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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

The Trash Can Report - Rummaging for Week 7
Dennis Leonard
October 21, 2004

Those readers joining me from the Pro Football forum (hey guys), you know the drill. If you are a first-time reader, welcome to the Trash Can Report.

The point of this column is to locate potential value in unlikely places. Perhaps your team is solid, but you’ve got an extra roster spot to invest in a speculative upside player. Sometimes you need a bye-week replacement. Who doesn’t want to upgrade, where possible? But maybe you’re like me and your team took too many hits too early and you’ve been juggling adjustments just to stay competitive. Regardless, I’ve observed over the last few weeks that certain players (or combinations of players) deserve more attention than they are generally getting. I don’t predict stats. I won’t tell you to play your studs. What I do is identify players who are available or affordable and also have the opportunity to contribute points to your team’s bottom line. I also review my picks the following Monday morning in the Pro Football forum, where I hope you will chime in with your thoughts. But enough with the introductions: let’s talk some trash.

I am the only one feeling bamboozled about waiting to draft a quarterback? I thought going into the season conventional wisdom suggested that in a 12-team league you could wait until the 5th round to draft a decent QB. Suffice it to say, that wasn’t my experience. In my local league I ended up with Brad Johnson and Palmer. Sucksville, population: me. Granted, I spent those early picks on valuable players at other positions. But lack of production from the QB was my team’s loadstone. Between the under performance of many other QBs, injuries, and the exorbitant price tag attached to the top dogs, it was obvious by the end of Week 2 that some other calculated change was necessary. But I had to do it on the cheap. If that sounds familiar, here is what I did. Maybe it can help you.

Kurt Harrington: I am reminded of Brundlefly;* an unnatural, yet capable combination. Similarly, the pairing and proper rotation of Kurt Warner and Joey Harrington allows you to play soft match ups from Week 3 through Week 17, covers all byes, and can be done cheaply. I found Warner on waivers. He’s still there in some leagues, his owners perhaps unwilling to carry him over the Giants’ Week 6 bye. And what do you think Joey Harrington’s value is right now? I don’t know exactly, but it can’t be that high. Let me be frank, because this QB rotation: (1) works best if you already own half of Kurt Harrington and can acquire the missing half cheaply; (2) you cannot reasonably afford Culpepper, Manning, or McNabb; (3) you don’t already have a well-performing second-tier QB on your roster ( e.g., Favre, Brooks, Carr, Plummer, Brady, Bulger, or perhaps Leftwich; or (4) you are willing to trade your current starting QB to SIGNIFICANTLY improve another position, and can still piece Kurt Harrington together at little to no cost.

After Week 2, I determined the twelve-worst pass defenses versus quarterbacks, based on the then available data. I then plotted around the easy match ups and bye weeks. Employing this strategy from Week 2 to present, Kurt Harrington’s schedule (in bold) looked like this:

  Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
Warner WAS CLE @GB @DAL bye
Harrington HOU PHI bye @ATL GB

Based on standard scoring (1pt per 20 yds passing, 4pts per passing TD, 1pt per 10 yds rushing, 6pts per rushing TD, -2pts per INT or fumble lost), Kurt Harrington would have produced as follows:

- Week 2 vs. HOU: 18 of 25 for 176 passing yds, 3 passing TDs, 1 INT, and 13 yds rushing = 19 points;

- Week 3 vs. CLE: 19 of 27 for 286 passing yds, and 1 rushing TD = 20 points;

- Week 4 vs. GB: 20 of 26 for 187 passing yds, 1 passing TD, 1 INT, and 22 rushing yds = 13 points;

- Week 5 vs. DAL: 18 of 33 for 217 passing yds, and 1 passing TD = 14 points; and

- Week 6 vs. GB: 12 of 23 for 101 yds, 1 passing TD, 1 INT, and 12 yds rushing = 8 points.

So, what the heck does that all mean? For starters, the hybrid scored at least 1 TD in each of those games. He never fumbled. He threw only three picks in 5 games. All bye weeks are out of the way. Most importantly, he contributed every week at a fairly consistent level. Sure, Harrington came up short in Week 6. But so did McNair, McNabb, Delhomme, Palmer, Collins, and others. It happens sometimes. However, the Lions were without Roy Williams in Week 6, which almost certainly adversely affected Harrington’s stats. That’ll change soon.

Stated differently, Kurt Harrington scored 74 points in Weeks 2 through 6, averaging 14.8 points per game. This is how he stacked up against some other, more highly rated, certainly more costly QB options:

- Hasselbeck fared slightly better with 15.8 points per game (his bye factored out of the equation);

- Drew Brees (who is playing very well) averaged the same 14.8 points per game;

- Trent Green averaged 14.5 points per game (his bye factored out);

- Pennington averaged 13.5 points per game (his bye factored out);

- Brady also averaged 13.5 points per game (his bye factored out);

- Vick averaged 13.4 points per game; and

- McNair averaged 12.8 points per game (his missed game due to injury factored out).

And there are a host of other QBs who did way worse. In reality, only Culpepper, Manning, McNabb, Leftwich, Carr, Favre, Brooks, Bulger, and Plummer did substantially better. Folks, that’s only 9 QBs. If your league has 12 or more teams, chances are there are some people in your league that would love to get some more value from their QB position every week, and do so with consistency. Not convinced yet? Let’s look at Kurt Harrington’s upcoming schedule.

Going into Week 6 the twelve worst defenses versus QBs were (worst to first): MIN, IND, HOU, SD, DET, GB, CHI, STL, KC, TEN, DAL, and NYG. Those teams are in bold, below.

  Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12
Warner DET @MIN CHI @ARI ATL PHI
Harrington @NYG @DAL WAS @JAC @MIN IND

Considering the recent downturn in Arizona’s defensive play (the Cards were really only tough in Weeks 3 and 4) you actually might have added options in Weeks 10 and 13. However, as it stands things look pretty easy going forward during the next 6 weeks. And the last third of the season?

  Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Warner @WAS @BAL PIT @CIN DAL
Harrington ARI @GB MIN CHI @TEN

Again, very soft. I understand that the NFL’s defensive stats won’t remain constant. Clearly this strategy needs to be reassessed periodically. However, I’d rather have a cost-efficient, calculated, long-term plan instead of flailing chaotically from week to week, or potentially making panic trades that may or may not help my team. As demonstrated above, some folks in your league most certainly paid more to get less. So if you can assemble Kurt Harrington on the cheap, he could make for a respectable upgrade if you’re in trouble at QB. He won’t single-handedly win games for you like the big dogs. But he should contribute relatively consistent value to your team’s bottom line every week through Week 17. Solid, baby.

Other QBs that pair well: Favre/Warner, Harrington/Carr, and Harrington/Plummer. If you have discovered similar inexpensive, yet potentially valuable pairings, I’d love to hear from you.

And that, my friends, is what the Trash Can Report is all about.

UPDATE: Despite having two soft match ups to choose from I’m giving the nod to Warner in Week 7. The Giants had the bye week to game plan. I’m benching Harrington for now because the Lions could be without Roy Williams again and Jones is still getting back into the swing of things.

* Non-Football Note: I really enjoyed Jeff Goldbloom’s performance in ‘The Fly.’ Some of his more mainstream fluff performances in films such as Jurassic Park and Nine Months were a little weak. But if you haven’t done so already, check out the 2002 film ‘Igby Goes Down.’ Goldbloom did some nice work in this independent, charming dark comedy.

Back To The Trash Can...

Michael Lewis - NO: If your league awards points for return yards and TDs, Lewis is good for some cheap points. He is – at best – a #3 WR or flex player. But if you’d prefer a stable source of moderate points, rather than spastically tearing up the waiver wire, Lewis is worth a look. (Except in Week 8, when the Saints are off. Don’t play him then). Let’s be clear: outside of an errant TD on special teams Lewis has marginal upside. In my local, points for return yards are equal to passing yards: 1 pt per 20 yards, which is twice as much as for rushing or receiving, which are 1 pt per 10 yards. In that system Lewis scored 7, 5, 8, 7, 2, and 9 points in Weeks 1 through 6, respectively. Like I said, stability with limited upside.

So what’s there to like about this scragamuffin? For starters, he has the second most combined return yards to date with 706. Only J.J. Moses has more, with 742. However, unlike Moses, Lewis plays a little on regular offense. Beginning in Week 3, Brooks began targeting Lewis a few times. Nothing significant; on average of two passes per game. Still, it’s something. For instance, in Week 6 Lewis had 146 kick off return yards and 23 receiving yards. That was good for 9 points, equal to the likes of Jimmy Smith, Eric Moulds, and fellow Saint Jerome Pathon. Hmmm. While wide receivers like Smith and Moulds undeniably have more upside, viewed from this perspective Lewis doesn’t look so worthless. But that’s not to say he can’t be had cheaply, because he is almost certainly on waivers.

The fact is, as long as the Saints’ defense keeps getting scored on as if every game day were prom night, Lewis will get plenty of opportunities in the return game. (The Saints’ defense has currently allowed an NFL-high 27.5 points per game). Furthermore, with the Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos, and Falcons on tilt after their Week 8 bye, the Saints will be facing teams who are pretty good at putting up points on weak defenses. No, Lewis isn’t going to make your team explode with points. But you could also do a whole lot worse, because barring injury he is a virtual lock to contribute something every week.

Jermaine Wiggins - MIN: If you are in a TE-mandatory league, Wiggins is already on your radar screen. (If he isn’t, he should be). However, I’ve advised starting TEs as #3 WRs (in leagues that allow it) for several weeks now. Prior names have included Eric Johnson, Antonio Gates, and Randy McMichael. It would be euphemistic to say those guys have done “well.” Sadly, those guys are likely taken in most leagues. But where in the world is Wiggins? On waivers, most likely. Heeeeere, Wiggy-wiggy…

Remember back in Week 2 when the Vikings played the Eagles on Monday night football? Wiggins caught my attention then… in addition to every pass thrown his way. I’m serious. He literally caught 8 out of the 8 passes thrown to him for 60 some-odd yards. And that was during less than four quarters of play. Culpepper zeroed in on him underneath quite a bit. Then he broke his hand and was done for that game, and four more, if you count the bye. (Just in case you were wondering why his stats to date are so low). Well, welcome back Mr. Wiggins: 56 yards on 5 receptions, plus 2 TDs, made Wiggins last weeks’ top scoring TE with 17 points in my local. Folks, Holt and Driver were the only receivers to out-score him last week. I’ll give Wiggins this; the man knows how to make a (re)entrance.

Here are some other pertinent facts you need to know:

  • he’s caught 15 of the 17 balls thrown to him this season, for an unbelievable 88.23% reception ratio. For those not keeping score at home, that’s the best reception ratio in the NFL for a TE who has caught four or more passes;
  • he is averaging a respectable 9.3 yards per catch;
  • in Week 6 alone he was thrown to three times in the red zone;
  • he has scored twice in the three games he has appeared in;
  • he has the best QB in the NFL throwing to him;
  • Randy Moss may miss next week’s game; and
  • The Vikings are playing the Titans in Week 7, who just *happen* to have the NFL’s worst defensive success versus tight ends (at least based on data compiled after Week 5).

If you’re looking for some upside from your #3 WR/TE flex position, look no further.

Najeh Davenport - GB: The rumor mill has quietly circulated the idea that Ahman Green’s achillies’ tendon is worse than the team is letting on. He won’t practice much this week, but is expected to play. If you’ve got a roster spot to invest speculatively, or you’re a Green owner, snatching up Davenport isn’t such a bad idea.

Green rushed 21 times for 81 yards, and no TDs in Week 6, for a decent 3.9 ypc. He also threw a 20 yard TD pass, which padded his stats for a cool 13 points in my local. Not bad. Davenport, on the other hand, rushed 10 times for 62 yards and a TD, producing a more impressive 6.2 ypc, and a comparable 12 fantasy points. Tony Fischer was also active last week, but I think if Green were unavailable, Davenport would become the primary RB.

Maybe it’s nothing. But if you can afford to sit on Davenport for a week or so and see how things unfold, what do you have to lose? The potential upside – while unlikely to materialize – is too good to ignore. And even if things were to turn into running back by committee up in Green Bay (because Green became limited, but was not held out) Davenport has already demonstrated that he can be productive when sharing the load.

UPDATE: Davenport stated on Wednesday that his hamstring still bothers him and that he’s about 80%. However, I do not believe that seriously undercuts his value as a handcuff or as a speculative pick up because he played pretty well against Detroit last week.

Dennis Northcutt - CLE: Northcutt has so-so upside but can provide depth and chip in points when called upon. Here at the Trash Can Report, that’s what we’re looking for. What could I possibly like about this guy, you say? I’m glad you asked.

First – and in case you missed it – the Browns traded Quincy Morgan to Dallas on Tuesday in exchange for Antonio Bryant. While it is yet to be seen how that will affect Garcia’s pass distribution, most suspect that Northcutt just became the undisputed #2 WR for Cleveland. But I’m not so sure I agree. Even prior to the trade Northcutt was getting more opportunities – and catching a higher percentage of passes – than any other regular Browns’ target. Northcutt has been thrown to a team-high 37 times. He caught 20 of those passes for a modest 54.05% reception rate: the best of any Browns’ WR. Andre Davis, on the other hand, has been targeted only 34 times, catching 16 of those passes for a less attractive 47.05% reception rate. Davis is certainly the home run hitter for the Browns and, in all candor, I’d probably rather have him on my roster. But chances are someone in your league already owns him. The fact is that Northcutt is getting opportunities and, maybe some day, he’ll be able to do something more with them. Let’s continue.

Second, he returns punts, if your league awards points for that.

Third, Garcia must have been chillin’ with Stella, because he finally got his groove back. With the running game working well, the passing attack has opened up. If the Browns can keep it up, that will be good for all their receivers.

Forth, Andre Davis looks like he is being slowed by a nagging case of turf toe. Sure, he had 99 yards and TD last week, but did anyone bother to question why he only had one reception? Turf toe limited his action after that catch, that’s why. Who knows if it will continue to be a problem, but Northcutt might get a few extra looks because of it.

Fifth, it is going to take Bryant some time to adjust to a new system. I look for Northcutt and Davis to both see an up-tick in opportunities until Bryant is comfortable with the Browns’ playbook.

It may not be much to write home about. But come on, who were you expecting to find waivers, Tory Holt?

UPDATE: Andre Davis had a cast on his foot Wednesday and is considered day-to-day. If he is limited or held out of the Browns’ match up this week versus the Eagles, Northcutt likely becomes the de facto #1 receiver in a game that could produce some serious garbage time production.

Joe Jurevicius - TB: If you’re new to the game, your long-term memory is impaired, or you just plain missed it, Jurevicius displayed some skills early last season. Mr. Peabody: to the Way-Back Machine! <Insert crude, mildly hallucinogenic late-70’s special effects here.>

It’s September 8th, 2003. The Bucs are playing in Philly on Monday night football. Brad Johnson goes back to pass. Jurevicius runs a pattern to the right side of the end zone, but is well covered. Johnson lets loose a high, arching ball anyways… headed right between Jurevicius and his defender; it’s anybody’s ball. Bucs fans everywhere hold their collective breath. In a most acrobatic display Jurevicius some how tips the ball – to himself – and away from the defender with his left hand. The ball bounces over his head, he barley maintains his footing despite getting tangled up with the defender, contorts his body, then catches the ball with his right hand as he falls in bounds. Touchdown.

It was easily one of the top five catches I’ve ever seen. That night Jurevicius scored the only two TDs the Bucs needed to shut out the Eagles 17-0. Sadly, he suffered an injury in the next game that effectively ended his 2003/2004 season. And now, he’s back.

Gruden says JJ is good to go in Week 7. It remains to be seen if Jurevicius has lost a step, or how many cobwebs he needs to dust off his wheels. However, Jurevicius is worth a trip to your local appraiser, because he should still have some value. The question is: how much? Maybe you’re deep a WR and can afford to take a wait and see approach while he rides some pine. Maybe you’re so desperate that you’re one loss away from employing animal sacrifice to help notch that second or third win. Either way, you can’t deny the following: (1) Griese is just getting warmed up; (2) Clayton is the real deal; (3) if the Bucs want to win games they are going to have to get most of their work done through the air; and (4) as of last week, they lacked a competent #2 WR. The onus is on Jurevicius to step up, but all the other pieces are in place.

Special thanks to fellow Hugh One for encouraging me to include Jurevicius in this week’s report.

LATE INCLUSIONS…

Michael Pittman – TB: If you are a Pittman owner (like me) Week 7 looks like a good one to unleash this guy… unless you have a substantially better option. (I’m benching Travis Henry and Lee Suggs for what it’s worth).

For starters, Pittman has seen a steady increase in his work load over the last three weeks. Omitting all the boring numbers he scored 7, 7, and 9 points in Weeks 4 though 6. Unspectacular but productive. He would have done even better in Week 6 if he hadn’t fumbled. It’s no secret that I think Griese and Clayton are getting the passing game in gear, which should only open things up for Pittman on the ground a little more. Aside from Gramatica (who Gruden should beat with a sack full or oranges if he misses another field goal) the whole offense seems to be getting off their fat pirate asses.

And let’s look at who they are playing this week: da Bears. My crystal ball is hardly High Definition but I still foresee bad mojo on Chicago’s horizon. Injuries. An impending QB controversy. Lack of offense. Honestly, the Bucs couldn’t have picked a better week to invite the Bears to town. First, Adewale Ogungleye is out, which means the Bears will be without one of their stud defenders. Plus while Urlacher will play his hamstring injury should limit him some. Second, here are some stats that you do want to pay attention to. The Bears are giving up the forth most rushing yards per game: 139.6. That’s sickening. Yeah, they’ve only allowed 1 rushing TD so far but were talking about Mike Pittman. He is the duke of racking up tons of yards but few TDs. This is a very favorable match up for him, especially if the Bucs establish a decent lead.

IMO the Bucs have the edge on both sides of the ball. Pittman’s work load should continue to be increased to the point where he has his best combined yardage total of the year so far. That alone would make him a low-risk #2 RB for this weekend. Toss in the potential for a TD and he has some added upside as well.

Musa Smith - BAL: on Thursday a Hudder – miller x – asked me what I thought of Musa Smith. Honestly, I hadn’t thought much about him. I figured every Jamal Lewis owner would have handcuffed both Taylor and Smith by now. In my BOTH league that is true. In my local it isn’t. Apparently there are some leagues out there where Musa is still available. But without a real track record on the guy it is hard to get too excited. But then I thought about it some more last night and maybe Musa has some appeal after all. NOT as a starter this week but as a short-term investment.

For starters every one is focusing on Taylor’s amazing near-six yards per carry; everyone thinks Taylor is going to be the starter. And maybe he will be. But really, who knows? The Ravens stated on Friday that there are packages that Musa will be featured in and packages that Taylor will be featured in. Hmmm. They further alluded to the potential for Musa to be the third-down back. Double hmmm. Then I remembered that nobody saw Ruben Droughns coming. Triple hmmm.

No one knows how the Ravens’ backfield is going to get divvied up. There could be a feature back. It could be RBBC. What is known is that – barring divine intervention – Kyle Boller’s passing game can’t carry the team. So whoever is in the backfield is going to be called on early and often. If you’ve got a roster spot dedicated to high-risk upside players then Musa is a legit candidate to occupy it. We can’t know his value until after this week’s game versus Buffalo gets underway. But Even if Musa just gets carries in a committee approach he will still be capable of contributing points while Jamal Lewis is suspended. Toss in the Droughns-esque upside that he might somehow end up as the featured back and Musa does belong here in Trash Can Report. It’s a long-shot. But so are a lot of the players in this column. Thanks again miller x.

Prior Picks That Bear Repeating

Any Defense That Plays Miami: Rats. I think they’re on to us. This little recipe for success has netted me tons of points. And I’ve made a believer out of a few other Huddlers. But, at this point it appears to be the worst kept secret in fantasy football. Sure, if you can start the Rams’ defense in Week 7, do so. But I think we’re going to have to make some adjustments if we plan on milking this cow much longer. For starters, if you’ve been beaten to the Rams this week, try picking up Miami’s opposing defense two weeks in advance.

Jets’ DEF: Is the Jets’ defense available in your league? If so, pick them up. I did. Because they MAULED Miami back in Week 4 (most points by a defense in my league that week, by far), except they play in New York Week 8. … <pause> … Sorry, had to mop the drool off my keyboard, because it should be another defensive extravaganza. Secondarily, is there another team we could apply this strategy to? Why yes, I believe there is.

Chargers’ DEF: Carolina’s fall from grace has been both steep and tragic. So let’s exploit that. Carolina has the NFL’s fourth worst turnover ratio at -6. They’ve given up 9 interceptions and 2 fumbles in just 5 games. Plus, they have the NFL’s fifth worst points per game at 15.4. Well, they happen to be playing a Chargers team (in San Diego) that is probably angry about losing by one point last week, and are very much in the play off hunt. I’ll bet a pound of chicken skins that San Diego’s defense is available in most leagues. So if you don’t have a more favorable match up, give them a look. Despite the little warning bells that may be going off in the back of your head, be reassured: this ain’t last year’s Chargers.

UPDATE: due to swelling in his surgically repaired knee, Stephen Davis will not be playing a full strength this weekend, if he plays at all. This bodes poorly for the Panthers’ offense. But its a very good thing for those starting the Chargers’ DEF.

Antowain Smith - TEN: I recommended Smith last week because of his garbage time potential. Honestly, as a Chris Brown owner, I hope Brown can play this weekend. The fact is, we just don’t know if he will. I followed my own advice and handcuffed Smith for good measure. If you’re a Brown owner, you’d be wise to do the same. Even if you aren’t, Smith – sled dog that he is – would make for a respectable play against a Vikings run defense that is barely middle of the pack.

Nate Kaeding - SD: Out of the top 12 scoring kickers in my local, only Kaeding and Phil Dawson remain perfect on extra points and field goals. Last week I recommend Kaeding as a bye-week replacement kind of guy. However, after proving that he’s got some leg strength (he nailed a 53-yarder last weekend) I’m upgrading my recommendation of Kaeding to an every-week starter. As strange as it sounds, you could do a whole lot worse than a rookie kicker playing for the Chargers. So what if people laugh at you? This guy has been a steady contributor each week providing his owners with 10, 4, 9, 8, 10, and 10 points for the last six weeks. Given that I won 77 to 76 last week in my local, I know better than anyone that a handful of points can make all the difference in the world, and it doesn’t matter where those points come from.

Emmitt Smith - ARI: I recommended Smith a few weeks back and he … went… OFF!!! I doubt he’ll do that every week, but it’s clear the 35 year old archeological exhibit has some game left. Much like the horse in Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ Smith is going to give 110% until, one day, it breaks him. My advice: ride that horse for all he’s worth. However, if you’re a Smith owner who is light at RB, I’d advise you to handcuff Troy Hambrick.

LATE INCLUSION…

Eddie Berlin – TEN: Drew Bennett’s ailments continue to pile up. Now he has a hip flexor and calf issue. While he is not on the Titans’ injury report Bennett sat out of Wednesday practice. If Bennett were limited in the Titans’ visit to Minnesota this week, Berlin would be the likely recipient of additional attention in the passing game.

Well, that’s it for now. Good luck to everyone in Week 7. Game on!