FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 9
Paul Sandy
October 30, 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

Alex Smith, 49ers
Rock StarAfter two disappointing games caused in part by a thumb injury, 49ers QB Alex Smith bounced back nicely on Monday night. He posed a monster line against a respectable Cardinals defense, hooking up with Michael Crabtree for two touchdowns and Randy Moss for another. San Francisco has a bye in Week 9 so Smith won’t provide immediate help for your fantasy club. However, if you own Aaron Rodgers or Robert Griffin III and don’t have a backup plan for Week 10’s bye, Smith makes sense as a preemptive pickup. The 49ers will face a Rams defense that was carved up by Tom Brady in Week 8.

Availability: Owned in ~63% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Smith is a solid backup in all leagues.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks
1 Week Plug & PlayWilson passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s loss to the Lions. He completed over 70% of his throws and is starting to show good chemistry with top WR Sidney Rice. While the rookie is unlikely to develop into a reliable every-week fantasy starter in 2012, he can be a useful backup or fill-in when the matchup is right. If you can’t get your hands on Josh Freeman (74%), Carson Palmer (77%) or Ryan Fitzpatrick (74%), Wilson will suffice in Week 9. He faces a Vikings defense that has been vulnerable to QBs who are mobile. They’ve given up big fantasy numbers to Andrew Luck, RGIII and Josh Freeman.

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Forecast likes Wilson’s chances of posting two touchdowns (1 pass, 1 rush) with decent yardage against Minnesota.  

Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars
1 Week Plug & PlayGabbert notched the first 300-yard passing game of his career on Sunday against the Packers. He finished with 303 yards and a touchdown. Starting Gabbert might seem like an enormous gamble but upon closer examination, his numbers this season have been fairly steady. He’s thrown for at least one touchdown in every game this season except one. Although the yardage has been light, Gabbert is worth a look in deep leagues. The Jags QB will go up against the Lions in Week 9. 

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Forecast likes Wilson’s chances of posting two touchdowns (1 pass, 1 rush) with decent yardage at home against Minnesota. 

Brandon Weeden, Browns
1 Week Plug & PlayWeeden, who was a popular pickup and a Forecast recommendation last week, was washed out by rain and wind against the Chargers. He managed just 129 yards passing with no touchdowns in a low-scoring sloppy slugfest. Give him the benefit of the doubt and consider starting him this week if your regular tosser is on bye. Prior to Week 8, Weeden was hot. He will face an injury-ravaged Ravens defense that ranks in the bottom half of the league in pass defense. 

Availability: Owned in ~43% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Look for a bounce-back game from Weeden in Week 9. 

Nick Foles, Eagles
Grab & StashThere have been differing reports out of Philly as to whether Andy Reid is set to make QB change this week in a last-ditch effort to save his job. If Michael Vick gets benched, backup Nick Foles would become an instant fantasy starter at least for a week. The Eagles face a historically bad Saints defense in Week 9. Foles passed for six touchdowns and two interceptions in the preseason, completing 63.5% of his passes. He worked quite a bit with the first stringers since Vick hurt his ribs in the opener. If Foles starts, he should be able to find a way to put up at least two scores.

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Keep your eyes on Philadelphia and add Foles if he’s named the new starter.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Josh Freeman (74%), Carson Palmer (77%), Ryan Fitzpatrick (74%) and Jay Cutler (86%)

On the Radar: Ryan Tannehill / Matt Moore (21% / 1%), Jake Locker (22%) and Tim Tebow (10%)

RUNNING BACKS

Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
Rock StarThe Forecast suggested adding Hillman for a spot start against the Saints on Sunday night. It turns out he had his breakout game, rushing 14 times for 86 yards. The performance will no doubt earn the rookie carries in the weeks ahead. Denver looks primed for a postseason run and they will want to keep 31-year-old veteran Willis McGahee fresh. In a perfect world, Hillman will punch in with 8-12 touches per week from here on out. That would make him a viable matchup-based starter for the rest of the season. 

Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Add Hillman for bench depth or if you’re desperate, use him as a low-end flex option against the Bengals in Week 9.

Joique Bell, Lions
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Lions featured Joique Bell in the second half of their comeback victory over the Seahawks. Head coach Jim Schwartz indicated starter Mikel Leshoure wasn’t hurt. Bell just had the “hot hand.” He finished with 58 total yards. Adding to the intrigue, Kevin Smith showed up on the stat sheet for the first time since Week 2. Detroit’s backfield could be headed toward a full-blown timeshare. Leshoure has shown promise but he’s put the ball on the ground a couple times. Bell also had a costly fumble a couple weeks ago but appears to be a better pass catcher and therefore might be the best fit for Detroit’s offense. He is usable against the Jags in leagues with 12+ teams and PPR leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~30% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Bell should be owned in all leagues but his uncertain role in the offense makes him a risky play. 

Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
1 Week Plug & PlayThomas got the touchdown against the Jets that the Forecast predicted last week, capably filling his roll as a bye-week replacement. He ended the game with 45 total yards and paced the Dolphins with 15 carries (Reggie Bush had 14). Thomas isn’t flashy but he should be useful again this week with another cherry matchup against the Colts. Indy ranks 27th in the NFL against the run. In the last month, the Colts have helped turn Shonn Greene and Chris Johnson’s respective fantasy careers around.

Availability: Owned in ~30% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Thomas should match his production from Week 8, again making him a serviceable bye-week replacement.

Justin Forsett, Texans
1 Week Plug & PlayPrior to the bye week, Houston backup RB Ben Tate suffered a hamstring injury. Although he’s had an extra week to rest up, early indications are that he’s not going to be ready for this week’s enticing matchup against the Bills. If Tate can’t go, third-string RB Justin Forsett would all of the sudden become a very attractive fantasy option. Buffalo’s spaghetti strainer defense can stop no one. They rank dead last in the NFL against the run and have ceded 13 rushing scores in seven games. Perform a sneak attack and add Forsett in case Tate can’t go.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Forsett is a sneaky Week 9 lottery ticket pickup if he’s the No. 2 RB versus the lowly Bills.

Ronnie Brown, Chargers
Dumpster DiveCheck-down Ronnie Brown led all San Diego players with seven receptions for 85 yards in Sunday’s loss to Cleveland. He added 17 yards rushing. QB Phillip Rivers is starting to use Brown as sort of a quasi Darren Sproles, which is giving the journeyman RB some value in deep PPR leagues. He has 15 receptions in his last three outings. The Forecast wouldn’t want to rely on Brown on a consistent basis but if you’re in a PPR league and your hands are tied, go ahead and use him against the Chiefs in Week 9.

Availability: Owned in ~15% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: With a favorable matchup against the Chiefs, Brown is worth a desperation dumpster dive in deep PPR leagues.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons
Grab & StashRodgers turned in one of his best fantasy performances of the season in Week 8, rushing eight times for 60 yards and adding five receptions for 20 yards. The numbers hint that ‘Quizz can be a relevant fantasy player if an injury to Michael Turner pushes him into a feature role. His ability to catch passes adds a dimension to the Atlanta offense that has been lacking ever since Warrick Dunn left town. Unfortunately, with so many weapons in the Falcons offense, it’s tough to predict when Rodgers will be up or down. That makes him a better stash or handcuff than a plug-in starter. Perhaps the best attribute Rodgers has to offer is a nice schedule during the fantasy playoffs (CAR, NYG, DET), which could come into play if the Falcons ice home-field advantage and start resting Michael Turner.

Availability: Owned in ~43% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Stash Rodgers until his role becomes more clearly defined.

James Starks, Packers
Grab & StashGreen Bay’s coaching staff had high hopes for Alex Green but the second-year RB isn’t getting it done right now. He’s averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and could only muster 54 yards rushing against a Jaguars defense that had previously been exposed as weak against the run. Don’t be surprised if the Packers make a trade for a RB this week or start working James Starks into the mix more. Starks was a phenom in Green Bay’s championship run a couple seasons ago but his star has since faded. Still, he’s worth stashing in deep leagues in case the Packers decide to give him another look as the starter.

Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Stick Starks on your bench in anticipation of him receiving more opportunities in the coming weeks.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Jonathan Dwyer (71%), Daryl Richardson (71%), Vick Ballard (75%) and Jonathan Stewart (82%)

On the Radar: Shane Vereen (17%), Danny Woodhead (62%), Peyton Hillis (45%), DeAngelo Williams (72%) and Mike Tolbert (6%)

WIDE RECEIVERS

Titus Young, Lions
Injury ReplacementRock StarYoung went off for 100 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, catching all nine passes thrown his way. A popular preseason sleeper, he was unceremoniously dumped in the majority of leagues after being a nonfactor for most of the first half of the season. With Nate Burleson (knee) out for the year, Young is back to being relevant. Now he’s the clear No. 2 WR opposite Calvin Johnson. It’s a nice spot to be in since most teams are intent on double covering Megatron. Look for Young to finally have some staying power on fantasy rosters and perform like a solid WR3 for the rest of the year. Also consider Ryan Broyles (16% owned), who posted a 3-37-1 line on Sunday.

Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Young should be owned in all leagues; Broyles is worth a look in deeper leagues.

Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
Rock StarShorts is quickly making believers out of fantasy football owners. One week after catching four passes for 79 yards and a touchdown, Shorts upped the ante and finished with 116 yards on eight receptions against the Packers. Jacksonville’s entire pass offense appears to be geared toward getting the ball in Shorts’ hands. He’s been targeted 22 times in the last two games and is clearly outplaying rookie Justin Blackmon. With a favorable matchup against the Lions on tap next, Shorts is a must-grab.

Availability: Owned in ~14% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Start Shorts with confidence this week and bank on 80 yards with a 50-50 chance for a score.

Santana Moss, Redskins
1 Week Plug & PlayMoss reached paydirt for the third time in the last two games on Sunday against the Steelers. He now has five touchdowns this season. That puts him in exclusive company with the likes of Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones, and Marques Colston. With Pierre Garcon still hobbled by a foot injury, Moss is the top wideout for Washington. Although his 4-21-1 line from Sunday might not look all that special, keep in mind it came against a Steelers team that completely shut down A.J. Green two weeks ago. Consider Moss a decent WR3 until further notice. The Redskins face a decent Panthers pass defense in Week 9 but Moss is still starter material.

Availability: Owned in ~63% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Moss may be grey in the tooth but he’s capable of putting up WR3 numbers for the remainder of the season.

Chris Givens, Rams
Grab & StashFlashing shades of Torry Holt, Rams rookie WR Chris “Big Play” Givens has caught a pass of 50 yards or more in five straight games. He snagged a 50-yard touchdown bomb against the Patriots on Sunday. Givens has definitely carved out a permanent role in the Rams passing attack and figures to continue to get a couple deep looks each game. St. Louis is on bye in Week 8 so he won’t provide any immediate relief for your WR unit. However, he’s a good long-term investment who has favorable matchups during the fantasy playoffs (BUF, MIN, TB).  

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Stash Givens for later in the season and for keeper/dynasty purposes.

Brandon LaFell, Panthers
1 Week Plug & PlayDumpster DiveLaFell’s on-again, off-again season appears to be back on the upswing. He’s posted back-to-back helpful stat lines. In Week 7, LaFell put up 53 yards and a touchdown. In Week 8, he posted 88 yards. With a cushy game against the Redskins up next, it’s not a bad idea to deploy LaFell as a WR3 or flex. Washington has the worst pass defense in the NFL. They allow 314.3 passing yards per game and have ceded an NFL high 19 passing touchdowns. Look for LaFell to cash in with at least 75 yards and a score.

Availability: Owned in ~41% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Dust off LaFell who has reemerged in recent games and should produce against a weak Redskins secondary.

Jon Baldwin, Chiefs
Grab & StashAfter showing impressive playmaking abilities last season, Baldwin has been a flop so far in 2012. He’s done nothing to earn a fantasy roster spot on his own merit but still might be worth a look in deep leagues. Why? Kansas City’s top WR Dwayne Bowe is slated to become a free agent in 2013 and is the subject of many trade rumors. If Bowe is dealt before Thursday’s trade deadline, Baldwin would become the Chiefs’ No. 1 receiver. At that point, he’d be worth a roster spot in most 12-team leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~41% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Stash Baldwin if you have a long bench and see if Bowe gets traded before Thursday at 4 PM ET.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Michael Crabtree (87%), Andre Roberts (85%), Danny Amendola (77%), Sidney Rice (70%), Jeremy Kerley (70%) and Kendall Wright (61%)

On the Radar: Randy Moss (29%), Dexter McCluster (6%), Darrius Heyward-Bey (58%) and Clyde Gates (0%)

TIGHT ENDS

Brandon Myers, Raiders
1 Week Plug & PlayMyers continues to be a steadying presence for TE-needy fantasy owners. He’s posted at least 44 yards in every game this season except one. Although he has yet to score a touchdown this season, his yardage will come in handy if you typically start Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez or Vernon Davis—all of whom are on bye in Week 9. The Raiders host a Tampa defense that ranks 31st in the NFL against the pass. Look for Myers to tally at least 60 yards on Sunday.

Availability: Owned in ~42% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Myers is a decent option in all leagues this week but deserves added consideration in PPR leagues.

Logan Paulsen, Redskins
1 Week Plug & PlayTechnically, Paulsen isn’t even the starter for Washington. That honor goes to Chris Cooley, who was signed by the team last week after Fred Davis suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Even so, Paulsen has been a productive fantasy tight end over the last two games, catching eight passes for 119 yards. He also just missed on a long score in Week 9. With limited receiving options on the Redskins, Paulsen is developing into a nice short and intermediate route runner for RGIII. Look for solid production again this week against the Panthers.

Availability: Owned in ~10% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Paulsen is worth a bye-week flier in deep leagues if you’re desperate for TE help.

Dallas Clark, Buccaneers
1 Week Plug & PlayOutside of the Broncos, no offense in the NFL is hotter than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Amid the offensive outburst, Tampa TE Dallas Clark has made a return to fantasy relevance. The long-time Indianapolis Colt has notched a combined 91 yards and a touchdown in his last two games. QB Josh Freeman’s confidence in Clark has to be growing since the TE has caught all but one pass that Freeman threw to him over the last two outings. Up next, Tampa faces a Raiders defense that has allowed an opposing TE to post a touchdown or at least 40 yards in every game this season except one. Gamble on Clark if you can’t find anything better on your wire.

Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Roll the dice with Clark in a favorable matchup and hope for 50 yards.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Jermaine Gresham (74%), Brent Celek (89%), Brandon Pettigrew (91%), Dustin Keller (59%), and Greg Olsen (81%)

On the Radar: Zach Miller (2%), Dwayne Allen (5%), Tony Scheffler (2%) and Tony Moeaki (2%)

KICKERS

Shayne Graham, Texans
Rock StarGraham was chopped in nearly half of all fantasy leagues last week because the Texans were on bye. Now many of those same owners will be scrambling to pick up fantasy’s tenth highest scoring kicker. If your kicking game is lacking, add Graham because Houston’s offense is among the best in the NFL and they play in a dome. Those factors make Graham the type of kicker that you can start week in and week out regardless of the opponent and regardless of the weather. He should go for double digits against a woeful Bills defense.

Availability: Owned in ~55% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Graham should be owned in all leagues and can be started regardless of the matchup.

Justin Tucker, Ravens
Rock StarLike Graham, Tucker had the axe fall on him in many fantasy leagues because of a bye. He needs to be reacquired this week. Tucker is fantasy football’s seventh highest scoring kicker and he’s only missed once this season. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has shown tremendous faith in his rookie kicker this year, giving him chances from 56 and 54 yards. Tucker should be good for 8+ points this week against Cleveland and next week against the Raiders.  

Availability: Owned in ~60% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Trust Tucker and the Ravens offense to bounce back against coming off the bye and facing the Browns.

Alex Henery, Eagles
1 Week Plug & PlayHenery’s fantasy value has been neutered by an under-achieving Eagles offense. However, Philly should hit a high-water mark for points this season in Monday night’s matchup against the Saints. New Orleans ranks 30th in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 30.9 points per game. Henery hasn’t missed a kick yet this season so as long as the Eagles can move the ball, he should be good for 8-12 points. Start him and look for him to pad your team’s production on Monday night.

Availability: Owned in ~36% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Give Henery a look on Monday night against a generous Saints defense.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Robbie Gould (87%)

On the Radar: Dan Carpenter (14%), Connor Barth (32%) and Shaun Suisham (42%)

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

Denver Broncos
Rock StarDenver’s defense solidified its status as an every-week fantasy DST, shutting down the high-powered Saints offense in a primetime matchup. Although they only recorded one sack and one turnover, the performance should serve as a springboard to greater fantasy production in the weeks to come. Denver faces the Bengals, Panthers, Chargers and Chiefs in November. All four teams rank in the bottom half of the NFL in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing DSTs. Consider the Broncos an every-week starting defense going forward.

Availability: Owned in ~68% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Broncos are shaping up to be a legit starting fantasy defense and can be played in any league in Week 9.

San Diego Chargers
1 Week Plug & PlaySpot start the Bolts for Thursday’s game against the Chiefs. When the two teams met back in Week 4, San Diego had their best defensive performance of the year. They amassed six turnovers two sacks and a touchdown. It’s unclear who will start at QB for the Chiefs at this point (Brady Quinn suffered a concussion in Week 8) but it doesn’t really matter. Both Quinn and Matt Cassel appear to be equally prone to making mistakes and taking sacks. It’d be surprising if San Diego didn’t record at least a couple sacks and a few turnovers in this contest.

Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: San Diego should finish among the top ten scoring DSTs in Week 9.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: N/A

On the Radar: Dolphins (54%), Raiders (25%) and Redskins (33%)


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