By: C.J. Doon
Nobody likes a party crasher.
They’re loud, they’re obnoxious, they steal all of your booze, and they are always short on cash.
But in the bizarro world known as Fantasy Football, we love the party crashers! Every week, a new must-have-fantasy-stud emerges from the depths of the waiver wire to crash the NFL party, and everybody jumps on the opportunity to grab him. I like to call this “The Storage War Effect”: everybody thinks they can find a priceless artifact, but in the end, they’re left with a useless pile of junk they can’t get rid of.
The first week of the NFL season is usually ripe with examples of The Storage War Effect. Take Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, for example. During Week 1 of the 2011 season, Fitzpatrick threw for 208 yards and 4 TD passes in a 41-7 romp over the Chiefs. Teams desperate for quarterbacks leaped at the chance to pick up Fitzpatrick, and rightfully so. The Bills went on to win their next two games, with Fitzpatrick throwing for a combined 841 yards and 9 touchdowns during those three games. Fitzpatrick fantasy owners proudly proclaimed their vast knowledge of the sport, and were setting their sights on a league championship with the Harvard Hurler at the helm.
And then the wheels fell off. During a brutal seven-game losing streak, Fitzpatrick completed less than 50% of his passes, and threw 12 interceptions for a combined 26.1 Quarterback Rating (50 is average). Fantasy owners quickly realized that their “priceless gem” was just another cheap knockoff, and moved on in search of the next big thing.
After Week 1 of the 2012 NFL Season, there are plenty of candidates for Storage War Player-of-the-Year. Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens is a prime suspect after eviscerating the Bengals defense on Monday Night Football, completing 21 of 29 passes for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns. Flacco has shown that he is not the type of player that puts up big numbers week after week, but many believe this is going to be his breakout season. It might be tempting to scoop him up off the waiver wire, but I’d leave Flacco alone for now.
Stevan Ridley of the New England Patriots is another player who shined in Week 1. The second-year running back out of LSU ran for 125 yards and a touchdown against the Titans in his first game as the full-time starter. There is no question Ridley is going to be productive in the Patriots’ offense this season, but I don’t believe he deserves a full-time spot in your starting lineup, and here’s why. New England’s offense is built around the passing game, and they only use the run to keep the opposing defense on their toes. The Patriots rarely give their running backs more than 20 carries a game, and last season they had four different players lead the team in rushing. Depending on the game plan, Danny Woodhead or Brandon Bolden could see significant playing time over Ridley. There are just too many question marks surrounding the Patriots’ offense to justify giving Ridley the full time slot at running back.
Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris is in the same boat as Ridley. Morris ran for an impressive 96 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Saints, emerging as one of the top running backs of Week 1. However, Kyle Shannahan, the Redskins offensive coordinator and son of head coach Mike Shannahan, loves to mix-and-match running backs. Last season, Roy Helu Jr., Evan Royster, Ryan Torrain, and Tim Hightower all took turns as the number one running back, but nobody emerged as the full time starter. Instead, fantasy owners had to play “Redskins Running Back Roulette” every week, and almost nobody came out alive. Morris will get the bulk of the carries in the ‘Skins offense, but don’t be surprised if he’s replaced by Royster or Helu.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the candidates is Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, otherwise known as RG3. Griffin had a tremendous game as a rookie, completing 73% of his passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns. What made the performance even more remarkable was the fact that it was played in front of a raucous crowd at the Mercedes Benz Dome in New Orleans, one of the loudest arenas in all of professional sports. Rookie quarterbacks normally take time adjusting to the NFL before we see any significant progress, but RG3 looked poised and confident under center for the Redskins. Griffin led a team that ranked 16th in total offense last season to 40 points and 464 total yards. I believe that RG3 will have a great season for the Redskins, but I don’t think he can put up these types of numbers every week. He should be on par with Cam Newton’s rookie season last year, which resulted in over 4,000 passing yards and 21 touchdowns vs. 17 interceptions. He’s good enough to warrant a spot in a 16 or 20 team league, but if you have a proven quarterback on your team, don’t add RG3 hoping he becomes Michael Vick in 2010. However, Washington has the 9th easiest schedule in the NFL this season, so don’t be surprised if RG3 proves me wrong.