It wasn’t all that long ago that the Darius Heyward-Bey bandwagon was a SmartCar, with Al Davis driving and ample room for all those who didn’t think DHB was a bust of a first-round draft pick. But funny things have been happening, beginning with a three-game stretch over which only 10 wideouts have scored more fantasy points than Heyward-Bey. With 17-296-1 in that span, DHB has essentially been DeSean Jackson (14-303-1) or Steve Smith (16-326-1).
Heyward-Bey’s suddenly spiking fantasy value appeared to take a hit on Sunday when Jason Campbell busted his clavicle; little did we know that instead DHB was about to get another boost. Scrambling for a replacement, the Raiders went all in and shipped a first-round pick (along with another conditional pick that could also turn out to be a first-rounder) to the Bengals to bring Carson Palmer out of retirement.
Palmer may not be ready to take over the Oakland offense this week, but the Raiders have a bye in Week 8 to give him time to get into football shape and become better acquainted with the playbook. And from Week 9 on, the Raiders battle for a playoff berth with one of the league’s top ground games, a young and improving offensive line… and a Pro Bowl quarterback feeding Heyward-Bey all he can catch.
Everything’s coming up Millhouse!
Of course, there are flaws in this plan. First and foremost, of course, is the fact that this is uncharted territory for Heyward-Bey. His hands could turn into 4x4s once again. Palmer’s elbow and arm strength might sap his deep ball.
But there are no sure things, except that Heyward-Bey is being targeted—a lot. Coming into this season he’d seen seven or more targets in a game just four times; he’s seen that many in each of the last three. In those more heavily-targeted tilts DHB is averaging five catches for 82 yards, which extrapolates to an 80-catch, 1,300-yard campaign—and he’s been doing that with Campbell and lesser QBs.
Heyward-Bey currently sits at #38 on the Rest of Season rankings; I’d have pushed him a little higher had not DMD and I spent the better part of the afternoon sparring over his potential (or lack thereof). Knowing the face of The Huddle holds such strong anti-DHB sentiment, I wasn’t comfortable bumping him up much more. But when DMD’s back is turned, I’ll tell you I llike DHB’s prospects almost as much as Michael Crabtree’s, who clocks in at #32.
Having been right there mocking the DHB pick and his subsequent lack of production, I’m not so sure they’ll be all that happy to squeeze me onto the bandwagon. But they’ve added a trailer, so perhaps I can hop on board for the remainder of the season.
As this column is titled “Off Tackle” and I’m a firm believer in the axiom “It all starts up front”, it only makes sense to chronicle a few offensive line notes here.
- The Vikings will give first-round pick Christian Ponder his first start Sunday against the Packers. It’s a good thing he’s mobile, as the already-depleted Minnesota line could be without both center John Sullivan (concussion) and right tackle Phil Loadholt (knee). As a Vikings fan and offensive line devotee, it was particularly disconcerting that I barely recognized their replacements (Joe Berger and Pat Brown, respectively) when they entered the game last week in Chicago. Here’s hoping the Vikings aren’t setting Ponder up for a David Carr or Tim Couch-like shellacking that permanently damages the internal clock so critical for quarterbacks to be successful.
- Buffalo had allowed just four sacks all season heading into last week’s battle with the Giants. Without starting left tackle Demitrius Bell, however, the Bills surrendered three sacks in Week 6 alone. Worse, Bell’s backup, Chris Hairston, went down with an injury as well, forcing guard Andy Levitre to kick outside to tackle and Chad Rinehart to fill in at guard. The Bills are off this week, giving Bell and Hairston extra time to get healthy, but it’s worth checking their injury status heading into Week 8 as the fantasy production of Fred Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, et. al. could depend on it.
- The Redskins are another team that will be down two starters this week. Center Kory Lichtensteiger was placed on IR and will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL and MCL, while left tackle Trent Williams may not be able to fight through the high ankle sprain he suffered against Philly. Washington’s scramble to fill the holes offers some explanation as to why the Redskins couldn’t run against the Eagles. With a week to work in Sean Locklear and Eric Cook, Washington should be more ready to run—and protect new starting quarterback John Beck—against Carolina this week.
This Twitter thing is starting to grow on me. Not just for the almost-instant updates from the likes of Jay Glazer and Adam Schefter (who must burn through iPhones and Blackberries like Kobayashi goes through hot dogs), but for some of the other interactions and insights that come across the wire.
Sunday, for example, former NFL director of officials Mike Pereia—who spends the entire day answering questions about the officiating—replied to my question about why Sam Shields’ interception and subsequent run through the end zone wasn’t a safety (answer: because the pass took the play into the end zone; essentially Shields was playing with house money looking for a path out of the end zone, though after the shot he took he may just drop to a knee next time).
Sunday night, Shawn Ryan—creator of some of my favorite TV shows, including The Shield and Terriers—sounded off about Matt Forte’s versatility and how Forte was, for today’s NFL, a more valuable back than Adrian Peterson. Ryan is an unabashed Bears fan—his most recent show, after all, was The Chicago Code—and as a Vikings fan I wanted to refute. But he has a valid point; plus, at the time his team was kicking the snot out of my team.
And Monday night one of my favorite actors, Josh Charles—Dan Rydell from SportsNight, as well as Dead Poet’s Society, S.W.A.T., and more recently The Good Wife—had some choice thoughts for Tony Sporano’s play-calling. Charles is a hugh Ravens fan, so why the intense interest in the Dolphins? Seems that Sporano’s decision not to run out the clock against the Jets led to a sack—a sack that cost Charles his fantasy game by fractions of a point. So you see, Charles is just like us; it’s just that when he puts his pants on, he makes great TV shows.
For notification when the Rest of Season Player Rankings are updated every Tuesday, interesting stats and trends I unearth during my research, and an early release of my Take A Chance On Me players prior to my Saturday radio show, follow me on Twitter at @jtuvey. I’ll also answer as many fantasy-related questions as I can get to. So far that’s been all of them, as far as I can tell.