- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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Don't Kanye me, OK? If you must, you can click here to just get to the pickups, but if you want to understand why I'm referencing Mr. West and will indulge me more than usual, please read on.
It's fairly hard to make me blush.
I am very liberal and casual by nature. My friends in my "real" life know that I enjoy off-color jokes, that I don't take very much (especially myself) seriously and much more often than not I'm wearing an untucked shirt and some form of bad sneakers.
I've published pictures of myself on this site of me kissing a mirror (a la A-Rod), in a gold thong (a la Giambi), video of a dorky 14-year-old me at my first fantasy draft and more pictures than I should of my 14-pound "girlie" dog, Macy. I officiated a marriage; I challenged the Jonas Brothers to softball game; I acted in a soap opera; I had Michael Turner as my No. 1 running back last season. Ahem.
Shy, I am not.
So although it is very hard to make me blush, I did just that Thursday evening when I got a call from Mike Beacom, president of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (www.fswa.org), a nonprofit organization that takes the writing, research, reporting and analysis of fantasy sports very seriously.
Its mission is not just to promote and acknowledge the hard work and dedication shown by fantasy sports writers throughout the industry but also to help aspiring writers break into the industry, and I am honored to be among its advisers. Mike was calling to congratulate me.
I have just been elected to the inaugural class of the FSWA Hall of Fame.
And I blushed. Hard.
Very humbling for me. Thrilled, honored, touched and many other emotions raced through me.
In the spring of this year, the FSWA started the process by coming up with an initial list of 50 who met their criteria, including at least 10 years of working in the fantasy sports content industry. Those 50 were narrowed to 14 terrific finalists, which included my deserving ESPN colleagues James Quintong and Brendan Roberts.
Of those 14, five of us received at least the required 70 percent of the votes from the 20-person Hall of Fame committee. I was very happy to see my friend and co-worker, the very deserving Eric Karabell, also being honored as part of this inaugural class, as are other names that are probably familiar to those who have been playing fantasy for a long time: Greg Ambrosius, Scott Engel and Greg Kellogg. I'm flattered to share the honor with them.
If you had asked me before the announcement was made, I would have said I didn't know who would get elected. Fantasy sports analysis and what folks like or don't is so subjective and impossible to judge, especially on a Hall of Fame level. The induction is not just about writing, of course, but what a person has meant to the industry, fellow writers, the FSWA many factors involved. (If you care, I was cited for my writing, my work in promoting fantasy and helping make fantasy more mainstream, the injection of personality and humor into analysis through not just my writing but also the things we did on TalentedMrRoto.com and, most important to me, the help I and the TMR website gave in launching and promoting many of the fantasy writers you read today, here and on other sites.)
All of the 14 final nominees plus many who were not on the list are terrific and very deserving. So I didn't know who would get in.
There were only two surefire locks in my opinion: Ron Shandler and Peter Schoenke. Both were in the final 14, but neither got the 70 percent vote required this year. And I was shocked by this. Again, I am not knocking those who did get in or the HOF committee members, who volunteered many hours to this project and took it very seriously. Just that, as with everything else in fantasy, opinions differ, and here, mine is that there should have been at least two others inductees. (I also was surprised John Hunt, the first fantasy columnist I ever read, was not among the finalists).
Shandler, for those who don't know, founded the seminal BaseballHQ.com site, has authored the terrific Baseball Forecaster the past 24 years, is one of the creators of the famous Tout Wars expert league, is the creator of many oft-used and quoted fantasy theories (the "LIMA plan" being the most famous) and was the first to bring deep, underlying statistical analytics to fantasy baseball analysis. In addition to the work for his own site, his work has appeared all over, including here on ESPN. It's not always credited to Ron, but many of the theories and even stats you hear quoted in fantasy analysis started with him.
You might not know Schoenke's name, but you know his company, Rotowire.com. (It provides many of the player news nuggets you read on our player cards). Peter and his first site, Rotonews.com, invented the "here's what happened/here's what it means" format you see in all fantasy player news on pretty much every site. Many terrific writers got their start or a huge boost under Peter, including our own Stephania Bell, as well as industry stalwarts Scott Pianowski, Jeff Erickson and Chris Liss.
I should note that, back when I left Rotoworld to start my own sites, Ron and Peter not only were friends and supportive but were so in meaningful ways. It's one thing to be nice and say "Go get 'em"; it's another to do business with an unknown. Both did, and they have been terrific friends and supporters of mine to this day.
They were and remain pioneers. I have no idea where my place in everything is; that's for others to figure out if they care. But I will say that, along with the other four inductees, Peter and Ron are important not just for what they did but for when they did it. They were among the first in the fantasy sports industry. And although much of their success and the success of my fellow inductees is thanks to innovation, hard work and talent, timing played a part in it, too.
I know for a fact that, although I humbly think I'm pretty good at my job, if I started in the industry in 2009 as opposed to 1999, as I did, it's a different story. It's important to be first in many instances. You're not always going to be right, but if you're the only one on the road, you can swerve a little 'til you find you way. It was true in the fantasy sports industry, and it's true in fantasy football, where we are upon our first waiver-wire pickups of the year.
Do you waste your high priority or a lot of FAAB? Depends on your team needs and the rest of your league. But, I will say, the early pickups you make in the season are often the most important, and this week is no exception, with one must-get runner and lots of wide receiver depth.
Before we dive in, some quick notes. Although I try to make this column comprehensive, it is not. There are many other players out there I don't even mention. This is geared toward ESPN standard 10-team leagues, which are the most popular form of the game on our site. Many of these names will be owned in deeper leagues, though I try to throw a few names in the Mendoza section to help out. Percentages seen after players' names are their ownership percentages in ESPN standard leagues.
Pickups of the week
"Is your name Summer, baby? 'Cause you're hotter than a Texas brush fire in July."
Here, in the order I would pick them up, are some players you should consider adding to your team who are available in the majority of leagues.
Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers (owned in 1.1 percent of leagues): You know what's a bad word? Significant. As in "[Coach] McCarthy termed it a 'significant' injury involving Ryan Grant's ankle ligament." That's from Mike Spofford's article on Packers.com. Sure enough, by Tuesday afternoon, Fox Sports was reporting that Grant has been lost for the season.
More from Spofford: "I feel Brandon Jackson carried the load (Sunday)," McCarthy said, referring to Jackson's 18-carry, 63-yard performance against the Eagles. "I think there's a lot of evidence right there, recent evidence that he's able to play all three downs." Jackson also added two pass receptions for 12 yards and maintained his responsibilities in third-down blitz pickup, the role he shined in last year as he elevated himself to the clear No. 2 back behind Grant.
There are good football players and players who have been presented with an opportunity. Brandon Jackson is the latter, but in fantasy, that is all that matters. Last season, Green Bay was one of only five teams in the NFL to have 20 rushing touchdowns. And more importantly, it was the only one of those five teams to have only one runner with more than 75 rushing attempts. In other words, the Packers go workhorse-style, and right now, they've got Jackson, fullback John Kuhn and not much else. Jackson had 75 total yards coming in for Grant in Week 1 and is a terrific play this week at home against the Buffalo Bills, and Kuhn could get some short-yardage touchdown opportunities. You have to imagine that the Packers will go out and get another back or two for depth, but Jackson knows the offense, has the coach's confidence and is the guy you need to pick up this week.
Michael Vick, QB, Eagles (3.6 percent): Here's the deal. Kevin Kolb is the starter. This is what Andy Reid says. And you can trust him. Remember when he said they weren't trading McNabb? Honestly, I actually believe Reid here, and if Kolb is healthy, he'll have a long leash. Oh, maybe it got a tad bit shorter, but Reid has more patience than the Philly fans, who started booing in the second quarter Sunday. That said, if Kolb misses time, Vick would become a top-10 quarterback. In that offense, with those weapons, and his ability to scramble for 100 yards without breaking a sweat, I'd rank him just behind Joe Flacco (and ahead of guys such as Brett Favre or Jay Cutler) for as long as he's a starter. If Kolb is out for this weekend's game at Detroit, Vick is the No. 2 pickup after B-Jax. If Kolb is playing (unknown as of this writing), I like the other quarterback pickups (Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell) better.
Fred Taylor, RB, Patriots (21 percent): Yes, he is old. He will get hurt. He plays for the New England Patriots, a team whose running attack by committee comes a distant second to the elite passing game. I get it. But, they traded Laurence Maroney to the Broncos, Taylor is currently healthy, and, committee or no, he's the lead back on one of the best offenses in the league. How is he available in any league? I talked about him in the preseason, and I used this stat: Last year, he played in parts of six games. And scored in four of them. With plenty of depth at wide receiver (as you'll soon see), I'm going running back first on the waiver wire.
Legedu Naanee, WR, Chargers (38 percent): The inspiration for many a fantasy football team name (My favorites: Breaking 2: Electric Legedu; Na na na na, Na Na Na Na, Legedu, Goodbye; Anything Legedu I can do better; and Legedu my Egedu), Naanee showed why he was a preseason sleeper for folks such as Adam Schefter, Tim Hasselbeck, myself and others. Five receptions for 110 yards and a TD, he's a big-play threat on one of the better passing offenses in the league. And Vincent Jackson isn't coming back anytime soon.
Mark Clayton, WR, Rams (2.4 percent): Well, that didn't take long. Another Fantasy Zombie, as Clayton comes back from the dead. Or Baltimore. Same thing. Anyway, he gets 10 receptions, 119 yards and, most importantly, 16 targets (almost double the amount of the next guy). Some of that was thanks to injury and guys coming on and off the field, but still. He's been with the team for a nanosecond. Friend of the Fantasy Focus podcast Sam Bradford will continue to look for him, starting this week against Oakland.
Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos (35 percent): As I warned in the Vick writeup, he moves up the list if Kolb is playing. If you own Favre, based on what I saw Thursday night, you are gonna need a backup. Or maybe you just lost Kolb or Stafford. Regardless, in their first game, the Broncos ran 25 run plays. And attempted 33 passes. I feel as if I've been screaming this all over, but this is going to be a passing offense this year. People forget that Orton was the 14th-best fantasy quarterback last year; he threw for almost 300 yards in his first game and although I don't think he'll be elite, he will be consistently serviceable. The same is often said about me.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns (3.6 percent): Mentioned in preseason "Love/Hate" in early July and also in my "Ten lists of 10" as a deep sleeper. Of course, I also had Jerome Harrison ranked sixth last week. Yeesh. Honestly, trying to guess what Eric Mangini will do week to week will drive you insane because The Mangenius doesn't actually seem to want what is best for his football team. I like Hillis a lot because Cleveland lines him up all over the place but he also fumbled twice Sunday. I'm sticking by Harrison as the Browns running back you want, but Hillis, who got 13 touches (to Harrison's 10) and scored against the Bucs, will have value this year. Especially if they ever realize they need to run the ball.
Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers (43 percent): Sort of like what I wrote about Fred Taylor. Look, I get it. He's a rookie. On a bad team. With an inexperienced quarterback. But he was Josh Freeman's most targeted receiver, he scored a touchdown (OK, it was a deflection, but still) and, more often than not, Tampa is gonna have to throw. He's the one receiver I want on that team. Some growing pains, yes. But good times ahead? No doubt.
Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Browns (35 percent): He won't be the most consistent guy on this list, and he certainly has questions as a wide receiver. But, another stat I used in the preseason: He averaged more than 18 yards a catch last year, and whatever you think of Jake Delhomme, he is better than what they had last year. He had a TD on Sunday (two receptions for 46 yards on six targets), and I think that's about right. He is their big-play guy, and he's gonna be Steve Smith (of Carolina) light. Not a ton of receptions, and there will be some ugly, blank games. But, in the right matchup, he's got mad upside.
Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars (3 percent): A super-deep sleeper in preseason, Thomas did what Mike Sims-Walker didn't Sunday: actually caught a pass. He caught six of them in fact, on a team-leading seven targets. Had 89 total yards, too. Now, I don't expect MSW to be covered by Champ Bailey every week, and my guess is the Jaguars' passing offense is going to be inconsistent this year, especially on the road, which means Thomas will have an up-and-down year. But so will MSW (not a fan, in case you can't tell from anything I wrote this preseason), and that means Thomas will get his from time to time.
Jason Campbell, QB, Raiders (12 percent): If you missed out on Orton, and Kolb is playing this Sunday, and you need a quarterback I will say I like him a lot at home on Sunday versus the Rams. Campbell has the potential (and, believe it or not, the teammates) to be a decent fantasy quarterback this year. He had 180 yards and a TD (plus a pick and a fumble) but added 34 rushing yards for an OK 10-point day. But on the road at Tennessee, I thought that was better than you'd have expected, and, in the right matchup, such as this week's, he will be useful.
John Carlson, TE, Seahawks (31 percent): He did absolutely nothing in Week 1, but at the end of the year, Carlson will have either the most or second-most receiving yards of anyone on the Seahawks. And he gets the Broncos this week, the same defense that just gave up two TDs to Marcedes Lewis.
Cardinals D/ST (19 percent) and Chiefs D/ST (0.8 percent): Cardinals finished last year as a top-10 defense, were tied for second last week in fantasy points among defenses and although I like (but don't love) this week's road game at Atlanta, they have a Week 3 game at home versus Oakland that is tasty. And we saw the Chiefs certainly have some playmakers in the special teams area Monday night. If you are in a deep league and playing matchups, I like them against Cleveland this week.
From the Obvious Name Department:
"Uh, hello?!? Hello!!!" - Angelina, "The Jersey Shore"
Here are players that are owned in more than 50 percent of leagues, but on the off chance they are available in your league, I'd pick them up before any of the guys listed above, with the exception of Brandon Jackson and (if Kolb sits out) Mike Vick.
You've no doubt seen the best game of the year from Austin Collie, WR, Colts (78 percent), but in an Indy offense, especially one that is passing more than 50 times a game, you will have value. You've already read many times of my unhealthy love for the style that is Kyle, so obviously, I'm gonna recommend Mr. Orton's wideouts. I like Jabar Gaffney (51 percent) more than Eddie Royal (30.3) in this offense long term, though both had productive days against the Jags. Royal actually had the better day (8 for 98 on 10 targets) while Gaffney (3 for 34 on 7 targets, but scored) wasn't looked for as much. But for the rest of the year, I still believe Gaffney will be the more consistent player. Mike Williams, WR, Seahawks (67 percent) is the No. 1 guy on that offense. The Seahawks are not a good team (sorry, but the 49ers were just brutal), but they will be better than folks think. And Williams seems to be reborn there, getting the most targets from Matt Hasselbeck (6) on his way to a 4-for-64 day against a tough defense. Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans (52 percent) did not do much Sunday, but better days are ahead for the Houston passing game (Think Foster gets a little more defensive attention now? Me, too) and Jones is a talent I believe in. I know it didn't seem like it, but Leon Washington, RB, Seahawks (71 percent) will have value. The Seahawks won't play the 49ers' tough run defense every week. And what you saw on Monday night, much to the chagrin of Ray Rice owners, was not a fluke. In fact, it was a repeat of last year, when Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens (78 percent) vultured a touchdown. He's gonna do that a lot this season.
Others receiving votes
"Missed it by that much." - Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart in "Get Smart"
Here are some guys who shouldn't be picked up in 10-team leagues, but for those in 12-team or deeper leagues, I like them, and you should keep an eye on them.
If I needed a quarterback in a two-QB league -- or in deeper leagues, thanks to the Stafford injury -- David Garrard, Jaguars (20 percent) is going to have some value this year, just like his Florida state-mate, Josh Freeman, Bucs (3 percent). Neither is an ideal fantasy option, but both, especially thanks to their mobile feet, will have usable fantasy value in deeper leagues. And Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks (6.7 percent) and Derek Anderson, Cardinals (12 percent) will, um, throw the ball some. And just because you own them doesn't mean you have to watch.
If I owned Chris Johnson, I definitely would make sure I owned Javon Ringer, RB, Titans (4 percent), who also looked good on Sunday (5 for 33 and a score) and, the way CJ2K runs, injury is not out of the realm of possibility. Speaking of backups, Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers (0.8 percent) was quietly announced as the goal-line back for the Steelers about two weeks ago and, although the Max Starks injury hurts an already depleted line, Redman will have some value before the year is up. Especially in touchdown-only leagues or if something should happen to Mendenhall.
I really like Danny Amendola, WR, Rams (2 percent), and he is the St. Louis guy I would add after Clayton. If I were in a deeper PPR league, I'd be all over Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins (2 percent), who is gonna have more than 60 receptions this year. Speaking of PPR-friendly, I believe Greg Camarillo, WR, Vikings (4 percent), will become more and more a part of the Vikings' pass attack, which looked anemic in Week 1. Having actually seen him play for many years, I'm not a Brandon Lloyd believer. Just wanted to say that, after he went off for 117 yards, he's probably an obvious name to be added. I'm not buying. . And you won't see anything in the box score, but I like Anthony Armstrong, WR, Redskins, from a skills standpoint. I need to see them throw a bit more and with more consistency, but if you want to own a Titans wideout, Nate Washington (2.5 percent) is your guy.
You'd have to be pretty deep to need a backup tight end and if you were, I'm guessing these guys are gone, but as long as he is healthy, I thought Todd Heap, TE, Ravens (15 percent) looked good Monday night (6 for 72, led team with 11 targets). Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens will continue to demand defensive attention, leaving Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals (14.5 percent) with value. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots (8 percent), who had four touchdowns in the preseason and another in the opener, has value.
Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You
As always, these are not guys I'm saying you should drop, and, as always, some of you will ignore that caveat. But if you need roster space to pick up some of the guys above, I have no issue with dropping these guys. The list is shorter than it will be in later weeks; it's early and we don't have enough info yet to pass judgment on many. But here are some players who will have productive weeks but whom I don't feel as strongly about as my pickup and obvious name suggestions above, as it pertains to ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.
Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez, Larry Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, Chester Taylor, Brian Westbrook, Jonathan Dwyer, Bernard Berrian, Kenny Britt, Braylon Edwards, Vincent Jackson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Laurent Robinson, Greg Olsen, Bengals D/ST.
Matthew Berry - The Talented Mr. Roto - told you so on LaDainian Tomlinson. But suggests buying low on Shonn Greene. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend
Matthew Berry's fantasy football pickups for Week 2, led by the Green Bay Packers' Brandon Jackson and the Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick.