by Jared Smola
BUY orders: These are players you could obtain through a reasonable trade given their relatively low perceived fantasy value.
BUY Matt Schaub, QB, Texans
Due in large part to the emergence of RB Arian Foster and injuries to his most dangerous receiving weapons, Schaub is off to a slow start this year. Even after last week’s 305-yard, 2-TD performance, Schaub still ranks only 14th in fantasy points per game among QBs. He’s on pace to throw for 600 fewer yards and 5 fewer TDs than he did in 2009. But we’re expecting a big 2nd half of the season for this Pro Bowler. Most importantly, his weapons are getting healthy. WR Andre Johnson seems to be over an ankle sprain that plagued him for a few weeks; WR Jacoby Jones is back from a calf injury; and TE Owen Daniels is just about 100% recovered from last season’s torn ACL. Schaub once again has one of the most dangerous arsenals to work with in the entire NFL. Houston will continue to employ a more balanced offense, but expect them to lean on the pass a little more heavily going forward. Foster has slowed down after a blazing start – averaging just 3.3 yards per carry the past 2 games – and the Texans face a bunch of weak secondaries the rest of the way. 8 of Schaub’s final 10 opponents rank in the bottom-14 in fantasy points allowed to QBs. Good times are ahead.
BUY Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
This might be your last chance to buy relatively low. All the positive indicators are there for Charles. He’s seeing more carries (16 in each of the past 2 weeks), his role in the passing game is growing (10 total targets the last 2 games), and he’s still the league-leader among RBs with a 6.3 yards-per-carry average. But he hasn’t busted a really long run since Week 1, and he’s still sitting on just 1 TD for the year. That has him ranked outside the top-15 backs in standard-scoring leagues. And it may have his owner getting a little antsy. Throw out some feelers for J-Chaz, play up Thomas Jones’ 100-yard, 1-TD Week 6 effort, and see if you can snag Charles on the cheap. You’ll be acquiring a potential top-10 RB.
BUY Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers
We keep waiting for that big breakout game. It hasn’t come yet, but that’s good news for you. Owners who spent a 2nd or 3rd-round pick on Mathews are sick and tired of waiting for their investment to pay off. That’s your cue to sweep in and grab an under-priced RB2. Nothing we’ve seen from Mathews this year has changed our opinion of his talent level. He’s averaging a robust 5.2 yards per carry and has popped off 5 gains of 15+ yards on just 55 carries. But because his workload has been limited, Mathews is ranked just 32nd in fantasy points among RBs. RB Mike Tolbert was impressive filling in for an injured Mathews in Week 3, and the Chargers kept him involved in the game plan even after Mathews returned. But Tolbert is being phased out as Mathews’ workload grows. Since returning in Week 4, his touches have increased each game, topping out at 15 this past week. While Tolbert will continue to steal goal line carries, Mathews is once again the clear-cut lead back in San Diego. Buy him now before he has his coming out party.
BUY Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
It’s not often that you have a chance to buy an elite WR at a reduced price. But that could be the case with Fitzy. Plagued by inconsistent QB play, it’s been a frustrating start to his 2010 season. He’s yet to top 100 yards in a game, and he’s scored only twice. Fitzgerald currently ranks outside the top-30 fantasy WRs. Not what his owners were looking for when they spent a 2nd-round pick on him. But things are looking up for this perennial Pro Bowler. Rookie Max Hall is far from an elite QB, but he’s a sizeable upgrade over QB Derek Anderson. Hall is accurate, and he’s smart. At least smart enough to know that Fitzgerald is a guy who needs to get the ball. In their first full game together, Hall targeted Fitz 9 times, connecting on 7 of them for 93 yards. He’s good enough to get Fitz back into mid-level WR1 territory. The Cardinals’ remaining schedule doesn’t hurt either. Only 2 of their remaining 10 opponents rank inside the top-10 against WRs. And Fitz still has 5 games against NFC West rivals – teams he annually torches.
BUY Owen Daniels, TE, Texans
We’ve been pimping this guy in our Sunday night free agent emails for a few weeks now. And we even featured him in our Free Agent Focus this past week. But we’ll say it one more time here: Daniels is in line for a big 2nd half of the season. He’s almost one year removed from the torn ACL that ended his 2009 campaign. That’s usually when guys start to get their explosiveness back. And that looks to be the case with Daniels. He set season highs last week in targets (7), catches (5), and yards (79). He’s back to being QB Matt Schaub’s 2nd read on passing plays, behind only WR Andre Johnson. Don’t forget that Daniels was fantasy football’s #1 TE before suffering that knee injury last year. Through 7 games, he was on pace for over 1,000 yards and 10 TDs. We wouldn’t expect those kinds of the numbers the rest of this season, but he is looking like a top-10 TE. If he’s still on your waiver wire, grab him immediately. If not, see if you can pluck him away from his current owner. Houston is off this week, which will only lower the asking price.
SELL orders: These are hot or big-name players that could net you more than they are actually worth.
SELL Matt Forte, RB, Bears
He seems to be doing it with smoke and mirrors right now. Forte currently ranks 4th at RB in standard-scoring fantasy leagues. He’s compiled 582 total yards and 6 scores in the first 6 games of the 2010 season. But he’s averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. And about two-thirds of his production has come in two games against the Lions and Panthers. Those two teams rank 32nd and 23rd , respectively, in fantasy points allowed to RBs. So Forte can explode in favorable matchups. Good. But in his other 4 games against quality defenses, he’s averaged just 48 totals yards per game with 2 TDs. That’s not gonna get it done. Unfortunately for Forte and his owners, the rest of the schedule is tough sledding. He does still have 3 games remaining against bottom-8 defenses, but he also has 4 games against top-5 units, and 2 other games against the 9th and 11th-ranked units. His production will continue to be spotty, and that makes Forte more of a RB2 despite his standing as a top-5 back through 6 weeks. Play up that ranking to the other owners in your league and see if you can get a true RB1 like Rashard Mendenhall or even Michael Turner in exchange for Forte.
SELL Michael Bush, RB, Raiders
“51 touches over the past two games. He’s a workhorse!” That’s what you should be telling the other owners in your league when attempting to sell high on Bush. With RB Darren McFadden out with a hamstring injury the past 2 games, the Raiders have leaned heavily on Bush. But he’s averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in those contests. While he’s a solid between-the-tackles runner, Bush just doesn’t bring the explosion and big-play ability that McFadden does. And with McFadden set to return this week, Bush is about to be relegated back to a short-yardage and goal line role. He still has value, but not as much as some other owners in your league are bound to think he has. Find them, and then sell Bush at his peak value.
SELL Wes Welker, WR, Patriots
Like it or not, Welker isn’t a #1 WR at the NFL level. He’s a cat-quick, precision route-runner with ultra-reliable hands. But he doesn’t have the size or physicality to dominate games as his team’s #1 option in the passing game. He’s a good receiver, but Randy Moss made him a great receiver. With Moss out of town, Welker’s arrow is pointing down. His performance against the Ravens last Sunday is about what we can expect from him going forward: 11 targets, 7 catches, 53 yards. Nothing wrong with that, especially in PPR leagues. Welker is still going to see plenty of targets. And he’ll catch 5-7 balls per game. But his yards-per-catch average is going to take a hit without Moss around to stretch the field vertically. Further cutting into Welker’s upside is the addition of Tom Brady’s BFF Deion Branch. In his first game with the Patriots in over 3 years, Branch stepped right in and led the team with 12 targets this past Sunday. Consider Welker and Branch the 1A and 1B receivers in New England. Add it all up and Welker looks like just a mid-level WR2 the rest of the way. If you can sell him off at a higher price than that, pull the trigger.
SELL Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs
Bowe has come alive in recent weeks. He posted 61 yards and a score back in Week 3, and then exploded for 108 yards and 2 TDs this past Sunday. Of course, astute owners won’t easily forget his drop-filled performance against the Colts in between those two big outings. Bowe can be dominant when he wants to be. But like so many WRs, he’s an erratic player. And he’s also playing on a run-first offense with a mediocre QB. Not a recipe for fantasy success. Bowe has another lip-smacking matchup this coming Sunday against the Jaguars. But after that, he faces just one more bottom-10 pass defense the rest of the season. Hope for another big game this weekend, and then sell off this inconsistent underachiever to the highest bidder.
SELL Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys
To paraphrase the great Dennis Green, “Roy Williams is who we thought he was!” Sort of. Citing his physicality, athleticism, and Dallas’ elite passing game, we tabbed Williams as our 2009 Comeback Player of the Year. He responded with an oh-so-frustrating 596-yard, 7-TD campaign. He struggled with drops and never looked to be in sync with Tony Romo. But Williams looks like a new man so far in 2010. He’s held off stud rookie Dez Bryant for the #2 WR role and has racked up a team-leading 5 TDs through 6 games. That has him ranked 12th among WRs in standard-scoring leagues. But he’s really relying on those TDs. Williams has just 31 targets (46th among WRs), 21 catches (32nd), and 306 yards (29th). Pretty mediocre. If those TDs stop coming, so will the fantasy points. And then there’s that Dez Bryant guy. Rib and ankle injuries have led to a slow start to his rookie season. But he’s finally healthy now and scored his first career TD last weekend. His role in the offense will continue to grow at the expense of Williams. We still wouldn’t be surprised to see Dez in the starting lineup by season’s end. As much as we want to believe that Williams’ resurgence is real – and to an extent, it is – we still can’t endorse him as anything more than a WR3.
SELL Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings
Shank has become an afterthought since the Vikings added Randy Moss. After being targeted 6 times per game pre-Moss, he’s seen just 7 total looks in the 2 games since The Freak arrived in Minnesota. Shiancoe has never been a big yardage guy. He’s even less of one now. But the bigger problem is that he used to be the Vikings’ top target in the red zone. Moss has taken over that role. Shiancoe hasn’t seen a single red zone target the last 2 games. Without his TD-scoring prowess, Shank has been reduced to a fantasy backup. If an owner in your league still believes he’s starter material, get what you can for him.
HOLD orders: These players might or might not be performing, but you should keep them rostered unless your squad needs fresh names.
HOLD Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
We knew the offensive line would be a problem this year. We just didn’t know it’d be this big of a problem. Cutler has been sacked a whopping 23 times in 4-and-a-half games. That works out to a stupefying 82 sacks over a full 16-game season. To put that in perspective, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger were tied for the league-high in sacks last season with 50. But even with the offensive line struggles, Cutler is producing solid numbers. In his 4 full games, he’s averaged 22.6 fantasy points per game. That ranks him 8th at his position. While we have our doubts that his protection will improve much, it can’t get any worse! And we’re betting that offensive mastermind Mike Martz makes some adjustments to mask the poor offensive line play. Plus, Cutler’s schedule the rest of the way is favorable. He has 4 more games against bottom-8 defenses against QBs, and only 2 more games against top-8 units. If he can stay healthy – which, admittedly, is far from a given – we’re still looking at a rock-solid top-10 QB here.
HOLD Matt Stafford, QB, Lions
If he’s already rostered in your league, his owner isn’t about to give him away after waiting for him to return the past 5 weeks. But if you’ve hung on to him that whole time, your patience is about to pay off. Stafford started throwing again about a week-and-a-half ago. He served as the emergency 3rd QB this past Sunday and almost entered the game after QB Shaun Hill broke his forearm. The coaching staff opted to keep Stafford on the sidelines, but it’s a sign that his shoulder is almost back to 100%. Detroit is off this week, but Stafford is expected to be ready when they return to face the Redskins in Week 8. "That's our plan. That's our hope," HC Jim Schwartz said. "But we still have a long ways to go there." Stafford has taken part in all throwing drills this week and should be ready to man the 1st-team offense in preparation for Week 8. He’ll return to the lineup with loads of upside. Through 6 weeks, the Lions rank 6th in passing offense, averaging 259 yards per game. And that’s with Shaun Hill at the helm. It’s safe to say that this passing game will be even better with Stafford back under center. With Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, and Tony Scheffler all playing at a high level, Stafford will have all sorts of weapons to work with. He has top-10 potential in the season’s 2nd half.
HOLD Michael Turner, RB, Falcons
Turner almost made the buy list. We’ve received countless emails from DS members ready to cut bait with this guy for pennies on the dollar. Don’t. It’s been a rough start to the year for The Burner. A groin injury knocked him out for half a game, his yards-per-carry average is down over half a yard from 2009, and he’s scored just one TD. That last number is the most surprising. In his first 2 seasons with the Falcons, Turner scored 27 TDs in 27 games. While he won’t reach that TD-per-game pace in 2010, we wouldn’t be shocked to see him score 9 times in his final 9 games this year. Turner is still getting plenty of chances around the goal line. He’s 3rd in the league with 20 red zone rushes. He’ll start capitalizing on those looks. If you own Turner, hang on to him. And if you don’t, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to at least contact his owner and see what it’d take to trade for him. This is still a top-10 back in non-PPR leagues.
HOLD Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders
His owner is likely patiently waiting for McFadden’s return to action, so you probably won’t be able to get him on the cheap. But if he’s already on your roster, hang on tight. McFadden has proved once again that he’s an injury waiting to happen. He’s missed the past 2 games with a pesky hamstring injury. But McFadden has also proved this season that he’s capable of being an every-down NFL runner. Running with much more authority, he’s averaging a solid 4.6 yards per carry in 2010. In his absence these last 2 weeks, RB Michael Bush had an opportunity to reclaim the starting job. But a 3.3 yards-per-carry average in those contests won’t get it done. McFadden is expected back for Week 7. And while he may be limited in his return to action, it won’t be long before he’s the lead back in this offense once again.
HOLD Austin Collie, WR, Colts
A blazing start had his stock sky-high. But Collie’s market value is back to where it should be now. He’s totaled “just” 17 catches for 144 yards and 2 TDs the past 3 weeks – well off the pace he set in his first 3 games. A healthy Pierre Garcon has re-established himself as Indianapolis’ #2 WR. But it won’t hurt Collie’s value too much. While Garcon works intermediate and deep routes, Collie’s specialty is the short, underneath stuff. And with TE Dallas Clark (wrist, hand) out indefinitely, Collie’s role in that aspect of the passing game is set to grow. He’s not a top-20 WR – but hopefully you never thought of him as one. Hang on to him as an elite WR3, and you’ll be more than happy with his production the rest of the way.