Shaun Hill, Lions
If there’s a timetable for Matthew Stafford’s return, please let me know what it is. At this point, with the Lions struggling at 0-4 and having no chance to make the playoffs, it makes sense for them to sit Stafford until after their Week 7 bye. If that’s the case, Hill has another two games to start, and he currently has five touchdown passes while averaging 301 yards passing in his three starts. Not bad. You can definitely start him next week against the Rams, who are giving up massive yards through the air (though just three passing touchdowns over four games). Week 6 against the Giants is a little more iffy.
Alex Smith, 49ers
It’s not that Smith has been that bad, it’s just that he hasn’t been that good, and the 49ers are 0-4. Worse yet, with the Bills decision to release Trent Edwards, Smith is the new Captain Checkdown among the league’s starting quarterbacks. Running back Frank Gore is the prime beneficiary of Smith’s reluctance to chuck it downfield, with 29 receptions on the year. Smith currently ranks next to last in the league in yards per completion and fourth last in yards per attempt. With all the weapons around him and a young, talented offensive line, Smith was a sleeper candidate entering the season. But his play over the first four weeks had pretty much extinguished any hope of fantasy fortune. Move on.
Eli Manning, Giants
It was expected that Manning would retain his status as a low-end fantasy starter in 2010, but there was upside in that expectation, given the Giants increased reliance on the passing attack as well as their outstanding trio of wide receivers in Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, and Mario Manningham. However, after three games, Manning is the 18th-ranked fantasy quarterback. Worse yet, in leagues that penalize interceptions, Manning is ranked much lower thanks to his six interceptions. He has posted starter-worthy numbers in two of four games but has failed to top 200 yards twice. In fact, remove some garbage time production against the Titans and Manning would rank as one of the major fantasy disappointments at quarterback.
Kevin Kolb, Eagles
On the positive side for Kolb owners, he may get a chance to start next week against the 49ers. On negative side, he had a perfectly mediocre performance in relief of injured starter Michael Vick this week against the Redskins, with the Eagles losing at home. Kolb checked down early and often to running back LeSean McCoy, and the end result was no production from Philadelphia’s group of talented wide receivers. Hard to imagine him winning the job back from Vick without some major improvement, and there’s little evidence to suggest that will occur.
Michael Bush, Raiders
Last week, Bush was Moving Down when I reminded you of Darren McFadden’s history of injury—and Bush’s value in light of that history. Sure enough and right on cue, McFadden suffered a hamstring injury during the Raiders loss to the Texans. If he’s out, Bush will get an opportunity to reclaim his starting position this coming week against the Chargers. Unfortunately, five of the Raiders’ next six opponents have rushing defenses ranked in the top 10.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
MJD owners can breathe a sigh of relief after his performance during this week’s win over the Colts. After putting up modest numbers during the first three games of the season, this week Jones-Drew gained 105 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well as 16 yards and a score through the air. The touchdowns were his first of the year, and his fantasy production this week matched his total entering the game. The concern that the knee injury he suffered in the preseason might be hampering him can now be put to rest.
Ryan Torain, Redskins
I know, he was here last week and isn’t it redundant to have a guy Moving Up two weeks in a row? Not when there’s more positive news to digest. For the second week in a row, Clinton Portis was sidelined during a game so just maybe injuries are beginning an issue. This week, he said he heard his groin pop. That doesn’t sound good and likely means he’s out at least a week. Last week, he suffered a wrist injury. I could be describing my grandfather, not a starting running back in the NFL. Next up for the Redskins are the Packers (22nd ranked run defense), Colts (27th), Bears (6th), Lions (23rd) and Eagles (25th). Anyway, that’s why Torain is here and I should mention he’s averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Opportunity plus ability plus motivation equals success. That equation applies to everything including fantasy football and I should mention that it works great in interviews. “Well, Mr. Givemeajob, I am motivated and I have the ability to be successful in this position. All I need is for you to provide me with an opportunity.”
Derrick Ward, Texans
Hey, it’s a slow week for developments at running back, plus four teams were on a bye. With Arian Foster benched for the first quarter of this week’s game against the Raiders, Ward filled in and finished with ten carries for 80 yards and a touchdown. Looks like Ward (and not Steve Slaton, who is apparently relegated to the pass-receiving role) is Foster’s new handcuff.
Steve Slaton, Texans
See Derrick Ward above and note that Slaton’s pass-catching role isn’t much of one, with only three receptions in 2010. Slaton is roster-worthy only in larger leagues.
Laurence Maroney and Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
It has been a nerve-wracking season for Knowshon Moreno owners so far. First, he suffers a hamstring that keeps him out of much of the preseason. Then he injures his other hamstring and the Broncos trade for former Patriots first-round pick Laurence Maroney. Well, after two games, it’s clear that Maroney is either injured or completely ineffective. He had 12 carries for 24 yards in Week 3 and followed that up with an 11-carry, five-yard performance this week. As for Buckhalter, he split the workload with Moreno for much of 2009 but looks washed up thus far in 2010, as he is averaging only 1.8 yards per carry.
Terrell Owens, Bengals
He’s back, baby. T.O., wait, make that Robin…or is it Batman? Whatever you call him, Owens went wild in the Bengals loss to the Browns this week with a whopping 222 yards and a touchdown on ten receptions. The naysayers will contend that his touchdown came on a play where the defender fell down, but the optimists will point out that, even minus the touchdown play, Owens still had a very productive afternoon. Meanwhile, Chad Ochocinco (the real Batman) had another quiet day and has 11 receptions for 137 yards and no touchdowns since his big opening game in New England. Which begs the question, Who is the Bengals receiver to own? It looks like Owens right now. After all, Ochocinco told us in the preseason that Owens was the better receiver. Maybe we should believe him.
Derrick Mason, Ravens
Both Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were disappointments entering this week’s game against the Steelers, seemingly forgotten options in the passing game with the addition of Anquan Boldin and the re-emergence of tight end Todd Heap. However, both players got it going this week, which really shouldn’t be a huge shock given that Ray Rice was an emergency option at running back and Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain both were injured. While Houshmandzadeh had the better fantasy production with three receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown, Mason was used more frequently and came through with six receptions for 80 yards on eight targets. Of the two, he’s the guy I want going forward.
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos
Quick! Who has the second most receiving yards in the NFL with 454, two behind Reggie Wayne? Well, you obviously know the answer, but do you believe it? Are you currently loading the stats page on FFToday.com to confirm it? Don’t you trust me? That’s okay; you don’t have to trust me. We are talking about Brandon Lloyd—the same Brandon Lloyd who had 495 receiving yards over the last three years combined. No, he’s not going to do it every week, but he does have double-digit fantasy points in three of four weeks, and the Broncos have been extremely productive in the passing game.
Braylon Edwards, Jets
It’s hard to endorse a player who averages fewer than five targets per game, was just arrested for DWI, and might not be his team’s best wide receiver once another returns from suspension. It’s even harder when you don’t particularly think he’s all that good. That being said, I have for you Braylon Edwards (please excuse my gagging). Hey, he has a touchdown in three straight games and 218 yards from 11 receptions on only 16 targets. It’s hard to be consistently productive with such a low number of targets, but it’s possible the Jets will begin using him more. On the other hand, he may just be benefiting from a strong Jets rushing attack that creates opportunities on play action.
Steve Johnson, Bills
This one’s for deeper leagues only. Since Ryan Fitzpatrick took over at quarterback for Trent Edwards, Johnson has been targeted six times, catching all six for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On the season, he’s been targeted 13 times, catching 12 passes. So, when will Bills head coach Chan Gailey figure out that Johnson needs more opportunity? He has yet to figure out that first-round pick RB C.J. Spiller needs more touches at running back so I have my doubts.
Marques Colston, Saints
It seems sacrilegious to have the number one wideout from the most explosive offense in the league in 2009 Moving Down, but there’s no getting around it. Colston has been a major disappointment fantasy-wise in 2010, failing to catch a single touchdown and accumulating just 190 yards on 18 receptions. His production is down due to a confluence of events: injury problems at running back have allowed defenses to focus on the pass and take away deep plays, the team is spreading targets among four wide receivers and two tight ends, and the offense is functioning at the same level it did last season. All of this is causing Colston to get lost in the shuffle. Although it’s too early to give up on him, it now seems unlikely that he will match preseason expectations of over 1,000 receiving yards and 8-10 touchdowns.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Another player who is flirting with bust status is Fitzgerald, who is on pace to finish the year with 76 receptions for 832 yards and eight touchdowns. Like Colston, it’s not so much about the player as it is about his team’s current situation. Fitzgerald has struggled with Derek Anderson at quarterback, with the two not having played together in the preseason because Fitzgerald was out with an injury. Anderson was benched this week in favor of undrafted free agent Max Hall—an ominous sign for Fitzgerald. Anderson is bad, but is he worse than an undrafted rookie free agent? Apparently head coach Ken Whisenhunt thought so this week, and there are whispers out of Arizona that Hall will be the starter at some point this season.
Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars
Hi, I’m Mike Sims-Walker, the most maddeningly inconsistent wide receiver in the NFL. Although I had close to 1,000 yards receiving last year (869, to be exact—in essentially 14 games), I have two games this year with no receptions. If you start me, I will disappoint you. If you bench me, I will have a big game. So, how about helping me out by benching me more often so I can have more big games? After all, I’m no use to you in your starting lineup. Yours sincerely, Mike.
Lee Evans, Bills
Current projection: 40 receptions for 376 yards and no touchdowns. Production in 2009: 44 receptions for 612 yards and seven touchdowns. Why does anybody think this guy can produce in the Bills anemic offense? Just because they’re paying him $9 million a season doesn’t mean he can produce. If the offensive line can’t pass block, then a one-dimensional player who excels only in the deep passing game can’t do a thing. It’s not rocket science, folks.
Zach Miller, Raiders
He was a sleeper at tight end entering the season and he hasn’t disappointed, now ranking fourth amongst tight ends. Miller was moderately productive over the first two games of the season, but he has turned it on over the last two games now that Bruce Gradkowski is his quarterback. Against the Cardinals and Texans, Miller was targeted 22 times, catching 15 passes for 186 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
John Carlson, Seahawks
One good game, one below-average game, two stinkers. Such is the John Carlson fantasy story—not just for 2010, but 2009 as well. After Carlson had a solid rookie season in 2008 with 55 receptions for 627 yards and five touchdowns, he seemed like a solid fantasy prospect for years to come. And the thing is that he’s actually a decent receiver. Unfortunately, the Seahawks offense is lacking in playmakers, they can’t consistently move the ball, and—here’s the real kicker—their offensive line is horrendous, which forces Carlson to spend time blocking. He’s not the first solid receiving tight end to suffer because of his offensive line, and he certainly won’t be the last.
Heath Miller, Steelers
It was expected that Miller would benefit early in 2010 from Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension and the departure of wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Many (yours truly included) thought the combination of no Big Ben and no Holmes would result in more opportunities for Miller as a checkdown option and red zone target. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened, and Miller has 10 receptions for 100 yards and no touchdowns to this point. It’s not time to cut bait just yet, but if he doesn’t produce after the Steelers’ Week 5 bye, it might be time to move on.