Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
Here are Fitzpatrick’s fantasy points in his last four games: 22, 21, 23, 36. Better yet, the 36 game was a road game against the Ravens in which Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards and four touchdowns. Another added bonus with Fitzpatrick is that he can scramble and has chipped in 116 rushing yards. That’s almost three fantasy points per game, which is nice gravy if you are relying on a quarterback who is starting in a questionable offense.
Jon Kitna, Cowboys
Initial indications are that Tony Romo is out at least 6-8 weeks with a broken clavicle and that means Kitna will step under center for the Cowboys. While this warrants a downgrade for all of the Cowboys receivers, it moves Kitna into the “Moving Up” category since he was persona non grata before the Romo injury. No, he’s not going to replace Romo’s production. No, he’s probably not going to be starter worthy, certainly not for his first couple of games. However, he does have a pile of impressive weapons at his disposal and he does have a pair of 4,000 yard passing seasons under his belt – the last one in 2007. He’s worth grabbing as a fantasy backup and, who knows, maybe you hit the jackpot.
Jay Cutler, Bears
One game, Cutler can’t avoid the rush and his stats suffer; the next game, he avoids the rush and throws a bunch of picks. On a side note, it was humorous to read that he planned to go after DeAngelo Hall again—and even funnier to see Hall pick him off four times. Proof that Cutler’s bravado is a little bigger than his brain at times. Anyway, he has one touchdown pass in his last three games or, if you’re a cup-half-full guy, two in his last four. That’s not cutting it.
Darren McFadden, Raiders
“Just the numbers, baby, just the numbers. Give me the deep ball on the play action, dammit, Tom!” There’s my ode to Al Davis. Here are McFadden’s numbers from his monster fantasy performance this week against the Broncos: 16 carries for 165 yards and three touchdowns, plus two receptions for 31 yards. That’s all the more impressive considering it was his first game back since suffering a knee injury in Week 4. Despite missing two games, McFadden is currently the fourth-ranked running back in total fantasy points and the top-ranked running back in points per game. It’s time to believe.
Brandon Jackson, Packers
If you read my column like you’re supposed to (it’s like the vitamins your mother told you to take—you may not like it but you have to do it), you know I’m not big on Jackson. Not big, not fast, not very shifty, not a great receiver. Not sure why he’s the lead back on the Packers offense. Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to point out he’s coming off his finest game of the season. Against the Vikings he had 58 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries as well as three receptions for 46 yards. That gives him double-digit fantasy points in two of the last three weeks, which makes him a mid-tier RB2 at the moment.
LeGarrette Blount, Bucs
Blount had a nice game against the Rams this week, bowling over their defenders on his way to an 11-carry, 72-yard performance. With Cadillac Williams struggling and on his last legs, Blount will continue to see his workload increase, provided he can improve upon his blitz protection. The team won’t risk the health of franchise quarterback Josh Freeman, so Blount will continue to sit on passing downs until he picks up the team’s protection schemes. Nonetheless, while he doesn’t possess outstanding speed, he is clearly a physical back capable of churning out yards between the tackles and bouncing to the outside for extra yardage. Not to mention that he will clearly get the goal line work over the smaller Williams.
Cadillac Williams, Bucs
The Cadillac story is a compelling one. Alas, it appears to be in its final chapter in Tampa Bay. This week, the Bucs coaches followed through on their promise to get LeGarrette Blount more involved, and he performed well, rushing 11 times for 72 yards against the Rams. While the box score indicates that Williams had a solid fantasy performance, it is misleading, as he padded his stats with the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute to play. Blount got a healthy majority of the work on first and second downs with Williams subbing in on obvious passing downs. Williams is clearly the Bucs’ third-down back at this point.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals
I’m dropping my rankings for all Cardinals running backs and wide receivers until I see some decent play from their quarterbacks. Wells can’t do it all by himself, so it doesn’t much matter that Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt has indicated Tim Hightower will start to lose touches due to his fumbling issues.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews is clearly a very talented back, but he just isn’t getting enough touches to produce consistently, especially with Mike Tolbert getting the goal-line work. The ball clearly isn’t bouncing Mathews’ way, and it doesn’t help when the Chargers get behind early. This week, trailing the Patriots, head coach Norv Turner turned to Darren Sproles in the passing game, relegating Mathews to the bench for almost the entire second half. End result: 15 yards on eight carries with Tolbert stealing a score.
Kenny Britt, Titans
Granted, I’m not a rocket scientist, but anybody with a modicum of intelligence would say that Britt is clearly Moving Up, courtesy of his gangbuster performance this week. He torched the Eagles for seven receptions, 225 yards, and three touchdowns and is becoming a touchdown machine for the Titans, with seven over his last five games. Britt earned the ire of the Titans coaches by showing up for OTAs seriously out of shape, but he has heeded the lesson to become the team’s top wide receiver and is on the verge of establishing himself as a high-end WR2 for fantasy purposes.
Steve Johnson, Bills
I’ve had him here before, and it’s well past time for fantasy owners to consider making Johnson a regular presence in their starting lineups. He had the best game of his career this week against the Ravens, catching eight passes for 158 yards (both career highs) and a touchdown. He now has touchdowns in four straight games (five in total during that stretch) and has caught over 60 percent of his targets. Johnson’s chemistry with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has him sitting at a surprising 15th ranking among wide receivers.
David Gettis and Brandon LaFell, Panthers
Both of the Panthers rookie wide receivers had the best games of their careers this week, as they each lit up a struggling 49ers secondary. Gettis hauled in eight catches for 125 yards and a pair of scores while LaFell had a solid six receptions for 91 yards. With Matt Moore starting at quarterback and Steve Smith getting consistent double teams, the prospects for Gettis and LaFell are on the rise. Consider them worthy bench material at this point, in the hopes one of them establishes himself as the clear second option in Carolina.
Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley had a career day this week against the Falcons, hauling in all six of his targets for 131 yards and his first career touchdown. For the season, he has caught 21 of his 25 targets for 321 yards and a score. With the Bengals struggling to get their running game going and defenses doing a solid job shutting down Chad Ochocinco (though not this week, mind you), look for the Bengals coaches to get Shipley more involved going forward. He is beginning to look like a decent flex play in larger leagues.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
It’s officially time to give Fitzgerald a serious downgrade. While he is clearly one of the most talented wide receivers in the league, the Cardinals quarterback situation is causing his production to drop to unprecedented levels. Neither Derek Anderson nor Max Hall seems capable of consistently getting the ball to Fitzgerald and, as a result, he is currently the 35th-ranked among receivers who have played at least five games. This week he caught three of his 10 targets for 30 yards, and he is currently on pace to finish with less than 900 receiving yards and six touchdowns. And, no, I’m not even rating him as a solid buy-low guy.
Wes Welker, Patriots
Welker is another talented receiver suffering from issues beyond his control, only it’s clearly not the quarterback in New England causing his production to suffer. In Welker’s case, it’s the Randy Moss trade. In the two games since Moss was dealt to Minnesota, Welker has 11 receptions on 17 targets for 78 yards and no touchdowns. He is seeing more frequent double teams, which are reducing his yards after the catch. In addition, the Patriots are a far less explosive offense without Moss; they are now dinking and dunking their way down the field, and that reduces Welker’s touchdown opportunities. He is currently the 31st-ranked wide receiver and is on pace to finish the season with under 800 receiving yards.
Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and Dez Bryant, Cowboys
It’s a long way down from Tony Romo to Jon Kitna. While Kitna threw for two touchdowns in relief duty against the Giants, it was against a soft defense because New York had a solid lead. Romo is likely out for the year, so Kitna steps in—and he hasn’t played extensively since the fifth game of the 2008 season. At best, it’s going to take him awhile to shake off the rust.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers
More injury problems at quarterback in San Francisco. Alex Smith is likely to miss time with a shoulder injury, an issue he’s had in the past. As mediocre as Smith had been this year, the 49ers had not gone to David Carr—and Carr showed us exactly why during his relief performance against the Panthers, going 5 of 13 for 67 yards and a key interception that cost the 49ers the game. It doesn’t bode well for Crabtree if Smith is out for an extended period.
Andrew Quarless, Packers
Some teams successfully draft lineman, some running backs, while some aren’t successful at drafting any single position. The Packers apparently know how to draft tight ends. With stud Jermichael Finley on injured reserve, the Packers dialed up rookie fifth-round pick Quarless this week, and he caught two passes for 16 yards and a score. Big deal, you say. Well, he should have had another 30 yards had he not fallen down on his way to making the catch. Plus, he looks like he’s more athletic than Donald Lee, which makes him the more logical candidate to take on a piece of Finley’s receiving role. If you’re desperate at tight end, Quarless is worth a look.
Todd Heap, Ravens
I keep getting asked by a friend what he should do with his tight end position because he wants an upgrade from Heap. Here’s the answer I keep giving him: Nothing. The Ravens offense started the season slowly, but they are averaging 25.8 points per game over the last five games, after starting the season with a pair of 10-point efforts. As for Heap, he is coming off a three-reception, 59-yard, two-touchdown performance and is currently ninth amongst active tight ends in fantasy points per game. Looking at the schedule, the Ravens face a number of bottom feeders over the next several weeks. Their schedule and his performance this week have Heap Moving Up.
Brent Celek, Eagles
A full seven games in, Celek has 21 receptions for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That’s close to what he had during Kevin Kolb’s two starts last year. Worse yet, even with DeSean Jackson out of the lineup, Celek had only five targets this week, catching two passes for eight yards. At this point he is no longer a guaranteed starter, and his owners should be looking around their leagues for an upgrade.