FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 5
Thomas Casale
October 1, 2013
Follow Follow @ThePigskinGuy
 
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
Rock StarBig Ben must have stopped listening to Todd Haley a couple of weeks ago because he’s starting to run around and making plays down the field again. In his last two games, Roethlisberger has thrown for 789 yards. Pittsburgh has a bye in Week 5 then plays the Jets, Baltimore, Oakland, New England, Buffalo and Detroit in its next six games. Those are some tough rush defenses, so the Steelers will likely have to keep riding the arm of Big Ben if they are going to turn their season around.
Availability: Owned in ~ 72% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: The Steelers’ defense and running game will struggle all season, so Roethlisberger is going to have to throw it a ton. He’s a solid match-up play if you don’t have an elite quarterback.

Brian Hoyer, Browns
1 Week Plug & PlayGrab & StashHoyer put up his second straight strong game against Pittsburgh, tossing for 269 yards and two touchdowns. In his first two starts, Hoyer has thrown for 590 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Granted, that was against the poor pass defenses of Minnesota and Pittsburgh but Hoyer has another good match-up this week against the Bills. Buffalo picked off Joe Flacco five times on Sunday but the Bills defense also gave up 347 yards and they’ve struggled against the pass all year long. If you play in a deep league or one that uses two quarterbacks, Hoyer should be on the radar this week.
Availability: Owned in ~ 11% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Hoyer will still make a mistake or two but he should approach 300 yards and throw at least two touchdown passes against the Bills on Thursday night.

Matt Cassel, Vikings
Dumpster DiveThe Vikings’ offense looked much better with a quarterback that could actually throw the ball over 10 yards. Cassel isn’t going to be the long-term answer in Minnesota but he’s had some success in the NFL. Both Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson had good fantasy days with Cassel under center. The Vikings have a bye in Week 5 and the coaching staff insists Christian Ponder is still the starter. However, the players are singing a different tune. After one game, it’s pretty clear which side fantasy owners are on.
Availability: Owned in ~ 5% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Cassel’s ability to get the ball down the field could at least help give the Vikings’ receivers more fantasy value if he’s the starter.

Running Backs

Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
1 Week Plug & PlayIt’s never easy to predict which Denver back to play but the Cowboys have a big weakness when it comes to covering running backs out of the backfield. Dallas is giving up eight receptions per game to running backs and if The Forecast knows that, Peyton Manning probably has the same information. Hillman is the Broncos’ running back who is best suited to exploit this weakness, similar to Danny Woodhead who burned Dallas for two touchdowns last week. Hillman’s role has been increasing over the last two weeks and he makes for a sneaky flex play versus the Cowboys.
Availability: Owned in ~ 55% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Hillman will have five catches and 60-70 total yards against Dallas.

Tashard Choice, Bills
Injury Replacement1 Week Plug & PlayFred Jackson is suffering from a sprained MCL sprain and C.J. Spiller is, well, C.J. Spiller. Even if Spiller does play on Thursday night he’ll be in and out of the lineup getting medical attention like he is every week. Expect Choice to have an expanded role with both backs hurting. Choice doesn’t have a great matchup against a stout Cleveland defense but he should contribute as a receiver and could sneak in a touchdown from close range.
Availability: Owned in ~ 4% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: If one or both of the Bills’ backs are out, Choice can be inserted as a bye-week flex play.

Rashad Jennings, Raiders
Injury ReplacementFantasy owners were probably shocked to see Darren McFadden go down with an injury given his long streak of consecutive games played but McFadden was hurt yet again on Sunday. Jennings replaced McFadden, catching eight passes and totaling 116 yards. If McFadden can’t go this week, Jennings has a juicy matchup against San Diego’s last ranked rush defense. Jennings is at least worth a flex play, especially considering his value as a receiver.
Availability: Owned in ~ 4% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Even if Jennings doesn’t do much on the ground, he will catch a few passes, which adds to his fantasy value.

Kendall Hunter, 49ers
Grab & StashHunter looks almost fully recovered from his torn Achilles and would be the 49ers’ go-to guy should something happen to Frank Gore. Last Thursday Hunter ran the ball 11 times for 49 yards and a touchdown. His role will likely increase now that Hunter is close to 100 percent recovered from his injury. LaMichael James continues to struggle, so Hunter has now clearly established himself as the No. 2 back in San Francisco.
Availability: Owned in ~ 35% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Hunter’s role will increase on passing downs and he would become a strong fantasy play if something happened to Gore.

Roy Helu, Redskins
Grab & StashAlfred Morris left Sunday’s game with a rib injury. He’s supposed to be fine and Washington has a bye coming up, so Morris has extra time to recover. However, Helu is s till a good player to pick up and stash if he’s available. Helu filled in for Morris and racked up 84 total yards and a score. Helu is finally healthy and he’s looked great both in the preseason and again on Sunday. It’s a little surprising he hasn’t gotten more touches so far this season but that could change in the coming weeks.
Availability: Owned in ~ 35% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Helu is a good handcuff to grab because if Morris goes down he will put up RB1 numbers most weeks.

Andre Ellington, Cardinals
Grab & StashIt seems like just a matter of time before Rashard Mendenhall gets replaced in Arizona. How much longer can the Cardinals’ running game continue to be non-existent? Bruce Arians was also not happy with Mendenhall for a couple of mental mistakes he made at the end of Sunday’s game. Ellington may not be the answer but at some point the Cardinals are going to want to see more out of their younger backs. Twelve carries for 21 yards is becoming a weekly occurrence for Mendenhall. A change is coming soon.
Availability: Owned in ~ 27% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Mendenhall is living on borrowed time and Ellington will be first in line to see a bump in carries.

Wide Receivers

Alshon Jeffery, Bears
Rock StarSurprisingly, Jeffery is only owned in 60 percent of leagues right now. That will change after his five-catch, 107-yard, one-score performance against Detroit. Jeffery has seen 32 targets through four games and he’s starting to become a big part of the Bears’ offense. Jeffery has now caught 12 passes in his last two games. Brandon Marshall will always be Jay Cutler’s top option but Jeffery has the ability to be an elite NFL receiver as well. By the end of the season, Jeffery and Marshall will form one of the top receiving tandems in the NFL. If Jeffery is on your waiver wire, The Forecast suggests he be your top priority this week.
Availability: Owned in ~ 35% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Jeffery will emerge as a consistent WR3/flex play now that Jay Cutler is looking his way more.

Nate Washington, Titans
Rock StarLast week The Forecast suggested Washington as a Grab & Stash but warned he probably had his best fantasy game of the season. Then Washington went out and had an even better fantasy day Sunday by catching four passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. That’s now 12 receptions for 236 yards and two scores for Washington in two weeks. One week is a coincidence, two weeks is a trend. Jake Locker got hurt on Sunday but if you’re going to pick up Washington, now’s the time. He’s red hot.
Availability: Owned in ~ 21% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: After burning a tough Jets’ defense, Washington is now certainly deserving of a roster spot if you need a receiver.

Robert Woods, Bills
1 Week Plug & PlayGrab & StashWoods is coming off a strong game against Baltimore where he caught four passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Woods has now seen 24 targets in the last three games. That trend should continue this week when Buffalo takes on Cleveland. Joe Haden will likely be shadowing Stevie Johnson, so expect E.J. Manuel to look Woods’ way quite a bit. When Antonio Cromartie shadowed Johnson in Week 3, Woods saw 10 targets. Consider Woods as a flex play if you need him and a decent bench receiver for the rest of the year.
Availability: Owned in ~ 15% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Woods has a good chance to find the end zone for the third time this season.

Austin Pettis, Rams
Grab & StashThere isn’t much to like about the Rams’ offense right now. However, if a team isn’t going to throw the ball over seven yards all year, the best guy to own is the receiver who catches most of Sam Bradford’s short passes. Right now Pettis looks like he could be the most consistent fantasy option in St. Louis this year, although that’s not saying much. In the last three games Pettis has seen 25 targets, catching 15 passes. He’s worth stashing in PPR leagues as a reserve receiver.
Availability: Owned in ~ 14% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Pettis will continue to be targeted a lot in an offense that refuses to throw the ball down the field.

Jerricho Cotchery, Steelers
Grab & StashCotchery caught five passes for 103 yards and a score against Minnesota. However, you’ll want to be careful about jumping on him this week. Cotchery only saw six targets and his five receptions were a season high. Pittsburgh is going to have to throw the ball a lot this year, so adding Cotchery isn’t a bad idea, just don’t overpay for him.
Availability: Owned in ~ 2% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Cotchery will have a couple more solid fantasy weeks but last Sunday was the exception, not the norm.

Jerome Simpson, Vikings
Grab & StashThe Vikings’ passing game isn’t consistent enough for any receiver to be trusted on a weekly basis but Simpson has been solid through four weeks, catching 19 passes for 342 yards. Simpson has two 7-catch games this year, including one this past week against Pittsburgh. If Matt Cassel is Minnesota’s quarterback coming out of the bye, Simpson’s fantasy value will go up.
Availability: Owned in ~ 25% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Simpson will continue to be up and down but he’s worth stashing as a match-up play.

Terrance Williams, Cowboys
Grab & StashWilliams had a nice day filling in for an injured Miles Austin. The rookie hauled in seven passes for 71 yards. Some think Williams’ costly fumble late in the game could hurt him but the rookie is one of Jerry Jones’ guys. A player has to do more than fumble once to fall out of favor in Dallas. Austin has a history of hamstring injuries, so this could be a problem for him all year. Williams’ role in the offense is only going to increase though, regardless of Austin’s health.
Availability: Owned in ~ 5% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Williams is a player on the rise in an offense that throws the ball a lot.

Keenan Allen, Chargers
Dumpster DiveAllen has been forced into duty because of all the receiver injuries in San Diego. While still raw, Allen showed flashes of his potential on Sunday by catching five passes for 80 yards against Dallas. San Diego likes to spread the ball around, so no one receiver can be counted on consistently from week-to-week. However, Allen is a guy to keep an eye on as we get into the season. He could develop into San Diego’s primary big-play threat.
Availability: Owned in ~ 3% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Allen is a talented young player in a pass-first offense worth keeping on your radar.

Tight Ends

Heath Miller, Steelers
Rock StarThe Forecast suggested Miller as a Rock Star Free Agent last week and we’re going back to him again because he’s still available in over 30 percent of leagues. With so few dominant fantasy tight ends, Miller should be owned in virtually all leagues at this point. In just his second game back from injury, Miller played on 75 of the Steelers’ 79 offensive snaps and caught six balls for 80 yards. If you play in a PPR format, Miller is easily a Top 10 tight end going forward with all the throwing the Steelers will be doing. Pick him up if he’s still available.
Availability: Owned in ~ 65% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$
Forecast: Expect 6-7 receptions out of Miller most weeks, making him a TE1 in PPR leagues.

Coby Fleener, Colts
Rock StarFleener had his second strong fantasy game in three weeks on Sunday. The second-year tight end caught five passes for 77 yards and a score. Fleener isn’t a TE1 yet, but he’s getting close. With Dwayne Allen out for the season and the Colts running the ball more, expect Fleener to be used on play action passes across the middle like he was on Sunday. He’s still a bit inconsistent at the moment but Fleener is a strong TE2 who could emerge as an every-week starter down the line.
Availability: Owned in ~ 68% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Fleener will continue to be a big part of the Colts’ offense with Allen out. His best fantasy days are still yet to come.

Garrett Graham, Texans
Grab & StashGraham caught five passes for 69 yards and a score on Sunday. He’s a guy fantasy owners can start in desperation because Houston usually throws to its tight ends 20 times a game. Against Seattle, Graham and Owen Daniels saw 17 targets and caught 11 passes. Graham doesn’t put up huge yardage numbers but he’s scored in all three games he’s played in this year. You can do worse in a pinch.
Availability: Owned in ~ 5% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Graham’s touchdown pace will slow down but he’s also averaging four receptions a game. He’s not a bad replacement if you’re in a bind.

Editor Note: Due to health reasons Thomas was unable to complete this report and provide writeups for this week's kickers and team defenses. He's expected to make a full recovery and be back to 100% next week.

Kickers

Dan Carpenter, Bills
Rock Star Availability: Owned in ~ 13% of leagues.
FAAB: $


Nick Novak, Chargers
Rock Star Availability: Owned in ~ 27% of leagues.
FAAB: $


David Akers, Lions
Rock Star Availability: Owned in ~ 61% of leagues.
FAAB: $


Alex Henery, Eagles
1 Week Plug & Play Availability: Owned in ~ 47% of leagues.
FAAB: $


Defense/Special Teams

Cleveland Browns
Rock Star Availability: Owned in ~ 27% of leagues.
FAAB: $


Buffalo Bills
Rock Star Availability: Owned in ~ 20% of leagues.
FAAB: $$


Tennessee Titans
Rock Star Availability: Owned in ~ 58% of leagues.
FAAB: $


St. Louis Rams
1 Week Plug & Play Availability: Owned in ~ 32% of leagues.
FAAB: $


a d v e r t i s e m e n t
a d v e r t i s e m e n t