TRUM: You gotta give me props for Chris Johnson

September, 7, 2008
Thoughts, Ramblings, Useless information and Musings following Week 1.

Game day, Week 1.

Stream of consciousness.

That's what my editors said they wanted when I was pitched to bring back the TRUM blog as a fantasy reaction piece following Sunday games.

You'll be watching all the games anyway, they said. Just write down what you see. Oh, and no wacky dating stories.

OK, so those were my marching orders when I finished up on the set of "Fantasy Football Now," went to my office, dumped the jacket and tie, grabbed my computer and headed to the War Room, where all the ESPN analysts and producers watch the games.

Replacing Brady

How can fantasy owners replace a top pick? For the fantasy perspective of the potentially serious Tom Brady injury Matthew refers to below, check out Christopher Harris' Brady spin.

As I head in, I run into Michael Smith, and he asks me how many leagues I am in this year. Six, I say. I really wanted to limit my league count this year; I tend to be in double-digit fantasy leagues every year, and it just gets to be too many to follow. He asked if I paid attention to all of them and how much I cared, or whether it just became "work" for me.

I told him I definitely care. I want to win every league. But whereas before, when I just played fantasy for fun, I would watch the games and root for my players. Now that I have this job, I root for my picks.

I gave Michael a for-instance: "I have Drew Brees starting for me today in two leagues. Love Brees this year, but I ranked him 11th among quarterbacks this week. I was concerned about last year's slow start and the tough Tampa Bay defense. So even though a good game from Brees would help me, I'm hoping he has only a so-so game."

Crap. I then walk in to see Drew Brees throw a touchdown pass to David Patten. At least this validates what I've been saying in the preseason about Robert Meachem. He's all hype and nothing but a fast guy who can't run routes, and I predicted Patten would be the Saints' No. 2 receiver you want.

I quickly plug in my computer and glance around at what has happened so far. Wait! Atlanta scored? How?

A Matt Ryan touchdown, I'm told. Just as someone tells me that, Chris Mortensen walks in. Mort mentions that he spoke to an Atlanta coach this week and that they love Ryan down there. They think he's in for a big year …

Jerricho Cotchery Marc Serota/Getty ImagesI'm one week into making good on my Jerricho Cotchery prediction.
Jerricho Cotchery! One of my huge preseason sleepers, going way back to my preseason Love/Hate column (originally posted June 16). Look it up, baby! He just scored on a long pass from Brett Favre. Cotchery is gonna be a beast this year, I tell ya.

OK, Michael Turner is making the Lions look ridiculous. And me, apparently. I really thought the Lions would stack the line and make Matt Ryan beat them. But this is just embarrassing. It's like a video game out there. I had him as a low-end No. 2 running back this week. Then again, our official ESPN projection has him for two scores and a top-10 points total this week.

OK, now there is that Tampa Bay defense. They just picked off Brees and took it to the house. The room goes nuts. I'm guessing probably 70 percent of the room plays fantasy football.

Oh wow. Oh crap. Well, Bill Simmons was sort of right. The hot free-agent pickup of the week is coming from the Patriots. It's just not Jabar Gaffney. Looks like it's gonna be Matt Cassel. This looks bad -- for the one fantasy team in which I own Tom Brady and, I guess, the Patriots. In that order, of course.

Favre is tossing it all over the place and Brady goes down. There's your headline for the day, and we're not even past the first quarter of the first set of games yet.

So much for not being able to score. Fast Willie Parker just got into the end zone. And so did Donovan McNabb -- again. This time he threw it to L.J. Smith. Who needs healthy wideouts? Apparently not McNabb. He looks as good as the Rams look bad.

Thank God for the Rams, actually. They make my Redskins look good by comparison.

Yup, a score for Hines Ward. Mentioned him on the podcast with Simmons, and I own Big Ben in two leagues. Marshawn Lynch is running hard. And the fact that Jason Peters ended his holdout only helps for next week. Lynch looks strong. It's early, but so far I like what I see.

Dude! Michael Turner is Christian Okoye in Tecmo Bowl. Another score.

They're showing the Washington-BYU play from last night. What a chicken-blank call. I don't even like Washington, but even I have to agree that's terrible.

Hey, what do you know, a Ronnie Brown sighting. He runs and actually looks healthy, shaking off a few tacklers. But they are clearly featuring Ricky Williams.

Where's Joey Galloway? Anyone? He kills the Saints. Kills them. Ranked him very high this week.

Now that's what I am talking about! Tennessee's Chris Johnson now has four rushes for 35 yards. OK, I want credit for this one. So many people doing this, so many sleeper and bust picks, and I know Johnson has suddenly become trendy, but seriously. I talked about him in that same June article -- before anyone else was hyping him. I want credit on this one! I also put him on the sleeper list I did with Merril Hoge for "Sunday Countdown." I had Johnson, Darren McFadden and Jon Kitna as sleepers; and I had Larry Johnson, Lee Evans and Derek Anderson as "sits." So far so good on Johnson.

Speaking of which, where's LenDale White? I've been on record as saying I think Johnson will get the starting gig by midseason. It's looking like it might be by halftime in this game.

Ooooh, caught a break. Maurice Jones-Drew stopped at the 1-yard line. I caught a lot of flak from Erik Kuselias on "Fantasy Football Now" because I ranked MJD 30th among backs this week. I defended the Titans' run defense and his high-ankle sprain as being concerns. David Garrard then throws to Greg Jones for the score. Well, that doesn't do anyone any good. I'm not worried about MJD or the Jags; I just really believe in the Titans' defense, especially at home.

FWP2! Willie Parker has just scored again, matching his entire touchdown total from last year. I turn to Hoge and ask: "Hey, you still want Rashard Mendenhall in the fifth?" He laughs.

Stat just flashed up: Pierre Thomas, four carries, 30 yards. The Deuce (McAllister) is most definitely not loose.

Jamaal CharlesStew Milne/US PresswireJamaal Charles should be owned in your league come Week 2.
Larry Johnson looks slow, but you know who doesn't? Jamaal Charles. Now there's a guy who needs to be picked up if he's available in your league. I was pimping Kolby Smith in the preseason, and it's looking like I was half-right. LJ is done, but it's Charles, not Kolby, you want.

Another huge run. Chris Johnson is a man among boys. Just sayin'.

OK, why does Leonard Weaver have two carries but Julius Jones has none? Meanwhile, Kevin Smith just got in. Thank God, there are signs of life in Detroit and in their running game.

Aargh! Nate Burleson drops an easy touchdown pass. But wait! Very next play, he makes a great play and scores. Good to see Matt Hasselbeck go right back to him. He'll continue to be a solid No. 2 wideout.

There's something about guys named Johnson today. Calvin Johnson is starting to get into it now, and Jon Kitna is finding his groove. Expect this to be a theme all year long. Lions defense gets them in a hole, Kitna starts throwing to Megatron and Roy Williams to bail them out.

Another strong run by Jamaal Charles, and they flash the graphic "Charles in Charge." Which reminds me. Nicole Eggert was very underrated. Just sayin'.

Seriously, someone put Rashard Mendenhall on a milk carton. Fast Willie Parker just punched in score No. 3. This is an atypical game -- Houston does seem to be pretty bad on defense -- but Parker is clearly a no-questions-asked No. 1 running back.

Wow, it's a combination of no offensive line play and a good defense, but Steven Jackson just got tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Again. And those who had Sammy Morris over LaMont Jordan in the who-will-vulture-Maroney's-scores pool just became a winner. This is why we have liked Morris all along and have been down on Maroney.

Another score for Hines. Man, I love the Steelers this year from a fantasy perspective. In case you were wondering if Big Ben was a fluke...

Apparently, something named Chansi Stuckey just found a Brett Favre duck and turned it into a touchdown. I'm not saying Brett is the luckiest guy alive, but he's definitely on the short list.

Hmm, Matt Cassel might be OK. If Tom Brady is done for the year or any amount of time, Randy Moss will be fine, Wes Welker probably will become more of a No. 3 fantasy receiver, and you'll see an increase in value to both Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris as the Pats try to feature the run game. Cassel should be the No. 1 free-agent pickup this week in leagues of all formats.

Carson Palmer looks terrible. I keep waiting for something to happen here, but so far squat. Partially an underrated Ravens defense, with both Ed Reed and Chris McAlister healthy (enough to play, at least); well, this is why I was down on Palmer in a big way in the preseason. OK, Marshawn Lynch just took a carry from his own goal line, got stuffed, bounced off, bounced off another guy and took it to the 12-yard line. Dude. Monster year on the way for Lynch, especially since it seems the Bills have a semblance of a passing game.

Oh, and the Seahawks' defense might not be all that, too.

Those reports folks had of Thomas Jones being slow are wrong. He's popping through holes and putting up a nice, workmanlike performance. Or workwomanlike. I am nothing if not PC.

Oh boy, Brodie Croyle's out. First Brady, now Croyle -- huge fantasy impact on both, no doubt. Roddy White catches a 46-yarder, but this team is running and running. Maybe it's a just a matter of what Detroit is giving them, but my concern is that Roddy has a team that is going to run first and limit the rookie quarterback. Oh, speaking of the Falcons, Jerious Norwood just scored. Pay no mind there. This is just the Falcons treating Detroit like I treated my first car. It was a piece of junk, so I just did whatever I wanted with it.

Dwayne Bowe catches a touchdown pass from Damon Huard. It's worth noting here that last year four of Bowe's five touchdowns were from Huard, not Croyle. Huard always seems to find ways to get him involved.

I am getting my butt kicked by Pete Becker in our in-house league. Thanks for nothing, Wes Welker, Marques Colston, Fred Taylor and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. It's a PPR league. Clearly I need LaDainian Tomlinson to have the game of his life later.

Fox just showed a shot of Brian Billick. Suffice it to say there are some folks who are not fans of Brian Billick.

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You know who is getting a lot of targets? The Dolphins' tight ends are both getting thrown to a lot. Darrelle Revis has shut down Ted Ginn Jr., so Pennington keeps looking for both Anthony Fasano and David Martin. Both were listed as deep sleepers in my aforementioned preseason "Love/Hate," but chances are you can do better. I like both, but this will not be an every-week occurrence.

Earnest Graham is a big, big man.

Trent Edwards seems to be favoring Lee Evans, and you can't blame him. Of my six "Sunday Countdown" picks, Evans is the wrong one. So far, I'm right on Kitna and Chris Johnson, and we're waiting on McFadden. Also right on my hate of Larry Johnson so far, and I think I'll be OK with Derek Anderson. But Lee Evans is having one of his nice, old-school banner days. He looks good.

Matt Schaub just hit a goalpost when trying to pass in the red zone. Better days are ahead, Matt. Speaking of the Texans, Ahman Green looks pretty healthy. Steve Slaton got twice as many carries, but Green had a much better yards-per-carry average.

Five more reactions from the early games:

Rudi Johnson has three carries for 14 yards, but one was a 12-yarder. Kevin Smith had a decent game, though, so I'm not worried.

Looking for tight ends in super deep leagues? In addition to the Miami guys, how about Robert Royal of Buffalo or John Carlson of Seattle? Both were more a part of their team's game plans than you might think. Oh, and Randy McMichael had himself a nice game, too.

Drew Brees threw 13 completions to wide receivers and 10 completions to running backs. I don't expect that to continue; I'd trade Reggie Bush while his value is still sky high.

We were right about Alge Crumpler having a big year with the Titans. Except his name now is Bo Scaife.

Le'Ron McClain of Baltimore is worth a pickup in a deep league, as well.

And some more thoughts while I watch the late games:

What a nutty game in San Diego. My hate on both Panthers running backs this week continues to look good, while Philip Rivers is having a monster day. Clearly I won the argument that I had on "Fantasy Football Now" when I said if you had to start one, DeAngelo Williams should be the guy. As for Rivers, he's about as big a sell-high as you can get. This is still Tomlinson's team, and today doesn't change that. In fact, if I were you, I'd make an offer for LT in any league you don't own him.

Jake Delhomme looked healthy, however, and that's the important thing. Start him with confidence, regardless of the matchup.

I had really hoped Kurt Warner would have a bigger day. And Frank Gore wouldn't. I'm still not sold on Gore, but it's a nice start against a solid defense. And so much for Isaac Bruce.

But Warner was solid, and it was nice to see Tim Hightower vulture a touchdown from Edge. Expect to see that more often. Also, the pass was incomplete, but it's worth noting that Warner did target Leonard Pope in the red zone.

And Derek Anderson did make me look good -- by being terrible. Sadly, he brought Braylon Edwards down with with him. All the Cowboys looked good, including Patrick Crayton, but Felix Jones looked strong, son. Strong. A viable flex option going forward.

While not thrilling, I'm not as worried about the Browns. That said, I'm not crazy about them next week against the Steelers.

This is getting very long -- I should really start editing my stream here -- but I'm tired. Nate Ravitz and I will have our podcast tomorrow, and I'll also have a reaction on "Fantasy Focus Football." Then, on Tuesday I'll write a more formal free-agent pickup column.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of, a Web site that combines a bunch of well known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.

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