Joe Flacco, Ravens
Last week he was moving down. This week he’s moving up, proving I can reverse field quicker than Barry Sanders. My, how quickly things change. Flacco got untracked against the Browns this week, going 22 of 31 for 262 yards, along with three touchdowns to Anquan Boldin. While I’m not ready to anoint him a surefire starter on a weekly basis, I’m certainly more comfortable starting him now than I was after the Bengals game. Let’s call him a matchup quarterback for now since, hey, it was the Browns.
Kyle Orton, Broncos
I am forced to put Orton here, largely against my own will. I am typing but I do not control my fingers. And I’m not even inebriated. There are no excuses. The stats pour out at me. The Broncos lead the league in passing offense. Orton is the fourth-ranked fantasy quarterback. Passing yards: 1,078. Passing touchdowns: 4. When will I regain control of my functions? When will Orton play like the Orton we know? When will normalcy return?
Sam Bradford, Rams
Rookie quarterbacks are always a crapshoot in fantasy football, but Bradford is shaping up as a decent option after three weeks, even with the Rams getting horrible play from their wide receivers. He has a touchdown pass in every game (four in total) and is averaging a respectable 218 passing yards per game. Not great, but serviceable. Here’s the kicker: Coming up, he has the Seahawks, Lions, Chargers, Bucs, and Panthers. With the byes starting this week, Bradford shapes up as a solid backup option at quarterback.
Brett Favre, Vikings
It’s official—Favre and the Vikings passing attack are struggling badly in 2010. Whether Favre or the team’s wide receivers are to blame should be of no concern to Favre’s fantasy owners. Simply put, the Vikings can’t consistently gain yards through the air, and their passing attack is a shell of its former self. Sidney Rice is on the PUP; Bernard Berrian is MIA; and there are more developments on the injury front, with Favre saying that he had a stinger in his (presumably) non-throwing shoulder and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe suffering a leg injury, believed to be a hamstring pull. At this point, Favre is a fantasy backup at best.
Donovan McNabb, Redskins
Thus far in 2010, McNabb has been a bit of a disappointment in Washington, both in terms of his actual play and in his fantasy production. He’s been bad against the Cowboys, good against the Texans, and mediocre against the Rams. The part that concerns me the most is being mediocre against the Rams. Throwing for 232 yards on 19 of 32 passes with a touchdown and a pick against St. Louis is definitely a big downer for his fantasy owners. He’s a matchup play at this point…and maybe not even that. He couldn’t take advantage of a Rams secondary that was starting second-year cornerback Bradley Fletcher (who missed most of his rookie year with an injury) and was without their best defensive back, free safety O.J. Atogwe, for much of the game.
David Garrard, Jaguars
Garrard has failed to top 200 yards passing in his three games this season, throwing for 170, 173, and 105 yards in games against the Broncos, Chargers, and Eagles. With head coach Jack Del Rio clearly needing some wins to salvage his job, it’s fair to ask how much longer he will stick with Garrard as his starting quarterback. In fact, Luke McCown may have taken over this week had he not suffered a season-ending torn ACL during Week 2. Garrard’s only saving grace is that Todd Bouman was signed to back him up, and he’s clearly not the long-term answer at quarterback in Jacksonville. Of course, with each passing week, Garrard is proving he isn’t the answer either.
Peyton Hillis, Browns
With Jerome Harrison out for this week’s road game against the Ravens, Hillis stepped up with a 22-carry, 144-yard, one-touchdown performance that may have solidified his place as the Browns top running back. It didn’t hurt that he also chipped in seven receptions for 36 yards on just eight targets. Not many running backs get 100 yards on the Ravens, and fewer yet do it in Baltimore. While Hillis will never be mentioned with any of the better running backs in the league, he continues to prove that he can be productive when given an opportunity.
Ryan Torain, Redskins
I picked up Keiland Williams on waivers in a salary-cap league last week and debated signing him to long-term contract, but I had the nagging suspicion that maybe he wasn’t really a sleeper. Maybe he was just on the roster as a third-down running back who contributed on special teams. Maybe the Redskins would add Ryan Torain from the practice squad and he would be the real sleeper in the Redskins backfield. Didn’t he look good before he suffered a season-ending injury in his one start in Denver when Mike Shanahan was the head coach? What did it all mean? How could I figure this out? Then I checked the NFL ticker and saw the Redskins had signed Torain to the active roster. Grrr. Then he went out and got 46 yards on seven carries with Clinton Portis nailed to the bench for most of the second half. Double Grrr.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots
Now we know why the Patriots traded away perennial tease Laurence Maroney to the Broncos, along with a sixth round pick for only a fourth round selection in next year’s draft. It’s because of the man with four names. Finally let loose by the Patriots offensive schemers, Green-Ellis pumped out 98 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and caught one pass for six yards against Buffalo. The only caveat was that he got most of the playing time after Fred Taylor left the game having aggravated a toe injury. On the plus side, the Bills contained Taylor before he left (six carries, 16 yards) and Green-Ellis clearly outperformed him. Were the Patriots coaches watching?
Justin Forsett, Seahawks
Forsett was hardly dynamic this week against the Chargers, with 20 touches for 94 yards. However, the key stat is the distribution of the touches among Forsett, Julius Jones, and Leon Washington. Jones didn’t touch the ball and Washington had a just single carry, so it looks like the running-back-by-committee approach is dead in Seattle—at least for now. While Forsett seems unlikely to have a breakout campaign given the Seahawks troubles on offense, he moves into low-end RB2, high-end RB3 status for the moment. Plus, he makes for a great option at the flex position.
Marshawn Lynch, Bills
In Bizzaro World…err, Buffalo, what’s down is up, what’s up is down. Lynch was supposed to be third string, but he’s the lead back. Fred Jackson was supposed to hold the fort until C.J. Spiller was ready to carry the load, but he’s the third-down guy. Spiller was supposed to be the backup and spell Jackson plus get plenty of work in specialized packages, but he’s barely been seen. It’s hard to get too excited over Lynch starting or over his production (143 rushing yards on 30 carries over the last two games), but he is the lead man for the time being. With plenty of injures at running back, Lynch is a decent option if you’re hurting at that position.
Maurice Morris, Kevin Smith, Lions
That’s only if Jahvid Best is hurt. Morris is mediocrity defined, and Smith is coming off a torn ACL suffered last year and has yet to dress in 2010. No, I’m not excited by either guy, but if Best is out, they are worth owning. Good luck figuring out which one to grab.
Kenneth Darby, Rams
That’s only if Steven Jackson is hurt. There’s a reason the Rams are reported to have interest in Larry Johnson, even though he looked washed up for the Redskins. It’s because they’ve been trying to replace Darby for two years because he’s not very good.
Clinton Portis, Redskins
Something happened on the way to Portis getting his season on track during this week’s game against the Rams. Despite running well in the first half, Portis was nailed to the bench in favor of his backup Keiland Williams…err, make that Ryan Torain in another episode of “Which Running Back Will Mike Shanahan Use.”
Brandon Jacobs, Giants
Hey, hey, hey, the Giants gave Ahmad Bradshaw almost all the touches this week against the Titans. Maybe it was a one week punishment for Jacobs pitching his helmet into the stands and blasting reporters. Or maybe it’s a trend, since Jacobs received four touches in Week 2 and five this week. At this point, Jacobs shapes up as Bradshaw’s backup, spelling him when he needs a breather and maybe getting some goal-line work.
Michael Bush, Raiders
Bush returned to action this week and got three carries for 14 yards. So, now we have a better idea of how the Oakland coaches will split the carries between Darren McFadden and Bush. What we don’t know is whether McFadden will continue his history of being unable to remain healthy. It says here that we can expect a McFadden injury at some point in 2010, which makes Bush worth hanging onto for now.
Kareem Huggins, Buccaneers
We keep hearing that Huggins is going to get some touches. Then we see Earnest Graham getting some touches. Then we see LeGarrette Blount leapfrog Huggins to get some touches. But what we never see is Huggins getting any touches. Don’t let your eyes deceive you. I’m not an overly bright person (at least that’s what my wife tells me on a regular basis) but I do know that no touches always means no production.
Lance Moore, Saints
As I stated last week, Moore is the Saints player who gained the most fantasy value with Reggie Bush out of the lineup. While I have never been a big fan of Moore, he does produce when given the opportunity; it’s just that he’s not good enough to get a solid opportunity unless the Saints lose another player to injury. Of course, I like him better today more than ever, just because he made me look good. Here’s what you need to know: In 2008, when Bush and wide receiver Marques Colston missed several games, Moore responded with a career season, catching 79 passes for 928 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns. With Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson continuing to disappoint and with Bush out, Moore figures to be a big part of the game plan over the next several weeks.
Austin Collie, Colts
Meet 2010’s current top fantasy football wide receiver, and not just by a little. Collie is 12 points ahead of Anquan Boldin, the next highest ranked wide receiver. With both Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez out with injuries, Collie went wild against the Broncos, catching 12 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. He is now on pace to finish the year with 144 receptions for 1,915 yards and 21 touchdowns. Odds of that happening: zero. Still, you get the drift. Plus, it’s important to note that the Colts have struggled to run the ball, other than against the Giants. And their running production in that game was a mirage, as New York used their nickel package as their base defense. Plus, we found out this week just how bad the Giants run defense is during their loss to the Titans.
Roy Williams, Cowboys
Williams owners, repeat after me: Sell High. Sell High. Sell High. Williams was a starter-worthy option at wide receiver this week and would have been in Week 1 as well if not for Alex Barron’s horrendous holding penalty that nullified a Williams touchdown reception. This week, he took advantage of the Texans secondary, catching five passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Perhaps most importantly, he finally seems to be on the same page as quarterback Tony Romo. While Williams won’t come close to matching this production on a weekly basis, he is developing into a decent option at the flex position based on the matchup. Nonetheless, if you can sell high, do so now.
Vincent Jackson, Chargers
Two deadlines have now come and gone without Jackson being traded. The next one will come after his suspension ends and before the trade deadline expires, a period of only two days. What makes you think Chargers general manager A.J. Smith will lower his demands? Failing that, what makes you think that another general manager will meet Smith’s demands if none have yet? Jackson’s almost certainly down for the count in 2010. Move on.
Robert Meachem, Saints
So much for Meachem being a breakout candidate at wide receiver in the Saints high-powered offense. It certainly looks like the toe injury that cost him time in the preseason has held him back during the first three weeks of the season. In 2010, Meachem has been targeted just seven times, catching four passes for 38 yards. With Lance Moore having a breakout game this week and the team utilizing both Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas at the tight end position, Meachem has become a forgotten man in the Saints offense. Until that changes, you should consider him a forgotten man as well.
Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez has come on over the last two games, catching six balls against both the Jets and the Bills while totaling 166 receiving yards. For the season, he has 13 receptions for 211 yards and is on pace to finish the year with 1,125 yards. While that won’t happen, he’s definitely shaping up as a key cog in the Patriots passing attack, and he has emerged as a solid replacement for injured running back Kevin Faulk on checkdowns.
Tony Moeaki, Chiefs
With the Chiefs passing attack having one decent game out of three, it’s hard to get overly excited about the team’s options at wide receiver and tight end. However, Moeaki, a rookie third-round draft pick, has been a surprise, with 12 receptions for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s not starter-worthy just yet, but given the struggles the Chiefs are having at wide receiver, Moeaki has some upside as a TE2.
Ben Watson, Browns
Watson has been a perennial tease over the course of his career, a player with excellent physical abilities who has been unable to translate that into production in the passing game. When he signed with Cleveland in the offseason, most fantasy pundits (me included) wrote off the possibility of him being a useful fantasy tight end. However, the opposite has occurred, with Watson catching nine passes for 109 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks. While he’s clearly not yet starter-worthy, he is getting enough opportunity to warrant backup tight end status.
Brent Celek, Eagles
I still like him, but come on, man! Celek has been persona non grata despite the Eagles offensive explosion over the last two and a half games. At this point, he is the biggest fantasy bust amongst tight ends, with a paltry nine receptions for 101 yards. Plus, he hasn’t found the end zone. Don’t sell low on him, but clearly he’s in the Moving Down category.