DAN SEARCHES FOR A CAM NEWTON COMPARABLE IN THIS WEEK'S START HIM! SIT HIM!
We’ve officially reached the quarter-pole of the NFL season and chances are that by now you either love your team, or hate your team. Hopefully, you had a great draft and have made enough moves to remain competitive in your early-season matchups. However, if you aren’t where you want to be (either due to subpar performances from some of your top picks or the ravages of injuries), it’s time to make adjustments.
In last week’s column, I outlined some players whose value is plummeting, while offering some suggestions on who to possibly trade for if you have those players on your team. This week I’m going to list some players whose value has skyrocketed since the beginning of the season that I think would be great trade targets, as well as offering some insight into what it would probably take to trade for them.
QB Cam Newton - Panthers
Obviously, Cam is having an incredible season and won’t come cheaply, but I am 100% on the Cam Newton bandwagon and may just drive it all the way to Canton, Ohio.
After his very first NFL game, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon compared Newton to Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. Now, those are obviously extremely strong words, and are likely a stretch no matter how well his career pans out, but it got me thinking: who does Cam Newton remind me of?
Before the season started, and even during the draft back in April, people were looking for an NFL player comparable to Cam Newton. We heard things like, “he’s a poor man’s Michael Vick.” “He’s a rich man’s Vince Young.” “He’s a right-handed Tim Tebow.” Well, we’re only four weeks into The Cam Newton Era and I’m ready to declare that he doesn’t really resemble any of them, because we have never seen anything like him in the NFL.
He’s 6’5”, 250 pounds, and runs a 4.5 40-yard-dash. He has as strong of an arm as any QB in the NFL and has the pocket-presence and touch of a seasoned veteran. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also transformed into the Panther’s goal-line back this season and has four rushing TDs in his first four games. Oh, and finally, his 133 yards rushing are only 40 less than Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall has, despite the fact that Cam has rushed 25 fewer times.
The more you look at the stats and the more you watch him play the more you realize – Cam Newton isn’t like anybody we’ve ever seen. So, to answer my own question about who he reminds me of, I came up with only two names:
Kevin Durant and Stephen Strasburg.
Durant is basically a 6’11” shooting guard with unlimited range, a lightning-quick first step and enough of a post game that he can’t be guarded by a smaller defender. Frankly, he can’t be guarded by anyone. It defies logic that someone his size should possess the athleticism, touch, or shooting ability that he has. He is unique in every sense of the word.
Strasburg has a 100 mph fastball, a devastating curveball, and a wipeout slider. And his best pitch might be his change-up. Strasburg burst onto the scene in 2010 and has established himself as one of baseball’s best pitchers, despite being one of its youngest. He literally has no ceiling.
Durant and Strasburg are once-in-a-lifetime type talents. They can’t be compared to anyone else who plays their sport because no one has ever dominated their respective sports the way they do at such a young age...just like Cam.
Newton would be the football equivalent of these two, except he’s nearly a full year younger than both of them and doesn’t turn 23 until next May.
Back to the fantasy side of things. Here is the entire list of QBs that I would definitely rather have for the rest of 2011 than Cam Newton:
- Aaron Rodgers
- Tom Brady
- Drew Brees
That’s it. That’s the list. You can argue that Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo and Matt Stafford belong here as well, but the fact remains that Newton has outplayed all of them so far this season, and it would be foolish to think he can’t keep it up. From a fantasy perspective, Newton has even out-performed Drew Brees so far.
Look at who has Newton in your league. If they drafted him late as a second QB to have around, chances are you can pry him away from them. His value is equal to – or greater than – a #1 RB the rest of the way. If you can get him for anything less than that, you should consider it a steal; though you may be wise to get him even if you have to give up more.
Stop looking at Newton as a flash-in-the-pan/beginner’s-luck type of player and start looking at him like he’s the NFL’s Kevin Durant. He may just win you your league.
RB Stevan Ridley – Patriots
Ridley went from being the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft to the guy who was taken 73rd.
The Patriots love Ridley. He is finally back to being healthy and they expanded his role in Sunday’s win over the Raiders. He ran with the opportunity and posted 97 yards and a TD, despite getting only ten carries.
Ridley showed rare explosiveness in the open field and likely has earned himself a prominent role on New England’s high-octane offense moving forward. If Ridley is available in your league, he needs to be picked up immediately, as he has real value moving forward. If someone has already picked him up, you would be wise to try and trade for him before it’s too late.
Ridley’s backfield partner competition, Benjarvus Green-Ellis, would be a nice place to start with a trade offer. Other players such as Marshawn Lynch, Ryan Grant, Tim Hightower or Mike Tolbert may be able to net you Ridley in a trade. Your window to acquire him may end this weekend, so see if you can steal him from another owner for a limited-upside RB, because Ridley has RB2 potential.
WR Jordy Nelson – Packers
Nelson has flown under the radar for far too long. He has been a consistent producer since late 2010, yet always gets lost in the shuffle when talk turns to the better receivers in the game. No, I don’t mean the Calvin Johnsons, Andre Johnsons or Larry Fitzgeralds of the world, but he is still one of the top-20 receivers in fantasy.
His three TDs tie him for fifth in the NFL for receiving touchdowns, and his 47 fantasy points through four weeks place him inside the top 15 for wide outs. He is a rock-solid WR2 and may easily out-produce some WR1s the rest of the way. See if you can pry Nelson loose from another owner for someone like Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Marshall or some other player who was over-drafted. It’s all about value, and Nelson has more of it than people give him credit for.
TE Aaron Hernandez – Patriots
Everybody knows about Rob Gronkowski and what he’s doing this year for New England, but don’t forget what Hernandez did prior to getting hurt in Week 2. He caught 14 passes for 165 yards and two scores combined in his first two games, while Gronk posted 172 yards and three scores as well.
Hernandez is coming back soon and will do damage regardless of there being another TE1 on the team with him. See if you can trade someone like Dallas Clark, Fred Davis, Dustin Keller or even Vernon Davis for Hernandez. Remember, he may be listed as a TE, but the Patriots use him as a receiver more often than anything else. Don’t look at him as the Patriots' second-best tight end; instead look at him as their third-best receiving option. Hernandez should be good for ten-plus points nearly every week when he comes back.
Houston Texans Defense
If Houston is still available in your league pick them up. They can rush the passer like few other teams in the league and thanks to signing CB Johnathan Joseph in the offseason, they have some semblance of a pass defense for the first time in years. They force turnovers, they sack the QB, and they shouldn’t cost you anything. They are worth having on your team more-so than pre-season favorites New England, Minnesota, Dallas and even Pittsburgh at the moment.
Now before we get into this week’s picks, let’s look back at last week and see how I did:
QB Jason Campbell – Projected * 289 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT (21 Points)
- Actual * 344 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 29 rushing yards (15 Points)
Campbell didn’t play a great game, and many of his passing yards came in garbage time after the outcome had already been decided, but he still gets me the win here. As a general rule of thumb: anytime you pick a guy up off the waiver wire and he gets you 15 points, you did pretty well. He fell short of the 21 I had projected, but you have to be satisfied with his performance from a fantasy perspective.
RB Michael Bush – Projected * 56 yards, 1 TD (11 Points)
Actual * 26 rushing yards, 55 receiving yards, 1 TD (13 Points)
With Darren McFadden still feeling the effects of a groin injury sustained the previous weekend against the Jets, Bush received plenty of work this past Sunday against the Patriots. Bush ran the ball eight times for 26 yards and caught four passes for 55 yards, while scoring an early TD at the goal line. His upside is going to be capped because he is the unquestioned #2 back in Oakland, but he also gets nearly all of the goal line work as well. Keep him active as a flex-option if 11-15 points per week is what you are looking for.
WR Mario Manningham/Victor Cruz – Projected * 104 yards, 1 TD (16 Points)
Actual * Manningham – 10 yards, 0 TD (1 Point)
Actual * Cruz – 98 yards, 0 TD (9 Points)
When I lumped these two together I did so with the understanding that I would start Manningham if he were healthy and Cruz would only start if Manningham were going to be out or limited this past Sunday. Manningham ended up playing but was invisible for much of the game, while Cruz went on to have a very productive day. This goes as a loss for me because I would have recommended Manningham over Cruz if he were healthy enough to play.
Something to keep an eye oin the future: Cruz has outplayed Manningham so far this season and may take the #2 WR job in New York before long. If he’s available in your league you may want to pick him up now.
TE Randy McMichael – Projected * 76 yards, 1 TD (13 Points)
Actual * 25 yards, 0 TD (2 Points)
When I made this prediction last week I said, “Just because Antonio Gates is out doesn’t mean they are going to suddenly go with an entirely new offense in San Diego.” While that is somewhat true, as McMichael was targeted six times in the game, he still is a far cry from Gates talent-wise. McMichael looked like a shell of himself on Sunday from when he was a pass-catching machine in Miami years ago. McMichael may have an occasional strong week in Gates’ absence, but you shouldn’t play him unless you absolutely have to.
Vikings' Defense – Projected * 9 Points allowed, 5 Sacks, 3 Turnovers (15 Points)
Actual * 22 Points allowed, 3 Sacks, 0Turnovers (4 Points)
Everything you need to know about the 2011 Minnesota Vikings: They were manhandled Sunday by a Jamaal Charles-less, Eric Berry-less, Joe Montana-less Chiefs team who has nothing to play for this season but a shot at Stanford QB Andrew Luck.
A team that is unable to generate a single turnover against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011 is not a team that belongs on your fantasy radar. Yes, they can still rush the passer, but it takes more than that to remain relevant in the world of fantasy football. The Vikings' Defense can safely be dropped in all leagues.
QB Joe Flacco – Projected * 159 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (8 Points)
Actual * 163 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 1 Fumble (2 Points)
I feel bad for anyone who had the misfortune of staying up late to watch the Ravens and Jets play Sunday night. It was as sloppy a game as any in recent memory and may have set offensive football back a decade.
Flacco was 10-31 passing the football, yet was inarguably the BEST QB on the field. Mark Sanchez turned the ball over four times on his way to an abysmal -4 fantasy point performance in the game. If you played anyone in this game other than the two defenses and Ray Rice, chances are they didn’t do as well as you had hoped.
RB Shonn Greene – Projected * 44 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Actual * 23 yards, 0 TD (2 Points)
Fortunately for me, my SIT HIM! section was littered with guys from this game. Shonn Greene has been terrible all season, but this wasn’t necessarily his fault. The Jets' offensive line was manhandled in this one, and Greene never had a shot. Let this serve as the ultimate reminder that there may not be a single running back in all of fantasy football that is a no-brainer start against the Ravens defense. They are that good.
WR Anquan Boldin – Projected * 42 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Actual * 28 yards, 0 TD (2 Points)
I had three players from this game in the SIT HIM! category because I didn’t like the matchup for any of them. Little did I know that the three of them would combine for a paltry six fantasy points in the game.
Boldin caught just one pass for 28 yards and was targeted only one other time in the game. The Jets blanketed the veteran at all times, causing the Ravens to look elsewhere through the air. Rookie receiver Torrey Smith was targeted six times by Flacco and may be a better option than Boldin moving forward – something fantasy owners should monitor.
TE Owen Daniels – Projected * 58 yards, 0 TD (5 Points)
Actual * 69 yards, 1 TD (12 Points)
Daniels was left wide open by the Steelers’ defense on a blown assignment for his TD catch in this one that ruined the projection for me. Still, Daniels played well and caught five of the seven balls thrown his way on Sunday. Also, with the second quarter injury to star WR Andre Johnson, Daniels could be in for an enhanced role moving forward. Daniels is an every-week starter moving forward, and may be the top TE in fantasy for the time Johnson is out.
Cowboys Defense – Projected * 31 Points allowed, 3 Sacks, 1 Turnover (3 Points)
Actual * 34 Points allowed, 0 Sacks, 1 Turnover (0 Points)
These aren’t your older brother’s Lions.
Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson predictably shredded an undersized and overmatched Cowboys’ secondary in the second half of this one, leading to a remarkable come-from-behind victory for Detroit.
You may not want to start any defense against the Lions’ offense moving forward, but if you do you had better make sure they have a good secondary. The Cowboys don’t, and they were burned badly on Sunday in Big D.
This was the second consecutive pedestrian 6-4 week for yours truly. However, in the past two weeks I have somehow managed to go 9-1 in the SIT HIM! portion of the column compared to just 3-7 in the START HIM! category. Armed with extra incentive to break out of my own personal mini-slump, it’s time to look toward the future.
Now, onto Week 5:
QB Mark Sanchez – Projected * 257 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (16 Points)
Am I really recommending Mark Sanchez in START HIM! after one of the worst QB performances anyone has ever seen this past Monday night? Did he blackmail me? Do I owe him money, and this is how I am paying him back?
The reasoning is actually more philosophical than anything else. I ask - What happens when a very stoppable force meets an unbelievably easy to move object?
In this case – points happen.
New England’s sieve-like pass defense has been emasculated this season by the likes of Chad Henne, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jason Campbell (in addition to Philip Rivers) to the tune of a league-worst 368 yards per game through the air. Look at those first three names. The Patriots' pass defense has made three very average QBs look like Dan Marino this season. Mediocre Mark is easily a top-10 option in this the first week of byes this NFL season.
QB Matt Schaub – Projected * 194 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (9 Points)
This comes down to Andre Johnson, really. If Johnson is able to go this week (though it doesn't look like he will) I would probably start Schaub because Johnson is a physical nightmare for the undersized Raiders’ secondary. If Johnson doesn’t play, the only reliable receiver the Texans have is TE Owen Daniels.
I would also start Sanchez over Schaub regardless of whether or not Johnson plays, to give you some idea of how strongly I feel about the Sanchez play.
RB Stevan Ridley – Projected * 94 total yards, 1 TD (15 Points)
Above I listed why I like Ridley moving forward, but I like him this week because of how poorly the Jets' run defense has been this season. Ridley figures to see an expanded role this week and could be a difference-maker for the Patriots. Pick him up off the waiver-wire if he’s available; trade for him if he isn’t, but get Ridley in your lineup this week.
RB LeGarrette Blount – Projected * 47 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Yes, Blount had a monster game this past Monday, and looks like he may be the focal point of the Bucs defense moving forward. He is their goal line back and has had three straight very solid games. I wouldn’t recommend sitting someone like him who has been playing well if I didn’t have stats to back it up.
This season the 49ers have held opposing starting running backs Marshawn Lynch, Felix Jones, Cedric Benson and LeSean McCoy to 162 yards rushing on 59 carries and zero touchdowns between them. That’s an average 40.5 yards per game and, again, zero touchdowns. The only running back left on the schedule that I would even consider starting against San Francisco's defense is Ray Rice in Week 12, and even that isn’t a lock. The stats don’t lie – sit Blount this week.
WR Plaxico Burress – Projected * 81 yards, 1 TD (14 Points)
Plaxico had his best game of the season Week 1 when I said to START HIM! so we’re going to try to catch lightning in a bottle again.
As I believe I’ve stated already – the Pats' pass defense is an abomination this season. They can’t cover anyone, especially someone 6’5” with Burress’s leaping ability. Look for him to score one time, though he may even do it more than once. This should be Plaxico’s best game as a Jet.
WR Marques Colston – Projected * 42 Yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Colston isn’t all the way back from his collarbone injury and still can’t be trusted in fantasy leagues. Drew Brees has been looking to TE Jimmy Graham more and more as the season has progressed, and until he starts looking Colston’s way he belong on your bench. Hold Colston out until he has his first good game in his return to the Saints’ lineup.
TE Greg Olsen – Projected * 73 yards, 1 TD (13 Points)
Other than Steve Smith, Olsen has been Cam Newton’s most trusted weapon this season. Olsen has scored in each of his last two games and figures to make it three in a row as the Panthers host the Saints this week. It should be a high-scoring affair in which Carolina could be playing catch-up against the high-powered Saints' offense. Get Olsen in your lineup.
TE Vernon Davis – Projected * 68 yards, 0 TD (6 Points)
Just to clarify – I would still start Davis if I didn’t have a good alternative or if I couldn’t pick up Olsen on the waiver wire. Davis is still a very useful tight end, but has a tough matchup against the Bucs this weekend. Start Davis if you can’t put in someone who has a better matchup, but if you can get your hands on Greg Olsen this week make sure you play him over Davis.
Bengals' Defense – Projected * 13 Points allowed, 3 Sacks, 3 Turnovers (12 Points)
The Bengals head to Jacksonville this weekend to take on Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars. Gabbert was 16/42 for 196 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT this past Sunday in a 23-10 loss to the Saints that saw the Jacksonville rookie overthrow wide-open receiver after wide-open receiver.
If Cam Newton is the Kevin Durant of the NFL then Gabbert must be the Greg Oden. They came into the league in the same draft and there was great debate about which one was the better pro-prospect. In both cases, the debate was over soon after the season started.
While Newton has already reached stardom, Gabbert looks more confused every time he takes the field. No one has given up on Gabbert yet, but he resembles Sunshine from Remember the Titans much more than an NFL QB at this point. Start Cincy's defense with confidence.
Steelers' Defense – Projected * 23 Points, 2 Sacks, 1 Turnover (3 Points)
In years past the Steel Curtain has been matchup-proof. Well, this is 2011, and thus far they have been anything but. With the exception of two easy matchups against woeful Seattle and Indianapolis, the Steelers’ defense has looked very average this season. They will be without OLB James Harrison for at least this week (and probably longer) as he recovers from a fractured eye socket.
The Titans may have finally gotten Chris Johnson on track this season as he posted his first 100-yard game of the season this past Sunday, and Matt Hasselbeck has been very solid while working with a very average receiving corps after the loss of WR Kenny Britt two weeks ago.
Working against the Steelers even more is their inability to run the ball. If they can’t run it, then they can’t control the clock, which leaves their defense tired as the game wears on. They still have playmakers, but this isn’t the elite group it’s been in years past. Sit the Steelers’ defense until further notice.
Good luck in your matchups this week – and that goes double for the Saints' defense as they look to slow down the Kevin Durant of the NFL.
START HIM! SIT HIM! Season Record: 24-16