Last week, I wrote my first post in what will hopefully be a weekly series this season (free time willing!). I mentioned that these articles would take a look at the ESPN and Yahoo standard scoring projections for players at each offensive position (QB, RB, WR and TE). I’m going to choose 2 players at every position to highlight: one as a "stud" and one as a "dud". A Stud is one who I think will significantly beat their projected total, and a Dud is one who I think will fall short of their projected total. I will also keep a running tally at the end of the post each week to keep track of the accuracy of my predictions. If I can do better than 50% by season’s end, I’ll call it a success. So read on after the jump to see who my picks are for Week 1.
Stud: Jay Cutler CHI, vs GB
Against a terrible Colts defense, Cutler put up 333 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception. He’s got a legitimate #1 WR now in Brandon Marshall, and the two of them seem to have rekindled their prior magic in Denver. While it’s true that Cutler hasn’t been good against GB in the recent past, throwing 12 interceptions to 7 TDs in the past 7 games, he also hasn’t had Brandon Marshall to throw the ball to. Need I remind you that the Packers secondary (and defense generally) is atrocious? In his one game against them last year, he threw for over 300 yards and 2 TDs (along with 2 INTs). I think ESPN's projection of 11.1 is WAY too low and even Yahoo’s projection of 15.85 is a little under where I think he’ll end up. I think he’ll be good for at least 17 points or more this week. Alex Smith put up 17.7 against Green Bay last week, and I think Cutler is a better QB with better weapons to throw to.
Dud: Michael Vick PHI, vs BAL
We’ll tap the Vick well again this week. The question here is, can Michael Vick turn it around against Baltimore? Well, he was terrible last week against Cleveland. Look at the numbers: 51.8% completion, 2 TD vs 4 INT, 51 passer rating, 2 fumbles. The yards were there: 317 passing and 32 rushing. But he kept giving the football away, and the yards were simply a by-product of the obscene number of times he threw it (56 attempts!). I don’t know about you, but generally speaking, I consider the Baltimore defense to be better than the Cleveland defense. Last year, Baltimore was #1 against the QB, and they completely shut down Andy Dalton last week to the tune of 5.9 fantasy points. I think Vick will fall dramatically short of his 19.4 ESPN projection again, and will land at least 2 points under his 17.39 Yahoo projection as well. I am just not buying Michael Vick again this week, and if ESPN keeps projecting him near 20 points against tough matchups, I’m going to keep listing him as a dud. Oh yeah, and his consistency rating is only 50%. He is not a reliable fantasy QB.
Stud: Mark Ingram NO, vs CAR
I had a hard time finding a RB that seemed under-projected, but Ingram is probably the best bet. Did Ingram get only 6 carries in week 1? Yes. But it was still most on the team (Pierre Thomas only got 4, and Darren Sproles didn’t get any). The Saints fell behind early against Washington and turned to Drew Brees to try to bail them out for most of the game. I don’t see that happening against Carolina. Now, I’m not saying Ingram is due for 100 yards and a score, but the way to beat Carolina is on the ground. As I mentioned last week, they were the 2nd worst run defense last year, and they just allowed over 100 yards on the ground to Tampa Bay. Also, if any Saints RB has a shot at a TD, it’s Ingram. His ESPN projection of 6.6 is a little low, and I expect him to beat Yahoo’s low-ball 5.2 projection by at least 4 points.
Dud: Reggie Bush MIA, vs OAK
While it was difficult to find a too-low projected stud, there were a plethora of options for duds this week! Seriously, ESPN has 12 RB projected for 16 or more fantasy points in week 2. Only 10 managed that in week 1, and of them how many people actually started CJ Spiller, Stevan Ridley or Michael Bush last week? I sure didn’t. I picked Reggie Bush for week 2 as a dud, despite his reasonable 11.27 Yahoo projection. It has more to do with his insanely high ESPN projection of 18 points. Bush had a pretty good year last year, but let’s not go overboard. He scored 18 points or more in only 1 game in 2011. And dare I say it, the Dolphins offense might be even worse this year than last. Oakland’s run defense is poor, sure, and Bush might be the only legitimate weapon in the offense. However, 18 points is a pretty elite day for any RB. Do you think Bush is good for 120 yards and a score? How about 60 yards and 2 scores? Last week against a very good Houston defense he managed 115 yards from scrimmage (which is pretty good considering), but failed to find the endzone, so the potential is certainly there for him to do better against a worse Oakland defense. But, I'll reiterate what I saw last year: 1 game of more than 18 points. One. So, anyway you slice it, I just don’t see him getting to 18 points. I’ll take Yahoo’s projection as his ceiling in week 2.
Stud: Stevie Johnson BUF, vs KC
Wow, the wide receiver pool is so deep. It was hard to find a diamond in the rough, but find one I did. Stevie Johnson spent last week on Revis Island, and what did he do? He merely filled the stat sheet with 55 yards and a score, that’s what. Not elite by any means, but respectably start-able. This week he gets Kansas City, who was just torched through the air by Matt Ryan and company. This is the Bills home opener, and I expect some excellent production from Johnson. Last year, the Chiefs were pretty good against WR, but CB Brandon Carr is in Dallas now, and KC’s defense looked pretty bad last week. He's got a decent Yahoo projection of 11.1, but I think Stevie can beat the ESPN projection of 9.2 by at least 3 points.
Dud: Brandon Lloyd NE, vs ARI
I’ve been saying all offseason that Brandon Lloyd basically has two options for 2012: he'll either be 2007 Randy Moss or 2010/11 Deion Branch. After week 1, it appears he’ll be Deion Branch as he put up a whopping 6.9 points. The Patriots offense is different now than it was in 2007, with more mouths to feed: Gronkowski, Hernandez, Welker…and now Lloyd? He may be the deep threat, and he’ll put up some fantasy points every now and then, including the occasional TD (just like Branch). But, he’s not a reliable fantasy starter to me. And especially not this week, against a legitimate Arizona defense that only allowed 99 yards and a TD to WR last week. Sure it was a rookie QB in Seattle, but if Arizona has one strength, it’s their secondary (they were willing to trade us one of their backup CB because their depth is so good, remember?). I expect Brady to throw, and to easily win, but he won’t be throwing it to Lloyd. I’ll take Yahoo’s 9.24 projection as his ceiling, and his ESPN projection of 15.1 is just dumb. I think he’ll put up 8 or less points in week 2.
Stud: Tony Gonzalez ATL, vs DEN
Look, I get that Gonzalez is getting old, but the fantasy community has been wondering when he'll hit the old guy wall for years, and every year he continues to perform. He looked great in week 1: 5 catches for 53 yards and a score. If he’s going to slow down at all this season, it will likely be much later in the year, as opposed to week 2. Also, if Matt Ryan is going to be passing the ball over 30 times every week, some of them will go to the TE. Last year Denver was pretty good against the TE, but they did just give up 50 yards and a score to Heath Miller. Gonzalez's ESPN projection is criminally low at 5.2, and I think he has an even better chance of beating his 7.52 Yahoo projection by at least a couple of points this week.
Dud: Scott Chandler BUF vs KC
I don’t know what ESPN sees in Scott Chandler with their 10.1 projection, but I’m going to have side with Yahoo and their 5.02 projection on this one. Chandler did manage 9.8 last week against the Jets, but most of that came on a short 5-yard TD, and he had only 3 other catches for a total of 32 yards. While he does have a decent matchup against Kansas City (who Tony Gonzalez did very well against), if Chandler doesn't find the enzone, there's no way he'll come close to 10.1 points. And, I don’t think Chandler finds the endzone, so his ceiling is the yahoo projection.
Dud: QB Michael Vick
Dud: RB Steven Jackson
Stud: WR Malcolm Floyd
Dud: WR Larry Fitzgerald
Dud: TE Jared Cook
Stud: QB Ben Roethlisberger
Stud: RB Doug Martin
Stud: TE Kyle Rudolph
Overall Record: 5-3, 62.5% accurate
So what do you all think? Am I way off? Who are your Studs and Duds for week 2?