Of all the storylines coming out of week 1, the most understated was the impact the tight end position had. 12, count ’em, 12 TEs recorded double-digit fantasy points this week, in standard scoring – for what it’s worth, only 15 RBs scored double figures. And which of those 12 scored the least amount of points? Jimmy Graham – yes, consensus #1 TE and potential 1st round pick, Jimmy Graham. Of course, the reason Graham was so highly-regarded is because of his consistency – and he proved to be that on Sunday.
However, it was clear all offseason that there were plenty of tight ends capable of joining the Graham’s and Gronkowski’s of the world atop the tight end pedestal. For example, I highlighted Jordan Cameron, Zach Sudfled, Rob Housler, Julius Thomas, and Tyler Eifert, in the offseason sleeper lists. Of those 5, 1 went off, 1 recorded a top-12 performance, 1 put up a dud, 1 didn’t play, and 1 was a rookie, so not much was expected. However, before I get too high on the Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas calls, I deserve to be shamed for Zach Sudfeld, and then admit I completely missed another guy, as well.
That player I missed was Jared Cook. It’s not that I didn’t know who Cook was, but every year it seems like he’s a no-brainer to ‘breakout’, only to burn owners all season long. He was pegged by many yet again this year, but I refused to believe it. After all, sure he was going to a new team, but it was also the team with the same head coach who had so many chances with him in Tennessee, Jeff Fischer. I figured to see much of the same ‘ol Jared Cook on Sunday. But no, he goes on to explode and score the highest points of the week for a tight end (after my Julius Thomas had set the bar so high on Thursday night) – about time, Mr. Cook!
Anyway, both Julius Thomas and Jared Cook need to be owned after this week, but the question is, who to target first? One has a hall-of-fame QB, the other, a former 1st overall pick who’s still trying to find his groove. Yet, Julius Thomas is arguably the 4th option in the Broncos’ passing game – while Cook is arguably the 1st option for the Rams. So, who’s going to be more reliable the rest of the season? That’s a tough question. In my opinion, its Julius Thomas – but I can’t say I’m confident. Part of the faith in Thomas still stems from the multiple burns Jared Cook has placed on my fantasy psyche over the years.
On Sunday, Thomas turned 7 targets into 5 catches for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns – while Cook recorded 7 catches for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 targets. Cook clearly had the better game – and it could have been much better had Tyrann Matheiu not made a spectacular touchdown-saving play on the 1-yard-line. Still, I actually think Thomas will maintain a more consistent line week-to-week, so he should be your first priority on the wire. However, if you fail to get Thomas, make sure you still grab Cook. If he and Bradford can continue to build continuity, Cook could finally live up to all the hype. Waiver and start both next week with confidence.
THE REST OF THE WIRE
QB – Terrelle Pryor – OAK – Yeap, that’s right, Terrelle Pryor is a start-able fantasy QB. As I mentioned in his sleeper spotlight, he’s a lock for 10 points rushing – whether that be 50 and a touchdown, or like Sunday, 13 rushes for 110 yards. And because of his success rushing, he won’t have such tight passing windows to hit. While I don’t think he throws for over 200 yards every week, I do see at least 1 passing touchdown (along with 1 interception, to be fair). If you’re in need of a starting QB, you better grab him now because I don’t expect him to be available after the monster performance coming against Jacksonville in week 2.
QB – Carson Palmer – ARI – If you can’t get Pryor, Palmer is a solid consolation – provided you’re hurting that bad at QB. Palmer threw for 327 yards and 2 touchdowns on Sunday. Remember, he was serviceable with no offensive weapons last season, so I expect similar numbers from him every week.
WR – Julian Edelman – NE – For all the hype Thompkins and Sudfeld got this offseason, Tom Brady sure didn’t count on them much against the Bills on Sunday. Instead, it was Edelman who was Brady’s go-to receiver. He recorded 7 catches for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns. Going forward, I think Brady will continue to target the guys he trusts, and right now, the guy who has been with him the longest is Julian Edelman. Edelman deserves to be added in all leagues until he gets hurt or falls out of the game plan.
WR – Brian Hartline – MIA – Tannehill’s top target last season, and now he benefits from Mike Wallace drawing all the attention. He turned in a 9 catch 114 yard & 1 touchdown line Sunday, and could continue to be Tennehill’s go-to receiver on most short & medium routes.
WR – Harry Douglas – ATL – A sneaky option in a high-octane offense. Douglas is clearly behind a healthy Roddy White, Julio Jones, & Tony Gonzalez for targets, but while White is nursing an injured ankle, Douglas could emerge as a flex-worthy player in the coming weeks. Case in point, his 4 catch 93 yard performance on Sunday. The targets won’t always be high, but he can produce either way.
WR – Andre Roberts – ARI – Since I expect Palmer to continue to throw for nearly 300 yards every week, I fully expect him to be able to support 3 fantasy receivers, as well. Roberts outplayed Michael Floyd, but Floyd remains the more dangerous of the two. Still, Roberts can really make an impact out of the slot and will continue to get a ton of targets. His line from Sunday, 8-97-0 on 9 targets.
WR – Kenny Stills – NO – Another one of my sleepers that made me look good on Sunday. Nothing has changed since my last spotlight on him – he can still fly and should continue to build a rapport with Drew Brees. Once he does, look out! Stills only got 5 targets, but he caught 2 of them for 87 yards – one of which was a 67 yard in-route that he did the rest on.
WR – Marlon Brown – BAL – I tweeted about him making this list on Thursday, so he shouldn’t be a surprise here. Brown had 4 catches for 65 yards and 1 touchdown against the Broncos, after Jacoby Jones got hurt – but it’s his physical tools that has me intrigued. He’s 6’5″ and a shade over 200 pounds, so he reminds me a lot of the Chargers’ Malcom Floyd. The #2 receiver positions is wide open after Boldin’s departure, and I don’t believe a healthy Jacoby Jones is the answer. Look for Brown to be the guy that takes the reigns from here on out and takes some pressure off of Flacco and Torrey Smith.
RB – Joique Bell – DET – Lost in Reggie Bush’s impressive Lions debut was how well Joique Bell played. He may not be as electric as Bush, but the two are relatively interchangeable in that offense. A plus for Bell is the fact that he apparently already has the goal line job sewn up (see the two touchdowns he vultured against the Vikings). If you need a running back, Bell would be my first choice – he’s going to put up some solid numbers this season.
RB – Daniel Thomas – MIA – What an ugly day for Dolphin running backs. Lamar Miller was supposed to be a fantasy stud this season, and he couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start – 10 rushes for 3 yards, and 1 catch for 7 yards. Meanwhile, Thomas wasn’t much better, but did score the touchdown – 8 rushes for 14 yards and 1 touchdown. I thought Miller was clearly the better player, but if he continues to disappoint, Thomas might be the guy to own, simply because of his touchdown potential. For what it’s worth, I do expect Miller to bounce back this week.
TE – Kellen Winslow – NYJ – Another one of those TEs that finished in the top-12 this week – 7 catches for 79 yards and 1 touchdown. I don’t believe he’ll be this good, nor stay healthy long enough to have a chance, but if you’re really hurting and want to take a shot, go ahead. He really doesn’t have any competition for targets.
DEF – Dallas vs. Kansas City – Baltimore vs. Cleveland – Detroit vs. Arizona – Philadelphia vs. San Diego