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Heroes and Zeroes - Week 2 Fantasy Football Picks

Let's face it - as much as you try to build a strong team at all positions, you're winning each week based on the strength of one or two players that put up huge performances. The vast majority of champions from 2016 weren't won by guys with the best balance in their lineup or the safest first-round pick. It's the guys who took David Johnson in the second round or Matt Ryan in the 12th, scooped Jordan Howard or Michael Thomas off waivers, or "bought high" on LeGarrette Blount after Week 3 that went on to wear the crown. These are our fantasy heroes, who create legends that live on (in our minds) forever. On the other hand, there are those that would crush our hopes and dreams by repeatedly putting up round numbers on the scoreboard through their own failings or that of their team (Brandon Marshall, Doug Martin spring to mind). Finding those fantasy heroes and avoiding those zeroes is paramount to weekly success in this game, so throw those draft rankings out the window and prepare for each week as if it's a new battle.

The words love and hate are a bit extreme, especially when we're talking about something like fantasy football that is simply a hobby and shouldn't consume our inner passions. But since it does and we probably spend more time on it than with our own friends and family, let's roll with something just as extreme.

In this series, I'll give you my fantasy "heroes" and "zeroes" at each position to get you ready for Week 2 of the NFL season. For my opinion on all fantasy-relevant players, you can check out how my rankings stack up against the other experts, or simply consult our RotoBaller consensus rankings.

Editor's Note: Get any rest-of-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive DFS Tools, Lineup Optimizer and Premium DFS Research through the Super Bowl. Sign Up Now!


Week 2 Lineup Heroes


Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders - Let's get this out of the way first: anyone (outside of Andy Dalton) who plays the Jets has a good chance to make this list each week. The last-minute trade of a solid DT like Sheldon Richardson in order to acquire a possession receiver like Jermaine Kearse tells you that they simply don't care to play defense this year. There is some good young talent on that team, but Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne aren't part of the equation. Last week's interception by Juston Burris matches the season total of his rookie year (that would be one). Amari Cooper looks every part the emerging stud receiver and Jared Cook gives them a viable, if inconsistent, threat down the middle. Only the fact that an angry Tom Brady is playing the sieve-like defense of the Saints prevents me from putting Carr as the top QB play this week. Start with supreme confidence.

Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers - I recently bumped Old Man Rivers up to No. 7 in my overall QB rankings for this week. Not because I was so impressed by the way he performed against Denver, although three TD ain't bad. The fact is he'll have a much easier go of it at home (if you call that stubby soccer field they're playing in a home) and faces a shaky pair of corners that hasn't seen game action lately. Once again, big-contract-earning Byron Maxwell is on the verge of losing his starting job and pedestrian slot corner Bobby McCain (5'10") will have a tough time against bigger receivers Tyrell Williams (6'4") and Keenan Allen (6'2"). Another three-TD outing wouldn't surprise me one bit.

Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins - Call it pure, unadulterated bias, but I think Smokin' Jay has a nice game in his Miami debut. He isn't the same unwieldy gunslinger people remember from his younger days. OK, that was just two years ago, but still... This is a more wise, mature version of Cutler. One who appreciates his lot in life. One who knows his role on the team. One who has Adam Gase ready to pull his Cesar Millan techniques and reign him back in. Or maybe he really does whisper to him on the sideline. Who knows. Either way, Cutler has a nice trio of receivers, a running game to support him and even a gifted red zone threat at tight end. Putting him at QB16 isn't the strongest of loves, but I've got him over Manning, Wentz, and Prescott (am I down on the NFC East this week or what?)

Notables Worth Mentioning: Drew Brees, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton



Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots - If we're buying Brady as the top QB this week, which everyone is, then we're buying that the Pats will be living in the red zone often, right? Gillislee played the Blount role to perfection in Week 1, even in a big loss. It stands to reason he should be able to hit paydirt at least once this week. His complete lack of involvement in the pass game makes him much more desirable in standard, but last I checked PPR leagues still give out six shiny points for rushing TD too.

Terrance West, Cleveland Browns - Does it count as a revenge game if it's three years removed from when you last played for the team you're facing? Or if you aren't good enough to warrant having a revenge game in the first place? West faces the team that made him a third-round pick this week, which happens to be the Cleveland Browns. Don't even get any ideas about how they stopped Le'Veon Bell last week. He was shaking off more rust than an office filing cabinet left out in the rain. While Buck Allen gets the catches, West gets the bulk of the work between the 20s and in the red zone. He has a good chance to take the goal-line plunge this week.

Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers - For the record, this is the third time I've had to erase "San Diego" before writing up the rest of a sentence. Gordon is an obvious chalk play, but I have him ahead of Le'Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, and his opponent on the other side, Jay Ajayi this week. The Dolphins were a meager 30th against the run last year and didn't do much to improve that front line, other than get rid of Mario Williams, which is addition by subtraction. Gordon could do big things against a team hitting the field for this first time this regular season.

Notables Worth Mentioning: Isaiah Crowell, Robert Kelley



Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars - Someone's got to catch passes from Blake Bortles, right? At least the ones that are catchable. Allen Hurns has the best single season under his belt from 2015, but Lee is the receiver trending in the right direction. If you Remember the Titans of last season, they were stout against the run, soft against the pass. 30th overall in fact. Lee could start his ascension to the #1 WR role this week.

Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles - Playing in Arrowhead is never easy and the Chiefs look to have improved on last year's defensive unit. That is, until Eric Berry tore his Achilles. With starting CB Steven Nelson already out, the supremely beatable Terrance Mitchell stepped in and graded out as one of the worst corners of Week 1, despite the subpar game from Tom Brady. Marcus Peters, for all his interceptions, also tends to let big plays fly by him every so often. Don't be scared to start Jeffery if you're on the fence for this one. Oh, and Nelson Agholor isn't going to steal his touches either.

Rishard Matthews, Tennessee Titans - He's gotten lost among all the talk of rookie Corey Davis and veteran Eric Decker joining the squad, but Matthews should remain the go-to target in the red zone. Matthews was targeted nine times last week, finishing in the top 20 among all WRs. If Jalen Ramsey (questionable) doesn't go, this could leave more room for him to put up numbers.

Notables Worth Mentioning: Jeremy Maclin, Travis Benjamin



A.J. Derby, Denver Broncos - There's opportunity here for Derby to play a prominent role in the offense. He caught all three of his targets on Monday night, one of which came inside the five-yard line. If Bennie Fowler can snag two scores, why not Derby? The Cowboys were one of the worst against the tight end last year and will be busy focusing on Denver's wideouts. It's hard to see him as a starter in anything other than dynasty leagues at this time. but formats that reward extra PPR for tight ends, like SFB7, could find him intriguing.

Dwayne Allen, New England Patriots - Allen was invisible in the first game of the season, although he was targeted twice. His tenure in Indy ended with a somewhat disappointing season based on his contract, although it now appears that the problem may have had more to do with the team than Allen himself. He's in a great position to be the next understudy to Gronk when he inevitably gets hurt and snag some red zone targets in the process. Following this week's theme of "the Patriots are going to run circles around the Saints," Allen could be a sneaky play.

Notables Worth Mentioning: Austin Hooper, Jared Cook


Week 2 Lineup Zeroes


Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys - The Broncos were the toughest defense for opposing QBs last year, but didn't look the part on Monday Night. Von Miller and company will still press the issue and force Prescott to make plays down the field, but my feeling is that they will lean heavily on Ezekiel Elliott. Having Zeke running behind him, at least for now, should help Prescott maintain last year's baseline value. Their entire offense, save a couple of linemen, essentially is the same as 2016 when they finished fifth in the league in total offense. On a season-long valuation, he'll be fine. But that's sort of my issue with Prescott. He's fine, but not the type of player that will win you any given week. If it's a matchup I don't like and I'm the type who streams QBs week-to-week in shallow leagues, I'm looking elsewhere.

Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals - As I stated on my podcast, there are two ways to view the David Johnson injury. 1) The Cards will be forced to throw the ball more and Palmer's value will naturally go up. 2) The lack of running game and absence of Johnson as an outlet on plays requiring checkdowns will affect the entire offense and lead to lower scoring all around. I bring this up because I'm obviously on the B side. Yes, B=2 in this equation. Palmer regressed negatively in terms of TD% and yards per attempt last year and I see it continuing this year. Let's remember that 2015 was a career best for him and we need to accept that this 37-year-old version is not going to be nearly that good. The Colts look like as tasty a matchup as there is, but my gut tells me this is going to be an ugly game all around that ends in a 12-9 field goal fest. Ugh.

Notables Worth Mentioning: Alex Smith, Carson Wentz



Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers - His stock should be rising in seasonal formats as his heavy usage and pleasantly surprising snap count should be inspiring. This week, he won't face a better defense than Seattle, but a better offense in Atlanta. That could make the difference between game script leaning more pass than run for the Pack. I'm tempering expectations here.

Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions - When it comes to Abdullah, or any Lions running back for that matter, I'm taking the following approach: I'll believe it when I see it. He's finally healthy to start the season, but couldn't take advantage of his chances in Week 1, averaging two yards a carry on 15 attempts. The Giants bring a tough front line that won't leave any more room to run, so I'm keeping Abdullah benched for now. At least I would if I had actually drafted him anywhere.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans - Hopefully you're not relying on Henry as a starting RB in any leagues by now. He is merely a handcuff for DeMarco Murray owners. That said, he won't do anything to change that perception this week against a Jags defense that may have the best young talent in the league. At home, without their best wideout, they will keep it on the ground even more by employing shiny new toy Leonard Fournette. Tennessee's ground and pound will only go so far to bring Henry value when they aren't ahead in the game. I'm passing even in tournaments.

Notables Worth Mentioning: Carlos Hyde, Tarik Cohen



Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins - It wasn't a surprise that the Rams won easily versus the Luckless Colts in their season opener. To be honest, it won't surprise me if it happens again this week. While the Redskins will put up a fight (and some actual points), it may take time for that new receiving corps to gel with Kirk Cousins. The Rams have a damn good secondary and now they get Aaron Donald back to boot. If I'm a Pryor owner, I might sit tight another week before deploying him.

Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers - Anyone in Green Bay can catch touchdown passes, so Adams is never a bad start per se. He is, however, the fifth-best receiving option on that roster. Randall Cobb is back to his old self and Marty B is the most talented tight end they've had in recent memory. The Falcons' corners graded out well in 2016 and won't let him run free for huge gains.

Notables Worth Mentioning: Eric Decker, Marquise Goodwin



Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills - It's funny to see Clay jump up in everyone's rankings after scoring a touchdown in Week 1. He ended last season on a TD surge, but he didn't score his first of the season until Week 13, so it's not as if he's a scoring machine. He's already dinged up and listed as questionable, although he's likely to play. Carolina was generous against the tight end last year, but played without Luke Kuechly for six games and was breaking in an all-new secondary. If you stream tight ends weekly, by all means try Clay out, but don't bump a top-10 TE out of your lineup for him.

Notables Worth Mentioning: Jordan Reed, Evan Engram


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