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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 4
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: Brett Favre, Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco

1. Shaun Hill, 49ers
RescueHill draws the Rams this week, making him a smart pickup for teams facing a Week 4 QB bye. Although his numbers so far this season haven’t been on the same level as 2008, he may be asked to start throwing more with Frank Gore sidelined. Ironically, Gore missed last season’s Week 16 game against the Rams. In that contest, Hill threw for 216 yards and two touchdowns plus added 45 yards rushing. St. Louis has the eighth-worst pass defense, giving up over 250 yards through the air per game. Look for Hill to build on Sunday’s performance against the Vikings, in which he threw two touchdowns.

Availability: Owned in ~44% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hill should be an adequate bye week replacement this week against the Rams.

2. Jason Campbell, Redskins
RescueCampbell passed for 340 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions. Before you pick up him with the intention of playing him, make sure you know what you’re getting. He’s the ultimate boom-or-bust play this week with the potential to put up another 300-yard game or be a complete nonfactor. On paper, the matchup looks pretty sweet. Tampa has allowed seven passing touchdowns in 2009.

Availability: Owned in ~52% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Campbell comes with some risk but there’s potential for a big reward against the Bucs this week.

RUNNING BACKS

No Brainers: Pierre Thomas, Willis McGahee, Tashard Choice, Knowshon Moreno and LeSean McCoy

1. Glen Coffee, 49ers
InjuryFrank Gore sustained his annual leg injury, this time an ankle sprain, which may keep him out until Week 7. Rookie Glen Coffee is expected to take his place in the lineup. Coffee looked like a decaffinated version of his preseason self on Sunday against the Vikes, posting just 54 yards on 25 carries with zero touchdowns or receptions. The good news is calmer waters are ahead for Coffee. Next week, the 49ers will face the Rams followed by the Falcons. Both teams rank in the bottom half of the NFL in run defense. Coffee is starter material with the bye weeks upon us.

Availability: Owned in ~40% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Coffee is a viable fantasy starter as long as Gore is out.

2. Fred Taylor, Patriots
RockstarThere should be no confusion about who the starter is in New England. Taylor carried the rock 21 times for 105 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. He actually ran well in his first two games but wasn’t given much opportunity. Based on Laurence Maroney’s health questions and Taylor’s showing thus far, I would expect the timeshare to diminish somewhat with Taylor earning enough carries to contribute most weeks. New England faces the Ravens next so Taylor won’t give you an immediate lift. However, he’ll be usable in Week 5 when the Pats travel to Denver.

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

3. Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
Worth a LookBuckhalter was touted last week as a player worth picking up and playing against the Raiders. He came through with 108 rushing yards. The former Eagles RB has been a pleasant fantasy surprise this season. Although he’s splitting carries with rookie Knowshon Moreno, it looks like there will be enough carries to go around. Head coach Josh McDaniels is committed to the run. Denver has called the second-most run plays in the NFL (102). This week the Broncos face a Dallas run defense that can be beaten.

Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Buckhalter is a quality backup who you can use for favorable matchups.

4. Jerome Harrison, Browns
InjuryJamal Lewis was inactive for Sunday’s game against the Ravens. Lewis has been hampered by a hamstring injury. He was replaced primarily by Jerome Harrison who managed to churn out a respectable 85 yards of offense against the Ravens. If Lewis continues to rest, Harrison should again be a fantasy factor — especially in PPR leagues. He caught five passes against Baltimore. On Sunday the Browns will face a Bengals run defense that has looked tough so far. Still, Harrison is worth a spot start based on his versatility and projected workload.

Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Harrison is a useful second RB or flex player in deep leagues.

5. Ricky Williams, Dolphins
RescueWilliams is still lurking on the waiver wire in nearly 40 percent of fantasy leagues yet he continues to produce at a high level. He’s scored a touchdown in two of the first three games. If you’re challenged by RB injuries or a bye week, Williams could be the answer. He faces a Bills defense that was abused by the Saints in Week 3. With QB Chad Pennington out for the season, the running game will continue to be the focal point of Miami’s offense.   

Availability: Owned in ~61% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams is worth a look in all leagues as a backup.
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6. Adrian Peterson, Bears
InjuryBears starting RB Matt Forte may have suffered a leg injury in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over the Seahawks. The severity is unknown at this point but he reportedly had his leg wrapped in the locker room following the game. Chicago has a bye in Week 5. If Forte’s injury turns out to be anything more than a garden variety bump or bruise, don’t be surprised if the team opts to rest him next week against the Lions to extend his recovery period. Detroit’s run defense has performed admirably this season but if Forte sits, Peterson is worth a start.  

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Monitor the news around Forte and snatch up Peterson if he looks questionable.

7. Ladell Betts, Redskins
SleeperPortis has been stymied by the Rams and Lions on consecutive weeks. Can he pull off the turd trifecta by turning in another foul perfromance against Tampa’s 31st ranked run defense? We’ll see but don’t be surprised if backup Ladell Betts gets a little more work. Portis has reportedly been playing through some ankle pain related to bone spurs. He’s clearly not the same running back fantasy owners are used to relying on week in and week out. Head coach Jim Zorn may need to change things up in his backfield to get the offense moving. Betts is worth stashing in case Portis gets the hook.

Availability: Owned in ~25% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Betts is worth a speculative pickup in deep leagues.
 
8. Maurice Morris, Lions
InjuryLions starter Kevin Smith was on pace for a career game on Sunday against the Redskins when he injured his shoulder. The good news is he didn’t break any bones or tear any ligaments. He likely won’t miss much time but chances are he’ll be listed as questionable for this week’s tilt against the Bears. Morris didn’t do much by way of yardage during Week 3 but he did manage to get in the endzone. If you are in a pinch, you could do worse than Morris if he gets the start.

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Morris could be useful in all leagues if Kevin Smith misses time.

WIDE RECEIVERS

No Brainers: Santana Moss, Kevin Walter and Derrick Mason

1. Nate Burleson, Seahawks
RockstarWhile free agent signee T.J. Houshmandzadeh is struggling with Peerless Price syndrome (big name free agent wideout who disappoints with new team/fat paycheck), Burleson has become the de facto number one receiver for Seattle. A Free Agent Forecast three-timer this year, Burleson ranks second in the NFL in targets with 33. He’s posted two quality fantasy performances in three games this year, including a nine-catch, 109-yard effort against the Bears. What’s more, he’s done it with two different QBs under center. He’s playable this week against the Colts in game in which the Seahawks will likely be forced to play catch up.

Availability: Owned in ~63% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The top wideout pickup if he’s available.

2. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars
RockstarWalker has been a factor in back-to-back games, posting 106 yards and a touchdown in Week 2 and following it up with 81 yards on Sunday against the Texans. He also nearly scored a touchdown but went out of bounds at the one-yard line. At this point, Sims-Walker appears to be the favorite target of QB David Garrard. Consider activating him this week against the Titans who have been whipped in the passing game lately (six passing scores allowed in their last two outings).   
 
Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Sims-Walker should be rostered in all leagues.
 
3. Pierre Garcon, Colts
Worth a LookOutlookPeyton Manning’s confidence in Garcon grows each week. He’s scored a touchdown in back-to-back games, including a 53-yard bomb against the Cardinals on Sunday night. Although the passing offense continues to run through Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, Garcon figures to continue getting 4-5 opportunities to make a play each week. Generally a couple of those plays will be deep shots as speed is Garcon’s biggest asset. The Colts schedule looks extremely ripe for continued production with upcoming games against the Seahawks, Titans and Rams.

Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Garcon is a worthy addition to any fantasy roster.

4. Andre Caldwell, Bengals
Worth a LookCaldwell has caught six passes in two out of three games this season, making him a viable wideout in PPR leagues with 12 or more teams. He posted 52 yards and the Bengals only receiving touchdown in Week 3 against the Steelers. At this point, he’s a more trustworthy option in Cincinnati’s passing game than both Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry. Caldwell was targeted nine times on Sunday, as compared to seven for Coles and three for Henry.

Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Caldwell merits consideration as bench depth in PPR leagues.

5. Sidney Rice, Vikings
RescueRice is a sneaky pickup this week for owners seeking temporary salvation at the receiver position. The Vikings will square off against the division rival Packers. Rice has thrived against Green Bay. In fact, he’s met them three times in his career and scored a touchdown in every one of those games. Rice synched up with QB Brett Favre in Week 3, catching four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. If your waiver wire is looking particularly thin at the receiver position, give Rice a shot this week.

Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Based on his success against the Packers, Rice deserves a spot start this week.

6. Mike Wallace, Steelers
Worth a LookWallace had a breakout game in Week 3 against the Bengals, amassing 102 yards on seven receptions. Although he’s behind Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes on the depth chart, the rookie could still have some fantasy relevance. Pittsburgh’s running game has failed to inspire confidence this season. As a result, the team is relying on the passing game and Ben Roethlisberger more than in previous years. If the trend continues, Wallace will have his moments. He has likely moved ahead of Limas Sweed on Roethlisberger’s confidence chart because of Sweed’s costly drop in the end zone last week. 

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Wallace is worth a look in deep leagues.

7. Kelley Washington, Ravens
SleeperIt’s incredibly rare for a receiver to have six relatively non-descript seasons and suddenly rise to fantasy relevance. While Washington hasn’t quite established himself as a regular fantasy contributor, his stats in 2009 are worth a closer look. His catches, yards and touchdowns so far have gone like this: 3-43-0, 4-58-1 and 5-66-0. With the Ravens offense firing on all cylinders, Washington has established himself as a player who will chip in a few catches every week. In deeper leagues, that consistency can be hard to find.

Availability: Owned in ~8% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Only worth a look in deeper leagues at this point.

TIGHT ENDS

No Brainers: Owen Daniels, Jeremy Shockey and Brent Celek

1. Vernon Davis, 49ers
RockstarDavis erupted for 96 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings. We’ve been down this path before with Davis. One week he can look like the best tight end in the NFL. The next he will be invisible. Why might this time be different for the former first round draft pick? For starters, Davis has earned the trust of the coaching staff, as evidenced by him being named one of the 49ers captains. That’s a promising sign as Davis has been a frequent visitor to the dog house under the current and previous coaching regimes. Davis is a good fill-in this week for Tony Gonzalez owners or next week for Greg Olsen and Antonio Gates owners.

Availability: Owned in ~41% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Davis is worth a look in all TE-mandatory leagues.

KICKERS

No Brainers: John Carney

1. Steven Hauschka, Ravens
RockstarHauschka is benefiting greatly from the high-powered Ravens offense (now there’s a phrase I didn’t think I’d be writing this season). The Ravens are averaging 34.3 points per game. As a result, Hauschka is putting up over eight points per week. He hasn’t missed a kick since the opener and ranks tenth in the NFL in scoring among kickers. The Ravens travel to New England this week.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Go ahead and clear out a roster spot for Steven Hauschka if you need kicker help.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. San Francisco 49ers
RockstarUnder the leadership of Mike Singletary, the 49ers have played some inspired defense this season. In three games, the 49ers have recorded five turnovers, six sacks and a touchdown. This week, they should feast on the Rams, who will likely be without QB Marc Bulger. Kyle Boller Will get the start in his place. Boller has a career TD-to-Interception ratio of 47:45

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The 49ers should be as good as gold this week against the Rams.

2. Cincinnati Bengals
RockstarLast week’s sleeper pick exceeded expectations, rewarding fantasy owners with a sack, and interception and an all-important defensive touchdown. By knocking off the Steelers, Cincinnati gained some swagger that should carry over to this week’s meeting with the QB-deprived Browns. Regardless of which passer Cleveland starts, the Bengals seem likely to turn in a noteworthy defensive performance. Pick them up and play them this week.

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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