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Fantasy Roundtable - Week 2

Various staff members will share their views on a range of topics each week in discussion format. Feel free to eavesdrop.

Quick Links to Topics:

Willie Parker
Brett Favre
Frisman Jackson
Surprise tight ends
Cleveland RBs
Carolina RBs
Arizona WRs
Jimmy Smith vs. Keenan McCardell
Daunte Culpepper
Carnell Williams
Larry Johnson vs. Priest Holmes
LaDainian Tomlinson

Maurile Tremblay: What a great first week of football! There were lots of surprises, the biggest perhaps being Willie Parker’s performance for the Steelers. What kind of role do you guys see Parker having in the Steelers’ offense one Bettis and Staley return?

Chris Smith: Jerome Bettis is like an old Dodge with 330,000 miles under the hood. He is about finished and Staley simply hasn’t displayed the flash he once had years ago with the Philadelphia Eagles and has a difficult time staying healthy now. At the very least, I believe we can expect 12-15 touches a game from Willie Parker but his upside is much greater than that of either of his two teammates. It would be a great time to trade him though if you are fortunate enough to have him on your roster and can get an owner to overpay for him after his huge week one.

Jason Wood: Bill Cowher is old school. He believes there are tried and true ways to run a football team. With that in mind, I believe Fast Willie Parker will be relegated to backup duties when Staley and/or Bettis return to full health. That said, Parker showed an added dimension (speed/explosiveness) that is far too valuable to that offense to simply put back on the shelf. Ultimately I think IF (a big IF), Staley and Bettis return to full health, Parker will get 5-10 touches per game.

Marc Levin: I agree. It's hard to bench a guy who got 200 yards from scrimmage, so Parker will definitely be used. But I also agree that Staley will regain the starting role when he is healthy. Another thing is that veterans tend to suddenly get healthy quickly and tend to have very good production once a young gun like Parker shows his stuff. I predict that when Staley returns, he will play very well. It wasn't a one-man Parker show out there; the Steeler offensive line was blowing open some holes for him, and I think Staley will be able to take advantage of them like Parker did – not that Staley can get 200 yards from scrimmage, but he can hit those holes just like Parker did.

David Yudkin: Parker will stay the starter for now even if the other guys get better. Most opposing defenses will be better than the Titans, however, so I don’t see another 200 yard outing for Parker any time soon. Once Bettis gets back, he will likely be the short yardage and goal line guy. Once Staley gets back, I think this will turn into a RBBC situation with those three and Haynes thrown in on occasion as well, but I doubt the Steelers will rush Staley back at this point.

Cecil Lammey: Willie Parker had a great debut in week one, although it was against a poor Titans defense. I am a Steelers homer, so I have to take this performance with a grain of salt. Parker's performance has ensured him of another starting role in week two against the Texans. I believe that if Willie continues to perform, then Cowher will have no choice but to leave Parker in and spell him with Bettis on short yardage or at the goalline. Remember, this is the coach that kept Big Ben in even when Maddox came back healthy last year. If Willie is helping the Steelers win games then Cowher will stick with him.

Maurile Tremblay: Brett Favre looked pretty bad on Sunday. Can we write him off for the year, or will he get things turned around even without Javon Walker?

Chris Smith: I have been preaching all offseason that the Packers offense looks to be in some trouble this season. Will Brett Favre play as poorly as he did in week one? No. Favre is too strong of a competitor to slink off into the sunset like that, but I would be hesitant to rely on any of the Packers offensive skilled weapons this season. The offensive line was leaky throughout the Lions game, and Favre for once in his career looked flustered. There are better options for fantasy owners to start going forward.

Cecil Lammey: It was Favre in a dome. More often than not, Brett struggles inside a dome for some reason. The Packers O-line is not what it once was, but Favre can make plays no matter what the protection. Favre simply had a bad game. I do believe that 2005 will be his final year and he will want to go out with a bang.

David Yudkin: The Packers have ranked in the Top 10 in points scored in 10 of the past 11 seasons and ranked 11th in the other. They also ranked Top 10 in passing 9 of those seasons and ranked 13th in the other two. Even without Walker, I don’t see the Packers scrapping the passing game or struggling for too long passing the ball. In my opinion, the hurricane played a role in Favre’s poor showing. He’s averaged 29 TD a season over his career and lost key receivers in the past. Let’s give him a few more bad games before we start talking about him being washed up.

Dave Baker: You never know when someone is going to get old quick, but I don't think Walker's injury hurts Favre like many think. First of all, there remains talent in GB at the WR position, with Driver, Ferguson, and rookie Terrence Murphy. Secondly, Favre has produced in the past with little at the position. You can argue how good guys like Robert Brooks, Antonio Freeman, and Bill Schroeder were, but I'm not sure how much better any of them were than Donald Driver. Just look back to 2002 when Driver led the team in receptions and Favre had 32 TD's. Even without Walker, I think the Green Bay talent compares to many previous seasons under Favre.

So if you toss out (at least to some degree)
Walker's injury greatly impacting Favre, it comes down to whether or not you think he got old quick. His offseason workout was too disciplined for me to think this is the case. Plus, look at some other opening day moments for Favre. Just last year, Favre went 15/22/143 on opening day. In 2003, Favre was 25/41/248 with 0 TD's and 4 INT's in the opener. Those sound worse to me than this past Sunday.

For me, I put it down to one bad game and against a young and improving
Detroit team. If anyone can bounce back, it's Favre. He'll turn it around.

Jason Wood: I agree with Dave. The loss of
Walker is problematic, but Brett Favre is nothing if not resilient. Donald Driver is a legitimate option and the team has Robert Ferguson and rookie Terrence Murphy to add to the mix. If Favre can throw for 3,932 yards and 32 TDs with Bill Schroeder as his number one wideout, he’ll find a way to be productive without Javon Walker. In the last five seasons, Favre has thrown 3 or more INTs in 13 different games; he’s going to have his bad weeks. Don’t panic.

Marc Levin: I agree as well. Losing Walker will have no effect on Brett Favre for fantasy purposes, though the Packers will feel the effects of him not being there. Favre will bounce back immediately from that poor showing, and Driver and Ferguson, along with Chatman, Franks, Davenport and Green can keep Brett Favre's numbers from dipping too low - he's still a top-12/top-15 fantasy QB.

Maurile Tremblay: Is Frisman Jackson for real, or is he a one-week wonder?

Jason Wood: From what I understand, Jackson benefited from the Browns running a ton of 4-WR sets after TE Steve Heiden got hurt. I don’t think the team plans to use 4-WR sets regularly, nor do I think we can expect Jackson to get matched up with a defensive end in zone coverage (as he was on his long TD catch and run), so in answer to your question MT, I’ll say he’s more “one-week wonder” than “for real.”

Marc Levin: One-week wonder all the way. I think we will be seeing a different one-week wonder each week out of Cleveland as the team currently has nothing consistent to rely on offensively, and it needs to find something. They will be doing a lot of experimenting to see what works each week until they find something concrete.

David Yudkin: This was the biggest surprise of Week 1 for me, as I had not even heard of him before. Like the Bengals, now I have. I’d be inclined to think he was a flavor of the week, but with the mass changes in Cleveland I guess anything is possible.

Cecil Lammey: I love guys like Frisman Jackson. Practice Squad players sometimes can develop and turn into the next Rod Smith. Most of the time, they end up like Chris Horn instead of Joe Horn. Unfortunately, I believe that Jackson is a one-week wonder. Braylon Edwards is the future, and Jackson is buried on the depth chart. Let's see how he looks when he's up against some better cornerbacks.

Chris Smith: I will admit that Frisman Jackson surprised the heck out of me this past weekend but he has ‘One-Week Wonder’ written all over him. The Browns’ offensive attack doesn’t exactly look explosive and I will pass on starting Jackson although I may try to scoop him up off the waiver wire in deep fantasy leagues.

Maurile Tremblay: Who will have a better season this year: Chris Baker, Alex Smith, Courtney Anderson, or Ben Watson?

Jason Wood: Great question. I think the easy answer is Chris Baker because unlike the rest of these guys he caught a bunch of passes. And while I think Baker is now worth picking up off waivers as your backup, I am particularly intrigued Alex Smith. He’s more of the mold of the tight ends we’ve seen burst onto the season. He’s athletic, a natural pass catcher, and is also intelligent. Jon Gruden is going to chuck the ball around and Smith could benefit from that. If I had to handicap the situation I’ll rank them: Baker, Smith, Watson, Anderson, with all four being spot starters but not top 10 tight ends at year end.

David Yudkin: Watson probably has the most talent and could have the best stat later in the year, but over the course of the entire season, I doubt he will have the best total numbers. Like Baker, he will share time with at least one other TE, so I’d rule them out first. It’s tough to call this one; as a lot will depend on who gets the red zone TDs (like Anderson got vs. the Pats). I’d probably say Anderson followed by Smith, but that’s more of a hunch than a confident opinion.

Cecil Lammey: I'll go with the rook, Alex Smith. He was a great player in college at Stanford and he proved on Sunday that he can take it to the next level. Chris Baker has a struggling QB. Courtney Anderson is about 4th in the progression. Ben Watson has a great team around him, but he's on an offense that spreads the ball around too much.

Maurile Tremblay: Did Reuben Droughns show enough yesterday to be the lead in an RBBC when Suggs gets healthy, or will Suggs get the majority of the carries? Is it safe to count William Green out now?

Cecil Lammey: Reuben showed enough to become the lead back, but this RBBC is far from being dissipated. Suggs still isn't healthy, but when (or if) he is, he's the most talented back on this team. William Green cannot be counted out. This battle could go on well into the season.

David Yudkin: Droughns did fairly well in limited use, but it’s hard to conclude much on only 12 carries of work. Suggs should still be more explosive and elusive than Droughns, so I don’t think we can take away much after just one week. I never figured Green to play a big role, but I guess if the other guys got hurt he might get some additional playing time. No matter how you slice it, the Browns’ running game is not one I would covet for fantasy purposes.

Chris Smith: Lee Suggs is a game breaker and he will still get every opportunity to lead the Browns when he returns from injury. What we did learn in the first game though is that William Green is a ‘pretender’ and this appears to be a two-horse race once Suggs returns. I would expect both players to see significant playing time going forward with Suggs perhaps earning up to 65% of the playing time (if he can stay healthy; obviously that is a huge ‘if’).

Jason Wood: I don’t think 12 carries when his main competition (Suggs) is hurt is enough to confidently project Droughns as the primary ball carrier. This is a situation I purposely avoided and see no reason why that should change after Week One’s developments.

Marc Levin: I've been a staunch supporter of Droughns as the better fantasy option in the Browns' backfield, but I never thought he'd be the "feature" back in that offense. I believe a healthy Lee Suggs will create a 60/40 split in his favor for carries, but that Droughns will get the short yardage and goal line carries. Also, Droughns is an excellent receiver and has significantly more experience and talent as a pass blocker, so I would expect Droughns on the field for almost all passing plays in the Browns' offense - which is another reason I consider Droughns the better fantasy option. If Suggs can’t stay healthy, then I do believe Droughns will be the featured back. It seems clear that William Green is not serious competition for carries.

Maurile Tremblay: Did Stephen Davis' performance in week one signal that he'll be the featured RB in Carolina as long as he stays healthy, or do you see him and Foster splitting time?

Jason Wood: Talk about a surprising development. Just about everyone (myself included) counted Davis out this year after he had microfracture surgery. Yet he led the Panthers with 81 yards on the ground and a TD. That said, he had 13 carries and Deshaun Foster had 9 carries, so I don’t know whether we can say for sure Davis is “the man.” Ultimately, can we count on either of these guys staying healthy? Another situation I tried my hardest to avoid on draft day.

David Yudkin: Davis did way more than I thought he would. I think he’s still a ways a way from getting 25 or 30 carries in a game, so by default Foster will see more work than a typical backup. Davis will probably be good enough to start as a flex player and Foster probably won’t see enough time to be a regular fantasy starter. We’ll have to revisit this should Davis run into health issues.

Chris Smith: While Davis had a solid week one performance, both he and Foster will likely split caries going forward. As Jason mentioned, ratio this past weekend was 13:9 in Davis’ favor; and I would expect a similar breakdown throughout the rest of the year if both players stay healthy.

Cecil Lammey: Davis staying healthy is a big if. Foster too, for that matter. I can see both of them getting hurt and Nick Goings once again becoming a big waiver wire guy.

Will Grant: I think that Foster is going to see the field this season at some point. It’s unrealistic to think that Davis has 300 carries in him anymore. Foster will probably have 9-10 carries a game as long as Davis is healthy, more if he goes down. Foster is an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Panthers need to know whether they can count on Foster for next season, or whether they should let him go and look elsewhere for a running back. Shelton’s injury only magnifies the need to determine just how good Foster really is.

Maurile Tremblay: Is it clear that Fitzgerald is the number one target in Arizona, or is that something that will differ from week to week?

David Yudkin: All off-season, I urged caution to those pimping Boldin to repeat his rookie season due. Fitzgerald’s presence makes a difference. When both played together last year, Fitzgerald had the better fantasy stats. I suspect that part of Fitzgerald’s big first week had to do with the way the defense played the Cardinals, and I suspect that Warner will go to the guy who is open. Both should still have big games, but at this juncture I would be inclined to say that Fitgerald should be ranked slightly higher than Boldin.

Cecil Lammey: Quarterbacks develop favorites early. I would still consider Anquan Boldin the number one target because of his ability as a possession receiver. Right now we'll call Boldin 1, and Fitzgerald 1A. Just like Kurt had it in St. Louis with Bruce and Holt.

Jason Wood: The biggest X factor is Kurt Warner. Last year Boldin was the more favored target when both he and Fitzgerald were on the field together, but in the first week of the “Kurt Warner Era,” Fitzy was targeted 15 times to Boldin’s 9 times. The fact that Boldin caught 13 of 15 targets is enough for me to reverse Cecil’s rankings – I’d call Fitzgerald 1 and Boldin 1A for now. But remember when Warner had Bruce and Holt in St. Louis, they both had their great games and forgettable ones. I would urge owners not to panic on Boldin, and give it another week or two to see whether this was an exception or the rule.

Chris Smith: This situation will likely switch each week depending on how defenses line up against them. Obviously Fitzgerald is a great target but Anquan Boldin is also superb while Bryant Johnson could certainly lead the team some weeks in receiving if defenses attempt to stop the first two receivers. A great situation for Warner and the passing attack, but I can see this causing fantasy owners some headaches this season. The good news for Fitzgerald and Boldin owners is that the running attack was completely neutralized against the Giants, and the Cardinals may be forced to throw a ton this year thanks to mediocre offensive line play.

Maurile Tremblay: Who will have a better season this year: Jimmy Smith or Keenan McCardell?

David Yudkin: I’d say Smith—he’s clearly the number one receiving option in Jacksonville while McCardell will like be the third option behind Gates and LT. Smith has averaged 9.2 fantasy points per game over the past 3 years vs. McCardell’s 8.5 points per game over that same period. If McCardell emerges as the number one receiving threat in San Diego, I might be inclined to change my mind, but for now I’ll take Smith.

Jason Wood: Jimmy Smith. McCardell got off to a great start but the Chargers didn’t have Antonio Gates in the lineup and LaDainian Tomlinson didn’t catch a pass for the first time in his career. The Chargers aren’t going to throw with abandon and will spread the ball around. Jimmy Smith has been elite more years than not, and his running mates are less compelling.

Cecil Lammey: Both of these aged veterans, and former teammates had a great opening week. I believe that Jimmy Smith will have the better season because Jacksonville will throw more as an offense. McCardell looked great, but as Jason mentioned that was without Antonio Gates. Gates will put a big dent in Keenan's targets. San Diego also has LT2 to dominate a game. Jacksonville has some great weapons at WR, which really open things up, but they do not have a dominant running game.

Maurile Tremblay: Will Daunte Culpepper be a top five fantasy QB this year?

Chris Smith: Are you kidding me? Look, the fantasy season is not a one-game sprint. It is a marathon and Culpepper is a proud individual who will come back from this experience with both guns blazing. The fact is, the Buccaneers strong defense took it to the Vikings and left them shell-shocked. I don’t expect that to happen to the Vikings again this season. I will say though that he will finish a good deal behind in numbers from a year ago.

Will Grant: I have to agree with Chris here. Let’s not write off Culpepper just because he came up against a tough defense. Tampa has an excellent defense, and they finished #1 in passing yards allowed last season. It was a train wreck waiting to happen. Culpepper will bounce back and probably finish #1 or #2 again this season. Will he have 4800 yards and 40 TDS? No, but it’s way too early to say he’s not going to finish in the top five.

Cecil Lammey: Culpepper had one bad game, that's it. People say it's the loss of Moss. I say it has more to do with the loss of Scott Linehan to Miami. Last year the Vikings played several games without Moss and put up great offensive numbers. CPepp will bounce back: he's too much of a gamer not to.

Jason Wood: If he’s healthy, of course he will be top five. Week One was disappointing, but the team had no semblance of a running game, and as we saw from Philadelphia, New York (Jets) and St. Louis, sometimes the best laid plans go awry. If anyone out there is sensing panic on the part of your league’s Culpep owners, act quickly and fleece him off your unwitting league mate.

David Yudkin: Culpepper’s prognosis for this year was perhaps the most hotly debated topic on the message board this off-season. Playing Tampa Bay certainly did not help his cause any. Remember, the Bucs led the league in pass defense last year, allowing just 161 yards passing per game. In 5 previous starts against Buccaneers, Culpepper averaged just 249 passing yards, and threw a total of 5 TDs to go with 8 INTs. He should be fine and should still be in the Top 3 let alone the Top 5. If people are selling, I’d strongly suggest buying at this point.

Maurile Tremblay: If you held a fantasy draft right now, where would you have Carnell Williams ranked? Is he a top ten overall pick right now?

Cecil Lammey: No. Caddy is not a top ten pick because he had ZERO targets on Sunday. Let's see him become more involved in the passing game before he joins the elite. That plus Mike Alstott was put in at the goalline, even though he did not score. So whenever the Bucs get within the five, it looks like Caddy goes to the garage.

David Yudkin: In the leagues I play in, Williams ranked in the Top 20-30 scorers after one week, so I can’t see ranking him in the Top 10 overall. Before his long TD run in the last two minutes against Minnesota, his YPC for 26 carries was only 2.9. If he had stopped there, perhaps we’d be discussing how overrated he was. His stock probably went up some, but not a ton. I’d probably put him in the Top 20 when I had him just outside a few weeks ago. Let’s see him put up more 20 point games before we start shooting him up the rankings.

Chris Smith: I already had Cadillac Williams ranked higher than most heading into the season and have him on a few rosters. He has a great mix of talent and the only caveat in regards to him this season is the suspect offensive line in front of him. He is a play-maker though and he already proved he can find room to run. He will be a force throughout the rest of the season.

Jason Wood: You have to be mightily impressed with what Cadillac did out there. Sure, he had a paltry YPC until that late 70-yard TD run, but the mere fact he was able to handle the rock 27 times and still have the explosiveness to break free late in the game is exactly what you want to see as a fantasy owner. He’s clearly got ABILITY and the 27 carries shows he’s got OPPORTUNITY. What more could you want? I wouldn’t put him among the top 10 overall picks, far from it, but I would comfortably move him into the 15th-19th slot among RBs.

Will Grant: Gruden didn’t spend that high of a draft pick for him to share time with Pittman. Williams is a solid talent and he’s going to be a great addition to Tampa’s offense. As long as he keeps ringing up the big games, Pittman isn’t going to see the field. As the Pittman threat still hangs out there a little, and Williams could tire near the end of the long season, I’d say Williams would be an early 2nd round pick if you were drafting from scratch today.

Maurile Tremblay: Is Larry Johnson a better NFL running back than Priest Holmes right now? Is there a chance he'll be the better fantasy RB this year if both guys stay healthy?

Jason Wood: From a touches perspective, Holmes was clearly the workhorse (22 carries to 9 carries). But Johnson looked as impressive as a RB can look and likely has earned himself a liberal part of the carry rotation. With both backs healthy and running behind that line, KC should be able to win a ton of games on the ground. Could LJ be the better fantasy back? I would say the number of carries would have to even out more for that to happen but it’s obviously not impossible.

Cecil Lammey: Both of these backs benefit from a monster offensive line that is very athletic. Larry Johnson has certainly showed that he could be incredibly productive. Holmes has a better skill set then LJ and if both are healthy Priest will outproduce LJ.

David Yudkin: No one has led the charge about the Chiefs RB tandem more than I have this year, and as I see it Holmes will still be the predominant back and LJ will get a much smaller piece of the pie. “Better” to me is a misleading term, as Holmes has proven to be one of the best of all-time and his numbers have not really suffered any. Johnson has looked fantastic, but one has to wonder how often he will be able to produce at the level he has been on a per touch basis. In Week One, Holmes had some plays where he made something out of nothing while Johnson had holes the size of the Grand Canyon to run through. I don’t see how either back could be accountable for the blocking in front of him. If Johnson keeps his production at the level he has, he will probably earn some more work, but I doubt Holmes will lose the majority of the workload unless his numbers drop-off severely or he gets banged up.

Maurile Tremblay: LaDainian Tomlinson kept his TD streak going, but failed to catch a pass on Sunday. What was the deal with that?

Jason Wood: I wouldn’t read too much into one week, but it’s certainly worth tucking away in the back of your mind. This was the first time Tomlinson ever failed to catch at least one pass, but he did catch only one pass three times last year. There’s not much owners can do now anyway, he was likely the top pick in nearly every draft and no one is going to part ways with him because he might be closer to last year’s 53 receptions than the prior year’s 100.

Cecil Lammey: The Cowboys were blitzing relentlessly, and LT2 had to stay in to block.

David Yudkin: Tomlinson had a catch in all 63 regular season games and the one post-season game he’s played in. I’d venture to say that that was a statistical anomaly that won’t happen again this year. However, if the Bolts’ WRs stay healthy, the Chargers may not need Tomlinson to get double duty as a receiver out of the backfield. It could be a sign that his role as a receiving threat may be lessened.

Marc Levin: It used to be that LT was it for the Chargers on offense; now they are finding other pieces to their offensive puzzle. As a result, I believe called play passes to LT will be significantly reduced this year if the Chargers are in a game where they are able to find receivers (against the 'boys it was McCardell). That said, LT is an excellent pass receiver and I can't imagine Marty Schott leaving that talent unused. Cecil mentioned that the Cowboys blitzed a lot, forcing LT to stay in and block. I think the return of Gates will alleviate that greatly. One or the other of Gates or LT will be open more often for a hot read than what happened in the Cowboys game where LT was forced much more often then usual to pick up a blitzer.

Maurile Tremblay: I agree that it had something to do with Gates’ absence. Teams won’t be able to blitz the Chargers so often with Gates available as a hot receiver, so Tomlinson should get into the pattern more often. I don’t think he’ll have anywhere near the 100 catches he had two years ago, but he should have around 50 again like last year. Thanks guys! Same time next week.

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