Fantasy Football: To Panic, or Not To Panic?

Frank ThomasCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 2008

Week 2 has come and gone (almost), and with it so have gone a lot of expectations for many fantasy owners. Those owners had no problem looking at what may have happened after one week as a fluke, but two weeks? By God that's 12% of the fantasy season! Well, I'm here to talk some of you down from the ledge, as two weeks isn't enough to make the call on the season. Of course, some of these players have obvious pitfalls that were pointed out well before the season started.

Carson Palmer QB, Chad Ocho Cinco WR, and TJ Houshmandzedeh WR - CIN
How brutal has this threesome been in the early-goings for fantasy football owners. Ocho Cinco and Houshmandzedeh have COMBINED for 11 catches through two games and neither has a touchdown. Speaking of touchdowns, Carson Palmer (the 5th picked passer in most leagues behind Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, and Drew Brees) has failed to find the endzone himself, while throwing three interceptions.

These performances could not be worse, but look at who the Bengals have played: Baltimore and Tennessee. These two defenses are as strong as they get, and obviously had an effect on these three prolific fantasy stars. The trifecta has had no help from an offensive line that gets no push and a non-existent running game. However, now is not the time to panic. I still project Ocho Cinco and Houshmandzedeh to get near-double digit scores and 1,000 yards each. Both are buy-low candidates. If you happen to have Palmer, hopefully you have a quality backup, because though he should bounce back, he's probably closer to the 10th most valuable QB than the 5th at this point.

Larry Johnson, RB-KC
Johnson is a bit of an enigma. Two years ago he was fantasy's biggest surprise and most valuable player. Last year he suffered through injuries and saw his yards per carry drop from 4.3 to 3.5 on a bad Chiefs team. This year, the Chiefs could easily be the worst team in football, and LJ is not doing so hot. Through two games he is averaging 2.8 yards per carry, and with his inability to catch a ball is seeing very few snaps given the Chiefs being down by multiple scores at halftime. Not only is he vocally questioning the management in Kansas City, but now LJ's mom is getting in the act.

These are never good signs. I'd rank LJ right at the bottom of possible running backs next to the Lion's Kevin Smith (notice how terrible teams tend to produce terrible running back stats due to huge 2nd half deficits). If you can find someone to bite on LJ, by all means trade him. He's in for a horrific fantasy season.

Steven Jackson, RB-STL
Speaking of bad teams, how terrible are those St. Louis Rams? My father's favorite team is in for a rough one given their inability to play any defense, and Jackson once again seems like a favorite to underperform his high draft slot. Somehow, after a terrible 2007 campaign in which he had just 1,002 yards and 5 scores after being a popular top 5 pick, Jackson was tabbed as a break out candidate despite missing most of training camp with a contract holdout. The Rams got no better, and the results seem to be more of the same. Through 2 games, the Rams are 0-2 and have given up 79 points. Not surprisingly, this has meant few carries for Jackson who has 93 total yards and no scores in that period. I was not high on Jackson to start the season (and couldn't believe when the owner in front of me selected him over Brian Westbrook!), and am not high now. If you can move him for a different top 10 RB (think Frank Gore) then by all means do. You could also possibly offer him for the next guy on my list...

Ryan Grant, RB-GB
Wow, two weeks and two wins for the Green Bay Packers under new star QB Aaron Rodgers. Just as I don't think the Packers and Rodgers are this good (3 passing touchdowns against the Lions? I could do that!), I also don't think Ryan Grant will be this bad. In week two, Grant gained only 20 yards on 15 carries while his backup, Brandon Jackson, went for 73 yards and a score. After two weeks, Grant has yet to find the endzone when we all expected him to help Rodgers through growing pains. Don't worry.

Teams are going to adjust to Rodgers, just as they did during Rex Grossman and Tony Romo's 2006 seasons when they first broke out. The only question for Rodgers, is will he be more Rexy or more Tony? Anyway, back to Grant. He's nursing a hamstring that is still not 100%, and because of this looked like a shell of himself. While Rodgers starts to struggle against less terrible secondaries than the Lions, Grant will get his due, and you'll be happy you have him.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB-SD
That San Diego kid sure can run! Unfortunately for Tomlinson owners who no doubt took him first overall in their drafts, this weekend everyone was talking about his backup, Darren Sproles. LT has been hampered by turf toe through the first two weeks, and because of this has managed only 152 total yards while scoring no touchdowns. This no doubt has hurt his owners, who may be quick to panic and trade him. This would be a terrible decision, because with 14 weeks left, owners will still have the best player in fantasy. Tomlinson himself said the toe "didn't get any worse" during Sunday's game against the Broncos, and he won't be seeing a doctor. Look for him to bounce back in Week 3, and to start winning games for his owners instead of losing them.

Marvin Harrison, WR-IND
Peyton Manning seems to be closer to returning to true form after a first half against Minnesota in which the Colts were shutout for the first time in nearly a decade. Why is that? Just because he connected with his main target Reggie Wayne multiple times in the second half, including for a 32 yard score to tie the game in the 4th quarter. Manning finished with 311 yards against a good defense, and both Anthony Gonzalez (137 yards) and Wayne (93 yards, TD) had excellent games. Noticeably absent from the high-yardage day was 36-year old Marvin Harrison, who had just 1 catch for 16 yards. This is a case where I expect decent production from a player who might be more valuable to you traded. Marvin should get 1,000 yards, but a season closer to Donald Driver's 2007 (1,048 yards, 2 TD) is what I expect. Marvin is being replaced, and this will be the first season in which he plays that it will be obvious. If you can move Harrison for another wide receiver such as Ocho Cinco, Houshmandzedeh, or the next guy on the list... do it.

Randy Moss, WR-NE
Tom Brady is out
, and the first week without him was not very encouraging for Randy Moss owners. After a very solid first game (6 REC, 116 YDs, TD), Moss was nearly non-existant as new Pats QB Matt Cassel only found him two times for 22 yards, and drastically underthrew Moss when he was wide open on a deep ball.

I'm going to chalk this up to growing pains for Cassell, who should improve as he sees more game action. Sure, Moss isn't going to score 23 touchdowns as he did last year, but if you expected him to do that again before Brady got injured you were crazy. I still expect 14 scores, which will justify his late 1st, early 2nd selection status. Don't move Moss.

So with all that said, this might be the week to start exploring trade options. You never know when you might be able to find a panicky fantasy owner who may own one or two of the above players, and could undersell them. If you have any of the above, be wary when trading and make sure you get the full value you deserve.