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Fantasy Football Applaud or a Fraud – Week 7

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. 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.

Quarterbacks

Jake Delhomme, Panthers – Delhomme threw for 325 yards, but he also threw three more interceptions. A benching is a possibility. So don’t get fooled and pick up Delhomme based on this yardage total. He’s not ownable unless all 32 starting quarterbacks are owned in your league. Verdict: A fraud

Brett Favre, Vikings – We discussed Favre in more detail in this post. We’re giving him thumbs-down as a top-12 fantasy quarterback. Verdict: A fraud

Carson Palmer, Bengals – Palmer threw five TD passes in the Bengals’ blowout of the Bears. He’s now thrown 13 TD passes on the year, which is just less than 2 per game, and has 1,608 passing yards. We’ll talk more about Palmer in a post later this week, but for now we’ll say he still falls just outside the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks. That means we have to give him a very measured thumbs-down as a starting fantasy quarterback. Verdict: A fraud

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – We discussed Roethlisberger in more detail in this post. We’re clapping for him as a top-10 fantasy quarterback. Verdict: Applaud

Alex Smith, 49ers – The 49ers pulled starter Shaun Hill at halftime and replaced him with Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick. Smith responded with a sharp performance, throwing three TD passes to Vernon Davis and going 15-for-22 for 206 yards. Note that the 49ers were down 21 when Smith came in, so he got to throw a lot more than the 49ers usually want to, but his performance will make him a starter next week at least. If you need a fill-in quarterback, Smith is now a pickup option. Verdict: Applaud

Running Backs

Justin Fargas, Raiders – Fargas had 67 yards rushing and 90 yards from scrimmage this week against the Jets, marking his second straight game with at least 90 yards. He’s the Raiders back you want, at least until Darren McFadden returns. Fargas is also a borderline fantasy No. 3 back and a possible starter given your bye week and injury situation. Verdict: Applaud

Shonn Greene, Jets – Greene, a rookie out of Iowa, busted out with 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders Sunday. One of the factors was the blowout, which gave the rookie more opportunity. But the fact that Leon Washington suffered a season-ending injury is a bigger factor. Greene must be picked up this week, because he immediately assumes a fantasy role for the Jets. We’ll have to see whether that role makes him flex-position worthy going forward, but grab Greene now and figure out the rest later. Verdict: Applaud

Steven Jackson, Rams – Even on a bad team, Jackson continues to produce good yardage for fantasy owners. He had 134 yards in St. Louis’ loss to Indy and has at least 85 yards from scrimmage in each game since Week 2. The touchdowns aren’t coming, but Jackson is still a top-10 fantasy back. I’d much rather have him than LaDanian Tomlinson (see below). Verdict: Applaud

Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – We discussed Mendenhall in more detail in this post. We’re clapping for him as a top-20 fantasy running back – but barely. Verdict: Applaud

Darren Sproles, Chargers – Sproles had a 58-yard touchdown catch along with 41 receiving yards against the Chiefs, but he had just eight total offensive touches. Now that Tomlinson is healthy, Sproles’ chances have really slipped off, and that’s a problem for fantasy owners. Sproles is worth owning, but it’s going to be hard to start him in normal-sized leagues (12 teams or less) unless Tomlinson gets hurt again. Verdict: A fraud

LaDanian Tomlinson, Chargers – At one point late in Sunday’s game, Chris Mortenson tweeted that Tomlinson had seven goal-line carries without a touchdown. That’s a bad sign for a player who once made his mark as the premier scoring machine in the league. Tomlinson has just one touchdown this year, and it looks like that stat is more of a trend than a fluke. Tomlinson had 71 rushing yards and and two receiving yards, and he can do a little better than that, but he’s no longer a top 10 fantasy back. He could fall out of the top 20 soon. It’s over, folks. Verdict: A fraud

Ricky Williams, Dolphins – Williams has quietly had a good season, and that quiet season got loud Sunday when he ran for 80 yards and three touchdowns vs. the Saints. Even as he shares time with Ronnie Brown, Williams is a borderline fantasy starter and a great flex option on a weekly basis. Don’t forget about him. Verdict: Applaud

Wide Receivers

Sam Aiken, Patriots – With Joey Galloway gone, Aiken steps into the role of the Patriots’ No. 3 receiver. He took advantage with a 54-yard touchdown in London vs. Tampa Bay, his first score in his seven-year career. Aiken, who finished with two catches for 66 yards, is still behind TE Benjamin Watson in the pecking order from a fantasy perspective, and rookie Brandon Tate (a recent activation from the physically-unable-to-perform list) could surpass his fellow UNC alum, but for now Aiken has his chance. Given how the Pats’ offense is rolling now, that makes him worth a claim in leagues of 12 teams or more just in case he turns into a regular part of the offense. Verdict: Applaud

Miles Austin, Cowboys – Austin went from a fantasy supersleeper three weeks ago to a breakout player last week to the point where he’s now a guy you must start. He may not have two touchdowns or 170-plus yards every week like he has the last couple of weeks, but he’s clearly the Cowboys’ best receiver. Right now fantasy owners should start him no matter what. Verdict: Applaud

David Clowney, Jets – Clowney has long been a receiver the Jets (and fantasy owners) thought would be good, and he finally broke out this week with 79 yards and a touchdown vs. the Raiders. Clowney has two four-catch games this year, but those are his only eight grabs of the year. He’s worth claiming in large (14 teams or more) leagues, but that’s all we can recommend with him right now. Verdict: A fraud

Michael Crabtree, 49ers – In his NFL debut, Crabtree had a nice fantasy game with 66 yards on five catches. Don’t get carried away and start Crabtree – remember, the 49ers were in comeback mode most of the game – but he’s worth picking up if he’s still available in your league. Verdict: Applaud

Donald Driver, Packers – Driver had his third touchdown of the season against Cleveland, and he now has at least 55 yards receiving in each game since Week 2. He’s the top fantasy receiver in Green Bay, not Greg Jennings, and therefore a guy you can feel comfortable starting every week. Verdict: Applaud

Malcom Floyd, Chargers – Floyd has been a fantasy afterthought, but he has emerged as the Chargers’ No. 2 wideout over Chris Chambers. He has been up and down this year, with a no-catch game and a one-catch game, but he had at least 45 yards in his other three games, and he ha his first touchdown of the season Sunday vs. the Chiefs. But he had just two catches for nine yards. He’s a name to know, but he’s not worth a waiver claim yet. Verdict: A fraud

Brian Hartline, Dolphins – The rookie out of Ohio State had three catches for 94 yards against the Saints, more than doubling his season total for receiving yards. He’s an interesting prospect, but his fantasy relevance probably will arrive in 2010, not this year. Verdict: A fraud

Chad Ochocinco, Bengals – Good ol’ 8-5 had 10 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns this week, affirming that he is back to being a No. 1 fantasy wideout. He’s a top-10 guy going forward. Verdict: Applaud

Sidney Rice, Vikings – We discussed Rice in more detail in this post. We’re clapping for him as a top-25 fantasy wide receiver and an every-week fantasy starter. Verdict: Applaud

Bobby Wade, Chiefs – Wade, the former Viking who landed with the Chiefs after the season started, has become a solid option for K.C. He had four catches for 66 yards against the Chargers, which was his second-best game of the season. Wade won’t pile up big numbers, but if you’re desperate for a receiver in a league of 14 teams or more, he’s a nice option. Otherwise, stay away. Verdict: A fraud

Mike Wallace, Steelers – We discussed Wallace in more detail in this post. We’re clapping for him as a top-40 fantasy wideout and therefore someone who is worth a roster spot. Verdict: Applaud

Tight Ends

Gary Barnidge, Panthers – The Panthers’ tight end corps is confusing. Dante Rosario and Jeff King each have touchdowns this season, and Barnidge piled up 77 yards against the Bills this week. But note that Sunday’s three catches were Barnidge’s first three of the year and that most of his yardage came on one 52-yard catch and run. Don’t get fooled by this stat line. Verdict: A fraud

Vernon Davis, 49ers – We recommended Davis last week, and he blew up this week with 7 catches for 93 yards and three TDs. It’s silly to predict that much scoring on a weekly basis, but he’s a startable tight end in any fantasy league. The potential is now production. Verdict: Applaud

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Panthers/Falcons thoughts

A few thoughts on the Week Two game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers, both from an on-field perspective and a fantasy football perspective. The Falcons won 28-20 in the Georgia Dome.

On-field
*The Falcons continue to show that they’re a solid team across the board. Even though Michael Turner hasn’t yet had a huge game, the offense is moving well.The addition of Tony Gonzalez has been absolutely huge, because he gives Matt Ryan another elite-level target along with Roddy White. That mitigates the fact that Atlanta’s other receivers are average.
*Even without Jerious Norwood for most of the game, Atlanta’s running game was terrific. Jason Snelling stepped right in with 47 yards from scrimmage, including a TD catch, while Turner got stronger as the game went on and finished with 105 yards and a late touchdown.
*A lot of that offensive success is due to Atlanta’s solid offensive line. Guard Harvey Dahl has a mean streak that you need, and the fact that Julius Peppers and Everette Brown were stonewalled says something about second-year OLT Sam Baker. Atlanta held Carolina without a sack in this game.
*Atlanta’s defense isn’t great, but it’s good. OLB Mike Peterson has added an edge and some play-making ability in pass coverage that Keith Brooking didn’t provide, while second-year MLB Curtis Lofton continues to emerge as a force. DE John Abraham is a factor whenever he’s in the game as well, and backup DE Kroy Biermann has flashed ability in the first two games of the season. Young CB Chris Houston and veteran Brian Williams are a nice duo as well. This D isn’t going to completely shut anyone down, but it’s good enough to make the Falcons a dangerous team.
*For Carolina, Jake Delhomme was OK, and the offense moved the ball accordingly. As long as Delhomme avoids meltdown mode, the Panthers can move the ball thanks to a mauling offensive line and terrific RBs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.
*Steve Smith is a great receiver, Muhsin Muhammad is still a good receiver, and TEs Jeff King and Dante Rosario are OK. But the Panthers don’t have any WR depth, and that hurts when they’re trying to come back as they were in this game.
*Carolina’s defense really struggled for the second week in a row. The lack of DT depth hurt, as Turner was able to wear down the interior of the defense. And without any pass rush, Ryan did pretty much whatever he wanted. LBs Jon Beason and Thomas Davis played well, but they can’t be expected to snuff out the run game by themselves.
*I really like Carolina’s CB duo of Richard Marshall and Chris Gamble for their aggressiveness and their tackling, but they don’t get to show their skills off fully in the Panthers’ cover-2 scheme. I liked the Ron Meeks hire as defensive coordinator in the offseason, but I’m starting to waver on that.
*The Panthers have some serious special-teams problems. Already this season, they’ve given up a blocked punt and a punt return for a touchdown, along with some sizable kickoff returns. That has to change if they’re going to crawl out of their 0-2 hole.

Fantasy Football thoughts
*Steve Smith is going to be OK. If you picked Smith early in your draft, you undoubtedly had some fears after Week One. But with Jake Delhomme rebounding, Smith showed that he can still be highly productive for fantasy owners.
*Aside from Smith, none of the Panthers’ receivers is worth owning. Muhsin Muhammad gets some looks, but everyone else is a bit player for fantasy leagues. Likewise, Delhomme is not really a major fantasy threat. He might end up being an OK backup in larger leagues, but don’t count on him for more.
*The Panthers have three decent receiving tight ends in Jeff King, Dante Rosario, and Gary Barnidge. But even though Rosario caught a touchdown in this game, he’s not a fantasy factor. Rosario plays as the movement tight end in two-TE sets, but King is on the field more. So while Rosario looks good catching the ball, he doesn’t get enough playing time to be a top-20 fantasy tight end.
*Both Panthers running backs are really good. DeAngelo Williams will end the season as a top 8 or top 10 back, and Jonathan Stewart will be a yardage force with limited touches. This game is actually going to be pretty typical of the workload spread between the two players and the production you can reasonably expect.
*Michael Turner is not a dynamic back like Adrian Peterson, but he’s a very good back who, like Williams, will end up being a top guy this year.
*Jason Snelling had a good game, but he’s not a fantasy factor because he’s below Jerious Norwood in the pecking order, and Norwood is barely ownable in most leagues. So let Snelling lie on your waiver wire this week, despite the talent he displayed this week.
*Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are both fantasy starters, and Matt Ryan may be as well. The addition of Gonzalez is going to help Ryan grow his TD numbers from 16 last year into the 20s this year. He’s growing as a fantasy option.

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Fantasy Football: Supersleepers

As we continue our fantasy football coverage, we’re going to jump off of Carl’s idea and try to identify some supersleepers. Some of these individuals are players who fit as the final bench player coming out of your draft who could contribute mightily by the end of the year. Steve Slaton last year – whom I drafted in the final round in a 12-team league with great success – is the ultimate example. Others on this list are longshots to monitor early in the season so that you can be ahead of the game when it comes to waiver claims.

Before we begin, remember that you can go to the fantasy football category on Football Relativity for many more articles, and you can use the search bar on the right to find specific players. And one more thing – we’ve left rookies off of this list, because we did a comprehensive analysis of those players including supersleepers in this post.

RB Greg Jones, Jaguars – Jones is a big, bruising back who seen his role go up and down in his four years in Jacksonville. Last year he had just two carries and 13 catches playing behind Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor. But now that Taylor’s gone, Jones has a good chance to plug in as the No. 2 back in Jacksonville. He’ll have to beat out rookie Rashad Jennings for that job, but if he does, it could be lucrative for fantasy owners, because the Jaguars probably will want MoJo to stay closer to 20 touches a game than 30. That makes Jones (and Jennings) worth a speculative draft pick late in your draft, especially if you have a deep bench in your league.

RB Danny Ware, Giants – With Derrick Ward leaving via free agency, and Brandon Jacobs so big that he’ll end up missing some playing time, the No. 3 back in New York is worth a fantasy look. And now that rookie Andre Brown is out for the year with a torn Achilles, holdover Ware is that guy. Recall that Ward had more than 1,000 yards last year in limited time, and then put Danny Ware on your draft list. He should be about a 300-yard back for the season, but if Jacobs and/or Ahmad Bradshaw gets hurt, that total will ratchet up quickly running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. He’s worth stashing on your bench if it’s long enough.

RB Jason Wright, Cardinals – Wright, a former Brown, moved to Arizona in the offseason to take the third-down back role that J.J. Arrington once held. While that particular role isn’t a fantasy football bonanza, Wright is worth watching because of the injury issues that rookie Chris “Beanie” Wells is experiencing. If Wells misses time, which seems somewhat likely, Wright is primed to leap over Tim Hightower on the depth chart to get some playing time. If you’re counting on Wells for your fantasy team, make sure you get Wright just in case, and late in a draft Wright might be worth a flier regardless.

WR Miles Austin, Cowboys – Austin only had 13 catches last year, but he averaged a whopping 21.4 yards per catch and scored three touchdowns. That big-play ability is a good sign, and it’s reason for the Cowboys to give Austin every chance to develop. Because Patrick Crayton isn’t a legit No. 2 receiver, Austin also has the opportunity to move into the starting lineup and not just into three-WR sets now that Terrell Owens is gone. Austin is the second Cowboys receiver (behind Roy Williams) that fantasy owners should want this year, and he’s definitely worth a draft pick.

WR Earl Bennett, Bears – Bennett struggled to learn Chicago’s offense last year as a rookie, and as a result he didn’t get a single catch in his freshman year. But he seems to have a better grasp of the offense now, and the fact that he played collegiately with new Bears QB Jay Cutler at Vanderbilt with such great success should make Cutler confident throwing him the ball. Devin Hester is the Bears’ best receiver, but he’s more of a downfield or screen-pass threat, and so there’s room for a third-down target to end up with 50 catches or so. Bennett is the most likely guy to fill that role. If you believe in Cutler as a fantasy quarterback this year, then you need to believe in Bennett and stash him on your bench in the draft.

WR David Clowney, Jets – After the Jets let Laveranues Coles go in the offseason, they enter the ’09 season with only one proven wideout. So someone should be able to emerge across from Jerricho Cotchery. The candidates are Brad Smith, Chansi Stuckey, and Clowney, a big receiver with downfield ability who seemed to be breaking out before getting hurt at the beginning of the year last year. Don’t risk too much on any of these guys, but if you want one to watch, take a flier on Clowney.

WR Mike Furrey, Browns – Furrey, who had almost 100 catches in Detroit two years ago, moves to Cleveland, where he or David Patten, or perhaps rookie Brian Robiskie or Mohammed Massaquoi, will run alongside Braylon Edwards. Furrey is the most likely out of that group to emerge as a dependable chains-mover, and that puts him on this list. You’ll have to watch the waiver wire to see whether that role puts him on a pace for a 35-catch season or a 55-catch season, because the latter level is worth a bench spot while the former won’t be.

WR Pierre Garcon, Colts – Garcon is competing with rookie Austin Collie for the Colts’ No. 3 receiver job. We project Collie as the favorite in that competition but wanted to mention Garcon for the sake of full analysis. Whoever wins the Colts No. 3 job probably merits a bench spot in deep leagues with 14-16 teams, given how Anthony Gonzalez and Brandon Stokely before him have produced in that role.

WR Malcolm Kelly, Redskins – Kelly and fellow rookie Devin Thomas had forgettable rookie seasons in 2008, but there’s a wide-open door for one of them to walk through and become a starter in 2009. Since you can’t draft both, we’ll recommend Kelly as the sophomore who’s more likely (if only slightly) to take the starting job. That should put him in the 30-40 catch realm, which is enough to make him a midseason fill-in if you’re stuck for a receiving option. If Santana Moss gets hurt, though, both Kelly and Thomas could become fantasy factors. At the least, they’re names you should know.

WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, Raiders – It was mostly overlooked because the Raiders were so rotten last year, but Higgins began to emerge at the end of his second season last year to score four receiving touchdowns to go with his three punt-return touchdowns. Now he’s a starting receiver in Oakland who has the chance to be the Raiders’ No. 1. Rookie Darrius Heyward-Bey will get some long balls, but Higgins looks as probable as anyone to be the main outside target for JaMarcus Russell. If Higgins gets 50-60 catches, he’ll score his share because he’s so good with the ball in his hands. That makes Higgins an interesting guy to grab at the end of your draft, because his production could easily surpass that sort of draft position.

WR Mario Manningham, Giants – Manningham is the buzz receiver in Giants camp this year. That kind of preseason buzz doesn’t usually pan out, but given the fact that the Giants bid goodbye to Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer in the offseason, there are a lot of catches waiting to be claimed in the Meadowlands. So if Manningham carves out a role, he’s worth watching as a supersleeper.

WR Jordy Nelson, Packers – Green Bay has a solid stable of wide receivers led by Greg Jennings, but Donald Driver’s age means that there may be a chance for a young receiver to step into the starting lineup this year. The question is whether that would be James Jones or Nelson. We’ll put our bet with Nelson, who had a very solid 33 catches for 366 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie last year. If Nelson progresses as most young receivers do, he should start to take some playing time from Driver. That could push him into the 50-catch range, which would make him worth a bench spot. So if you’re taking a chance late in a draft, Nelson is a reasonable gamble to take.

WR Limas Sweed, Steelers – Sweed was a bust as a rookie, finishing with just six catches, but many receivers are. If he progresses, he can provide height and jump-ball ability that Pittsburgh’s other receivers don’t have. That could make Sweed a guy who gets a disproportionate number of red-zone looks, which could make him a 4-6 touchdown guy even with only 30 catches or so. Sweed isn’t draftable unless Hines Ward or Santonio Holmes gets hurt, but watch to see if he’s getting looks in the red zone so that you know if he’s now worth an early-season waiver claim.

WR Mike Walker, Jaguars – Torry Holt is getting the publicity in Jacksonville, but Walker could emerge in his second year as the Jaguars’ most productive receiver. He had 16 catches in just 9 games last year, but he should have a starting role this year. Given the fact that Holt appears to be slowing down, that would put Walker in position to catch 50 balls or more. There are rookie receivers who could step in if Walker struggles, but on draft day Walker is worth consideration because there’s a chance he could end up as Jacksonville’s No. 1 receiver this season.

WR Demetrius Williams, Ravens – Williams is a big receiver who has played just one full season in his three years. But if he can learn to truly leverage his 6-foot-2 frame, he can provide an option that Baltimore’s offense hasn’t had. He enters the year as the Ravens’ No. 3 option, so he’s not a draftable player, but watch him early in the season to see if his production merits a speculative waiver claim.

TE Gary Barnidge, Panthers – Barnidge missed his entire rookie season in ’08 due to injury, but he’s giving Jeff King and Dante Rosario a run for their money for the starting tight end job in Carolina. If he gets it, Barnidge’s receiving skills make him worth monitoring as a fantasy player. In a starting role, he could end up with 400 yards and a couple of touchdowns, and that would put him as a backup tight end in larger leagues. So when your tight end is on bye, be aware of what Barnidge’s role is and keep an eye on him.

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