Daily Archives: October 5, 2009

Fantasy Football Applaud or a Fraud – Week 4

Each week, we dive into the stat sheets to see which weekly performers fantasy owners should applaud and which fantasy owners should write off as frauds. We’ve also included some key injury replacements in this post. You can read past applaud or a fraud analyses in the category listing. And if we’re changing a past recommendation, we’ll include it here as well. On we go…

Quarterbacks

Derek Anderson, Browns – Last week, we called Anderson a fraud – and who wouldn’t after his three-interception half. But Anderson injected at least a little life into the previously comatose Browns’ offense, and his numbers (269 yards, one passing TD and one rushing TD) look better on fantasy scoresheets than he looks on the field. Don’t go starting him, but Anderson is at least ownable in most leagues. This is applause at the volume of a third of a golf clap is, but it is a clap. Verdict: Applaud

Kerry Collins, Titans – Collins had a monster game against Jacksonville, but don’t buy it. For one, the Jags’ pass defense is sorry. For two, Collins lit up the Jags last year as well. And for three, if the Titans keep losing they’ll have to turn to Vince Young soon. So look at Collins’ 284-yard, one-TD day – and then pass on him. Verdict: A fraud

Matthew Stafford, Lions – Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft, had his first really good fantasy day, throwing for 296 yards and a touchdown. But he hurt his knee later in the game, and with an MRI scheduled today, it’s just not the time to add Stafford to your fantasy roster. Verdict: A fraud

Running backs

Rashad Jennings, Jaguars – The rookie from Liberty, who is Maurice Jones-Drew’s primary backup, had 53 rushing yards on nine carries. But this is a garbage-time line dictated by game situation and not a sign that Jennings is getting more of a look in the offense. If you own MoJo, Jennings is worth a roster spot as injury insurance. Otherwise, he’s not roster worthy except in massive leagues (18 teams or more). Verdict: A fraud

Jerome Harrison, Browns – Last week, we told you that Harrison was a fraud, because we didn’t trust the Browns’ offense. But a couple of things have changed. First, rookie James Davis went on IR, which makes Harrison the only backup to Jamal Lewis. And the insertion of Derek Anderson into the starting lineup provided a little more offensive punch that opened up the running game a little. The results against Cincinnati were a surprising 121-yard game for Harrison. Harrison still isn’t a great starting option, but as long as Jamal Lewis is hurt, he’s now ownable. Verdict: Applaud

Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – With Willie Parker out, Mendenhall had a huge game against the Chargers Sunday night (165 rushing yards and two TD). Here’s why you should approach him with caution. First, Mendenhall has not yet shown the ability to be a fantasy contributor with limited touches. So when Parker’s in, Mendenhall needs to be out of your lineup. Secondly, the Chargers are terrible vs. interior running now with Jamal Williams out, and that was a perfect fit with what Mendenhall had to do. Mendenhall is definitely worth owning, but I would be slow to start him unless Parker is inactive again. Verdict: A fraud

Ryan Moats, Texans – Just as Rashad Jennings’ 53-yard performance was dictated by garbage time, Moats’ 53 yards was a result of the Texans’ easy win over the Raiders. Plus, the fact that it took Moats 15 carries to rush for 53 yards shows he’s not ownable, even if you are looking for Steve Slaton insurance. Verdict: A fraud

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos – Moreno scored the Broncos’ first touchdown vs. the Cowboys on a nine-yard catch and also had 65 rushing yards. But as we said in our Cowboys/Broncos thoughts post, the fact that Moreno has to share time with Buckhalter makes him a tough start for fantasy owners. Moreno is good enough to be a fantasy starter, but his offensive role right now limits his value. He’s a flex play at best. Remember that disclaimer as you hear this applause. Verdict: Applaud

Ray Rice, Ravens – Rice was a hot name before the season, but because he has yet to score a touchdown, you might wonder about starting him in fantasy leagues. His 103-yard performance against the Patriots should tell you enough to know that he is a top-2 fantasy running back except in touchdown-only leagues. Verdict: Applaud

Wide receivers

Kenny Britt, Titans – In the Titans’ blowout loss in Jacksonville, first-round pick Britt passed the century mark for the first time in his career with seven catches for 105 yards. Even with Nate Washington back, Britt is still getting plenty of chances in the Titans’ offense, and he now has 17 catches for 271 yards on the season. Britt isn’t a starting-caliber fantasy wideout, but he’s getting enough looks now to project as a 50-catch receiver, which is quite good for a rookie and adequate for fantasy owners in larger leagues (15 teams or more). So if you’re in one of those leagues, Britt is now a prospect for a claim. Verdict: Applaud

Austin Collie, Colts – Collie, a rookie out of Brigham Young, caught his first career touchdown against the Seahawks in the midst of a six-catch, 65-yard day. Collie and Pierre Garcon are filling the role opened by Anthony Gonzalez’ injury, although they play different spots. Garcon plays outside, while Collie is a specialist in the slot. Garcon (who had 71 yards receiving this week) is still the receiver that’s the best fill-in for your fantasy team, although Collie’s development is worth watching. Once Gonzalez returns, though, Collie will quickly pass Garcon in fantasy value this year. So if you’re in a larger league, it might be worth it to go ahead and grab Collie. This is very mild applause, but just in case, we’ll clap. Verdict: Applaud

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks – Houshmandzadeh hadn’t done much in his first season in Seattle before grabbing eight catches for 103 yards against Indianapolis. Those numbers came in a blowout, which is always a warning sign for receivers. But it is now safe to say that Houshmandzadeh is healthy enough to contribute after some early season bumps and bruises. Still, T.J. isn’t the top-20 fantasy receiver he was expected to be before the season, and that means he’s not an automatic starter in your league. Don’t drop him, but don’t start him until we see a repeat of Sunday’s performance. Verdict: A fraud

Sam Hurd, Cowboys – The Cowboys’ receiving corps is painfully thin, and that means that different players will jump up with impressive numbers in a single game, as Hurd did with three catches for 62 yards against Denver. But it would be foolhardy to expect consistent returns like this from Hurd (or Patrick Crayton or Miles Austin, for that matter). Stay away. Verdict: A fraud

Brandon Marshall, Broncos – We talked in our Cowboys/Broncos post about why none of the Broncos’ receivers are the fantasy threats they were last year. Marshall is an elite talent who’s not getting elite opportunity, and that’s why he’s a marginal starter in most leagues at this point. It’s a shame, but we can’t recommend Marshall as much more than a flex play at this point. For most owners that drafted Marshall, that’s a disappointment. Verdict: A fraud

Mohammed Massaquoi, Browns – The out-of-nowhere fantasy performance Sunday came from Massaquoi, the rookie from Georgia who had eight catches for 148 yards. The second-round pick in April’s draft has good size and speed, but he had just two catches in the first three games of the season. Still, with Derek Anderson coming into the lineup, the Browns seemed to have a little more offensive punch, and it’s reasonable to think that Massaquoi could benefit from that. He’s worth a flier claim in larger leagues (12 teams or more) just to see what happens over the next few weeks. Verdict: Applaud

Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Nicks, who had been sidelined with a foot injury, returned and had a 54-yard touchdown catch vs. the Chiefs. But it was Nicks’ only catch of the game, and he’s still no better than the third-best Giants’ wideout. So while we should congratulate Nicks on a big play, fantasy owners shouldn’t pick him up. Verdict: A fraud

Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars – Two weeks ago, we told you to claim Sims-Walker. After Sunday’s seven-catch, 91-yard, two-TD performance Sunday, we’re now telling you that he should start in leagues of 12 teams or more. He’s the No. 1 receiving option in Jacksonville. Verdict: Applaud

Steve Smith, Giants – Smith didn’t get a lot of preseason respect, and he ended up being outside the top 40 on many lists of wide receivers. But he’s clearly the best fantasy option among the Giants’ wide receivers, and his production Sunday  against the Chiefs (11 catches, 134 yards, 2 touchdowns) signaled his emergence as a legitimate fantasy starter. If you took a shot on Smith, congrats. You’re being rewarded with an every-week starter. Verdict: Applaud

Tight ends

Brandon Pettigrew, Lions – The only rookie tight end of note had a nice day agains the Bears, catching four passes for 64 yards. Pettigrew is a solid tight end who’s as good blocking as receiving, and he’ll be a big part of the Lions’ offense going forward. But there are so many good tight ends out there that we can’t recommend picking up Pettigrew in fantasy leagues. He’s not going to be a top-15 tight end this year. But if you’re in a league where you can keep several players, keep an eye on Pettigrew to see if he shows signs of becoming more of a force in 2010 and beyond. Verdict: A fraud

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Rise/Sink/Float Week 4

Each Monday, we’ll look at 3 teams that are rising, sinking, and floating in our Football Relativity comparison. We’ll update the full comparison tomorrow.

Rise – Indianapolis Colts – I was down on the Colts coming into the season, and even after Indy won its first two games in close encounters vs. the Jaguars and Dolphins, I wasn’t convinced. But Indy has broken out the last two weeks, whipping the Cardinals on the road and then posting a supremely solid home win against the Seahawks. Indy’s defense seems to be adapting to the more aggressive style new head coach Jim Caldwell prefers, and Peyton Manning is still the best in the league at what he does. There’s no defense now for not considering the Colts an elite team.

Sink – Tennessee Titans – Say what you want about the Titans’ talent – it’s not delivering right now. Tennessee falls to 0-4 with a lackluster performance at Jacksonville. Like the Panthers, the Titans should be better than their record, but at this point you can’t consider them anything but what their record is. The results just haven’t been there.

Float – Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals nearly blew a game at Cleveland that they absolutely had to win if they are to make the playoffs, but in the end they pulled it out. Cincy is not a great team, but the Bengals aren’t the laughinstock Bungles they were last year. This team is going to be a tough out pretty much every week, and a playoff berth is still possible.

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Cowboys/Broncos thoughts

A few thoughts on the Week 4 game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tennessee Titans, both from an on-field perspective and a fantasy football perspective. Denver won the game 17-10.

On-field
*The Cowboys have a lot of quality offensive weapons. In fact, with their offensive line and their stable of backs, Dallas should be a run-first juggernaut, much like the Panthers were last year. But you have to wonder whether coordinator Jason Garrett is willing to move that way as a play-caller. But a run-first approach would feature Marion Barber and Tashard Choice (as well as Felix Jones, when he gets healthy again) and allow Roy Williams to be a down-field threat and Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett to be mid-field threats via play-action. This kind of approach best fits the Cowboys’ offensive line as well, because they would be able to use their size to their advantage. It would also cover up the lack of depth Dallas has at wide receiver behind Williams.
*Moreover, leaning into their running strengths would allow the Cowboys to take pressure off of Tony Romo, who isn’t playing up to his physical gifts right now. He made killer mistakes that cost the Cowboys a Denver touchdown and a scoring chance of their own, but Romo was precise throwing the ball most of the time. He’s good with no pressure on him but seems to wilt under the pressure too often. If the Cowboys ran more, it would take some pressure off Romo and perhaps let him get his feet back under him.
*This is my first extended look at the Broncos’ defense, and I’m more impressed than I thought I’d be. OLB-DE Elvis Dumervil, who had his seventh and eighth sacks of the season, is quick and determined on the pass rush. The one thing the Broncos’ front seven has is speed, and that made for a bad matchup in pass protection for Dallas’ huge but slow offensive line in pass-rush situation. But Dallas’ line did a good job on several screen passes of making outside blocks to spring big plays.
*Rookie OLB Robert Ayers, one of Denver’s first-round picks this year who plays beside Dumervil on many passing downs, is downright tiny and will have to put on weight to be a force, but he is quick off the edge.
*The play Knowshon Moreno made on his second-quarter touchdown catch shows why the Broncos wanted to draft him even though he didn’t fit a need. Moreno is extremely talented, and Denver could build its offense around him if it wanted. It just doesn’t seem as though Josh McDaniels wants a run-first team revolving around a bell-cow back. Of course, Correll Buckhalter is a good player as well, so using both guys makes sense. But Denver could and should get more out of Moreno.
*Denver’s passing game, though, is less than the sum of its parts. Part of that is because Kyle Orton is OK but not special as a quarterback. He’s not able to utilize WRs Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal the way strong-armed Jay Cutler was last year.
*Brandon Marshall can cause his share of trouble, but you saw at the end of the game why the Broncos haven’t cut the cord. Marshall’s leaping catch and then double-cutback run for the game-winning touchdown was a jaw-dropping play, and it indicates just how talented Marshall is.
*It’s not fair that Denver’s Matt Prater gets to kick off at altitude eight times a year. Combine his strong leg with the Mile High altitude, and you get the strange sight of Dallas RS Miles Austin standing five yards deep (in the stranger sight – the diamond-patterned end zone) to receive the kick. Prater becomes a field-position weapon for the Broncos on kickoffs in home games like this one.

Fantasy Football thoughts
*There are few things better as a fantasy owner than watching Marion Barber run as hard as he did and push the pile into the end zone as he did on his first-quarter touchdown. He’s a hard-nosed runner who’s a sure-fire starter as long as he’s healthy. The problem with his running style is that it keeps him from being healthy all the time.
*I like the skill set of both Broncos RBs, Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, but neither seems to be enough of a focal point to make them fantasy starters week to week. But both are good players, and they’re worth having on your roster because they’re decent options if you get in a bye-week or injury-caused pinch.
*I wouldn’t want to have to rely on any of the receivers from this game. For Dallas, Roy Williams simply isn’t a true go-to guy, which means Dallas won’t rely on him. And the other receivers – Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, and Sam Hurd – are as unimpressive as any 2-3-4 combo in the league. Even Jason Witten, a terrific player, is losing numbers because defenses can focus on him – to the point that I might start looking for a replacement if I owned him. For Denver, Orton’s not able to make full use of Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, and so their numbers suffer as well. None of these receivers, as talented as Williams or Marshall or Royal are, are among the top 20 fantasy wideouts, and only Marshall can make an argument to be in the top 25. He’s worth a shot in most leagues because he can break a big play, but I wouldn’t center my team around him.

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