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Fantasy Roundtable - Week 3

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:

Vikings Offense
Browns Receivers
Ricky Williams vs. Ronnie Brown
Gus Frerotte vs. Tim Rattay vs. Trent Dilfer
Willie Parker vs. Kevin Jones
Ron Dayne vs. Cedric Benson
Carnell Williams vs. Willis McGahee
Charles Rogers vs. Andre Johnson
Disappointing RBs

Maurile Tremblay: Welcome, gentleman. Let’s get right to it. What's going on in Minnesota, and to what extent are the Vikings' offensive woes related to the departure of Randy Moss?

Will Grant: I think the Vikings’ troubles are due to a lot more than just losing Randy Moss. While Moss is certainly missed on the offensive side of the ball, there are still plenty of weapons there for Culpepper and the Vikings to use. The Vikings lead the league in fumbles lost (4) and Interceptions thrown (8). That’s not a Randy Moss issue. Their defense is giving up 425 yards a game. Randy Moss has nothing to do with that.

David Dodds: I think losing Randy Moss had a bigger impact than a lot of people might think. Moss made defenses completely shift to his side. This opened up the middle of the field for draw plays, dumps to the RBs, etc. At times, Moss was triple-teamed. He was also so fast that he forced a lot of the corners to play farther back than normal. It’s not all Randy Moss, though. As Will mentioned, there are other issues involved as well. The Vikings lost their offense coordinator (Scott Linehan) and also miss All-Pro center Matt Birk (on IR with a torn labrum). The team also is playing with a revamped defense that has yet to gel. And since this defensive unit has allowed a lot of points, the Vikings offense has been one-dimensional (they must pass to catch up) in both games. But I contend that the loss of Randy Moss has had the greatest impact. Nate Burleson was good against single coverage. He seems to never be open against double coverage.

David Yudkin: I think losing offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has hurt the Vikings more than losing Randy Moss has. Right now, everything that can go wrong has—injuries to the OL, no running game, tough opposition early in the schedule, several tipped passes getting picked off, Burleson possibly out with a tweaked knee, etc. New OC Steve Loney doesn’t seem to have the answers at this point.

Marc Levin: The factors David mentioned – injuries to the OL, ailing RBs, Burleson possibly out for a few weeks – makes it hard to assess the impact of losing Moss. There are so many other confounding factors. The team played well enough offensively without Moss last year, however, so I do not believe their struggles this year can be chalked up to just missing Moss. I know that the Bucs have a great pass defense, but to be nearly shut out by the Bengals is quite troubling. The Vikings have a very winnable game this week against the Saints, who have had trouble stopping the run. If the Vikings struggle offensively again, it will be time to go into Panic Mode. But I think they’ll do well against the Saints, and an offensive shoot-out this week could get them back on track.

David Yudkin: Good point about this week’s game. The Vikings’ previous two opponents, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, could both turn out to be playoff teams, but the Vikes should have better games against softer defenses. The way the NFL works these days, I would not be shocked if they came out and hung 45 on the Saints this week. On the other hand, the way they’ve been playing, I could also see them getting only a few field goal attempts. The scary part is that in the NFC Norris division, eight wins could take the division. But any franchise would be in trouble if their team leader in rushing after two games only has 9 carries and 35 rushing yards.

Maurile Tremblay: Is there hope for any of the RBs or WRs on the roster to become solid fantasy producers?

Will Grant: Yes, I’d say there is. It’s just a question of when. It’s still too early to write the entire team off. Hell, Chicago and Detroit are leading the division at 1-1. There are a lot of games left between now and the end of the season. Mewelde Moore looked solid in a few games last season, and will be given a chance to shine. Travis Taylor looked good in the pre-season and leads the team in receptions now. When Culpepper gets back on track, those numbers are going to go up. Even with the 8 INTS, Culpepper is still completing over 60% of his passes. I wouldn’t start guys like Moore or Taylor in the next week or two, but they could come on later in the season.

Maurile Tremblay: If the Vikings really are as bad as they have looked so far, was there any way to see it coming?

David Dodds: I suppose we could have, but Culpepper has improved steadily the last few years so it looked like he would be ready to carry the team. Most of us expected the defense and running game to be much better than it is. Add it all together and this team is in a lot of trouble.


Maurile Tremblay: If you had to take a guess right now, who will lead the Browns in receiving this year?

Marc Levin: Receptions or yards? In yards, I think Braylon Edwards. He is the big play threat, and I would not be surprised to see him lead the team in yardage even with only 45-50 receptions. As for who will lead the team in receptions, it is a total toss-up. Dilfer seems to be favoring – or being forced to favor – the tight end. I will initially duck the question by saying that the TE position as a unit will have more receptions than any individual receiver. But if I have to choose one guy, I’ll go with Heiden for now.

David Dodds: My guess would be Braylon Edwards. He clearly has the most talent, but like most rookies needs to learn all the plays. I suspect by week 5 or 6, he will be the clear number one option there.

David Yudkin: I agree that Braylon Edwards is the most talented, but I think he still is at the back of the WR rotation in spite of his 80-yard reception this week. I think Antonio Bryant will end up seeing the most targets and will wind up with the best receiving stats across the entire season, but Edwards might be the more productive receiver in the second half of the season.

Will Grant: From a fantasy perspective, Braylon Edwards will probably lead the team. He’s already averaging more points per game than Bryant, and should probably finish the year as the number one guy. Bryant will be a close second, and will probably lead the team in receptions.


Maurile Tremblay: How much will Ricky Williams' stock rise if Ronnie Brown has another lackluster performance this week against the Panthers?

David Dodds: It will likely rise with another bad game, but the Dolphins have invested a lot in Ronnie Brown. I for one do not see Miami as a playoff team. Once their playoff hopes are dashed, I would suspect Ronnie Brown would get the carries again even if Ricky outplays him. Personally I think the Miami running situation is a mess at best and probably should be avoided in all but the deepest leagues.

Marc Levin: If Brown struggles again this week it won’t really change my stance on Williams because I already expect Brown to struggle the next couple games, and I already expect Williams to do well when he returns from his suspension. I have had Williams down as the Dolphins starter by week six since mid-August. This will become a big “toldyaso” from me if it happens. I’ve got Williams on several of my own fantasy teams; if he is not on your roster yet, and you can get him, go get him.

David Yudkin: At this point Brown has looked overmatched. It could be that he’s having trouble adjusting to the pro game, or it could just be the poor play of his offensive line. Either way, I suspect Williams will be given a chance to take the starting job and run with it, since Brown’s 2.7 yards per carry is not getting the job done. Then we’ll find out if it’s the line or Brown that’s been sub-par, although I’d guess it’s probably been a blend of both.

Will Grant: Ronnie Brown had a golden opportunity to put Ricky Williams away if he’d burned up the field for the first four weeks of the season like Carnell Williams is doing in Tampa. Each week that Brown disappoints, Williams gets one step closer to the field. Personally I’ll believe that Ricky Williams is back when I see him post 30 touches in a game. Until then I’ll hold off thinking he’s going to be great. However, the owners who took a chance drafting Williams have won the gamble, and unless Brown puts up 400 yards over the next two games, Ricky Williams is going to get his shot.


Maurile Tremblay: The most popular waiver-wire pickups last week at QB were Gus Frerotte and Tim Rattay. Should people have been targeting Trent Dilfer instead?

David Dodds: Yes, Trent Dilfer looks better than both of those players, but he faces Indianapolis next week (tough matchup) and then has a bye so he isn't likely to help until week 5 when he goes against the Bears. At some point, the Browns will likely yield to Charlie Frye, limiting Dilfer's value in all but the deepest leagues.

Marc Levin: I wouldn’t target Dilfer. He still has to face the Ravens and Steelers twice each, and their pass defenses are miles ahead of the Packer defense Dilfer saw last week. I think Frerotte, Rattay, and Dilfer will all have similar statistics at the end of the year; they have similar offensive weapons around them, and should get roughly similar garbage-time opportunities to rack up stats when their teams are behind in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, though, I think Frerotte and Rattay have more talent than Dilfer.

David Yudkin: Fantasy football owners went for the hot hands after Week 1 in picking up Frerotte and Rattay, just like they may do this week with Dilfer. But Dilfer will not keep up a 5,000 yard, 30+ TD pace. With games against the Colts, Bears, and Ravens in the next few weeks, his performance should be more ordinary. Dilfer, by the way, has had a history of rolling out a high TD game every so often – he’s had nine games with 3+ passing TDs over his career.

Will Grant: Guys like Rattay, Frerotte or Dilfer are ‘boom or bust’ type QBs right now. If you’re a fantasy owner looking at one of these guys to be your week in, week out starter, you are going to have to live with some up and down weeks. I don’t see any of those guys making it 16 weeks as a starter this season. This week, Dilfer tore up a weak Green Bay pass defense. Last week, Joey Harrington did the same thing. How did Harrington do against the Bears this week?


Maurile Tremblay: In this next series of questions, I’ll name two players and ask you which one will be more productive over the course of the season. Let’s start with Willie Parker and Kevin Jones. Who’s your pick?

Marc Levin: Jones. This shouldn’t really be a question at this point. Jones will be starting and useful for the next 14 weeks, no matter what he looks like now. I’m still not convinced Cowher will make Parker the starting back all year long. The kid has not had a bad game yet, but it’ll be a lot different when he does. Also, his strongest competition for carries are still on the injured report. Parker has looked outstanding so far, but I’m more confident about Kevin Jones’ continued role as the featured back than I am about Parker’s. I still want to see exactly how the carries are distributed when Bettis and Staley are healthy. If Bettis gets the goal line carries, for example, that will detract from Parker’s value.

David Yudkin: Fast Willie has been great so far, but I have to think that Jones will be more productive over a full 16 game schedule. Even though Cowher has said Parker will remain "the guy," I see Parker’s workload diminishing as time progresses and Bettis and Staley get healthy; and I also think defensive coordinators will start to game plan differently now that they see what Parker brings to the table. Jones has shown he can put up a 1,000 yards in half a season, and I just think Detroit needs to get untracked for him to rack up the yardage again (although he probably won’t get in the end zone a lot). Parker, meanwhile, will face a tough opponent this week in the Patriots, and probably won’t put up the same kind of numbers as he did against the Titans and Texans.

Will Grant: My vote is for Kevin Jones as well. No matter how well Parker is currently doing, Bettis and Staley will eat into his numbers when they return. Kevin Jones is off to a slow start, but should be the featured guy in Detroit as long as he is healthy. At some point, you would expect him to break out of his rut and put up some solid numbers. By then end of the season, KJ will have better numbers.

David Dodds: I agree with everyone else. Although Willie Parker is in an excellent situation running behind one of the most dominant offensive lines in the game, he is unlikely to put up better numbers than Kevin Jones over a full season. Kevin Jones is the undisputed starter and plays every down. When Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis are all healthy, it is doubtful Willie Parker will play all downs. Jerome Bettis is a monster at the goal line and will likely resume that role from last year. Duce Staley provides a good change of pace and can catch well so he likely will see the field some too (probably on third down). The Detroit offensive situation is a mess, but Kevin Jones is still too talented not to have a few huge weeks. Weeks 7-10 have him playing Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota and Arizona; I’d expect him to have some big games during that stretch.


Maurile Tremblay: Who will have the better year: Ron Dayne or Cedric Benson?

David Dodds: Is this a trick question? Ron Dayne sucks. The fact that Shanahan likes him just shows me how much Shanahan has lost touch with things. Dayne is better than Clarett. I’ll give him that much. When all the smoke clears, Tatum Bell should at least be number two on the depth chart. I really do not fathom Ron Dayne having many great moments this year (despite his solid play this past week). Cedric Benson is just behind right now based on his holdout. I believe he will overtake Thomas Jones at some point during the season. He is a better power runner than Jones and that appears to be the offensive style Lovie Smith wants to run.

Will Grant: I don’t think it’s quite as clear cut as David does. Benson’s holdout has hurt him, and Thomas Jones is the guy in Chicago for now. In his limited appearances, Benson has not proven that he deserves 30 touches a game. Dayne, meanwhile, has shown signs of life in Denver, and if given the chance, he might actually do pretty well running behind the Broncos’ offensive line. At some point though, you have to believe that Benson will be pushed into taking over the starting role. Teams expect their first-round draft picks to make an impact. Denver doesn’t have much invested in Dayne, and would probably feature Bell before turning to Dayne as their every down guy.

David Yudkin: Unless Anderson and Bell miss a lot of time, I don’t see Dayne getting enough work to have an impact. Benson, on the other hand, will slowly ease his way into the lineup more. If the Bears were content will Jones, they wouldn’t have drafted Benson. Jones has done what he did last year, so I can’t see the Bears’ brain trust changing their philosophy now. Brandon Jacobs or Dayne may have been a better question.

Marc Levin: I’ll go with Benson as well. Ron Dayne is looking comfortable in the Broncos’ run game, but Benson was drafted to supplant Thomas Jones and at some point he will have that opportunity. Moreover, Mike Shanhan likes to feature a single back while Lovie Smith seems content to mix it up with Benson and Jones. I have a hard time seeing Dayne making a consistent contribution this year absent another injury to the Broncos’ running backs. On the other hand (I can not believe what I am about to say), Ron Dayne is the one you want if you like more “upside.” Dayne as the Broncos’ feature back has a better likelihood of fantasy success than Benson as the Bears’ feature back.


Maurile Tremblay: Who will have the better year: Carnell Williams or Willis McGahee?

Will Grant: Williams was the guy that I had rated number one for my dynasty leagues. I love the guy and think he’s really going to rip it up. That being said, I never expected him to put up the numbers that he has over the last two weeks. The fact that Pittman has only ten touches in the first two games is pretty surprising to me. I think you’ll see Pittman creep into the lineup more as the season progresses. Will he beat McGahee in total points for this season: I still don’t think so.

Marc Levin: I have no strong feelings about either player, but it seems clear to me that Cadillac is being relied on to do more than McGahee right now. I think ultimately Williams will have more fantasy production because the teams in the NFC South seem to be able to run better than the teams in the AFC East. No runner is doing well yardage-wise in the AFC East and that will ultimately hurt McGahee. I hate to be right about him, but I had significantly downgraded McGahee late in the preseason due to the Bills’ offensive line problems. Others were not as worried as I was, but the Bills’ OL really scares me. Tampa Bay’s OL is almost as bad, but the Bucs’ passing game is much better developed than the Bills’, and that helps open up some running lanes for Williams. McGahee is facing a lot of eight-man fronts as the Bills’ passing game is extremely anemic right now. Overall, unless the Bills’ OL gets some cohesion going, I like Carnell Williams better for the rest of this year.

David Dodds: I think Cadillac looks to be a better option right now. The Bills offense, with JP Losman under center, looks stagnant. They also play in a tough divison that could limit McGahee's opportunities. Cadillac is off to a great start and looks to be a lock for rookie of the year honors if he can stay healthy. Surprisingly, Cadillac leads all rushers with 51 rushing attempts through 2 weeks.

David Yudkin: Willis McGahee has 165 total yards and has yet to score. Cadillac Williams has 274 rushing yards and 2 TD. However, Williams is averaging almost 26 carries a game, which is a workload overload in my book. I think whichever team’s defense plays better will fuel his team’s ground game. Overall I think the Bills DEF/ST is a stronger unit (at least for now) and Willis will start getting more red zone opportunities once J.P. Losman gets used to life in the NFL.


Maurile Tremblay: Next pair of players: Charles Rogers or Andre Johnson?

David Dodds: Andre Johnson is the clear number one WR in Houston. Admittedly, the Texans' offense looks horrible, but if anyone catches 70+ passes for them this year it will be Andre Johnson. The Detroit Lions are struggling themselves and Charles Rogers is being outplayed by Kevin Johnson so far this season. Rogers is also being pulled near the goal line for Mike Williams. I suspect Mike Williams will be used in more packages to exploit the mismatches he can create as the year goes on, too. My vote is that Andre Johnson has a much better year than Charles Rogers when it's all said and done.

David Yudkin: To echo what David Dodds said, Johnson is the clear number one receiving target in Houston. The Lions have many other weapons in Detroit. We already know that Andre Johnson can be a Top 25 WR. We have yet to see Rogers do much of anything—he’s only had one game in his brief career with 60 receiving yards. Luckily for the Texans, they won’t face defenses like the Bills or Steelers ever week. Even though I’m not a big fantasy fan of Johnson, I’d expect him to outproduce Rogers by a fair amount this year.

Will Grant: Andre Johnson is a strong candidate for bust of the year right now. He was projected as a top 15 WR and he’s putting up 5.4 yards per catch? Wow. Rogers is trying to dig out from under the ‘injury prone’ label he earned himself the last two seasons, and is doing well so far. However, opportunity will win out here and I think Johnson has a decided edge in that category. He is the best receiving option Houston has. Rogers has plenty of competition from some equally talented players. Will Johnson recover enough to finish in the top 15? Maybe. He ripped up the first half of last season, and could always turn in that type of performance between now and the end of the season.


Marc Levin: Johnson, easy.
Rogers will be splitting time at his position about equally with rookie Mike Williams. The number one receiver on the Texans is better for your team than the number two receiver for the Lions who is looking like he may actually lose his starting job. Do I get to turn the tables and ask you a question now?

Maurile Tremblay: Sure. Go ahead.


Marc Levin: We discussed Kevin Jones and Willis McGahee earlier, so I’ll leave them out of it. But there have been a number of other high draft choices at the RB position who have been disappointing so far as well. Out of Corey Dillon, Curtis Martin, Deuce McCallister, Julius Jones, Domanick Davis, and Jamal Lewis, who are you most worried about, and who you least worried about?

Maurile Tremblay: I am most worried about Jamal Lewis and Domanick Davis. Both guys are struggling individually and their respective offenses are playing poorly – a double whammy. (Contrast that with, say, Corey Dillon, who hasn't looked very explosive this year, but at least the Patriots should get into scoring position often enough to get Dillon his share of touchdowns.) I'm slightly more concerned about Jamal Lewis because I think Chester Taylor is a good enough RB to become a regular part of the rotation if Lewis continues to struggle.

I'd say I’m least worried about Julius Jones. He's getting plenty of touches, and he looks strong running the ball. He's gone up against two very good run defenses so far, but he should average around 4.0 yards a carry over the course of the season, which would be enough to get him easily over 1200 rushing yards if he stays healthy.

Will Grant: From that list, I’d agree that Julius Jones is the guy whom I’d worry about the least. San Diego and Washington have two tough defenses, and his stats suffered for it. He’s still averaging more than 25 touches a game, and he’s going to have plenty of opportunity to strut his stuff. I’d also agree that Jamal Lewis is the guy I’d be most worried about at this point. Unlike Jones, Lewis only has 31 total touches and he’s averaging only 2.2 YPC. With Chester Taylor averaging 4.6 YPC and Baltimore trying to throw the ball more, Lewis could really take a hit in the stats department.

Maurile Tremblay: Good stuff. Thanks, guys. See you back here next week.

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