Fantasy Roundtable - Week 7
Posted 10/19 by Maurile Tremblay, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
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:
Potential breakout players
Santana Moss and Steve Smith
Potential breakout players
We're at about the halfway point in the fantasy regular season. Is there
anybody who has been relatively quiet so far this year that you think could
really break out in the second half of the season (like Kevin Jones did last
Aside from the obvious candidates in Peyton
Manning and Tony Gonzalez, there
are a few guys who will likely receive a huge bump for the second half. Kevin Jones can't do much worse than
he's done to this point, and Detroit's schedule is cake the rest of the way. Add to that the
return of Cory Schlesinger and possible insertion of Jeff Garcia into the
lineup, and I can see all Detroit players getting a huge upgrade. None
more so than Jones. Trent Green is
bound to pick things up a bit (he is on pace for just 12 TDs on the season).
He's not going to match preseason expectations, but he could still perform average
1.5 TDs and 250 yards per game from this point forward and finish with
Chris Smith: With Brian
Griese out of action, Chris Simms
will have a shot to put up decent fantasy numbers and has a good mix of talent
to get the ball to. Ronnie Brown should
emerge as the clear-cut number one running back on the Dolphins as the season
wears on. Lee Suggs has been written
off by fantasy owners but he'll be available throughout the second half of the
season. He is worth scooping up as he brings explosiveness to the table that
Reuben Droughns does not. Two more players to watch are WR Eric Moulds and WR Lee
Evans. Both have struggled due to poor quarterback play but should have
better stats from here on out.
Will Grant: Bryon Leftwich is a prime candidate for
a breakout right now. With RB Fred Taylor injured, the Jags are going to have
to throw the ball more. Matt Jones and Reggie Williams are emerging to take the
pressure off of Jimmy Smith and Jacksonville is ready to take it to the next level. Their schedule is
pretty easy from here on out, and with Indianapolis winning like they are, Jacksonville is going to have to turn it up a notch to keep pace or
vie for a wildcard playoff birth. Leftwich could finish somewhere in the QB7-8
range when this is all over.
Michael Brown: Steven Jackson and Tiki Barber are two other players I'd be targeting. Neither has
been exactly quiet to this point, but I think both of their roles are about to
become greatly expanded. Jackson in particular is one player I'm trying to
acquire in as many leagues as possible, because I think he's headed for huge
things in that offense. He isn't ignored in the passing game, which bodes well
for his fantasy opportunities even if the team is struggling as a whole. Barber
may see some more goal like work after the costly
Brandon Jacobs fumble. That could bump Barber from the 7th or 8th best RB to the
4th or 5th best. A subtle upgrade, but an upgrade nonetheless.
Chris Smith: Ashley Lelie can't be any worse than he
has been to start the season and should be more effective from this point on.
He certainly gets the targets to be productive. TE Tony Gonzalez is a gimme. He'll have a lot of good games going
forward. Finally, look for rookies on poor teams such as Frank Gore to get more looks as the end of the season draws nearer.
Teams will want to see what they have in a player and Gore should get more work
once the second half of the season begins. My final player is Chester Taylor who may see more and
more action behind an ineffective Jamal Lewis.
Will Grant: I'd
also be keeping an eye on Billy Volek
if I were a McNair owner. McNair is
dinged up as usual, but with Volek's performance last season, I can see McNair
being pushed aside to rest and Volek brought in. Volek exploded last season,
and that potential is still there. At some point you do expect guys like Michael Clayton, Roy Williams and Andre Johnson
to head up. These are three big-name WRs who have WAY underperformed their
Jason Wood: At QB,
Peyton Manning is the most obvious
choice, but I’ll also echo Mike’s thoughts on Trent Green. With only 4 TD passes through Week Six, I expect him
and all his co-horts to start showing signs of life as they get to the meat of
their schedule. At RB, I didn't expect greatness from Ahman Green this year but this has been ridiculous. I would look
for Green, Reuben Droughns, and Chester Taylor (yes, in place of Jamal
Lewis) to put together solid second halves relative to their numbers so far
this season. At WR? Pick any of the preseason top 12
and you've got good candidates! In all seriousness, I would be surprised if Donald Driver, Roy Williams and Michael
Clayton weren't back on the fantasy radar screen in big ways for the second
Marc Levin: A lot
of the underperforming top notch guys are worth a look: At he top of my list is
Peyton Manning. The Colts put up 45 points against the Rams on Monday night
and Peyton had a mediocre day. At some point he will start to get his numbers
again. Matt Hasselbeck has been tearing it up without his top two
receivers. What'll happen when Jackson and Engram return? Aaron Brooks should get a lot
of garbage-time opportunities. What else will the Saints do but throw? If he
cuts down on the mistakes, he could be really huge down the stretch. I see a
lot of 250-300 yard, 2-3 TD days from Brooks, and the occasional huge game. Same with Brett Favre. The Packers’ OL will get Green
killed, but Favre will still be back there slinging the ball, especially if he
starts to feel like this is it for him.
Cecil Lammey: Ahman Green almost has to bounce back
from a horrible start to this season. Green has seen his backups be productive
while he was out and hopefully it lights a fire. Ahman is a good receiver out
of the backfield so he has a strong chance to have the biggest rebound in the
2nd half of the season. Kevin Jones
is a guy that is getting dinged up frequently, but has proven before that he
can start off slow and still come back with a fury. Maybe when Jeff Garcia gets
back in the lineup then Jones can show the type of playmaking ability that we
all know he's capable of.
Marc Levin: Good
point about Kevin Jones. Once Garcia
gets the start I think he will
start to come alive. Willis McGahee and Tiki Barber seem poised to absolutely explode now that
hey have legitimate threats at QB. Warrick Dunn will continue to be a
nice surprise hit at RB. I do not see "explosion" at WR, but I think
the steady and consistent Rod Smith and Donald Driver are great players to trade for right now
if you can get them for good value; neither has yet to truly peak this year.
Santana Moss and
Two guys who I think are very similar receivers are Santana Moss and Steve
Smith. Both guys are undersized, but very tough. They both have deep speed as
well as the ability to make big plays with their run-after-the-catch ability.
Most importantly, both guys are comfortably outperforming their preseason
projections. Can they keep it up for the rest of the season, or will they fall
back more in line with their preseason projections?
Chris Smith: Both
players were projected incorrectly. The only reason either player will see a
significant drop in production is if injury strikes, and it is impossible to
predict an injury for either player. Steve Smith looks even better than Muhsin
Muhammad did last season, while Santana Moss has been very productive and is
clearly a favorite of Mark Brunell. I don't anticipate either player to decline
noticeably going forward.
David Yudkin: I
felt Smith was a shoe-in for the Top 10 at WR this year, so his performance
does not surprise me. The loss of Muhammad has only helped his cause. Like last
year, however, the injuries to the Panthers' running game have also led to more
passing attempts. If their running backs get healthy and more productive, we
may see a dip in their passing numbers. I'm not so sure the RB corps will get
healthy, so that may not be a huge concern. As for Moss, no one projected Brunell
to take over at QB, so we certainly had no idea that he would click with Moss.
Similar to the Panthers, if the ground game gets untracked (Portis has not had
a TD yet) and teams defend the pass better, Moss' production could suffer. I'd
be more comfortable owning Smith right now than I would Moss.
Jason Wood: I was
wrong on both of these "mighty mites," and, like most others, I am
more surprised by Santana Moss than Steve Smith for a litany of reasons. But,
six weeks into the season, presuming they and their supporting casts stay
reasonably healthy, I don't see why they should have precipitous declines in
productivity. I still wouldn't feel comfortable with Santana as a WR1 but he's
obviously a must start until proven otherwise. As for Steve Smith, he's made a
believer out of me for sure and is delivering in a year when most consensus top
WR selections have disappointed.
Barring injury, both of these smurf receivers should continue to put up great
numbers. Washington's passing numbers have shocked the world, but what is
also puzzling is the lack of targets to other WRs in Carolina. Steve Smith is awesome, but Colbert is having a big
sophomore slump. Good thing Ricky Proehl is there to help out on the other
side. Both of these small WRs (Smith and Moss) get double-teamed consistently
yet continue to produce.
Will Grant: Steve
Smith doesn't surprise me as much because he's been here before. Like most people, I downplayed him a bit at the start of
the season because he was returning from a major surgery and I wanted to see
how well he recovered. Obviously he's back 100 percent. The surprise in Carolina isn't Smith as much as it is the other Carolina receivers. Smith has almost 600 yards and 7 TDS.
Colbert, Gardner and Proehl have 324 yards and 2 TDs combined. Add in DeShaun
Foster's 188 yards receiving and you still come up with just 512 yards. How
long can Smith command that much of the passing offense before defenses double
team him on every play and force the Panthers to go in another direction? I
agree with Jason on Santana Moss: He's a must start until proven otherwise.
He's actually becoming a bigger part of the offense as the season wears on. Is
he going to face KC every week and rack up 10 receptions, 170 yards and 2 TDs? Certainly not. But the next couple weeks are against
defenses with weaker secondaries (SF and NYG), and Moss will probably be near
the top of the fantasy WR pile in each of those games.
Marc Levin: I
can't add much more to what has already been said. Barring injury, both players
will be very productive. I can't imagine them keeping up their current pace as
that would mean some really astronomical numbers, but they will both keep their
place among the top five WRs.
On a few teams, it seems like the backup RB is performing as well as or better
than the starter, albeit in limited opportunities. In previous weeks, we've
discussed Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson in Denver,
as well as DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis in Carolina.
But in addition to those situations, Chester Taylor is outperforming Jamal
Lewis in Baltimore, and Chris Perry
has looked very good in Cincinnati.
Is there a decent chance we'll see any current backups work their way into a starting
Will Grant: Chris Perry was a first round draft
pick brought in specifically to push Rudi Johnson and possibly replace him. I
think that you're going to see a lot of RBBC come out of these situations. Cincinnati, Baltimore and even Kansas City are going to a more balanced carry system with two backs
carrying the load. For all the success that he's had in Oakland, Lamont Jordan is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. If that doesn't
increase, you may see Justin Fargas
and Zack Crockett getting more playing
time as change-of-pace backs. I'm not suggesting running out to grab these guys
in favor of Jordan, but a 3.6 YPC is nothing to get excited about. By the
way, if I were a Cedric Benson
owner, I'd be terrified. Minnesota ranked 31st in total rushing yards allowed and 32nd in
yards per attempt allowed. The Bears had the game well in hand, Jones was
playing hurt, and Benson had a grand total of three carries for two yards. The
only way Benson is going to see any playing time this season is if Thomas Jones
is seriously injured.
Chris Smith: In
regards to the Bears situation, as long as they are in the hunt for the
division title, they will likely stick with Thomas Jones, who has been terrific
for them this season. If they fall from contention, however, I would expect
them to slot Cedric Benson into the
lineup to see what he can do. I believe the 49ers are already looking towards
the future and in a couple more weeks will begin feeding Frank Gore the ball more often to see what he can accomplish with a
greater work load. He has done a good job in limited duty and with an eye
towards next season, the 49ers will get him the rock.
Another player currently a backup (heck, currently not even playing) to be
aware of is Lee Suggs of the Browns.
Although he has serious durability issues, he has more explosiveness and an
ability to take it to the house than current starter Reuben Droughns and I
believe the Browns will give him a chance when he returns from the hand injury.
Finally, if Jamal Lewis continues to get stuffed play after play, I wouldn't be
surprised to see the Ravens stick Chester
Taylor in there with his increased elusiveness.
History tells us that any number of current backups will see meaningful action
at some point this season, particularly at the RB position where health and an
overall lack of productivity seem to be constants through the first six weeks
of the season. Although I don't think Kevan Barlow has been as bad as some people
would contend, I could see San
Francisco giving Frank Gore a major look in the second
half just because they're clearly focused on 2006 and beyond, and Barlow likely
doesn't figure heavily into their long-term plans. As for other backups, you
really have to love Chris Perry. The
kid seems to be every bit the playmaker he was at Michigan now that his injuries are behind him. For now, they're
using him as a change-of-pace guy and Palmer is throwing to him with
regularity. But should Rudi Johnson get hurt, I could see Perry being an
absolute stud. Another backup worth mentioning is Ciatrick Fason. With the situation in Minnesota being what it is,
why shouldn't he get a chance to show management and his new owner whether he's
got a place on the team in 2006 as they’ll likely blow up the entire
organization and start anew? One last note on backups: this past week was a
humbling experience for people in our business. All signs pointed toward Tyson
Thompson in Dallas (he got 20 carries the week before) and Alvin Pearman in
Jacksonville being the starters in place of their injured teammates;
yet much to many a fantasy owner's chagrin, it was
A-Train and Greg Jones who got the call.
Cecil Lammey: Greg Jones is a guy who could see some
more playing time after a nice performance against Pittsburgh. Jones was a power back at FSU and was very reluctant to
switch to a FB in the pros. Marty Schottenheimer tried to take a look at him as
a FB during his Senior Bowl and Jones went off and had a terrific game--at
tailback. Perhaps he's seen the light and will light it up when given the
opportunity. He's very limited as a receiver, but can pound it out between the
tackles and is surprisingly fast for a big back. Derrick Ward is a long shot, but a guy whom I've liked since he was
a freshman at Fresno State. He is currently seeing some third down duty with the
Giants and is having some decent success. Lamar
Gordon is a guy we could see moving into a more predominant role with Philadelphia. Brian Westbrook is a game-breaker, but also has been
known to get dinged up every year. I think that Andy Reid may spell Westy even
more with Gordon, so long as he holds onto the ball. Philly is in a dogfight in
their division and Gordon could be a guy they could count on to nurse a lead
and keep Westy fresh.
Marc Levin: I
really like Ricky Williams'
situation (who doesn't), but I agree with the Chris Perry call. Both of those guys are likely already rostered in
most fantasy leagues. Lamar Gordon
could see increased work, but he is also likely on a roster. Jerome Bettis is arguably the better
play these days than Willie Parker. Some waiver-wire guys to look at are Greg Jones, who got the start over
Pearman last week in Jacksonville, and Anthony
Thomas, who got the start over Anthony Thomas in Dallas. The two best backup in the league, in my opinion, are Domanick Rhodes and Maurice Morris. It looks like they will
see a decent amount of action each game, they are in ideal situations, and they
are on teams that have strong potential to be grinding out the clock in the
fourth with their backup RBs.
It looks like Titan WR Drew Bennett will miss at least a few weeks with a
dislocated thumb. Rookie Brandon Jones has physical talent, but is he ready to
assume the role of the number one wide receiver in Tennessee?
Chris Smith: The number
one receiver in Tennessee doesn't seem to equate to a whole lot this season, as
the bulk of the targets go to the tight end position. Brandon Jones will do
some good things but he is too green to expect consistent production going
forward. I can see him putting up solid numbers in one week only to disappear
in the next two. At best, he'll be a serviceable fantasy backup for the rest of
this season with tight ends Ben Troupe and Erron Kinney getting the majority of
David Yudkin: With
many fantasy teams having bye week and injury issues, I think Jones will be a
decent option in leagues that start three WRs. The Titans face Arizona, Oakland, and Cleveland in
the next few weeks, and that should only help his production. For teams with Randy
Moss, Roy Williams, Drew Bennett, etc., he will likely be as good an option anyone
on their bench at this point.
Jason Wood: It's
been a wild season on the WR front. "Consensus" top picks including
Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Darrell Jackson, Hines Ward, Nate
Burleson, Andre Johnson, Roy Williams, Joe Horn and Michael Clayton have all
disappointed to some degree and that's opened the door for a lot of secondary
WRs to get starts in nearly every league. Jones appears to be the most involved
of the Titans triumvirate of rookie receivers, and I see no reason to think
he's not worth picking up in leagues that carry five or six wideouts.
Jones should be a good pickup in larger leagues. As Chris mentioned, most of
the targets go the TEs but Jones has been working his way into this role. With
the injury to Bennett, Jones will now get his chance.
Will Grant: I
think Jones has excellent sleeper potential right now. Bennett is out for a few weeks with his thumb injury,
and he has not done nearly as well as a number one receiver as he did last year
at the number two spot. The key here will be the Titans’ QB play. If Volek
takes over for McNair at some point, I think the Tennessee WRs will take a
jump. I've already picked Jones up in one of my leagues and expect that he
might be pressing for a starting position over the next couple weeks.
Marc Levin: Man, I
steamrolled the Brandon Jones train out of the station a few weeks ago, and he
has yet to see the targets to justify a fantasy start. Drew Bennett's injury
can only help him see the targets he was seeing in the first three games, and
the numbers he produced the last game once Bennett went out is encouraging. I
think Jones will be able to handle the number one WR role because he isn't the number
one receiving target: TEs Kinney and Troupe are. It is a good time for Bennett
to go down if you have Jones; Tennessee's next three games before their bye week are against
relatively weak pass defenses: Arizona, Oakland, and Cleveland.
That said, once Bennett returns, I fear Jones will return to his minimal
Let's assume that the top two fantasy picks next year
will again be LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander. Who will go number
Will Grant: Lots
could happen between now and then.
Assuming that Priest Holmes doesn't retire and Edgerrin James stays in Indy, I think you'll see a wide split
between James, and Willis McGahee.
With Henry moving on to Tennessee, McGahee has been tearing up the field in Buffalo. He was held in check by Tampa in week two, but since then he's scored a TD each week.
He has also proven that he can handle 30 carries a game, and has no reasonable
backups to share the load with. James would be the other option if he stays in
Indy. Even though he's in his 7th NFL season, James is on pace for 400+ touches
this season. Even with all of the focus on Manning and the TD record last
season, James finished 6th as a fantasy running back. If Indy can re-sign him
this offseason, expect him to be a top five choice in most performance and
I think Edgerrin James is probably
the right answer if he stays in Indy. Cadillac
Williams could be a consideration, as well as Willis McGahee. If Tatum
Bell has a nice second half of the season and is the clear starter in Denver
next year, he could be a possibility as well. And Steven Jackson is the dark horse. He’s running very strong in Saint
Louis and could be the every-down back next year for
Chris Smith: After
this season, I'll tell you who won't be in the running ever again in my books
and that is a quarterback. After all the hype in regards to Peyton Manning this
season, look what it has brought. It is very early to
tell one way or the other but I would bet it will be one of the younger running
backs such as Willis McGahee and/or Cadillac Williams who get hot down the
stretch and prompt an owner to take a chance on him early on.
Jason Wood: Well, Willis McGahee is the number four RB
right now according to FBG scoring, and that’s despite a complete lack of a
passing game until the last two weeks. Assuming he remains healthy, I could see
him being the 3rd pick. If Edgerrin
James stays in Indy, which I still have doubts about, he would be my other choice.
Cecil Lammey: It
has to be Edgerrin James. James is
consistent and versatile, something the other backs in the top tier are not.
Cadillac Williams doesn't catch enough passes to be considered in the top 3.
Marc Levin: Edgerrin James if he is in Indy. If he
is not, maybe Willis McGahee or Priest Holmes, and then, in my opinion,
there are a whole slew of backs that will be considered: Steven Jackson, Tatum Bell,
Domanick Davis, Clinton Portis -- all of them could compete for top-5 selections
next year. Then there is the dark horse shot - someone may take Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, or Torry Holt at
number three, given their consistency at the WR spot. (But I doubt it.)
I think it’ll be interesting to see whether the first round next year will be
more or less RB-heavy than it has been in the past couple
years. Chris mentioned that he wouldn’t consider taking a QB so high again
after Manning has failed to live up to the hype this year. But there have been
plenty of flops at RB as well. Meanwhile, Marc mentioned a few WRs who could be
considered top five material. That’s a debate for the
coming offseason, but I think it’s fun to start
speculating on that kind of stuff ahead of time. That’ll do it for this week.