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Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 1, 2013

By: — September 10, 2013 @ 6:02 pm


Moving Up

Peyton Manning

Manning is making his case for the top fantasy QB in 2013.

Peyton Manning, Broncos
The Broncos’ talent at the skill positions is just ridiculous, and with Manning orchestrating it, Denver has a good shot to have the most potent offense in the league in 2013. With tight end Julius Thomas emerging as a weapon, Manning threw for 462 yards and a career-high seven touchdown passes in Week 1. This isn’t a sell-high option. It’s a sit-back-and-enjoy-the-show scenario.

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Kaepernick shed any concerns that he would struggle without his top wide receiver in Michael Crabtree, topping 400 yards for the first time in his career (he topped 300 yards only once previously, in last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Ravens) while throwing for three touchdowns. This cat is ready to join the elite fantasy QBs in the league.

Terrelle Pryor, Raiders & Geno Smith, Jets
Giving you a heads up that these guys weren’t as bad as advertised and they have some hope of emerging as decent QB2s in 2013. That’s more than we thought a week ago.

Moving Down

Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars
Can somebody please put this man out of his misery? And end the misery of the Jaguars fans who have to watch him. Totaling just 121 yards on 35 pass attempts (3.5 yards per attempt) is pathetic.

Brandon Weeden, Browns
Weeden showed some promise in the preseason but he reverted to form in Week 1, holding on to the ball too long (six sacks) and making poor decisions (three picks). The truth is that Weeden absolutely has to be surrounded by solid talent, and he is guaranteed to struggle until Josh Gordon returns in Week 3.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Reggie Bush, Lions
I was all in on Bush even as his ADP grew during the preseason, and he didn’t disappoint in Week 1 with 191 total yards and a touchdown. He also had another score overturned. With the Vikings defense focused on shutting down Calvin Johnson, Bush had space to do his thing and he seems a perfect fit in Detroit. If only we could guarantee full health for 16 games.

Joique Bell, Lions
Meet Reggie Bush’s real handcuff and a guy who totaled 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Week 1. Mikel Leshoure owners can now safely move on.

LeSean McCoy, Eagles
After McCoy’s 32-touch, 189-yard, one-touchdown performance, we can put to rest any concerns about Chip Kelly’s offense being a success in the NFL and the impact Bryce Brown would have on Shady’s touches.

LeGarrette Blount, Patriots
Stevan Ridley was benched for bumbling (er, fumbling) and Shane Vereen is apparently out with a broken wrist. Blount looked very ordinary against the Bills this week (seven carries, 15 yards) but he just might be in the starting lineup in Week 2. I’m not calling it, but there is a chance.

Moving Down

David Wilson, Giants
The worst nightmare for Wilson owners came to fruition on Sunday night as he managed to lose two fumbles on his first seven carries, finding himself nailed to the bench. The Giants haven’t given up on him but that’s because they don’t have any other viable options. That is, until they sign one, which seems likely.

Lamar Miller, Dolphins
Another preseason breakout candidate flopped big time in Week 1 with Miller being limited to just three yards on 10 carries. No, that’s not a typo.

Montee Ball, Broncos
Dude’s going to get his turn at some point in his rookie season, but it looks like it’s going to be later than most of us expected. Even with Knowshon Moreno looking clearly average in a blowout win, Ball had only eight carries.

Shane Vereen, Patriots
Yet another blow to the Pats offense as Vereen (wrist surgery) has been placed on the IR / designated for return list which means he’s going to miss eight weeks. Given the Patriots have a bye in Week 10, he’s not likely to see the field until Week 11. It’s a shame as Vereen was one of two running backs (LeSean McCoy) to top the 100-yard rushing mark in Week 1.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Anquan Boldin, 49ers
Boldin led all receivers this week in targets (17), receptions (13) and yards (208). We all knew he was going to have a major role in the 49ers offense this season, but his output in Week 1 was ridiculous. Apparently he has something to prove to the Ravens, who shed his $6-million salary in exchange for a sixth-round pick. An angry Boldin is not a man to be messed with. Ask the Packers’ defensive backs.

Julian Edelman, Patriots
Turns out Edelman, not one of their prized (joking!) rookies, is the Patriots second best fantasy WR. He hauled in seven of his nine targets for 79 yards and a pair of scores. And with Danny Amendola nicked up after Week 1, Edelman has a shot to emerge as their leading receiver, at least until Rob Gronkowski returns.

Leonard Hankerson, Redskins
Could the light finally stay on for the Redskins’ 2011 third-round pick? Hankerson has plenty of talent but has been a tease during his first two years in the league. With the Redskins playing from behind this week, he managed five receptions for 80 yards and a pair of scores. Washington values Josh Morgan for his blocking but there is a decent chance Hankerson supplants him as a starter early in 2013.

Brian Hartline, Dolphins
I was ready to write him off as a fantasy backup, but Mike Wallace’s pout job and Hartline’s nine-reception (15 targets), 114-yard, one-touchdown performance puts him back on the map as a viable WR3 in 12-team leagues.

Jerome Simpson, Vikings
Seven receptions on eight targets for 140 yards. Just saying.

Marlon Brown, Ravens
Jacoby Jones is going to miss some times, the Ravens tight ends were awful and Torrey Smith just isn’t a target hog. Meet Marlon Brown, a 6’5”, 216-pound undrafted rookie free agent who had four receptions for 65 yards and a score this week against the Broncos. Sleeper? Or, sleeper no more?

Moving Down

Mike Wallace, Dolphins
Losah!!!!!!!!!!!! Whining and needing to be escorted off the field by the general manager that signed you to a five-year, $60-million contract after your new team won its first game of the year. Clueless.

Roddy White, Falcons
There were whispers late in the preseason that White’s ankle injury was worse than the Falcons were revealing, and his use as a decoy in Week 1 (two receptions, 19 yards) confirmed it. And then he totally let the cat of the bag by confirming that he has a high ankle sprain.

Kenbrell Thompkins, Patriots
The Patriots’ undrafted rookie free agent had the fourth most targets among wide receivers this week, but he hauled in just four receptions for 42 yards, blew a couple of routes and eased up on a throw to the end zone. Some guys need shades when the lights come on.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Jared Cook, Rams
The Rams signed Cook to a massive contract this offseason and they had no intention of underutilizing him the way the Titans did during his first four years in the league. With Patrick Peterson taking away Chris Givens and with Yeremiah Bell ill-equipped to handle him, Cook caught seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he was stripped just before hitting the end zone on another play or he would have had another score. Cook is clearly poised to have a breakout season in St. Louis.

Julius Thomas, Broncos
Another athletic tight end arrived on the scene in Denver, where Thomas, a barely used 2011 fourth-round pick, had a career day with five receptions for 110 yards and a pair of scores. His performance reminded me of Dante Rosario’s three-touchdown opening day a number of years back, but Thomas looks like he will have more staying power. With all of the options in Denver, defenses will have to pick their poison, and Thomas isn’t a player than many linebackers and safeties will be able to handle.

Jordan Cameron, Browns; Kellen Winslow, Jets; Brandon Myers, Giants
Does it seem like it was the week of the tight end? All of these players had plenty of catches and plenty of targets, plus they found the end zone.

Moving Down

Ed Dickson, Ravens
It seems like I pile on Dickson early every year, so I might as well get it out of my system in 2013. With Dennis Pitta out long term, Dickson has an opportunity to earn a big role this season, but things started out poorly in Week 1 as he hauled in just one of his five targets for 13 yards. The four targets he failed to bring in were all catchable balls. Meanwhile, recently signed backup Dallas Clark caught seven of his 12 targets for 87 yards, although he failed to haul in an easy touchdown catch.

Zach Sudfeld, Patriots
Preseason starlet. Week 1 dud.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 9, 2012

By: — November 6, 2012 @ 2:16 pm
Filed under: Strategy


Moving Up

Carson Palmer, Raiders
I told you in my Dave’s Take column last week that Palmer would improve on his 16th place quarterback ranking by season’s end and he started that process in a big way this week. Palmer torched the Bucs 414 yards and four touchdowns, putting up 37 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues, easily his best fantasy performance since joining the Raiders.

Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck: Breaking records.

Andrew Luck, Colts
The Colts are 5-3 and in playoff contention. In a tight game with Miami this week, Luck was lights out, completing 30 of 48 attempts for a rookie-record 433 passing yards and two touchdowns. The rookie signal caller is now on pace to finish the season with 20 passing touchdowns and 4,808 passing yards, which would set another rookie season record.

Moving Down

Robert Griffin III, Redskins
Dude is clearly talented but his owners should be concerned due to the huge portion of fantasy points that are coming from rushing the ball and his struggles as a passer over the last five games. During that stretch, RGIII has thrown for just 923 yards and four touchdowns and failed to top 215 passing yards four times.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Doug Martin, Bucs
On fire, folks. Meet the league’s new top ranked fantasy running back. If you have the you know whats, it might be time to sell high. Martin has gone gangbusters over the last two weeks, piling up 214 totals yards and two touchdowns against a declining Vikings run defense and then gaining 251 yards and four scores against the pathetic Raiders run defense. The schedule over the balance of the season looks good (just one top-10 ranked run defense) but consider this a friendly reminder that rookie running backs tend to hit a wall before season’s end and Martin is on pace to finish the season with 348 touches.

Isaac Redman, Steelers
Every week, a Steelers running back gets the Moving Up treatment. This week, it is Redman’s turn. Pretty much given up on, Redman unexpectedly rolled over the Giants this week with both Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall unable to play, gaining 147 yards and a score on his 26 rushes. The Steelers are going with the hot hand and Redman is that guy at the moment with the Chiefs, Ravens, Browns and Ravens again over the next four weeks. Not one of them is ranked higher than 22nd in run defense.

James Starks, Packers
Starks got the start this week and played decent (61 yards on 17 carries) but ended up splitting time with Alex Green (17 touches to 13). Look for the Packers MO in their backfield to be using Starks as the starter with Green being used as a change of pace back and on passing downs. If one of them gets hot, the other may spend a lot of time sitting. For now, Starks is the guy to own.

Mikel Leshoure, Lions
He’s here because I don’t want to take the heat for not putting him here but I’m not sold on him just yet. His three touchdowns and 70 yards this week were nice but it was against the Jags and he hasn’t topped 100 total yards in his last five games.

Vick Ballard, Colts
Some reports out of Indianapolis suggest Donald Brown suffered a hip injury. Others said he had swelling in his knee. Other cited both injuries as the reasons for his one touch performance this week. For Ballard owners, one Brown injury is good and two is better. Ballard has been quietly effective when given the majority of the work and was solid this week with 98 total yards against the Dolphins. If only he could get a map to the end zone (one touchdown in 2012).

Mike Goodson, Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece, Raiders
Darren McFadden apparently suffered a high ankle sprain this week but Goodson may have as well. That would leave Jones, whose only carry this season came last week, and Reese, who carried the ball once in Week 1 but hasn’t since. Keep your eye on this situation. If Goodson is a go, he will get the majority of the carries. If he can’t go, look for Jones and Reese to split carries. In either scenario, Reese will get the work on passing downs.

Moving Down

Reggie Bush, Dolphins
Bush was barely respectable this week against the Colts bottom feeder run defense, gaining 41 yards and a score on ten carries and chipping in 25 yards on two receptions. Unfortunately for his owners, that was just his second double-digit fantasy performance over his last six games. The schedule is up and down with two easy matchups, followed by three tough ones and then two more patsies.

LaRod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals
Cards are on a bye this week and Beanie Wells is eligible to return in Week 12. Stephens-Howling’s 15 minutes are almost up.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Eric Decker, Broncos
Demaryius Thomas might be more talented but Decker is on fire with touchdowns in five straight games and seven in total over that span. Over his last six games, he is averaging 14.9 FPTs per game and looks like a bona fide WR1 over the balance of the season.

Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson, Vikings
Percy Harvin looks like he’s going to miss some time so for the first time ever a guy that caught two passes for eight yards is Moving Up (that would be Jenkins) So is a guy that caught one pass for 14 yards, also a Moving Up first. Let’s see how this works out.

Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, Steelers
Antonio Brown is likely to miss time with a high ankle sprain, meaning Sanders and Cotchery figure to see more targets. The old pro had more yards this week (50) but Sanders hauled in a touchdown. If you need to pick one, go with the young blood.

Mike Wallace, Steelers
Wallace has been decent but not spectacular this season. However, occasionally one spectacular catch and run play will get you Moving Up. This guy has afterburners that other players just don’t have.

Danario Alexander, Chargers
The Chargers like big, fast wide receivers so they hauled Alexander off the street, stuck him in the starting lineup and watched him catch all three of his targets for 61 yards. Robert Meachem hasn’t exactly lit it up in his first year in San Diego and he is hurt.

Moving Down

Percy Harvin, Vikings
I’m guessing that an ankle sprained in three places means a guy won’t be playing in a while.

Josh Gordon, Browns
After scoring four touchdowns in three games, Gordon has, not surprisingly, gone cold with just five receptions for 84 yards in his last two games. The kid has talent but the combination of his inexperience and that of quarterback Brandon Weeden has resulted in Gordon catching just 19 of 43 targets this season.

Devery Henderson, Saints
It’s back to the doghouse for Henderson. After a couple of solid efforts, he failed to catch a pass in Week 8 and hauled in just one reception for eight yards this week. With Lance Moore back, Henderson isn’t worth owning in standard leagues.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Logan Paulsen, Redskins
As expected, Paulsen has relegated Chris Cooley to benchwarmer status. Somewhat unexpectedly, Paulsen has actually proven to be a decent receiver, hauling in 13 of his 20 receptions over the past three games for a very respectable 178 yards. With RGIII spreading out thin amongst his wide receivers, Paulsen led the team in receiving yards in Week 9 and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if that is a common occurrence over the balance of the season.

Brandon Myers, Raiders
Sure it was the Bucs and their sad sack pass defense but Myers had a career game in Week 9, catching eight passes for 59 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With the Raiders behind early, he was targeted a healthy 13 times and is averaging 8.25 targets over his last four games.

Robert Housler, Cardinals
The starting job appears to be his but, while Housler is talented, there isn’t much upside here given the play of the team’s quarterbacks. He had a career high nine targets this week, catching five of them for 55 yards, also a career high. With Todd Heap and Jeff King nearing the end of their careers, Housler is a decent dynasty league prospect.

Moving Down

Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
After scoring four touchdowns in his first five games, Gonzo has gone gonzo from the Falcons passing attack, failing to score in his last three games or top 42 receiving yards and accumulating just 107 yards in those games. It’s worth noting that he faded down the stretch last season, failing to score in his final six games and catching just seven passes for 63 yards over his final three games.

Jermichael Finley, Packers
One of the biggest wastes of talent in the league. One reception for six yards this week brings his totals over the last five games to ten receptions for 84 yards. And he hasn’t found the end zone since Week 1.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 3, 2012

By: — September 25, 2012 @ 3:14 pm


Moving Up

Andy Dalton, Bengals
We can forgive Dalton for a subpar opening week performance against the Ravens but he has been on fire over the last two weeks, dismantling both the Browns and the Redskins. While neither team has an above average secondary and the Browns were without Joe Haden, Dalton’s numbers were still impressive, as he passed for over 300 yards and threw for three touchdowns in each game. Up next – Jaguars (21st ranked pass defense), Dolphins, (28th) and the Browns again (26th).

Moving Down

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers moving down? Who wudda thunk it?

Aaron Rodgers, Packers
While the Packers skill position players have not played as well as they did in 2011, partly due to injuries, the real issue with Rodgers is the team’s offensive line, which is in shambles. And nobody is even hurt. Who knows – maybe center Jeff Saturday is having trouble with the line calls. Eight sacks to Seattle is a disgrace even if the Seahawks possess one of the league’s better (maybe best) defensive backfields. With just three touchdown passes and 745 passing yards over three games, Rodgers is currently the 23rd ranked fantasy quarterback, not what his owners had in mind, although his next two matchups look sweet (dating myself here) with the Saints and Colts up next.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Mikel Leshoure, Lions
I tried to steal this guy in a couple of leagues last week but the asking price was too high. And it just went up, courtesy of his 26 carries, 100 yards, and one touchdown on the ground this week against the Titans. Leshoure also displayed some pass catching ability, hauling in all four of his targets for 34 yards. Will he get 30 touches every week? Not a chance. But he did prove that he doesn’t need a pile of touches to rack up a decent point total. Leshoure looks like a decent RB2 from here on out.

Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
He’s back!!!!! But not for long if the Chiefs give him 33 carries every week.

Tashard Choice, Bills
C.J. Spiller is likely out with a sprained shoulder and Fred Jackson (knee injury) says there is a 75% chance that he will play. Let’s take that bet and go on the assumption that he won’t dress. That would make Choice the starter and he was solid against the Browns, rushing for 91 yards on 20 carries. Choice is also a solid pass catcher so even if the Bills get behind against the Patriots, he figures to get plenty of touches… provided he starts.

Andre Brown, Giants
Hello, Andre Brown! Subbing in for an injured Ahmad Bradshaw, Brown did his best Jim Brown impersonation, running roughshod over an overmatched Panthers defense last Thursday night. By game’s end, Brown had chalked up 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns on his 20 carries as well as logging three receptions for 17 yards. Sure, the Panthers D probably couldn’t have tackled a Pop Warner reject in this one and the Giants offensive line was dominant but Brown did enough to earn a share of the workload going forward. We all know Bradshaw is injury prone, rookie 1st round pick David Wilson has been a disappointment and the Giants formula in the past has been to use multiple backs.

Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
Looks like Reggie Bush will miss some time with a knee injury and Thomas played well this week against the Jets, gaining 69 yards and scoring the first rushing touchdown of his career in the Dolphins 23-20 loss. A lost fumble didn’t help his cause but he moved ahead of rookie 4th round pick Lamar Miller on the depth chart and is the odds on favorite to get the start this week against the Cardinals if Bush can’t go.

Bilal Powell, Jets
Powell had the most extensive work of his two-year career against the Dolphins, gaining 69 yards on 12 touches. With Joe McKnight buried on the depth chart and Shonn Greene not much of a receiving threat, Powell had five targets in the passing game and may be nudging the Jets into a timeshare situation with Greene. Or maybe they reduced Greene’s workload due to the concussion he suffered last week. Either way, Powell is worth a look if you have a bench spot open.

Moving Down

Chris Johnson, Titans
Moving Down three weeks in a row. The funny thing is that I’m not even bitter about his pathetic performance since I refused to own him in any of my leagues this year. This is just a bit of a hate on for guys who get their money and bust and guys who won’t man up for their poor performance. CJ2K (time to replace that nickname, folks) fails on both counts.

Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Last week, we put Ryan Williams Moving Down and that didn’t work out so well. Williams got the majority of the work this week against the Eagles and played well, gaining 83 yards on 13 carries and catching one pass for 12 yards. Wells (turf toe) can’t stay healthy and he hasn’t produced when he’s been in there. Expect this backfield to be in flux for most of 2012.

Kevin Smith, Lions
I’m dropping in here for the second week in a row just so I can provide myself with an opportunity to say I told you so to a few people who were calling me out on having Moving Down last week. Petty, yes. With Mikel Leshoure in the line up for the first time ever, Smith was unceremoniously benched this week and given no touches. Joique Bell backed up Leshoure and unless there is an injury, Smith appears to be firmly planted on the bench and likely out of a job if Jahvid Best returns at some point this season.

Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Just a little reminder that the Patriots never employ a workhorse back and there will be days like this. As in, 13 carries for Ridley for 37 yards and precious little playing time in the second half when the team went no huddle. Ridley should be a solid RB3 by season’s end but not without some hiccups along the way.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Torrey Smith, Ravens
Unless you just came out of your cave, you know what I’m talking about. Heavy heart and all and Smith is the week’s top rated fantasy receiver with six receptions for 127 yards and a pair of scores.

Ramses Barden, Giants
Meet the Giants new top backup wide receiver. With Hakeem Nicks out of the lineup and the Panthers focused on shutting down Victor Cruz, Barden went wild, catching nine of his 10 targets for 138 yards. The Giants throw it enough to support three wide receivers and it looks like Barden is finally realizing the potential that he has shown since being a 3rd round pick in the 2009 draft. Nicks owners should definitely get in on the Barden action.

Denarius Moore, Raiders
Two games, 18 targets, eight receptions, 112 yards and a score. With Darrius Heyward-Bey out for an indefinite period with a concussion and Moore getting on the same page with quarterback Carson Palmer, his fantasy prospects are on the rise.

Moving Down

Dez Bryant, Cowboys
You know, there is a line drawn somewhere in time when a player who was supposed to become something big becomes exactly what he is. It feels like Dez Bryant is about to hit that line. What he could become was always thought to be something elite. What he is right now is a guy who will score some touchdowns but doesn’t seem capable of even topping 1,000 yards. This year, Bryant’s on pace for 875 yards and he has failed to score.

Sidney Rice, Seahawks
The Seahawks are on pace to throw for 2,315 yards in 2012. Since they spread their targets around like peanut butter, Rice has just 15 looks this season, including one in Week 3.

Greg Little, Browns
Head coach Pat Shurmur says Little is on a short leash due to his propensity for dropping passes. Let’s hope you’ve had Little on a leash (as in, on your bench) thus far in 2012.

Mike Williams, Buccaneers
Yes, he has scored two touchdowns but I’m guessing that he’s not going to keep scoring at a 7:1 target to touchdown ratio. I will do the math for you. That is 14 targets on the season. Seven receptions for 104 yards. More math – 34.7 yards per game. The resurrection of Mike Williams is looking less likely as the weeks go by.

Santana Moss, Redskins
It’s officially official. The Redskins have moved on from Moss, as his target total suggests (11 on the season).

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
While Rudolph has yet to emerge as a down the field option for the Vikings, he has become a solid red zone option, hauling in three touchdowns over the past two weeks. With no proven threat opposite Percy Harvin, Rudolph looks good going forward and no, I’m not worried about the imminent return of the immortal Jerome Simpson.

Moving Down

Jason Witten, Cowboys
What’s wrong with Witten? The normally reliable Dallas tight end entered the season still healing from a spleen injury but has managed to catch just six of 16 targets over the past two games for a paltry 64 yards. Witten says he is healthy but you have to wonder given his low production in 2012. It might just be that some combination of injuries and age are finally catching up to the Cowboys likely Hall of Fame tight end.

Chargers Ryan Mathews Breaks Collarbone – Fantasy Impact

By: — August 11, 2012 @ 12:42 am

San Diego running back Ryan Mathews spent the offseason bulking up in order to fulfill a larger workload in the Chargers backfield in 2012.

It took just one play for Mathews to suffer an injury that may keep him sidelined on opening day. Mathews broke his collarbone on his first preseason carry, and reports indicate he will be out of the lineup for four to six weeks.

With Carolina’s signing of Mike Tolbert as a free agent in the offseason and the Chargers’ signing of former Dolphin and Eagle Ronnie Brown to replace him, Mathews was expected to see his usage increase in 2012.

However, with the start of the season just four weeks away, he is unlikely to be available for the Chargers’ opening game in Oakland.

San Diego’s first-round pick in the 2010 draft, Mathews has played well when healthy but has suffered numerous minor ailments that have either caused him to miss games or play at less than full health.

Ryan Mathews

Mathews is living up to his label as a fragile RB with big injury risk.

Fantasy Impact

It didn’t take long for Mathews to prove his fantasy doubters correct. He was already labeled an injury risk by many, so a broken collarbone on his first preseason carry is likely to cause plenty of owners to drop him down their cheat sheets or consider him persona non grata on draft day.

As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Maybe this is an opportunity.

Given his solid production in a timeshare with Tolbert last season and his projected workload this year with Tolbert now gone, Mathews was expected to build on his 2011 production of 1,091 rushing yards, 455 receiving yards and six rushing touchdowns. Considering that Tolbert vultured ten touchdowns in 2011 (and 11 in 2010), all Mathews needed to do to improve on his 2011 fantasy running back rank of seventh was stay healthy.

So much for that.

If you had Mathews rated as a top five running back (as most did), you have to bump him down a couple of notches under the assumption that he will miss at least one game. The greater risk may be if the San Diego coaching staff were to decide against making him the workhorse back they had envisioned in the offseason.

But do they have that option? Brown appeared to be on his last legs in 2011 with the Eagles, and his signing seemed a desperation move by the Chargers. Curtis Brinkley looked decent last season but not good enough to stop the team from signing Brown, Le’Ron McClain and Jackie Battle.

While Mathews’ injury is clearly a setback, it’s not one that should preclude fantasy owners from grabbing him if he slides too far. Where is too far? In a 12-team league, you can feel good about grabbing Mathews in the early second round, given the question marks the second tier of running backs face in 2012.

When Two Is One Too Many – Thomas vs. Decker

By: — August 9, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

In my continuing quest to contribute to your draft-day domination, I will compose a series of blogs over the next few weeks that focus on players that are sure to create some hardship for fantasy owners: players on the same team who play the same position that will likely have a significant fantasy impact. For those of you who regularly read and contribute to the FF Today Forums, consider this short series a distant relative to “Look-Alike Players”. My goal is to create a compelling case for and against each player before handing down a final decision. Let’s get started:

The players in question this week: Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker

The setup: Full-point PPR; 10 rushing/receiving yards equal one fantasy point; all touchdowns are worth six fantasy points.

Current ADP (courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator): Thomas – 5.05 Decker – 6.04

What’s at stake: Grabbing the better fantasy WR2 of the two the Denver Broncos have to offer.

Demaryius Thomas

Decker doesn't possess Thomas' natural talent.

The case for Thomas: Raw talent. When Thomas was healthy for the first time in his pro career, it showed. From Week 13 on, Thomas dwarfed all of his teammates in just about every receiving category with Tim Tebow as his quarterback, commanding over 37% of the targets (65 of 175) over the Broncos’ final seven games, including the postseason. New QB Peyton Manning has already admitted to the Denver Post that Thomas “is a guy we’re going to feature” and CB Champ Bailey told the team’s website the 6-3, 228-pound receiver is “on top of” his route running this season. In terms of the S-W-S model (size, weight and speed) the NFL likes to use, fellow Georgia Tech alum Calvin Johnson may be Thomas’ only peer at the receiver position.

The case against Thomas: While one could question the lack of durability tag that I placed on Julio Jones last week, Thomas has a significant injury track record. He has battled a number of injuries – most notably to his hand, head (concussion) and Achilles’– since the pre-draft process in 2010. His lack of durability certainly hasn’t helped his development as an all-around receiver, although Bailey’s comments above suggest that part of his game is coming around.

The case for Decker: Route-running and the Broncos’ plans for him, which include moving him around the formation. While Decker is the same height as Thomas and actually only gives up about 10 pounds, Decker simply knows how to get open – something that was on full display when Kyle Orton ran the team for the first month as he posted a 20-270-4 line to begin last season. While it is never good to put too much stock in early training-camp returns, the consensus seems to be that Manning and Decker have “clicked” and their off-season work together shows on the field. Since Decker seems to be the clear choice for slot duties and the potential exists that Manning may not have the same arm strength he used to – due to his neck surgeries – Decker could easily finish with upwards of 100 receptions given the history Manning has with using that position (Austin Collie, Brandon Stokley).

The case against Decker: Simply put, Decker isn’t all that flashy, which makes it hard for some fantasy owners to buy into him. The 2010 third-rounder also hasn’t exactly dodged the injury bug either over his two-year pro career, although he has missed just two games – both in 2010. And while Denver has big plans for Decker, he’ll have plenty of competition for slot duties with Stokley, Andre Caldwell and Jacob Tamme all likely to get some time there as well.

The verdict: First, let me just say that both players are incredible value at their current ADP. But given the PPR format, I would side with Decker. In non-PPR, it is probably a coin flip. Perhaps it is unfair to cite durability as the main reason to rank one player over another – just as I did last week – but sometimes the best ability is availability. Flash doesn’t always produce cash; fantasy owners must be willing to look at more factors than just talent when ranking players. Sometimes, quarterbacks bond with the unexciting options they can trust and that seems to be the case with Decker. With that said, owners should be thrilled to land either player as a WR2 in a Manning-led offense because there’s very little “bust” potential here. There’s also a very good chance that at least one – if not both – of these players will be considered a fantasy WR1 at this point next season.

Overvalued / Undervalued – Running Backs

By: — August 8, 2012 @ 10:47 am

The running back position in fantasy football has lost a bit of its luster the last few years as the emphasis has shifted to elite quarterbacks and wide receivers in the NFL. However the position is still a requirement in our fantasy football leagues and running backs play an important role in your team’s success. This year there are some notable names slipping to the later rounds and simply being counted on to provide quality numbers despite age, injury and declining skills while others are looking to rebound into stud RB1 territory. Here is a look at a few such players – one’s to target and others to seriously think twice about.


Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans
Average Draft Position: 1.07

Johnson appears to have benefited from reputation alone. Are people forgetting last season? It was a brutal year – not interrupted by injuries but slowed by Johnson’s apparent apathy and the fact that he is a smallish back running behind a smallish offensive line. So what has changed? Unfortunately not much expect for a slightly better attitude heading into camp. A look at the trends raise huge red flags – in the last three years he has gone from 358 to 316 to 262 carries; from 5.6 to 4.3 to 4.0 yards per carry; and from 14 to 11 to 4 rushing touchdowns. Yup, Johnson is trending exactly the wrong way and is still the fifth back being drafted in mocks this season. The addition of rookie Kendall Wright and the presence of Javon Ringer will certainly limit Johnson’s touches. He was a bust last year and his situation hasn’t improved – late second/early third round is OK for Johnson. Middle of the first round is not.

Matt Forte – Chicago Bears
Average Draft Position: 1.11

There is no denying the talent of Mr. Forte but there are is no shortage of red flags ahead. The screen-happy Mike Martz is gone as offensive coordinator and Forte is coming off an sprained MCL suffered in Week 13 last season. Finally, there is the Bears’ acquisition of Michael Bush who figures to snake goaline opportunities from Forte. Matt is a nice player for sure but to count on him as your first running back pick may be a little overly optimistic. Late second round, early third is OK for Forte but first is just too rich.

Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings
Average Draft Position: 2.07

Don’t be fooled by the videos of AP working out, looking chiseled and shrugging off an injury that should take 12 months to get over. It was only December that AP had reconstructive surgery on three, count ‘em three ligaments in his knee. I guess that Peterson could be the exception to the rule but I am expecting at least mid-season before he is back to full strength. Add in the fact that he is playing on a subpar team and Peterson looks like the biggest risk on the board. Let’s face it – Christian Ponder scares absolutely nobody and Percy Harvin is as big a question mark as Peterson. Let someone else gamble on AP this year in the second round – if he is there late in the third/early in the fourth round then take the gamble.


Shonn Greene – New York Jets
Average Draft Position: 5.06

I know, I know – Greene has been underwhelming but a look at the Jets backfield situation reveals that Greene is a virtual lock for 250-300 touches this season. He finished 17th among fantasy backs last season with LaDainian Tomlinson snaking a portion of his opportunities. This season he is the 23rd RB off the board and he has just Joe McKnight to compete with…? He is durable and is evolving into a decent pass catching back and will be the feature back in a run heavy offense – what’s not to like? He has certainly been underwhelming in the past but with the opportunities he is certain to get, he is a rock solid RB2 and may be worthy of at least a fourth round pick.

Willis McGahee – Denver Broncos
Average Draft Position: 5.11

With all of the noise that Peyton Manning has made in Denver, it is Willis McGahee that has slipped between the fantasy draft cracks. Absolutely nobody is talking about him. Last season he had 1199 yards, 4.8 yards per carry and but only four rushing TDs – something that is bound to change now that the touchdown snake Tim Tebow has left town. Knowshon Moreno isn’t going to threaten his touches; Lance Ball isn’t either and the only other competition for McGahee is Ronnie Hillman – a smallish back that won’t be on the field in the red zone. The Broncos are a far superior offensive team to the one that took the field in 2011 and McGahee, arguably their best and most consistent contributor from last season, figures to benefit from the holes that are bound to be open with the presence of Mr. Manning. McGahee as a RB2 in the fifth is a steal – 1200 yards and 10 scores is value as the 25th RB off the board!

James Starks – Green Bay Packers
Average Draft Position: 6.09

It is not often that you can bank on getting the unquestioned backfield leader of a powerful offense in the sixth round but that is exactly what you get in James Starks. Sure, he hasn’t scored since the first game of the 2011 season and sure he only had 162 touches last year. But entering 2012, Ryan Grant is gone and his competition for carries is Brandon Saine – Brandon who? My guess is that Starks hits 1000 combined yards this season with 6-8 scores. As mentioned, he has no competition and remember – Aaron Rodgers is just one open field hit away from another serious concussion. Green Bay has to run more this season and Starks has to be the beneficiary.

Overvalued / Undervalued – Quarterbacks

By: — July 26, 2012 @ 11:55 pm

Quarterback has become the make or break position in fantasy football over the past couple years. Remember when running backs dominated the first two rounds of most drafts? It wasn’t that long ago. Now we see as many as three QBs going in the first round – but is it justified? In some cases, yes, but there are gems going in the later rounds that can help you win your fantasy championship in December.


Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Average Draft Position: 2.10

Cam Newton was an absolute fantasy beast last season – 4000 passing yards, 21 passing TDs and 14, count ‘em 14 rushing scores. The hype is warranted but his selection in the second round may not be. You don’t have to look back too far to conjure up examples of how multi-tooled quarterbacks have fared the year after a breakout season… think Michael Vick and Vince Young. Expect the rushing TDs to decrease – they almost have to with battering ram Mike Tolbert in the fold, snaking those red zone opportunities. That leaves the onus on Newton’s ability to throw the ball in order to appease his high ADP. He is good, not great and his weapons outside of Steve Smith are far from elite. Add in the fact that defenses will have had a full off-season to think about Newton’s attributes and he becomes the riskiest of the top 5 quarterbacks on the board.

Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
Average Draft Position: 5.12

Manning has become one of the most polarizing players in the world of fantasy this off-season and rightfully so. The future Hall of Famer obviously has the skills, the smarts and the desire to prove his doubters wrong but a fifth round selection is too early. We know his amazing track record of consistency and the fact that he has reportedly looked OK in organized activities, but the negatives far outweigh the positives. There are the four neck surgeries, a new team, a new system and the fact that his weapons are Eric Decker and Demaryuis Thomas instead of Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and even Marvin Harrison. Manning is the classic risk/reward pick in the fifth round – better to look at Eli, Philip Rivers and even Matt Ryan who are being drafted a round or two after Peyton.

Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
Average Draft Position: 8.08

There is no doubting the talent of Griffin and the fact that he will one day be a solid pro. Where the problem lies is in people’s expectations. At present he is being drafted in the eighth round ahead of such names as Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub to name a few. Cam Newton set the bar very high last year but people have to realize that Newton’s monumental season was the exception, not the rule. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers are all quarterbacks that struggled or were not ready to play in their first season as pros. Griffin has Pierre Garcon, an aging Santana Moss and a troubled Fred Davis in his arsenal. He also has the daunting task of playing the Giants, the Eagles and the Cowboys two times each this year. I have no problem with those who draft Griffin III as a QB2 with upside but to draft him as your starter is an enormous risk – one that I would stay away from.


Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben is poised to have his best fantasy season to date.

Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
Average Draft Position: 8.11

Where is the love for Mr. Roethlisberger? People tend to forget that he has passed for 4000 yards and at least 20 touchdowns in two of the last three seasons – the other season he missed the first four games. There are a few of factors that we need to look at here. First, the Steelers significantly upgraded a glaring weakness on their team in the draft – they picked up two stud offensive linemen that instantly plug a gaping hole. Second, Ben has weapons – Mike Wallace (if and when he signs), Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders strike the fear of God in opposing defensive coordinators. Third, is the injury to Rashard Mendenhall who figures to miss a good chunk of the season – do you trust Isaac Redman? And finally there is new offensive coordinator Todd Haley who, despite a bit of controversy has a chance to re-ignite this offense. Ben is a sure-fire every week fantasy starter and he is the 13th QB off the board. My bet is that he finishes this season in the top 10 and rewarding those who waited until the eighth round to select him.

Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears
Average Draft Position: 9.02

Cutler’s ADP is right behind that of Big Ben’s – behind Robert Griffin III? Amazing! The biggest story for Cutler in 2012 is the Bears’ acquisition of Brandon Marshall. Marshall caught 100 balls in 2008 when Cutler finished top five among fantasy quarterbacks. The Bears also drafted Alshon Jeffrey in the second round this year – needless to say the receiver position has been significantly upgraded. Mike Martz is out as offensive coordinator and Mike Tice is in. This move will allow the Bears to play to Cutler’s strengths – more five step drops instead of seven step drops. Add in the fact that the Bears possess one of the best pass catching running backs in the league (Matt Forte) and that potential shootouts with Green Bay and Detroit loom and one has to look at Cutler as a low-end fantasy starter this year – not the high-end QB2 that he is being drafted as.

Carson Palmer – Oakland Raiders
Average Draft Position: 11.02

Palmer is currently the 16th quarterback being taken in most drafts. Consider that he came off the couch last season more than half way through the year, learned a completely new playbook on the fly and still registered top ten fantasy numbers down the stretch (293 yards per game). Pretty impressive. In 2012 he will have a full training camp under his belt and he will have a rapport with a young and extremely talented group of receivers. His own defense figures to be poor again and he has the benefit of playing against some underwhelming AFC West defenses as well. It all adds up to a better than average year for Mr. Palmer who is certainly worth QB2 consideration with serious upside in the 11th round of your fantasy draft.

When Two Is One Too Many – Stewart vs. Williams

By: — @ 10:28 pm

In my continuing quest to contribute to your draft-day domination, I will compose a series of blogs over the next few weeks that focus on players that are sure to create some hardship for fantasy owners: players on the same team who play the same position that will likely have a significant fantasy impact. For those of you who regularly read and contribute to the FF Today Forums, consider this short series a distant relative to “Look-Alike Players”. My goal is to create a compelling case for and against each player before handing down a final decision. Let’s get started:

The players in question this week: Running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams

The setup: Full-point PPR; 10 rushing/receiving yards equal one fantasy point; all touchdowns are worth six fantasy points.

Current ADP (courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator): Stewart – 7.05 Williams – 8.03

What’s at stake: Grabbing the better fantasy RB3 of the two the Carolina Panthers have to offer.

The case for Stewart: There seems to be very little argument that Stewart is the best “backup” running back in the league. Not only that, but Pro Football Focus has identified him as the NFL’s most elusive back in two of his four seasons in the league. And it isn’t hard to understand why: at 5-10 and 235 pounds, Stewart possesses the rare combination of power and speed that would make him the featured back on several teams around the league. When it became clear that QB Cam Newton was the real deal early last season, Stewart showed an ability in the passing game that few people knew he had simply because he had never really been asked to serve in that role in college (51 receptions in three years at Oregon) or the NFL (34 career catches prior to 2011). Stewart became the de facto third-down back when Mike Goodson could not stay healthy and, despite a career low in carries, managed his second-best fantasy season thanks in large part to a personal-best 47 catches.

The case against Stewart: Opportunity, especially now that “Double Trouble” may now evolve into “Triple Threat” with the addition of another capable big back in Mike Tolbert. Despite the Panthers’ assertion that Tolbert will merely serve as the fullback, most teams don’t feel compelled to dish out a four-year, $8.4 M contract to a player at that position when the combination of Stewart and Williams averaged nearly 5.4 yards per carry last season without him. In my opinion, Tolbert was signed for several reasons (in order): 1) serve as insurance against Jonathan Stewart leaving as a free agent after the season, 2) be the goal-line back in order to reduce the likelihood that Newton gets hurt, 3) act as the third-down back and 4) resume his role as a special-teams ace. Assuming any or all of the first three assumptions are correct, it is probably a safe to say that no player’s fantasy value is going up anytime soon. Additionally, OC Rob Chudzinski was on the Chargers’ offensive staff during Tolbert’s first three years in the league, including his 11-TD season in 2010. Stewart was already on the wrong end of carry split with Williams last year (155-142), so if Tolbert robs Stewart of a sizable portion of his work in the passing game and the carry split with Williams remains about the same, Stewart will have trouble maintaining any kind of relevance in fantasy.

Stewart saw action in 55.2% of the team’s offensive plays last season while Williams (pictured) took part in 42.7%.

The case for Williams: People have been quick to write off Williams because of the immense talent Stewart possesses, but the 29-year-old still has plenty of explosion left as his 69- and 74-yard touchdown runs from a season ago will attest. So will the fact that he’s averaged 5.0 YPC or better in four of the past five seasons. The fact the new coaching staff saw fit to give slightly more of the rushing workload to Williams, which may have simply been a coincidence or acknowledgement that since Stewart is a more trusted option in the passing game, Williams should receive a few more carries. Whatever the reason, Williams has held the edge in rushing attempts over Stewart in all three years the two have played together in which they both have been healthy, which includes a head coaching change and a two different offensive coordinators. And, of course, there is the huge contract Williams signed last off-season, which gives us a pretty good indication that Carolina expects at least 10-12 touches per game from him.

The case against Williams: Ironically, almost the same case that can be made against Stewart – opportunity. What was already an uncertain backfield picture got even messier with the addition of Tolbert, but the signs of Williams’ role decreasing were already present last season. According to ESPN, Stewart saw action in 55.2% of the team’s offensive plays last season while Williams took part in 42.7%. Furthermore, Williams handled just two carries inside the opponent’s five-yard line last season and only had 13 opportunities (12 rushes, one pass target) inside the 20. And despite a catch rate of 73.8% over the course of his career, Williams has never been a high-volume pass catcher with his 33 receptions as a rookie back in 2006 still standing as his career high. Add it all up and we’ve pretty much eliminated just about every way a running back can consistently score in fantasy.

The verdict: Hung jury, anyone? While Chudzinski has already proven himself to be a brilliant offensive mind, it will be nearly impossible for him to keep everyone happy. In all my years of playing fantasy football, I cannot recall a situation in which three running backs were able to maintain fantasy value at the same time, especially in one where the quarterback is a big part for the rushing attack. With that said, the Panthers’ running backs still finished 13th overall in PPR scoring last season even though Newton stole much of the goal-line work. So it is safe to say the idea this backfield doesn’t have much to offer in way of RB fantasy points is an illusion despite Newton’s 14 rushing scores. Since I am being asked to rule in favor of one of the men on trial here, I will lean slightly towards Stewart, but don’t make the mistake of underestimating the impact Tolbert will have on this backfield.

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