For a deeper review of players that are either new to the scene or playing differently than expected, Double Coverage will give the respective views of John Tuvey (Start Bench List) and David Dorey (Game Predictions and Player Projections). We'll bring 47 years of combined fantasy football experience to bear and hopefully a few things to think about as you manage your fantasy team.
Daryl Richardson (STL)
DOREY: The little guy is pretty interesting. He's just 5-10 and 192 lbs. so basically Chris Johnson sized and HC Jeff Fisher did okay with Johnson when he was the coach in Tennessee. Richardson was the seventh round pick out of Abilene Christian and being a Div-II school hurt his stock. He is also the brother of Bernard Scott of the Bengals. He's very fast and ran a 4.46 before the draft and it was his speed that Fisher liked and that no doubt reminded him some of Johnson. And don't forget that the Rams drafted Isaiah Pead with their 2.18 pick and picked up Richardson with the 7.45 pick. In the preseason, Richardson played so well that the two entered the season as joint back-ups to Steven Jackson and by the first week the switch was official with Richardson being the #2. It is obvious that Jackson is not considered a full-time back by Fisher since he never gets more than 18 carries in a game and Richardson varies but usually stays in a ratio of 1:2 of whatever Jackson is getting. That's not fantasy relevant unless it is an easy matchup where the Rams are going to run the ball 30+ times. He is fast and has broken a couple of runs. He's more of a hold guy in a keeper league since Jackson probably won't be back and Fisher used to avoid committees in the past.
TUVEY:The general consensus this preseason was that Steven Jackson’s tank was rapidly approaching “E”, that he wouldn’t hold up to the same workload he’d been shouldering. Even the Rams agreed, spending an early pick on Isaiah Pead. However, Richardson outplayed Pead in the preseason to win the backup job, and when Jackson suffered his first injury it was Richardson who stepped in with 17 touches for 102 yards. In fact, both times Richardson has received double-digit touches he’s produced—including last week’s 13-99 performance. Moreover, that workload was almost a 50/50 split with Jackson. Changing of the guard? Almost. However, there are two problems. First, the Rams are the only team without a running back touchdown this season; a half-share of the 28th-most productive fantasy backfield is hardly worth the trouble. Second, St. Louis has only two favorable RB matchups the rest of the way. Is there upside to Richardson? Sure, especially in a dynasty league as there’s little question the torch is being passed. But as a fantasy helper the rest of the way… not so much.
RB Felix Jones (DAL)
DOREY: Jones gets the start this week because DeMarco Murray is out and he has nice timing. The Panthers are one of the weakest defenses against running backs. He may end up looking like the answer for the Cowboys rushing attack but that ship sailed long ago. Jones was just Darren McFadden's wingman at Arkansas and no doubt caught the eye of Jerry Jones - also a Razorback from way back when. But his time is gone and he's mostly used on special teams. Until Murray was hurt, Jones only had three carries through the first four games. Make no mistake - when Murray is healthy he gets the work and Jones has no fantasy value. Jones only carries value to the Murray owner normally but gets to start at least this week. Murray has always had durability problems too. Here's something that says his place in Dallas - he is in the final year of his rookie contract and the Cowboys have made no move yet to re-sign him.
TUVEY:DeMarco Murray goes down with a foot sprain, and while no one has uttered the “L” word (“Lisfranc”) yet there’s obvious cause for concern. Jones gets first crack at the meaningful carries, and his track record suggests that if he’s getting touches he’s producing yardage: in 19 career games with at least 15 touches, Jones is averaging better than 100 yards from scrimmage and almost five and a half yards per touch. In the short term there’s plenty of upside here; Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar aren’t real threats to Jones’ touches, and the Cowboys’ imminent run schedule is generally favorable. And given the perceived fragility of Jones and the very real inability of Murray to stay healthy for extended periods, there’s a very real possibility that—much like C.J. Spiller did to Fred Jackson in Buffalo—Jones carves out a share of the workload even after Murray returns. But—and with Jones, there’s always a “but”—if Jones isn’t getting enough touches he’s not particularly valuable because he’s not a frequent visitor to the end zone with just four scores in his last 33 games. Rent him as a short-term helper, lease with an option to buy… but don’t sign the long-term deal. And for heaven’s sake get the protection plan.
QB Andy Dalton (CIN)
DOREY: I like Dalton quite a bit. I think if he can pick up another decent receiver next year, he can easily be top ten. He already is for the most part though playing in a tough division has limited him more than most quarterbacks face. But the AFC North is starting to get weaker defenses and Dalton has been thoroughly impressive. Consider that he has little more than A.J. Green and yet has passed for 300 yards three times and scored in every game since the season opener. He has made Jermaine Gresham into at least a serviceable fantasy tight end. I actually own Dalton on several teams as a backup that I sometimes use as a starter depending on the matchup. Green is no worse than the #2 or #3 wideout in the league and currently the #1. That does have something to do with Dalton. I would just feel better about Dalton if he had a more solid #2 WR.
TUVEY:After posting two 300-yard games and one three-TD outing as a rookie, Dalton already has three 300-yard efforts and three hat tricks this year. Ready to take that next step into fantasy elitness? Almost, but he still needs to demonstrate he can get it done against the big boys in the AFC North: in five games against the Steelers and Ravens—all losses—Dalton has just four touchdowns and is averaging a mere 226 yards per game while completing 52 percent of his passes. But Dalton struggled against Cleveland last year as well, with a combined 351 yards and two TDs in the season series; as a sophomore he rocked the Browns to the tune of 699 yards and six TDs. Also, both Pittsburgh and Baltimore are dealing with key injuries and aging on the defensive side of the ball. And A.J. Green has another year of experience under his belt as well and is asserting himself as the arguably the best wide receiver in the league. Positive signs all that Dalton, while not yet a Brees or Brady, has one foot in the every-week fantasy starter door already.
QB Brandon Weeden (CLE)
DOREY: I am very familiar with Weeden since I have a kid at Oklahoma State and watched him and Justin Blackmon play catch. And of course he SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME BUT NOOOO TH.... okay. Better now. Anyway, you have to really appreciate Weeden. Come on. Colt McCoy passed for 2733 yards in Cleveland last year with 14 touchdowns. As a team they produced exactly 3300 yards and 16 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. Weeden has passed for 1519 yards and seven scores in his first six games. That is a pace for 4050 yards and 19 scores. Plus he is getting better. And best yet - he is playing so well and yet doesn't really have any wideouts that would start on other teams. Weeden is the real deal - and he is a 29 year old rookie - and makes a nice backup this year who might come in handy for spot duty. I want to see what he is like at the end of this year and then who they add to help him in 2013.
TUVEY:Quick: which rookie quarterback has the most passing yards thus far? Okay, the big bold “Brandon Weeden” preceding this paragraph gave it away but still… admit it, you’re a little surprised. Fantasy-wise Weeden still trails RG3 by 10 points a game and Luck by six but, again, the 17.9 fantasy points a game, 1,519 passing yards through six games… all pleasant surprises. Fellow first-year players Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon give Weeden weapons other Browns quarterbacks haven’t had, and as we hit the heart of the bye weeks Weeden is a viable plug-in play—for at least a couple weeks, until the schedule deals Cleveland a harsh Baltimore-bye week-Dallas combo. But for the next fortnight… pure fantasy gold. Or at least bronze.
WR Antonio Brown (PIT)
TUVEY:Aside from a 20-yard dog last week, Brown hasn’t really underachieved relative to what he produced last year. The problem is that expectations were set way too high coming into the season. Maybe it was the Mike Wallace holdout, but some had Brown pegged as the Steelers’ new WR1—if not in real life, then for fantasy purposes. Aggressive, considering Brown had just two NFL touchdowns to his credit. And we’re as guilty as anyone else, with Brown and Wallace side-by-side at 16 and 17 heading into the 2012 season. But what Brown is really doing is about what should have been expected: a steady supply of 75-yard games with the occasional touchdown mixed in. He’s consistently targeted—double-digit looks in each of the last four games—and last week’s dog is bound to be an aberration, as he has 59 yards or better in 14 of his last 16 games. Just don’t bank on the touchdowns and you won’t be so let down.
DOREY: I agree with Tuvey. I think expectations coming into the season were probably too high since he was signed to a long-term contract. People are freaking out because he had 20 yards last week in Tennessee which was surprising. But through the first five weeks he has 29-346-1 and last year through the first five games he was at 17-246-0. He is on a pace for 93-1107-4 and that is not bad other than a little light on scoring. What is painful is that Wallace has almost the exact same yardage only only 21 catches but he has scored four times. Wallace produced 2-17 against the Eagles two weeks ago too. Brown is fine and the offense is still be installed and adjusted in Pittsburgh. He is ahead of last year and will add in more scoring. I think the problem with most people is that Wallace caught 2-94-1 last week when Brown has his one bad game.
WR Jeremy Kerley (NYJ)
TUVEY:You can count the number of fantasy helpers contributed by Jets wideouts this season on one hand—and Kerley provides two fingers and the thumb. That makes Kerley the biggest fish in a very small pond—you could say it’s a puddle—as Kerley is tied with Jets rookie Stephen Hill for 44th among wideouts in fantasy points per game. Tough to bank on any member of the Jets’ offense, especially a wideout given the rotating, equally inaccurate quarterbacks, but a very fantasy-friendly schedule makes Kerley at least worthy of plug-in consideration over the next month or so. Rather than someone you carry on your roster, however, he’s the kind of guy who bobs in and out of the free agent pool; you pick him up when the bye guts your regular lineup, hope he gives you a helper, then kick him back into the pool once your regulars return. There’s probably a dozen guys like that, most if not all with more reliable quarterbacking, so no need to lock down a roster spot for him.
DOREY: Kerley is of interest since Santonio Holmes was out and left him as the de facto #1 receiver on a team that doesn't have a #1 wideout. I understand looking for players that can help you out and watching for any development. But this is my thing - I do not like Mark Sanchez and the Jets just cannot produce a passing attack. They tried using a mob of ex-good players last year with no decent results. They did not replace them this year. Now Jeremy Kerley is as good as it gets in New York. As a #1 wideout he deserves to be on a fantasy team. I just have very limited expectations for any receivers on that team. He might end up WR3 good by the end of the year but his schedule is horrible. Just not interested.