IS IT TIME TO CUT BAIT WITH MICHAEL VICK ALREADY? DAN TAKES A HARD LOOK AROUND THE NFL IN WEEK 4 START HIM! SIT HIM!
Three weeks of the NFL season are in the books and it’s time to start giving more credence to what we have seen in the 2011 NFL season than what we saw in the 2010 NFL season. Just because the names on the back of the jerseys are the same as they were last year doesn’t mean the players are the same.
Some players start to speed up, while others begin to slow down. It happens every year, but you have to know when to start trusting what you see and when to forget what you thought you knew.
In the world of fantasy football, the person who can most quickly identify players who are better than people expected, or worse than people expected, is destined for success. In an ideal world, you would be able to do this before your draft, but that’s not always easy.
For instance, if you predicted that after Week 3 Fred Jackson and Ben Tate would each have more rushing yards than Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte combined; chances are your fantasy season is off to a good start.
But if your crystal ball was broken on draft day you have to adapt. You have to accept that some guys aren’t going to be as good as you projected, and some guys are going to be better than you expected.
If you swallow your pride and admit that you made a mistake on draft day with a guy who looks older and slower than he did last year, you may still be able to capitalize on his name-value and trade him to someone who hasn’t caught on yet.
One obvious example would be Patriots WR Chad Ochocinco. He has looked completely lost this season and may not be on New England’s roster for long. He was rotated in as an occasional third receiver this past Sunday against the Bills and may have worked himself out of the rotation altogether with his monumental third-down drop of a sure TD in the fourth quarter.
If someone in your league believes he’s going to turn things around “once he figures out the offense,” trade him to them. Do it now. Seriously, I’ll wait. Go propose a trade involving Ochocinco to them for a bag of air if you have to, because he does not belong on your fantasy team.
(… still waiting…)
OK, good. Hopefully someone takes him off of your hands, but if not, just cut him, as he has no value.
Now, Ochocinco went from having minimal value to having no value. Other players have gone from having a great deal of value to now having considerably less. The key is to identify guys who are just not as good as you thought they were and get something of value for them before other owners catch on.
I’m going to list some players below whose value is on the decline, and who you should consider trading away as soon as possible:
QB Michael Vick - Philadelphia Eagles
This question from BackSportsPage reader Josh:
"Dan, I overpaid for Vick in an auction league and he hasn't done anything for me this year. My roster has suffered because of the over-spending and I am in dead last after winning last year. Should I hold on to him or try to get some value to bolster my roster? He doesn't seem to be able to finish a game and the Eagles' new plan to make him a pocket-passer is killing his rushing stats, while getting him killed in the process. Thanks."
Josh is dead-on with his assessment of Vick so far. He simply hasn’t been the same guy since early December 2010 that he was in the six games prior. He can’t handle the blitz and for some reason the Eagles refuse to max-protect for him; instead they insist that if he stays in the pocket he won’t get hurt.
Well, one concussion and one hand “contusion” later and I think it’s time to change course—both for the Eagles and for Vick’s owners.
Through the first three weeks of the season, here is a list of some of the QBs who have more fantasy points than Vick: Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chad Henne, Mark Sanchez, Matt Hasselbeck, Jason Campbell and Rex Grossman. Ouch.
Still, this is only Week 4, and he still has time to turn it around. However, I wouldn’t bet the rest of my fantasy season on it if I didn’t have to. The good news for Josh and other Vick owners is that he still has enough name-value to warrant a hefty return.
I’d say if you can get a QB like Cam Newton, Matt Schaub, Josh Freeman or Joe Flacco plus an RB2 you've gotten a great haul for him. If you just want a QB you can feel more confident in then maybe even see if you can get a fellow oft-injured starter like Tony Romo or Matt Stafford; both of whom I think are better bets for the remainder of the season.
RB Rashard Mendenhall – Pittsburgh Steelers
He couldn’t even put up respectable numbers against a Colts defense that had been gashed by Ben Tate and Peyton Hillis for a combined 210 yards and three TDs in the first two weeks of the season. To be fair, it isn’t all Mendnhall’s fault, as the Steelers’ offensive line has been decimated by injury for the second straight year.
However, it isn’t a situation that figures to get much better as the season progresses. The time to trade Mendenhall is now, as his ugly 3.0 yards-per-carry average isn’t going to get much better until the Steelers’ offensive line does.
Sadly, that won’t happen until 2012 at the earliest.
RB Shonn Greene – New York Jets
He just isn’t that good. The Jets give him plenty of opportunities, but he hasn’t done anything with them. A measly 3.3 yards-per-carry and one TD through three weeks on a team that depends on its ground game isn’t going to cut it for Greene.
He has been outplayed by LaDainian Tomlinson thus far and may lose his job to him for the second consecutive year. If someone in your league thinks he is going to turn things around you should happily trade him for just about any starting RB at this point.
RB Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans
It’s not that I believe Johnson is going to continue to rush for under 33 yards per game for the rest of the year—it’s just that he doesn’t have the same burst he had in years past. CJ2K can still turn things around and have a solid year, but he looks a little slow after missing time during the holdout.
He’s a prime example of someone you can trade with name value, however, and if I could get a guy like Darren McFadden for him I would do it in a second.
WR Reggie Wayne – Indianapolis Colts
I basically said my piece on him in last week’s SIT HIM! segment, but he needs to be mentioned again. No, it isn’t all his fault, but he still looks a little old out there.
Obviously, going from Peyton Manning’s perfectly thrown balls to having Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins’ all-over-the-place balls doesn’t help, but Wayne is past his prime. If you can get an under-the-radar player like the Packers’ Jordy Nelson for him, you would be wise to do so.
WR Dwayne Bowe – Kansas City Chiefs
When you only have one player on the offensive side of the ball that can even reasonably be called “a playmaker,” it’s tough to get open. When that player has Matt Cassel blindly lobbing balls into the secondary in their general direction when they are triple-covered, it’s even tougher to make an impact on the game.
Bowe remains a WR3 because he will still catch some of the only TDs Kansas City scores this season, but if you can get a WR2 like Julio Jones you will have done well.
TE Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers
My how the mighty have fallen. Just last year Gates caught 10 TD passes in only 10 games played. However, his injured foot looks as though it may never be the same, which will continue to rob Gates of what always made him special as a pass-catching tight end—his explosiveness.
If you could coerce someone into your league into trading Jimmy Graham of the Saints for Gates you should do back flips on your way to the computer to hit “Accept.”
Now, before we get into this week’s START HIM! SIT HIM!, it’s time to look back at last week’s picks and see how I did:
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - Projected * 335 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT (23 Points)
Actual * 369 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs (18 Points)
Ryan Fitzpatrick, ladies and gentlemen! He out-Tom Brady’d Tom Brady! Arguably one of Harvard’s 1,000 most famous alums put on an absolute clinic in a dramatic, come-from-behind victory against the Patriots. Kudos to Fitzpatrick on a performance for the ages; and excuse me as I purchase my boarding pass for the Bills bandwagon.
From a fantasy standpoint, this goes as a win. However, I was dangerously close to getting this pick exact, if it weren’t for Fred Jackson getting pulled down at the six-inch line, he would have had those three TDs I predicted, though 18 points from a waiver-wire QB is still very good.
RB Dexter McCluster – Projected * 96 yards rushing/receiving, 1 TD (15 Points)
Actual * 62 yards rushing/receiving, 0 TD (6 Points)
Allow me to officially declare that no Kansas City Chief will be in the START HIM! section for the remainder of 2011. They are just awful. McCluster didn’t play a terrible game, but couldn’t find the end zone.
Not many Chiefs do these days, and that is why not many of them belong in your fantasy lineup. Dwayne Bowe? Sure. Every other Chief? Let’s hope not.
Deion Branch – Projected * 111 yards, 2 TDs (23 Points)
Actual * 0 yards, 0 TDs (0 Points)
It’s safe to say I won’t be bouncing my grandkids on my lap bragging about this pick. How in a game where there were 65 points and 756 yards through the air does Tom Brady’s “favorite receiver” get blanked? I have absolutely no idea, but we can safely file this one away as a loss.
Branch was targeted just three times and failed to record a catch despite catching 15 balls for 222 yards in the first two weeks of the season. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I’m not sure I would believe it, but I did, and sadly, I do.
TE Scott Chandler – Projected * 88 yards, 1 TD (14 Points)
Actual * 10 Yards, 1 TD (7 Points)
How to grade this one? Well, on one hand he did have the TD I projected, but obviously fell far short in the yardage department. He also had a nearly identical game to my TE in the SIT HIM! category (Tony Gonzalez – 18 yards, 1 TD, 7 Points) but I’m a tough grader, so I’m going to have to label this one as a loss.
Detroit Lions Defense – Projection * 13 Points allowed, 5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 Fumble (14 Points)
Actual * 23 Points allowed, 4 sacks, 0 INT, 0 Fumbles (5 Points)
A perfect example of where fantasy football doesn’t really tell the full story of real football. The Lions held the Vikings to just 189 yards passing and limited Adrian Peterson to just 78 yards rushing, but failed to cause a turnover in the game. Still, it’s all about the stats, and they fell short, so this one goes as a loss.
QB Matt Ryan – Projection * 215 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (10 Points)
Actual * 330 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 2 Fumbles (11 Points)
Not the best day for Matty Ice. He had three turnovers and really only looked very sloppy—especially in the first half. Better days are ahead for Ryan and the Falcons, but this game goes as a loss for them and a win for me.
RB Steven Jackson – Projection * 57 yards, 0 TDs (5 Points)
Actual * 23 yards, 0 TDs (2 Points)
I also said to sit Jackson’s backup Cadillac Williams if you were contemplating starting him because of Baltimore’s stout run defense. Williams ran it 18 times for 75 yards, but failed to reach the end zone either. Let this serve as evidence that you shouldn’t start injured or average running backs against the Ravens going forward.
WR Reggie Wayne – Projected * 37 yards, 0 TDs (3 Points)
Actual * 24 yards (2 Points)
Hard to believe I was actually bullish in my projection for Wayne, but that turned out to be the case. His decline looks pretty steep, and as I said above, you probably want to move him if you can. This figures to be an ugly season without No. 18 under center for the Colts.
TE Tony Gonzalez – Projected * 63 yards, 0 TDs (6 Points)
Actual * 18 yards, 1 TD (7 Points)
My reasoning for sitting Gonzalez was that, although he was coming off of a monster game against the Eagles, he hadn’t found the end zone against Tampa in any of his previous four games against them since becoming a member of the Falcons in 2009. Well, he found the end zone Sunday, but found little else as the Bucs held Gonzalez to just two catches on the game.
The point was that you could find someone else to put the same numbers as Gonzalez on your waiver wire. Since Gonzalez is owned in nearly 100 percent of leagues and Scott Chandler is owned in under 50 percent, I think it was a valid point, thus giving me the win here.
New Orleans Saints Defense – Projected * 30 points allowed, 2 Sacks, 1 INT, 0 Fumbles (2 Points)
Actual * 33 Points allowed, 2 Sacks, 1 INT, 0 Fumbles (2 Points)
Hey, when you’re right, you’re right.
Expect there to be more than a few shootouts in the Superdome this year, but the Saints still have enough playmakers on defense to score some points without their high-powered offense. Don’t drop the Saints defense, but I hope you sat them last week.
After a 7-3 week in Week 2, I went 6-4 in Week 3. Strangely enough—every player I said to SIT! last week should have been sat, and the only player I said to START! that should have been started was… Harvard’s 963rd most famous alum, Ryan Fitzpatrick!
On to Week 4:
QB Jason Campbell – Projected * 289 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT (21 Points)
New rule: In order to be considered a good defense, you have to play at least one good game. New England has been absolutely gutted this year through the air; a trend that seems likely to continue this year when they travel to Oakland to face the suddenly explosive Raiders’ offense.
New England has also been terrible in slowing down screen-plays—something that will give them fits against Darren McFadden—and their secondary hasn’t been able to cover anyone all season. Look for big days from the Raiders’ receivers, and an especially big game from Campbell.
QB Joe Flacco – Projected * 159 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (8 Points)
In one of the more intriguing matchups of the weekend the Jets travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens. The Jets boast the league's best secondary, but a suddenly very questionable run defense after Darren McFadden exposed them in Oakland this past Sunday. Look for the Ravens to run Ray Rice at the Jets, but struggle through the air.
It’s all about matchups, and the only advantage the Ravens have on offense in this one is on the ground, so stay away from Flacco if you can.
RB Michael Bush – Projected * 56 yards, 1 TD (11 Points)
Yup, I’m recommending you start Darren McFadden’s backups against the Patriots’ defense. That’s how bad they have looked.
Last week, McFadden was a bit banged up, which gave Bush a little more work than usual and resulted in him scoring. The reason I think he will be a good play this week is because McFadden still isn’t 100 percent, and Bush still gets goal line carries.
Also, with the two Patriots’ massive DTs, Albert Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork, Bush is the guy the Raiders probably want powering against those two. He’s bigger, stronger and can probably move the pile at the 1-yard line, which McFadden may not be able to.
Bottom line: Bush is a great flex-play this week.
RB Shonn Greene – Projected * 44 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Greene hasn’t even rushed for 60 yards in a game yet, nor has he scored more than 10 fantasy points in any week. It’s time to consider benching him until he figures it out, or is passed on the depth chart by Tomlinson again.
This week he has no business in your lineup. Going against a rock-solid Baltimore run defense Greene has very little upside, and his value is probably capped at 10 points even if he scores in this one. Put him on your bench, and you may want to leave him there for a while.
WR Mario Manningham/Victor Cruz – Projected * 104 yards, 1 TD (16 Points)
The reason I lumped them both together is we don’t know yet which one is going to be starting opposite of Hakeem Nicks. If Manningham is fully recovered from his concussion last week then he will be the guy; if he isn’t then make sure to get Victor Cruz in your lineups. This isn’t a reflection of my faith in Eli Manning, but a realization that the Cardinals secondary might be the worst in the league.
They are allowing an average of 275 yards per game through the air and have played Carolina, Washington and Seattle so far. Look at those teams. Cam Newton, Rex Grossman and Tarvaris Jackson have made the Cards’ pass defense look silly—imagine what the Giants can do to them. If you have Manningham, start him. If you don’t and you can pick up Cruz, you probably should get him in there too.
WR Anquan Boldin – Projected * 42 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
It’s not rocket science here, folks. A trip to Revis Island should mean a spot on your fantasy bench unless you have Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or some way of giving Darrelle Revis food poisoning before the game.
The only way Boldin has any value in this game is if the Jets buy into Torrey Smith as already a better player than Boldin and stick Revis on Smith instead. Make sure to check before you set your lineups for the last time, but if Revis is covering Boldin you had better make sure he’s on your bench.
TE Randy McMichael – Projected * 76 yards, 1 TD (13 Points)
Just because Antonio Gates is out doesn’t mean they are going to suddenly go with an entirely new offense in San Diego. If you have Gates and he doesn’t play this week, McMichael is an excellent spot-start.
Remember how the Patriots gutted the Dolphins with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in Week 1? Well, they bring that same defense to San Diego this week. Get McMichael in your lineup.
TE Owen Daniels – Projected * 58 yards, 0 TD (5 Points)
I like Daniels as a player, but this is a tough matchup for any tight end. Facing a Steelers defense that still boasts an elite linebacking core and Troy Polamalu to help cover a pass-catching tight end is not a walk in the park for anyone. Look elsewhere if you can at TE this week—namely Randy McMichael.
Vikings Defense – Projected * 9 Points allowed, 5 Sacks, 3 Turnovers (15 Points)
Without looking at the schedule you could probably look at the numbers I projected there and say, “Hey, I’ll bet they’re playing the Kansas City Chefs!” And you would be correct. Dark days ahead for the Chiefs, I’m afraid.
However, they look like as solid of a bet as anyone to secure the services of Stanford QB Andrew Luck in next April’s draft. When the on-field product is as bad as it is in KC right now, it’s OK to dream about what might be. Go ahead, Chiefs fans; no one will blame you.
Cowboys Defense – Projected * 31 Points allowed, 3 Sacks, 1 Turnover (3 Points)
Having a terrible secondary is something you can cover up in some cases if you can get after the passer. The Cowboys were able to do a pretty good job of that Monday night against the Redskins as Rex Grossman and company were not able to make the Cowboys pay.
Someone who can make the Cowboys’ defense pay, however, is Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions’ offense. I don’t know exactly how defensive coordinator Rob Ryan plans to defend Calvin Johnson on the outside with his band of misfit defensive backs, but I look forward to watching it unfold Sunday.
Good luck this week to Rob Ryan, and anyone playing against an owner who has Matt Stafford or Calvin Johnson—you’re probably going to need it.
START HIM! SIT HIM! Season Record: 18-12