Fantasy Football Week 3, All-Out Blitz: Waivers, Watch Lists, Handcuffs and More
It was a wild Week 2 in the world of fantasy football, as passing attacks continued to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
Three WR in particular—Miles Austin, Jeremy Maclin and Vincent Jackson—paced the week’s top scorers, although Austin will now be shelved for Week 3, and possibly more, with a hamstring injury.
Jackson and Maclin led a group of big bounce back performances in Week 2, while other Week 1 duds continued to make their owners ponder their draft picks (more on that later).
With that, off we go for the Week 3 edition of the Fantasy Football All-Out Blitz. Since this is still a new column to the site, here is a breakdown of what the AOB covers.
Fantasy Feature: Lead story for the AOB, will focus on one player or storyline from the previous week.
Recap Bullets: Quick list of other relevant developments/performances from the previous week.
Tapping the Wire: Rundown of popular shallow and deep league waiver wire pickups.
The Watch-Men: Players who should be monitored on your league watch list.
Handcuff Hopefuls: A rolling list of the top running back backups in the league.
The Week Ahead: Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em and other notes for the week ahead.
Panic Switch Players
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While I called Week 1 “Overreaction Week,” after Week 2 is the time to start making assessments on certain players, especially the ones that are struggling.
The following “Panic Switch Players” have failed to break double-digit fantasy points for two straight weeks now. Here are my assessments so far.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans: Several CJ2K owners breathed a big sigh of relief when the preseason holdout finally inked a new deal on Sept. 1, but now, those same owners are back to holding their collective breath.
Johnson has 33 rushes for an abysmal 77 yards (2.3 average) through two games with no TD. He hasn’t done much in the passing game either, and the main takeaway so far has been Johnson’s tentativeness at the line of scrimmage and inability to sting the edges like he did in his epic 2009 season.
Still, when you consider how lost the Tennessee offense looked in Week 1, and how focused the Ravens were with stopping Johnson in Week 2, it’s fair to give the consensus first round pick a double-mulligan heading into Week 3. But if Johnson can’t take advantage of back-to-back dream matchups against Denver and Cleveland, owners will have every reason to panic.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers: If you told me prior to Week 1 that Cam Newton would have back-to-back 400 yard games to open his NFL career, I would have had positive thoughts about Carolina’s running game. My notion would be that a dangerous QB would loosen up opposing eight-man fronts and give the Panthers’ bottled up rushing attack of 2010 some much needed breathing room.
But alas, the emergence of Killa Cam has done nothing so far to improve the suddenly stagnant duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The tandem has combined for 74 yards on 30 rushing attempts (2.5 average) and zero TD. The problem is especially plaguing for Williams, coming off a huge offseason contract.
Williams was a polarizing player heading into the season, and rightfully so. He’s coming off two-injury riddled seasons, has a starting caliber backup in Stewart and the team had major concerns on offense. While Williams has struggled mightily, the fact that Newton has been able to rise the passing game from the dead is encouraging, and remember, the team was without run mauling right tackle Jeff Otah against the Packers. Better weeks should be ahead for the Carolina backfield.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: I covered Ingram extensively in last week’s AOB, but made sure to note that upcoming games against Chicago and Houston were not going to benefit the rookie running back.
Against one of the league’s toughest rush defenses, Ingram was once again left dead in his tracks and now sits on 27 rushes for 91 yards (3.4 average). He showed improvement in getting to the second level of the opposing defense in Week 2, but Ingram is scoreless through two games, and hence, nowhere close to the double-digit TD pace several projected for the inside run specialist.
Similar to DeAngelo, Ingram is splitting carries in the backfield and can’t depend on sheer volume to produce. I have a little more concern with Ingram, however, since Pierre Thomas has done more with fewer carries, is more versatile and may even dig into Ingram’s goal line work. This week’s matchup against Houston can be a make or break situation for the rookie, especially when you consider that fellow rookie RB hopeful Daniel Thomas went for over 100 yard against the Texans in Week 2.
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The season-ending injury to Jamaal Charles is heartbreaking, especially because he was finally handed the keys to the Chiefs offense this season. Charles’ injury, however, does make a strong statement about unpredictability when drafting players in fantasy football. While owners fretted over drafting Arian Foster, Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew and Frank Gore, it is Charles (who had a clean bill of health entering this season and seemed like one of the safest bets from an injury risk standpoint) who went down first. The lesson here, kids: no one man is safe.
I hear a lot of analysts criticizing Michael Turner (pictured) so far; how he looks sluggish, isn’t the same guy he was when he got to Atlanta and is getting caught from behind on big runs. All I see is a player who is a lock to be Top 10 among RBs if healthy, who appears to have added receiving to his repertoire (up to four catches for 72 yards) and is playing in a high-octane offense that hasn’t even hit its true potential.
Some want to point out that over half of his production has come on two big runs (a 53-yarder in Week 1, 61-yarder in Week 2). I say, so what? It’s OK for Chris Johnson to get a bulk of his rushing yards on big plays, but for Turner, it’s an outlier? Don’t sell high on the RB formerly known as the Burner.
The Vikings usage of Percy Harvin has been baffling so far after two games, as he went from 62.8 percent of snaps in Week 1 to 44.1 percent in Week 2. The reason, of course, is because Harvin is primarily a slot receiver, and Minnesota is clearly playing in a lot of standard two WR sets (the dreadful duo of Bernard Berrian and Michael Jenkins). Harvin’s absence has also included red-zone packages, and while he still managed to lead the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards in Week 2, fantasy owners cant be happy with this development.
Harvin was supposed to emerge as the team’s top receiver with Sidney Rice gone, and it’s going to be tough if he only sees the field 50 percent of the time. While Harvin should always be used in the slot on three WR sets, why can’t he line up at flanker every other time? It just doesn’t make sense to have one of your two most talented players on the bench for half of the game, period. Hopefully the snap count will start ticking upward.
After racking up 158 yards from scrimmage in Week 1, Matt Forte added another 166 yards in Week 2 against the Saints. While he will never contend for the rushing title, Forte is emerging as the best receiving RB in the league who can also get you 1,000 yards and a handful of scores on the ground. He is a lock for 20 total touches per week and can potentially put together his first 2,000 total yard season, along with 10 combined TDs. After a bit of a letdown in his sophomore season, Forte is averaging a solid 4.5 yards per carry since the start of last year and has emerged as one of the most reliable fantasy options among RBs.
Tapping the Wire
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Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders: It’s the all WR edition of “Tapping the Wire,” but you won’t find Eric Decker on this list (I sung his praises last week). Moore (pictured), like Decker, is a first round talent that slipped (all the way to the fifth-round of the 2011 draft). While a starting gig has yet to be guaranteed, Moore (five catches, 146 yards, TD in Week 2) is the cream of the waiver crop, and even has the potential to best fellow rookie wideouts A.J. Green and Julio Jones.
David Nelson, WR, Buffalo Bills: Last week, I made a note to keep an eye on Bills WR Donald Jones as a possible second banana to Stevie Johnson in the passing game. It appears, however, that slot specialist David Nelson is staking his claim as the second pass catcher you want to own in Buffalo. I don’t like his upside nearly as much as Decker and Moore, but Nelson is off to a hot start, and the Bills aerial attack certainly looks capable of facilitating multiple fantasy receivers.
Danario Alexander, WR, St. Louis Rams: DX, as the kids like to call him, had a big Week 2 against the Giants (three catches, 122 yards, TD), and as such, has emerged as a popular name among the unsettled Rams receiving corps. While he clearly has the talent and size (6”5’) of an elite WR, Alexander is playing on a surgically repaired left knee that “will never get better,” according to Rams head trainer Reggie Scott. Danario is worth a waiver claim if you’re desperate at WR, but not a high one, as consistency and health will be an issue going forward.
Greg Little, WR, Cleveland Browns: While he isn’t receiving nearly as much attention as the above-mentioned Moore, Little is another talented rookie WR that is creeping his way into more playing time. He had a quiet four receptions for 38 yards in Week 2, but is building his chemistry with QB Colt McCoy, and can have a mini-breakout game of sorts in Week 3. Little is facing a Miami secondary that has gotten torched so far (mostly compliments of Tom Brady) and could be without top corner back Vontae Davis.
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Titus Young, WR, Detroit Lions: Detroit is a heavy passing offense; only New England, Green Bay and New Orleans are ahead of the team right now as far a volume and production. As such, Matthew Stafford has been able to involve not only Calvin Johnson, but a host of other options in the passing game. Young (pictured), the rookie out of Boise State, is still a little too low on the pecking order to gain fantasy relevance, but is just a Nate Burleson injury away (or Johnson for that matter) from weekly consideration.
Jeff King, TE, Arizona Cardinals: I’m skeptical to endorse an add for King, but many owners have already taken the initiative after his back-to-back weeks with TD. King was a blocking specialist for five years in Carolina before coming to Arizona this season to backup fellow new TE acquisition, Todd Heap. Still, Kevin Kolb has shown a dependency on the TE before (with Brent Celek in Philadelphia), and so far, King has out-produced Heap. If King gets in the mix again this weekend, perhaps he can emerge as the most improbable of starting fantasy TEs.
Evan Moore, TE, Cleveland Browns: Speaking of TEs with 2 TD in as many weeks, Moore makes his return to the Watch-Men after hauling in a 16-yard score in Week 2. The problem is, the TD was Moore’s only target on the day, let alone his only catch. It will be tough to count on Moore until he sees at least a handful of looks per game, especially with Ben Watson hanging around. Nonetheless, his red zone skills and preseason buzz make Moore a name to remember.
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(Ranking first on this list last week, Ben Tate has graduated from handcuff to temporary starting RB. If Arian Foster can reclaim the starting gig, Tate will likely reclaim the top spot on this list.)
1. Roy Helu, Washington Redskins (last week, unranked) – After going unranked last week, Helu (pictured) is number one with a bullet after posting 112 total yards in relief of Tim Hightower in Week 2. Helu closed out the Washington victory, and looked very impressive doing so.
2. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills (3) – The problem is starter Fred Jackson leads the league in rushing after two weeks. The good news is Buffalo plans on stretching out Spiller as a wide receiver, in an effort to get the talented RB on the field.
3. Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals (unranked) – Scott is a last minute addition to this list, as he will fill in as a starter for Cedric Benson, who was just slammed with a three-game suspension. While this only gives him short-term value, the audition can only help Scott’s cause going forward.
4. Jerome Harrison, Detroit Lions (5) – Jahvid Best has been a vital cog in Detroit’s offense after two weeks, but he’s only averaging 3.5 yards per carry, and is a big injury risk at his current usage rate. Harrison would inherit a huge role if Best was to go down.
5. Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders (4) – Standing firm at number four on this list, Bush was efficient in Week 2, running four times for 23 yards and converting a goal line carry for a score. His usage at the goal line gives him some value even with a healthy Darren McFadden.
6. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (unranked) – it didn’t take too long, but Felix Jones has already caught the injury bug (a separated shoulder). The backup role is unsettled between Murray and Tashard Choice, but the rookie offers greater upside, especially in the passing game.
7. Cadillac Williams, St. Louis Rams (2) – Williams was awful last week against the Giants (13 carries for 36 yards, 3 catches for 4 yards), and now joins Steven Jackson on the injury list. Neither back will be a desirable option against the Ravens this week.
8. Montario Hardesty, Cleveland Browns (10) – While Peyton Hillis had a good fantasy outing in Week 2, he only managed 3.5 yards per carry against a paper-thin, injured Colts defense. Meanwhile, Hardesty’s role is expected to continue expanding, week-to-week.
9. Deji Karim, Jacksonville Jaguars (6) – While backing up Maurice Jones-Drew seamed desirable from a fantasy perspective, the fact is Karim hasn’t looked impressive so far as a runner (2.5 yards per carry), while MJD looks healthy, for now at least.
10. Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers (unranked) – Redman joins this list after a 10 carry for 49 yard (including a 20-yard TD) performance against the Seahawks. If Mendenhall was to go down, Redman becomes a borderline Top 10 option at RB.
The Week Ahead
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There are a number of good divisional matchups this weekend, but who would have thought the 2-0 Patriots vs. the 2-0 Bills would be one of them? Or that it would be a shootout? Only 60 passing yards shy of 1,000 after just two weeks, it’s becoming quite apparent that Tom Brady (pictured) is going to make a run at Dan Marino’s single season record (5,084). He’s also on pace to break his own single season TD record of 50, and it’s safe to say that anyone owning Brady should sit back and enjoy the ride. Not to be (totally) outdone, Ryan Fitzpatrick is also sitting on 7 TD, and the matchup of the Michigan and Harvard alums, who went in the 6th and 7th round of their respective drafts, should be a thrilling one.
Will the real Joe Flacco please stand up? Inconsistent week-to-week production has plagued the fourth-year QB in both the real and fantasy game, and so far this season, the song remains the same. He followed a 3 TD, 0 INT game in Week 1, with a 1 TD, 2 INT game in Week 2. Even worse, his opponent went from the Steelers to the Titans, a team that ranked 29th in passing defense last season. As such, Flacco is an enigma of an option as a starting fantasy QB. This weekend he draws the Rams on the road, who are sixth against the pass after two games, holding both Michael Vick and Eli Manning to pedestrian yardage totals. It should be the Ray Rice show regardless this weekend, but the bottom line is Flacco has yet to make “the leap,” and one can wonder if he ever will.
Unlike Flacco, Josh Freeman was a model of consistency last year, throwing at least 1 TD in 15 of 16 games, while going pick-less in 11 of 16 games. The problem is, he only had one game of throwing more than 2 TD (5 in Week 16) and did not eclipse 300 passing yards once in a game last season. This trend of “good not great” has continued so far in 2011; Freeman is averaging 251 passing yards per game through two contests, with a pair of TD and a pair of picks. Apologies if the numbers I just threw at you seem extraneous or boring, but that’s the point. Freeman lacks a certain “wow factor” you want in your starting fantasy QB, whether you’re trotting him out week-to-week (not recommended) or trying to exploit plus matchups (which so far, Freeman has not done). It bears mentioning that Freeman may not have the greatest weapons in the world, when you consider that sophomore WR Mike Williams is off to a slow-start, coming of a TD-heavy rookie season that many deemed fluky. As of now, Freeman is an ideal second option in two-QB leagues due to said consistency, but lacks the ceiling of a bona fide QB1.
Wrapping up the QB talk heading into Week 3, I’d like to advise Tony Romo owners to forget about starting the Dallas QB on Monday Night Football. If you have another option (say, Rex Grossman for example) it would be wise to use him. As I see it, owners are waiting to see if Romo will start on MNF, and are ready to roll with if that’s the case. In my opinion, the risk is insurmountably high to start Romo against Washington. We’re talking about a Dallas team that has four of its five best offensive players hurt, going against an aggressive Redskins defense that knows exactly where to hit Romo where it hurts. Dallas can easily pull and replace their QB from the game; fantasy owners cannot. Steer clear, Big Tuna. Steer clear.