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Doug Orth | Archive | Email | Twitter
Staff Writer

First Quarter Stock Report
All Out Blitz: Volume 35

Aggressiveness is a characteristic that tends to reward fantasy owners more times than not. In the NFL, an offensive line will sometimes hold up long enough to give the quarterback enough time to beat man coverage down the field and make the defense look foolish against a fierce pass rush. More often than not, though, when a defense brings the heat and forces the action, crisis management becomes the name of the game for the opposing team.

In that same vein, I hope to apply that same kind of pressure to the owners in all of my leagues by beating my opponents to the punch in regards to personnel moves. Sometimes, reaching a conclusion about a player too quickly results in making a bad situation worse. However, coming to a correct conclusion two weeks or two minutes quicker than your opponents is considered foresight and can often lead to fantasy championships.

Fantasy owners can be a uneasy lot, knowing that one two-or-three-game losing streak can wreak irreparable damage to his/her team’s chances to make a visit to the fantasy postseason. But just as it is in the NFL and in life, it’s hard to land the big prize by playing scared. Thus, I will strive each week to help each of you become a smart blitzer, so to speak.

NFL coaches are fond of saying how they like to break down the regular season into four four-game segments. At the end of each quarter, they not only like to be at least .500, but also to have a fair gauge on what players are going to carry the team's momentum into the next part of the season.

Except in some rare cases, only two fantasy teams per league get a chance to play 16 games in a season. Still, I buy into the methodology of taking the pulse of your fantasy team after four games. By now, some trends are starting to emerge, players are in regular-season shape and owners can get a decent sense of where their team's strengths and weaknesses lie. As a result, trading at this point of the season doesn't seem as rushed or cutting bait with an unproductive player doesn't seem as hasty.

Quite often, fantasy sports - football in particular - is much like the stock market. While it is highly unlikely that any player will take off like a tech stock in the late 1990s, some players provide incredible return to their investors in a short amount of time. But while some stocks are good bets for the long haul, others will crash and burn quickly. As easy as it is to sell low, almost no owner wants to take the chance on selling high for fear they will miss out on a historic season and look foolish in the process. Certainly, it makes some sense to not cut the cord with a player who is performing at an otherworldly level, but not good investment sense. No one likes to part with the next big thing, but think about it...if a $15 stock is performing at the level of a $50 stock, do you really believe that stock will continue on to $100? It might, but history suggests it won't, barring a perfect storm of events. And if that same stock holds steady at the $50 level and you were able to re-invest in two more stable $25 stocks, didn't you do yourself a favor? Like investing, fantasy sports can often be won by diversifying your portfolio, in other words, spreading the risk and reward in equal parts over your entire team instead of counting on Adrian Peterson or Drew Brees to carry your team each week.

On the other side of the spectrum, other players' values tank so quickly that owners can't get out fast enough, almost to the point where they are forced to hold onto that investment in hopes that the disappointing player can regain some value before the end of the fiscal year. But using that same $15 stock mentioned above, is it worth giving up on when that same stock is performing at a $2 level? If it can rebound to $10 by the end of the year, the answer is probably no.

Seeing as how the investment year is broken down into quarters - just as coaches break down the season - now seems as good of time as any to conduct a quarterly stock report. Which stocks are destined to fall? Which ones are about to rise? Let's take a look...

In previous years with this post-Week 4 column, I took more of a detailed approach to a few players. This season, I’m going to hit on a few more players with the idea being that, in deeper leagues, an owner may have to resort to his/her fifth or sixth trade option in order to make a deal. As you can tell, I’ve included the touch/target numbers for each position to help you with your trade/free agent decisions.

 RB Workloads
Rk Player TM 1 2 3 4 Avg Total FPts FPts/Touch
1 Peyton Hillis CLE 23 31 DNP 15 23.0 69 52.3 0.76
2 Arian Foster HOU DNP 12 DNP 33 22.5 45 31.6 0.70
3 Daniel Thomas MIA DNP 19 26 DNP 22.5 45 31.9 0.71
4 Adrian Peterson MIN 18 27 21 24 22.5 90 69.5 0.77
5 Darren McFadden OAK 23 27 22 18 22.5 90 97.0 1.08
6 Matt Forte CHI 21 20 16 29 21.5 86 101.4 1.18
7 Chris Wells ARI 22 14 DNP 27 21.0 63 67.3 1.07
8 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC 24 21 27 12 21.0 84 58.8 0.70
9 Chris Johnson TEN 15 27 17 25 21.0 84 45.1 0.54
10 Frank Gore SF 25 23 17 17 20.5 82 50.3 0.61
11 Ray Rice BAL 23 18 13 27 20.3 81 93.7 1.16
12 Cedric Benson CIN 26 19 17 19 20.3 81 46.7 0.58
13 LeSean McCoy PHI 17 22 27 15 20.3 81 95.6 1.18
14 Willis McGahee DEN 9 29 25 17 20.0 80 53.8 0.67
15 Ryan Mathews SD 15 19 25 21 20.0 80 91.2 1.14
16 Cadillac Williams STL 24 16 19 DNP 19.7 59 34.9 0.59
17 Fred Jackson BUF 21 17 17 22 19.3 77 88.6 1.15
18 Jahvid Best DET 25 22 17 13 19.3 77 68.5 0.89
19 Tim Hightower WAS 28 21 19 9 19.3 77 53.1 0.69
20 Ryan Torain WAS DNP DNP DNP 19 19.0 19 19.5 1.03
21 Michael Turner ATL 13 22 11 28 18.5 74 61.4 0.83
22 Ben Tate HOU 24 27 20 2 18.3 73 45.1 0.62
23 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG 14 20 20 16 17.5 70 65.7 0.94
24 LeGarrette Blount TB 5 13 25 26 17.3 69 52.1 0.76
25 Felix Jones DAL 20 10 17 21 17.0 68 48.7 0.72
26 Rashard Mendenhall PIT 12 21 21 9 15.8 63 34.4 0.55
27 Shonn Greene NYJ 11 18 22 10 15.3 61 37.7 0.62
28 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE 15 18 9 17 14.8 59 40.9 0.69
29 Joseph Addai IND 10 18 18 12 14.5 58 42.9 0.74
30 Mark Ingram NO 13 14 11 19 14.3 57 26.4 0.46
31 James Starks GB 12 12 14 18 14.0 56 43.7 0.78
32 Mike Tolbert SD 21 17 7 11 14.0 56 75.7 1.35
33 Reggie Bush MIA 20 7 12 15 13.5 54 38.6 0.71
34 Marshawn Lynch SEA 15 7 20 11 13.3 53 32.1 0.61
35 Jonathan Stewart CAR 9 14 13 12 12.0 48 48.5 1.01
36 Ryan Grant GB 10 9 17 DNP 12.0 36 21.6 0.60
37 Dexter McCluster KC 9 12 14 10 11.3 45 34.6 0.77
38 DeAngelo Williams CAR 13 9 12 10 11.0 44 25.9 0.59
39 Derrick Ward HOU 11 DNP DNP DNP 11.0 11 9.9 0.90
40 Montario Hardesty CLE DNP 3 17 12 10.7 32 25.6 0.80
41 Brandon Jacobs NYG 6 17 9 10 10.5 42 39.5 0.94
42 Darren Sproles NO 9 12 8 12 10.3 41 73.8 1.80
43 Thomas Jones KC 2 12 15 11 10.0 40 12.3 0.31
44 Pierre Thomas NO 9 11 8 10 9.5 38 35.5 0.93
45 Steven Jackson STL 2 DNP 4 21 9.0 27 30.3 1.12
46 Earnest Graham TB 14 8 9 5 9.0 36 42.7 1.19
47 Ricky Williams BAL 13 4 6 12 8.8 35 15.1 0.43
48 Deji Karim JAC 17 7 7 4 8.8 35 18.6 0.53
49 Michael Bush OAK 9 4 10 12 8.8 35 43.1 1.23
50 LaDainian Tomlinson NYJ 11 7 11 4 8.3 33 44.9 1.36
51 Danny Woodhead NE 15 6 9 2 8.0 32 21.6 0.68
52 Alfonso Smith ARI DNP 0 20 2 7.3 22 12.1 0.55
53 Tashard Choice DAL 4 7 8 10 7.3 29 18.8 0.65
54 Delone Carter IND 7 11 4 7 7.3 29 10.3 0.36
55 Roy Helu WAS 1 13 7 8 7.3 29 23.1 0.80
56 Stevan Ridley NE DNP 2 8 11 7.0 21 24.1 1.15
57 Javon Ringer TEN DNP 7 8 4 6.3 19 16.6 0.87
58 Isaac Redman PIT 3 11 3 7 6.0 24 20.5 0.85
59 Kendall Hunter SF 2 0 11 11 6.0 24 24.2 1.01
60 Chester Taylor ARI DNP 1 9 DNP 5.0 10 4.2 0.42
61 Marion Barber CHI DNP DNP DNP 5 5.0 5 7.7 1.54
62 Jerome Harrison DET 8 4 3 DNP 5.0 15 5.4 0.36
63 Justin Forsett SEA 6 6 2 6 5.0 20 18.3 0.92

Stocks Destined To Lose Value Quickly

Michael Turner, Falcons – It’s become vogue since his injury-plagued 2009 season for fantasy owners and experts alike to predict the beginning of the end for Turner following his breakout 2008 season. While he’s no longer a “burner”, I’m not going to say he’s in serious decline quite yet. However, the reason I will say his value is about to decrease is Atlanta’s obvious shift in offensive philosophy. In years past, Turner was the centerpiece of this offense whether the team was trailing by seven points or up by 14. This season, Matt Ryan has attempted at least 42 passes in three of the team’s four games so far (and in the one game he didn’t hit that mark, he threw for four scores). But there is more to it than that. Four of the next seven games come against rush defenses that have allowed 82.5 rushing yards per game or less to opposing RBs. As has been the case for a while now, Turner’s ability to score a rushing touchdown will determine his value since he provides very little as a receiver and his rushing attempts figure to vary as much as they have so far (10, 21, 11 and 26). This isn’t so much a warning to sell now as much as it is a reminder that Turner may need to be considered a matchup running back over the next month or so.

Cedric Benson, Bengals – This one is pretty simple. The likelihood Benson will be suspended at some point is pretty good and if/when that decision comes down next week, he will be useless in fantasy for the following four weeks (three games plus the Bengals’ Week 7 bye). When he returns – presumably in Week 10 – he’ll likely be rusty and will face the Steelers and Ravens defenses. While Pittsburgh’s run defense has been pretty poor this season, I suspect Cincinnati will struggle running on it. If I am correct, Benson owners can count on waiting until about Week 12 before they should expect any reasonable production from him.

Willis McGahee, Broncos – Don’t read too much into McGahee’s 100-yard game against a Packers’ run defense that had shut down running games coming into Week 4. About a quarter of his yards came on three plays midway through the fourth with the Broncos trailing by 32 points. However, McGahee came into the game with a 2.9 YPC average. Admittedly, all four of his games have been played against rush defenses in the top half of the league, but he’s became the team’s featured back in the absence of Knowshon Moreno. Perhaps McGahee continues his domination of the workload for another week, but HC John Fox will have to acknowledge that McGahee isn’t all that explosive and will likely re-evaluate his backfield situation after the Week 6 bye. Fox was one of the first coaches to buy into a committee backfield years ago, so unless Moreno’s injury is worse than the team is letting on or Moreno is buried is deep in Fox’s doghouse, it’s hard to believe McGahee will remained a feature-back.

Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – I’d like to say this is a short-term mention due to his recent hamstring injury, but it likely only delays the inevitable: Pittsburgh’s offense is beaten up with little chance to get healthy this season. I’ll be the first to admit that I was less optimistic than most (#20 on my final Big Board) due to his workload last season (400+ touches including the playoffs), but I did not see this kind of falloff coming, mostly because it seemed unlikely the team could get hit with as many injuries up front as it did last season. While it didn’t make that much of a difference in 2010, the Steelers have been unable to effectively mask their injury-depleted line this year. His lackluster fantasy numbers over the first two weeks could be explained with Baltimore and Seattle sporting solid run defenses, but Indy’s run defense should not have been the challenge it was and Houston’s run defense will probably be middle-of-the-road all season long. Combine his 3.0 YPC with his hamstring injury, the defense’s own inability to stop the run and the team’s overall health and there is reason for extreme pessimism here.

Frank Gore

Gore's stock is on the decline.

Frank Gore, 49ers – Gore’s owners could not have picked a better opponent for their injured RB to face in Week 4. His upside is obviously that he is all-around physical runner in an offensive attack that would love nothing more than to run him 25 times a game. The downside is that he has proven he is a severe injury risk that now has an impressive rookie vying for playing time. In previous years, Gore would have likely been asked to assume most (if not all) of the 11 touches Hunter picked up in Week 4, but with the rookie being a viable threat in the passing game, it’s unlikely Gore will match his gaudy receiving totals of years past. Perhaps Hunter’s presence allows Gore to play all 16 games for just the second time in his career, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Undervalued Stocks (Underperforming Players Likely To Exceed Current Market Value)

Mark Ingram, Saints – Sometimes, playing fantasy football and writing about it can be a conflict of interest. Take Ingram for example. The day before I started writing this article, I made a trade for the Saints’ rookie in my biggest PPR money league. The conflict: can I remain unbiased when I gave up an asset to acquire said player? Furthermore, do I run the risk of compounding my “mistake” by recommending him to my readers? I feel the answer to both questions is “yes”, but allow me to explain why Ingram is a solid buy right now:

1) the upcoming schedule. If the Saints can’t get Ingram established in at least three of the next four weeks against three of the worst rush defenses in the league (Panthers, Colts and Rams), then it probably isn’t going to happen in 2011. In at least two of those games, the opposing team (Colts and Rams) will likely struggle to score, allowing for a lot of clock-killing yards. Against the Panthers this week, HC Sean Payton may see a grand opportunity to get his prize rookie going against a defense that has allowed 122 and 205 yards rushing to individual running backs over the past two weeks, respectively.

2) the investment. Much as is the case with Julio Jones in Atlanta, there is an extreme amount of internal pressure to justify giving up multiple picks for a player. Ingram may not have a gaudy YPC yet (3.5), but his specialty in this offense is inside running unlike his two counterparts, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, so his YPC numbers are naturally going to be a bit lower. There’s been nothing to suggest that Payton or the team is unhappy with his performance so far, so you can be assured that Ingram will get opportunity after opportunity to produce.

Felix Jones, Cowboys – From one player I just acquired to another I already own on that same team. In looking back at my last team projections, I was surprised to learn I was only off by 24 rushing yards, two receptions and a receiving score through four games. My biggest gaffe in his projection was his receiving yards (projected him for 165 at this point, he’s currently at 86) although some of that margin can be forgiven because Jones missed out a large part of Week 2 with his shoulder injury. With all that said, I’ve been very impressed by his ability to play through the injury and since Tashard Choice and DeMarco Murray have done little to distinguish themselves, I look for a continued domination of backfield touches from Jones. I’ll admit I’m not crazy about his injury history, but I like that his bye this week comes at a good time for him. After the break, he’ll face a Pats defense without LB Jerod Mayo, the Rams and Eagles. In fact, the highest-ranked run defense he faces the rest of the way is one that he has already rushed for 100 yards against – the Redskins. HC Jason Garrett knows that even when he gets all of his injured players back closer to 100%, he needs to run the ball more often and has said as much.

Stevan Ridley, Patriots – Deep leaguers have been tracking Ridley’s progress for a couple of weeks now, but there’s a decent chance he was dropped in a league or two after Week 2. Since then, he has made the most of his 16 carries, averaging 8.7 YPC on his way to 139 yards rushing. The Patriots have been setting him up for success by getting him up the field on outside zone runs, typically allowing him to his take-no-prisoners running style to the second and third level of the defense. New England hasn’t had a true feature back since its Super Bowl-winning days with Corey Dillon, so don’t expect Ridley to change that. What he is, though, is the best combination the team has of BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ physical running and Danny Woodhead’s receiving ability. The next two weeks will be telling against the Ryan brothers (Rex in Week 5, Rob in Week 6), both of which take pride in stopping the run. While I don’t envision a feature back role in New England anytime soon, Ridley could easily become the lead back in this offense at some point this season.

Kendall Hunter, 49ers – Much like Ridley, Hunter has been awfully impressive so far. Much like Ridley, the likelihood that Hunter will rise to feature-back status anytime soon is pretty slim, barring injury. Unlike the Pats’ rookie, it’s probably a good idea San Francisco doesn’t expect him to become a feature back in 2011. As such, don’t expect a repeat of his 100-yard performance again in the near future, although he has posted 11 touches in each of the last two weeks. Therefore, we are looking at a Woodhead-like flex player here in all likelihood – at least until the week Gore gets hurt. If/when Gore is forced to miss time, then Hunter has a shot at mid-RB2 kind of production, although he’ll share a good part of the backfield workload with Anthony Dixon in such a scenario.

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos – HC John Fox conceded Tuesday that McGahee was his feature back. He goes on to say “we’re in a week-to-week” or “what have you done for me lately” league, so let’s just say McGahee’s hold on the job is tenuous at best. The fact of the matter is that Fox hasn’t been a coach that endorses a feature back in years and, outside of one good statistical game, McGahee hasn’t been all that productive. There’s a pretty good chance the Moreno owner in your league is getting ready to cut ties or see what little he/she can get in return. Take advantage. It may not happen this week or during the bye, but I’d be shocked if Moreno isn’t back to at least a 50/50 split by the end of the month (assuming he can stay healthy long enough to make it happen). Fox could be sending a message to Moreno just as much as he could be “encouraging” his young back to do the things necessary to avoid all the nagging injuries he seems to attract. We saw Norv Turner do the same thing in San Diego with Ryan Mathews. There’s no reason to give up more than a fantasy bench-worthy receiver (someone like Jabar Gaffney comes to mind) for a RB that is substantially more talented than the player currently in front of him on the depth chart.

 WR Targets
Rk Player Tm 1 2 3 4 Avg Tot Rec Catch %
1 Wes Welker NE 12 11 20 14 14.3 57 40 70%
2 Miles Austin DAL 9 15 DNP DNP 12.0 24 14 58%
3 Roddy White ATL 13 4 17 11 11.3 45 26 58%
4 Steve Smith CAR 11 13 7 10 10.3 41 24 59%
5 Calvin Johnson DET 10 7 11 13 10.3 41 24 59%
6 Reggie Wayne IND 10 8 13 9 10.0 40 18 45%
7 Mike Thomas JAC 11 10 8 11 10.0 40 20 50%
8 Brandon Marshall MIA 13 11 7 8 9.8 39 22 56%
9 Brandon Lloyd DEN 11 DNP 7 11 9.7 29 18 62%
10 Julio Jones ATL 6 7 7 17 9.3 37 24 65%
11 Andre Johnson HOU 11 9 12 5 9.3 37 25 68%
12 Hakeem Nicks NYG 11 7 5 14 9.3 37 24 65%
13 Steve Johnson BUF 6 14 10 6 9.0 36 24 67%
14 Eric Decker DEN 5 9 12 10 9.0 36 20 56%
15 Jeremy Maclin PHI 3 15 7 11 9.0 36 26 72%
16 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 9 7 8 11 8.8 35 23 66%
17 Santana Moss WAS 8 9 8 10 8.8 35 21 60%
18 A.J. Green CIN 4 14 5 10 8.3 33 19 58%
19 Greg Jennings GB 8 8 10 7 8.3 33 25 76%
20 Antonio Brown PIT 9 6 8 10 8.3 33 15 45%
21 Sidney Rice SEA DNP DNP 10 6 8.0 16 11 69%
22 Dwayne Bowe KC 8 8 6 9 7.8 31 16 52%
23 Mike Wallace PIT 11 9 7 4 7.8 31 25 81%
24 Nate Washington TEN 7 11 9 4 7.8 31 23 74%
25 Anquan Boldin BAL 7 7 14 2 7.5 30 15 50%
26 David Nelson BUF 6 13 8 3 7.5 30 22 73%
27 Laurent Robinson DAL DNP DNP 5 10 7.5 15 10 67%
28 DeSean Jackson PHI 12 3 6 9 7.5 30 16 53%
29 Vincent Jackson SD 3 15 8 4 7.5 30 20 67%
30 Mike Williams TB 10 4 8 8 7.5 30 15 50%
31 Donald Jones BUF 6 5 10 8 7.3 29 14 48%
32 Pierre Garcon IND 6 5 10 8 7.3 29 14 48%
33 Mohamed Massaquoi CLE 7 6 6 9 7.0 28 14 50%
34 Santonio Holmes NYJ 10 4 2 12 7.0 28 13 46%
35 Austin Collie IND 3 10 7 7 6.8 27 10 37%
36 Mike Sims-Walker STL 4 11 6 6 6.8 27 11 41%
37 Davone Bess MIA 7 5 9 5 6.5 26 15 58%
38 Deion Branch NE 9 10 3 4 6.5 26 16 62%
39 Robert Meachem NO 8 4 8 6 6.5 26 18 69%
40 Jason Hill JAC 5 DNP 5 9 6.3 19 7 37%
41 Lance Moore NO DNP 4 9 6 6.3 19 15 79%
42 Mario Manningham NYG 7 7 DNP 5 6.3 19 8 42%
43 Legedu Naanee CAR 5 7 2 11 6.3 25 8 32%
44 Jerome Simpson CIN 9 9 4 3 6.3 25 12 48%
45 Plaxico Burress NYJ 9 2 6 8 6.3 25 10 40%
46 Jabar Gaffney WAS 7 8 6 4 6.3 25 17 68%
47 Percy Harvin MIN 4 8 5 7 6.0 24 17 71%
48 Marques Colston NO 9 DNP DNP 3 6.0 12 7 58%
49 Jason Avant PHI 7 4 5 8 6.0 24 14 58%
50 Danny Amendola STL 6 DNP DNP DNP 6.0 6 5 83%
51 Johnny Knox CHI 4 6 9 4 5.8 23 12 52%
52 Brian Hartline MIA 7 7 4 5 5.8 23 13 57%
53 Hines Ward PIT 9 6 4 4 5.8 23 13 57%
54 Danario Alexander STL 0 7 8 8 5.8 23 8 35%
55 Dez Bryant DAL 8 DNP 4 5 5.7 17 10 59%
56 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK 7 DNP 3 7 5.7 17 9 53%
57 Michael Crabtree SF 2 DNP 6 9 5.7 17 9 53%
58 Andre Caldwell CIN 1 4 12 5 5.5 22 11 50%
59 Greg Salas STL 3 8 DNP DNP 5.5 11 5 45%
60 Derek Hagan OAK DNP 8 3 5 5.3 16 10 63%
61 Early Doucet ARI 3 6 6 6 5.3 21 13 62%
62 Devin Hester CHI 5 9 5 2 5.3 21 7 33%
63 Greg Little CLE 3 5 5 8 5.3 21 14 67%
64 Titus Young DET 1 7 8 5 5.3 21 12 57%
65 Jordy Nelson GB 8 2 5 6 5.3 21 15 71%
66 Derrick Mason NYJ 6 2 10 3 5.3 21 12 57%
67 Brandon Gibson STL 5 8 7 1 5.3 21 13 62%
68 Preston Parker TB 6 7 1 7 5.3 21 16 76%
69 Josh Cribbs CLE 3 3 6 8 5.0 20 14 70%
70 Nate Burleson DET 5 9 2 4 5.0 20 16 80%
71 Denarius Moore OAK 1 8 6 5 5.0 20 12 60%

Stocks Destined To Lose Value Quickly

Brandon Marshall, Dolphins – It started off so nicely for Marshall. With double-digit targets and a number of red-zone opportunities over the first two games, it looked like the ex-Bronco was ready for a rebound from a disappointing 2010. Over the next two games, his targets have dropped and (shockingly) so has his production. Part of his Week 3 performance can be explained by the fact he was shadowed by emerging Browns CB Joe Haden for most of the day. He had an opportunity in Week 4 to make his mark, but dropped a well-thrown deep ball. He is tied with Roddy White for the league lead in drops with six, including three in the end zone. Now, he figures to be without Chad Henne for a significant amount of time. Perhaps he will show better chemistry with Matt Moore, but Moore doesn’t figure to garner the same respect from defenses. Further consider the turmoil in Miami and it doesn’t figure to take much more before one of the league’s bad boys starts creating some chaos of his own. There’s just too much going wrong here to feel safe in hoping Marshall will be a steady receiver for the remainder of the season.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – As I stated last week, the fantasy season will provide owners a few “windows of opportunity” to improve their team. Consider this one if you own Bowe. There’s no way I will feel comfortable with Matt Cassel throwing passes to any of my fantasy receivers anytime soon, so on the heels of his second straight game with a touchdown catch, I’d see if another owner is willing to accept the 20th ranked receiver in PPR. His saving graces may be a schedule that features a few forgiving pass defenses and his status as the team’s top option in the red zone, but I just don’t foresee any kind of consistency from Bowe going forward. As the season moves along, he will see his fair share of Champ Bailey, Quentin Jammer, Ike Taylor, Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson. Mind you, only Taylor and Revis are considered “shadow” CBs, but that’s a pretty tough group of cornerbacks to face even half the time when your QB has accuracy issues.

Marques Colston, Saints – Colston’s rapid recovery from his collarbone injury is to be commended and his poor fantasy numbers in his return to the field in Week 4 were to be expected. Still, there are two major factors to consider about Colston going forward: 1) I can’t seem to shake the lack of explosion Colston showed in Week 1 and question if he will get it back at any point this season. Because Drew Brees is so accurate and Colston has good size, he will still produce, but nowhere near the level we have become accustomed to; 2) the presence of Jimmy Graham. The Saints have long adopted a spread-the-wealth approach in the passing game, but Brees sure seems to be enjoying life with a man-child at TE. Previously, Colston was that huge red-zone target that Brees threw jump balls to, but it’s a good bet that role is Graham’s going forward. With a lack of explosion and his status as Brees’ favorite red-zone receiver being undermined, Colston doesn’t figure to have anything more than WR3 upside the rest of the way.

Denarius Moore, Raiders – How could I possibly not like a rookie who has scored in three straight games? It’s possible I just answered that question in the question. But my fears with Moore do not necessarily stem from the notion that he was going to continue scoring every game, but has more to do with the return of Jacoby Ford and Kevin Boss along with the continued work that Darrius Heyward-Bey is “earning”. It’s fair to say that as long as DHB teases the Raiders with the occasional 100-yard game like he gave them last week that he’ll steal snaps from Moore and/or Ford. At last check, he (DHB) is the team’s first choice when the team lines up in one-WR sets, meaning the few times Oakland decides to pass near the goal line, it figures to go to one of the RBs, Boss or Heyward-Bey. Believe it or not, the Raiders have assembled a fine collection of talent at receiver. However, one does not “build a bully” by throwing the ball all over the place. Moore will have his fair share of big games going forward, but expect them to be sporadic.

Nate Washington, Titans – In last week’s Blitz, I provided my analysis of the Titans’ passing game in the wake of the Kenny Britt injury. Browns CB Joe Haden did a fine job of shutting Washington down in Week 4, outside of a questionable non-call on a rub play (or a pick play, if you take the defense’s perspective) that led to Washington’s 57-yard catch. This week, Washington will face another “shadow” CB in Ike Taylor and the following week is the Titans’ bye. Again, he should maintain WR3 value as long as Matt Hasselbeck continues to stay healthy and receive the kind of protection he has been getting from his offensive line, but I’d only consider Washington to be a good matchup play at best from here on out.

Undervalued Stocks

Roddy White, Falcons – I know what you’re thinking…how can I condemn one receiver because of his issues with drops while suggesting that the receiver he is tied with in that category is poised for great things? My answers: 1) track record and 2) Matt Ryan. It’s quite possible the Falcons have already seen the toughest defenses they are going to see all year (the Titans in Week 11 may have something to say about that). If you would have told me that Ryan would have been subjected to the pounding he has taken so far and that White would still be nursing a deep thigh bruise from the preseason one month later, I would have been delighted with Atlanta’s passing numbers so far. I’m not sure how much White’s thigh bruise has to do with his sudden inability to catch everything thrown his way, but it does help to explain why Ryan has locked on to Tony Gonzalez in the red zone. With that said, I expect that White and Julio Jones are on the verge of breaking out in a huge way in the TD department, especially since White’s thigh should be about nearing 100% at this point. Ten of the team’s final 11 games during the fantasy regular season are indoors and few, if any, of the defenses left on the schedule have the personnel or scheme to keep all of Atlanta’s weapons under wraps. This means the Falcons’ passing game will have ample opportunities to take deep shots in ideal playing conditions from now until the fantasy season ends.

Lee Evans, Ravens – In Week 3, Torrey Smith became a (fantasy) household name with three scores in the first quarter of a blowout win vs. the Rams. While that game was perhaps a glimpse of what the rookie may become, it’s the same game Evans has been playing for years. Evans isn’t exactly a well-rounded receiver himself, but he has always been able to stretch defenses and has an obvious advantage over Smith in terms of experience and the ability to read a defense. So, given his best QB situation in years, I tend to believe Evans will return to the starting lineup in Week 6 and make a big play or two against the likes of the Cardinals (Week 8), Seahawks (Week 10) and Niners (Week 12). In no way am I suggesting he is going to morph into a consistent fantasy property, but as someone who has been on the wrong end of big game from Evans in previous years, there will be 2-3 times during the course of the year he will carry a fantasy team. For those owners needing a jolt like that from a player who is available in a lot of leagues, it’s worth keeping him around (or adding him to your bench).

Greg Little, Browns – Players like Little suffer in fantasy largely because many of us don’t get to see teams like Cleveland play all that often. Furthermore, it is difficult to hype a rookie who missed the entire final year of his college career and lands on a NFL team that hasn’t exactly been an offensive powerhouse in years. But Little has a few things working in his favor: 1) he is already his team’s best big-play receiver, 2) Mohamed Massaquoi has done just enough to scare defenses, 3) Cleveland possesses a strong running game and 4) his targets are increasing. Perhaps that last one is misleading since Colt McCoy threw 61 passes in Week 4, but it’s telling that Little has more snaps to his credit than any other Browns’ receiver this season. He may not come close to matching fellow rookies Julio Jones or A.J. Green, but I get the sense his breakout game isn’t too far away.

Miles Austin, Cowboys – Quite honestly, I thought about not including Austin here because it should be a given his value will increase significantly in the next week or so, when he is projected to return following the Cowboys’ Week 5 bye. It shouldn’t be too hard for owners to remember the last time he saw the field; he scored three times and looked every bit the WR1 we’ve come to expect.

Titus Young, Lions – As a relatively new owner of Young in three of my money leagues, I’m ready for Nate Burleson’s observation to come true in the next week or two. You see, Burleson said that Young reminded him of DeSean Jackson. Keep in mind that few teams have been able to find any coverage that eliminates Calvin Johnson (or stops Matthew Stafford from throwing it his way), but the rookie’s recent production has been eye-opening for someone who missed so much time in training camp. He’s been targeted more often and produced more than Burleson over the last two weeks and is obviously gaining the trust of Stafford with 20 targets over the past three games. There are a lot of mouths to feed now in the Detroit offense, but I don’t suspect Young will get lost in the shuffle all that often. He should assume the WR2 role in this offense in the near future, assuming he hasn’t earned that title already in Stafford’s mind.

Percy Harvin, Vikings – I don’t include Harvin on this list so much because I feel he is on the verge of exploding as much as the complete lack of respect he is being shown by a number of fantasy owners. When you consider that he is on pace for 68 catches for 688 yards and 564 rushing yards as a receiver – in a conservative offensive attack to begin with – and figure in that he has seen more playing time over the last two games, let’s just say we are probably seeing Harvin’s floor after four games. Assuming his projections stay on course, Harvin figures to finish with the same stat line of some of the top deep-threat receivers in the game (68-1252). Considering he has yet to score a touchdown (as well as his early lackluster snap count), I’d say his 30th place ranking in PPR leagues is quite the achievement. With a score or two in the next few weeks, it might not be long before he is a top 15 WR in most PPR leagues.

Santonio Holmes

Some easy competition on the upcoming schedule should help Holmes regain his fantasy form.

Santonio Holmes, Jets – This is a hard recommendation to make after watching the Jets’ offense look clueless against the Ravens last Sunday night, but I am of the belief that New York will find a way to get its $45 M receiver a few more catchable balls over the next two weeks with games against the struggling pass defenses of the Patriots and Dolphins. Then after the Chargers in Week 7 and a bye the following week, Holmes will face Buffalo and New England (again). Certainly, the injuries on the offensive line have hurt everybody in the Jets’ passing game (except maybe Dustin Keller), but this can be an easy fix. Much like the Steelers do with Mike Wallace – because teams fear his deep speed so much – New York would be advised to hit Holmes on a screen or two, which is a play I can’t remember seeing the team run for him this season. With only Keller and Holmes worthy of consistent targets each week, opportunity should not be a problem for him.

Mario Manningham, Giants – With my shameless promotion of Manningham, one would think my full-time job is as his PR guy. And that’s fine by me, I’ll either have to admit I made a mistake with him in the coming weeks or he’ll finally find that chemistry with Eli Manning that has been lacking for most of the season. It’s actually been a comedy of errors that has allowed Manningham to get to this point of the season without a decent fantasy game yet. In Week 2, Manning severely underthrew a sure long TD pass early in the game and then Manningham blew another scoring chance late in the first half when it appeared he had trouble tracking another deep ball, the same play that resulted in his concussion. That play forced him to miss the Week 3 game where Victor Cruz enjoyed his coming-out party. In Week 4, he was targeted on the first two plays of the game against a weak Cardinals’ pass defense and played sporadically thereafter, supposedly because he was running the wrong routes (and had been doing so in practice as well). For a player who has been in the same offensive system for four years, running the wrong routes on the first two plays of the game indicates an incredible lack of ignorance or indifference. Or it may suggest he wasn’t completely recovered from the concussion. Either way, I’m still firmly in his corner and will try to acquire him in the leagues I don’t already own him. Much as the case was with Knowshon Moreno above, it shouldn’t take a lot at this point to acquire his services.

 TE Targets
Rk Player Tm 1 2 3 4 Avg Total FPts Catch %
1 Jason Witten DAL 9 14 9 10 10.5 42 27 64%
2 Aaron Hernandez NE 10 8 DNP DNP 9.0 18 14 78%
3 Jimmy Graham NO 7 7 8 14 9.0 36 24 67%
4 Tony Gonzalez ATL 7 9 8 9 8.3 33 21 64%
5 Ed Dickson BAL 5 6 9 12 8.0 32 16 50%
6 Brandon Pettigrew DET 6 3 13 9 7.8 31 22 71%
7 Dustin Keller NYJ 8 6 9 8 7.8 31 18 58%
8 Ben Watson CLE 7 4 10 9 7.5 30 16 53%
9 Jermaine Gresham CIN 8 5 8 7 7.0 28 16 57%
10 Antonio Gates SD 13 1 DNP DNP 7.0 14 8 57%
11 Greg Olsen CAR 6 4 10 7 6.8 27 17 63%
12 Rob Gronkowski NE 7 6 9 5 6.8 27 18 67%
13 Kellen Winslow TB 8 8 5 6 6.8 27 17 63%
14 Jermichael Finley GB 4 6 8 6 6.0 24 18 75%
15 Owen Daniels HOU 2 5 9 7 5.8 23 14 61%
16 Dallas Clark IND 5 8 6 4 5.8 23 13 57%
17 Vernon Davis SF 6 2 9 6 5.8 23 19 83%
18 Fred Davis WAS 6 7 3 6 5.5 22 16 73%
19 Lance Kendricks STL 5 4 3 9 5.3 21 8 38%
20 Todd Heap ARI 3 1 10 6 5.0 20 13 65%
21 Jeremy Shockey CAR 3 5 7 5 5.0 20 11 55%
22 Visanthe Shiancoe MIN 1 7 2 8 4.5 18 10 56%
23 Heath Miller PIT 5 3 6 3 4.3 17 12 71%
24 Marcedes Lewis JAC 3 DNP 2 7 4.0 12 7 58%
25 Brent Celek PHI 3 7 2 4 4.0 16 8 50%
26 Daniel Fells DEN 6 2 4 3 3.8 15 8 53%

Stocks Destined To Lose Value Quickly

Scott Chandler, Bills – After four games, Chandler’s role is becoming pretty clear – he’s a prime red-zone option with little value outside the 20s. That description is acceptable in non-PPR and TD-only leagues for a starting TE, but not in PPR. He still warrants a bench spot in most leagues, but there are much higher-upside TEs available in just about every league.

Kellen Winslow, Bucs – This is one case where a stock has dipped too much before I got a chance to write about it. Winslow has yet to score more than five times in any season; this year, he struggling to score period. Just how slow of a start is Winslow off to in 2011? He’s sandwiched in between Ed Dickson and James Casey as the 17th best TE in PPR in an ultra-conservative run-based offense that can’t seem to free up Mike Williams. The offensive approach has worked in terms of wins and losses, but fantasy owners can’t be thrilled. Perhaps his opportunity for solid fantasy numbers will come over the next two weeks as the Bucs face one of the best run defenses in the league (the Niners) and one of its highest-scoring offenses (the Saints), but long-term, he’s not a player I want on my fantasy team.

Jeremy Shockey, Panthers – Considering his injury history, it is rather amazing Shockey has yet to miss a game so far. But that streak of durability may be coming to an end this week after he aggravated the finger he broke in Week 1 and also suffered a concussion during the Week 4 loss to the Bears. Shockey and his team should be commended for the production he has provided so far since it is somewhat uncommon for a team to be able to keep two TEs viable in fantasy as the Panthers have so far. Any absence may give Greg Olsen just enough opportunity to steal more targets from Shockey when he returns, meaning Shockey’s short run as a TE2 could be coming to an end. Outside of the deepest of leagues, Shockey can probably be left/placed on the waiver wire.

Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – Since I basically laid out the argument for Gonzalez’s likely decline when I spoke about Roddy White above, I’ll just add that time (or age) is not on his side and that an in-season decline is highly possible. With that said, his ability to snag next-to-impossible passes out of the air – especially in the red zone – is the stuff of legend. Consider this recommendation more of a market “dip” as opposed to a downward spiral.

Undervalued Stocks

James Casey, Texans – Again, much like I said in last week’s Blitz, Casey presents owners with a rare conundrum in the sense that he is a tight end acting as his team’s fullback with enough talent to be one of the better pass-catching TEs in the league. The reason Casey gets a nice bump this week, however, is due to the Andre Johnson injury. HC Gary Kubiak remarked in the offseason how he had the best second WR in the league since he was able to get 102 catches, 1,183 yards and eight TDs from his Kevin Walter/Jacoby Jones committee attack, but their complete lack of involvement this season (even after Johnson left the game during the first half of Week 4) suggests he is no longer feels the same way. Owen Daniels certainly gets a short-term bump in terms of likely fantasy production and increased attention from defenses, but one would think that Casey will be used more often in Johnson’s absence as well. Not only does he have the skill to hold his own as a receiver when he is flexed out, but given the level of respect the running game commands, he also should receive some opportunities on any number of the play-action rollouts Kubiak loves to call.

Jared Cook, Titans – As an owner of Cook in each of my five “important” leagues, I was thrilled with his first meaningful fantasy game of the season in Week 4. Not only did he record a team-high six targets, he took advantage of the one big-play opportunity he had and looked good doing so. For most of the offseason, I promoted Tennessee as a team that had incredible skill-position talent on offense and Week 4 may have been our first glimpse into an offense that was able to overcome the loss of Kenny Britt and not miss a beat. While the fantasy numbers from Week 4 do look good, I’m still cautiously optimistic – two catches doesn’t exactly scream “breakout”. What last week’s performance does suggest is that he has an opportunity now to prove he can provide this kind of big-play potential on a weekly basis.

Kevin Boss, Raiders – There is life after Zach Miller. While Miller has wondered off to fantasy purgatory in Seattle, Boss teased us with a cameo in Week 3 before displaying his talents for the Patriots in Week 4. I have long thought that Boss was underutilized by the Giants and believe he is certainly capable of matching his career-best numbers from 2009 (42-567-5). The Raiders have a wealth of receiving talent now – keeping it healthy seems to be a problem though – but Jason Campbell has been more than willing to involve the tight end throughout his pro career. Boss may not be the caliber of receiver of a pre-injury Chris Cooley or Miller, but he certainly is more than capable and a huge target in the short-to-intermediate passing game. His current 19.0 yards/catch is going to come down substantially, but I don’t see any reason why he can’t average 4-40 with the occasional score sprinkled in. I assure you that he is a better fantasy option going forward than at least a handful of TEs currently taking up roster space in medium-to-deep leagues.

Penny Stocks

In keeping with the theme of the column, “penny stocks” will effectively replace “next week’s waiver wire stars” this week. Much like next week’s waiver wire stars, these recommendations are for deep leaguers who have a roster spot or two that can be used to speculate.

QB: Vince Young, Eagles – I wrestled with putting Shaun Hill in this spot, but at the rate Michael Vick is taking hits and accumulating injuries, Young seems like a better bet to see the starting lineup sooner. As time goes by, Matthew Stafford’s shoulder woes in his first two NFL seasons seem to be fluky, especially since he didn’t enter the league with durability concerns. Vick hasn’t been the model of health for most of his pro career and isn’t doing anything this season to suggest he is about to become one.

RB: Keiland Williams, Lions – After much contemplation, Williams wins out over Brian Leonard, who should see a slight boost in his fantasy numbers if/when Cedric Benson is forced to serve his suspension. Williams was signed by Detroit after Washington released him during final cuts in hopes that he be able to serve in the role Mikel Leshoure was supposed to fill before his injury. Of course, this also assumes that Detroit ever has a lead to protect (with all of its comeback wins of late) or needs another red-zone option besides Calvin Johnson.

WR: Mark Clayton, Rams – By the time Clayton returns from the PUP list, the Rams may be rolling with A.J. Feeley as the QB at the rate Sam Bradford is absorbing punishment. If Bradford is still able to play in Week 8, he’ll likely welcome back fellow Sooner alum Clayton. The passing offense is in shambles with Danny Amendola reportedly out for the season, Danario Alexander on a snap count and a multitude of other pass catchers suffering from the inability to (wait for it) catch the ball. Owners don’t have to go back too far to remember just how quickly Bradford and Clayton established a connection last season. If your league has an IR spot, Clayton is the ideal candidate for that opening.

As a bonus, I did want to give a nod to the Cowboys’ Laurent Robinson, who has secured the WR3 job in Dallas. Given how poorly Kevin Ogletree has performed and how quickly Robinson took advantage of his opportunity last week, expect Robinson to remain in that role for the remainder of the season.

TE: Jake Ballard, Giants – I have long been a fan of Travis Beckum, especially after Eli Manning suggested that he could be “his” Dallas Clark. Maybe the light will come on at some point, but his inability to stay healthy and impress OC Kevin Gilbride with his attention to detail has left Ballard with a shot to fill the void left by Kevin Boss. Manning tossed Ballard a TD pass in Week 4 and has shown more faith in him than I would have expected. His ceiling is probably a bit lower than Boss’ during his time in New York, but he could a decent bye-week fill-in in a league where the top 20-25 TEs are unavailable.

Suggestions, comments, musings about the article or fantasy football in general? E-mail me.

Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006, appeared in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in each of the last two seasons and served as a weekly fantasy football analyst for 106.7 The Fan in Washington, D.C. this past season. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can also follow him on Twitter.