What will the injuries to Julio Jones, DeMarco Murray and Randall Cobb mean to the fantasy value of their teammates? What running back bust is the most suprising so far? Our fantasy experts Michael Beller and Brian Flood discuss that and more in this week's fantasy roundtable.
1. By now, Percy Harvin is probably owned in every league, or should be. What are your thoughts about Andre Brown, Nate Burleson, Dennis Pitta and any other injured veteran who could return in time to make an impact this season?
Beller: I'm stashing Andre Brown in any league where I can spare a roster spot. He's eligible to return from a broken leg Week 10, and early indications have him on schedule to remain true to that timetable. I'm not buying into Brandon Jacobs at all after his huge game in Chicago last week. The Bears have been terrible defensively, and played the entire game without their top three defensive tackles. On top of that, middle linebacker D.J. Williams left with what turned out to be a torn pectoral. It was not the Jacobs rebirth. He simply took advantage of an undermanned defense.
Brown should get double-digit touches right off the bat, and he could play his way into a feature role. The Giants play the Raiders Week 10, Packers Week 11, Cowboys Week 12 and Redskins Week 13, generally the final week of the fantasy regular season. That's an awfully friendly schedule for a running back. Add him if you can.
Flood: If I could only own one injured player other than Harvin, it would be Andre Brown, followed Michael Crabtree, then Burleson and Pitta. Running backs are obviously extremely valuable in fantasy football and Brown has a chance to return from his leg injury and run away with the Giants tailback job. Wilson is in the midst of a forgettable season. Brandon Jacobs is on the wrong side of 30 and appears to be the slowest person on the field when he gets the ball. Michael Cox isn't a good enough blocker to stay in the game. Basically, the Giants running game is a complete disaster. Don't forget that Brown was supposed to split time with Wilson before his preseason injury. The Giants come out of their bye to take on the Raiders in Week 10. Brown is eligible to return for that game. Whenever he returns, there's a legitimate chance he receives significant action.
2. Which running back bust of the first six weeks surprises you most?
Beller: He may have turned his season around on Sunday, but for now I'm going with Stevan Ridley. He was one of the few guys outside the top tier who I felt had a relatively high floor this season. I thought he'd be able to secure a large role in a potent offense, and that at worst he'd ride the volume to a top-15 season. Of course, there aren't any guarantees when Bill Belichick is your coach, and Ridley had a stint in the doghouse after losing a fumble Week 1. He got 11 carries or fewer in three of New England's first four games, and failed to reach 80 total yards in a game until this past Sunday. I did not see that coming.
Flood: I'm completely baffled by Chris Johnson's lack of fantasy production. Maybe I'm biased because I owned Johnson for his magical 2009 season, but I did not expect him to be this bad. Johnson is averaging only 3.1 yards per carry; he hasn't run for a TD this year and hasn't broken a run for more than 23 yards. Johnson is the most frustrating fantasy player because he's not hurt. He just stinks. You used a second- or third-round pick on the Titans running back, hoping to recapture '09 glory, and now you think about benching him on a weekly basis. It's extremely difficult to be competitive in fantasy football when relying on a player that never produces. I loved Johnson entering the season, but I will never draft him again.
3. We saw what the absence of Calvin Johnson for a game did to the Detroit Lions. With that in mind, what injury situation heading into this week is going to have the biggest negative impact on the fantasy players remaining on that team?
Beller: It has to be Julio Jones in Atlanta. Jones wasn't just Matt Ryan's lone reliable weapon. He was playing as well as anyone at the position, racking up 41 catches for 580 yards and two touchdowns through five games. With him on the shelf, Atlanta is without its most explosive player. Without anyone to stretch the field for the Falcons, defenses will be able to play the run more, take away the underneath routes at which Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez excel, and dare Ryan to beat them deep. The wheels could come off this offense.
Flood: The Cowboys could see their skill position players take statistical hits with DeMarco Murray injured. Murray has a sprained left MCL and is expected to miss a few weeks. Tony Romo has been great, but Murray hasn't been too shabby either. The workhorse running back has averaged 4.7 yards per carry and gained 428 yards on 91 carries through six games. That's a lot of offense. The Cowboys don't exactly have a proven backup, with rookie Joseph Randle expected to receive the bulk of the action. Will Romo struggle if the run game struggles? Will defenses focus on shutting down Dez Bryant now that Dallas is without a proven running back? Will Jason Witten need to stick around the pocket to help with pass protection? All of the sudden the Cowboys offense isn't as sexy for fantasy purposes.
4. Randall Cobb is out six-to-eight weeks with a fractured fibula, and James Jones could miss this week's game against the Browns with a knee injury. What effect will that have on the Green Bay offense?
Beller: No doubt, the Cobb injury will slow this offense down as a whole. He was such a deadly weapon for Aaron Rodgers, especially on third down. No offense could lose a guy like Cobb and keep on chugging along at full capacity. From a fantasy standpoint, I'm dinging Rodgers ever so slightly, but boosting both Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley in my rest-of-season rankings. Cobb's absence may curb the offense a bit, but Nelson and Finley will more than make up for that with an increase in targets.
I'd also throw a few dollars at Jarrett Boykin, who will replace Cobb in the lineup. He cannot give you 100 percent of what Cobb could, but just about any warm body playing with Rodgers in this scheme should be on the fantasy radar. The Packers already have had their bye, and six teams sit out in Week 8 and Week 9. Boykin could be a sneaky player in one or both of those weeks.
Flood: It's easier for the Packers to replace Cobb than it is for fantasy owners to replace Cobb. Green Bay has managed to replace Greg Jennings and Donald Driver in recent years without missing a beat. If Cobb was your No. 1 fantasy receiver, it is doubtful you can replace him on the waiver wire. Aaron Rodgers typically can turn any NFL-caliber receiver into a nice real-life option, so expect big things from Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley in the near future. Rodgers will miss Cobb and Jones while they're injured, but I don't see his fantasy production significantly falling off. Eddie Lacy could also see a bump in production and is primed for a monster second half.
5. Does the value of a player increase once he's had his bye week?
Beller: Every year right around this time, I try to target players who have already had their byes in trades. If you can deal someone who hasn't had a bye for someone who has, you get yourself one free game. It may not seem like it means all that much, but it could make a huge difference. In fact, I'll even consider trading a supposed better player for a guy who has one more game remaining this season.
For example, most people would likely prefer Dez Bryant to Jordy Nelson, all things being equal. The Cowboys, however, have played every week this season. The Packers have already had their bye. There are seven weeks remaining in the typical fantasy regular season.Using that as our endpoint, would you rather have Bryant for six games or Nelson for seven? It's not a slam dunk in either direction, but it's something you should definitely consider. I think I'd prefer seven games of Nelson. This is but one example. Once a player has had his bye, his value for the rest of the season increases against players who have yet to sit for a week.
Flood: Depending on the circumstance, an upcoming bye week can significantly downgrade a player's value. At some point, owners find themselves in must-win situations. If your fantasy team has four losses through six weeks, you can't afford to drop another matchup. Don't be afraid to make a deal if, for example, Drew Brees is your quarterback and you must win this week. The Saints have a bye in Week 7 and while Brees is a top-notch quarterback, he's not going to do you any good this weekend on your bench. Trading Brees for a quarterback who already had his bye, a la Cam Newton, would give you a legitimate fantasy option going forward. Eventually, winning your next matchup is all that matters.
On the other hand, hang tight if you're 5-1 and you own Brees. You can afford to wait until the Saints return in Week 8 and there is no reason to shake things up. Don't be silly. Don't over think and deal a superstar for 50 cents on the dollar.
MORE WEEK 7 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
GONOS: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em -- New faces in upper tier of WRs
BELLER: Player Stat Projections -- Top running backs will explode
SI STAFF: Player Rankings -- Quarterback may surprise owners
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Randle, Dobson worth a roster spot
BELLER, FLOOD: Weekly Roundtable -- Time to stash Brown, Crabtree?
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Nick Foles emerges as a fantasy starter
BELLER: Early Week 7 advice -- Martin, Jackson owners can breathe easier