Cam Newton, Panthers
Let’s do the projections. Passing yards: 5,544. Passing touchdowns: 20. Rushing touchdowns: 16. Fantasy points: 507. And it’s not like Newton’s been putting up these numbers against bad defenses. By season’s end, Chicago and Green Bay figure to be in the top ten in total defense, Arizona should be middle of the pack and the Jaguars will likely be near the bottom. In fact, if you toss out the Jacksonville game where the weather was horrendous, Newton is averaging 37.3 points per game. I’m rolling with him as my number one unless I own Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Michael Vick or Drew Brees.
Matt Schaub, Texans
Schaub hasn’t been the same fantasy producer since Arian Foster burst onto the scene in 2010 and with Foster back in the line up for this week’s game against the Steelers, he had his worst fantasy performance since Week 5 of last season with just 11.0 fantasy points on 138 yards passing and one touchdown. Even worse than that, it appears that wide receiver Andre Johnson will miss time with an injured hamstring. Jacoby Jones would take Johnson’s spot in the starting line up but he has been a disappointment. If AJ is out, the Texans will turn to Foster even more than they did against the Steelers (30 carries), rendering Schaub even more of a question mark than he has been since the end of the 2009 season.
Sam Bradford, Rams
A quarter of the way into the 2011 season and it’s time to shelve the notion that new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is going to turn the Rams passing attack into one of the league’s best and make Bradford a solid fantasy starter. Where to begin… the Rams lead the league in dropped passes, the offensive line has given up a league worst 19 sacks and McDaniels continues to feed wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker and tight end Lance Kendricks who have combined to catch 39.6% of their passes (19 of 48).
Arian Foster, Texans
He’s back. And with a bang. Not only did Foster return with a vengeance, gaining 155 yards and touchdown on 30 carries against the Steelers in his first full game of the season, the Texans coaching staff kept backup Ben Tate nailed to the bench, which may or may not have been the result of a groin injury. Tate had just two carries despite the team’s heavy reliance on the run and maybe, just maybe the assumption that Tate had earned himself a solid chunk of playing time was fallacious.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Ridley has now outperformed starter BenJarvis Green-Ellis for two straight games, gaining 97 yards and a touchdown this week on 10 carries after putting up 44 yards on seven carries in Week 3. The Law Firm also performed decently in the Patriots 31-19 win over the Raiders with 75 yards and a score on his 16 carries but it appears that this will be a timeshare situation moving forward. The only caveat here is that BJGE is unlikely to make a mistake that causes him to lose playing time while the rookie Ridley is far more likely to lose a fumble or a blow a pass protection that lands him a spot in Bill Belichick’s doghouse and on the bench.
Ryan Torain, Redskins
I’ve been preaching that Tim Hightower is a dud for weeks (read it here and down at the bottom here). Okay, maybe I was banking a little more on rookie 4th round pick Roy Helu than Torain. This week, head coach Mike Shanahan had Hightower on a short leash after his lackluster performance against the Cowboys that caused Helu to see time in the fourth quarter for the second week in a row. Sure enough, Hightower disappointed with just 24 yards on eight carries, opening the door for Torain who ran roughshod over the Rams, gaining 135 yards and a touchdown on his 19 runs. That’s a nifty 7.1 yards per carry and it’s worth noting that he averaged 4.5 last year while Hightower is at 3.5 in 2011. The best part is that Torain’s almost assuredly available on your league’s waiver wire. Giddy up.
Matt Forte, Bears
With Forte, it’s by ground or by air. He’s the FedEx of Fantasy Football, getting the job done one way or the other each week. His receiving production carried the day for the first three weeks of the season (22 receptions for 287 yards and a score) and this week, the mail got delivered on the ground to the tune of 205 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. He’s hit double-digit fantasy points in three of the Bears first four games and is averaging 18.9 points per game. Can you say RB1? This isn’t a Sell High. It’s the type of good, solid production that nets you a championship.
Isaac Redman, Steelers
Rashard Mendenhall suffered a hamstring injury that caused him to miss most of the second half of the Steelers loss this week to the Texans. Redman and Mewelde Moore split the workload with Redman finishing with six carries for 40 yards and he even chipped in a reception for 12 yards. Of the two, Redman is the running back to own if Mendenhall were to miss any time given that he would get the goal line work. The Steelers are a mess and so is their offensive line but Redman would likely be worth a look in your lineup if he ends up starting.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
Mea culpa. I was wrong or at least it seems that way. Either Moreno re-injured his hamstring this week or the Broncos new coaching staff isn’t interested in finding out whether he can be the team’s lead running back. Back in the lineup this week after a two game absence, Moreno carried the ball just twice while Willis McGahee had 15 carries for 103 yards in a blowout loss to the Packers. McGahee’s performance doesn’t count for much considering the Packers were up by 11 by the end of the first quarter and never looked back. But Moreno’s lack of use does because he is definitely the better receiver of the two but had just one target despite the Broncos needing to pass for much of the game.
Peyton Hillis, Browns
I’m not a doctor so I can’t say with certainty that strep throat could cause you to miss a start and then need to split time the following week. However, since I doubt that’s the case, the only reason to explain Hillis getting 15 touches and Montario Hardesty getting 12 is that the Browns running back rotation has quickly turned into a timeshare. Hardesty has looked decent given his increased playing time over the past two weeks, gaining 157 yards on 21 touches. The next week or two will tell us whether Hillis has a chance to reclaim his 2010 fantasy glory this season but the odds seem set against him (and his owners).
Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster, Chiefs
I told you the answer to losing Jamaal Charles wasn’t either of his handcuffs but I can’t say I thought Jones and McCluster would be this bad. They have COMBINED (yes, combined) for 17 fantasy points over the past two weeks against the Chargers and Vikings. That’s ten points for McCluster and seven for Jones. If you were planning on riding one of these guys, it’s time to move on.
Julio Jones, Falcons
The Falcons 1st round pick has been dynamite thus far in his rookie season, with 24 receptions for 342 yards. Impressive indeed but when you scroll down FFToday’s season statistics at wide receiver, he’s currently the 28th ranked fantasy wideout. Not impressive as we’d expect and it’s all to do with touchdowns. See, Julio has looked great but he hasn’t found the end zone just yet. If his owner sees him as just a WR3, then it’s high time to hand over a decent trade offer. Jones has topped 100 yards in each of his last two games and got heavy use this week against the Seahawks with 17 targets, catching 11 passes for 127 yards. He’s a solid WR2 for the balance of the season.
Pierre Garcon, Colts
Monday Night Football. Two long touchdowns and 146 yards receiving, both career highs. You know all of your fellow owners saw it. He’s Moving Up but he’s also Sell high, folks.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers
Grabbing five of nine targets for 68 yards and failing to find the end zone generally isn’t going to get you Moving Up. But it does for Crabtree. Stick with me here. He was left for dead, fantasy persona non grata. Five for 68 against a solid Eagles secondary is pretty decent production. He’s apparently back to full health. And maybe, just maybe the 49ers offense has something to build on after a solid, come from behind win over Philadelphia.
Laurent Robinson, Cowboys
If you’ve seen Robinson in a few games, you know that he’s a talented wide receiver. Lack of talent isn’t the issue, staying healthy is. And when you don’t contribute on special teams, you need to be in the starting lineup and teams generally like their starters to be reliable (aka healthy). With Miles Austin out of the lineup with a quad injury, Robinson had a solid outing, catching seven of ten targets for 116 yards. The Cowboys have a Week 5 bye and Austin is expected to be back in the line up for Week 6 but Robinson is worth taking a shot on in deeper leagues since it seems like Austin and Dez Bryant are taking turns on the inactive list.
Jacoby Jones, Texans
Well, Andre Johnson owners can rest assured that Jones has no chance of replacing AJ’s production so better to find another option. That being said, if you’re in a deep league and need to find something, Jones is worth a shot. There you have it – a tepid a Moving Up as you’ll ever find. Yes, it was a slow week for Moving Up at the wide receiver position.
Mario Manningham, Giants
Manningham was one of this season’s fantasy darlings at wide receiver, expected to post a breakout season after a pair of solid seasons as the Giants third option behind Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith. With Smith out of the picture having signed with the Eagles and no proven slot receiver or tight end on the roster, Manningham figured to be in line for plenty of targets. However, his stock is sliding after concussion suffered in Week 2, a subpar performance to start the season from quarterback Eli Manning and a trip to the bench this week against the Cardinals after he apparently ran some wrong patterns. That gets Manningham Moving Down but also makes him a great Buy Low opportunity since Cruz is nothing more than a slot receiver and the Giants have no one behind Manningham capable of starting outside.
Devery Henderson, Saints
Let’s see. With a full slate of cast and characters at wide receiver and tight end for the first time this season and diminutive running back Darren Sproles earning plenty of touches, Henderson had one target and no receptions. Hopefully Henderson’s owners enjoyed the nice three week run he had because, barring injury, it’s not going to repeat itself.
Plaxico Burress, Jets
You generally need to get open to get the ball and it doesn’t seem like Plaxico can do that on a regular basis anymore. The Jets have opened the season against four teams with that either have suspect secondaries or injury issues in the secondary and he hasn’t been able to do much with just ten receptions on 25 yards. Sure, he’s scored two touchdowns but it’s a roll of the dice to be relying on touchdowns for fantasy production.
Jimmy Graham, Saints
Just like Henderson is Moving Down because his looks decreased with everybody available, Graham is Moving Up because he was quarterback Drew Brees’ main weapon this week against the Jaguars with career highs in targets, receptions and yards. Graham caught ten of his 14 targets for 132 yards and a TD and the performance helped make him the 2nd ranked tight end for the season behind only Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots. Don’t expect that to change with Graham having a shot to be the top ranked tight end by season’s end with Antonio Gates injury situation ensuring he will not earn that title.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
Here’s a begrudging Moving Up to Gonzalez who, on first glance, appears to be having a bit of a renaissance season in Atlanta. The 35 year-old has four touchdowns in his last three games and 21 receptions for 229 yards on the season, this after a lackluster 2010 sin which he posted a career low 9.4 yards per reception and topped 50 receiving yards just four times. He is clearly benefitting from the extra attention afforded wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, not to mention the Falcons inability to run the ball. I’m not sold on him keeping it up so this is definitely a Sell High opportunity.
Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
After two games, it sure looked like the pundits who had predicted that strong armed quarterback Matthew Stafford would lighten Pettigrew’s load in favor of chucking it downfield to Calvin Johnson et al were right on the mark. The 2009 1st round pick had just nine targets over the first two weeks but his role changed dramatically starting in a Week 3 win over the Vikings. With running back Jahvid Best struggling, Pettigrew essentially became the Lions short yardage option and that role continued this week against the Cowboys. He has chalked up 22 targets over the past two weeks, catching 17 passes for 176 yards, and there’s little reason to expect that to change. If only he could find the end zone (no touchdowns in 2011).
Fred Davis, Redskins
Davis looked like a world-beater over the first two games of the season, catching 11 of 13 targets for 191 yards and a score. And then head coach Mike Shanahan inexplicably forgot about him against a Cowboys squad with a pair of coverage challenged safeties and again this week against a Rams squad whose secondary allowed three touchdowns passes to Ravens rookie 2nd round pick Torrey Smith. I guess Shanny is extending his fantasy curse from running backs to also include tight ends.
Brent Celek, Eagles
Second year player Clay Harbor caught three passes for 55 yards and a touchdown this week, nearly eclipsing Celek’s production for the year. If there was a flicker of hope for Celek reclaiming his fantasy status from the 2009 season when he finished as the fourth ranked fantasy tight end (and it’s debatable whether there was a flicker), those hopes should now be extinguished. To the scrap heap, even in the deepest of leagues.