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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 17
Paul Sandy
December 25, 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

Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Rock StarIt’s a shame more fantasy owners didn’t trust in Russell Wilson more this year—especially late in the season. At his peak usage, Wilson was only started in 15% of fantasy leagues. He has been a one-man wrecking crew over the last two games, accounting for eight touchdowns. Wilson passed for four touchdowns on Sunday night against the 49ers. Next up, the Seahawks play host to the Rams. Start him if you’ve got him.
              
Availability: Owned in ~66% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$$
Forecast: Wilson should be owned in all leagues and should be Rookie of the Year.

Jay Cutler, Bears
1 Week Plug & PlayCutler has been a mediocre fantasy QB this season but he’s worth a look in the season finale against the Lions. Detroit is already looking ahead to the offseason. They were absolutely shredded by Matt Ryan for four touchdowns on Saturday night and have allowed 29 passing scores this year—among the most in the NFL. With Chicago still jockeying for a postseason berth, the Bears will bring their A-game. Cutler has posted at least one touchdown in five straight games. The Forecast likes his chances of putting up a pair of TDs on Sunday with 250 yards.

Availability: Owned in ~69% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Give Culter a one-time, matchup-based start against the Lions.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Joe Flacco (86%)

On the Radar: Chad Henne (23%), Ryan Tannehill (21%) and Sam Bradford (50%)

RUNNING BACKS

Ben Tate and Justin Forsett, Texans
Injury ReplacementArian Foster left Sunday’s game against the Vikings with an irregular heartbeat. Backups Ben Tate and Justin Forsett came on and handled the work. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get much done against the Vikings. Tate managed just 19 yards while Forsett matched him with 19 total yards of his own. Keep your ears perked up for news around Foster’s health and availability for Week 17. If he can’t go, Tate will likely get the start but split carries with Forsett. Both players would merit consideration for a RB2 or flex spot.

Availability: Owned in ~57% and ~10% of leagues, respectively.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Grab Tate and Forsett in case Arian Foster sits out.

Montell Owens, Jaguars
1 Week Plug & PlayOwens topped 100 all-purpose yards for the second time in three games. He rushed ten times for 42 yards and added 77 yards receiving. With a plus matchup this week against the Titans, Owens certainly is starter material in deep fantasy leagues. Last week, Tennessee allowed four rushing touchdowns to the Packers. They have the 23rd-ranked rushing defense in the NFL. The Forecast sees Owens showing up prominently in the box score with 100 yards and a touchdown.

Availability: Owned in ~32% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Spot start Owens in a favorable matchup against the Titans.

Ryan Grant, Packers
1 Week Plug & PlayGrant came back from the dead in Week 16, rushing for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. With Alex Green out due to a concussion, Grant was pressed into the lead role. He showed surprising quickness and vision.  After barely seeing the field for the first 15 weeks of the season, the veteran RB has fresh legs. In an emergency situation owners who are playing in a Week 17 championship game could plug and play Grant. Minnesota has a decent rush defense but Grant ought to see 15+ touches if Green remains out of the lineup.

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Grant looks fresh and is worth a look for a spot start.

Kahlil Bell, Bears
Injury ReplacementBears starting RB Matt Forte aggravated his ankle sprain in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals. He was seen wearing a walking boot in the locker room after the game. Kahlil Bell rushed 13 times for 32 yards and would likely get the start if Forte can’t go this week. Chicago faces the Lions, who have a very average run defense and little to play for in Week 17. Add Bell if you’re in a desperate situation in a deep league. He should get double-digit touches if Forte is out.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Bell might be a sneaky RB2 if Forte is out against the Lions.

Montario Hardesty, Browns
Injury ReplacementRookie RB Trent Richardson left Sunday’s game with a leg injury. His status for Week 17 is up in the air at this point. The Browns have nothing to play for so there’s a decent chance that he closes out the season in street clothes. If T-Rich is sidelined, backup Montario Hardesty would become the workhorse. Unfortunately, the Browns face the Steelers. Pittsburgh doesn’t have quite as good of a defense as we’ve come to expect but they still can stop the run. Hardesty is worth adding to prevent another owner from getting him but it’s probably too risky to activate him.

Availability: Owned in ~11% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Hardesty should post 60+ yards if Trent Richardson is out.

Lamar Miller, Dolphins
Grab & StashThe Dolphins had their playoff dreams dashed a few weeks ago so it’s no surprise that they are starting to look ahead to next year. The team gave third-string RB Lamar Miller ten carries, which he parlayed into 73 yards. Miller is an explosive RB who is worth watching for 2013. With Daniel Thomas out for the season, Miller should again see plenty of work. Miami faces the Patriots in Week 17. New England defends the run fairly well so Miller isn’t a recommended starter but he can still be stashed in dynasty and keeper formats.

Availability: Owned in ~4% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Stash Miller in deep dynasty formats.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Danny Woodhead (62%) and Pierre Thomas (64%)

On the Radar: Bernard Pierce (11%), Peyton Hillis (24%), DuJuan Harris (3%) and Mark Ingram (52%)

WIDE RECEIVERS

Jason Avant, Eagles
Rock StarAvant was a key component of Philadelphia’s passing attack on Sunday, catching eight passes for 70 yards on 12 targets. With DeSean Jackson out and Nick Foles under center, Avant has been a very relevant part of the fantasy equation, posting three quality stat lines in his last four games. With a Week 17 matchup against the Giants, Avant is a terrific addition to any fantasy squad. New York has the 28th-ranked pass defense. The Eagles would like nothing more than to send Andy Reid out with a win and send the Giants home for the playoffs. Look for Avant to put up close to 100 yards with a touchdown.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Avant is startable in all formats this week.

Greg Little, Browns
1 Week Plug & PlayLittle caught his first touchdown pass in seven games on Sunday against the Broncos. He added 58 yards receiving on six catches. Little has some momentum and has posted decent numbers in three straight games. With a banged up Steelers secondary on tap next, the Browns wideout could be an intriquing WR3 or WR3 in you are shorthanded at the position. Colt McCoy will be under center next week. McCoy is familiar with Little since the two played together last year.

Availability: Owned in ~22% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Consider Little a low-end, risky starting option for the season finale.

Santana Moss, Redskins
1 Week Plug & PlayMoss caught two passes for 26 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles on Sunday. It wasn’t a huge stat line but Moss is still worth adding. Dallas is on the schedule next and Moss is a notorious Cowboy killer. He has scored or posted 70+ yards in five straight games against the Cowboys. Dallas versus Washington should be one of the highest-scoring games this week—earlier this year the two teams combined for 69 points. Get in on the action by spot starting Moss, who should go for at least 50 yards and a touchdown. He’s a decent boom-or-bust WR.

Availability: Owned in ~63% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Moss always gives the Cowboys problems; play the trend.

Jordan Shipley, Jaguars
Injury ReplacementJaguars second-year WR Cecil Shorts has been a beast this season and was one of the top five free agent pickups in fantasy. Unfortunately, he suffered his second concussion in five weeks Sunday against the Patriots. The team will likely shut him down, which will give Jordan Shipley and opportunity to make some noise in Week 17. Shipley caught five passes for 82 yards on Sunday. QB Chad Henne threw his way ten times. The Jags face a Titans team that has allowed 29 passing scores this season. Shipley isn’t a terrible option in deep leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Sneak Shipley into your lineup as a WR3 if you’re desperate.

Dwayne Harris, Cowboys
Grab & StashThe Forecast suggested stashing Harris last week. Although he didn’t get many looks in Week 16, Harris still managed to find the endzone on a 16-yard touchdown. Harris has flashed impressive skills at times. He has an excellent opportunity to lock up the No. 3 WR spot opposite Dez Bryant and Miles Austin next year. It’s a slot that has ocassionaly produced big fantasy numbers. Owners in dyanasy leagues would be wise to lock Harris up for 2013.

Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: When you’re putting together your 2013 sleeper list, don’t forget Harris.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Kenny Britt (81%) and Justin Blackmon (83%)

On the Radar: Domenik Hixon (11%), Marvin Jones (0%) and Doug Baldwin (4%)

TIGHT ENDS

Delanie Walker, 49ers
Injury ReplacementVernon Davis suffered a concussion on Sunday night. He’ll need to go through the concussion protocol this week and could be in danger of missing the team’s Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals. If Davis does sit out, Delanie Walker would become a legit TE1 for fantasy. He has recorded touchdowns in two straight games. QB Colin Kaepernick threw his way seven times on Sunday night. The Forecast projects him with at least 60 yards, which is more than passable in deep leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Walker could come up big in Week 17 if Vernon Davis doesn’t suit up.

Lance Kendricks, Rams
1 Week Plug & PlayKendricks was a nonfactor for the better part of the 2012 season but he’s come alive over the last two games. He scorched the Bucs for 119 yards and a touchdown and now has scored in two straight games. St. Louis faces a hot Seattle team next week but don’t completely dismiss Kendricks as a starting TE option. Seattle allowed a decent stat line to the aforementioned Delanie Walker on Sunday. The Forecast sees the Seahawks getting an early lead, which should spur decent production from Kendricks.

Availability: Owned in ~4% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Walker could come up big in Week 17 if Vernon Davis doesn’t suit up.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Kyle Rudolph (85%), Jermichael Finley (83%) and Dennis Pitta (74%)

On the Radar: Tony Scheffler (19%)

KICKERS

Blair Wash, Vikings
Rock StarWalsh slumped for a three-game stretch a few weeks ago but he has been money when it counts for fantasy owners. After drilling five field goals last week, he connected on three more field goals on Sunday against the Texans. That includes a 56-yarder, which makes him 9-for-9 from long distance this season. Walsh should be owned and started in all formats this week against the Packers. The game will be played in Minnesota so weather will not be a factor.

Availability: Owned in ~62% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Walsh will go for double-digits Week 17 against the Packers.

Kai Forbath, Redskins
1 Week Plug & PlayForbath has been a steady fantasy kicker. Since taking over the kicking job in Washington DC, he has only had one game with fewer than seven points. If you’re looking to squeeze a few more points out of your kicking position this week, Forbath could be your guy. The Redskins host the Cowboys this week. The last time Washington played Dallas, the Redskins scored 38 points. Forbath should easily be in the 8-10 point range on Sunday.

Availability: Owned in ~10% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Start Forbath and reap the spoils of what will be a high-scoring game.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Justin Tucker (88%)

On the Radar: Mason Crosby (61%) and Garrett Hartley (54%)

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

Minnesota Vikings
1 Week Plug & PlayAlthough Adrian Peterson gets all the headlines and most of the credit for Minnesota’s late-season playoff push, the Vikings defense is on the rise. Minnesota has recorded ten sacks, six turnovers and two DST touchdowns in their last three games. They face the Packers next. Green Bay has typically had trouble in pass protection against the Vikings. The Forecast likes Minnesota’s chances of recording 3-4 sacks, which could lead to a turnover or two. The Vikings are worth a look in deep leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~48% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Spot start the Vikings if you’re needy for a DST.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Cincinnati Bengals (83%)

On the Radar: St. Louis Rams (45%) and San Diego Chargers (57%)


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