Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson @ SF—You
never sit LT but here’s some food for thought: his backup,
Michael Turner, has collected more fantasy points than regulars
Reuben Droughns, LaMont Jordan, and Cadillac Williams thus far.
Now comes word that Coach Schott intends to employ more two-back
sets so he can get both of them on the field at the same time.
Hey, I’m just the messenger.
2. Clinton Portis v. TEN—Portis
loses touches to Ladell Betts at times but is still the primary
meal ticket in DC and will remain so as long as he holds up physically.
This week, he draws the league’s worst rushing defense,
Tennessee’s, yielding 4.7 per carry and over 170 per game.
Expect huge numbers and an easy rebound victory for the ‘Skins
in Week 6.
3. Brian Westbrook @ NO—The
chronically “questionable” Westbrook returned to practice
on Wednesday, easing concerns for those relying on him to lead
their squads to championship glory this season. Long way to go
yet but expect this to be his M.O. for the rest of the season.
Hey, nobody said winning a fantasy championship was gonna be easy…or
stress-free. Start him and hope for the best.
4. Larry Johnson @ PIT—LJ
induced a serious amount of stress himself this past weekend,
crumpling to the turf after a 78-yard reception that, save for
a horse collar, would have resulted in his second receiving touchdown
of the day. The Chefs are optimistic he’ll be ready this
Sunday but keep your options open. Neck injuries are serious business
and any setbacks between now and then could result in an unexpected
5. Rudi Johnson @ TB—After
a blazing start (251 yards and three scores in his first two games),
the other Johnson has cooled off considerably. Not sure what (or
who) is to blame for that but two stellar defenses (Pittsburgh
and New England) probably have something to do with it. Get him
back in there against a Tampa D that is surprisingly woeful against
the run (5 yards/carry and 163.3/game).
6. Tatum Bell v. OAK—Full
disclosure time: I was one of those folks who actually believed
Coach Shanny intended to rotate the Bells this year. Perhaps he
did but Tatum has since seized the reins in Denver and tightened
his grip on the job with each passing week. Expect him to further
solidify that hold with a huge game against the atrocious Raiduhs
this Sunday night. 150 yards and two scores is not out of the
7. Steven Jackson v. SEA—It
is for this guy, though, at least this weekend. The league’s
leader in yards from scrimmage faces a Seahawks squad that was
embarrassed in Week 4 at Chicago. Good teams coming off embarrassing
losses tend to make amends quickly. There’s a lot of talent
on that Seattle front seven so don’t be surprised if SJ
struggles to top the century mark for the first time this season.
8. Ronnie Brown @ NYJ—Most
pundits predicted big things for Mr. Brown this season, assuming
(incorrectly) that the addition of Daunte Culpepper would put
the Fish over the hump. I was not one of those pundits, for the
record. Nevertheless, he still has a chance to post good numbers
in spots and, facing a New York D that has given up eleven rushing
touchdowns in five games, Week 6 should be one of them. Give him
the start and hope Joey is accurate enough to keep New York reasonably
9. Cadillac Williams v. CIN—Well,
look who decided to join the party! After an abysmal start to
the season, Cadillac rambled for 111 yards last Sunday in New
Orleans, looking every bit as explosive as we thought he’d
be when the campaign started. Of course, he didn’t find
the end zone and, worse yet, was even pulled near the goal line.
That’s troubling, for sure, but not troubling enough to
sit him down against a Cincy D that’s starting to look very
un-playoff-like these days. Expect another triple-digit day and
a score at Raymond James.
10. Willis McGahee @ DET—McGahee
posted a meager 50 rushing yards in the execution at Soldier Field
last weekend, managing only 14 carries as the Bills played from
WAY behind early. That shouldn’t be the case this Sunday
in Detroit. Though the Lions are tough against the run and desperate
for a W, I think the former Cane runs for 75-100 yards and a score
at Ford Field as the Bills keep them winless.
11. Maurice Morris @ STL—A
fellow league mate spent $196 of his $200 free agent dollars on
MoMo two weeks ago, hoping against hope that a) Shaun Alexander
would be out for a while and b) Seattle would still be able to
run the ball against Chicago’s ferocious front. Strikes
one and two. At least he gets the benefit of one good week from
Morris before, presumably, Alexander returns to the fold. Expect
a nice effort from the former Duck this Sunday in St. Louis.
12. Warrick Dunn v. NYG—Dunn
was outgained by his quarterback AND his backup in the Week 4
win over Arizona, tallying a mere 55 yards on the ground as the
Falcons dusted the Cardinals. Not sure what that means but I can’t
think of too many top-tier running backs who have suffered a similar
fate. Not too many left who haven’t scored yet, either.
13. Tiki Barber @ ATL—Here’s
one, though. Tiki’s averaging almost 125 yards from scrimmage
but hasn’t found paydirt as the Giants have opted to rely
on Kid Bro in the red zone. Not a bad idea considering Eli has
tossed nine TD passes thus far. Unfortunately, that doesn’t
do much for Barber’s owners. Keep him in there but temper
those expectations. He’s never been a touchdown machine
and probably won’t become one anytime soon.
14. Willie Parker v. KC—I
told you to sit him down last Sunday night and, in retrospect,
that probably wasn’t such a wise recommendation (57 yards
and a score). I won’t make the same mistake twice, but I
will warn you that Kansas City finally (!) appears to have rounded
up some bona fide run stoppers. You know me. Always looking on
the bright side.
15. Thomas Jones @ ARI—The
elder Jones brother posted his first triple-digit performance
of the season last Sunday, racking up 109 yards on 22 carries
in the 40-7 romp. Unfortunately, he left the scoring to backup
Ced Benson, who scored his first two professional touchdowns the
same week I recommended you sit him down. Hey, I can’t be
right ALL the time.
Grab A Helmet:
Leon Washington v. MIA—Just
most of the time. OK, some of the time. After urging you to go
pick up Washington (something I’d already done), I got a
wild hair and inserted him as my flex guy in my ultra-competitive
yearly league. Needless to say, the move paid off as the former
Seminole rushed for 101 yards in garbage time at Jacksonville.
He probably doesn’t have the job all to himself just yet
but it’s only a matter of time. After all, his chief competition
is Kevan Barlow, long-time fantasy scourge and all-around underachiever.
Julius Jones v. HOU—Cool
stat of the week: he and brother Thomas are now tied for fifth
in rushing yardage (388). Of course, Julius has played one less
game, meaning that on a per-game basis, he’s probably the
better option. Like his big brother, however…
Marion Barber v. HOU—…Julius
tends to lose touches to an almost-as-talented backup, in this
case, MBIII. Barber has now scored in three consecutive contests
and seems to be the favored goal-line option for the ‘Boys.
You probably got him real cheap so once you’re done patting
yourself on the back (go ahead…you deserve it!), get him
in your lineup. I suspect both of the Dallas running backs will
score this weekend.
Reggie Bush v. PHI—Unless
your league rewards individual special teams TDs, you probably
weren’t able to revel in Saint Reginald’s first official
NFL touch. Don’t worry, though. There will be plenty more
where that came from, maybe even this week. New Orleans seems
bound and determined to force-feed him the ball so it’s
only a matter of time before he starts making those trips to the
promised land more regular.
Deuce McAllister v. PHI—Kinda
like his teammate does. Nobody got less respect back on draft
day than Deuce but he’s proven through five weeks that he’s
definitely not ready to ride off into the sunset (76 yards/game
and four scores). In fact, would you believe he’s still
a top 5 scorer at the all-important running back position? Looks
like somebody (me) needs to start practicing what he’s preaching.
Frank Gore v. SD—By my
rough estimate, Gore is a top TWO fantasy scorer through five
weeks of play, though bye weeks make that ranking slightly misleading.
He’s coming off a stellar 27-carry, 134-yard, fumble-free
performance against the Raiders and now draws the top-ranked Bolts
D. Just in case you’re wondering why he’s not in the
top 15, that’s top-ranked against the run AND the pass.
I still think Denver’s is better but…yikes!
Grab A Gatorade:
Jamal Lewis v. CAR—Lewis
can probably be excused for his two most recent lackluster performances
(34 and 43 yards) as they’ve come against the Chargers and
Broncos, respectively. Nevertheless, I’m just not seeing
the same burst we’re used to seeing from him, regardless
of the opponent. Moreover, he’s losing a fair amount of
touches to Musa Smith and Mike Anderson. Sit him down against
Carolina’s resurgent D and see if you can’t sucker
someone into taking him off your hands. The Ravens’ schedule
features plenty more top-notch defenses.
LaMont Jordan @ DEN—Jordan
barely outgained backup Justin Fargas in the Week 5 loss at Monster
Park. The last time Fargas was relevant? 2002. In Ann Arbor. If
you own any Raiders right now, you’re obviously not paying
Edgerrin James v. CHI—Edge
openly carped about his reduced workload in the fourth quarter
of last week’s devastating loss to KC and he might even
have a legit case if he weren’t rushing for (barely) three
yards a pop and weren’t already getting 25-30 touches a
game. Not sure how many he thinks he needs but the Cardinals have
some pretty good wideouts who deserve some looks, too. Don’t
expect his attitude to improve after he gets stoned by Chicago
on Monday night.
DeShaun Foster @ BAL—The
former Bruin has strung together a couple 100-yard games now and
even appears to have the backfield all to himself again this weekend
(thanks to a DeAngelo Williams injury). Unfortunately, he’s
drawn one of the most formidable run defenses in the league for
Week 6. Likelihood of scoring? 40%. Likelihood of breaking the
century mark? 10%. Find someone else if you can.
Ron Dayne @ DAL—Not this
guy, though. I’ve been on the business end of some infamous
draft misfires before (Tony Mandarich and Sam Bowie, to name a
few) and I can tell you exactly how Texans fans feel when they
watch this former Heisman trophy winner plod forward for another
two-yard gain: why couldn’t he be that OTHER Heisman trophy
winner, the one everyone’s all gaga about down in N’awlins?
He should be, folks, and everyone but the Houston not-so-intelligentsia
seems to know that.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends