NFL fantasy roundtable: Options for Charles owners not appealing
Each week of the NFL season, a committee of SI.com fantasy experts will huddle together and offer their insights into the most intriguing questions facing fantasy players.
1. Jamaal Charles was among the top draft picks in fantasy. With him out for the season, how can Charles' owners salvage the season?
Will Carroll: One of the top backs is going to go out every year. Those are the statistics and this year, the bad luck fell on Charles and his owners. First, you should have drafted some depth. Second, look for his immediate replacement -- did you handcuff Thomas Jones? Dexter McCluster is also going to get some looks, but he's more a Darren Sproles type. There are not many sure things on the waiver wire, so I'd consider zigging a bit and looking hard at Matt Cassel. If the Chiefs can't run, maybe they'll have to pass, and it looks like they'll be down a lot. Bad for the Chiefs, but good for fantasy.
Gary Gramling: Unless you got, say, Tom Brady in the second, you'd better get aggressive. That's fine if you have Thomas Jones (in TD-heavy leagues) or Dexter McCluster (in PPR leagues), but neither of them are starters on a playoff-caliber fantasy team. Ideally, you might be able to pry a Chris Johnson or Roddy White from a disenchanted owner. If not, see if you can package some depth for a high-risk, high-reward player: Mike Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Dez Bryant, Felix Jones, Shonn Greene, James Starks, Knowshon Moreno, etc.
Eric Mack: You drafted a bust. You cannot replace him with Thomas Jones. There will be diminishing returns there. The loss of Charles hurts everyone in the Chiefs' struggling offense. Dexter McCluster could be an option to pick up off waivers, because he will be a scat-back type. McCluster will get the catches, while Jones does the ground-pounding for as long as he stays healthy. If you need a better running back option, give Isaac Redman a try. He is the backup to Rashard Mendenhall and he might not even need an injury to make an impact in fantasy. He is going to pick up a lot of garbage time, spelling Mendenhall. The Steelers have one of the weakest schedules in the NFL, so Redman could get time even if Mendenhall manages to stay healthy.
David Sabino: Since you're not going to replace what you were hoping to get from Charles with anyone currently on the waiver wire, the best thing to do is assess the rest of your squad and explore trade options. Are you especially deep at QB, WR or TE? If so, perhaps you can sell someone high and buy a running back low. Also, take some chances with up-and-coming running backs off the waiver wire and be quick to react when other injuries occur. Salvaging the season is a tough assignment, but not an impossible one.
2. Do you trust Ryan Fitzpatrick as an every-week starter or were his first two weeks the result of playing bad defenses?
Carroll: I'm somewhere in between. He's a good guy in the right matchups, but I'm not playing him over Matt Ryan or even Cam Newton at this stage. He's a real QB, but as he faces better teams and the weather gets worse, he gets more and more iffy.
Gramling: He's exactly what he was three weeks ago, a borderline QB1 who's a great play in the right matchups. Every week? Nah. But like a visit to Mighty Taco, Fitzpatrick is a good idea most of the time.
Mack: Fitzpatrick is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in fantasy. You won't need to use him every week, because hopefully you drafted him as a backup at best, but he is going to perform like a starter in more weeks than most. The Bills are not going to be a team holding on to any leads, and Fitzpatrick is going to do a lot of throwing from behind -- like he will in Week 3 against the Patriots. Consider Fitzpatrick a starter for this upcoming week at least.
Sabino: This isn't the first great stretch of Fitzpatrick's career. Last season, he he went for 1,104 yards over a three-week span against the Ravens, Chiefs and Bears, so his success is not a fluke. What's helped is the further development by receivers Stevie Johnson and David Nelson, who have become reliable and dangerous targets. However, I'm not going to blindly insert Fitzpatrick into my lineup every week, since he's sure to be limited by top teams like the Jets or Patriots -- teams he will face four times combined. Still, he's certainly among the top 12 quarterbacks in the league right now, and should be used most weeks.
3. Daniel Thomas had solid debut for the Dolphins. Will he or Reggie Bush be the better fantasy option going forward?
Carroll: Thomas, by far. Bush has value in PPR leagues, but I don't know why anyone thought Bush would be anything different in Miami than he was in a better offense in New Orleans.
Gramling: Well, neither, but I'd rather have Thomas since he's going to get any goal-line carries and he's, you know, better at American football. The Dolphins must have realized what Bush was in the first quarter of his first regular season game as a Dolphin, when he couldn't break a feeble Rob Ninkovich arm tackle in space to convert a third-and-short. Thomas doesn't have a lot of suddenness as a runner, but he's big, he'll keep his legs moving and he isn't much of a downgrade in the passing game.
Mack: It is obvious Bush isn't the back of choice now that Thomas is healthy. He proved capable of making successive carries between the tackles in a single drive, something Bush has never been able to do. Neither is a great fantasy option with each taking a piece out of the other, but Thomas should be better -- particularly since he will get the short TD runs. When, not if, Bush gets hurt, Thomas is a viable starter in most fantasy leagues. Heck, you might want to try to get him if you lost Charles this weekend.
Sabino: Bush figures to be a better fit in the Dolphins new left lane offense, which will put the ball in Chad Henne's hands more than in recent years. However, the ex-Heisman winner has trouble staying healthy and never has had a knack for the goal-line from close, so given the choice, I'd take Thomas.
4. A number of unheralded receivers -- the Raiders' Denarius Moore, the Broncos' Eric Decker, the Lions Titus Young and the Bengals' A.J. Green and the Panthers' Brandon LaFell -- all had eye-opening weeks. Who holds the biggest potential this year.
Carroll: Decker. He seems comfortable, there's not much competition, and Orton seems to like throwing to him. Moore's nice, but he was out there because of injury. I'm not buying Green because of Andy Dalton -- not that I don't like him, but Dalton's got to look downfield at some point. Green picked up Shipley's targets, but I think that was an on-the-fly adjustment more than a game plan. LaFell relies on Newton. My worry there is that Steve Smith gets looks 1, 2, and 3, then there's two TEs. I think the INTs are going to make the Panthers work hard on check downs this week and we'll see more Shockey under and Olsen on the seams. If the Panthers had a Wes Welker kind of receiver, I'd be very high on that.
Gramling: Definitely Green. He's on the field for almost every snap in Cincinnati, and the Bengals will trail often enough that they'll have to air it out. He's a borderline fantasy starter. I want to like Moore, but the Raiders are rotating a lot of receivers and he's going to have some of those one-catch, 12-yard days in between his blowups. I like Decker in PPR leagues as long as Brandon Lloyd and/or Eddie Royal are hurting, and even after in deep leagues. As No. 3 targets at best, Young and LaFell are too risky to start.
Mack: Green is easily the most talented of this bunch. If Dalton can prove capable under center for the Bengals, Green could be headed to a 1,000-yard rookie season. Moore and Decker are useful now because of injuries to teammates, but it will be hard for them to stay consistent for fantasy owners. Young and LaFell are down on depth charts, but they at least have impressive yardage-racking QBs to get them the ball. All of these sleepers have some value, but Green is the only one that is the total package and his team's No. 1 receiving threat.
Sabino: Green is in the best position to be have a huge impact as he is Andy Dalton's go-to-guy, but the sky's the limit for fellow rookie Denarius Moore. The Raiders wideout demonstrated incredible concentration and toughness against the Bills while three of his fellow receivers were out with injuries. He earned the praise of his quarterback and coaches all summer long and now should be a key cog in Al Saunders' vertical offense going forward. What makes him even more dangerous is the presence of one of the league's top rushing tandems in Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, whom defenses will always have to respect. That will limit double and triple coverages that will slow down Green at some point.
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