The Fantasy Hit List: Risers & Fallers

Joe FortenbaughCorrespondent ISeptember 28, 2009

One thing the NFL is never short on is storylines.

The Titans are 0-3, the Broncos are 3-0, 49ers running back Frank Gore is hurt, and Eagles rookie rusher LeSean McCoy looks like the real deal.

Week 3 concludes tonight when the Carolina Panthers visit the Dallas Cowboys.  But before we put another NFL weekend in the books, let’s take a look at Sunday’s relevant fantasy happenings.

MBP Award (Most Beastly Performance)

Peyton Manning   Quarterback   Indianapolis Colts

With all due respect to Maurice Jones-Drew’s 119-yard, three-touchdown performance, we’ve got to tip our hat to one of the all-time greats.

Watching the Colts-Cardinals game Sunday night reminded me of a mistake I tend to make every year: taking Peyton Manning for granted.

The guy is unreal.  He commands his offense better than any quarterback in the league and is able to surgically dissect opposing defenses, oftentimes making it look all too easy.

Manning completed 24-of-35 passes for 379 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Colts to a 31-10 beatdown of the defending NFC champion Arizona Cardinals.  Six different Colts had a reception, and five of those players had three or more.

Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said it best after the game: "He knew what plays to call at the right time and we couldn't stop them."

No worries, Darnell. You aren’t the first defense this has happened to.

Four players on the rise

1. Johnny Knox   Wide Receiver   Chicago Bears

He caught only one pass Sunday, but it was a big seven-yard reception for a touchdown.  Knox now has nine receptions for 159 yards and two scores on the season and is averaging a very impressive 17.7 yards per reception.

While his total production through three games may not jump out at you, consider the fantasy points Knox has accumulated in each outing:

Week 1: Eight points (two receptions for 82 yards)
Week 2: 13 points (six receptions for 70 yards and one touchdown)
Week 3: Six points (one reception for seven yards and one touchdown)

Those are some consistent numbers for a player recommended as a WR3.

2. LeSean McCoy   Running Back   Philadelphia Eagles

With aging running back Brian Westbrook nursing an ankle injury, McCoy made sure to take advantage of his first NFL start.

“Shady” picked up 84 yards on 20 carries (4.2 YPC) and scored a touchdown in the Eagles’ 34-14 win over Kansas City.

What’s interesting is how Philly used the rookie second-round pick. 

McCoy took several direct snaps from the shotgun in the Eagles’ version of the wildcat offense.  His speed and lateral mobility were evident throughout the afternoon as he continuously found ways to avoid getting tackled by the first defender on the scene.

Bottom line: McCoy played too well to go back to the bench.

3. Brett Favre   Quarterback   Minnesota Vikings

I’m eating a big plate of crow this morning as Favre proved in Week 3 that he still has what it takes to get the job done.

The future Hall of Famer connected on 24-of-36 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns, including a remarkable 32-yard game winning strike to wide receiver Greg Lewis in the Vikings’ 27-24 comeback win over the 49ers.

In terms of fantasy output, Favre’s performance was a solid example of what the ageless quarterback is still capable of producing. 

While owners shouldn’t look to him as an every-week starter, his value is clearly on the rise now that he’s proven he can still make plays down the field on Sundays.  Consider him a situational starter depending on the matchup.

By the way, Favre and the Vikings play the Packers next Monday night.

4. Pierre Garcon   Wide Receiver   Indianapolis Colts

As bad as Favre made me look, Garcon countered that by validating the hype we built around him two weeks ago in the Total Access Pass when Colts starting wideout Anthony Gonzalez went down with a knee injury.

Garcon found the end zone for the second straight week as he caught three passes for 64 yards and a score in the Colts’ 31-10 win over the Cardinals.

The good news is that Manning targeted Garcon more in Week 3 than he did in Week 2, demonstrating his growing confidence in the second-year wide receiver out of Division III Mount Union.

Just like Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox, Garcon is making his case as a viable WR3 in fantasy leagues.

Four players you should be concerned about

1. Braylon Edwards   Wide Receiver   Cleveland Browns

With the way things are looking in Cleveland right now, Edwards owners could be in for a very long season.

The fifth-year wideout, who is in the final season of his rookie contract, caught just three passes for 35 yards in the Browns’ 34-3 loss at Baltimore.  In three games this season, Edwards has caught just 10 passes for 139 yards and has yet to find the end zone.

The problem isn’t so much Edwards as it is the miserable quarterback situation in Cleveland.  Brady Quinn got yanked Sunday after completing six-of-eight passes for 34 yards and an interception.

Backup Derek Anderson was worse, completing 11-of-19 for just 92 yards with three interceptions.

Edwards is going to have a hard time producing numbers if his quarterbacks can’t get him the football.  Owners need to consider the very real possibility of moving him to the bench.

2. Darren McFadden   Running Back   Oakland Raiders

As with Edwards, McFadden’s numbers are going to suffer due to the inability of the Raiders’ offense to move the football.

The second-year running back carried 12 times for just 48 yards on Sunday (3.8 YPC), moving his three-week rushing total to an unimpressive 148 yards.  He’s scored only one touchdown and is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry in 2009.

What’s scary is that these numbers are the result of three division games against the Chargers, Chiefs and Broncos.  While Denver has been outstanding against the run so far in 2009 (seventh in the NFL), the Chiefs and Chargers are a different story as they rank 18th and 26th against the run, respectively.

McFadden can only be viewed as a flex option at the moment, and a risky one at that.

3. Matt Cassel   Quarterback   Kansas City Chiefs

For those of you who thought Cassel would be able to reproduce last year’s magic in Kansas City this season, it’s time to cut your losses and jump ship.

Watching this game from the press box in Philadelphia, one thing was very clear to me: The Chiefs are a bad football team.

They lack heart, tenacity and, most importantly, speed.

Cassel was running for his life for most of the afternoon, completing 14-of-18 passes for only 90 yards.  While he did toss two touchdown passes, owners can’t be thrilled about the lack of movement on the part of the Kansas City offense.

Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe didn’t play, but the Chiefs were taken out of this game from the start and couldn’t get anything going as they were pummeled 34-14.

Cassel will produce some garbage-time numbers this season, but owners can’t look to him as a consistent starter.  It’s going to be a long year in Kansas City.

4. Eddie Royal   Wide Receiver   Denver Broncos

As of the current moment, Royal can no longer be considered a viable fantasy option.

He’s only caught six passes for 42 yards in three weeks and has yet to find the end zone.  While the Broncos are 3-0 (and Brandon Marshall’s stock is climbing after Sunday’s performance), Royal just isn’t seeing the necessary number of targets to be considered starting option.

While he may be playing effective NFL football, quarterback Kyle Orton has thrown for more than 250 yards in only one game (Week 2 vs. Kansas City) and has just three touchdown passes in as many weeks.

Because of his upside, Royal doesn’t belong on waivers, but owners should consider moving him to the bench in favor of a better option.

Three waiver-wire players to consider

1. Glen Coffee   Running Back   San Francisco 49ers

With starting running back Frank Gore expected to miss the next two games due to a high ankle sprain, Coffee will be the hottest name on the wire this week.

The rookie running back out of Alabama carried the ball 25 times for just 54 yards at Minnesota, but due to the rarity of being able to find a starting running back on waivers three weeks into the season, expect half of your league to fall all over itself in an effort to acquire his services.

2. Matthew Stafford   Quarterback   Detroit Lions

Considering his passing totals -- 241 yards, one touchdown and, most importantly, a win -- owners desperate for QB help are going to scramble trying to add Stafford.

He won’t be able to give you consistency on a weekly basis, but the end of a 19-game losing streak in the Motor City should have the locker room amped up for the coming weeks.

Stafford is recommended as a decent QB2 option for owners in very deep fantasy leagues.

3. Derrick Mason   Wide Receiver   Baltimore Ravens

I’ve seen impatient owners in several leagues bail on Mason after two mediocre performances.

He caught five passes for 118 yards and one score Sunday against the Browns, proving he still has what it takes to get the job done in the NFL.

Oh yeah, his quarterback (Joe Flacco) is currently ranked fourth in the NFL with six touchdown passes.

Pick him up now.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh


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