FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

The Pick-up Joint: Week 2
John Tuvey
September 11, 2012
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GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills
So you fell for the sexy librarian type—the Harvard-educated Fitzpatrick, who ranked 12th among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring last season. Hope you enjoyed Week 1, where Fitz ripped off the spectacles and made noise to the tune of three garbage-time touchdowns in Buffalo’s lopsided loss to the Jets.

Now the glasses go back on and the hair gets pulled up tight in a prim and proper bun as Fitzpatrick’s supporting cast takes a wallop. The Bills will be without feature back Fred Jackson for the next month and wide receiver David Nelson for the rest of the season due to knee injuries.

Buffalo’s schedule also goes from bad to worse: an angry Chiefs team that will return top pass rusher Tamba Hali from suspension and also hopes to return the half of its starting secondary that missed the season opener; a Browns secondary that just put the clamps down on Philly (though losing Joe Haden for a month takes a bite); a vastly improved New England defense; and the vaunted 49ers—in San Francisco.

By the time Fitz is fantasy usable again your library card will be expired. Avoid the possibility of overdue fees and just return Fitzpatrick now.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers
As of Monday Williams was on 98.95% of My Fantasy League rosters; here’s hoping you aren’t counted among that number. If so go ahead and draw up the papers, but you can wait a week to serve them—assuming you have the stones to start Williams a week after he couldn’t even crack positive integers against a Bucs defense that last season gave up more fantasy points to running backs than any other team in the league, as the Giants project to be a favorable matchup. After that the schedule turns south with four bad matchups and a bye—plus Jonathan Stewart presumably gets healthy and Cam Newton says, “Screw this, I’ll just take it myself.”

Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys
DeMarco Murray’s insurance policy is already hurt himself, sporting an injured rib despite not taking a single carry or catching a single pass in the Cowboys’ season opener. If (when) Murray goes down, there’s no guarantee Jones will be ready to take over—not to mention questions about what he’d do given the opportunity anyway. Fun fact #1: Felix hasn’t seen the end zone since Week 1 of 2011. Fun fact #2: Jones has fewer career touchdowns than Beanie Wells had last season alone.

Greg Little, WR, Browns
More than 78% of My Fantasy League teams rostered Little last week, meaning this is yet another opportunity for him to appear atop the leader board in a “drops” category. The slippery-fingered sophomore went oh-for-four on balls thrown his way Sunday. Maybe once the bye weeks start and you’re absolutely last-call desperate—and Little has an actual NFL catch under his 2012 belt—you’ll miss having a tertiary option on an offensively-challenged team with a overaged rookie quarterback on your roster. But most likely not.

“IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU”

Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos
The highly-regarded rookie still struggles with pass protection, and when you have a 36-year-old quarterback with two fused vertebrae in his neck that’s kind of a point of emphasis. Put another way: when you’re losing snaps to Knowshon Moreno, you don’t belong on a fantasy roster.

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
The rules are different for keeper leaguers, obviously, but right now Arizona quarterbacks are having enough difficulty staying upright and locating Larry Fitzgerald, let alone the fourth or fifth guy in their receiver rotation. If he has his act together by Week 7 when he returns home to Minnesota, then we’ll talk.

PARTNER SWAPPING

Shonn Greene, RB, Jets
Sell Greene’s “big” opening weekend—94 rushing yards and a touchdown—and the dynamic Jets offense. Fail to mention that it took Green 27 carries to grind out the 94 (that’s 3.5 yards a pop), that he’s never had that many carries in a game before, or that six of the next dates on the Jets’ schedule present negative matchups for the running game (five tough matchups and a bye).

Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins
There’s an old adage that goes something like this: no matter how hot she is, somewhere there’s an ex tired of putting up with her crap. Morris is undeniably hot right now after dropping 96 yards and two touchdowns on the Saints in Week 1, but you just know that hopping in bed with any Shanahan back opens the door to a world of crazy. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, but have an industrial tub of Excedrin on hand for the inevitable crash; better still, get out now and let someone else pop the painkillers and deal with the crazy.

Here’s your Shanny fun fact for today: Shanny-coached teams have not had the same running back lead the club in either rushing yards or rushing touchdowns since Clinton Portis (talk about your crazy) turned the trick in 2002 and 2003. It’s a span that encompasses the likes of Reuben Droughns, Mike Anderson, the brothers Bell (Tatum and Mike), Selvin Young, Travis Henry, Peyton Hillis, Ryan Torain, and Roy Helu.

PUT A RING ON THAT THING!

Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs
Good things often come in small packages, and when it comes to football fantasies the diminutive McCluster fits that bill. The Chiefs couldn’t quite figure out where to play him during his first two NFL seasons, but if Week 1 is any indication Brian Daboll has a plan—and it’s a good one.

Working primarily out of the slot, McCluster was targeted a team-high 10 times; he also led the Chiefs in catches (6) and receiving yards (82) on the afternoon. Those looks didn’t come at the expense of Dwayne Bowe or Peyton Hillis, both of whom will continue to feature prominently in the KC attack. Instead, tertiary targets like Jon Baldwin were left out of the mix; also, Jamaal Charles didn’t have a target so perhaps the Chiefs view McCluster filling that role in their offense as well (see Cobb, Randall below).

There may be some kerfuffle about McCluster’s position eligibility, but you can avoid the issue by playing him at your flex spot in your PPR league. Then lie back and enjoy Darren Sproles-like production—actually, better as Sproles never topped 79 receiving yards during the 2011 regular season

Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
If the data at My Fantasy League is to be believed—and I have no reason to think it shouldn’t—there are at least 2,700 leagues out there where Cobb is a free agent. If you weren’t privy to the Packers/Niners tilt on Sunday afternoon, Cobb wasn’t really in the receiver rotation; instead, Green Bay got creative and used Cobb out of the backfield on 19 plays. Great way to get him on the field, not to mention get the ball in his hands in space and let him create—like he did on his punt return touchdown. Add Cobb without sweating what Donald Driver and James Jones are doing; the Pack clearly wants Cobb on the field and will go out of their way to make that happen.

Jerome Simpson, WR, Vikings
Much like watching Jessica Biel blossom from a comely teenager on the family-friendly “Seventh Heaven” into the stunning coed in “The Rules of Attraction”, good things come to those who wait. Simpson is still available in more than 60% of MFL leagues, and given that he’ll miss the next two games due to his suspension he’ll likely pop up on waiver wires in additional leagues as desperate owners chase the next flavor of the month.

If you can squeeze him onto the bottom of your roster, beat the rush and do so now. Consider that he’ll be facing defenses forced to creep their safeties a step or two closer to the line of scrimmage to stop the Vikings’ primary weapon, Adrian Peterson. The speed that has earned Simpson multiple 50-plus yard catches each of the past two seasons will make him a quick-strike weapon for an offense in desperate need of one. Give him the targets currently populated by Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu—a total of eight in the season opener—and watch him pile up yardage and big-play touchdowns once he returns in Week 4.


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