GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
No question I was drinking the Palmer Kool-Aid this offseason. A legit receiving corps, a pass-happy play-caller, and zero ground game was sure to add up to copious passing game production. And Palmer has held up his end of the yardage bargain, averaging a solid 250-plus yards per game. But no quarterback who has started all four games has thrown fewer passing touchdowns than Palmer’s four, which leaves him mired near the bottom of the fantasy points sort. Worse, Palmer’s remaining schedule is one of the worst fantasy slates a quarterback will face. In other words, there’s no reason to think it will get better—and if that’s the case, feel free to walk away now.
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders
You may have missed your opportunity on selling high on the oft-injured McFadden, who left a favorable matchup against the Redskins with a hamstring injury. But if you can find a taker, don’t be afraid to settle for pennies on the dollar. At this point McFadden is purely a matchup play, and he has two tough ones (San Diego and KC) on the docket before his Week 7 bye. Things brighten up slightly after that, but McFadden’s fantasy playoff stretch includes three stoppers in Weeks 14-16—the Jets and the aforementioned Chargers/Chiefs AFC West combo. So he won’t help you now, he won’t help you then, and there’s a 50/50 shot he’s even healthy enough to help you in that middle portion of the program. Sell, Mortimer, sell!
GIMME A SECOND CHANCE, BABY
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers
Of course we all overreacted to Mathews; that’s what fantasy football players do. He’ll never be as good as the top-five pick we made him last year, but he’s not as bad as the mid-round selection we dropped him to this year. Despite not having scored a rushing touchdown, and ranking behind Danny Woodhead in fantasy points, Mathews has more carries than Frank Gore or Alfred Morris and more yards from scrimmage than Chris Johnson or Lamar Miller. As a member of the Chargers’ RBBC he may have been kicked to the curb; he’s certainly available as a throw-in in a trade. He has a spotty schedule over the next month or so, mixing favorable matchups with stoppers, but where you’ll really like having Mathews at your disposal is during the fantasy playoffs. You can trust him as a flex guy against a friendly slate that includes the Giants, Broncos, and Raiders. Keep that in mind should he become available over the next few weeks.
CATCH 'EM ON THE REBOUND
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars
MoJo just got done breaking your (or somebody in your league) heart, laying a complete dookie against an Indianapolis team he traditionally destroys. You can likely get him for a bag of sunflower seeds and a Kiss “Destroyer” cassette. And while that’s certainly a classic 70s rocker, in exchange you’ll get the two best matchups left on Jones-Drew’s schedule: at St. Louis and at Denver. Justin Blackmon’s return should stretch the field a little bit—at least as much as possible when Blaine Gabbert and/or Chad Henne is your quarterback—so it won’t get any better for MJD this year. Grab him now, squeeze a couple weeks out of him, then sell him off to a team thinned at the position by the bye weeks and more willing to put stock in Jones-Drew’s previous two weeks than the rocky road ahead of him.
PUT A RING ON THAT THING!
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears
Brandon Marshall’s wingman is flying along under the radar, despite clocking in as a certified fantasy WR3—35th in fantasy scoring among wideouts. Jeffery is 28th in targets and has seen at least eight targets in three of the four games—including 11 last week in Detroit. He’ll see his lone tough matchup this week against the Saints, after which it’s a primrose path of six neutral matchups and five favorable ones—including the Eagles in Week 16. Jeffery’s available in about a third of leagues and could likely be included as a throw-in in a trade in the rest of them. Add him now, take a hit this week, and reap the long-term benefits.
Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings
No Viking benefitted more from the team’s switch to Matt Cassel at quarterback than Jennings, who scored Minnesota’s first two WR TDs of the season in their London win over the Steelers. Going forward, be it Christian Ponder’s rib or Cassel’s productivity, expect the changing of the guard to hold at quarterback. For the wideouts it means far more targets (conversely, kiss Kyle Rudolph’s fantasy value goodbye: Minnesota tight ends were targeted just four times by Cassel, as opposed to 19 throws to the wideouts), delivered with more accuracy that allows them to pick up yards after the catch. It also means more deep shots, which floats the boats of both Jerome Simpson and eventually Cordarrelle Patterson as well. But Jennings is the go-to guy, so he’s also poised to take advantage of a WR-friendly schedule that includes just one stopper—Week 11 against Seattle—the rest of the way. It’s not Aaron Rodgers, but if Jennings continues to respond to Cassel he’ll be more than worthy of a fantasy starting spot the rest of the way.
ONE NIGHT STAND
Mike Glennon, QB, Buccaneers
Labeling the Buccaneers’ quarterback situation as messy is like saying Joe Bonamassa can play the guitar a little. Fortunately for the Tampa Bay offense, Glennon’s skill set is similar enough to that of Josh Freeman that there won’t be much of a transition stage. So long as your league doesn’t penalize for picks—no surprise Glennon threw the game away last week, as he led all of D1 in interceptions last year—he’s a viable bye-week plug in in Week 6. He’ll have had the bye week to take snaps with the ones, and most importantly he’ll be facing a very fantasy-friendly Eagles secondary. If you’ll be without Matt Ryan in Week 6, start wining and dining Glennon now; you might be surprised with the scoring.
BEAT THE CLOSING TIME RUSH
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos
Knowshon Moreno is owned, and fantasy owners are still clinging to Montee Ball in hopes he learns how to pass protect and hold onto the football in the very near future. But Hillman is available in about 40 percent of leagues, and in two of the next four weeks he’ll be more than capable of being a quality bye week plug-in play. Hillman has seen 10 touches each of the past two games, and he’s bound to see similar workloads in Week 6 against the Jaguars and Week 8 against Washington. Assuming he can win the Rock Paper Scissors battle again, he’ll get enough touches to be a fantasy helper in those favorable matchups.