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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 2
Paul Sandy
September 13, 2011
 
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
Free Agent Auction
Bid (FAAB) Scale
$ $0 - $5
$$ $6 - $15
$$$ $16 - $25
$$$$ $26 - $40
$$$$$ $41+
Based on $100 cap,
12-team league.

QUARTERBACKS

Commonly owned QBs worth adding: Jay Cutler, Kevin Kolb and Mark Sanchez

Cam Newton, Panthers
Rock StarWhoa. Newton’s historic performance in his first NFL game stunned the fantasy world. He passed for 422 yards and two scores, adding another touchdown on the ground. I figured Newton’s name would appear on this list eventually because of his rushing abilities but his arm was the real story. Despite not having the benefit of a full training camp and offseason program, Newton looked fully in synch with the Panthers offense, especially WR Steve Smith. He was accurate, poised, and made some tough throws. A difficult matchup this week against the Packers probably precludes you from starting him right away but Week 3 versus Jacksonville looks promising.

Availability: Owned in ~50% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Netwton should be added in all leagues but is a risky play in Week 2.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
Rock Star1 Week Plug & PlayLast week’s top free agent QB recommendation passed his Week 1 test with flying colors. Along with Tom Brady, Fitzpatrick led all NFL throwers with four touchdowns. They won’t all be as easy as Sunday’s 41-7 rout over the Chiefs, but look for Fitzpatrick to continue to benefit from playing in an offense that’s geared toward the pass. A matchup this week against the Raiders sets up nicely for another useful fantasy performance from the former Ivy Leaguer.

Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Fitzpatrick should be owned in all leagues and will deliver useful stats again in Week 2.

Rex Grossman, Redskins
Rock Star1 Week Plug & PlayGrossman passed for 305 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s upset win over the rival Giants. New York’s defense was depleted by several key injuries, but the journeyman QB was actually pretty solid all around. Perhaps most importantly, he didn’t throw any interceptions or make any stupid throws. Time will tell if Grossman can become a viable fantasy QB but here’s something to chew on. In his last four NFL starts, Grossman has averaged 286.3 yards and 2.75 TD/game. That’s beyond useful. It’s top 5-10 fantasy material. I’m not saying hitch your wagon to him but Grossman can no longer be ignored. A Week 2 home matchup against the Cardinals makes him a viable plug-and-play option.

Availability: Owned in ~11% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Sexy Rexy haters will be quieted again next week when Grossman puts up another two scores.

Colt McCoy, Browns
Worth a LookMcCoy put up 213 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals in Week 1. He attempted 40 passes in the game. That’s probably more than the Browns would like to see, but this is a pass-first offense. Cincinnati allowed the third fewest fantasy points to QBs last season so there’s room for statistical improvement for McCoy. Consider grabbing him as your backup QB because at the very least he’ll be a serviceable option on most weeks and he has the talent to develop into something more than a backup.

Availability: Owned in ~69% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: McCoy is a decent QB2 with QB1 potential.

RUNNING BACKS

Commonly owned RBs worth adding:: James Starks, Ben Tate, Pierre Thomas, Danny Woodhead and LaDainian Tomlinson

Cadillac Williams, Rams
Injury ReplacementThe Rams are like the 10 p.m. news. It’s all bad. The team’s offense was bloodied by the Eagles with several key players sustaining injuries. Topping the list, starting RB Steven Jackson pulled up lame as he crossed the stripe on a 47-yard touchdown run on his first carry. Jackson has a strained quad muscle. His status for Week 2 is unknown but I’m cautiously pessimistic. Leg injuries and RBs do not mix. Grab backup Cadillac Williams in advance of Monday’s tilt against the Giants. New York is better against the run than the pass but Williams should be busy if he gets the start. He’ll suffice as a RB2 or Flex player if you’re in a pinch.
 
Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$
Forecast: Williams is this week’s top RB grab and is a viable starter for at least one week.

Darren Sproles, Saints
Rock StarSean Payton’s newest toy had a dynamic debut in Green Bay last Thursday versus the Packers. Darren Sproles was featured heavily in the Saints offense, catching seven passes for 75 yards. He also returned a punt for a touchdown. He’s Reggie Bush 2.0 in New Orleans. Sproles’ problem from a fantasy perspective is he’s a one trick pony, meaning he’ll get you plenty of receiving yards but he’s a liability when it comes to rushing yardage and touchdowns. In PPR formats, he obviously gets a significant boost because you can bank on him catching at least 4-5 passes most weeks.  

Availability: Owned in ~61% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Sproles should be owned in all leagues but don’t over-spend on him in non-PPR formats.

Deji Karim, Jaguars
Worth a LookAs predicted here last week, Karim got plenty of work as Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup. He ended the day with 14 carries and three receptions. The Jaguars will likely continue to give Karim double-digit touches each week in order to keep MJD healthy. Fantasy owners in need of some depth at the RB position would be wise to add the Jacksonville rusher. Although the Titans managed to keep Karim out of the endzone on Sunday, he has big-play ability. If he sees 12-15 touches per game, he will be a viable spot starter for fantasy. 

Availability: Owned in ~14% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Karim merits roster consideration in most leagues but won’t help much this week against the Jets.

Earnest Graham, Buccaneers
Worth a LookBucs starting RB LeGarrette Blount spent the entire second half of Sunday’s game against the Lions on the sideline. He didn’t get many fantasy points but reportedly destroyed a 250-count bag of Double Stuff Oreos while watching the action on the bench. Backup RB/FB Earnest Graham was a surprise contributor. He caught eight passes for 58 yards. Blount’s quiet afternoon was a product of the score but the fact that the team doesn’t trust him to pass protect or catch balls is telling. Graham will be on the field more than fantasy owners thought. If he continues to see 12+ touches per game, Graham could be useful in PPR leagues and deep leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Graham will be hit or miss going forward but he’s worth a look for PPR purposes.

Jason Snelling, Falcons
Worth a LookWhen he’s given the opportunity, Snelling usually impresses. On Sunday against the Bears, he caught five passes for 32 yards and was targeted seven times. He added 10 yards rushing. Not a big day. Kind of ho-hum,  actually. If you’re scanning the boxscores, you may skip right over Snelling. I wouldn’t blame you, but don’t lose sight of the fact that Snelling backs up an aging RB who has had a heavy workload over the last couple seasons. Moreover, he plays on a high-powered offense. There are certainly worse RBs to stash on your bench than a guy who gets 7-10 touches per game and is the No. 2 option on a good offense. 

Availability: Owned in ~42% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Patient owners who stick Snelling on their bench will be richly rewarded at some point this season.

Monterio Hardesty, Browns
SleeperHardesty sat out the 2010 season with a knee injury. Sunday was his first regular season action. Although he had just five carries for 18 yards, Hardesty was quick to the hole, made crisp cuts, and didn’t go down on first contact. Considering Peyton Hillis’ bruising style, there is some question as to whether he can hold up for a full 16-game schedule. He definitely hit a wall last season. If you have roster space, grab Hardesty in advance of his plush Week 2 matchup versus the Colts. Indianapolis was gutted by Houston last week. Hardesty should exploit this opportunity. Picking him up in advance of his breakout game is the kind of savvy move championship owners make.

Availability: Owned in ~35% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Hardesty should find plenty of room to run against the Colts in Week 2.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Commonly owned WRs worth adding: Steve Smith (CAR), Mike Thomas, A.J. Green, Nate Burleson, Lance Moore, Deion Branch

Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson, Saints
Injury ReplacementSaints starting WR Marques Colston suffered a broken collarbone in Thursday’s loss to the Packers. He is expected to miss at least a month. The injury opens the door for WRs like Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, and Devery Henderson to step up and become fantasy stars. While Moore was drafted in the majority of leagues, Meachem and Henderson are readily available to many owners. Of the two, the Forecast recommends owners more aggressively pursue Meachem, who is the bigger of the two wideouts and will be asked to run many of Colston’s routes. Henderson had an excellent Week 1 performance (6-100-1) against the Packers but if it feels like we’ve been down this road with him before, that’s because we have. Henderson is a notorious tease. In his seven-year NFL career, he’s never scored in back-to-back regular season games. Don’t get me wrong: With Colston’s injury, Henderson is absolutely worth picking up. Just make sure you know he’s no sure thing.

FAAB: Meachem - $$$, Henderson - $$
Availability: Owned in ~62% and ~4% of leagues, respectively.
Forecast: Owners who can get a piece of the Saints passing game will cash in on Colston’s absence.

Jordy Nelson, Packers
Rock StarA Forecast recommendation from a week ago, Nelson snagged six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown versus the Saints. Including last year’s postseason, Nelson has now scored in three of his last four games. He is one of the top two or three options in Green Bay’s passing attack. Yes, the Packers have a lot of mouths to feed. Yes, Nelson will have down weeks. Yes, you still should run out and get him. WRs are streaky. That’s the nature of the beast. But as long as Aaron Rodgers is throwing the ball, Nelson will be up more than he’s down. He should’ve been drafted in your league. If he wasn’t, make your fellow owners regret not giving him more credit.

Availability: Owned in ~57% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Nelson will be a highly attractive WR3 this season.

Davone Bess, Dolphins
Worth a LookLast week’s “plug-and-play” recommendation delivered 92 yards receiving on five receptions. He was also pushed out at the one-yard line as he reached for the goal line. Bess deserves an extensive look in all leagues in which he’s available. This is a receiver who caught 78 balls and five touchdowns last season. He will be a useful fantasy contributor, especially in PPR leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~ 67% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Bess will be a decent WR3 or flex option this season.

Jabar Gaffney and Anthony Armstrong, Redskins
1 Week Plug & PlayGaffney has been a waiver wire favorite for the last few years but hasn’t been able to string together a full season of productive fantasy stats. Optimism is running high in the Washington this year though so perhaps 2011 will be the year it all comes together for the 10-year veteran. Gaffney’s season got off to a good start Sunday against the Giants. He showed big play ability, grabbing a 39-yard reception. He also caught QB Rex Grossman’s eye in the red zone; the duo hooked up for a four-yard score. Also consider deep threat Anthony Armstrong as a boom-or-bust type pickup. Arizona was torched deep by Steve Smith. Armstrong brings a similar big-play mentality.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast:  Gaffney and Armstrong are worth looks as spot starters against a Cardinals defense that gave up 400+ yards through the air in Week 1.

Brandon Gibson, Rams
Injury ReplacementRams wideout Danny Amendola dodged what looked like a season-ending elbow injury. He could return in Week 5. Amendola was expected to be QB Sam Bradford’s safety valve. Now that role could go to Brandon Gibson. Gibson led all St. Louis receivers with a modest 50 yards against a tough Eagles secondary. Bradford (hand) is expected to be ready to play in Week 2 against a vulnerable Giants defense. Don’t be surprised if Gibson improves his numbers against New York’s beat up defense. Grab him in advance of the favorable matchup.

Availability: Owned in ~16% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Gibson is worth a look in all leagues..
 
Early Doucet, Cardinals
Worth a LookWith Larry Fitzgerald drawing most of Carolina’s attention on Sunday, No. 3 WR Early Doucet had himself a breakout game. He was targeted just three times but turned those three looks into three catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. There’s a good chance someone emerges as a legitimate fantasy option while playing opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Whether it’s Doucet, Andre Roberts or Todd Heap remains to be seen. Give the early advantage to Doucet since Roberts and Heap were nonfactors in the opener.

Availability: Owned in ~ 3% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Doucet has a chance to make some noise with Fitzgerald drawing constant double coverage.

Nate Washington, Titans
Worth a LookEarly in his career Washington was a deep threat—a WR who would catch two passes in a game but one of them would be for a 50-yard touchdown. In Tennessee, he’s becoming something of an underneath route runner. QB Matt Hasselbeck targeted him seven times and he ended the game with a respectable six receptions for 67 yards. The Forecast was banking on TE Jared Cook becoming Hasselbeck’s go-to pass catcher but early returns suggest Washington could be that guy. Take a flier on him as a bench option in PPR leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Washington is a decent PPR pickup.

TIGHT ENDS

Commonly owned TEs worth adding: Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen

Fred Davis, Redskins
Rock StarThere was no shortage of intriguing fantasy TE performances on Sunday. Don’t let the play of Fred Davis get lost in the shuffle. Davis looked like a new man—fitter, trimmer, faster. With Chris Cooley ailing, Davis is poised to become the team’s top TE. The Shanahan offense has produced star fantasy TEs before, including hall of famer Shannon Sharpe. If you are stuck with Dallas Clark or weren’t happy with the TE you landed in the draft, Davis could be a savior. Target him ahead of most of the upstart TEs who scored touchdowns in Week 1.

Availability: Owned in ~% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: In a week that saw a bunch of breakout TE performances, Davis will emerge as the best of the bunch.
  
Ed Dickson, Ravens
Worth a LookDickson caught all five passes QB Joe Flacco threw his way in Sunday’s blowout win over the Steelers. He ended the day with 59 yards and a touchdown. Sure there were other TEs that had better statistical performances. However, Dickson was heavily involved with Baltimore’s gameplan and with TE Todd Heap no longer in town, Dickson has the chance to shine. The Ravens need a receiver like Dickson to step up and catch passes between the hash marks and in the red zone. Dickson can be that guy. Fellow TE Dennis Pitta also caught a couple passes but Dickson looks like the top option.

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Dickson is worth a look in all TE-mandatory leagues.

KICKERS

Commonly owned PKs worth adding: Neil Rackers and Robbie Gould

John Kasay, Saints
Rock StarKasay was picked up by the Saints to replace the injured Garrett Hartley. The 21-year veteran booted two field goals and four extra points in Thursday’s shootout loss to the Packers. Because he plays for New Orleans, Kasay is an attractive fantasy kicker. Not only do the Saints have a high-scoring offense, but they also play indoors. The one concern with Kasay is he likely lacks long-range kicking ability, costing him the opportunity for distance bonuses. Still, this is the Saints. The number of kicking opportunities he’ll get will make Kasay a consistent fantasy option.

Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Kasay will continue to produce for fantasy as long as Hartley is out.

Jason Hanson, Lions
Rock StarHanson nailed two field goals and three extra points Sunday against the Bucs. As long as Detroit’s offense is firing on all cylinders, Hanson will be an above average fantasy kicker. Capitalize on the Lions favorable matchup this week against the Chiefs. Hanson should get bountiful kicking opportunities at home against a Kansas City squad that gave up 41 points to the Bills in the opener.

Availability: Owned in ~40% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Hanson will be a highly useful kicker this week and beyond.

Rian Lindell, Bills
1 Week Plug & PlayBuffalo’s offense looked legit in Sunday’s 41-7 whipping of the Chiefs. Kicker Rian Lindell benefited from the offensive explosion, connecting on two field goals and five extra points. Unfortunately, they won’t all be this easy for the Bills, nor for Lindell. Treat Lindell as a spot starter until Buffalo proves they can move the ball against stiffer competition. Since the Bills host the Raiders next week, Lindell is a smart plug-and-play option.

Availability: Owned in ~4% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Lindell is worth grabbing for this week’s meeting with the Raiders but his long-term value is still murky.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

Commonly owned DSTs worth adding: Detroit Lions (vs. KC)

Houston Texans
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Texans blew out the Colts in Week 1. On defense, they racked up three sacks and two forced fumbles. On special teams, Jacoby Jones returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown. With Wade Phillips reinventing the defense this year, The Texans could emerge as a DST you can plug and play when the matchup appears favorable. The Forecast likes their chances this week against the Dolphins. Although Miami managed to put 24 points on the board against the Patriots, this is still a team that’s prone to errors and sacks. QB Chad Henne was sacked four times and threw an interception on Monday night.

Availability: Owned in ~36% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Texans should fare well in Week 2 against the Dolphins.


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