Each week, we'll comb through the stat sheets to identify fantasy football performances of note. Then we'll try to analyze these performances to see if these players should be applauded or if they're a one-week fraud. As we do this, we'll focus on players that are start/sit decisions for most fantasy owners or players who are on many waiver wires. The reason for this is that we all know to applaud Adrian Peterson, and so saying that doesn't give fantasy owners insight they can act on. Note that not all verdicts mean the same thing. Some mean pick the player up or let him stay on the waiver wire; others mean start the player or leave him on your bench. The report beside each player spells out our thinking.
We list running backs from Week One in this post. You can read our applaud or a fraud analysis of quarterbacks, wideouts, and tight ends on www.footballrelativity.com.
Joseph Addai, Colts (42 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 35 receiving yards) - I've been down on Addai this year, and the first game did nothing to alleviate my fears, despite his touchdown. He averaged less than three yards a carry and showed little burst. I have a bad feeling this is going to end up being one of his most productive games of the year from a fantasy perspective. Ignore the touchdown and stay away. Verdict: A fraud
Mike Bell, Saints (143 rushing yards) - Bell had a huge week one, but his role will quickly diminish when Pierre Thomas returns from injury next week. If you have Thomas, Bell is a good insurance policy. Otherwise, there's a better way to use your roster spot. Verdict: A fraud
Cedric Benson, Bengals (76 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 32 receiving yards) - Benson had a solid game to open the season, even though the Bengals offense didn't look that great. If Benson can produce in a game like that, you can feel pretty good about him going forward. The fact that he had four catches is a nice little bonus. He's a borderline starter in most leagues. Verdict: Applaud
Tim Hightower, Cardinals (15 rushing yards, 121 receiving yards) - The strangest stat line of week one was Hightower's receiving ledger. Don't count on it continuing. Arizona was playing without Steve Breaston and with a hobbled Anquan Boldin. Hightower still isn't worth a start in any but the largest fantasy leagues. Verdict: A fraud
Julius Jones, Seahawks (117 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD) - Where did this come from? I was skeptical about Jones, both because of his lackluster '08 performance and because the Seahawks' offensive line is really banged up right now. But Jones put up big numbers in Week One. The performance came against a bad team, so don't get your head out over your skis too much, but Jones is moving up from being a borderline flex option to being a top-25 running back. Verdict: Applaud
Willis McGahee, Ravens (44 rushing yards, 31 receiving yards, 2 total TDs) - McGahee was the overlooked guy in the Ravens' backfield this offseason as fantasy owners went wild about Ray Rice. (Wild rice... bad pun... sorry.) But it was McGahee (and LeRon McClain) who got in the end zone in Week One. Baltimore's running game looks to be as scattered fantasy-wise as it was last year, and that means McGahee is going to be a dicey start any week unless Rice is hurt. McGahee is worth owning, but don't pencil him in your starting lineup next week just because he scored twice. Verdict: A fraud
Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers (97 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD) - Williams, who is on the mend from a major knee injury, won the starting running back job in Tampa in the preseason and then delivered a solid performance in Week One. He's still splitting time with Derrick Ward and, to a lesser extent, Earnest Graham, but Williams looks like he's healthy and ready to run. If that really is the case, he's worth owning and worth considering as a flex option depending on the Bucs' opponent. That's a pretty good jump for a guy that was a fantasy afterthought even just three weeks ago. Verdict: Applaud
Ricky Williams, Dolphins (39 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD) - Williams is no longer a great fantasy option, but we saw this week what he can contribute to a fantasy team. He'll combine for 50-75 yards, score a touchdown every once in a while, and be a decent backup in larger leagues. So if Williams isn't owned in your league, he's worth a pickup. Verdict: Applaud