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Free Agent Forecast - Week 3
Paul Sandy
September 21, 2010
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SYMBOL LEGEND
Rockstar Rock Star Free Agent
Injury Injury Replacement
Worth a Look Worth a Look
1 Week Plug & Play 1 Week Plug & Play
Sleeper Sleeper

QUARTERBACKS

No Brainers: Donovan McNabb, Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan

Kyle Orton, Broncos
Worth a LookOrton is working on a streak of eight straight games with at least one touchdown pass. He’s quietly becoming a boderline every week starter for fantasy purposes. Through two games in 2010, Orton is averaging 301 passing yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. Entering the season, it seemed like the Broncos were lacking in the WR department but the re-emergence of Eddie Royal and the explosiveness of rookie Demaryius Thomas give Orton the targets he needs to provide consistent numbers. Look for another steady performance this week against a Colts defense that is banged up in the secondary. Orton shouldn’t be available in as many leagues as he is.

Availability: Owned in ~58% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Orton ought to be owned in all leagues.

Sam Bradford, Rams
Worth a LookBradford has posted two straight useful fantasy performances, making him a worthwhile pickup in most leagues. The rookie attempted 55 passes in the opener, amassing 253 yards and a touchdown. He followed it up with 167 yards and two scores against the Raiders on Sunday. The numbers aren’t spectacular but as Bradford gets more experience, he could start making some real noise. With upcoming games against the Redskins, who just allowed 497 passing yards to the Texans, followed by games against Seahawks, Lions, Bucs, Chargers and Panthers, Bradford will no doubt continue to be part of the QB discussion. Based on the schedule, I’d give Bradford the edge over the promising Josh Freeman, who has the Steelers up next followed by a bye.

Availability: Owned in ~42% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bradford is worth a look in all leagues and is starter material in leagues that start two QBs.

RUNNING BACKS

No Brainers: Donald Brown and Brandon Jackson

Jason Snelling, Falcons
InjuryWorth a LookFalcons starter Michael Turner looked like he was on his way to a monster performance Sunday when he tweaked his groin. Third-stringer Jason Snelling took over and pasted the Cardinals for 186 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Turner said he could have re-entered the game so he’ll probably be back for next week’s tilt against the rival Saints. Still, if nothing else, Snelling has again proven he’s more than capable of shouldering the load. He also moves up the depth chart because Jerious Norwood suffered a serious knee injury. The Falcons could be inclined to give Snelling more touches in the weeks ahead to protect Turner. Snelling is a smart grab and will be worth a start next week if Turner rests.  

Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Snelling should be added in all leagues this week.

Mike Tolbert, Chargers
InjuryWorth a LookI recommended Tolbert as a Late Round Legend back in August. That advice probably fell on deaf ears but I love this guy’s running style and the spark he gives to the Chargers offense every time he enters the game. In case you missed it, Tolbert earned a goal line plunge while rookie Ryan Matthews was still healthy. Then Tolbert took on the full time role after Matthews sprained his ankle. The end result was 95-yard, two-touchdown stat line. Matthews’ ankle injury doesn’t look significant but Tolbert is still a must-grab this week. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him get the start this week to give Matthews time to heal. Even if Matthews plays, Tolbert still could be a TD vulture. Darren Sproles (73% owned), who put up 100 all-purpose yards, is also worth grabbing, especially in PPR formats.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Grab Tolbert and hang onto him until we know more about Matthews’ ankle and the goal line carry distribution.

Peyton Hillis, Browns
Worth a LookWe’re just two weeks into the season and Hillis is already a three-timer in the Free Agent Forecast. Hillis posted 61 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs. This follows a 65-yard, 1-TD effort last week. He’s splitting carries with Jerome Harrison, but so far Hillis has been the better fantasy RB. With a nose for the endzone and the ability to catch passes, Hillis is the perfect salve for your ailing fantasy backfield. A poor matchup this week against the Ravens makes Hillis a flex player at best but he’s an excellent RB to own long term.
 
Availability: Owned in ~54% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hillis should be owned in all leagues.

Marshawn Lynch, Bills
Worth a Look“Beast Mode” was supposed to be the third-string RB for the Bills this season. Entering Week 3, he leads all Buffalo RBs with 20 rushing attempts. If he’s still available on your waiver wire, as is the case in 64% of all leagues, Lynch is worth adding. Although he isn’t starter material at this point, when the bye weeks roll around he could come in handy. The Bills have a mix of favorable and unfavorable matchups over the next eight weeks. If you have a RB on bye in Weeks 5, 8, or 10, give Lynch additional consideration. He will face the Jaguars, Chiefs and Lions in those weeks, respectively.

Availability: Owned in ~34% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Lynch provides quality RB depth in all leagues.
 
Willis McGahee, Ravens
1 Week Plug & PlayMcGahee found the endzone in Week 1 but was a non-factor in Week 2 against the Bengals. If he’s lurking on your waiver wire and injuries have left you shorthanded at the RB position, give him a look. I know McGahee has done nothing other than the lone touchdown but the Ravens have faced two stout defenses thus far. He has an excellent chance of reaching paydirt this week against the Browns, a team against which he’s scored three touchdowns in his last three meetings.

Availability: Owned in 68% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: McGahee is a decent matchup-based play in deep leagues at home against Cleveland.

Danny Ware, Giants
SleeperThat sound you hear? That’s every ounce of fantasy value being sucked out of Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs’ meltdown on Sunday night football and his rumored request to be traded makes for a tumultuous RB depth chart in New York. If Jacobs were to be suspended, benched or traded, third-stringer Danny (DJ) Ware would stand to see his value spike considerably. While Ahmad Bradshaw is the undisputed starter, the team would likely continue to give the backup 10-12 touches per game in an effort to protect Bradshaw, who has a history of injuries. Grab Ware in anticipation of Jacobs getting disciplined in some form this week.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Ware is a sneaky sleeper grab in deep leagues.
 
Keiland Williams, Redskins
SleeperOwners in 14+ team leagues who are craving a deep sleeper opportunity can look to the Redskins backfield. Starter Clinton Portis was limited in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Texans with a wrist injury. Backup Larry Johnson was benched after he was caught dancing behind the line of scrimmage — a no-no in Mike Shanahan’s offense. Washington also ranks 31st in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 53.5 yards per game on the ground. That’s an embarrassment for a coach who always has a capable ground attack. Look for Shanahan to make a change if things don’t improve soon. Williams, a rookie out of LSU, is third on the depth chart and could be next in a long line of Shanahan’s pet project RBs to burst onto the fantasy scene.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams is a solid grab-and-stash candidate in deep leagues and a player worth watching in smaller leagues.

WIDE RECEIVERS

No Brainers: Austin Collie, Mike Williams (TB), Mike Sims-Walker and Mark Clayton

Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal, Broncos
Worth a LookGive some props to the Denver passing offense, which is generating over 300 yards per game. The team’s unsung WRs have stepped up and are delivering robust fantasy numbers. Third-year wideout Eddie Royal has shrugged off a sophomore slump, posting two straight quality fantasy performances. He should be owned in all leagues. Rookie Demaryius Thomas missed the opener with a foot injury but roared onto the scene Sunday against the Seahawks. He posted eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown. Thomas is a big, physical receiver who could in time make Broncos fans forget about Brandon Marshall. He’s unlikely to be a one-week wonder so put him at the top of your “want” list and grab him off the wire if you have the means. Jabbar Gaffney, who was on a lot of sleeper lists including mine, is quickly losing relevance.

Availability: Owned in ~18% and 74% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Thomas and Royal should be owned in all leagues.
  
Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones, Texans
Worth a LookThe Forecast has been down this road before with Walter and Jones. Both players have flirted with fantasy relevance for the past few seasons. Both players have gone through stretches in which they all but disappeared. What’s different this time? For starters, TE Owen Daniels is seeing limited action. Without Daniels to rely on, QB Matt Schaub is spreading the ball around. He trusts Walter as a sure-handed posession target. Walter finished Sunday’s game with 11 receptions for 144 yards and a touchdown. He has now scored in back-to-back weeks and is worth adding regardless of league size and scoring system. Jones, who was a favorite sleeper pick, historically has provided better big-play capability but he’s more inconsistent for PPR purposes. Think Devery Henderson. Add him in leagues that give bonuses for long touchdowns.

Availability: Owned in ~34% and 66% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Walter should be owned in all leagues; Jones is spot starter material.

Devin Hester, Bears
Worth a LookEntering the season, Hester was thought by many to be the third best fantasy wideout on the Bears behind Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu. Through two weeks, Hester is the leading fantasy wideout in Chicago. He nabbed four receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown. The speedy Hester typically makes his presence felt on long passes or short receptions with long runs after the catch. However, he showed he has some polish and footwork on a nine-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the endzone. It could bode well for Hester in the future. Add Hester this week if you can’t get your hands on one of the elite free agent WRs.  

Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hester merits roster consideration in all leagues

Louis Murphy, Raiders
Worth a LookThe Forecast highlighted Murphy prior to the season predicting he’d put up numbers that would make him a worthy spot starter. While he wasn’t much of a factor in Week 1, Murphy came through with a breakout performance in Sunday’s win over the Rams. He caught six passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. Murphy has been targeted 17 times so far this season. There’s a good chance that’s more than any other WR on your waiver wire. Oakland’s QB situation is unclear but Murphy will have a good chance of producing this week against the Cardinals regardless of who is under center. Arizona has allowed two passing touchdowns in each of their first two games. Darrius Heyward-Bey (6-80) also merits consideration in deeper leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Murphy is a solid pickup with WR3 potential.

Mario Manningham, Giants
Worth a LookManningham, a hot free agent WR in 2009, has led the Giants in receiving each of the first two weeks of the season. In Week 1, he totaled 85 yards on four receptions. In Week 2, he posted 75 yards and a touchdown, again with four receptions. Despite the emergence of Hakeem Nicks, Manningham isn’t going away. As a boom-or-bust type receiver, it’s difficult to plug Manningham into your lineup without some hesitation but he’s worth an acquisition based on his productivity so far. He’ll benefit from a favorable stretch of schedule during the bye weeks when you need him most (games against the likes of Houston, Detroit and Seattle).  

Availability: Owned in ~42% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Manningham a decent WR3 or excellent WR4 at this point.

James Jones, Packers
SleeperJones was targeted seven times on Sunday against the Bills, more than any other Packers wideout. He ended the afternoon with three receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown. Jones isn’t the type of player you will want to pick up with the intention of starting right away. Not unless you play in a huge league. Instead, grab Jones because Green Bay has one of the top three passing offenses in the entire NFL. If Greg Jennings or Donald Driver were to get injured, Jones would quickly become a top 25 fantasy receiver. He will also come into play once the bye weeks ramp up.

Availability: Owned in ~14% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Grab Jones if you have a deep roster and can afford to stash him.

TIGHT ENDS

No Brainers: Chris Cooley and Kellen Winslow

Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Worth a LookThe Patriots selected two rookie TEs in the draft this year, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Hernandez appears to be the better option for fantasy. He caught all six passes Tom Brady threw his way on Sunday against the Jets, ending the day with 101 yards. Hernandez has speed, elusiveness and soft hands — a prototypical pass-catching TE. With Wes Welker not running at 100%, Hernandez gives Brady another set of reliable hands over the middle of the field. There are plenty of TEs available — more than in recent memory — but the Forecast thinks Hernandez has the highest ceiling.

Availability: Owned in ~13% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hernandez has tremendous upside and is worth adding in any league if you’ve been struggling at the TE position.

Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
Worth a LookLewis has now posted quality fantasy performances in consecutive weeks to start the 2010 season. After catching two touchdowns in Week 1, he racked up 70 yards on five receptions against the Chargers. Lewis is proving to be a valuable cog in Jacksonville’s passing attack. If you whiffed on the TE position in your fantasy draft, Lewis could be a TE you can rely on in the coming weeks. He’s worth a start this week against an Eagles defense that ceded 113 yards to Detroit TEs in Week 2.

Availability: Owned in ~26% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Lewis has been hot early and merits starting consideration this week against Philly.

KICKERS

No Brainers: Neil Rackers and Matt Bryant

Jeff Reed, Steelers
Worth a LookReed has posted seven field goals in the first two games as the Steelers have advanced the ball but struggled to score touchdowns. The same recipe will likely be in play this week as Pittsburgh will look to play ball control offense without taking many risks against the Bucs. That should lead to at least a few field goal attempts and solid production from Reed.

Availability: Owned in ~43% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Based on his early productivity, Reed should be owned in all leagues.

Mike Nugent, Bengals
Worth a LookNugent caught cat scratch fever with the Bengals in Week 2, connecting on five field goals. He now has 21 total points, third most in the NFL. With a favorable matchup this week against Panthers, Nugent should come through with another positive stat line. Carolina is allowing 25.5 points per game. 

Availability: Owned in ~31% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Nugent is worth adding this week with the intent to play him against the Panthers.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

No Brainers: New England Patriots (vs. BUF)

Cincinnati Bengals
1 Week Plug & PlayAfter a disappointing effort in the opener against the Patriots, the Cincinnati defense regained its form in Week 2. The team harassed Ravens QB Joe Flacco all game, forcing him to throw four interceptions. They also added a fumble recovery and a sack. If the Bengals are available on your waiver wire, now is the time to grab them. They should feast on the Carolina Panthers, who will start rookie QB Jimmy Clausen. I like Cincinnati’s chances of returning an interception or fumble for a touchdown.

Availability: Owned in ~59% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Bengals are a smart plug-and-play option for Week 3 and they could have staying power with Week 4-5 games against the Browns and Bucs.

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