Fantasy Football Relevance for Week 7-8-9

(written 10-19-11)
Trade Deadline
Well the NFL trade deadline came and went and not without a lot of speculation and trades. The biggest one of them all was of course Carson Palmer to the Raiders. The Raiders gave up a lot, 1 first round pick and another first or second round pick in 2013. Palmer gets to play for a decent/good team that is 4-2 as of this writing. I project Palmer to be a rank 12-20 QB within 3-4 weeks. The Raiders aren’t afraid to throw the ball and Palmer has had a past of being able to throw the ball. There are real concerns about Palmer, he had two underwhelming seasons for the Bengals in a row. That said, he does have a chance to put up a good year. We will see.
Brandon Lloyd to the Rams was a good deal to make for the Rams. They needed WR help more than any other team. He should help the Rams but don’t expect a WR1 type of fantasy production. The Rams pass catching options pecking order is in question right now and one to watch in the following weeks. The Rams still throw the ball a ton and I suspect the offense will improve incrementally as the year progresses. Greg Salas may have taken over the coveted slot receiver role and thus carries a big sleeper value in PPR leagues. Lance Kendricks continues to improve as well after a bad start, he has a remarkably low target conversion %. The team still believes in Kendricks as evidenced by his continued high target totals, he should continue to improve as well. Of course there is QB Sam Bradford who will benefit the most, he suffered a high ankle sprain recently but I suspect he will be back in there starting within a couple games.

Quarterback Carousel
It’s inevitable. Teams will lose and get frantic, they want to do something, anything that might possibly in some way actually help them to win. In most cases, they usually just have too many problems but the quarterback is quite often the one to get the blame. In 2011 it is no different where we have already seen many quarterbacks lose their starting gig outright or through injury. I’ll now cover individual Quarterbacks who are now starting Quarterbacks after starting the season holding a clipboard.
Christian Ponder is the next most interesting rookie QB behind Cam Newton, to me at least. In relief of Donovan McNabb, Ponder showed great pocket awareness and an overall positive passing performance. He was only 9-17 but he didn’t make that bad throw that could be picked off. His passes looked crisp. As he builds a rapport with his receivers his numbers should get better. Fantasy value wise, I actually like Ponder more this year than Carson Palmer, especially in dynasty leagues, he has a great ceiling. He ought to have the bad game here and there the next few weeks but he should get progressively better as the year goes on.
Tim Tebow time in Denver! Tim Tebow puts real hope for high end QB fantasy value for fantasy managers desperate for QB help. Tebow’s actual talent is in question but his fantasy potential is not – he was one of the very best fantasy QBs down the stretch last season. It’s hard to believe Tebow will regress from his last year’s numbers. When the 2011 NFL season is over though I believe Tebow will be considered a QB1(in at least 12-team leagues). If nothing else, Tebow brings a lot of excitement to the NFL.
Curtis Painter has surprised almost everyone and basically taken over the Colts’ starting job, away from veteran Kerry Collins. Painter is still only a QB3, maybe a low end QB2 but has helped increase fantasy relevance for Colts’ receivers. Painter seems to have some chemistry with WR Garcon. Garcon has produced consistently over the last 3 weeks and projects as at least a WR2 in fantasy for 2011.
Blaine Gabbert, Matt Moore, John Beck don’t figure to be rosterable in any league except as maybe an emergency spot start.

Running Back Run-Around
Several new Running Backs find themselves fantasy relevant all of a sudden. Let’s review some of the interesting RBs around the league.
Jackie Battle was one of the hot RB pickups after his week 5 outburst. This is a guy who was undrafted and is not considered a big talent. Still, he has some speed and can be a tough back to bring down as he is pushing 240 pounds or so. Battle’s game in week 7 against Oakland will be a litmus test. Battle appears to have enough talent though to hold onto the KC primary RB job and stay fantasy relevant. I project him as a RB2/flex going forward with upside.
C.J. Spiller finally started lining up as a WR and catching passes, weeks after it was said he would play there. These next couple of weeks should be important for Spiller’s 2011 fantasy value. If nothing else he is a good handcuff to Fred Jackson but also has some upside, especially in PPR leagues.
Montario Hardesty has a possibility to take over the primary RB duties away from Peyton Hillis. The reason is unclear why Hillis seems to have fallen out of favor but Hardesty is a strong speculative add at this point, if he isn’t already owned.
The Colts’ backfield situation is unclear as of this writing. Joseph Addai is a RB who most fantasy managers realize is more injury prone than most. Addai still appears to be the most talented back the Colts have but Delone Carter is waiting in the wings should something happen to Addai. There isn’t a whole lot of upside with Colts RBs, whoever you take simply because of Addai’s injury problems and Carter’s underwhelming talent.
Mike Shanahan continues to play games with his RBs(Torain, Hightower, Helu). There is good potential with any of the 3 RBs that Shanahan decides to go with but you’re going to need some luck in picking the right one to keep. Torain and Helu seem to have more talent the Hightower but Hightower is well-rounded and should be able to stick around. I’m just glad I have no part of this horse race.
DeMarco Murray recently found himself the primary back in Dallas due to the injury to Felix Jones who is lost for some 2-4 weeks. Murray is a must add 10-team formats, at least for the time being until Jones gets back. Jones is known for missing games though and so that makes Murray maybe worth keeping for the rest of the year.
James Starks has a slight edge over Ryan Grant in carries this year but still only has 299 rushing yards and 1 TD so far this year. Neither back projects well going forward. Both backs are probably owned in almost all leagues at this point, it’s almost a good thing to not have to worry about them too.
Jahvid Best is a possibility to miss games and therefore opens the door for Maurice Morris. Ronnie Brown was on his way to Detroit when the trade was negated. Morris projects as a Jahvid Best back only at this point.
Mark Ingram continues to disappoint yet still projects as a decent TD scoring RB. The Saints offense is a socialistic one and is therefore uninviting for fantasy managers. Ingram continues to share carry duties with Pierre Thomas while also losing RB pass catching duties to Darren Sproles. Sproles is providing good value in PPR leagues for owners. Ingram’s numbers should improve but his upside is much more limited than most primary NFL RBs.

Wide Receivers
There are so many WRs becoming fantasy relevant, especially with how pass happy the league has become. At this point, the best advice I might be able to give is to just check your waiver wire. It seems like every week there are at least a couple new startable WRs available on most waiver wires. Still, I’ll cover some of the more interesting new WRs available on some waiver wires.
Greg Little is a highly regarded WR who finds himself as the primary receiver in a high pass volume offense. He has had back-to-back games of 6 catches. He has the talent and is getting the targets, it’s simple math here. I believe his numbers will continue to improve as well. He is a must add in almost all leagues, especially dynasty leagues.
Torrey Smith might find himself the permanent full-time starting WR. Lee Evans continues to miss games so that opens the door for Smith. Smith has been hit or miss so far but is in a good situation having a strong armed QB and the need for a deep threat, Smith provides that. Smith will probably continue to have his ups and downs the rest of the year but should continue to improve. Smith is even more valuable as a dynasty pickup right now.
Pierre Garcon is a player still not owned in all leagues but just keeps flat out producing. He is a good add at this point if you need WR help, his long-term production is still questionable but he looks like QB Painter’s favorite target.
With the trade for Carson Palmer it should provide a bump up in long term fantasy value for Raiders’ receivers. Heyward-Bey is the primary Raiders WR as of the moment but that could change. Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy all have the possibility of gaining Palmer’s preference for a primary receiver. I suspect the next few weeks will have limited potential for the Raiders’ passing offense but they should improve as the year goes on and is a situation to watch.
Demaryius Thomas looks close to coming back and is even the more interesting with Tim Tebow coming back. It’s difficult to project Thomas at this point since his status is unclear but he remains a high upside WR option.
Percy Harvin is ailing from injuries but has new hope with Ponder as his QB. The Minnesota passing game is one to watch as we watch to see how Ponder settles into the starting role.
Greg Salas appears to have the inside track for the coveted slot position in St. Louis, the one which produced a very good season for Danny Amendola in 2010. It’s still early but Salas is an interesting WR to monitor and if he continues to remain consistent and improving he should be added for WR help.

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