1. Usually when there is smoke, there is fire but that may not be the case with the constant trade rumors flying around Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon has been on a tear since returning from a two-game suspension, catching 27 passes for 450 yards and two touchdowns over the last five weeks. In essence, he has played so well that he has made it nearly impossible for Cleveland to move him. A 2nd round pick in the 2012 supplemental draft, Gordon has elite physical skills that are not matched by his level of maturity. With two strikes against him in the league’s substance abuse program, another failed test will likely result in a year long suspension. That makes it unlikely that another team will offer the Browns a 1st or 2nd round pick to acquire his services although his upside and recent production compel Cleveland to hold onto him unless they receive such an offer. Add it all up and the odds are strong that fantasy leaguers can go ahead and assume he will remain in Cleveland for the duration of the 2013 season.
2. Sticking in the AFC North, Bengals third-year quarterback Andy Dalton is on the most impressive run of his young career with 709 passing yards and six touchdowns over the past two games. Long criticized for his inability to consistently connect on deep passes, Dalton connected with A.J. Green for an 82-yard catch and run touchdown this week and is averaging a career-high 7.7 yards per attempt which ranks 10th in the league. With a surrounding cast of young skilled position players, Dalton’s stock in keeper leagues is on the upswing.
3. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is currently ranked 3rd in FPts/G but his owners have to be asking themselves when the carnage around him starts to affect his production. With Randall Cobb on short term injured reserve, James Jones likely to miss his second consecutive game due to a knee injury and tight end Jermichael Finley out indefinitely with a bruised spinal cord suffered on a frightening looking play this week, Rodgers no longer has the weapons at his disposal that he is accustomed to having. With Jarrett Boykin (nine career receptions) starting at wide receiver and Andrew Quarless (28 career receptions) subbing in for Finley, Rodgers could be in line for a number of sub-300 yard passing games. His owners will have to hope that he pads his fantasy production with touchdown passes and in the ground game.
4. Jets quarterback Geno Smith has been surprisingly productive in his rookie campaign, throwing for 1,723 yards with eight passing touchdowns and two rushing scores over the first seven games of his career. He has topped 200 passing yards in every game but one (he had 199 yards against the Falcons) and has thrown touchdown passes in five of seven games. While those numbers aren’t earth shattering, they are impressive especially considering that he has been without the team’s leading receiver in Santonio Holmes and fellow wide receiver Stephen Hill has been slowed due to a concussion. Hill, second-year player Jeremy Kerley and Bills castoff David Nelson have lead a no name group of receivers and that may continue for the foreseeable future with Holmes stating this week that he had no idea when he would return to the lineup. Hill and Kerley rate as sneaky additions if you are looking for fill ins at the wide receiver position in larger leagues.
5. Brett Favre to the Rams tells you all you need to know about Kellen Clemen’s viability as St. Louis’ starting quarterback over the balance of the season. Outside of running back Zac Stacy, who rates as no better than a flex play or bye week fill in, the Rams don’t have a single player that should see the starting lineup of a 12-team fantasy league.
6. Watching Thursday night’s Panthers-Bucs game, it was hard not to come to the conclusion that Carolina has done a very poor job of managing their salary cap. Despite having DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart locked up on lucrative long-term deals, the Panthers signed Mike Tolbert to a multi-year contract prior to the 2012 season. While that is an impressive array of talent at the running back position, the salary cap space used to acquire it could have been better spent at the wide receiver position where an aging Steve Smith starts alongside Brandon LaFell with Ted Ginn Jr. in reserve. With Smith in his 13th season and averaging a very pedestrian 10.5 yard per reception, Carolina must replenish their wide receiver depth chart or else they risk wasting some of the best years of quarterback Cam Newton’s career. While Newton is clearly a fantasy stud, his upside is limited by the team’s lack of explosive weapons in the passing game.
7. The Lions released backup tight end Tony Scheffler this week, crystallizing their obvious desire to hand that role over to 2013 undrafted rookie free agent Joseph Fauria. Fauria has been a surprise with eight receptions for 81 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 targets. With the team’s wide receivers not named Calvin Johnson having underwhelming performances in 2013 and tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the final year of his rookie contract, Fauria, who has solid size at 6’7” and 255 pounds, could make another move up the depth chart in 2014. Dynasty leaguers might want to use stash him on the back of their roster in the event the disappointing Pettigrew is not re-signed.