As the games were ending on Sunday, it seemed like this would potentially be a very big week on the wire, especially for RB’s with the injuries to Reggie Bush, Willis McGahee and C.J. Spiller. However, by the time I sat down to write this week’s report, it was becoming clear that none of the aforementioned RB’s was hurt quite as seriously as it first appeared, and as such there will be a little less enthusiasm for their potential backups. There were of course others injuries to talk about, with Matthew Stafford's hamstring being the most pressing. This week also brings us our first set of bye week teams as the Steelers and Colts players get to watch the replacement refs blow more calls this week from their living rooms instead.
I was out at a local bar watching the Seattle-Green Bay game, and inevitably started talking fantasy with the disgruntled Aaron Rodgers owners sitting next to me. One was like many who own the Packers QB I am sure, headed to another loss to open the year and starting to entertain ideas of actually trading their number 1 pick. I listened patiently as he told me a few of the many offers he had been getting for Rodgers. When he was done I just asked him a question. “Why do you think everyone in you league is sending you these trade offers? It’s because they hope you are going to panic and sell Rodgers for less than he’s worth. You drafted him there for a reason, and trust me it’s going to get better, probably as soon as next week.” So take heart fellow travelers and don’t panic. Now onto this week’s report:
Christian Ponder, MIN – I mentioned Ponder back in Weeks 1 and 2 of the report as a player I thought wasn’t getting enough respect in drafts that had the weapons to be successful if he was able to build on the improvement he showed in the preseason. After this week’s upset of San Francisco, his ownership numbers are sure to spike again. Hopefully you stashed him in anticipation of this week’s return of Jerome Simpson, whose speed will add the one element that has been missing from this offense. The schedule sets up very nicely the next three weeks (@DET, TEN, @WAS,) so he makes a great replacement for Matthew Stafford this week as well as someone to consider if you are looking for some bye week help the next three weeks. If you have him on the roster and don’t really need him, you might want to shoot the Stafford owner in your league an email.
Andy Dalton, CIN - I will admit I wasn’t a very big Dalton fan coming into the season. But, it’s hard to ignore back-to-back 300+ yard/3 TD games. It’s also hard to ignore a schedule the next three weeks (@JAC, MIA, @CLE) that is equally tasty as Ponder’s. I am willing to admit I was wrong about Dalton, and with the emergence of the new playmakers alongside stud A.J. Green, there are a bunch of QB2’s I would cut for Dalton today.
Shaun Hill, DET – Hill came on in relief of an injured Matthew Stafford and showed once again that he is a very capable QB in this offense. It is likely the Lions will rest their franchise QB this week from an injured hamstring, especially with a bye coming in Week 5. Stafford owners can add Hill, especially in deeper leagues, just in case Stafford’s injury lingers and Hill becomes more than a one week fill in.
Kevin Kolb, Ari - Kolb is more of a deep league option, but he is staking a claim to the starting gig while John Skelton is on the shelf and his upcoming schedule (MIA, @STL, BUF) makes him a potential bye week option or desperation play in the short term.
Jake Locker, TEN – Locker himself is coming off a big Week 3, but I don’t love his matchups in the short-term. Still, with Chris Johnson still MIA, Locker will be asked to carry the load giving his value a boost.
Week 3 Update
Sam Bradford, STL – I warned last week about tough matchups that were coming and Bradford crashed back to earth in Chicago. With the Seahawks and Cardinals defenses up next you can go ahead and cut him now.
Ryan Williams, ARZ – Williams gets his first mention this year, more because his value is sure to increase with the news that Chris Wells may be suffering from a turf-toe injury. There is a chance he is out there in a few shallower formats, so if he’s available you should make a strong move to secure his talents. If you own him, you can ride him while he’s getting a starter’s workload then deal him before Wells returns and the schedule get tougher.
Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller, MIA – When Reggie Bush left Sunday’s game with a knee injury, it was Thomas who got more carries as well as the goal-line work and looks like he would be the biggest beneficiary if Bush in fact does miss some time. What the stats don’t show is that Miller still looked better and faster and I’ll stick to my belief that he’s still the better long-term play.
Bilal Powell, NYJ – Powell, like Miller, is a good example of how you can use this list if you play in a shallower format. Both were mentioned last week in the Digging Deeper section and both saw their value increase on Sunday. There is nothing better than being a week early on the guy everyone will be looking to add this week. So if you are like me you are always looking for someone to take a flyer on, the further down the list you go often offers these types of players. Hopefully we'll touch on them a week or two early more often than not. As for Powell, he’s going to keep eating into Shonn Greene’s workload so we’ll give him a heartier endorsement this week.
Lance Ball and Ronnie Hillman, DEN – The rib injury to Willis McGahee means he may not play this week, forcing owners to look at other options. Hillman is the more exciting player and clearly has the most long-term upside. Ball however will likely be the safer play this week, because the Broncos won’t trust Peyton Mannings neck to the rookie and he’ll get the goal-line carries to boot. The good news for those of you in deep leagues is that Ball is likely available if you want to cover all the bases.
Shaun Draughn, KC – Peyton Hillis’ ankle injury means Draughn will take over as the No. 2 back for the Chiefs. He’ll continue to see touches and would presumably get a look at the goal-line if any opportunities arise. He’s not really a special talent, so I wouldn’t chase him outside of deeper leagues unless I owned Charles.
Tashard Choice, BUF – I will give Choice credit for stepping in for C.J. Spiller and running well against my Browns last week. Even if Fred Jackson can make it back this week, Choice is going to get some action, making him a viable, if somewhat unexciting option for deep-leaguers or those looking for injury replacements.
Joique Bell, DET – Bell vaulted over Kevin Smith to serve as the No. 2 back behind Mikel Leshoure. He also found himself on the field late in the game and in overtime as the Lions mounted their comeback.
Danny Woodhead, NE - Man I hate Danny Woodhead, mainly because I own Stevan Ridley in a league where I lost by a couple of points on Sunday. Despite my feelings, Belichick loves the guy, and we were reminded that there will be weeks where the genius will design a game-plan that plays to the diminutive runner’s strengths.
WEEK 3 Updates:
Andre Brown, NYG – Brown rewarded those who broke the bank to get him last week. I have to admit, that he’s going to have a decent size role in this offense going forward even after Ahmad Bradshaw returns. Hate to say it, but David Wilson owners can cut bait in most leagues.
Mikel Leshoure, DET –I wrote last week that Leshoure was going to be given every chance to be the featured back in Motown, but even I didn’t think Kevin Smith would become invisible. His ownership will be at 100% in all formats after this week.
Jerome Simpson, MIN – We advised checking on Simpson’s availability back in Week Two’s report. He’ll return to the field this week for the Vikings, and as we mentioned earlier in the Ponder blurb, his “skill” is the missing ingredient for this offense to potentially really take off. So do yourself a favor and check one more time this week and make sure he’s not on your wire. If he is, scoop him up and add him to your bench.
Donnie Avery, IND – We endorsed him last week, with the caveat that Austin Collie might cut into his production. Collie returned and then proceeded to rupture his patella tendon, meaning Avery should hold onto his starting spot. He didn’t have a great game last week, but the targets will be there going forward.
Andrew Hawkins, CIN – While I have mentioned him the last two weeks, he keeps making plays and as such his ownership will keep on growing. I still think he fits in best as a flex option, because despite his numbers, he’s not getting enough targets to be a really reliable start. Still, even I can’t deny that the speedy slot receiver’s role should continue to grow if he keeps this up.
Leonard Hankerson, WAS – While I neglected to mention Hankerson last week, he has a great matchup against Tampa Bay this week and looks like he has won a spot in the starting lineup even after Pierre Garcon returns from injury. He is worthy of a roster spot in all leagues, since this week could be the beginning of his real coming out party.
Nate Burleson, DET – Just when you think it’s safe to totally ignore him again, the Lions No. 2 reels off a 12 target game, and throw a touchdown up as well. He’s not a bad flex play as long as he’s starting, since Calvin Johnson demands so much attention across the field.
Ramses Barden, NYG – Barden filled in nicely for Hakeem Nicks last weekend, and likely has overtaken Domenik Hixon as the WR3 going forward. If you own Nicks, by all means grab Barden as the rare WR handcuff. Even after Nicks returns, he could have some deep-league flex appeal to get you through the bye weeks.
T.Y. Hilton, IND– Hilton put himself on the radar with his 4 catch, 113 yard effort on Sunday. He’ll be the main slot receiver for Andrew Luck going forward, and is worth adding in deeper leagues in the wake of the Collie injury.
Jonathan Baldwin, KC – Dexter McCluster’s injury breathes some life back into Baldwin’s sagging value, so if someone in your league grew impatient, he’s worth a look to see if he can take advantage with the increased workload.
Brandon Stokley, DEN – Peyton’s old buddy was at it again, working out of the slot and putting up numbers. As long as Manning is looking his way, he’ll have value in deep PPR leagues.
Michael Floyd, ARI – The rookie scored a touchdown on his first catch of the season. The Cardinals are slowly increasing his playing time, but it’ll be awhile before he’ll be a factor.
Week 3 update:
Greg Little, CLE – The second year WR just keeps on dropping passes, and it looks like it is finally going to cost him consistent playing time. If you own him outside of deeper leagues, you seriously need to consider cutting your losses.
Kyle Rudolph, MIN – Readers here know I love him and he’s long gone in deep leagues by now. Still, people still play in leagues where it doesn’t always make sense to carry two TE’s, so he still is available in some places. He’s entering a really sweet part of his schedule, so it’s also time to considering starting him for a change.
Heath Miller, PIT – Yes, he’s on bye this week, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Perry Van Hook nailed this one in Week 1 when he told you not only to roster Miller, but to be ready for some early season production. I think even Perry is surprised by the touchdown streak.
Jordan Cameron, CLE- Cameron caught his first passes of the season and led the team in catches and yards. The Browns need to find out what they have in Cameron, so he’ll get more work as the season unfolds and makes a decent speculation grab.
Kellen Winslow, NE – I kind of ignored Winslow’s return last week, but after he made it into the game and even caught a pass, so I guess someone might pick him up this week.
Arizona Cardinals – I told you to grab them last week and they delivered big time. Facing Miami at home means more fantasy goodness this week.
Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys get Jay Cutler and the Bears at home on Monday Night. There should be plenty of sacks and interceptions to be had here.
Blair Walsh, MIN – Walsh kind of fits in nicely with my Minnesota theme this week. He’s got the leg and a likely high-scoring affair to look forward to.
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One thing we know is going to happen in fantasy football is injuries. Aaron Hernandez owners, we all know how you are feeling today. There is nothing you can do when you lose a player like Hernandez except to head to the wire and look for a replacement. Thankfully, the TE position is the best place to find capable backups, since most leagues require you to start only one each week, so most of you should be able to grab someone to help you muddle through. If you are an Ahmad Bradshaw or Steven Jackson owner, and you don’t have a capable backup, you will have to decide how much you will need to spend to secure their new handcuffs, since Andre Brown and Daryl Richardson weren’t expected to fill those roles. While Week 1 is always populated by surprise names, who often never reach those heights again, Week 2 can sometimes provide better long-term answers at much more reasonable prices. We will try to touch on as many names as possible to accommodate leagues of all sizes meaning in addition to highlighting the popular adds we’ll try to touch on some players who may have been dropped as well as some you may want to target in trades. As always, if there are players you like that we don’t mention, or you just want some advice on who to drop, the comments section is at your disposal.
Alex Smith, SF –Here is what I wrote about the 49’ers QB prior to the season for The Fantasy Football Guide’s writer’s poll: “Alex Smith is my choice as the QB who will have the biggest breakout this year. Always an afterthought, he showed glimpses last year of turning the corner. A full off-season this year will make the difference as he turns in a Top 15 performance, which means he'll be starter material many weeks.” After two weeks, I am feeling pretty good about this prediction right now, as Smith has looked like a different player this year, much more confident and in control. He is working within the offense and has turned in two straight 2 TD/0 INT performances. The only downside is he isn’t going to have a lot of monster games with the conservative offense. Still, he absolutely needs to be owned in all leagues at this point as a rock solid QB2.
Matt Cassel, KC – The Chiefs defense is awful, and that means lots of garbage time stats for Cassel. He is even worth a spot-start this week heading into New Orleans, as the Saints are giving up big chunks of yards through the air.
Sam Bradford, STL – Bradford rebounded after a lackluster Week 1 performance to torch the Redskins for 310 yards and 3 TD’s, which will likely put him back on the radar in shallow leagues. While it’s nice to see him show glimpses of the player he was in his rookie season, he’ll face some very tough defenses the next three weeks.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – Weeden put his disastrous debut behind him and showed he can produce against mediocre defenses and his big week will likely see him scooped up in some leagues. While I liked what I saw (I am a Browns fan after all), he has some brutal matchups the next three weeks and just can’t be trusted after one good game.
Week 2 Update:
Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow, NYJ – Sanchez followed up his stellar Week 1 performance with a stinker against the Steelers. To be fair his WR’s dropped a bunch of balls, but there is no denying he opened the door back up for Tim Tebow. I still think Sanchez can be a useful bye week QB2, but Sunday illustrates that he may not hold onto the job long enough. Those of you in deep leagues with a roster spot to play with could do worse than speculate on when Tebow will take over.
Andre Brown, NYG – After Ahmad Bradshaw left this week’s game with a neck sprain, it was Brown not first-round pick David Wilson who took over as the feature back. He looked good plowing his way to 71 yards and a TD on 13 carries. Coach Tom Coughlin has already hinted that Brown will likely get the bulk of the carries this week against the Panthers, since it is likely Bradshaw won’t be ready to go by Thursday. Brown will no doubt be one of the most added players this week, and if you are desperate for RB’s, or just need to get a W, then Brown does have good value this week if he’s starting. But, if you aren’t in the former category, I say pass on Brown. David Wilson won’t be in the doghouse forever, and the Giants will eventually work him back into the mix, probably as soon as this week. The smart play is to hold onto Wilson if you have him, trade for him where you can or hope that someone gets impatient and cuts him this week for Brown so you can scoop in and grab him. He’ll pay off down the road. Brown is likely a one or two week fill-in.
Daryl Richardson, STL – We tabbed Richardson last week as a deep-league speculative add, after it was clear after Week 1 that he had passed Isaiah Pead on the depth chart. Hopefully you grabbed him on the cheap last week as it’s clear he’ll be Jeff Fisher’s first option if Jackson misses time. Jackson looks like he may be ready to play this week however. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and add Richardson if he’s still available in your league, it just means don’t go overboard with your bids as he might not start this week and the upcoming schedule isn’t the friendliest for RB’s anyway.
Pierre Thomas, NO – Yeah, I know deep-leaguers, Thomas isn’t on any of your waiver-wires, but trust me he is still on plenty of shallow wires this week. That will change after tallying 143 total yards against the Panthers. He’s doing more with less than just about anyone in the league and a tasty matchup with Kansas City makes him a great flex play for those that have had him on the bench to start the year. He is still in a three-way timeshare so know what you are buying here folks.
Mikel Leshoure, DET – Leshoure is owned in every league I am in, but he deserves a mention since his two-game suspension is up, paving the way for him to stake his claim to the starter’s job in Detroit. If he is somehow on your wire, he should be your top target this week as the Lions will give him every chance to be the feature back over the injury-prone Kevin Smith.
Rashard Mendenhall, PIT – The veteran back got a mention in my write-up on Jonathan Dwyer last week and after the former failed to do much against the Jets in Week 2, it seems even more likely the Mendenhall will resume his role as the lead back when he returns to the lineup, which at this point still looks like after the Steelers Week 4 bye.
Jacquizz Rodgers, ATL – A good friend of mine obtained Rodgers as a throw-in in a 5 player deal that saw him trade Wes Welker and Vic Ballard for Mark Ingram, Rodgers and Greg Little. My friend drafted both Matt Forte and Ahmad Bradshaw, and felt he had to take a shot at a couple of RB’s with upside. When I talked to him, he mentioned that he really thought Rodgers was the better back for the no huddle offense the Falcons say they want to use, and after seeing Turner plod through the first two games, I have to say I agree with that assessment.
Bilal Powell, NYJ – I drafted Powell in a couple leagues late after he beat Joe McKnight for the third down back role in pre-season. I am not a Shonne Greene believer and I surmised it was only a matter of time before the speedy Powell earned even more playing time. Greene left Sunday’s contest after a nasty helmet-to-helmet collision, giving Powell a chance to show what he can do. While he didn’t light up the stat sheet, he was still better than Greene. Trust me, Rex Ryan noticed.
Jackie Battle, SD –Battle took advantage of the blowout against the Chiefs to punch in two fourth quarter touchdowns to cap off a solid day filling in for Ryan Matthews. Matthews is back this week, so Battle goes back to the bench. We advised in Week 1, to keep an eye on Battle, and his performance may just push Ronnie Brown into retirement. If you have Matthews, Battle is a must-grab handcuff this week.
Mike Goodson, OAK – Goodson seems to have overtaken the more popular Tawain Jones as the likely backup should Darren McFadden miss time again in 2012. If you are looking to improve your RB depth, Goodson is worth a look this week.
Lamar Miller, MIA – Miller’s performance on Sunday was justifiably obscured by Reggie Bush’s monster game. Still the rookie took advantage of Daniel Thomas’ concussion to likely cement his place as the number two back going forward.
Chris Ogbonnaya, CLE- Ogbannaya caught six passes for 73 yards in a backup role to Trent Richardson. Brandon Jackson was a healthy scratch. I personally don’t think any of the Browns backups are worth owning, and that comes from someone who owns Richardson in three leagues.
Bryce Brown, PHI – Brown looks to have supplanted Dion Lewis as LeSean McCoy’s handcuff so feel free to make the switch.
Bernard Pierce, BAL – Like Brown above, Pierce is the backup to an explosive back. If you made the investment in Ray Rice, you’ll want to add Pierce if you can afford the roster spot.
Armando Allen, CHI – Allen is a depth grab for deep-leaguers only. But he will be the number two back for the Bears as long as Matt Forte is sidelined.
Week Two Update:
Alfred Morris, WAS – Morris didn’t disappoint anyone who grabbed him last week as he once again was the feature back for Mike Shanahan. I wrote that he was a guy I would try to trade sooner than later if I had him and I’m sticking to that. The fact is that if Shanny keeps giving him a starter’s workload, he will only bring that much more when you peddle him around.
Danny Amendola, STL – I gave Amendola a pretty good push last week, and I hope you grabbed him ahead of his huge game on Sunday, because he will be the top add in any league he is available in. While I love what he brings to the table, I’m not sure I would break the bank for him outside of PPR leagues.
Donnie Avery, IND – Avery is likely the best name potentially lingering in deeper leagues this week, coming off his nine catch, 111 yard game against the Vikings. It’s true that Austin Collie is slated to return soon (maybe this week), and that would cut into Avery’s time and production. If Collie doesn’t make it back (and with concussion symptoms, you never know), then Avery could be a nice surprise all season. He gets a bump up from last week’s deep-league recommendation.
Brian Hartline, MIA – Hartline will be a popular add this week as he has emerged as Ryan Tannehill’s favorite receiver so far this year. He’s a workmanlike WR, but he clearly can be an asset in deeper leagues, particularly PPR formats.
Julian Edelman, NE – Wes Welker owners were cursing his name as he emerged as the starter last week and played in most two –receiver sets. The Hernandez injury opens up more playing-time making Edelman a PPR target with upside should Welker actually be on the trading block.
Greg Little , CLE – It’s possible someone dropped Little after Week 1. If that’s the case feel free to scoop him up and add him to your bench. He’s still the best bet to emerge as Brandon Weeden’s favorite target.
Golden Tate, SEA – He sent Braylon Edwards to the bench last week, and while he didn’t post big numbers, he made his presence felt on the field. Just ask Dallas’ Sean Lee. He doesn’t have great upside in Seattle’s conservative offense, but those in deeper leagues can still speculate.
Brandon Gibson, STL – That’s two touchdowns in two weeks for Gibson, which bumps the cagy veteran up the charts a bit.
Ashlon Jeffery, CHI – Jefferey might get cut by someone this week after coming up empty in Week 2. If so, my advice is to take advantage if you have the space. I still love Jefferey’s upside in this offense and Matt Forte’s injury can only help get him more involved.
Week 2 Update:
Stephen Hill, NYJ – Hill didn’t pay off for anyone who broke the bank on him last week. I hope you heeded my advice and let someone else overpay for his services. The Jets passing offense just can’t be trusted.
Kevin Ogletree, DAL – Ogletree’s week two was equally disappointing. If you bought him, you can hang on at least another week to see if he rebounds. But unless one of the names ahead of him gets injured, you’ll never be able to guess when his next big game is going to happen.
Andrew Hawkins, CIN – Hawkins got a mention last week as a PPR target. He showed more playmaking ability in Week 2 and looks like he’ll have some staying power as a match-up flex play.
Dennis Pitta, BAL/ Martellus Bennett, NYG – I profiled Pitta and Bennett last week, and they are both likely rostered in deeper leagues. However, the injury to Aaron Hernandez makes them the first names you should look for in shallow leagues when looking for a replacement. Pitta followed up a solid Week One with a 15 target game last week and is very well still available in shallower formats. Bennett was a popular sleeper and showed that he could be on the verge of a major breakout. I actually like him more than Pitta, but he’s not available in any of my leagues. If you can swing a deal for Bennett, that’s the way to go. Your other options could be my poster boy Kyle Rudolph, Scott Chandler, Heath Miller or Dustin Keller.
Brandon Myers, OAK – For those of you in deeper leagues, hopefully you already have a capable backup for Hernandez on the roster. If not Myers could be the best option left. He isn’t that exciting, but he is starting for the Raiders.
Dante Rosario, SD – Rosario scored three TD’s last week filling in for Antonio Gates. Gates should be back this week, but if he isn’t he could fill in for another week.
Dallas Clark, TB – Clark is a desperation play, but the veteran is slowly getting worked into the offense more.
Arizona Cardinals – The Cards defense showed what they are capable of by holding the Patriots to 18 points last week. The Eagles turned the ball over multiple times against the Browns in Week 1, and the Cardinals are a solid home team. Even if you don’t use them this week, grab them in anticipation of their upcoming games against the Rams and the Dolphins.
Justin Tucker, BAL – He was my pick last week and he gets the call again. This will be your last chance to get him. He has the leg and the offense to keep this up all year.