by Jared Smola
BUY orders: These are players you could obtain through a reasonable trade given their relatively low perceived fantasy value.
BUY Vince Young, QB, Titans
Young’s 2010 season has been marred by injury. He sprained his ankle and knee in Week 6, was held out Week 7, and then reinjured that ankle in Week 8. But when he’s been on the field, VY has been pretty damn good. He’s completed 59% of his passes with 9 TDs and just 2 INTs. His 103.1 QB rating is 2nd-best in the entire league. Of course, very few leagues reward fantasy points for a solid QB rating. In Tennessee’s run-first offense, Young has thrown for just 998 yards and ranks 28th in fantasy points at his position. But we like VY as a productive half of a QB-by-committee the rest of the year. The addition of WR Randy Moss is obviously a boon to Young’s value. If motivated – and we think he will be – Moss is still one of the most dangerous players in the league. And he’s a perfect fit in the Titans’ vertical passing attack. But perhaps even better news for Young’s outlook is his schedule. 4 of Young’s final 8 games come against teams in the bottom-4 in fantasy points allowed to QBs. And he won’t face another top-10 defense all year. Only the Giants have an easier schedule against QBs the rest of the way. Young is still getting over that last ankle injury, but he has a good chance to play this Sunday. Snag VY and use him as a rock-solid fantasy starter in those favorable matchups.
BUY Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins
Brown has done very little to incite optimism. But that’s exactly why this is a perfect time to buy low. Brown hasn’t topped 80 rushing yards in a game all season, and he’s only found the end zone twice. But he showed flashes of his Pro Bowl ability against Baltimore last week, popping in a 12-yard score and averaging a season-best 6.6 yards per carry. He’s now a year removed from last season’s Lisfranc fracture and could be ready to close out 2010 with a bang. RB Ricky Williams is steadily fading out of the Dolphins offense. He carried just 2 times last Sunday. We expect Brown to emerge as the clear lead back the rest of the way. And with the move to Chad Pennington at QB, Miami’s offense figures to be even more run-heavy. We might even see the return of the Wildcat – a formation Brown has dominated from in the past. The cherry on top: the Fins still have 3 games against bottom-5 defenses against RBs. Look for Ronnie to post consistent RB2 numbers the rest of the season.
BUY Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos
A hamstring injury has hamstrung Moreno all season. He tore it in early August, and even though he was active for Week 1, he clearly wasn’t at 100%. Then he re-injured the hammy in a pre-Week 3 practice and missed the next 3 contests. Moreno returned for Week 6 and posted a middling 197 total yards and 2 scores in 3 games leading up to Denver’s bye week. But it sounds like that week off has done wonders for Moreno. On Tuesday, HC Josh McDaniels declared Moreno healthier than he’s been all season. And that remark comes on the heels of McDaniels calling Knowshon a 3-down back. The former 12th overall pick may finally be ready to cash in on that potential. If Denver truly commits to getting this guy 20 touches per game, Moreno should post top-20 numbers the rest of the way. He faces just one more top-14 defense against RBs the rest of the way, and still has two games against teams in the bottom-5. The Moreno owner in your league could be ready to give him up for pennies on the dollar. Hit ‘em up.
BUY Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys
We featured him in our Week 9 Free Agent Focus, but we’ll highlight his upside one more time here. At 1-7 and with a new HC, the Cowboys are about to enter full shake-up mode. RBs Felix Jones and Marion Barber have both failed to get Dallas’ running game going. That leaves Choice, who has been dynamite in limited opportunities over the past 3 seasons. He’s currently sporting a career 5.1 yards-per-carry average. And the only time he’s gotten a chance as the feature back – a 4-game stretch at the end of the 2008 season – Choice tallied 488 total yards and 2 scores. He’s not as powerful as Barber, and he’s not as explosive as Jones, but Choice may just be the best RB of the bunch. At the very least, it’s time for the Cowboys to find out whether or not that’s true. Choice is a free-agent in over 95% of ESPN leagues. If you have room on the end of your bench, add him. There aren’t many guys on the waiver wire with more upside.
BUY Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens
Boldin’s coming off a 2-catch, 28-yard clunker. This could be a chance to swoop in and acquire a top-10 WR. Q is having an excellent season in his first go-around with the Ravens. In fact, last Sunday’s game was just his 2nd all year with 4 or fewer catches. Boldin currently ranks 13th among WRs in fantasy points. And we think he’ll be even better in the season’s 2nd half. Baltimore’s passing game is really starting to hit its stride. QB Joe Flacco is on fire, tossing 7 TDs and no INTs in his last 3 games. And the Ravens just added a key piece to the puzzle in WR Donte Stallworth. His deep speed should really open things up for Boldin underneath, where he can use his dominant run-after-the-catch ability. And Baltimore’s schedule is pretty tasty the rest of the way. Outside of games against Carolina’s 3rd-ranked defense against WRs and New Orleans’ top-ranked unit, Boldin’s other 6 games are all against teams in the bottom half of the league. And 3 of his remaining opponents rank 25th or worse. With 8 games in the Ravens offense under his belt, Boldin should really be starting to feel comfortable in the scheme and with QB Joe Flacco. His arrow is pointing up.
BUY Tony Moeaki, TE, Chiefs
The rookie is improving with every game. He set season-highs last week with 6 catches and 63 yards. But sitting just 15th in fantasy points among WRs, Moeaki can still be had for a reasonable price. A lack of TDs – he’s found the end zone just twice all year – is the main reason Moeaki is still flying under the radar. But we think the scores will start coming over the final 8 weeks for a couple of reasons. First, T-Mo is getting opportunities. He’s been targeted 4 times in the red zone – tied for 6th-most among TEs and more than guys like Zach Miller, Brent Celek, and Kellen Winslow. But it’s Moeaki’s schedule the rest of the way that really has us amped about his upside. Only 5 teams have an easier schedule against TEs over the final 8 weeks. T-Mo will face just two more teams that rank in the top half of the league against TEs, and 5 of his 8 remaining opponents rank in the bottom-10. Things are setting up for this ultra-talented rookie to finish strong.
BUY Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions
Pettigrew is sneakily smiling as the bad news continues to fly in about QB Matt Stafford’s recent shoulder injury. It looks like Stafford is done for the year, and that’s actually good news for Pettigrew’s fantasy stock. Taking over for Stafford will be QB Shaun Hill, who was absolutely locked-in on Pettigrew earlier this season. In Hill’s 5 starts earlier this season, Pettigrew racked up 32 catches for 330 yards and a score. He was the #7 fantasy TE over that span, and no TE saw more than Pettigrew’s 45 targets. We see no reason why Hill won’t once again be all over Pettigrew is his 2nd go-around as the starter. Add him to your roster as a legitimate top-10 option.
SELL orders: These are hot or big-name players that could net you more than they are actually worth.
SELL LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
We’re thinking with our heads here, not our hearts. We named McCoy our 2010 Breakout Player, and he’s definitely lived up to the billing. He’s topped 100 total yards in 5 of 8 games, and his 41 catches are tied with Jahvid Best for most among RBs. McCoy currently ranks 9th at RB in standard leagues and 6th in PPR formats. But we have a feeling the 2nd half of his season won’t be quite as rewarding. For starters, the schedule looks pretty bleak. Shady faces just one more team ranked in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed to RBs. And 3 of his final 9 opponents rank in the top-10. Only the Packers have a tougher remaining schedule against RBs. Besides a tough slate of games, McCoy’s value also takes a hit with the return of QB Mike Vick. There’s no doubt that Vick’s big arm opens up more running room for Shady. He’s averaging 5.6 yards per carry in Vick’s 4 starts. But it’s Vick’s legs that are killing McCoy. Rather than dumping it off, Vick would rather scramble. The numbers back that up. Both Vick and QB Kevin Kolb have played about 4 full games of football this season. With Kolb under center, McCoy has hauled in 26 balls. He only has 15 catches from Vick. On top of that, McCoy is losing red zone looks to Vick. After scoring 4 times in his first 2 games, Shady has found the end zone just once over the past 6 contests. He’s still going to put up rock-solid numbers the rest of the way, but McCoy’s perceived value might be a bit inflated right now. Don’t just give the guy away, but he’s not untradeable either.
SELL Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants
Based on the eye test, Bradshaw has been one of the league’s top-5 RBs this season. His vision is impeccable, he can change directions on a dime, and he breaks a ton of tackles for a guy that goes just 5’9 and 198 pounds. And the Giants have put that skill-set to good use. Through 8 games, Bradshaw has toted the rock 153 times. That puts him on pace for a 300-carry season – scary stuff for a smallish back who has dealt with all sorts of foot and ankle injuries over the past couple years. The Giants recognize this, and have already started talking about reducing Bradshaw’s workload to keep him fresh come playoff time. “Perhaps we can balance this thing out to where all of our runners can finish the season on a very high level,” HC Tom Coughlin said recently, referring to RBs Brandon Jacobs and D.J. Ware. While we can’t envision Ware playing a significant role in the backfield, Jacobs’ workload has already started to grow. Bradshaw is still the lead back in New York, but we could see the split being closer to 60-40 the rest of the way than the 70-30 divvy the team has employed through its first 8 games. That would actually increase Bradshaw’s odds of making it through the season unscathed. But it’d also put a cap on his upside. 8th among RBs in fantasy points through 9 weeks, we’re thinking Bradshaw will have trouble cracking the top-15 in the season’s 2nd half.
SELL LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets
We’ve been saying all year that LT’s 31-year-old legs would wear down sooner or later, and it looks like it’s starting to happen. After averaging 6 yards per carry in his first 4 games, Tomlinson’s average has plummeted to 3.9 in the past 4 contests. Meanwhile, youngster Shonn Greene is coming on strong. He’s popped off 4.8 yards per rush in his last 4 games. The Jets are no dummies. They’ve noticed this too and plan on limiting LT’s workload the rest of the way. A member of the Jets front office told NFL Network's Jason La Canfora that the team is planning on splitting carries evenly between RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene for the remainder of the season. At this point, our money is on Greene to be the more productive fantasy back in the 2nd half of the season. Sell Tomlinson – and buy Greene – before the Jets take on the Browns this Sunday.
SELL Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs
This poor guy just keeps showing up on our SELL list. We keep dissing him, and he just keeps on scoring. Bowe has now hit paydirt 6 times in his last 4 games. And he’s compiled a respectable 268 yards over that span. But consider the opponents Bowe has accomplished this against: Houston’s 31st-ranked defense against WRs; Jacksonville’s 32nd-ranked unit; a Bills pass defense that only ranks 4th against WRs because they can’t stop the run; and a Nnamdi Asomugha-less Raiders secondary. So once again, we’re going to recommend selling high on Bowe. The schedule gets pretty brutal the rest of the way, starting this Sunday against Broncos All-World CB Champ Bailey. After that, Bowe draws just one more bottom-8 defense, compared to 3 more games against top-8 units. This is still a run-first offense, Kansas City’s QB is still Matt Cassel, and Bowe is still a flaky character. We’d get rid of him while the going’s good.
SELL Steve Smith, WR, Panthers
Two words: Jimmy Clausen. QB Matt Moore – as mediocre as he is – was keeping Smith’s WR2 value afloat. Clausen would give anything to be called mediocre. Because he’s been downright awful this season. In a little over 3 games of work, he’s completed just 47% of his passes with 1 TD and 4 INTs. And he’s shown absolutely no ability to get the ball to Smith. In the two games in which both guys have been in the starting lineup, Smith has managed just 5 catches for 33 yards. Granted, that’s a small sample size. But we can’t see Smith producing as anything more than a low-end WR3 the rest of the way. His name value alone should net you more than that in a trade.
HOLD orders: These players might or might not be performing, but you should keep them rostered unless your squad needs fresh names.
HOLD Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
If Johnson and QB Matt Stafford can ever make it through a full 16-game season together, the results will be absolutely explosive. Stafford’s big arm and gunslinger mentality are a perfect fit for Johnson’s freakish downfield ability. Unfortunately, both guys have proven injury-prone early on in their careers. Stafford is the culprit this season. He missed Weeks 2 through 6 with a separated shoulder and is now likely to miss the remainder of the year with an even more serious shoulder injury. That forces QB Shaun Hill back into the starting lineup. But we’ve already seen this season that Johnson can produce with Hill under center. In his 5 starts, Johnson totaled 392 yards and 5 TDs. Hill doesn’t have Stafford’s other-worldly skill-set, but he’s a capable QB. And he’s knows who the money-maker is. Hill targeted Johnson 46 time in their 5 games together. Megatron will be fine without Stafford. Hang on to him.
HOLD Randy Moss, WR, Titans
Coach-bashing, caterer-cursing, and the usual “I’ll play when I wanna play” attitude. What a tumultuous season it’s been for Moss. But if you’re still hanging on to him, might as well let the rest of the season play out. We think the worst may be over. Tennessee is a good fit for Moss. From a football standpoint, he should excel in OC Mike Heimerdinger’s vertical passing game. Both QB Vince Young and QB Kerry Collins are capable of getting him the ball downfield. And with RB Chris Johnson lurking in the backfield, Moss may actually see single coverage every once in awhile. Perhaps more importantly, Tennessee is a good fit for Moss from a personality standpoint. HC Jeff Fisher is a no-nonsense coach who always has control of his locker room. And the Titans are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, which should keep Moss interested. There are a bit too many variables here for us to issue a BUY order on Moss. But he’s definitely worth hanging on to if you’ve made it this far with him.
HOLD Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins
Miami’s QB switch from Chad Henne to Chad Pennington seems a bit panicky. They’re going from a talented – if inconsistent – developing QB to a 34-year-old who has undergone 3 surgeries on his throwing arm. Long-term, this franchise is taking a step back. But in the short-term, Pennington could very well improve this passing attack. What he lacks in arm strength he makes up for with his uncanny accuracy. That makes him a good fit for Marshall, who does most of his damage after-the-catch, rather than on long bombs. Remember that B-Marsh racked up 1,120 yards and 10 scores in Denver last season with weak-armed Kyle Orton at the helm. This guy has the skill-set to produce regardless of his QB situation. And perhaps most importantly, Pennington’s accuracy should help the Dolphins’ red-zone offense, which has been abysmal thus far. Marshall has scored just 1 TD through 8 games, but you gotta figure he’ll start finding the end zone with some regularity in the season’s 2nd half. Miami will likely pass less with Pennington at the controls, but Marshall’s numbers should remain unscathed.
HOLD Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers
The injuries are really starting to pile up. The most serious is that torn plantar fascia. But on top of that, Gates is also dealing with turf toe and a sprained ankle. You know he’s really struggling because he missed his first game due to injury in 8 NFL seasons on this past Sunday. He’s not going to get back to 100% this year, but he should be closer after the team’s Week 10 bye. And there are very few players in this league that are better playing through injuries than Gates. Prior to missing that Week 9 game, he tallied 173 yards and 2 scores in his previous 2 contests – all while playing through those toe and ankle injuries. Despite the maladies, Gates is still the top fantasy option at TE the rest of the way. Keep rolling with him.