- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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I recognize how lucky I am. I am truly blessed.
Getting to be a fantasy sports analyst for ESPN is a dream come true. I started playing fantasy sports a quarter-century ago as a young boy, never imagining that one day I could get paid to play, write and talk about fantasy. And to be able to do it here, at the Worldwide Leader in Sports
Yo! Hold on! Stop. Check it, check it.
TMR: (looks around) What? What's going on? This is my column. Hello?
Kanye: I just want to say that you're OK, but Eric Karabell is, like, one of the best fantasy columnists of all time. Like, this is ridiculous, OK? Christopher Harris never screws up my team the way you do. This isn't fair.
TMR: (Looks at ground, looks around, feels more confused and awkward than normal.)
Kanye: And Bill Simmons is much funnier. Stephania Bell is smarter. Adam Schefter is, like, money. And you're, like, loose change.
TMR: How are you even here? Aren't I the one writing this?
Kanye: You ain't a writer. You know who's a writer? Jemele Hill. She can write. Tristan H. Cockcroft, now he's a writer. All them guys from Scouts Inc.? They write. You scribble. (pause) No disrespect.
(Kanye leaves to cheers)
Timing, they say, is everything. As one guy in my chat noted on Monday, Kanye's actual message at the MTV awards Sunday night wasn't terrible. He liked Beyonce's video and thought it deserved an award. So did I, frankly. His timing to express that message, however, was, to put this gently, an unmitigated disaster of the jerkiest proportions.
Timing, they are correct in saying, is everything.
You will need to add and subtract players for your team. Whether it is due to performance, injury, role change or bye week need, there will come a time when you need to adjust the roster you left your draft (or auction!) with.
When you make that adjustment is the key.
Understand this: You have no idea what your team is yet. I did a 12-team "expert" league with many well-known fantasy analysts, including my fantasy focus co-host Nate Ravitz, Brandon Funston and a guy I gave his start to at TalentedMrRoto.com, Andy Behrens. Jeff Erickson, Chris Liss, Jeff Ma ... list goes on and on. A bunch of smart, experienced owners and analysts. And Nate. I scored the second-most points of the week, three points behind Ryan Houston.
I also did a 12-team PPR (point-per-reception) league with some random fans that follow me on Twitter (as @therealtmr) and ESPN "SportsCenter" anchor Linda Cohn. I had the worst score of the week. (Linda, who couldn't make the draft and went autopick, wound up with Adrian Peterson and Drew Brees as her first two picks. She's in first.)
I am not crowing about the "expert" team nor am I am freaked out about the Twitter league. Like I said: You have no idea what your team is. And won't until at least four weeks in. I don't make any major moves (barring some crazy Tom-Brady-last-year-type injury) until after Week 4.
But that doesn't mean we can't tweak. There are always one-week wonders. But looking back at last year's Week 2 pickup column, we find DeSean Jackson, Eddie Royal, Matt Cassel, Steve Slaton, Pierre Thomas, Ray Rice, Matt Ryan, Chad Pennington and John Carlson were all suggested. (Of course, there were also some clunkers. Andre Hall? Yeesh.) There is a lot of fantasy goodness out there you need to grab.
More often than not, the tweak is necessary. Like, I'd say, hey Kanye, love the passion, baby, but maybe we do that at a news conference. Or on Jay Leno, when no one's watching. (Viva Howard Stern!)
Pickups of the week
The ownership percentages indicated are for ESPN.com standard leagues. I realize participation levels are different for every league, but this is the best barometer we have, and we do scrub the sample to leave out dead leagues. I've ranked the players in the order in which I would put a claim on them.
Mike Bell, RB, Saints (12 percent): Regular readers of this column over the years know I have a section coming up called "From the obvious name department." And there is no more obvious name this week than Bell, but I put him here for two reasons. One, his low ownership percentage. I'm guessing there are some leagues that don't allow pickups prior to Week 1, since everyone in the business has been screaming about him.
But also, he's here because yes, he will have value once Pierre Thomas comes back. The best example I can give is Derrick Ward last season. Like, he'll get 10-15 touches a game and be a legitimate flex option in 12-team leagues. I still have Thomas finishing the year as a top-15 fantasy running back, but I'd rather have Bell than Reggie Bush. (Who, in a blowout passing game against Detroit and with Thomas out, got all of 12 -- count 'em, 12 -- touches).
Justin Gage, WR, Titans (35 percent): You forget him because he's been banged up and it's the Titans, but Gage had a good Week 1 and it wasn't a fluke. There have been 12 games in which Gage has played wideout and Collins has been the quarterback. His numbers in those games: 42 receptions for 752 yards and seven touchdowns. That comes out to an average of 3.5 receptions per game for 62.7 yards and 0.6 of a TD. OK, now, to disprove all of you that claim I can't do simple math or anything beyond shallow analysis, if you take his per-game averages and prorate them to a 16 games schedule ... Justin Gage would have just over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. He had 11 targets in the first game and, bottom line, (can't believe I am writing this) he's a guy you want who will be productive as long as Kerry Collins is the QB.
Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks (23 percent): He was in my Love/Hate update as a reason why I didn't love Deion Branch. Healthy and he has Matt Hasselbeck's confidence. How do I know this? Matt's brother, Tim, told me. We discussed this on Fantasy Football Now, the show I appear on with him, Erik Kuselias, Stephania Bell, Molly Qerim and all our NFL Insiders and reporters (Adam Schefter, Michael Smith, Rachel Nichols, Ed Werder, Sal Pal, etc., etc.). It's every Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET until kickoff. Join us and be smarter. 'Cause we talked about all the guys in this article on last week's show, among others. Anyways, Burleson is just two years removed from a nine-touchdown season and he's got his QB looking for him.
Michael Bush, RB, Raiders (12 percent): It's very simple. The Raiders can run the ball. And run the ball they will. And when it's not Darren McFadden, it's this guy who will run the rock, especially at the goal line. Another in the Mike Bell mold of 12-team flex-play types.
Shaun Hill, QB (13 percent) and Isaac Bruce, WR, 49ers (15 percent): I put them here because they are getting no love and both will be better this year than you think. Hill was a preseason sleeper of mine. Remember, he was top-10 in the NFL in passing yards and passing TDs over the second half of last year. And reports of Bruce's death were greatly exaggerated. Next three games are Seattle, at Minnesota and home vs. St. Louis. Two of those secondaries aren't scaring anyone, and as for the Vikings, you gotta try to beat them through the air, so you know Hill will be throwing a ton, and who he'll be throwing it to. What do you mean, who? Bruce! Weren't you paying attention?
Steve Smith, WR, Giants (25 percent): They are gonna have to throw to someone. And 80 yards later against a good Redskins defense, Eli did just that, looking at Smith eight times. OK, he threw the ball to him eight times. He probably looked a lot more, what with those puppy-dog eyes Steve has. Makes your heart go all pitter patter, don't you know? I'm writing this late. I'm a little loopy. Sorry. Carry on.
Earl Bennett, WR, Bears (29 percent): I may have been wrong on Bennett. He was a trendy preseason sleeper pick for a lot of folks but not me. I wasn't buying the "they went to college together" argument (see Terrell, David and Brady, Tom) but ... only Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Reggie Wayne had more targets in Week 1. And with the Bears losing Brian Urlacher, that defense takes a hit. Which means more throwing for Cutler.
The defenses: I love the Green Bay Packers' D (67 percent) and liked what I saw out of the Atlanta Falcons (4 percent) a lot. The Falcons get Carolina at home this week and the early indications are that the Panthers are, shall we say, turnover prone. I thought the Colts' defense (13 percent) was impressive and they get Miami on Monday (the same Dolphins that let the Falcons be the No. 2 fantasy defense last week) and finally, the Redskins (47 percent) are at home to St. Louis. 'Nuff said.
From the obvious name department:
Here are guys who are owned in most active leagues but may be available if you are in a shallow league, drafted early or play with morons. If these guys are available, they should be picked up ahead of anyone above.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (56 percent): If you read or heard me at all in the preseason, starting in early July, you know I am wacko for Flacco (and don't claim to have invented the phrase; calm down, Baltimore). He's very legit.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Buccaneers (70 percent): He looked good, son. Strong. He's the Tampa Bay running back I want and the only one I feel safe starting on a weekly basis.
Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints (70 percent): I owe an apology to Suzy Kolber, who mentioned Shockey as a sleeper in our SportsCenter Fantasy Football Draft Special. Good call by Suze that I totally dismissed. My poor fantasy heart has been burned too many times by Jeremy and I didn't want to believe. But he's currently healthy and Billy Miller is no longer in the mix.
Chris Henry, WR, Bengals (38 percent): Did nothing in Week 1, but I expect good things in the future. I've put him here because seems like we've been talking about him all preseason, but apparently, it's fallen 62 percent on deaf ears.
How lucky do you feel, punk?
3; I want to see him healthy from that hammy and Gage is the No. 1, but I do still think Nate Washington, WR, Titans (21 percent), will have value before all is said and done. And Johnny Knox, WR, Bears (1 percent), can flat-out fly. Al Davis on Line 1!
I'm not buying it
Here are some Week 1 stars that I am not buying based on the fact that I don't feel they'll continue to get the opportunity, or because of the circumstances in the game: Robert Meachem, Miles Austin, Kenny Britt, Benjamin Watson, Devery Henderson (in shallow leagues), Mario Manningham and Antwaan Randle El.
Welcome to Dumpsville, population: you
Here are some guys you can cut to make room for the pickups.
Chris Chambers (61 percent), Rashard Mendenhall (65 percent), Earnest Graham (55 percent), Muhsin Muhammad (50 percent), Kevin Curtis (50 percent), Jake Delhomme (38 percent), Jeremy Maclin (33 percent), Michael Crabtree (21 percent) and Shonn Greene (18 percent).
OK, this will be shorter in the coming weeks as, due to the nature of 10-team leagues, many of these players will still be available in Week 3 and beyond. But make sure at least one or two of them are not. Because you need to tweak now. Timing, as they say, is everything.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- would like to remind you, for the last time, that no one puts Baby in a corner. He is a five-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend
3hMike Fish and David Purdum