FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 4
Thomas Casale
September 24, 2013
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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

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
1 Week Plug & PlayBig Ben woke up last week against Chicago, throwing for 406 yards and two touchdowns in defeat. Roethlisberger should keep it going against a Minnesota defense that’s really struggling to start the season. Last week the Vikings allowed Brian Hoyer to throw for 321 yards and three touchdowns against them. Minnesota is giving up 315 yards per game through the air on the young season, so look for Roethlisberger and the Steelers to take advantage of it.
Availability: Owned in ~ 58% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Big Ben will shred the Vikings’ defense for close to 300 yards and three scores.

Geno Smith, Jets
Grab & StashSmith had a rough outing in New England but he was solid against Tampa Bay and the rookie had his best performance Sunday versus Buffalo. Smith threw for 331 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also added a score on the ground. The mistakes are still there but Smith is showing he can put up some yards and touchdowns if the match-up is favorable. Now with Santonio Holmes getting healthy and Stephen Hill emerging, Smith has some weapons on the outside. If you’re in a deeper league, Smith is worth a look.
Availability: Owned in ~ 12% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Smith will have his ups and downs but he’ll put up respectable fantasy numbers when the match-up is in his favor.

Nick Foles, Eagles
Dumpster DiveOne has to wonder if Mike Vick will survive the entire season playing in Chip Kelly’s offense. After losing to Kansas City Kelly said he wanted his offense to run more plays. The problem for Vick is with Jeremy Maclin injured, he simply doesn’t have a lot of quality options at receiver, which means him running more in the coming weeks. He’s also getting killed behind the Eagles’ offensive line. Vick has already been sacked 10 times and been hit on numerous other occasions. It’s hard to see Vick lasting all 16 games if he continues to take that kind of beating every week. If you play in a deeper league or a two-quarterback format, Foles is worth a flier.
Availability: Owned in ~ 6% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Foles could see time at some point this season if Vick keeps taking punishment like he has the last two weeks.

Jake Locker, QB Titans
Dumpster DiveLocker is still a ways away from being a big fantasy factor but he’s starting to look more comfortable in Tennessee’s offense. He’s also starting to use his legs more. On Sunday Locker threw for 299 yards and ran for 68 yards. He also accounted for two scores. If you play in a two-quarterback league, Locker may be worth a look, although we’ll find out what he’s made of over the next four weeks when Tennessee takes on the Jets, Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers.
Availability: Owned in ~ 15% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Locker has a tough upcoming schedule but if he starts running more, he could establish himself as a QB2.

On the Radar: Brian Hoyer (3%)

Running Backs

Bryce Brown, Eagles
Rock StarLast week The Forecast pointed out how surprising it was to see Bernard Pierce still available in over 30 percent of leagues. The same holds true for Brown. We saw how valuable Pierce can be if Ray Rice goes down. Last Thursday it looked like LeSean McCoy had suffered a serious injury. If that were the case, a potential stud running back would have been on the waiver wire in 30 percent of leagues. The Eagles are averaging 209 yards rushing in their first three games, so Brown offers more upside than most handcuffs because of the offense he plays in. Brown is worth a roster spot and should be owned in virtually all leagues in case something happens to McCoy.
Availability: Owned in ~ 70% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$
Forecast: Like Pierce, Brown is one of the most valuable handcuffs in fantasy football. He would be a RB1 most weeks if McCoy went down.

Johnathan Franklin, Packers
Rock StarFranklin replaced an injured James Starks and ran for 103 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. He also added three receptions. Despite a costly fumble, Franklin showed a lot of promise. The Forecast wasn’t high on Starks last week but likes the upside of Franklin much more in the Packers’ offense. Franklin was a stud at UCLA but struggled some in training camp. However, his versatility fits what Green Bay likes to do on offense. He should see plenty of playing time moving forward even when Eddie Lacy returns from a concussion.
Availability: Owned in ~ 12% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Despite his costly turnover, Franklin will emerge as a quality fantasy option in Green Bay’s offense.

Bilal Powell, Jets
Rock StarPowell had been splitting time with Chris Ivory in the Jets’ first two games. On Sunday when Ivory was forced from the game with a hamstring issue, Powell exploded for 149 yards on 27 carries. Powell had already been getting the goal line carries and playing on passing downs but now with Ivory hurt again, he should start seeing virtually all of the touches in the Jets’ backfield. Powell is still available in over 30 percent of leagues, which is pretty high for a starting running back.
Availability: Owned in ~ 68% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$
Forecast: Powell has distanced himself from Ivory and will be the Jets’ top fantasy back for the rest of the year. He should be one of the top waiver wire pick-ups this week.

Danny Woodhead, Chargers
Rock StarWoodhead is owned in 62 percent of leagues, while Ryan Mathews is owned in almost 100 percent of leagues. That’s surprising considering Woodhead has as much, if not more, fantasy value as Mathews, especially in PPR formats. On Sunday Woodhead racked up 86 total yards and caught seven passes. Mathews, on the other hand, doesn’t play on passing downs and rarely gets goal line carries. If you play in a PPR league, you’re more likely to get a double-digit scoring week out of Woodhead than Mathews most of the time. Look for Woodhead to continue to take on the Darren Sproles-role in San Diego’s offense.
Availability: Owned in ~ 62% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$
Forecast: Woodhead should be owned in virtually all leagues at this point, as his role in the offense continues to grow.

Jason Snelling, Falcons
Rock StarSnelling was one of two backs that helped replace the injured Steven Jackson Sunday against Miami. Snelling put up strong fantasy numbers, rushing for 53 yards and catching four passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. Jackson is expected to miss Sunday’s match-up against New England and possibly one or two more games as well, so Snelling is a must add if you haven’t picked him up already. The Forecast prefers Snelling more than Jacquizz Rodgers because he plays on passing downs and gets more goal line carries.
Availability: Owned in ~ 38% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Snelling is a solid fantasy option while Jackson is out of the lineup. He should also see some touches even when Jackson returns.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons
Injury Replacement1 Week Plug & PlayIt takes two players to replace Jackson, so both Snelling and Rodgers have fantasy value, as we saw last week. Snelling got 11 carries, compared to Rodgers’ 18. Rodgers managed 86 yards on his 18 carries and he also caught two passes. Snelling is a bit more versatile than Rodgers because he plays in the passing game and near the goal line. However, Rodgers is getting plenty of touches in Jackson’s absence as well, so if you can’t get Snelling, Rodgers isn’t a bad consolation prize. Rodgers can be used as a flex play against the Patriots this week in what should be a high scoring affair, although Snelling is the better option if you have to choose between the two.
Availability: Owned in ~ 62% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Rodgers will also see playing time while Jackson is out but he could start to lose touches to the more versatile Snelling.

Willis McGahee, Browns
Grab & StashAfter trading Trent Richardson to the Colts, Cleveland signed McGahee to help fill the void. At 32-years old, McGahee is still in great shape but owners should have realistic expectations with him. Richardson is a stud and he couldn’t find many holes running behind the Browns’ porous line. McGahee had eight carries for nine yards on Sunday in his first game with the Browns. His production will go up but don’t expect any fantasy miracles from McGahee in Cleveland.
Availability: Owned in ~ 72% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: McGahee is certainly worth adding but make sure you don’t overpay. A lot of owners will likely be disappointed in him over the long-haul, especially if they spent a lot to get him.

Brandon Bolden, Patriots
Grab & StashBolden made his season debut on Sunday and looked good. He only ran the ball three times but gained 51 yards. The place where Bolden made his biggest impact though was at receiver. He caught five balls for 49 yards. This is where Bolden can really carve out a role in New England’s offense. Neither Stevan Ridley nor LeGarrette Blount are great receivers and with Shane Vereen out with a broken wrist, the Patriots are looking for a pass catching back to replace him. Bolden has played well over the last two years in his limited opportunities. There’s a good chance his touches will increase over the next couple of weeks, especially as a receiver.
Availability: Owned in ~ 3% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Bolden is worth adding this week if you have the room. He should begin to see more touches starting this Sunday against Atlanta.

Benny Cunningham, Rams
Dumpster DiveThe Rams can’t run the football at all right now. Daryl Richardson is banged up but he’s been ineffective so far early in the year. Isaiah Pead has done next to nothing with his opportunities. One guy to keep an eye is Cunningham. A bruiser out of Middle Tennessee State, Cunningham was an under-the-radar college player who also impressed during the preseason. On Sunday Cunningham had four carries for 16 yards. Jeff Fisher likes big backs that can run between the tackles. If Richardson and Pead continue to struggle, he could give Cunningham a longer look.
Availability: Owned in ~ 1% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Richardson and Pead will get more time to show what they can do but if they fail, Cunningham will get his shot.

On the Radar: Bobby Rainey (5%), Khiry Robinson (1%), Christine Michael (24%)

Wide Receivers

Santonio Holmes, Jets
Rock StarThere were conflicting reports all summer between Holmes and the Jets regarding how healthy he was following his foot surgery. After Sunday’s performance, he looks pretty healthy. Holmes torched the Bills for 154 yards and a touchdown. He caught five passes and saw a team-high 10 targets. The Jets’ passing game is still a work in progress. However, if Holmes is healthy, he gives Smith a true No. 1 receiver the offense lacks when Holmes is out of the lineup. Holmes is still available in a lot of leagues. Now is the time to go get him.
Availability: Owned in ~ 17% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Holmes finally looks healthy and will resume his role as the Jets No. 1 receiver.  

Marlon Brown, Ravens
1 Week Plug & PlayBrown scored in each of Baltimore’s first two games but was quiet against the Texans. Expect him to wake up again on Sunday. Buffalo has had all kinds of trouble in the secondary so far this year because of injuries and inexperience. The Bills will likely do whatever they can to try and take away Torrey Smith, leaving Brown with a lot of single coverage. The Jets receivers showed what can happen when Buffalo’s corners try and play man coverage. Brown will have a good chance to find the end zone for the third time in four games.
Availability: Owned in ~ 58% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$
Forecast: Brown will haul in a few catches and a touchdown against Buffalo.

Ryan Broyles, Lions
Injury ReplacementGrab & StashNate Burleson is out for a while with a broken arm, which means Broyles’ playing time and targets are about to increase dramatically. Broyles has always been a reception machine and can be a fantasy beast in the Lions’ offense. The only problem is he has to stay healthy. Broyles showed signs of what he can do with Matthew Stafford last year before getting hurt again. If Broyles is on your waiver wire, get him immediately. He will be a big part of the Lions’ offense as long as he stays healthy.
Availability: Owned in ~ 33% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Broyles will become a weekly WR3/flex play in PPR leagues soon.

Sidney Rice, Seahawks
Grab & StashIt’s certainly tough to trust any Seattle receiver from week-to-week but Rice is still a guy who has the ability to put up big games like he did on Sunday when he caught five passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns. The thing about Holmes and Rice is they both missed all of preseason, so they’re just getting back into football shape now. Look at the teams Seattle faces before its bye week: Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Arizona, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Minnesota. Rice should have a couple more big games against some of those weak pass defenses. He’s worth picking up this week.
Availability: Owned in ~ 58% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Rice runs hot and cold but if you’re looking for depth at receiver, he’s deserving of a roster spot.

Donnie Avery, Chiefs
Grab & StashAvery will be a hot commodity this week after his 7-catch, 141-yard performance against Philadelphia. There are two ways to look at Avery right now. One is he basically caught the same route over and over again against the Eagles and they never stopped it. After seeing a total of nine targets in the first two weeks, Avery saw seven against Philadelphia. The other way to look at it is Avery runs mainly underneath routes and because Alex Smith threw so many interceptions early in his career, he refuses to force the ball down the field now. Dwayne Bowe owners are finding that out. Avery is worth adding for the right price but he can’t be counted on as a consistent fantasy receiver yet.
Availability: Owned in ~ 11% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Avery could emerge as Smith’s favorite target because of his role in the offense but right now he’s still no more than a WR4.

Nate Washington, Titans
Grab & StashWashington caught eight balls for 131 yards on Sunday but owners should be cautious about adding him this week. Coming into Sunday, Washington only had seven receptions for 96 yards in Tennessee’s first two games. Washington may just like Week 3. Last season he had 112 yards and a touchdown in Week 3 but never topped 100 yards again all season. Washington is worth adding if you play in a really deep league and need a receiver. However, if you’re in a standard 12-team league, don’t overreact to his big game.
Availability: Owned in ~ 6% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: This will likely be Washington’s best game of the season, so don’t overpay for his services.

Aaron Dobson, Patriots
Grab & StashDobson scored a touchdown in Week 2 against the Jets but he also had a couple of drops in what turned out to be a tough night for the rookie. Dobson played better on Sunday, catching seven passes for 52 yards. He also saw a team-high 10 targets. It’s evident that Tom Brady trusts Dobson even after he dropped a couple of passes against the Jets. The Patriots expect Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski back soon but Dobson should still have a role in the offense.
Availability: Owned in ~ 32% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Even with Gronk and Amendola coming back, Dobson looks like he’s role in the Patriots’ offense will continue to grow.

Mohamed Sanu, Bengals
Grab & StashSanu showed some flashes last year before getting injured. Now with defenses once again trying to take A.J. Green away, the Bengals need another receiver to step up and make some plays. Sanu was that guy on Sunday, catching four passes for 68 yards. Cincinnati needs either Sanu or Marvin Jones to emerge this year. Sanu is more of the possession receiver, so if you play in a PPR format, he’s the better option.
Availability: Owned in ~ 28% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Bengals are waiting for one of their young receivers to step up. Sanu is the most likely candidate. 

Stephen Hill, Jets
Grab & StashHill has been a weekly member of the Grab & Stash but he keeps getting better and he’s still available in a lot of leagues. In three games Hill’s yardage has gone up from 39 to 86 to 108 on Sunday. He also scored against the Bills. As we’ve been saying, Hill may not be a receiver owners can start every week but he’s certainly deserving of a roster spot, especially with Smith showing signs of being a capable NFL quarterback.
Availability: Owned in ~ 9% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Hill shows promise every week and the Jets’ offense is better than expected. He should be owned in more leagues.

Jason Avant, Eagles
Dumpster DiveIf you play in a PPR league you may be used to seeing Avant’s name a lot in the transaction section. He’s one of those receivers that gets picked up and dropped about 10 times a year. Avant could have a bit more fantasy value this season though as a bye-week filler simply because the Eagles will be in a lot of high-scoring games, Vick seems to look his way quite a bit in games where DeSean Jackson is neutralized. Riley Cooper really can’t get open unless defenses forget he’s on the field. Avant will never put up huge fantasy numbers but he could see more targets this year given the Eagles’ weakness at receiver.
Availability: Owned in ~ 3% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Jackson still has trouble getting open against physical, top-end corners like Brandon Flowers. In those weeks, Avant will put up respectable fantasy numbers as Vick’s second option.

Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers
Dumpster DiveGinn and Brandon LaFell both had big games on Sunday but LaFell came in with only 13 yards receiving on the year. The Forecast believes it’s Ginn who is the more intriguing fantasy option going forward. In Carolina’s last two games, Ginn has six receptions on 12 targets for 133 yards and two touchdowns. It seems like Ginn and Cam Newton are building some chemistry together. Newton likes to air it out and with Steve Smith getting older Ginn could become the Panthers’ new deep threat.
Availability: Owned in ~ 3% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Panthers need some receivers to emerge and Ginn has been making plays. One more good game and it won’t be a coincidence.

On the Radar: Ryan Broyles (33%), Brandon LaFell (2%), Dwayne Harris (2%), Davone Bess (6%), Darius Heyward-Bey (34%), Santana Moss (23%), Marvin Jones (3%).

Tight Ends

Heath Miller, Steelers
Rock StarMiller returned from his knee injury Sunday night and caught three passes for 35 yards. Surprisingly, fantasy owners have kind of forgotten about a guy who caught 71 passes and eight touchdowns last year, as Miller is only owned in 31 percent of leagues right now. There aren’t many great options at tight end and it shouldn’t take long for Miller to establish himself as Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target and a weekly TE1 again on your fantasy team.
Availability: Owned in ~ 31% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Miller will be back to catching 5-6 balls a week in no time.

Dallas Clark, Ravens
Grab & StashClark has proved to be a serviceable tight end since signing with the Ravens. He caught four passes for 46 yards on Sunday. Clark now has 12 receptions in three games for 141 yards. While that certainly doesn’t put him in the starting category, Clark has now seen 20 targets from Joe Flacco so far this season. The Ravens still don’t have many options at receiver, so Clark should continue to see a good amount of targets throughout the year, making him a viable TE2 and bye-week replacement.
Availability: Owned in ~ 29% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Clark is no longer an elite fantasy tight end but he can still catch a few balls if you need to put him in your lineup.

On the Radar: Scott Chandler (4%), Logan Paulsen (1%), Jordan Reed, (1%), Luke Wilson (2%), Delanie Walker (3%)

Kickers

Ryan Succop, Chiefs
Rock StarSuccop connected on four field goals and two extra points last Thursday. He hadn’t done much up until that point but as the season goes on, Succop’s fantasy numbers should get a lot better. The Chiefs’ are not only improved on offense but their defense is going to create a lot of turnovers and scoring opportunities. Kansas City also has the look of an offense that isn’t going to produce a ton of big plays, which means drives bogging down inside the 40-yard line. With the way this Chiefs team is built, Succop will put up many more double-digit scoring weeks in the future.
Availability: Owned in ~ 10% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: At worst, Succop is going to be a great match-up play for owners who switch kickers every week.

Justin Tucker, Ravens
Rock StarTucker kicked three field goals on Sunday, including two from beyond 40 yards. The reason to like Tucker going forward is because the Ravens will likely see a lot of drives stall this year. Baltimore just doesn’t have a lot of weapons on offense, especially once they get inside the 20-yard line, which means more opportunities for Tucker as the season goes on. The best fantasy kickers are on teams that can move the ball but have trouble sustaining drives. Tucker fits that description.
Availability: Owned in ~ 76% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Tucker is a safe bet to put up strong fantasy numbers most weeks.

Robbie Gould, Bears
1 Week Plug & PlayGould has been a decent fantasy performer so far this year but he has a chance to have his best scoring game of the season Sunday versus Detroit. Chicago should be able to move the ball on Detroit’s defense and the Bears’ defense isn’t the stone wall it’s been in recent years, so this could be a game with a lot of points. Gould has seen his points increase for six to 10 in his first three games. He should rack up another double-digit game on Sunday.
Availability: Owned in ~ 26% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Gould will kick at least two field goals and two extra points versus Detroit.  

On the Radar: Nick Novak (23%)

Defense/Special Teams

Kansas City Chiefs
Rock StarThe Forecast advised the Chiefs as a Rock Star Free Agent following their Week 1 dismantling of Jacksonville. If there were any questions after that performance, there can’t be any after what they did to the Eagles last Thursday night. Kansas City smothered Kelly’s high-powered offense from the start, recording six sacks, causing five turnovers and scoring a touchdown. The Chiefs’ schedule lightens up a bit too over the next six weeks with the Giants, Tennessee, Oakland, Houston, Cleveland and Buffalo. This could be your last chance to pick up one of fantasy football’s top defenses.
Availability: Owned in ~ 55% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: The Chiefs will be one of the best defenses in fantasy football, with two games against Denver the only two daunting match-ups for owners to consider benching them.

New Orleans Saints
Rock StarThe Saints’ defense is a big reason the team is off to a 3-0 start. New Orleans’ defense has recorded eight sacks, caused eight turnovers and scored two touchdowns in its first three games, while limiting opponents to 12.7 points. Rob Ryan’s aggressive scheme has been working in New Orleans so far and while the schedule gets tougher, the sacks and turnovers should continue to pile up.
Availability: Owned in ~ 16% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Saints will start allowing more points but the sacks and turnovers will make up for it.

Carolina Panthers
Rock StarOne of the most improved units in the NFL this season is the Panthers’ defense. On Sunday Carolina harassed Eli Manning all day long and sacked him seven times. Through three games the Panthers have held their opponents to just 12 PPG and caused six turnovers. The Panthers have a bye in Week 4 but then play Arizona, Minnesota, St. Louis and Tampa Bay, so this is a defense to jump on now.
Availability: Owned in ~ 15% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Look for the Panthers’ defense to continue to rack up the fantasy points after their bye week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Buccaneers are 0-3 but it’s hard to blame their defense. Tampa Bay’s defense has 12 sacks seven turnovers and a touchdown through three games, while its offense ranks dead last in points and yards per game. The Bucs’ defense will once again have a strong showing this week at home against Arizona. The Cardinals are having trouble protecting Carson Palmer. Tampa Bay’s front seven should be in his face all game long in what looks like a great match-up for the Buccaneers’ defense.
Availability: Owned in ~ 50% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Expect a big fantasy day from Tampa Bay’s defense unless its offense puts them in awful spots all game long.

Tennessee Titans
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Titans have one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL, ranking 8th overall in total defense. Tennessee has a good match-up on Sunday when they host the Jets. Smith is coming off the best game of his young career but his one real stinker so far came on the road. The Titans have nine sacks in three games, so they should be able to pressure the young quarterback and cause him to make some mistakes; much like New England did in his lone road start of the season.
Availability: Owned in ~ 27% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Titans will have 4-5 sacks and cause a couple of turnovers on Sunday.

On the Radar: Indianapolis Colts (10%)


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