NFL Soup|Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fantasy Football Advice: Knowshon Moreno, Tom Brady and the Week 3 Risers and Fallers 

Hype is a major factor in fantasy football, it seems. Before the season begins, we typically hear all sorts of hype about certain guys many predict will break-out, while others get no buzz whatsoever. Take the two names in the title as an example.

We heard throughout preseason that undrafted rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was quickly becoming Tom Brady’s favorite new toy, and that he could be primed for a big-time rookie season with New England. He has six catches in two games, and Brady has struggled to find a viable go-to option. We also spent lots of time debating whether Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman would be the lead back in Denver, yet Knowshon Moreno has been the guy seeing the large majority of the snaps through two weeks.

It’s crazy. So, let’s see who’s rising and falling as we prepare for Week Three.


Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

Apparently, it’s suddenly 2008 again.

Philip Rivers has looked reborn through two games with Mike McCoy at the helm for the Chargers, having thrown for over 600 yards with seven TDs and just one INT. Granted, his efforts have come against a Houston defense that looked like it was sleepwalking and an Eagles unit with all sorts of question marks, but results are results.

Rivers has made the best of what appeared to be a nightmare situation involving his wide receivers, and is averaging over eight yards-per-attempt thus far. When Rivers was at his best, he was averaging over eight yards-per-throw. He’s failed to top that in each of the last two seasons, and, not coincidentally, those seasons were borderline disastrous for him.

This week, he faces a Titans secondary that’s been vulnerable through-the-air through two games, so let the good times roll. San Diego isn’t having much success on the ground, so expect Rivers and the Bolts to continue to throw, throw, throw.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos

As mentioned in the open, nobody really saw this coming. Moreno has found himself on the field more than either Ball or Hillman due in large part to being Denver’s best pass-protecting back, but we actually saw him make a couple of big plays with the ball in his hands against the Giants in Week Two.

He carried the ball just 13 times, but he still managed to gain 98 rushing yards and scored twice. He’s also caught three passes in each of the first two games.

While I’m not ready to fully buy-in, given his injury history and the fact that they surely still expect more out of Ball, Moreno is clearly a guy you need to add if you can. He’s on the field a ton, and it isn’t unreasonable to expect Flex-type output at a minimum as long as this keeps up.

Denver’s backfield has been unpredictable thus far, and I wouldn’t expect that to change, unless Moreno somehow keeps up this kind of production. The Broncos are still a pass-first team, so I’d temper expectations a bit. Still, though, it’s encouraging.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers

James Starks, back from the fantasy football dead.

Starks became the first Packer back to top 100 yards rushing since 2010 when he was forced into the game in place of the concussed Eddie Lacy on Sunday against the Redskins. He looked phenomenal, carrying the ball 20 times and totaling 132 yards with a TD.

Is this something to bank on? Of course not. Like Denver, Green Bay still throws the ball a ton, and the running game is secondary. Also, while we’ve seen flashes like this from Starks in the past, we’ve seen enough of him to know he’s not going to be doing things like this on a weekly basis.

However, with Lacy sidelined until at least Week Five, it appears as though Starks is the guy you’ll want to pick up. Jonathan Franklin, despite having been a fourth-round draft pick, was terrible during preseason, and hasn’t touched the ball yet during the regular season.

Until Lacy comes back, this is Starks’ backfield. Like with Moreno, though, I’ll still like to play it safe and expect little more than decent Flex production.

Eddie Royal, WR, San Diego Chargers

Yet another thing nobody saw coming. Through two weeks, Royal leads the NFL with five touchdowns, which is two more than any other receiver at this point. Nobody thinks of the diminutive speedster as much of a red zone threat, yet that’s where he’s been doing his damage so far.

He only has 10 total catches on the year, which obviously means that half of them have resulted with him dancing in the end zone. He’s been targeted 14 times total. For a reference point, Kenbrell Thompkins was targeted 14 times in Week One. So, it’s not like Philip Rivers is forcing the ball to Royal.

Can you buy this? Of course not. He just tied his career-best for touchdowns in a season in two games, it can’t possibly keep up. However, you’re crazy if you’re going to ignore him completely. Royal is absolutely worth a roster spot, and, given the start, I don’t see why you’d keep him out of your lineup this week against the aforementioned Tennessee defense that can be scored upon aerially.

Strike while the iron is hot. Start him as a WR3 or Flex, though.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

Normally, rookie receivers take some time to get used to the NFL, which results in them struggling early in their careers. Through two games, DeAndre Hopkins appears to be an exception to that rule.

He’s already a starter, which certainly gives him an edge, but he’s also highly involved already. After a decent five-catch showing in the opener against San Diego, he essentially saved the Texans by himself in the second game against the Titans, catching seven passes for 117 yards, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Andre Johnson left that game late with a concussion, and Schaub trusted the rookie tremendously down-the-stretch. This bodes well. Johnson is uncertain for Week Three against the Ravens due to the concussion, so if he’s out, then Hopkins suddenly becomes a guy with very strong WR2 upside against a decent-but-not-great Baltimore secondary.

If Johnson is in the lineup, I still like Hopkins, but just a little bit less. AJ is still the guy gobbling up targets from Matt Schaub, but there’s room for Hopkins to get his share, too.

Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears

Marty B. has gotten off to a fantastic start with his new team, having caught three TDs through the first two games, including the game-winner last week against the Vikings. However, we’ve seen this before.

Last season, in his first and only in New York, Bennett caught a touchdown in each of the season’s first three games, only to catch two the rest of the way as he struggled to produce consistently good numbers.

There’s reason for more optimism this time around, though. The Bears don’t have any real proven pass-catching targets downfield other than Brandon Marshall, so there’s plenty of room for Bennett to do his thing. Alshon Jeffery is a nice prospect, and he’s gotten off to a decent start, but he’s no Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks yet.

He’s clearly earning the trust of Jay Cutler, as well, and the Bears’ offense has been reworked under new head coach Marc Trestman. I really like Bennett going forward, and I think he can certainly produce at TE1 levels.


Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

As blasphemous as this seems, there’s no way around it. Tom Brady doesn’t look like a reliable fantasy quarterback right now, though it isn’t his fault.

Brady’s young group of receivers looked largely lost last Thursday against the Jets, and that wasn’t much of an improvement over their work in Week One against the Bills. With Gronkowski and Amendola likely out again this week, how can you rely upon a guy throwing to the likes of Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. I mean, if Julian Edelman is your No. 1 receiver, you’ve got problems.

This week, against a Tampa secondary that appears tough, I’d bench Brady if you have a capable backup, like a Rivers, Vick, etc. I’d even consider someone like Cutler or Schaub. Until Gronk and Amendola (and Vereen, for that matter) return, it’s hard to trust the situation.

Brady has been stellar with less-than-stellar talent around him in the past, but this group is on another level. A much lower level.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are obviously in a transition year (uh…again), but I’d imagine even they didn’t figure it would get off to THIS poor a start.

After mustering a grand total of two points against the Chiefs, they were beaten by 10 by the lowly Raiders, and now they’re heading up to Seattle take on the juggernaut that lives there. MJD is nicked-up already, and has gained just 72 yards on 25 rushing attempts in about a game and-a-half’s worth of action.

I had him tabbed for a rebound year, and he could still do that, obviously, but the start is less than encouraging. If I owned him, I might try and trade him now and get something back, while his value is still relatively good. If he can come back and be effective, great, but getting out while you can wouldn’t be the worst idea.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

While Law Firm’s workload still greatly outweighed that of Gio Bernard on Monday night, I think the tide is beginning to turn here. Bernard touched the ball just nine times (compared to 23 for Green-Ellis), but he scored a pair of touchdowns and looked electric once he got out into the open field.

Green-Ellis is the poster boy for plodding and he’s averaging just 2.6 yards-per-attempt through two games. I thought this would happen all along, and as the Bengals’ second-round draft choice begins to get more opportunities, he’ll continue to flourish, and Green-Ellis’ fantasy value begins to wear away.

He can still be useful, considering the number of times he’s still touching the ball, but there’s very little upside with BJGE. I’m not saying to go crazy and start Bernard as your RB1 all of a sudden or anything, but it’s a matter of time until he’s The Guy.

Think it might be about time to BenchJarvus Green-Ellis.

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Rice has carried the ball just 25 times through the first two games, which is rather curious considering he’s been one of the league’s most reliable workhorses over the past few years. Baltimore has been utilizing Bernard Pierce more than most expected, and now Rice’s status for Sunday’s game against Houston is iffy with a hip injury.

I think ultimately Rice will produce enough to validate your selection of him in the first round of your draft, but if his role is going to be knocked down a bit, his expected output for now takes a hit.

Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders

Not that he’s a part of a reliable situation to begin with, but one would imagine Moore is featured enough in the Oakland offense to where he should be able to produce at least WR3-type numbers on a regular basis.

This wasn’t the case against the Jags last week, as the Raiders’ top receiver was held catchless on just two targets, following a five-catch game with a TD in the season opener.

With Terrelle Pryor under center, it’s risky playing any of his receivers in fantasy. Pryor makes one read before deciding to tuck-and-run himself, so there isn’t really much opportunity for guys like Moore or Rod Streater to inflict much damage.

I’m steering clear of Moore, even with the big-play potential.

Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans

Britt has five catches through two games for a total of just 43 yards, and he hasn’t sniffed the end zone. Britt himself doesn’t seem too optimistic about his chances to succeed this season, as he tweeted the other day that this could be his final year with the Titans. That’s rather discouraging.

He’s always been an intriguing talent, but a combination of injuries and off-field problems have limited his production. In an offense with a so-so quarterback, you can’t really comfortably trust any of the Titan pass-catchers.

The Charger defense has given up 30+ points in each of the first two games, so there’s room for upside this week, but you’re probably best served offering Britt a comfy seat on your bench.



About the author: Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been with NFL Soup since its inception, and is a jack of all trades, helping with breaking news, fantasy football advice and NFL Draft coverage. Smith also heads NFL Soup’s live chats and radio shows. Taylor also contributes content to our sister sites, MLB Soup, NBA Soup and NBA Water Cooler. He lives in San Diego, where he also is a writer for the L.A. Clippers. Follow him on Twitter @NFLSoupTaylor.

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