Jay Clemons
Wednesday September 15th, 2010

There's nothing like a season-ending injury involving a top-12 tailback to shake things up in fantasyland. But in a very sad and perverse way, Ryan Grant's loss ... is Fantasy Clicks' gain.

Unfortunately, I don't have the power to undo Grant's injury from Sunday (more on that later), but I can offer a four-tiered contingency plan to help owners revitalize their rosters, sans Grant:

Grant-Related Replacement Options Option #1 -- Do whatever it takes to get Green Bay's Brandon Jackson, via free agency or trade. Forget that Jackson only has 689 career rushing yards (and four TDs). Forget that B-Jax had a decent shot to beat out a then-lightly regarded Grant for the No. 1 rusher slot in 2007 -- but failed. And forget about the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers being a pass-first operation during the ideal-weather months of September, October and November. Jackson is a potentially dynamic runner who should be an automatic flex consideration every week, regardless of opponent. He's one of those sturdy, explosive backs who never had an unimpeded stab at fantasy glory -- until now. If it calls for blind-bidding $81 in a $100 FAAB pool, do it. If you have a $1,500 budget, why not spend $1,100 on a guy with 1,100-yard potential? Make your move ... and then let the chips fall where they may.

Option #2 -- Use your wide receiver depth to replenish the running back pool. At the risk of oversimplifying things, quality receivers can be found in free agency at any point in 12-team leagues; but productive RBs seldom fall into one's lap after the first couple weeks -- with the obvious exception of major injuries to workhorse backs. So, why not ship your WR3 and WR4 for another owner's RB3 -- as part of an easy 2-for-1 swap.

Option #3 -- Trade for a superstar. On the heels of a 231-yard, 3-TD outing against the Colts in Week 1, it's easy to peg Arian Foster as an untouchable commodity. But an intelligent Foster owner also realizes his trade value will never be higher than it is now; and given the merry-go-round treatment of Texans backs in the Gary Kubiak era, getting three immediate starters for a guy who could lose his job to Steve Slaton by Week 8 -- thanks to some poorly timed fumbles -- suddenly doesn't seem like a bad move. On the flip side, RB-needy owners could exploit this historical uncertainty with Houston backs to land Foster, via trade. Just be prepared to surrender an arm and a leg in the process.

Option #4 -- Get stronger at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end ... by selling off your running back assets. Before you dismiss this bullet as fantasy suicide or call any Atlanta-based hospitals with paddy-wagon requests, hear me out. If you're in a league where only two running backs are required to start, what's the harm in basically "punting" the two slots -- in the name of getting top-5 talents at QB, WR or TE? Yes, running backs are treated like gold in 12-, 14- or 16-team leagues; but is it really wise to surrender Miles Austin, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Roddy White or Larry Fitzgerald for Tim Hightower, Cadillac Williams or Willis McGahee -- essentially No. 4 backs? This bold strategy should be a consideration for fantasy owners who would never cut off their nose to spite their face.

The NFL needs to outlaw the type of tackle that curtailed Grant's season before it effectively started. Without singling out Eagles safety Quintin Mikell too much (this problem runs deeper than one player), that tactic of jumping on a ball carrier's back and pinning his leg/ankle (with the body) before the hog-tackle seems like a recipe for disaster. In fact, I rarely go one Sunday of watching eight simultaneous games without seeing this move performed by defenders who know exactly what they're doing. Mikell already had a good angle on Grant, and yet chose to do the jump-and-pin tackle.

Look, I know the NFL has made several rule changes in the last 35 years to promote scoring, with very few aiding the defense's cause (except the force-out rule); and I realize that today's runners are bigger, stronger and faster than ever. No one's disputing that. But for NFL defenders, if you don't know how to execute a proper tackle without breaking someone's leg/ankle in the process, perhaps it's time to consider another line of work. I know, football's a dolled-up bloodsport with barbaric tendencies, but there's no glory in needlessly hurting a player.

1. Tony Romo vs. Chicago 2. Aaron Rodgers vs. Buffalo 3. Kyle Orton vs. Seattle 4. Philip Rivers vs. Jacksonville 5. Tom Brady @ N.Y. Jets 6. Peyton Manning vs. N.Y. Giants

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: Privileged waiver-wire access.

Think about it: In leagues where the worst teams get first dibs on free agents, you have a great chance at landing two of the best four players on waivers -- for no other reason than enduring a wretched Week 1 ... and knowing that most owners treat original draftees like their own children. Hence, they're hesitant to make wholesale changes, even with pedestrian receivers (sorry, Malcom Floyd).

Bottom line: 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) and Tim Hightower (2009). 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.

Here's a list of the 20 best available free agents for 12-team, standard-scoring leagues: 1. RB Brandon Jackson, Packers 2. WR Mark Clayton, Rams (a stunning 16 targets in Week 1) 3. QB Kyle Orton, Broncos 4. WR Brandon Lloyd, Broncos (the ultimate feast-or-famine fantasy wideout) 5. QB Michael Vick, Eagles (would be higher if this was a longer-term move) 6. WR Steve Breaston, Cardinals 7. WR Mike Thomas, Jaguars (could be better than Mike Sims-Walker) 8. RB Fred Taylor, Patriots (Maroney trade gives Freddy some wiggle room) 9. QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers 10. WR Mike Williams, Seahawks 11. QB Derek Anderson, Cardinals 12. WR Legedu Naanee, Chargers 13. TE Todd Heap, Ravens 14. TE Jermaine Gresham, Bengals 15. D/ST Tennessee Titans 16. D/ST Kansas City Chiefs 17. RB Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots 18. TE Aaron Hernandez, Patriots 19. WR Dexter McCluster, Chiefs 20. RB Dimitri Nance, Packers (Green Bay's new No. 2 running back)

1. Adrian Peterson vs. Miami 2. LeSean McCoy @ Detroit 3. Jerome Harrison vs. Kansas City 4. Jamaal Charles @ Cleveland 5. Rashard Mendenhall @ Tennessee 6. Jonathan Stewart vs. Tampa Bay 7. Knowshon Moreno vs. Seattle 8. Darren McFadden vs. St. Louis 9. Michael Turner vs. Arizona 10. Cedric Benson vs. Baltimore 11. Maurice Jones-Drew @ San Diego 12. Arian Foster @ Washington (strange but true -- perhaps the shakiest pick among the dozen)

This is a reminder to everyone that I'll be hosting a two-hour chat on Facebook at 11 a.m. EST on Thursday -- just like last week ... and just like I'll do every week until mid-December. Just to clarify, I can still be bothered with lineup-related 4 a.m. Tweets during the week, as always. But for the Facebook chat, you're guaranteed to get an answer within five minutes of the question going public -- or your pizza's free! (Ooops, that's the tagline for my other job.)

Thanks to Arian Foster's celebrated breakout and Brandon Jackson's likely stronghold on the Packers' No. 1 slot, there are currently 17 legitimate running back time-shares, all of which could impact your championship chances: 1. DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart, Panthers 2. Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones, Chiefs 3. Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams, Dolphins 4. Ahmad Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs, Giants 5. Marion Barber/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice, Cowboys 6. Joseph Addai/Donald Brown, Colts 7. Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush, Saints 8. Shonn Greene/LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets 9. Darren McFadden/Michael Bush/Michael Bennett, Raiders 10. LeSean McCoy/Mike Bell, Eagles 11. Matt Forte/Chester Taylor, Bears 12. Knowshon Moreno/Laurence Maroney/Correll Buckhalter, Broncos 13. C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson/Marshawn Lynch, Bills 14. Jerome Harrison/Peyton Hillis, Browns 15. Justin Forsett/Leon Washington/Julius Jones, Seahawks 16. Fred Taylor/Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis/Sammy Morris/Kevin Faulk, Patriots 17. Jahvid Best/Maurice Morris/Kevin Smith, Lions

A receiver is only as good as his quarterback and the number of opportunities he gets to make a catch; and these "Targets" should factor heavily with owners when choosing to snag (or drop) a talent -- especially PPR leagues. It goes without saying, owners must bookmark this link and refer to it every week.

Here are the receivers who garnered at least nine targets in Week 1: 1. Roddy White, Falcons -- 23 targets 2. Mark Clayton, Rams -- 16 3. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- 15 4. Brandon Marshall, Dolphins -- 13 5. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals -- 13 6. Terrell Owens, Bengals -- 13 7. Dez Bryant, Cowboys -- 12 8. Austin Collie, Colts -- 12 9. Malcom Floyd, Chargers -- 12 10. Miles Austin, Cowboys -- 11 11. DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- 11 12. Wes Welker, Patriots -- 11 13. Devin Aromashodu, Bears -- 10 14. Anquan Boldin, Ravens -- 10 15. Pierre Garcon, Colts -- 10 16. Greg Jennings, Packers -- 10 17. Calvin Johnson, Lions -- 10 18. Eddie Royal, Broncos -- 10 19. Reggie Wayne, Colts -- 10 20. Danny Amendola, Rams -- 9 21. Santana Moss, Redskins -- 9 22. Laurent Robinson, Rams -- 9 23. Steve Smith, Panthers -- 9 24. Mike Williams, Buccaneers -- 9

Granted, this is not my official Survivor Pool Pick of the Week (coming Friday); but figuratively speaking, I'll bet my life the 49ers beat the Saints on Monday Night Football. This should be a classic example of what goes up, must come down -- and vice versa.

@CollegeWolf asks: Non-PPR: Do I trade Rashard Mendenhall/Michael Crabtree/Willis McGahee for Cedric Benson/Marion Barber/Marques Colston OR Brandon Marshall (my choice on WR)?

Answer: Let's remove McGahee and MB3 from the discussion for a second. I would rather have Benson/Marshall over Mendy/Crabtree in standard-scoring leagues (although maybe not for keepers). Subsequently, I prefer Barber over Willis, helping your cause on both fronts. Do the deed!

@BryanWinkler wonders: I have Drew Brees as my starting QB (12-team league) and Mark Sanchez as the backup. Do I panic and pick up Matt Hasselbeck, or hang tight?

Answer: Personally, the "panic" occurred the day you took Sanchez over Kyle Orton, David Garrard, Alex Smith, Jason Campbell or any other quarterback left on the board. And Hasselbeck, I'm sorry to say that he'll break your heart in the very-near future. Unfortunately, this is a lesson a whole new crop of first-timers will have to learn.

@JoeCReel poses the question: Which free-agent QB should I pursue: Henne, Alex Smith, Orton, Garrard or Matt Cassel?

Answer: This one's pretty simple. I'd chase Henne, Orton and Garrard in the first tier of waiver considerations ... then settle for Smith and Cassel as worst-case options.

@scottmodel wondered aloud during Monday's Chiefs-Chargers game: If Ryan Mathews is benched in real life, should I bench him in fantasy?

Answer: Let's not overreact to the goodness (or badness) of one game ... rain always adds to the degree of difficulty with RBs. I'm begging you, please don't make any rash judgments that you'll surely regret around 3 p.m. Sunday.

@bois_ton_sang says: Talk about bad karma. I have both Matthew Stafford and Kevin Kolb, with waiver options of Michael Vick, Garrard, Hasselbeck, Kyle Orton. What to do, any ideas? Drop Stafford?

Answer: I hate to be a killjoy here, but unless you absolutely, positively need that roster spot ... you must keep Stafford (Grade-2 separated shoulder). But if you have to drop Stafford (who'll likely return by Week 7/8) ... I'd go with Orton. Thanks!

1. Ryan Longwell vs. Miami 2. David Akers @ Detroit 3. Nate Kaeding vs. Jacksonville 4. Rob Bironas vs. Pittsburgh 5. Matt Prater vs. Seattle 6. Nick Folk vs. New England 7. Joe Nedney vs. New Orleans

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 benching Arian Foster in Week 1, or the prospect of trusting Matt Hasselbeck on the road in Week 2.

The first must-see blog is PigskinAddiction.com. This site offers weekly staples like cheatsheets, start/sit, waiver-wire grabs and last-minute injury advice. But PA.com really separates itself from the pack with raw takes on Monday's action -- not unlike Fantasy Revelations -- and bold projections for every Week 2 matchup.

Next up ... Fantasy Football Toolbox. If you're looking for stats projections for Week 2, updated depth charts, weekly sleepers, updated injury reports and even -- sacre bleu! -- an updated listing of the NFL's Top 10 punters (insert joke here) ... welcome to your new home!

1. Miles Austin vs. Chicago 2. Legedu Naanee vs. Jacksonville 3. Reggie Wayne vs. N.Y. Giants 4. Randy Moss @ N.Y. Jets 5. Jabar Gaffney vs. Seattle 6. Greg Jennings vs. Buffalo 7. Larry Fitzgerald @ Atlanta 8. Brandon Marshall @ Minnesota 9. Steve Smith vs. Tampa Bay 10. Marques Colston @ San Francisco 11. Steve Smith @ Indianapolis

For today's Clicks, I originally had planned a big mini-section on The Goose Egg Gang -- panning the receivers who literally did nothing in Week 1. But that'll just have to wait until Friday. Sorry (not really).

... The 2010 Sports Illustrated Fantasy Football Game (presented by Finish Line and GMC). For those who haven't accessed this amazing application on Facebook yet, what are you waiting for? Week 2 is almost here! Duh.

Here are four viable reasons NOT to dump Matthew Stafford: 1. Week 12 home clash with New England 2. Week 13 home clash with Chicago 3. Week 14 home clash with Green Bay 4. Week 15 road clash with Tampa Bay (although Calvin owners should be weary of Aqib Talib -- this year's Darrelle Revis)

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