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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Waiver Wire Warriors - Prepping For Week 3
Dennis Leonard
September 21, 2005

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake."
        - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)

Hello and welcome back to Waiver Wire Warriors. So many things can go wrong with your fantasy squad. Injuries are the worst. But unless you’re a disciple of the Tonya Harding school of fantasy football, you’ve got zero control over who gets hurt. No, it’s the calamities of our own making that sting the worst, especially if they deliver victory to our opponent. Leaving a truck-load of points on your bench is a good example. (Which I did plenty of in Week 2). Sometimes that’s a product of bad coaching, which I can’t help you with. (Though, you can visit the Huddle’s ‘Fantasy Advice Forum’ on the Huddle’s message board for access to some pretty good coaching tips). However, bench points can also be a product of good depth and, thus, tough line up decisions. Bench depth is a good problem to have; it’s also something I *can* help you with.

Marcel Shipp – ARI RB: Shipp will be a popular pick up this week based on rumor and speculation. But unless you are looking for short-term help at running back, or just have an empty roster spot to fill and are looking for some upside, I think Shipp best serves J.J. Arrington owners.

It’s not that I’m worried about Arrington getting hurt, or an on-going bout with that alleged “stomach flu.” (Time to find a better take out Chinese place, J.J.). It’s that Shipp was drastically more effective in Week 2 (93 combined yards and no scores on 12 carries and 4 receptions) than Arrington was in Week 1 (27 combined yards and no scores on 8 carries and 4 receptions). While head coach Denny Green hasn’t benched Arrington (at least not officially), how many more games must Shipp outperform Arrington before that happens? It doesn’t take a PhD in particle physics to understand the following:

  • Average Yards Per Carry: Shipp – 3.4; Arrington – 0.6 (no, 0.6 is not a typo)
  • Total carries: Shipp 19; Arrington 8
  • Average yards per reception: Shipp – 6.4; Arrington – 5.5
  • Reception ratio: Shipp – 87.5%; Arrington – 80%
  • Shipp battles back from a broken leg and dislocated ankle last year hungry to compete in 2005; Arrington calls in sick with the flu on his second real day at a new job.
  • Arizona gets absolutely dismantled by the Giants in Week 1 (when Arrington started) 42 to 19; the Cardinals lose a close game in Week 2 to the Rams (when Shipp started) 17 to 12.
  • Do you get points for receptions? Shipp has 7 receptions in the passing game. Only five running backs have been more involved so far. Arrington, only 4 catches.

To be fair, Shipp got to run behind starting center Alex Stepanovich in Week 2, whereas Stepanovich was absent in Week 1 when Arrington certainly could have used him. And you simply can’t discount the value Stepanovich brings to his team’s offense line. For example, Shipp posted an emaciated 1.4 YPC in Week 1. Once Stepanovich returned in Week 2, Shipp’s YPC sprouted to 4.5. Did Marcel magically get better? Were the Giants *that* much more smothering against the run in Week 1 than Rams in Week 2? Or did the offensive line just perform better with Stepanovich in action? Coach Green seemed to think so when he commented about the difference in Week 2’s running game: “We got Alex back and that helped a little bit. A lot of guys got physical.”

For Arrington owners it’s simply worth the insurance policy to add Shipp. For everyone else, it’s worth dumping that 5th wide out for a week or two on the outside chance Shipp gets another start – an opportunity he’s been tenaciously pursuing for the last few years – because J.J. might get benched for a week or so just to teach him a lesson about the importance of toughness in the NFL. (Assuming, of course, that the “stomach flu” thing wasn’t just a rouse on the part of the Cardinals to give them an excuse to see what they had in Shipp). However, it is difficult to believe the Cards are going to moth-ball their second round draft pick long-term based in his first game ever, in which the team’s difference-making center didn’t even play. So I still like Arrington’s chances to make a contribution this year, just not this week. But there’s no denying that Shipp could be the man for at least a little while.

Chris Perry – CIN RB: Perry, the Bengals’ first round pick last year, backs up stud running back Rudi Johnson. So at least he’s got that bland handcuff value going for him. But if we take a closer look, Perry has some really intriguing and unheralded upside:

  • He’s sporting 4.1 yards per carry (58 yards on 14 carries), which puts him in the top 20 best YPC for running backs who have handled the ball at least 5 times a game;
  • He’s been targeted 10 times in the passing game; only five RB/FBs have been targeted more in the first two games;
  • Has caught an impressive 9 of those passes for an even more impressive 70 yards through the air;
  • 90% reception ratio. Only five pass targets (WR, TE, or RBs with 5 or more passes thrown their way) have better reception ratios right now;
  • Perry has earned 44 yards after the catch on those mere 9 passes and - amazingly - only nine other pass targets currently have more YAC: Frisman Jackson (81), Westbrook (67), Barber (64), Owens (59), Booker (55), Sowell (53), Chris Baker (48), Steve Smith (48), and Lamont Jordan (46);
  • In standard scoring leagues awarding points for receptions Perry is shockingly about the 20th most productive running back in fantasy football right now, edging out bigger names like Portis, Martin, K. Jones, McGahee, Barlow, Dunn, Duckett, Chris Brown, Ronnie Brown, Travis Henry, etc.; and
  • Coach Marvin Lewis stated on Tuesday that he considers Perry to be the team’s #3 receiver, which can only mean they recognize Perry’s efforts and should continue to involve him on offense.

I realize it’s early in the season, so Perry’s stats smack of being inflated by two good, early games. But he isn’t the kind of character that came out of nowhere to score an errant touch down or two, never to be heard from again. He’s earned his production through tough yardage and receptions, which makes him far more dependable than playing “no-name running back roulette” and hoping your guy vultures a few TDs. And given that the Bengals have currently scored 64 points in two games – the 2nd most in the NFL, second only to the Giants’ 69 points – it isn’t that crazy to think Perry might snake a few scores for himself during the season.

Big picture, right now I doubt anyone but Rudi’s owners and Bengals fans care much about Perry. But at this rate, especially in leagues that awards points for receptions, someone is going to stumble on him sooner or later if he continues to be involved at his current level. Considering the dearth of running back talent available on most waiver wires, Perry adds suitable emergency depth at the RB position and offers a little extra upside on the chance that he becomes more involved in either the Bengals’ running or passing game.

Troy Brown – NE WR: Hardly anybody owns Troy Brown. Can’t say I blame them, as he didn’t get much press during preseason and plays for a team who spreads the ball out to an abundance of targets. Or do they?

Brown is quietly the Patriots’ second most productive receiver, even though he is generally regarded as the Patriots’ #3 WR. But you wouldn’t know it looking at the Pats’ passing stats, as both David Givens and Tim Dwight have been targeted fewer times and have lesser reception ratios than Brown. In fact, Browns’ 138 yards is the 25th most for any NFL wide receiver right now. Even without any TDs (yet), Brown is moderately productive and consistently involved. He was targeted 8 times in both Week 1 and 2. He’s caught a blah 9 of 16 passes thrown to him for a 56.25% reception ratio. But he seems to get decent yards each week.

What gets my goat is that Brown (9 receptions for 138 yards) is currently performing at a level consistent with Michael Clayton (10 receptions for 141 yards and no TDs), whom I spent a 4th round pick on! While I’ll take Clayton over Brown any day, I do sort of view Brown as something of a poor man’s Eddie Kennison (even though Brown is slightly out performing Kennison at the moment). Brown makes for a decent addition to a team’s receiver depth in large league’s, at least until you can find someone with more upside. Obviously, in leagues that award points for receptions, his value is a little higher.

The “Other” Vikings’ Receivers: Minny is a mess right now, but with Burleson likely out for Week 3, Culpepper has to throw the ball to someone. Well, besides his opponents, that is. And I just don’t believe he’ll continue to turn the ball over at his current average rate of 5 per game. Yeah, that’s speculative on my part, but he’s simply a better QB than the first two weeks of 2005 would indicate. Aside from mere hope, speculation, no running game to speak of, and Burleson’s absence, each of the Vikings’ receivers offers some faint upside, depending on your league’s scoring.

  • Troy Williamson: The rookie didn’t do anything in Week 1, but went 2 of 4 for 44 yards in Week 2. With Burleson likely to ride some pine in Week 3, Williamson will likely be forced into an increased role. But your guess is as good as mine as to whether he sinks or swims. Couple that increased opportunity on regular offense with the fact that he is returning kicks for the Vikings and he presents at least some value to those who get individual points in the return game. Since the Vikings have given up the 2nd most points in the NFL (61), Williamson should continue to provide some consistent production from his kick returns. (He’s had 7 in two games, thus far, averaging only 12.7 yards per attempt). Other than that, Williamson is all speculative upside: buyer beware.
  • Travis Taylor: I guess he’s the de facto Vikings’ #1 if Burleson is out. Taylor has had the best production of the Vikings’ receivers so far, catching 10 of the 17 passes thrown his way for a combined 113 yards and no scores. Taylor is worth a fairly serious look in leagues that award points for receptions, as he should be the largest beneficiary of Burleson’s absence and was already getting most looks to begin with.
  • Marcus Robinson: The best thing I can say about Robinson (5 of 13 for 62 combined yards and a 2-point conversion) is that he was playing about the same as Burleson before Nate torqued his knee. But that’s not saying much. Robinson has come up big in the past, but his best years are easily behind him. The only reason he’s even worth mention is that he’ll likely be listed as the Vikings #2 WR going against the Saints in Week 2, who have been historically weak against the pass. (Though the Saints’ defense is actually playing pretty well against the pass right now). So if you’re in desperation mode, Robinson will be in a position to contribute.

Randy McMichael – MIA TE: McMichael is most certainly gone in tight end-mandatory leagues. However, in leagues that allow wide receiver/tight end “flex” positions, McMichael deserves an immediate pick up if he’s available. Simply put, Gus Frerotte is passing to him. A lot.

  • McMichael has been targeted 18 times, the most of any TE thus far;
  • He has caught 14 of those passes for a superior 77.77% reception ratio. Only 18 regular pass targets (WR, TE, and RB) in the NFL have better;
  • He has amassed 132 receiving yards and 2 TDs in just two games. No receiving target has caught more than 2 TDs so far;
  • 8 of his 14 receptions have been for first downs; and
  • 3 of his receptions have been in the red zone. Only Tory Holt (4) has gotten more red zone receiving action.

McMichael is arguably Miami’s primary pass target. While Chambers has been targeted 22 times to McMichael’s 18, Chambers has only reeled in 8 receptions to McMichael’s 14. Plus, Chambers has less that half the yardage (61) and no scores. Booker has seen even fewer passes his way (11), but has at least he has been productive, catching 6 of those for 125 yards and a TD. And when you consider that McMichael has done a good job of spreading his production around (Week 1: 6 catches for 55 yards and 1 TD; Week 2: 8 catches for 77 yards and 1 TD) he tops that production off with some nice consistency. Even if McMichael does not maintain this pace every week, which is highly probable, he’ll still serve as a solid #3 WR/TE flex with good upside to perform better than many receivers picked in the middle rounds of your draft.

Lawrence Tynes – KC PK: If you are considering permanent switch at kicker, Tynes looks solid early *and* has a good shot at actually being available. Here’s the meat and potatoes:

  • Currently tied with Josh Scobee for the most field goal attempts to date – 7 – and converted on 5 of those;
  • Has made 5 of 5 of his extra points;
  • Currently the best or second best fantasy kicker (depending on your scoring), despite being available in 57% of Fanball leagues;
  • Plays for a high-octane offense that will give him enough scoring opportunities to be useful every week; and
  • So far, he has done a good job of spreading his production evenly among games, scoring 2 field goals and 3 extra points in Week 1 and 3 field goals and 2 extra points 2. Most folk like that in their kicker.

Jose Cortez – DAL PK: If you are in a really large league, or just looking for a one-week replacement now that the bye weeks have started, Cortez should get the job done if you can’t find anything better. He only has 2 field goals and 5 extra points so far this season, but then again, he’s only missed one of the kicks he’s been asked to make. All he needs is more opportunities in order to be more productive. Lucky for him he faces his old team – the 49ers – in Week 3. The 49ers are currently tied for allowing the 3rd most field goal attempts (5) and 2nd most extra point attempts (7) in the NFL. Yes, Cortez is a bit of reach. However, even in leagues requiring all teams to carry two kickers, I can pretty much guarantee he’s still available and should find fertile hunting ground this week.

Not done laughing yet? Okay, then consider that Cortez is currently out-performing the likes of Longwell, Vinatieri, Vanderjagt, Akers, Janikowski, Hanson, and Stover. Sobering, isn’t it.

Cowboys – DEF: The Cowboys played pretty tough in Week 2, until the last four minutes of the game, during which Santana Moss ripped ‘em a new one. Twice. I do not expect Dallas’ Week 3 opponents – my beloved 49ers – will be so fortunate. Sure, they shocked the NFL beating the Rams in Week 1. But even a drunken Mr. Magoo wouldn’t confuse Bill Parcells with Mike Martz.

Why my Niners are ripe for the pickin’:

  • 2nd worst average yards per game (179.5);
  • Fewest average first downs per game (a scant 10);
  • A deceivingly high 15.5 average points per game, which hides a 3 point performance in Week 2;
  • 5 turnovers on offense in two games – only 5 teams are giving the ball up more than that; and
  • Worst time of possession in the NFL (21:20);

Why the Cowboys, who are not a top 12 DEF for fantasy purposes, make a good play on their own merits:

  • Averaging 2 take aways per game, which is acceptable;
  • 7 sacks so far. Only three defenses have more (Colts, Steelers, and the Niners, ironically);
  • Allowing an average of 19 points per game, which is inflated by the aforementioned improbable Santana Moss hail marys; and
  • They’re playing the Niners. ‘Nuff said.

Look for Parcells to whip the Cowboys into a ravenous frenzy after letting a close, winnable game slip through their fingers on Monday Night Football. The Cowboys’ DEF is only owned in a little over half of Fanball leagues, so there’s still a decent chance they are on waivers. I picked the Cowboys up last week in my Huddle league in anticipation of playing them this week, so you’ll be glad to know I’m personally invested in this pick.

Falcons – DEF: The Falcons are unlikely on waivers. However, I’m playing them in my local because I think despite a down performance in Week 2, Atlanta can handle Buffalo.

  • Buffalo is averaging about 12 points a game on offense – 7th worst in the NFL – and about a three-quarters of those points are from their kicker, Rian Lindell;
  • The Bills are averaging about 231 yards a game on offense – 3rd worst in the NFL;
  • Averaging only 14 first downs per game – tied with Houston for the 2nd worst in the NFL;
  • As hard as it is to believe, these vile stats are artificially inflated, as one of the two teams Buffalo played against when accumulating them was the impotent Houston Texans; and
  • Buffalo made the Bucs’ a top 6 fantasy defense last week.

Call me crazy, but if the Falcons could handle the Eagles in Week 1, I’m confident they can keep the likes of Buffalo in check.

Prior Picks That Bear Repeating

Trent Dilfer – CLE QB: Dilfer got no love in preseason. Hardly anyone bought into to his big Week 1 performance (except me, but even I slapped him around a little while doing so). And now he’s a top 5 fantasy QB. Go figure. While Dilfer is still on the vast majority of waiver wires, he isn’t going to stay there for long if he continues at anything near his current pace. Consider the following:

  • 614 total passing yards, which is the 2nd most in the NFL and just 4 yards shy of beating Carson Palmer for the 1st most;
  • 4 passing TDs in two weeks – only McNabb (6) and Palmer (5) have more;
  • Only 2 INTs so far. Eleven starting QBs have thrown more;
  • 62.7% completion percentage – 9th best of the league’s current starters;
  • One of only two starting QBs who haven’t been sacked yet, the other being Big Manning;
  • The Browns are still passing a lot more than they are running (75 pass attempts to 36 non-Dilfer rushing attempts), which is over a 2-to-1 ratio; and
  • The Browns just won, on the road, in Green Bay. So you know they’re pumped.

Look, I’ll concede that the first two defenses Dilfer faced this year were about as durable as the First Little Pig’s house (Bengals in Week 1, but more so the Packers in Week 2). And Dilfer has lost two fumbles already, which should not be ignored. However, the Browns’ still have some very pass-friendly opponents on their schedule, namely the Lions in Week 7, Texans in Week 8, Titans in Week 9, Vikings in Week 12, Bengals in Week 14, and Raiders in Week 15. And depending on which version of the Ravens show up, Dilfer might actually be up for thrashing his old Super Bowl team in Weeks 6 and 17, as well. I know he’s a gamble. But if Dilfer is for real you can pad your QB depth with top talent at virtually no cost. If he’s just been lucky – and Week 3’s face-off with the Colts should tell us a lot in that regard – it’ll you only have to spend a bench spot for a couple weeks to find out. I wouldn’t cut a proven performer for him, but if you’ve got the room, Dilfer is totally worth adding.

Bobby Engram – SEA WR: Last week I told you Engram would be “involved” and “dependable.” Aside from an “oopsie” fumble, he delivered as promised. Week 1 he was targeted 10 times for 79 yards. Week 2 he was targeted 9 times for 77 yards. Now that’s what I call consistency. Considering the Seahawks got two of their more difficult opponents out of the way (Jags and Falcons) I expect improved play from all Seahawks, including Engram, going forward. Last week, Engram was only owned in 7% of Fanball leagues. This week, 21%. So while it’s not too late to stash him on your bench, it does appear that word is starting to spread. And, for those of you who get individual points in the return game, Engram was back in on a couple of punt returns last week. Not sure why, but I’ll take that gravy.

Guys I Thought About Recommending In More Detail, But Opted Not To

Mark Brunell – WAS QB: Too soon? Perhaps. The offense appeared inept until the last quarter of Monday night. Bit I like the looks of the Brunell-to-Santana Moss connection. Moss is built for downfield speed and Brunnell’s deep throws sure were pretty. I doubt anyone is ogling Brunnell just yet, so we can probably afford to let the Skins simmer over their bye week and see how they do against a beatable Seahawks’ defense in Week 4. But if you missed out on Bledsoe or Dilfer in a gigantic league, the Washington play-caller could be the next scrub worth putting under the microscope.

Ron Dayne – DEN RB: Dayne has cemented his status as a situational player in the Denver backfield. He contributed more than enough at exactly the right time in Week 2 to demonstrate value to the Broncos’ coaching staff. However, unless you own Bell or Anderson, Dayne just doesn’t offer enough every-week fantasy relevance to occupy a roster spot… unless you’re desperate. Really, really desperate.

Derrick Blaylock – NYJ RB: Martin’s knee is hurting; Blaylock’s his back up. Simple math. Temper your expectations, though. Even if Martin is too hurt to play (which is unconfirmed fact at the time of this writing, though his MRI did come back negative on Tuesday) both the Jets’ fullbacks sprained their ankles in Week 2. Oh, and Jets face a nightmarish rushing schedule over the coming weeks: Jags, Ravens, Bucs, Bills, Falcons, Chargers, then Panthers. Ooof.

Lamar Gordon – PHI RB: He’s on my radar. But one game isn’t enough for me to get all hot and bothered. We’ll measure Gordon’s involvement in Week 3 and, if there’s anything noteworthy, I’ll let you know.

Joey Galloway – TB WR: I’ve never liked Galloway. So maybe I had some subtle bias after an otherwise productive Week 1 that kept me from recommending him. But his Week 2 performance reaffirmed that he’s not someone I want on my roster. We’ll keep tabs on him in case Week 2 was a fluke, though.

Terry Glenn – DAL WR: After a great game in Week 2, he’s a receiver who is likely available, certainly worth adding, and doesn’t require a lot of explanation. He and Bledsoe are simply clicking, which is no surprise, given that they are former teammates.

L.J. Smith – PHI TE: everyone and their mother saw his Week 2 stats, so there’s no need to look for hidden upside here. Don’t pull a hamstring racing to get Smith; chances are someone with worse waiver wire priority will get to him first. But he does make for nice addition, if he falls to you.

Shayne Graham – CIN K: Graham has pulled out to an early lead as the top NFL kicker. Having made 5 of 5 field goal and 7 of 7 extra point attempts, he’s perfect on the season and playing for a high scoring team. However, given that he’s owned in 82% of all Fanball leagues, he’s probably not available, either. Though if he is, by all means, scoop him up like an Easter basket.

Any Defense That’s Playing Against Houston: Believe me, if the Texans weren’t on a bye this week, I’d be recommending their opposing defense. Fewest points in the NFL. Fewest yards on offense. Second fewest first downs. Tied for third most turnovers on offense. Has given up the most sacks so far. Folks, looks like betting against the Texans’ offense this year will pay off better than a rigged slot machine.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. But I’ll be back next week with a fresh batch of Waiver Wire Warriors for you sift through. Due to differences in league sizes and scoring rules I can’t be all things to all people. But I sincerely hope you are able to find something useful here every once in a while.

On a more somber note, in a sick twist of fate it looks like category 5 hurricane Rita is headed towards Houston. If it hits, that’s not gonna be good for my old stomping ground. If you’re an H-Town resident, my thoughts are with you; don’t be too proud to evacuate, if necessary. Good fantasy football luck to everyone in Week 3. And good luck to all of Houston, in general.