Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Backups Movin’ Up
Breakdown: These are guys who are likely on rosters, but are on the bench for the most part unless in deep leagues. Circumstances are favorable for them to move into the starting lineup for your fantasy team, at least for the coming week.
Jericho Cotchery (NYJ) – A dark horse number one receiver who was drafted in most leagues – late, Cotchery has started out the year on a tear by his own standards. He’s on pace to smash his own best season for yardage, 1130, by about 400 yards or more, and should add at least six touchdowns or more to go with them. There are probably a good number of owners who have had him on the bench as more of a safety option, figuring his numbers would be limited and good fantasy performances few and far between with a rookie quarterback throwing to him. However, it would appear that he’s become Mark Sanchez’ favorite receiver and he’s helping the kid out in a big way. In case further proof of this fact is needed, note that he was targeted 13 times last weekend. Just in case you hadn’t figured that Cotchery should be in your lineup, here’s your memo.
Vernon Davis (SFO) – For the past three years Davis has been talked up in the preseason publications as one of the big sleeper tight ends, you know, the guy who was going to be grabbed in the last couple rounds of the draft and deliver like Antonio Gates. Well, so far he hasn’t even come close. Fast forward to week four of 2009 and he’s all of a sudden shown a bit of life. In fact, he’s shown so much life that after his week three performance he’s on track to have a career year by most tight end standards. While it isn’t realistic to think he’ll get the 75 catches, almost 900 yards and eleven touchdowns he’s currently projected for, it is perfectly realistic to think he’ll easily grab 55 for 700 and eight TDs. San Francisco is a well coached team that is on the rise, built on defense, with a relatively conservative offensive system led by a strong running game, all things that bode well for Davis. Now he just needs to stay healthy and out of the coach’s doghouse…something he hasn’t done well before, but would appear to have mastered this year, at least so far. He’s moving up quickly, and is a must start at this point.
Kevin Walter (HOU) – Walter has now officially played his first game of the season after missing two weeks because of a hamstring hang-up. His debut was fantastic, with almost 100 yards, a touchdown, and a perfect seven-for-seven for a 100% target-to-catch ratio. All indications are that he’s back to where he was expected to be from the get go this season and is a must start option going forward on a team that will be passing the ball a lot this season. He’s done riding the pine on his real team, time to get him off the pine on your fantasy bench as well.
Greg Olsen (CHI) – At the pace Olsen is increasing his number of catches each game, he’ll have 31 catches in week 17. He started with one catch in week one, grabbed three in week two and then had a five-spot this past weekend. Of course, this isn’t going to happen, but it would appear that he and Cutler are finally getting a connection going and he’s finally starting to look like most owners thought he would when they drafted him in the early mid rounds on draft day. The Bears are still trying to find their offensive identity, so there will be a few rough spots, but Olsen looks to be the safety valve when these times occur. Cutler isn’t afraid to gamble, and the offense is going to get going at some point, which will only increase Olsen’s value when it occurs. With Tony Gonzalez and Brent Celek on the bench for their bye week in week four, guys like Olsen will be in high demand, so if you’re sitting with some depth, now could be a great time to make a smart trade!
Waiver Wire Radar
Breakdown: These are guys who more than likely are not residing on many, if any, rosters. They are in situations that are favorable for possible fantasy impact in the not too distant future.
Sammie Stroughter (TBB) – Stroughter isn’t going to set the world on fire anytime soon, but with bye weeks beginning he must be recognized as a fair option when searching for a one or two week starter. Tampa is having to air the ball out quite a bit this year and isn’t shying away from the pass, so with Washington, Philadelphia and Carolina coming up in the next three weeks, look for Stroughter to step up and put up a few points. He may or may not end up a worthy roster dweller after the bye weeks are done, that will be determined by Antonio Bryant’s health more than anything, but for times when your starters aren’t on the field, there are worse options.
Keenan Burton (STL) – With Laurent Robinson out for the season Burton stepped in and will continue to play as the second receiver across from Donnie Avery. He’s upped his production by one catch each week, but that is likely to change this week at San Francisco. Look for him to get at least five or six catches this week in a starting role. Regardless of who ends up behind center, not just this week but throughout the season, this team is going to have to throw the ball quite a bit, as they are going to be playing from behind quite often. Burton will have a fair amount of nice matchups in the next few weeks, including matchups against Detroit and Jacksonville, teams who give up quite a bit of yardage. If you’re looking for a starter to give you some bench depth or a one week start, Burton is a solid option.
Mike Furrey (CLE) – First, remember this; Contributions on offense are relative. Guys who are getting a few catches a game for a few yards per game on a team that is throwing for 350 yards and four touchdowns every week aren’t worth much talking about. However, the same guy on a team with a pathetic offense is a viable candidate for at least a bench spot on a fantasy roster. Furrey is that guy. He is one of those guys somewhat reminiscent of Ed McCaffrey, the guy who doesn’t make any headlines, who doesn’t have any outstanding flashiness, but week in and week out, whenever he is called upon, makes the necessary play without any glory. Cleveland’s offense is pathetic and that is putting it nicely. The quarterback situation is a mess, but Furrey has had four catches in two of the first three games, and will continue to get fed regardless of who is behind center. Obviously he’s not going to be a top line starter by any means, but as an option during the thin weeks coming up he is a nice option.
Bryant Johnson (DET) – While Detroit is not the greatest team going these days, their offense isn’t exactly a dud. As was noted Sunday, teams are going to team up to stop Calvin Johnson as much as humanely possible. While stopping him is rarely done, the extra focus frees up the other receivers and Brandon Pettigrew at tight end. The receiver that will reap the most benefits of this is Bryant Johnson. Johnson has been the second or third fiddle guy most of his career, and usually puts up steady numbers while rarely if ever putting up the huge breakout day. Look for this to continue in Detroit over the next few weeks, as Detroit now has a bit more confidence and has improved on offense each week of the season so far, so Johnson is a great pick up of a guy with nice upside who is probably still sitting on the waiver wire.
Josh Reed (BUF) – Ask anyone a quick question about who the top receivers are for Buffalo and you’ll probably get ‘Terrell Owens and Lee Evans’. Fact is, they would be numbers four and five, respectively. Number one would be a running back, Fred Jackson. Number two? You guessed it. Josh Reed. Reed has twice as many catches as T.O. and didn’t have a catch in week one. The bottom line is, Reed is probably sitting out on the waiver wire and likely doesn’t have anyone at all looking at him. Meanwhile he’s getting top action on a decent enough team, though obviously not an offensive juggernaut, which makes him a viable deep league starter and bench option in the shallower leagues.
Lenedu Naanee (SDC) – Naanee is a third year receiver who is starting to make himself known just a bit. He’s not a threat to make serious ripples right away, but seems to be carving out a niche for himself and the confidence of his quarterback, which goes a long way in this league toward making a player successful. This offense is pretty active, so it can be expected that weeks of four or five catches will be a fairly regular occurrence, and it is within the realm of reason that Chris Chambers could begin to lose ground to Naanee if he continues to impress. Either way, he’s good bye week fodder or someone to keep an eye on should one of the Charger starters go down to injury.
Louis Murphy (OAK) – If you don’t count the tight end, the only receiver who, after three games, has done anything at all on the field for the Raiders is Louis Murphy. For all the talk about fellow rookie Heyward-Bey, Murphy has quietly gone out and, I used the word loosely, performed. Sure, eight catches isn’t great in most circumstances, but on an offense like Oakland’s it is outstanding. He has the only receiving touchdown for the team so far, to go along with almost 140 yards. Again, not amazing stats, but when you consider he is responsible for basically one-third of the teams passing game, it puts things in perspective. Regardless of whether or not Schilens finally makes it onto the field this week, Murphy isn’t likely to lose any ground, and in fact could even see a slight uptick in numbers.
Mike Wallace (PIT) – Limas Sweed was supposed to be the nice third receiver option to compliment Ward and Holmes, but he hasn’t stepped up to the plate yet. Wallace, meanwhile, has better numbers than the top receivers on at least a half-dozen teams in the league. If he starts cashing in with a touchdown or two to go with the twelve catches and 147 yards he’s collected over three games he’ll be entering third receiver fantasy starting territory. The Steelers are passing for just shy of three hundred yards per game, so there is plenty of action to go around, so look for Wallace to continue to be a solid producer as the season rolls on. He is also a good pickup if you have Hines Ward, and even Holmes, in case either has to miss a game due to injury.
Jabar Gaffney (DEN) – Taking away Brandon Stokley’s long, fluke play at the end of week one’s game, Gaffney follows only Brandon Marshall to be the second leading receiver on the Bronco’s team this year. In deep leagues he is possibly already on a roster, but in many leagues he was overlooked for names like Marshall and Royal. Gaffney is quietly just doing his job and giving Orton a solid outlet that he is using to the fullest extent possible. Gaffney should be on a roster before this week is out and with bye weeks coming up should likely be in a starting lineup this week as well in almost every league.
…And On The Slide – Quick Hits
Breakdown: With the season in full swing and bye weeks about to begin, we felt it time to add a bit of the ‘flip side’ to our movers review. These are guys who are relatively well known, but whose stock is most definitely not moving in the right direction – with just a quick hit as to my personal thoughts on the matter.
Terrell Owens (BUF) – Whatever the reason, T.O. has become almost invisible. While some like this, fantasy owners would prefer he be noisier, at least on the field. As was known when he signed with Buffalo, this offense isn’t a juggernaut and doesn’t have a great passing game. T.O. has dug his own grave and smart fantasy owners are trying to get what they can for him in trade as we speak.
Bernard Berrian (MIN) – Berrian was supposed to be a lot busier this year than last, when he had a fairly decent season with an adequate quarterback. Brett Favre has seemingly forgotten that Berrian is the ‘number one’ receiver in favor of putting Percy Harvin on the map. Berrian takes a slide, at least from the value at which he was drafted.
Lance Moore (NOS) – When Drew Brees stated that Lance Moore was his Marvin Harrison a few weeks ago, few realized he meant the retired Marvin Harrison. Seriously though, something is screwy considering the fireworks the offense is putting up. Moore shouldn’t even be on a roster at this point.