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If you were looking for offense, Week 1 of the NFL season was not the place to find it. Only three quarterbacks topped 300 passing yards, and a measly three running backs rushed for more than 100 yards. If not for the wide-receiver position going bonkers with points, we'd all be wondering if 2010 was "The Year of the Defense."
Just chalk it up to Week-1 jitters and sloppiness. Everything will return to its rightful place, and your early-round fantasy picks will produce again. No need to overreact on the basis of one week. Unless you own Ryan Grant(notes) or any Philadelphia Eagle, of course …
While you're waiting for the offenses to gear up, a few players did bubble up from the ranks and could make a push for a spot on your starting roster. At a minimum, consider these players in what should be your weekly ritual of raking up the leaves from the bottom of your roster.
Derek Anderson(notes), ARI – 20 percent owned in Y! leagues
With Week 1 in the books, Cardinals QB Derek Anderson is a top-five passer in the NFL. Somewhere in Houston, a single tear runs down Matt Leinart's(notes) face. And as crazy as Anderson's lofty status sounds, that bizarre state of affairs could continue. The Cardinals face some real defensive dregs in the next few weeks (Atlanta, Oakland, Seattle, Tampa Bay), as well as some teams that they'll probably have to play catch-up against (New Orleans, San Diego). While it's far from certain if Anderson will continue to put up nice numbers, the tools and philosophy for him to do so are there. Of course, we have to discuss the elephant in the room: Anderson's solid performance came against St. Louis, a team that would have trouble making the CFL playoffs. Anderson's 297 passing yards and a TD was one of the league's best performances, at least from an end-result perspective. Just gloss over the fact that he completed 53 percent of his passes. That's really not an issue if you're flirting with the 300-passing-yards mark and are surrounded by talents like Larry Fitzgerald(notes), Steve Breaston(notes) and Tim Hightower(notes). Anderson will connect on enough of them to make it worth your while to drop a guy like the "Incredible Exploding Shoulder," Matthew Stafford(notes), or "I Can't Believe I'm Drafting" David Garrard(notes). Anderson also might be worth adding if you're a Kevin Kolb(notes) owner in full-blown panic mode.
Brandon Jackson(notes), GB – 18 percent owned in Y! leagues (and rising dramatically by the minute)
In the second quarter of the Eagles-Packers game, I commented to my buddy that Ryan Grant looks primed to rush for about 1,500 yards. Literally two seconds later, Grant went down with an ankle injury that effectively ended his season. I'm hoping to use this magical jinxing power on my opponents throughout the season. Now is the time to enter the massive stampede to pick up his backup, Brandon Jackson. Jackson rushed 18 times for 63 yards in a little more than two quarters as Green Bay's primary ball carrier, while also adding two catches for 12 yards. He looks like a hot RB2 play at home against Buffalo next week going forward.
Peyton Hillis(notes), CLE – Six percent owned in Y! leagues
As I've stated on numerous occasions, Josh McDaniels has no clue what he's doing in Denver. On a Denver team where the backup-RB situation was sketchy, McDaniels had no use for Hillis. Mike Shanahan found a use for the talented hybrid FB/RB when he was in Denver, and now Eric Mangini knows what to do with him as well. Hillis' first performance as a Brown wasn't just something that Cleveland fans should take note of – fantasy owners looking for a RB should take heed as well. Hillis was Cleveland's go-to guy against Tampa Bay, piling up 41 yards and a TD on nine carries, in addition to four catches for 24 yards. He also was the red-zone cleaner, picking up his TD after Jerome Harrison(notes) set him up with a 39-yard run. Look for more of this vulture behavior to occur in the future. While the two ball carriers both had nine carries, Hillis' four catches (to Harrison's one) make him a more interesting fantasy option.
Austin Collie(notes), IND – 69 percent owned in Y! leagues
When is the last time you heard of a team's No. 3 WR posting the most receiving yards in the league? It's got to be a pretty rare phenomenon. Surely many of you wept like little kids with skinned knees when you saw Collie sitting on your bench with 163 receiving yards and a TD. While such huge numbers are a fluke, Collie will remain a good source of points. The Colts clearly can't run the ball, and it appears that the three-WR set with Collie in the slot is their standard formation. Between Anthony Gonzalez's(notes) whining for playing time, shoddy hands and inability to stay healthy, he's no longer much of a threat to steal reps from Collie. Peyton Manning(notes) thought enough of Collie to target him 11 times against the Texans, 10 of which Collie hauled in. That is exactly the way you get a QB to trust you. It's full speed ahead for Collie as a solid WR3 play (at least) from now on.
Mark Clayton(notes), STL – 14 percent owned in Y! leagues
Raise your hand if you knew Mark Clayton was traded from Baltimore to St. Louis. Anyone? Bueller? Well, everyone got the email alert after Clayton's performance against Arizona. He had 10 catches for 119 yards in his first game as a Ram, and stepped into the (admittedly tiny) shoes of Donnie Avery(notes) as St. Louis' top receiver. In allowing rookie QB Sam Bradford(notes) to pass 55 times in his debut, the Rams showed they're either crazy or desperate. It's a good kind of crazy for fantasy owners in need of WR depth, though. Granted, St. Louis won't play against an off-brand secondary like Arizona's every week, but if they keep letting Bradford off the chain like that, he's bound to end up hitting Clayton a few times per game. Bradford targeted Clayton 16 times, an enormous total for any WR. If target totals in that neighborhood continue, Clayton will have a solid season. Not that Clayton has enjoyed a stellar career to date, but he is certainly more talented than the likes of Danny Amendola(notes) or Laurent Robinson(notes). Expect Bradford to keep winging it to Clayton to keep the heat off of RB Steven Jackson. At this point, start churning the bottom of your roster by adding Clayton. He may work himself into a starting spot on your roster sooner rather than later.
V-Jax? Wasn't that some crappy Kevin Spacey movie? Say what you want about the outcome of the Kansas City-San Diego game, but anyone invested in the Chargers' passing game from a fantasy standpoint is looking good. QB Philip Rivers(notes) put up 298 yards and two TDs, so no one can complain about that. Antonio Gates(notes) was his usual awesome self. Vincent Jackson's(notes) replacement, Malcolm Floyd, got a lot of looks, but not many catches. Naanee was the real star of the show for us waiver-wire lurkers. He posted five catches for 110 yards, with his TD coming on a 59-yard bomb. If Naanee becomes the deep threat in this potent Chargers passing offense, he's an absolute steal. Now is the time to invest in the San Diego offense – and in Naanee in particular. Their next five games come against some of the league's worst pass defenses (Jacksonville, Seattle, Arizona, Oakland, St. Louis). The potential for a breakout run from Naanee is off the charts. The kid probably owes San Diego GM A.J. Smith a nice wine basket at Christmas for this opportunity to further his career while Jackson languishes in contract limbo.
Marcedes Lewis(notes), JAX – 29 percent owned in Y! leagues
In one game, Lewis equaled his total TDs for the 2009 season by hauling in two scores. That's pretty impressive, particularly for a TE in an offense as unimaginative as the one Jacksonville runs. Those of you expecting the usual home-game highlights by Mike Sims-Walker(notes) against Denver were left gasping as WR Mike Thomas(notes) snagged all of the good passes, and Lewis immediately jumped into the ranks of the top fantasy TEs. The solid play isn't exactly out of the blue: Lewis had 518 receiving yards in 2009 and has gotten progressively better every season. If you're looking for TE depth or a competent starter in larger leagues, you can do much worse than a guy whose QB is looking hard for him in the red zone.
Mike Gilbert is RotoExperts.com's senior NFL editor and a 2009 FSWA award winner.
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