Fantasy Football Roundtable: Rice, Jackson, MJD injuries a concern
Every year presents its share of running back woes, and 2013 is no different. What's the best strategy for getting through the Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice and Steven Jackson situations? And what to make of Cam Newton's lack of production and Seattle's ability to shut down No. 1 wide receivers? Our fantasy experts Michael Beller and Brian Flood discuss in this week's fantasy roundtable.
1. Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Reggie Bush and Steven Jackson all went down with injuries Sunday. Which running backs should owners target on the waiver wire?
Beller: On the bright side, none of these guys is expected to miss too much time. However, all could be out this Sunday and that could leave you mining your depth this weekend. I don't think you'll be going after any of their backups. Bernard Pierce is probably close to universally owned, Joique Bell is widely rostered, and I don't think Jacquizz Rodgers or Jordan Todman have staying power. Bilal Powell is my favorite waiver-wire target this week. He and Chris Ivory essentially split the touches right down the middle against the Patriots, but Powell got the touchdown and remains the only receiving threat out of the backfield.
If he's not owned, I'd consider James Starks. While Starks had a monster game for the Packers after Eddie Lacy left with a concussion, I don't see Starks having much staying power. The concussion isn't likely to keep Lacy out long, and the Packers have a tough matchup this week against the Bengals followed by a bye. If you really need help in the short term, though, Starks is worth an add. Just don't break the bank for him.
Flood: Monitor this week's injury report and target the backup to whoever has the most severe injury among the players listed above. Since you'll have to place waiver claims before we know the extent of some injuries, let's discuss the options.
Jones-Drew sprained an ankle tendon and reported experiencing "looseness" in the joint. It's also the same foot that MJD had surgically repaired last season. The Jaguars travel to Seattle in Week 3, so even a fully healthy MJD would be a risky fantasy option. His "backup," Justin Forsett, didn't receive a carry in Week 2 after Jones-Drew went down. Do not pick up Forsett. The guy you want, if you want anyone on the Jaguars, is Jordan Todman. However, Todman was horrible in Week 2, gaining seven yards on five carries. If MJD only misses one game, avoid his backups against the tough Seattle defense. If the injury to MJD turns out to be serious, Todman is worth a flyer... barely.
Rice is day to day with a hip flexor, setting up a potential Bernard Pierce coming-out party. I love Pierce, who runs hard and with aggression. He'd be a legitimate high-upside RB2 if Rice misses Week 3's game against the Texans. Pierce should be owned in all leagues.
Bush's MRI confirmed that there is no structural damage to his knee. Plus, his backup, Joique Bell, is probably owned in all leagues after scoring two touchdowns in Week 1. Bell could be a nice RB2 if Bush misses time, but it appears that won't happen in Week 3.
Jackson is as tough as they come, but has a lot of miles on his legs and left Week 2 with a quad injury. The details are scarce, but his backup, Jacquizz Rodgers, is worth targeting in all leagues in case Jackson misses significant time. The fantasy community has been waiting years for Rodgers to emerge, but his upside isn't as strong as Pierce and Bell. I rank them Pierce, Bell, Rodgers and then, off in the distance, Todman.
2. The good news: You own Michael Vick. The bad news: He's your backup. The worst news: You can't find a taker for him because you're in a one-QB league. How low should owners go when trying to unload a second QB to upgrade another position?
Beller: This is a really tough question I frequently get asked. On one hand, you want to get proper value for your asset. On the other, there's little sense in having a top quarterback on your bench, especially if your nominal starter isn't an injury-prone player. Realistically, you're not going to trade a quarterback for 100 cents on the dollar in a one-QB league. There are just too many good passers for anyone to justify trading a top running back or receiver for a quarterback.
The best thing you can do is go after your league's most vulnerable team at the quarterback position, perhaps someone who drafted Tony Romo or Russell Wilson as a starter. And Vick might not be the guy you want to trade. Even though you drafted him as a backup, he's outperforming every quarterback not named Peyton Manning right now. I only rank him behind Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees for the rest of the season.
As for what you can expect, if going after a running back I think you should go for someone in the Chris Johnson-Stevan Ridley range. Their owners may be willing to deal, and you shouldn't be willing to go any lower. If you need a receiver, I think you could get someone on the order of Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston.
Flood: If you drafted Michael Vick, especially if he's your backup, do yourself a favor and hang onto him. In Chip Kelly's offense there is a legitimate chance that a healthy Vick finishes among the elite fantasy QBs. You'll want to start Vick when he's healthy and playing lesser opponents. That said, he never stays healthy enough to trust him as your every-week starter. Trading your incumbent QB to rely on Vick isn't a good strategy. Obviously, if some owner in your league is starting Christian Ponder and offers you an elite running back or wide receiver for Vick, do it. In most realistic scenarios, keeping Vick and starting him as needed can help you win a fantasy title.
3. While quarterbacks across the league are putting up video-game numbers, Cam Newton has been a disappointment. What's your prognosis for him for the rest of the season?
Beller: I'm willing to overlook Newton's performance against the Seahawks in Week 1. We all saw what they did to Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers in Week 2. Chances are they have the best defense in the league. As for last week's game against the Bills, suffice it to say the fantasy community expected more of Newton.
Through two games he has just 334 yards, three touchdowns and 5.48 yards per attempt. He also hasn't been a huge factor in the run game, carrying nine times for 53 yards. We just got through talking about the depth at the quarterback position. If I were drafting today, he'd be the eighth quarterback on my board. I still think he'll get to 4,000 yards and 26 passing touchdowns this year. Let's set his rest-of-season over/unders at 3,800 passing yards, 23 passing scores, 550 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Flood: Poor Cam. He was the toast of the NFL two years ago, but has become an afterthought with the emergence of other young quarterbacks. Wouldn't it be nice if the Panthers' brass got him some weapons? Would it have killed them to draft DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills or Cordarelle Patterson? Anyway, relax. It's only Week 3.
Last season Newton had only four TDs and five interceptions in September. In December, when he carried patient owners to the fantasy championship, Cam tossed eight touchdowns with only two INTs. He gets better as the season progresses. Also, keep in mind he doesn't have a rushing TD yet this season. He remains the Panthers primary goal-line threat and should finish with a handful of rushing touchdowns in addition to nice down-the-stretch passing numbers. If you read the previous question, a Newton-Vick quarterback combo would be ideal for fantasy purposes.
4. Given how Richard Sherman shut down Anquan Boldin in Week 2, should owners seriously consider benching their No. 1 wideout when he's scheduled to go up against the Seahawks? Who else through two weeks has proven to be in the same company as Sherman?
Beller: No doubt, Sherman was a beast on Sunday night, holding Anquan Boldin to just one catch for seven yards. Perhaps just as impressive, he limited Boldin to just four targets, matching his physicality and not allowing him to create separation. Having said that, you can't bench your top receiver because he's facing Sherman, and that's because you shouldn't ever bench your top receiver.
In addition to that, once Brandon Browner returns, Sherman will likely go back to playing every snap on the left side of the defense instead of shadowing the opponent's No. 1 option. Are you really going to bench Andre Johnson Week 4? Or Reggie Wayne Week 5? Or Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson or Julio Jones later in the season? Of course not. It would be an overreaction to bench your best receiver against the Seahawks.
Believe it or not, there's a chance Sherman hasn't been the best cover corner in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, seven corners have graded better in coverage. At the top of the list is Miami's Nolan Carroll. He's followed by Alterraun Verner of the Titans, teammate Brent Grimes, the Buccaneers' Darrelle Revis, Alfonzo Dennard of the Patriots, the Titans' Jason McCourty and Janoris Jenkins of the Rams. Out of those seven players, I'd argue that only Jenkins has faced a better group of receivers (Arizona and Atlanta) than Sherman (Carolina and San Francisco).
Flood: You should never have a strict rule to bench anyone. Seattle travels to Houston in Week 4, Arizona in Week 7 and Atlanta in Week 10. Clearly, benching Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones would be impossible. Think about it this way, how many owners could have convinced themselves to sit Anquan Boldin coming off a 13-catch, 208-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 1. That said, go ahead and bench Cecil Shorts next week when he'll be blanketed by Sherman. I wouldn't use Kenny Britt or Greg Jennings when they play Seattle, either.
5. Fantasy matchups can sometimes come down to the slimmest of margins and there always seems to be a free-agent kicker who could have swung the outcome in the other direction. It's that age-old question, to stream or not to stream? Which of the most readily available kickers could be a sneaky pickup this week?
Beller: I'm a huge fan of streaming defenses. I just think that unless you get one of the elite defenses, which costs too high a draft pick or too many dollars in an auction for my blood, you're better off playing the matchups. I don't think it's quite as easy to do with kickers. Do you target guys on teams with high-scoring offenses? What if they just score touchdowns? Do you go after a guy with big leg? What if his team never gives him a chance to use it? Here are the two numbers to consider when streaming a kicker: his team's red zone touchdown percentage and his opponent's defensive red zone TD percentage. Instead of blindly throwing a dart, this can help you intelligently target a kicker who could actually be the guy who swings a matchup.
We'll need a few more weeks in the book before teams have a meaningful number of red zone possessions on both offense and defense. As for this week, I like Caleb Sturgis of the Dolphins. He's a perfect 4-for-4 this season, including one from beyond 50 yards and just one less than 40. The Falcons defense has played well against the Saints and Rams thus far this season. I think that'll give Sturgis a few more field goal attempts this week.
Flood: I prefer my kickers on good teams and playing indoors or in warm weather. In a typical fantasy season, my kicker will be replaced numerous times. For Week 3, I love Alex Henery. The Eagles will be at home against Andy Reid's Chiefs and Henery is available in most leagues. Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense will give him more opportunities to score fantasy points than most kickers.
Starting a kicker in Seattle, in snow or rain, is completely unacceptable. Stashing an extra kicker on your bench is equally unacceptable. You don't want a kicker on the Jaguars or Jets. Henery, Sturgis, Greg Zuerlein and Blair Walsh are my favorite options if you're looking to keep the same kicker until their bye week.
MORE WEEK 3 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
BELLER: Best survivor pool picks for Week 3
BELLER: Fantasy football Week 3 player stat projections
SI.COM STAFF: Week 3 composite player rankings
BELLER: Trent Richardson's fantasy value increases with trade to Colts
GONOS: Start 'em or sit 'em -- Trades and injuries alter lineups
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Eddie Royal's hot streak won't last forever
BELLER, FLOOD: Weekly Roundtable -- Best strategy for owners with injured running backs?
McQUADE: Risers and Sliders -- Several top running backs disappointing owners
BELLER: Fast Forward -- Crazy finishes highlight Week 2 of the NFL