For instance, after three weeks of being virtually worthless and having little potential to change that, Rashard Mendenhall has moved from a decent rookie prospect into someone atop my drop list. In fact, I had him queued up for that in one of my league's waiver system -- until I heard the news that Willie Parker was out for Week 4, and later that he'd possibly miss Week 5 as well, coming back after the bye the following week. That's two straight games where Mendenhall is expected to be the feature back (you are welcome, Merrill Hoge), and while the rushing defenses are tough (Baltimore and Jacksonville), you don't drop a starting running back in the NFL. (Unless his name is Ahman Green.)
On the flip side, Calvin Johnson has lived up to all the hype -- catching balls thrown to him by Jon Kitna. Kitna is hanging onto his job by a thread, and the fact that the Lions finally pulled the ripcord on GM Matt Millen suggests more change may be in the air. Johnson is certainly and obviously an immense talent, and he could possibly do just as well hauling in balls from Dan Orlovsky or Drew Stanton ... but if you didn't just gulp when you saw those names, you probably don't own the Megatron.
And then you might have been enjoying Plaxico Burress and his 86.3 yards per game, and are expecting him to add to the single TD he's scored thus far. Then, you find that not only do you have to find a bye week fill-in for him this week, but the next as well, as Burress got suspended for an unexplained absence from the team. Here's the thing in football -- there are only 16 games, and players on playoff teams often sit out much of the last game if they can. So, when guys lose games for stupid stuff like this, the impact on their fantasy team is disproportionally larger than the effect it has on their football team.
Steve Smith gave up 12.5 percent of his season for being an idiot in practice. Brandon Marshall and Burress are each losing six percent of their stats for being idiots elsewhere. All three of these guys could and should be top-10 receivers, but they're not showing their fantasy owners any love at all with suspensions like these. Football is a beautiful and violent game -- the odds of any player not losing a game or two a season because of injury are low; adding to that just ain't right.
What about Drew Brees owners? It's not bad enough that they lose his top target in Marques Colston, but now his secondary outlet Jeremy Shockey (who might be the most fragile player in the game right now) is off with his yearly injury for maybe six weeks. Brees is good, and the Saints are chock full of options, but he's simply worthless when the guys running routes for him are David Patten and Devery Henderson, not Colston and Shockey.
So in a flash, Mendenhall goes from being almost worthless to being a viable starting option for your team, certainly as a flex player and possibly as a RB2, depending on your other choices. And Brees, Burress and Johnson suddenly look like lesser options than they were just last week.
I'm saying, life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
It's also about the time that you start seeing newer options for the problems your team might be having.
Still scrambling at QB? Guys like Brady Quinn and Sage Rosenfels are already stretching on the sidelines, and each has the potential to be pretty effective given their receiving options. Derek Anderson is looking atrocious, and Texans fans are probably hearing, "Houston, we have a problem" echoing through their ears. That's because Matt Schaub looks lost out there on the field and needs to get his act together to hold onto his job. That's two guys I had pegged as high-quality, underrated QB options this season -- turns out they might have been overrated instead. Go figure.
Dinged up at running back? Guys like Le'Ron McClain, Steve Slaton and Tim Hightower shouldn't be available anymore in your league (especially the latter two), but grab any and all of them if you can. Hightower has looked better than Edgerrin James since training camp began, and the Cardinals have stated that they plan on increasing his carries. Slaton starred last week and is similarly the best option the Texans have at running back. McClain is likely to get the fewest carries of these guys, because he's sharing time with Willis McGahee and Ray Rice. Rice was someone a lot of folks, including myself, liked a lot going into the season, but McClain has looked even better. If these guys are all gone, look at TD vultures like Jason McKie and Michael Pittman.
Receivers are generally in the greatest supply in fantasy leagues, but if there aren't obvious names available out there, Chansi Stuckey not only has one of the funnest (not a word) names in the league, but he has also developed a good rapport with QB Brett Favre. The 49ers offense has been so bad that it's likely that guys like Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson are available in your league -- with the suddenly capable QB J.T. O'Sullivan (who I think we can agree should just be called JTO) around, those guys are poised to be capable fill-ins as a third wide receiver for you.
The 49ers continue to struggle at tight end, where Vernon Davis continues to be better at strutting and acting tough than actually catching anything thrown his way. His hands of clay are a pretty big disappointment, and both Niners fans and Davis owners have to be wondering when the supposed talent is really going to start showing on the field.
Don't look now, but it's possible that one of my Big Fat Claims to start the season is looking pretty good. The story on those 49ers is the resurgent offense (surging to a level of being capable, from the depths of horridness), but one thing I suggested was that the defense was going to be start-worthy, especially as a bye week replacement. Well, a lot of defenses are off this week, and San Francisco is currently a top-10 defense. They face the Saints, whose potent offense is a bit hobbled (as noted above), so they could easily have a decent afternoon.
Here's hoping you and your fantasy teams have a decent morning, afternoon, evening, and Monday night as well.