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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 16
Paul Sandy
December 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: Eli Manning and Jon Kitna

Rex Grossman, Redskins
Rock StarLast week, the Forecast touted Donovan McNabb as a viable plug-and-play option. The thinking was Dallas has been vulnerable against the pass. Well, the Cowboys are who we thought they were. However, head coach Mike Shanahan benched McNabb in favor of “sexy” Rex Grossman. Grossman took advantage of the choice matchup and tossed four touchdowns. He’ll draw another favorable opponent this week against the Jags. Grossman could be this year’s Billy Volek, a QB who came out of nowhere a few seasons ago to explode in the fantasy playoffs.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Grossman is worth a plug-and-play if you’re desperate.

Tim Tebow, Broncos
1 Week Plug & PlayTebow got his first NFL start on Sunday against the Raiders. His passing numbers left a lot to be desired (8 for 16 with 138 yards and a touchdown) but he made up for that shortcoming with 78 yards rushing with a score. Rumors out of Denver suggest the Heisman Trophy winner will start the team’s remaining two games.
The Broncos face a Texans defense that has given up useful fantasy numbers to practically every QB they’ve faced this season, so Tebow is worth serious consideration if he starts.

Availability: Owned in ~8% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Tebow is worth an all-in gamble this week.

RUNNING BACKS

No Brainers: Ryan Torain, Jonathan Stewart, Thomas Jones, Brandon Jackson and Marshawn Lynch

Tashard Choice, Cowboys
Rock StarA free agent darling just a few weeks ago, Choice disappeared in Week 14 only to re-emerge again in Week 15. He took advantage of a favorable opponent in the Redskins, racking up 84 total yards and a touchdown. Choice draws another idyllic matchup this week against the Cardinals. Arizona has allowed the second most fantasy points to RBs this season. The Forecast has no qualms about recommending him as a RB2 for fantasy.

Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Deploy Choice as a No. 2 RB this week against the Cards.

Donald Brown, Colts
Rock StarSince taking over the starting job from Joseph Addai, Brown has split carries with Mike Hart and Javarris James. He rarely broke a tackle and the team seemed to lose faith in him. Then came Sunday. Out of nowhere Brown had a career day, tallying 129 yards rushing with a touchdown. It’d be difficult to trust him in your lineup based on one strong performance. However, a matchup this week against the Raiders gives him some upside. Oakland has allowed the ninth most fantasy points to RBs this season.

Availability: Owned in ~60% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Brown is worth picking up in all leagues but might be too risky to start outside deep leagues.

Jason Snelling, Falcons
Worth a LookAfter a short injury layoff, Snelling returned to action on Sunday against the Seahawks. He made an immediate impact, scoring on a touchdown reception. The Falcons are one of the few teams in the NFL in a position to start considering resting their starters. Expect an uptick in Snelling touches over the remaining two games as the team rests Michael Turner for the postseason. Should Snelling get 12-15 touches this week against the Saints, he will likely deliver a useful stat line. New Orleans has a middling run defense and they’ve been especially vulnerable to RBs who can catch passes out of the backfield—a specialty of Snelling.

Availability: Owned in ~40% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: With Atlanta’s playoff ticket punched, Snelling is a sneaky free agent pickup.

Maurice Morris, Lions
Worth a LookThe Forecast whiffed on a couple of the top pickups last week (namely Tim Hightower and Javarris James) but Maurice Morris was clutch against the Bucs as predicted. He finished with 119 total yards and a touchdown, making him a top 10 player for the week. Add him based on the workload he’s been getting but understand he’s not a terrific option in Week 16 against the Dolphins. Miami has allowed the seventh fewest fantasy points to RBs this season.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Morris is worth a look as a third RB or flex option.

Derrick Ward, Texans
Injury ReplacementArian Foster picked the absolute worst time to get nicked up. He cost many fantasy owners a shot at the championship. Early reports suggest Foster will play  this week. However, just to be safe, backup Derrick Ward is a guy you’re going to want to target on the waiver wire. The Texans draw a perfect matchup this week against the Broncos. If Foster sits, Ward has the potential to be one of the top 5 fantasy RBs in Week 16.

Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Ward is a must-grab this week.

Toby Gerhart, Vikings
Injury ReplacementAdrian Peterson was a surprise scratch from Monday night’s game against the Bears. Backup Toby Gerhart filled in and looked okay for the first couple drives but faded when the team fell behind. The rookie looks like he fits right in the the cold, snowy Minnesota weather. Monitor Peterson’s status for this week’s tilt against the Eagles. If he sits, Gerhart would be a passable RB3.

Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Gerhart is worth adding if you’re in a deep league or you’re a Peterson owner.

Lance Ball, Broncos
Injury ReplacementBroncos starter Knowshon Moreno suffered a rib injury in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders. His status for Week 16 is in doubt. If he can’t go, backup Lance Ball would likely get the start. Based on what we saw of him versus the Raiders (1.3 ypc), Ball would be an incredibly risky start. Denver faces the Texans, who have allowed six RB scores in their last three games. Still, Ball probably isn’t a guy you want to bet your season on.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Ball likely only has value to Moreno owners.

Michael Bush, Raiders
1 Week Plug & PlayBush was profiled here last week and recommended as a smart pickup in TD-heavy formats. He came through with two goal-line scores against the punchless Broncos. Bush will benefit from another fairly positive matchup this week against the Colts. The advice remains the same. If you’re in a league that emphasizes touchdowns over yardage, Bush is worth grabbing.

Availability: Owned in ~68% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bush is a decent second or third RB in TD-heavy leagues.

WIDE RECEIVERS

No Brainers: Vincent Jackson, Kenny Britt and Mario Manningham

Mike Williams, Seahawks
Worth a LookAfter being laid up for a few weeks with an ankle injury, “Big” Mike Williams returned to the field Sunday and had a busy afternoon, catching eight passes for 66 yards. Williams’ PPR bounty should continue this week against the Bucs. Tampa’s secondary has been battered by injuries. The last three opposing No. 1 WRs have caught seven or more passes against the Bucs. Keep your eye on the QB situation in Seattle though. The Forecast likes Williams’ chances better with Matt Hasselbeck under center.

Availability: Owned in ~60% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams is worth starting in PPR leagues.

Jacoby Ford, Raiders
Rock StarFord has posted useful fantasy numbers in three of his last four games, which makes him a worthwhile acquisition in just about any league out there. If you’re desperate for WR help and are willing to gamble on an all-or-nothing WR, Ford could be your man. He’s heating up at the right time. Oakland plays host to a Colts defense that is above-average against the pass but Ford has already performed against the Chargers and Dolphins, so don’t lower him too far in your rankings.

Availability: Owned in ~25% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Ford a boom-or-bust option at the WR position.

Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Injury ReplacementBengals starting wideout Terrell Owens suffered a partially torn knee ligament in Sunday’s win over the Browns. He will miss the remainder of the year. Look for Jordan Shipley to see a spike in targets over the final two games. He’s been relatively quiet over the last three games but the Forecast likes his chances of making a fantasy contribution starting this week against the Chargers.

Availability: Owned in ~13% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Shipley is probably better suited for PPR formats but is roster-worthy in any league.

Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers
1 Week Plug & PlayBenn was identified here last week as a WR worth picking up. While he didn’t make a notable impact in Week 15, the Forecast recommends fantasy owners keep him in mind for championship week. Benn will face a porous Seattle secondary that has allowed the third most fantasy points to WRs this year. They’ve also been vulnerable to No. 2 WRs of late, allowing TDs to Michael Jenkins, Josh Morgan, Robert Meachem and Steve Smith (NYG).

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Benn’s favorable matchup makes him an enticing WR3 this week.

David Nelson, Bills
Worth a LookNelson got the nod from the Forecast as a raw prospect worth grabbing after Lee Evans went down with a season-ending injury. He’s 6’5” so it’s no surprise that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick likes to throw his way in the red zone. Nelson has scored a touchdown in three straight games. With the Patriots on tap next, Nelson is worth a look as a WR3 or flex option in TD-heavy systems. New England has allowed 24 passing touchdowns in 2010, eighth most in the NFL.  

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Nelson is worth a look in TD-heavy leagues.

TIGHT ENDS

No Brainers: Chris Cooley, Aaron Hernandez and Kevin Boss

Jimmy Graham, Saints
Rock StarGraham has recorded useful fantasy stats in four of his last six games. It’s becoming clearer with each passing week that Drew Brees loves throwing to him. The duo hooked up for two scores in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Graham has that basketball pedigree that has been so advantageous for stud TEs like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. The Saints play the Falcons in Week 16. The TE position was huge for the Saints the last time they faced Atlanta, accounting for 102 yards and a touchdown. Even if you don’t have use for Graham this season, he’s a player worth watching for 2011.

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Graham is starter material for the rest of the year.

Randy McMichael, Chargers
Worth a LookWith Antonio Gates looking iffy for the rest of the season, backup TE Randy McMichael can be a servicable option for fantasy owners. He caught five passes for 55 yards last week against the 49ers. If your waiver wire has been picked over and you’re desperate for help, consider rolling with McMichael. He could be busy this week when the Chargers travel to Cincinnati—especially if poor weather negates the deep passing game.

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: McMichael is worth a spot start this week if Antonio Gates remains out.

KICKERS

No Brainers: Matt Bryant and Nate Kaeding

David Buehler, Cowboys
Rock StarBuehler has connected on multiple field goals and double-digit fantasy points in four straight games. In a word, he’s been huge. If you’re trying to squeeze a few more points out of your club, Buehler would be a smart pickup. The Cowboys face a Cardinals team that has been more generous to kickers in terms of fantasy points than any other team in the NFL.

Availability: Owned in ~44% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Buehler is a must-grab kicker for Week 16.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

No Brainers: New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers

St. Louis Rams
1 Week Plug & PlayIf you’ve been plugging and playing defenses of late and are preparing to make another trip to the wire to acquire a defense, take a look at the Rams. St. Louis draws a favorable home matchup this week against the 49ers. The Rams have recorded three or more sacks in three of their last four games. They’ve also been chipping in nicely in the turnover column of late. Meanwhile, 49ers QBs have been sacked 12 times in their last three games. Consider adding the Rams DST because they look like a team that won’t hurt you but might very well help you because of their ideal matchup.   

Availability: Owned in ~22% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: St. Louis is worth a spot start in Week 16.

Other Features
Under the Numbers
Commentary from the Edge
Tuesday Injury Report
Fantasy Game Recaps
Tunnel Vision
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