Friday, September 30, 2011

Week 4 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and Wes Welker, or to bench Curtis Painter and Chaz Schilens? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 4 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears vs. Panthers. Cutler may not face a softer secondary all season than the Panthers. Throw out Blaine Gabbert’s performance in last week’s monsoon, and Carolina’s pass defense has been a wreck. This should be one of Cutler’s occasional “up” weeks.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers vs. Colts. Blount has returned to his workhorse role (24 carries in Week 3), and he should get plenty of cracks at the end zone in this matchup. Indy’s run defense isn’t as good as they appeared against Pittsburgh last week.

Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals vs. Bills. In a bit of a surprise, Benson now appears on track to start in Week 4, since the NFL has not ruled on his suspension appeal. The Bills can be run on, and Benson will be leaned on heavily. If his appeal is denied, Bernard Scott is a quality proxy.

Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders vs. Patriots. New England’s pass defense is downright sieve-like this season, having coughed up 1,163 passing yards and 7 TDs in just three games. That’s good news for Jason Campbell (who is hard to trust) and Moore, who has scored in consecutive outings. The rookie could pay big dividends this week.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers vs. Broncos. He has scored in two of three games thus far, while emerging as the undisputed No. 2 wideout in Aaron Rodgers’ arsenal. Denver can’t match up with Green Bay’s aerial fire power, while the Packers’ rushing game is in flux at present. All of which combines to make Nelson a terrific start.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Eli Manning, Matt Stafford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Ryan; RBs Fred Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Matt Forte, Tim Hightower, Joseph Addai, Darren Sproles, James Starks, Ryan Mathews; WRs Dwayne Bowe, Nate Washington, Mike Williams (Bucs) Stevie Johnson, Johnny Knox, Lance Moore, Brandon Lloyd, Santana Moss, Percy Harvin.

Roll ‘em back

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens vs. Jets. Flacco has alternated up and down performances, and this week’s matchup looks like another downer. New York has given up just two passing scores to date, with seven interceptions to their credit. Sunday night’s contest should be a defensive slugfest.

Jahvid Best, RB, Lions at Cowboys. He’s nursing a bruised thigh and heading into a matchup with one of the NFL’s stingiest run defenses. Best should contribute as a receiver, but probably not enough to justify starting him; unless your options are very limited.

Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos at Packers. He has benefited from Knowshon Moreno’s absence the last two weeks, but he’ll likely have to share the load this weekend against the league’s top rush defense. No, thank you.

Marques Colston, WR, Saints at Jaguars. The Saints have a history of easing their injured receivers back into the rotation slowly, as we saw most recently with Lance Moore in Week 2. Colston is unlikely to get a full complement of snaps in his first action since injuring his collarbone in the opener. Give him a week to get back in the groove.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys vs. Lions. He is still struggling with his bruised thigh, and his quarterback is clearly far from 100 percent. Meanwhile, Detroit’s pass defense has been stellar to date. I don’t like Bryant’s chances this week.

More thumbs down: QBs Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne, Sam Bradford, Tony Romo, Matt Hasselbeck; RBs DeAngelo Williams, Shonn Greene, Beanie Wells, Dexter McCluster, Thomas Jones, Daniel Thomas, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Ben Tate; WRs Reggie Wayne, Malcom Floyd, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Crabtree, Mike Sims-Walker, Plaxico Burress, Torrey Smith, Julio Jones, Victor Cruz, Donald Driver, Pierre Garcon, Chad Ochocinco.

Taking a flier

Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos at Packers. On paper, this game should be a blow-out; which means Denver will likely abandon the run early and put the game in Orton’s hands. With Brandon Lloyd healthy and Eric Decker cementing his role as a reliable target, Orton could put up some gaudy numbers. After all, everybody else has against Green Bay’s 31st-ranked pass defense.

Don’t be the bonehead who…fails to get Steven Jackson back in your lineup Sunday. He ran sparingly in his return to the field in Week 3 against the Ravens, while successfully test-driving his ailing quad. But a healthy Jackson is a must-start against any defense, especially a Redskins squad that just surrendered 155 total yards to Felix Jones, his highest output since 2009.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Week 3 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start

Tom Brady, Patriots – We’ll forgive the 4 INTs with his 387 yards and 4 TDs.
Joe Flacco, Ravens – Put up 389 yards and a trio of scores, plus 29 rushing yards.
Matt Schaub, Texans – Passed for 373 yards and 3 TDs, with one INT.
Drew Brees, Saints – Threw for 370 yards and 3 TDs, with 2 picks.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Started slowly, but wound up with 378 yards and 2 scores, without a turnover.
Mark Sanchez, Jets – Amassed 369 yards and 2 TDs passing, with 1 INT, plus a third TD on the ground.
Eli Manning, Giants – Passed for 254 yards and 4 TDs.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – He had 3 TDs and 1 INT, plus 297 passing yards.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders – Rumbled for 171 yards and 2 TDs.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers – Rushed for 98 yards and 2 TDs, plus 4 catches for 51 yards.
Fred Jackson, Bills – Ran for 74 yards and 1 TD while nabbing 5 balls for 87 more yards.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets – Ran for 38 yards and added 5 receptions for 116 yards and a TD.

Wes Welker, Patriots – Had a career-high 16 receptions for 217 yards and 2 TDs, plus a 19-yard run.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – Hauled in 7 passes for 108 yards and both of Stafford’s TDs.

Jermichael Finley, Packers – Reeled in 7 passes for 85 yards and all 3 of Rodgers’ scoring passes.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – His 7 catches for 109 yards came with 2 TDs.

Dan Bailey, Cowboys – Booted six field goals (23, 27, 32, 40 and 41 yards twice).

This was a great week to play against

Jason Campbell, Raiders – Threw for only 156 yards without a score.
Cam Newton, Panthers – Finally played like a rookie, with 158 passing yards and a lone TD, plus 27 rushing yards.
Michael Vick, Eagles – Had just 176 yards passing and 31 yards rushing with an INT before leaving with a broken right hand.
Tony Romo, Cowboys – He played valiantly, but his 255-yard, 1-INT night didn’t help his fantasy owners.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers – Passed for 180 yards and 2 INTs, but ran for 35 yards and a score.
Philip Rivers, Chargers – Continued to underwhelm, with 266 yards and 2 INTs, without a score.

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos – Was active, but posted no stat line.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots – Just 16 yards on the ground.
James Starks, Packers – Inexplicably disappeared from the offense, with only 14 combined yards, and a fumble.
Michael Turner, Falcons – Posted a paltry 20 rushing yards.
Steven Jackson, Rams – Returned to action, but only accounted for 23 yards.
Mike Tolbert, Chargers – Combined for just 43 total yards.
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – Limited to 46 combined yards.
Frank Gore, 49ers – Held to 42 rushing yards on the day, plus a fumble.
Reggie Bush, Dolphins – Compiled only 36 total yards.
Cedric Benson, Bengals – 64 yards rushing.

Deion Branch, Patriots – Blanked by the Bills.
Donald Driver, Packers – Also held catchless.
Mike Williams, Seahawks – Him, too.
Roy Williams, Bears – Was active, but posted a goose egg despite 4 targets.
Nate Burleson, Lions – Only caught 2 passes for 12 yards.
Steve Smith, Panthers – Just 2 receptions for 15 yards.
Kenny Britt, Titans – Nabbed 3 passes for 18 yards before leaving with a knee injury.
Santonio Holmes, Jets – Had one 19-yard catch.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers – His 3 catches amounted to 24 yards.
Reggie Wayne, Colts – Ditto for him.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Limited to 25 yards on 3 catches.
Chad Ochocinco, Patriots – Caught 2 passes for 28 yards, but dropped a sure TD.
Malcom Floyd, Chargers – He also had just 28 yards on his 2 receptions.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles – Just 2 receptions for 30 yards.
A.J. Green, Bengals – Held out of the end zone with 4 catches for 29 yards.
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos – Only 38 yards on 4 receptions.
Brandon Marshall, Dolphins – His 4 catches were good for 43 yards.

Dallas Clark, Colts – Limited to 2 catches for 12 yards.
Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars – He managed 15 yards on his two receptions.

I didn’t see that coming…

Torrey Smith, Ravens – Scored on his first 3 NFL receptions, and finished with 5 catches for 152 yards.
Victor Cruz, WR, Giants – Took advantage of Manningham’s inactivity with 3 catches for 110 yards and 2 TDs.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stop screaming; it’s merely a flesh wound

Remember the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo is frozen in carbonite in mid-scream? That’s how I pictured Mike Vick’s owners, myself included, upon hearing that he’d broken his hand while taking another pummeling on Sunday.

Now, I realize the Star Wars reference only reinforces the image of the stereotypical fantasy “geek,” but I’m not worried about being bullied. It’s Vick’s broken bones that could hurt me.

Fortunately, the news isn’t as bone-chilling as first reported. Vick’s non-throwing right hand is bruised and badly swollen, but not broken. He’ll be iffy heading into this weekend, but a month-long absence is no longer in the cards.

But you can’t help wondering if Vick is playing on borrowed time, given the heavy punishment he keeps absorbing. While his extended loss wouldn’t necessarily cause an offensive tailspin like that experienced by the Manning-less Colts, those counting on DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin must be concerned. Whether the underachieving Vince Young or the inexperienced Mike Kafka took over, the Eagles’ wide-open offense wouldn’t be nearly as explosive. Opposing defenses would shift their attention squarely on budding superstar LeSean McCoy, who might find his running lanes much more clogged.

But Vick’s owners aren’t the only ones sporting the Solo shriek these days. Run into a Chris Johnson or Arian Foster owner lately? They’re easy to spot with the dark cloud hovering over their heads.

Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson is feeling so good, he’s pledged $5,000 for every touchdown he scores to help at-risk youth through his All Day Foundation. The “Football for Good” campaign, launched this weekend in tandem with Hollywood A-listers Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, is the rare off-field story you like to hear from a star athlete. Jackson and Dallas Clark have even agreed to match Peterson’s pledges.

In appreciation for the three touchdowns Peterson has already delivered in two of my leagues, the Chief Fool has pitched in at the online fundraising site ( Imagine the difference 25 million fantasy fanatics could collectively make by “giving back” to Peterson’s cause? Hey, it might even help shed our nerdy image…


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers. Owners of Frank Gore will want to hedge their bets with Hunter, who totaled 38 yards and a touchdown after the starter injured his ankle. Following the game, Gore talked like a guy who didn’t expect to play in Week 4. The Niners have not had much success on the ground thus far, though; so Hunter is only a stop-gap measure.

Bernard Scott, RB, Bengals. With Cedric Benson headed for a three-game suspension, Scott will be the Bengals’ interim starter. Though Brian Leonard should see some carries as well, Scott is the more explosive back. More important, if Scott gets hot, Benson’s starting job might not be waiting for him in Week 7.

Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens. When you rack up 133 yards and three scores on your first three NFL receptions, you attract a measure of attention. The speedy rookie won’t jump ahead of Lee Evans (ankle) into a starting job overnight, mostly due to his reputation for inconsistency; but he has surely secured a spot on Joe Flacco’s radar.

Nate Washington, WR, Titans. Just as I was preparing to recommend Matt Hasselbeck, who currently ranks tenth among fantasy passers, Kenny Britt suffered what appears to be a season-ending knee injury. While Hasselbeck’s stock takes a hit with the loss of the AFC’s leading receiver, Washington’s soars. He tallied eight receptions for 92 yards and a TD on Sunday.

Don’t be fooled

Vince Young, QB, Eagles. If Vick sits out the Week 4 contest with the 49ers, Young could get the starting nod. But Kafka was called upon after Vick went down Sunday, so perhaps he’ll be the man. Young hasn’t been fantasy-relevant since his rookie year in 2006. Kafka has 107 passing yards and two interceptions on his NFL resume. I’ll turn to my bench for help this week.

Roy Williams, WR, Bears. Three weeks ago, I set the over/under on Williams losing his starting job to Johnny Knox at five weeks. If you took the under, you’re sitting pretty. After dropping every pass he touched on Sunday, Williams should be on your waiver wire today.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday morning updates -- Week 3

Good morning, Fools. It's a beautiful day in Fantasyland. Let's get to it.

Big news of the day: Peyton Hillis is OUT with strep throat! Montario Hardesty will start in his stead.

Also, Arian Foster is expected to be OUT today as well, according to ESPN. Good news for Ben Tate's owners.

Antonio Gates will reportedly be out this week, due to complications with his foot injury. This is a bit of surprise. Make sure you account for it.

I'd be shocked if Tony Romo (ribs) doesn't play Monday night. I'd also be shocked if he played well, given his lack of weapons and the fact that every Redskin on the planet will be taking shots at his rib cage. Given that he won't play till Monday night, you're taking a big risk by keeping him in your starting lineup.

Miles Austin is already ruled out, and Dez Bryant is questionable, after getting in a little practice yesterday. Expect limited snaps from Bryant. Felix Jones is expected to play with his bum shoulder; but he's unlikely to get a full load either.

Mike Vick (concussion) will play today, and you'd be crazy not to start him.

Mario Manningham is OUT today. Victor Cruz will start in his place.

Lee Evans may also sit out, giving Torrey Smith his first start.

Sidney Rice will make his Seahawks debut today.

Now, on to the inactive reports. Are you following my tweets (@ladd_biro)?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Week 3 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Tom Brady and Calvin Johnson, or to bench Kerry Collins and Jason Snelling? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 3 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Kevin Kolb, QB, Cardinals at Seahawks. After two weeks, Kolb is teetering on the fringes of fantasy respectability, while the Seahawks have just two sacks and no interceptions to their credit. Given the pathetic state of affairs in Seattle, this should be a breakout game for Kolb & Company.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Chiefs. Mathews is doing his best to muscle Mike Tolbert (calf) out of his backfield. When healthy, Mathews is the more productive rusher, and he nearly matched his teammate’s receiving output in Week 2. Against the staggering Chiefs, both are great plays; but the pendulum is swinging Mathews’ way.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins at Browns. The rookie ran strong against the Texans in his first action of the season, relegating Reggie Bush to a bit role. Though Bush will surely get more touches this week, Thomas is a much better inside runner. He should score his first TD against Cleveland’s sub-par run defense.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals vs. 49ers. The rookie has a great chance to score in his third consecutive game against a secondary that just coughed up three TD passes to Miles Austin. Green was targeted 14 times in Week 2, underscoring his prominence in the Bengals’ passing attack.

Deion Branch, WR, Patriots at Bills. Branch has quietly racked up 222 yards on 15 receptions. With Aaron Hernandez (knee) out and Chad Ochocinco still searching for his mojo, Branch should have no trouble reaching the end zone Sunday in what could be an aerial showcase.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Hasselbeck, Cam Newton; RBs Fred Jackson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ben Tate, LeGarrette Blount; WRs Stevie Johnson, Nate Burleson, Brandon Lloyd, Anquan Boldin, Mike Williams (Bucs), Mike Sims-Walker.

Roll ‘em back

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys vs. Redskins. I’d be worried enough if the only concern was his broken rib and punctured lung. Assuming Romo plays, he’ll also be missing Miles Austin (hamstring) and possibly the knuckle-headed Dez Bryant (thigh), who had not practiced through Thursday. Washington’s pass defense has given up just two TD passes so far. I’m looking for a safer option this week.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears vs. Packers. In his four outings against Green Bay since becoming Chicago’s starter, Cutler has passed for just 875 yards, with 4 TDs and 9 INTs. He’s already been sacked 11 times this season, including a shot to the throat that is still affecting him. The Packers have given up big numbers to QBs so far this season, but they won’t have sympathy for Cutler on Sunday.

Tim Hightower, RB, Redskins at Cowboys. Hightower is off to a strong start in Washington, but Roy Helu is already cannibalizing some of his carries. Dallas’ run defense has been among the league’s stingiest (though two weeks isn’t much to bank on). I’m not optimistic about Hightower’s chances under the Monday night lights.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, RBs, Panthers vs. Jaguars. Carolina’s line has apparently decided that it no longer needs to run-block with Newton at the controls. Though Stewart offered value as a receiver last week, Williams has been a complete dud. Neither is likely to prosper against the Jags’ stout run defense.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs at Chargers. Now that Jamaal Charles is gone, Bowe is the Chiefs’ most dangerous weapon. As poorly as Matt Cassel has been playing, San Diego should have little problem shutting down the connection. After all, they held him to two catches for 16 yards over two games in 2010, when Bowe was en fuego.

More thumbs down: QBs Eli Manning, Rex Grossman, Cassel, Kyle Orton; RBs Arian Foster, Joseph Addai, Thomas Jones, Cadillac Williams, Felix Jones, Knowshon Moreno, Ryan Grant; WRs Michael Crabtree, Denarius Moore, Percy Harvin, Malcom Floyd, Pierre Garcon, Mario Manningham.

Taking a flier

Shonn Greene, RB, Jets at Raiders. Greene has gotten off to a slow start, though he found his way into the end zone last week. More encouraging was LaDainian Tomlinson’s bit role against Jacksonville. Greene should build on the positive momentum against an Oakland run defense that was just gashed by the Bills.

Don’t be the bonehead whofails to grab Bernard Scott off the waiver wire, especially if you’re a Cedric Benson owner. The NFL has suspended the Bengals’ workhorse for three games, beginning in Week 4, for his latest off-field transgressions. Though Benson is expected to appeal the decision, the speedy Scott should offer nice value during a stretch of favorable matchups. If he performs well, there’s no guarantee that the oft-troubled Benson will reclaim his starting gig.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week 2 Heroes and Zeros

This was a great week to start

Tom Brady, Patriots -- Flawless again with 423 yards and 3 TDs.
Cam Newton, Panthers -- Passed for 432 yards and 1 TD, plus 3 INTs, and ran for 53 yards and another score.
Matt Stafford, Lions -- Threw for 294 yards and 4 TDs, with just one turnover.
Drew Brees, Saints -- Passed for 270 yards and a TD trifecta.


Adrian Peterson, Vikings -- Scored twice while rushing for 120 yards, and hauled in 2 balls for 21 more yards.
Fred Jackson, Bills -- Rumbled for 117 yards and 2 TDs, and caught 2 passes for 23 yards.
LeSean McCoy, Eagles -- Ran for 95 yards and 2 TDs, adding 4 receptions for 21 yards.
Peyton Hillis, Browns -- Rushed for 94 yards and a pair of scores, and added 4 receptions for 23 yards.
Jahvid Best, Lions -- Ran for 57 yards and 1 TD, and caught 6 balls for 66 yards and another TD.
Darren McFadden, Raiders -- Scored rushing and receiving while accumulating 143 total yards.
LeGarrette Blount, Bucs -- Atoned for last week's disappearance with 71 yards and 2 TDs.

Jeremy Maclin, Eagles -- Hauled in 13 passes for 171 yards and 2 scores.
Miles Austin, Cowboys -- Caught 9 passes for 143 yards and a trio of TDs, then aggravated his hammy.
Vincent Jackson, Chargers -- Pulled down 10 balls for 172 yards and 2 TDs.
Calvin Johnson, Lions -- Scored twice on 3 catches for 29 yards.
Kenny Britt, Titans -- Caught 9 passes for 135 yards and a score.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- Reeled in 7 passes for 133 yards and 1 TD.

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots -- Scored twice on his 4 catches for 86 yards.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons -- Showed the youngsters how to do it, with 7 receptions for 83 yards and a pair of TDs.

Steelers -- Collected 5 sacks while pitching a shutout against Seattle.
Lions -- Compiled 2 sacks, 5 turnovers and held the Chiefs to a field goal.
Jets -- Amassed 2 sacks, 4 INTs and a safety while holding the Jags to 3 points.

This was a great week to play against

Matt Cassel, Chiefs -- Coughed up 3 INTs while passing for just 133 yards.
Joe Flacco, Ravens -- Passed for just 197 yards and a TD, plus 2 INTs.

Jamaal Charles, Chiefs -- Ran for just 27 yards before being lost for the season.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers -- Took a back seat to Newton with just 36 total yards.
Ryan Grant, Packers -- Just 39 combined yards.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets -- A non-factor with just 15 total yards.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks -- Limited to just 12 combined yards.
Reggie Bush, Dolphins -- Taken out of the game plan with 21 total yards.
Felix Jones, Cowboys -- Totaled 30 yards with his separated shoulder.
Cadillac Williams, Rams -- Couldn't take advantage of his starting opportunity, with just 40 total yards to show for it.
Arian Foster, Texans -- Combined for 40 yards before his hamstring tightened up.
Chris Johnson, Titans -- Ran for 53 yards and reeled in 3 passes for 12 yards.

Mike Williams, Bucs -- Actually lost 4 yards on his only reception.
Plaxico Burress, Jets -- Blanked in his second game as a Jet.
Lance Moore, Saints -- Had a 6-yard grab in his 2011 debut.
Mike Williams, Seahawks -- Reeled in a 9-yarder.
Donald Driver, Packers -- Only a 10-yard catch.
Braylon Edwards, 49ers -- Hauled in a 21-yard reception.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- Took 2 passes to amass 21 yards.

Antonio Gates, Chargers -- Held catchless.
Brandon Pettigrew, Lions -- Just one 7-yard catch.
Vernon Davis, 49ers -- Limited to 2 passes for 18 yards.

I didn’t see that coming

Eric Decker, WR, Broncos -- Scored twice on his 5 catches for 113 yards.
Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders -- The rookie grabbed 5 balls for 148 yards and a TD, plus a 25-yard run.

Fantasy stars emerge from the unlikeliest places

Either there’s been a glitch in the matrix, or the fantasy landscape is undergoing a fairly dramatic shift before our very eyes.

Along with the usual suspects from New England, Green Bay, New Orleans and Philadelphia, the upper echelons of the 2011 fantasy ranks are being invaded by “imposters” from Buffalo, Detroit and (gasp!) Carolina.

I mean, what kind of world are we living in where Cam Newton trails only Tom Brady among fantasy passers? Don’t Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson understand their place in the NFL hierarchy? Didn’t Steve Smith retire two years ago?

As for the emerging stars from Motown, how much can we really trust them? After all, Matt Stafford started just 13 games in his first two seasons. Jahvid Best flamed out three weeks into his rookie season thanks to a nagging turf toe injury. Calvin Johnson, one of the best wideouts in the game, is a virtual fixture on the weekly injury reports.

For now, the best approach is to ride the hot hands while you can. Each of the aforementioned interlopers has climbed into the rarefied air of the every-week starters, which is as refreshing as it is shocking. With all the injuries to key players incurred over the first two weekends, the new blood is arriving just in time.


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Dexter McCluster, WR/RB, Chiefs. With Jamaal Charles lost for the season, his owners will be scrambling to fill a gaping hole in their lineup. Thomas Jones is Charles’ immediate backup, but he is already widely owned and has clearly lost a step. McCluster is an intriguing pickup, since he is a dual threat you can play in a receiver spot. He’s especially valuable in point-per-reception leagues; and, unlike Jones, he should remain on the field well after the Chiefs have abandoned the run.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys. The rookie was expected to challenge Felix Jones for playing time later this season. But he could be called upon sooner, if Jones’ shoulder separation proves to be serious. Tashard Choice will likely share the backfield, but Murray’s ceiling is much higher.

Ben Tate, RB, Texans. I’m taking the rare step of recommending Tate in two consecutive columns, since he’s still unclaimed in more than a third of all leagues. While Arian Foster’s hamstring remains problematic, Tate should continue to account for the bulk of Houston’s rushing production.

Nate Burleson, WR, Lions. Along with Stafford’s emergence as one of the league’s most prolific young gunslingers, Burleson is quietly becoming fantasy-relevant again. Opposing defenses must focus their attention on Calvin Johnson, leaving the well-traveled veteran in single coverage. Stafford is finding him frequently.

Eric Decker, WR, Broncos. As Brandon Lloyd sat out and Eddie Royal left early with a groin injury, the second-year pro had a breakout game, reeling in five passes for 113 yards and two scores. Decker is known for his excellent hands and route-running ability, and he ran back a punt 90 yards for a score in Week 1, so you know he has wheels. He’s worth a spot on your bench.

Don’t be fooled

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs. You know you’re in trouble when you can’t even put up garbage-time stats. Cassel’s offense has produced a total of 10 points in the first two weeks. Time to hit the eject button.

Rex Grossman, QB, Redskins. Good, bad or sexy, Grossman belongs nowhere near your roster. His starting job is tenuous at best, and he’s proven over a long career that he simply can’t be trusted in the real, or fantasy, world.

Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders. He’s a rookie receiver, drafted in the fifth round (strike one). He plays in Oakland (strike two). He’s still buried on the depth chart (strike three). On the other hand, the talent above Moore is mediocre at best, and injury-riddled. Still, that’s too many strikes for my taste, and I haven’t even mentioned his quarterback’s shortcomings. Maybe next year.

Kevin Ogletree, WR, Cowboys. If Miles Austin misses a week or more with a hamstring injury, Ogletree will be the next man up. But the fourth-year receiver is an unlikely fantasy hero, especially once Dez Bryant returns to the lineup. Look elsewhere for Austin’s replacement.

Mike Williams, WR, Seahawks. Over the past two weeks, with Sidney Rice (shoulder) inactive, Williams has collected a whopping five passes for 43 yards. Until Seattle upgrades its quarterback situation, no member of this receiving corps merits a roster spot.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday morning updates -- Week 2

Good morning, Fools. It's almost game time. Let's take a quick look around the league before the inactives are released...

Some of us will have to make a tough call early on Cadillac Williams, since Steven Jackson will likely go down to a game-time decision. I don't think he'll play -- he hasn't practiced all week -- but he could. And if he does, Caddy's value plummets. It would be best if you put Caddy in your flex position, especially if you have another RB or WR you could slot in in his place in case of emergency. For the record, I'm pretty sure S-Jax will sit.

Similar situation for Hakeem Nicks, though he is much more likely to start on MNF.

Arian Foster will almost certainly play today, unless he has a set-back during warm-ups. But I still think Ben Tate will get plenty of carries. He could be a decent flex play. Foster, of course, is a must-start if he's active.

Methinks Cam Newton is going to look like a rookie today. That means Steve Smith is not a no-brainer starter today. All depends on what your other options are.

Dez Bryant will also be a game-time call. Kevin Ogletree will start in his place if necessary. Miles Austin should have a very good outing either way against the 49ers.

Crabtree will be a last-minute decision in the same game. Don't start him either way.

Stevie Johnson is active and he's a good start for the Bills today.

Sidney Rice and Jacoby Ford were declared out earlier this week.

Both Jason Hill and Marcedes Lewis will miss today's game for the Jags.

After some worry during the week, Jermichael Finley is active and will play today.

Now, on to the tweets!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Week 2 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and Ray Rice, or to bench Tarvaris Jackson and Bernard Berrian? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 2 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins vs. Texans. Lost amid Tom Brady’s passing heroics on Monday night were the terrific numbers compiled by Henne (416 passing, 59 rushing yards, 3 total TDs). He’ll likely find himself in another shootout this week against a Texans secondary that isn’t as good as it looked against the Colts.

Cadillac Williams, RB, Rams at Giants. He was impressive both running and receiving against the stout Eagles defense. Williams should fare even better against an injury-riddled New York squad, as Steven Jackson sits this one out.

James Starks, RB, Packers at Panthers. Ryan Grant still has seniority, but there’s little doubt Starks is the superior runner. Look for the bruiser to keep staking his claim to the starting role against a soft Carolina run defense that just lost its best player (MLB Jon Beason) for the season.

Robert Meachem, WR, Saints vs. Bears. Devery Henderson has proven over the years that he can’t be trusted to post good games back-to-back. Meachem is different. With Marques Colston out, and Lance Moore still questionable, Meachem is the New Orleans wideout to trust this week.

Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins. Bess is easy to overlook in an offense that features Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush. But he is arguably Henne’s steadiest receiver, and he should be very busy as the Dolphins try to keep pace with the Texans’ prolific offense. In PPR leagues, Bess is a terrific option.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Stafford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco; RBs Reggie Bush, Tim Hightower, Mike Tolbert, Ahmad Bradshaw, Peyton Hillis, Jahvid Best; WRs Plaxico Burress, Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham, Nate Burleson, Jordy Nelson, Santana Moss, Braylon Edwards, Brandon Gibson, Johnny Knox.

Roll ‘em back

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons vs. Eagles. Ryan always plays better at home, so I don’t expect him to be shut out of the end zone for a second consecutive week. But he’ll be under constant pressure from the Eagles’ relentless pass rush, and their all-star secondary won’t yield much either. There are much better QB plays this week.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans vs. Ravens. Look, I know you’re going to start him. You know you’re going to start him. But I’m telling you, you won’t like what you see. He was a virtual non-factor against the Jags in Week 1, and now he’s facing a fired-up Ravens squad that just dismantled last year’s Super Bowl losers. CJ2K will be great this year; just not till Week 3.

Shonn Greene, RB, Jets vs. Jaguars. He averaged a measly 2.6 yards per carry against Dallas and was out-shone again by the ageless LaDainian Tomlinson. Greene is useless in the passing game, and this week’s opponent just held the multi-faceted Chris Johnson to 49 combined yards. Could Greene be headed for another bust season?

Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings vs. Buccaneers. Take away his kickoff return TD and Harvin had just 22 yards in the opener. Though the Bucs secondary isn’t as stout as the Chargers’, Harvin will be a risky play as long as Donovan McNabb struggles to move the offense.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles at Falcons. I was shocked to see Maclin in so many starting lineups last weekend, given that he spent nearly six months this offseason battling a mysterious illness and he clearly isn’t in game shape. He’s currently being started in more than 80 percent of one major site’s leagues, which is even more puzzling given his poor production in Week 1 (3 targets, 1 catch, 20 yards). Bench him until he gets his legs back underneath him.

More thumbs down: QBs Cam Newton, Matt Cassel, Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, Tarvaris Jackson; RBs DeAngelo Williams, Mark Ingram, LeGarrette Blount, Daniel Thomas, Marshawn Lynch; WRs Chad Ochocinco, Jacoby Ford, Austin Collie, Michael Crabtree, Lee Evans, A.J. Green, Mohamed Massaquoi, all Jaguars and Seahawks receivers.

Taking a flier

Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos vs. Bengals. He and his teammates did little against the Raiders, but McGahee could have the backfield to himself against the Bengals if Knowshon Moreno’s hamstring doesn’t heal quickly. McGahee is always a good bet for goal-line carries, and he proved Monday night that he can be an effective receiver as well. He’s a decent flex play this week if Moreno sits.

Don’t be the bonehead whogives up on the Steelers defense/special teams after their debacle in Baltimore. They’ll remind you why you spent a mid-round draft pick on them against the sorry Seahawks. Methinks Troy Polamalu will take one of Tarvaris Jackson’s passes to the house in this lopsided contest.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Week 1 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots -- Showed the NFL who’s boss with 517 passing yards and 4 TDs with just one INT. Sheesh.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints -- Actually out-paced Rodgers in Thursday’s slugfest, with 419 yards, 3 TDs and no turnovers.
Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins -- Couldn’t keep up with Brady, but still threw for 416 yards and 2 TDs, and ran for 59 yards and a third TD.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers -- Passed for 312 yards and 3 TDs without an INT.
Matt Stafford, QB, Lions -- Thumped the Bucs with 305 yards, 3 TDs and one INT.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills -- Collected 4 TDs with his 208 passing yards.
Michael Vick, QB, Eagles -- Passed for 187 yards and 2 TDs, and ran for 97 yards.

Mike Tolbert, RB, Chargers -- Notched a TD trifecta, with 35 rushing yards and 9 catches for 58 more. Not bad for a backup.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens -- Amassed 107 yards rushing, 42 receiving yards on 4 catches, and scored both ways.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles -- Scored rushing and receiving, and totaled 112 yards.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears -- Rushed for 68 yards, and caught 5 passes for 90 yards and a TD.

Steve Smith, WR, Panthers -- Made fast friends with Newton, catching 8 passes for 178 yards and 2 scores.
Wes Welker, WR, Patriots -- Teamed with Brady for 160 yards and 2 TDs (including one for 99 yards) on 8 balls.
Kenny Britt, WR, Titans -- Torched the Jags for 136 yards and 2 TDs on 5 catches.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions -- Turned 6 passes into 88 yards and 2 scores.
Devery Henderson, WR, Saints -- Led Thursday night’s receivers with 100 yards and 1 TD.

Ravens defense -- Compiled 4 fumble recoveries, 3 INTs, four sacks and held Pittsburgh to 7 measly points.
49ers defense/special teams -- Forced three turnovers, notched 5 sacks and enjoyed two electrifying return scores courtesy of Ted Ginn.

This was a great week to play against

Donovan McNabb, QB, Vikings -- Just awful, with 39 passing yards, 30 rushing yards, a TD and an INT.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers -- Passed for 280 yards and 1 TD, but added 3 INTs and 2 fumbles.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons -- Threw for 319 yards, but had no scores and 2 turnovers.
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams -- Only had 188 passing yards before getting hurt, lost 15 yards rushing and lost a fumble.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Bucs -- Just 15 stinking yards.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets -- Combined for only 33 yards, while taking a back seat mostly to LT.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers -- Limited to 30 rushing yards while Newton stole the show.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers -- Held to a paltry 45 yards, and he fumbled.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts -- Mustered just 52 combined yards without Manning.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans -- The rusty multi-millionaire had only 24 rushing yards, and added 6 catches for 25 more.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks -- Combined for 47 total yards.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers -- Ran for 59 yards and caught 3 passes for 19 yards.

Lee Evans, WR, Ravens -- Held without a catch.
Austin Collie, WR, Colts -- Ditto.
Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers -- His sole reception went for 4 yards.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Rams -- Had a 5-yard catch in his St. Louis debut.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots -- Managed to disappear in an aerial frenzy with one 14-yard catch.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs -- Just 2 catches for 17 yards.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles -- One 20-yard catch, but at least he played.
Braylon Edwards, WR, 49ers -- Began his SF career with 3 catches for 27 yards.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers -- Held to 2 balls for 31 yards.

Owen Daniels, TE, Texans -- Had just one 12-yard catch during Houston’s romp.

Nate Kaeding, K, Chargers -- Lost for the year after his first kickoff.

I didn’t see that coming

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers -- Set a rookie debut record with 422 passing yards, plus 18 rushing yards and 3 total TDs, with just 1 INT.

Randall Cobb, WR, Packers -- The rookie caught 2 passes for 35 yards and a score, and returned a kickoff 108 yards for a second TD.

Scott Chandler, TE, Bills -- Burst onto the scene with 5 catches for 63 yards and 2 scores.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Don't be a (knee) jerk

I can just hear the blowhards around the water cooler today.

“Dude, I’m grabbing Cam Newton off waivers and riding Steve Smith and him to the promised land.”

“No joke, man. I’m dumping all my Colts and flipping Chris Johnson for Ray Rice.”

“I’m all over Ben Tate, ‘cause I heard Arian Foster’s hammy is really messed up.”

“Two words, baby: Kenny Britt.”

Every year, like clockwork, the first weekend’s games set off a frenzy of waiver-wire jockeying and panic-induced trading. Rather than viewing this as little more than the first glimpse of a long, rollercoaster season to come, we race to the conclusion that what we just saw is what we’ll be seeing all year. That’s a prescription for disaster.

Don’t make an ill-advised decision you’ll soon regret.

With the exception of the Packers’ and Saints’ offenses, I think it’s premature to project greatness on any of this weekend’s shining stars.

On the flip slide, it’s way too early to give up on any offense, other than perhaps the woeful Seahawks. Let’s give the Colts one more chance, against the visiting Browns, before we bury them.

The Steelers can’t be that bad, on both sides of the ball. Can they?

Remember, the best trades are often the ones you don’t make. And other than replacing an injured player, or taking a flier on a potential free-agent gem, the waiver wire is best used in moderation.


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills. Let your opponent slobber all over Newton. You grab the guy with more experience, who was a borderline fantasy starter for much of the 2010 season. Fitzpatrick will be a more reliable QB2, and he has a softer schedule moving forward.

Cadillac Williams, RB, Rams. When Steven Jackson left early with a quadriceps injury, Cadillac came in and proved he still has plenty left in his tank. Even if the starter returns for Week 2, any Jackson owner that neglects to back him up with Williams now is playing with fire.

Ben Tate, RB, Texans. All he needed was an opportunity, and he got it Sunday. Though Arian Foster should be back this weekend, Tate will be the preferred handcuff, especially if Derrick Ward’s ankle injury lingers.

Randall Cobb, WR, Packers. We all know rookie receivers can rarely be trusted. But when his quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, and he has a two-touchdown debut, conventional wisdom goes out the window. As the Packers phase out Donald Driver, Cobb has a legitimate opportunity to vault over his competition into a starting role. He’s worth a spot on your bench until we see more.

Scott Chandler, TE, Bills. Last season, few of us believed what we were witnessing when Stevie Johnson emerged as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite target. So we’d be foolish to assume that Chandler’s 63-yard, two-touchdown outing was a total fluke. Though the journeyman has amassed a grand total of one eight-yard reception in his first four seasons, Fitzgerald needs a complementary receiver to Johnson now that Lee Evans is gone. Why not the 6’7”, 270-pound Chandler?

John Kasay, K, Saints. You’ll need to go kicker shopping if you just lost Nate Kaeding for the season. Kasay is available in about half of all leagues. Other mostly unencumbered options worth considering: Chicago’s Robbie Gould, New York’s Nick Folk and Atlanta’s Matt Bryant.

Don’t be fooled

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. After his record-setting debut, the rookie gunslinger will be the hottest free agent commodity in Fantasyland. But before you burn your waiver priority, note that Newton probably just played the softest defense he’ll see all season. It gets much tougher from here, beginning next week against the Packers. On a more positive note, Steve Smith’s owners have to feel a whole lot better.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Vikings. Is he still sitting on your bench? What are you waiting for? Dump him now, before you find yourself starting him during your real quarterback’s bye. (Some knee-jerk reactions are completely acceptable.)

Devery Henderson, WR, Saints. Now that Marques Colston is out for a month or so with a broken collarbone, the temptation will be to scoop up the leading receiver from Thursday night’s barnburner. But Henderson has a well-earned reputation as a fantasy tease, and I can assure you he doesn’t put out often.

Ted Ginn, WR, 49ers. If you believe Ginn will continue his return-game heroics, then grab San Francisco’s defense/special teams. Because he’s worthless as a receiver.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday morning updates for Week 1

Good morning, Fools!

As excited as I am about the first Sunday of the 2011 season, I can't seem to peel myself away from the 9/11 memorials. I'm sure I'm not the only one who believes fantasy football is a little less important today than usual. It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since that awful day. Harder still to believe there hasn't been another successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the past decade. As often as many of us voice our disgust with our leaders in Washington past and/or present, we've gotta give them due respect: They've kept us safe longer than anyone 10 years ago would have ever believed. And, of course, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to our men and women in uniform who are sacrificing so much for us overseas. It's a great day to be an American. God bless the USA.

Now, on to less weighty matters. Let's take a quick spin around the league for news we can use before the first games begin. Don't forget, I'll be tweeting the key inactives once those are released an hour before game-time. Make sure you're following me for the latest news (@ladd_biro).

Adrian Peterson just signed a $100-million contract extension to remain with the Vikings for the next seven years. Not too shabby for the league's best RB. For the record, his deal is bigger than CJ2K's.

You know Peyton Manning is out indefinitely. If Kerry Collins was looking for a good way to ease into his new job, he couldn't have picked a more welcoming secondary than Houston's. No, I wouldn't recommend starting Collins, but I wouldn't hesitate to start Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark today. And if Austin Collie starts as expected, he's a decent WR3, depending on your other options.

The biggest question heading into today's games was the status Arian Foster, and he's now been declared out. Derrick Ward will start, but expect a big dose of Ben Tate. Against Indy's sorry run defense, they both could be worthy starts.

You shouldn't be counting on Sidney Rice anyway, but there's a good chance he'll be inactive today at the 49ers.

Former Giant, new Eagle Steve Smith is likely to be active, which is certainly a positive development for his physical rehab. But you certainly can't expect him to play much. Similarly, while Jeremy Maclin is also projected to start, it would be best to see how, and how much, he plays before putting him in your starting lineup.

OK, now it's off to the inactives. Watch my tweets.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Week 1 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Michael Vick and Jamaal Charles, or to bench Luke McCown and Legedu Naanee? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 1 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Matt Stafford, QB, Lions at Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s defense is on the rise, but Detroit is catching them at the right time. Stafford has some dangerous receiving weapons at his disposal, and he should rack up big numbers, especially if he’s forced to play from behind.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts at Texans. While Kerry Collins is directing this offense, the Colts will lean on Addai more than usual; especially as a dump-off receiver and goal-line rusher. He’s a great flex play against a sub-par Houston defense.
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals vs. Panthers. When healthy, Wells can be a productive fantasy back, especially near the goal line. So you’d better play him while he’s fit and has the backfield all to himself. The Panthers’ run defense is among the league’s softest.
Plaxico Burress, WR, Jets vs. Cowboys. I realize this is his first real action in nearly three years, but he’ll be facing one of the NFL’s most generous secondaries playing without one (most likely both) of its starting cornerbacks. Burress should have a triumphant return in an emotional Sunday night contest.
Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers vs. Vikings. He’s a big red zone target playing against a suspect secondary. Floyd will exploit his size advantage against a defense that must focus the majority of its attention on Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, Kevin Kolb, Mark Sanchez; RBs DeAngelo Williams, Reggie Bush, Matt Forte, Shonn Greene, BenJarvus Green-Ellis; WRs Brandon Lloyd, Mario Manningham, Santonio Holmes, Anquan Boldin.

Roll ‘em back

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers at Ravens. He tallied 479 yards and 3 TDs in his two outings against Baltimore last season. Not bad, but not winning fantasy numbers either. Though Mike Wallace is a stud, Big Ben will need some time to break in the two young receivers that are vying to supplant the aging Hines Ward.

Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals at Browns. Benson has spent more time in jail than on the practice field over the last week, and his team faces its fiercest division rival with Andy Dalton at the controls. Cleveland will surely stack the line against the run and dare the rookie to throw. It could be a long day (year?) for the visiting team.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Vikings. Even though Minnesota won’t have its Williams Wall in place, San Diego should have much greater success through the air than on the ground. Mathews will split carries with Mike Tolbert – at least until one emerges as the workhorse – limiting both backs’ upside against a solid run defense.
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys at Jets. Austin sat out the preseason while nursing a bum hamstring, and he will line up against Darrelle Revis in the opener. A rusty, less-than-100-percent wideout on Revis Island is a risky bet.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots at Dolphins. Vontae Davis wasn’t that far off when he claimed that he and Sean Smith are “the best (cornerback) tandem in the league.” They don’t have islands named for them, but they are plenty capable of clamping down on a receiver that’s struggling to learn a new system. Like Ochocinco.
More thumbs down: QBs Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford; RBs Ryan Grant, Daniel Thomas, Felix Jones, Marshawn Lynch; WRs Sidney Rice, Austin Collie, Michael Crabtree, Jacoby Ford, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Sims-Walker, all Jaguars receivers.

Taking a flier

Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos vs. Raiders. People forget that Orton was an elite fantasy passer over the first half of the 2010 season, before the Tim Tebow Experiment began. Though John Fox is expected to de-emphasize the passing attack, Denver’s running game can’t carry the load. Against a Raiders secondary no longer anchored by Nnamdi Asomugha, Orton and his receivers should prosper.

Don’t be the bonehead who…forgets to set your lineup for tonight’s NFL season opener between the Packers and Saints. That’s no way to start your march to a fantasy championship.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Final rankings now posted

If you haven't drafted yet and want to use my positional rankings, please make sure you pull down the most recent set, marked FINAL. They are all here:

Happy drafting!

Fantasy football is getting prettier, and more fragrant

Everything changes in my fantasy universe tonight.

Since 1992, when I first got hooked, I’ve plied my craft exclusively with other men. Mostly neighborhood guys, church friends, work colleagues and high school and college buddies scattered around the country. Those drafts are distinguished by an abundant supply of trash talking, heavy carbohydrates and foul odors.

Tonight, I’ll attend a draft that includes four women including (gasp!) my wife. Those who know my lovely spouse might now be checking the ski conditions in hell, or perhaps hunkering down in North Dakota in anticipation of Armageddon. But apparently anything is possible when someone decides to organize a co-ed family league.

Mind you, I have no objection to this development. I’ve been trying to get her to play for years, in hopes that she might finally understand, know…The Obsession. And the food is bound to be better.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, roughly 20 percent of all fantasy players are women. That’s about 5.4 million ladies that share a passion for the game. And there’s plenty of room for growth, if you scan the stands at this weekend’s games. I’d be surprised if women aren’t the fastest-growing segment of the market over the next several years.

We’ll see whether my wife sticks with it. After all, her knowledge of NFL players barely extends beyond a handful of Cowboys, and Brett Favre. She owns the second overall pick, and has already settled on Chris Johnson. Perfect. But after that, things get a bit fuzzy. “Either a quarterback or wide receiver.” Okay…

All I know is I’m excited, and I’m proud of her. This could be the start of something special. Maybe she’ll join me on the couch for a couple hours on Sunday. Maybe she’ll actually start reading my columns, after eight years of indifference.

Yeah, right. Who am I kidding?

In the end, I don’t care if she selects an Oompa Loompa in Round 15; she’s entered my fantasy world. And after two decades of marriage, that can’t possibly be a bad thing…


Let’s take a quick look at some developments that could affect late drafters.

The Colts are reporting that Peyton Manning has had a set-back in his rehab from neck surgery and “will likely be doubtful” for the opener against Houston. The team says he’s experiencing back soreness, but unsubstantiated rumors are flying that Manning may require another neck procedure. Regardless, it doesn’t sound good for the fantasy star or his receivers. Manning is officially on my “do not draft” list – unless he falls to the middle rounds – and I am downgrading the Colts’ receivers significantly. Austin Collie (foot) may also miss Week 1. Kerry Collins could conceivably be directing this offense for a month or more. Yuck.

A cracked rib could keep Matt Cassel out of Week 1’s action, which would put Tyler Palko under center for the Chiefs. You can’t feel real comfortable starting Dwayne Bowe under those circumstances.

You know the Chris Johnson hold-out saga is finally over, which means he should be drafted among the top two picks. But worries about last year’s top fantasy back, Arian Foster, were heightened when he tweeted his recent MRI. The image seems to indicate that his hamstring is not yet fully healed, but the team says they expect him to play in Week 1. If he slides to the middle of the first round, or later, someone is going to get a bargain.

With Tim Hightower now manning the starting job in Washington, Beanie Wells has the opportunity he craves to become the featured back Arizona drafted him to be. He’s been a huge disappointment to date; but if Wells can stay healthy, he can far out-perform his current draft position. Meanwhile, Chester Taylor was just signed by the Cardinals, but he won’t get many carries if Wells finally delivers.

Jaguars RB Rashad Jennings, who I recommended picking up very late in my Perfect Draft column, has been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. I anticipate a great deal of work for Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup this season, but now that Jennings is gone, it’s hard to say who that will be. Deji Karim is the next guy in line, but I believe we’ll see a free agent runner heading to Jacksonville shortly. Unless Jones-Drew goes down early, there’s no need to waste a roster spot on Karim.

Miles Austin hasn’t suited up all preseason, and he’ll almost certainly draw Darrelle Revis in the Cowboys’ season opener against the Jets. I’m just saying…

It will be interesting to watch how Sam Bradford distributes his passes in the early going. The Rams have an unheralded receiver corps that includes veteran Mike Sims-Walker, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola, along with promising rookie tight end Lance Kendricks. Sims-Walker has an excellent chance to return to fantasy relevance in St. Louis, and Gibson is a sleeper with great upside. Amendola has real value in point-per-reception leagues as a strong possession receiver, but he’s unlikely to post many scores. Kendricks is probably not ready for primetime just yet.

Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki has also landed on IR with a knee injury. That's unfortunate, because he flashed potential as a rookie.

Garrett Hartley will miss at least six to eight weeks with a hip flexor, so the Saints’ plum kicking job goes to veteran John Kasay. Kasay should produce well while he’s the man, so don’t hesitate to draft him late. Just understand you’ll probably need to swap him for Hartley at some point before New Orleans’ Week 11 bye.

The Cowboys have settled on rookie Dan Bailey as their field goal kicker, in a modest surprise. David Buehler was retained to handle kickoffs. If you’re going to draft a rookie kicker, you’re much safer with Alex Henery in Philadelphia.

Lawrence Tynes is dealing with a thigh bruise, and he could potentially miss Week 1. Rhys Lloyd would handle the Giants’ kicking duties if Tynes can’t go. Avoid them both for now.

Don’t forget: The 2011 season kicks off Thursday night. Make certain you lock your Packers and Saints in your starting lineup in advance. It’s go time!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Last-minute notes for tonight's drafters

Here's some late-breaking news you should know if you're drafting tonight or tomorrow.

Jags RB Rashad Jennings, who I recommended picking up very late in my Perfect Draft column, has been placed on IR with a knee injury. I wouldn't try to guess who's the next handcuff to MJD, since the Jags are likely to bring in a free agent rusher to replace Jennings.

Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki is also on IR with a knee injury. That's too bad...I liked his chances to be a decent fantasy contributor this season.

The Cowboys have settled on Dan Bailey as their FG/XP kicker. David Buehler will handle kickoffs.

Finally, as you know, Arian Foster is dealing with a hamstring injury of unknown severity. He says it's no big deal, but informed peeps who've seen his MRI say it's pretty bad and he could be out for 1 or 2 weeks, even longer. He may not be worth the risk of a mid-first rounder, but you have to consider him if he falls late in the 1st or even into the second.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Perfect Draft: Updated

I sent the following, updated column out today to my newspaper clients who publish me on Fridays. Now that Chris Johnson has ended his holdout, it's highly unlikely he'd be available at the fifth pick. I've adjusted accordingly, including his handcuff.

The Perfect Draft: Let the domination begin

In a perfect fantasy world, my starting lineup this season would feature Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Greg Jennings and Antonio Gates. That would be the same perfect world in which my teenagers admit I’m always right, Mila Kunis stalks me and snow would start falling in Dallas today.

Alas, since our fellow owners are unlikely to cede the entire first round to us, we’ll simply have to work smarter to assemble the most dominant team in our league. Our challenge, therefore, is to secure the best value in each round, methodically building a roster that will soar from Week 1, withstand an injury to one or two key players, and peak during the fantasy playoffs.

With that lofty goal in mind, I’ve analyzed the average draft position (ADP) of each player from multiple fantasy sites to determine the best pick in each round – resulting in my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious Perfect Draft.

As always, we start with a few key assumptions. First, we’re in a 10-team non-keeper league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, and one tight end, kicker and team defense. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a snake format, meaning we won’t have a shot at Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. Finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2011 Perfect Draft, we select…

Round 1. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles. Until yesterday, Chris Johnson was slipping to the middle of this round due to worries over his holdout. Now that he’s a very wealthy man, he’ll surely be gone before the fifth pick. McCoy is an excellent consolation prize, especially in point-per-reception leagues. Though his QB has an irritating habit of poaching his touchdown runs, McCoy is a dual-threat scoring machine that can anchor any fantasy team.

Round 2. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams. For years, Jackson’s production has been limited by the sorry offense surrounding him. But that’s changing. Sure, I hate missing out on Jennings or Hakeem Nicks; but this backfield will pack a wallop.

Round 3. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers. It’s nearly impossible to win a fantasy title without an elite quarterback, and Rivers could vie for top honors this season. It’s remarkable to me that he consistently falls into the mid- to late-third round.

Round 4. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs. Bowe gets the nod over Mike Williams simply due to his longer track record. He’s not my ideal WR1, but another year like 2010 would change all that. If Antonio Gates slips this far, I’m all over him.

Round 5. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints. Yes, I’m taking my third RB before my second WR. The talent pool at tailback drops off significantly after this round, while second-tier wideouts remain plentiful. Ingram will be a scoring machine in the Saints’ offense.

Round 6. Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens. With Lee Evans keeping opposing defenses honest, Boldin has a good chance to rebound from his disappointing inaugural season in Baltimore.

Round 7. Austin Collie, WR, Colts. Though I’m getting nervous about Peyton Manning’s timetable, I’m still convinced that Collie will be his most potent weapon this season. The wideout is an injury risk, but the reward is elite production.

Round 8. Owen Daniels, TE, Texans. I’d love to take Josh Freeman here, but tight end is a higher priority. Daniels is Matt Schaub’s favorite security blanket, and he should return to elite form if he can just stay healthy. Thanks to his Week 11 bye, we can pickup another TE off waivers later.

Round 9. Plaxico Burress, WR, Jets. My preseason pick for “Comeback Player of the Year” could quickly become Mark Sanchez’s most reliable red zone target.

Round 10. Eagles, D/ST. I’m buying the “Dream Team” hype. An already-stout defense added top-line talent up-front and in the secondary, which should lead to an abundance of sacks and turnovers. We’ll also cash in on DeSean Jackson’s special teams heroics.

Round 11. Lance Moore, WR, Saints. He could rival Marques Colston (knee) as the lead receiver in this pass-happy offense. Moore’s preseason groin injury should be fully healed by Week 1.

Round 12. Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders. I know I’m sounding like a broken record, but Ford is the only receiver worth owning in Oakland. He is an explosive playmaker who also contributes in the return game. If only he had a better quarterback.

Round 13. Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets. Kyle Orton represents outstanding value here, but he shares a bye week with Rivers. The Jets face the Dolphins at home on Monday night in Week 6; so we’ll take our chances with Sanchez and pray that Rivers stays upright all season.

Round 14. Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars. Since Maurice Jones-Drew is on my personal do-not-draft list, I’m grabbing Jennings before MJD’s owner can. Call it an educated guess, or just a hunch, that Jones-Drew’s knee problems finally catch up to him this season. Jennings is waiting for his opportunity to soar. [UPDATE 9/3/11: Jennings has been placed on IR and is out for the season. Oops.]

Round 15. Ben Tate, RB, Texans. Arian Foster’s strained hamstring may be serious enough to sideline him for a game or two. If that happens, Tate is an intriguing pick. If nothing else, it will drive Foster’s owner crazy that you scooped up his handcuff.

Round 16. Arrelious Benn, WR, Buccaneers. Every draft needs a flier, and Benn fits perfectly in that role. He’ll line up opposite 2010 rookie sensation Mike Williams, and could join him as a consistent fantasy performer thanks to Josh Freeman’s rapid development.

Round 17. Alex Henery, K, Eagles. There will be plenty of good options here, including whomever wins the Cowboys’ and Jets’ jobs. But I like the rookie’s chances of picking up where David Akers left off.

There you have it: A team with firepower at every position, bench depth with substantial upside, and no bye-week dilemmas.

Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.

Why is this man smiling?

Wouldn't you smile if you'd just signed a 4-year, $53.5 million deal with $30 mil guaranteed?

Yeah, I think you would.

As I've been telling you for weeks, Chris Johnson was going to sign sooner rather than later. If you drafted early, I hope you were able to capitalize on him sliding lower than he should have.

He'll be a top 3 fantasy RB again this season.

All is well in Fantasyland again. (Well, it will be once Arian Foster's hammy fully heals.)