1. Shaun Hill, 49ers
Last week, the Forecast suggested that Hill could be next year’s Derek Anderson. That prognostication was a bit of a reach considering that Hill only had one start under his belt. Even now that he has two starts (and two wins), it’s still probably too early to call Hill a future star. However, he has shown more poise and confidence than former number one pick Alex Smith did during his entire tenure as a starter. Hill posted three scores on Sunday against the highly-rated Tampa Bay defense. For owners who play in a Week 17 champsionship, Hill is usable against the Browns. He’s an even better option if you’re in a dynasty league.
Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Roll the dice with Hill this week against the Browns or stash him in your dynasty league.
2. Tarvaris Jackson, Vikings
I was one of the biggest Tarvaris Jackson skeptics at the beginning of the season. Although he hasn’t convinced me that he has the skills to be even a mid-tier QB in the NFL, his numbers from a fantasy perspective are hard to dismiss. In Week 16, he was the highest-scoring QB in many leagues, posting 220 yards passing and one TD. He added 44 yards on the ground and two scores. I wouldn’t play him next week on the road against Denver, but Jackson is another guy to keep your eye on for 2008.
Availability: Owned in ~22% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Jackson is worth a look in dynasty leagues and could be used as a starter this week (but only if you’re desperate).
1. Najeh Davenport, Steelers
Pittsburgh starter Willie Parker broke his leg on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. His replacement, Najeh Davenport, posted 167 total yards and two scores. Davenport has always impressed me as a runner, dating back to his days as a Green Bay Packer. With a career 4.7 yards per carry average and a substantial 250-lbs. frame, there’s no doubt Davenport has the skills and size to be a workhorse. In many ways, he’s reminiscent of Jerome Bettis. Davenport’s weakness has been a lengthy injury history. If he can stay healthy for this tour of duty, I don’t think the Steelers will miss Parker much. It remains to be seen how much the team will use him this week with so little to gain. If it looks like he’ll receive a decent amount of work, give Davenport a look even against the Ravens. Definitely grab him in dynasty leagues in case he busts out and catches the eye of GMs in other NFL cities.
Availability: Owned in ~44% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Davenport should be owned in all leauges.
2. Dominic Rhodes, Raiders
With Justin Fargas (knee) out for the season, Dominc Rhodes got the starting nod this week. He displayed the same form that earned him a fair number of Super Bowl MVP votes in early 2007. At the end of Week 16, he had amassed 115 yards on 27 carries. The team is clearly not interested in seeing what LaMont Jordan has to offer, so look for Rhodes to maintain his heavy workload this week against the Chargers. Consider him a RB2 in a game in which San Diego will rest many starters.
Availability: Owned in ~27% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Rhodes is a decent low-end RB2 based on the number of carries he’ll get.
3. T.J. Duckett, Lions
This week’s ACL injury to Kevin Jones capped off a miserable year on the injury front for fantasy owners. On the bright side (at least for fantasy writers like me), the waiver wire gained critical importance. There was no shortage of guys capable of stepping in and putting up decent numbers. T.J. Duckett could be the next RB to seize the opportunity. He put up 124 all-purpose yards and a TD on Sunday against the Chiefs. Duckett fits into the Mike Martz’s offense better than expected and is displaying decent hands catching the ball, something he hasn’t been asked to do much in his career. Start him this week against a Packers defense that will rest its starters this week.
Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Duckett is worth a look in all leagues.
4. Brandon Jackson, Packers
Fantasy owners who need a sleeper at the RB position this week might consider plugging and playing Green Bay’s Brandon Jackson. If you remember back to the preseason, Jackson was a favorite “sleeper” pick. Things didn’t pan out for him. He got injured early and was passed on the depth chart by DeShawn Wynn and later Ryan Grant. However, Grant will most likely rest this week and Jackson could get 20 touches against the beleaguered Lions defense. Look for him to turn those touches into 80 yards and a score.
Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Jackson is a sneaky play this week against the Lions.
5. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Brandon Jacobs has been a staple on the injury list all season. His latest injury was to an ankle. Don’t be surprised if Jacobs rests this week in preparation for the playoffs. Ahmad Bradshaw looked explosive in his absence, taking an 88-yard run to the house. At, 198-lbs, he’s certainly not the prototypical NFL RB. Then again, neither was Tiki Barber. Keep your eye on him in future fantasy seasons, but don’t use him against the Patriots this week unless you’re in a bind.
Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Keep your eye on Bradshaw in 2008 and beyond.
1. Jabar Gaffney, Patriots
Gaffney was a hot free agent pick up a few weeks ago. He drew high praise from the Forecast. Then the weather cast a spell over Week 15 and owners who finally mustered up enough guts to plug in Gaffney were let down. But with the weather reasonable on Sunday against the Dolphins, Gaffney returned to form. He posted 82 yards and a score. At this point he’s clearly the #3 receiving target in New England behind Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Considering the Patriots have plenty to play for this week (a 17-0 record), Gaffney is an outstanding play.
Availability: Owned in ~30 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Gaffney is a fine starter for Week 17.
2. Laurent Robinson, Falcons
Robinson is Atlanta’s most talented WR other than Roddy White. That hasn’t meant much this season, but the Falcons are flinging the ball around these days. As a result, Robinson is getting a fair amount of opportunities. QB Chris Redman threw his way 10 times on Sunday against the Cardinals, connecting on seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons will face the Seahawks this week. Seattle has little to play for, so if you need some WR help, Robinson is an option.
Availability: Owned in ~0 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Robinson is a low-end WR3 or flex player this week against the Seahawks.
3. Antwaan Randle El, Redskins
If your league has its championship in Week 17, you’re very familiar with the challenge of figuring out which players will rest because their teams have clinched a playoff berth. One WR who could help you out this week is Antwaan Randle El. The Redskins are one of a handful of teams that actually really do have something to play for. They’re in a must-win situation. Randle El caught five passes for 55 yards and a TD Sunday against the Vikings. Washington draws the Cowboys this week and Dallas figures to rest most of its starting defense in the second half. Look for Randle El to post 70+ yards.
Availability: Owned in ~42% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Randle El is worth a look this week as a WR3.
4. Sam Hurd and Terry Glenn, Cowboys
With Terrell Owens suffering a high ankle sprain and Dallas’ playoff position locked in, there will plenty of targets for the backup WRs this week. Consider plugging and playing Sam Hurd or even Terry Glenn if you’re desperate. Hurd should step into the starting lineup. Glenn is scheduled to return from a couple knee surgeries this week. Thus far, his 2007 season has been a wash. On one hand, you’d think they will want to get him some work before the playoffs begin. On the other hand, they may want to protect him because of the Owens injury. Monitor his status and plug him in as a flex player if you’re desperate. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him get a couple deep looks.
Availability: Owned in ~1% and ~15% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hurd and Glenn are worth looks in deep leagues.
1. Jerramy Stevens, Buccaneers
Stevens, a former first-round draft pick by Seattle, posted four receptions for 73 yards and two TDs on Sunday. With so many starting fantasy TEs likely to be rested this week, Stevens all of the sudden could be a hot commodity on the waiver wire for teams playing their championship this week. Consider adding him if your regular TE won’t see much action. He could fare well against a Panthers squad that ranks 19th in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to tight ends.
Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Stevens led all TEs in fantasy scoring in Week 16 and deserves a look in deeper leagues.
DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS
1. New York Jets
The Jets defense may very well have been on you waiver wire for the entire 2007 campaign. Are they really worth a look this week? You betcha. The Jets play host to the Chiefs this week. Kansas City has lost eight straight games and they’ve scored 20 or fewer points in six of seven road games this year. Considering their record and factoring in what could be a cold weather game, there’s a very good chance they don’t show up for this week’s game. I like New York’s chances of holding KC to two TDs or less and registering at least a couple turnovers.
Availability: Owned in ~16% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Start the Jets this week against the Chiefs if you’re desperate for help.