NFL Week 1 fantasy awards: Manning, Griffin calm early fears
Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas equally targeted by Peyton Manning in Week 1
Robert Griffin III has look of next Cam Newton with greater emphasis on passing
Maurice Jones-Drew ready to resume his place as the Jaguars' workhorse back
Just call it Jump to Conclusions Week, when fantasy owners either feel bulletproof at 1-0 or full of holes at 0-1.
The new season also marked the first Sunday of The Robert Griffin Experience, the new-look ATL air attack, the rise of the Jets and Peyton hitting 400 TD passes among many happy returns of last year's biggest names from the injured list.
With only a game in the books and two more left to play tonight, let's begin our weekly batch of nods.
The Mr. 400 Award: Admit it, it was weird to see Peyton Manning in Denver orange with about half his usual arm-cannon super powers. He may put up solid, if unspectacular, stat lines closer to brother Eli from now on -- but his fantasy value looks on sound footing considering his comeback was cloudy not long ago. If there is any wonder who his top target will be? Both Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas were targeted seven times Sunday night. But it's Thomas, as he showed on TD pass 400, whose game-breaking speed gives him the inside track as a high-end WR3.
Best Performance in a Debut: The surprise isn't what Griffin did -- 320 yards passing and two TDs -- but it's that it came so soon. The Redskins dialed back his pass attempts in the preseason in order to spring a September trap and it worked. The improved supporting cast pulled its weight (Pierre Garcon, everybody!) and Griffin had the poise of a pro. It's not hard to expect a Cam Newtonian effect going forward, but lighter on the rushing and heavier on the passing. At worst he's a situational starter for teams with solid QBs. You can still expect typical rookie ups and downs
Best Starting Running Back in a Shanahan-Offense Role: Alfred Morris impressed with two TDs and finished just shy of 100 yards. Knowing Mike Shanahan, this could be the start of 17 consecutive different names in this space. Williams (for now) moves up to a good RB3 or flex, and a low-end RB2.
The Welcome Back Award:
Besides Peyton Manning, there were a few other fantasy stalwarts making triumphant returns.
Part 1: Adrian Peterson: His 80-plus yards and two TD runs was proof positive that knee ligaments are overrated. No, really, Peterson is a phenomenal specimen but time will tell how reliable he is from here on out. Owners this season of AP bought the ticket and have to take the ride, hoping he'll hold up. Toby Gerhart was a non factor, but is still worth hanging onto for handcuff status.
Part 2: Andre Johnson: No receiver got beat up more in some of the preseason rankings than Johnson. He is still an elite talent, Matt Shaub is still solid and he has one of the best RBs in the league alongside him to take the defensive attention. Bold prediction: Johnson's double-digit TD drought will end this year.
Part 3: Jamaal Charles: Those predicting doom, gloom and 2012 asteroids from the sky for fear of Peyton Hills were dealt a setback Sunday. Hillis was non-existent while Charles ran near the century mark. Those who remember the yardage dynamo's all-purpose production, even in the midst of Thomas Jones' presence two years ago, no doubt felt the reassuring glow of his boxscore.
The Air Show Award: About the only Falcons owners who had anything to complain about had Michael Turner. After hearing about the offense being opened up for years, Atlanta followed up its preseason passing attack with the real thing. Matt Ryan showed he easily was the most undervalued QB on fantasy draft day while Julio Jones continued to overtake Roddy White in the passing pecking order. White will still get his, and Tony Gonzalez will only pad his Hall of Fame numbers with one last hurrah.
The Next Man Up Award: Despite the Jaguars' best intentions to ride starter Rashad Jennings, a first half injury cleared the way for MJD to take the lead. Despite barely a week of practice, Jones-Drew turned in a workmanlike performance (77 yards rushing) against the Vikings. Owners shouldn't hesitate to plug him into their lineups the rest of the way.
The Marshall Plan Award: How great was it to see the former Broncos reunion between Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall? Even though the Bears won't be playing pass defenses as weak as the Colts every week, Cutler targeted B-Marsh 15 times Sunday, meaning he will plenty of chances to post big numbers.
The Vulture Award: Michael Bush. Sticking with a Chicago theme, Matt Forte owners had their worst nightmare realized through two and a half quarters as Bush reaped the goal-line riches. Forte eventually crossed the stripe himself, but the writing is clear. The Louisville product will give the Bears a real-life boost but is going to haunt Forte owners by leeching production, especially touchdowns.
The Fantasy Siberia Award: (Tie) Trent Richardson and Reggie Bush owners better have patience to spare. Both of them are going to perform at times like low-end RB4s due to no fault of their own. With Week 1 as exhibit: A, both backs will be hampered by rookie passers and are surrounded by cheat sheet dregs that opposing defenses won't be worrying about.
Best Ambush of a Scoreboard: The Jets obviously planned a sneak attack after hiding its offense in plain sight during the preseason. Santonio who? Mark Sanchez picked apart the Bills with rookie Stephen Hill the main beneficiary. Hill has the most upside of the receivers, and despite my general lack of faith in the Jets' offense after one game, is a good waiver wire pick up for depth.
Opening Week Bust: Chris Johnson. All of a sudden his lackluster preseason of running laterally out of bounds for one-yard gains is starting to look like an omen. Johnson, despite a brutal 2011, had moved up his way on the draft charts into the late first round this summer. At this point, his stock is starting to resemble Facebook's. Owners who took a chance have to ride him for now, but be on the lookout for an exit strategy.
Runner-up: Wes Welker: Unlike Larry Fitzgerald, whose QB situation (and the ball) is out of his hands, resulting in some frustrating catch numbers, Welker's three-catch, 14-yard outing is puzzling. If the running game with Stevan Ridley continues to take shape and Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez take bigger roles in the offense, this might be the trend for the Pats' receivers, as one or two big names every week will find themselves in this spot. Fewer pass attempts equals less passes thrown to. At any rate, a tough start for a PPR legend.
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