Week 4 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

This week’s bye shouldn’t have caught you by surprise, but the characters you are left to start might. Strangely enough, many of the players that you might have drafted late or gotten on the cheap have great plays this week.

Make sure you don’t forget about these guys, and as always, any start-or-sit questions asked in the comments will be answered by Saturday night. If not, call someone! I’m missing or in Vegas.

Hot Hands

J.T. O’Sullivan vs. Saints — Another great week to start O’Sullivan. He’s got a difficult stretch after this week, but JTO should have a shootout against Drew Brees and the Saints.

Lee Evans vs. Rams — He’s a fluke-y player, but St. Louis’ defense is no fluke. It’s just bad. Lee Evans could have a big week against this horrible pass defense, and you know he wants one.

Trent Edwards vs. Rams — Well, if Lee Evans has a good week…

Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Browns — The Browns defense has been pretty miserable, and Carson Palmer showed signs of life last week against the Giants. If you’ve been starting any of these guys the last three weeks, they should be in your lineup for Week 4.

Kerry Collins vs. Vikings — In a tough bye week, you may be out your star quarterback. Don’t expect explosions on the Titans offense, but Collins should put up decent numbers to keep Minnesota’s tough run defense off of LenDale White and Chris Johnson. He’s worth a start if you need a quarterback.

Jason Campbell, Santana Moss vs. Cowboys — Santana’s new thing is scoring touchdowns every game. Oh snap! He just scored another one. While I fear the Cowboys secondary, they haven’t recorded a single interception this season, and Campbell has been incredibly efficient with his passing. Both QB and RB are worth starting in what could be an Eagles-Cowboys style offensive contest.

Donald Lee vs. Buccaneers – He’s becoming more utilized in the Green Bay offense, and he just might see an increased role this week against a sometimes tough Tampa Bay secondary. If you are filling in someone for Dallas Clark, Anthony Fasano, Kevin Boss or John Carlson, Lee is a good option this week. Robert Royal isn’t bad either, but Jerramy Stevens might be better.

Bubble Boys

Jonathan Stewart vs. Falcons — He shares carries, but Stewart should dominate the Atlanta line. When it comes to short yardage (and touchdowns), it’s Stewart who should get the call. There’s always the chance that Atlanta lets Steve Smith run wild on them, but Stewart should have a decent week.

Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards vs. Bengals — They haven’t shown the chemistry they had last year, but if they get it going, it will be this week. Otherwise, it’s up to Braylon to find another lover in Brady Quinn.

Brett Favre vs. Cardinals — Even though they might not look it, the Cardinals are a top defense thus far. After the picks he threw against the Chargers, Favre might be uncertain and mistake-heavy against the Cards as well. You didn’t draft a Madden curse as a QB1, did you?

Matt Forte vs. Eagles — The Forte has been strong with this one. He’s put up points week after week. The Eagles are too tough a squad to let him get his usual 20 points, but if he can get a touchdown, he is worth playing. (Ed. Note: I’m still playing him this week, but it’ll be a judgment call between him and Westbrook for me. He’ll have his points, but don’t expect another 20-point outing.)

Bryant Johnson vs. Saints — Johnson showed little in Week 3′s stat books, but Gore had a big day. Against the Saints, they should mix it up a bit more, and Johnson could be the main target. Remember that, back in Arizona, the people keeping him off the field were Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

Devery Henderson vs. 49ers — Some weeks, Henderson shows up to work and gets a few long bombs his way. Other weeks, you have to check the reports just to make sure he was active. The guy is too inconsistent for my tastes. Even in this potential shootout, he might play the part of Casper.

Cold Shoulders

Rashard Mendenhall vs. Ravens — Mendy was one text message away from being a “Bubble Boy” rather than a “Cold Shoulder.” He may talk a big game to fellow rookie Ray Rice, but Mendenhall faces one of the top defenses against the run. After his mediocre showings thus far, I don’t think he’ll blow this one out of the water. Baltimore will bring the pain like Philly did and try to shut the Steelers down.

Kyle Orton vs. Eagles — The Eagles defense has been tough against the run and fierce attacking the quarterback. That intensity doesn’t bode well for an offense that relies on a strong run game to set up a few passes. Orton should be bombarded and isn’t worth starting unless you have no better options.

Trent Green vs. Bills — I know you just picked him up if he’s on your roster, and I’m sure you’re excited to see his first start of the season, but did you see what Buffalo did against the Seattle offensive line in Week 1? Trent Green might be in for another season-ending concussion. I just hope Green doesn’t die on the field. That would be a total buzzkill.

Torry Holt vs. Bills — Trent Green might bring that extra rally to the offense…but not this week. The Bills will take the passing game out immediately and make Steven Jackson work for every run he gets. Holt remains a WR3-worthy option for only the VERY optimistic this week.

Sleeper Who Might Wake Up This Week

My Norwood and Michael Pittman sleeper picks last week didn’t hurt you. Norwood had plenty of yards as the Chiefs got run over, and Pittman got a TD — granted, two would have been better. This week, I’ll go a little bit further out there.

Jordy Nelson vs. Buccaneers — In a tough bye week, Nelson isn’t a bad start. Jordy assumes the third WR position with James Jones still hurting, and they showed in Week 3 that they are comfortable letting him get some targets in the red zone. If you are without a WR3, Nelson could fill that spot for you, and as the third receiving threat against the Bucs secondary, he just might see some increased action.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Gems from Week 3

Apparently, when you try and make things faster around here, it makes the Internet explode, and bad things happen. I’ll write that down, and, I guess, take it as a compliment that we’ve had such a large flow of traffic around at Fools lately.

I’ll try not to break anything else, okay?

The waiver wire starts to thin this week, but alas, here come the dreaded bye weeks. Every fantasy owner has probably seen how bad they can be, and they’ve fortified their teams to make up for it. Here are a few guys that might have slipped under the radar until now.

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB San Francisco 49ers

This guy needs a nickname. He just has too much punctuation in that name, so from now on, I dub thee JTO, Mr. O’Sullivan. If your league is sleeping on this guy, don’t. O’Sullivan is a Mike Martz quarterback. He’s going to take his hits, but he is also going to put up a 300+ yard game when he has a good matchup. If he has one of those during your current starting QBs bye week, he’s worth putting on your roster. His high risk, high reward play should pay off for fantasy owners hurting from Carson Palmer, Derek Anderson and Peyton Manning — oh, and that Tom Brady guy. This week, he faces off against the New Orleans Saints’ unimpressive secondary.

Brian Griese, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He threw a lot of balls for Tampa Bay on Sunday — no, that’s not what she said. I don’t think he puts up 407 yards and two touchdowns each week without overtime, but he’s worth getting on your roster now. If his plentiful passing attempts continue, he could be fantasy-worthy where Jeff Garcia was only a capable fantasy backup QB. Griese definitely takes on high-end backup status now with the potential to do more when you need him (against Detroit, Minnesota, New Orleans and Atlanta).

Jerramy Stevens, TE Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I’m not exactly sure how he got off parole long enough to leave Seattle, but his return from suspension in Tampa Bay showed his effectiveness. With Galloway out and healing slowly, Stevens could be a factor in the passing game. It’s not like the Bucs have a herd of big name receivers. Stevens is one of those physically imposing guys like Vernon Davis who promise a great deal as a tight end. Unlike Davis though, Stevens could be consistent with Brian Griese finding him when it counts like in Week 3. I mean, at least we know he gets his hands dirty.

Dustin Keller, TE New York Jets

Brett Favre likes the rookie tight end even though Keller has a veteran squad in Chris Baker and Bubba Franks ahead of him on the depth chart. Late in the San Diego game, Keller was getting open and brought in a late touchdown. If you are hurting at TE, Keller might be worth a look — especially when the Jets play strong passing defenses that will lock out Jerricho Cotchery and that touchdown-stealing Chansi Stuckey.

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

Don’t you….dun dun da dun dun…forget about him. He might be Ronnie Brown’s favorite target.

Domenik Hixon, Amani Toomer and Steve Smith, WR New York Giants

They have a bye this week, but in Week 5, the Giants will be without Plaxico Burress for his INSUBORDINATION. I’m not sure what Plaxico did for those two days that he missed practice, but insubordination is a great word. Look for Toomer and Steve Smith to step up, but Hixon, who had a three touchdown performance in the preseason, could go wild again in place of the absent receiver. A good game in Week 5 could earn Steve Smith and Hixon more looks.

Correll Buckhalter, RB Philadelphia Eagles

Go on! Be a vulture! Don’t you see the bird circling the Westbrook owner in your league? Westbrook is only listed as day-to-day, so there’s no guarantee that he won’t take the field. If you are seriously hurtin’ at RB or are playing against the Westbrook owner in your league this week, it might be worth stashing Buckhalter. Remember that the Eagles play the Bears this week though, so don’t expect a Thanksgiving turkey to just fall in your lap. Westbrook owners, get him if you can. On the bright side, I don’t think Westbrook will miss more than one game — if he misses any at all.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB Pittsburgh Steelers

The fantasy football gods are smiling on the folks who are hurting at RB this week. Mike Tomlin even did the fantasy football players a favor by letting us all know PRE-waivers that Willie Parker wouldn’t be going on Monday night. Mendenhall will get his first start, but he hasn’t just dominated like everyone thought he would coming into this season — and there’s that thing he has about fumbling. He’s worth putting on your roster if you have Parker or if your alternative is Ahman Green. Limit your expectation against Baltimore on Monday night. It could be another low-scoring, defensive affair for the Steelers.

Rudi Johnson, RB Detroit Lions

Oh boy, did you see that great game that Rudi had against the 49ers! Now, let me break down what I just said: Rudi had one great game against the 49ers. He’s still splitting time at RB even though he seems to have won some points with the coaching staff after his 131 total yards and a touchdown this week. Both teams were running the ball pretty well, and I’ll give you that Rudi has the hot hand. Still, I am not a true believer. When you get cut from an NFL franchise that is hurtin’ terribly for some movement on offense, you must have a defect besides your high bill.

You can pick him up if you are lacking at RB, but don’t go dropping anybody major (see: anyone with less fluke potential). It remains to be seen how much the Lions will even be able to run the ball this year when they give up 21 points just by starting the game clock. There’s always garbage time?

Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders

Role is not certain right now for Bush, but with Fargas hurt, he’s a must grab. I like him almost as much as I like McFadden, and Bush could end up being a big TD vulture to McFadden’s flashy runs similar to how LenDale White and Chris Johnson work.

Brandon Lloyd, WR Chicago Bears

Chicago is where receivers go to die, but maybe, Chicago just makes all wideouts the inverse. Stay with me here. If you were a good WR and went to Chicago, you got pretty bad, BUT if you were a bad WR or a “Wait, who?” wide receiver, now you have a chance.

Lloyd seems to be benefiting from when Kyle Orton, lacking in the neck beard department this season, throws one out there. He’s had five and six receptions respectively in the last two weeks with 124 yards and a score this past week. He just might be a decent WR3 option at this point when the Neckbeard, ahem, excuse me, Kyle Orton is passing the ball against weak defenses — they still probably won’t let him come out to play much against the good guys.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

Sigh…he’s made the jump. I really hoped I could ignore the coke fiend until he dropped off the map, but he really does seem like he can carry a role in the passing offense for Jacksonville this year. If what they are saying is true, the pass-first offense in Jacksonville that Garrard could lead after their bye week rest could utilize a guy like Jones-y. Pick him up if you need him; just don’t talk to me about him.

Bobby Engram and Deion Branch, WR Seattle Seahawks

They are supposed to return Week 5, but Branch might be seen in Week 4. If they aren’t on a roster, make it so. Hasselbeck needs them like I need cake, and I NEED cake.

Ones to Watch — Guys to be cautious about, but get them if you need them

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

It’s Huard’s turn to try and right the ship for Kansas City. Thigpen didn’t “wow” with his INT-heavy performance last week. Huard is still an emergency or bye week option unless he has Dwayne Bowe on his fantasy team. You don’t really want to have Chiefs on your fantasy team unless you’re forced into it. My deepest condolences to all the Kansas City Chiefs’ mothers playing fantasy.

Trent Green, QB St. Louis Rams

Well, if you were impressed by what Bulger could do in this offense, wait until you see what Green can do. I think there’s already an over/under in Vegas for how many snaps he gets to take before his next — and possibly final — concussion. Green playing for the Rams might be the worst player decision (from a health standpoint) all season — including Merriman almost playing the entire season on a floating pile of knee.

Billy Miller, TE New Orleans Saints

Miller benefits from Shockey being injured, but he won’t do much for fantasy. He’s worth keeping an eye on while Shockey and Colston are down and out, you know, for kicks or something.

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens

Another “wait and see” sort of guy that you can jump on now if you need some RB help. He carried some of the load while McGahee was out, and he got another decent dose on Sunday when McGahee got cut (as in bleeding, not from the team). As long as the starting two RBs (McGahee and Ray Rice) don’t turn into big bleeders, McClain will probably drop back into a TD vulture or short yardage guy. We know that the Ravens are going to run the ball A LOT with Flacco under center, so he’s got some value in the range of Michael Pittman, which isn’t terrible at the moment. Two touchdowns is nothing to forget about.

Miles Austin, WR Dallas Cowboys

You guys know that I don’t think a ton of popcorn-fingers Patrick Crayton. Austin’s a speed guy and more likely to assume a complimentary role to Terrell Owens than Sam Hurd, who T.O. sort of took under his wing as his backup. Crayton won’t disappear, but Austin could take looks away from Crayton when the Cowboys put three receivers on the field. Miles racked up 152 yards and a score on just two receptions. His big play ability could earn him fantasy WR3 status.

Antonio Bryant, WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers

His value is dependent upon Brian Griese throwing as much as he did and Galloway’s injury. Two factors against your potential make you watch-worthy rather than snag-worthy. He assumes Galloway’s value as long as he’s a starter — not too shabby the way Griese is throwing. Take him if you are a Galloway owner, but you might be able to wait otherwise. He did have 138 yards against Chicago.

Justin McCareins, WR Tennessee Titans

If he is healthy and Justin Gage remains out this week, he might be the best receiving option the Titans have, which makes him pretty far down the list but he runs out on the field and tries to catch the ball. If you have a bye week in a deep league, you might not be able to be picky.

Jordy Nelson, WR Green Bay Packers

I got my eye on you, kid. Show me what those big hands can do, and you just might make a squad as my WR3.

And because rumors make friends in fantasy football…

Brady Quinn, QB Cleveland Browns

If Derek Anderson can’t get it done against Cincinnati, it might be the final nail in his fluke coffin. Quinn might get his shot.

Dan Orlovsky or Drew Stanton, QB Detroit Lions

Kitna hurt his knee in the last game, and the Lions might actually start looking towards the future. Orlovsky is the next guy in line, but Stanton’s got that bold “I’m supposed to be your guy” quality that screams “rebuilding.” In the immediate future, Orlovsky probably gets the judgment call in this one and tries to make up the 21-point deficit for the Lions. If you are deep at QB with a roster spot to spare, stash and grab. Whoever starts in Detroit is worthy of fantasy consideration just because they have so much invested in their passing game.

No one’s really worth ignoring at this point, so let’s talk…

Guys you should have taken by now:

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans — could be the guy in Houston moving forward

Chris Perry, RB Cincinnati Bengals – getting most of the carries and scored against two tough defenses already this season

Guys you can consider dropping:

Vernon Davis, TE San Francisco 49ers — Where are those two TE sets of dominance Mike Martz? Vernon Davis is not a starting TE anymore. Two big games with no-show performances. Bench until further notice or replace.

Ted Ginn, Jr., WR Miami Dolphins — I don’t think he knows he plays. Maybe he is just outrunning Pennington’s arm? If you can do better on the wire, you should.

Vince Young, QB Tennessee Titans – As much as I like him, you can afford to let him hang in the wind a few weeks until the QB situation shakes out for the Titans

Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders – Injury or no injury, he might never get back on the field with Bush/McFadden there to tear things up

Alge Crumpler, RE Tennessee Titans — If you can find him on your roster, you are doing better than the Titans. They can’t find him on the field.

Kenny Watson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — not really threatening Chris Perry much right now

Kevin Jones, RB Chicago Bears — all they know is Forte in Chicago

Courtney Taylor, WR Seattle Seahawks — you know what will happen when Engram and Branch return

Week 3 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Obviously, things change in fantasy football. There’s no Tom Brady, and therefore, no Randy Moss. Offenses in Seattle, Cincinnati and Cleveland are in shambles. Jacksonville keeps turning it over, and the Denver Broncos might have the most explosive offense of 2008.

Shanny, we knew you had it in you. I won’t even say that I called it. (I CALLED IT), but it was right there in front of our noses. This year might be a competition between T.O. and Baby T.O. for the top wide receiver spot.

Who else is hot this week? (Well, besides the obvious.)

Hot Hands

J.T. O’Sullivan, Bryant Johnson, Isaac Bruce vs. Lions: We are starting bold. The 49ers face off against Mike Martz’s former home. I think Detroit probably knows a lot of Martz’s schemes, but Martz also knows how to exploit the Detroit defense — not like that information is really top secret. I like this one to be high scoring and crazy. If you have J.T. O’Sullivan on your roster, this week and next week against the Saints look like his best starts of the year.

Frank Gore vs. Lions: Detroit cannot stop the run. Gore will get some action.

Jon Kitna, Calvin Johnson vs. 49ers: An explosive contest and a weak secondary make the interception-prone QB a nice play this week.

All Your Broncos vs. Saints: Jay Cutler and his boys manhandled the Chargers defense last week. They’ll do the same to the Saints. Brandon Marshall could break the record for most receptions in a game in this one. I like it. The only exception to this rule is Selvin Young, who might be only a yardage guy from here on out.

Chris Johnson vs. Texans: Fast Willie Parker had 3 TDs, and this kid is faster.

Reggie Bush vs. Broncos: He’ll be relied upon as a target against the corners in Denver. Bush will have to pull some big plays to win, and Darren Sproles made the Broncos look they were standing still a few times last week.

Steve Smith vs. Vikings: Just in case you forgot he was on your roster. If he’s not on your roster and you want to get crazy, send a trade offer to see if you can smuggle him away before he even sees the field. With Randy Moss gone, Steve Smith might be the only challenger to Terrell Owens and Baby T.O. for the top WR spot.

Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Bengals: Destroy, Brandon Jacobs! Destroy! Ahmad Bradshaw even makes a decent start since he’s forgotten what he learned in kindergarten and no longer plans on sharing touchdowns. What does Jacobs have to do for a touchdown? Run over TWO safeties. I think Jacobs gets his first score this week. The Bengals defensive players are only on the roster because they are trying out for the offense.

Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress vs. Bengals: Surely, Eli and Plax will join in on the fun as well. You can’t just let Brandon Jacobs run the ball all day.

Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Matt Cassel vs. Dolphins: This week, Moss wakes up. He still remembers what to do when the ball comes his way.

Buffalo Bills D/ST vs. Raiders: JaMarcus Russell against the aggressive, healthy Buffalo defense. *Salivating* If the Oakland cornerbacks come to play, this game could become a contest to control the clock. Buffalo’s schedule gets good from here.

Philip Rivers vs. Jets: With L.T. slowed by his injury, Rivers could look to find Chambers again. They’ll want to put plenty of points on the board to keep themselves out of trouble in this one.

Matt Hasselbeck, John Carlson vs. Rams: New wide receivers and an easy day against the Rams could be all that Hasselbeck needs to come alive again. He might be the slow-starting Brees of 2007. Even though Hasselbeck gets new hands this week, he just might be growing fond of Carlson’s. Look for the rookie TE to have a decent day against the Rams — who doesn’t?

Julius Jones vs. Rams: Jones could have a similar day to his 127 yards and a TD against San Francisco.

Bubble Boys

Michael Turner vs. Chiefs: Injury could hinder his performance, but if he’s 100 percent, Turner could tear the Chiefs run defense up just like Michael Bush and Darren McFadden did last week. Pop this bubble if you see him off the injury report come Friday.

Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings vs. Cowboys: If Rodgers wants to win this one, he’s probably going to have to air it to stay ahead of Romo. I respect the Dallas corners even if they have given up a lot of yardage. Rodgers isn’t going to have as big a week as he did against Detroit, but he should do something.

Randy McMichael vs. Seahawks: Seattle might be on the worst defenses that the Rams face all year, but they should still get after Bulger. McMichael could have another Week 1 performance where he reaps the benefit of Bulger’s rushed passing. It’s a risk I’m willing to take unless, of course, I have a better option.

Brett Favre vs. Chargers: Favre’s risky, vertical throwing could get him into trouble against this secondary. The Chargers are hungry for a win after they had the Broncos’ game stolen by ‘Roid Ref. You might consider giving Favre a week off, but then again, it’s Monday night. That Stuckey guy will probably nail a TD or two down. That guy’s my nemesis.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor vs. Colts: Matt Forte didn’t need that great of an offensive line to run on the Colts. The Jags line could come together to make these two productive again, but maybe the Colts go up by so much, they don’t get a chance. I remember when this Colts-Jaguars matchup used to be a heated showdown…those were the days.

Larry Johnson vs. Falcons: L.J. is losing carries to Jamaal Charles, and I hated Charles when he was a Longhorn. Charles is just a fast pair of legs with unsure hands, but L.J. is an unsure set of legs with fast hands. (That means he’s good at magic tricks like making a five-yard play into a one-yard gain.) If Johnson’s yards per carry decreases, it’s because he’s running backwards. Might be time to put Charles on your roster.

Cold Shoulders

Lee Evans vs. Raiders: I know Jay Cutler exposed the Raiders lazy cornerback play, but Evans will get blanketed by he who cannot be named, Nnamdi Asomugha. While Evans is back to fantasy relevance this year, he should have a quiet one this week.

Pierre Thomas, Deuce McAllister vs. Broncos: You can run on Denver, but who is doing the running? If Deuce really does get worked into this rotation, it just muddies the value of Thomas. Are they playing Denver or is this Shanahan coaching their run game too?

Earnest Graham vs. Bears: He had a nice score last week, but this week’s Bears defense won’t let him get loose. He’ll have yardage, but I wouldn’t count on much more than that.

Ryan Grant vs. Cowboys: Until he’s healthy, he’s not going to have a good game. Against the Cowboys defense, he’ll need a good hamstring to be effective.

Steve Slaton, Chris Taylor vs. Titans: The Titans eat running backs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t try. Just don’t.

Chad Pennington vs. Patriots: Lacking their star corner, the Patriots still make it tough to throw on them. It won’t matter if Pennington has a My Size Barbie arm. Putting the ball through the air is just going to be hard.

All Raiders besides Darren McFadden vs. Bills: Buffalo will attack JaMarcus Russell from all sides. This game should show everyone that Buffalo is worth carrying on your roster as a starting defense, and it doesn’t get bad for the rest of the season.

Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis vs. Ravens: One more week of pain.

David Garrard vs. Colts: See above.

Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson/Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Giants: The New York RB wrecking crew controls the clock in this one and will require that the Bengals put something in the air to win, but Palmer just doesn’t have it right now. The Bengals passing game is bench-worthy until I see a spark.

Green Bay Packers D/ST vs. Cowboys: It’s just not a good idea to play your defense against the Cowboys this season.

Sleeper candidates:

I’ll take a few shots in the dark this week, and we’ll see how that works out for me.

Michael Pittman vs. Saints: When the Broncos get close, look for Pittman to punch them into the end zone all day. Don’t get too confident. The Saints might let Royal and Marshall finish every catch at the goal post, but Pittman could get you a score or two in this one if you are hurting at RB.

Jerious Norwood vs. Chiefs: If Turner is slowed, Norwood could have a big day. McFadden used his speed to torch the Chiefs last week, and Norwood has some speed of his own.

Post any sit/start questions in the comments for help setting your roster this week. I have to get back to practicing my route running with Matt Hasselbeck.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Saviors from Week 2

After Week 2′s performances, you should have a pretty good idea what your players are worth. Starting jobs are getting shuffled, and guys we thought might pay off are doing just that. If you didn’t capture one of the big performers of Week 2 on your fantasy team, let’s see what we can do for you.

Apologies for running a little late this week. I was trying out at wide receiver for Seattle.

QUARTERBACKS

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB San Francisco 49ers

I told you to watch him last week, and look what he did. Against the Seahawks, O’Sullivan passed for 321 yards and a TD. He even rushed for 32 more yards. While he’s no every week starter, O’Sullivan has some great matchups this season — including this week against Detroit — and he’ll continue to develop in the Mike Martz offense.

He’s going to get sacked a lot and have a few bust games where you won’t want to be starting him, but he’s also going to throw up 300+ yards every now and then. If you are hurting at QB or need someone to help you along until Hasselbeck gets a WR or two, O’Sullivan is not a bad pick. In fact, he’s a hot purchase.

Jason Campbell, QB Washington Redskins

Very doubtful that he’s on a wire anywhere near your league, but he’s worth mentioning since he seems to be putting it together as a decent fantasy QB2 in Jim Zorn’s offense. For the past two weeks, he’s thrown a score to Santana Moss. If you can work him into a rotation at QB (Brady-less sad face) or put him on your bench as a QB2, grab him — especially if he plays a weak defense during your starting QB’s bye.

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans

Last week, he looked like just a temporary bye week fill, but now, according to Jeff Fisher, Collins is the starter in Tennessee until the Titans start losing. He’s dangerous — as in, not just his middle name, but his WHOLE name is “dangerous.” If you want to take a chance, he should hook Justin Gage up with some TD passes and maybe put some life back into Alge Crumpler.

Brian Griese, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Griese now has the starting job in Tampa, which makes him at least as valuable as Jeff Garcia…yeah, okay.

If Joey Galloway is out because of his foot injury, Griese might have to make it with Antonio Bryant and Ike Hilliard. Griese will still manage a TD pass or two in most games, and he could be a solid QB2 for any team in the market.

Is Gruden is trying to get everyone that had success with the Bucs on the roster again? (Warrick Dunn and Griese to the rescue!)

WIDE RECEIVERS

Koren Robinson, WR Seattle Seahawks

Robinson just signed a one-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks, who are hurting at receiver now that they’ve had six go down with injuries already this year. He’s worth putting on a roster, but who knows how long he’ll be around before the curse strikes him as well. Muwahahahaha…

Keary Colbert, WR Seattle Seahawks (formerly with Denver Broncos)

Colbert failed to earn his spot in the Broncos offense. Of course, he didn’t know when he signed on that they would be bringing in Eddie Royal. Failing to establish himself as the No. 2 opposite Brandon Marshall, Colbert was buried on the depth chart and got traded to Seattle this week before Hasselbeck started working out with grocery store employees anywhere within a 50 mile radius.

Obviously, since he failed to find traction with the Denver offense, Colbert’s upside might be limited, but again, if you are hurting at WR, Colbert is a new target in Seattle. Deion Branch and Bobby Engram won’t threaten him until Week 4 or Week 5.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR Indianapolis Colts

It’s clear that he is going to outperform Marvin Harrison this season. He’s probably taken in your league, but if not, make sure you get him on a roster. As long as Dallas Clark is out, Gonzalez benefits. He was a yardage monster in Week 2.

Bryant Johnson and Isaac Bruce, WR San Francisco 49ers

Hey, if J.T. O’Sullivan is worth putting on a roster, so are these two. Johnson looks like the guy with a chip on his shoulder after coming out of Arizona behind Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. He’s the one to own. If you can’t get him, Bruce actually got some passes his way in Week 2 and put up 153 yards. Bruce proved once again that he’s worth owning even if he doesn’t get the TDs.

Johnson is not quite an every week starter in 12-team league but he is if you are in a deeper leagues or start three WRs. Bruce is a bye week fill at this point or a low-end WR3. Easy passing schedules for a few weeks make them great snags off the wire right now.

Justin Gage, WR Tennessee Titans

I smell desperation. Are you so hurt at WR that you need to pick a Titan? As long as Collins is at QB, Gage isn’t that bad of a play. He’s the best that the Titans have to offer with reliable red zone hands, and Collins will go vertical more than Vince Young did. Wait, was that some obscure sexual reference…? Eh, moving on.

Gage might make for a reliable WR3 — at least for a short time.

Amani Toomer, WR New York Giants

While this is supposedly the year for Steve Smith to emerge, Amani Toomer is still holding it down as the No. 2 WR in New York. He’s worth putting on your roster to play anytime the Giants face anyone like the Rams (see: horrible), but he could also be a decent WR3 in deeper leagues. Toomer had 67 yards and a score in Week 2 against the Rams. The Bengals might not see him coming in Week 3 either.

RUNNING BACKS

Jonathan Stewart, RB Carolina Panthers

Racking up 77 yards and two TDs against the Bears this season is no easy task — especially in a RBBC. After his Week 2 showing, Stewart is already starting rumors that the top job is his to take. You might not have a chance to snag him off a wire, but you should have your eye on acquiring him now while the future is still uncertain. Unlike the Steelers drafting of Mendenhall, Carolina elected to take Jonathan Stewart in the first round, and they plan on using him.

Darren Sproles, RB San Diego Chargers

Sproles importance to the Charger offense gets a boost now that LaDainian Tomlinson’s foot injury looks a little more serious than we all expected. If Tomlinson is out for an extended period of time, look for Jacob Hester to play a part in the running game as well. For now, just make sure you have Sproles on your roster if you own L.T. or if you want an extra boost and potential starter for your RB corps.

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans

He has horrible matchups right now, but keep your eye on Slaton. Owners that have him might be willing to let him go after a weak start to the season, but the weak defenses are still to come for him. As long as Ahman Green doesn’t return to spoil the fun, Slaton should tear up some teams by midseason. If you have the room to spare, stow him away.

Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders

If Fargas’ injury is serious, Bush finally becomes fantasy relevant again. I believe that Bush and McFadden are the two most talented backs in Oakland right now, so Fargas missing some action may be damaging to his starting role. Look for Bush to get some short yardage looks at share time with McFadden if Fargas struggles to get back on the field. He’s worth stashing if you have the bench room, but be warned that Fargas could ghost him back to the bench if he can go Week 3.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals

I’m warming up to Hightower now that he seems to score in every Arizona game. If you are weak at RB or own Edgerrin James, maybe you should consider putting Tim Hightower on your roster. It couldn’t hurt to have a productive TD vulture around in a bye week pinch. He should be owned in deeper leagues.

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It looks like Dunn will be sharing time with Earnest Graham. He won’t rack up the fantasy points, but if you are sitting on a bunch of prospects that didn’t pay out for you early in the season, it might be nice to trade them out for someone who sees the field at least a few carries each game.

TIGHT ENDS

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

Can you blame a guy for not being the second coming of Jason Witten every week? If owners leave him hanging after he returned to earth in Week 2, keep your eye or an empty bench spot on him. Tight ends are rarely as solid as the Winslows and Wittens, but Fasano’s got talent and will be used in this offense. The Arizona D just shut him down this week.

John Carlson, TE Seattle Seahawks

He’s emerging as a solid set of hands for Hasselbeck. Even with new blood at the WR position, that’s hard to come by for the Seahawks. He’s a TE you still want to play matchups on because he won’t put up big numbers each week, but Carlson definitely deserves a roster spot since he’ll see more throws his way than many tight ends this year. He could be a reliable starter in deeper leagues — especially if plenty of owners are carrying a couple of tight ends.

Ones to Watch

Tyler Thigpen, QB Kansas City

Yeah, this guy. With Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard both damaged, Thigpen is the guy in Kansas City. He had some buzz going into the preseason, but he didn’t unseat Huard for the backup QB spot. In Week 2, he had 151 yards with a score and an interception. He is likely to get his first NFL start in Week 3 since Kansas City is going young these days.

“Every week is a new journey,” Herm Edwards said. Now that’s confidence!

Still, I could be wrong. He’s worth an eye this week if you are hurting at QB. I don’t think it would take much to unseat Brodie Croyle from the starting job, but he’d have to really step his game up. I have to doubt he’s this year’s Derek Anderson.

Laurent Robinson, WR Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons won’t do a lot of passing, but with Roddy White around, Matt Ryan is going to try to keep them involved. Robinson had won the WR2 job in Atlanta prior to falling on the depth chart when he got a little banged up in preseason. He could win it back if he keeps getting in on the snaps for the Falcons.

LaMont Jordan, RB New England Patriots

Jordan and Sammy Morris might both be worth picking up if New England continues to mix it up on offense, but Morris seems to be the preferred guy when they are within the five. Jordan might dominate yardage. You might want to let him stew a week and see if he shows up again in Week 3 before you clear a spot for him.

Brandon Jackson, RB Green Bay Packers

I’m not completely sold that Jackson is earning a spot in this offense. Sure, for the moment, he’s got Ryan Grant splitting carries with him, but once Grant is back to 100 percent, what becomes of Jackson? If you are a Ryan Grant owner, you need to pick him up if he is available as insurance, but if not, let him hang on the wire before you go dropping someone with a season-long starting role.

Fred Jackson, RB Buffalo Bills

What happened to Marshawn Lynch being out there all three downs? Apparently, not against the Jaguars. Jackson is seeing some touches for the moment, but when the easy running opponents come up to Buffalo, I wonder which RB gets to have all the fun?

Derrick Ward, RB New York Giants

He’s getting the looks while Big Boy (Brandon Jacobs) catches his breath on the sidelines. If Jacobs goes down again, he could have a big year, but if not, he’s just a decent bye week fill guy.

The Guy Sitting Next To You Right Now, WR Unsigned (soon to be Seahawk)

At the rate Seattle is going through WRs, it could be anyone next. Time to start considering write-ins if you have the room on your bench!

By the way, where is Chad Jackson? This week is a horrible time to stop checking your voicemail, Chad.

LA LA LA…Ignoring

Chansi Stuckey, WR New York Jets

Right now, Stuckey is on my hate list for catching the TD passes from Favre that should be going to a guy like Cotchery, who deserves them because I own him. He’s no Greg Jennings or James Jones. Stuckey just happened to catch a Favre heave in Week 1 and got a target in the end zone in Week 2. I’m not buying until he does it to me again.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

Call me a hater. I just don’t think he’s worth it. He’s just catching all these passes because he’s all hopped up and on a high…okay, bad joke.

Ryan Longwell, K Minnesota Vikings

I’m not saying he’s a bad kicker, but performances like his five field goals in Week 2 are flukes. I don’t expect the Vikings to get held out of the end zone that many times this season. Don’t drop an established, high-performing kicker because you think Longwell will start carrying your fantasy team.

Catch more insight on waiver wire grabs from The Hazean and Fantasy Football Goat. Check out who to sell high right now at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog.

Saving Your Season: How to replace that Tom Brady guy

Well, that just sucks. Thanks, Week 1. Today being Patriot Day just seems to be an even more depressing reminder of the losses in real life and our slightly much less important fantasy football losses.

Screen capture from ESPN.com of Patriot fan on Brady injury

Screen capture from ESPN.com of Patriot fan on Brady injury

If you were one of the lucky fantasy footballers who lost Tom Brady this past weekend, I assume I just caught you wallowing in your own self-pity, eating a cheeseburger off the floor between fits of crying, alcoholism and throwing Cheetos…

Don’t get up. I’ll squat down to your level.

You probably don’t even feel like waking up anymore. You thought you had this incredible season of fantasy football coming together — Tom Brady leading an UNSTOPPABLE fantasy force — but it’s all come crashing down. We should have known better when Bernard Pollard started dating Tonya Harding.

This Matt Cassel kid doesn’t exactly have the resume to jump right into replacing your first round fantasy draft pick, and you might have even missed out on him in your waiver wire this week. Have you looked at the waiver wire besides Cassel? Neckbeard (A.K.A Kyle Orton) and Damon Huard don’t exactly inspire confidence.

If you’re wire was full of guys like Jake Delhomme, Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna or even Trent Edwards, you’re lucky and have earned the hatred of us all. Pick up a couple of them or pair one with a capable backup, and you’re not out of the hunt just yet.

For the rest of us, we may need to take a more desperate path. Even if you do snag Cassel off the wire, he’s no guarantee to make your fantasy season. I don’t care if he is throwing to Randy Moss.

The Free Agent Quarterbacks

Looking through the rest of this season’s matchups, I’ve identified a few QBs that are probably floating around as free agents that you can platoon — yes, platoon — to save your season.

By checking the waiver wires in my deepest leagues, I am guessing your options look something like this list: Matt Cassel, Chad Pennington, Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Ryan, Damon Huard (filling in temporarily for Brodie Croyle), Kerry Collins (filling in temporarily for Vince Young), Joe Flacco, J.T. O’Sullivan, JaMarcus Russell and…yes, I’m going to list Kyle Orton. You may be left to rely on Neckbeard.

The highest upside player is, of course, J.T. O’Sullivan. He COULD be the next Mike Martz QB — high risk, high reward — or he could remain a miserable fantasy failure just like Week 1. As a sign of hope, he did complete more than 70 percent of his passes, even if they were only to the tight ends and Frank Gore.

Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and JaMarcus Russell are all new blood at the QB position. They won’t have much flare for the spectacular, but they won’t bomb either. All there QBs value is dependent upon them gaining confidence and becoming a larger part of the game plans.

Damon Huard and Kerry Collins are both guys that can be counted on in a pinch, but they have timers hanging over their heads. Once their respective starters return, they go back to the bench, and you go back to the waiver wire to grab Brodie Croyle (Yikes!) or Vince Young, who might find his happy place while he is sitting the next few weeks.

Chad Pennington might have one of the lowest ceilings of this whole group, but he showed that he can put up fantasy points in Miami in Week 1. I thought he was worth a few starts last year, and I think he will be worth more this year now that he is fully healed with a coaching staff that respects him.

Kyle Orton and Tarvaris Jackson are not game changers. Each has a run game that will take the ball out of their hands, so unless you get points for handoffs, don’t plan on either one exploding each week. Orton is a game manager who might have weeks where he throws a touchdown or two followed by droughts of no TDs at all. Jackson, if he can improve his decision making, could be a decent sleeper several weeks out of the season with Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian, and his ceiling is obviously higher than Neckbeard’s.

Throw in this Matt Cassel kid, who could become a Philip Rivers-ish or Brodie Croyle-ish type of starter, and that’s a pretty good mix of potential — would have use the word talent here, but I am under contract not to use that word when Kyle Orton is involved.

Building Your Platoon

Now that Brady is done, I would assume that most of you have dropped him off your roster and picked up at least one of the QBs listed above (unless you are in a keeper league, which makes this even tougher).

Without Brady, you’ll still need two more spots for QBs. Assuming you have a backup — you drafted a backup for Tom Brady, right? — you’ll only need to drop one more guy from your bench to pickup another QB.

Obviously, don’t let one of your studs go, but if you have a guy that you were just waiting on to be productive, it might be time to give up hope. If you really don’t have anyone you can stand dropping, you might be able to wait this out — these guys aren’t flying onto rosters anytime soon unless they have a huge game. HUGE.

Try to vary your QB selections based upon their matchups. Pick three who work well together for the rest of the season. You’ll want a third QB to fill in the gaps when your first two have bad matchups or incredibly good running matchups.

Matchups to Target

These matchups are loosely based on team defense projections, cornerback ratings and Week 1 performances. Note that if one of these teams like St. Louis (unlikely), Miami, Kansas City, Oakland, Houston or Seattle rebound against the pass attacks, you might want to rethink your strategy going into that week.

Week 2: Flacco vs. Texans, Huard vs. Raiders, Russell vs. Chiefs, Collins vs. Cincinnati, O’Sullivan vs. Seahawks

Obviously, the best matchups in Week 2 are Flacco and Collins. O’Sullivan is a high-risk here, but he could payoff huge.

Week 3: Flacco vs. Browns, Huard vs. Falcons, Collins vs. Texans, Ryan vs. Chiefs, O’Sullivan vs. Detroit, Cassel vs Dolphins

Martz’s revenge game? If O’Sullivan shines, this week would be the week to do it. Huard against ATL corners is promising as is Collins. When the Titans play the Texans, it is usually a good show.

Week 4: Collins vs. Vikings, O’Sullivan vs. Saints

The matchup drought starts here for a few weeks. Flacco or Jackson might be the best options in your platoon to help you weather the storm.

Collins will have to pass against the strong Vikings run defense, so he makes the best pick here. O’Sullivan, if on a roll by now, could also light up the Saints in a high-scoring affair.

Week 5: Orton vs. Lions, Jackson vs. Saints, Cassel vs. 49ers

It’s the Lions. Even Neckbeard should put one up on the Detroit defense. Cassel against the 49ers is a smart play as well.

Week 6: Orton vs. Falcons, Jackson vs. Lions, Pennington vs. Texans

Pennington is my pick for this week, but it’s hard to say who has the better outlook since all three teams could end up just running the ball through these defenses all day.

Week 7: Flacco vs. Dolphins, Collins/Vince Young vs. Chiefs

If Vince Young returns to the starting role, despite his lack of valid WRs, I’d put him as one of the highest potential QBs from here on out. Clearly, 2008 is becoming a make or break year for his career, and sooner or later, the shine he had at Texas is going to prove he is star-worthy in the NFL. (Dear Vince, Don’t you go retiring just to make sausage now that I said that.)

Week 8: Flacco vs. Raiders, O’Sullivan vs. Seahawks, Cassel vs. Rams

O’Sullivan could be heaven-sent by now or out of work. Cassel will probably be able to score at will against the Rams while Flacco might not have the accuracy just yet to expose the Raiders slacking secondary.

Week 9: Flacco vs. Browns, Huard/Croyle vs. Buccaneers, Russell vs. Falcons, Ryan vs. Raiders, Orton vs. Lions, Jackson vs. Texans

By Week 9, we should see what we have in these prospect QBs. One of them might be a worthy starter. I like Russell against the Falcons and Jackson against the Texans.

Week 10: Pennington vs. Seahawks, Ryan vs. Saints

Pennington could be surprising folks with Miami by this point in the season, and Ryan might have found enough of a rapport with his receivers to open up the playbook. They’ll have to against the Saints.

Week 11: Russell vs. Dolphins, Collins/Young vs. Jaguars, O’Sullivan vs. Rams

Russell should slice up the Dolphins if he’s got his long ball locked in by Week 11, but Young and O’Sullivan present explosive options. I know Young faces the Jags, but it’ll probably be a competitive game since both might be struggling for top positions in the AFC. Young will have to make things happen through the air.

Week 12: Ryan vs. Panthers, Orton vs. Rams, Cassel vs. Dolphins

Can Neckbeard unleash his beast on the Rams? (That’s what she said.) Cassel against the Dolphins is my pick here, but Ryan and Orton are potential slam dunks as well.

Week 13: Flacco vs. Bengals, Croyle vs. Raiders, Russell vs. Chiefs, Pennington vs. Rams

Finally, someone gets to play the BENGALS. Croyle is not likely to lace it in there against the Raiders, but Pennington should blow apart the Rams in Week 13. I don’t care if he launches the football with a rubber band.

Week 14: Young vs. Browns, Ryan vs. Saints, Jackson vs. Lions, Cassel vs. Seahawks

Dear Lord. Did you consider what you would do if you make the playoffs with this save? First of all, if you get here, make all checks payable to me and send immediately. Thank you.

Jackson and Cassel look like golden boys, but Ryan and Young could both expose the defenses if they are at the top of their game. I like Young being able to make some moves in this one and get a lot of time on offense from Cleveland turnovers.

Week 15: Young vs. Texans, Orton vs. Saints, O’Sullivan vs. Dolphins, Pennington vs. 49ers, Cassel vs. Raiders

Lights out in Houston when Vince Young returns to town. Pennington and O’Sullivan should both go off, and Orton might HAVE to get called into duty to get something to Devin Hester against the Saints.

Week 16: Croyle vs. Dolphins, Russell vs. Texans, Ryan vs. Vikings, Jackson vs. Falcons, O’Sullivan vs. Rams, Pennington vs. Chiefs

Huge amount of nice matchups, and it could matter to you considering this might be your championship game. The Vikings might be fighting for a Wild Card, but Ryan could still light them up in the secondary. Jackson could do the same to the two high school corners on the Falcons. If Mike Martz makes a man out of O’Sullivan, might he destroy the Rams and bring you a trophy?

Week 17 (Heaven Forbid): Croyle vs. Bengals, Ryan vs. Rams, Orton vs. Texans, Pennington vs. Jets (Rematch!)

If your commish schedules your championship week in Week 17, slap him/her. Open fist. Just slap ‘em.

At least you have a few decent matchups with Ryan against the Rams and Pennington against the Jets. Pennington will still want to show the Jets what they gave away, and I am sure he wouldn’t mind knocking the Jets out of the playoffs and/or taking their morale down a notch right before they go into the playoffs.

Now that you feel better…

How about a video that RotoHog just sent me? (Note: It’s graphic for Tom Brady fans. Look away and earmuffs!)

Yeah, that’ll pretty much bring you back down to previous levels of depression. Bummer, but hey, I have to stop you from getting too giddy before you start getting excited at the thought of an Eli Manning injury that would allow you to start David Carr.

Why did you take Brady off the injury report Belichick? Why Belichick? WHY?!?!?

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Saviors from Week 1

A disastrous and tragic Week 1 has left plenty of teams hurting for new talent. Was there a group shot on the cover of Madden this year?

Since Week 1 is always the best time to grab the waiver wire studs AND since this week was full of injuries and failures, this week’s waiver wire gems is pretty comprehensive. Next week, we’ll bring it down a notch. We’ll start things off at QB since I hear we lost one this week.

If these guys went undrafted in your league, make sure you correct that. Now.

Matt Cassel, QB New England Patriots

Jesus. If you don’t know why Cassel is going to be a top grab this week, GO BACK UNDER YOUR ROCK AND STAY THERE.

It’s possible if you are a Tom Brady owner — or former Brady owner, as the case may be — that you have other, better options than Cassel. In one league, for example, Delhomme is still out there somehow.

If you’re stuck choosing between a bunch of dangerous options, Cassel makes a nice replacement. At least, he has a great group of receivers to throw to this year even if his skill set is still in question.

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills

It’s good to know that Edwards knows Lee Evans is on the team now. They must have had some sort of Kumbaya camping trip this offseason.

Edwards looked good in the offense, and I might lean on him over Cassel knowing he has the skills to get his receivers the scores. He had 215 yards and a TD in Week 1, but I think he can do better. In Week 2, he’ll have Jason Peters back on the offensive line — and so will Marshawn Lynch.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins

He has had fantasy success in the past — even last year when healthy — and he might have found a team in Miami that will come together around him.

With a strong Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown run game, Pennington looks like a QB2 and could contribute as part of a fantasy QB rotation.

He’s better than Damon Huard.

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans

Vince Young looks to be sidelined for a few weeks. If you need a stopgap, Collins could be your man. He’s very unlikely to be drafted by anyone in your league, but there is always the issue of who he will throw it to this season for the Titans…

If you can’t be picky, Collins could be a decent fill at QB for a few weeks.

Eddie Royal, WR Denver Broncos

Rookie sensation had THE BEST performance of any WR this week. Royal could be a slightly more productive version of Patrick Crayton last season, and he’ll always draw the weaker corner once Brandon Marshall returns in Week 2. He’s an excellent WR3 or more if he can keep catching Cutler’s eye once Marshall is back.

DeSean Jackson, WR Philadelphia Eagles

McNabb spread the ball in Week 1, but he liked targeting the rookie. As long as Kevin Curtis remains banged up, Jackson should be on a roster — and maybe even after. As an added bonus, he might return a kick or two for some additional TD points.

Jackson’s six catches for 106 yards isn’t too shabby, and Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis might even be worth stashing as well if both continue to see looks from McNabb.

L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles

If McNabb is firing, Smith should see end zone looks. McNabb knows Smith is attached to a couple of the most reliable hands he can throw at this season, so look for Smith to continue to have nice games in good matchups. In Week 1, he posted 39 yards a score. He’s worth a TE2 spot if you carry two of them, or he could be part of a nice TE rotation with one of breakout TEs of 2008.

Dante Rosario, TE Carolina Panthers

The deep TE ranks get even deeper as long as Rosario remains a reliable target for Delhomme. He came down with seven receptions for 96 yards and a TD in Week 1. Worth rostering if you have a weak TE or want to trade away your stud to take advantage of the depth here this year, but be cautious. We don’t know how Rosario will be affected by the return on Steve Smith in Week 3.

Robert Royal, TE Buffalo Bills

Again, TEs look deep this year. The new offense in Buffalo smiled favorably on Royal, who caught six passes for 52 yards and a score against Seattle. After Jacksonville, the Bills schedule gets easier. I like Rosario better than Royal, but Royal is likely to see his fair share of looks this season unless rookie James Hardy starts to steal his end zone opportunities as Hardy gets more playing time.

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

We know Pennington doesn’t have a big arm (Girlish arm chant…Begin!), but he got his TEs involved early in the showdown against his former team, the Jets. Fasano practiced behind Jason Witten in Dallas, and look how Witten turned out. Fasano could be one of Pennington’s most reliable targets this season.

Matt Forte, RB Chicago Bears

Likely drafted in every league, Forte proved he could be a consistent fantasy starter in Week 1. He could put up a fight for offensive rookie of the year if he keeps it up. We know the Bears won’t have much on offense, so they’ll use their defense and Forte to control the game.

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys

I feel like THIS Jones will be far more effective than Julius Jones was last year for the Cowboys. His performance in Week 1 was worthy of a FLEX play (or even a low-end starter) with 62 yards and a TD. Barber bruised his ribs late in the game, and even though he is still expected to play in Week 2, look for Felix Jones to see increased action along with Tashard Choice against the Eagles.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots

He’s the running back for the Patriots. I don’t care what the depth chart says. With Brady out, he could see an increased role in this offense. He’ll certainly be in the mix however the offense is rearranged to suit Cassel.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints

Thomas might make Deuce McAllister a ghost this season if he keeps stealing carries. He’s a must-grab for any McAllister owners and could be the workhorse back of the Saints offense this season.

Buffalo Bills D/ST

The Bills defense had a few shining moments last season, but being healthy this season and free agent additions (Marcus Stroud) have made them an emerging sleeper.

In Week 2, they get to play Jacksonville — suffering from a devastated offensive line. Their schedule gets pretty easy from there. Stash them now before the other teams in your league see them spark.

Ones to Watch

Carolina Panthers D/ST

I’m not entirely sold just yet, but the Panthers were on of my sleeper defensive units coming into 2008.

They kept L.T. tame in Week 1. That’s promising. Panthers face off against the Bears this week. I’m still a little worried about the 300+ yards that the Panthers gave up — Forte could tear them apart this week if he keeps his stud status. On the other hand, the Bears could look like…well, the Bears this week.

If you have a roster spot or lack confidence in your defense, it might be worth rostering Carolina this week to see where they go from this Week 1 performance.

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB San Francisco 49ers

Yeah, it’s a bit of a reach, but he still has upside. He got the ball to Frank Gore and Vernon Davis in Week 1, and he could expand on that in Week 2.

Hey, it’s Mike Martz, okay?

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons

Still a rookie QB, but obviously, he’s going to have his good weeks every now and then. Worth a chance? Let’s see his Week 2 unless you desperately need QB help this season. Turner looks like the focus of this offense.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals

I didn’t see Hightower taking the goal line carries from Edgerrin James once the regular season got started, but apparently, they’re still doing that in Arizona. Edge is turning 30, but he still looks productive this season. Hightower might be worth rostering if you have the room, but he’s little more than a TD vulture. Other than his score, he only had 34 total yards.

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans

Slaton had more carries than Ahman Green, but Green went out with an injury in this one. Wait a sec, that makes Slaton look even better.

Regardless of the depth chart, the starting RB job in Houston is Slaton’s to earn if he performs well this season. While Green is sidelined, Slaton will probably share carries with the platoon of backs in Houston (Chris Taylor and possibly Darius Walker), but he should continue to see more and more carries.

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The wily veteran’s role in this offense might be worth getting. He put up 54 yards in just nine carries in Week 1. He could play a larger role in future games.

Yes, I just wanted to use the word wily.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans

If the Texans get a potent passing game going, Walter could benefit from Andre Johnson pulling the better corner. He’s worth rostering in deep leagues and seeing how he pans out. Otherwise, keep an eye on how much he contributes to see if he could be worthy of your WR3 spot.

Ignoring, as in “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you!”

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens

Let’s see where he goes when McGahee is back. My guess is somewhere behind Ray Rice. I don’t think he’s worth rostering unless he reappears in Week 2.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts

Probably going to be just as valuable as Kenton Keith last season. There are better options out there who will get more than yardage and a few scores. I think Addai comes back from his head injury in Week 1 with no problems.

Michael Pittman, RB Denver Broncos

Yes, you scored two touchdowns. Congrats. Not sure I trust any Denver back this season. Pittman’s a TD vulture — feast or famine. Too risky to roster in my opinion.

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

It’s Damon Huard in a pretty terrible offense in Kansas City. Plus, he’s only in there for a few weeks until Brodie Croyle returns. I think I’d rather have Kerry Collins. “The Bowe Show” is nice and all, but I don’t like the season premiere that much.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

They say dead people twitch sometimes.

See other waivers around the Internetz at Fantasy Football Goat, at The Hazean, at Yahoo! Sports, at Pancake Blocks, at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, at CBS Sportsline, at Fantasy Football Toolbox (also with upgrades for this week), at Pro Football Weekly, at Football Docs, at Bruno Boys, and at Fantasy Football Librarian.

Expert League Team Retrospective: Fantasy Website Drunken Pirate Slapfight Expert League

Fantasy Website Drunken Pirate Slapfight Expert League

About a month ago, I completed an expert draft with several fantasy football analysts and bloggers. The draft took almost the entire month of July because it was conducted with a 10-hour timer for each pick on MyFantasyLeague.com for those of us with day jobs. Psh, day jobs.

The results of this draft, although mentioned in passing, have yet to be fully explained for all you fools. I waited because the draft was so early in the offseason, and I thought it would be best to let my picks mature…like a fine wine.

Matured they have. Now that my roster has had some time to digest, I can safely brag about it.

You can view the draft in its entirety here, and you can also read about what Smitty, the very distinguished expert representative from Fantasy Football Xtreme, thought of the first seven rounds of the draft.

This 12-team league uses standard scoring with all touchdowns counting for six points. For those of you tracking stats in the audience, here is the complete scoring setup.

A starting lineup consists of 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 team defense (D/ST), but we have nine bench spots to hold backup players. Don’t reach for a calculator. That means 18 players on our teams and an 18-round draft.

Now let’s talk through it.

You’ll notice that I went heavy on wide receivers because this draft is the one that convinced me that there is plenty of depth at running back this year.

I got shafted with the tenth overall pick in the expert draft — one of the more difficult spots to be in this year — but somehow managed to put together what I feel is a strong contender for this year.

1.10 Tom Brady QB New England Patriots

With the first pick, I really, really wanted to take a running back. Pinkie swear. Brady just fell into my lap.

At the tenth overall pick, Brady has some nice value. Someone is about to draft Randy Moss, and by taking Brady, I get credit for every single one of those Moss TD throws plus every other Patriot TD through the air.

For the record, I think Brady is best drafted in the ninth overall spot or later. Drafting him any earlier puts you in a bad spot to make up lost ground on running backs and wide receivers.

Note: I’ll disprove that statement about drafting Brady with another one of my upcoming draft breakdowns, but I’m not sure how I did it.

2.03 Ryan Grant RB Green Bay Packers

I was scheming for Marshawn Lynch to fall to me here.

Actually, part of my brilliant strategy in taking Brady in the first round was that I expected to catch Lynch, a potential first-round talent, here.

Unfortunately, JunkYard Jake spoiled my plan by taking Lynch at 2.02, just before me. The audacity.

I had to settle on Ryan Grant, which isn’t a bad “settle” considering he could end up being a top-five or at least top-10 running back this season. I am not worried about Aaron Rodgers affecting his production. Not at all.

3.10 Chad Johnson WR Cincinnati Bengals

When my pick came back around, I was hoping there would be some tiny morsel of a top wide receiver left for me to take since I was set back taking Brady in the first round.

I was nearly heartbroken when all the elite quarterbacks and the top receivers were flying off the board around the end of the second round and beginning of third round.

Luckily for me, most of the other experts didn’t want to touch Chad Johnson. This draft was taking place during his talky-too-much phase of the offseason. He fell all the way to 3.10, and that’s some insanely good value if he ends up producing his usual season totals or better.

I’d take Chad Johnson just before the fourth round any day.

Smitty from Fantasy Football Xtreme called this pick as “probably the steal of the entire draft.” Yes…I agree.

4.03 Brandon Marshall WR Denver Broncos

Keep in mind that this pick was pre-suspension. Some reports still thought he would get off with just a slap on the wrist for his offseason debauchery and flirtation with the law.

Now we know, of course, but at the time, I thought I might just be snagging two potential top-five receivers in the third and fourth round.

To be honest, I’d still take “Baby T.O.” in this spot even with the suspension. He should get lots of targets from Jay Cutler, and Cutler is looking like he is ready to show off this season.

5.10 Jonathan Stewart RB Carolina Panthers

Alright, I went a little receiver-crazy in the early rounds, but I was set on establishing one of the strongest receiver groups in this league.

By the fifth round, it was time to take another running back before they dropped off in value. Due to the hype surrounding his projected rise to the starting role and Carolina’s nice schedule for running, I liked Stewart a lot going into this draft.

I got screwed last year when the Panthers stuck with DeShaun Foster after all the “DeAngelo Williams’ time to shine” talk. In taking Stewart, I was counting on him to win the starting job. Still am.

It’s not completely out of the question that he gets to start this season (at some point), but it’s not looking good right now. DeAngelo Williams has looked impressive in preseason showings and is running hard.

Even before knowing what I know now, I knew I was taking a risk here with Stewart and planned on making sure I acquired Williams a few rounds later. Unfortunately, I underestimated how much other drafters were interested in him…

6.03 Jerricho Cotchery WR New York Jets

I was not too fond of any running backs at this point in the draft, and I thought it was too early to take DeAngelo Williams. I stuck with drafting receivers — you know, for my super, amazing receiving group.

I liked Cotchery as a WR3 before Favre, but I like him even more now.

Cotchery looks like he has already developed a nice relationship with the old gunslinger. Sorry, you must use “gunslinger” when referring to the man formerly known as a Packer — it’s a rule and much better than “Jet Favre.” Cotchery should benefit from Favre’s much more powerful arm this season.

This pick would have paid off without the Favre trade, but with it, Cotchery now looks like he can hold me off as a WR2 until Brandon Marshall returns in Week 3 or Week 4. With Brandon Marshall in my lineup, Cotchery should complete a fearsome three-receiver set for my team.

7.10 Santana Moss WR Washington Redskins

I wanted to take DeAngelo Williams here. Epic fail.

Phil from UltimateFFStrategy.com either sensed my plan or really liked Williams despite the Stewart hype and snagged Williams at the end of the sixth round.

After missing my chance to lock up the Carolina running game, I couldn’t even stand to look at any of other running backs available here.

Knowing Marshall was no lock to start every game because of his suspension concerns, I decided to pad my receiver corps.

Santana Moss hasn’t played up to his potential the last few seasons, but the new offense and Jim Zorn should give him some wind under the sails. Adding two rookie receivers behind him on the depth chart is what I call motivation.

Jason Campbell having another season under his belt doesn’t hurt Moss either. He’s worth packing onto my roster at this point in the seventh round. If he pays off big, he could be my best trade bait once Brandon Marshall returns.

8.03 Deuce McAllister RB New Orleans Saints

The running backs were about to drop off by this round, and I liked Deuce McAllister the best of the ones remaining. McAllister should — fingers crossed — return from his knee injury to once again be the center gear of the Saints’ high-powered scoring machine.

I expect solid production out of him once he gets back on the field. Reggie Bush dances. Deuce keeps the Saints moving forward. Not a bad back to acquire this late.

9.10 Nate Burleson WR Seattle Seahawks

I hadn’t abandoned receivers just yet. The good No. 1 options were mostly off the board, but the upside of receivers was about to drop off considerably.

I already had four wide receivers, but I wanted to make sure I stockpiled any receivers with big upside and the potential to be top fantasy studs in 2008. If nothing else, they become trade bait to fix my running back problems if I run into any.

At the time of this draft, Bobby Engram was still expected to be the pseudo-No. 1 receiving option for the Seattle Seahawks. I lucked out — another maturing pick on my part — when Engram injured his shoulder.

It looks like I now have the most experienced receiver the Seahawks have to start the season in Burleson. Here’s to you, Nate. Do me proud, and catch everything Hasselbeck throws to you.

10.03 Tony Scheffler TE Denver Broncos

Most of the top tight ends were off the board by this round, and I wanted to make sure I got someone solid.

Last year, I ran my teams off rotating sleeper tight ends. Tony Scheffler was one that stuck in my rosters, and I like him this season as more than a sleeper pick.

You know what other tight end is best buds with his quarterback? Jason Witten. That’s all I’m saying.

11.10 Ahman Green RB Houston Texans
12.03 Chris Brown RB Houston Texans

These two injury prone “starters” fell pretty far down from their preseason rankings. Since I failed to catch my DeAngelo Williams to lock up two solid running back starters, I decided to take the plunge. I knew that I could get them both with these two picks.

Green and Brown are last resorts to use as starting running backs on your roster since they both could end up losing their job to Steve Slaton before the year is out. Regardless, one of them is going to be the starter for at least a good part of the 2008 season.

I took them as my “safety net” starters. If both Deuce McAllister and Jonathan Stewart fail me as RB2s, I’ll flip a coin (Lovie Smith style) and throw one of these battered guys into my starting lineup.

13.10 Devin Hester KR/WR Chicago Bears

I don’t get points for kick returns, but Devin Hester is the only Chicago Bear likely to be making big plays on offense this year.

I took a chance he’d develop into a receiver that the coaches liked. He has thus far apparently.

I’m satisfied taking him late in Round 13 to add more receiver depth. If he starts looking like something special fantasy-wise, he gets a spot in my starting lineup or packaged in a trade. Big risk, big reward.

14.03 Warrick Dunn RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Earnest Graham was still holding out of camp, and Warrick Dunn was gaining ground and attention in Tampa Bay. I felt good taking him as another backup running back option at pick 159.

Judging by the size of Dunn’s contract, Tampa Bay brought Dunn in to do more than just backup the undrafted Graham. He should see action each week.

I’d much rather have Dunn, who could develop into a consistent but not spectacular fantasy option or drop-worthy dead weight, than lock up my bench with a one of my starters’ backups.

I had already missed out on Pierre Thomas (McAllister) and DeAngelo Williams (Stewart) if I was going to snag backups anyway. Brandon Jackson hadn’t and still hasn’t shown he’s worth rostering behind Ryan Grant just yet. There are too many backs there to confuse the situation if Grant was injured.

15.10 Tarvaris Jackson QB Minnesota Vikings

The majority of the starting quarterbacks were off the board at this point — even the retired and dramatic Brett Favre at pick 142.

I didn’t really need to put emphasis on a backup quarterback since I drafted Tom Brady. When you draft any quarterback in the first two rounds, you shouldn’t be looking to back him up until VERY late in your draft unless you run across some great value.

When I drafted Jackson, I knew several good things about him. Tarvaris Jackson wasn’t going to be replaced by Favre, the coaches love him and he seems to be improving with a nice supporting cast.

I know I took a chance on him here, but he could put up some solid numbers this year. I also know that I can replace him with someone off the waiver wire if need be for Week 4, Brady’s bye week.

Speaking of that, J.T. O’Sullivan doesn’t seem like a horrible free agent to pick up at this point. He faces New Orleans in Week 4.

Jackson’s opponent in Week 4 is Tennessee. As long as their run defense is as stout as last year, he’s going to be forced to make some plays or swing some passes out to Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. I’ll buy one ticket for that ride and see where it takes me.

16.03 Green Bay Packers D/ST

Green Bay coaches say they are going to play it more aggressive this year. They have the young defense to do it well. More sacks could mean more fantasy points, and they don’t face too many offensive powerhouses.

Green Bay is an up-and-coming defense that finished in the top 10 in 2007. Plus, they come cheap. I felt better about them than the Giants defense, facing tough NFC East foes all season, in the sixteenth round.

17.10 Mason Crosby K Green Bay Packers

Why not go Packer crazy?

Mason Crosby was the top kicker last season. Even though Green Bay may not be as high scoring as they were in 2007, I think they will move the ball well enough to get Crosby into range a few times a game.

I picked him to see if my prediction comes true. If they are inefficient at getting the ball to the end zone every time, I get all those field goal points.

18.03 Ben Utecht TE Cincinnati Bengals

I made a slight mistake here drafting a second tight end with the same bye week as my first, Week 8, but I’ll admit that I didn’t really care what his bye week was.

I am really interested to see what Ben Utecht will do as a starter and with Carson Palmer under center. Utecht looked ferocious getting that touchdown in the preseason game.

The bye week problem shouldn’t come back to bite me. I am hurting Week 8 anyway since many of my players share that same bye. I will probably free up some room on my roster through trades or add/drops by halfway through the season, and I won’t have to lose one of my tight ends to sub in a starting tight end that week.

Whichever tight end performs better between Tony Scheffler or Utecht will win my starting job. The other gets to be…did you guess it? Trade bait!

According to MyFantasyReport.com’s draft recap, I had the third best draft.

Coach Jacob had an excellent draft in the recent 2008 Fantasy Website Drunken Pirate Slapfight Expert League draft. Their FantasyFootballFools.com franchise came away with the number 3 ranked draft (out of 12) in the league based on analysis by MyFantasyLeague.com.

FantasyFootballFools.com made their best pick of the draft in round 1, selecting Tom Brady with the 10th pick of the draft, as compared to the 6th spot he should have been selected in, according to ADP rankings. “Brady should be in line for a great season even if it is not another monster one,” FantasyFootballFools.com coach Jacob said.

FantasyFootballFools.com made their worst pick of the draft in round 8, selecting Deuce McAllister with the 87th pick of the draft, as compared to the 125th spot he should have been selected in, according to ADP rankings. “I heard he got the bionic knee this time,” FantasyFootballFools.com coach Jacob said.

Starting in week 8, FantasyFootballFools.com won’t be able to submit a full lineup, due to having 2 tight ends on bye.

FantasyFootballFools.com nabbed Tom Brady in the 1st round, which reflects the fact that he was the number one ranked quarterback for the 2007 season, based on this league’s custom scoring rules.

FantasyFootballFools.com nabbed Mason Crosby in the 17th round, which reflects the fact that he was the number one ranked place kicker for the 2007 season, based on this league’s custom scoring rules.

With a little bit of work on the waiver wire this season, or a few strategic trades, coach Jacob should be able to turn their 3rd ranked draft effort into a championship fantasy team this year.

I might have altered the quotes there…

It seems that MyFantasyReport.com puts a lot of weight on the final 2007 rankings. The draft recap function is only in Beta, so what does it really know anyway?

Now that I’ve put my bleeding heart out here for you with my expert league draft (and first draft of this fantasy season), I am sure you want to tell me what you think of it. I see you there just bursting with a compliment.

What do you think? How does this team weigh in against the competition? Do you like or dislike my picks?

Berate or compliment profusely in the comments, and my trained monkey will respond.

I’m dead set on making the coveted drunken pirate trophy mine.