a deer in headlights, is there any upside going forward? Sure there is; he’ll get back on the same page with Brandon Marshall and have a couple nice games and everybody will forget what he is for a few weeks. But much like that hype when Mike Martz came in and Cutler was going to throw for 7,000 yards, I wasn’t exactly feeling the Cutler/Marshall reunion leading to pure fantasy gold. Still not feeling it, and that offensive line might get him killed before he can prove me wrong.
DOREY: Like I was saying in the summer, name one great passing quarterback or highly productive receiver that has played in Chicago? The weather, the field, the opponents, the whatever. It is just hard to expect fantasy gold from the Bears passing game. I still think that Cutler makes a completely suitable fantasy backup to plug in when he has a decent matchup (like this week vs. STL) or DET, CAR, TEN, MIN, etc. Another very important thing to remember this early in the season when single games seem so huge is that interdivisional games will often go off very different than all other games. When opponents know each other intimately, it really can change what happens and this is why often you see two divisional teams meet and turn in a low overall score. They know how to defend each other. Cutler is still worth owning, but probably only for carefully selected starts.
WR Larry Fitzgerald (ARI)
TUVEY: What’s the major difference between Chris Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald? Both have been hugely productive players in the past, both cost their fantasy owners high picks this year, and both have wildly underachieved thus far in 2012: Fitz is tied with Stephen Burton and Domenik Hixon as the 77th most productive fantasy wideout, while CJ ranks 51st among running backs behind, among others, Joique Bell, Vonte Leach, and Curtis Brinkley. But while Johnson is perceived as a greedy diva who got paid and is no longer willing to take on tacklers (or is that just me?), Fitz might be the classiest guy in the NFL. Does that earn him a break, a little extra rope before fantasy owners hang him out to dry for lack of productivity? I’m not a CJ owner and have been preaching to cut bait with him pretty much all year (that brief post-preseason game where he flashed some old CJ2K burst notwithstanding); with Fitz, I’ve seen him produce despite a litany of horrible quarterbacking and have no qualms about his effort so I’m far more willing to stay the course. That’s not to say I wouldn’t unload Fitz in a heartbeat if someone wanted to pay a 2009 Fitz (13 TDs) price for the 2012 version, but it does say I’m not giving him away just yet. Johnson, on the other hand…
DOREY: I guess the problem here - terrible as it is - is that Fitzgerald is having a slow start to the season and that always sucks. But it happens. Figure Fitzgerald has faced the Seattle defense held Dez Bryant to only 17 yards on three catches and Miles Austin recorded 63 yards on five catches as a team high. And they held Fitz to 63 yards on four catches off 11 passes. The Patriots plain old shut him down and amazingly none of the wideouts had more than three catches for 21 yards. Quite a change from last season for the Patriots secondary. They also stuffed all the Titans receivers in week one where none had more than 45 yards on four catches. There are far better matchups coming down the pike very soon. I see the same offense with the same quarterbacks and ancillary receivers plus a rookie that has started really slowly. Same or better running with Ryan Williams getting playing time. So I think Fitz does improve. He is one of the most talented receivers in the league and he is only 29. It will pick up.
WR Andrew Hawkins (CIN)
TUVEY: It’s easy to get lost in the plethora of secondary receiver options in Cincinnati. Heck, we spent the preseason swapping Brandon Tate in for Armon Binns in for one of the rookies (Marvin Jones or Mohamed Sanu) in for Jordan Shipley before the Bengals cut his injured butt. Now we’re two weeks into the season and Hawkins has emerged as the new WR2 with the two best games of his career and his first NFL touchdown (by the way, if you haven’t seen it just turn on NFL Network; they replay the Top 5 plays of the week more frequently than Kenny Britt gets arrested and it is an impressive open-field run). If you weren’t able to win the race to your league’s waiver wire to claim Hawkins, make sure you remind the owner who did that Hawkins isn’t even a starter; he’s the Bengals slot receiver and has been on the field for less than half of the team’s offensive snaps—about 15 fewer a game than Binns. Don’t, however, point out that Shipley turned a similar role in that offense into serviceable stats in 2010 despite having to share with both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. With only A.J. Green taking numbers off the top, those feel like baseline numbers for Hawkins—with a whole lot more upside.
DOREY: The amazing thing about Hawkins is that he is only 5'7" and 180 pounds. But this guy can play and using him in the slot has worked out pretty well so far. I was impressed enough to pick him up in a few leagues though can you ever rely on a little guy in the slot? Wes Welker certainly made it work and while Hawkins is no Welker quite yet, he is headed in the right direction. Particularly since the Bengals have not been able to really replace Jerome Simpson who could stretch the field and help everything else underneath. He led the team with eight targets in the season opener (8-86) but then only had three passes last week and two catches though one was that thoroughly impressive touchdown Tuvey mentioned. Probably not going to be a major factor since he graduated from Toledo in 2006 and only now has shown up. But he is pretty exciting and deadly even in small doses. For now, I want to see what happens with him while he is on my roster, not someone else's.