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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 2
Paul Sandy
September 15, 2009
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ICON LEGEND
Rockstar Rockstar Performer / Free Agent
Worth a Look Worth a Look
Injury Injury Replacement
Sleeper Sleeper
Rescue Roster Rescue / Temporary Fix
Outlook Favorable Schedule Outlook

QUARTERBACKS

No Brainers: Matt Hasselbeck

1. Joe Flacco, Ravens
RockstarIn Week 1, Flacco set career highs in passing yards (307) and touchdowns (3). The Ravens haven’t had a relevant fantasy QB for a long time so fantasy owners should keep their expectations in check. However, the fact that Baltimore called 43 passing plays as compared to 41 rushing plays is promising. If you’re current backup QB is shaky (Delhomme or Bulger for example), consider acquiring Flacco, who has a reasonably favorable schedule over the next several weeks.

Availability: Owned in ~60% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Flacco is worth adding as a backup.

2. Trent Edwards, Bills
Worth a LookOutlookEdwards looked the part on Monday night against the Patriots. He played error-free football and posted some respectable fantasy stats (212 yards and 2 TDs). Although the Bills managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, they can build on the performance. With Terrell Owens, Lee Evans and the sparkplug Fred Jackson in the fold, Edwards has no shortage of weapons to work with. Look for him to follow up his quality outing with another solid effort next Sunday against the Bucs.

Availability: Owned in ~60% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Edwards could be a capable spot starter in leagues with 12 or more teams.

3. Mark Sanchez, Jets
Worth a LookYeah, I know, Sanchez is a rookie. I also know he didn’t look like one on Sunday against the Texans. He completed 18 of 31 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown. What was most impressive is that he looked incredibly poised in the pocket and seemed to have an innate sense of timing, knowing exactly when he needed to get rid of the ball. At this point, I’d hold off on starting him until we have a larger sample size—especially with the Patriots and Titans up next. However, the future for Mr. Sanchez looks bright indeed. Consider adding him as a backup for any QB who has a bye in Week 4 (Warner, Ryan, Delhomme or McNabb) since Sanchez should score some points against the Saints that week.

Availability: Owned in ~47% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Sanchez .

4. Jason Campbell, Redskins
RescueOutlookCampbell turned in his typical fantasy stat line in Week 1. He went 19 of 26 for 211 yards and a touchdown. In a word, Campbell was ordinary. Most weeks he’s just not a very relevant fantasy player. But he gets some Forecast love this week by virtue of an exceedingly favorable schedule over the next two or three weeks. Next Sunday, Campbell will square off against the Rams followed by the Lions in Week 3. He may even be useful in his Week 4 matchup against the Bucs. If you lost McNabb or if your regular QB has a tough test next week (i.e. Cutler or Palmer), consider using Campbell as an emergency stop gap.

Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Campbell is worth a shot this week if you’re already desperate for QB help in a deep league.

RUNNING BACKS

No Brainers: Willis McGahee

1. Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers
RockstarWilliams had his share of doubters entering the season. It seemed unimaginable that a guy who has had his knee reconstructed twice could beat out Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham for the starting job. But you have to tip your hat to the former first round draft pick. He posted 97 yards on just 13 carries and scored a touchdown in Week 1. With the Bills on tap next, Cadillac might be the most added free agent this week.
 
Availability: Owned in ~54% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams should be owned in all leagues.

2. Mike Bell, Saints
RockstarInjuryBell was the workhorse for the Saints on Sunday, rushing for 143 yards on 28 carries. The former Mike Shanahan prodigy also had a fumble, something he’s struggled with previously. Although he’ll eventually give way to Pierre Thomas, Bell deserves to be owned in all leagues at this point. It’s unclear when exactly Thomas will return to action. The Saints travel to Philadelphia next week, which makes Bell a rather risky play. The Eagles pretty much contained DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, which is saying something considering the Panthers had the best rushing attack in the NFL last year.   

Availability: Owned in ~30% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bell should be owned in all leagues.

3. Michael Bush, Raiders
RockstarBush closed out the 2008 season with a 177-yard rushing performance against Tampa. He picked up right where he left off, amassing 59 total yards and a touchdown. The Raiders opted to deactivate former starter Justin Fargas, who was assumed to be part of a three-headed RBBC. Based on the success on MNF, Bush and Darren McFadden may have a stranglehold on the backfield. If this continues to be a two-back offense, Bush could be an absolute steal for fantasy owners because the Raiders figure to have a top 10 rushing attack in 2009.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bush should be owned in all leagues.

4. Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
Worth a LookBroncos rookie RB Knowshon Moreno disappointed in his regular season debut, posting just 19 yards on eight carries. Veteran Correll Buckhalter was the RB with the most juice, totaling 57 yards on 10 touches. This situation smacks of a major timeshare situation. Buckhalter probably won’t emerge as much more than a spot starter, but he’s at least worth a look in teams with 12 or more teams.  

Availability: Owned in ~31% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Buckhalter merits a roster spot in most leagues.

5. Ricky Williams, Dolphins
Worth a LookWilliams is surprisingly available in about 60 percent of all fantasy leagues. In Week 1, he carried the ball seven times for 39 yards and added two receptions for 19 yards and a touchdown. That stacks up well against the perennially over-rated Ronnie Brown, who touched the ball 13 times and ended with 53 yards and zero scores. It looks like a 50-50 split in Miami or close to it. If Williams is on your waiver wire, make a push to get him on your club. You could do a lot worse.

Availability: Owned in ~28% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams is a serviceable backup in all but the smallest leagues.

6. Mewelde Moore, Steelers
SleeperMoore probably isn’t roster worthy in most leagues but deserves more than a cursory glance in deeper leagues and PPR leagues. In terms of looks and touches, Moore received 12 in Week 1. He rushed the ball five times and was thrown to seven times. As a whole the Steelers RBs were a disappointment. Fast Willie Parker looked anything but fast. Rashard Mendenhall looks more like a bust every time I see him take the field. If neither player steps up his game, Moore may become more than a change of pace before too long.

Availability: Owned in ~13% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Moore is worth a flier in deep leagues and PPR leagues.

WIDE RECEIVERS

No Brainers: Steve Smith (NYG)

1. Nate Burleson, Seahawks
RockstarLots of WR activity this week and Burleson tops the list. In Week 1, he posted a team-high seven catches and totaled  74 yards and a touchdown. QB Matt Hasselbeck threw Burleson’s way 11 times in Sunday’s shutout victory over the Rams, a sign that the two players still have a good rapport even after their respective injuries last season. If your team is lacking punch in its receiving corps, Burleson is a good grab as he could be used immediately against the 49ers.   
 
Availability: Owned in ~48% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Burleson should be owned in all leagues and may be worth a start this week.
 
2. Patrick Crayton, Cowboys
RockstarWith the offseason release of WR Terrell Owens, the Cowboys passing game was a big question mark entering the season. The WR corps as a whole performed impeccably, generating 292 yards of offense and three scores. Crayton was the best of the bunch accounting for 135 yards and a touchdown on four receptions. Now that Owens is out of the picture, Tony Romo should have more freedom to spread the ball around to his receivers. That should work to Crayton’s advantage though it could lead to some inconsistency.

Availability: Owned in ~28% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Crayton is worth owning in all leagues but faces a tough test in Week 2 against the Giants.

3. Justin Gage, Titans
RockstarGage, who is surprisingly available in about 40% of fantasy leagues, caught seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown Thursday night against the Steelers. QB Kerry Collins threw his way 11 times. With apologies to rookie Kenny Britt, who also had a nice game, Gage is Tennessee’s top wideout. Last year that didn’t mean much because the Titans ran the ball so much and Gage was injured for a portion of the season. But 2009 is a different year. Tennessee attempted 35 passes in Week 1. Interestingly, that’s more attempts than Collins had in all but four games last year. If the trend continues, Gage could be more than a spot starter in 2009.

 Availability: Owned in ~57% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Gage should’ve been drafted in most leagues, so if he’s available, grab him.  

4. Earl Bennett, Bears
Worth a LookBennett was identified last week as a sleeper worth acquiring. He came through with seven receptions for 66 yards—against one of the NFL’s premier defensive backfields no less. Perhaps most impressive was the fact that QB Jay Cutler threw his way 13 times. That was the most targets of any wide receiver in the NFL before Monday night. He has the look of an impact player, especially in PPR formats.  

Availability: Owned in ~39% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bennett could be a top 20 WR in PPR leagues this season.  

5. Mario Manningham, Giants
Worth a LookInjuryIdentified Manningham as a potential breakout player, both in last week’s Forecast and in my annual Late Round Legends review. New York desperately needs explosiveness in its passing game. Manningham fits the bill as evidenced by his electric catch and run touchdown against the Redskins in Week 1. He ended the game with 58 yards and a touchdown. First-round pick Hakeem Nicks was seen on crutches late in the game after he sprained his left foot. The injury to Nicks—along with inconsistent play by Domenik Hixon—gives Manningham plenty of upside going forward particularly since there are easier matchups on the horizon.

Availability: Owned in ~ 3% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Manningham and excellent prospect who could quickly rise to become an every-week contributor.

6. Michael Clayton, Bucs
Worth a LookIt’s been five years since Clayton had his breakout rookie campaign in which he posted 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns. After that incredible season, he took an epic nosedive into the land of the irrelevant. But a new coaching staff is in town and a new QB is under center. Can Clayton experience a rebirth? It might be a longshot, but he’s at least worth a look. Clayton looked fearless catching the ball across the middle of the field. He ended Week 1 with 93 yards on five receptions and was targeted by Byron Leftwich eight times. It’s also worth noting that top wideout Antonio Bryant continues to be limited with a knee injury.

Availability: Owned in ~ 3% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Clayton could re-emerge as a relevant player and is worth a look in most leagues.

7. Devery Henderson, Saints
Worth a LookHenderson is such a tease. He’ll go off one week and disappear for the next two. At least that’s been his story for the last couple seasons. The speedy Saints wideout put up 103 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Based on what we saw in their opener, the Saints offense is as good if not better than last year. Owning a piece of it isn’t such a bad idea so Henderson is an attractive pickup regardless of your league size or scoring system. Just know what you’re getting from him—a guy who’s just as capable of putting up a goose egg as he is a dozen points.

Availability: Owned in ~40% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Henderson a boom-or-bust spot starter going forward.
   
8. Mark Clayton, Ravens
Worth a LookLike Henderson, the knock on Clayton has been that he’s capable of pulling a huge performance out of his hat and following it up with a stinker. The difference this year for Clayton is that he finally has a legit (and now experienced) QB throwing him the ball. If the coaching staff opens up the playbook and balances out the offense (something they’ve hinted at), Clayton could surprise. Pick him up but don’t start him until he proves he has what it takes to be a reliable contributor.

Availability: Owned in ~25% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Clayton deserves some consideration in leagues with 12 or more teams.

9. Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, Colts
InjuryColts starting wideout Anthony Gonzalez sprained multiple ligaments in his knee and is expected to miss a couple weeks at a minimum. How the new depth chart shakes out could have a significant fantasy impact. Pierre Garcon will replace Gonzalez outside opposite Wayne with Austin Collie in the slot. Who is the better fantasy play? I’d lean toward Garcon even though Collie has better hands. My thinking is Dallas Clark will continue to handle most of the underneath routes, diminishing the value of Collie.    

Availability: Owned in ~2% and ~3% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Grab Garcon or Collie as a prospect in case one of them emerges while Gonzalez is out.

TIGHT ENDS

No Brainers: John Carlson, Jeremy Shockey and Zach Miller

1. Todd Heap, Ravens
Worth a LookTodd Heap is just three seasons removed from being a top five fantasy TE. He caught 73 passes and six touchdowns in 2006. Injuries have derailed his career for the last few years but he looks healthier than he has in a long time. His 2009 campaign got started on the right foot. He caught five passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Heap gives QB Joe Flacco a reliable target across the middle of the field, an area of the passing game that has been a weakness in recent years. If Heap can manage to stay on the field and if the Ravens continue to commit to the passing game, he could be an every-week contributor.

Availability: Owned in ~31% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Heap is likely the most proven TE available on your waiver wire and deserves a look.

2. Ben Watson, Patriots
Worth a LookWatson is no stranger to big performances. He’s scored multiple touchdowns in a game a few times in his career, including Monday night’s clutch performance against the Bills. There are two problems with Watson: injuries and inconsistency. If he can overcome the first issue, perhaps Tom Brady can take care of the second issue. It’s clear Brady trusts his veteran TE. The two connected for two touchdowns in a 76-second span. Starting him this week against the Jets may be a reach but he’s worth a roster spot nonetheless.

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Watson’s huge performance on MNF makes him an attractive pickup in all leagues.

3. Robert Royal, Browns
SleeperRoyal came over this offseason from the Bills. Although the move didn’t make much noise in fantasy circles, it was a good signing for the Browns. The team dealt Kellen Winslow and needed a reliable TE. Royal fits the description. QB Brady Quinn targeted Royal nine times, hooking up with him on four receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown. Considering the lack of options in the Cleveland passing game beyond Braylon Edwards, Royal could be a nice sleeper TE this season in deep leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Roll the dice with Royal in deep leagues.

KICKERS

1. Lawrence Tynes, Giants
RockstarGiants kickers combined to score the most points in 2008. It’s no surprise then that Lawrence Tynes booted three field goals and two extra points in the opener against the Redskins. His 12 points tied him for the most points among kickers in Week 1. If he’s available in your league and you aren’t satisfied with your current option, Tynes is a great pickup this week. He should rank among the leagues best again this season.

Availability: Owned in ~36 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Tynes figures to be a consistent kicker this season and merits a spot in all leagues.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Washington Redskins
RescueOutlookThe Redskins defense didn’t have a particularly noteworthy week. They recorded two turnovers and one sack against the Giants. I like their chances of doubling that production this week against the lowly Rams. St. Louis was shut out in Week 1 by the Seahawks. Seattle recorded three sacks and one interception. Look for Washington to contain Steven Jackson and force Marc Bulger into some mistakes. After handling the Rams, the Redskins should rack up some points against the Lions in Week 3, as well.

Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Washington is a solid defensive pickup to use for the next couple games.

2. Atlanta Falcons
Worth a LookIn his last two starts, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme has turned the ball over 11 times. There’s really not much else that needs to be said. Until further notice, start any defense that faces Carolina. As far as the Falcons are concerned, they opened some eyes in Week 1. Atlanta forced the usually fundamentally sound Dolphins into four turnovers and sacked QB Chad Pennington four times. Only Philadelphia (and perhaps Seattle depending on your scoring system) scored more fantasy points than the Falcons. Give them a long hard look this week if you aren’t satisfied with your current defense.

Availability: Owned in ~10% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Falcons are worth a start this week against Delhomme and the Panthers.

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