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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 7
Paul Sandy
October 16, 2012
 
SYMBOL LEGEND
Rockstar Rock Star Free Agent
Injury Injury Replacement
Grab & Stash Grab & Stash
1 Week Plug & Play 1 Week Plug & Play
Dumpster Dive Dumpster Dive
Free Agent Auction
Bid (FAAB) Scale
$ $0 - $5
$$ $6 - $15
$$$ $16 - $25
$$$$ $26 - $40
$$$$$ $41+
Based on $100 cap,
12-team league.

Given the diverse scoring systems and sizes of fantasy leagues, producing a weekly list of free agents that satisfies the masses can be challenging. For the most part, the column will hone in on players who are available in at least 35% of all fantasy leagues. If you play in a small league (8 teams), chances are there may be better players to pick up than you see listed here. If you play in a large league (16 teams), the majority of the players highlighted may already be on a squad; however, expect to find hidden gems, as well.

In addition to scouting “rock star” free agents who had breakout performances in the previous week, the Forecast will dig deep to identify players who may be worth a spot start or a roster stash.

QUARTERBACKS

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
Rock StarWith six teams and four starting-level fantasy QBs on bye this week, many fantasy owners will hit the waiver wire in search of a QB to spot start. With a home matchup against the Saints on tap next, Tampa’s Josh Freeman figures to be a hot pickup. New Orleans has the 26th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. Freeman turned in a monster stat line in Week 6, scorching the Chiefs for 328 yards and three touchdowns. He’s showing good rapport with wideouts Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson. Freeman has posted useful fantasy numbers in his last three meetings with the Saints.

Availability: Owned in ~50% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Spot start Freeman this week against the generous Saints defense.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Rock StarWilson rallied the Seahawks to a come-from-behind win over the Patriots. In doing so, he threw for 293 yards and three scores. The rookie’s ability to extend plays is frustrating to opposing defenses. Although Seattle will continue to prefer winning games by running the football and playing tough defense, Wilson’s performance proves he can get the job done through the air. Look for the coaching staff to loosen the reins in the coming weeks. In the mean time, stash Wilson as a backup but don’t plan to start him this week against a 49ers defense that will be hot after a loss to the Giants.

Availability: Owned in ~28% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Wilson is worth adding as a high upside backup.

Matt Hasselbeck, Titans
1 Week Plug & PlayIf you need some bye-week QB love, the matchup between the Titans and Bills is a good place to start since both teams have weak defenses. Both have allowed 13 or more passing scores. Consider Ryan Fitzpatrick (80%) if available or Matt Hasselbeck. In Week 6, Hasselbeck led the Titans to an upset win over the Steelers, passing for 290 yards and a touchdown. He’s thrown at least one touchdown in his last three outings and will get another start with Jake Locker continuing to recover from a shoulder injury. Plug him into your lineup and look for decent numbers. 

Availability: Owned in ~8% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Hasselbeck should go for 250 yards with a touchdown or two this week.

Brandon Weeden, Browns
1 Week Plug & PlayDespite having questionable receiving talent at his disposal, rookie Brandon Weeden continues to put up some relevant fantasy stats. In his last five outings, Weeden has averaged 280.2 passing yards per game with seven touchdowns. Every one of those starts was at least serviceable and a few were excellent. On Sunday, he went for 231 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals. Consider deploying him against the Colts in Week 7. Indianapolis has been decent against the pass this year but the Forecast still likes Weeden’s chances of notching 240 yards and a pair of TDs.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Study Weeden’s surprising numbers then give him a match-up based start against the Colts.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Ryan Fitzpatrick (80%), Jay Cutler (86%), Carson Palmer (68%) and Christian Ponder (63%)

On the Radar: Ryan Tannehill (20%) and Nick Foles (6%)

RUNNING BACKS

Felix Jones, Cowboys
Injury ReplacementJones came in for the injured DeMarco Murray in the second half of Sunday’s game versus the Ravens. He showed fresh legs, rushing the ball 18 times for 92 yards and a touchdown. Murray’s injury is a foot spain. Although he said he could’ve gone back into the game, it sounds like it will be a multiweek injury. If Murray can’t go, Jones will get the bulk of the carries. With a favorable matchup this week against the Panthers, he would be a viable RB2. In deep leagues, also consider adding Phillip Tanner.

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Jones should be the top pickup in most leagues this week.

William Powell, Cardinals
Grab & StashPowell didn’t get the start on Sunday against the Bills but he was unquestionably Arizona’s most productive ball carrier. He rushed 13 times for 70 yards (5.4 ypc). The undrafted rookie out of Kansas State looks like he has some game. Unfortunately, the Cardinals offensive line is brutal, which is going to limit his fantasy production. He’s only startable when the matchup is right and that’s not the case this week against the Vikings. Add him but keep him on the bench unless you’re desperate.

Availability: Owned in ~52% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Powell should be owned in all leagues.

Daryl Richardson, Rams
Grab & StashRichardson rushed the ball 11 times for 76 yards on Sunday. He added two receptions for 23 yards and thus ended the game a mere one yard short of the century mark. What’s most interesting about the numbers is how Richardson’s 13 touches compare to starter Steven Jackson, who had 15 total carries and catches. It was essentially a 50/50 split and Richardson was more productive and explosive with the opportunities he was given. Jackson isn’t going anywhere but it wouldn’t be shocking to see the tables start to tilt in Richardson’s favor during the second half of the year. The Rams host the Packers in Week 7.

Availability: Owned in ~38% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Richardson is stash worthy in all leagues and can be used as a flex option if you’re desperate.

LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
1 Week Plug & PlayAfter spending the preseason and the early part of the regular season in the doghouse, LeGarrette Blount is finally showing a pulse. He has scored in two straight games. In Week 6 against the Chiefs, Blount didn’t see much action until garbage time. He ended the contest with 58 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Doug Martin is clearly the workhourse for Tampa and the fact that Blount was used merely as the “closer” makes him a risky play on most weeks. That said, a favorable matchup against the Saints nudges him into spot-start territory on the Week 7 rankings.

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Blount has a decent chance of scoring in his third straight game merits a plug and play in deep leagues.

Montario Hardesty, Browns
Injury ReplacementCleveland’s Trent Richardson left Sunday’s game against the Bengals with a rib cartilage injury. He didn’t return. The injury is not considered serious and Richardson’s ability to tolerate the pain will likely be the deciding factor in whether he’s able to play this week. Montario Hardesty, who’s been a forgotten man in the offense, looked surprisingly effective when he took the field. Hardesty carried 15 times for 56 yards and a touchdown. Up next, the Browns face a Colts defense that was gashed by Shonn Greene for 161 yards and three touchdowns. If the plodding Greene can be beastly against Indy, why not the plodding Hardesty?

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Add Hardesty just in case Richardson can’t go in Week 7.

Joique Bell, Lions
Grab & StashDoctors decided not to give the concussion-prone Jahvid Best medical clearance to play this week. The decision bumps Joique Bell’s fantasy standing a bit. Bell, who is the change-of-pace RB behind starter Mikel Leshoure, has blipped on the fantasy radar on occasion—mostly for his work in the passing game. Although Leshoure has been solid, Bell will no doubt play a significant role in the offense going forward. Look for a continued 70/30 split with Leshoure getting most of the early-down work. Best looks droppable.

Availability: Owned in ~36% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Add Bell as a handcuff to Leshoure or as a PPR prospect.

Cedric Peerman, Bengals
Grab & StashInjuries have caused a depth-chart shakeup for the Bengals backfield. Already without Bernard Scott, who suffered a season-ending knee injury, Cincinnati lost Brian Leonard to a rib injury. Cedric Peerman now ascends into the backup role behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has been vanilla this season. On Sunday, Peerman caught eight passes for 76 yards and added seven yards on the ground. Most of the work came on the Bengals final three series as Andy Dalton attempted to rally his team. The fact that Peerman was in the game as the team went pass heavy points to a possible niche role as a third-down RB. If he can secure that job, he may be a useful chip in PPR leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Consider speculating on Peerman in deep leagues and PPR formats.

Jamie Harper, Titans
1 Week Plug & PlayFantasy owners who are in a bye-week bind, should consider grabbing Harper as a lottery ticket type fill in. Harper is serving as Tennessee’s goal line RB and scored on a short yardage plunge last Thursday against the Steelers. He couldn’t have a better matchup in Week 7. The Titans will face a Bills outfit that ranks last in the NFL against the run. Buffalo allows 173.5 yards per game on the ground and they’ve already ceded nine rushing scores. Harper should find a way to get you at least six this weekend.  

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Harper ought to draw some endzone sniffs this week based his cushy matchup against the Bills.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Alex Green (84%), Shonn Greene (90%), Vick Ballard (78%) and Danny Woodhead (50%)

On the Radar: Isaac Redman (60%), Mike Goodson (21%), Baron Batch (0%), David Wilson (35%), James Starks (16%), Robert Turbin (25%) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (33%)

WIDE RECEIVERS

Kendall Wright, Titans
Rock StarThrough six weeks, rookie WR Kendall Wright is on pace for 88 receptions. It’s a head scratcher that he’s still available in roughly half of all fantasy leagues. Don’t leave him on the wire for another week. Buffalo’s shaky defense is on tap next. The Bills have allowed 13 passing scores this year—tied for fourth-most in the NFL. Wright has been targeted a minimum of eight times in his last five games. He ended last Thursday’s contest with the Steelers with a respectable 71 yards on six receptions.

Availability: Owned in ~54% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Look for 80+ yards and a touchdown from Wright in Week 7.

Josh Gordon, Browns
Rock StarFeast or famine. Boom or bust. Pick your definition; Josh Gordon is quickly becoming one of fantasy’s best big-play receivers. In the last two games, Gordon has touchdown receptions of 62, 20 and 71 yards. Take the plunge and add him this week. The Forecast likes his chances of getting a couple more deep looks against the Colts. Indianapolis has allowed ten receiving touchdowns this year . . . all but one have gone to wide receivers. Also note that Cleveland’s schedule gets extra juicy beginning in December around fantasy playoff time with matchups against the Raiders, Chiefs and Redskins.

Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Gordon looks like the real deal and can be added in all leagues.

Domenik Hixon, Giants
Rock StarHakeem Nicks returned to the field on Sunday against the 49ers but clearly wasn’t 100% healthy. Domenik Hixon led all Giants players with 78 yards receiving on four catches. In the near term, Hixon should continue to produce like a WR3 for fantasy. Exploit his favorable matchup this week against the Redskins. Washington has the NFL’s worst pass defense, allowing 328.3 passing yards per game. They’ve given up a league-high 15 passing scores.

Availability: Owned in ~50% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Hixon will be money this week against a weak Washington secondary.

Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens, Rams
Rock StarThe Rams Week 6 boxscore shed some much needed light on the WR target distribution in St. Louis. Entering the game, it was a little murky which receivers would step up with Danny Amendola out. QB Sam Bradford threw Brandon Gibson’s way nine times with Chris Givens receiving seven targets. Both players were useful with Gibson contributing 91 yards and Givens 85 yards. Based on the output, fantasy owners should weigh the potential of both players this week. The Forecast likes Gibson as a must-add in PPR formats while Givens is worth a look in standard performance leagues and leagues that award bonuses for long touchdowns. They’re both borderline options this week at home against the Packers.

Availability: Owned in ~25% and ~4% of leagues, respectively.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: With Danny Amendola out for a while, consider adding Gibson or Givens.

Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice, Seahawks
Rock StarSeattle’s pass offense is starting to click so now is a good time to shore up your WR depth with a Seahawks wideout. Sidney Rice is the obvious pickup. He broke out in Week 6 with 81 yards and a touchdown. Now fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, Rice will be Seattle’s top WR going forward. Doug Baldwin also made some noise on Sunday with 74 yards and a score. He’s worth stashing in PPR formats. Seattle takes on an angry 49ers club this week so Baldwin and Rice are better long-term options than immediate helpers.  

Availability: Owned in ~7% and ~69% of leagues, respectively.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: With the arrow starting to point up on Seattle’s pass offense, now is a good time to get a piece.

Donnie Avery, Colts
1 Week Plug & PlayIf you pay attention to targets (and you should), circle Donnie Avery’s name on your list of potential free agent pickups. QB Andrew Luck threw Avery’s way 12 times on Sunday. That’s more than any other Indianapolis player, including Reggie Wayne. All told, Luck has gone Avery’s direction 47 times this year—23rd-most in the NFL. With a harsh slate of byes this week, the Forecast is ready to trust Avery in as a fantasy starter against Cleveland. The Browns top cornerback, Joe Haden, will likely shadow Wayne all day. As a result, look for Avery to get at least a fistful of targets.

Availability: Owned in ~48% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Roll the dice with Avery and hope that he turns a high target rate into big production.

Vincent Brown, Chargers
Grab & StashBrown broke his ankle during the preseason and will be eligible to play in Week 8. For deep leaguers, he’s worth a preemptive roster stash. San Diego’s nondescript receiving corps is desperate for a playmaker to emerge. Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem have been hit or miss all year. And despite a solid performance on Monday night, Antonio Gates is looking old. Brown, who caught six passes for 112 yards and two scores in two exhibition games, was expected to be the heir apparent Vincent Jackson. Take a chance if you’re in a competitive, deep league and have a roster slot available to stash him.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: If Brown can get healthy and stay healthy, the Forecast likes his chances of being San Diego’s top WR over the second half of the 2012 campaign.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: James Jones (86%) Mike Williams (73%), Randall Cobb (63%) and Denarius Moore (81%)

On the Radar: Brandon Stokley (12%), Devery Henderson (9%), Devin Hester (6%), Jeremy Kerley (46%), Stephen Hill (23%) Josh Morgan (1%) and Marlon Moore (0%)

TIGHT ENDS

Jared Cook, Titans
1 Week Plug & PlayCook has been a steady performer in 2012. In his last four games, he’s posted two touchdowns with a couple stat lines over 50 yards receiving. Fantasy owners in need of a boost at the TE position should consider grabbing him in advance of Sunday’s matchup against the Bills. Although Buffalo’s defense showed improvement in Week 6, that was against a Cardinals offense that was missing some key weapons. Every time the Bills have faced a quality TE (see New England and San Francisco), they’ve been torched for over 100 yards and/or a touchdown. Plug and play Cook with confidence.

Availability: Owned in ~67% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Look for at least 60 yards from Cook in Week 7. 

Brandon Myers, Raiders
1 Week Plug & PlayVery quietly Brandon Myers has posted 55+ yards receiving in all but one game this year. He’s a standout player in catches, targets and yardage. So why the lack of fantasy ownership (just 18%)? Touchdowns. Obviously Myers needs to score an ocassional touchdown to be a true TE1 for fantasy. He hasn’t crossed the stripe yet. Even with the lack of TDs, Myers is worth starting on a week that will see six teams on bye. Give him a shot at home against a Jaguars that always seems to get creamed when they play west of the Mississippi. 

Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Myers is plug-and-play material for Week 7 against the Jags.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Kyle Rudolph (85%), Jermaine Gresham (76%), Heath Miller (84%) and Fred Davis (81%)

On the Radar: Joel Dreessen (23%), Dwayne Allen (2%), Anthony Fasano (10%) and Tony Scheffler (1%)

KICKERS

Garrett Hartley, Saints
1 Week Plug & PlayComing off a bye week, Hartley is available in over 40% of fantasy leagues. The Forecast likes the Saints chances of righting the ship during the second half of the season. Hartley would stand to benefit from an offensive resurgence in New Orleans. Add him now with the intention of making him your every-week kicker for the rest of the year. While many other kickers will start to deal with inclement weather, Hartley will enjoy a schedule that likely only has one potentially poor weather game remaining. This week, New Orleans faces a Tampa defense that’s weak against the pass, which plays right into Drew Brees’s hands—and Hartley’s foot.

Availability: Owned in ~58% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Forecast likes the Saints and Hartley coming off a bye with a favorable matchup.

Robbie Gould, Bears
1 Week Plug & PlayGould’s situation mirrors Hartley’s. He’s a solid fantasy kicker who was dumped during his bye week. Add him now before next Monday’s meeting with the Lions. Detroit has been generous to oppsing kickers this season, having allowed eight or more points to the position in every game this season. Last year, the Bears scored a combined 61 points against the Lions. Gould accounted for 20 of those points. Look for his run of good fortune against Detroit to continue with another double-digit stat line on Monday night.  

Availability: Owned in ~57% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Gould will be good for at least 8-10 points on MNF.

Dan Bailey, Cowboys
1 Week Plug & PlayAlthough Bailey failed to win the game with a last-second 51-yard field goal, he still managed an 11-point effort against the Ravens. Bank on more fantasy success in Week 7 against the Panthers. Carolina allows the most fantasy points per game to opposing kickers. This includes double-digit points for every kicker they’ve faced this season, save one. Oh, and by the way, the one kicker who didn’t reach double figures had nine points. Count on the Dallas offense finding a way to get it done on Sunday, propelling Bailey to at least ten points.

Availability: Owned in ~39% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Kickers have destroyed the Panthers this year so give Bailey a spot start against them.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Blair Walsh (81%) and Lawrence Tynes (91%)

On the Radar: Adam Vinatieri (21%) and Nick Novak (10%)

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

Oakland Raiders
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Raiders defense looked like a different unit on Sunday. The Week 5 bye clearly benefited them. They gave the high-powered Falcons offense everything they wanted. Oakland forced three turnovers and recorded one sack. Although the Forecast wouldn’t trust them week in and week out, a home matchup in Week 7 against the Jaguars is too good to pass up. Jacksonville has given up big fantasy points to opposing DSTs, including two touchdowns and three turnovers their last time out. Start the Raiders if your regular defense has been underperforming or is on bye. 

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Give the Silver and Black a one-time start if you’re in a pickle.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Vikings (89%), Packers (88%) and Patriots (83%)

On the Radar: Colts (3%), Panthers (12%), Dolphins (16%) and Redskins (18%)


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