||Rock Star Free Agent
||Worth a Look
||1 Week Plug & Play
No Brainers: Kyle Orton, Mark Sanchez and Ben Roethlisberger
Sam Bradford, Rams
Bradford has posted at least one touchdown in every game this year and he’s exceeded 230 yards in three out of four weeks. On Sunday, he put up his best stats yet, 289 yards and two touchdowns. This kid is the real deal and he has a juicy game coming up against the Lions. Yes, he makes some mistakes (including a redzone interception against the Seahawks) but with more seasoning, he could emerge as an every-week contributor in 12-team leagues. With the Patriots on bye in Week 5, Tom Brady owners should be keying on Bradford.
Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bradford should be snapped up in all leagues this week in anticipation of a favorable matchup.
Shaun Hill, Lions
Wait, I recommended a Raiders QB last week (Gradkowski). Then a Rams QB. Now a Lions QB. Surely, the apocalypse must be upon us. Times are changing. Hill has been a pleasant surprise since he took over for the injured Matthew Stafford. He’s started three games, posting two excellent stat lines and one that was acceptable. What you have to like best about the Hill is that he trusts his receivers and tight ends and allows them to make plays on the ball. He is a solid option this week against the Rams. St. Louis is playing better defense than they have in recent years but Hill should be good for 275 yards and a touchdown. Just be sure to confirm Stafford’s status before committing to Hill as your starter.
Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hill is playing well enough to put up quality numbers against the Rams.
Kevin Kolb, Eagles
Philadelphia starter Michael Vick injured his ribs and chest in Sunday’s loss to the Redskins. Vick’s status isn’t clear at the moment but he reportedly is in a lot of pain. There’s a good chance he misses this week’s game against the 49ers. Although Kevin Kolb hasn’t looked good thus far, he’s a passable option against San Francisco. The 49ers have allowed eight passing scores this season, tied for second most in the NFL. If Kolb gets the start, he should net you 225 yards and a touchdown at a minimum.
Availability: Owned in ~44% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: You can probably survive with Kolb this week if you’re desperate.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
Ryan Fitzpatrick has two games under his belt this season since taking over for Trent Edwards and has posted two touchdowns in both games. Fitzpatrick’s passing yardage has been modest but his fantasy value has been buoyed by his scrambling ability. He’s put up 92 rushing yards in two games (including 74 on Sunday). Give Fitzpatrick a look this week if you need a plug-and-play QB. He should produce well enough against a Jaguars pass defense that is third worst in the NFL and has allowed a league high nine passing touchdowns.
Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Give Fitzpatrick a look if you’re in a pinch.
No Brainers: Mike Tolbert, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ricky Williams and Peyton Hillis
Michael Bush, Raiders
Like the sun rising in the East or Lindsey Lohan failing a drug test, it was a foregone conclusion that Darren McFadden would pull up gimpy at some point. McFadden tweaked his hamstring in Sunday’s loss to the Texans. We don’t know the severity of the injury at this point but look for him to miss some practice this week and be a game-time decision at best on Sunday. If McFadden can’t go, Michael Bush will get the keys to Oakland’s backfield, which has been more of a BMW than a Pinto this year. The Raiders will host San Diego this weekend. The Bolts possess a formidable run defense, but Bush will be highly useful for fantasy if he carries the load.
Availability: Owned in ~66% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Bush a must-grab if he’s available.
Ryan Torain, Redskins
Last week, the Forecast advised owners to take a look at Torain because he was poised to begin cutting into Clinton Portis’ carries. That prediction held true as Torain garnered 18 carries compared to 11 for Portis, who injured his groin in the second half. Torain ended the contest with 70 yards and a touchdown. For the immediate future, consider the Washington backfield a 50/50 split but realize it could easily grow into Torain taking the lead role. Torain should be grabbed in all leagues and his value will climb quickly if Portis’ groin injury proves to be severe.
Availability: Owned in ~39% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Torain is a recommended pickup in any league but he does face a difficult test against the Packers.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants
Ahmad Bradshaw tweaked his ankle in Sunday night’s victory over the Bears. He was reportedly limping badly in the locker room after the game. Bradshaw is a gamer and has played through pain before. However, if Jacobs was recently dropped in your league, he’s worth picking up. New York will square off against a tough Texans run defense but should Bradshaw rest, Jacobs is worth a start based on his TD potential. Third-stringer Danny Ware would merit consideration in 14 or 16-team leagues since the Giants are unlikely to trust Jacobs will a full load.
Availability: Owned in ~72% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Jacobs should be grabbed in all leagues in case Bradshaw is out.
Mike Bell, Eagles
Philly starter LeSean McCoy has a rib fracture. He suffered the injury during the first half and continued to play. However, his status for next week (and really for the next few weeks) is up in the air. Backup Mike Bell hasn’t shown much since he signed with the Eagles, but he would get the start if McCoy doesn’t play Sunday against the 49ers. Bell is a necessary addition for any McCoy owner but don’t be surprised if Philly adds another RB this week to share carries with him.
Availability: Owned in ~10% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Pick up Bell but pray you don’t have to use him.
Christopher Ivory and Ladell Betts, Saints
Ivory and Betts filled in capably for the injured Pierre Thomas last week. Betts totaled 70 all-purpose yards while Ivory chipped in 67 yards (all of it on the ground). We won’t know until later in the week whether Thomas will return to action on Sunday against the Cardinals. Even if Thomas plays, it’s likely he’ll split carries. Arizona has a terrible run defense so a limited number of touches could yield a significant number of fantasy points for any of the New Orleans rushers. I favor Ivory for his explosiveness but Betts might be the safer choice given his versatility (and ball security).
Availability: Owned in ~31% and ~13% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Trot out Ivory or Betts if you’re in a bye week pickle.
Danny Woodhead, Patriots
It looks like New England head coach Bill Belichick has pulled another rabbit out of his hat. The Patriots have once again taken an unwanted player from an AFC East rival and transformed him into a contributor. This time it’s the diminutive Danny Woodhead, a former New York Jet. The 185-lb. RB has scored in two straight games and has taken over Kevin Faulk’s role in the offense. If your fantasy team lacks RB depth, Woodhead could be a nice pickup. It looks like he has a nose for the endzone.
Availability: Owned in ~8% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Woodhead is a viable bench player you can plug in when you’re shorthanded.
LeGarrette Blount and Kareem Huggins, Buccaneers
Expect changes in Tampa’s backfield as the team returns from their bye week. Starter Cadillac Williams is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. Prior to the bye, LeGarrette Blount surfaced as a legitmate threat to Williams’ playing time, posting 27 yards and a touchdown on six carries against the Steelers. Kareem Huggins, who missed the first three games with an injury, will also return to action this week. Both players offer decent upside. Grab Blount as your first option since he’ll likely get more goal-line work. Huggins is a deeper sleeper who probably has more viability in PPR leagues.
Availability: Owned in ~21% and ~9% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: The Bucs backfield is ripe with sleepers; grab one in deeper leagues.
Tashard Choice, Cowboys
There aren’t many able-bodied RBs to pick up off the wire this week to play immediately so I’ll continue on the sleeper forecast. The Cowboys are another team that has struggled to run the ball so far in 2010. Starter Marion Barber seems to have lost his playmaking skills. His longest run this year is just 12 yards. Felix Jones hasn’t been much better and the weight he put on in the offseason appears to have slowed him down. If you can afford the roster space, Choice is worth a look. The Cowboys won’t tolerate futility from their running game much longer.
Availability: Owned in ~11% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Choice is a good grab-and-stash sleeper.
James Starks, Packers
We’re entering ultra-deep sleeper territory here. It’s no secret that Green Bay’s backfield has been a trouble spot for since Ryan Grant suffered a season-ending ankle injury. John Kuhn has had his moments. Brandon Jackson is a warm body. But the team needs something more. Maybe the reason they haven’t pulled the trigger on a trade for someone like Marshawn Lynch is they’re biding their time until rookie James Starks comes off the PUP list in Week 7. Sure he’s a longshot but Starks is reportedly running at full speed after suffering a hamstring injury in training camp. And don’t forget, a number of Packer RBs have emerged in the second half of the season to become fantasy gold (Ryan Grant, Samkon Gado, Dorsey Levens and Darick Holmes come to mind)..
Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Beat the rush to Starks, who could be a hot pickup in a two weeks.
No Brainers: Broncos WRs, Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Mike Williams (TB)
Davone Bess, Dolphins
Bess was a water bug on Monday night lunging and sprinting his way to 93 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions. It was his second quality fantasy performance in a row. With the Dolphins showing more of a willingness to throw the football, Bess is a smart pickup. QB Chad Henne likes to throw to him on third downs. While he won’t get as many looks as Brandon Marshall, he has the skills to contribute to your fantasy team regardless of your scoring system. The only knock on Bess is that he has a bye this week. Still, he’s well worth stashing for a couple weeks.
Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bess is worth acquiring in all leagues even though he’s on bye this week.
Derrick Mason, Ravens
You know it was a poor week for free agent fantasy wideouts when one of the “Rock Star” performers had just six receptions for 80 yards. Mason has clearly passed the torch to Anquan Boldin as Baltimore’s top receiver but his 80-yard effort on Sunday was his second “useful” fantasy stat line in the last three games. Mason is a guy who should fare well this week with a matchup against the Broncos. Denver has an average pass defense, allowing eight passing scores this season. If Boldin draws coverage from shutdown corner Champ Bailey, Mason could get plenty of looks. Here’s a quick study at how some #2 WRs have performed against the Broncos this year: Mike Thomas (6-89-0), Austin Collie (12-171-2) and Kenny Britt (3-23-1).
Availability: Owned in ~58% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Mason is an attractive plug-and-play option this week against Denver.
Mike Thomas, Jaguars
Thomas has been targeted 28 times this season, putting him right on the edge of the top 25 WRs in that category. Yeah, I know, targets don’t equate to points in fantasy. Still it’s a positive sign that Thomas getting plenty of chances to make plays each week. Fantasy owners should start considering him the top WR for Jacksonville. On many weeks that doesn’t mean much but if your league’s waiver wire is a house of horrors, Thomas has some upside. Jacksonville faces a Buffalo defense that has allowed eight passing scores in 2010.
Availability: Owned in ~15% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Thomas merits roster consideration in leagues with 12 or more teams.
Kenny Britt, Titans
Britt has scored a touchdown in back to back games but his yardage has been scarce. He’s not a player you’d normally want to trust but starter Justin Gage pulled his hamstring, which should push Britt into the starting lineup this week. He had been in Jeff Fisher’s doghouse but could seize this opportunity to state his case for more playing time. Britt has produced when given a chance. In fact, he’s scored five touchdowns in the last 11 games. Give him a bench spot but don’t start him unless you’re desperate.
Availability: Owned in ~27% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Britt could see an increase in playing time and is worth a look in deep leagues.
Danny Amendola, Rams
The Lions have allowed five WR touchdowns in their last three games. They have the seventh worst pass defense in the NFL. If you’re desperate for a spot starter at WR, it makes sense to look to Detroit’s opponent. St. Louis draws the Lions this week. While Mark Clayton is owned in the vast majority of leagues, a guy like Danny Amendola could fill in for your squad if you’re in a desperate situation (especially in a PPR league). QB Sam Bradford has thrown Amendola’s way 30 times this season, including eight last week. He has 21 receptions this season. Don’t be shy about getting him some fill-in work as a third wideout or flex option.
Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Amendola could be PPR gold this week against the Lions.
No Brainers: Zach Miller and Dustin Keller
Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
Pettigrew went off against the Packers tallying 91 yards on eight receptions. It was his third straight game with six or more catches. Pettigrew has the skills to be a top TE in this league. The only reason he didn’t get much attention in fantasy drafts is he’s coming off reconstructive knee surgery. The knee doesn’t appear to be an issue so Pettigrew is a solid pickup. St. Louis has been hard on opposing TEs but Pettigrew still merits starting consideration.
Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Pettigrew is quickly entering the picture as a viable starting fantasy TE.
Jeremy Shockey, Saints
Did you know Shockey leads all New Orleans pass catchers with 20 receptions? He’s also second in yardage with 196 yards. Yet he’s available on the waiver wire in over 40% of fantasy leagues. It’s not a particularly challenging week for TEs on bye, but if you haven’t been happy with your TE production to date, grab Shockey. The Saints face a Cardinals defense that has been lit up by opposing TEs. In their last two games, the Cards have ceded 208 yards and three touchdowns to TEs.
Availability: Owned in ~58% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Shockey is an excellent spot starter this week.
No Brainers: Matt Bryant
John Carney, Saints
Carney was inked by the Saints to replace the erratic Garrett Hartley. He promptly made a fantasy impact, connecting on three field goals and one extra point. The Saints offense isn’t quite clicking yet but they are still moving the ball into the redzone with regularity. Carney figures to be a top 10 kicker as long as he can hold the job. His only downside is his range is 45 yards or less, which means you won’t get any bonuses for kicks over 50 yards if your league awards for them. That’s a sacrifice worth making though.
Availability: Owned in ~17% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Carney should be added in all leagues.
Matt Prater, Broncos
Denver’s offense has been one of the real surprises of the 2010 season. While Kyle Orton and the wideouts are getting most of the coverage, kicker Matt Prater has flown under the radar for the most part. If you need a boost in kicking production, give him a look. Prater is a perfect 8-for-8 on kicks this season and has scored seven or more points in three straight games. He’s worth a start this week against a bend-but-don’t-break Ravens defense that has given up some big games to kickers this year.
Availability: Owned in ~49% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Prater is a viable starter in all leagues.
DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS
No Brainers: New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers play host to the Eagles this week. Philadelphia is likely to start Kevin Kolb. While we haven’t seen much of Kolb this season, what we have seen hasn’t been impressive. The Eagles could also be without their starting RB LeSean McCoy (ribs). With all the injuries, don’t be surprised to see a dismal offensive showing. San Francisco’s defense and special teams showed some life last week against the Falcons, blocking a punt for a touchdown plus adding two interceptions and three sacks. Look for an inspired performance in a must-win game.
Availability: Owned in ~56% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Give Mike Singletary’s defense a start at home against the injury-depleted Eagles.
The Panthers draw Jay Cutler and the Bears in Week 5. Cutler was shell-shocked on Sunday night against the Giants, getting sacked nine times. He also coughed up a fumble and threw a pick. Early reports suggest Cutler will get the start again this week. If he can’t get his mind right and get rid of the ball more quickly, the Panthers could rack up some points. Carolina played well against the Saints but they haven’t rewarded fantasy owners with a big point effort. Consider them a boom-or-bust play this week.
Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Panthers are worth a flier this week against the Bears.