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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 3
Paul Sandy
September 19, 2006

QUARTERBACKS

1. Rex Grossman, Bears

All three Forecast QB recommendations from last week came up big in Week 2 (Grossman, Pennington, and Carr). None more so than Grossman, who tossed four TDs in Sunday’s route of the Lions. Even though the Bears had a 24-0 lead, Grossman attempted 13 passes in the second half, including a few downfield, before being relieved by Brian Griese. This is a different Bears team. They don’t get too conservative when they have the lead. Instead, they put their foot on the throats of opponents by continuing to try to score points. If the first two weeks of the season are any indication, Grossman could be a surprise top 10 fantasy QB this season.  

Availability: Owned in ~23% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Grossman deserves a roster spot in all leagues and can be used as a starter most weeks.

2. Jon Kitna, Lions

The first bye week is upon us. All things considered, it’s not a major concern for the QB position. None of the marquee passers have the week off. However, if you need a boost from your QB this week, consider adding Jon Kitna as a stop gap. Kitna has had a tough road to hoe so far this season with games against the Bears and Seahawks. Things get considerably easier this week, when the Lions face the Packers at home. Green Bay has allowed good fantasy performances to QBs in the first two weeks, including a 352-yard, 2-TD game on Sunday to Drew Brees.

Availability: Owned in ~52% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Kitna is a great spot starter this week against the Pack.

3. Alex Smith, 49ers

It’s a topsy-turvy world of fantasy QBs. Guys who had no value entering the season are suddenly atop the rankings. Case in point, Alex Smith has posted 225+ yards and a touchdown in consecutive weeks. Stats like that aren’t going to lead your team to an NFL championship, but they’re better than the junk Marc Bulger and Daunte Culpepper have been throwing on the board. Smith’s 72-yard touchdown to Antonio Bryant was a thing of beauty. And with Frank Gore looking like an All-Pro candidate, the 49ers are a team on the rise. I do think that San Francisco’s schedule has been soft thus far from a defensive perspective, so Smith’s numbers could be inflated. Still, he’s proven himself worthy of being a QB2 in most leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~36% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Smith is worthy of a roster spot in most leagues, but faces a tough matchup in Week 3 againts the Eagles.

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Chad Pennington and David Carr.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Michael Turner, Chargers

Turner was drafted in many leagues as a handcuff to LaDainian Tomlinson. However, he’s available in over 60% of leagues and, based on San Diego’s first two box scores, he has value beyond being a backup. On the year, Turner has 175 yards rushing and 1 TD—better stats than guys like Jamal Lewis and Shaun Alexander. The Chargers use him to spell Tomlinson, but his real value comes in the fourth quarter when the Chargers have a big lead. In those situations, they put Tomlinson on the bench to keep him healthy. Although Turner is on bye this week, he’s valuable enough that you should claim him if you have the roster space. 

Availability: Owned in ~39% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Turner deserves a roster spot in deeper leagues but should only be used when San Diego faces a favorable opponent.

2. Musa Smith, Ravens

The first bye week is a tough one for running backs. Larry Johnson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Lamont Jordan, and Julius Jones are all out. If you’re scrambling to find a replacement, consider Musa Smith. Smith acts as Baltimore’s third-down back, part-time goal-line back, and comes in as a change of pace for Jamal Lewis. He was involved in 11 plays Sunday against the Raiders and finished the day with 57 all-purpose yards. He also had a 1-yard TD run called back because of a penalty. A matchup this week against a Browns team that was bloodied on the ground by the Bengals and Saints in consecutive weeks looks good. If you’re desperate for a one week starter, you could do worse than Smith. 

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Smith can be used this week as a second RB or flex player if you’re desperate.

3. Ron Dayne and Samkon Gado, Texans

As predicted by the Forecast last week, Ron Dayne saw significant action in Week 2. Unfortunately, he didn’t exactly light the world on fire. Dayne managed just 37 yards on 11 carries. In Dayne’s defense, the Texans were behind all game and he never had much of a chance to get into a rhythm. Dayne will continue to split playing time with Wali Lundy, who had a costly fumble last week, and the newly acquired Samkon Gado. Gado looked good in his first week as a Texan, picking up 36 yards on just three carries. Both Dayne and Gado are decent sleepers who could emerge as viable fantasy starters later in the season. 

Availability: Owned in ~31 and 65% of leagues respectively
Forecast guidance: Dayne and Gado have value in most leagues, but should be kept on the bench until one emerges as the primary back.

4. Correll Buckhalter, Eagles

Eagles starting RB Brian Westbrook left last Thursday’s practice with inflammation in his knee. Although the injury was deemed “minor”, Westbrook has a lengthy injury history and you can’t help but wonder if the knee swelling could have long-term ramifications. Westbrook’s primary backup is Correll Buckhalter and stands to see his value skyrocket should Westbrook miss time. Even if Westbrook stays healthy, Buckhalter could see his playing time increase in the coming weeks. Westbrook isn’t the type of running back who head coach Andy Reid can pound when his team has a big lead - as proven by Sunday’s collapse against the Giants. Buckhalter fills the role much better. Don’t be surprised to see Reid lean on him more frequently if the situation dictates.

Availability: Owned in ~33% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Acquire Buckhalter as a handcuff to Westbrook or stash him on your bench as a prospect.

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Jerious Norwood and Brandon Jacobs.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets

It’s like déjà vu all over again. Yes, the first two receiver recommendations are the same as last week (though in a different order). But there’s a good reason. Not enough people trusted my Forecast recommendation. Jerricho Cotchery and Marques Colston are still available in an estimated 70% of fantasy leagues. Cotchery caught six balls for 161 yards and a touchdown. In a season where studs like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Torry Holt have fallen short of expectations, Cotchery has been fantasy gold. As long as QB Chad Pennington stays healthy, Cotchery should be a good WR3 or great WR4 in leagues of all shapes and sizes.

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Cotchery has earned a roster spot in all but the smallest of leagues.

2. Marques Colston, Saints

Colston has been touted by the Free Agent Forecast three weeks in a row now. He is QB Drew Brees’ top target in the red zone and has a better than average chance of finishing the season with double digit touchdowns. He is a big target for Drew Brees and, along with fellow rookie Reggie Bush, should be one of the mainstays in New Orleans for the next decade. If Colston is still on your waiver wire, don’t delay another week in getting him on your roster.

Availability: Owned in ~27% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Colston is a solid WR3 in leagues of all sizes and is particularly valuable in TD-weighted scoring systems.

3. Amani Toomer, Giants

The Giants all-time leading receiver had his best game in years on Sunday, catching 12 passes for 137 yards and two scores. Toomer was so involed in New York’s offense that he needed four bags of intraveinous (IV) fluids after the game. The Giants have a lot of offensive weapons in their arsenal, but Toomer’s performance suggests that Eli Manning hasn’t forgotten about him. It’s worth noting that Jeremy Shockey was gimpy for most of the game. If the TE continues to struggle with injuries, Toomer could be that much more valuable.

Availability: Owned in ~61% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Toomer should be acquired in all leagues in which he’s available this week.

4. Bernard Berrian, Bears

The last time the Bears had more than one or two players worth owning on a fantasy squad, Jim McMahon was sporting a headband and Willie Gault was split out wide. But this isn’t your father’s Chicago Bears. The team has scored 26 or more points in consecutive weeks. One of the primary beneficiaries of the offensive explosion has been speedy WR Bernard Berrian. Berrian has hooked up with Rex Grossman for TD bombs of 41 and 49 yards during the first two weeks of action. His 23.0 yards per catch average is among the NFL’s best. Berrian figures to be a boom or bust, Ashlie Lellie type player who will score most of his TDs from long range. Snatch him off your waiver wire this week as he appears to now have a stranglehold on the Bears #2 WR spot.

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Berrian is ownable in leagues of all sizes and may find himself in the endzone again this week on the Metrodome’s fast surface.

5. Greg Jennings, Packers

Jennings was a trendy sleeper pick in fantasy drafts this year. However, his stock plummeted after a disappointing showing in Week 1 against the Bears. The rookie wideout synched up with QB Brett Favre on Sunday and his value is once again on the rise. On the afternoon, Jennings caught six passes for 67 yards and a pretty touchdown on the opening drive. Favre targeted him a dozen times total, including several deep passes. Like Berrian, Jennings is built for speed. Because he knows all three of the receiving positions for the Packers, he should have little trouble holding off Koren Robinson for the starting job.
 
Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Jennings is solid a good spot starter in leagues of all sizes and should fare well against the Lions this week.

6. Mike Furrey, Lions

The Mike Martz offense hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders in Detroit. The Lions have scored just one touchdown in 2006. Lost in the midst of their struggles has been the play of wideout Mike Furrey, who’s quietly grabbed 11 receptions—tied for 8th best in the NFL. Furrey isn’t flashy, but he has QB Jon Kitna’s trust. Kitna threw to him three times on third down in Week 2, converting twice. His workman-like effort and solid stats are remincient of Seattle’s Bobby Engram. The Lions offense should see a spike in production as soon as this week. The team faces a Packers squad that’s given up 60 points over the first two weeks of the season. Furrey could be started in a pinch in points-per-reception leagues, but may be better suited to provide roster depth.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Furrey is worth a look in leagues that reward points per reception.

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Reggie Williams

Other receivers I’m tracking: Chad Jackson and Patrick Crayton

TIGHT ENDS

1. Desmond Clark, Bears

With Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, and Jason Witten all on bye, Desmond Clark figures to be one of the hottest free agent targets this week. Clark, who was recommended by the Forecast last week, has produced outstanding stats in each of the first two weeks of the season. He is currently the top fantasy TE in most leagues. QB Rex Grossman has been leaning heavily on Clark, targeting him eight times in Week 1 and six times in Week 2. Perhaps what’s most impressive about Clark is that he’s not just catching dink and dunk passes. He’s averaging 16.2 yards per catch, among the league’s best in the category.  

Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Try to acquire Clark now. Then play him if you get him.

2. Owen Daniels, Texans

Houston has never been a hotbed for fantasy tight ends, but times they are a changin’. Under the leadership of head coach Gary Kubiak, the TE position will play an important role in the Texans offense—as it has for years in Denver. In Week 2, rookie TE Owen Daniels caught four passes for 45 yards and a TD. At 6’3” tall and 222 lbs., Daniels is basically built from the same mold as Marques Colston (see above). However, Daniels is a TE and brings good playmaking to the position for the Texans. Houston will likely be playing from behind on most weeks, leaving plenty of opportunity for Daniels to continue to make contributions.
 
Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Daniels is a good prospect in deeper leagues and particularly dynasty leagues.

Other tight ends I’m tracking: David Martin

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Miami Dolphins

The first two weeks of the season haven’t gone as planned for the Dolphins, but their defense has shown heart and kept the club competitive in both ball games. Unfortunately, heart doesn’t always translate into fantasy stats. Miami has zero interceptions this season and they’ve only registered five sacks. But Week 3 dawns a new day. The Tennessee Titans are coming to town, rookie quarterback and all.  Look for Miami to get on the board with a couple turnovers and carry a shutout into the second half.  

Availability: Owned in ~65% of leagues
Forecast guidance: If you’ve struggled to get points from your defense this season, claim and start the Dolphins in Week 3.