As part of yet another new weekly series, we’re going to give a player from each division a “Player of the Week” honor. In an attempt to not cram the same info down your throat you might find elsewhere, we’re going to mostly focus on players who weren’t draft day all-stars. In some cases they won’t even be rostered in redraft leagues, but are players who are worth stashing in dynasty leagues and those who have yielded the greatest return on your investment so far. After all, you don’t need to be told Andre Johnson had a great day – he was drafted in such a spot that it was expected. Same with Julio Jones, Steve Smith (CAR), and Arian Foster. That’s not to say we won’t occasionally honor a truly elite performance, especially from rookies.
As part of a group collaboration, members of the DLF Senior Team have each chosen to represent a division and will be selecting which players will be getting the “gold star” for the week. As an added bonus, I will also include the most impressive IDP performances of the week for each division, because defensive players need love too!
Here is who is will be nominating players for each division:
AFC West – Steve Wyremski
AFC East – Paymon Shokoohi
AFC North – Eric Olinger
AFC South – Tim Stafford
NFC West – The FF Ghost
NFC East – Jarrett Behar
NFC North – Jacob Feldman
NFC South – Ryan McDowell
C.J. Spiller, RB BUF
This season began much the same as last season ended for Spiller. Just like last season, there was a Fred Jackson leg injury (although it’s only a knee sprain this time) and Spiller taking full advantage of the opportunity. He took his 16 touches (two receiving) and turned it into the highest fantasy point total among all running backs. He finished with 169 yards rushing and a touchdown along with 25 yards receiving. He now has the backfield to himself for the next 2-4 weeks. –Paymon Shokoohi
IDP- Chandler Jones, DE NEP
As a rookie playing for Bill Belichick, your margin for error is razor thin. What better way to earn brownie points with “the hooded one” than to put points on the board. Jones did just that when he strip sacked Jake Locker and fellow Patriots rookie Don’t’a Hightower scooped it up and rolled in for six. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Blaine Gabbert, QB JAX
Dynasty players may have tossed him on the scrap pile a little prematurely. He acquitted himself nicely in a tough environment, nearly bringing the Jags back late in the fourth quarter. His stat line was an acceptable (not eye popping) 23 of 39 for 260 yards, two touchdowns and most importantly, no picks. If you’re in a QB flex league or need a heavily discounted QB2 to back up Tom Brady/Drew Brees/Aaron Rodgers you could do worse than Gabbert. –Tim Stafford
IDP- JJ Watt, DE HOU
The 3-4 defensive ends don’t usually get a lot of love, but every once in a while one pops up who demands you take notice. Watt had one and a half sacks Sunday and also defended three passes, two of which were intercepted by teammates. Things like that don’t show up in the stat sheet, but make it that much more impressive.
Andrew Hawkins, WR CIN
The 5’7”, 180 lb second year receiver out of Toledo was one of the few bright spots on a thoroughly manhandled Bengals team Monday night. Not drafted in any but the deepest of leagues, the diminutive pass catcher has forced owners in PPR leagues to take notice. He did it in a big way too, hauling in eight passes for a team high 86 yards on nine targets, second only to All-Pro AJ Green’s 11. In deep PPR leagues, Hawkins could be worth an add, especially if Jay Gruden continues to use him like he did tonight. If he can do this versus a stout and aggressive Baltimore defense, he should be able to play against anyone. At the very least he should be on your “watch list.” –Eric Olinger
IDP- TJ Ward, SS CLE
Welcome back to the show kid. After a stellar rookie season in 2010 where he racked up 123 total tackles, Ward suffered through a Sophomore slump that saw his numbers go all the way down to an injury riddled 39 total tackles. He looked healthy and primed for a rebound on Sunday. After posting seven solo tackles, one assist, a sack and a forced fumble, Ward’s arrow is definitely pointing straight up once again.
Dexter McCluster, WR KC
What a kick-off week for McCluster. The hybrid player tallied six catches for 82 yards after being targeted a team-high ten times. Based on Sunday’s game and the preseason, it looks like he’s going to be a fixture in the Chiefs passing game and a big part of their game plan on a weekly basis. Want proof? He played 57 of 69 snaps on Sunday. That’s a big improvement from 2011 when he didn’t have one game with more than 65% of the team’s snaps. To add to that, four of his six catches were beyond ten yards from scrimmage, so it’s clear they’re not just using him as a screen/short yardage guy.
If McCluster is classified as a running back in your league (like he is in the Footballguys Championship leagues, for example), he’s a diamond for 2012 as a sneaky start every week. His reception potential as a slot receiver is significant. This isn’t the same McCluster as we saw the past two years – with the expanded role and his versatility, the young receiver is finally a worthy fantasy player. –Steve Wyremski
IDP- Wesley Woodyard, WLB DEN and Tracy Porter, CB DEN
It was too difficult to choose between the two of them because they both played a critical role in clinching the win versus Pittsburgh. Filling in for the suspended DJ Williams, Woodyard was everywhere as he tallied 12 tackles (all solo) and a sack on the final drive of the game. There is a very good chance that Woodyard keeps this job even when Williams’ suspension ends. He’s simply produced whenever given the opportunity. Tracy Porter terrorized Big Ben just as badly. He had eight tackles (also all solo) and a “pick six” eerily similar to the one he had in the Super Bowl against now teammate Peyton Manning. So similar, in fact, that cameras caught Manning laughing on the sidelines when it happened in a “I feel your pain” kind of way. In leagues that require you to start cornerbacks, Porter will be a CB1 while racking up tackles on the other side of the (still) respected and feared Champ Bailey.
Robert Griffin III, QB Redskins
Griffin posted a line that included 19-of-26 passing, 320 passing yards, two touchdowns, no INTs, ten carries and 42 rushing yards. I thought about not going with the obvious here, but Griffin’s performance was too significant to bypass. Operating with poise, making good decisions with the football and showing his ultra quick release and impressive arm strength, Griffin may have even exceeded the hype. He stood tough in the pocket. He made laser throws that were right on the money. He had a good — but not excessive — amount of designed runs, and only a few instances where he took off on his own. Its hard to find much wrong with his performance (unless you are a Fred Davis owner) and it bodes extremely well for those counting on RGIII to be their QB1 this year. Start him with extreme confidence in week two against St. Louis. –Jarrett Behar
IDP- Kurt Coleman, SS PHI
After the game of musical chairs finally wrapped up in the Eagles secondary, Kurt Coleman won the starting SS job and paid immediate dividends in what was without a doubt the ugliest game of the weekend. With Mike Vick and Brandon Weeden EACH throwing four interceptions and Weeden posting a well publicized 5.1 quarterback rating, it was Coleman who actually had a GOOD game. He picked off two of Weeden’s four INTs and added five tackles (all solo). The Eagles strong safety spot has always been an IDP friendly position and in a division that will see plenty of offensive firepower, Coleman is a very strong IDP performer.
Brandon LaFell, WR CAR
With the Carolina Panthers clearly lacking a second receiving threat behind electric veteran Steve Smith, the team committed to developing third year wideout Brandon LaFell as another weapon for quarterback Cam Newton. In week one, LaFell did not disappoint, collecting three receptions for 65 yards and scoring the Panthers only touchdown of the game as the running game struggled against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While those numbers are modest, it’s fair to expect improvement from LaFell and the entire Panthers offense as the season continues. In fact, LaFell is an intriguing start the next two weeks as he faces the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants, both teams who gave up huge passing yardage in week one. –Ryan McDowell
IDP- Cameron Jordan, DE NOS
Anytime a defensive end makes 11 total tackles, it’s worth a mention. After a day of chasing Robert Griffin III around, he did just that with five solo tackles and six assists. Now playing opposite of the newly un-suspended Will Smith, this IDP sleeper will now face less attention and greatly increase his opportunity to make impact plays. Obviously his tackle numbers will not continue to be in double digits, but he has the opportunity to finish the season with eight to ten sacks. Keep an eye on him when the Saints have the lead, which is often…usually.
James Jones, WR GB
This week the NFC North was filled with good fantasy performances. Calvin Johnson, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Brandon Pettigrew, Randall Cobb, and even Blair Walsh are all worthy of a little face time in this article. However, the performance that flew under the radar this week was that of James Jones.
Yes, this is the same James Jones who struggled with drops and didn’t see the field much last year while rotating at the fourth wide receiver position with Cobb. He very quietly lead the Packers in receiving yards during the opener and it could be a foreshadowing of things to come.
You might be wondering what has changed.
The first thing is that Donald Driver is now little more than a player coach and isn’t seeing the field. The second is that Cobb is being used out of the backfield in a lot of cases, which means Jones now sees the field in three wide receiver sets. The third, and possibily most important, is Greg Jennings and his health status. Jennings suffered a groin injury at the end of the game that might hamper him in the short term, and his contract expires at the end of the season. The Packers could very easily balk at the contract demands Jennings will be making and might decide to enter next season with Jones as an every week starter. With the Packers running more three and four wide receiver sets than just about anyone else and boasting one of the best passing attacks, Jones is definitely someone to consider. –Jacob Feldman
IDP- Tim Jennings, CB CHI
Jennings picked off two of Andrew Luck’s three interceptions on Sunday, playing bad hosts to this year’s first overall draft pick. Evidently, the Bears missed the memo that Mr. Luck is the “chosen one.” Jennings doesn’t usually get much of the attention playing opposite of Charles Tillman, but he can obviously hold his own. He’s only worth adding as a high end CB3 in deep leagues that require you start a cornerback. It’s very possible, if not probable, this will be his finest performance of the season.
St. Louis Rams, DEF
I’m going to go a bit of a different route here, but I think this “player” needs to be recognized. The standout performance for the NFC West has to be the St Louis Rams DST. I definitely realize the Rams defense gave up the most points out of any NFC West team. However, the performance they put in isn’t accurately described by the final score. This defense did not look like the defense they’ve fielded in year’s past, allowing their offense to stay in the game until the last minute of the fourth quarter.
Furthermore, three interceptions by the Rams secondary (with one returned for a touchdown) is very impressive against one of last year’s top five quarterbacks. Two additional interesting statistics are the fact that Calvin Johnson was held to zero touchdowns and the entire Lions team wasn’t able to muster even 85 rushing yards. Overall a solid outing by the Rams DST, but they’ll be tested once again next week as they face the suddenly electric Washington Redskins. –The FF Ghost
IDP- Cortland Finnegan, CB STL
Following up on what The Ghost said, St. Louis’ performance was spearheaded by Finnegan’s nine solo tackles, one assist, one tackle for a loss, one interception for touchdown and two passes defended. Already a Jeff Fisher guy, this is exactly why he was brought in during free agency. It doesn’t matter if your league requires a cornerback or not, Finnegan should be rostered in most IDP formats. Anytime the Rams are playing a top passing team, I would recommend playing him as a DB2.
We’ll see you next week for the next installment of our weekly Divisional Debriefing.