Christian Ponder, Vikings
Last week, Ponder was moving up with the proviso that it was for dynasty leagues only. After showing some moxie this week in nearly bringing the Vikings to a come from behind win over the undefeated Packers, Ponder is looking like he could be a useful asset at some point in 2011. Completing 13 of 32 passes isn’t pretty but he made some big plays, finishing with 219 passing yards and 31 rushing yards. It’s always nice when a rookie quarterback can pad his fantasy stats with three or four points on the ground every week.
Tim Tebow, Broncos
Bit of a qualifier here. My opinion on Tebow as a fantasy quarterback was pretty low compared to most so even a 13 of 27 for 161-yard, two-touchdown performance gets Tebow in the Moving Up column. Yes, he did have something like 40 passing yards with five minutes to go. Sure, if the Dolphins can chew up the clock, his fantasy point total would look really ugly. But this guy’s got some Doug Flutie in him – sans the accuracy, of course. He wins. It’s never conventional, it’s not going to be pretty but he wins. And as I said with Ponder, rookie quarterbacks who run are a little easier to live with.
John Beck, Redskins
In his first start of 2011, and first start since the 2007 season, Beck looked surprisingly good for the Redskins. Despite losing his best weapon in Santana Moss mid-game, Beck completed 22 of 37 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown with one interception. He also chipped in ten yards and a touchdown on the ground, giving him rushing touchdowns in consecutive games. Between Week 8 and Week 16, the Redskins have six games against teams with passing defenses ranked 21st or lower and just one game against a top ten passing defense.
Carson Palmer, Raiders
Moving from the unemployment line to being the anointed one in Oakland got Palmer Moving Up last week but I did qualify it by stating that “We will see how many weeks it takes him to shake off the rust.” After a three-interception performance in just two quarters, we have our answer – several. As in, Palmer looked so bad that it’s going to take several weeks before you can click him as your starter and feel good about it. In fact, he was so bad, he fills out my quota for the Moving Down portion at the quarterback position.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
Murray was moving up last week, a weak endorsement based on Felix Jones being out for a minimum of two weeks and a schedule that worked in his favor with the Rams and Eagles on tap. Well, he certainly took care of the Rams, setting a Dallas single game rushing mark with 253 yards on 25 carries and finding the end zone on a 91-yard run. Better yet, as noted, the Eagles are up next and Tashard Choice left the Rams game with a shoulder injury and there is no word yet on whether he will suit up next week. Time to rain on the parade a little… it was the Rams. They have the league’s worst run defense. Murray isn’t likely to get a 91-yard touchdown run every week where he makes exactly one defender miss. To be honest, I’m putting a major discount on this performance. I watched it and the Rams-D was UGLY. Don’t sell the farm for Murray.
Kregg Lumpkin, Buccaneers
This one’s a bit of a gamble but if you have an open roster spot, Lumpkin is worth grabbing. Starting running back LeGarrette Blount may play in Week 9 against the Saints following the Bucs Week 8 bye and top backup Earnest Graham is out for the year with a torn right Achilles’ tendon. We all know that Blount can’t catch so Lumpkin figures to get at least some playing time even if Blount is a go. Of course, there’s a reasonable chance the Bucs bring in another back with more experience catching the ball. Tiki Barber, anyone?
Jackie Battle, Chiefs
Battle was quietly efficient for the second game in a row, earning 16 carries and gaining 76 yards in the Chiefs 28-0 win over the Raiders. That gives him 216 total yards over his past two games and almost assuredly makes him the Chiefs running back to own for the balance of the 2011 season. He’s a plodder, yes. He hasn’t found the end zone yet, yes. LeRon McClain may continue to get the goal line work, yes. But Battle is the man in K.C. at the moment and that counts for something.
Ryan Torain and Roy Helu, Redskins
With starting running back Tim Hightower out for the season with a torn ACL, Torain and Helu figure to split carries for the Redskins… or maybe some other back on the roster… or maybe some other back not on the roster. At the moment, it’s one of these two. Pick your poison and mark my words, you will drink the poison. My money’s on Torain over the short haul with Helu taking over by Week 12.
Michael Bush, Raiders
Bush owners knew that starting Raiders running back Darren McFadden would get dinged up at some point but the timing isn’t exactly what they were hoping for with Oakland having a Week 8 bye. That gives McFadden two weeks to recover from the foot sprain he suffered this week against the Chiefs and reduces the chances Bush will get his first start of the season in Week 9 against the Broncos. Nonetheless, Bush looked solid against Kansas City, gaining 99 yards on 17 carries and also chipping in a pair of receptions for 12 yards.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
Willis McGahee stole his job but Moreno gets another chance to prove he is worthy of starting for the Broncos in 2012 with McGahee out several weeks with a broken index finger. I guess he’ll be running with plenty of confidence since the Broncos essentially gave up on him when they made McGahee the starter. Don’t expect much.
Alfonso Smith, Cardinals
Smith is the man in Arizona until Chris Wells returns to action. Week 8 looks horrible with the Ravens on tap but after that it’s the Rams (32nd ranked run defense) and Eagles (24th) followed by a no-hoper against the 49ers (2nd) and then the Rams again. So, Smith is usable in three of the next five games if Wells doesn’t go.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Made. Of. Glass. Wells apparently suffered a knee bruise this week to the same knee that rendered him basically useless in 2010. Is more of the same on tap for 2011? Would you bet against it?
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
Looks like there may be a changing of the guard at running back in Carolina. Jonathan Stewart has outperformed Williams for most of 2011 and Williams took more of a back seat role this week, getting 10 touches to 14 for Stewart. With Stewart already getting more work in the passing game and in short yardage, Williams value will take a serious hit if he starts losing carries to Stewart on a regular basis.
Thomas Jones, Chiefs
Jones starts. Battle gets most of the touches. LeRon McClain subs in for short yardage. Jones is too slow to make any big plays so he’s a 10-carry, 40-yard guy for the balance of the season. You can do better.
Roy Williams, Bears
Last week, it looked like Devin Hester was the Bears new number one wide receiver. After this week’s game against the Bucs, it looks like Roy Williams may have overtaken him, which is what Chicago had as their plan entering the season. He had his best game of the season this week, catching four of five targets for 59 yards and a score. The timing was good for Williams with Earl Bennett expected to return to the line up following Chicago’s Week 8 bye. Looks like Johnny Knox may be the odd man out if Bennett returns to assume his role as the team’s slot receiver.
Marques Colston, Saints
Last week, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson were all Moving Down because Colston was back in the line up and there weren’t enough balls to spread around. Sure enough, Colston is on a tear, putting up his second consecutive strong performance in the Saints crushing win over the Colts. Colston caught all seven of his targets for 98 yards and a pair of scores, bringing his two week totals to 14 receptions for 216 yards and three touchdowns. He is shaping up as a mid-tier WR1 for the remainder of 2011.
Jabar Gaffney, Redskins
With reports indicating that Santana Moss will be out for 5-7 weeks with a fractured hand, Gaffney becomes the Redskins top threat at wide receiver. Or maybe “threat” isn’t the best word since he’s scored once in six games this year and just twice over his last 21 games. Maybe “consistent” is the better adjective. Here are Gaffney’s yardage totals this year – 54, 62, 60, 62, 55 and 68 for an average of 60 yards per game. In 2010, he averaged 55 yards a game. There you have it – you know what you’re getting with Gaffney – consistent mediocrity.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
I had DHB Moving Up two weeks ago and he has forced my hand with another pair of solid performances. Don’t look now but it is beginning to look like maybe the Raiders did the right thing in taking DHB over Michael Crabtree. Over his last four games, Heyward-Bey has 22 receptions for 385 yards and a touchdown, averaging 11.1 FPts per game. That’s mid-tier WR2 territory. Sure, the sample size is small but DHB rates no lower than as a WR3 for the balance of 2011.
Mike Thomas, Jaguars
I was all set to have Jason Hill Moving Down with Mike Sims-Walker back in Jacksonville and Hill likely headed to the bench. The only problem is, Thomas is headed to the bench. Worse yet for his owners, Hill led the Jaguars in targets against the Ravens, catching four of eight looks for 62 yards. Sims-Walker was targeted just twice with Thomas getting a single look. Despite getting a lucrative long-term extension a few weeks back, Thomas has seen his targets decrease for three straight weeks from 11 to 7 to 6 to 1.
Santana Moss, Redskins
With 39 and 38-yard performances in Weeks 4 and 6 (the Redskins were on a bye in Week 5), I was getting ready to have Moss Moving Down. His fractured hand seals the deal.
Danario Alexander, Rams
Brandon Lloyd is in town and while Alexander isn’t a forgotten man, the target total dropped to six this week, his lowest of the season. It doesn’t help that he’s caught just 16 of 39 targets.
Antonio Gates, Chargers
After pondering to the media whether he would even play in Week 7, Gates started and looked good, catching five of seven targets for 54 yards and a touchdown. Reports indicate that he didn’t have any setbacks so Gates is back to being a fantasy starter. Just make sure you keep a decent backup on standby.
Heath Miller, Steelers
After a slow start to the season, Miller has been a bigger factor in the Steelers passing attack over the last three weeks, particularly in the red zone. In Steeler wins over the Titans, Jaguars and Cardinals, Miller has totaled 11 receptions for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Up next is the Patriots 32nd ranked pass defense just in case you need bye week filler.
Jermichael Finley, Packers
Sure, he scored a touchdown – that was nice. However, in his last two games Finley has been targeted a measly six times, with just three receptions for a miserly 33 yards and the touchdown. At the beginning of the season, nobody was expected to read “measly”, “just” and “miserly” in paragraphs about Finley. But here’s one that has all three. Time to change our assumptions about this cat. Here’s one more thing to consider – one game with double-digit fantasy points out of seven. Convinced?