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Fantasy Roundtable - Week 9

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:

Returning WRs
Arrington & Benson
Flashes in the pan?
Miami RBs
Dallas RBs

Returning WRs

Maurile Tremblay: There are a few WRs who have missed time recently who should return within the next several weeks. Which of the following guys do you think will have decent fantasy value down the stretch? Charles Rogers, Isaac Bruce, Drew Bennett, Robert Ferguson, Roy Williams.

Jason Wood: The cream usually rises to the top, and thus I think Bennett, Bruce and Roy Williams are the ones to watch of this quintet. Bennett, in particular, is clearly the number one WR on an offense that has had its moments. Bruce, because of his age, is a slightly greater risk, particularly with Kevin Curtis playing so well, but I would happily bid for Bruce off waivers if he were available.

David Yudkin: Based on points per game, Bennett was the #28 WR before getting hurt. He's been a bit of a disappointment, as he was a Top 10 WR pick in many leagues. The Titans have been using their TE extensively, so Bennett may be a Top 30 guy but an unlikely Top 10 guy. Bruce is normally a good candidate to put up Top 20 numbers, but if Holt comes back healthy, the emergence of Kevin Curtis could result in a smaller piece of the pie for Bruce. Ferguson was a Top 25 WR even with a zero one week. Green Bay has been airing it out with a lackluster running attack and a mediocre defense. I still have hope he does well on his return. The Lions’ duo may likely still struggle. They have only scored more than 20 points once this year, and even Jeff Garcia may not be able to spark the offense.

Maurile Tremblay: I should have mentioned the Seahawks' WRs as well. Darrell Jackson may be in a different category since he was off to such a great start this year, but Bobby Engram can be lumped in with the others. I have no confidence in Charles Rogers. The Lions' passing offense isn't all that great, and Rogers is the third best WR on the team (fourth best if Kevin Johnson were healthy). Roy Williams could do okay when he returns, but I'd avoid any Lion WRs this year unless I was hurting at the position. Isaac Bruce has potential because the Rams have such an explosive passing offense (when Bulger is at the helm). I like Bruce better than Robert Ferguson because I think Bruce is still a better receiver than Kevin Curtis, while I don't think Ferguson is necessarily better than Antonio Chatman. Drew Bennett is still tough to figure out. He has potential, but even when he was healthy he wasn't living up to expectations. I really like Bobby Engram. He's been an effective receiver for the last few years, but hasn't gotten enough targets to put up great stats since he wasn't a starter. This year he was off to a good start to the season before he got hurt, but was still flying under the radar since he hadn't scored a touchdown. I do think he can be productive down the stretch.

Will Grant: To follow up on what Maurile just said, Engram is a guy I've been holding even though he's been injured. I like his potential in Seattle, and when healthy, he's the best choice for a fantasy WR after DJAX there. Drew Bennett frustrated me enough to drop him. He was OK when he was playing, but certainly not anything more than a WR2. If McNair gives way to Volek that could all change though, as Bennett and Volek frequently hooked up last season. I agree with MT that the Lions scare the heck out of me. Their offensive firepower is one of the best in the league, yet they find a way to struggle each week. When healthy, Williams is still the best WR that they have, but his health has pulled him from the top ranks at WR. Rogers is a big gamble in my opinion, and I'd be skeptical of his performance from here on out. Bruce is winding down. As others have mentioned, Curtis has taken over the #2 slot there. With Holt out, Bruce has nice potential, but Curtis and Holt are the obvious #1 and #2 choice now, with Bruce playing more of the WR3/possession role.

Arrington & Benson

Maurile Tremblay: Can we give up on J.J. Arrington and Cedric Benson yet (for this year)?

David Yudkin: Barring an injury to Thomas Jones, I think Benson is pretty much taking up a roster spot with little chance of producing. Even with an injury to Shipp, Arrington likely has limited value. Through 8 weeks (6 games played), Arrington has a total of 10 fantasy points scored with a high of three against the Titans in a standard scoring league. Shipp has fared a little better, scoring 34 points in 7 games. He had a high of 9 points and ranks as the #43 RB. Basically, he has not done all that much either. Arrington and Shipp COMBINED have 44 points on the season. LaDainian Tomlinson had 45 in one week this year. Unless your team is mired in injuries and bye week issues, Arrington probably wouldn't help much.

Jason Wood: I'm far more concerned with Arrington than Benson. Don't mistake what I'm saying; I would probably have long since dropped either in regular sized redraft leagues, but at least Benson owners can hold out hope that his troubles are related to a) having a stud in front of him (Jones), b) coming into camp late and c) not getting many reps. Arrington was handed the job, Shipp has done nothing to keep it, and yet he's still barely getting on the field.

Will Grant: Arizona rushing stats as a team are scary: Zero rushing TDs. Less than 500 yards rushing in the first seven games (31st in the league), 3.02 ypc as a team (dead last in the league). Those stats are even worse when you pull out Josh McCown's 17 carries for 89 yards (5.23 YPC). You could give Arrington the job now until the end of the season and his redraft league value would still be minimal. Benson is only slightly better. If you have Thomas Jones on your roster, Benson is a good pick. If you are deep at RB and have an extra roster spot to burn, Benson is an OK pick in the event that Jones is injured. Aside from that, forget it. Benson wouldn't have seen the field if the Bears or the Lions would have won in regulation. Eight games into the season he has only 32 carries and no receptions. If the Bears don't trust him enough to block, or catch the ball out of the backfield from a rookie QB who should always have a safety valve, Benson has little hope of making the field without a serious injury to Jones.

Maurile Tremblay: Good thoughts. Arrington is probably a favorite to score more points than Benson over the rest of this season, but Benson is still the more valuable fantasy RB. Because even if Arrington becomes the featured back for Arizona, he’s still not going to be a fantasy starter. Meanwhile, if Thomas Jones is injured and Benson becomes the featured runner for the bears, he does have the potential to be a fantasy starter.

Flashes in the pan?

Will Grant: Week 9 was big for many guys who would not be considered 'fantasy studs.' Are these guys worth a waiver wire pickup or are the just a flash in the pan? Jabbar Gaffney WR Hou, Scott Vines WR DET, Courtney Roby WR TEN, Ernest Wilford WR JAX, Chris Horn WR KC, Todd Devoe WR DEN.

Maurile Tremblay: The only guy who jumps out at me here is Gaffney. He's a talented WR (former second-round pick) who could be productive if the Texans' passing game ever becomes competent. That's a big if, but I think Gaffney has a lot more ability than any of the other WRs you mentioned.

David Yudkin: I put Roby in the flash-in-the-pan category. With Bennett coming back and Jones less hobbled, I don't see him getting that many looks again. Devoe had a TD based on a poor pass and a slip by the defender covering him. He had zero receptions before this past weekend. I don't see Chris Horn being a regular contributor. The Chiefs had almost 350 passing yards, so Horn came along for the ride. Maybe if the Chiefs start airing it out, but we haven't seen a lot of that this year. Vines is essentially a placeholder until Williams and Rogers are back, and the Lions have struggled all year offensively anyway. Wilford I put a bit in the middle. He did not have a game with more than two receptions, but he now has 3 TD catches, so he might be worth a fill-in start in an emergency in the hope that he’ll get in the end zone. Gaffney has had a game with 10 catches this year and is a regular NFL starter, so I wouldn't put him in quite the same category as the other guys. Not a great fantasy option, but at least he plays. 

Will Grant: The entire Houston WR corps scares me, but it seems that Gaffney is the man for now. Wilford has had a few shining moments, but never in a consistent enough pattern to really warrant a fantasy start. The rest, at this point, seem to be one-week wonders.

Marc Levin: With Andre Johnson still ailing, and with David Carr having thrown a TD pass in each of his last five games, Gaffney seems to have a lot of upside. The concern is the lack of passing in the Houston offense, but Gaffney is the prime receiving threat on a team that is likely to struggle and need to play catch-up in garbage time. Both Scott Vines and Courtney Roby are flashes in the pan. They will have very little value in a couple of weeks when the regular starters have returned to the lineup. In Jacksonville, the top two receiving threats are still clearly Jimmy Smith and Reggie Williams -- and Matt Jones and Fred Taylor will steal some looks. I think it is unlikely that Ernest Wilford will have any consistent value due to a lack of targets. In Kansas City, Tony Gonzales is starting to wake up, which is bad news for fantasy owners of Chiefs WRs, including Chris Horn. Todd Devoe, like Ernest Wilford, has to compete with too many other receivers on his own team for looks. Rod Smith, Ashley Lelie, and Jeb Putzier are probably ahead of him on almost every check down from Jake Plummer.

Miami RBs

Maurile Tremblay: We've discussed the Dolphin RB situation before, but it's worth revisiting. Is Ronnie Brown going to be the featured runner in Miami, or are the Dolphins going to keep using both guys in a full-fledged RBBC like they did against the Saints?

Jason Wood: When Travis Henry was traded to Tennessee, people had visions of 20+ carries per back dancing in their heads. I warned against that notion and pointed out that the history of the league militates against it. The same rules now apply in Miami. Sure Nick Saban would "like" to get his pair of backs a combined 40 carries per game. I'm sure he would also like to throw for 400 yards and shut out opposing teams every week; but that's not going to happen either. Ronnie Brown has looked every bit the stud he was supposed to be. The early season hype was on Cadillac Williams (and deservedly so), but Ronnie has quietly put together the best campaign of any young runner.

David Yudkin: The presence of the each RB hurts the value of the other. Brown will probably be a decent RB2 and Williams will get a fair workload. But Williams may not be reliable enough to be a fantasy starter, and may give his owners fits getting 80 yards one week and 25 the next. Both backs might get a lot of opportunities against New England in Week 10.

Will Grant: I'm not a Ricky Williams Fan by any stretch of the imagination, and I agree with Jason that Brown is the clear back of choice for the Dolphins now and in the future. But Williams was in the game early against New Orleans and they shared the load early. In the second series for Miami, which ended in a field goal, Brown carried the ball three times while Williams carried five times. Williams had 11 touches at the half; Brown had 12. I think Brown owners need to be concerned that Williams is going to steal enough carries to make both backs risky starts. They won’t each have 20 carries a game, but I can easily see a spread of 12-15 touches apiece per game.... enough to make you want to start one of them, hoping they will score, but not enough to hang your hat on week in and week out.

Marc Levin: I believe that Brown is the team's choice for starter, but that the starter in Miami is like the starter in Kansas City. Both backs will see a lot of work. Using Williams early and often is a trend that will continue, as will the use of formations where both RBs are on the field at the same time and formations where one back is swung out as a receiver. It worked against New Orleans, and Saban has already stated that was the desired use of the backs. Brown, even as a rookie, has proven to be a better threat than Williams in the passing game -- both as a blocker and as a receiver. I really believe both of these backs will make good fantasy starts (with Brown being more desirable in point-per-reception leagues) in games where the running game is working. Conversely, I believe the backs will eat into each other's touches often enough that when the running game is stymied, neither back will have particularly good fantasy days. For the future, I honestly believe that Ricky Williams will be a Dolphin next year. Trading away Lamar Gordon indicates that the Dolphins may not use a "feature back," and will choose to use both of the backs as long as they continue to play at this top talent level.

Maurile Tremblay: I think it’s pretty rare for a single NFL team to have two RBs who are worthwhile fantasy starters, and I don’t think the 2005 Dolphins are going to fit into that category. If Ronnie Brown gets 20 carries a game, he could be an every-week fantasy starter. But if he and Williams are splitting 30 carries a game fairly evenly between them, I don’t think either one is an ideal starter.

Dallas RBs

Will Grant: Marion Barber has exploded the last two weeks. Anthony Thomas carried the load against the Giants in week 6. Tyson Thompson was the man against Philly in week 5. Is Barber the feature back until Julius Jones is fully recovered? What happens when Jones is 100%?

Jason Wood: The one thing we can be certain of is that none of us can be certain. I see so many people denying that Barber could get the majority of the carries after Jones returns, but what has Jones done to make people CERTAIN he's going to remain the bell cow? Anyone that read our FBG Magazine knows I expected great things from Julius Jones this season, but you can't disregard how solid Marion Barber has looked in his absence. Personally, I think Jones will get another shot to be the workhorse, but if he struggles in his return or (worse) gets injured again, I think he may be in jeopardy of losing his starting job for good.

David Yudkin: Since the day Jones was drafted, I never got the sense that the team considered him an etched-in-stone stud. From what I remember, Dallas traded with Buffalo and had another trade lined up to get back into the first round to take one of the other RBs, but that trade fell through and they allegedly took Jones to make sure they had an upgrade over Troy Hambrick. Since that time, the ‘Boys have used Jones extensively when he was available, but I still don't think that Parcells considers him an elite talent or a special back. I know I am reading the tea leaves and making a lot of suppositions on this one, but that's the feeling I get (with nothing concrete to really base it on). I think that Parcells as a coach will play the hot hand and the personnel that he feels gives him the greatest chance to win. I suspect that there will be some RBBC games once Jones returns, and beyond that whichever guy produces better will get more work. I do think that Jones will get a chance to win the job back, but if Barber keeps lighting it up Jones will have to do better than Barber to get back to 20 carries a game.

Maurile Tremblay: I've been extremely impressed with Julius Jones when he's been healthy: he has a great combination of quickness, burst, balance, and power. He can be an elite NFL RB if he can avoid injury. I haven't seen enough of Barber to say for sure, but I think it's unlikely that he's the better RB of the two. When both guys are available, I believe Parcells will play the more effective, more talented RB. And based on what I've seen so far, I believe that to be Jones.

Will Grant: Injuries aside, Dallas really gave Julius Jones a workout when he was in there. He finished 2004 averaging 29 touches a game for the last seven games. He also averaged 27 touches a game for the first quarter of 2005. It's hard to say that Barber is the clear starter after just two solid games. With A-Train gone now, it looks as of Julius will return as the starter and Barber and Thompson will be the top backups. Expect to see Barber a bit each game though, as it's questionable whether Julius can handle a 30 touch/game pace.

Marc Levin: If anyone other than Jones is the man, it would be Barber, but I believe Parcells will give Jones every chance to show that he deserves the feature role before replacing him with Barber. Jones has yet to participate in a full practice with the team, and he could easily kill his chance of winning the job back if he looks horrible there, but if he is recovered fully from the ankle injury after the bye week, I believe Parcells will return him to the starting lineup. Jones showed in 2004 that he can be an explosive and powerful back. Barber looked good the last two weeks, but we must remember that those performances came against the Seahawks and the Cardinals, who have middle-of-the-road run defenses. Also, as Will mentioned, Parcells did not immediately go to Barber to replace Jones. Now, I also believe Jones will be on a short leash, and that he will be spelled more often than Parcells usually spells his starting running backs. And this should worry Jones owners.

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

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