Week 8 Starts and Sits: All of the byes! All of them!

Keepers gets the lead off. Reuben Randle is looking like a weekly flex play with the amount of targets he’s getting in the Giants passing game. Sad face for the rec to sit Greg Olsen after he finally got in the end zone Thursday night.

Is it bad that I’m starting to come back around on Chris Johnson? I think he’s so bad…I think he might be good for soft spot of his upcoming schedule. Help me. Continue reading

Gronking for Rob Gronkowski Stand-ins: Replacing Gronk for the Playoffs

Let’s get this straight — there is no replacing Rob Gronkowski. Contrary to popular offseason belief, he has been on pace to reproduce his miraculous 2011 season, if not exceed it. He’s the head of the pack when it comes to tight ends, and you’re not going to find those kinds of points on the waiver wire floor.

But alas, you must because not even Gronkowski can “Gronk” his broken forearm back into game shape. So brace yourself. This isn’t going to be pretty.

Rather than guess who’s available in your league, I thought I’d take a look at who is available in several of mine. In one league, I see Joel Dreessen, Dwayne Allen, Marcedes Lewis, and  Anthony Fasano at the bottom of the pile. In a 10-man PPR league, the pickings are a little better: Kyle Rudolph, Dennis Pitta, Scott Chandler, Brent Celek, and Jared Cook.

Before we begin, obviously, the best of the bunch is Brandon Myers is you’re in one of those leagues that is sleeping on him, but everyone in my leagues has gotten smart to him by now. Greg Olsen is another name that gets tossed to the wire  occasionally  throughout the season, but he’s broken out as of late and probably got picked up. Martellus Bennett might have been dropped during Eli Manning‘s slump, and I’d be willing to take a shot with him coming out the Giants’ bye if you can get him.

Also not available in my league but worth consideration are Dustin Keller and Jermichael Finley. They would be just below Kyle Rudolph on my list if they were on the wire.

Barring a chance at any of those guys, you’re stuck with what I listed above. So let’s break them down.

Kyle Rudolph stands out as the biggest name of the bunch. He was a touchdown maker earlier in the season who went through a little bit of a slump before putting up points again just before his bye. I like him as a decent Gronk replacement, and perhaps the Vikings can fix their offensive troubles coming out of the bye. Unfortunately, he has game remaining against Chicago (twice) and the Texans in Week 16, which makes him a less promising option than he really should be.

Logan Paulsen‘s been a decent piece of the Redskins’ offense these last few weeks, and he scored his first touchdown last week coming out of Washington’s bye. He makes a decent play down the stretch in an offense that should continue to hum with Robert Griffin III under center and one that is playing for the future. The schedule doesn’t jump out at you, but playing the Eagles in Week 16 could be a fantasy points bonanza, assuming the Eagles pack it in for the year.

Jared Cook  was a sleeper to start the year. Many expected a breakout with Jake Locker under center, but the Titans just can be trusted to use Cook’s skills as a receiver. But I have to take the bait with him. Locker looked great in his return and hit Cook for a score. There’s promise here. And Cook faces the Colts and Jets in the fantasy playoff weeks.

Brent Celek doesn’t excite me, but the Eagles have a solid passing schedule with the Panthers, Bucs, Bengals, and Redskins on their slate. Unfortunately, I’d avoid Celek unless you can afford to stash him until we see one of the Eagles’ passers come to life. Nick Foles hasn’t been a spark for the Eagles offense, and Micheal Vick just hasn’t provided many  opportunities  for his playmakers to make plays. Go with Celek only if you can’t get any of the previous guys off the wire.

Dwayne Allen is a starting option only as long as Coby Fleener is out. When Fleener returns, the two will be frustrating owners as they  dilute  the tight end points you’ll get out of Andrew Luck throwing the ball. Allen gets to play the Bills this week without him, but Fleener will probably return before Week 16. If not, Allen will have the Chiefs all to himself.

Allen’s on my list because he’s a good starter for the next few games, but know that you’ll probably need someone else to support him in the playoffs.

While the above tight ends could be good weekly options, the remaining tight ends on this list are mostly spot starts. Dennis Pitta is currently concussed and hasn’t been very reliable since Week 3. He scored in Week 10 against the Raiders…but it was the Raiders. Joel Dreessen has way too many e’s in his name, and he splits his points with Jacob Tamme. While there was a three-game stretch earlier this season where you could count on Dreessen to find the  end zone   it seems that time has passed.

Dallas Clark hasn’t been as hot as the rest of the Bucs’ offense, but he’s benefited from their production. Still, it’s hard to trust him as a starting option in the fantasy playoffs, even if he faces the Saints in Week 15. Scott Chandler‘s schedule isn’t as scary as some, but he could get you 2 as easily as he could get you 9+ points. And Anthony Fasano has been a non-participant in the Dolphins’ offense lately.

That leaves us with Marcedes Lewis, who should be in this group as a matchups play if you look past his Week 11 performance with Chad Henne taking over at quarterback for the Jags. The schedule isn’t intimidating, which makes Lewis a promising option if you get this far down the list. Of all the guys after Allen, I’d probably consider Lewis the top of the group. I might even consider grabbing him over Celek if given the choice.

You’ll know after a few weeks whether Lewis can be counted on to produce. Just make sure you shore up your tight end position with another option in case Lewis returns to fantasy purgatory.

See, I told you it wouldn’t be pretty.

Week 11 Pickups make Nick Foles of us all

We should have listened to Cecil Lammey last week. His two big waiver wire suggestions are in the mix in a much bigger way in Week 11.

I’m keeping the same format as we’ve been doing the last two weeks. Feel free to see those past posts for more players you might have missed for the stretch run.

Week 11 Pickups

Those who have followed my pickups in the past know I’m a fan of Danario Alexander. He’s got fantastic hands and always seems capable of taking it to the house…when his knees agree with him, that is.

If Robert Meachem could loan Alexander his knees, Alexander might be a lock as the No. 1 wide receiver for the Chargers the rest of the way. As it is, you’ll have to risk Alexander staying on the field. He’s still worth adding.

And if you’re still in need of receiver help, don’t forget about Cecil Shorts. And Donald Jones looks like he will keep producing in Buffalo, especially in PPR leagues with his consistent catches.

While it’s hard to know which Saints running back to start in any given week, Chris Ivory looks like the most explosive back in New Orleans.

Mark Ingram had the most touches, and Darren Sproles should return soon. But for the second week in a row, Ivory found the end zone. It makes you wonder if the Saints’ coaches will be able to keep him off the field.

Pierre Garcon will “test” his foot injury this week. He may even try to play. I wouldn’t consider starting him, but if you have the space to put him on your bench, this is the week to stash him away. Robert Griffin III needs his No. 1 target back if he can get him.

Remember to grab  Beanie Wells and Cedric Benson  for your roster as well if no one else has hidden them away yet. Wells should return in Week 12, and Benson could help you in the fantasy playoffs.

Greg Olsen was the Panthers offense in Week 10. It’s nice to see his matchups finally pay off. Against Tampa Bay in Week 11, he could stay hot.

If you are quarterbackless — first of all, what a terrible word…and a what terrible thing to be — Jake Locker makes for an intriguing grab after the Titans dismantled the Dolphins. Locker didn’t do much, but he certainly gave the Titans a spark.

I’ve mentioned him in previous weeks, but I didn’t want anyone to forget about him while he’s on bye in Week 11. When Locker returns, he could show us the Titans we expected to see this season with him at the controls.

Nick Foles and Colin Kaepernick could both make for interesting one-week plays if you have a quarterback on bye this week while Michael Vick and Alex Smith recover from their concussions.

It’s very possible Smith will play this week, but in Vick’s case, Foles may be the starter for the rest of the season in Philly if the organization decides to move on and look towards the future.

Foles could have QB2 value, but it’s hard to see much more than that with the Eagles’ poor line play and his inexperience.

At least those two young quarterbacks might be more exciting to own than Byron Leftwich or Jason Campbell.

By the way, credit to Rotoworld’s Chris Wesseling for beating me to the perfect headline for this week. It would have been so fitting here on Fools!

Martz be crazy: Why you should draft your Bears this season

As we await the Chicago Bears debut tonight in preseason action, I can’t wait to see if their little offseason experiment worked.

When it comes to offense, Mike Martz is a kamikaze. His “leap of faith” system is as likely to blow up on a game-by-game basis as it is to succeed. While respected at first for his work in St. Louis, in recent years, NFL coaches seem to feel that bringing him in to run an offense is the equivalent of waving a white flag, a last-ditch effort to get their teams on the scoreboard.

Still, Martz’s system shows results. He built the “Greatest Show on Turf,” revived the Detroit Lions passing attack with Jon Kitna, and made J.T. O’ Sullivan fantasy relevant for a time in San Francisco. But one thing he hasn’t had to work with since his days with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger in St. Louis is a true franchise quarterback.

Why, hello there Jay Cutler. Whatever you think of the shruggy Vanderbilt product, Cutler has an arm, and he’s shown the characteristics of a franchise quarterback in Denver. Granted, he no longer has a true No. 1 receiver like Brandon Marshall to throw to now that he’s in Chicago, but don’t count out Devin Hester and Johnny Knox just yet.

Quick receivers who can get to their spots on time are all an offense like Martz’s really needs, and if you believe in the third year breakout for wide receivers and Hester’s quotes, Hester’s ready to make it big. But you don’t have to take his word for it.

Cutler has bought into Martz’s quarterback-friendly system. So even though we can’t expect Cutler’s interceptions to be drastically reduced when he starts firing passes before receivers are even in place, he should do some serious damage in the passing game–the good kind of damage.

Cutler threw a career high 26 interceptions last season pre-Martz, but he also threw a career high 27 touchdowns. His offensive line wasn’t doing him any favors last year either.

With Martz and a new offensive line coach in Mike Tice, Cutler may excel in the W column and fantasy point columns again just like he did in Denver.

So when it comes to drafting Cutler, I’m all for it. He’s currently going early in the seventh round as the No. 9 overall quarterback, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. While I’m okay with him there as a late starting QB1, I think I’d really love him as a QB2 behind an elite quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, or Tony Romo.

If he has a huge season, you can start him and trade away your elite guy or just trade Cutler for a high-performing running back to make your championship run.

And without having to rely on him completely as your QB1, you can play the ups and downs that are likely to strike the Bears this season. I expect there will be some growing pains in learning Martz’s system and putting it into action each week.

As for the wide receivers, there’s plenty of speculation out there about how to value them. Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Devin Aromashodu, and Earl Bennett could all see time on the field.

This offseason, the early favorite has been Devin Aromashodu, the tallest Bears wide receiver who came on strong at the end of 2009 and scored four touchdowns. But Aromashodu’s sleeper hype has him overvalued now. He’s being drafted before both Hester and Knox, and that just doesn’t make sense.

I’d much rather draft Hester, the forgotten man in this offense who was holding down the No. 1 role until late in 2009, or Knox, the rookie who picked up the offense and caught Cutler’s eye last season.

Hester worked in the offseason with Isaac Bruce to learn what he could from the Martz-made veteran wide receiver, and I think he’ll be ready to play come Week 1 like a top wideout, rather than just as a converted special teamer.

Now don’t get me wrong, Aromashodu shouldn’t be overlooked. He could play a big part in the red zone, but I just don’t think he’s worth a pick in the eighth round when you can get Hester in the tenth.

Martz isn’t really known for increasing the role of the running back in his offenses, but he has two skilled pass catchers in Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. Forte seems more like his old self now that he’s recovered from 2009’s injuries. Maybe we all just expected too much of him when we launched him into the first round rankings last season.

With injuries, a new quarterback, and a questionable offensive line, it was hard to live up to the hype around his impressive rookie season. This season, he could turn things around, especially if Martz makes him a big part of the offense. Even though Martz isn’t known for making running backs better, he certainly doesn’t neglect them.

Chester Taylor will take some of the work out of Forte’s hands, but that could be a good thing. Forte wore down late in his rookie season when he was carrying the full load, and as long as he gets to take the carries near the goal line, sharing might be caring for Forte. I can learn to love a timeshare that allows Forte to go full speed all season and keeps him free of injuries.

So think about Forte in the fourth round before you start looking at running backs who have the lesser half of a timeshare situation.

The one position we can’t predict with Martz is tight end. Greg Olsen is a star at the position, but Martz has traditionally left tight ends to block at the line while the receivers steal the show. Time will tell if Olsen can sway him. I am not taking that chance in my drafts right now.

So in short, don’t overlook your Bears this season. I expect to see some significant improvements in the passing game, and as late as Jay Cutler and Hester are being drafted, they’re definitely worth a look.

Foolish Thoughts: Broncos, Bills and Bears! Bowe, my!

Let’s be honest. You can’t believe anything you hear in the preseason.

Head coaches sound more like head cheerleaders. Rookies will all become superstars. Offensive coordinators experiment with plays that could radically change their offense for the better, and trainers expect everyone back at full speed by the first week of the regular season. It just doesn’t get any better.

By September, we’ll all forget we drank this much Kool-Aid, but after one week of the preseason, there are a few story lines worth following.

Jay Cutler finds targets in Chicago

Cutler’s move to Chicago this offseason took him down a few notches in the fantasy ranks due to a belief that the Bears just didn’t have the receivers to support his arm. Devin Hester is still a work-in-progress despite his nice season last year as the Bears’ leading receiver, and rookie Earl Bennett, now slated to start, hasn’t ever seen the field in the regular season.

Cutler certainly has the arm to do many things well for Chicago, things Neckbeard and Rexy could never do consistently, but this preseason will be important in determining how high he can climb up the quarterback ranks. It wouldn’t surprise me if Hester, Bennett and tight end Greg Olsen outperformed expectations, but they will have to prove it on the field.

As a former college teammate, Earl Bennett seems to be on the same page as Cutler this preseason, and Hester can get behind the defense in a hurry as long as Cutler can get him the ball.

Rusty in their first preseason appearance, in which Cutler put some of the blame for an interception on Hester, the Chicago Bears face the Giants this weekend. A good showing from Cutler could prove he is worth consideration as a starter this season.

Denver lost with Josh McDaniels

Left in the wake of the Cutler saga, Denver isn’t very happy with their new quarterback. Kyle Orton is basically just the consolation prize from Josh McDaniels’ botched talks with Jay Cutler this offseason. Neckbeard won’t get much slack if he can’t prove his ability in the Broncos’ new system.

Orton’s first showing could have gone much better, and it might not be long before we see Chris Simms getting a shot at the starting job.

The real story to watch here is the Broncos’ receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. Marshall’s got plenty to prove on his own, but neither fantasy stud from last season can do much without a quarterback to get them the ball.

If the Broncos still don’t impress in their second game against the Seahawks, it’s time to get worried.

Bills don’t need no stinkin’ huddle

Trent Edwards is another quarterback who could make a jump into the starting-worthy category this season. The Buffalo Bills are experimenting with a no-huddle offense to take advantage of their two explosive receivers, Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, and minimize the problems associated with having no offensive line. Really, they got nothing there.

The new offense hadn’t quite come together when the Bills faced the Titans in the Hall of Fame game, but Edwards was perfect in his second game and completed all 10 of his passes for 79 yards. If that progress continues, he’s worth considering at the top of the backup quarterback pile — at least until it gets cold in Buffalo.

T.O. sat out the Bills’ second game with a bad toe, but if he can return and prove effective in this offense, he’ll remove many concerns about whether things will work this season in Buffalo.

Who’s Chief in Kansas City?

I generally don’t enjoy watching the Kansas City Chiefs play football, but with Todd Haley running the show, they could become a fantasy receiver factory.

The big story out of preseason is Dwayne Bowe’s demotion to the third team. He’s definitely in Haley’s doghouse for showing up this offseason out of shape, but he’s lost weight and was the best receiver on the field in the first preseason game. If he regains his role as the No. 1, he could be the most targeted receiver in the NFL this season.

I don’t love Matt Cassel or Dwayne Bowe because I fear that Kansas City will fall short of expectations this season on offense, but in a PPR league, Bowe could be a huge weapon. We’ll see the Chiefs try out their new offense against the Vikings this Friday, and perhaps Bowe will be back on top by then.

What are you looking for this preseason? As always, the comments are yours.

Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 12 Tight Ends by ADP

After going through the “pick or pass” of the average draft positions for running backs and wide receivers, we come to the next position on many draft boards, tight end.

While there’s a top tier of elite options, the tight end position is pretty deep this year. Players that didn’t even make this list could be valuable starters by season’s end, but here we’ll just review the top 12 picks at tight end according to average draft position.

These ADP values were taken from Fantasy Football Calculator and were current as of August 13, 2009.

Pick or Pass: Top 12 Tight Ends as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys – ADP: 4.05 – PICK
As a favorite target of Tony Romo, Witten will get plenty of love this season. He’s likely to lead the team in receptions, and that makes him in a class of his own when it comes to tight ends this year. Witten is a pick, and you’ll have to burn an early one if you want him on your team.

2. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers – ADP: 4.12 – PASS
Many would write off last season as the result of a nagging injury and expect Gates to return to form in 2009, but I think the 2008 season showed us a little something more. Philip Rivers has more targets than just Gates in the Chargers offense now, and Vincent Jackson might be the top target on this team for the future. While he’s still one talented tight end, I’d worry about taking Gates this high and expecting him to produce like the Gates of old. I’d much rather wait a bit for a tight end with less risk. I’ll pass.

3. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons – ADP: 5.04 – PICK
While Gates is questionable, Gonzalez remains steady among the elite tight ends. He’s no longer in Kansas City, but Atlanta should utilize him in plenty of passing situations and has christened him as the new “hot route” for Matt Ryan. Don’t expect him to be more productive than he was last season — that was likely a career year for Tony G. — but a few touchdowns below that level should be possible. He’s a good pick.

4. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts – ADP: 5.10 – PICK
Despite an injury this offseason, Clark’s stock has been on the rise lately. As I mentioned in our wide receiver pick or pass, Clark could benefit more than Anthony Gonzalez from Marvin Harrison’s departure. He should excel as the second look in this offense and is likely to see the ball coming his way as much as he has in past seasons or more. As a late fifth- or sixth-round pick, you could do worse than taking your tight end a bit early and picking Clark.

5. Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears – ADP: 6.06 – PICK
Unfortunately for those of you drafting later this month, you won’t have the benefit of snagging Olsen while his value was still on the rise. With Cutler in town and reports out of training camp that Olsen is already his shiny new toy, Greg Olsen is projected to finish the year as a top-five tight end. As such, he’s now being drafted as one, so don’t expect a bargain. If you can get him in the late sixth round, that’s still pretty good. Any later than that, and you’re picking him at a steal of a price. He’s a pick.

6. Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – ADP: 7.05 – PASS
Kellen Winslow would normally be among the elite tight ends, but his move to the Bucs has hurt his value. While the Bucs expect to use him quite a bit in two-tight-end sets, Tampa Bay is not the play-from-behind, passing offense that Winslow thrived in while in Cleveland. They will rule the field with their defense and two- to three-headed running attack. Even more damaging, Jerramy Stevens will still line up at tight end and has the talent to take some opportunities away from Winslow. Winslow could get some looks in the red zone, but Tampa Bay’s talk about spreading the ball around and an unnamed quarterback make him unworthy of a selection before the eighth round. There’s better value to be had, and I’ll pass.

7. Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins – ADP: 7.11 – PICK
Cooley’s one-touchdown season last year was a bit of a fluke. Santana Moss received a lot of attention early in the year, and the Redskins punched it in on the ground throughout the majority of the season. While they looked a little lackluster in their first preseason game this year, the Redskins’ offense should still look to Cooley when they need a play, and I’d expect him to return to form this season. Cooley is a solid tight end pick, and he’s likely to still be available in the eighth round.

8. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans – ADP: 8.03 – PICK
As a Texan, Daniels carries the hype that the Houston team and fans create every season — the hype that convinces us all that they could be the next explosive offense to hit fantasy football. In truth, they showed they could be a force in 2008. Andre Johnson’s always been elite when healthy, and Kevin Walter is on his way to being a known name. Owen Daniels was a blessing at tight end last season for those who snagged him late, and he should continue to be a solid option this year. Much like Witten, he’s a primary target when the Texans need a play, and he has the upside to rise higher than this draft stock. Don’t be afraid to take him with your pick in the eighth round.

9. John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks – ADP: 9.09 – PICK
Carlson may lose some touches to the newcomer T.J. Houshmandzadeh but he’s developing into one of the elite tight ends in the game. Don’t expect him to take a big step from his rookie totals in just his second season, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if he added a few touchdowns to his 627 yards and five touchdowns from last year. As a late-round tight end selection, Carlson is dependable enough to target in your draft if you’d rather stockpile depth at other positions with your early picks. Carlson is a solid pick.

10. Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 11.04 – PASS
Despite his brutal playing style and his reputation as a playmaker with the Giants, Shockey hasn’t done much for the Saints since his trade. Fantasy football is very much about what a player has done for you lately, and Shockey’s not earning any street cred. Brees throws the ball more than most, but Shockey was never healthy enough or useful enough to warrant a significant number of passes. He’s still carrying this ADP value simply because he’s a known name, but I’d much rather have a tight end who has proven their worth in the offense they run — Zach Miller comes to mind. Avoid falling for the name game and pass on Shockey.

11. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers – ADP: 12.08 – PICK
The Steelers don’t give Miller many chances to leave his blocking duties at the line, but Miller can catch the ball very well when called upon. He seemed to be on the rise for several seasons until he had a setback last year. I’m afraid he may have already peaked, but it’s hard to complain about a guy that you can draft in the 12th round. I don’t love Miller because he lacks upside, but he’s solid enough to be worth the pick.

12. Tony Scheffler, Denver Broncos – ADP: 12.12 – PICK
I was a big Scheffler fan when Jay Cutler was in town, but without his great quarterback, I’m not sure where Scheffler lands with this new offense. There were rumors that he would be traded early this offseason, followed by rumors that he was touted by coaches as one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. I side with the coaches on that one, but he might not be able to show it unless Kyle Orton makes a point of getting him the ball. Scheffler will still share time with Daniel Graham, the better blocker and a former Patriot, which limits Scheffler’s value, but it does not limit it enough to prevent me from taking a chance on him in the 12th round. Expect to see what he’s worth this preseason. If he looks like he’s getting involved, he’s worth this pick.

While we only covered the top-12 tight ends in this “pick or pass” feature, there are plenty more out there to be had in your fantasy drafts. The tight end position should be fairly deep this season, and guys like Visanthe Shiancoe or Zach Miller might be all you need to win your championship.

As always, the comments are yours. If you have questions about tight ends or comments on our rankings or passes, you know what to do.

Jay Cutler traded to Chicago Bears for Neckbeard. Set your Broncos free.

Jay Cutler is now on his way to The Windy City. For first-round picks in both 2009 and 2010, a third-round pick in 2009 and Kyle Orton — founder and president of the Neckbeard for Men Club, which just so happens to be moving its headquarters to Denver this summer — the Chicago Bears have acquired a Pro Bowl quarterback and an additional fifth-round pick in 2009.

Da Bears

While it’s certainly better than Detroit might have been for the promising young quarterback, this trade leaves Cutler’s status a little iffy. Other than Greg Olsen and the project that is Devin Hester, the Bears don’t offer a lot of talented receivers up as targets. Without Marty Booker, it’s hard to even rely on guys like Rashied Davis for a good circus catch.

Luckily, Jay Cutler’s arm happens to be bionic and stronger than three of John Elway’s arms acting in sync. It’s hard to doubt that he can make something out of the Bears with his arm and his legs, and he’s sure to bring the passing game up a notch across the board — lucky you, Hester and Olsen owners.

Matt Forte could certainly use a boost in the passing game to take the pressure off of him out of the box, but he could fade a bit in his production now that the Bears aren’t constantly feeding him the ball. This new offense is one you’ll want to watch come preseason because there’s no telling what Chicago will do now that they have a quarterback — and not a Rex Grossman. I’d still like Forte as a borderline RB1/RB2, but that could change.

Busted Broncos

As I tweeted earlier — excuse me — you can mark your calendars today as the day the Broncos started a downward slide. Brandon Marshall could soon potentially face another suspension for his continued off-the-field issues; Josh McDaniels is going to try to establish a new offense while running a season of The Apprentice to decide who’s going to carry the ball between J.J. Arrington, Correll Buckhalter, Peyton Hillis, LaMont Jordan, Ryan Torain, Selvin Young and Andre Hall; but at least they have a savior in their new quarterback, Kyle Orton…

Orton is an extreme downgrade. Despite his phenom run last year — during which, he was keeping pace with Peyton Manning in the fantasy points department — he’s an inconsistent signal caller. He limits what the Broncos can do through the air and takes Brandon Marshall down a notch whenever Marshall does get a chance to return to the field.

Eddie Royal, sadly, might drop off the radar entirely unless Marshall is out for a prolonged period of time. It would seem that, at least in the short term, Josh McDaniels is content running the ball with 67 different running backs, so it’s hard to rely on him to keep the passing game up to the level it was at last season. Don’t even start looking to the tight ends. Tony Scheffler could be out of Denver sooner rather than later, and then it all goes to this very scary place where Daniel Graham might be the only one of the field.

In short, maybe it’s time you let your Broncos go. Orton’s worth a chance in 2009 just because of the talent around him — and his relative bargain value as a quarterback. Marshall can’t be passed on even with his potential problems, which could make him a value pick in 2009 anyway. But there’s no telling which running back emerges as the best option, and Eddie Royal could be decent or completely invisible in 2009.

Mark your calendars and thank Josh McDaniels. Today, the Broncos blew apart their fantasy goodness…just when I thought they had so much promise. Does anyone feel good about this new Broncos team?

Mark Schlereth, please explain how this happened.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Winnings from Week 8

There have been many injuries this season in the NFL. Unfortunately, that’s not really anything new to this sport. Some fans might call for increased player protection, more fines or more pads, but it’s hard to see that making any difference.

In truth, the waiver wire in fantasy football exists as a result of the casualties in football. More often than not, it’s the guys that aren’t on the field that open the door for new faces and stat lines.

In my moonlighting gig as the fantasy football community leader for Bleacher Report, I was sent one particular article on the rampant injuries this season, and I thought my comments on this article summed up my view of the game well enough to present here for my foolish Fools readers. Enjoy.

Injuries happen. Such is the NFL.

It may seem like there are more this year, but it’s not really that much different from last year…or the year before. Just last year, we had players like Trent Green, Ronnie Brown, Larry Johnson, Cadillac Williams and Jeremy Shockey all go out with injuries.

Sadly, we don’t even notice when supporting cast members get hurt, but many more names we don’t know are cut or moved to IR everyday.

The NFL can fine players all they want, but accidents do happen. It’s a tough game to play. You can’t fine someone for every play that goes wrong. Sometimes freak things just happen and people get hurt.

For example, if you go to make a tackle on a QB at his waist and the RB (Sammy Morris) lurches onto your back, you’re going to sink down and hit the QB low (on Brady’s knee). It happens, but you can’t fine anyone for playing the game the way it is meant to be played.

You can strap bubble wrap and padding around every joint of a players body, but at the end of the day, they’re still going to be flying at each other at best-in-the-world speeds and trying to bring each other down. That’s the game. That’s how it’s played, and in a game like this, you’re going to have a player twist the wrong way, hit the wrong spot or just have a fluke fracture or sprain alone in the field.

To get even more deep on you, I think part of what makes football so electrifying, so inspiring and so breathtaking is that every game might be a player’s last.

Every time they step on that field, football players know they are going to leave it all out there. It’s why they are emotional when they leave the game and why they will have a finger removed just to stay out there.

We are watching the best in the business compete at their peak performance level every second of every quarter, and that’s what makes football so special.

Now, how about we see if you can get some of the best on your fantasy football team?

Worth Claiming

Marc Bulger, QB St. Louis Rams — If you gave up on him earlier this season, you might want to reconsider as he heads back into the soft part of his schedule. Donnie Avery is his new love child.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins — He’s efficient, and he’s got playmakers around him at last. If Ted Ginn Jr. emerges as a legitimate deep threat, Pennington could find himself in the top end of fantasy QBs during the second half. He’s no Drew Brees, but he’s had at least 15 fantasy points the last four weeks and put up 250+ yards and at least one TD in the last three weeks.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — JTO oh no! Shaun Hill is now Mike Martz’s QB Voodoo doll, and he’ll take over things in Week 10 after the bye. He was decent in relief of Alex Smith last season with five touchdowns in that three game span, and Mike Singletary hopes he’ll be less of a turnover machine than JTO. Be cautious with him; JTO might be back sooner rather than later.

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos — He’s back on the field, and with Michael Pittman suffering from bruised ribs and Selvin Young/Andre Hall still banged up, he might see a significant amount of carries in Week 9. Leave it to Shanny to figure out how to screw you for picking him up down the line, but as the last man standing, Torain could actually be reliable for at least a few weeks.

Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — If Deuce McAllister misses any time because of this water pill controversy, Stecker and Thomas would share the load for New Orleans. Stecker was a stud filling in for Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister at the end of 2007, and I like him to be the power back if anything were to happen with Deuce. Both backs are seeing some limited touches with Reggie Bush out. The Saints are on bye in Week 9.

Kolby Smith, RB Kansas City Chiefs — If Larry Johnson doesn’t stop assaulting women, Smith might be the starter for the rest of the season. For this week at least, he’s the only RB that Kansas City has, but I wouldn’t expect him to do much.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — Kevin Faulk is seeing most of the work, but Green-Ellis is the short-yardage workhorse for the Patriots. He could vulture a touchdown or two but his value will be squashed when Sammy Morris and/or LaMont Jordan return.

Nate Washington, WR Pittsburgh Steelers — Santonio Holmes is back from his “high” time as an inactive player, so Washington is back to being the No. 3 man in Pittsburgh. He’s good for the occasional long score, which he’s gotten in each of the Steelers’ last three games. Take a chance on him if you need him when he faces a weaker secondary several times in the second half of the season.

Mike Walker, WR Jacksonville Jaguars — He is practicing with the team this week, and while Matt Jones is suspended, Walker should reclaim a significant portion of the receptions for the Jags.

St. Louis Rams D/ST — In the last three weeks, the Rams have gotten more turnovers than any other team in the NFL, and they are getting to the quarterback as much as the top handful of teams. That’s fantasy value right there even if they do let teams get a lot of yardage on them. Just don’t start them this week against the Cardinals.

Quick fixes for this week:

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The best way to recover from a loss to the Cowboys is to run all over the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Earnest Graham and Dunn are bound to take turns running laps to the end zone in this one, and Dunn might even be able to get a score.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins — If Ronnie Brown has another slow week, Williams could get to run the good runs against the Broncos, the silk curtain of run defenses.

Antonio Pittman, RB St. Louis Rams — He had 83 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving in Week 8 but only because Steven Jackson was injured. If you own Jackson, Pittman should probably make your roster for next week as the Rams head into a rushing-friendly portion of their schedule unless you’re deep at running back.

Guys you should probably have already picked up:

David Garrard, QB Jacksonville Jaguars — The Titans are going to win the division, and the Jags are passing. The world has flipped. If Garrard can tear it up against the Browns like no other QB has and set season highs in every category, he’s definitely going to be able to rip into the Bengals and Lions for the next two weeks. His playoff schedule guarantees that the Jags will have to put points on the board.

Donnie Avery, WR St. Louis Rams — Eventually, teams are going to figure out that they need to cover Avery too instead of just swarming all over Torry Holt. Until that happens, he’s burning everyone with at least one long pass for 40+ yards.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans — How many times does he have to score two touchdowns in a game before you pick him up? How many times?!?

Greg Olsen, TE Chicago Bears — Anyone is nuts to drop this guy. Olsen has become one of the primary targets for the Bears, especially in the red zone. In the last two weeks, he’s had more targets than every Bear outside of the running backs; Forte is still a beast in the receiving game.

Ones to Watch

Leon Washington, RB New York Jets — He continues to make big plays for the Jets, but it’s hard to trust him to keep it up when he gets less than 10 carries per game. If he ever becomes more involved, he’s worth acquiring.

Chaz Schilens, WR Oakland Raiders — Since taking the starting job from Ronald Curry, Schilens has just been chizilen. He had his first big-sizzle game in Week 8 with one long 60-yard pass from JaMarcus Russell. We know JaMarcus can pass-izzle ‘em deep standing on his knees, so if Schilens becomes the deep threat in this unpredictable offense, he’s got our blessing, fo shizzle. I, for one, really hope he makes it big so I can keep saying his name.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — He scored! That’s the best way to get noticed in the Chiefs’ offense, and if Thigpen can hit him when Dwayne Bowe is getting doubled, the Chiefs might just make a fantasy player out of him. For now, he looks to be a developing deep league option at best.

Ignoring

Ted Ginn Jr., WR Miami Dolphins — Okay, 175 yards. Where the hell did that come from? He’s come on strong these last few weeks with a good portion of the receptions, but I am not buying this fantasy candy you’re selling, Ted, until I see another performance like that. If you are hurting at WR, he’s worth getting now before some other rookie does, but I won’t hype him until I see him in the game plan for next week.

Droppables

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — I’m afraid the good days are gone for Benson. His only remaining game to circle on the schedule is a Week 14 game against the Colts, but is Benson really the best thing you have in the playoffs? He’s a starting running back, but he hasn’t proven to be very useful even in his easier matchups.

Carson Palmer, QB Cincinnati Bengals — If your team is really hurting and you need the depth and “play now” guys, I think you are okay leaving Palmer on the wire. Obviously, he’s got huge upside, and it’s likely that some other team will stash him on the bench. But we don’t know when he’s going to play again right now. More than likely, you can find someone who’ll do enough for you now to make up for any value you lose down the road. Feel free to debate who to replace Palmer with in the comments if you are struggling with this one.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB Seattle Seahawks — Hasselbeck is an anchor of this offense, so Seattle’s struggles are to be expected without him. They still aren’t a terrible team. His schedule is very easy to end the year, but you probably won’t need him in the playoffs unless another quarterback can get you there while Hasselbeck is banged up. I’m going to go out on a limb and approve dropping him for now, but I’d actually try and hold onto him if you are a playoff-bound team.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Grabs from Week 5

In 2006, I drafted Clinton Portis as my lead running back. I don’t even remember who my second running back was, but, in the late rounds, I picked myself up a rookie with too many names, Maurice Jones-Drew.

When Jones-Drew blew up with his big rookie season (1300+ yards and 15 TDs), I thought I was going to dominate with the Portis/Jones-Drew tandem until Portis broke his hand in Week 10 and killed my playoff chances. I had no viable replacement for Portis’ consistent point production because I had filled my bench with a few filler wide receivers and running backs that had poor schedules to end the season.

Fantasy owners who are sitting pretty right now have to start building for the playoffs. You want to balance your roster, strengthen your studs if you can by trading up and acquire a bench of players that, if nothing else, will have dominant performances in Weeks 14-16, when it matters most.

The waiver wire is critical from here on out because it can shift the power among the top teams and bring in the depth and talent that you need to win your league. Don’t think that you can become complacent now just because your team is sitting on top or sulking on the bottom.

Last year, in one of my veteran leagues, the playoff contenders were pretty evenly matched heading into the last part of the regular season until a team that was winning with the duo of Terrell Owens and Randy Moss picked up Kurt Warner and Ryan Grant off waivers.

Well, you can guess how that worked out for him. What a lucky jackass smart guy.

Here are a few potential fantasy free agents that could help you do that same in 2008.

Worth Claiming

Bobby Engram, WR Seattle Seahawks
If no one picked him up last week or if your league remains unimpressed by his eight catches for 61 yards against the Giants, make sure you put him on your roster this week. His schedule gets MUCH better, and if Branch is injured, that means even more balls coming his way — and that’s what she said. I prefer Engram to Branch, even when neither of them have foot pain. After Green Bay and the Bucs, Engram will open it up against the 49ers, Eagles, Dolphins, Cardinals…it keeps going from there. He’s just the kind of guy you want on your playoff team as well with matchups against the Rams and Jets in Week 15 and Week 16.

Devin Hester, WR Chicago Bears
Remember experimenting with him as a wide receiver? It’s happening now…and working. Without Brandon Lloyd, Hester is the homerun threat, and Orton is making him dangerous for opposing defenses. Enjoy him while the Bears go through the soft, chewy center of their schedule.

Greg Camarillo, WR Miami Dolphins
Some people just jump out on you when they finally get a touchdown. Pennington won’t open it up down the field that much, but he’s got to start throwing to someone other than his tight ends as he matures in the Dolphin’s offense.  Camarillo has 17 catches through four games, his bye has already passed and he’s got a sick playoff schedule with the 49ers and Kansas City in Weeks 15 and 16. If you currently have Ted Ginn, Jr. on your roster, first of all, slap yourself. Second, pick up Camarillo instead.

Greg Olsen, TE Chicago Bears
Tight ends are a big hit on the waiver wire this week. Olsen is the first one on the list. Other than Marty Booker and his “spider-sense” hands, Olsen is one of the best pass catchers the Bears have on their roster. He’s getting some big plays down the field and has been more productive in Brandon Lloyd’s absence. Matchups like this week against Atlanta shouldn’t hurt his chances to get a second TD either. Orton is targeting him rather than Desmond Clark these days, and as Orton goes, so goes Greg Olsen.

Dustin Keller, TE New York Jets
Brett Favre and Keller connected almost immediately this season, and Favre is throwing out touchdowns like candy in a parade. You want this guy on your roster. Say it with me now: I want this guy on my roster. If you don’t have a top tight end on your roster or Dustin Keller after reading that paragraph…well, then there is no hope for you, buddy. You’ll never improve your tight end situation, quit smoking or hypnotize yourself into losing weight. I give up.

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE Minnesota Vikings
I was hoping I wouldn’t have to mention this guy. His name is just so freaking hard to type. It’s like his parents named him by looking at a QWERTY keyboard and choosing letters that were really far apart. No, really, Shiancoes, I’m on to you. As long as Frerotte is starting, the Vikings will need a red zone target. Otherwise, every defense just stacks the box to keep Adrian Peterson out of the end zone when they are close. Shank-o is a red zone man. He’s got two TDs this season including the TD pass from Chester Taylor this past weekend. Since we’re so big on playoff schedules this week on the wire, how about Lions, Cardinals and Falcons?

Kyle Orton, QB Chicago Bears
If I mentioned two of his best options, I guess that means I have to mention him again…doesn’t it? Orton tied for the top spot at QB in Week 5. In Week 6, he faces Atlanta. It makes me sick to think of him as a fantasy-worthy QB as well, but I’m starting him this week. When is Orton going to get his first endorsement for Gilette or Norelco?

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He looked better than Earnest Graham in Week 5 against the Broncos. Graham should have had a field day on that defense. I’m worried if I am a Graham owner.

Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders
Back at full health, he’s the starting running back for one of the best rushing offenses in football. McFadden might demand more touches at this point, but Fargas will still get some cred since he had the job first. It’s a rule of the workplace. Haven’t you ever had a steady corporate job with a ladder to nowhere?

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals
As I mentioned previously in my thoughts from Week 5, Chris Perry’s hold on the starting job in Cincy isn’t going to get much weaker than it is right now. Benson will obviously play a larger role in Week 6, but he could take over the reigns completely. I mean, what’s he got to beat? Averaging less three yards per carry and leading the league in fumbles? Even for Benson, that’s doable.

Ones to Watch

Mike Walker, WR Jacksonville Jaguars
Also revealed in my thoughts from Week 5, Walker is one of a handful of sleepers I had on a list to start the season. He hadn’t quite woken up yet and flirted with close to 50 yards in the Houston game, but he came alive against the Steelers with six passes for 107 yards. He’s worthy of putting on a roster at this point in the season. If he turns into a go-to possession and red zone receiver, Walker could become a staple of your starting lineup. He may have gotten a little torn up on Sunday night, so watch the reports before you make a grab. If healthy, I see nothing but upside, but he’s so small time as a Jacksonville WR that you might be able to wait on him.

Kevin Curtis, WR Philadelphia Eagles
I really want to see Kevin Curtis take the field this season, and he could be close to it. McNabb is stalling out a bit as of late, but he was firing away the first two weeks. I’m sure he’d get a boost throwing to Curtis alongside DeSean Jackson and Reggie Brown. Keep an eye on him.

Nate Washington, WR Pittsburgh Steelers
Washington fills a role similar to Devery Henderson on the Saints or Chansi Stuckey on the Jets. He’s the third WR who goes for a lot of big plays. He’s not always hit with lots of passes, but when he gets one, he can take it to the house. Washington has looked more solid than Santonio Holmes over the last several weeks, and he’s not a bad start when the Steelers are going to be passing frequently. Washington had 95 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville this past weekend.

Vince Young, QB Tennessee Titans
It pains me to only be able to list VY as a “one to watch,” but the Titans are on a bye. I know Young isn’t supposed to take back the reigns on the starting job, and more than likely, it won’t happen in Week 7, BUT (I like big buts…) I believe that his return to the starting lineup is inevitable. He’s too talented with too much invested in him for the Titans to pass it off to Kerry Collins. If VY returns and hits his stride in the NFL, he finishes up against the Jets, Lions, Browns and Texans before facing the Steelers in Week 16. In a free agent pool of substitute QBs, VY has the greatest upside. Don’t let that get away from you.

Correll Buckhalter, RB Philadelphia Eagles
He’s a sufficient Westbrook substitute, but just like Splenda, he’s nothing like the real thing. It’s just got that twang that makes you know it’s not the real stuff, you know? I believe Westbrook will go in Week 6 against the 49ers, but if they hold him back until after their Week 7 bye, Buckhalter is the guy you want to fill in for your roster.

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos
Mike Shanahan couldn’t stop raving about Torain before the season started, and then Torain got hurt and missed out on the season up until now. I’m going to start mentioning him as a watch for now, but he’s probably going to jump into the grab-worthy category once he is cleared to practice. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Shanahan never gave him a single carry after talking so much about him just to make fantasy owners waste a spot on their roster? < — Not a joke.

Maurice Morris, RB Seattle Seahawks
When he comes back from injury, he could challenge Julius Jones for carries or the starting role. That’s not the most valuable starting fantasy RB job in the NFL, but you might seriously be contemplating putting Cedric Benson on your team. Call me a Julius Jones hater, but I just like Morris better. Watch him.

Ahman Green, RB Houston Texans
Old bones is back in football pads. It’s sort of anticlimactic now that he isn’t even catching a whiff of the starting role, but Green is bound to be somewhat productive…until his next injury. He’s worth watching only if you need a bye week fill or if you just really like the Texans. Crickets? No one?

Flukes or Droppables

Hank Baskett, WR Philadelphia Eagles
Reggie Brown has stolen back his starting spot, so Baskett is back on the bench. At least he sort of, maybe, in gossip blog terms dated one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends. Say goodbye to Kendra, Hank. Your fifteen minutes seconds are up.

Ray Rice, RB Baltimore Ravens
I still hate LeRon McClain, but he totally sniped Rice’s job from him. Maybe he ate Ray Rice. Has anyone checked? Oh, God.

Andre Hall, RB Denver Broncos
Hall is about to be swallowed up by the Torain train and/or the black hole that is the running back depth chart in Denver. His injury just provides one more reason to let him go.

Chris Perry, RB Cincinnati Bengals
Don’t just ditch him on the side of the road. He’s still a starting running back for a *potentially* high-powered offense, but it’s very possible that he could lose his job just like his lost all the marbles over the last five games. I’d seek greener, better gripping pastures.

Free agents developing destinations: Foster, Berrian, Muhammad [NFL Rumors]

Desmond Clark got a two-year extension with Chicago through 2010. If you were holding out for Greg Olsen to become the elite player he is touted to become at tight end, don’t count on him breaking out next year. It looks like he will share playing time with Clark awhile longer–a long while longer.

Who’d like to see a wide receiver tandem of Braylon Edwards and Bernard Berrian? For one, I would just to hear all the announcers stumble over Braylon and Berrian in the same sentence. Apparently, the Cleveland Browns agree. The Browns are keeping their eye on Berrian. If he makes the move to Cleveland, his fantasy value might go up. With Berrian’s deep threat added to Edward’s high-scoring ability, the Browns could really do some damage on offense. Sorry, Joe.

DeShaun Foster might find a home in Tampa Bay–unless they would rather have Javon Walker. So maybe Cadillac Williams won’t be ready to go for 2008? It looks like Earnest Graham will be starting once again down in Tampa, and they might want to work Foster in for some carries in a back up role. Foster’s value would be small if he goes there, but hopefully, he doesn’t cut into Graham’s solid production.

Speaking of released vets, Muhsin Muhammad has been linked to both the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers. The latest reports put him close to signing a deal with the Panthers. It might not be totally sealed yet because rumor has it that he wants a “gloves off” clause barring David Carr from quarterbacking.

Word from the Raider camp is that Michael Huff, formerly of the University of Texas, is on the trading block. He hasn’t impressed the Raiders coaches with his play on stopping the pass or the run. If he stays, he is likely changing positions to free safety. He could go on the cheap to another team hurting for help, but time will tell whether his level of play steps up and contributes some fantasy value to a defense.

If Jeff Wilkins held it down for you at kicker, you might be looking for a new trusty leg next season. Wilkins is pulling a Brett Favre this offseason while evaluating a nagging leg injury. He could leave if he doesn’t feel like he get it done in 2008.

The San Diego Chargers fortified their linebacking core by signing veteran Derek Smith. He is on the decline after being replaced by Patrick Willis on the 49ers defense, but he could still add depth and experience to the Chargers linebacking group. The Chargers defense was good already, so this move does nothing more than keep its value high.