Week 4: Player Upgrades
Fantasy football is all about matchups, and a fantasy owner's ability to exploit favorable matchups can be the difference between making or missing the fantasy playoffs. Being able to exploit favorable matchups doesn't take a rocket scientist. Often times a player's fantasy value hinges on the weakness of an opposing defense, and that specific player's ability to exploit it.
The prime example from last week was New England's Fred Taylor. In the rain versus a defense that struggles against the run missing its stud nose tackle Peria Jerry, Taylor was the Patriots' best weapon to exploit the Atlanta defense; he turned in a huge fantasy performance as a result. Here are a few early trends and facts that will greatly help you not only this weekend, but in the future as well.
1. Kevin Kolb not only bears a striking resemblance to Vince Vaughn, but he has become the first QB to begin his career with back to back 300 yard games. QB of the future, I think so (for those of you in keeper leagues).
2. Brent Celek (biggest surprise at TE) has become a monster with roommate Kolb throwing him the ball. Expect the success to continue when McNabb returns.
3. Defenses that scare me: New York Jets, Giants, Eagles, Vikings, Ravens, Steelers
4. Eddie Royal Disappointment: For a guy who many were comparing with Wes Welker (myself included), Royal hasn't even been a part of Denver's game-plan. It is time to cut bait with Royal.
5. LT and Westbrook are still injury risks: Don't tell me we didn't see this one coming. McCoy and Sproles are the future studs trapped behind two injury plagued veterans.
6. Out of Nowhere: We really didn't see this one though; Willis McGahee and Cedric Benson are legit fantasy studs.
7. The New England RB you want is Fred Taylor.
8. Peyton Manning is the best QB in the NFL (not named Brees or Brady). Gonzo injured? No problem for Manning. Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark are studs, and he's making Pierre Garcon look great.
9. Detroit is no longer the worst team in the NFL: Congrats to Detroit on their first win since December 23rd, 2007.
10. Best Fantasy Matchups/Worst Teams: Cleveland, Tampa Bay, St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston, Carolina, Oakland.
11. Darren McFadden: If only he were on another team he would be a star, or if JaMarcus Russell wasn't playing quarterback for the Raiders.
12. Am I the only one who wishes Joseph Addai would just disappear so Donald Brown can become the fantasy star he would be without Addai there?
13. Cleveland has scored 1 offensive TD in 36 quarters.
14. Bonus: Terrell Owens is a non-factor. As a Patriots fan, I told you so.
Whether your team has stumbled out of the gate 0-3 or blown away the competition on the way to 3-0, there is always room for improvement either on the wavier wire or through a trade. There's still time to turn an 0-3 squad into a contender with a few savvy wavier wire moves and now is the time to turn a 3-0 squad into a true championship contender by bolstering your bench and making a trade for players who will see their value rise for the remainder of the season.
This Week 4 Player Upgrades features the players who will see their fantasy stock rise considerably in the near future: Cedric Benson, Tashard Choice, Glen Coffee, Fred Taylor, Pierre Thomas, Vincent Jackson, and Kevin Walter.
It is amazing that Cedric Benson continues to produce at a high level for the Cincinnati Bengals. Benson was a major reason the Bengals upset Pittsburgh this past weekend 23-20 (their first win over the Steelers in their last six tries). Benson was a major fantasy factor the first two weeks of the season, pounding out 76 yards and 1 TD versus Denver and following it up the next weekend against Green Bay by rushing for 141 yards. Many fantasy owners (including myself) were hesitant to believe in the success of Benson. I mean come on, he's still Cedric Benson right? This isn't the same old Cedric Benson though; after gutting out 76 yards and 1 TD against the Steeler defense, Benson has my vote of confidence.
The biggest factor that points to Benson's fantasy value increasing for the remainder of the season is the number of carries he has and will continue to get (21, 29, and 16 in the first three games). Brian Leonard and Bernard Scott aren't major threats to Benson's workload, and a motivated player carrying a full workload is a recipe for fantasy greatness (see DeAngelo Williams last season). Benson has proven he is legit, and has the potential to finish the season as a top ten fantasy producer if he stays healthy. I know you are just as shocked as I am, right?
Tashard Choice as a rookie last season (when both Marion Barber and Felix Jones went down), was extremely productive for the Cowboys to close the season; proving he belonged in the three-headed monster. Felix Jones was looking like a superstar on Monday night versus the Carolina Panthers until he injured his knee, and now is expected to be out with a sprained posterior cruciate ligament for at least a week. With Marion Barber also battling a quad injury, Tashard Choice will see his role greatly expand this weekend versus the Denver Broncos.
Running behind a mammoth offensive line, the Cowboys' backs are leading the league in rushing, averaging over 193 yards per game. Denver boasts the seventh best run defense in the NFL through the first three weeks, but the Cowboys should have no problem moving the ball on the ground. If Choice is available on your wavier wire, he would be the second addition behind Glen Coffee.
If you miss out on Coffee, Choice isn't a bad consolation prize because his fantasy stock should remain high as he will continue to get work even when Barber and Jones are 100 percent. All three Cowboys backs are tremendous talents, but at least for this week Choice is the healthiest -- which makes him the most valuable. Also fantasy owners should look to buy low on both Barber and Jones while their value is low for the moment.
We collectively love Glen Coffee here at FFToolbox, and it's no wonder why. Frank Gore is out for the next two weeks dealing with multiple injuries to his right foot and ankle. Coffee stepped into a buzz saw last weekend and was stifled by Minnesota's punishing defense, but should find running lanes he could drive a truck through both this weekend and next weekend when he faces the St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons (who rank 27th and 24th in the NFL against the run).
Glen Coffee should be your number one wavier priority this weekend. Once again injuries have presented an opportunity for a rookie running back to come in and have a major impact for fantasy owners over the next two weeks in place of a premier stud; in this case it happens to be Frank Gore.
Let's just say we saw this one coming. New England didn't sign the 33 year old veteran and future Hall of Fame running back to block for Brady or watch Maroney and Morris shoulder the workload. Fred Taylor was brought in to be the change of pace from the Patriots potent passing game. Taylor's downhill pounding style generated 105 yards and 1 TD on 21 carries this past weekend in the Patriots' 26-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Against weaker defenses, Fred Taylor will get his carries; he showed this past weekend that he still has some gas left in that tank to be able to produce for fantasy owners. After a sluggish start to the season for Taylor, he may be available on your wavier wire. Finally, fantasy owners you have your answer! Fred Taylor is the New England running back you want on your team.
Taylor's next opponent (the Baltimore Ravens) hasn't given up 100 yards rushing to any player in its last 38 games (the longest streak in the NFL). Running the football isn't the way to beat the Ravens. While Taylor may not produce this weekend, he faces a few weaker matchups in the future and will get his touches and produce -- especially when the weather turns nasty in New England.
I myself was one of the experts giving Pierre Thomas a ton of hype in the pre-season, but once he injured his knee his fantasy stock plummeted. It became almost impossible to recommend investing in Thomas (now a major injury risk). Pierre Thomas silenced any doubters this past weekend by taking back over the lead role that Mike Bell had occupied in his absence. Thomas received all 14 of his carries in the second half and rumbled over the Bills' defense for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Thomas announced his return to fantasy relevance this past weekend, and with all of his injury and durability questions answered, I have no problem saying that his stock will be on the rise the remainder of the season -- making him a prime candidate to target in trades in the coming weeks. Thomas will likely see his value dip over the next few weeks when he squares off with the Jets and Giants with a bye week in the middle, which should make him a prime buy low candidate if he struggles.