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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 3
Paul Sandy
September 22, 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: Eli Manning, Trent Edwards and Joe Flacco

1. David Garrard, Jaguars
OutlookGarrard is about to begin a favorable stretch of schedule featuring the Texans, Titans, Seahawks and Rams. With the bye weeks quickly approaching, he’s a sneaky pickup this week — especially if your primary QB will be unavailable at any point over the next several weeks. Garrard’s first two games this year are indicative of what we can expect from him in 2009. He stunk against the Colts in Week 1 but followed it up with 282 yards ant two touchdowns in Week 2 against the Cardinals (much of it in garbage time). You don’t want to rely on him every week but he’s capable of picking up some points when the matchup is right.

Availability: Owned in ~64% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Garrard will a useful bye-week filler in the coming weeks.

2. Jake Delhomme, Panthers
RescueAlthough the Panthers lost the game, QB Jake Delhomme regained some confidence Sunday against the Falcons. He completed 25 of 41 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown. The performance suggests he still can be a useful fantasy QB when favorable matchups arise. This week the Panthers will travel to Dallas to face a Cowboys squad that has ceded quality fantasy performances to QBs in both games so far. On Sunday night, Eli Manning had his way with the Dallas secondary, carving them up for 330 yards and two scores. I wouldn’t race to the wire to grab him, but Delhomme is good for an emergency start this week. It’s a good bet he’ll hook up with Steve Smith for a touchdown.

Availability: Owned in ~44% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Give the ragin’ cajun a look for a Week 3 spot start.

3. Kevin Kolb, Eagles
RescuePrior to Sunday’s breakout performance against the Saints, Kolb hadn’t shown much as a pro. He represented himself well from a fantasy perspective in his first start though passing for 391 yards and two touchdowns. This is McNabb’s team when he returns obviously but if he sits out another week, Kolb is worth considering for a one-week start against the Chiefs.

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Worth a spot start if McNabb sits again.

4. Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers
Worth a LookLeftwich threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s loss to the Bills. He attempted 50 passes in the game. At this point I’m not willing to say Leftwich is even a viable spot starter. He’s proven to be an ineffective fantasy quarterback time and time again. However, in deeper leagues he’s worth a look as a speculative pickup. Tampa has a tough run of games coming up (NYG, @WAS and @PHI). If Leftwich can produce against those opponents, he may make a believer out of me. Until then, consider him a backup worth owning only in leagues with 12 or more teams.

Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Be careful not to read too much into Leftwich’s Week 2 performance but he’s worth a look in deep leagues.

RUNNING BACKS

No Brainers: Felix Jones, Mike Bell, Cadillac Williams, Tim Hightower and Willis McGahee

1. Tashard Choice, Cowboys
InjuryMarion Barber III strained his quad muscle on a lengthy run that very well could’ve resulted in a touchdown had he not pulled up lame. The team is calling it a minor strain but I wonder if there is such a thing for a RB. Any time a running back or reciever strains a leg muscle, it’s cause for concern. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Barber missed a game or two. If it happens, look for Tashard Choice to step into the starting role with Felix Jones maintaining his change of pace function. The carries could end up being split down the middle but both players would be worth starting against the Panthers in Week 3. Carolina allowed the Eagles to run for 185 yards in the opener and the Falcons 151 yards on Sunday.

Availability: Owned in ~10% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: With Barber’s health status in question, Choice is roster-worthy in all leagues.

2. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
InjuryMcCoy is only available in 20 percent of fantasy leagues. While I generally don’t feature players so widely owned, the rookie is worth mentioning. Eagles starting RB Brian Westbrook sprained his surgically repaired right ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Saints. His availability for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs is in question. Should Westbrook sit, McCoy will be an impact fantasy player. Although the Chiefs managed to contain Oakland’s running backs, I’m skeptical of Kansas City’s run defense. If he starts, McCoy should have little difficulty posting 100 all-purpose yards and a score. Consider him a solid RB2 if Westbrook can’t go. 

Availability: Owned in ~80% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: McCoy should be owned in 100 percent of fantasy leagues.

3. Ricky Williams, Dolphins
Worth a LookI profiled Williams last week. He’s getting plenty of touches for the Dolphins, certainly enough to merit a roster spot as a backup. On Monday night, he carried the ball 19 times for 69 yards. While that workload is not necessarily indicative of what he’ll get each week, Williams gets his carries week and in and week out. When the bye weeks roll around, it’ll be nice to have the option of plugging him in your lineup.

Availability: Owned in ~61% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams is worth a look in all leagues as a backup.

4. Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
Worth a LookIdentified here last week as a speculative pickup who could be worth a spot start, Buckhalter lived up to expectations on Sunday. He rushed the ball nine times for 76 yards, which included a highlight reel 45-yard touchdown run. The Broncos backfield is a committee in the truest sense of the word, but Buckhalter’s piece of the pie is sufficient enough to make him roster worthy. As I forecasted last week, he’s worthy of a start in deep leagues or as a flex play when the matchup is favorable — as it should be this week against the Silver and Black.

Availability: Owned in ~33% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Buckhalter is a decent play this week versus the Raiders and a serviceable backup going forward.

5. Justin Forsett, Seahawks
SleeperForsett’s performance may fly under many owners’ radars but not yours. He was an active part of Seattle’s offense, especially in the second half. Starter Julius Jones disappointed carrying the ball eight times for just 11 yards. He ended up leaving the game and was seen icing one of his forearms. Forsett provided a spark, amassing 35 yards rushing on seven carries and adding six catches for 57 yards. Most people probably didn’t have a chance to watch the Seahawks vs. 49ers game or they tuned out in the second half, but Forsett added some spice to Seattle’s offense every time he touched the ball. Look for him to earn more touches in the coming weeks.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Roster Forsett as a speculative RB who has the potential to make some noise in future weeks.  

6. Chris Brown, Texans
SleeperBiggest bust over the first two games? Steve Slaton. No question about it. Slaton averaged just 2.0 ypc against the Titans on Sunday. He also fumbled twice. Yes, the defenses he’s faced so far were tough. Yes, it’s early. But Slaton has looked tentative and seems to be dancing too much. The team gave eight carries to backup Chris Brown in what could be a sign of things to come. This week’s game against the Jaguars could be crucial for Slaton. If he fails, we could be inching closer to a more equitable 50/50 split for Slaton and Brown.   

Availability: Owned in ~13% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: It’s an appropriate move for Slaton owners to pickup their handcuff in case Slaton loses his grip on the starting job.
 
7. Dantrell Savage, Chiefs
SleeperThe Chiefs shook up their depth chart in Week 2. Jamaal Charles was a healthy scratch. The team opted to give Dantrell Savage a look instead. Although he made a mistake failing to get out of bounds on a play at the end of the first half, he did amass 69 all-purpose yards on nine touches (including six receptions). Savage is an under-sized RB who will likely continue to see plenty of work on third downs. At this point, consider him a decent prospect in deep PPR leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Only worth a speculative pickup in deeper leagues.

WIDE RECEIVERS

No Brainers: Steve Smith (NYG), Ted Ginn, Steve Breaston and Kevin Walter

1. Mario Manningham, Giants
RockstarThe Forecast scored its first big “win” of the season projecting Manningham as a potential breakout star prior to Week 1 and again last week. I also pimped him as a deep sleeper in my Late Round Legends feature during the preseason. Manningham is the sultan of slip. So far he has shown an incredible knack for slipping the first tackle and gaining huge chunks of extra yardage. After posting 58 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, he followed it up with a monster 10-catch, 150-yard, 1-touchdown performance on Football Night in America. With starter Dominik Hixon suffering a knee injury and Hakeem Nicks already down, Manningham will continue to be the big-play wideout for the Giants. At this point, consider him an every-week starter.   
 
Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The top wideout pickup if he’s available.
 
2. Johnny Knox, Bears
RockstarKnox backed up his 82-yard effort in Chicago’s opener with 70 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Steelers. Yeah, he’s legit. The rookie flew under the radar during the preseason but seems to have some chemistry with QB Jay Cutler. Cutler, who made rookie Eddie Royal fantasy relevant in 2008, threw Knox’s way nine times in Week 2. He appears to have supplanted Devin Hester as the top intermediate and deep threat in Chicago’s offense. Knox has speed to burn. He ran a 4.31 at the scouting combine and had been clocked in the 4.2s. That combined with Cutler’s arm makes him more than just the flavor of the week. Plus he has an “X” in his name so he has instant street cred as far as the Forecast is concerned.

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Knox has the potential to emerge as an every-week contributor and is worth a look in all leagues.

3. Laurent Robinson, Rams
Worth a LookRobinson falls firmly in the free agent evaluation category of “somebody has to catch balls in this offense.” After hauling in five receptions for 87 yards in Week 1, he grabbed another six for 54 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. He’s clearly QB Marc Bulger’s top target. Fellow wideout Donnie Avery was a popular sleeper entering the season but he’s been slow to recover from a knee injury and had a costly fumble on Sunday. Going forward, Robinson should be valued as the top WR in St. Louis. That puts him at WR3 status on most weeks. It also puts Avery on the waiver wire in most leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~17% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Robinson has proved himself worthy of a roster spot in all leagues.

4. Pierre Garcon, Colts
Worth a LookGarcon scored his first NFL TD in dramatic fashion on Monday night: a go-ahead 48-yard touchdown. With Anthony Gonzalez (knee) expected to miss several more weeks at a minimum, Garcon will continue to be the starter opposite Reggie Wayne. He won’t get as many looks as Wayne and Dallas Clark, but Peyton Manning throwing the ball he always has the potential to put up a big play. 

Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Garcon merits consideration in all leagues.

5. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars
Worth a LookWith the emergence of Sims-Walker, it begs the question whether you need a hyphenated last name to be a viable fantasy player on the Jags. After getting shutout in Week 1, Walker racked up 106 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. Despite signing Torry Holt during the offseason, Jacksonville is miserably short on playmakers in the passing game. It’s been a weakness since Jimmy Smith retired. Preseason standout Troy Williamson is out for the year, which further depletes Jacksonville’s WR corps. In 2008 Matt Jones led the team in receiving and had some noteworthy fantasy games. On a Jags team that needs someone to step up, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sims-Walker emerge as a similar fantasy player.

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Sims-Walker merits consideration in deep leagues.

6. Bobby Wade, Chiefs
SleeperIt didn’t take long for Wade to make an impact in the Chiefs offense. A castoff from the Vikings, Wade may have already supplanted Mark Bradley as the starter. Wade caught six passes for 72 yards against the Raiders. He seemed to be in rhythm with QB Matt Cassel, who was making his first start for the Chiefs. Cassel threw Wade’s way nine times. It’s worth noting that Wade led all Minnesota receivers with 53 receptions in 2008. That’s not a ton but considering who was throwing the ball, it’s nothing to shake a stick at either. PPR leaguers would be wise to pay attention to Wade.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Worth keeping an eye on in small leagues. Worth rostering in deep PPR leagues.

7. Nate Washington, Titans
Worth a LookAfter catching just one pass in the opener against his former Steelers club, Washington was a factor in Week 2. He caught four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. QB Kerry Collins threw his way seven times. Given Tennessee’s run-first offense, I have doubts as to whether Washington can become anything more than a spot starter. However, his athleticism gives the Titans a formidable downfield threat, which is something they haven’t had in some time.

Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Give Washington a look in leagues with 12 or more teams.

8. Julian Edelman, Patriots
InjuryWes Welker was an unexpected scratch from Sunday’s lineup with a balky knee. As with any injury to any Patriots player in the history of the Belichick era, the severity of Welker’s injury is unknown. What we do know is that his backup Julian Edelman appears to be a capable replacement. Edelman caught eight passes for 98 yards against the Jets. QB Tom Brady threw his way 16 times. Unless Welker’s injury causes him to miss a significant amount of time, Edelman probably has limited value going forward. Monitor Welker’s practice schedule this week. If he looks iffy, grab Edelman and don’t hesitate to play him against the Falcons.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: A must grab handcuff for Welker owners this week.

TIGHT ENDS

No Brainers: Owen Daniels and Dustin Keller

1. Brent Celek, Eagles
Worth a LookCelek confirmed his viability as a starting fantasy TE, posting useful stats in back-to-back weeks. In the opener, he recorded 37 yards and a touchdown. In Week 2, he burned the Saints for 104 yards on eight receptions. It’s worth noting that he was productive with two different QBs under center. That’s a testament to his talent and his role in the offense. If your TE has disappointed thus far, make sure to give Celek more than a cursory glance this week.

Availability: Owned in ~56% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Celek should be a major part of the TE discussion going forward.

2. Jermichael Finley, Packers
RescueSo far Finley hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype. He caught just one pass for six yards in Week 1. However, he showed some promise in Week 2 against the Bengals. Finley caught four passes for 56 yards, pointing to his ability to make plays down field. QB Aaron Rodgers threw his way seven times — as of pre-MNF only three TEs had more targets. If he gets that many looks this week against the Rams, he should deliver even better stats. In two games this season, St. Louis has been victimized by opposing TEs. John Carlson put up six receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Cooley posted eight receptions and 83 yards.  

Availability: Owned in ~27% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Finley a sleeper matchup play this week against the Rams.

KICKERS

1. Lawrence Tynes, Giants
RockstarA holdover from last week, Tynes booted four field goals and scored 15 total points Sunday night against the Cowboys. The Giants figure to have little difficulty moving the ball against the Bucs this week. If you need a kicker and Tynes is available, he’s an outstanding pickup and could give you a two or three point advantage over your opponents on many weeks.

Availability: Owned in ~61% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Tynes is the best kicer in fantasyland so far an deserves a spot in all leagues.

2. Joe Nedney, 49ers
RockstarSo far the 49ers have proven to be very capable of advancing the ball into opponents’ territory. However, once they are there, they seem content settling for a field goal. Kicker Joe Nedney has connected on five field goals this season and ranks third in the NFL in scoring. He’s a logical pickup and play option for this week’s game against the Vikings. Minnesota has ceded multiple field goals to both kickers they’ve faced in 2009.   

Availability: Owned in ~22% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Nedney should continue to be a top 10 fantasy kicker.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Cincinnati Bengals
SleeperThe Bengals haven’t had a defense worth considering for fantasy purposes since . . . well, ever. That could change in 2009. Right now they lead the NFL in sacks. Give them a look this week against the Steelers. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked six times and he’s thrown three interceptions in 2009. Plus the Steelers rushing attack has been a no-show in 2009.

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Bengals are emerging as a viable fantasy option worth considering regardless of how your league scores defenses.

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