For a deeper review of players that are either new to the scene or playing differently than expected, Double Coverage 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.
QB Aaron Rodgers (GB)
DOREY: I find this sort of funny to think that the guy that was drafted in the first round of many drafts have some people freaking out after three weeks. Don't get me wrong - we all hate a slow start and Rodgers only has three touchdowns and an average of about 250 yards per week. Maybe not "kill you" bad but certainly not "I skipped everyone for this guy" kind of bad. I think Rodgers is the poster child for what is happening this year. The defenses are showing up. Last year they never did because they had no preparation time with the lockout. Defenses are showing up with a vengeance and when the NFC West holds almost nothing but bad-ass defenses, you know this is not the same NFL we used to know. Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Tony Romo and other quarterbacks are not meeting expectations either. In fairness to Rodgers, he has faced the 49ers, Bears and Seahawks which are all sporting great defenses so far. The Bears (#2) and the Seahawks (#5) have shut down all quarterbacks while he was able to throw for 303 yards and two scores in the opener against the 49ers. I tried to warn people that expecting the biggest pass-happy year every to repeat was too optimistic. I think it will get much better for Rodgers but again - this is a different year for everyone. There are a lot more good defenses and even Rodgers is not immune. So - he'll be better. He'll end up as one of the best quarterbacks. There will not be astronomic numbers this year.
TUVEY: How wrong is it that, in order to see Rodgers’ stats this season, when I go to the quarterbacks page—I have to scroll down! Thus far Rodgers has been outperformed by, among others: Mark Sanchez, three rookies, Alex Smith, and every quarterback in the AFC North. It’s yet another lesson in why you don’t take a quarterback in the first round (and yes, it’s a lesson I violate from time to time myself). However, I have yet to find a league that rewards you for stuff that happened in the previous week. Going forward, it’s the same Packers offense that produced gaudy numbers for Rodgers last year. Maybe there’s a little more running game in Green Bay, maybe defenses are a little more prepared for A-Rod. But he gets back on the horse in a shootout with New Orleans this weekend, and in a month or so his sluggish start will be forgotten. And if the Rodgers owner in your league doesn’t feel that way, go ahead and take him off his roster.
RB Ryan Williams (ARI)
DOREY: Everyone has grabbed Ryan Williams in every league by now. I liked Williams last year before he was injured and mostly because I have never liked Beanies Wells. To me, he was just Shonn Greene of the South. So I liked and promoted Williams as a sleeper type but mostly because we had never seen him play and to me, he was not going to be any worse than Wells. Anything more would just be a benefit. Williams had a patella tendon tear and that often is hard to come back in the past but medicine is so amazing now that Williams is healthy. He was not running well this year and gained only 22 yards on 18 runs against SEA and NE. He said that he was still thinking about his knee and players are very often tentative coming back from injury. But in a great sense of timing, Williams looked very good against the Eagles when he gained 83 yards on 13 carries in the same game that Wells went for 18 yards on eight runs. I think Williams can win this job for good and Wells returns in two months to be just a relief guy. The shocking part is that he's going to have some trouble because he plays in the NFC West where all defenses are decent to dominating. I have him on several teams including my dynasty league. I have moderate expectations though but maybe next year will be even better when the Cardinals finally have a #2 receiver good enough to make the offense more than Larry Fitzgerald.
TUVEY: One of the co-hosts from the weekly radio show I’m on (Fantasy Football Weekly, Saturday mornings on KFAN in Minneapolis/St. Paul, also available via I Heart Radio or via podcast on iTunes; end shameless plug) has a theory about how female sports reporters are generally overrated; they look better than they really are because they’re the only woman amidst a sea of men. That’s an appropriate description for Williams as well. If you take a look at Williams in a vacuum there’s not much to like: a 3.4 yards per carry average, a couple fumbles already this season, zero career touchdowns, zero career games with double-digit fantasy points, maybe the worst run-blocking offensive line in the league. But next to Beanie Wells, Williams suddenly looks like Molly Qerim. With Wells on the sidelines for the foreseeable future Williams should see the bulk of the carries in Arizona—and at this point in the season, if you can add a back getting regular carries to your roster you do so. Maybe he’ll turn out to be good from afar but far from good; to be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if LaRod Stephens-Howling starts getting some meaningful touches in Arizona. But if there’s a double-digit carries back in the free agent pool, I’m at least tossing in a line.
RB Bilal Powell (NYJ)
DOREY:Powell was another guy I liked this summer and have on several of my own teams because, as stated, I have never liked Shonn Greene and never understood why they stood by him in New York. But now that HC Rex Ryan is admitting that he may need to seek other options at running back, it makes Powell front and center. I admit, the main reason I liked Powell was because he was not Greene. But Powell has not been that impressive and it is a stretch to expect he is going to rekindle the ghost of Curtis Martin. Powell did run for 45 yards on ten carries in Miami while Greene only came up with 40 yards on 19 runs. But there are a few reasons why I am not as high on Powell as I could have been. First - the Jets brought in Jonathan Grimes and we have no idea what he'll be like so maybe he ends up better. Second - this is no time to have the coaches start giving you more work with SF, HOU and NE up in the next four weeks. You do have to like that Powell earned the #2 spot and became the third down back but the Jets almost never throw to the backs anymore. My outlook? Powell might even get the starting job but nothing dramatic will happen and he won't last any longer than this season as the starter if he actually is given the #1 job. And not to mention in all of this the Jets have stuck with Greene for four years, hard to imagine they are finally seeing the light in week four of the season.
TUVEY: Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of the utterly ordinary Shonn Greene. I had LT over Greene every year the duo split carries in New York, and coming into this season I had Joe McKnight as a solid sleeper candidate based on my belief that Greene would metaphorically fill the bed with excrement. And bless his heart Greene has not disappointed with an even-for-him pedestrian 2.8 yards per carry average. After slogging to a 97-yard, one-TD performance in the season opener I urged you to sell while his stock was at its zenith; true to form, less than a month later Greene is in the process of losing his grip on the carries in Gotham. But it’s not McKnight poised to swipe them; instead, the former USC Trojan is working at cornerback while Powell gets a spin in the Gang Green backfield. What’s so special about him? Saying he’s more dynamic than Greene is like saying he treats women better than Chris Brown; the bar isn’t exactly set very high. But like with Williams, when a back with the potential for significant carries comes on the market, I buy first and ask questions later. Sans Darrelle Revis the Jets might need to score a few more points; that might mean throwing a bit more, and Powell is a much better back than Greene in the passing game. He’s also an upgrade in the ground game, and even if he can’t hold up to a full workload maybe he takes the lightning role in a slow-rolling thunder and lightning backfield in New York. I can muster up at least a little enthusiasm for that.
RB Jonathan Grimes (NYJ)
DOREY: Love him. Grabbed him in every league possible but only when I had a big enough roster that I can throw out whatever slug is doing nothing for me. And then I add Grimes where I can imagine that he is going to be a stud in New York and make me look so smart for grabbing him. And in about 90%+ of these cases, I will quietly dump him back onto the waiver wire in about 4 weeks when I realize that he is not going to do anything and there is someone else I can grab, hold and dream until reality wakes me up again. What I like about Grimes is that the Texans liked him and hoped to keep him on the practice squad because they already had Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Justin Forsett and did not want to keep a fourth active back. Grimes was impressive in the preseason. And the Jets had their eye on him until now. And as we covered - I hate Shonn Greene. Bilal Powell gets the chance to be the replacement if that even happens. Grimes is going to be no more than #2 and probably #3 on the depth charts. But - we do not know for sure that he is just as mediocre as the others so why not take the chance? When I think of Grimes, I think about Ryan Grant who also was an undrafted rookie who was on the Giants practice squad in 2005 and 2006 and then ended up with the Packers in 2007 where he gained 956 rush yards and eight touchdowns starting in week eight. Yeah, Grimes has about a 1% chance of replicating that but I'll always look for the next Grant. And throw him away when I realize it just is not happening. It is fantasy football - we love to think about what might happen.
TUVEY: How could you not love him as Uncle Rico? However, I celebrate his entire catalog—most notably his roles as hot-shot detective Tony Montoya in “Running Scared” and reclusive genius Lazlo in “Real Genius”. He’s also done a ton of TV, including… what’s that? Jonathan GRIMES, not Jonathan GRIES? Oh. Um, hey, looked great in the preseason. Even found a video of his touchdown on YouTube. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry for the Texans on 28 preseason carries, so why not give him a spin. Big numbers in college; he was an FCS All-American at William & Mary, but he puts his pants on same way we do (bonus points if that reference resonates with you). And it’s a homecoming of sorts for the Jersey boy. Powell is certainly no sure thing, so at minimum Grimes warrants a blip on the radar. If you’re in a hugh league he’s worth a stash in a roster spot you’re likely to churn over anyway, but in most leagues you can see if he cracks the rotation over the next month or so (by rule he needs to remain on the Jets active roster for at least three weeks) before making your move.
QB Blaine Gabbert (JAC)
DOREY: I admit I used Blain Gabbert as a sort of punching bag each week last year but I had to project his performances and that was really, really no fun. Plus I figured I went through that every week even though probably no one on the planet was weighing Gabbert versus <anyone> for a weekly start. And then he threw for 260 yards and two scores in Minnesota in the season opener. That sort of freaked me out. And then the next week he completed seven of 19 for 53 yards and one score against the Texans. Then 10 of 21 for 155 yards and one score in Indianapolis (80 of those yards on the touchdown to Cecil Shorts). Yes. There is the guy we knew last year. Gabbert is notable right now for one reason. We all know that he is not worth owning but he has now brought two very good receivers down with him. Laurent Robinson was a surprise stud in Dallas but was signed by the Jaguars. And they used their first pick on Justin Blackmon as a penalty against him for being the best wide receiver eligible for the NFL draft. We all know that Robinson is a very capable wideout - he now has 8 catches for 115 yards on the season and was blanked last week. We should know that Blackmon is a very talent, high-potential wideout who caught 232 passes for 3304 yards and 38 touchdowns IN JUST THE LAST TWO YEARS at Oklahoma State who was ranked #3 last season. Now Blackmon has four catches for 31 yards over three games. This is all to say forget anyone besides Maurice Jones-Drew from Jacksonville. But if they ever get a real quarterback, rethink Robinson and Blackmon. With only Chad Henne backing him up, it is probably going to be 2013 before anyone shows up.
TUVEY: Not sure why we’re discussing Gabbert; last I checked this was a fantasy football site, and aside from Tim Tebow no quarterback who has played in all three of his team’s games has scored fewer fantasy points than Gabbert. Maybe Gabbert eventually develops into a serviceable NFL quarterback in Jacksonville, but in the Jags’ run-first offense it’s tough to see him showing up on the fantasy radar any time soon. In fact, I’d be much more intrigued from a fantasy perspective if Tebow headed back to Florida and replaced Gabbert for the Jags. Feels like a win-win all the way around: Tebow out of the media capital, some attention for Jacksonville, and a kick-start to a moribund Jaguars offense. If Tebow can lift Willis McGahee’s rushing numbers just think what he could do running the spread option with Maurice Jones-Drew. Wow, now all of a sudden I’m intrigued by the Jaguars… and it has absolutely nothing to do with Blaine Gabbert. Oh, well.
WR Leonard Hankerson (WAS)
DOREY: Hankerson was the third round pick for the Redskins in 2011. He finally was given some playing time last year in week seven and slowly built up to an eight catch, 106 yard effort in Miami in week ten. But he tore the labrum in his right hip and landed on injured reserve and needed surgery to repair the damage. His name was bounced around in the preseason as an up-and-comer. In week two he scored a 68-yard touchdown in St. Louis and was thrown seven passes with four catches for 56 yards versus the Bengals. He has been named the starting wideout to replace Pierre Garçon. while he is out and then will move over and replaced Josh Morgan whenever Garçon. can play. He is still a bit raw but the second-year player has won a starting slot for the Redskins and in case you were not aware what that might mean, go look at your fantasy league stats to see where Robert Griffin III ranks. At 6-2, 211 he has good size and the Skins have been looking for someone to step up and make a difference. Looks like that is going to be Hankerson. Don't expect top ten numbers by any means but he will grow into the job and become a bigger part of the gameplan.
TUVEY: I’m a closet Hankerson fan, even picked him up in a couple of leagues and enjoyed the benefits his 4-56 last week against Cincinnati. And while he was far and away the most targeted Redskins wideout—seven looks, more than any two other Washington wide receivers combined—I’m concerned about his future. It only took about one quarter of action for everyone to see that a) Pierre Garçon was the best receiver on this team; and b) Robert Griffin III loves throwing to Garçon. Eventually, he’ll be back from his foot injury; we have yet to hear those season-killing phrases like “Lisfranc” or “plantar fasciitis”, so there doesn’t seem to be cause for alarm. But Hank was playing on the left side last week, and that’s where Garçon will return once he’s healthy. I was hoping Hank would see more reps in place of Josh Morgan on the right side, especially after Morgan cost the Redskins a game with his ill-advised temper tantrum against the Rams, but that’s not how it’s shaping up. So while you can bank on Hank in the short term, once Pierre returns the bottom falls out of Hankerson’s fantasy value.