Moore to live for in Week 11 Pickups

It’s getting to be that time. The fantasy playoffs are near. Records are shaking out. If you’re set to make a deep playoff run, you should be reshaping your team to play it’s best fantasy football in Weeks 14-16.

Of course, that’s assuming you’re all playing championship games in Week 16, which is the only week you should be, but if that’s not the way your league commish scheduled playoffs, it’s too late to change that until next season.

If you’re using a FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) system for the waiver wire (bidding on players every week to see who gets to acquire them), now’s the time to bid the most money for the players who could really help you down the stretch. Trim the fat and drop any players who haven’t earned their spot on your roster. Go big or go home with the players who should help you the most if they pan out.

As we continue with a little late season advice, make sure you don’t make any of the common mistakes. Scott Pianowski wrote up a great piece earlier this week that touches on most of them, but it boils down to this: Play smart and loose. You’ll make a bad trade or two before you’re done playing fantasy football. But no one remembers the bad trade when you hold up the trophy.

Also consider these matchup notes for Weeks 15 and 16 highlighted by Adam Levitan as you go about your roster moves this week.

MARSHAWN LYNCH (Seahawks)

It’s highly unlikely that Lynch is sitting out on a waiver wire somewhere at this point in the season. But then again, there’s always a chance. We haven’t seen a lot of BEAST MODE this season, but Lynch’s usage makes him a valuable RB2 prospect to end the season. In the next four weeks, he gets to face the Rams twice and the Redskins, which should provide some nice fantasy points before he finishes the fantasy playoffs by getting stonewalled by the Bears and 49ers.

BEN TATE (Texans)

Another just in case, Tate has been as productive as most of the starting backs in the league while serving as Arian Foster’s No. 2. Now that Matt Leinart is taking the reigns in Houston, the Texans might rely on the run even more, which would provide Tate with more opportunities to shine. If someone threw Tate back after Foster got healthy, it’s time someone snatched him back up.

DENARIUS MOORE (Raiders)

The Raiders passing game is flourishing once again under Carson Palmer, and their remaining games gives them one of the best schedules to throw on. Jacoby Ford left the Week 10 contest against the Chargers with an injury, and Moore reaped the benefits. He should continue to see a healthy dose of targets from Palmer, and I consider him the No. 1 priority on the waiver wire for anyone in need of help at wide receiver. He could be a solid WR2, the type of find that could carry you through to a fantasy championship with several big weeks.

KENDALL HUNTER (49ers)

Frank Gore sat out in Week 10 with multiple injuries while Hunter carried the load and sealed the game for the 49ers. Gore and his coaches are saying that he should be fine to play in Week 11, but they’re also saying they intend to lighten his load moving forward to keep him fresh for the playoffs. And once the playoffs are a lock, the 49ers may even rest their workhorse back. The end result of all this: Hunter has value the rest of the way.

ED DICKSON (Ravens)

While he’s been getting plenty of targets all year, Dickson finally did something significant with them in Week 10, scoring twice. That was probably Dickson’s best game of the season, but if you’re still searching for a tight end with a pulse, Dickson could be your guy.

VINCE YOUNG (Eagles)

Michael Vick has two broken ribs. If he can’t go, Vince Young would get the start against the G-men this week. It’s not an ideal matchup, but Young’s had fantasy value in the past since he can score fantasy points with both his arm and his leg. Plus, he’s never benefited from the type of quarterback-friendly offense Andy Reid has constructed in Philly. Whether you own Vick or not, Young’s a worthy gamble going into Week 11 until we know whether Vick will play or not.

LANCE BALL (Broncos)

Willis McGahee is banged up, and Knowshon Moreno is on IR. Ball could get the start if McGahee can’t go on Thursday, and McGahee hasn’t yet gotten on the practice field. Ball should have value either way since the Broncos rely so heavily on the running game, but don’t expect the yards to come easy against the Jets.

CHRIS OGBONNAYA (Browns)

Peyton Hillis has already been ruled out for Week 11, which leaves Ogbonnaya in position to start again for the Browns. Ogbonnaya gets very little love from fantasy circles because he lacks talent, even though he was productive as a running back for the Texas Longhorns in college. He racked up the yards in Week 10 against the Rams, but the Jags present more of a challenge. Still, he’s worth adding since he might be the running back to own in Cleveland for the rest of the year.

DAMIAN WILLIAMS (Titans)

Since Damian Williams entered the starting lineup, Matt Hasselbeck has looked his way. While Williams is no Kenny Britt, he’s scored in his last two games and might be emerging for the stretch run. He’s definitely worth a stash if you’re hunting for a late season gem to help you in the playoffs.

HARRY DOUGLAS (Falcons)

Julio Jones left with an injury in Week 10 and seemed ready to return if the trainers had let him. In his place, Douglas received a showering of targets from Matt Ryan. Don’t expect the targets to continue unless Jones is sidelined again in Week 11. But if he is, Douglas is your guy.

VINCENT BROWN (Chargers)

Much like Torrey Smith of the Ravens, it’s hard to rely on these young wide receivers that splash onto the scene with big plays. Brown could just as easily disappear in Week 11, especially with the season Philip Rivers has had. But until Malcom Floyd is healthy, Brown should continue to fill in opposite Vincent Jackson (should we call him “The Other Vincent” yet?). The Chargers usually right the ship for a playoff run every year. Assuming that happens, Brown has the potential to produce just like Jackson and the rest of this Charger offense.

JACOB TAMME (Colts)

You should know what you’re getting with the Colts this season — yards but no scoring. Tamme will take Dallas Clark’s place in this offense until he’s well enough to return, but the tight end pool is deep enough that you shouldn’t have to reach for him at this point in the season. Besides, many of his targets came when Dan Orlovsky entered the game when it was already out of hand for Curtis Painter.

TASHARD CHOICE (Redskins)

I don’t like recommending any Redskins player with Shanahan in full tinker mode, but the former Cowboys running back claims to be healthy and able to contribute in Week 11. That means he has the potential to start and ruin your fantasy week if you were counting on Roy Helu or, even worse, Ryan Torain. Consider this more of a warning that Choice could be in play than a recommendation to go add him to your roster.

Fill in D/STs: I like both the Jaguars (vs. Browns) and Patriots (vs. Cassel-less Chiefs) this week to have a solid outing as D/STs.

Great Bernard Scott, the injuries! Week 4 Waiver Wire Pickups with Boomers, Blahs, and Stashes

Seriously, guys, what’s going on out there? Are all the Jamaal Charles owners still stepping on cracks? Did the Kenny Britt owners walk under 50 ladders on their way to work Friday? We just can’t have nice things.

It’s time to remedy this.

I’ve divided this week’s pickups with boomers, players who have high ceilings but could never be productive again, and blahs, players who aren’t as exciting but could easily have a few good weeks this year.

BOOMERS

This could be the greatest thing to happen to you…or it could be a horrible mistake.

Torrey Smith

You saw him on Sunday. It’s hard to pass on a guy that had three touchdowns in one quarter, and the Rams had no solution for him until he injured his hamstring. But don’t forget that the Ravens went out and got Lee Evans to make these plays, and it remains to be seen how Evans will do when he’s 100 percent. Evans could be just as productive if he’s still the guy the Ravens thought he was when they traded for him.

Meanwhile, Smith should be stashed on a bench somewhere in every league. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs now that the league has tape on him and how he recovers from the hamstring injury that slowed him down this week, but the speedster should definitely be owned.

Victor Cruz

Unlike Smith, Cruz was a preseason darling but missed all of last year with an injury and did absolutely nothing so far this season. After the Giants signed Brandon Stokely, who was sharing a hoveround with Kerry Collins this offseason, Cruz decided to show up in Week 3 with an explosive performance against some of the leagues best corners. Once Manningham and Nicks are at 100 percent, it’s hard to say he’ll have another performance like this, but the door is certainly open.

BLAHS

Their stars are on the rise, and, granted, they could surprise, but best not to expect too much from these guys.

Bernard Scott

With Cedric Benson expected to miss some time, Scott should get his chance to shine. I thought he was a better fit for this offense at the beginning of the season. Now is his time to show it. But he’s entirely droppable if Benson’s three-game suspension is successfully appealed.

Nate Washington

With Kenny Britt out for the rest of the season, Washington is now Tennessee’s acting No. 1. He was getting a lot of passes before Britt’s injury, but he’s no Britt. Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins should fill in for Britt to a lesser extent.

Titus Young

He’s had two solid performances, but he’s not getting the touchdowns that Calvin Johnson gobbles up like Pac-Man. The scores will come, but it’ll be very hard to predict. Matt Stafford is throwing the ball to everybody, but Young is not nearly the threat in the red zone that Megatron and Tony Scheffler are. He’s more valuable in PPR leagues.

Ed Dickson

He’s winning the tight end battle so far in Baltimore against Dennis Pitta, and as long as he continues to progress, the scoring touches should come.

And as a bonus, a few players to throw on your bench…

STASHES

If you’ve got an opening on your roster, these are some guys worth hanging onto for the long haul.

Steve Slaton

Cut loose by the Texans, Slaton could end up in a more favorable situation. There are several possible landing spots, but the best one for him might be Cleveland, where a change-of-pace guy could help Hillis and himself. Remember that the Browns had signed Brandon Jackson as a third-down back this offseason, but they had to put him on injured reserve before Week 1. Slaton’s worth grabbing now until we know where he lands. Just pray that it’s not Washington.

Kendall Hunter

Frank Gore should continue to get the majority of touches, but he’s not being very effective with them. As many have pointed out, he’s dropped off over the past two seasons. Hunter, as the pick the new regime in San Francisco used to bolster the running back position, could easily start to see more touches as the season wears Gore down. He won’t have an immediate role unless Gore sits in Week 4.

Jared Cook

He stands to benefit from Kenny Britt’s injury, but we haven’t seen much out of him so far.

Montario Hardesty

He’s bound to see some action in the future. Hillis is surrounded by bad mojo — the Madden curse, his running style, the worst case of strep throat ever — and just asking to miss another game or two down the line. Hardesty’s worth owning, at least in deeper leagues, this week until we find out Hillis’ condition for Week 4. Assuming Hillis returns to start, he’s just a stash.

Stevan Ridley

One of the Patriots’ rookie running backs had some important carries in Week 3, but the only person who could tell you who to start out of the Patriots’ backfield is the guy who directed Bill Belichick: A Football Life —  and only then if he kept Belichick’s mic on while he talked in his sleep. If you’re in a deeper league or just have no confidence in your running backs, you might consider taking a chance on Ridley here. He might be stealing the clock-killing role from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, otherwise known as Law Firm, in this Patriots’ offense.

Donald Jones

If this Bills’ offense is legit (and it seems to be), it might not be a bad idea to get in on a piece of it. Jones name came up quite a bit this preseason, and he’s been seeing a lot of looks. If nothing else, he might be your last chance to buy some Buffalo stock.

James Casey

A bit of a wildcard, but Casey set a record for receptions by a running back for the Texans. He’s versatile as the Texans’ fullback and occasional tight end (and in fact, eligible as a TE or a RB in many leagues), which makes him an interesting stash, especially now that Slaton is out of the backfield in Houston. If Foster misses any more time and/or Ward continues to sit, Casey could have another day like he did Sunday.

Laurent Robinson

Look deep on the Cowboys’ roster, and you’ll find Robinson, who did get some  important looks last night and do well with them even though the offense wasn’t running on all cylinders. He could climb up the depth chart quickly if the Cowboys begin to lose faith in their young depth at receiver.

Vince Young

Well, it would be unusual for a backup quarterback to emerge in Philly and have more value than any of us expect…right?

5 Player Moves the NFL Owes Fantasy Football (And Me)

The first few days of NFL free agency are like sitting in Santa’s lap. You can ask for anything you want with the assumption that you’ll get it. And I do that every year.

Ask for things in free agency, that is. Not sit in Santa’s lap.

Since the NFL left us cold and alone for a whole offseason only to now bombard us all with free agency madness like we’re an ex-girlfriend waiting on-stage at Jerry Springer for a mystery announcement, it’s only fair that they see to it that these player moves happen just as I asked for them.

Some of these transactions require several planets and a few Belichicks to align in order for them to happen, but the NFL owes me, right? They can’t go Bad Santa on that.

1. Vince Young to Minnesota Vikings

I’ll admit that I’m a Longhorn. As such, I give VY more credit than he’s probably due. But he’s still a winning quarterback, and it doesn’t seem right for a winning quarterback to get cut loose by the team that drafted him and have a problem finding a reasonable starting gig with another franchise.

Minnesota has no quarterback right now. Rather than trade for McNabb and take their chances with a veteran who might fall apart too early for Christian Ponder, their rookie quarterback-of-the-future, to take the reins, why not put a player on the field that could really win a few games for you?

Young might even be able to fill in for more than one-year stint. Much like the Eagles did with Vick and Kolb, having a developed prospect waiting in the wings a little longer after he ripens isn’t so bad. Now Kolb’s some valuable trade bait.

Leslie Frazier seems like a reasonable coach, and there’s enough leadership in place to make sure that VY will be successful transitioning into his second starting job.

I can’t see VY in Minnesota being a bad fit, especially after hearing about VY and Adrian Peterson practicing together this offseason. During their college years, I always wondered what life would have been like if Adrian Peterson and Vince Young had ended up in the same backfield.

Now I’d like that dream to be made a reality.

2. Matt Leinart to Seattle Seahawks

I felt silly just typing that, and it’s not even that far-fetched since we’ve now heard that the Seahawks are chasing him. At this point, I have a strong feeling Leinart isn’t going to amount to anything unless Pete Carroll works some USC magic on him.

You’d think being paid to play football would be just another day at the office for Leinart, but apparently, he’s missing something else that he had in college. Perhaps it’s the hot tubs?

Maybe Carroll can get him back on track and make a decent No. 2 if not starter out of Leinart. If nothing else, Leinart would provide an interesting story line for Seahawks’ games besides “Can just give them Andrew Luck now?”

3. Braylon Edwards or Roy Williams to Chicago Bears

The Bears need a big receiver for Jay Cutler to make sweet, sweet aerial love to this season, and I don’t care too much about who that is.

Roy Williams will already be in play as soon as he’s released by the Cowboys. And he did have one great season in Martz’s offense during his time in Detroit. But Edwards has a similarly checkered past and need to prove himself.

Either big wideout would be a win for the Bears, and I’d like to see one of the two of them get a shot at being the No. 1 in Chicago. If that doesn’t work out, then I’ll take Malcom Floyd as a consolation prize.

Just give Cutler a shiny new toy. Is that so much to ask?

4. Steve Smith (CAR) to New England Patriots

Steve Smith has had it rough in Carolina these last few years. Since Delhomme, they haven’t been able to get any kind of stability at quarterback, and the Panthers are headed into a rebuilding phase with a new head coach and another new quarterback.

Smith deserves a chance to play for a contender again before he retires, and the Patriots could be that contender if they could work out a trade with Carolina. I have a feeling his passion for the game and desire for a championship would fit in perfectly within Bill Belichick’s organization.

And what new head coach wouldn’t take a piece or two of the Patriots’ draft pick war chest for a veteran they won’t have much longer? Smith’s not going to do them a lot of good while Carolina develops Cam Newton, and the Patriots could give the Panthers some draft picks to build the future wide receiver corps.

On the Patriots side, Smith would be an upgrade at wide receiver and a fighter–literally at times.

5. Kyle Orton to Miami Dolphins

Orton’s on the trading block already, and rumor has it that Miami is one of the teams looking to acquire him. I don’t think I have to sell too hard on this one.

In Miami, Orton would take the team in the right direction, whether Chad Henne ever develops or not. At least they’d be able to move forward as an offense. And Orton would be reunited with Brandon Marshall, who had success with Orton in Denver.

Orton’s got a little more left in the tank than a veteran like Hasselbeck, and he’s got plenty to prove after being ditched by both Chicago and Denver.

So Dear NFL Santa, let’s make these moves happen. If nothing else, they’ll make for a more exciting 2011 season.

If they don’t happen, I’ll have to pretend to hold a grudge against you when the season starts…and we both know I’m not going to be able to keep that up for long.

What free agent signings or trades do you still want to see happen? Sound off in the comments.

On the Wire: Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups to fix your Jermichael Finley, Mark Clayton and Aaron Rodgers woes

So Deion Branch is now a Patriot? That’s exciting for Bill Belichick and all — that man knows how to swing a three-way trade while moving up in the draft. But I don’t think the trade changes Branch’s fantasy value much.

Branch wasn’t that useful as a Seahawk, and they are hurting for playmakers. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will work their magic and integrate Branch into their system, but don’t expect Randy Moss-like numbers out of the Patriots’ new acquisition this year.

Oh, and did you hear that Brett Favre threw his 500th touchdown? And it was to his own team, no less.

Even less exciting, the presence of Branch in New England will muddy the fantasy waters for Brandon Tate, who was Week 5’s hot waiver wire pickup. Let’s see what we can do to fix that.

First, the guys you’ll need if you just lost Jermichael Finley this week:

Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

You may not have noticed, but Lewis has become the only person David Garrard throws touchdowns to this year. I’ve heard a legend about a man named Mike Sims-Walker who used to be targeted more often, but that man could just be a ghost. He has been for at least two games this year. Meanwhile, Lewis has two games with two touchdowns and only one really miserable fantasy performance, 15 yards receiving and no touchdowns in Week 3 against the Eagles. He trails only Antonio Gates (so does everyone), Dustin Keller, and Zach Miller in total fantasy points this season among tight ends. Yes, I’d say it’s safe to bet on him to fill the void left by Finley if you just lost your starting tight end. It also might not be a bad play to trade him out for the guy you’re currently starting unless you have one of the elite.

Tony Moeaki, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Lewis may already be off the board, and in that case, Moeaki is not a bad consolation prize. He’s got great hands, and he’s one of Matt Cassel’s favorite (read: only) targets. He comes it as the No. 12 tight end in total points even after sitting out for his Week 4 bye. Don’t hesitate to rely on Moeaki.

Brandon Pettigrew and/or Tony Scheffler, TE, Detroit Lions

Both Lions tight ends have had off and on weeks throughout the season while without their starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, but Shaun Hill has proven to be a strong replacement, if only we knew which tight end he liked in any given week. At this point in the season, we can’t tell, but if forced to choose, I’d take Pettigrew over Scheffler. Pettigrew currently ranks No. 10 in total tight end fantasy points while Scheffler comes in at No. 16. If Calvin Johnson’s shoulder injury keeps him out in Week 6, both of these tight ends would receive more attention than usual…as long as they’re not too busy blocking the Giants’ attack.

Wide receivers you should grab now before they go off big time:

Obvious ones to grab before these guys: Kenny Britt, WR, Titans and Danny Amendola, WR, Rams

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

A hot sleeper this preseason, McCluster hasn’t carved out a role in the Kansas City offense just yet. But Todd Haley finally came around on Jamaal Charles in Week 5 and gave Charles the majority of the carries in the running game. Surely, Haley will soon realize what he has in McCluster and find a way to get him on the field more frequently. Thus far, McCluster has just 7 catches this season, but he’s shown hints of his big play ability. You won’t be able to get him on the cheap if you wait for him to breakout.

Anthony Armstrong, WR, Washington Redskins

I almost listed Armstrong last week when he made a big catch downfield for McNabb, but I thought I should probably wait until he had more than one big catch in a game. Last week, he went out and got three of them, including one for a touchdown. So now he’s on a lot of fantasy radars. If you’re looking for a WR3, he just might be the guy you need. He could soon be the No. 2 receiver in Washington, replacing Joey Galloway, who turned 200 this preseason for those keeping a tally at home.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills

I wouldn’t call the Bills’ offense “good,” but when they do score, they’ve been looking Johnson’s way ever since he moved from the No. 2 receiver role to the slot position. Lee Evans may be the big play threat, but Johnson’s just in the right place at the right time. That has value. Take a chance on Johnson if you have the space on your roster.

Those who will benefit from trades and injuries:

Mike Hart, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Addai got hurt on Sunday and left the running duties to Hart, who filled in nicely. If Donald Brown can’t get back on the field in Week 6 and if Addai misses some time, Hart is the starter in Indy. Remember: you can never have enough starting running backs. Don’t be afraid to go after Hart this week, but check Brown’s status first.

Deon Butler and/or Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks

I care more about what the Deion Branch trade does to the Seahawks than how it affects the Patriots. Without Branch, the Seahawks will have more snaps for Butler and Tate. Golden Tate would appear to be more likely to take over as a starter since he’s the guy they drafted just this year to make an impact, but I can’t get over my sleeper love for Butler. Both have the potential to excel with more playing time, but if forced to choose, pick up Tate and just keep an eye on Butler.

UPDATE: Forget what I just said. Now I’m hearing that the starting job is Butler’s. I actually like him better than Golden Tate so make sure you go out and get him. He could be the big winner of the Deion Branch trade, and he has the speed that Mike Williams (SEA) lacks to make big plays in the passing game.

Laurent Robinson and/or Mardy Gilyard, WR, St. Louis Rams

Clayton’s injury comes at a bad time for the Rams. Robinson is still trying to come back from an injury, and Gilyard has been taking his time learning his way in the Rams’ offense. Both have a shot at the starting job and a chance to fill the void in targets that Clayton leaves behind. Brandon Gibson has sniffed the fantasy value charts this season, but I don’t see him becoming a dominant force anytime soon. Danny Amendola is one helluva pass-catcher (and he stands to gain the most from Clayton’s injury), but someone has to play Robin to his Batman. That leaves these two. Choose your own adventure! I loved Robinson before the Clayton trade (and before he got injured, which he seems to do pretty frequently), but time will tell whether he can make it back on the field at 100 percent. For now, I’d say the best bet to replace Clayton in the lineup is Gilyard.

Some speculative picks if you have some room for a stash:

Keiland Williams, RB, Washington Redskins

Williams rejoined the active roster after Portis went down with injury, and even though he’s only playing passing downs and half as many snaps as Ryan Torain, he’s one Shanahan-igan away from the starting lineup. Stash him now if you want to benefit for the few weeks (or snaps) that Williams remains Shanahan’s preferred running back in Washington.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I highlighted Benn in previous “On the Wire” items, but consider this your final reminder. He’s working his way into the Bucs’ offense, and they’re starting to impress in the passing game.

Defenses that might be an upgrade over your current squad:

New York Giants D/ST

At first they seemed like they’d fallen off the wagon, but the Giants D/ST has stepped up in the past two weeks. That’s enough for me to recommend you jump on them before the rest of your league. I wouldn’t say they’re an every-week start just yet, but as long as the matchup is right, the Giants will put pressure on the quarterback and fantasy points on the board. This week, they get the Lions.

Kansas City Chiefs D/ST

They somehow managed to slow down even the Colts’ offense. I believe. You should, too.

And some quarterbacks that might be available in your league for the bye week or if you are scared about starting Matt Flynn:

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Trust me, he’s better than David Carr. And this week, he gets to play Oakland, fun for the whole family.

Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs are better than expected, and Freeman is a big reason why. Mike Williams (TB) is another. He’s not a bad fill for an injured quarterback or a quarterback on bye. This week, he faces the Saints, which may not seem as scary as it should after they dropped one to the Cardinals last week. Even if they do show up to play against the Bucs, we know that Freeman will have to throw it a ton to keep up with Drew Brees. Hopefully, that’ll make up for his mistakes.

Moves that don’t excite me: John Carney released by Saints to make Garrett Hartley (woohoo, a kicker!) their starter, and the Saints signing Julius Jones (depth at best)

More waiver wire wonders from around the Interwebs:

  • TMR wants to help you find the best hot dog ever. No, really.
  • Just in case they’re still on your waiver wire, FF Toolbox reminds you about Vince Young, Ryan Torain, Brandon Lloyd, and a few more guys
  • FF Librarian has compiled a linkfest of waiver wire love both here and here
  • Fanhouse highlights Mike Hart’s potential and a few players you may have left on the wire a bit too long: Floyd, Hill, Gaffney and Kolb just to name a few. They also chatted it out earlier this week.
  • Razzball hits on a few names for Week 6
  • Pro Football Focus has you covered, even if you’re looking for Finley’s backup’s backup this week to fill in at tight end
  • The Hazean picks three important adds
  • The FF Geek Blog spreadsheets it up
  • Sports Illustrated runs down the list of pickups a few starters in the hot seat

Should you draft Chris Johnson at No. 1?

Yes. So much yes. Don’t get caught up in the hype of this Adrian Peterson vs. Chris Johnson debate.

Sure, Chris Johnson had a phenom year. He broke 400 touches in 2009. He may not do that in 2010; in fact, he probably won’t. There’s a good chance he could suffer a setback or injury this season.

You could say all of that. You can even use history to back it up, but why not give him a chance? The Tennessee Titans offense, other than their center, is returning, and the offense can do nothing but improve around “Every Coach’s Dream.”

Vince Young will be the starting quarterback from Week 1, which should allow Chris Johnson some more freedom. The offense really didn’t open up last season until V.Y. went under center. Johnson won’t have to do everything. The offense will support him, not be all about him. That means his numbers might go down, but I’d still take a drop in production from Johnson over an unknown quantity from someone else.

Are you going to find a better deal at running back at the No. 1 pick? No, not really. Is Chris Johnson going to be the No. 1 fantasy player at the end of this season? Probably not. But do you know who is? No. You don’t.

You could guess that Adrian Peterson finishes the year at No. 1, but it’d be almost as risky as taking Johnson. Both backs will have the majority of the attention from opposing defenses, and both will see a lot of work this year. Now that Chris Johnson isn’t holding out, the main arguments for A.P. are Chris Johnson’s 400+ touches in last season and his size, even though reports claim that Johnson bulked up this season as well.

Forget these 10 reasons not to draft Chris Johnson No. 1 overall. Let’s talk 10 reasons not to draft A.P. instead…

  1. Brett Favre: Adrian Peterson had an 18-touchdown season with Favre at the helm, but what if Favre doesn’t return? Pre-Favre, in 2008 with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, he had just 10 touchdowns. Sure, he had more yardage that season, but they didn’t get it done in the red zone. That’s worrisome, no? [BREAKING: ESPN reports that Brett Favre will retire. Believe at your own risk.]
  2. Brett Favre + Sidney Rice: If Brett Favre does return, he makes Sidney Rice one stud of a wide receiver. Rice happened to rack up the yardage last season while missing out on the touchdowns. He left the ball at the 1 or the 2 yard line fairly often, and he gave Adrian Peterson some easy touchdowns. In his second year with the legendary gunslinger, Rice’s likely to improve on those numbers and take away scoring opportunities from Adrian Peterson.
  3. Brett Favre: If Brett Favre does return, and he falls apart faster than anticipated throughout the 2010 season, he could turn back into old Brett Favre, turning over the ball too often for his team to handle, which would also take opportunities away from A.P.
  4. The Williams Wall: The pending suspension of defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams could have a drastic effect on the Vikings this season. If the four-game suspensions end up being enforced, the Vikings could spend the first quarter of the season playing from behind and unleashing Favre (or Tarvaris Jackson/Sage Rosenfels) to make it rain rather than grinding out the game with A.P. They won’t benefit from a strong defensive front.
  5. Running Style: Peterson still runs too upright, which makes him prone to injury throughout the season when defenses are gunning to stop him. While he didn’t miss any games last season or in 2008, that might mean he’s due.
  6. Fumbles: A.P. had 7 fumbles last season. He had 9 in 2008. I’d say the slight improvement inspires confidence, but it doesn’t. His fumbles are a consistent problem, and they won’t stop.
  7. Contract Issues: We’ve talked all offseason about Chris Johnson and the possibility he might hold out for a bigger contract, but A.P. was also absent from offseason workouts this year. Brad Childress’ lack of information about his absence suggests the relationship between coach and star running back might be turning sour. A.P. isn’t holding out, but a conflict with Childress or the team about the way he’s being used or his contract could lead to issues during the season.
  8. Rookie Competition: What kind of issues? Minnesota drafted Toby Gerhart, a ground-and-pound runner who won’t fill the void Chester Taylor left as the back on third downs. Instead, he could vulture a touchdown here and there, especially if Adrian Peterson has ball control issues. There’s no telling how he might creep onto the field right now, and when he’s on the field, A.P.’s not getting you any fantasy points.
  9. Involvement in the Passing Game: He’s not involved enough in the passing game. Both Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew excel at catching passes out of the backfield. Even without Chester Taylor, A.P. won’t have as big a role in the passing game, which cuts into his value. If you’re going to draft someone other than Johnson, you should at least consider MJD instead of A.P.
  10. College Allegiance: He’s a Sooner. Isn’t that enough?

In short, I’m not saying you have to draft Johnson. The first pick is yours to do with as you please. Draft a kicker if you want. That’ll go over well. But don’t take a pass on Chris Johnson just because history tells us he won’t repeat his 2009 campaign.

Whatever Johnson does in 2010 is probably going to be good enough to anchor your team at the RB1 spot, and that makes him a safe pick, worthy of being taken first overall in the draft. When you get first dibs, you have to make sure you get consistent points every week from that star player, and Johnson should do that.

If he does what he says he will and breaks 2500 yards…yeah, that’ll work, too.

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 15 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Who’s Going to Win Me My Championship

I hope this week matters to you. It certainly matters to me. I’ve made it this far in the playoffs, and I don’t plan to stop until I get a championship.

There’s a theme this week out there. I’ve noticed it. It’s Jamaal Charles love. Try and find someone who hates him this week. Other than a plug for the Browns’ defense on Fantasy Joe, there’s nada. I don’t know if that spells disaster or certain victory, but I’m starting the little speedster either way.

The Fifth Down hates on LaDainian Tomlinson and shares in the Jamaal Charles love. FF Xtreme picks Charles over Ryan Grant.

I’m starting him over Steven Jackson, per the advice at Fantasy Joe as well. Matt Pitzer’s got some nice names that could win it for you this week, including Anquan Boldin and Knowshon Moreno, but Roddy White and Chad Ochocinco owners won’t be as happy with his dud selections. Both wide receivers enter into tough matchups against Darrelle Revis and the San Diego Chargers’ corners, respectively.

I am not as worried about Randy Moss underwhelming this week after reading what Mr. NFL Films had to say about his efforts. If he says the game film shows him doing all the right things, I believe it. Moss doesn’t seem to have the same immaturity that hit him in Oakland and Minnesota. He knows the Pats have a good thing going, and I don’t think he’ll want to be the one that derails their chance at the playoffs this season.

He’s ripe for an in-your-face day in Buffalo, as long as the weather works out. The opponent isn’t great on paper since Buffalo has been an interception machine and kept receivers out of the end zone, but those receivers were not a motivated Randy Moss.

Can you trust your Colts tonight? At least for tonight’s game, The Hazean thinks so. I agree.

If you need sleepers, I’m sure you know my affection for Alex Smith and Vince Young. Both are questionable this week and have less favorable matchups than last week, but you can roll with them if you must. I like VY more than Smith as long as VY plays.

FF Toolbox is all over this week’s waiver wire grabs, but as I wrote earlier this week, I’m not feeling them. I think the Toolbox guys are right to be concerned about DeAngelo Williams and Vincent Jackson, as Williams faces a tough Minnesota run defense and Jackson faces the Bengals secondary, which has taken away their opponent’s top target each week.

And as usual, there are plenty more start or sit articles where these came from over at FF Librarian.

As you set your lineups this week, enjoy the musical stylings of one Michael Jackson. I think I’ve heard of him before. The song is appropriate: “This Is It”

Michael Jackson – This Is It

The Team That Knocked You Out of the Playoffs in Week 14

The playoffs are truly fickle. Just like your high school girlfriend (well, if you had a girlfriend), they tire of you after about two weeks.

If you lost in Week 14, you can probably identify a few names on your new hate list, updated daily while you rub lipstick on your face and cry, from the “Team of the Week” that the FF Geek Blog assembled.

At least they were big name guys. It’s not like you wouldn’t see Ray Rice or Chris Johnson coming. Well, you might not see Chris Johnson coming, but that’s only because he breaks the speed of light every now and then on his way to the end zone.

Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson, and DeSean Jackson have all been phenomenal this season, and Dallas Clark is a fixture of the Indianapolis Colts’ offense. No unknowns there.

True to their form of yesteryear, the Titans won off their kicking game (Rob Bironas) and defense. That’s easy to do when you play St. Louis and have to sub Kerry Collins in for Vince Young mid “wrecking shop.”

No, the only two potential “surprises” that I can identify are Eli Manning and Ryan Grant. Grant because he has never quite regained the hype he had at the end of 2007 when he complemented Brett Favre deep into the playoffs, and Eli Manning because… well, he’s the dopey Manning brother we all love to hate, right? He’s not supposed to be the one pulling out all the stops in the passing game.

In truth, the defense of the week was San Francisco’s opportunistic performance against the Arizona Cardinals Monday night, but that was after the FF Geeks put together their list. The Cardinals couldn’t hold onto the ball at all on the MNF stage. Something tells me that Arizona will no longer serve popcorn or any other butter products in the locker room.

But you have a good right to be mad if you lost to Quinton Ganther or Devin Aromashodu. They truly came out of nowhere in the final weeks of the season — and by nowhere, I mean the depths of the depth chart.

Ganther, a name that sounds about as horrible as you want it to be, was the “next name on the list” for the Redskins. He wasn’t even on the roster at the beginning of the season. Now, he probably ate your babies in Week 14 if one of your opponents took a chance on starting him. Two touchdowns in just his first NFL start? That burns. It really does. But remember, it was the Raiders.

Devin Aromashodu is not, as I learned today, a samurai warrior destined to roam the hills and valleys of the Windy City battling the power of scent. He is, in fact, the “other Devin” on the Bears roster.

And yes, I lied about not knowing who Aromashodu was for the sake of using that joke. I have no boundaries. I’m like Richie Incognito.

The “other Devin” is a big target the Bears haven’t been able to use thus far this season, but it looks like he might be worth keeping on the field. Against the Packers, Aromashodu racked up 76 yards and a touchdown. Just the kind of performance a desperation playoff opponent would have loved to supply, but it’s hardly likely that anyone in your league did it.

Ganther, though, we can all hate freely.

Along with these good days, there were a couple of notable bad performances: Aaron Rodgers and Randy Moss.

I was lucky enough to have a bye for the team on which I own them both — whew — but if you weren’t as lucky, you might not be in the playoff hunt any longer.

This week, I have to believe that both will get on track. Rodgers faces the Steelers spirit-less secondary, and Randy Moss gets the Bills. As long as the weather is not “kind of frightful” in Buffalo, I think there’s a good chance we see more of the Randy we’ve been used to in Patriot blue.

On the Wire: The Must-Haves, Week 14 Pickups for Fantasy Football Playoffs

There aren’t many names out there that I haven’t mentioned previously, but if you’re strengthening your roster for a playoff run, some favorable schedules make these players more lucrative grabs than others.

If you didn’t secure a quarterback with a favorable schedule during the fantasy playoffs, or if you are worried about your starter sitting down a few weeks early (Peyton Manning owners), becoming senile (Brett Favre owners), or being further concussed (Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger owners), there are still a few quarterbacks available that could fill that void.

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
He won over the coaching staff and the team after replacing Shaun Hill midseason, but he’s won over fantasy owners in recent weeks after the 49ers installed a spread offense. In the spread, Smith has been deadly effective, and Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan, and Michael Crabtree should continue to benefit. Best of all? In Week 16, he faces the Detroit Lions in what could be your fantasy Super Bowl. You can’t ask for a sweeter matchup.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans
As I showed with the stat analysis I did on VY last week, he’s got one of the best schedules in the NFL in Weeks 14-16, and he’s got a running back that will keep defenses from every shutting down the passing game. If you’re in desperate need of a reliable starter with the potential for greatness, VY is the guy.

Others you might consider in the order I would consider them (if I were you, hoping not to have to consider them): Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins; Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills; Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Oakland Raiders; Brady Quinn, QB, Cleveland Browns.

All have schedules that could give them a boost in these final weeks, but none of them are quarterbacks I would want to bet my season on unless I had lost all hope. Also note that Joe Flacco gets to play the Detroit Lions this week, if you’re in need of a miracle and able to acquire him.

This week’s bright spots are led by a few running backs you may have forgotten.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns
He’s scoring his points through the air thanks to Brady Quinn’s renewed effectiveness. As long as that keeps up, and as long as Harrison keeps the majority of the workload at running back, he is in line for a few big days in the coming weeks.

Correll Buckhalter, RB, Denver Broncos
Now that he’s healthy, he’ll get to share a lot more carries with Knowshon Moreno. While Moreno got the scores against Kansas City, Buckhalter’s explosive runs and his ability to catch passes makes him a threat to take any given play to the house. Even without scoring, he’s putting up enough yardage to contribute if your current starter faces a tough stretch. Matt Forte, we’re still looking at you.

Chris Brown, RB, Houston Texans
He’s a big brute, but a brute who scores touchdowns is never worth complaining about. Things are murky in Houston’s backfield, but I prefer Brown to Ryan Moats. His playoff schedule could give him plenty of chances to line up at the goal line for a score.

And if you’re receivers have become garbage (Devin Hester owners) or suspended (Dwayne Bowe owners), there are a few young guns to add to your roster.

Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins
Better than he seems in the stat line, Bess has been a PPR stud all year and finally got a chance to shine in the Miami passing frenzy that overwhelmed the Patriots. If it keeps up, Bess will, too.

Devin Thomas, WR, Washington Redskins
Okay, so the Redskins do have an offense. Jason Campbell found Thomas for two touchdowns this past week, and he could be in line for more down the stretch as Campbell fights to remain relevant in Washington (and the NFL in general) and while Thomas proves he’s no bust.

Josh Morgan, WR,  San Francisco 49ers
See Alex Smith. In the spread offense, Morgan has become a favorite target, and again, fantasy Super Bowl vs. Detroit. That’s worth a shot-in-the-dark start.

Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans Saints
Last week, I had to make last-minute swaps to get Hartley in for John Carney when the Saints finally decided to switch back to their younger leg. But it paid off big. As TMR points out, he plays all but Week 17 indoors, where it is nice and cozy.

D/STs for the Playoff Run

Sports Data Hub pointed out how good the New Orleans Saints D/ST is looking for the fantasy playoffs. Hopefully, you, like me, were able to stash them in Week 5 and ride them all the way to the end of the season. Looks like the good times haven’t come to an end yet.

But if you didn’t listen then or had already missed your chance at owning Brees’ boys, The FF Geek Blog has a short list of defenses to plug into your lineup this week. Out of that list, Green Bay is another favorite to set and forget for your run at the championship, especially coming off their Monday night performance against Baltimore.

If you need more, compare notes with KFFL, ESPN’s Talented Mr. Roto, FF Toolbox, Fanhouse, The FF Geek Blog, Lester’s Legends, and Fantasy Joe.

For an extensive list of additional waiver wire resources, check out the linkage by the Fantasy Football Librarian.

Vince Young: Playoff Pickup or Passable Projections?

Sports Data Hub recently investigated the usefulness [SDH no longer has this online] of Vince Young for the rest of the season, but that analysis was optimistically given before his come-from-behind fourth-quarter drive for the win against the Cardinals. Those last-second heroics capped off a fantasy day that had him throwing for almost 400 yards.

If you watched VY doin’ work against the Cardinals, you might just be a believer now.

I’ll make no claims to being unbiased about Young. I’m a Longhorn, and thus have a higher level of respect for him and his abilities than the average NFL fan. That said, I’ve done the research and looked into what he might do during the fantasy playoffs thanks to an email from a reader (just like you).

Originally, I was asked to compare the potential of Kyle Orton and Vince Young as a matchup play during the fantasy playoffs, filling in from a more promising fantasy starter during his bad weeks.

I’m not sure what to think of Orton on his way back from an ankle injury, but his schedule comparison side-by-side with Young’s puts Young’s upside in perspective.

Orton fell off the charts last season when an ankle injury struck, which makes me want to avoid him, but he has been a solid backup fantasy quarterback for many teams this year. Against the Giants, the Broncos got it done by leaning on Knowshon Moreno, and that could continue to be the way they win.

Orton’s upcoming schedule looks a little rough at first sight…and again at second sight. The number in parenthesis is the opponent’s rank in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks from FF Today. Obviously, the lower the number, the more points they give to fantasy quarterbacks.

Orton – Week 13: @KC (4), 14: @IND (25), 15: OAK (21), 16: @PHI (17), 17: KC (4).

Young’s schedule is better, but can we count on him to deliver like he did against the Cardinals even in these cupcake matchups?

Young – Week 13: @IND (25), 14: STL (12), 15: MIA (6), 16: SD (26), 17: SEA (9)

Let’s drop Week 17, assuming that you play your championship game in Week 16, and average those ranks during the fantasy playoffs, Weeks 14-16. In this case, the lower number would indicate be a more favorable schedule.

Orton: 21
VY: 15

That’s enough of a difference for me to project that Young would be the better start through Week 16. You could argue that Orton is a more traditional passer and a safer pick, but I just think the upside is there for Young to succeed.

No, I wouldn’t want to be forced to rely on Young in a pinch. But if your starter has a terrible matchup in the playoffs, or if you just lost Kurt Warner or Ben Roethlisberger for an unknown amount of time, Young wouldn’t be bad playoff insurance. He may even be worth spot-starting in Week 14 against the Rams.

So there you go. Detailed analysis with the Longhorn bias held back. Hook ‘em.