FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

The Pick-up Joint: Week 9
John Tuvey
October 30, 2012
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Top Adds For Week8
From MyFantasyLeague.com
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars 68%
Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Steelers 55%
LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Cardinals 50%
Dustin Keller, TE, Jets 28%
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins 24%
Total Week 8 Touchdowns: 1  
Top Drops For Week 8
From MyFantasyLeague.com
Fred Davis, TE, Redskins 38%
Nate Burleson, WR, Lions 30%
William Powell, RB, Cardinals 22%
Justin Tucker, K, Ravens 20%
Shayne Graham, K, Texans 20%
Total Week 8 Touchdowns: 0  

PRIMO TAIL TO CHASE

It’s okay to treat The Pick-Up Joint as a meat market, a place where you can find that one-week fling to give your fantasy squad a shot in the arm. But keeper leaguers also have to focus on the long-term picture; to that end, a young and undervalued running back who could move into a feature role down the road is like a supermodel who cooks like Giada and shakes her hips like Shakira.

So allow us to turn the spotlight away from the bikini models that are your Arians, Adrians, and LeSeans for a moment and highlight a table of sexy librarians in the corner pining for a chance to pull the hairpin out of that tight bun and toss their horn-rimmed glasses to the side.

Daryl Richardson, RB, Rams
Steven Jackson’s run as the Rams’ feature back is almost over; in fact, by the time you read this he could be sporting a new uniform as trade rumors swirl around him with the deadline approaching. The Rams have already let Jackson out of his contract effecting at the end of the season, so there’s sure to be a new feature back behind Sam Bradford in 2013.

The Rams thought Isaiah Pead might be that back after drafting him in the second round, but the seventh-round pick Richardson beat out Pead in the preseason and has worked himself into essentially a job-share with Jackson. Jackson currently ranks 25th among running backs in fantasy points while Richardson is 39th, but their numbers—aside from Jackson owning the Rams’ lone RB TD thus far this year—are remarkably similar.

Richardson is definitely a change of pace to the bruising Jackson; in fact, his game resembles that of another smallish speed back who had a bit of success for a Jeff Fisher team. Not that Richardson should be saddled with a comparison to Chris Johnson—at least not the current iteration—but the potential is there. You can still get Richardson at a relative value right now, especially if his fantasy owner needs more of a full-time back for the 2012 stretch. And in 2013, you just might have yourself a home run hitter of your own.

Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Steelers
Former first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall missed the first month of the season as he worked his way back from ACL surgery. Then, just two games into his return, he injured his Achilles’ tendon and went back to the sidelines. That’s hardly the kind of season a guy in a contract year wants to have, and it likely means Mendenhall won’t be getting a fat new deal from the Steelers.

Contributing to Pittsburgh’s reluctance to overpaying for Mendenhall is the performance of Dwyer while Mendy and Isaac Redman have been injured. Dwyer has delivered back-to-back 100-yard games, something Mendenhall has never done, and awakened memories of another brutish, bulky back who wore black and gold—The Bus, Jerome Bettis.

Not a bad comparison, and not a bad back to stash if you can. Play up the potential returns of Mendenhall and Redman, point out his lack of touchdowns—not just this year, but in his entire NFL career—but know that he has easily been the Steelers’ most effective back this year and could very well be their future at the position.

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions
Sadly, Jahvid Best and his video game speed and moves aren’t coming back—not this year, and given his history of concussions probably not ever. That leaves Leshoure as the Lions’ most likely go-to back going forward, even though after a 30 touches and a 100-yard rushing game in his NFL debut he hasn’t seen 20 touches in a game since.

Detroit is still a pass-first team, which you might think would limit Leshoure’s opportunities. However, he’s seen at least four targets in every game and demonstrated the ability to be an effective receiver as well as runner.

At present Leshoure is sharing the workload with Joique Bell, who is inexplicably nicknamed “The Finisher”. Bell might end up as a junior member of a running back committee in Detroit, but all signs point towards Leshoure being the senior member—if not the outright feature back. He’ll be a modest contributor over the second half of 2012 and carry considerable upside into next season.

OPEN TO SWAPPING: TRADING UP

Wouldn’t it be great if a decade or so into your relationship you could upgrade your partner? Don’t worry, your significant other thinks the same way about you. Look at it another way: here’s your opportunity to trim the love handles, firm up the flabby parts, and put on your Sunday best for the big dance.

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
You shouldn’t have much difficulty trading for a guy coming off a four-interception game, right? Besides, while Romo ranks seventh in yardage he ranks 14th in fantasy points per game; that’s technically not even an every-week starter.

That’s the smokescreen; that’s like telling your buddies some story about the brunette in the corner to scare them off, only to double-back later and make your move. Romo sports a top-five fantasy schedule the rest of the way, with three friendlies (including a Week 16 shootout with Drew Brees and the Saints) and only one stopper.

Moreover, Romo’s opponents during the fantasy playoffs are all tied for the second-fewest interceptions in the league. Who knows if the Cowboys will even have a healthy running back at that juncture, meaning Romo can continue on his 40-throw per game—and 296 yards per game--pace.

Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos
McGahee is old, he’s ceding carries to Ronnie Hillman, and the Denver offense runs through Peyton Manning’s arm. There’s your undersell; what you don’t need to mention to your trading partner is that McGahee’s schedule is utterly devoid of difficult matchups, or that it concludes with a home date against the Browns.

You also don’t want to point out that McGahee is actually 10th among running backs in fantasy points, ahead of the likes of LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte. Or that he’s reached triple digits in each of his last two home games and plays three more fantasy games in Mile High—four if you have a Week 17 championship. Yeah, you definitely need to highlight Hillman’s 14-86 last week against the Saints; otherwise you might have to pay market price for McGahee.

Stevie Johnson, WR, Bills
Only two teams don’t face at least one defense that ranks in the top 10 in shutting down wide receivers the rest of the fantasy season. Indy is one, but Reggie Wayne won’t come cheap and neither Donnie Avery nor T.Y. Hilton has stepped up to make much out of the wingman role. The other is Buffalo, whose only remaining tough matchup against wideouts comes in Week 17 when they host the Jets.

Johnson is very much flying under the radar at the moment, especially with the Bills coming off their bye week. But he checks in as a low-end WR2 at the moment, with touchdowns in four games and double-digit targets in five of seven. And he’s clearly the Bills’ WR1; only once this season has another Bills WR outscored him.

The Bills will be forced to score points, and while the offense would like to run the fact that Johnson ranks 13th in targets proves he’ll get the opportunity. A favorable schedule maximizes that opportunity, and adding Johnson to your roster is a low-cost move with high-end potential.

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers
You shouldn’t have much difficulty selling Gates as over the hill; he currently ranks 19th among tight ends in fantasy points and no better than 17th in targets, receptions, and yardage—plus he has just two touchdowns on the season and is coming off an abysmal two-catch showing against the Browns, his worst full game in more than two years.

That’s enough to scare off most fantasy owners. You, on the other hand, see the only tight end schedule devoid of stoppers—at a time when one misstep can bring your season to a premature conclusion. The Chargers still don’t have a true go-to wideout, meaning Gates is every bit the primary target he’s been for years. The bye is behind him, the injuries don’t seem to be lingering as in past seasons, and Gates has every opportunity to finish his 10th NFL season with a bang.


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