- Ken Daube, Fantasy Football
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Last week, in an effort to talk owners of the Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith off the proverbial ledge, I pointed out that Smith did get 13 targets in his three-catch, 21-yard Week 1 stinker. Well, Smith had a similar number of targets in Week 2, and he converted them into eight catches and 131 yards this time around. Now that's a little more like what we expect from him, but nothing changed in terms of his chances. Opportunity matters almost as much as what a player does with said opportunity. With that as a preface, here are some Week 2 highlights you should know:
• New England Patriots rookie Julian Edelman burst onto the fantasy scene in Week 2 as an immediate handcuff for Wes Welker owners, particularly those of you in point-per-reception leagues. Edelman, a former Kent State quarterback, was drafted in the seventh round and was generally considered to be a project entering this season. But with 16 targets in his first NFL start, it appears Tom Brady is perfectly comfortable with him filling Welker's role in the Patriots' offense.
• Nate Burleson is owned in just less than 30 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues. If you are competing in one of the many leagues in which he is available, you need to change that right now. After being targeted 11 times in Week 1, he saw 10 more targets in Week 2. To put that into perspective, his 21 year-to-date targets trail only the aforementioned Steve Smith and the trio of Andre Johnson, Randy Moss and Santonio Holmes.
• Let's all welcome Kellen Winslow back to fantasy relevance. Winslow is leading all tight ends with 19 targets through two games. While Tony Gonzalez is the early-season leader among tight ends in fantasy points, Winslow is only two points behind Gonzalez and was drafted about six rounds later in ESPN standard leagues; thus, he's providing significantly more value.
• I loved Brent Celek as a sleeper entering this season based on how he performed last year when he was thrust into the starting lineup. In fact, if you took his per-game averages in those starts and applied them to a full 16-game season, Celek would have finished as a top-10 tight end. This season he trails only Winslow in targets among tight ends and finds himself in the early top 10 in scoring, ahead of studs such as Jason Witten and Antonio Gates.
• Mario Manningham and the "other" Steve Smith already should be viewed as No. 3 fantasy receivers based on their early-season play. They both tied for sixth this week while raking in 13 targets apiece. As both youngsters are still developing, either could develop into a No. 2 option by year's end.
• Andre Caldwell was mentioned last week as someone to keep an eye on in deeper leagues. Well, he was targeted just twice in Week 2. Feel free to drop him if you were one of the few who picked him up, as the chances of someone else wanting him after his poor Week 2 performance will be pretty low.
Big plays and up close
The production of running backs can often be gauged by two metrics: big-play rushes (i.e., rushes of 10 yards or more) and production inside the opponent's 10-yard line. Of course, then you have the dominant Week 2 performances from Chris Johnson and Frank Gore, which are in a different class altogether. Anyway, here are some trends for running backs:
• Owners will be happy to see Michael Turner both ripping off two runs of more than 10 yards this week and getting two carries inside the 10. There is some cause for concern with Turner. Last year he posted a big-play rush on 12 percent of his carries. This season, he's posting those types of runs on only 6 percent of his carries. Additionally, Turner averaged 2.25 carries per game inside the opponent's 10-yard line. This year, through two games, he has only two total carries in that scenario. It's too early to bail on Turner, of course, but you need to be monitoring his performance in these two metrics because it's how he dominated last year.
• Don't look now, but Willis McGahee is back. He and Ray Rice have split carries pretty evenly this season, but McGahee has seven carries inside the opponent's 10-yard line compared to just two for Rice. McGahee also has four big-play rushes compared to Rice's two.
• In his Week 2 game against the Chicago Bears, Willie Parker broke off three big-play rushes. Since he had only 14 carries, that amounts to a big play on 21 percent of his rushes. However, in his other 11carries in that game, Parker averaged less than a yard per carry. Since both Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore have proven to be useful options for the Pittsburgh Steelers, don't be surprised to see Parker riding the pine before long.
• Clinton Portis had six carries this week inside the opponent's 10. He gained one total yard and was stuffed for a loss on two of those carries. Considering his opponent was the St. Louis Rams, you have to be concerned.
Sizing up the schedule
• After just two weeks into the season, it's safe to assume that seeing the Indianapolis Colts as your running back's opponent is an early holiday present. The Colts have reverted to tackling like matadors. I'm calling it now: In the next two weeks, Tim Hightower and Julius Jones will each have double-digit-fantasy-point games handed to them by the Colts. The week after those will feature Chris Johnson feasting on the Colts. That's almost unfair.
• I said last week that if you own LeSean McCoy and are waiting for a Brian Westbrook injury to recoup the value of that mid-round pick you invested on McCoy, you better get your voodoo dolls out early. Well, apparently there was a rush on voodoo dolls this week. While there's no official word from Philadelphia on the extent of Westbrook's latest ankle injury, if you factor in that the Eagles draw the Kansas City Chiefs this week in their last game before their bye, it's not unreasonable to deduce that McCoy will get plenty of work this week whether Westbrook plays or not.
• Cedric Benson is for real. Not only is he tied for the NFL lead in carries with 50, but he's averaging 4.3 yards per carry and is tied for fourth in the league with six big-play rushes. That said, two of his next three games are against the Steelers and Ravens, so temper your expectations in those two games. Luckily for Benson owners, he runs against the Cleveland Browns in the game in between those two monsters.
Ken Daube is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. His ESPN.com fan profile is available at: myespn.go.com/KenD17.
Ken Daube looks at the trends that portend future productivity for fantasy football, and likes what he sees from Nate Burleson and Willis McGahee.