Smart GMs constantly question, analyze

After the first week of seeing your fantasy football team in action, and being the fair and balanced general manager you are, ask yourself some questions about the performance of your entire roster.

Regardless of the win-loss result, did your players perform as you expected? Were your top draft choices heavily integrated into the game plan? Is your bench filled with players who are ready to compete rather than just fill in for bye weeks? Have you identified other players in your league you could make a deal for?

There are nine new NFL head coaches this season, and sometimes a new system can take touches from a player who was stronger statistically under the old system.

Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith falls into the category early of being a productive player in a new system. Smith found himself in the game for most of the snaps. He had trouble running the ball with only 20 yards, but caught seven passes for 52 yards on simple dump-offs and was the first option of antsy rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Overall, Smith had a nice day that included a goal-line score and he was very productive for a fantasy team’s second running back. It’s certainly not Adrian Peterson numbers, but it’s enough to give some faith that Smith will be a consistent source for points all season. It’s also enough to attempt to make a trade if he’s not on your roster.

Another part of your GM duty after Week 1 is to analyze the strength of your bench players. A lot of people use their bench to nurture a backup running back or other up-and-coming players who present an upside, especially if the starter goes out.

Make a move to win now. If you wait too long, holding a roster position for a player who can’t contribute yet can be costly.

Here’s a look at a few free agents who might still be available and are ready to produce:

Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens: In the red zone, he had five rushes, one reception and two touchdowns. Ray Rice is still Baltimore’s starter, but it looks like McGahee is the man when it’s time to score.

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: Undrafted in many leagues, he has been a hot pickup this week after career highs in passing attempts (42), yards (307) and touchdowns (three) against the Chiefs. The Ravens had a much more aggressive offensive attack Sunday than in years past, and he should be the biggest beneficiary.

Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck threw his way 11 times last week, and Burleson caught seven passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Hasselbeck looks healthy again, making Burleson a great wideout pickup.

Nate Washington, WR, Titans: He should be getting a full day of work after limited play last week due to injury. Look for him to get it going downfield this week against the Houston defense.

Also this week, the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game should provide some offensive fireworks.

As great as the Giants defense has been over the past three seasons, Tony Romo has had his way with the Giants, tossing 10 touchdowns in his past three starts. If Romo does it again, a few players on both sides could be beneficiaries of the tempo:

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys: He is a Romo favorite because of his size, hands and speed. He got the bombs-away barrage going last week against Tampa Bay with a 42-yard TD, but it was his only catch. Look for Austin to be more involved.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants: He was supposed to be the next Michigan wideout to become a star, but it didn’t happen last year. Last week, he got several looks from Eli Manning and turned one of the passes into a big play for a 30-yard touchdown.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants: He was the team’s leading rusher last week and caught three passes. He will get more looks this week with third-down blocking back Danny Ware injured. His dashing style should fare well against the Cowboys.

As a final note, don’t give up on Chicago running back Matt Forte, who was the team’s leading rusher and receiver last season, making him as high as a second overall pick in some drafts.

Forte gained 55 yards on 25 carries against Green Bay, but most alarming was he got no passes from Jay Cutler. Chances are the Packers defense may be better than expected, and Cutler dug such a big hole early with interceptions that he became too eager to make the big throw downfield rather than dump it off to Forte.

Micah Roberts is a Las Vegas-based writer who will contribute weekly fantasy football outlooks for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at

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