1. DO Bow Down Before Aaron Rodgers Once Again
Remember when people were talking about how disappointing Aaron Rodgers has been in 2012? HA. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I mean, look no further than the fact that the fantasy-football-playing public was turning on a dude after he had two 10-point-or-lower outings as proof that people have no patience or sense of proportion. Three weeks later, Rodgers is on a string of 24-plus games and that 38-point monster last week, and his stats for the year are preposterous: 16 TDs, 4 INTs, 273 yards per game. This knowledge probably doesn’t have a ton of impact on your fantasy life — if you have Rodgers, start him; if you’re playing against Rodgers, most priests are happy to apply last rites — but it is a lesson: don’t freak out if a stud player has a couple of down games. These guys are human.
3. DON’T Give Up On Cam Newton And Matt Stafford… Yet
In ESPN fantasy leagues, Matt Stafford and Cam Newton were the fourth and fifth quarterbacks picked overall, on average, which put them as teams’ second-round selections. There’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with that high of a draft spot: the big contracts, the media attention, the cars, the drugs, the girls. (We’re talking about fantasy football, right?) And so far in 2012, Stafford and Newton have not built on their fantastic 2011s. Stafford’s the 16th-scoring QB, and Newton’s the 13th — they both trail guys like Christian Ponder (in most leagues, he wasn’t even drafted!) and Andy Dalton (19th QB off the boards.)
However, there’s reason to keep hope. Stafford hasn’t played well, and it would be foolish to suggest otherwise — he hasn’t thrown more than one score in any game yet this year — but his DYAR, a Football Outsiders metric that tracks how many yards better a quarterback is than a replacement-level player, and also adjusts for the strengths of various defenses, is actually 9th-best in the league. That’s because he’s faced a brutal slate of defenses. And he has been putting up the yards, so the touchdowns will hopefully follow soon. Err on the side of caution with Stafford this week against Chicago and next week against Seattle, but expect to regret it if you drop him.
Cam’s case is a little less clear-cut. Newton’s problem is consistency, not potency: in his last four games, he’s put up 25, 9, 30, and 7. And while he predictably lit up New Orleans and struggled against Seattle and New York, it makes less sense that he went for 30 against the Falcons. Any week, Newton’s capable of dropping 25-plus; you just have to be wary of those off-weeks, and he isn’t matchup-immune.
5. DO Start Stevan Ridley
6. DON’T Start Shonn Greene (If You Can Help It)
This might seem counterintuitive! Last week, Shonn Greene was the NFL’s top fantasy running back, with a massive 34 points against the Colts’ god-awful run D; meanwhile, Stevan Ridley struggled mightily against Seattle, only managing 34 yards on 16 carries. The Jets and the Pats play each other this week, which is why I’m doing the double write-up, and in this game, the clear choice between the two is Ridley, not Greene. Aside from his outburst last week, Greene’s been one of the NFL’s worst running backs in 2012; in the four games between Week 1 and Week 6, he managed a TOTAL of 12 points. (Four games. 12 points. That’s almost Chris Johnson bad.) Meanwhile, Ridley’s the 6th-best RB in fantasy — weird, right? — with 12.7 points per game, and the Jets’ run defense sucks. The Patriots run defense does not suck. Could Greene still do damage? Sure, especially if he gets 30-plus carries. But he hasn’t shown any ability to succeed against a staunch run defense, and if you can avoid playing him this week, it’s probably wise.
8. DO Start / Pick Up James Jones
The main beneficiary of Aaron Rodgers God Mode, aside from fantasy owners and the Green Bay Packers’ record, has been James Jones. Jones is being treated more or less like a tight end, getting a huge number of targets as soon as the Packers approach the red zone, and he’s been converting them at an astonishing rate — he has three straight games with two TDs apiece. And yet, he isn’t even owned in 100% of leagues; in one of my friend’s leagues, he was actually dropped a couple weeks ago. Don’t be that guy — start James Jones every single week, until he gives you a reason not to.
10. DON’T Overlook Josh Gordon
The Browns are 1-5. Greg Little, their apparent number-one WR at the beginning of the season and a recent marquee draft pick, has been dreadful: hands of marble, poor route-running skills. Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin haven’t been any better. Most people have concluded that, aside from Trent Richardson, the Browns’ offense is the epitome of fantasy irrelevance.
WRONG. Josh Gordon. Remember the name. Two weeks straight, Gordon’s gone for over 15 points, with a combined three TDs. The Browns don’t tend to lead often, which means passing, and it seems that Gordon has been the guy to resonate best with QB Brandon Weeden. Considering he’s only owned in 30% of leagues, this is the time to make a move.
12. DO Assemble A Stable Of Solid WRs
This year, the scoring difference between the top receiver in fantasy, A.J. Green, and the fifth receiver, Wes Welker, is 28 points. There are 32 receivers within 28 points of Wes Welker. Obviously, if you don’t have Green, Victor Cruz, Roddy White, or Percy Harvin, you’re probably locked out of the upper-echelon receiver party, but you can and should put together three effective guys from that group in back of Welker. It includes a bunch of names that many of the players in your league are unlikely to know, like Brian Hartline, Andre Roberts, and Randall Cobb; take advantage of this ignorance to snap them up in trades or score them off waivers. These aren’t necessarily guys you’ll be starting right off the bat, but depth is incredibly important at the receiver position, and now is the time to solidify your bench.
14. DON’T Fall For The Running Back Flavor Of The Week
Were you jobbed by Vick Ballard last week? Ballard was the chap tasked with running the ball for the Indianapolis Colts’ after Donald Brown’s injury. He’s now owned in 40% of leagues. And what does he have to show for it? 6 total points on the year. Ballard has never demonstrated that he could be an effective NFL back, and the reason he was all of a sudden hoovered up was because of Brown getting hurt. None of that changed the fact that the Colts aren’t a running team, and Ballard went for all of 25 yards last week against the Jets’ mediocre running D. Paying attention to injury-replacement starters is always good, but don’t let it overwhelm your common sense; if you’re benching a consistent 10-point guy because you think a new starter might blow up, be very, very certain that that new guy has the skills to make it happen.
16. DON’T Hold It Against Arian Foster That He’s Enlightened
Maybe one day, you’ll get there too. Read some poetry. Go vegan. Become part of the Arian Nation…
You know, we should probably come up with another nickname for fans of Arian Foster.