Monday Brunch: Staying grounded on Alfred Morris

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In the summer, we scouted Alfred Morris. In late August, we drafted Morris. In Week 1, some started Morris.

Congratulations if you're 3-for-3. Now it's time to ask a key question: what can I get for Morris?

I was impressed with Morris's first training camp, and he has a solid (if unspectacular) debut in New Orleans. A 28-carry, 96-yard game is steady, but it still averages to a modest 3.4 a carry. He scored two touchdowns, which obviously pay the fantasy freight.

Let's be fully aware of how game flow fed into Morris's final line. He had nine carries for 21 yards in the first half, then piled on 19-75 in the second half as the Redskins held their lead, worked on the clock, and took advantage of the tired Saints defensive front. Those stats certainly count and we'll enjoy them, especially with two touchdowns mixed in. But the Redskins obviously won't be playing with a lead every week.

While some backs have turned into stars for Mike Shanahan, the top guys were runners who could play in all situations. Terrell Davis caught 49 passes as a rookie, in addition to his terrific running skills. Clinton Portis was a very good pass catcher and more importantly, a dynamite blocker (perhaps the best blitz-pickup artist of his generation).

Morris came out of Florida Atlantic with a reputation of a power back, an inside pile-mover. He only caught 30 passes in three years of full-time play there. His scouting report mentioned below-average speed and a tendency to fumble (heaven help him if that shows in Washington).

For all the fantasy bashing of Shanahan, he's still a creative and brilliant offensive mind. He has no intention of making a commitment to any one back if he doesn't have to. He'll fiddle around with packages and personnel, and he'll change things schematically from week to week. That's what the best coaches do. You seldom see the same picture twice.

Morris didn't have any catches in Sunday's win, while Roy Helu collected three receptions for 25 yards. Helu showed his receiving chops last year (49 grabs), while Evan Royster had 61 catches in his Penn State career. Sooner or later, these guys will probably get a chance to play extensively. It's all about matchups and packages with Shanahan; he's a coach that likes to play the field.

It's a good thing that Morris can move the pile, because Washington's offensive line is below-average when it comes to run blocking. This isn't the 1983 Redskins we're talking about. I'm not trying to suggest Morris doesn't have upside, but it's not game-changing upside. If he managed to become a reliable flex play for the entire season, I'd be pleasantly surprised.

You're welcome to disagree with me all you like on Morris; I know my good friend Mike Salfino disagrees with my take. And I'm not meaning to pick on Morris owners, either. Heck, I snapped him up a few times in the summer, and I featured Morris in the annual What's In My Wallet piece.

I'm just trying to stay realistic here, keep both cleats on the ground. The game is all about shifting public perspectives. Maybe it's a good time to shop Morris, see what he can land you. Mike suggested that you should deal a Steven Jackson for Morris; I go the other way on that. I've also offered Morris for Reggie Bush in one of my modified-PPR leagues, a deal that was quickly rejected.

If you're in the pro-Morris camp, at least the schedule falls in line. The Redskins figure to have a good chance with their next three opponents (at St. Louis; Cincinnati, at Tampa Bay), and a Week 5 home game with Atlanta could be interesting. The Giants and Steelers don't come calling until Week 7 and 8, respectively. Five of Washington's six division games are after the Week 10 bye.

But I'm not going to let go of Shanihanigan History with the blink of an eye. There's always a downside with any of his primary backs, at least until they become made men. Alfred Morris is a long way from that point.

• There's a lot to like about Jets rookie WR Stephen Hill: he's rangy, fluid, a willing blocker (anything that gets you on the field is a good thing). And while Hill played in an option offense at Georgia Tech, 25.5 YPCs don't grow on trees. Hill might not see a lot of running room in Week 2 against Pittsburgh, but I stand behind my preseason prediction: he'll lead the Jets in receiving touchdowns.

• Even after a very mediocre debut, I'm not bailing on Russell Wilson yet. The conservative play-calling in the first half did him no favors, and Wilson had a bunch of passes dropped on him in the second half (looking at you, Doug Baldwin and Braylon Edwards). The Week 2 showdown against Dallas should give us a good sense of who Wilson is.

• It was shocking to see Kevin Kolb come off the bench, cold, and lead a game-winning drive against Seattle's defense (and, especially, the Seahawks secondary). Kolb also showed some chemistry with Larry Fitzgerald for once, something that's missing in many previous starts. John Skelton is expected to miss multiple weeks, so it's sink-or-swim time for Kolb. The Cardinals are going to need to manufacture a passing game, as their backs can't seem to do much behind that abysmal run-blocking line.

Randall Cobb's raw skills are on the table for everyone to see, but what really excites me from a fantasy perspective is how the Packers went out of their way to get him the ball in Week 1: designing specific plays for Cobb, putting him in the backfield, etc. This tells you how the coaching staff feels about his breakout potential. Cobb is ownable in medium-depth leagues right now, and if any primary target gets hurt in Green Bay, Cobb could be a monster.

• As bad as Chris Johnson looked in Week 1, let's give a lot of credit to the significantly-improved Patriots front seven. This defense is not going to be a giveaway in 2012, as it was last year. The Tennessee offensive line was manhandled for most of the afternoon. Mind you, Johnson needs to be more decisive, too.

Doug Martin flashed on the tape, showing a mix of power, speed, vision, and even a mean streak. This is everything the Bucs though he would be when they spent a first-round pick on him. If Martin stays healthy, he'll have little trouble being a Top 10 fantasy back. I wish I had him on all of my teams. Even in deeper pools, I have no interest in LeGarrette Blount.

• The sooner the Browns give Colt McCoy a chance to play again, the better. Old Man Brandon Weeden has no idea what he's seeing out there. He could have easily thrown 6-7 picks against the Eagles (mind you, Michael Vick was nearly as bad, in a different type of way, on the other side).

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