In all my years playing fantasy football, this season seems to have played closer to “chalk” than most others.
There haven’t been nearly as many busts as previous years (although L.T., McNabb, and Eddie Royal fans would argue otherwise), and the credit has to go to a lack of major injuries to high-profile players.
On the flip side, with a few exceptions, there haven’t been a staggering number of major booms either. Let’s hand out a few waiver wire awards before we get going on this week.
Waiver Wire Pick-Ups of the 1st Quarter
QB: Joe Flacco, BAL
Went from a borderline QB2 and owned in less than 60% of leagues entering the year to being a top 3 QB. Baltimore is throwing the ball far more than last year and the team obviously trusts Flacco’s progress from year one.
The scary thing is the running game is playing just as well as the passing game, and Baltimore has gone from ball-control offense with great defense to an offensive power with an equally solid defense.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Orton, DEN
RB: Fred Jackson, BUF
He is the true definition of a waiver wire pick-up. Jackson was an afterthought in most drafts with the exception of smart Marshawn Lynch owners. Owned in 37% of leagues at the beginning of the season, Jackson put up top 5 RB numbers and became a must start in all leagues.
Of course now that Lynch is back and hawking carries and passing downs, Jackson could find his way onto the wire again.
Honorable Mention: Mike Bell, NO (23%), Cadillac Williams, TB (62%)
The "other" Steve Smith has been a Fantasy Football sensation over the first 4 weeks of the 2009 season.
WR: Steve Smith/Mario Manningham, NYG
Neither were drafted high, with Smith taken in 26% of leagues and Manningham taken in less.
But with the Giants running game off to an awful start and Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon both getting hurt, Smith and Manningham stepped up and became the best WR duo in the NFL.
Smith is the No. 1 fantasy receiver in the league and leads the NFL with 34 receptions. Meanwhile, Manningham has taken control as the Giants' deep threat and is also in the top 10 for fantasy points from a WR. Amazingly, each is still available in about 10% of 10-team leagues.
Honorable Mention: Mike Sims-Walker, JAC (7%), Johnny Knox, CHI (12%), Pierre Garcon, IND (4%)
TE: Marcedes Lewis, JAC
David Garrard is having an amazing year at QB, and Mercedes Lewis has a great amount to do with it. Until week 3, there were no WRs to mention in Jacksonville (all apologies to Torry Holt).
Yet even with the addition of Mike Sims-Walker as a legitimate receiver hasn’t taken away from Lewis being a top 10 TE.
Though he hasn’t been a model for consistency, he had produced two 13-point games through the first four games of the year.
You can’t ask for more from a player who was only on 2% of teams entering the year and who is still available in an insane 90% of leagues.
Honorable Mention: Vernon Davis, SF (43%), Brent Celek, PHI (36%)
This week we’ll throw a few new names out on the wire, and we’ll revisit a handful of players mentioned in previous weeks. As always, all players mentioned will be below 70% in 10-team formats and will likely be available in most leagues.
Go For It
David Garrard, JAC, QB (60% owned in 10 team format)
Tom Brady. Aaron Rodgers. Tony Romo. What do these players have in common? All were taken in the first 5 rounds of fantasy drafts, and David Garrard is out-performing them all.
Garrard has performed out of his mind this year, especially considering the lack of talent he has at the WR position. Thankfully, teams have stacked in on MJD and allowed Garrard to dump of to Mercedes Lewis and Mike Sims-Walker.
With a fairly easy schedule the rest of the season, including St. Louis and Seattle’s terrible defense the next two weeks, expect more of the same. Easily a spot starter. (Target: All leagues)
Ricky Williams, MIA, RB (53%)
Ricky has had a solid, if unspectacular season. That said, the Dolphins are relying on the running game this year, especially with Pennington done and Henne going the rest of the way.
He won’t beat out Ronnie Brown when it comes to production, but he’s worth a start and is very much an RB2. (Target: All leagues)
Rashard Mendenhall, PIT, RB (47%)
And that was what we hoped to get out of Rashard Mendenhall since seeing his final game in college. He absolutely destroyed a battered SD defense, carrying 29 times for 165 yards and two TDs.
Mewelde Moore will still get the third-down plays, and Willie Parker will be a factor for the Steelers, but we’ve seen this coming for several weeks.
Pittsburgh couldn’t run the ball at all this year and Mendenhall finally proved that when given the opportunity he could make things happen. (Target: All leagues, Dynasty+)
Mike Sims-Walker, JAC, WR (59%)
I wouldn’t begin to say how wrong I was on Mike Sims-Walker. The guy has played out of his mind, becoming a top-10 WR and pulling in two 20-point games in the short season.
Torry Holt has done nothing to earn more looks from David Garrard, and Sims-Walker is the only threat on the outside to do anything. He may not give you 15 points every game, but he will blow up every other week. (Target: All leagues)
Nate Washington, TEN, WR (31%)
After week one, I said go get Nate Washington, he will produce more than any Titans WR. How’s he done? He’s produced more than any Titans WR.
Averaging 13 PPG and having a TD in 3 straight, Washington is a viable WR3 with WR2 ability and situation.
Watch out and see if the Titans stay with Kerry Collins, but as long as he’s behind center and not Michael Vi…I mean Vince Young, expect good things from Nate Washington. (Target: All leagues)
All Things Depending:
Shaun Hill, SF, QB (26%)
Shaun Hill has quietly become to the 49ers what Trent Dilfer was to the Ravens. He’s a solid starter who won’t turn the ball over and knows how to find his TE when he’s in need of a first down.
He’s not overwhelming you, but he’s going to be a viable back up and you should feel fine if he’s your bye week starter.
Don’t drop Jason Campbell for him (unless Zorn losses his job and Campbell gets benched), but if you need a QB, climb this Hill (hooray for puns!). (Target: 12 team leagues)
Cadillac Williams, TB, RB (52%)
I’ll be honest, I had no clue Williams would do this. I loved him coming out of Auburn, and I was one of his greatest supporters going into his second season. But this is crazy.
As long as he’s upright, and who knows how long that will be, hold onto Caddy. Expect a slight drop-off when Ward comes back, but know Caddy is the No. 1 back in Tampa for what it’s worth. (Target: 12 team leagues)
Felix Jones, DAL, RB (67%)
Jones is available in 33% of leagues this week, and expect that number to grow with teams in need of bye week starters and Felix out for Sunday’s game.
That said, Jones is a threat every time he’s on the field, and if he weren’t hurt (a phrase easily attached to a number of players) he’d be taken in over 90% of leagues.
If you have the room and depth on your roster feel free to pick up Jones and stash him for a few weeks. Don’t jeopardize your season or depth, but he’s a solid long-term investment. (Target: 12-14 teams leagues)
Johnny Knox, CHI, WR (64%) / Pierre Garcon, IND, WR (64%)
Both Knox and Garcon are solid contributors. Garcon has filled in well for Anthony Gonzalez and although he will still see the field when Gonzalez returns, he won’t have the same level of production all season.
Knox has been more than adequate for the Bears this year. But unless your league includes KR yardage you’re looking at a WR3. If injuries and bye weeks are killing you right now, don’t hesitate to go after one of these players.
Just know they are only offering these numbers for a limited time. (Target: 12 team leagues for Garcon until Gonzalez return, 12 team leagues for Knox, KR+)
Hold Off For Now
Matt Cassel, KC, QB (61%)
News came out of Kansas City that Coach Haley and Matt Cassel are on the same page. They said the Chiefs couldn’t expect to win by throwing the ball 40 times per game.
Well, there are two problems with their statements. First, the Chiefs can’t expect to win at all, regardless of how many times they throw the ball.
Secondly, and more to the point of Cassel, could his plummeting value drop any further, regardless of how many times he drops back? His TD:INT ratio is fine, but 458 PY in three weeks is terrible, and it’s not getting better.
Don’t go after Cassel, even as a bye week starter. You should have multiple options that may actually score points in the double digits. (Target: 14+ team leagues)
Jerome Harrison, CLE, RB (24%)
This is probably a surprise, but as good as Harrison’s performance was Sunday, it doesn’t make up for the terrible game last week, and it doesn’t account for him being unable to overtake the 56 year old Jamal Lewis in the pre-season.
You might be able to get a decent week out of him against the Bills this week, but it’s a split backfield at best for him once Jamal heals up. (Target: 12-14 team leagues)
Michael Bush, OAK, RB (21%)
Darren McFadden is banged up and will likely miss 2-4 weeks. But Michael Bush has looked absolutely awful this year, and if there’s an Oakland back you want to go for in McFadden’s absence, go after Justin Fargas.
At least he’s proven he can play at a high level in more than one game in his NFL career. (Target: 14 team leagues)
Kenny Britt, TEN, WR (13%) / Sidney Rice, MIN, WR (16%)
Rice and Britt are both owned in less than 20% of leagues, and with good reason. Although both have had one or two solid games, neither has performed well enough to warrant a start on anything other than the deepest of leagues.
Keep an eye on both, but let someone else snag them after their best game of the year, and go after whomever they drop. It’ll likely be a player in a better situation, and you’ll have the better line-up. (Target: 14+ team leagues)