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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 5
Paul Sandy
October 4, 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: Cam Newton and Eli Manning

Matt Hasselbeck, Titans
Rock StarLast call on Hasselbeck, who the Forecast has been profiling since before Week 1. The wily veteran has averaged two touchdowns and 288 passing yards per outing. The loss of top wideout Kenny Britt didn’t seem to hurt Hasselbeck too much this week as he tossed three touchdowns and put up 220 yards against the Browns. Although the schedule doesn’t favor Hasselbeck—he faces a formidable Steelers defense in Week 5 followed by a bye—the Titans QB should be picked up in all leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~62% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Hasselbeck should be owned in all leagues and can be treated as a QB1 for fantasy.

Alex Smith, 49ers
1 Week Plug & PlayIt’s difficult to believe but Smith has completed 67.3% of his passes this year—fifth best in the NFL. If that doesn’t shock you, the fact that he’s only thrown one interception certainly will. Maybe head coach Jim Harbaugh can turn Smith’s career around after all. The 49ers QB is coming off his best performance this season. He passed for 291 yards and two touchdowns on the road in Philly. With an umpcoming home matchup against the Bucs, Smith is an intriguing bye week option for owners who will be without Tony Romo or Joe Flacco.

Availability: Owned in ~15% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Add Smith for this week’s matchup against the Bucs and look for modest but useful stats.

Curtis Painter, Colts
1 Week Plug & PlayPainter opened some eyes on Monday night football, passing for over 275 yards and two scores. He has a cannon for an arm that was on full display on a couple of throws to Pierre Garcon. Most impressively, he played mistake free football, avoiding the costly interception. His play was strong enough to keep Kerry Collins planted on the bench. Give Painter a spot start this week against a Chiefs defense that has allowed ten passing scores, tied for most in the NFL.

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Painter should be good for 200 yards and a pair of scores against KC.

Andy Dalton, Bengals
1 Week Plug & PlayThe byes have arrived and if you need a QB this week, consider adding rookie Andy Dalton. Dalton gained some confidence this week leading his team to an upset win over the undefeated Bills. He threw for 298 yards and a touchdown, adding a rushing score. Up next, the Bengals hit the road to face a so-so Jaguars pass defense. Jacksonville has allowed 228.0 yards and 1.5 touchdowns through the air per game. If you can live with that level of production from your QB this week, Dalton is worth considering. He’ll be steady but unspectacular.

Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Dalton is worth a spot start as a bye-week replacement.

RUNNING BACKS

Commonly owned RBs worth adding: Marshawn Lynch, Darren Sproles, Wilis McGahee, Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and James Starks

Ryan Torain, Redskins
Rock StarMike Shanahan strikes again. The unpredictable head coach pulled starter Tim Hightower from Sunday’s win against the Rams, replacing him not with rookie Roy Helu but third-stringer Ryan Torain. All Torain did was rush for 135 yards and a touchdown. Torain plays the part of free agent darling well; he had a similar rise to relevance last year. Look for him to get the start and the bulk of the carries when the Redskins come off bye in Week 6. Although he carries a well-documented risk of injury, when Torain is healthy, he is capable of being a high-end RB2 for fantasy. That makes him the must-grab player for Week 5.

Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$-$$$$
Forecast: Torain is worth a heavy investment in FAAB systems or the top selection in waiver priorty leagues.

Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Rock StarRidley put up 100 total yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s win over the Raiders. Although BenJarvus Green-Ellis had more carries (16 to 10), Ridley was the more explosive RB. Right now, fantasy owners need to look at the New England backfield as a 50-50 timeshare. As the season progresses, don’t be surprised if Ridley gets a bigger piece of the pie. He could easily be an every-week RB2 by midseason. Do what it takes to add Ridley but recognize a matchup this week against the Jets might not be the best time to deploy him.

Availability: Owned in ~23% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$-$$$$
Forecast: The arrow is pointing up on Ridley but beware of a difficult Week 5 matchup.

Kendall Hunter, 49ers
1 Week Plug & PlayHunter started for the injured Frank Gore in Week 4. He rushed for 38 yards and added 62 yards through the air for a neat and tidy 100. The performance confirmed what the Forecast suspected: Hunter is a multidimensional RB who could produce for the 49ers if he’s pressed into action. Even though Gore wasn’t 100%, he still got plenty of work and ended the day with 127 yards and a score. There should be no confusion about who’s the top dog in this offense; it’s Gore. But Hunter has earned touches each week and could handle the ball 10 or more times per game going forward. He’s playable this week against a soft Tampa run defense in deep leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~54% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Hunter merits roster consideration in all leagues and can be used as a spot starter if needed.

Pierre Thomas, Saints
1 Week Plug & PlayThomas amassed 79 yards of offense on ten touches Sunday against the Jaguars. Available in about 25% of leagues, the Saints No. 2 RB is an excellent bye-week option if you can get your hands on him. The Saints will face a Panthers defense that Matt Forte carved in Week 4. On the season, Carolina ranks 31st in run defense, allowing 143.8 yards per game on the ground. Although he splits touches with Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles, Thomas is getting enough work to make him a viable spot starter in deep leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~77% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Thomas will post decent numbers against Carolina and might be a useful bye week option.

Issac Redman, Steelers
Injury Replacement1 Week Plug & PlayRashard Mendenhall left Sunday’s game against the Texans with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. The severity of the injury isn’t clear, but look for him to end up on the injury report as questionable with his playing status determined by his level of practice participation. If Mendenhall is sidelined, look for the Steelers to lean heavily backup Isaac Redman. Pittsburgh's offensive line is having trouble blocking anyone right now so Redman might not have much room to run. But with six teams on bye, beggars can’t be choosers. Assuming Mendenhall sits, he's worth a start this week if you’re desperate.

Availability: Owned in ~33% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: If Mendenhall sits, Redman is startable in all leagues.

Montario Hardesty, Browns
Worth a LookPeyton Hillis returned to action on Sunday but backup Montario Hardesty still figured prominently in the box score. Hardesty put up 71 total yards on seven rushes and five receptions. He also dropped four passes. It looks like the Browns intend to give him plenty of touches each week. Cleveland has a bye this week but when they return, they’ll face the Raiders and Seahawks. If you have a RB on bye in Weeks 6-7, be proactive and grab Hardesty as a potential replacement.

Availability: Owned in ~43% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Hardesty will be a decent bench option and is worth adding in leagues with 10 or more teams.

Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard, Bengals
Worth a LookCedric Benson’s appeal of his three-game suspension hasn’t been ruled on yet. That decision could take place this week. If the suspension is upheld, Bernard Scott would likely get the start. Brian Leonard would also get plenty of work and may be the choice at the goal line. Leonard actually looked like the better RB in Week 4. He racked up 51 yards on four carries and one reception. Scott managed just 22 yards on seven touches. Monitor the news out of Cincinnati this week. Scott and Leonard could be useful if Benson is banned.

Availability: Owned in ~53% and ~2% of leagues, respectively.
FAAB: Scott - $-$$ and Leonard - $
Forecast: Tap the Bengals backfield for RB help if Cedric Benson’s suspension is upheld.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Commonly owned WRs worth adding: Jordy Nelson, Sidney Rice, Julio Jones and A.J. Green

Victor Cruz, Giants
Rock StarCruz backed up his monster effort in Week 4 with a six-catch, 98-yard stat line against the Cardinals. Regular starter Mario Manningham was benched after he made a few route-running mistakes. It remains to be seen whether Cruz will hold onto the No. 2 job going forward. Whether he’s the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver, he’ll be useful for fantasy. QB Eli Manning apparently trusts him. He threw Cruz’s way nine times on Sunday. It’s not difficult to fathom Cruz becoming Manning’s safety blanket, filling the role Steve Smith used to play. Don’t hesitate to start Cruz this week against a Seahawks team that plays much better at home than on the road.

Availability: Owned in ~31% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Cruz is capable of performing as a WR3 the rest of the way but expect peaks and valleys.

Pierre Garcon, Colts
Rock StarGarcon hooked up with Curtis Painter on 87-yard and 59-yard touchdowns on Monday night. Painter gave the entire Colts offense a spark. No one will confuse him with Peyton Manning but Painter boasts a strong arm. His ability to throw the ball downfield jibes with the type of player Garcon is. The Forecast had completely written off Indianapolis but I’m willing to retract my previous comments and give Garcon a hearty endorsement. Add him in advance of Sunday’s favorable matchup against the Chiefs and start him as a WR3.

Availability: Owned in ~65% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Garcon is worth acquiring and starting in Week 5.

Eric Decker, Broncos
Rock StarDecker is tied for third in the NFL with four receiving touchdowns. He needs to be owned in all leagues at this point. Coming off a two-touchdown effort against the Packers, Decker has racked up 17 receptions over the last three games. He’s PPR gold and his value should continue to rise. Play him with confidence as a WR3 or flex option, and note that his remaining schedule is quite favorable.

Availability: Owned in ~76% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Decker has proven himself to be a weekly fantasy contributor and should be owned everywhere.

Michael Crabtree, 49ers
1 Week Plug & PlayCrabtree led all San Francisco receivers with 68 receiving yards on five receptions. It was his best performance of the year and it came against a tough Philadelphia secondary. Look for brighter days for Crabtree in the coming weeks. Although he was dealing with a foot injury at the start of the season, he looks healthy now. With upcoming games against the Buccaneers and Lions, he could be a useful WR3 or flex option—especially if you have bye week issues.

Availability: Owned in ~54% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Crabtree is a decent bye week replacement option against an average Tampa pass defense.

Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter, Texans
Injury ReplacementWith Andre Johnson expected to miss time with a hamstring injury, Jacoby Jones will step into the starting lineup. Jones has never lived up to his potential but he’s worth stashing on your bench to see how he responds. The guy has no shortage of talent and now he’s going to get the opportunity to prove he can play. It’s risky to trust him as a starter but if you’re in a pinch, you could push Jones into action since he has a favorable matchup this week against the Raiders. Starting opposite Jones will be Walter, who will likely see a spike in targets. However, the reality is Walter is just a guy. Give him a look in deep PPR leagues but don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed.

Availability: Owned in ~18 and ~8% of leagues, respectively.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Jones and Walter stand to see an increase in targets with Andre Johnson out but don’t overspend on them.

Randall Cobb and James Jones, Packers
Injury Replacement1 Week Plug & PlayCobb and Jones both got in on Aaron Rodger’s mammoth performance on Sunday. Cobb ended the game with 75 yards. Jones tallied 48 yards and a touchdown. Not huge numbers but useful nonetheless. If Donald Driver (knee) sits out this week’s game against the Falcons, Cobb and Jones should see an increase in snaps. With the bye weeks upon us, both players are worth a roll of the dice in what should be this week’s highest-scoring game. I’d lean toward Cobb since he would pick up most of Driver’s slot work. However, it’s worth noting that Jones scored in last year’s playoff meeting against the Falcons. Atlanta has allowed the seventh most passing yards this season.

Availability: Owned in ~13% and ~17% of leagues, respectively.
FAAB: $
Forecast: If you’re desperate for WR help, you can always turn to the Packers deep receiving corps.

Antonio Brown, Steelers
1 Week Plug & PlayBrown was a fast riser during the preseason but so far he hasn’t made the splash fantasy owners were hoping for. It’s not for a lack of opportunity though. QB Ben Roethlisberger has thrown to Brown 31 times this season. That’s the exact same number as top wideout Mike Wallace. The difference is Wallace has caught 10 more of those passes for 231 more yards. In Week 5, Pittsburgh faces the Titans. Tennessee’s top cornerback, Cortland Finnegan, will likely match up against Mike Wallace. Look for Roethlisberger to continue to throw Brown’s way. He’s a decent spot starter with high upside.

Availability: Owned in ~56% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Brown is sleeper material in Week 5 and still has the potential to emerge as fantasy mainstay.

Laurent Robinson, Cowboys
Worth a LookWith Miles Austin still out with a hamstring injury, Laurent Robinson was a major contributor to the Cowboys offense on Sunday. He caught seven passes for 116 yards. QB Tony Romo threw his way ten times. Dallas is on bye this week so Robinson won’t provide any immediate fantasy help. Miles Austin is expected to return after the bye. Even so, Robinson is worth stashing on your bench for a couple weeks. When the Cowboys take the field again, they’ll face New England and St. Louis—two of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. Even as Dallas’ No. 3 WR, Robinson has the upside to put up nice numbers against those foes.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Snatch up Robinson in advance of his favorable matchups in Weeks 6-7.

Michael Jenkins, Vikings
1 Week Plug & PlayJenkins might be the least sexy pickup you can make at WR. His stats are generally ugly but he somehow still manages to be useful. Take last week for example. He caught one pass for one yard but it happened to be a touchdown. The Forecast can barely stomach recommending Jenkins but as Minnesota’s top receiving option, he should be active against a woeful Arizona pass defense this weekend. The Cardinals allow 282.8 yards per game through the air. If your waiver wire has been picked clean of all WR talent but you need a catcher, Jenkins is worth a shot.

Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Jenkins is worth a spot start for owners who play in deep leagues and like to live dangerously.

Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
SleeperBaldwin has quietly posted two useful stat lines during the first four weeks of the season. He’s not quite trustworthy as a fantasy starter yet, but he certainly merits a roster spot in dynasty leagues or deep redraft leagues. Baldwin led the Seahawks in receiving on Sunday with 84 yards. Given that he’s surrounded by other WRs with a lengthy injury history (Sidney Rice and Mike Williams), Baldwin is in a favorable situation. Even if you don’t pick him up this week, make sure you remember his name.

Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Baldwin is worth a look in deep leagues and dynasty leagues.

TIGHT ENDS

Commonly owned TEs worth adding: Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels, Jimmy Graham and Brandon Pettigrew

Jared Cook, Titans
Rock StarLast week’s sleeper TE recommendation came up big with 92 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Browns. Although Cook only had two receptions, he was targeted ten times—most of any Titans player. You also need to consider that Hasselbeck only attempted 20 passes since the game was a laugher by half time. Cook can be a legitimate top 12 fantasy TE and has many of the same attributes that make guys like Jermichael Finley and Jimmy Graham so effective. If TE has been a weakness for you this season or if you’re facing a bye week issue, give Cook serious consideration. He’s starter material against a Steelers team that has allowed TE touchdowns in two of four games this year.

Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Cook has the potential to be an every-week TE.

Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
1 Week Plug & PlayGresham put up 70 yards and a touchdown against the Bills. It was his second useful fantasy performance of the season. If you’re a Jason Witten owner and you need a TE to plug and play this week, adding Gresham is a crafty move. Cincinnati plays the Jaguars this week. Jacksonville has allowed a TE touchdown in three straight games. This includes huge performances by Dustin Keller (6-101-1), Greg Olsen (7-57-1) and Jimmy Graham (10-131-1). Don’t hesitate to grab Gresham and ride Jacksonville’s wave of futility against TEs.

Availability: Owned in ~43% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: A matchup this week against the Jags gives Gresham some sleeper appeal.

KICKERS

Commonly owned PKs worth adding: Matt Bryant, Jason Hanson and John Kasay

Nick Novak, Chargers
Rock StarNovak has averaged 11 points per game over the last two weeks (not including bonuses), connecting on six field goals with no misses. Novak should continue to benefit from playing on a team with a quality offense. If the Chargers start to figure out their red zone difficulties, Novak may see an increase in extra points and a decrease in field goals. In either case, Novak is a reliable kicking option for fantasy owners. He’s worth adding for this week’s tilt against Denver. The Broncos allow the fifth most points per game in the NFL (27.8)

Availability: Owned in ~15% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Novak is starting to look like an elite fantasy kicker.

Robbie Gould, Bears
1 Week Plug & PlayWorth a LookGould is tied for ninth in scoring among all kickers with 34 points. He should fare well on Monday night against the Lions. Every kicker that’s faced Detroit has attempted multiple field goals. In their last two games alone, the Lions have yielded 23 points to kickers. Whether you’re looking for a short-term plug-in or a long-term kicking option, Gould will fit the bill.

Availability: Owned in ~68% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Look for at least 8-10 points from Gould this week against the Lions.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

Commonly owned DSTs worth adding: Giants, Packers, Ravens and Jets

Tennessee Titans
Rock Star1 Week Plug & PlayThe Titans are next in line to face the sieve-like Pittsburgh offensive line. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 14 times this season. He’s also turned the ball over nine times. Now he’s dealing with a bum foot, which will likely limit his mobility. The Titans defensive players have to be gnashing their teeth at the idea of facing a gimpy Roethlisberger behind a porous line. The Titans have the top-rated scoring defense in the NFL. They’ve also recorded solid numbers in the key fantasy categories (turnovers and sacks).

Availability: Owned in ~45% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: The Titans should be owned and started in all leagues.

Houston Texans
Worth a LookThe Wade Phillips-led Texans have put together a nice defensive campaign so far in 2011. They’ve recorded 12 sacks to go along with seven turnovers and one defensive score. Unless you play in a league with a crazy scoring system, the Texans rank inside the top 10 DST units in fantasy. Houston needs to be on more fantasy radars at this point. A home matchup against the Raiders likely won’t net many points by way of sacks—Jason Campbell has been sacked just twice this year. However, Houston should be able to record some turnovers.

Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Houston’s new 3-4 defense should continue to score a steady stream of points for fantasy owners.


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