In All-Time Quarterback, 12-year fantasy football veteran Ramon Ramirez goes inside the week’s key match-ups, searching for sleeper picks and advising you on tough line-up decisions.
In the fall of 1997, I read about fantasy football as this emerging fad sports nerds were digging: a unique, personalized team consisting of the football stars from the newspaper clippings I’d tape on my bedroom wall. Depending on the on-field performance of my top picks Emmitt Smith and Kordell Stewart, my fake team would get points against other fake teams.
In those days, Mondays involved a thorough, unbiased examination of the sports section’s box scores. Years later, the opponents I played against has become a 16-deep circle of trust, with members stationed across America. Data is streamlined in real time on a user-friendly platform, and the game is mostly a forum for keeping in touch with old friends by way of personal attacks and controversial alliances.
Football is the runaway most popular American sport because it’s great for gambling, thrives in the HD age, and has fantasy football in its corner. Games are once a week for 17 weeks, and it doesn’t hurt that the NFL is the most balanced, competitive league in the world. Markets like Green Bay, Wis., can compete with New York City, N.Y., because of shared revenue and salary caps.
Your best bet for an edge in fantasy football is trolling the numbers and taking a look at the implications of the week’s match-ups. The most important thing to look for is opportunity: touches and targets. Find a well-fed skill guy, your odds of points are plainly higher. Touchdowns are erratic and unpredictable; game balls are what matter.
With that in mind, here are a few choice recommendations for this week’s games.
Sleeper picks: Week 2
- Matt Cassel, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
- Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos
- Andre Roberts, WR, Arizona Cardinals
- Donald Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills
- Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Andrew Hawkins, FLEX, Cincinnati Bengals
These are gentlemen I'd start Sunday with confidence in leagues with at least 10 owners. To be painfully obvious, never bench a stalwart fixture like Steven Jackson for Knowshon Moreno (though Moreno currently has a touchdown and Jackson ran into highway barriers last week), but work these guys in if you have a shaky spot in your lineup because DeAngelo Williams hasn't panned out. Matt Cassel has five interceptions in three meetings with the Bills; he's a middle-management professional destined to start until his Chiefs are in position to draft a college phenom. On Sunday, he should get to 300 yards passing.
Jonathan Dwyer was always the most talented running back option in Pittsburgh post-Rashard Mendenall knee meltdown; he's already a bigger factor catching check down passes than starter Isaac Redman, and should get the goal line carries. Andre Roberts has value because Arizona Cardinals receiving colleague Larry Fitzgerald is wasting his prime in double coverage. Donald Jones is in a similar situation opposite Stevie Johnson, but moreover, slot specialist David Nelson was just lost for the season to injury. Even with Nelson in the lineup, Jones scored at New York last week.
The Steelers retooled their offensive philosophy under new coordinator Todd Haley, and Heath Miller is the prime beneficiary. The talented veteran faded from fantasy utility in recent years because of his sick blocking, but he'll be a low-post redzone stud going forward. Second-year pro Andrew Hawkins caught eight calls for 86 yards, and did most of his work after the catch; he could score twice against the generally horrendous Cleveland Browns.
On the block: Week 2
- Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints
- Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
- Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
- Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
These are boring players I'm making aggressive pushes for in trade proposals. Lance Moore was always a talented cog in New Orleans; now he's a major contributor (six catches, 10 targets, a touchdown to open the season). Reggie Wayne is tied with Darren McFadden for the NFL lead in targets with 18. I'd trade charismatic players like Greg Jennings, Larry Fitzgerald, or Wes Welker straight up for Wayne now that it's clear rookie investment Andrew Luck trusts him with the keys to his heart.
Reggie Bush is to the Miami Dolphins what Bobby Boucher was to the University of Louisiana Cougars. Bush is perceived as selfish, showy, and soft, and fantasy team owners will be relieved to dump their Dolphins stock, but Bush should still put up big numbers. BenJarvus Green-Ellis looked speedy and powerful in his new role as the centerpiece of the Bengals' offense. He's a gem that probably went in the sixth or seventh round of your draft. Offer up second-round selections like Trent Richardson or Marshawn Lynch for him while that's possible.
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