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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

The Trash Can Report - Rummaging for Week 8
Dennis Leonard
October 27, 2004

Hello and welcome back to the Trash Can Report.  My goal (in case you are a first time reader) is to identify potential value in less than obvious places.  So grab some grubby clothes and let’s get to scrounging.

Amani Toomer – NYG: this week I put Toomer under the microscope and the biopsy results are back.  If this guy were a comic book character he’d be Harvey Dent (aka Two-Face) because his appeal depends entirely on what angle you look at him from.

Let’s first examine the ugly stuff that justifies his place in the Trash Can:

-          zero TDs in six games;

-          in a standard scoring system he’s only earned 33 points to date, which ties him with the likes of Jabar Gaffney, Cedrick Wilson, and Az Hakim (who didn’t even play last week);

-          that’s a depressing average of 5.5 points per game;

-          fellow Giant Jeremy Shockey is outscoring Toomer;

-          over a third of Toomer’s points (36.36%) were scored in Week 3;

-          Toomer is being out-scored by the likes of M. Muhammad, Quincy Morgan, Johnny Morton, Koren Robinson, and last week’s return specialist recommendation Michael Lewis. Wow.  That’s putrid.  If you’ve got Toomer on your roster I’m probably pouring salt in an open wound.  But fear not loyal readers because there is an entirely different side to Amani Toomer:

-          he has been thrown to 46 times, which easily makes him Warner’s favorite target;

-          he is being thrown to on average of about 8 times a game (that’s good);

-          he is catching a respectable 56.52% of those passes;

-          he has caught 26 passes, which ties him for 14th most in the NFL despite missing his bye week already; and

-          he is averaging a decent 61.8 yards per game.

Okay, so maybe Toomer isn’t so repulsive after all.  In fact, Toomer embodies the classic Trash Can Report candidate.  He’s getting opportunities to contribute but he just hasn’t played up to his ability yet.  That makes him undervalued in my book because he is a better player than his mere point totals would suggest.

I like Toomer this week specifically when the Giants play the Vikings in Week 8.  With or without Randy Moss this game has all the ingredients for a shoot out.  The Vikings DEF has allowed the most production to opposing wide receivers, second only to the Colts.  On the other hand the Giants DEF is very middle of the road: 12th worst versus QB's, 22nd worst versus RB's, and 16th worst versus WR's.  Clearly the Vikings have more offensive fire power, so if the Giants have any hope of winning this game Tom Coughlin is going to do two things on offense: (1) let the passing game loose at some point; and (2) cut down on turnovers and mistakes.  Warner has flirted with 300 passing yards a couple times this year (270 yards versus the Lions in Week 7 and 286 yards versus the Browns in Week 3).  I think this week he has his best chance yet to cross that 300 yard mark.  His #1 target, Amani Toomer, would stand to benefit the most if he does.  In reality Toomer’s yardage numbers are okay but could stand to improve a little.  All he really needs is a couple of TDs and his overall value would increase dramatically.  Call it a hunch but I think this week he has a great opportunity to score his first TD of the season.  The Giants just won’t be able to stay in the game if they plan on riding Tiki Barber the whole way.  That should spell added opportunities for Toomer.

So if you own Toomer - play him.  On the other hand, if you can get him on the cheap now is a great time to buy low.  Just remind Toomer’s owner of all the negative stuff I listed above and he shouldn’t be too hard to pry loose from the dumpster lid.

UPDATE: Toomer was held of practice on Wednesday and is now listed a questionable with a hamstring issue. The news was released late Wednesday. Be sure to keep tabs on Toomer before you cement him in your starting line up this week. Obviously if he can’t play, or can only play in a limited capacity, my Week 8 recommendation for him would change accordingly. However, barring a more permanent set back my long-term opinion of Toomer is still favorable.

Troy Edwards – JAX: I can admit when I’m wrong and I was wrong about Byron Leftwich.  I slept on him this year and now it’s probably too late to find him on waivers or acquire him cheaply.  (But if you can you should).  That’s not to say we can’t still use Leftwich to our benefit, though.  The Jaguars’ passing game is in high gear and I do not see it slowing down as long as they keep winning games with Lefty’s arm.  (Can you believe they beat the Colts last week?)  Jimmy Smith is obviously the Jags primary receiver but he isn’t getting every look or catching every ball.  That’s why I think Edwards may see enough opportunities to warrant an occasional start as a bye week filler, injury replacement, or just added WR depth. 

Edwards has limited upside but has been a steady contributor since the Jags’ found their passing mojo.  Edwards has been thrown to 31 times and caught 23 of those balls for a righteous 74.19% reception ratio.  However, he is really more of a possession receiver and has failed to notch a TD this year.  Honestly, he wasn’t targeted in the red zone last week so I’m not sure how likely Edwards is to score at all this season.  What little upside he has can be attributed to his activity in the return game in Week 7.  With Jermaine Lewis out due to concussion Edwards stepped in and did a pretty good job.  If he continues to return kicks and punts then he has a little extra something to offer owners who get points for that stuff.  Yeah, I know Ernest Wilford has some skills too but his production has been much too erratic for my taste.  Edwards offers a stable, plain vanilla source of modest points.  If you’d be happy with getting 4 or 5 points consistently out of a #3 or #4 receiver then give Edwards a look.  But don’t expect much more than that because outside of Jimmy Smith, Leftwich spreads the ball around quite a bit.

UPDATE: Jermaine Lewis is probable this week. No word yet on who will perform kick return duties for the Jags.

Jason Witten – DAL: As a Terry Glenn owner his injury chaps my hide.  If you’re a Jason Witten owner, however, you should be doing the Snoopy dance.  It is no coincidence that with Antonio Bryant in Cleveland and Glenn nursing a sprained foot that Witten was targeted a season-high 10 times last Sunday.  Even more intriguing is that Witten caught 8 of those 10 balls for his best performance to date: 112 yards and a TD.  Entering Week 8 Witten is now Testaverde’s second favorite target (41 passes), second only to Keyshawn Johnson (50 passes).  However, Witten has a stranglehold on the team’s highest reception ratio: a tasty 73.17%.  Witten also has the same number of TDs (two) and is only 61 receiving yards shy of Keyshawn’s 368.  Viewed differently, Witten has the 6th highest yards per game for all tight ends with 51.2.  Folks, that’s Santana Moss/Chris Chambers territory.  And most people would start those guys as a #3 WR without thinking twice.

I think with Glenn out for at least two weeks and Quincy Morgan still learning the ropes (not to mention nursing his own day-to-day hamstring injury) Jason Witten is about to experience an additional spike in opportunities.  Coupled with his demonstrated ability to produce when called upon you have to like his short-term outlook.  He is a “must start” in TE-mandatory leagues but also qualifies as a strong candidate for a WR/TE flex position.  Lastly, if the Lions are able to pressure Testaverde like they did Warner last weekend then Witten could easily be in for his most active game to date as Vinny’s release valve.

Jerald Sowell – NYJ: You may be saying, “Jerald who?”  But let me ask you this: which Jets player has Chad Pennington targeted most so far?  Nope, not Santana Moss.  Sorry, not McCareins.  Not Curtis Martin, either.  It’s Sowell.  This no-name running back has been targeted 32 times in the passing game and has hauled in 25 of those passes for a rather engorged 78.12% reception ratio.  *If* your league awards points for receptions Sowell is good source for some cheap, consistent points.  Plus he contributes a little on offense.  He has amassed a fairly meager 169 receiving yards, 19 rushing yards, and 1 receiving TD.  But hey, it’s something.  He did get one pass thrown to him in the red zone last week so he is a minor threat to score a random touch down every week.  However, he also had his only fumble of the year last week on a crucial drive so take that into consideration.  But unless you get points for receptions (and in you cheesiest New York accent) you can “forget about it.”  He won’t be worth your time.

Brad Hoover – CAR: Even my vacuum cleaner knows about Hoover by now.  But if by miracle of miracles he is still on waivers snatch him up immediately.  That he is (an admittedly temporary) starting running back is reason enough.  At this point in the season that’s about as likely as me developing a craving for tofu and Zima.  But 99 yards on 24 carries (a nice 4.1 ypc, mind you) against one of the NFL’s better run defenses last week is an indication that Hoover has some game.  He had 4 red zone carries and was targeted twice in the red last week; you’ve gotta love that.  He also narrowly missed out on a TD that was called back by penalty.  If you don’t have a better option plug him in against the Seahawks’ DEF who basically parked lawn chairs on the field and watched Emmitt Smith traipse for over a 130 combined yards and a score last week.  I doubt Hoover goes nuts but with Stephen Davis unlikely to play Hoover should have ample opportunities to chip in some points this week.

Late Additions…

B.J. Sams – BAL: ever wonder what Dante Hall and Jerome Bettis’ love-child would look like? For at least the next two weeks, probably a lot like B.J. Sams. Sams is primarily the Ravens’ kick returner so unless you get individual points for that stuff don’t bother. But if you are strapped at RB he has a few attractive facets. First, given the Ravens’ burly defense it’s not surprising that Sams has had the most punt return opportunities in the NFL with 22. Second, Sams has had the 5th most kick off return opportunities, again with 22, and is averaging a decent 21.5 yards per return. Third, with Jamal Lewis out Sams appears to have taken over short-yardage touchdown duties. Did it surprise anyone that Sams had only one carry last week for 5 yards and a score? I’m sure it surprised Chester Taylor owners. With McNabb and Owens coming to town the score could get high giving Sams plenty of kick offs to return. Toss in the upside possibility of another vultured TD and Sams is worth spot duty until Jamal Lewis is back from his “time out.”

Dorsey Levens – PHI: This one is a no-brainer.  Westbrook cracked a rib and probably won’t play in Week 8 so Levens is an obvious pick up.  What might not be so obvious is the following: he got 48 yards on just 7 carries for a sweet 6.86 ypc and tacked on another 12 yards on one reception… and he did that in less than one quarter of play.  I’m not saying Levens makes for a stupendous play against Baltimore in Week 8.  But beggars can’t be choosers.  So if you’re strapped for a RB this week Levens could contribute something as a stand-in, which is better than nothing.

UPDATE: subsequent reports by the Eagles’ trainers make it sound like Westbrook is in even worse shape than McNair. Apparently he can’t even breath with out experiencing severe pain. That could mean Levens might be more valuable that just a one-week fill in.

Jonathan Wells – HOU: If you are a Domanick Davis owner and you don’t have Wells on your roster you’re nuts.  While Davis can be productive, especially catching passes out of the backfield, he seems to get injured way too often.  When Wells was called upon in Weeks 4 and 6 he served up great production: 105 yards rushing, 28 receiving, and a TD in Week 4; 73 yards rushing, 4 receiving, and a TD in Week 6.  That would be 16 and 13 points in most leagues, which is certainly better than being beaten with a sack full of door knobs.  If Wells is on waivers (which I doubt) snatch him up regardless of whether you own Davis because we don’t know when (and I do mean when, not if) he’ll be called upon next.  If you do own Davis then Wells shouldn’t be too expensive to acquire.  However, as of the time I wrote this the official word on Davis wasn’t out for Week 8 yet.  So it’s impossible to say whether Wells will see any meaningful work versus Jacksonville this weekend.  Chalk him up to a prudent handcuff/speculative upside acquisition.

UPDATE: Domanick Davis isn’t even on the injury report this week and has been practicing. Wells still makes for a good acquisition but it would be very, very risky to start him this week

Tim Rattay – SF: I wouldn’t play Rattay on a regular basis unless I was in a 14 (or more) team league.  But even in small-to-medium sized leagues if your regular starter is on a bye (Brooks, Garcia, Bulger, or Griese), or your other options sound about as appealing as a Tabasco sauce enema, you could do a whole lot worse than Rattay this week.  Here are some things I like:

-          he has a 7-to-3 TD to INT ratio;

-          out of the NFL’s regular starters he has the 12th best QB rating at 92.5;

-          he is averaging 20.5 points per game in my Huddle league, which is the 4th best for all QB's;

-          the 49ers receivers are finally healthy;

-          they play the inept Bears this week who have the 7th worst DEF versus quarter backs;

-          the Bears have registered a pathetic total of just 1 INT, 3 sacks, and 2 recovered fumbles in their last three games;

-          the Bears have registered the fewest sack yards to date in the NFL with 41; and

-          Craig Krenzel has already been named the starting Bears’ QB for this Sundays so there is a good possibility the 49ers’ offense will see lots of time on the field.

Rattay is a decent QB in his own right.  The match up versus the Bears this week – who in my opinion are the new Dolphins – makes this a very favorable week to plug him in.

UPDATE: here’s a weird one. Rattay doesn’t even appear on the injury report but the Contra Costa times (a San Francisco Bay Area paper) reports that Rattay may not start this weekend. It’s probably much ado about nothing but keep your eye out for updates on Rattay. He plays a late Sunday night game, which means if they pull a last second switch-a-roo you’re hosed unless you’ve got Pennington or Fielder on your roster (because they play Monday night). However, everything on the 49ers’ website indicates that Rattay will start on Sunday. He is still recovering from a forearm injury but he’d said yesterday that won’t keep him from playing. It’s probably nothing. But I still thought you deserved to know.

49ers’ DEF: see above.  Granted, my beloved 49ers have one of the worst DEF's in the NFL.  But look on the bright side: they’re most certainly on waivers.  If you are truly desperate for a DEF this week don’t turn your nose up at this San Francisco treat.  If Thomas Jones can be contained (and with only one Bears’ fullback healthy that might be easier than usual) then the 49ers should feast on those parts of Krenzel the Bucs left behind from last week.  Some more Bear-food for thought:

-          they have the NFL’s 4th worst yards per game with 264.2;

-          they have the NFL’s 5th worst points per game with 14.2;

-          they have the NFL’s 3rd worst average time of possession at 27:43.

Even if you don’t like the 49ers’ DEF this week you should at least be on the look out for future DEF's that play the Bears.  The Giants in Week 9, Titans in Week 10, Dallas in Week 12, and Jacksonville in Week 14 all look to exploit the one-horse show the Bears have become.

Prior Picks Repeated

Jesse Chatman – SD: I recommended Chatman going into Week 6.  If you didn’t listen then, listen now because if he is still on waivers he won’t be there long.  He’s only seen spot duty in three games.  Yet during that time he racked up over 200 yards, three TDs, and an eye-popping 7.8 yards per carry.  Folks, those stats were amassed in the equivalent of roughly one game.  He also out-produced Tomlinson last week, FYI.

It’s pretty clear Tomlinson isn’t 100% and will give way to Chatman at some point during most games.  Tomlinson owners (which I am) in particular should be all over this guy like sorority chicks on free jello shots.  Heck, Chatman makes a decent play in his own right because the Chargers are turning into one of – if not the – most productive running back by committee teams in the NFL.

Any DEF That Plays Miami: Yeah, yeah.  The Rams choked last week.  But the Jets pulverized Miami back in Week 4 and I expect more of the same in Week 8 as Men In Green look to rebound from a valiantly fought loss to the Patriots.  I’m walking the walk on this one and giving the Jets DEF the start in my Huddle league.

Any DEF That Plays Miami Next Week: The up and down Cardinals face Miami in Week 9.  Arizona makes for a decent pick up for that match up, and for the following reason…

Random Inexpensive Defensive Pairing Observation: If you waited to draft a defense, or the one(s) you drafted haven’t panned out, you may have found yourself playing the match ups week to week.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But I noticed Monday night that two particularly inexpensive defenses pair well from now until the end of most leagues’ regular season.  Those defenses are Arizona and the New York Giants.

After Week 6 team defenses were the most productive against the following ten opponents (worst listed first): MIA, WAS, CIN, OAK, BUF, ARZ, SF, KC, CAR, CHI.  I excluded KC from contention because, as we saw in Week 7, it is dangerous to bet heavily against Priest Holmes.  Of the remaining nine teams the Cardinals and Giants face seven of them from Week 8 and Week 14.  The potential schedule looks like this with the favorable match ups in bold:

Week 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Cardinals @BUF @MIA NYG @CAR NYJ @DET SF
Giants @MIN CHI @ARI Atl PHI @WAS @BAL

Granted, if you can get a hold of a top DEF or a DEF with a better match on a week to week basis, do so.  But this combo should make a serviceable, cost-efficient contribution to your team from now until Week 14.  Week 12 may look like a glaring bald spot in the plan but consider that the game will be played in Arizona.  I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the phrase “ambush in the desert” this year, so even that match up could play out favorably if the Cardinals bring their A-game.

Brandon Lloyd – SF: The Bears suck.  I don’t say that because I dislike the Bears; I don’t feel one way or the other about them.  But their hurting on both sides of the ball right now and just aren’t getting much done.  They are allowing the 5th most production to opposing wide receivers in the NFL, however.  Plus Lloyd is (finally) healthy and vibbing with Rattay.  When evaluating Lloyd you have to exclude the time he was hurt and the time Rattay wasn’t under center.  That basically leaves Weeks 5 and 6, which were Lloyd’s most productive games.  During that time frame he was thrown to 13 and 11 times, respectively.  That tied him with Eric Johnson as the most targeted 49er.  Lloyd’s reception percentage is a mediocre 45.83% in those weeks but he still produced big.

-          Week 5: 56 yards, 1 TD, 1 2-pt conversion for 13 points, which tied him for the 9th best scoring WR in the NFL.

-          Week 6: 93 yards and 1 TD for 15 points, which tied him for the 3rd most productive WR that week.

I’m going to play Lloyd this weekend in my Huddle league.  He should have the opportunity to contribute again against a DEF that is going to be very, very tired near the end of the game.  If he is still on waivers (possibly as a result of San Francisco’s bye last week) grab him.  But if, for example, you were doing a multi-player trade with Lloyds’s owner he wouldn’t be a bad player to try and get “thrown in” as part of a package deal.

Bobby Engram – SEA: I recommended Engram going into Week 5 and he made me look like a fool by coughing up a goose egg.  Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment but I’m endorsing him once again, albeit very conditionally.  So let’s be clear about a few things.  First, don’t play Engram unless he’s healthy.  An ankle injury has him listed as questionable for Week 8’s play date with the Panthers.  Second, he’ll likely only be worth starting once Koren “no hands” Robinson starts serving his suspension.  (And no, I don’t know when the suspension is going to begin).  Third, Hasselbeck will need to get his head back into the game before any receiver but Darrell Jackson is likely to be productive.

But here is what I do like about the guy, just in case you were curious.  First, he put up a 90+ yard game back in Week 3, so contrary to conventional thinking he does know his way around a football field.  Second, he is catching 60% of the passes thrown to him, which is a far better ratio than either Jackson or Robinson has.  Third, he returns punts if you get points for individual return efforts.   Fourth, I’m just not sure how effective Jerry Rice is going to be in this system.  Rice didn’t work out in Oakland and your guess is as good as mine as to why.  But he was thrown to seven times in Week 7 yet only caught one pass for 10 yards.  Hmmm.  Maybe the Raiders weren’t so crazy to trade him for the equivalent of a ham sandwich and a warm can of root beer.  Let’s call Engram a speculative upside pick.  Because once Robinson is unavailable it is quite possible that Engram will out-produce Rice, assuming the Seahawks can ever get their offense out of neutral.

UPDATE: this guy is killing me. What was initially thought to be a simple ankle sprain is now looking like a high-ankle sprain, which takes a lot longer to heal. (Think McAllister). Engram is officially ‘out’ for this weekend so there is no reason to rush out an acquire him. Chances are he’s only on his mom’s fantasy roster, but even there he’s riding the bench or on IR. Therefore, if and when Engram gets healthy he should be on waivers if you’re interested in him at all.

Jermaine Wiggins – MIN: I recommended this dude last week and initially considered that recommendation a failure when he didn’t light up the box score.  I’d “officially” like to flip-flop on that earlier statement: Wiggins is a stud.  Wanna know why?  He caught 6 of the 6 passes thrown to him in Week 7, including an ugly tipped ball that your run of the mill NFL player wouldn’t have been able to pull in.  That makes Wiggins – who the Vikings recently nick-named “The Garbage Man” – 21 of 23 this year.  <plunking at calculator… pauses to double-check numbers.>  Folks, that makes for what has to be the sexiest reception ratio in the NFL right now: 91.3%.  Based on what I’ve seen only Jacksonville’s LaBrandon Toefield has done better.  (Toefield has caught 13 of 14 passes thrown his was for what appears to be this season’s highest reception ratio to date: 92.85%).  But out of the players you might actually consider starting on a fantasy team Wiggins is certainly numero uno in that department.  I’m not sure if the man was born with stick ‘em in his blood but he is simply catching everything right now.  Besides, with a name like The Garbage Man you know the Trash Can Report is obligated to promote the guy.  For what it’s worth, I’m starting him in my Huddle league this weekend.

Steve Christie – NYG: I’ve been talking Christie up since before Week 6.  Amazingly he is only owned in 42% of the CBS Sportsline leagues.  (Apparently I’m not that widely read by folks in Sportsline leagues).  With most of the better guys permanently on a roster by now the waiver wire is lacking in quality kickers.  With Feely, Carney, Wilkins, and Janikowski on byes this week you can bet one or more teams in your league will be looking for a replacement.  Christie – who has the second most field goal attempts so far this year – is probably one of the better guys that’s still out there.

Other guys I wanted to look at but didn’t have enough time to research thoroughly:

- Todd Pinkston – PHI: Caught 6 of 10 passes thrown his was last week.  Could become more involved if opponents ever figure out how to contain Owens;

- Josh Reed – BUF: 10 passes thrown his was last week; only caught four of them.  If Bledsoe keeps going to him and Reed’s hands ever start to work he might be worth a look;

- Shawn McDonald – STL: 11 passes last week.  Might be nothing but I’m keeping an eye on this guy.  Based on Week 7, opponents may have figured out how to limit Holt, which could open the door for a productive #3 WR in St. Louis;

- Quincy Morgan – DAL: Sort of an obvious pick up given Dallas’ pass-heavy game plan.  Also active in the return game;

- Nate Burleson – MIN: Also an obvious candidate.  Caught 6 of 9 passes, 3 of which were in the red zone.  Missed a TD by 1 yard last week.  Also active in the return game;

- Keenan McCardell – SD: Way too obvious for feature consideration.  But just in case you’re coming out of a coma, he immediately stepped into a starting role with the Chargers and caught 5 of the 9 passes thrown to him after practicing with the team for less than a week; and

- Sammy Morris – MIA: Call me crazy but I’m a little gun shy when it comes to Miami’s running game this year.  Nonetheless Morris has contributed double-digit points in each of the last two weeks.  Since you could do much, much worse in the way of production he deserves consideration.

UPDATE: Morris is listed as questionable with a sprained wrist. While the Dolphins seem confident he’ll play Travis Minor would likely get extra work if Morris were ineffective.

Well, that’s it for now.  Good luck and I hope some of the debris floating around here at the Trash Can Report contributes to a successful Week 8 for your team(s).  Game on!