Off-season Update: Running backs take focus this week, QBs and WRs stink it up [NFL News]

Everyone took pity on quarterbacks this week. Atlanta saw fit to bring back Joey Harrington after releasing him–even though we all know they will probably pick a QB up in the draft *cough* Matt Ryan *cough*. The Rams chose Trent Green to be the back up to Marc Bulger, but is it good practice to pick a concussion-prone quarterback as the best back up for an oft-injured Bulger? Me thinks the Rams will need a solid third quarterback on the roster if they plan to make it through the season.

Sadly, the New York Giants, not to be seen as uncharitable, decided they had enough money leftover from the Super Bowl blow parties to bring back the white-gloved wonder David Carr. I really thought we were going to get rid of him this year. Apparently, my gut feeling doubted the power of the gloves.

But enough about that. The real meat of this week’s free agent moves was in the running backs.

While the hot buzz item is Shaun Alexander‘s likely boot from Seattle after the signing of Julius Jones, Detroit made the big cut in axing Kevin Jones. Due to Jones’ brittle nature, Tatum Bell will finally get more carries in Detroit. Maybe Tatum can finally escape his “journeyman” label in a Detroit offense re-making the run game–Hashmarks sees his potential–but Detroit still has a long way to go. In short, Bell may be fantasy relevant this season, but he won’t be at the top of any lists.

With draft implications, Jesse Chatman of the one-win Miami of 2007 moved over to the New York Jets to act as a back up and potential change of pace back for Thomas Jones. Behind the offensive line that the Jets built this offseason, both RBs could see fantasy relevance, but it could be Darren McFadden replacing Jesse Chatman as the second man in that rotation after the draft.

Note: I don’t believe that the Jets will pass on McFadden if he falls to them. Jones is no astonishing talent, and McFadden could work miracles behind the O-line the Jets have put together.

The Houston Texans–who everyone thinks will also not be passing on any RBs in this year’s draft–seem to be set on taking free agent running backs from now on. Even though they are “really high” on this Chris Taylor kid who didn’t see a down due to injury in 2007, the Houston Texans went out and signed Chris Brown, formerly of the Titans. Depth charts are definitely uncertain in Houston now as they could still take one more RB left in the draft and then, hopefully, release a lot of their broken has-beens like Ahman Green and Ron Dayne. In addition, we now know that Chris Brown never likes to be the only Chris in his position on any team [see: Chris Henry of Titans].

Warrick Dunn found new life in Tampa Bay with their oodles of extra money this offseason. Even with rumors of Cadillac Williams not being able to return though, I can’t see Dunn being more than a back up or lightly used back behind Earnest Graham to start 2008.

The Bucs also saw fit to invest in Antonio Bryant, the troubled receiver that hasn’t found a place to call home since being shipped out of Dallas. He is likely to not be much of an impact.

Non-impact seemed to be a theme in any area besides running backs this week. Drew Carter signed with the Raiders after posting a fantasy footnote in Carolina last year. I expect him to be third behind Javon Walker and Ronald Curry, but he could surprise me if he ever lives up to his “burner” status. I just haven’t seen it.

One receiver that could be of use is Justin McCareins, back in Tennessee after his stint with the Jets last season. The Titans know how to use him, and he has to catch better than the core group of slippery-fingered banana-handlers they have now. I might actually look to snag Vince Young as my QB2 this year in a later round if they can rebuild the receiving game this offseason. A rookie WR in the draft could give it some edge.

With free agency winding down, look for a newly updated mock draft and more fantasy offseason list making than you could ever desire from a fantasy site coming in the next several days.

Teams changing game plans to end the season

Several teams have faced injuries and complete breakdowns thus far this season. Who is beefing up for a strong finish and who should you avoid?I got your answers…bet you thought I was going to leave you hanging on that one.

Green Bay went from being unexpectedly good at throwing the ball to developing a running game–with just one RB too. Now that they have Ryan Grant, they might even pose a threat to the Cowboys in the NFC. A Super Bowl for the NFC like the Colts-Patriots was for the AFC could happen in week 13 when the Packers face the Cowboys on Thursday night. I am sure they are going to lose–Go Cowboys!–but regardless of who wins out, if you can grab any starter off Green Bay, go after them. They will keep throwing the ball even with a good RB. You might even have lucky weeks with some of Favre’s other third and fourth receivers James Jones and Ruvell Martin. Jones is the better pick of the two, but Ruvell had his day last week and could see more action from the veteran arm of the Favre man meat–I just like that word.

The Colts need to switch their locker room out for an intensive care unit. While they may still be able to keep ahead of opponents, the D takes a major blow with Dwight Freeney being put on injured reserve and out for the season. Last year, losing Bob Sanders made them stop tackling, but losing Freeney hurts their pass rushing AND run stopping. Indianapolis is in a rough patch of their schedule right now with injuries plaguing both sides of the ball. Peyton Manning can probably carry them through it, but a little kicker named Vinny needs to get his leg problems straightened out so that they don’t have another letdown like the very end of the Chargers game this week. Fantasy-wise, if you are using the Colts D, you might looks elsewhere to support the rest of your playoff run. Also, there are some subs to be had with WR Aaron Moorehead and TE Bryan Fletcher until Manning’s starting boys return.

Re-working the offense…

Minnesota and Tennessee could be changing their current playing style in week 11. The Titans have focused on a strong running game and given Vince Young plenty of time to sit and do nothing fantasy-wise, but with teams starting to cut off their running attack, two banged up starting RBs (LenDale White and Chris Brown) with one rookie RB (Chris Henry) facing suspension soon, the Titans might have to put it all on Young’s shoulders. He hasn’t shown much this season, but he could break out and put off concerns of the “Madden curse” killing his sophomore season.

In the Vikings’ case, with the loss of rookie sensation Adrian Peterson, they really have to have an air attack to get Chester Taylor out of the box. Kyle Boller is coming in at QB because Steve McNair hurt his pride shoulder in the loss last week. Boller has an arm to open it up for Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason to make plays.

Now take your hand off the silly pick up button for one second, crazy fool. Unless you have an extra spot to give for Vince Young or Brandon Jones (and they’re available), or you just love Mark Clayton after his week 10 performance, WAIT and see how these players do this week and how the game plan changes. I know how much you love instant gratification, but patience makes the heart grow fonder, or some crap. They could start firing off a few touchdowns, or they could lay a stink on you. The Titans face the good corners of Denver, but Boller has a decent chance against the Browns secondary.

Only go after them in desperation–like that ugly one you keep calling.

Week 11 Pickups: Keep your eye on QB swaps, injuries

nazi wire

I’ll make this week brief because, frankly, there aren’t too many players worth grabbing in leagues that aren’t probably already grabbed.  Here are a few notes gathered from suggestions around the Web.  If they are available, go after them, but don’t be too hopeful that they will be there in the free agent pool.

Kellen Clemens, QB New York Jets

I have talked about him before, but if he is still available, grab him now.  He is coming off a bye week of practice as the starting QB and should have a nice core of healthy receivers to throw to in Week 11.

JaMarcus Russell, QB Oakland Raiders
John Beck, QB Miami Dolphins

I’ll lump these two together because they are purely speculative.  If you are mopping it up in a dynasty league, you should definitely have one of these two on your roster as a QB of the future.  If you are hurting so bad at QB that you don’t have tears anymore, use a roster spot for Russell he could–emphasis on “could”–have a big impact with the Raiders when they finally decide to stop bruising McCown week after week.

Chester Taylor, RB Minnesota Vikings

With “All Day” AP finally making those preseason injury predictions a reality, Taylor could finally see some productive games and get some TDs, but Minnesota still has no QB to prevent defenses from piling up at him.

Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders

Apparently, two talented RBs are not good enough for the Raiders.  Dominic Rhodes has barely seen the field since his arrival, and LaMont Jordan is out.  Fargas has been doing it all and could be a decent second RB to finish the season.

Ryan Grant, RB Green Bay Packers

I bet you feel like a genius if you picked up Ryan Grant.  Pat yourself on the back, and then smack yourself in the head.  He will be a productive back, but you aren’t that smart.  Just lucky.  No one say Grant breaking the Minnesota defense the way he did on Sunday, but if you keep the defense of the field, they are bound to give in eventually.  Grant should see some decent fantasy value late in the season as the Packers finally start a running game and keep defenses reeling with Favre’s remarkable arm.

LJ Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles

LJ missed a lot of time with injury but had his first big game this week.  If you are hurting at TE, he is worth grabbing to secure you some supportive TE points to end the season.  Don’t give up an average back for him because he could still be inconsistent or get hurt again, but drop any TE not producing for you.

Chris Henry, WR Cincinnati Bengals

Apparently, Palmer remembers who Chris Henry is.  If you picked him up last week–or earlier–you deserve a cookie.

Week 10 Pickups: Returners and New Starters

Several players are worth grabbing after performances this week–or finally be cleared by Johnny Law

Chris Henry, WR Cincinnati Bengals

Chris Henry got 8 touchdowns last year as the third receiver for the Bengals. You might remember him. He comes back Week 10 after serving his suspension from the NFL commissioner. Even though the Bengals have stunk it up as of late, they should start making use of Henry almost immediately. He has already been practicing with the team for a couple of weeks. Look for him on your waiver wire, and especially grab him if Ocho Cinco misses any playing time with his head injury–although I don’t see it swelling any bigger.

Ernest Graham, RB Tampa Bay Buccanneers

If no one in your league has picked up Graham yet, he is worth grabbing now. His performance this week cements his role as the starter, and he has been playing better than a few big names–Shawn Alexander owners should jump all over him if he is available

Adrian Peterson, RB Chicago Bears

He hasn’t had a huge game yet, but this Adrian Peterson might soon be named the starter after Cedric Benson has been disappointing to say the least for the Bears. Grab him now if you are weak at RB and need someone to jump in late this season. He’s worth giving an extra roster spot to if you can afford it.

Priest Holmes, RB Kansas City Chiefs

If LJ misses next week, Holmes will get his first start in years, and he might even be noteworthy to fantasy teams against a Denver defense that is giving up yards to anyone who wants them. Keep an eye on the injury reports to see if LJ will make it back next week.

Kevin Faulk, RB New England Patriots

Faulk was the most productive back against the Colts in the showdown of the unbeatens. While he may not get many carries, he might emerge as a good back if the Patriots continue to use him during garbage time and as a receiver from the backfield. Maroney certainly hasn’t put up big numbers, so Faulk might end up being the most productive back fantasy-wise that the high-powered Patriot offense has to offer.

Maurice Morris, RB Seattle Seahawks

Morris returns this Sunday for Seattle and could have a big impact and even start if Shaun Alexander is plagued by the injury that kept him out of part of the game against Cleveland. Check the injury reports and see what the Seahawks are saying later in the week. Even if Alexander starts, Morris’ fantasy value could increase if Shaun continue to play poorly and needs some help splitting carries.

New Blood at QB: Who to take and who to leave behind if you can

Kellen Clemens, QB New York Jets

Clemens is going to be big once he gets all the receivers back in New York. Clemens arm can carry this team to places Pennington’s might not have been able to reach. Look for him on your wire this week. He is a MUST pickup if you are in need of a quarterback at this stage of the season.

JP Losman, QB Buffalo Bills

Losman came back and, with the help of Lee Evans, has started putting up some decent fantasy stats. He’s not a week-to-week starter, but he is definitely a good one to get on your roster to help you when he has a good matchup against a week secondary. Many teams may have dropped him after he lost his starting job, so now is the time to seize him as he/Evans enter their second half surge to end the season.

Cleo Lemon, QB Miami Dolphins

While not the best fantasy value thus far, Lemon will have his good match ups. If you are completely at a loss at quarterback, think about picking him up. He has been named the starter but might still lose some time to John Beck later in the season. Again, if you are desperate, pick him up but try to find a better option.

Patrick Ramsey, QB Denver Broncos

If Cutler misses time, Ramsey will get the start. He did alright in the second half of the Detroit game after Cutler went down, but he still isn’t going to be the start of any fantasy team. He will only help you for a few weeks, but if you need that kind of help or have Cutler and are desperate for a starter, he’s one guy you can snag.

Stats and notes from Fantasy Football Xtreme, FanballNews.com, and CBS Sports