If you remember from past seasons, when it comes to fantasy football, I am a risk taker.
I am the team you play that starts a no-name running back off the waiver wire against you in hopes that I have found the next big name.
Being the risk taker that I am, I feel it appropriate to give you some big time risk vs. reward options for week one of the 2012 NFL Season.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The thing that Tampa Bay fans and Freeman owners want to know is which Freeman will we see for 2012? Will we see the efficient, play maker that we saw in 2010, or the turnover machine that we saw in 2011.
Freeman opens up at home against the Carolina Panthers whos defense was quite poor in 2011. However, Carolina has made improvements, but are those improvements good enough to shut down Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark to prevent Freeman from making plays?
I think Freeman goes for around 15-20 fantasy points this week and redeems himself as a solid QB2 and potential QB1.
Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans
One of my favorite sleepers for 2011, Jake Locker gets the start against the Patriots, comfortably at home. Remember the Patriots defense was one of the worst in the NFL last season, giving up a ton of yardage per game.
With an improved pass rush, the Patriots should fare better, but their defense is still young and prone to big plays. I can see Locker getting comfortable handing the ball off to Chris Johnson, and then making a few plays on his own.
Not to mention, his scrambling ability always makes him open for a rushing touchdown or two.
Robert Turbin, RB, Seattle Seahawks
If Marshawn Lynch starts, Turbin is a Flex in deep leagues, but if Lynch (back spasms) sits, then Turbin could see between 20-25 touches and be a RB2 this week.
Im a huge Turbin fan and I think hes the next stud rusher in the NFL, and if he gets a chance, he could make those who handcuffed Marshawn Lynch very happy against a mediocre Cardinals rush defense.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Its early in the season and Frank Gore is healthy. A healthy Frank Gore scores points, especially against a Packers rush defense that still has plenty of work to do.
Gore may not see the 25-30 touches he used to, but 15-20 carries isnt out of the question and hes a good bet to make the most of them in week one.
Mike Tolbert, RB, Carolina Panthers
I have a feeling that Jonathan Stewart will sit in this game, giving Mike Tolbert backup duties behind DeAngelo Williams.
Tolbert was very efficient in the red zone in the last two seasons and could offer up as a Flex play more likely getting goal line opportunities over Williams.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Im still not sold on the Carolina rush defense, and while I think that Doug Martin is going to see 85% of the touches, Blounts value in the goal line against what likely will still be a mediocre at best rush defense is pretty solid.
I dont see Blount getting more than 10 touches, but the goal line ones are what count and he has potential to get those still.
Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans
With a one game suspension to Kenny Britt, I like Kendall Wright this week to surprise a few people. The Patriots cornerbacks are improving, and they could limit Wright, but all he needs is one or two big plays.
With the plays that Wright and Jake Locker were able to make in the preseason and in training camp, I expect these two to get along just fine.
Antonio Brown WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown wants to be the new Mike Wallace, and while Mike Wallace is special down the field, Brown is going to be a play maker between the hash marks, making plays after the catch.
Wallace, Brown and Emmanuel Sanders will spread the field for Big Ben, and I think against a weak Denver secondary, Roethlisberger could have a strong day, with Brown included.
Buffalo Bills Defense
Lets face it, this defense looks like it could be much improved with the additions of Mario Williams and Stephon Gilmore. We know that the Jets offense just doesnt score points.
This game could honestly play out 13-10 with the ability of both of these defenses. Im taking the risk this week.
Seattle Seahawks Defense
Seattles defense is highly underrated, and they have defensive play makers. Red Bryant is healthy, which means Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams will need more than just luck to move the ball on the ground.
John Skelton is unproven, and not really a guy that the Seahawks should fear to put up big points, despite having Larry Fitzgerald.
I see struggles for the Cardinals offense in 2012, and the Seahawks will start it off despite being on the road.
The Minnesota Vikings had one of the worst seasons in franchise history in 2011, going 3-13 as three quarterbacks started games (Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb) and the defense struggled despite DE Jared Allens 22 sacks.
The Vikings top fantasy option in recent years, RB Adrian Peterson, enters 2012 with his status for the start of the season up in the air after suffering a torn ACL and other damage to his left knee late last season. His potential absence takes a dynamic player away from the Minnesota offense, but also opens up an opportunity for Toby Gerhart to play more and prove worthy of attention for fantasy owners.
Lets take a look at the Vikings players who could be fantasy options for 2012.
QB Christian Ponder
Ponder had some good moments after taking over as the Vikings starting quarterback after the McNabb experiment ended, but injuries and turnovers plagued him late in the season. A full offseason to learn offensive coordinator Bill Musgraves offense and some added talent around him should benefit him greatly, and he is worth considering as a QB2 in 12-team leagues.
QB Joe Webb
Webb has had flashes of brilliance over three starts during his first two NFL seasons, but his lack of overall quarterbacking skills look likely to limit him to a specialized role in whatever version of the Wildcat the Vikings may choose to employ. The team has had him focusing on being a quarterback this offseason, and if Ponder were to go down to injury he would become worthy of consideration as a waiver wire addition in deep leagues.
RB Adrian Peterson
Peterson is one of riskier players in fantasy football this season due to the uncertainty of the health of his knee, but reports have suggested he is making excellent progress and his initial goal to be ready for Week 1 is still in place. The Vikings are virtually certain to limit Petersons work early in the season, and exactly how he will perform is still an open question. His status through training camp and preseason games will be among the most monitored in fantasy circles, but drafting Peterson as a RB1 is a serious role of the dice.
RB Toby Gerhart
Gerhart has been stuck behind Peterson through his first two NFL seasons, but he has performed well when given the opportunity when Peterson has been limited by injuries. The recent buzz is that Gerhart will be the Vikings workhorse back to open the season, with Peterson as his backup, and that automatically should elevate his status in fantasy football. Be sure to monitor Petersons progress through the preseason, but right now Gerhart looks like a solid RB2 to start the season with the potential to retain that value all season.
WR Percy Harvin
Harvin made headlines recently by saying he was unhappy with some things and then reacting as if he had not said anything controversial, but he is clearly the most versatile offensive player the Vikings have and could be in line for more touches this season if Peterson is out or limited at the start of the season. Harvin should be motivated to prove he is worthy of a new contract, and as long as he stays on the field he is a nice choice as a WR2 in most fantasy leagues.
WR Jerome Simpson
Simpson will be suspended for the first three games of the season after being signed as a free agent from the Cincinnati Bengals, which obviously hurts his appeal in fantasy football. But once he returns he can give the Vikings offense a vertical threat it has lacked in recent years, and thus fantasy football owners should be intrigued by his potential. Simpson is not worthy of a draft pick in all but the deepest of leagues, but he could become a popular waiver wire addition at some point.
WR Michael Jenkins
Jenkins is coming of a knee injury of his own that caused him to miss the final five games of the 2011 season, and he was not particularly productive in the 11 games he did play (38 catches, 466 yards, three touchdowns). He is likely to start the first three games of the season during Simpsons suspension, but it would be a big surprise to see him become relevant to fantasy owners this season. Jenkins is a candidate to be cut before the season, as he is due to make $2.5 million in 2012, if he becomes a backup.
WR Greg Childs
Childs was a fourth-round pick out of Arkansas after being limited by his recovery from a knee injury during his senior season. He has the size (64, 219 lbs.) and speed (4.55 40-yard dash) to potentially make an impact down the road, but it would likely take multiple injuries for him to rise up the depth chart as a rookie.
WR Jarius Wright
Wright is another rookie receiver out of Arkansas, and has a similar skill set to Harvin. He will be in the competition to be Minnesotas No.4 wide receiver, along with Childs, but there is little to see here for fantasy football owners in 2012.
WR Devin Aromashodu
Aromashodu has had some good moments during his NFL career, but those have been way to few and far between for the Vikings or fantasy owners to rely on him at all.
TE Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph has some good moments as a rookie in 2011, and seven of his 26 catches came in the final three games and all three of his touchdowns came in the final six contests. He is likely to be a nice red zone target for Ponder, and his overall role looks certain to expand in 2012. Dont expect a huge catch total, but fantasy owners can do worse for a TE2 due to Rudolphs upside potential alone.
TE John Carlson
The Vikings signed Carlson to a lucrative contract during the offseason, which qualifies as one of the more head scratching moves acrosss the league as he missed the entire 2011 season with the Seattle Seahawks due to a shoulder injury. Carlsons salary alone assures him of a significant role, but his relevance to fantasy football owners is limited to the effect he has on Rudolphs playing time and production, if any.
K Blair Walsh
Walsh was drafted in the sixth round out of Georgia in April, and the Vikings have opened up a job for him by releasing veteran kicker Ryan Longwell. He struggled with accuracy as a senior (21-for-35 on field goals), so without correcting that and with the uncertainty surrounding some key parts of the Minnesota offense fantasy football owners should stay away on draft day. Unless perhaps you are in a keeper league.
Vikings Team Defense
The Minnesota defense has a couple of nice IDP options in defensive end Jared Allen and linebacker Chad Greenway, but they had just eight interceptions and went a long stretch of the 2011 season without an interception. Some additions have been made to the secondary and cornerback Antoine Winfields return to health will help, but fantasy owners should only think of the Vikings defense as a low-end No.2 option and a possible starting option in favorable matchups.