Back in mid-June, I advised Dynasty leaguers to bombard their league's Randall Cobb owners with trade offers as their summer homework. As I pointed out in a pre-camp article outlining players to target in preseason deals, Cobb is a Percy Harvin-like talent with dangerous run-after-catch skills. In fact, the unstoppable Julio Jones was the only full-time receiver with a greater YAC per reception average last season.
It's not unusual for an elite fantasy receiver to begin his career as a dynamic return specialist. Harvin, Steve Smith, Henry Ellard, Derrick Mason and borderline Hall of Famer Tim Brown are just a handful of the many examples. Although Cobb played just half of the offensive snaps in a heavy no-huddle attack with the Packers down early to the 49ers, his 19 backfield snaps are highly intriguing from a fantasy perspective.
Asked by the FOX game announcers about the difference in this year's offense, Aaron Rodgers pointed to the coaching staff's plans for Cobb as a satellite player. Those plans were evident as Cobb took swing passes and short screens, motioned out of the backfield and ran quick slant routes in an effort to get the ball in his hands in space. Cobb reeled in all of his team-high nine targets while showing his electric playmaking ability on a 75-yard punt-return touchdown.
Much like Harvin early last season, the major question surrounding Cobb's fantasy value revolves around his snap count. The Packers clearly want the ball in his hands, and he's a superior talent to No. 3 receiver James Jones. Even if Cobb's snaps don't increase, he can produce WR3 numbers with WR2 upside while riding side-saddle in the backfield with Rodgers on obvious passing downs.
With Greg Jennings' (groin) status up in the air for Thursday night's game versus the Bears, both Cobb and Jones should be at or near the top of waiver wire lists this week.
Owners looking for a short-term fix should target Alfred Morris as a RB2 option for Week 2. Although Morris appears to have a stranglehold on the starting job, it's long been established that Mike Shanahan has a wandering backfield eye. In four preseason and regular season games, Morris has topped 3.6 yards per carry just once. The rookie doesn't have the skill-set to play all three downs, and the Roy Helu/Evan Royster tandem will be heard from sooner rather than later. For season-long upside, I prefer Cobb as the top waiver pickup over Morris this week.
On to the players. Here is how I rank the top players at each position as we head into Week 2. Full write-ups of each player are below.
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Jake Locker, Titans - Locker’s timing couldn’t have been worse in Week 1. The early fourth quarter shoulder injury robbed him of a prime opportunity for garbage-time success in the fantasy friendly come-from-behind mode. Coach Mike Munchak assured after the game that Locker would start Week 2 at San Diego. Although he’s owned in just under half of Yahoo leagues, Locker remains a high-upside QB2 option.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.
Christian Ponder, Vikings - It’s hard to fault fantasy owners for keeping Ponder unowned in nearly 80 percent of Yahoo and CBS leagues after he was kept out of the end zone in Week 1. Although Ponder didn’t enjoy much fantasy success versus the Jaguars, the 74.1 percent completions and 10.0 YPA are promising indicators of future value. This offense has more fantasy potential than commonly believed.
Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.
Matt Cassel, Chiefs - The season opener was a tale of two halves, as Cassel played as well as he ever has in the opening frame. Behind one of the league’s strongest offensive lines, Cassel took advantage of a deep corps of receivers and tight ends to post a top-10 QB rating. Falcons defensive boss Mile Nolan won the half-time adjustments battle, harassing Cassel throughout the second half. Glass half-full types can roll the dice on his first half performance.
Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.
Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars - Don’t ever expect to start Gabbert outside of the bye-week crunch, but he’s now followed up an encouraging preseason with a strong performance in the opener. Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson and Cecil Shorts are major upgrades in Bob Bradkowski’s quick-passing offense, giving Gabbert a chance to sustain a modicum of success in his second season.
Recommendation: Should be owned in two-quarterback leagues.
Kevin Kolb, Cardinals - Kolb was impressive with quick reads and catchable balls in the game-winning drive, but it’s a small sample size. While it’s not a bad idea to give him a spin for 2-4 weeks in two-quarterback leagues with John Skelton sidelined, there’s still a high risk of implosion for a habitually hesitant passer behind a porous offensive line.
Recommendation: Worth a look in two-quarterback leagues.
Watch List: Matt Flynn
It’s only one game, but Russell Wilson certainly didn’t live up the hype in the opener. Keep Flynn in the back of your mind in case Wilson struggles to top 4.5 YPA again in Week 2.
Hold Off: Mark Sanchez, Matt Hasselbeck
I loved the Jets as a pick to cover the spread versus the media darling Bills in the opener because Rex Ryan’s coaching ability should never be underappreciated. But I have zero faith that the Jets offense will repeat that feat without the element of surprise. It’s a talent issue -- for Sanchez as well as his receivers. … Jake Locker is expected to start for the Titans in Week 2.
Cut Bait: Sam Bradford, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden
Already operating behind one of the NFL’s most under-manned offensive lines, Bradford lost his left tackle and center in the opener. … According to Pro Football Focus, Tannehill threw 29 of his 36 passes between 0 and 9 yards in the opener. … Weeden is a bust.