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When Two Is One Too Many – Nicks vs. Cruz

By: — July 12, 2012 @ 1:44 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 Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.

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): Nicks – 4.01; Cruz – 3.09

What’s at stake: Grabbing the better fantasy WR1 of the two the New York Giants have to offer.

The case for Nicks: As the Giants’ top receiver with two 70+ catch seasons under his belt and incredible talent, Nicks represents the safer pick – from a year-to-year consistency standpoint – of the two New York wideouts. Nicks has also been an impact player since his rookie season in 2009 and as he proved throughout the playoffs last season, he can often be virtually unstoppable at times, even when he isn’t healthy. Five of his 11 touchdown receptions last season (including the playoffs) were less than five yards, meaning QB Eli Manning has a great deal of trust in him to make the necessary catch in tight quarters, be it a diving catch on a low throw by the front pylon or a fade pattern near the back of the end zone. With 28 touchdown catches in his first three seasons, Nicks is unquestionably a fantasy WR1 in PPR and non-PPR leagues when he is on the field.

The case against Nicks: Durability. Few will argue that Nicks is not or cannot be an elite fantasy receiver. (In full-point PPR leagues, he has scored less than 10 fantasy points just nine times in 46 career contests, including the playoffs!) The problem is that he almost always seems to be playing in pain and has yet to make it through an entire season. And when owners are trying to build the foundation for their fantasy team in the first few rounds, they want high-scoring players who they can plug into their lineups every week without fail. To further support the durability claim, Nicks is recovering from offseason foot surgery and appears to a question mark for the start of training camp, if not the season opener. This comes after a season in which he battled a string of nagging shoulder, knee and hamstring issues.

The case for Cruz: It’s hard to put into words the leap the former undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts made in his second season. After not catching a single pass in three games during his rookie year, Cruz exploded on the scene in his sophomore campaign with 82 catches for a franchise-best 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. To put that team record into some perspective, Cruz joined elite company as only the fourth post-merger receiver to go over the 1,500-yard receiving mark in his second season, joining the likes of Jerry Rice and former Rams teammates Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. While stats can often be deceiving, it’s hard to dispute that Cruz’s 2011 season just landed him alongside the receivers who currently occupy first, third and tenth place on the league’s career receiving yards list. Also working in the favor of Cruz is the success former Giant receiver Steve Smith had in Nicks’ rookie season. Playing the same kind of hybrid outside/slot role that Smith did back then, Cruz averaged over nine targets per game over the final 14 regular-season contests (when he became a bigger part of the offense), less than a target per game less than what Smith averaged during his breakout campaign.

Injury concerns with Nicks point the arrow in Cruz's favor.

The case against Cruz: The questions that any undrafted small-school player who seemingly comes out of nowhere typically gets, such as “Can he do it again?” and “Will he be content resting on his laurels now that he has proven himself on the big stage?”. Was his playoff showing – which was still impressive by all accounts yet slightly disappointing based on the standard he set during the regular season – a sign of things to come when defenses made more of an effort to stop him and let an injured Nicks beat them instead? They are fair questions and ones that we have to let play out, especially in his case since the only true hint he provided us that he was capable of this kind of performance before last season was during a three-touchdown game against the Jets during the 2010 preseason.

The verdict: Cruz. In a perfect world, this would be an apples-to-apples comparison in which we could discuss talent vs. opportunity vs. role. But the fact of the matter is that until Nicks can get healthy and stay that way, fantasy owners would be advised to select a more durable receiver as their top receiver option or hope that Nicks somehow slides in the draft enough to be a fantasy WR2. If injuries were not a consideration,then I would lean slightly towards Nicks. Furthermore, Cruz has locked down his role in the slot, which Smith has already proven can provide a windfall of fantasy points. The truth of the matter is that both players should benefit from the other’s presence – in reality as well as fantasy – since most defenses cannot realistically expect to slow both receivers down for an entire game. Both Nicks and Cruz should be viewed as solid foundation pieces for any fantasy team with top-five upside at their position.

Dynasty Wheeling and Dealing

By: — June 18, 2012 @ 12:55 am

I was recently invited to participate in the Dynasty Experts League hosted by Dynasty League Football. It is a 12-team, PPR scoring and individual defensive player lineup format league. This is a pure dynasty league, with all players held over every year. A combined rookie and free agent draft takes place in early June.

The league is entering its fourth season, but I’m onboard starting this year taking over an existing team. Fortunately for me, the team was well managed in terms of stocking it with young talent that should serve me well years into the future. That talent includes Cam Newton, Josh Freeman, Daniel Thomas, Jonathan Baldwin, Steve Johnson, Denarius Moore, Torrey Smith, Jimmy Graham, Brandon Pettigrew and Colin McCarthy, plus the 1.04 pick in the 2012 rookie draft and a pair of first round picks in 2013.

Like I said, I’m fortunate to acquire such a team with a nice strong nucleus of stars, especially Newton, Graham, Moore and Smith, even if the roster is light at RB. We recently completed the draft, and I wanted to share some of the moves and picks I made to get from my starting roster to today.

After I took over the team, trade requests from the other sharks started pouring in almost immediately. What do you want for Cam? What is the asking price for Graham? Are you willing to trade the 4th pick?

Whoa, baby. I don’t see any reason to go gangbusters out of the gate here. I will patiently pick my trade spots to balance out making this team competitive both short and long-term – in essence, to build a dynasty. Trade Cam and Graham? Uh, no.

So with that out of the way, the big pre-draft decision is what to do with the 4th pick. This team is light at RB and set at QB. The likely best options when I’m on the clock will be one of Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, and Justin Blackmon.

Doug Martin is who I want. Fantasy Sharks in the first overall spot is not trading it away, so the idea of getting Trent Richardson is a dead end. I do love what I’ve read about Martin and the situation he landed in. The problem is I think Footballguys could take him 2nd overall. If FBG lets him pass, I don’t think Sharks, who also own the 1.03 pick, will take Martin, instead opting for one of Griffin or Luck.

After some jostling back and forth with FBG about the cost to swap picks, he seems open to the idea, but I push my luck by letting him make the pick to see if I could possibly get Martin at four. He picks Martin. Trade! I managed to swing the following deal:

FF Today gives:
Pick 1.04
Pick 2.05
LB Colin McCarthy

Footballguys gives:
RB Doug Martin (Pick 1.02)
Pick 2.02
LB Jerod Mayo

I’m happy with this deal. I prefer McCarthy to Mayo, as did FBG obviously, but certainly a downgrade I can live with to acquire Martin and move up 3 spots in the second round. This is what can happen when you have two people on the same page about player value, each of us recognizing the 2nd, 3rd and 4th picks are very even in 2012 rookie dynasty drafts.

Okay, now on to the draft. You can check the whole draft report for all of the picks, and here is a summary of picks for Team FF Today:

1.02 RB Doug Martin, TB (via trade)
2.02 WR Rueben Randle, NYG
2.04 LB Luke Kuechly, CAR
3.04 S Mark Barron, TB
4.04 DE Cameron Wake, MIA
5.04 K Matt Prater, DEN
6.04 RB Dion Lewis, PHI
7.04 CB Cortland Finnegan, STL
8.04 WR Steve Smith, STL

One other deal to report had me sending RB Mikel Leshoure to Fantasy Sharks in exchange for WR Doug Baldwin and WR Mike Williams (Bucs). True, my team is light at RB, but I’m not keen on LeShoure and from a value standpoint, this looked like a great deal if Williams can rebound reasonably well from his sophomore slump.

So there you have it, all of the changes to the roster I started with less than a month ago, to get to my roster today. Each owner was required to answer the following questions about the draft, and I’ve included my answers here.

1. What was the best value pick in the draft?

1.10 WR Kendall Wright – I guess I’ve read more about Brian Quick since Fantasy Sharks took him at 1.07, causing Michael Floyd and Wright to fall down the board, but even if I accept Quick as a better prospect amongst those three, I disagree with TE Coby Fleener getting drafted in front of Floyd/Wright. Fantasy Sharks seemed to get caught up in drafting for need at that point instead of BPA with so many picks to play with. The result was an excellent value for Pro Football Focus nabbing, surprisingly (Bryan said it himself), Wright down at 1.10. Between a gimpy Kenny Britt and Joe Average Nate Washington, Wright has immediate impact opportunity, and finds himself with a better long-term answer at QB and team I feel is more likely to be on the upswing than the Rams or Cardinals.

Honorable mention: 4.06 TE Dwayne Allen, 4.12 QB Russell Wilson

2. What pick was the biggest reach or most surprising selection in the draft?

1.08 TE Coby Fleener – I’ll lay off Smitty of DraftCalc for the oft-mentioned DeAngelo Hall pick in the late second round, because if I don’t I’m sure I’ll be playing against him the week Hall has his 3 INT game. I’ll come back to Fleener as mentioned above… it seemed too early for a guy at a position that is deep with prospects already 1-2 years in the league, and drafted by a team that drafted two TEs. Sure, Fleener got drafted higher, but I’m not convinced he’ll be the prime receiving choice ahead of Allen and I certainly don’t expect a Gronkowski-Hernandez part deux in Indy anytime soon. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think from a value standpoint Sharks had a good chance to wait on Fleener to nearly the mid-2nd round.

Honorable mention: 2.10 CB DeAngelo Hall, 2.12 CB Darrelle Revis (hell, I’ll take my chances!)

3. Who has helped their team the most to compete this year?

ESPN/Scouts Inc. – To answer this question, you’ve got to look at the trades because there were some big ones. ESPN/Scouts did lose McCoy, Nicks and Brees in their wheeling and dealing, but on the flip side gained Maclin, Fred Davis, Antonio Brown, Vick, Cutler, Steve Smith (CAR), Brandon Marshall, Gresham, Peppers. Adding Ronnie Hillman in the draft should make an immediate impact, although Lamar Miller will not (but I like the pick and considered him strongly over Kuechly). Definitely lost some star power but stocked his starting lineup from top to bottom, plus depth, with solid fantasy contributors that will make this team a challenge to play against every week.

4. Who has had the best draft for building some talent long term, over the next few years?

Fantasy Sharks – This team was loaded for bear with picks in this draft, so they are the hands down winner in this category. I kept checking his roster to see if there was some sort of roster exemption, to understand where he was fitting all of those prospects. This team is pretty competitive right now, already having Romo, Murray, A.J. Green, Bryant, Julio Jones, Gronkowski and then adding Richardson, plus hope for the best immediately from Blackmon, Quick and Fleener. It will be interesting if this team does jump out well this season to see if Jim will go the patient route and stick with all of these young guys, or pawn some off for older stars supporting a perhaps earlier than planned title run.

5. Two teams most likely to be in the title game this year?

Dynasty League Football over Fantasy Sharks

I purposely excluded FF Today from consideration as answers to the questions, but clearly, FF Today is the team that made itself the most competitive. Even if not this year, perennial title game appearances are on the horizon.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 13

By: — November 29, 2011 @ 2:17 pm


Moving Up

Rex Grossman, Redskins
I know – it’s hard to drink the Rex Kool Aid so I’ll be quick (occasionally, that line works on my wife). In the last two games, he’s thrown for 603 yards with four touchdowns and three picks. He also chipped in a rushing touchdown in Week 11 against the Cowboys. He could do a face plant at any time but after the Jets this week, he gets the Patriots (32nd ranked pass defense), Giants (26th and slumping) and Vikings (29th). The schedule is definitely on his side and having Santana Moss back in the line up at wide receiver helps.

Kyle Orton, Chiefs
He’s gotta be in and that’s all I have to say about that.

Tyler Palko, Chiefs
After the Chiefs close loss to the Steelers this week, head coach Todd Haley said he wasn’t sure if the recently acquired Kyle Orton would start at quarterback rather than Palko. With Palko tossing six interceptions and losing in fumble over the course of two games (including four turnovers to a Steelers defense that had accumulated just six over the first ten games of the season), here’s guessing there’s not much to think about. Of course, Haley somehow thought the noodle armed, accuracy challenged Palko was good enough to be an NFL backup so maybe these decisions aren’t quite as obvious as they seem. I guess Palko as a backup isn’t quite as offensive as Ron Jaworski saying that he had an opportunity to be the next Kurt Warner.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Roy Helu, Redskins
Last week, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan opined that Helu wasn’t ready to be the team’s starting running back. Fantasy owners everywhere made sure Helu was sitting on their bench. Sure enough, Helu gets a whopping 30 touches against a stout Seahawks run defense and gains 108 rushing yards, 54 yards receiving and finds the end zone on a nice 28-yard run. And, oh yeah, he was in the starting line up. It’s a mixed bag of run defenses on the horizon (Jets, Patriots, Giants and Vikings over the next four weeks) but given Shanahan’s lack of consistency, it’s hard to start Helu over a guy like the Saints Darren Sproles who is guaranteed to get 10-15 touches every week. That being said, the Redskins aren’t getting to the playoffs, Helu is coming off a monster game and he has topped 100 total yards in all three games that he received at least 13 touches so doesn’t Shanahan have to start him?

LeGarrette Blount, Bucs
After topping 1,000 rushing yards in 2010 despite getting significant playing time in just 11 games, the expectations for Blount this season were pretty high. Unfortunately, he’s had a couple of bad games as well as two performances where he barely saw the field because the Bucs were trailing and he doesn’t contribute in the passing game. However, Blount has been rolling over the past two weeks, topping 100 rushing yards in each game and even chipping in a career-high 56 receiving yards this week against the Titans.

"Beast mode" is on a roll.

Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
It’s been touchdown or bust for Lynch in 2011 and it was nice to see him get on a run of six consecutive contests with a rushing touchdown prior to this week’s game against the Redskins. There was no rushing touchdowns this week but Lynch did top 100 yards rushing (24 for 111) for the third time in four games and also catch a pass for a 20 yard touchdown. He’s rolling at just the right time for his fantasy owners.

Mark Ingram, Saints
Absolutely loved the MNF comment attributed to Saints head coach Sean Payton that the only thing holding Ingram back from being the Rookie of the Year was Payton’s play calling (i.e. not enough touches for Ingram). Yeah, right. That and his atrocious 3.7 yards per carry and 3.6 yards per reception averages heading into Week 12. Giving credit where credit is due, Ingram arguably had a “career game” (little bit of sarcasm there, folks) with 13 carries for 80 yards and a score as well as two receptions for 14 yards. Maybe next week he will top 100 total yards for the first time in his career.

Moving Down

Steven Jackson, Rams
I was high on Jackson as the Rams entered the easier portion of their schedule but the team’s poor passing attack and absolutely devastating injury situation along the offensive line has made it tough sledding for the big Rams back. After three straight 100-yard rushing performances, Jackson has been mostly shut down over the last two weeks by the Seahawks and Cardinals as they stacked the box, limiting Jackson to 139 total yards and no touchdowns in those games. The Rams reshuffled, makeshift offensive line reads, from left to right, Adam Goldberg, Jacob Bell, Tony Wragge, Jason Brown and Harvey Dahl.

C.J. Spiller, Bills
As I said in my column on Fred Jackson’s season-ending injury, Spiller is ill-equipped to handle major touches and hasn’t done much during his first two years in the league. Sure enough, the Jets shut him down easily this week with Spiller gaining 55 yards on 19 carries and catching three passes for 15 yards. He just hasn’t shown anything to suggest that he is a capable NFL starter and his dancing in the backfield leads to far too many negative plays or minimal gains.

Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
With Reggie Bush stringing together a nice stretch of games, Thomas has seen his touches go down in games where the outcome is in doubt. After topping 16 or more touches in each of his first four games, Thomas has had two games with seven touches over his last four contests. And despite entering the league with a reputation as a solid short yardage option, the 228-pound former Kansas State product has found the end zone just once in his rookie season and that was on a pass reception.

Chris Ogbonnaya, Browns
Peyton Hillis made a surprise appearance in the Browns starting line up this week, essentially torpedoing Ogbonnaya’s fantasy value. With Hillis getting a workmanlike 21 touches (and, no, he didn’t do much with them, gaining just 71 yards), Ogbonnaya barely saw the field, gaining 20 yards on four touches. Ogbonnaya’s not the most talented back in the league by any stretch but he did top 100 total yards in each of his last two games and with Hillis unlikely to be re-signed, it seems curious that the Browns gave Hillis so many touches.

Arian Foster, Texans
Just acknowledging that the presence of one T.J. Yates in the starting line up will impact Foster’s production. He’s still a top 10, maybe even top 5 running back the rest of the way but a monster performance may not be in the cards.

Matt Forte, Bears
With the fantasy playoffs just around the corner, Forte has put up his second and third worst fantasy performances over the last two weeks, gaining 85 and 84 total yards in the process and failing to find the end zone. This week, the Bears inexplicably gave backup Marion Barber ten carries to Forte’s 12. Figure that one out. Is injury the issue? Who knows? Either way, Caleb Hanie starting with Jay Cutler out doesn’t help matters. The sad sack Chiefs are up next followed by the Broncos, Seahawks and Packers for the fantasy playoffs.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Johnny Knox, Bears
Let’s connect the dots. In the games that Jay Cutler started, Knox was averaging 4.3 targets, 2.4 receptions and 5.4 fantasy points per game. With Caleb Hanie under center this week, Knox had ten targets, catching four passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. Looks like the backup quarterback likes throwing to his former backup wide receiver. Hopefully offensive coordinator Mike Martz took notice but we all know that Mad Mike works to the beat of his own drummer.

Laurent Robinson, Cowboys
This week against the Dolphins, Robinson hauled in seven receptions for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With that performance, he has now caught 21 passes for 302 yards and five touchdowns in his four starts this season. While Miles Austin is expected back in the starting line up this week after missing three games with an injured hamstring, it’s hard to see the Cowboys relegating Robinson to a pure backup role. Consider him a low end WR3 but worthy of a flex start if your league uses that position.

Roddy White, Falcons
White tested the patience of his fantasy owners for much of 2011 but their patience has been rewarded over the past two weeks with White putting up his two best performances of the season. He had 147 receiving yards in Week 11 against the Titans and topped that this week against the Vikings with ten receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. And look for that production to continue as the coaching staff has been feeding him the ball (27 targets over the past two weeks). Julio Jones was active this week but not fully healthy. Regardless, White is on a roll and the rookie’s presence isn’t expected to change that.

Percy Harvin, Vikings
In another case of “It’s About Time”, how about the Vikings Percy Harvin? Harvin was a dud over the first nine games of 2011, topping 100 total yards once and finding the end zone just once. He scored his second touchdown in Week 11 against the Raiders and totaled 94 yards. This week, he scored again and put up 106 total yards. That gives the multifaceted Harvin 344 total yards and three scores over the past four weeks.

Brandon Lloyd, Rams
I’m guessing that Lloyd likes St. Louis and his fantasy owners like him in St. Louis. In six games with the Rams, Lloyd has 71 targets (that’s 11.8 per game and just one game where he didn’t hit double digit), 31 receptions, 396 yards and four touchdowns. With 10.6 points per game, he rates as a high end WR2 with upside should the Rams somehow find a way to get the offense clicking.

Moving Down

DeSean Jackson, Eagles
Alligator Arms Jackson dropped not one but two potential touchdown passes this week in a must win game for Philadelphia at home against the Patriots. Both catches were plays that teams expect their top wide receivers to make and both times Jackson came up short. The worst one came on a crossing route at the goal line where Jackson dropped an easy catch at the goal line in order to protect himself. If you want to get paid like a superstar, come up big in a big game like a superstar. Kudos to head coach Andy Reid for nailing his so-called superstar to the bench in the fourth quarter.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Tyler Palko is absolutely horrendous and figures to be replaced next week by Kyle Orton, who will have had a week and a half to learn the playbook. That hurts Bowe as does his disappearing act this week against the Steelers at the end of the game. With the game on the line and less than a minute remaining, Bowe raised his arm for the ball to come his way. It did. Bowe jumped. And in order to protect himself, he didn’t bother to raise his arms, pirouetting in the air with his arms at his side. Steelers interception, game over. Another so-called superstar wide receiver who doesn’t get it.

Andre Johnson, Texans
Johnson’s a stud and you have to start him every week no matter who is at quarterback for Houston. However, I’m guessing that T.J. Yates was “trending” big time on Sunday after Matt Leinart suffered a suspected broken collarbone. It’s one thing to go from Matt Schaub to Leinart and quite another to go from Leinart to a rookie 5th round pick from North Carolina. Whether it is Yates or veteran retread Kellen Clemens, Johnson’s value is sinking unless the Texans find a veteran signal caller to spearhead the offense (Brett Favre anyone?).

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
Suffice it to say that Lewis owners have been sorely disappointed with his performance in 2011, after he posted a career year in 2010 with 700 receiving yards and ten touchdowns. Hard to believe but the seven reception, 64 yard performance Lewis had in Week 11 was his best stat line of the year and his four reception, 47 yard outing this week was his second best performance of the season. So, he’s trending up. Maybe next week, he will catch his first touchdown of the year (ugh).

Moving Down

Jermichael Finley, Packers
Let’s pretend Finley’s Week 3 explosion (seven receptions for 85 yards and three touchdowns) against the Bears never happened. Here’s what Finley’s stat line would read: ten games, 29 receptions, 428 yards, two touchdowns, 5.5 points per game. And 5.5 points per game is Heath Miller territory. Think low end TE2.

Bills Fred Jackson Placed on Injured Reserve

By: — November 25, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

With three consecutive losses and their season spiraling out of control, the Buffalo Bills situation went from bad to worse with running back Fred Jackson being placed on injured reserve with a fracture to his fibula bone in his right leg.

Jackson's injury sinks the Bills' ship.

Jackson’s injury is a major blow to a Buffalo squad that unexpectedly started the season with three straight wins and at one point seemed on its way to earning at least an AFC wildcard berth. Those playoff hopes now seem faint at best with Jackson out for the season and the team facing a must win game this week on the road against the New York Jets.

With 934 rushing yards and 442 yards receiving, Jackson was second in the league in total yards from scrimmage and enjoying the finest year of his career at age 30. His receiving yardage from this season surpassed a career-high of 371 set in 2009 and he was on pace to shatter his previous high of 1,062 rushing yards, also set in 2009.

Buffalo will turn to a combination of second year player C.J. Spiller, the ninth pick in the 2010 draft, rookie 5th round pick Johnny White and Tashard Choice, claimed off waivers yesterday from Washington, to try to ignite a Bills offense that has struggled over the past three weeks. The Bills managed just 26 total points in losses to the Jets, Cowboys and Dolphins.

Fantasy Impact

Looking at the Bills offense in general, the unit figures to struggle mightily with defenses no longer having to focus their attention on stopping Jackson in the running game or out of the backfield as a receiving threat. Simply put, none of their other options out of the backfield come close to matching Jackson’s skill level in either area.

Even with Jackson, the Bills offense has struggled in recent weeks due to the loss of Eric Woods, their best offensive lineman, and a number of injuries along the offensive line and at wide receiver. It also seems clear that the league’s defenses have caught on to head coach Chan Gailey’s spread offense that rarely takes shots down the field due to the team’s lack of speed at wide receiver.

Spiller is clearly the most intriguing option behind Jackson but he has struggled to meet the expectations of being the ninth pick in the 2010 draft, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry as a rookie and failing to provide big plays in the passing game. In addition, given his diminutive size, Spiller is ill equipped to handle 15-20 touches per game.

If a player’s use is the main gauge in determining what the coaching staff thinks of them, then Spiller’s average of 3.6 touches per game compared to Jackson’s 22 is revealing. However, general manager Buddy Nix and Gailey are responsible for selecting Spiller so they figure to give him every opportunity to hold on to the starting job down the stretch. Look for White or Choice to handle the goaline chores.

White hasn’t been used much since registering eight carries on opening day and wasn’t even a workhorse back in college at North Carolina, carrying the ball 130 times in his senior season while displaying decent receiving ability there, catching 24 balls. He might grab a few carries per game but unless he shows something quickly, look for Choice to quickly ascent to backup status behind Spiller.

As for Choice, he played well during his first two years in the league, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 8.8 yards per reception in limited action, but has slumped over the past two seasons.

If I’m rolling the dice on one of these guys, Choice comes up a tad short of Spiller.

As for the Bills other skill position players, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick clearly takes as a hit as he loses his highly productive outlet option and wide receiver Steve Johnson, already struggling with just four receptions over his past two games, moves into WR3 territory. Both of these players will have trouble finding the end zone with Jackson out of the line up.

Durable NFL running backs – a true football fantasy

By: — November 6, 2011 @ 1:43 am

In 2010, there were 25 NFL running backs that logged at
least 100 carries and played in all 16 games. In 2009, the number was 19.

This year, let’s hope you kept your rabbit’s foot alongside
your four-leaf clover and threw some salt over your shoulder while avoiding
black cats and remembering not to walk under ladders…

In 2011, the numbers are sobering. Since the season is
nearly half over, I’ll set the bar at 50 carries. By my count, only 30 runners
have surpassed that low benchmark so far. Of those 30 players, only 18 can be
considered decent (or better) regular fantasy starts – and that’s only if you
classify the likes of Chris Johnson, James Starks, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and
Jackie Battle as “decent” this season.

Taken one step further, I count only 14 of those 18 as
runners who have yet to miss a game and/or not projected to sit out this week
(which includes Darren McFadden, Ryan Mathews and Ahmad Bradshaw).

Among the more intriguing bits of information are the names
of some of the players who have survived the carnage so far: Maurice Jones-Drew
(entered season with knee concerns), Frank Gore (missed at least one game in
five of first six NFL seasons), Shonn Greene (yet to play a full season) and
Starks (missed most of 2009 and 2010 seasons due to injury).

Assuming Mathews (who hasn’t played a full football season
since high school and has suffered five known injuries already this season)
beats the odds and finds a way to play through his groin injury in Week 9 –
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune tweeted that he “had a
feeling” he would – he only adds to bizarre list of this season’s
“durable” runners.

With running back depth charts around the NFL already
looking like something out of a horror movie, I decided it was about time to
take a look at the “new wave”. For the purposes of this blog, I’m not
interested in singing the praises of a high-profile second-stringer who is about
to step into the starting lineup, I’m more interested in writing about the
talented third- and fourth-stringers that may end up deciding fantasy
championships this season if this injury wave doesn’t stop.

In no particular order…

Tashard Choice – Perhaps I’m a fool for Mike Shanahan
running backs, but unlike the other RBs on this list, Choice has already shown
a little bit in the league – albeit not much recently. However, unlike the
situation in which he found himself with the Cowboys, Choice may now be able to
show fantasy owners the skills that made him one of the best backup RBs in the
league just two years ago. With a change of scenery, more devotion to the
running game and a chance to rest his nagging injuries, Choice is as good of
bet as any to emerge as the Redskins’ lead RB by the time the fantasy playoffs
roll around.

Taiwan Jones – If the rookie from Eastern Washington wasn’t
buried behind one of the league’s premier backs (McFadden) and one of its
finest second-stringers (Michael Bush), there is a pretty good chance you would
know Jones by now. Perhaps Oakland’s plan of resting McFadden for Week 9 allows
him to play in Week 10 (a Thursday night game vs. the Chargers), but D-Mac’s
return for that game is far from guaranteed, which means Jones could have a
shot at fantasy value for two games. With his speed and playmaking ability, he
may not need more than 8-10 touches in either game to have a fantasy impact for
desperate owners.

Chris Ogbannaya – Peyton Hillis aggravated his hamstring
(again) and is likely to miss multiple weeks while Montario Hardesty is on the
same timetable with a calf injury, which means Ogbannaya is already assured a
starting job for the next week or two. Ogbannaya, who did some good things with
the Texans in the preseason, struggled in his first real shot at significant
touches in Week 8. However, as long as he is only fighting off the likes of
Thomas Clayton, Ogbannaya will have a shot at 15-20 touches and will be a
usable bye-week fill-in/desperation start in PPR leagues because the Browns
lack playmakers in the passing game but rank among the league leaders in pass

Kregg Lumpkin – There’s a pretty good chance Lumpkin is
already rostered in deeper leagues. HC Raheem Morris is talking up LeGarrette
Blount as an every-down back in the wake of Earnest Graham’s season-ending
injury, but I can’t imagine how that experiment will work out well for the
Bucs. First and foremost, when Blount returns to the field in Week 9, it will
be for the first time he’s played in nearly a month, so conditioning will be an
issue. Secondly, Blount isn’t the most able or willing in blitz pick-up nor is
he an accomplished receiver, so defenses like the Saints will be even apt to
load the box and blitz more than they already do. Last but not least, I have my
doubts about Blount’s ability to avoid another injury.

Curtis Brinkley – The Chargers’ running-back rotation of
Mathews and Mike Tolbert takes turns getting hurt, which means owners of either
one or both players really need to consider keeping tabs on Brinkley. While he
is hardly a threat to either player and is clearly a backup, PPR owners
undoubtedly took note at what Brinkley was able to do following Mathews’
departure in the Monday night loss to the Chiefs. Should Mathews and/or Tolbert
both miss games at the same time, Brinkley would quickly become a temporary RB2
in PPR since San Diego utilizes its backs so often in the passing game. With
bye weeks mercifully coming to an end, I would strongly advise owners of
Mathews and/or Tolbert to find room for Brinkley.

Phillip Tanner – I briefly discussed Tanner in the Blitz
last week, so suffice it to say that his opportunity to shine on the likelihood
that DeMarco Murray cannot stay healthy and Felix Jones continues being
“fragile”. Since both Murray and Jones are huge injury question
marks, it is not a stretch to think that Tanner won’t get an opportunity as the
featured back for a 1-2 game stretch. There’s also a pretty good chance Tanner
never gets that shot, but Dallas should consider using him in a goal-line role
and make sure it reduces its risk of burdening any of its runners by making
sure it uses all of them.

Da’Rel Scott – Even by the standards of this blog, Scott is
a complete shot in the dark for any modicum of fantasy value this season.
However, his chances just increased this week with Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot
injury. Coming off his own injury, Brandon Jacobs is talking and playing his
way out of New York and D.J. Ware has essentially been pigeonholed into a
third-down back role. The one thing Scott has is what Bradshaw brings to the
table and the other two do not – speed. Like Bradshaw, Scott enters the league
as a talented but injury-prone enigma. Either way, it would not surprise me if
Scott got his first real chance vs. New England today and makes the most of it.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 6

By: — October 11, 2011 @ 7:49 pm


Moving Up

Matt Cassel, Chiefs
The good news is that Cassel is heating up as we’re going through bye weeks. The bad news is that he’s on a bye in Week 6. Rats. Over the last two weeks, Cassel has looked like the player we expected entering the season, solid but far from spectacular. He had his best fantasy game of the year against the Colts, throwing for 257 yards and four touchdowns, one week after throwing for 260 yards and a score against the Vikings. Here’s his schedule beginning in Week 7: Raiders (28th ranked pass defense), Chargers (2nd – okay, not so good), Dolphins (27th), Broncos (21st), Patriots (31st), Steelers (1st), Bears (26th), Jets (5th), Packers (29th) and Raiders (28th). That’s right through to Fantasy Football Championship Games in Week 16 and it looks pretty darn nice.

Curtis Painter, Colts
Turns out Painter’s not quite as clueless as he led us to believe during significant playing time in a pair of games to close out the 2009 season and in most of his preseason contests. With the Colts in desperation mode, Painter has started each of Indianapolis’ last two games and looked solid, completing 28 of 59 passes for 558 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. That’s pretty impressive considering the state of the Colts offensive line (they were horrendous during Painter’s first start against the Bucs).

Tebow is likely to give his fantasy owners a wild ride.

Tim Tebow, Broncos
It’s Tebow time. Help yourself to what surely will be the one of the most up and down fantasy quarterbacks for the balance of the 2011 season. The Broncos were surely looking to find a reason to insert Tebow into the starting line up and incumbent starter Kyle Orton provided it this week with a dud of a performance against the Charges. The good news is that Tebow is his own goal line back and has seven rushing touchdowns (including one this week) in just 12 career games. The bad news is that it often looks like he’s throwing to opposing cornerbacks as much as his own wide receivers. Dig in for a wild ride, folks.

Moving Down

Mark Sanchez, Jets
Frustration. If you own Sanchez in a dynasty league, that’s what you’re feeling. He’s blown hot and cold for much of his career but appeared ready to emerge as an upper tier fantasy backup after three decent outings to start the season where he averaged 25.9 fantasy points per game. Unfortunately, his combined point total over his last two games (Ravens and Patriots) didn’t hit 25.9 – try 22.6 including a true Week 4 dud against the Ravens with just 6.3. That one you could excuse him for but just 16.3 fantasy points on 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a very poor Patriots secondary is cause for concern.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Jackie Battle, Chiefs
While it’s difficult to say with certainty that Battle is a big upgrade over Thomas Jones, he did get a healthy dose of playing time this week and he certainly made the most it. In the first extensive playing time of his career, Battle had 19 carries for 119 yards and two receptions for 21 yards. His 21 touches topped the Chiefs running backs with Thomas Jones getting 12 and Dexter McCluster just five. That doesn’t mean Battle has earned the starting position for the balance of the season but it does mean he’s earned it for the time being. The Chiefs have a Week 6 bye followed by a stretch of games where they face run defenses ranked 12th or lower until they face the Packers 3rd ranked run defense in Week 15. Lightning in a bottle perhaps? You never know.

Delone Carter and Donald Brown, Colts
Starter Joseph Addai injured his hamstring this week against the Chiefs and initial reports indicate he will miss 1-3 weeks. That opens the door Carter and Brown and if this week is any indication, the Colts will ride the hot hand. Brown had been left for dead but looked like the better back of the two this week with 38 yards on eight carries. Can’t say I’d want to have to rely on either one and it’s possible this situation will remain muddled until Addai returns. Only for the desperate.

Willis McGahee, Broncos
Okay, enough already. The Broncos have clearly given up on 2009 1st round pick Knowshon Moreno. When you’ve handed the lead role to the plodding McGahee, what other conclusion can be reached? On the plus side, McGahee has topped 100 yards in three of the past four weeks. Sure, the Broncos are facing soft defenses and they play from behind but McGahee is making the most of the opportunities and it’s not like the Broncos are about ready to turn their season around, Tim Tebow or no Tim Tebow.

Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers
With Rashard Mendenhall out with a hamstring injury and replacement starter Isaac Redman suffering from cramps, Dwyer stepped into the fray and showed why Pittsburgh used a 2010 6th round pick to acquire him. Dwyer had easily his best game as a pro, gaining 107 yards on 11 carries and catching a pass for six yards. The Jaguars are on tap in Week 6 and if Mendenhall can’t go, Dwyer has likely earned at least 1/3rd of the carries in a split role with Redman.

Moving Down

LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
After having two solid performances during the first three games of the season, LT has become a forgotten man in New York with just seven touches over the last two games. Looks like the Jets are making a concerted effort to get Shonn Greene going and he posted his best game of the season this week against the Patriots. That doesn’t bode well for LT owners.

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
See above. Relegated to 3rd down duty and nothing more. This week, that meant not one single carry. Ignore the fantasy point total which was padded with a receiving touchdown.

Dexter McCluster, Chiefs
McCluster’s touches have gone from 15 to 10 to 5 … hard to be productive without the ball. So much for McCluster being the back to attempt to replace Jamaal Charles’ production.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
Has the light finally gone on for the much maligned Raiders 2009 1st round pick? Heyward-Bey has been a colossal bust for the first two years of his career but he has shown a glimpse of promise over the past two weeks. He looked solid against the Patriots in Week 4, catching four of seven targets for 115 yards and again this week against the Texans, catching seven passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Denarius Moore and 2nd year player Jacoby Ford were getting all the fantasy love as the Raiders wide receivers to own but Ford has been a bust and Heyward-Bey has been getting the looks in the games that both he and Moore have played (29 to 18). You know the adage – it’s all about opportunity.

Victor Cruz, Giants
Do I truly believe? Not really. But there’s no denying two things: 1. Cruz is on a hot streak and 2. quarterback Eli Manning is looking his way. Cruz’s targets have went from 5 to 9 to 11 over the past three weeks, a period in which he has caught 17 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. The guy seems to have a knack for making big plays. Mario Manningham is too good not to start eating into at least some of that production but Cruz is definitely startable until he proves otherwise.

Pierre Garcon, Colts
If you’ve ever read my column, you know I’m not a Pierre Garcon fan. But I am warming up to him now that he’s become new starting quarterback Curtis Painter’s favorite target in the passing game. Painter has looked his way 16 times during his past two starts compared to 15 for Reggie Wayne, with Garcon catching seven of those targets for 271 yards and four touchdowns. Hey, some of it has been on broken coverages and some of it the result of bad tackling but points are points.

Steve Breaston, Chiefs
The Chiefs offense has come around over the past two weeks and Breaston is making the most of his limited targets – just in time to help his owners through their bye weeks. He’s also shaping up as a decent flex play in leagues that employ that position, with eight receptions on ten targets for 141 yards and a pair of scores over the last two weeks. Turns out a rising tide lifts all boats in Kansas City and the Chiefs increased offensive production is extending to Breaston’s performance.

James Jones, Packers
I’ll be honest – it doesn’t take as much to impress me once the bye weeks hit. Hello, James Jones. Three week scrub becomes solid two week starter becomes who knows what. With so many solid receiving options in Green Bay, Jones’ nice two-week stretch of eight receptions for 188 yards and a pair of scores might mean nothing in the Packers Week 6 game against the Rams. Of course, it’s the Rams who are down to Al Harris, Justin King, Rod Hood, Josh Gordy and Brian Jackson at cornerback. That ain’t pretty, folks. Start all your Packers.

Michael Crabtree, 49ers
He was Moving Up last week when he probably didn’t deserve and after a two reception, 36-yard performance, he probably doesn’t deserve it this week. But who exactly is going to catch the ball for the 49ers? Braylon Edwards remains out and Josh Morgan suffered a broken leg during this week’s blowout win over the Buccaneers. That leaves Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr. as the team’s starter and T.J. Houshmandzadeh was brought in for a workout. Hey, the 49ers did score 41 points this week.

Moving Down

Jacoby Jones, Texans
With Andre Johnson out of the line up, Jones got a Moving Up last week with a qualifier that it was “as tepid a Moving Up as you’ll ever find.” If you watched any of this week’s Texans-Raiders contest, what you saw was a quarterback not on the same page with his wide receiver. If Jones wasn’t running an out pattern at the wrong depth, then it was a slant at the wrong depth. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen less chemistry between a quarterback and a wide receiver. By game’s end, Jones had caught one of eleven targets. The sad parts are that these two have been playing together since Jones came into the league in 2007 and it’s not like Jones doesn’t have talent. He just can’t get do anything with it.

Mike Williams, Bucs
Well, I’ve waited long enough and it’s time for Williams to be Moving Down. When you are the lead receiver on a team that got crushed 48-3 and all you contribute is four receptions for 28 yards despite a healthy dose of garbage time opportunity and you’ve been a disappointment for four straight games, you’re Moving Down. It’s that simple. The big plays that were there in 2010 have dried up for Williams who is averaging just 9.6 yards per reception and has just one touchdown thus far in 2011. He’s benchable, folks, and I don’t care if the bye weeks are here.

Jacoby Ford, Raiders
Hello, little used little slot receiver. Preseason reports of Ford’s ascension to top dog status amongst the Raiders wide receivers were great exaggerated (mea culpa). I no longer believe and neither should you.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Owen Daniels, Texans
Meet the fantasy beneficiary of Andre Johnson’s absence. Daniels finally looks like he’s back to being the player he was before suffering a serious knee injury at the midway point of the 2009 season. With Johnson out, Daniels had 11 targets this week, catching seven for 89 yards. Since a poor Week 1 outing, Daniels has caught 20 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns and appears ready to reclaim his role as a top five fantasy tight end.

Jake Ballard, Giants
The bye weeks are here and there have been some disappointing tight ends and a couple that are banged up. Hello, Jake Ballard. If you’re desperate, Ballard has scored in each of his last two games (six receptions for 105 yards on seven targets) and has a solid looking schedule on the horizon with Bills 25th ranked defense up followed by a Week 7 bye, the Dolphins (27th), Patriots (31st) and 49ers (22nd). The lack of targets doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies but the touchdowns just might keep coming.

Moving Down

Dustin Keller, Jets
Last year, it lasted four weeks. This year, it last three. Two in 2012? After a solid first three weeks to open the season (16 receptions for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns), eerily reminiscent of his first four weeks in 2010 (19 receptions for 254 yards and five touchdowns), Keller has gone stone cold with just three receptions for 19 yards over his past two games. Looks like Keller is well on his way to finishing 2011 like he finished 2010, when he caught 36 passes for 433 yards and no touchdowns over his final 12 games.

Dallas Clark, Colts
It seems like it happens to one stud tight end every year and this year, it is Clark’s turn. The O-line turns turnstile and the tight end has to block. Welcome to Clark’s world. He’s averaging just 5.6 targets per game after averaging 8.4 during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. And with the Colts offense struggling for much of 2011, it’s not like Clark has made up for the lack of looks by finding the end zone more often (one touchdown this season). He’s officially benchable.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 5

By: — October 4, 2011 @ 2:48 pm


Moving Up

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.

Moving Down

Schaub becomes is a big question mark with AJ out of the lineup.

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).

Running Backs

Moving Up

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.

Moving Down

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.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

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.

Moving Down

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.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

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).

Moving Down

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.

K.C. Kaput – Charles Out for the Year

By: — September 20, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

The bad news keeps on flowing for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The loss of Charles stings fantasy owners and the Chiefs.

The Chiefs have been blown out in their first two games and this week lost the services of running back Jamaal Charles for the remainder of the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Charles becomes the third key Chiefs player lost to a season-ending knee injury, following tight end Tony Moeaki and safety Eric Berry.

After scoring just ten total points in their first two games and given up a staggering 89 in losses to Buffalo and Detroit, Kansas City will now have to regroup on offense without the services of Charles, their most explosive playmaker.

Charles is coming off a superb 2010 campaign in which he established himself as one of the top running backs in the league by rushing for 1,467 yards and five touchdowns on just 230 carries and catching 45 passes for 468 yards and another three touchdowns.

Kansas City’s current backup running backs include Thomas Jones, 2010 2nd round pick Dexter McCluster and fourth-year veteran Jackie Battle. Fullback LeRon McClain could also see some carries, reprising the hybrid role he played for several years in Baltimore before signing with the Chiefs this past offseason.

Fantasy Impact

Charles owners are left in a quandary because there’s simply no way to replace a player of his caliber without sacrificing major components of your roster in a trade. The biggest problem stems from the Chiefs struggles on offense, rendering whoever fills in for Charles unlikely to be starter worthy.

Look for Jones to assume the majority of the carries. Unfortunately, the veteran does not appear to have much left in the tank after averaging just 3.7 yards per carry last season, a surprisingly low figure considering Charles averaged 6.4 playing in the same offense.

In addition, he appeared to slow down as the season wore on so the Chiefs are unlikely to ask him to carry too big of a load in replacing Charles.

That spells running back by committee with McCluster assuming a change of pace and receiving role. He was a disappointment as a rookie in 2010, failing to stay healthy or register many big plays in the base offense. He is too small to fulfill the lead back role and lacks top end speed. My gramma told me not to say to anything if I couldn’t say something nice. How about teams don’t start smurfs who aren’t REALLY FAST? I hope she’s not turning in her grave.

As for the remaining options, Battle has been unable to carve out even a marginal role during his four years in the league and McClain last saw success as a running back during the 2008 season.

While Charles owners should definitely grab Jones and McCluster, options outside of the Chiefs should also be considered. Two early season surprises at running back include Danny Woodhead of the Patriots and Darren Sproles of the Saints, a pair of players whose roles appear to be greater than what was anticipated heading into the season.

And if you’re looking for a flyer, how about Roy Helu of the Redskins? Sorry, Tim Hightower owners, I don’t believe.

On the Chiefs, the player whose value goes up the most with Charles out is wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. He is the team’s second most talented playmaker on offense and figures to see plenty of targets with the Chiefs looking like a team that will regularly be playing from behind.

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