One week into the season and the Green Bay Packers, a popular pick to reach the Super Bowl, are without their star running back.
Ryan Grant, who rushed for 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, injured his right ankle in Sunday’s victory at Philadelphia and will miss the rest of the season. Sharp fantasy owners who drafted Grant probably spent a late-round pick on his backup, Brandon Jackson, in case of injury, but if they didn’t, they should try to claim him off the waiver wire.
While Jackson obviously isn’t as talented as Grant, he is playing for one of the league’s best offenses and will get the bulk of the team’s carries. With Aaron Rodgers, a top-tier quarterback, running the show, Jackson could post numbers worthy of a No. 2 fantasy back. A season of 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns isn’t unreasonable.
Jackson had a chance to start in 2007 but was beaten out after three games by DeShawn Wynn, who eventually lost the job to Grant. This time, however, Jackson has little competition.
Here are five more players who could be available on your waiver wire and warrant a spot on your roster:
— Michael Vick, quarterback, Eagles: He’s expected to start at Detroit with Kevin Kolb doubtful because of a concussion. Coach Andy Reid said Kolb will be his starter when he’s ready to play, but he hasn’t exactly made Philadelphia fans forget Donovan McNabb. If Vick would win the starting job, he could be a must-start each week for fantasy owners.
— Peyton Hillis, running back, Browns: He was featured just as much as starter Jerome Harrison last week and scored a touchdown. Cleveland coaches love his tough style of running.
— Fred Taylor, running back, Patriots: He has missed a lot of games in his career because of injuries, but he’s healthy and starting on one of the league’s best offenses. New England this week traded Laurence Maroney, Taylor’s main competition for first- and second-down carries, to the Broncos.
— Mark Clayton, wide receiver, Rams: He was quarterback Sam Bradford’s go-to guy Sunday, catching 10 of the rookie’s 32 completions for 119 yards. The two played at Oklahoma and regularly worked out together in the offseason. St. Louis appears it won’t be bashful about throwing, as evidenced by Bradford’s 55 attempts in the opener.
— Legedu Naanee, wide receiver, Chargers: He caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in a loss at Kansas City. His long-term success will depend on whether Vincent Jackson, who is holding out for a new contract, plays for the team this season.
■ CONCERNS FOR BILLS, JETS — After having a great preseason filled with spectacular runs that had many fantasy owners envisioning a Chris Johnson clone, Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller was the dud of the week, producing 14 yards on 11 touches in a loss to Miami.
Even worse for Spiller owners, former starters Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch might cut into his playing time if he continues to falter. Give Spiller one more shot this week as your No. 3 back before making any rash decisions.
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez isn’t starting on many fantasy teams, but his play will affect the play of others on the team who are starters. And if Monday’s game was a sign of things to come, don’t count on much production from Jets players.
Sanchez was 10 of 21 for 74 yards in a loss to Baltimore, and the offense was limited to three field goals. Running back Shonn Greene, tight end Dustin Keller and wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, who is suspended for the first four games, will need better play from their quarterback to prove their fantasy worth.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director who covers all sports for multiple publications. He can be reached at MM.Roberts7@gmail.com.