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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 11
Paul Sandy
November 11, 2008
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QUARTERBACKS

1. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks
SleeperBrady Quinn and Sage Rosenfels remain hot free agent targets at the QB position. Since both are owned in about 65% of leagues, the Forecast will focus its attention on a few other intriguing pickups. After being on the shelf for most of the season, Matt Hasselbeck is optimistic he’ll be cleared to play this week against the Cardinals. When he’s healthy, there’s little debate that Hasselbeck is a top 15 fantasy quarterback. If he can get back on the field and shake off the rust, he might be able to help out fantasy teams in 2008. Head coach Mike Holmgren sees the running game is struggling and is itching to open up the playbook. When he returns, Hasselbeck will likely average 35-40 pass attempts per game, which could make him a borderline starter in leagues with 12 or more teams.  

Availability: Owned in ~31% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hasselbeck is worth a look in all leagues.

2. Tyler Thigpen, Chiefs
SleeperDon’t laugh. People used to mock Kyle Orton and look how that turned out. Thigpen has now thrown six touchdowns in his last three games. He’s become a legit fantasy QB and is playable as soon as this week against the Saints. New Orleans lost cornerback Mike McKenzie, their best pass defender, for the season with a knee injury. The Saints ranked 27th in the NFL against the pass with McKenzie in the lineup so there’s no telling how bad they’ll be now. New Orleans has allowed seven passing scores in their last three games. With a high potential for a multi-touchdown performance, Thigpen is a sneaky start for owners who are eliminated from playoff contention and playing the role of spoiler.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Thigpen is roster worthy in most leagues and deserves consideration for a starting spot this week against the Saints.

3. Shaun Hill, 49ers
SleeperHill looked quite impressive in his first start of the 2008 season. He completed 19 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers initially appeared more committed to the run than any other game this season. However, despite the fact that the contest was competitive and the team was not forced to pass, Hill still attempted 40 passes. With Mike Martz calling the plays, that should continue. Hill faces the Rams next week and is worth a look as a starter. After that, the schedule doesn’t look quite as promising. Nonetheless, Hill is a capable backup fantasy QB.

Availability: Owned in ~16% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Hill a servicable backup QB who can be used as a spot starter this week against the Rams.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Cedric Benson, Bengals
Rising ValueBenson comes off a bye week and is still available in over 40% of all fantasy leagues. He racked up 104 yards on 24 carries back in Week 9. The coaching staff has had nothing but positive things to say about Benson since they brought him on board several weeks ago. Given the struggles of the Bengals offense as a whole, Benson is not ready to be trusted as an every week fantasy starter. However, you can certainly plug him in when the matchup is right. This week Cincinnati faces an Eagles defense that was pounded by the Giants to the tune of over 200 yards on the ground. That performance was out of the norm but Benson is still useful as a low-end RB2 or flex play this week.

Availability: Owned in ~59% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Benson should be owned in all leagues.

2. Ricky Williams, Dolphins
Rising ValueWilliams has posted quality fantasy performances every other week since Week 3. If the pattern continues, Williams figures to post a stinker in Week 11. The good news is there’s reason to believe the trend will be snapped this week when Miami plays host to the Raiders. Oakland ranks 29th in the NFL versus the run. In their last four games, opponents have averaged 212 rushing yards per game against the Silver and Black. If Williams gets 10-12 touches in this game, something he’s done in six out of nine games this season, he should be able to produce 60-70 yards with the possibility of a touchdown.

Availability: Owned in ~59% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Pick up and play Williams this week against the Raiders if he’s available.

3. Jerious Norwood, Falcons
SleeperNorwood is excelling in Atlanta’s running back by committee approach. He’s scored in back-to-back games against sub-par run defenses and draws another cupcake matchup this week. The Falcons will host the Broncos on Sunday. Denver ranks 27th in the NFL against the run. Scat backs have given the Broncos trouble this season, including spark plugs like Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, Warrick Dunn and Jerome Harrison. Norwood fits that mold. If you’re shorthanded at RB and Norwood is available, roll the dice on him. There’s a good chance he’ll end the day with over 70 yards and a touchdown.

Availability: Owned in ~56% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Norwood has a good chance of producing this week and should be owned in all but the smallest leagues.

4. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots
Rising ValueIt blows my mind that Green-Ellis is still available in 40% of all fantasy leagues. He’s scored a touchdown in four straight games and figures to get more work this week. The Patriots play on Thursday night against the Jets. With a short week to prepare, it seems unlikely that Sammy Morris or LaMont Jordan will be ready. Look for Green-Ellis to continue to get the bulk of the carries—including the all-important goal line work. Although the Jets have one of the better run defenses in the NFL, Green-Ellis is worth a start due to his high potential for scoring on a goal line touchdown plunge.

Availability: Owned in ~61% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Green-Ellis starter material until Sammy Morris and/or LaMont Jordan returns.

5. Peyton Hillis, Broncos
Injury ReplacementThe bloodbath in the Broncos backfield has reached near biblical proportions. Just days after placing Michael Pittman and Andre Hall on IR, the team lost rookie Ryan Torain for the season with a knee injury. Selvin Young also aggravated the groin injury that has hampered him in recent weeks. Fullback Peyton Hillis and former practice squad player P.J. Pope represent the remaining healthy ball carriers. Hillis should be owned in all leagues while Pope is nothing more than a speculative pickup at this point.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hillis is worth picking up in all leagues.

6. Ahman Green, Texans
SleeperGreen returned from a groin injury this week to face the Ravens. While the results weren’t great, Green remains an important piece of Houston’s rushing attack. After facing the Vikings and Ravens, the Texans finally get some easier matchups starting this week with the Colts. Indianapolis has allowed six rushing scores in their last three games. In their last meeting against the Colts, Houston tallied 156 yards and two scores on the ground. While most of that damage was done by rookie Steve Slaton, Green is healthier now and could chip in more this week. Look for a minimum of 50 yards from Green with an upside of 70 yards and a touchdown.

Availability: Owned in ~25% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Green is worth a spot start this week in deeper leagues.

7. Justin Fargas and Michael Bush, Raiders
Injury ReplacementWith Darren McFadden hobbled with toe injuries on both feet, Fargas and Bush are roster-worthy RBs. Fargas is the starter and gets most of the rushing attempts while Bush gets enough work on the ground and through the air to merit consideration. In Week 10, Fargas posted 98 yards and Bush contributed 73 yards on 13 touches. This week Oakland travels to Miami to face the Dolphins, who have a better than average run defense. Neither player is great option but I suppose you could do worse. Put in a claim for Fargas or Bush if you need depth at the RB position but understand their respective values will take a hit when McFadden returns.

Availability: Owned in ~60% and 12% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Fargas should be owned in all leagues; Bush provides RB depth in larger leagues.

8. Shaun Alexander, Redskins
Injury ReplacementWord out of Washington is that Alexander has a 50-50 chance of starting this week’s game against Dallas. Clinton Portis has a sprained knee that could keep him sidelined for the important divisional matchup. Alexander is nowhere near the same player that he was a few years ago. He’s slow and rarely breaks a tackle. However, the Redskins have a decent offense and could put Alexander in position to score near the goal line. If there’s one talent Alexander might have left, it could be his nose for the endzone.

Availability: Owned in ~15% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Alexander is a critcal pickup for Clinton Portis owners.

9. Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers
SleeperThe former first-round draft choice will likely come off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list on Wednesday. Head coach Jon Gruden has sounded surprisingly optimistic about Williams and thinks the team will get a significant contribution from him going forward. With Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn both banged up, Williams is worth a look in deeper leagues. However, understand that Tampa’s backfield could be muddled all season with a different RB being featured each week.

Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams is worth a shot in deep leagues at this point.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Michael Jenkins, Falcons
Rising ValueWith each passing week, the Falcons are looking more and more like legitimate playoff contenders. Right now, their offense has to be considered one of the best in the NFC. QB Matt Ryan has all but locked up Rookie of the Year honors. His rapport with WR Roddy White has been spectacular. And now, with defenses double-teaming White, his counterpart Michael Jenkins is getting in on the action. Jenkins has posted two quality fantasy performances in a row and before that he posted two games with 50 or more receiving yards. It’s evident that Ryan’s trust in him continues to grow. Jenkins is a playable this week against the Broncos.

Availability: Owned in ~26% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Jenkins should be owned in all leagues.

2. Mark Bradley, Chiefs
Rising ValueBradley was listed as a quality bye week replacement player by the Forecast last week. He delivered, posting 81 yards and a touchdown. It was the third straight game in which Bradley posted a quality fantasy performance. What’s most promising about Bradley is he has been the target of 28 pass attempts over those three games. If you examine Kansas City’s box scores over the past couple games, you’ll see that their offense is essentially based on throwing the football to three players (Bradley, Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez). Kansas City faces the Saints this week so Bradley is useful as a WR3 or flex player.

Availability: Owned in ~8% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bradley is worth a look in all leagues and is playable versus the Saints.

3. Ted Ginn Jr., Dolphins
Rising ValueGinn shocked the fantasy world when he put up 175 yards receiving in Week 8. The Forecast gave him a nod following the performance. He followed it up with a disappointing effort in Week 9 and many owners promptly dumped him thinking he was a one week wonder. Well, he’s back. Ginn recorded four receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown in Week 10. With two quality fantasy performances over the last three games, Ginn is a relevant fantasy receiver. He’s probably not a guy you necessarily want to trust every week. But if you’re in a pinch, he has the explosiveness to pay dividends on any given week.

Availability: Owned in ~48% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Ginn a low-end WR3 or flex player.

4. Justin Gage, Titans
SleeperThe Forecast had high hopes for Gage earlier this season. Unfortunately, he got bit hard by the injury bug and missed several games. Now healthy, Gage is once again becoming a fantasy factor. He caught four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. With opponents focused on stopping the run, Tennessee has been throwing the ball more lately. If the trend continues, Gage could shine over the last seven weeks of the season. The Titans have a favorable schedule that includes games against the Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Browns and Texans.

Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Gage is worth a speculative roster spot in deep leagues.

5. Koren Robinson and Bobby Engram, Seahawks
SleeperKoren Robinson has posted two relevant fantasy performances in a row with Seneca Wallace under center. The Robinson revival could continue and then some if and when Matt Hasselbeck returns to action. Head coach Mike Holmgren thinks we could see Hasselbeck back on the field as soon as this week, so now is a good time to tap the Seahawks WR corps for prospects. Acquire Robinson or Bobby Engram, who has historically been Hasselbeck’s favorite possession target, this week in anticipation of the veteran quarterback’s return. Seattle’s schedule looks advantageous from here on out.

Availability: Owned in ~4% and 37% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Engram is worth a look in all leagues; Robinson in deeper leagues.

TIGHT ENDS

1. Tony Scheffler, Broncos
Rising ValueScheffler returned from a groin injury last Thursday night against the Browns. He was supposed to still be limited but showed no signs of the injury. He ended the evening with four receptions for 92 yards. Considering the battered state of the Broncos backfield, the team will certainly rely more on the passing game going forward. If he can stay healthy, Scheffler has the talent to rank among the top five TEs for the remainder of the season.

Availability: Owned in ~59% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Scheffler should be owned in all TE-mandatory leagues.
 
2. Kevin Boss, Giants
Rising ValueThe Forecast suggested starting Boss last week against an Eagles defense that had struggled to stop opposing TEs. Boss delivered, catching six passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. He’s now scored in three straight games. The hot streak makes Boss a player who should be owned in all TE-mandatory leagues. Although a matchup this week against the Ravens doesn’t look promising, Boss is playable.

Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Boss is worth a look in all leagues.

3. Todd Heap, Ravens
SleeperStop the presses. Heap is healthy. He caught two touchdown passes on Sunday against the Texans. With Derrick Mason dealing with a separated shoulder and questionable to play this week against the Giants, Heap is the most reliable remaining target for Baltimore QB Joe Flacco. Flacco threw to him five times versus Houston, completing all five passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Heap deserves your attention if you’re in a deeper league and you’re weak at the TE position.

Availability: Owned in ~32% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider adding Heap if you play in a league with 12 or more teams.

KICKER

1. Phil Dawson, Browns
SleeperWith Brady Quinn under center, Cleveland’s offense looked reinvigorated in Week 10. The team produced over 30 points for just the second time all season. Kicker Phil Dawson accounted for 12 of those points. Three of them came on a booming 52 yard field goal. Look for Dawson to continue to be a productive fantasy kicker. Put a claim in for him this week if your kicking game has been a liability.

Availability: Owned in ~38% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Dawson is worth a look in all leagues.

Nick Folk, Cowboys
SleeperFolk’s prospects as a fantasy player plunged when Tony Romo broke his pinkie. With Romo scheduled to return to action this week, Folk could once again become a relevant part of the fantasy discussion. Although the issues in the Big D run deeper than the QB position, the Cowboys offense should get markedly better with their starting QB back under center. If inconsistency at the kicker position has cost you a couple points each week, you might find hope in Folk as you close out the 2008 season. Dallas will play four of their next six games at home which means the weather won’t be a factor.

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Folk is worth a look in deeper leagues.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Miami Dolphins
SleeperJust lose baby . . . or more accurately . . . just lose big baby. That’s been the motto for the Raiders over the last month. They’ve failed to score more than 10 points in four of their last five games. In their last two outings, they’ve scored a combined six points. The savvy fantasy owner will capitalize on the misery in Oakland this week by picking up and playing Miami this week. Although the Dolphins are average in most of the key fantasy stat categories, they should have little difficulty finding ways to score points against the Raiders.

Availability: Owned in ~65% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Miami is worth a spot start this week against the Raiders.

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