Here we go kids… the 2011 Fantasy Football season is finally upon us! The big news is that Peyton Manning is going to miss the start of the season. Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said that Peyton Manning will "be back at some point," but that is as good as it gets for owners to plan for their #1 overall pick. That is going to be the nature of the beast for this fantasy season; injury. Due to the shortened timeframe that the NFL has dealt with post-lockout, fantasy owners are going to have to be on top of injury news and the waiver wire if they want to make it to the title game.
David Garrard was let go this week, which means Luke McCown will start at QB in week 1. Blaine Gabbert is the clear QB of the future, but he needs more time to be ready to handle an NFL offense. Keep an eye on McCown as he is a gunslinger.
So, without further ado, let's get to some Week 1 fantasy rankings!
Josh Freeman: Freeman starts off the season against a Lions defense that I think will shock a lot of people as the season goes on. But I think they are better up front than they are in the secondary… and that is where Freeman makes his money. I'm looking for mid-range QB1 stats from him to start the season off.
Kevin Kolb: Kolb is the savoir of Arizona, or at least that is what Cardinals fans and Larry Fitzgerald owners hope. He gets a relatively easy matchup in his first regular season outing, so I see no reason to not play him. If he can't get it done against the Panthers, I would send out a mass-email seeing if someone will trade for him, though!
Reggie Bush: Highly-touted rookie RB Daniel Thomas has landed himself right in Coach Tony Sparano's doghouse, which means Reggie Bush will see the bulk of the carries and touches early on. The chances of Bush holding up over the course of a season with this type of workload is slim. However, he is a strong play this week in PPR leagues.
Beanie Wells: Wells recently got tagged as a workhorse back this season for the Cardinals, and he is a good play this week for the same reasons that Kolb is a strong play… the Panthers are their opponent. Wells is a bit of a risk; but, if everything clicks, it could really pay off.
Kenny Britt: Britt was taken at the top of the 7thround in most drafts, and that is a little lower than I had him on my draft rankings. The Titans really need a WR threat and Britt is just the man to come through for Matt Hasselbeck.
Mike Thomas: The Jaguars are being criticized for their lack of names at the WR position, but Thomas is someone that can really pay off for those in PPR leagues. I put his value more in the WR3 range, but since he was taken around the 12thround in most drafts, I'd say that is a great value pick in leagues that start three WRs. Even with the change in QBs, I still like Thomas.
Jared Cook: Cook is flying under the radar in many leagues, being that he is owned in just 50 percent of Yahoo leagues. I think Cook is going to shoot up to TE1 status very quickly and should be owned in any format.
Cleveland Browns defense: The Browns defense isn't as intriguing as the Lions, but they do play a Bengals offense that is breaking in a new QB and WR1. I think the Bengals will struggle to move the ball and that means the Browns could put up a shutout through no doing of their own.
Tony Romo: Romo gets one of the toughest defenses in the NFL right out of the gate, the Jets. Their secondary is tough; their line is tough; shoot, even their LB corps is tough. I see some good things from the Cowboys offense this season, just not this week.
Kerry Collins: Collins gets thrown right into the fire after signing with the Colts less than two weeks ago. Manning is out indefinitely and that means Collins is at the helm… but that also means nearly every single Colts offensive player's fantasy value takes a nosedive.
Ryan Mathews: Mathews entered the NFL with high expectations, and he has failed to deliver on those expectations up to this point. Now, to make his value go down even further, he is in a timeshare with Mike Tolbert. The truth is that nobody is really sure how the split will go, so I wouldn't view Mathews as anything more than a flex play until roles get clearly defined.
Mark Ingram: Ingram landed in an ideal spot for his fantasy value, but he failed to really capitalize on it. As it stands right now, Pierre Thomas is the starting RB and Ingram's role will increase as the season progresses. I got burned on an auto-draft with Ingram as my RB2 back in early August, so know that you aren't alone.
Miles Austin: For the same reasons that I won't play Romo this weekend, I am saying to sit Austin this weekend. Add to that the breakout potential of Dez Bryant, and you have a recipe for a disappointing season from a WR1.
Mike Sims-Walker: MSW failed to secure the WR2 spot over Brandon Gibson, which has me a little worried about his fantasy value this season. Yes, Sam Bradford is a legit franchise QB, but there are only so many targets to go around and now Lance Kendricks is looking like a real sleeper at TE for the Rams. I'd like MSW show something before putting him in your lineup.
Dallas Clark: Simply put, I don't trust Collins to provide fantasy value. Clark is easily a top-three TE with Manning under center. But with Collins tossing the pig-skin to him I think he is a shaky TE1 and someone I stayed away from in drafts.
Chicago Bears defense: The Bears defense is a far sight from what they once were, and they draw the Falcons to start the season off. The Falcons offense is going to be a fun one to watch and many are expecting big things from them this season. I stayed away from the Bears defense on draft day and I am going to recommend you stay away from them this week.
Now, let's go put the children to bed and go looking for dinner boys! A victory this week starts the season out right and gets the ball rolling to that all important place atop of the fantasy mountain, league champion!