Some big-time fantasy talent takes this week off as Miami, New England, Pittsburgh, and Seattle enjoy their byes. For those patient fantasy owners who drafted Ben Roethlisberger, his arrival is a mere week away. As Big Ben is owned in over 95% of ESPN leagues, he will not appear on this Week’s “Snatch Them” list. However, I feature several other sneaky plays, shedding light on what may be a challenging fantasy week for many owners.
Before getting to those specifics, some general advice. Keep in mind the four teams coming off byes in Week 4. Often, fantasy owners lose sight of players on such squads, particularly those who could fill fantasy QB2, WR3, TE, and flex positions. Out of sight often literally is out of mind. Do not fall into this trap. While this week’s column highlights some players coming off their byes as quality pick-ups, fantasy owners should review their league’s waiver wires for all Chief, Buccaneer, Cowboy and Viking fantasy stars on both sides of the ball. Many times, a competitor will have cut an above-average fantasy player prior to his bye week, hoping the star falls through the cracks to be rostered again later. Ensure your competitors pay for such mistakes by grabbing these players first.
Our future-watch concept involves less pressure this week as the Week 6 byes involve Arizona, Cincinnati, Carolina, and Buffalo. While there will be an impact on even shallow league fantasy players at RB and to some degree WR, these four teams are lighter on stars–particularly at the QB position–than any other bye-week grouping this season. Similarly, the various kickers and team defenses involved are of limited merit. Accordingly, the look-ahead pin action this week is minimal.
QB: Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay. If you are in a shallow league, Freeman may be available. Even owners playing in deep leagues might get lucky and find the Buccaneers’ rising star on waiver wires as Tampa took Week 4 off. Thus, competitors may have gotten cute and tried to slip Freeman through waivers. Make them pay. Admittedly, Freeman’s Week 5 match-up against Cincinnati is not fantasy-friendly. Note that against a tough Steelers’ defense, Freeman managed a mere 184 yards, no TDs, and an interception in Week 3. Accordingly, owners should not expect the world against a tough Bengals defense. However, in the following weeks Tampa faces New Orleans, St. Louis, Arizona, Atlanta, and Carolina. Fantasy fodder. Considering the many low-end #1 or high-end #2 QBs that will face byes during Freeman’s Week 6-10 schedule (e.g., Palmer, P. Manning, Schaub, Sanchez, Ryan, Cutler, E. Manning, Vick, Flaco, Orton, McNabb, Rogers, Brees, Rivers), locking down Freeman and his fantasy upside early makes a strong strategic play. If he is available now, he likely will be gone after Week 6. Buy.
QB: Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia. Well, well, well, well, well. Yet another call in a prior Waiver Wire comes to fruition. Avid readers may recall that, last week, Kolb was highlighted as a “buy low” candidate with upside. Having lost the luster associated with his undeserved mega-pre-season hype, Kolb presented value to fantasy owners, as many competitors had given up on him and jumped instead on the Michael Vick bandwagon. However, the best time to buy an asset is when the market unfairly discounts it. A demoted Kolb retained upside, both due to trade rumors and the possibility of injury to Michael Vick. Either scenario could make Kolb an instant NFL starter. Sunday, Vick got dinged against the Redskins, forcing Kolb to re-enter the game. As fantasy owners evaluate the extent of Vick’s upper-body injuries, grabbing Kolb should be a priority as he presents nice upside in the Eagles’ solid offense.
QB: Shaun Hill (or Matthew Stafford), Detroit. In Matthew Stafford’s absence, Hill quietly has put up decent fantasy numbers, throwing for significant yardage and adding multiple TDs weekly. A Week 5 match-up at home against St. Louis suggests Hill’s fantasy success will continue. The Rams admittedly have stepped up their play; however, Detroit’s offensive weapons and Hill’s experience in the offense should allow him to put up decent numbers. One caveat, though–check those injury reports. Rumors are circulating that Stafford’s should is sufficiently healed that the Lions franchise QB may return to the field against St. Louis. Obviously, this possibility creates added risk in grabbing Hill off waivers. Savvy owners may want to snag both Hill and Stafford if their rosters permit, then cut whomever appears unlikely to play against the Rams. Stafford obviously would be risky coming back from injury; nevertheless, if the Lions start him, fantasy owners must assume he not only is medically cleared, but physically ready to compete. There would be no reason for an 0-4 team to risk its future star otherwise.
QB: Bruce Gradkowski, Oakland. Likely available in most leagues, Gradkowski has produced respectable fantasy numbers since the Raiders named him the starter moving into Week 3. That week, facing Arizona, Brad threw for 255 yards, one TD, and one interception. Against the Texans in Week 4, he threw for 278 yards and two TDs, although his two interceptions hurt a bit. Owned in less than 5% of ESPN leagues, Gradkowski could make a decent bye-week filler, as the Raiders have a home game against division rival San Diego in Week 5.
RB: Michael Bush, Oakland. Bush owners were giddy as the regular season approached; fantasy pundits everywhere sang the praises of the former Louisville Cardinal who, but for a serious broken leg injury in college, may have been a top-five NFL draft pick. Bush has size, speed, and seemingly a clear path to fantasy opportunity. Then, suddenly, Bush suffered a freak thumb injury that kept him sidelined for three weeks, opening some opportunity for teammate Darren McFadden. While McFadden has produced, the Raiders had no issue inserting Bush into the fray Sunday against the Texans. Bush rumbled for an early TD. Then, early in the fourth quarter the seemingly inevitable happened as McFadden pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. It really is too bad for McFadden as he again was showing promise; while the status of McFadden’s injury is unclear at present, fantasy owners immediately should jump on the Bush bandwagon, as his stepping into the feature-back role in Oakland promises significant upside.
RB: Mike Bell, Philadelphia. LeSean McCoy broke a rib Sunday, opening opportunity for understudy Mike Bell. Last year, working as part of a three-headed monster rotation in New Orleans, Bell produced decent fantasy numbers (654 yards, five TDs) given his goal-line vulture role. In 2006, when Bell similarly operated as part of a rotation in Denver, he scored eight TDs on 677 rushing yards in 15 games.
As the front-line back in the Eagles’ offense, Bell would have above-average fantasy value, qualifying as a fantasy RB2/3 most weeks. At this time, the exact nature of McCoy’s injury is unclear; fantasy owners should grab Bell, then scrutinize the Eagles’ practice, injury, and game-day active/inactive lists to evaluate his Week 5 upside. Owned in a mere 2% of ESPN leagues, Bell likely is available in all but the deepest and most sophisticated of formats.
RB: Ryan Torain, Washington. Mike Shanahan continues to confound. After relegating Shanny-pet Ryan Torain to the Skins’ practice squad, mad-Mike activated him in Week 3 and showed him significant love. Torain, a former Denver Bronco, is familiar with Shanahan’s schemes (both game plans and backfield rotational craziness). As Shanahan often produces a surprise fantasy scorer at RB, Torain bears watching. He scored his first TD of the season in Week 4 and may take a lead role in the Redskins’ backfield, particularly with news that the aging Clinton Portis injured his groin Sunday. At minimum, Torain appears entrenched in a rotation that will result in increased carries, yardage, and TDs in the weeks ahead.
RB: LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay. The volatile rookie saw similar touches to nominal starter Carnell Williams in Week 3, outperforming the former #1 draft pick. Rumors abound that it is only a matter of time before Blount assumes the lion’s share of the workload in Tampa Bay’s backfield. However, while many owners already have boarded the Blount bandwagon, I counsel caution. Tampa Bay’s offense is not necessarily explosive and there are other options (e.g., Earnest Graham and pre-season sleeper darling Kareem Huggins) lurking. Blount showed superior talent in college at Oregon; he also demonstrated a lack of maturity. Obviously, a waiver pick-up is low-risk, and with Tampa Bay already having completed their bye, fantasy owners grabbing Blount would have his services for the remainder of the year. Upcoming games against Cincinnati (Week 5) and New Orleans (Week 6) are not necessarily promising match-ups, as the Bengals have been tough defensively while the New Orleans contest is one in which Tampa Bay is likely to play from behind early. However, Tampa Bay then meets St. Louis and Arizona–games offering fantasy-scoring bounty. Accordingly, I recommend risk adverse owners watch Blount’s touches and results against the Bengals, adding him if the Buccaneers show confidence and the rookie produces. More risk-oriented owners can add Blount ahead of the Bengals contest, ensuring he is locked-up “just in case” he arrives on the scene early.
WR: Michael Crabtree, San Francisco. While Crabtree likely remains on owners’ rosters in mid-sized and deep leagues, impatient owners in shallow leagues may have cut the supposed-phenom loose. The first-round holdout from 2009 was expected to burst onto the scene early on; he has shown little. However, Crabtree has not been alone–the entire 49ers’ downfield passing attack has been in a funk. Enter head coach Mike Singletary, who changed offensive coordinators prior to Week 4. Former QBs coach Mike Johnson–an aficionado of the spread offense–will now be running the show. While fantasy owners should not expect radical change, Singletary fired former coordinator Jimmy Raye for a reason. San Francisco has to take shots down the field, both to open up the running game as well as free-up TE Vernon Davis, who has face merciless double-coverage thus far.
Herein lies the opportunity for Crabtree. Obviously, the San Francisco’s offense may continue to sputter. However, the upside of owning a WR1 in the defensively-challenged NFC West could be significant. After their Week 5 battle against Philadelphia, San Francisco faces Oakland, Carolina, and Denver before a Week 9 bye. Crabtree might be forced to tangle with some elite corners during this stretch, depending upon how opponents elect to defend Vernon Davis. His Week 4 statistics–6 targets, 5 receptions, 58 yards–were respectable. Add a score and this line is easily starter material.
WR: Santonio Holmes, New York. Holmes is rostered in most, but not all, leagues. He remains available in over 10% of ESPN leagues. It is significant, therefore, that the former Super Bowl MVP’s suspension has ended and he is eligible to play Week 5 against Minnesota. The Jets grabbed Holmes and accepted his baggage in the off season for a reason–he should emerge as their #1 WR. With TE Dustin Keller performing well and the running game churning along, Holmes should find space and scoring opportunities, even against a tough Vikings defense. Assuming Holmes somehow is available, he is a must-grab in all formats.
WR: Brandon Lloyd, Denver. Still available in 40% of ESPN leagues, the former Fighting Illini star made the Waiver Wire proud, hauling in 11 of an impressive 18 targets for 115 yards against Tennessee in Week 4. Lloyd previously was touted on the Waiver Wire, along with a note of caution that the Broncos offense a.k.a. “New Orleans lite,” ensures that some receiver or receivers will put up great numbers each week, just not necessarily the same guy. With Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney, and Demaryius Thomas also in the mix, Kyle Orton will go with the hot hand each week. More often than not, however, that appears to be Lloyd, who now has three 100+ yard receiving days among his first four games. Though he has found the end zone only once, Lloyd’s output is significant, and he should be rostered in all but the shallowest of leagues. Owners should temper expectations a bit as the Broncos next face Baltimore, the New York Jets, and Oakland–teams featuring elite defenses, all pro cornerbacks, or both. Still, Lloyd makes a great addition and a nice weekly play in most formats. In PPR leagues, he’s a killer WR3.
TE: Tony Moeaki, Kansas City. Coming off a bye week, Kansas City’s most consistent receiver for Weeks 1-3 likely remains available. Owners seeking a bye-week filler or even an upgrade at TE should grab Moeaki as the Chiefs’ Week 5 contest against Indianapolis should provide some fine fantasy point opportunities, while upcoming battles against Houston, Jacksonville, Buffalo, and Oakland might allow the young TE to build some serious scoring momentum. Moeaki amassed 12 receptions for 123 yards and 2 TDs in the Chiefs’ first three games. If he can continue this pace, he will perform at a top-10 TE level for the balance of the season and would be a worthy every-week starter in most leagues.
TE: Dustin Keller, N.Y. Jets. Unless your league features fellow owners hiking the Appalachian trail, solo-cruising the world, or otherwise occupying themselves without Internet access, Keller likely has been “Snatched Up” already. Indeed, he previously was highlighted in this Waiver Wire series. Nevertheless, his two-TD performance Sunday merits reminding owners to check their league’s availability charts. If Keller remains on waivers, grab him immediately. He is an every week starter at TE and even worthy of consideration for weekly WR3/4 status in medium and deep leagues that allow owners to substitute TEs for WRs.
TE: Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit. Here is a friendly reminder that Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew–each featured in prior editions of the Waiver Wire–likely remain available in your league. The accomplished Scheffler is owned in less than 6% of ESPN leagues, while his understudy, Pettigrew, is rostered in less than 2%. With so many strong TEs on byes in Week 5 and the Lions facing the Rams at home, Detroit’s TEs make nice bye-week fillers. Against the Packers in Week 4, Scheffler received 10 targets, catching six balls for 63 yards. Pettigrew earned 11 targets, snagging eight for 91 yards. Either line is decent from a fantasy WR3 let alone a TE.
Both Scheffler and Pettigrew have been relatively consistent; Scheffler has caught at least six balls in three out of the first four weeks of the season; Pettigrew has as well. On the downside, each TE also has had one week with merely one reception (Pettigrew in Week 1, Scheffler in Week 2). Pettigrew has produced a little more yardage while Scheffler has the only TD between them. Given their relative consistency, there may be enough production among Lions TEs to make two bye-week-filler-seeking fantasy owners happy.
K: Graham Gano, Washington. Gano has performed decently so far in 2010. Likely available in most leagues, he and the Redskins face a tough Packers defense in Week 5. However, the game is in Washington and Donovan McNabb continues to lead a Redskins offense that moves the ball more consistently than it has in recent years. The offense does bog down, however, creating opportunities for Gano. In Weeks 2 and 3, for example, Gano received a total of seven FG attempts, converting five. He makes a decent bye-week filler, indeed one with longer term upside.
K: Matt Bryant, Atlanta. The Falcons face a relatively weak Browns squad in Week 5, suggesting scoring will abound for Atlanta. The game is outdoors in Cleveland, so owners should check weather forecasts to ensure conditions are not adverse, i.e., too windy. Owners considering Bryant should note that in Weeks 6 and 7, Atlanta faces the Eagles and Bengals respectively. These games shape up to be field position battles that might involve a heavy dose of Michael Turner and field goal attempts versus TDs, as the Philly and Cincy defenses are not necessarily generous. Bryant thus might have extended value leading into his Week 8 bye.
K: John Carney, New Orleans. The Saints signed Carney to take over for erratic Garrett Hartley. Ironically, Hartley beat-out Carney for the job last year and went on to star in the Super Bowl. For now, Hartley will need to work on his consistency. In the meantime, fantasy owners can ride Carney, who should have plenty of chances in the Saints’ offense.
Team Defense: Atlanta. A suggested pick-up in Week 4, the underloved Falcons defense makes a nice bye-week filler this week as well. Atlanta faces a pedestrian Browns club lacking significant offensive firepower. Accordingly, the Falcons defense should make a safe if not strong play.
Team Defense: Buffalo. Before the commenters go wild, remember folks, we seek bye-week fill-ins, not long-term plays when it comes to “Snatch Them” team defenses. With this in mind, fantasy owners should note that Buffalo plays at home this week against a Jacksonville squad that has struggled offensively. Picking the Bills carries some risk, as Maurice Jones-Drew can go off at any time; however, David Garrard has played so poorly this year that he is impacting the Jaguars’ overall offensive productivity. Fantasy owners considering a flier on the Bills might also note that Jacksonville picked up former Buffalo QB Trent Edwards prior to Week 4. I am not suggesting Edwards takes the field and lights up his former squad; however, he might help Jacksonville game plan against the Bills and thus his presence increases the risk of a break-out. Nevertheless, fantasy owners in need should consider this match-up, as it is among the best in Week 5 among “likely available” team defenses.
Team Defenses: St. Louis and Detroit. St. Louis travels to Detroit in Week 5, creating a match-up owners in need of a bye-week defense filler should consider closely. Scour the injury reports. Is Matt Stafford playing as rumors suggest? Is Steven Jackson still banged up? How is Jahvid Best responding to his toe injury. Understanding the relative availability of each of the Rams’ and Lions’ offensive stars will help guide owners in evaluating the merits of grabbing either the St. Louis or Detroit defenses as a bye-week filler. Again, both likely are available in even deep leagues. In determining how relatively to wait these two non-powerhouses, I would weigh the selection on which opposing offense most lacks its weapons.
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo. No, it is not raining blood and frogs outside; the world is not ending just yet. However, you are neither dreaming nor hallucinating. I am recommending a Buffalo QB as a “Watch Them” candidate. Think of Fitzpatrick, who plays at home against a so-so Jaguars team in Week 5, as that beat-up car you drove in high school or college. Useful, but not necessarily something you wanted to show off, keep long-term, or even admit you actually owned.
However, with a couple front-line QBs and another decent one on a bye in Week 5 and several other significant bye weeks upcoming, owners–particularly those in deep leagues–need to pursue some strategy to “get by the byes.” As Buffalo only recently named Fitzpatrick the starter and as he does play for the Bills, Ryan very well may be available in your league. If there are no other options, keep Fitz in mind. While he only threw for 128 yards against the Jets in Week 4, Fitzpatrick did add 2 TDs and, significantly, 74 yards rushingto his stat line. With no turnovers, these were respectable fantasy numbers against one of the league’s top defenses. This performance followed Week 3 numbers that likewise were solid: 247 yards passing, 2 TDs, 2 interceptions. Fantasy QBs putting up multiple TD weeks should not casually be discarded or disregarded.
QB: Max Hall, Arizona. Ken Wisenhunt benched erratic Derek Anderson mid-way through Arizona’s Sunday contest with San Diego, inserting rookie Max Hall in his place. Hall impressed during the preseason, but he is a rookie. Assuming the youngster will remain Arizona’s every-week starter, he clearly has upside. Avid readers of the Waiver Wire may recall that I highlighted Hall earlier this season. Hopefully, owners in dynasty and keeper leagues added him then as was recommended. If not, fantasy leaguers competing in such formats should grab Hall quickly. For those in redraft leagues, Hall likely cannot do worse than Anderson. Therefore, Anderson owners surely should swap Anderson out for Hall. Other owners likely have better options and therefore should consider watching Hall before committing. Remember, he is a rookie (albeit one that will be throwing to Larry Fitzgerald).
QB: Jake Delhomme, Cleveland. Desperate for a QB? Delhomme likely is available on your league’s waiver wire. Banged up for the past couple of weeks, Delhomme has become a fantasy afterthought, and that is assuming he was on anyone’s radar in the first place. Still, Jake showed some life during the pre-season. Owners desperate for a Week 5 starter and unable to grab one of the options noted above on the “Snatch Them” list might consider adding Delhomme immediately if, as currently seems the case, the injury updates are favorable. The Browns’ home contest against Atlanta this week is not necessarily a horrific match-up. Note though, the Falcons defense isrecommended above as well; thus, Delhomme’s upside obviously is limited. Assuming better Week 5 options exist, fantasy leaguers should follow Delhomme’s progress and most importantly whether his return sparks the Browns’ offense.
QB: Todd Collins, Chicago. The dude is ancient (though still younger than Brett “Methuselah” Favre), but he may be starting in a Mike Martz offense Week 5 versus Carolina. Jay Cutler suffered a concussion late in the first half of the Bears’ miserable Week 4 performance against the Giants and did not return in the second half. Collins was banged up himself, though he is expected to be available this week. Owners desperate for help should check the injury reports and keep Collins in mind.
RB: Danny Woodhead, New England. Scoring a TD in each of the last two weeks, diminutive Patriots’ RB Danny Woodhead has blipped onto the fantasy radar. An all-around athlete, Woodhead played point guard on his high school basketball team, winning the scoring title among Nebraska players as a senior. In college, he twice earned the Division II version of the Heisman Trophy. Signed by New England after the Jets cut him, Woodhead saw no action in Weeks 1 and 2. Earning Week 3 playing time, the former Chadron State (quick–who can tell me where Chadron State is?*) star ran the ball three times for 42 yards and a TD. Monday night, with Fred Taylor idled by injury, Woodhead’s workload increased against Miami as his carries more than doubled while he also saw action in the passing game, grabbing a red zone throw for an 11-yard TD. With New England on a bye in Week 5, Woodhead may drift back off the fantasy radar. Be wary, however; New England’s backfield represents chaos for fantasy owners, and the Patriots face the Ravens in Week 6. Thereafter, the Patriots face San Diego, Minnesota, and Cleveland. Woodhead’s increased playing time in Week 4 rose due to injury to Fred Taylor. Assuming Taylor returns to health, Woodhead likely will return to the bench.
*Chadron State is located in Chadron, Nebraska. Consider this the “something new” for those who seek to “learn something new each day.”
RB: LaDell Betts and Chris Ivory, New Orleans. Again, just a reminder as these backs were mentioned in prior editions of the Waiver Wire. However, fantasy leaguers should review their Week 4 numbers, generated in a game where front-line starter Pierre Thomas sat out with an injury. Ivory carried 12 times for 67 yards; Betts received 13 rushing opportunities, yet generated only 47 yards rushing. However, Betts also received five targets in the passing game, catching four for 23 yards. Ivory received zero targets. Ivory fumbled as New Orleans was driving deep into Carolina territory. Betts saw the lion’s share of opportunities inside Carolina’s 15-yard line, but consistently was stuffed by the Panthers defense. Ultimately, neither back appeared to gain “the upper hand” relative to the other.
With Reggie Bush out recovering from a broken leg, Thomas’ injury status will be the significant driver of value for both Betts and Ivory. Assuming Thomas is healthy, it is likely he simply will receive the vast majority of work. Hence, fantasy owners should follow closely the Saints’ injury reports; a healthy Thomas requires a more cautious approach. Were Pierre’s injuries to continue, Betts’ versatility in the passing game and his greater presence in red zone situations against Carolina suggest he is the slightly better play than Ivory.
RB: LeRon McClain, Baltimore. First Ray Rice, then Willis McGahee got dinged up competing in the rugged AFC North. Sunday, McClain rushed for seven yards while adding 13 through the air, hardly exciting totals. Hence, his status among the “Watch Them” crowd. Fantasy owners should review McClain’s statistics from a couple of years ago when opportunity met talent and he produced handsomely, including at the goal line. Obviously, many stars must align for McClain to return to similar glory. Keep him in mind, however, as the season is long and the studs in front of him already hobbled.
RB: Derrick Ward, Houston. Arian Foster sat out the first quarter of the Texans’ Week 4 contest with the Raiders. In stepped Derrick Ward, who produced a long TD run. Ward almost assuredly remains available on your league’s waiver wire. Obviously, his value is tied directly to Foster’s injury status. Since Foster returned in the second quarter and, ironically, led off both the third and fourth quarters with TDs, Ward has minimal fantasy value for now. However, his productivity when given the opportunity to start the game suggests Ward would have significant upside were anything to compromise Foster’s health or playing time going forward. Accordingly, fantasy owners should keep tabs on the situation and Foster owners in deep leagues should consider adding Ward as insurance.
RB: Laurence Maroney, Denver. Maroney first made the “Watch List” prior to Week 3, following his trade to Denver. We reiterate that message again moving into Week 5 as Maroney has received increased touches in the Denver offense. As predicted, the change of scenery served only to provide upside for the former Golden Gopher. Sadly, Maroney is doing little with the opportunity. Sunday, for example, he produced five yards rushing on 11 carries (no, there is no mistake, he averaged less than 0.5 ypc), adding 10 yards receiving. If you are in anything other than an extremely deep league, Maroney is not worth rostering until he steps up. However, as long as the Broncos keep giving him opportunities, keep watching.
WR: Davone Bess and Brian Hartline, Miami. It is both easy and understandable for a WR teammate of Brandon Marshall to get lost in his shadow. The Dolphins’ Davone Bess and Brian Hartline appear to have done just that. With the exception of a one-reception, 12 yard performance in Week 2, Bess has been quite consistent in 2010, catching at least 6 passes and adding at least 51 yards receiving in Weeks 1, 3, and 4. Bess’ TD against New England Monday night was a cherry on the fantasy sundae. Previously featured in an earlier edition of the Waiver Wire, Bess’ status as the Dolphins’ punt returner increases his value in leagues that count such yardage. The speedy slot receiver makes a nice addition and bye-week filler, particularly for owners in PPR leagues.
If Bess already is taken, consider his teammate Brian Hartline. Fantasy leaguers and opposing defenses are giving Hartline little respect, focusing upon stopping Brandon Marshall and the Dolphins’ running game. Therein lies the opportunity for Hartline, as Chad Henne certainly has noticed him. Hartline saw 11 targets in Week 4, hauling in 6 passes for 84 yards. Unlike, Bess, however, Hartline’s performances in 2010 have been more volatile. While Week 4 was a highlight, he also turned in a goose egg in Week 1. Hartline thus presents far more risk than Bess.
With the Dolphins on a bye in Week 5, Bess and Hartline almost assuredly will be available on waivers in all but the deepest fantasy competitions. Indeed, neither is owned in more than 2.5% of ESPN leagues. Following their bye, the Dolphins face a fantasy hell–Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati’s defenses in succession. Owners are justified in cringing at the thought of adding fringe Dolphins receivers just as Miami enters this tough stretch. Remember, however, that opposing teams first need to scheme to stop Brandon Marshall, Ronnie Brown, and Ricky Williams. For example, the adept Jets defense allowed both Bess and Hartline to snag six passes apiece in Week 4. Assuming the Dolphins’ upcoming opponents similarly focus their attention away from Bess and Hartline, each could make a surprise bye-week filler.
WR: Kenny Britt, Tennessee. Justin Gage injured his hamstring Sunday, opening the Jeff Fisher-doghouse door and allowing the talented but misguided Britt playing opportunity. Remember, folks, Tennessee’s passing attack hardly resembles a modern-day Greatest Show on Turf. Nevertheless, Britt is a raw talent who may receive red zone looks in particular. Fantasy owners should key in on his targets, including those in the red zone, and consider Britt as a bye-week filler if the Titans begin going his way.
WR: Stephen Williams, Arizona. Steve Breaston is out for more than a week with a torn knee meniscus. Breaston’s injury creates opportunity for Stephen Williams, an undrafted rookie who starred in the pre-season. Williams will step into the WR2 for the Cardinals as Early Doucet also is out recovering from a sports hernia. In the past, owning the WR2 for Arizona was fantasy gold. However, that was in the Kurt Warner era, a.k.a. happy fantasy time. Today, fantasy owners of Cardinals players, particularly WRs, might possess merely fool’s gold as Derek Anderson has looked pitiful and is bringing even the great Larry Fitzgerald down. Why speculate then? At some point, perhaps this week, the Max Hall show officially will begin in the desert. Hall is no Warner, but he shone in the pre-season, earning praise as the best-performing of all the Cardinal QBs. Hall’s emergence as the starter would boost Williams’ value. In the meantime, he may be serviceable, though certainly will be high risk given Anderson’s erratic play.
WR: Brandon Stokley, Seattle. Owned in a mere 0.1% of ESPN leagues, the cagey veteran signed with Seattle to add roster depth, then promptly led the Seahawks in receiving in Week 4. Stokley earned eight targets, catching four for 62 yards. His long-term role remains unclear and with a bye in Week 5 followed by a Week 6 match-up against a tough Bears defense, Stokley’s short-term prospects seem muted. However, Seattle will play Arizona two times between Weeks 7 and 10, so fantasy owners anticipating bye-week trouble during that stretch should keep Stokley in mind.
WR: Michael Jenkins, Atlanta. One of these days, the guy will play. Atlanta desperately is trying to develop options in the passing game other than Roddy White. In the past couple of weeks, Tony Gonzalez and then Harry Douglas had decent receiving games against New Orleans and Carolina, respectively. Once Jenkins returns to full health, he should resume his WR2 duties in the Falcons’ offense. Fantasy owners should keep tabs on his progress, health, and targets. Jenkins could make a nice bye-week filler.
QB: David Garrard, Jacksonville. Wow, has Garrard lost his mojo. While he showed a little more life Sunday, I am betting that this week’s performance was the aberration and the abysmal showing the first three weeks of the season the norm to be. Loyal or lazy owners might choose to wait a week or two longer on Garrard, but I would cut him now if better options exist at the position.
It pains me to rag on Garrard as I am a fan. Indeed, a few years ago, I drafted the former East Carolina Pirate as a QB2; that year, he threw almost 20 TDs and only a couple of INTs. Boy, was I thrilled. This year, I passed on Garrard in all drafts, even though I like the guy. Boy, am I thrilled. Garrard’s timing and accuracy just are not there. Jacksonville recently signed Buffalo Bill cast-off Trent Edwards to back up Garrard. I offer this not to suggest that Garrard should be threatened as much as to illustrate just how bad the QB situation may be in Jacksonville. It is too bad, also, because Garrard appears to be a really nice guy; at least that is what I heard from multiple service professionals (cabbies, limo drivers, etc.) while traveling in Jacksonville a couple of years ago. Hopefully, he can turn things around; for now, fantasy owners likely have better options at QB.
QB: Derek Anderson, Arizona. Unless your league is very deep or you have a top QB on a bye in Week 5, it is time to part company with Derek Anderson. Inconsistent throughout his career, Anderson simply is not producing in Arizona. His poor play is flushing the talent of Larry Fitzgerald in particular. Ken Wisenhunt pulled Anderson from Sunday’s game against San Diego and, while he has yet to name Max Hall the new starter, Anderson’s fantasy value has dwindled if not evaporated entirely. As Wisenhunt contemplates his next move, fantasy owners should beat him to the punch–cut Anderson and add Max Hall or an even more viable option.
QB: Jimmy Clausen, Carolina. Owners playing in redraft leagues or limited keeper leagues should cut Clausen and look for QB scoring elsewhere. Top receiver Steve Smith injured his ankle Sunday. While the extent of Smith’s malady is unclear at present, the hobbling of Clausen’s top receiver, along with the rookie’s inexperience, makes it highly unlikely fantasy owners will enjoy any productivity out of the former Golden Domer this season. Instead, Carolina is likely to rely upon its running game to chew clock while asking Clausen to fill the role of “game manager” as he develops and learns the offense. Cut bait now.
WR: Mohamed Massaquoi, Cleveland. A supposed sleeper, Massaquoi himself has looked asleep through the first quarter of the season. Among the quietest so-called #1 WRs in the league, Massaquoi has overstayed his welcome on fantasy rosters, even in deep leagues. Allegedly, the return of Jake Delhomme might bode better for the young receiver; however, it is hard to imagine that his production could be any worse, short of his experiencing significant injury. There has to be a better option on your league’s waiver wire.
K: Garrett Hartley, New Orleans. He may be back sometime, but for now, Hartley offers no value. The Saints have signed John Carney to be their kicker, at least short-term.
K: Dan Carpenter, Miami; Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh; Olindo Mare, Seattle. All are on byes and even though a couple of these kickers are more-than-serviceable, fantasy owners in all but the deepest of leagues should cut them, pick-up a filler for the week, and therefore avoid having to cut position players who could be far more valuable over the long haul.
Team Defense: Seattle. Plenty of superior options exist and with Seattle on a bye their Team Defense should not tie up a roster spot.
Scott Rozmus is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Scott in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Goose.
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