Rankings and projection are a fantastic and fun exercise… until Sunday at 1:05 when the touchdowns start pouring in and your must sit running back busts off a long touchdown run. Look, we’re all just throwing darts out there, trying to use the resources available to make and educated projection for you to set your lineup on. But perhaps, as important as it is to be able to aptly predict the outcome any given weekend is the ability to digest and analyze what did happen out on that gridiron and why. Each week, we’ll take a look at some over-achievers and under-achievers based on our rankings to determine just what the best way to proceed will be.
Over-achiever – Michael Vick (PHI)
23-for-36, 428 yards, 2 TDs, 6 carries, 23 yards, 1 TD
Vick came into Week 2 with high expectations, ranking as our No. 4 overall quarterback. Lofty projections were exceeded as the quarterback set a personal best in terms of passing yards, tossed pair of touchdowns and also added 23 rushing yards and a 2-yard touchdown run. Most impressively, was Vick’s pocket presence and accuracy in the Eagles loss as he continually made safe ad accurate throws. When forced to run, this was a different player than we saw in week one, a player who took what was blocked and got himself out of bounds. Through his first two games this season, Vick has turned the ball over just one time after accounting for seven turnovers in the Eagles first two games last season. Vick will continue to rank as a top-5 quarterback on most week’s while he is healthy.
Expect this over-achieving to continue so long as Vick is upright. The Eagles have one of the most talent group of skill players in the league and Chip Kelly’s innovative offensive style seems to mesh perfectly with what Vick wants to do out there.
Under-achiever – Tom Brady (NE)
19-for-39, 185 yards, 1 TD
Brady’s Bunch snuck past the Jets on Thursday night, but the game left the quarterback’s fantasy owners as frustrated as he appeared to be throughout the game. Drops plagued an unproven wide receiving corps that is relying on rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson behind veteran Julian Edelman. Brady’s performance is a concern mostly because we don’t see this situation getting any better anytime soon. The latest reports have Danny Amendola on the shelf for at least another 2 weeks and potentially more. Rob Gronkowski is targeting a Week 4 return, but his health is always a concern.
While it’s easy to say sell-high on Brady, your team situation may dictate otherwise. Brady will not be a recommended start in Week 3 against a Tampa Bay defense that frustrated Drew Brees and the Saints on Sunday, but he remains an elite quarterback in this league. Both Dobson and Thompkins flashed some enticing skills and as the rooks get more comfortable in the offensive system, they clearly have the potential to provide nice fantasy totals. If you believe that Gronk and Amendola will be healthy down the stretch, Brady remains an excellent option to acquire with an eye later toward the playoffs. So long as we assume that finding a plug-and-play QB over the next couple of weeks is an attainable goal, we’d recommend holding on to Brady and potentially even buying low and stashing him on the bench as the Patriots weapons work to get healthy.
Over-achiever – Knowshon Moreno (DEN)
3 carries, 93 yards, 2 TDs, 3 catches, 14 yards (3 targets)
Despite just about everyone’s desire to hand Montee Ball the lion’s share of carries in the Bronco’s backfield, the guy actually handing off the ball–Peyton Manning–seems perfectly confident and comfortable sticking the ball in Knowshon’ belly. On just 13 carries, Moreno picked up 93 yards and while scoring a pair of touchdowns. He added three catches on three targets for 14 yards in the passing game and made a heads up play on a Damaryius Thomas fumble to extend a Denver drive. Moreno has the trust of his quarterback and really, in a Peyton Manning offense, that is all you need.
Expect Moreno to continue to get the bulk of the carries in between the 20s and provide solid numbers week to week as a flex play. Still, Ball will have a role at the goal line and it’s going to be awfully difficult to bank on any Bronco’s offensive option for touchdowns just because they will spread it around. If you already have two solid running backs, we are selling Moreno coming off of his multi-touchdown effort.
Under-achiever – Trent Richardson (CLE)
18 carries, 58 yards, 5 catches, 21 yards (5 targets)
Richardson’s yardage output was frustrating for a second straight game and while the touchdowns regularly saved his performances in 2012, he’s yet to hit pay-dirt this season. This may very well be a case where the Browns mediocre offense is really limiting Richardson’s fantasy potential. The impending return of Josh Gordon should help the offense in general, but the overall lack of productivity is a concern.
We’ll take the under on T-Rich matching his 12 total scores from last season and this may be a case where “selling low” is a prudent move as many still view Richardson as a borderline RB1.
Over-achiever – Eddie Royal (SD)
7 catches, 90 yards, 3 TDs (8 targets)
It seems that almost annually we get a week or two where fantasy owners are all wrapped up in Eddie Royal. Well, 2013 is no different and after scoring just twice over the past two seasons, Royal has broken the plane five times in his first two games this year. He found himself running wide open in the red zone several times Sunday versus the Eagles rag-tag secondary and with a rejuvenated Philip Rivers looking nothing like the awful quarterback we saw in 2012, perhaps there is something to Royal’s breakout start to the year.
Malcolm Floyd‘s neck injury–while thankfully not as serious as it looked–figures to leave some opportunity in the passing game. Royal has been an absolute weapon out of the slot in the short passing game, providing something the Chargers have been lacking since Darren Sproles left town. With a running game unable to impress through two weeks, we expect Rivers to continue to rely on his receivers heavily moving forward. The scores are tough to continue and if forced to choose, we’ll take the under on Royal scoring five more touchdowns the rest of the way, but he must be on the radar in PPR formats, given the volume of targets he’s seeing in the passing game. He’ll be just on the fringe of the top-30 next week, and if you missed out on Julian Edelman after Week 1, Royal is an obvious target at the top of the waiver wire list this week.
Under-achiever – Miles Austin (DAL)
3 catches, 31 yards (4 targets)
On the plus side, Austin appears to be completely healthy out there. On the down side, he’s clearly been an afterthought in the Cowboys passing game… and for good reason. Dez Bryant simply abused the Chiefs secondary and, when healthy, Bryant remains one of the most imposing wideouts in the league. While we don’t doubt that this level of dominance will eventually lead to some soft coverage on Austin, a more even target split would provide a whole lot more hope that Miles can be productive. As it stands, Austin was targeted on just four Tony Romo pass attempts in Week 2, and that volume, is simply not acceptable for a receiver who gained a top-30 ranking according to the BretskyBall staff.
Perhaps no one was more optimistic about Miles Austin sleeper status coming into the year than we were and let’s just say, what we’ve seen so far is not encouraging. Jason Witten remains Romo’s safety blanket (eight targets in Week 2) and if Dez continues to prove uncoverable, it will be slim pickings for Miles all season long. If you own him, it’s not yet time to panic and sell low on Austin, but he deserves a spot on your bench in Week 3.
Over-achiever – Charles Clay (MIA)
5 catches 109 yards (7 targets)
In Week 1 it was Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson and in Week 2 it was Mike Wallace, Lamar Miller and… Charles Clay! The 2-0 Dolphins have shown us a little something on offense and Ryan Tannehill has certainly been a major factor in that. The second-year passer has remained calm and poised through his first two weeks in 2013. Clay has shown flashes of this type of versatile production in the past, but really came out of nowhere to star in Week 2.
With all the tight ends breaking out already in 2013, Clay is likely going to fall under the radar. The H-Back doesn’t offer the size or speed of the Julius Thomas‘s and Jared Cook‘s of the world, but he’s versatile enough to make a positive contribution to your squad. He’s worth an add this week if you are struggling at the TE positions (looking at you, Fred Davis owner) but we wouldn’t quite rush out and use that No. 1 claim on him.
Under-achiever – Tony Gonzalez (ATL)
4 catches 33, yards (8 targets)
Tony G failed to make an impact in the Falcons’ Week 2 contest, and aside from a touchdown reception in the season opener, has been pretty disappointing through two games, catching just seven passes for 69 yards. He did get a healthy eight targets in Week 2, but none of them came in the red zone. We expect Gonzo’s value to be driven by his ability to dominate when the Falcons are in close so expect a more up-and-down performance from the Hall of Fame tight end this season as he becomes a more touchdown-dependent fantasy play.
Gonzalez was widely drafted as a top-5 tight end and while he has a great chance to remain in that group over the balance of the season, there are clearly a number of more explosive options out there. Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas and Jared Cook have already put up monstrous games and we are just about ready to bail on Gonzo as an elite option. Still, his ability to get in the end zone leaves will warrant a top-10 ranking at the position week-in and week-out and eight targets is a solid number for any tight end, especially one playing in an elite aerial attack. While we’re going to lower our expectations on Gonzalez given the talent that is emerging at his position, he remains a valuable and steady option as he continues to get a solid number of targets and figures one of Matt Ryan‘s primary red zone weapons moving forward. Don’t hit the panic button if you are a Gonzo owner, he’ll get his looks and his scores.