by Cecil Taylor
BUY orders: These are players you could obtain through a reasonable trade given their relatively low perceived fantasy value.
BUY: Ray Lewis, LB, Ravens
Move quickly on this one, because Lewis is about to break out. Lewis owners have to be wondering whether he’s finally over the hill. His fantasy numbers are down, and the Ravens defense has been shredded by rushers recently. But it’s hard to imagine that this prideful LB is done yet. In fact, he’s about to get well against one of his favorite targets, Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall. No, Lewis won’t become a #1 LB again, but he hasn’t been one for a few years now. Dangle some hot DB or an up-and-coming LB and see if you can get a bite.
BUY: Nick Collins, DB, Packers
Maybe he just likes cooler weather, but Collins is a slow starter who heats up in the chill of a Wisconsin November. The numbers are compelling. Since 2005, Collins has 4 INTs in the first half of seasons (3 in 2008 alone), with 12 INTs in the second half of the schedule. It may be a little early to nab him, but armed with this knowledge, perhaps you can sock him away on your roster and wait for the monthly calendar to turn once more.
BUY: Nick Barnett, LB, Packers
Yet another notoriously slow-starting Packer. Barnett’s value is really in the toilet after posting a lone tackle against the Bears. This is about the time of year that Barnett cranks it up. He’s another LB that might be overrated by many and hence will be frustrating to his owner right now. Make an offer that fits a #3 LB or put him in a package deal where he looks like a throw-in to the owner.
BUY: Justin Smith, DL, 49ers
We don’t know why this is, but we’ll just say that it’s true: Sometimes D-linemen just take awhile to get going. We hear it every year from owners who start panicking because that sack artist isn’t producing. If they get impatient, they regret it, because after a month or so, things are back to normal. Smith happens to be one of the steadiest #2 DL you can find, year after year. Go find his restless owner and make a deal.
BUY: Oshiomogho Atogwe, DB, Rams
His thigh is nicked up right now, but you can wait, can’t you? After a sparkling Week 1, Atogwe’s numbers the last 2 weeks have been pedestrian. But wait – Atogwe was on his way to a double-digit performance in Week 3 when he got hurt. It may sound amazing that an owner would give up early on a player who is one of the steadiest DBs around, but we saw him get waived off a roster just this week. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
SELL orders: These are hot or big-name players that could net you more than they are actually worth.
SELL: Lofa Tatupu, LB, Seahawks
Maybe you can sell him on name recognition, but if you own him, you probably bought him on name recognition. Tatupu hasn’t been a desirable #2 LB since his first couple of seasons. This year is typical: a handful of tackles and no big plays. Look for an owner that needs a LB desperately (maybe D’Qwell Jackson’s IR status has shaken him up), and deal for another position.
SELL: James Farrior, LB, Steelers
Don’t expect too much, since he’s 35 years old. But this might be the perfect time to deal this rapidly declining veteran. Baltimore usually brings out the best in the Steelers, so he might post decent numbers this week for a change. Farrior’s mediocre performance, combined with extra snaps for Larry Foote of late, means it’s time to deal him. As with Tatupu, your best bet is an owner desperate for a proven LB starter – or someone with bye week issues at LB.
SELL: Jason Allen, DB, Dolphins
Allen has been infamous as a first-round bust for years, but his recent success may stir up renewed interest. Let me ask you: Have you seen him play? Yes, Allen is posting nice fantasy numbers, but he’s about to get his hip pads benched with his goofball performance. Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time. Send Allen packing from your roster before the other owner finds him out.
SELL: Ndamukong Suh, DL, Lions
Swallow hard, buddy, because if Suh is on your roster, you probably have tremendous faith in him and overpaid for him on draft day. Now, if you’re in a dynasty league or a league that mandates DTs, ignore the rest of this paragraph. Otherwise, let’s look at the odds of a DT setting a torrid pace in IDP. Let us shortcut this – ain’t gonna happen unless he’s the second coming of Warren Sapp. Even Sapp posted a weak 3 sacks as a rookie before averaging 11 over the next 5 seasons. Sell high – you can get a lot for a man named Suh.
SELL: T.J. Ward, DB, Browns
Another fast-starting rookie that’s likely to be crashing. Ward cleaned up on tackles in the first 2 games, but his fantasy points were sliced in half by the insertion of Barton into the starting lineup. With weak ILB play in front of him, Ward was a fantasy star. That’s probably going to stop now that Barton has settled the position. Hot rookies are often in high demand. So demand a nice exchange 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: Julius Peppers, DL, Bears
Remember rule #1 about IDP free agents: It usually takes about a half-season for them to settle in and start performing well in fantasy football. Peppers is no exception, although his rousing play in Week 3 could be a harbinger of a breakout streak like Peppers pieces together at times. If Peppers keeps up his high-motor effort (certainly no gimme), he could still reach double-digit sacks in 2010.
HOLD: Kirk Morrison, LB, Jaguars
Refer to rule #1 above once more. Yes, Morrison is off to one of the coldest starts of his career. He hasn’t even exceeded 5 points in standard tackle leagues. But his track record is too solid, and there’s frankly few others to make tackles on this woeful defense – I mean, somebody has to do it. Morrison will get settled in, but no doubt, it’s hard to wait. In Shallow leagues, it’s time to let him go, but in other leagues, hold on.
HOLD: Justin Tuck, DL, Giants
Don’t fret that Tuck is without a sack so far. He’s still contributing to your defensive point totals by scoring against the run. In fact, Tuck is averaging 6 points per game in standard tackle leagues, which makes him a top-10 DL in those formats. Now, something you can fret about is Tuck’s sore shoulder. Remember that a 2009 shoulder injury dropped him to a half-dozen sacks from his normal double digits. If Tuck’s sackless streak continues, say, throughout October, then you’ll have to see what you can get for him.
HOLD: Michael Griffin, DB, Titans
The 2008 Griffin was an ascending star. The 2009 Griffin was a fantasy nightmare. It turns out his off-the-field, personal life was also a nightmare, and it carried over onto the field. Now the 2010 Griffin is rocketing up the DB charts. Trust it. Griffin is picking up where he left off in 2008, which was very good.
HOLD: All Panther starting LBs
Nice but not great start by Dan Connor. Not actually a bad start by Jon Beason, but we were expecting more. Phenomenal start by James Anderson, even after shifting from WLB to SLB. That’s the unbelievable part. So what do you do? Ride them all a little longer. It’s hard to recommend dumping Anderson when he’s averaging double-digits per game, but get ready to trade him after he dips for a couple of games. Beason is sure to adjust eventually to WLB and start posting better stats. Then there’s Connor, who may not be Barrett Ruud, but by year-end could emulate his stats. Keep an eye on all of them and continue starting them