And while you’re kicking yourself for not drafting these guys in the first place

Here’s a look from Sports Data Hub at the top fantasy performers at each position as of the beginning of December. [Update: Link no longer available]

We all wish we could go back to the draft and change something, whether we want to draft Miles Austin or not draft Matt Forte, but looking at the cold, raw numbers after almost an entire fantasy football season shows us many of our mistakes (and in bar graph form, which makes it slightly less depressing).

Where did we get surprised?

Quarterbacks

The big surprise at quarterback this year for me was Brett Favre, who not only joined the ranks late but also became a fantasy stud down the stretch. He may be fading now, but he still established himself among the top at the position for another year. As much as I loathe him, I’ll give him credit for that.

Jay Cutler, on the other hand, bottomed out more than expected. Clearly, the receiver situation in Chicago isn’t to his liking, and he’s not comfortable in that offense just yet.

Time will tell whether the team takes a new direction by getting a new offensive coordinator or makes a move to acquire a top talent at wide receiver like Anquan Boldin. The only problem with the latter solution is all the picks they gave away to get Cutler in the last offseason.

Cutler’s performance against the Vikings on Monday Night Football could be a good sign that they’re getting on track for 2010.

Running Backs

Chris Johnson was an iffy top running back prospect to start the year. Some took the chance and were greatly rewarded. Others warned that LenDale White would still steal all his scoring opportunities. It’s clear he’s become a fantasy force, one who will continue to be highly drafted. He’s probably the No. 1 overall pick in your draft next season.

But the big surprise was Ray Rice (even though I predicted he’d be good, I didn’t know he’d be this good). He jumped from a murky Baltimore running back situation to become one of the top backs in fantasy, and he’ll probably stay among the elite with Willis McGahee on his way out.

Ricky Williams and Thomas Jones certainly have more staying power than any of us realized. They’re still getting it done, even at their advanced age. Williams owes his scoring chances early in the year to Ronnie Brown, who made the Wildcat a legitimate threat at the goal line throughout his reign of terror until he was injured.

It’ll be interesting to see what Miami and New York do in the offseason. Ronnie Brown is likely to assume the starting duties again once he is healthy, but New York could part ways with Jones if they so choose, opting instead to ride Leon Washington and rookie pounder Shonn Greene.

In recent weeks, they’ve given Greene more than his usual number of carries to see what they have behind Jones for next season.

Wide Receivers

DeSean Jackson came up in the world in a big way as McNabb’s favorite target this season. Is it finally safe to start a Philadelphia receiver? It seems that way for 2010.

The hot names to add to the list of the elite are Miles Austin and Sidney Rice. Both were touted for their physical attributes and explosive talents, but neither had lived up to expectations, falling victim to injury or being buried on the depth chart the past two seasons.

Rice broke out this season as the Vikings’ biggest threat in the passing game, and he’ll only get better, regardless of who comes in to quarterback Minnesota once Favre finally leaves — but will that EVER happen?

Austin should continue to be one of Tony Romo’s favorite, most trusted targets, and that’s extremely valuable with a quarterback as determined to make a play as Romo is every down.

Tight Ends

Vernon Davis, we hardly knew ye. He did it. He finally did it. All it took was a new coach and a new offense geared around his ability to separate from mismatches. Well done, sir.

Brent Celek also proved that the Eagles had really been missing L.J. Smith’s contributions in recent years when injury and ineffectiveness kept Smith from playing the part. Celek’s role at tight end in the Philadelphia offense only adds to the stockpile of weapons at Andy Reid’s disposal.

Kickers

Ha, just kidding. Nothing’s drastically shifted here, but there was a lot of musical chairs being played around the league as certain kickers lost their leg and teams were forced to make a change.

This year has been a surprising one once again, at least for me. A lot of players that we’d looked forward to seeing finally made a show of themselves. It’s safe to say I wish all my leagues were keeper leagues. The young talent we’ve seen this year should be a factor in fantasy football for years to come.

So now, armed with the knowledge of what’s altered the fantasy landscape this season, what can we say? Better luck next year?

On the Wire: Week 16 Pickups That You Certainly Don’t Need This Week

It’s championship week. There’s not time for taking chances, looking for sleepers, or playing around with your roster.

You know who your studs are, but these select few players could sub in if you have an absolute beast of a opponent, and if you are daring enough to bench a player you’ve trusted to get you to the one game that matters for a new name off the waiver wire.

Your call, I guess. Personally, I’m heading into three championship games this weekend, and I don’t think I’d start any of these players over the guys that got me there.

As usual, the FF Librarian starts off the week with a nice set of readings to recap Week 15 and start the prep for Week 16’s championship showdowns. Stop by FF Geeks for a big list of names as well.

FF Toolbox hits most of the big names, but many have been hot waiver wire recommendations for weeks now, including the several San Francisco names who get to play the Detroit Lions in Week 16.

Lester’s Legends does a good job of calming your nerves about a lot of the Week 15 starlets, but his recommendations for Jerome Harrison, Maurice Morris, and Michael Bush are still a little optimistic for my holiday spirits.

Harrison was certainly the surprise stud of Week 15, but he could easily be muffled by the Raiders in Week 16 or replaced by Chris Jennings because Eric Mangini hates fantasy owners. If it was my roster, I wouldn’t throw Harrison in there. I’d keep the guy that got me to the championship locked in and ready to go.

The same goes for Michael Bush, who is muddled in a similar deep Oakland backfield, and Morris, who despite his running against the Cardinals on Sunday would surprise me if he found room and time to run against the 49ers now that Alex Smith is playing just for the chance to remain the starter in 2010.

If Jeremy Shockey sits again in Week 15, it’s conceivable that you might take a chance with David Thomas, also plugged by Fantasy Joe. Drew Brees would throw to a random fan in the stands if it would get him his next first down, and that’s just the honest truth.

If you can predict which Saints players will have a hot game, you must be the defensive coordinator for the Bucs this week. But that’s Raheem Morris, so it’s safe to say he doesn’t know. He’s not a defensive coordinator, just a head coach who plays one on TV.

Fantasy Fanhouse gives Vince Young a mention, but I’d hope he’s no longer available considering what I said about him before the fantasy football playoffs began.

Vince Young continued to lead teams towards a fantasy football championship with a three-touchdown performance on Sunday, but he gets the Chargers this week. Can he keep it up?

I think you have to start him if he’s your best play, but don’t expect him to win this one through the air. The draw plays could do some damage against the nose-less San Diego defensive line.

I do like Fanhouse’s and Razzball‘s mention of Josh Morgan and could see him as a risky grab if you need a plug at WR3 this week, but don’t count on him to get as many targets as he did against the Eagles.

The Lions will leave everyone with room to run in Week 16, and Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis will certainly make their marks.

The sleeper discussion is swirling around Larry Johnson this week as he faces his former team, the Kansas City Chiefs. Unfortunately, the Bengals have asked almost nothing of him since Cedric Benson’s return from injury.

Will they step aside this week to let him have his revenge game? Hard to see that coming ahead of the Bengals’ playoff push and playing in memory of Chris Henry. This team has no emotional room left to consider revenge. Benson will likely play most of this one unless the Bengals put away the game early and let Larry Johnson clean up.

And on the negative side of things, the Vikings seem to be cracking under a creaky, old Brett Favre, who refuses to go out of the game, even at his coach’s request.

I’d agree with the sentiment out there that Brad Childress has let Favre get far too powerful in the locker room, and I’m not sure what that means about Favre’s Monday night trip to Chicago. It could be the game that gets them back on track, or it could be another slumping performance from the veteran gunslinger.

Hedge your bets on Favre in the championship game if you plan on starting him this week.

Week 10 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Thursday Night Football is for Lovers

It’s good that it only comes after bye weeks are over when rosters have, for the most part, been figured out. Otherwise, Thursday Night Football would be a real pain.

Instead, it’s just kind of a pain because you have to remember in the middle of the week, just after setting your waiver wire claims and receiving said claims on your team, that it’s time to set your roster again.

The NFL is just training us to watch professional football every night of the week. First came Sunday and Monday nights. They own those now. We will never have them back — not that anyone does besides crazy people and girlfriends.

Now, they’re encroaching on Thursday nights, setting up shop and planning to stay around.

What will they take from us next? Wednesday nights? Tuesday nights? Yes, please. And why not?

If there was any way an NFL game could kill Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance? I’m all for it. I don’t think I can dance, and I don’t care if the stars think they can either. The NFL is the only TV worth watching.

So thank your NFL overlords and set your lineups today.

As usual, we’ll cover a few players to start or sit who may or may not be on the fence of startability this week.

Hot Hands Starts of the Week

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs vs. Raiders – Oh, Charles, I just can’t quit you. Really, I wish I could. You made me look bad last week, but this week, you get the Raiders and complete job security knowing that Larry Johnson is off somewhere tweeting about how gay you are.

The Raiders are terrible against the run. They are second in points allowed to running backs behind only the Bills. The Raiders are also terrible against bees — they always get stung — and light bulbs. Oh, do light bulbs give them a hard time. Llamas could run for 100 yards against them.

You’re better than a llama, right, Charles?

One can only hope if you chose to start him again this week.

Steven Jackson, RB, Rams vs. Saints – Sometimes people get cute against a high-powered offense and sit the dependable running backs who could get taken out of the game early. Don’t. Do. That.

Coming off a bye and two straight 100+ yard performances, Jackson should have plenty of room to run against the Saints defense, currently without run-stopper Sedrick Ellis. Running backs have been able to hurt them, which explains why the Saints have been so fond of getting behind in the first half of their games lately.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions vs. Vikings – Against a pass rush that wants to eat his lunch, Matthew Stafford would be well-served by passing the ball off to Brandon Pettigrew more than once in this game. Pettigrew reached the end zone last week, and the Vikings rank first in points allowed to tight ends.

The opportunity is there if the Lions can take advantage.

Alex Smith, QB, 49ers vs. Bears – Don’t get me wrong. Smith is not Kurt Warner. He will not throw for five touchdowns, but he should get his fair share against this Bears defense with receiving options like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.

This game is more important to the 49ers than the Bears. While the 49ers have fallen back just two games in their division, the Bears are almost completely out of the race. For that reason, I think the 49ers will take it as long as they can keep it close.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Jaguars – The Jags have laid down like kittens in road games this year, and the Jets are coming off a bye. Two signs that point to a big day on offense for the Jets. Edwards should get his fair share of targets, and he has a very good chance of scoring in this one.

Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers vs. Eagles – Dead to fantasy football until further notice.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars vs. Jets – He’s having such a nice season, but this week, he gets covered by The Darrelle Revis Effect. It’s like The Butterfly Effect, but you don’t wake up until the game’s over. And you didn’t change anything on the scoreboard.

Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins vs. Broncos - So you’re walking along thinking “You know, I got that Betts guy this week off waivers. He’s replacing Clinton Portis while Portis recovers. I think that’s a pretty solid start.” You’re buddy says “I dunno, Bob.” (Your name is Bob. I assume these things.) You say “How could it go wrong? Washington’s got no one else, and Betts looked good against the Falcons last week. He even scored a touchdown.”

And then your friend tells you, as any responsible person would, that that’s the point, Bob. The Redskins have no one else. Even Jason Campbell got banged up last week. Don’t you think the Broncos will get after him? The Broncos may have given up yards to running backs against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but the Redskins are not on a roll in the running game like either of those teams. At this point, you stop listening, Bob, because you realize that your friend is a real talker.

As impactful and suspenseful as that little side story was, that’s how productive Betts will be this week against a motivated Broncos defense that knows the Redskins will pose a small threat to their dream-season hopes. The Broncos need to get back on track, and the Redskins are llama pathetic, in keeping with the theme.

Trent Edwards, QB, Bills vs. Titans – One quarterback who won’t take advantage of the Titans’ secondary? This guy. I just don’t see it happening, and I don’t have much confidence in any of the Bills this week.

Green Bay Packers D/ST – They fell apart against Tampa Bay, and I have a hard time imagining them doing any better against Miles Austin and the Cowboys. They might even be without Aaron Kampman, one of their best defenders, as he recovers from a concussion.

Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week

Zach Miller, TE, Raiders vs. Chiefs – One of those rare games in which JaMarcus Russell does not seem completely incompetent, only slightly. The Chiefs are actually pretty average against tight ends, but Miller is the only target Russell can hit with any consistency.

As a side note, I’m so glad I never have to clean a toilet that JaMarcus Russell uses. Can you imagine how bad his aim is in that arena?

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

Hawthorne Heights – “Ohio Is For Lovers”

I know what you’re thinking. What does this screamy song have to do with fantasy football? Well, I like to imagine Ted Ginn Jr. singing this song to his own hands.

“And I can’t make it on my own…because my heart is in Ohio.”

“So cut my wrists and black my eyes, so I can fall asleep tonight, or die. Because you kill me. You know you do. You kill me well. You like it, too, and I can tell.”

That’s practically out of Ted Ginn Jr.’s pregame diary. I feel like we violated him just by listening to it. He’s obviously convinced cutting off his hands is the only way for him to be happy again, but don’t do anything that drastic, Ginn. Just make them work for you in something other than kick returns.

At least you can take solace in not having Ted Ginn Jr. on your team this week.

More fantasy football goods…

Compare notes with Fantasy Football Goat, Fantasy Joe, Fantasy Football Xtreme and ESPN’s rankings.

On the Wire: Week 8 Pickups, Sleepers, Sadness and Fantasy Basketball

Another critical bye week hits us right where it hurts, in the middle of the season. At least this week provides us with a few more players that have value from now until the end of the season.

If anyone was silly enough not to pick up Miles Austin after I talked about him for the past two weeks and recommended him as a sleeper start this past week, well, there’s always fantasy basketball, right?

Kidding, of course. Don’t do that to yourself.

I played fantasy basketball for one season a couple of years ago, and after several weeks of setting lineups only to discover I was simply filling in active players into slots based on their game schedule, I spent an afternoon setting my roster through the end of the season. I made no pickups, no drops, and no changes for the entire second half.

I finished third.

I’m sure there are more competitive leagues out there with better scoring systems, different lineups and interesting rules, but it just hasn’t caught my eye yet. Sorry, guys.

The fact that fantasy basketball overlaps with fantasy football pretty much rules me out of ever being able to really get into it. I plan on dominating my opponents deep into the NFL season on my way to a championship, there’s no time to check on whether Blake Griffin is back from his injury.

Guys I’ve mentioned before who we won’t get into today but who also might still be on the waiver wire in no particular order: Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys; Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings; Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles; Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders; Andre Caldwell, WR, Bengals; Mike Bell, RB, Saints; Donnie Avery, WR, Rams; Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts; Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos. (If you want to talk about these fools, drop me a line in the comments.)

Hot Claims

Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets

Greene wins the top spot because he has the potential to dominate in a nice offense. His yardage and two touchdowns were in mop-up duty in Oakland. He’ll get a few carries to spell Thomas Jones now that Leon Washington is out for the season, but their running styles are so similar that it would take an injury, fall from grace or a   Larry-Johnson-esque Twitter blow up for Jones to give a significant portion of his carries to Greene.

I do like him though when he gets his chance. This rookie has that drive that makes players successful in the NFL. Being gigantisaurus behind one of the best run-blocking lines in football doesn’t hurt either.

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers

You know, two years ago, a guy in one of my fantasy leagues said that Alex Smith was going to the Super Bowl when he drafted him as his starting quarterback in the late rounds.

It was right off the heels of Frank Gore’s massive season, and this guy, who shall remain nameless, always has a knack for making outrageous claims during fantasy football drafts. Needless to say, he didn’t finish the season with Alex Smith under center.

But Smith looked like a total badass against the Texans on Sunday in leading the 49ers to three scores, all to Vernon Davis. True, he didn’t get the win, but he did win the starting job in San Francisco. Give him a week or two to feel comfortable in the role, and Alex Smith might just live up to expectations. This week’s matchup against the Colts will test his ability to make a play when it counts.

He’s got the weapons with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan. Maybe revival is in the cards for this former first-round pick.

Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Is this Beanie finally awakening to the speed of the NFL? The Cardinals looked to Beanie Wells over Tim Hightower to carry the run game against the Giants this week, and he did. He even notched himself his first NFL score.

It may be a mix of these backs from week to week, but Wells is certainly the most talented in Arizona.

If Beanie can build upon this success, he could be a great add for the second half of the season. The Cardinals have been winning through their defense, and a control-the-clock running game would compliment that very nicely.

Potential Contributors

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Pure potential again here, but with Larry Johnson blowing up about his coach’s experience on Twitter and general habit of getting himself (and the ladies) into trouble, I think it’s a good bet we see more of Charles in the coming weeks.

From his time at Texas, I can tell you that he’s no specialist at holding onto the ball, nor is he built to be an every-down back. But what he does have is some blazing speed and moves in the open field. If the Chiefs start featuring him, they’ll probably try and go the Darren Sproles route with him.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Call it a slow build, but the diva looks worthy of ownership by season’s end. He could have a nice finish, like a great wine but with an idiot for an agent.

Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons

Snelling is filling in while Jerious Norwood sits out with more injuries. He showed some burst against the Cowboys, but Michael Turner is still the workhorse of this offense. Snelling’s not really someone I’d want to depend on in any given week, but he’s a warm body if you have a hole to fill this week.

Sigh, that’s what she said.

Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins

Chris Cooley might be out of the year with that ankle injury, and in his stead, Davis caught the passes and a touchdown. Cooley has been the leading receiver for the Redskins so far this year, and Davis would pick up that torch easily. He’s not much of a blocker, so expect the Redskins to look deeper on the roster to fill that void left by Cooley at the line. Davis will be all about the passing game.

If you’ve been hurting for a tight end thus far, now’s your chance to snag one who could be in line for a starting role. But then again, he’s still on the Redskins.

Donald Lee, TE, Green Bay Packers

Jermichael Finley’s knee injury should keep him out for at least a few weeks. That leaves Lee alone in the starting role, and he should take advantage as the passing game in Green Bay lights up opponents these next few weeks.

If Cooley’s out for the year, Davis is the better long-term grab, but Lee could definitely have the bigger games for the next few weeks.

Buffalo Bills D/ST

I don’t know how they do it, but even banged-up and missing key players, this defense has created turnovers. The secondary is making up for this defenses weakness in stopping the run, and they just might be worth hanging onto in your league if you used them as a fill this week against Carolina.

Right now, they’re a top-10 fantasy defense.

Names I Keep Mentioning

Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

As I said before, Wallace has designed plays coming his way every week in this newly christened Steelers’ passing offense. He should be a reliable fill-in when needed even if he can’t reproduce his yardage and touchdown from Week 7 every week you need him.

New Orleans Saints D/ST

Darren Sharper is the man, and as long the Saints keep the lead, this defense is going to create turnovers all day long. Even trap games like this week against Miami turn into decent performances thanks to Sharper’s ability to find the end zone when he gets the ball in his hands.

Denver Broncos D/ST

Coming off a bye week, don’t forget about the surprise defense of the year. Mike Nolan is making adjustments that win games, and the Broncos are getting to the quarterback. If no one else has taken a chance on them this year, maybe you should.

For more waiver wire pickups, visit The Hazean, Fanhouse, Fantasy Joe, Lester’s Legends, Fantasy Football Librarian, The FF Geek Blog and FF Toolbox.

As always, the comments are yours. Discuss. Refute. Deny. Bring the funny.

Foolish Thoughts: Magical phone refresh voodoo makes Vernon Davis score touchdowns

I got stuck watching the New England Patriots abuse the Tampa Bay Buccaneers across the pond in London during the early games. I thought we sent this game overseas so that no one here would have to watch it?

While the action was riveting, oh, so riveting, I found myself checking my fantasy football scores on my phone. About halfway through the early games, I noticed Vernon Davis had scored me a touchdown. Nice work. I went against the stats in starting him, but, as ESPN pointed out, the tight ends who had been shut down by the Texans weren’t exactly in the elite class.

So happy in my good choices, I hit refresh, only to discover that Davis had another touchdown. Now, at this point, I had not seen any cutaways to the San Francisco game yet to show me what was happening in Houston. All I knew is that every time I refreshed my phone, Vernon Davis scored a touchdown.

Oh, this is getting good. I was mopping my opponent with my early starters, and I’d discovered a magical wishing well of fantasy points.

So I refreshed again, getting greedy this time. And once again, touchdown. Had I discovered a voodoo trick for fantasy football? Would it work on anyone else besides Vernon Davis?

I had no idea what I was doing, but I found myself hitting refresh again. But this time, nothing. My fantasy luck had run out. Game over.

But next week, I’m definitely refreshing my phone a few times during the San Francisco game to see if I can get it to work again.

Dear Patrick Crayton, I’d be the first one to tell you, so here goes: Miles Austin is legit. Your best chance of getting back in the starting lineup is by replacing Roy Williams. Sadly, that might not be that hard to do with as many key passes as Williams dropped on Sunday.

The Cowboys finally looked like the team that won 13 games in 2007 again on Sunday, but it’s not time for celebration just yet. It’s still hard to trust Tony Romo, who has one of the hardest schedules of any quarterback in the league the rest of the way. As long as Miles Austin keeps scoring two touchdowns per game, that view on Romo may change.

Donald Brown went out with a shoulder injury and left Joseph Addai to share the load with Chad Simpson. If Brown misses any length of time, it would increase Addai’s value since Simpson’s no threat to cut into Addai’s touches, but this injury was minor. Expect Brown to be back on the field and scaring Addai’s fantasy owner this week.

Ryan Grant finally went off with 148 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Browns. Let me repeat that: Against the Browns. Green Bay won’t face pushover run defenses all season, but Grant abused this one when given the chance. The Packers remain a pass-first team, but Grant could see his usage rise as the weather turns colder. Don’t give up on him if you’ve holding onto him this long.

Steven Jackson had 134 rushing yards against the Colts. Maybe the Rams should just put him and the offensive line on the field together and run the flying V all day. Might make for some interesting football. The Rams certainly aren’t in their current incarnation.

What do Vernon Davis’ 93 yards and three touchdowns mean? It means he’s a legitimate every week starter. Davis has been a key part of this passing offense all year, and even with the addition of Michael Crabtree, he’ll get lots of looks. If nothing else, his chances at the goal line look very promising.

Speaking of Alex Smith, his three touchdowns and 206 yards in the second half seem to be more than just a lucky break off the bench. He faces the Colts this week, but moving forward, he’s go upside. Sometimes those bench-warming first-round draft picks pay off after all. Eh, Vince Young?

Owen Daniels. Best tight end in football? It’s possible.

Brett Favre loves him some Sidney Rice, proven by the 11 catches Rice took for 136 yards against the Steelers. Favre may not make many more big games out of these receivers, especially after his return-to-form breakdowns against Pittsburgh this week, but it’s never a bad idea to own his favorite target. Rice has definite talent, and skills the ability to hover five feet off the field until Favre can get him the ball.

The Steelers’ defense showed up late to the party against the Vikings, but at least they showed supreme mastery of the flying V in both their interception return and fumble return. If they can contain the beast inside of Adrian Peterson without run-stopper Aaron Smith, they can stop anyone. Feel confident if you have them as your defense at this point in the season. Very confident.

I think the league would be a better place if JaMarcus Russell were benched. I’d be interested to see two teams trade quarterbacks in a given week just to see whether it’s the quarterback or the team causing all the problems. Jason Campbell for Russell anyone? Jake Delhomme for Russell? Marc Bulger for Russell? That’s the kind of trade that could heat things up in a season where every team is great, very good or horrifyingly terrible.

Could the NFL just institute a takebacks trade option so that teams can exchange players for two weeks at a time? It’d be just like pickup football.

Andre Johnson has a lung contusion. I have no idea what that is, but I do know he spit up blood. Regardless, he doesn’t need lungs to play out of his mind against the Bills. The Buffalo secondary has been good, but top receivers can find a way. Jake Delhomme just gets paid to make secondaries like the Bills’ look good.

After losing Leon Washington for the season with a nasty broken fibula, the Jets put in Shonn Greene in garbage time to finish off the Raiders. That 144 yards and two touchdowns will likely draw a crowd on the waiver wire, but Greene probably won’t duplicate a performance like that until he starts to eat into Thomas Jones’ role as the lead back.

I’ve liked Greene all along this year. He’s big and hard-running, just like a little Marion Barber in the making, but the Jets have not sought to limit Jones or replace him with Greene just yet. For now, Greene is nothing more than an 8-10 carry guy to share the load with Jones and take garbage time. Still, he’s definitely worth stashing because of the strength of the Jets’ running game and the chance to eventually replace Jones if anything were to go down.

Carson Palmer looked like the Carson Palmer that dominated the league before his knee injury. Five touchdowns, two to Chad Ochocinco, have me hoping that he keeps that alive through the end of the season.

Palmer’s arm also opened things up for Cedric Benson, who took full advantage of the revenge bowl in Chicago with a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown. If Palmer had jacked all the touchdowns, Benson could have had more. The Bears just looked like they though they were playing last year’s Bengals.

Despite Benson’s beating, Ricky Williams won the spite battle this week with three touchdowns and just 80 rushing yards against his former team, the Saints. It’s not like Ricky has any bad blood. I’m pretty sure with the amount of pot he’s smoked, he’s made peace with everybody, including dead people, but he certainly wanted to win against the Saints on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the Saints took some 5-Hour Energy at halftime, woke up and realized they were behind. Then, Drew Brees went to work. The Saints defense returned two picks for touchdowns, again proving they are a legit fantasy defense as long as Darren Sharper is roaming around out there. I completely called Tracy Porter’s interception return at the end of the game, mostly because I needed it to win a fantasy football game this week, but you know.

Somehow I managed to make it through the entire Monday Night Football excitement of the Eagles and Redskins. In short, DeSean Jackson scored both rushing and receiving the football, and when he wasn’t in the game, neither was the Philadelphia offense. Brian Westbrook got knocked out. Chris Cooley broke his ankle and could be out for the season.

DeSean Jackson was scared he broke something, but after X-raying it, they determined that his only ailment was being awesome and unstoppable. Sometimes that feels like an injury when you play the Redskins I guess.

At what point do we consider farming the Redskins, Rams, Chiefs or Raiders out to the UFL?

Michael Crabtree signs…and I don’t care [Fantasy Impact]

Michael Crabtree, who majored in diva-ology at Texas Tech, has finally signed with the San Francisco 49ers as of yesterday. Apparently, that whole “we can win without you” message got into his head, but he’ll certainly be upset that his own signing was upstaged by the Braylon Edwards trade, relegating Crabtree to just a footnote.

After weeks of speculation about why he was holding out and accusations that the New York Jets were tampering, which will still be investigated despite Crabtree’s signing, the wait is over.

Full of rookie potential and college hype, scouts expect Crabtree to become one of the truly dominating receivers in the NFL, a weapon that the 49ers could really use to make their offense more dynamic–or as dynamic as an offense can be with Shaun Hill at quarterback.

But don’t expect Crabtree to immediately jump into the 49ers offense and start diva-fying everything. The 49ers have no room for divas. They run the ball, and I don’t expect that to change just because Crabtree is now a member of the NFL club. He’s likely to spend most of the coming weeks learning the offense.

When the 49ers activate him, he could still be just the second option behind Josh Morgan, who hasn’t been terrible, or even the third option behind both Morgan and a surprisingly productive Vernon Davis.

I don’t hate Shaun Hill as a quarterback; in fact, I view him as a fairly decent QB2 option most weeks. But Hill’s been far more likely to throw to Davis and hand the ball off to Frank Gore or Glen Coffee in these early weeks of the season than he has to try something deep to Morgan or Isaac Bruce. I don’t think Crabtree will change that.

So if Crabtree is floating on your waiver wire, and you have the roster spot on your bench to spare, feel free to go out there and get him, but make sure you view it as an investment for the end of the season.

In redraft leagues, Crabtree may be nothing but a blip on the fantasy radar as a situational receiver for the 49ers down the stretch, but at least you’ll be first in line to benefit when he sees the field.

If you, like many owners, need that bench spot to survive the upcoming bye weeks, I think it’s safe to wait on the diva. He will mind, but I don’t care.

On the Wire: Week 5 Pickups, Drops and Bye Week Filler

I wanted to make a switch this past weekend at defense to sub in the New Orleans Saints D/ST for the Green Bay Packers D/ST.

Considering they had the same bye week and with some doubt in the Saints’ newly discovered fantasy worthiness, I was slow to make that change. I thought the Packers D/ST might somehow know how to beat Brett Favre.

On Sunday, ESPN’s server login problems kept me from reconsidering. Today, looking at a 10-point loss and a big three points from Green Bay’s defense, I very much regret that decision.

But it’s a lesson. Just goes to show you that you should always be aggressive. This week, with bye weeks hitting your team now or in the near future, it’s important to clear that dead weight from your roster.

That loss is going to sting for a good while. But now, let’s get to making things better for all involved. This week’s waiver wire pickups are in priority order, but your preference may vary depending on your own team needs. If you have any trouble choosing between these pickups or debating whom to drop from your current roster, leave a question in the comments to open it up to discussion.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
As long as Willie Parker stays down and out and as long as the Steelers face defensive lines like the Chargers’ weak one, Mendenhall is showing a lot of promise. Maybe the Steelers have a running game after all? In Sunday night’s game, Mendenhall rushed at will for 165 yards with 26 receiving yards and two touchdowns against San Diego. His next two games are against Detroit and Cleveland. Go get him while you can.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns
Now that the Browns have some kind of offense, it’s worth keeping tabs on their primary running back. James Davis is now on IR, which leaves Harrison as the best warm body behind the injured Jamal Lewis. Harrison rushed for 121 yards and caught 31 yards in the Browns loss to the Bengals. In PPR leagues, that makes for some decent bench depth. In non-PPR leagues, there’s a chance the Browns could show signs of life enough to make Harrison worthy of a play during bye weeks.

New Orleans Saints D/ST
I’ve now learned from my mistake and fully endorse this defense. At last check, they were second in the NFL in blitzing behind only the New York Jets. Add that to the play of Darren Sharper and the potential of Reggie Bush on special teams, and this unit looks to be reliable throughout 2009. If someone in your league drops them while they are on bye, make sure you are the one who picks them up by Week 6. Besides the Giants (Week 6) and Patriots (Week 12), the Saints have a schedule full of very winnable games the rest of this season.

San Francisco 49ers D/ST
The 49ers D/ST is also very legit this season and not on bye this week. Bonus!

David Garrard, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
More than likely, he’s owned in your league, but in case you haven’t noticed, he’s looking like more than just a reliable bye week fill. The Jaguars can throw the ball–one year after I had to draft Garrard as part of a quarterback by committee in 2008.

Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Five catches for 70 yards and as touchdown. Sounds like he’s ready for that breakout year we’ve been expecting just as long as Brett Favre will accommodate. That late throw by Favre down the sidelines seems to suggest he won’t remain a game manager much longer.

Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland Browns
Just like his running back counterpart, Massaquoi had a pulse in the Browns game this week. His eight catches for 148 yards to Braylon Edwards zero catches may suggest that Edwards has fallen out of favor. Add to that accusations that Edwards punched a friend of LeBron James, an offense punishable by death in Cleveland, and I’m seeing stars align for Massaquoi to be the big-play threat of the Browns’ passing game. Sure, that’s not a big threat, but it’s something.

Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans
If the Titans keep digging a hole early in games, Washington should see even more targets. He’s a more elusive wide receiver than Justin Gage with the ball in his hands, and he could be a decent bye week fill against the Colts and Patriots these next two weeks.

Josh Morgan, WR, San Francisco 49ers
He came out against the Rams and should have had two scores. He’s the best receiver the 49ers have on their current roster, and the 49ers may look to throw more regularly as long as Gore remains out. All good reasons to have Morgan on your team if someone else gave up on him.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers
Finley’s 128 yards and one touchdown performance was the breakout game we were all waiting for this season, and Donald Lee’s critical drop may have the Packers turning to Finley for an even larger role after their bye week. He’s certainly one of, if not the most promising tight end to own as a TE2 at this point in the season. Pick him up if you have the roster space or have a need at tight end. Otherwise, wait to see how he does after the bye.

Josh Johnson, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I told you that I liked this kid. Coach Raheem Morris does, too. But don’t throw him in there against the Philadelphia Eagles, coming off of a bye, this week. Let him incubate.

Derek Anderson, QB, Cleveland Browns
The Browns are alive in the hands of Anderson. As long as you can live with his mistakes, he has a nice matchup against the Bills this week.

Seneca Wallace, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Wallace could make for reliable bye-week filler against the Jaguars this week, but he’s a dangerous choice since Hasselbeck could return this week. Watch the practice reports before you go get him.

And now the ones you should just keep an eye on…

Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
As the passing game comes alive, so does Lewis, but don’t jump on him unless you are desperate for him after his 76-yard, one touchdown performance this week.

Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets
He didn’t get a significant number of carries on Sunday, but he saw the field. This showing wasn’t enough to say he’s taking a role in the offense, but we could see him takeover if Thomas Jones continues to decline in comparison to Leon Washington. By season’s end, it could be Greene and Washington splitting time, and that would certainly make him worth owning. He’s a stash in deeper leagues.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Denver Broncos
Hillis could be in line for more carries if Correll Buckhalter misses this week’s game with a sprained ankle. Against the Patriots, Hillis might be productive, but he’d likely split time with Knowshon Moreno and LaMont Jordan. If you’re looking to long shot, he’s not a terrible one this week.

Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins didn’t put the game in his hands on Sunday, but he looked promising against the Bills. His schedule gets brutal for the next three to four weeks, but look for him to show what he can offer starting in Week 9. His playoff schedule could make him a sneaky play.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
He’s not a must-have just yet, but Nicks showed why he was drafted this week with that quick stop-and-go at the goal line for his first NFL touchdown. Mario Manningham took a back seat in this one, and that might be the trend going forward. But don’t get any ideas. Steve Smith is still the No. 1 receiver in New York, and he’s a solid fantasy option for the rest of the season.

Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans
He isn’t getting enough playing time early in games to justify owning him in most leagues, but Britt could be in line for more catches as the third receiver in the Titans offense when they face the Colts this week. Britt had 105 receiving yards this week against the Jaguars.

Guys you should already own by now: Vernon Davis, 49ers; Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars; Tashard Choice, Cowboys; Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers.

Guys you can drop if you so choose: Chris Henry, Bengals; Darren McFadden, Raiders; Michael Bush, Raiders; Zach Miller, Raiders (especially now that he’s concussed); anyone else, Raiders; James Davis, Browns (He’s on IR, silly, and should only be kept in dynasty leagues at this point.); Earnest Graham, Buccaneers; Mike Bell, Saints, Jason Campbell, Redskins.

As an addendum to this week’s On the Wire, see which players I picked as the best “buy low” and “sell high” candidates in last week’s Fourth & 1 debate roundtable, hosted by Top Fantasy Football.

For more waiver wire grabs, check out Fantasy Football Librarian’s two collections, Fanhouse, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog and FF Toolbox’s deep league and standard league pickups.

As always, the comments are yours. Ask us a question. We love to answer them.

Week 4 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Rookie of the Year?

Chadam of contributing writer to Fantasy Football Fools fame has this theory about Chad Pennington that he asked me to share. He says they broke Pennington’s shoulder on purpose so that he can have surgery and come back next season like Rookie of the Year with a cannon that can throw 70-yard bombs.

Maybe he’s wrong, but I think it sounds legit. Pennington’s going to lock up that third “Comeback Player of the Year” award in 2010.

This week’s a tough one for many owners out there. Frank Gore is hurt, Willie Parker is looking doubtful, L.T. is still questionable, Wes Welker is a game-time decision, and as if that wasn’t enough, Week 4 is the first bye week. Now that’s rough.

Hopefully, you have the depth to weather this storm. It ain’t going to be pretty.

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Glen Coffee, RB, San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams
Well, you got him off the waiver wire and made all the other members in your league jealous. What did you think you were going to do with him? Coffee gets a breezy little matchup against the St. Louis Rams this week, which should help him get his NFL legs under him.

Coffee hasn’t impressed in limited time, but keep in mind that he took over last week against the Minnesota Vikings defense. They have some very, very fat men that don’t like to let you run the ball past them. The Rams don’t quite have those same fat men.

So pour yourself a cup of Coffee this week – Cha-ching! (I hope this guy starts all season. I could go all day with these coffee jokes.)

Others receiving votes:

  • Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans
    McFadden hasn’t had it easy these first few weeks, but against the Texans, who couldn’t stop a Chihuahua running the football, he should shine. The only way he fails this week is if the Texans really run away with it, forcing the Raiders to throw, but I’m guessing the Raiders will figure out JaMarcus Russell can’t do that very well. Please tell me: Why aren’t the Raiders just running McFadden’s college offense? The Wildhog is the only way to save this team — that or a league change to the UFL.
  • Devin Hester, WR, Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
    Did you read that? The Lions. The End.
  • Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans
    The Titans have let everyone throw on them this year, and Sims-Walker has become the big-play threat for the Jags. Don’t hesitate to use him this week. The Titans should keep a lid on Maurice Jones-Drew and force David Garrard to the air. And no, that doesn’t mean he will fly, silly. I’m talking passing yards.
  • Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
    If he doesn’t show up this week, I’ll be wearing a permanent sad face for the rest of the season, Jay Cutler style.
  • Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    He’s got at least one more good week left in him before he goes in the toilet again.
  • Julius Jones, RB, Seattle Seahawks vs. Indianapolis Colts
    What’s wrong with me? I actually like the J.J. this week. The only way the Seahawks stay competitive in this one is a heavy dose of the run game, but as we saw in the Dolphins game, Peyton Manning only needs 15 minutes to kill all your dreams.
  • Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills
    Without Chad Pennington, the Wildcat could be the offense of choice in Miami. Plus, it’s the Bills, and everyone likes to beat up on them because they’re practically Canadian.
  • Jerricho Cotchery, WR, New York Jets vs. New Orleans Saints
    He’s becoming a legit No. 1 receiver and a phenom fantasy steal for where you drafted him. Keep him in the lineup this week.
  • Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams
    I swear if he fails now after I finally put him in this list…

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins
Oh, he’s burning a hole in your bench, isn’t he? You’ve waited so long, and now you’re reunited and it feels so good. You gotta feeling that he’s ready to go off, blowing up like some sort of high voltage explosion and starting a party in the U.S.… Yeah, I’m not going there. Well, I ran out of song titles to plug, but Lynch is not a good option this week.

The Dolphins have been shutting down opposing running backs, and Lynch is likely to be worked in slowly while Fred Jackson continues to take the majority of snaps in this one. Avoid both backs if you can because even half of Buffalo’s earnings on the ground this week shouldn’t be worth starting.

Others receiving votes:

  • Tashard Choice, RB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos
    That was one helluva sleeper last week, huh? This week, Marion Barber is fated to make his return, and the Cowboys face the surprisingly stout — at least, thus far — Broncos. I don’t know what to think of the Broncos defense, so I’ll treat them the same way I do anything I don’t understand, stare at it until it goes away or avoid it entirely. Change is evil! Right? No? Well, whatever folks. The point is that you don’t want to take a chance on Choice if you have better options — if you have a better Choice, that is. (Seriously, Coffee and Choice are my favorite running backs this week simply for the annoying joke quality. I’m sure you disagree…)
  • Knownshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys
    Let’s just sit all the running backs in this game just to be fair. Moreno splits the load and faces a Dallas defense that kept Brandon Jacobs under wraps in Week 2 and DeAngelo Williams tied up in Week 3. Wade Phillips will sellout to stop the run, and I expect him to do the same in this one. Moreno is a better start than Choice but expect a less than spectacular performance.
  • Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints vs. New York Jets
    Just kidding, fools. You can’t sit Colston, but don’t expect a big game. Darrelle Revis should blanket Colston all day. To alter the quote Revis game after the Patriots game, that means Revis will go to the restroom every time Colston does. I hope it’s not to cross swords…
  • Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans vs. Oakland Raiders
    Same as Colston above. Just substitute Revis for Nnamdi Asomugha.
  • Larry Johnson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Giants
    But why would you even do that to yourself? Seriously.

Sleeper of the Week

Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills
Chad Henne targeted him seven times in the second half of Week 3, and he’s the best receiving target Henne has no matter how fast Ted “Stone hands” Ginn is. In Henne’s first game, he may look for Bess often enough to give him some good yardage and you never know, maybe a touchdown. Buffalo does have a hurting secondary right now, and they could be out of this one quickly if the offense struggles and demoralizes the T.O., I mean team. I like Bess’ changes this week if your desperate for some help and willing to lay it down on the rookie quarterback.

For more advice this week, visit the Fantasy Football Librarian’s stacks, see who Matthew Berry is loving and hating, check yourself against the Fanhouse rankings, hit and miss with The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, tend your herd with Fantasy Football Goat, see clearer with The Hazean, take the advice of Fantasy Football Xtreme, comb through the FF Toolbox starts and sits, and check out the “4-4″ from The Right Brain Fantasy Report by @JoeFortenbaugh.

Now I know you have some questions, so leave them in the comments below, and you’ll get an answer by Sunday as long as they are up Saturday night. I can make no promises about Sunday morning, but I sometimes respond to questions on Twitter if you tweet me @jacobsloan. Good luck this week.

On the Wire: Week 4 Pickups and Sleepers [Insert Coffee Joke Here]

Ah, I just love the sweet smell of bacon in the morning. What? You thought I was going to say coffee, as in Glen Coffee? That would be silly. Silly like little kids who talk like big people.

Now, get your Coffee while it’s hot. Burn!

Glen Coffee, RB, San Francisco 49ers: With Frank Gore set to miss about three weeks, Coffee should get most of the work against the Rams and the Falcons before the 49ers go on bye in Week 6. If you’re lucky, Coffee could see more work than usual against the Texans and Colts post-bye. I’ll take a double shot of that.

Tashard Choice, RB, Dallas Cowboys: He took over the Dallas run game on Monday night. If Felix Jones’ knee keeps him from hitting the field in Week 4, Choice could be the lone back for the Cowboys until Marion Barber returns, and he can handle that job. Dallas faces Denver and Kansas City before their bye in Week 6.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts: The French name with another the solid game, Garcon has stepped it up in Anthony Gonzalez’s absence. Peyton Manning trusts him, and until Gonzalez returns, you can, too.

Nate Burleson, WR, Seattle Seahawks: Burleson has been posting decent stats while T.J. Houshmandzadeh runs his mouth and fails to impress with his bad back. Maybe T.J., as I’ve felt all along, is just average. Burleson’s worth a look as a WR3 even without Hasselbeck under center.

Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles: He’s getting plenty of looks in this offense, especially with Kevin Kolb doing the passing.

Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers: Two touchdowns? Now that’s almost enough to convince me that he’ll stick around. Incubate him for a game or two unless you’re desperate at tight end and see what develops. Unlike many of the most targeted players this week, Davis came down with the majority of the passes thrown his way. That’s promising.

Fred Taylor, RB, New England Patriots: Brady was saved by his ground game in this one, and Taylor is that ground game. He’s got plenty left in the tank, but just when we start to trust him, the Patriots will mix in someone else out of that backfield and throw the ball 60-plus times each game. Taylor adds good depth as we head into the bye weeks.

Correll Buckhalter, RB, Denver Broncos: He’s fighting every week to get his yards even if Knowshon Moreno keeps the hype and the goal line touches.

Maurice Morris, RB, Detroit Lions: We might see more Morris if Kevin Smith misses time with his injury. Smith can’t heal that fast, but don’t expect the same production you get from Smith out of Morris.

Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams: Maybe without competition from Laurent Robinson, who is now out for the season, Avery will finally step his game up. He’d probably have better luck if Kyle Boller takes over at quarterback.

Josh Johnson, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As we’ve seen from the Byron Leftwich appearances this season, the Bucs are bad, and they are going to be throwing often. Johnson has the potential to be better than Leftwich, and he’s certainly faster and more agile. I broke down some of his background in this week’s Foolish Thoughts. If you’re desperate or digging for trade bait, grab him while he’s an unknown.

Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins: Same first name, different starting Miami quarterback. Sadly, this injury may be the end for Pennington. Due to Pennington’s bionic shoulder capsule explosion in the game this week, Henne takes over a tad early and tries to right this Dolphin ship in 2009. Please, sir, may we have a deep ball?

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns: I wouldn’t suggest that he’s better than your current benched players, but if Jamal Lewis stays out, Harrison could be in line for a big game or two when Cleveland faces weak run defenses. There aren’t many of those on the schedule, but maybe you just have a bench spot that’s completely empty and in need of a warm body. Yeah, you can slot Harrison there.

Denver Broncos D/ST: Who knew? The Broncos have a defense. Leave it to Josh McDaniels to teach them how to repel people. I’m still not sure I believe.

Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Maybe he will break out after all? Only if Favre keeps passing like he did on Sunday, but I’m a fan of Rice’s potential.

Bryant Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: It was Bryant, not Calvin Johnson, that had the important touchdown catch against the Washington Redskins this week. If Megatron gets shut down, look for Bryant to reap the benefits. He’s been on my watch list since he left the Arizona Cardinals, but he’s never produced consistently. This year may finally be his time if he can stay healthy.

Guys from Week 3’s On the Wire that should be owned in all leagues by now (but I’ll list them here anyway just to drive home the point):

  • LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Without Westbrook, he’s just as good and maybe even more explosive.
  • Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: He is David Garrard’s favorite target, and the Jags are going to put the ball in the air this season.

For more waiver wire grabs, talk to the geeks at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, get the list from Fanhouse, sweat it out with Lester’s Legends, get the pickups of the week at FF Toolbox, add Coffee to your list at USA Today’s Fantasy Joe, see through the haze at The Hazean, and check out both the first and second collection from Fantasy Football Librarian this week.

Get out there and make your team better this week. Try toying with some handcuffs and consider the rises and falls of Sunday at Fanhouse, prepare for the bye weeks as noted by The Fantasy Football Geek Blog , sell off a few high-performing pretenders at FF Toolbox and cut the dead weight with the Bruno Boys.

As always, the comments are yours. I’ll be answering questions all week if you don’t know who to claim and who to drop on your waiver wire. Just leave a message below.

Manning, Colts D on Fire as Cards Misfire