1. There probably isn’t a team in the league better at mining late round draft picks and undrafted free agents at the wide receiver position and turning them into productive players than Buffalo. Last year, former 7th round pick Steve Johnson stepped up to become the Bills go to wide receiver and with Lee Evans traded to Baltimore, David Nelson and Donald Jones, both undrafted free agents, stepped to the forefront over the first five weeks of the season. When Jones went out of the game with a high ankle sprain this week against the Eagles, Naaman Roosevelt, another undrafted free agent, took his place and caught five of seven targets for 41 yards. He also scored a 28-yard touchdown in Week 5 on his only target. If you’re looking for an option in a deep league, Roosevelt is worth keeping an eye on.
2. The 49ers lost starting wide receiver Josh Morgan to a potentially season-ending broken leg, leaving a large hole in their starting line up. Former Jet Braylon Edwards isn’t expected to return until after the team’s Week 7 bye, which means Ted Ginn Jr. will start opposite Michael Crabtree. In reserve, San Francisco has a pair of young receivers in Kyle Williams and Brett Swain who have a combined eight career receptions. Look for opposing defenses to put increased attention on tight end Vernon Davis and that may put a damper on his production until the team’s wide receivers start producing.
3. The news out of Cleveland is that rookie 2nd round pick Greg Little will be inserted into the Browns starting line up in Week 6. Little has more athletic ability than the team’s other wide receivers and appears to have shaken off the rust after little activity during his final season in college at North Carolina. While having a player move into the starting line up is generally positive for their fantasy prospects, this move isn’t quite the panacea some have made it out to be. Little was already heavily involved in the team’s passing attack, mostly at the expense of starter Brian Robiskie, with 18 targets over the past three weeks. Look for Little to see more targets than he has but at this point there isn’t any indication that the Browns plan to reduce the roles of Mohamed Massaquoi or Josh Cribbs, who rank 2nd and 4th on the team in targets with 28 and 20.
4. Texans coach Gary Kubiak felt the need to defend wide receiver Jacoby Jones’ performance during the team’s Week 5 loss to the Raiders where Jones put up a lackluster performance in catching just one of 11 targets. As my gramma used to say, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do. To that end, Jones’ fantasy prospects should be based not on what Kubiak said but what the Texans did which was immediately go out and acquire Derrick Mason from the Jets. Jones remains an enigma, a player who clearly has the athletic ability to succeed but has failed miserably in developing a rapport with quarterback Matt Schaub during his four plus seasons in the league. Meanwhile, veteran Kevin Walter did make the most of his increased opportunities this week, catching five of six targets for 81 yards and a score. He’s the Texans wide receiver to use as your replacement for Andre Johnson, not Jones.
5. With Mason out of the picture, rookie 5th round pick Jeremy Kerley becomes the Jets slot receiver and he played well in a Week 5 loss at New England, catching all three of his targets for 35 yards and a touchdown. However, the Jets passing attack can barely provide enough production for the team’s starters so Kerley makes for a poor fantasy option. While he figures to have an increased role in the team’s offense going forward, tight end Dustin Keller figures to benefit more with Mason’s departure and the recent reduction in LaDainian Tomlinson’s playing time. Look for Keller to be featured on more short and intermediate routes.
6. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was agitated this week when faced with questions over the reduced role of veteran wide receiver Donald Driver. With just nine receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown, Driver has been the 5th most productive wide receiver on the roster behind Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and rookie 2nd round pick Randall Cobb. With Driver having made his opinion known during training camp that he felt he should remain a starter, the last thing McCarthy wants is for his 5-0 Packers to lose focus over the 36-year old Driver’s playing time. Unfortunately for McCarthy, the questions are likely to keep coming because Cobb has played well enough to be a part of the team’s game planning and Jones has come on strong over the last two weeks after a slow start to the season. Look for Driver to remain little more than an afterthought in the Packers dominant passing attack.
7. Sticking with the Packers, this might be the first week in fantasy football history that an offense has eight startable players in one week. With a home game on tap against a Rams team that is ranked 31st against the run and 11th against the pass mostly because teams can run on them at will and they have been playing from so far behind, it’s not a stretch to say that wide receivers Jennings, Nelson, Jones and Cobb along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tight end Jermichael Finley and running backs James Starks and Ryan Grant are all worthy starters in 12 team leagues. If you’re a Rams fan, yes, it’s that sad.
8. Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams has been a major disappointment thus far in 2011 and noted to the media this week that he’s been playing poorly. However, a closer look reveals that, while Williams play isn’t on par with his performance during his rookie season, opposing defenses and quarterback Josh Freeman are also to blame. Opposing defensive coordinators have been playing softer coverages, forcing Freeman to check the ball down more frequently and causing his yards per attempt to drop from 7.2 last season to just 6.5 in 2011. In addition, he has thrown six interceptions against just three touchdowns and failed to connect on many big plays. Averaging just under eight targets per game, Williams remains the focal point of the team’s passing attack and the Bucs best hope to get increased production in that area over the balance of the season.
9. Sticking with the Bucs, the local Tampa Bay media reported late this week that running back LeGarrette Blount has a torn MCL that will keep him out of the lineup for at least four and possibly up to six weeks. If that’s the case, Earnest Graham figures to take over as the team’s starter during Blount’s absence with Kregg Lumpkin likely in store for a healthy dose of touches. The 31-year old Graham hasn’t had a 15-touch game since Week 9 of the 2008 season and there is little to suggest that he will be a workhorse back for Tampa Bay. That makes Lumpkin a speculative add in deeper leagues and also increases the likelihood the Bucs placing increased reliance on their passing attack until Blount returns.
10. Reports out of Denver indicate that the team has put wide receiver Brandon Lloyd on the trading block. If that’s the case, his fantasy owners should too. Lloyd’s remarkable 2010 season in which he caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns was an amazing story. However, there is a reason why Lloyd had seven seasons of marginal or low production prior to his breakout campaign and that makes the probability of him being traded midseason, having to learn a new playbook and being productive over the balance of the season very low. In essence, if you believe Lloyd will be traded, it’s high time to move him now. And with Lloyd a free agent at season’s end and the Broncos rebuilding and having three solid young receivers in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Eddie Royal, Lloyd’s days in Denver are numbered.