Donovan McNabb: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Donovan McNabb's cracked-rib injury from Week 1 may not have the far-reaching consequences of Tom Brady's season-ending knee injury to open the NFL's 2008 campaign ... but damn, it still stings!
Look, no fantasy owner is dense enough to believe he/she will escape the injury bug for a whole season. But can you blame 'em for thinking they'll get through Week 1 unscathed? Well, sadly that's not the case for McNabb owners, who must go into short-term damage control at a vital position:
McNabb Replacement Options
Option #1 -- Immediately start the backup quarterback: For savvy owners who favor having two QBs of comparable value, this likely entails someone like Matt Hasselbeck, Eli Manning, Kyle Orton, Matt Schaub, Brett Favre or Jason Campbell -- all great starters in a pinch. By most accounts, McNabb could be playing in two weeks and essentially healed in four weeks; so any of the above names should work in the interim. In fact, have you checked out Campbell's schedule in the next three weeks: Home to St. Louis, at Detroit, home to Tampa Bay. You couldn't draw up three easier defenses to post stellar fantasy numbers. Now, if Campbell could only accelerate the development of his young receiving corps after Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El (Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas, Roydell Williams, Marko Mitchell).
Option #2 -- Grab a second-tier QB off waivers: Don't get me wrong. One of these bottom-rungers -- like Marc Bulger, Kerry Collins, Mark Sanchez, David Garrard, Matthew Stafford, Byron Leftwich, Shaun Hill -- will surprisingly have a great season. But we're talking a 1-in-7 chance at guessing which signal-caller takes the next step ... while hoping no one else claimed 'em off waivers.
Option #3 -- Trade for a superstar: Care to know how this isn't Mission: Impossible? In my Battle of the Sexes experts league, I offered Peyton Manning to four other owners Tuesday, as a means of fortifying my RB and WR slots (the infamous 'Autopick' team from last week -- more on this Friday). The one downside, obviously, comes in the form of surrendering a high-end talent (or two) -- Greg Jennings, Roddy White, Beanie Wells, Thomas Jones, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez -- wayyyyyyyyy earlier than expected. But, as the old saying goes, You have to GIVE something to GET something. Just don't expect to land Drew Brees in a simple 1-for-1 swap.
Option #4 -- Trade for Michael Vick: Personally, I wouldn't touch this alternative for anything in 2009. But there likely exists a pocket of fantasy owners who swear they'll be getting the Vick of 2006 (3,514 total yards, 20 TDs) ... as opposed to the slightly heavier, noticeably thicker and older Vick who's been away from the game for two full seasons. Yes, the Eagles have a ton of playmakers (Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant) and a pair of dynamic play-calling coaches, to boot (Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg); but seriously, would you really want Vick in a QB1 fantasy role over Campbell, Schaub, Orton, Hasselbeck, Eli Manning, Garrard or JaMarcus Russell?
Option #5 -- Grab Kevin Kolb or Jeff Garcia in free agency: I'll give Garcia some credit for already knowing Philly's offense, but there's also a reason why the Eagles invested a second-round pick on Kolb in '07? When paired against Garcia and/or Vick, Kolb might have the greatest fantasy ceiling. But then again, he might be on the street in a matter of days, now that Philly has welcomed Garcia's 15-yard arm back into town.
1. Drew Brees @ Philadelphia
2. Jason Campbell vs. St. Louis
3. Matt Hasselbeck @ San Francisco
4. Kyle Orton vs. Cleveland
I would never endorse tanking games in fantasyland (perhaps the No. 1 cardinal sin amongst owners), but there is one advantage to having your lunch handed to you in Week 1: Immediate waiver-wire access.
Think about it: In leagues where the worst teams get first pick of free agents, you have a great chance at landing two of the best four players left on waivers -- for no other reason than enduring a wretched Week 1 ... and knowing that most owners absolutely love their drafted team soooooooooooo much, they're hesitant to make wholesale changes, even with scrubs (sorry, Bryant Johnson). In other words, you'll get another good-to-great player in the second cycle of waivers. BOOM!
FYI: History is chock-full of free-agent nobodies who became overnight fantasy sensations after a stellar Week 1 or 2, like Kurt Warner (1999), Willie Parker (2005), Tony Romo (2006), Ryan Grant (2007), Marques Colston (2007), Steve Slaton (2008).
The lesson: Today's ham-and-egger is tomorrow's superstar. Go grab him. Just don't waste your first waiver claim on a kicker.
In general terms, here's a list of the 20 best available free agents for 12-team, standard-scoring leagues. Oh sure, Vernon Davis probably has a universal ownership of approximately 40 percent at this point. But if he doesn't become the apple of offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye's eye in the very-near future, that number will plummet in a hurry. But right here, right now, he still holds some waiver-wire value.
1. QB Joe Flacco, Ravens
2. WR Nate Burleson, Seahawks
3. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
4. D/ST Green Bay Packers
5. WR Louis Murphy, Raiders
6. QB Jason Campbell, Redskins
7. WR Laurent Robinson, Rams
8. WR Kenny Britt, Titans
9. RB Le'Ron McClain, Ravens
10. QB JaMarcus Russell, Raiders
11. RB Kevin Faulk, Patriots
12. WR Chansi Stuckey, Jets
13. TE Todd Heap, Ravens
14. WR Pierre Garcon, Colts
15. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
16. QB Shaun Hill, 49ers
17. TE Shawn Nelson, Bills
18. WR Sidney Rice, Vikings
19. RB Brandon Jackson, Packers
20. D/ST Atlanta Falcons
**Bonus: QB Seneca Wallace, Seahawks (for Matt Hasselbeck owners only ... he may be ready to dominate on the fantasy landscape -- if given another shot at sustainable reps)
1. Michael Turner vs. Carolina
2. DeAngelo Williams @ Atlanta
3. Adrian Peterson @ Detroit
4. Ryan Grant vs. Cincinnati
5. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Arizona
6. Darren McFadden @ Kansas City
7. Brian Westbrook vs. New Orleans
8. Chris Johnson vs. Houston
9. Steven Jackson @ Washington
10. Fred Jackson vs. Tampa Bay
11. Matt Forte vs. Pittsburgh
12. Frank Gore vs. Seattle
That Adrian Peterson is averaging ONLY 114.25 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns against Detroit in four career outings. So, before anyone just assumes that AP or AD (University of Oklahoma grads hate 'AP') will threaten to break his own NFL single-game rushing record of 296 in Week 2 ... give the Lions' porous defense some credit for not being historically awful all the time.
And while we're breaking out AP tidbits, did you know Peterson only has one career touchdown catch -- and that it occurred on his inaugural NFL reception wayyyy back in 2007 (a 60-yarder vs. Atlanta)? In the immortal words of Paul Harvey (or Rich Hall) ... It's true ... it's true!
By my count, there are 22 legitimate running back time-shares, all of which could greatly impact your championship chances this season (especially if you fail to pair Colts rookie Donald Brown with Joseph Addai ... or Raiders second-year stud Darren McFadden with Michael Bush or Justin Fargas). In fact, here are the updated time-share rankings, from No. 1 (Marion Barber/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice) to No. 22 (the Broncos' full-house stable, led by rookie Knowshon Moreno):
1. Marion Barber/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice, Cowboys
2. Marshawn Lynch/Fred Jackson, Bills
3. Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush/Mike Bell, Saints
4. LaDainian Tomlinson/Darren Sproles, Chargers
5. Chris Johnson/LenDale White, Titans
6. DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
7. Darren McFadden/Michael Bush/Justin Fargas, Raiders
8. Thomas Jones/Leon Washington/Shonn Greene, Jets
9. Joseph Addai/Donald Brown, Colts
10. Adrian Peterson/Chester Taylor, Vikings
11. Ray Rice/Willis McGahee/Le'Ron McClain, Ravens
12. Brian Westbrook/LeSean McCoy, Eagles
13. Beanie Wells/Tim Hightower, Cardinals
14. Larry Johnson/Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
15. Frank Gore/Glen Coffee, 49ers
16. Ryan Grant/Brandon Jackson, Packers
17. Willie Parker/Rashard Mendenhall/Mewelde Moore, Steelers
18. Cadillac Williams/Derrick Ward/Earnest Graham, Buccaneers
19. Jamal Lewis/Jerome Harrison/James Davis, Browns
20. Julius Jones/Edgerrin James, Seahawks
21. Kevin Faulk/Laurence Maroney/Fred Taylor/Sammy Morris, Patriots
22. Knowshon Moreno/Peyton Hillis/Correll Buckhalter/LaMont Jordan, Broncos
It's quite foolish to guarantee 100 receiving yards and/or one touchdown with tight ends -- since their stats, stars included, tend to fluctuate wildly from week to week. Instead, here's my list for the top 10 most productive tight ends for Week 2:
1. Jason Witten vs. N.Y. Giants
2. Dustin Keller vs. New England
3. Visanthe Shiancoe @ Detroit
4. Tony Gonzalez vs. Carolina
5. Antonio Gates vs. Baltimore
6. John Carlson @ San Francisco
7. Shawn Nelson vs. Tampa Bay
8. Dallas Clark @ Miami
9. Vernon Davis vs. Seattle
10. Jeremy Shockey @ Philadelphia
Matt Forte: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
@fairweatherfrnd asks: Do I stick with my studs Matt Forte? (vs. PIT) and Steve Slaton (vs. TEN) or go with Big Cedric Benson in place of either one?
Answer: There's a reason WHY you drafted Forte and Slaton so high ... give 'em a chance to prove (or disprove) their greatness!
@mrhenderson wonders: IF you could only keep one tight end, who would it be -- John Carlson or Greg Olsen?
Answer: Until further notice, one pass-catcher produces (Carlson) ... and one titilates (Olsen) but disappears -- there's your answer!
@octool wonders: I was offered DeSean Jackson for Big Ben? I already have Matt Ryan and Kyle Orton remains on waivers. Any thoughts?
Answer: At face value, heck yeah I'd do D-Jax for Big Ben!! (I would suggest picking up Orton, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez or Jason Campbell soon thereafter.) If you were re-drafting today, you'd likely take Jackson ahead of Roethlisberger; so why wouldn't you do that deal with Ryan already on board as QB1?
@sjo2009 wonders (in two parts): Hey Jay. Should I drop the Dolphins D and pick up the Seahwaks? (Part 2) Or should I pick up the Falcons this week against the Panthers? Dolphins against the Colts makes me very nervous. Or Seahawks?
Answer: SJo, I commend your passion for fantasy football, and I certainly appreciate all the texts and inquiries to my inbox. But you are the ONLY person submitting D/ST questions. Defenses, by and large, are dime-a-dozen assets every week ... just pick one!
@matthewhaller wants to know: Thoughts on Chris Chambers after an O-fer against the Raiders? Do I bail on him to make a waiver claim for Devery Henderson, Laurent Robinson, Patrick Crayton, Robert Meachem or Chansi Stuckey?
Answer: FYI: Chambers has averaged 65 catches, 983 yards, 8 TDs this decade in ODD years. So it wouldn't kill you to be patient -- for now. But if you're determined to dump him, I'd go ... 1)L-Rob 2)Devery 3)Stuckey 4)Crayton 5)Meachem.
1. Kris Brown @ Tennessee
2. Jason Hanson vs. Minnesota
3. Matt Prater vs. Cleveland
4. Joe Nedney vs. Seattle
5. Nate Kaeding vs. Baltimore
6. Nick Folk vs. N.Y. Giants
7. Josh Brown @ Washington
Mainstream fantasy sites, like SI.com, are obviously a hit with fantasygoers. But there's always room for alternative media in the marketplace, especially when the authors are hilariously shouting from the rooftops about why Marc Bulger hasn't turned over a new leaf, or why the Detroit Lions may not win a game ... until 2012.
The first must-see blog is PigskinAddiction.com; and the site's signature page involves Snake's Takes (running every Tuesday) -- comprising a collection of unfiltered thoughts so random, so emotional, so bitter, so twisted ... you'll wonder how the man even survives an NFL Sunday, let alone write about it come Monday.
Next up ... Fantasy Football Toolbox. If you're looking for updated depth charts, weekly cheat sheets, injury reports and even -- sacre bleu! -- an updated listing of the NFL's Top 10 punters (insert joke here) ... then welcome home!
There's even a weekly podcast during the season -- although the Clemons/Ritter podcast offers more hard-hitting fantasy analysis and abject mocking of one another's lineup decisions.
1. Roddy White vs. Carolina
2. Larry Fitzgerald @ Jacksonville
3. Santana Moss vs. St. Louis
4. DeSean Jackson vs. New Orleans
5. Reggie Wayne @ Miami
6. Calvin Johnson vs. Minnesota
7. Nate Burleson @ San Francisco
8. Greg Jennings vs. Cincinnati
9. Hines Ward @ Chicago
10. Randy Moss @ N.Y. Jets
11. Eddie Royal vs. Cleveland (Brandon Marshall may score, as well)
Last Sunday morning, I awoke early (around 9 a.m.) to start my new NFL-gameday routine: Hit the gym, squeeze in some fantasy-related radio interviews, answer reader lineup questions on Twitter (@SI_JayClemons) and watch ESPN's Fantasy Focus online. And during that four-window leading up to kickoff, I heard nary a word about Steve Breaston NOT suiting up for the Cardinals-49ers game at 4:15 p.m. EST. Oh sure, I knew Stevie was having knee issues during the preseason and that he was a cautionary "probable" for Week 1 lineups; but his injury seemingly could not compare to that of teammate Anquan Boldin (hamstring), who was listed as questionable, even though Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt was confident he'd play against San Francisco.
Well, to make a long story short, I went with the "safe" move of inserting Breaston as my flex starter (PPR league) over Boldin, thinking Breaston -- at the very least -- would get his fair share of touches against the 49ers. So, imagine my shock and horror to see Boldin in the starting lineup with Breaston totally inactive ... after that game had already started!
The moral to the story: As great as the 1 p.m. games are on DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket, and as soft as your living-room couch can be on lazy September Sundays, ALWAYS remember to check the late-game inactives before the respective kickoffs. Otherwise, you'll end up with a big, fat ZERO next to your player's name ... and probably lose your head-to-head matchup in the process. (NOTE: I luckily won my PPR clash on the strength of Greg Jennings' miracle TD catch against Chicago and the San Diego defense's Hail Mary interception against Oakland's JaMarcus Russell Whew!)
The 2009 Sports Illustrated/Citizen Sports Fantasy Football Game (presented by Pepsi Max). For those who haven't accessed this amazing application yet on Facebook ... what are you waiting for? (Week 1 has come and gone) And for those whose fantasy-football lives were compromised looooooooong before Michael Crabtree skipped his first regular season game, check out Jeffrey Ma's omnipresent fantasy blog on Citizen Sports.
Here are four viable reasons NOT to dump injured quarterback Matt Cassel this week:
1. Week 13 home clash with Denver
2. Week 14 home clash with Buffalo
3. Week 15 home clash with Cleveland
4. Week 16 road clash with Cincinnati
Verdict: In case you've missed the subtleties here, Cassel has the potential for 300 yards and/or 3 TDs against four highly suspect defenses from Weeks 13-16 -- the entire period of fantasyland playoff football. So, unless you own Drew Brees (@WAS, @ATL, DAL, TB), Cassel is the ONLY automatic quality start among NFL quarterbacks from Dec. 3-28. Not even Tom Brady (cold-weather games in Weeks 14 & 15) or Peyton Manning (Week 16 tilt at cold, windy, blustery Giants Stadium) can deliver on that guarantee.