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Doug Orth | Archive | Email | Twitter
Staff Writer


Shifting Gears
All Out Blitz: Volume 40
11/17/11

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.


As much as I hate to see the trade deadline in my leagues come and go each season, I cannot wait for the end of bye weeks. This year, more than most, it has felt like I have been working around byes for the better part of two months. While that may sound like a rather obvious statement seeing as how teams began taking byes in Week 5, I mean it in the sense that it seems like each week when I look at my 18-man rosters, I am still left with little choice as far as starting options go for that week. One week, it is three byes and four injuries while another week it is five byes and three injuries. (It has gotten so bad in one of my leagues that all five of my first five draft choices are either currently hurt or have been ruled out for the season. How I still lead the league in scoring is beyond meÖ)

The point is that I will probably remember the 2011 season for two reasons: 1) the lockout and 2) injuries. While there is little doubt in my mind that one helped contribute to the surplus of the other and bye weeks are a necessary evil for our fantasy players, the season just doesnít feel quite the same if an owner looks at his/her team and, in some cases, has no choice but to play his/her RB5 and RB6 or take a flyer on a waiver-wire receiver to fill the final starting WR spot because three of the first five options on the roster are injured or on a bye.

With that said, we are starting to get a clearer picture of what each team is becoming, which is definitely a good thing. Thereís no doubt that it was a terrible week for QBs (especially those whose first name is Matt), but aside from that, the only major injury concerns coming out of Week 10 are Michael Vick and Willis McGahee. Otherwise, the same injury issues we had going into last week (Darren McFadden, Jahvid Best, Ahmad Bradshaw, etc.) are the same ones we have now.

Houston, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis will go on a bye this week and are the final teams to do so, meaning now would be a pretty good time to lock up the low-touch/target reserves with huge upside. Yes, I realize that in deeper leagues, many owners already did that at the draft or in the first few weeks of the season, but I am not exactly talking about the obvious handcuffs that should already be on rosters such as Marion Barber, Kendall Hunter or Javon Ringer. I am referring more to players like Dion Lewis, Isaac Redman (if he has been dropped after five straight weeks of lackluster production), Joe McKnight and Jacquizz Rodgers, among others. Each and every player is one injury away from potentially becoming a fantasy teamís missing piece.

Obviously, I spend a lot of my time in this column discussing RBs, but the same logic obviously applies to every other position as well. For example, Iíve wanted to add Vincent Brown to my roster all season long and now it makes some sense to do so. It may not be long before the rookie unseats Malcom Floyd; at the very least, HC Norv Turner has to be considering it. Danario Alexander, if he could ever stay healthy, is another receiver who I believe would become a definite fantasy asset with Brandon Lloyd opposite him. Iíve also liked Titus Young from the get-go, but it has taken longer for Detroit to warm up to him than it has me. Either way, all three players could be the latest player to become your teamís savior in the fantasy postseason.

As just about any longtime fantasy owner will tell you, the only thing that beats finding that second-half stud is riding that stud to your league title. Owners should always be on the lookout for the next big thing, but the end of the bye weeks is a great time to begin dropping the dead weight Ė as in the players who may not outperform your studís backup if he suffered a season-ending injury Ė from your roster and fill it with players that are supremely talent and just need an opportunity or obvious handcuffs. This strategy pays off more often than you might think.

While I cannot promise that stud will be included in this edition of the Blitz, I assure you that I wonít stop looking. In the meantime, letís take a look at the touch and target numbers that stuck out to me this week.

The cutoff at each position below is five touches/targets per game. To help provide some perspective, the average fantasy points/touch for the 68 RBs that qualify for my list above is 0.79. For the 69 WRs who qualified, the overall average for fantasy points/target is 0.58 and among the 21 that made the list at TE, it is 0.63. Feel free to use that number as a barometer to help you evaluate who is making the grade and who is not.

Note: For the players whose names and touches/targets are bolded and italicized, it reflects the touches/targets each player had with their former team before they were traded/released by that team.

 RB Workloads
Rk Player TM 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Avg Total FPts FPts/Touch
1 Arian Foster HOU DNP 12 DNP 33 27 21 30 34 24 21 25.3 202 197.5 0.98
2 Matt Forte CHI 21 20 16 29 26 23 27 bye 27 19 23.1 208 192.8 0.93
3 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC 24 21 27 12 19 24 32 19 bye 28 22.9 206 133.2 0.65
4 Fred Jackson BUF 21 17 17 22 32 21 bye 29 21 17 21.9 197 196.9 1.00
5 Adrian Peterson MIN 18 27 21 24 29 13 24 26 bye 14 21.8 196 179.4 0.92
6 LeSean McCoy PHI 17 22 27 15 15 30 bye 32 21 17 21.8 196 213.2 1.09
7 Michael Turner ATL 13 22 11 28 16 28 27 bye 20 23 20.9 188 139.3 0.74
8 Ray Rice BAL 23 18 13 27 bye 28 13 25 23 13 20.3 183 194.9 1.07
9 Chris Johnson TEN 15 27 17 25 17 bye 16 17 18 31 20.3 183 121.6 0.66
10 Steven Jackson STL 2 DNP 4 21 bye 22 22 29 30 30 20.0 160 130.5 0.82
11 Frank Gore SF 25 23 17 17 22 17 bye 31 20 7 19.9 179 126.8 0.71
12 Cedric Benson CIN 26 19 17 19 24 17 bye DNP 20 16 19.8 158 80.2 0.51
13 Beanie Wells ARI 22 14 DNP 27 20 bye 12 22 12 23 19.0 152 109.3 0.72
14 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG 14 20 20 16 17 28 bye 18 DNP DNP 19.0 133 123.0 0.92
15 Darren McFadden OAK 23 27 22 18 18 21 3 bye DNP DNP 18.9 132 123.8 0.94
16 Peyton Hillis CLE 23 31 DNP 15 bye 6 DNP DNP DNP DNP 18.8 75 53.7 0.72
17 Ryan Mathews SD 15 19 25 21 25 bye 17 19 DNP 9 18.8 150 139.8 0.93
18 Jahvid Best DET 25 22 17 13 16 18 DNP DNP bye DNP 18.5 111 112.7 1.02
19 Marshawn Lynch SEA 15 7 20 11 16 bye DNP 16 24 37 18.3 146 108.6 0.74
20 Shonn Greene NYJ 11 18 22 10 23 22 20 bye 19 15 17.8 160 93.4 0.58
21 Daniel Thomas MIA DNP 19 26 DNP bye 16 21 DNP 7 17 17.7 106 51.5 0.49
21 Willis McGahee DEN 9 29 25 17 16 bye 18 DNP 20 4 17.3 138 101.9 0.74
22 Rashard Mendenhall PIT 12 21 21 9 DNP 23 14 16 14 17 16.3 147 104.4 0.71
23 Felix Jones DAL 20 10 17 21 bye 10 DNP DNP DNP DNP 15.6 78 54.0 0.69
24 LeGarrette Blount TB 5 13 25 26 12 DNP DNP bye 15 11 15.3 107 75.0 0.70
25 Reggie Bush MIA 20 7 12 15 bye 12 12 19 16 18 14.6 131 115.3 0.88
26 James Starks GB 12 12 14 18 14 15 16 bye 14 16 14.6 131 92.0 0.70
27 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE 15 18 9 17 28 15 bye 5 13 8 14.2 128 85.7 0.67
28 Ben Tate HOU 24 27 20 2 DNP 9 15 5 12 13 14.1 127 91.6 0.72
29 Mike Tolbert SD 21 17 7 11 8 bye 11 DNP 23 12 13.8 110 131.9 1.20
30 Montario Hardesty CLE DNP 3 17 12 bye 13 35 2 DNP DNP 13.7 82 47.7 0.58
31 Michael Bush OAK 9 4 10 12 4 11 19 bye 21 33 13.7 123 115.9 0.94
32 Mark Ingram NO 13 14 11 19 11 10 15 DNP DNP 9 12.8 102 62.2 0.61
33 Brandon Jacobs NYG 6 17 9 10 DNP DNP bye 5 22 20 12.7 89 70.7 0.79
34 DeMarco Murray DAL 3 7 2 5 bye 11 25 9 26 26 12.7 114 104.6 0.92
35 Joseph Addai IND 10 18 18 12 7 DNP 4 DNP DNP DNP 11.5 69 50.3 0.73
36 Jonathan Stewart CAR 9 14 13 12 7 10 14 15 bye 8 11.3 102 98.2 0.96
37 Darren Sproles NO 9 12 8 12 16 9 18 12 9 6 11.1 111 169.6 1.53
38 Chris Ivory NO DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 6 15 DNP 10.5 21 8.5 0.40
39 Pierre Thomas NO 9 11 8 10 10 8 15 11 12 10 10.4 104 107.1 1.03
40 DeAngelo Williams CAR 13 9 12 10 9 13 10 9 bye 8 10.3 93 61.9 0.67
41 Chris Ogbonnaya CLE DNP DNP DNP 1 2 bye 8 16 14 21 10.3 62 38.5 0.62
42 Dexter McCluster KC 9 12 14 10 5 bye 10 9 8 14 10.1 91 66.4 0.73
43 Ryan Grant GB 10 9 17 DNP 8 11 9 bye 4 9 9.6 77 38.0 0.49
44 Jackie Battle KC 0 0 0 5 21 bye 16 19 15 9 9.4 85 54.5 0.64
45 Cadillac Williams STL 24 16 19 DNP bye 6 3 2 3 0 9.1 73 43.4 0.59
46 Ryan Torain WAS DNP DNP DNP 19 bye 10 2 9 2 12 9.0 54 29.5 0.55
47 Delone Carter IND 7 11 4 7 14 14 10 11 4 6 8.8 88 46.0 0.52
48 Thomas Jones KC 2 12 15 11 12 bye 9 5 3 4 8.1 73 24.3 0.33
49 Marion Barber CHI DNP DNP DNP 5 2 12 6 bye 10 13 8.0 48 43.7 0.91
50 Bernard Scott CIN 4 2 2 6 8 12 bye 25 6 7 8.0 72 37.6 0.52
51 Kevin Faulk NE DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP bye 11 DNP 5 8.0 16 11.0 0.69
52 Roy Helu WAS 1 13 7 8 bye 4 3 3 24 9 8.0 72 69.3 0.96
53 LaDainian Tomlinson NYJ 11 7 11 4 3 10 8 bye 8 9 7.9 71 84.9 1.20
54 Javon Ringer TEN DNP 7 8 4 9 bye 4 19 5 7 7.9 63 53.5 0.85
55 Isaac Redman PIT 3 11 3 7 18 5 8 8 4 8 7.5 75 47.2 0.63
56 Deji Karim JAC 17 7 7 4 5 5 7 3 bye 12 7.4 67 36.5 0.54
57 Donald Brown IND 0 0 0 0 8 7 9 11 17 18 7.0 70 50.6 0.72
58 Danny Woodhead NE 15 6 9 2 DNP 6 bye 0 10 8 7.0 56 40.9 0.73
59 Ricky Williams BAL 13 4 6 12 bye 2 3 6 10 6 6.9 62 38.8 0.63
60 Lance Ball DEN 1 6 4 3 0 bye 6 7 4 30 6.8 61 35.7 0.59
61 Kendall Hunter SF 2 0 11 11 9 8 bye 3 8 7 6.6 59 50.5 0.86
62 Tashard Choice WAS 4 7 8 10 bye 8 2 DNP DNP DNP 6.5 39 21.6 0.55
63 Kevin Smith DET DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP bye 6 6.0 6 4.9 0.82
64 Stevan Ridley NE DNP 2 8 11 7 3 bye DNP 4 5 5.7 40 29.9 0.75
65 Maurice Morris DET 4 0 3 0 1 6 11 14 bye 11 5.6 50 40.3 0.81
66 Derrick Ward HOU 11 DNP DNP DNP DNP 0 5 0 6 11 5.5 33 22.4 0.68
67 Keiland Williams DET DNP 9 2 4 4 0 9 12 bye 1 5.1 41 19.4 0.47
68 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL 5 3 4 7 1 2 4 bye 11 8 5.0 45 37.1 0.82

Itís about time. Iím not even an owner of this runner, but thereís a pretty good chance you already know who Iím talking about. I know two games is still a pretty small sample size, but Chris Johnson has posted YPC averages of 4.6 and 4.8 in consecutive games Ė the former against a stout Bengalsí defense and the latter against the Panthersí lackluster defense Ė marking the first time all season he has enjoyed back-to-back games with a YPC average higher than 3.6. Johnson still isnít running with a great deal of authority, which is obviously a concern long-term, but the remaining schedule suggests he could enjoy another solid game or two Ė especially against the likes of Tampa Bay in Week 12 and Indianapolis in Week 15.

It seems odd to even mention this considering where he was drafted this summer, but because of the expectations he has created throughout the first half of the season, Iím wondering why my Darren Sproles has seen just 15 touches over the last two weeks. If anything, I would have expected his touches to increase slightly over the two weeks Mark Ingram was hurt and this past week when the rookie was getting eased back into action. Pierre Thomasí workload numbers are about the same as well over that time, which makes you wonder if HC Sean Payton is getting a bit too pass-happy for his own good. But there within lies the rub since the passing game is where the bulk of Sprolesí value lies. Hopefully, this is a just a two-week mirage, but defenses could be wising up now after half a season of seeing what Sproles can do with regular touches. Several teams have already decided to double-team him already, so it will be interesting to see if more defenses elect to do the same thing. With Drew Brees already a spread-the-wealth QB, he wonít blink if opponents decide to take away one of his backfield options and opt to single-cover Jimmy Graham or Marques Colston.

Reggie Bush

Reggie Bush: An unlikely workhorse.

I donít usually like to talk about players in consecutive weeks, but in a year where only 10 RBs are averaging 20 touches/game, it is almost appropriate to consider Reggie Bush something of a workhorse now with 53 touches over his last three games. Even though the rules of traditional fantasy RBs donít necessarily apply to Bush, it is notable that his remaining schedule is not all that daunting. Thereís no doubt it has been an unusual year Ė especially at RB Ė and perhaps the poster child of it is Bush, who has fought through groin and neck injuries to play in every game so far this season. In PPR leagues, Bush finds himself just six fantasy points behind CJ2K despite 52 fewer touches. I admit it looked bleak after Miami pulled the rug out from under him in Week 2, but Bush has seen at least 12 touches in every game since. With an acceptable fantasy point/touch average of 0.88, there is no reason to expect his role to decrease.

Speaking of unlikely workhorse RBs, itís about time I mention DeMarco Murray. The rookie possessed a world of potential and showed it often at Oklahoma, but fell in the draft in large part because teams doubted his durability. Apparently, Cowboys HC Jason Garrett didnít get that memo because he has averaged the tenth-most touches in the league since Week 7 Ė the week after Felix Jones suffered his ankle injury. There used to be a time when I felt I could count on Garrett running the ball regularly, but perhaps the talent he has now in the passing game and the annual injuries to Marion Barber and (now) Jones has made him a bit more pass-oriented in recent seasons. While it is a bit too early to say anything definitive Ė the Eaglesí game in Week 8 gives me the most pause Ė it may be time for me to believe in Garrett again as a coach who will run the ball. Murray has eclipsed 20 carries in three of his last four games and has rewarded his coach with at least 135 yards rushing in each game. It will likely take me the rest of this season to believe in Murrayís newfound durability, but assuming he can stay healthy, expect any talk of a committee role with Jones to come to an end quickly. Jones has always had the talent to do the same thing Murray is doing now, but as of now, it is looking highly doubtful heíll ever get another chance to prove it in Dallas.

Two quick hits: 1) in what has been a lost season from the start for the Colts, they may have finally gotten what they wanted two years ago from Donald Brown Ė production. His fantasy numbers havenít exactly been eye-popping, but the fact heís doing much of anything without Peyton Manning around to threaten defenses suggests he wants to extend his stay in Indy. Joseph Addai could return at any time and Delone Carter will continue to steal a few touches, but the fact Brown has emerged as a passable flex option is news in itself. 2) Following the season-ending injury to FB Ovie Mughelli, Jason Snelling was moved to FB, leaving the door open for Jacquizz Rodgers. His fantasy upside is extremely limited as long as Michael Turner continues his 20.9 touches/game pace, but the rookie has seen 19 touches over the last two weeks. An injury to Turner at any point would send his PPR stock through the roof, almost allowing him to be a very poor manís Sproles, while Snelling would handle most of the rushing chores. In such a scenario, both players would be worthy of strong flex consideration.

 WR Touches
Rk Player Tm 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Avg Tot Rec Catch %
1 Wes Welker NE 12 11 20 14 8 10 bye 8 10 8 11.2 101 72 0.71
2 Calvin Johnson DET 10 7 11 13 6 9 11 7 bye 19 10.3 93 54 0.58
3 Brandon Lloyd STL 11 DNP 7 11 4 bye 12 13 13 9 10.0 80 40 0.50
4 Brandon Marshall MIA 13 11 7 8 bye 13 9 6 11 9 9.7 87 53 0.61
5 Roddy White ATL 13 4 17 11 9 5 10 bye 9 7 9.4 85 47 0.55
6 Andre Johnson HOU 11 9 12 5 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 9.3 37 25 0.68
7 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 9 7 8 11 8 bye 10 5 12 13 9.2 83 45 0.54
8 Anquan Boldin BAL 7 7 14 2 bye 9 12 12 10 9 9.1 82 43 0.52
9 Steve Smith CAR 11 13 7 10 7 7 9 9 bye 8 9.0 81 51 0.63
10 Dwayne Bowe KC 8 8 6 9 11 bye 10 11 10 7 8.9 80 41 0.51
11 Mike Williams TB 10 4 8 8 9 13 11 bye 8 5 8.4 76 39 0.51
12 Reggie Wayne IND 10 8 13 9 7 6 4 14 6 6 8.3 83 42 0.51
13 Hakeem Nicks NYG 11 7 5 14 7 7 bye 10 DNP 4 8.1 65 40 0.62
14 Pierre Garcon IND 6 5 10 8 8 11 6 15 6 6 8.1 81 43 0.53
15 Antonio Brown PIT 9 6 8 10 4 2 9 15 11 6 8.0 80 44 0.55
16 Steve Johnson BUF 6 14 10 6 5 10 bye 9 6 5 7.9 71 44 0.62
17 Greg Jennings GB 8 8 10 7 5 10 10 bye 8 5 7.9 71 51 0.72
18 Vincent Jackson SD 3 15 8 4 6 bye 8 8 12 7 7.9 71 35 0.49
19 Mario Manningham NYG 7 7 DNP 5 9 8 bye 9 7 10 7.8 62 33 0.53
20 Jeremy Maclin PHI 3 15 7 11 8 7 bye 3 9 5 7.6 68 46 0.68
21 Julio Jones ATL 6 7 7 17 4 DNP DNP bye 4 5 7.5 45 30 0.67
22 Miles Austin DAL 9 15 DNP DNP bye 10 5 3 3 DNP 7.5 45 28 0.62
23 A.J. Green CIN 4 14 5 10 8 7 bye 10 7 2 7.4 67 41 0.61
24 Sidney Rice SEA DNP DNP 10 6 5 bye 5 14 8 4 7.4 52 29 0.56
25 Mike Wallace PIT 11 9 7 4 7 6 7 7 6 10 7.4 74 53 0.72
26 DeSean Jackson PHI 12 3 6 9 7 7 bye 6 8 DNP 7.3 58 29 0.50
27 Greg Little CLE 3 5 5 8 bye 12 7 11 8 6 7.2 65 37 0.57
28 Santana Moss WAS 8 9 8 10 bye 6 2 DNP DNP DNP 7.2 43 25 0.58
29 Eric Decker DEN 5 9 12 10 5 bye 3 12 5 3 7.1 64 34 0.53
30 Victor Cruz NYG 2 2 5 9 11 4 bye 9 11 11 7.1 64 40 0.63
31 Marques Colston NO 9 DNP DNP 3 6 11 7 6 5 9 7.0 56 42 0.75
32 Michael Crabtree SF 2 DNP 6 9 5 15 bye 9 5 4 6.9 55 31 0.56
33 Deion Branch NE 9 10 3 4 8 5 bye 7 5 9 6.7 60 37 0.62
34 Dez Bryant DAL 8 DNP 4 5 bye 8 8 5 9 6 6.6 53 32 0.60
35 Mike Thomas JAC 11 10 8 11 7 6 1 4 bye 1 6.6 59 32 0.54
36 Jabar Gaffney WAS 7 8 6 4 bye 10 8 5 5 6 6.6 59 34 0.58
37 Danario Alexander STL 0 7 8 8 bye 10 6 DNP DNP DNP 6.5 39 16 0.41
38 Early Doucet ARI 3 6 6 6 16 bye 5 6 6 4 6.4 58 36 0.62
39 Plaxico Burress NYJ 9 2 6 8 8 4 8 bye 5 8 6.4 58 26 0.45
40 Nate Washington TEN 7 11 9 4 8 bye 3 6 6 4 6.4 58 39 0.67
41 Jerome Simpson CIN 9 9 4 3 7 9 bye 2 10 4 6.3 57 26 0.46
42 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK 7 DNP 3 7 12 9 11 bye 1 0 6.3 50 27 0.54
43 Davone Bess MIA 7 5 9 5 bye 3 12 5 3 6 6.1 55 32 0.58
44 Santonio Holmes NYJ 10 4 2 12 6 4 3 bye 6 8 6.1 55 31 0.56
45 David Nelson BUF 6 13 8 3 2 6 bye 4 7 5 6.0 54 39 0.72
46 Legedu Naanee CAR 5 7 2 11 8 2 3 7 bye 9 6.0 54 30 0.56
47 Denarius Moore OAK 1 8 6 5 6 4 5 bye 12 7 6.0 54 23 0.43
48 Andre Caldwell CIN 1 4 12 5 4 4 bye 6 9 8 5.9 53 29 0.55
49 Nate Burleson DET 5 9 2 4 4 10 3 7 bye 9 5.9 53 34 0.64
50 Donald Jones BUF 6 5 10 8 2 DNP bye DNP 4 10 5.8 35 23 0.66
51 Jonathan Baldwin KC DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 5 8 5 5 5.8 23 8 0.35
52 Austin Collie IND 3 10 7 7 2 6 5 7 5 5 5.7 57 28 0.49
53 Torrey Smith BAL 1 0 8 6 bye 5 5 9 9 8 5.7 51 23 0.45
54 Percy Harvin MIN 4 8 5 7 2 9 3 5 bye 8 5.7 51 37 0.73
55 Brandon Gibson STL 5 8 7 1 bye 10 DNP 6 5 3 5.6 45 24 0.53
56 Steve Breaston KC 2 2 6 5 5 bye 9 4 11 6 5.6 50 33 0.66
57 Eddie Royal DEN 6 3 DNP DNP DNP bye 4 13 5 2 5.5 33 14 0.42
58 Jason Hill JAC 5 DNP 5 9 8 3 8 5 bye 1 5.5 44 19 0.43
59 Devin Hester CHI 5 9 5 2 7 7 9 bye 5 0 5.4 49 22 0.45
60 Mohamed Massaquoi CLE 7 6 6 9 bye 7 2 DNP 1 DNP 5.4 38 18 0.47
61 Damian Williams TEN 2 DNP 3 4 11 bye 4 5 7 7 5.4 43 23 0.53
62 Titus Young DET 1 7 8 5 4 5 3 5 bye 9 5.2 47 26 0.55
63 Lance Moore NO DNP 4 9 6 6 3 4 9 3 3 5.2 47 34 0.72
64 Jason Avant PHI 7 4 5 8 10 4 bye 5 3 1 5.2 47 34 0.72
65 Doug Baldwin SEA 6 2 4 6 9 bye 3 8 6 3 5.2 47 29 0.62
66 Laurent Robinson DAL DNP DNP 5 10 bye 2 3 8 5 3 5.1 36 27 0.75
67 Malcom Floyd SD 8 2 5 3 7 bye 4 7 DNP DNP 5.1 36 19 0.53
68 Jordy Nelson GB 8 2 5 6 7 3 4 bye 6 5 5.1 46 34 0.74
69 Andre Roberts ARI 4 7 6 0 6 bye 5 3 7 7 5.0 45 22 0.49

Oh, the agony of owning Vincent Jackson this season. In PPR, he has given his owners two 39-point games and five single-digit games. While his 134.6 fantasy points is good for 10th overall among receivers, that level of inconsistency has to be driving his owners crazy (I should know as I own him in a league). Perhaps not so coincidentally, Jacksonís two huge fantasy games have come in the only two games in which he received double-digit targets. Thereís no doubt from watching the Raiders game last Thursday that Philip Rivers is a bit off, but now he isnít even challenging defenders much downfield. In previous years, a 40- or 50-yard jump-ball pass to Jackson down the sideline was a regular occurrence. Now, it doesnít even seem to be part of the offense. And then, on one of the few deep balls he did attempt against Oakland, Jackson either lost the ball in the lights or decided to hang his QB out to dry, neither of which is particularly acceptable excuse since most receivers would have simply tried to interfere on that play when they saw two defenders going for the same ball that was intended for him. As of this moment, Jackson needs to be viewed as a WR2 because of his inconsistency but with obvious WR1 upside.

On the other hand, rookie Vincent Brown showed everyone (at least those of us with NFL Network) why Rivers called him ďpro-readyĒ even before the lockout had ended. Whether or not he has done enough to pass Malcom Floyd on the depth chart in HC Norv Turnerís mind is another story. Brown has big-play potential but is a much better complement to Jackson than Floyd, who is best used as a situational deep threat given his game and injury history. Iíve been looking for a glimmer of hope all season long to add him in any one of my leagues and his last two weeks have given me reason to believe. Of course, nothing would beat receiving Turnerís confirmation that Brown is now a starter, but as is often the case in deeper leagues, owners must make moves before the coaches make them official. Iím skeptical Turner will defer to the veteran, but I have little doubt the Chargers Ė as unwatchable as they were on Thursday Ė will be a better team if they go with Brown.

Itís been hard for me to wrap my mind around Mark Sanchez as a legit pro QB. Recently, my major beef with him is his inability to keep Santonio Holmes involved on a regular basis. If a team has roughly 10-12 possessions in an average NFL game, it is inexcusable that a $45 M receiver such as Holmes isnít seeing double-digit targets in just about every game. Instead, Holmes (6.1) trails both Plaxico Burress (6.4) AND Dustin Keller (6.3) in targets/game. Sure, the difference between the averages is minimal, but thatís not really the point. While each player is a difficult cover for defenses, it would seem to me that Holmesí speed and quickness would give him a slight edge over the others, especially considering the fact the Jets are running the ball with some effectiveness now. This alone should open Holmes up for some deep shots off play-action. Maybe we saw the first sign of Holmes' re-emergence in Week 10, but his best games so far this season have come against the Dolphins and Patriots (twice), neither of which is setting the world on fire with their play in the secondary. If you can still make trades in your leagues, he is a good buy-low, but buy him as a WR3 with WR2 upside.

Itís been a while since Iíve talked about Percy Harvin in this space, but lo and behold, we finally got a glimpse of what he looks like when heís healthy (or at least close to it). His eight targets are more in line with what I expected entering the season and a number he should hit or exceed regularly so long as he doesnít aggravate his rib injury. Regardless of whether he was operating at 60-70% for the majority of this season, his 5.7 targets/game is still a laughable number when you consider the talent around him. If his injury was so dehabilitating, why was he being used as a running back in any package over the first half of the season? And if he wasnít all that limited physically, why was he seeing fewer snaps than Michael Jenkins and Bernard Berrian on a regular basis? Assuming he was in good enough shape to play Ė which he apparently was since he hasnít missed a game Ė a much more sophisticated offensive play-caller (than Bill Musgrave) would have found a way to line him up all over the field with minimal missed snaps, including using him as a runner 3-5 times to relieve Adrian Peterson. Harvin appeared to be Christian Ponderís first read on most of the Vikingsí pass plays, which can only be good news for the entire Vikingsí offense going forward. More attention is good for Harvinís fantasy numbers while any player who can threaten a defense in the passing game is obviously good for Adrian Peterson.

 TE Targets
Rk Player Tm 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Avg Total Rec Catch %
1 Jimmy Graham NO 7 7 8 14 12 11 7 8 8 12 9.4 94 62 0.66
2 Jason Witten DAL 9 14 9 10 bye 4 6 12 7 7 8.7 78 49 0.63
3 Rob Gronkowski NE 7 6 9 5 4 7 bye 9 15 11 8.1 73 52 0.71
4 Aaron Hernandez NE 10 8 DNP DNP 9 14 bye 4 5 5 7.9 55 37 0.67
5 Kellen Winslow TB 8 8 5 6 9 10 12 bye 6 6 7.8 70 38 0.54
6 Brandon Pettigrew DET 6 3 13 9 5 14 6 4 bye 9 7.7 69 46 0.67
7 Tony Gonzalez ATL 7 9 8 9 8 3 8 bye 6 10 7.6 68 45 0.66
8 Ed Dickson BAL 5 6 9 12 bye 3 5 9 5 14 7.6 68 40 0.59
9 Antonio Gates SD 13 1 DNP DNP DNP bye 7 7 11 6 7.5 45 30 0.67
10 Fred Davis WAS 6 7 3 6 bye 11 8 9 7 7 7.1 64 43 0.67
11 Greg Olsen CAR 6 4 10 7 5 10 3 7 bye 11 7.0 63 34 0.54
12 Jermaine Gresham CIN 8 5 8 7 7 6 bye DNP DNP 5 6.8 41 29 0.71
13 Dustin Keller NYJ 8 6 9 8 2 5 8 bye 7 4 6.3 57 31 0.54
14 Brent Celek PHI 3 7 2 4 5 9 bye 9 9 7 6.1 55 31 0.56
15 Ben Watson CLE 7 4 10 9 bye 8 4 3 2 5 5.8 52 28 0.54
16 Dallas Clark IND 5 8 6 4 5 7 0 10 5 DNP 5.6 50 28 0.56
17 Owen Daniels HOU 2 5 9 7 11 3 5 6 4 3 5.5 55 37 0.67
18 Jermichael Finley GB 4 6 8 6 7 4 2 bye 7 4 5.3 48 33 0.69
19 Visanthe Shiancoe MIN 1 7 2 8 6 7 8 4 bye 4 5.2 47 24 0.51
20 Heath Miller PIT 5 3 6 3 4 6 4 9 6 5 5.1 51 38 0.75
21 Todd Heap ARI 3 1 10 6 DNP bye DNP DNP DNP DNP 5.0 20 13 0.65

Josh Freeman said earlier this week that he was feeling ďbetter than everĒ. Would you like some proof that he may not be? Mike Williams (8.4) and Kellen Winslow (7.8) are easily his two favorite targets, yet Williamsí 51% catch rate is right in line with Winslowís 54%. While Williamsí ineffectiveness can be explained away by the increased defensive attention he is seeing this season, itís hard to understand why a short-to-intermediate threat like Winslow is sporting the second-worst catch rate of the 21 TEs who qualified for the list above. Then again, Winslowís owners should have known what they were getting when they drafted him Ė a low-upside TE who will catch more passes than the average TE (making him somewhat useful in PPR leagues) but with extremely limited touchdown-scoring potential (heís never had more than five in a season).

Iím sure many of you have already dropped Jared Cook in shallow- and medium-sized leagues. Iím about to do the same in all of my leagues as well. Yes, I was well aware when I drafted him that blocking was going to be an issue and that he may not see the same kind of snap counts that other more trustworthy fantasy TEs might see. However, when OC Chris Palmer stated that his biggest fear was overusing his athletic marvel, I took it to mean he would actually make him a focal point of the passing game from time to time. Considering the state of the Titansí passing game (Kenny Britt on IR, Nate Washington playing through injury), it would seem as if Cook would see more 2-3 targets. Yet, that is exactly the range he has been at in three of the last four games.

Perhaps this offseason, I will make a list of play-callers I simply cannot trust. If I do, Palmer will probably be on that list (as will Bill Musgrave). The misuse (or lack of use) of a supremely-talented natural mismatch is a hard crime for me to forgive as a fantasy owner. Certainly, Cook could help himself immensely by just becoming even a passable blocker, but a good coach takes the mismatches he has on his roster and finds a way to exploit the defense with them. Neither Palmer nor Musgrave have shown the ability to do that consistently enough for my liking in their respective returns to play-calling duties. What makes it worse is that each coach has a RB in his backfield that defenses need to respect (even if Chris Johnson is just now coming around), meaning that drawing up big plays in the passing game should be that much easier.


Next Week’s Waiver Wire Stars

Each week, I’ll select one player at QB, RB, WR and TE that is available in at least three of my five leagues and make a case as to why they could be important to you the following week or beyond. For those of you who have been loyal readers for some time, you already know I am not concerned with making safe picks; selective and smart aggressiveness is often the name of the game in fantasy.

I cannot emphasize enough these players are not necessarily recommended additions to your fantasy team – I will make sure to make that obvious if that is the case – but have a chance, however small, to make an impact, even if it is only as a potentially valuable reserve down the line.

QB: Alex Smith, San Francisco. So hereís what we know: Smith has enjoyed his best three seasons from a fantasy points/game perspective over the last three seasons. Jimmy Raye gave Smith the first hint of play-calling stability heís had in his pro career until Raye was removed from his position early last season after the offenseís terrible start and his supposed failure to be able to properly communicate his plays to Smith. Enter Jim Harbaugh (or OC Greg Roman), who didnít even need an offseason to decide the best way to manage Smith was to manage Smith. At just over 26 attempts per game, Smith is averaging five less throws per game than he did last year. Heís completing a career-high 64% of his throws and has tossed just three interceptions. Arizona has managed to bottle up Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford and a battered Michael Vick in the three straight weeks, but the Cardinalsí secondary was getting carved up on a regular basis prior to that. In all likelihood, San Francisco will not need Smith to break out of his 26-attempt routine against Arizona, but even if Frank Gore is limited, the chances Smith could put up a 175-yard, two-score game are pretty good this week. Those numbers are certainly passable for any desperate owner looking for a short-term replacement for Matt Schaub.

Previous recommendations: Matt Cassel, Week 3; Vince Young, Week 4; Tim Tebow, Week 5; John Beck, Week 6; Christian Ponder, Week 7; Colt McCoy, Week 9

RB: Kevin Smith, Detroit. It may be something, it may be nothing. But when the Lions suggested they had no intention of signing Smith before a 25-player workout recently and then signed him, there was a glimmer of hope, especially after HC Jim Schwartz praised the RB for how good he looked and the shape he was in. When he saw some action Ė much less six touches Ė in his first game, there was a little more reason to believe. Yes, I understand the Bearsí game was completely one-sided, but it is not unthinkable that Smith could be an asset by the time the fantasy playoffs roll around. Heís already shown himself to be a capable receiver and in Detroitís pass-heavy offense, that is a necessity. Maurice Morris isnít exactly dripping with upside and Keiland Williams hasnít come close to establishing the Mikel Leshoure role the team had in mind for him when he joined the Lions. Detroit has won just once since Jahvid Best has been sidelined with his concussion, so his loss should not be understated. The Lions would probably prefer to have Morris in a complementary role and Williams in a limited role, so there could be a 1-3 week (or more) window for Smith to do his best imitation (pun intentional, unfortunately) and become a valuable fantasy asset.

Previous recommendations: Alfonso Smith, Week 3; Keiland Williams Week 4; Jackie Battle/Jazquizz Rodgers, Week 5; Joe McKnight, Week 6; Phillip Tanner, Week 7; Tashard Choice, Week 9

WR: Andre Roberts, Arizona. It troubles me to even consider someone not named Larry Fitzgerald for a spot on my fantasy roster, but allow me to explain why Roberts is worth a look going forward, perhaps including this week against a difficult Ninersí defense. First of all, Arizona has virtually no chance to establish a ground game this week, which will turn Arizona into a passing team as it has been since John Skelton has taken over for an injured Kevin Kolb. Skelton has attempted 35 and 40 passes, respectively, in each of his two starts, with nearly a third of those targets going in Fitzgeraldís direction. While Fitzgerald has managed to catch just 11 of his 25 targets over the last two weeks, Roberts has hauled in nine of 14, with seven targets in each contest. Obviously, we arenít talking about huge upside here in a game I think the Niners will hold the Cardinals to 10 points or less, but I must admit that when I see an un-owned receiver put together two straight weeks of seven-plus targets, I will put him on my watch list at the very least. Roberts was able to muster some solid games over the second half of last season, with his best game coming against Dallas in Week 16 with Skelton under center. I wouldnít risk playing him this week, but if Kolbís return from injury continues to move slowly, Roberts could have some value in Week 12 vs. St. Louis and perhaps again in Week 15 if Cleveland assigns CB Joe Haden to Fitzgerald.

Previous recommendations: Michael Jenkins/Dane Sanzenbacher, Week 3; Mark Clayton, Week 4, Naaman Roosevelt, Week 5; Arrelious Benn, Week 6; Roy Williams, Week 7; Joshua Cribbs, Week 9

TE: Daniel Fells, Denver. Remember what I just said about Roberts? The same first sentence pretty much applies to any receiver from Denver. The idea that any team can win a game when its quarterback completes only two passes is equal parts amazing and saddening. With that said, I do not expect the zone-read offense to be nearly as effective against the Jets Ė even on short rest Ė as it was against the Chiefs. One reason is because I expect New York to enjoy a fair amount of success running the ball itself. If the Jets can get can establish any kind of lead Ė and I expect they will Ė the fatigue that could come with watching Denver run the ball 45-50 times in the altitude isnít going to be as much of a factor as some might believe. Because Jets HC Rex Ryan loves to leave his cornerbacks on an island, I expect a heavy dose of A-gap blitzing to discourage the first read of the option, which would in turn allow ILBs Bart Scott and David Harris to track Tim Tebow as he attempts to get to the edge. In short, there will be plenty of eight- and nine-man boxes, simply because New York does not figure to be scared by the pass with its set of CBs. As a result, the one area in which the Broncos can exploit a weakness will be at TE, where the talent gap between Fells and the Jetsí safeties is minimal (whereas Eric Decker will struggle with Darrelle Revis and Eddie Royal with Antonio Cromartie or Kyle Wilson). The Jets are the fifth-friendliest defense vs. opposing TEs Ė two games vs. New England is responsible for much of that Ė but if Denver is going to have a shot to win on Thursday, it will likely come because Fells was able to win his individual matchup.

Previous recommendations: Ben Watson, Week 3; Jake Ballard, Week 4; Joel Dreessen, Week 5; Lance Kendricks, Week 6; Visanthe Shiancoe/Jeremy Shockey, Week 7; Dennis Pitta, Week 9

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.