T.Y. Hilton Indianapolis Cotls
Hilton suffered a minor knee injury last Sunday, but not before catching 7 passes for 88 yards against the Buffalo Bills – while he remains day-to-day, Hilton could miss as many as two weeks due to the nature of the injury. In 2014, Hilton set many of his career personal bests, taking in 82 (team high) passes off of 130 targets (63.1%) for an exceptional 1,345 receiving yards (another team high) and 7 receiving TDs.
Colts star QB Andrew Luck has no shortage of weapons, although with Hilton’s absence, Luck may have to more heavily depend on former Texans veteran WR Andre Johnson in clutch situations. More importantly, though, Hilton’s injury likely means that 6’2, 222 lbs. WR Donte Moncrief may be taken out of his normal slot position to play at one of the ends – expect more of Luck’s passes to fly towards his direction. Despite a relatively poor showing this past Sunday, he’s very much the same caliber of quarterback he’s always been – he’ll have to face considerable contention against a stellar Jets defense on Monday.
Again, going into Monday night against the Jets, Luck will have plenty of passing options from which to choose – with Moncrief having caught 6 passes for 46 yards and a touchdown, though, expect Luck to look his way more often than not, or at least more often than anyone else – Moncrief, for as long as Hilton is out, should be considered a low-end WR2, and would be higher if not for the likes of RB Frank Gore catching out of the backfield and TEs Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener being frequently included in the passing offense. Moreover, Moncrief may very well become Luck’s go-to – he’s worth keeping around to find out. Johnson will still get his looks, as he still retains much of his playmaking ability, but his inclusion in the offense is more intermediate than star-player – with Hilton out, though, expect his numbers to increase as well; treat him like a mid-tier WR2 until T.Y. returns.
Dez Bryant Dallas Cowboys
Bryant’s injury spells trouble for the Cowboys’ offense – they’re rather scant at wide-receiver on the depth-chart. Last year, the 6’2 wideout caught 88 passes off of 138 targets (63.8%) for 1,320 yards and a whopping 16 receiving TDs, propelling the Cowboys to a formidable 12-4 record, recalling days of the early ’90s Aikman-Smith-Irvin trio (re-imagined in 2014 as the Romo-Murray-Bryant trio). Bryant will miss at least 6 weeks with a fractured foot, for which he has already undergone surgery.
Elite fantasy QB Tony Romo, himself, is coming off of a stellar year – he had a 113.2 passer rating in 2014, both the highest of his career and the highest rating of the year. A lot of that, however, had to do with the 2014 league leader in rushing (RB DeMarco Murray: 1,845 rushing yards, 13 rushing TDs) threatening to break defenses open on every attempt and a superstar wideout in Dez Bryant decimating defensive secondaries – two of these cogs in the Cowboys offensive machine are now absent.
Before you start counting the “2015 Dallas Cowboys Bust” chickens, though, keep in mind that Romo did very well against New York last Sunday: 36 passes, 45 attempts (80% accuracy), 356 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs – Romo will adjust – so will Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. As far as primary targets go, TE Jason Witten is almost positively the surest bet – he had 8 catches for 60 yards and a pair of receiving TDs – he’s been doing it for a while now, and it’s safe to say that he knows what to do. WR Terrance Williams, however, will have to adjust to the sheer volume of a WR1 for at least a 6-week stretch; last year, he only caught 37 passes, which averages to a little over 2 per game – we’ll see if he’s fit for the work. Slot-receiver Cole Beasley had just as many receptions as did Williams last season – it’s likely that he will remain in the WR3 position, as Dallas would want a bigger target like Devin Street (6’3) at WR2.
It will be extremely clear in the next few weeks how crucial Dez Bryant is to the Cowboys franchise, as the remaining receiving crew will have to collectively fill the void left in his absence. Fantasy-wise, Williams at WR1 might be worth the replacement look, though – despite having only 37 receptions last season, 8 of those were TDs – even down the road, if not a PPR-type producer, he’s no stranger to the end-zone, and with the way things are going in Dallas, he might have to start producing some PPR-league-worthy numbers. Of course, Witten is worth both the short-term and long-term start – almost a perennial TE1 – especially now that he’s expecting many, many more targets. Beasley may not have a post-Bryant upside, but he does benefit fantasy-wise from Bryant’s injury – he’s almost worth the start at flex/WR3, but it’s better to wait and see at this point – Dez won’t be around for a while, so you’ll have enough time to gather more valuable information. On that note, the same goes for Street – in his entire NFL career, Street has 2 receptions for 18 yards – nothing concrete can be said for his potential contribution to the team, but we’ll keep an eye on him.
DeSean Jackson Washington Redskins
More injury woes rattle the Redskins as deep-threat DeSean Jackson strains a hamstring, potentially missing 3-4 weeks of action. QB Kirk Cousins, despite losing Jackson early, remained convincingly accurate throughout the remainder of the game, going 21 for 31 on pass attempts for just shy of 200 yards (196), though he threw two interceptions to his lone touchdown. WR2 Pierre Garçon picked up the slack admirably, catching 6 of his 8 targets (75%) for 74 yards receiving.
Before the 2015 season’s start, we discussed the long-term potential for Garçon, and we touched a little on how he once held WR1 duties back in 2013 – he’ll have no need for method acting for his upcoming role. We also predicted TE Jordan Reed could be a breakout star if he could remain healthy, and now he already has 7 receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. If Cousins can remain anywhere near as accurate as he did against the Dolphins and cut down on blaringly forced passes, both Garçon and Reed have very bright futures in Washington, whether or not Jackson is present on the field.
Perhaps backup/slot WRs Andre Roberts and Ryan Grant have a good chance to do something special with the exposure they’re due to receive in the wake of Jackson’s injury – Cousins found both of them in Week 1 for first downs – hopefully, they’ve been awaiting a larger work-load.
For fantasy-football application, Garçon is now a low WR1/high WR2 for the time being – he’s well capable of the position, and should be wildly effective while Jackson is away – now is the time to pick him up if he’s still available for waiver in your league; keep him around for a while. For that matter, also get Reed on your team at TE1 if you haven’t – all signs point to Reed being an exemplary player this year – don’t worry about how the Redskins will ultimately perform as a collective unit and shy away from Washington players. It’s not worth investing in Grant as of yet, but for a low-end WR3, as it stands, Andre Roberts will almost definitely have a shot to get into some open spaces in the slot – we’ll see how well Cousins can read the zones in order to thread it to him.
Derek Carr Oakland Raiders
Carr suffered a bruised hand in Week 1, thanks to Cincinnati’s defensive efforts, and was replaced by Matt McGloin, who went on to go 23 completions of 31 attempts (74.2%) for 142 passing yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Carr has since stated that he will be ready to play come Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens.
While Carr has shown to be the most competent choice at starting QB, McGloin has always proved reliable, whether as starter or reserve – this 2015 preseason, McGloin, in four losing efforts, threw for 442 yards passing on 55 of 77 attempts (71.4%) for 5 TDs and 2 INTs.
It is yet unclear whether or not McGloin, in a starting capacity, will prove more apt at running the Raiders offense under head coach Jack Del Rio – there are too many new acquisitions (i.e., rookie WR prodigy Amari Cooper, veteran WR Michael Crabtree, etc.) and too much offensive re-tooling to predict which of the two quarterbacks is the right one – truth is, it might be both.
For all current or potential fantasy-football owners of Derek Carr, go ahead and keep him on the bench – don’t release him, mind you – he will soon return to his starting QB role, though not necessarily above any other starting QB. Moreover, with the addition of a solid receiving core headlined by Cooper, Carr’s numbers should improve from last year’s – he’s a mid-range QB2 for fantasy football considerations. Unfortunately for Matt McGloin, he, again, will have to sit on the sideline and wait his turn to prove his worth at starter – fantasy-wise, he’s not worth the roster spot due to his high unlikeliness of seeing the field; if you have the utmost unwavering faith that Carr will become re-injured, go ahead and keep him as a QB3 – McGloin is, admittedly, one of the better backup QBs in the league, though it is quite probable that other starters are just as easily available.
Andre Ellington Arizona Cardinals
Ellington looked to push his injury luck and ended up with a sprained right knee (PCL) during his contest against the Saints – he’s slated to miss up to 3 weeks – luckily for him, it didn’t turn out to be the PCL tear the medical staff initially assumed. Ellington fared well against New Orleans, finishing the game with 69 rushing yards from 12 carries (5.8 yards-per-carry) and a ground TD, also having fumbled once.
This is exactly the contingency plan Cardinals GM Steve Keim must’ve had in mind when having opted to sign former free agent and 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson to a one-year deal, given Ellington’s as-of-last-year injury-prone likelihood. CJ2K, having been part of former Jets head coach/current Bills head coach Rex Ryan’s split-back philosophy – his only season in the NFL wherein he did not exceed 1,000 yards on the ground – will vie to return to elite-back status by taking the hand-offs from QB Carson Palmer.
Even with the relatively good news of Ellington’s eventual return to starting RB, it may just as well be a short-lived celebration merely due to the fact that Ellington currently poses too high a risk for re-injury. Nowadays, it is highly advised to treat Ellington as a low-end RB2 – there is no doubt that Ellington is one of the more talented running-backs in the NFL – he just won’t get to show it as often as he’d like. Simply put, it’s a risk to assume Ellington won’t miss any more games this year – his long-term health down the line in 2015 does not leave an inspiring impression. In his stead, Johnson will seek to steal the starting spot indefinitely, and has no qualms about repeating his less recent history – Johnson is a high-end RB2 in the fantasy football world – he won’t have many more years to ensure his worth in the NFL, but his track record thus far speaks for itself. With Palmer having reinvigorated Arizona’s offense at quarterback, the Cardinals’ run game should be among the top in 2015.
Delaine Walker Tennessee Titans
A no-show of hands: TE Delanie Walker, of the Tennessee Titans, suffered a cut on his left thumb before the preseason opener against Atlanta, causing him to miss that game and the following one against St. Louis. Then, during the regular-season opener against Tampa Bay, he appeared to have broken his right hand, only to have it diagnosed as a torn ligament in his right wrist – as such, he’ll be expected to possibly be ready by as early as Week 2, but it’s a safer bet to say he’ll play again starting Week 3.
Walker led the Titans last year in both receptions (68, a career-best for Walker) and receiving yards (890, also a career-best), coming second in receiving TDs (4) behind WR Kendall Wright, who brought down 6 receiving TDs of his own – Walker definitively had a breakout year in 2014 despite the shoddy, tied-for-league-worst effort at 2-14 record, and not to mention the numerous Tennessee starting-QB injuries that year.
With rookie-QB sensation Marcus Mariota at the on-field helm, expect Walker’s numbers this year to approach or surmount the 1,000-yard mark – he’s that good, despite being a stout 6’0 at tight-end. In Walker’s absence, expect TE Chase Coffman to attempt to fill his shoes – head coach Ken Whisenhunt has alluded to the rumor of Coffman being Walker’s understudy, but that’s not enough to go upon in order to place a fantasy-football value on Coffman.
Meanwhile, Kendall Wright is likely to become Mariota’s first-look in Walker’s absence – Wright came off an outstanding season-opening performance against the Buccaneers, catching all 4 of his targets for just over 100 yards receiving (101) and a receiving touchdown – for all intents and purposes regarding fantasy football, Walker’s minor injury assuredly increases Wright’s fantasy value; for at least Week 2 versus division-rival Indianapolis, Wright is a low-end WR1 and a good-enough long-term investment to make a middle or high WR2. With Walker out, this may also very possibly serve as the juncture wherein rookie WR Dorial Green-Beckham becomes of use to the Titans – it will probably take some time for Green-Beckham to synch up with Mariota, so expect his looks to be limited in Week 2 – DGB has yet to catch his first regular-season NFL pass, therefore it is strongly advised to hold off on his inclusion on any fantasy football roster until he becomes more established as an offensive component.
C.J. Anderson Denver Broncos
As for Denver, RB C.J. Anderson seems to have had some issues with his ankle and a sprained toe on Sunday against the Ravens. While Anderson is slated to start against the Chiefs come this Thursday, expect backup RB Ronnie Hillman to see the field more often than usual, so as to ensure Anderson doesn’t over-exert himself and aggravate his ankle injury. Anderson didn’t really get going on the ground against Baltimore’s defense, rushing only 29 yards off of 12 carries – a dismal 2.4 yards-per-carry average – he also had 4 receptions for 19 yards, bringing his total yardage gained to 48 for the game.
C.J. Anderson, at 5’8, 224 lbs. – a very, very low center-of-balance – is more of a “true” archetypal running-back than his 5’10, 195 lbs. counterpart, Ronnie Hillman, who plays more of a receiver-back role – assuming Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak decides to sit Anderson, Denver won’t be able to pound the football up the middle as frequently as they’d like, instead having to rely on passing into and out of the backfield, which is no problem for all-but-certain Hall-of-Fame lock and really-high-voiced Broncos QB Peyton Manning.
If Hillman is to be effective against Kansas City, though, Denver must either establish the run or establish other receiving threats down-field – likely, though, Anderson will take the majority of the snaps at RB and the Broncos will do everything in their power to maintain a ground presence against the Chiefs. Between Manning, Kubiak, and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, the Broncos offensive will continue to function as a well-oiled machine, despite the many first-game miscues experienced by the organization.
Given C.J. Anderson’s poor showing in Week 1, one can expect him to do all he can to bounce back and get into the proverbial “run” of things this Thursday – Anderson, for this week, is a fantasy football low-end RB2, as his injuries will limit his snaps, or in the possible case of re-injury, obstruct his participation in the game altogether. Ronnie Hillman, too, should be considered in a similar RB2 value – he may or may not enjoy a comprehensive partaking of field time due to Anderson’s health and how it upholds during the inception of Week 2.”