I’m going to try something challenging this year…and we’ll see if I can find enough time to stay with it. First off, I consider myself to be something of a fantasy football aficionado. I’ve been playing since 2008, and have been running one of my own leagues since 2010. Since 2008, I’ve played in a total of 10 leagues with 2 championships and numerous playoff appearances to my name. I don’t know everything when it comes to fantasy football, but I keep very close tabs on player news, stats and trends. This year, I’ve tried to limit myself to only 5 fantasy leagues (and that doesn’t include the Daily Norsemen SB Nation Pick 6, Pick ‘Em, Survivor or Salary Cap leagues I’m in too). I’m very passionate about Fantasy Football, and it is what changed me from a casual Vikings fan, into a super-hardcore Vikings fan (RRRWAR, HULK SMASH!). I know more about the NFL and the Vikings than I do about most things not related to my job…for better or worse. So, it’s with that in mind that I am going to challenge myself to make some predictions about the fantasy fortunes and tribulations of this week’s players, or highlight who I think will be Fantasy Studs, and who will be Fantasy Duds.
So, I’m going to 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: Ben Roethlisberger, PIT vs DEN
His ESPN Projected total is mere 16.8, while his Yahoo total is an even worse 13.99. I can understand the hesitation with Big Ben: Mike Wallace is behind the ball after a lengthy hold-out, and their offensive line is beat up while Denver boasts a good pass rush. But, Champ Bailey isn’t exactly a spring chicken, and did you know that they gave up the 12th most fantasy points to QBs last season despite their good pass rush? Denver is not great against the pass. I expect a big game out of Antonio Brown and look for Emmanuel Sanders to step up this week as well. Mike Wallace will still play, and there may be some timing issues there. But Big Ben is healthy, and I think he’ll beat his Yahoo projection by at least 4 points.
Dud: Michael Vick, PHI vs CLE
His ESPN projected total is a respectable 17.9, while his Yahoo total is an even better 19.09. But, he faces the Cleveland Browns defense this week, which will have the services of elite corner Joe Haden. The Browns were 3rd best against the pass last year, and Michael Vick isn’t exactly the picture of perfect health. Did you know that Vick is so worried about his ribs and re-injury that he’s actually wearing a custom-made Kevlar vest under his pads this season? I question his ability to stay on the field, and I’m not sold on DeSean Jackson being a reliable over-the-middle target, despite his new contract. Maclin dealt with a hamstring injury in the preseason, and those injuries have a tendency to linger and re-appear, which also has me worried. With his fear of running, I think Vick will fall short of his projected totals.
Stud: Doug Martin, TB vs CAR
Going with a rookie is a very risky pick to make in week 1, but I’m a believer. On 27 attempts in 3 Preseason games, Martin had 97 yards and 2 scores, and caught 4 passes for 16 yards. He could improve on his 3.6 yard/carry average, but this is a pretty promising stat line, assuming he can get a healthy number of carries. He’s the starter in TB, so I expect a decent workload. On top of that he faces the 2nd worst run defense from 2011 who gave up an average 120 yards and a score to RBs last year. ESPN has him projected at only 14.5 points and Yahoo an even weaker 10.86. I think he’ll be good for 100 yards and a score.
Dud: Steven Jackson, StL vs DET
When will Steven Jackson hit the proverbial cliff? He’s been Mr. Consistency for fantasy almost always getting 100 combined yards for almost the past decade, but this week he faces the Lions defense. Detroit was surprisingly good against the run last year (11th best), and I’m not convinced that Sam Bradford can get the passing game going in St. Louis with his mish-mash of receiving targets. This should allow Detroit to stack the box and stymie the Rams only real offensive threat. ESPN has S-Jax projected for an eye-opening 17.3 points while Yahoo has him pegged for a more respectable 13.06. I think he fails to find the endzone and falls just short of Yahoo’s projection.
Stud: Malcolm Floyd, SD vs OAK
Did you know that Philip Rivers is projected to do very well against Oakland’s 4th worst passing defense from 2011? Who is he going to throw the ball to? My money is on Malcolm Floyd this week. The wily veteran has shown over the years that he can put up the fantasy points with Rivers when he’s in a #1 role, and I’m not convinced that Robert Meachem will be the one getting open. ESPN has Floyd ranked criminally low at 7.7 and yahoo is not far behind at 7.85. I think Floyd catches one deep for a TD and beats both of those projections by 3 points or more.
Dud: Larry Fitzgerald, ARI vs SEA
Do you trust John Skelton? Do you trust him against last year’s 6th best passing defense? There was a time when Fitzgerald was matchup-proof, but in recent years, he’s been known to put up a dud every now and then. ESPN has him projected for an amazing 16.5 points while Yahoo has a more reasonable projection of 10.63. In the two games against Seattle last year he scored under ESPN’s projection, and I expect the same this week. I actually think he’ll perform at Yahoo’s projection, but basing this off of ESPN’s projection…he’ll be a Dud.
Stud: Kyle Rudolph, MIN vs JAC
I’ve got to include a Viking somewhere in this post, right? I’ve been saying all off-season that Rudolph is a sleeper pick, and ESPN must not be a believer. Did you know that Jacksonville was 4th worst against TEs last year? Did you know that John Carlson is still on the injury report (albeit listed as Probable)? I like Rudolph’s chances, especially for a TD, and I think he’ll beat the ESPN projection of 4.2 as well as the Yahoo projection of 4.47 by 3 points or more.
Dud: Jared Cook, TEN vs NE
This guy was the more popular sleeper pick this off-season, but I’m not buying it. Like Rudolph, he’s a redzone threat, and who knows what the change to Jake Locker at QB will do for his fantasy prospects. But this week, it’s all about the matchup and projection. He faces the 3rd best defense against the TE, and ESPN still has him projected for an elite 9.8 points. Yahoo’s projection is much more believable at 4.2, and I think this is much closer to what he’ll do this week. But, basing it just off of ESPN, Cook will be a dud.
So what do you think? Am I way off? Who are your studs and duds this week?