September 16, 2009

This summer, fantasy owners chose Cadillac Williams 248th overall on average, according to figures -- light years away from where fellow Buccaneer backs Derrick Ward (42nd) and Earnest Graham (89th) landed. In many leagues Williams was untouched, left for waiver wire vultures to pick over.

On Sunday, Williams showed he belonged -- if not atop the Buccaneers depth chart quite yet, then certainly on a fantasy roster in every league. He gained 97 yards on 13 carries, averaging 7.5 yards per carry as compared to Ward's 5.2 average (12 carries for 62 yards). Like Ward, Williams also added a one-yard score to his first week statline.

If fantasy owners can buy into Williams' good health and restored role in the Buccaneers backfield, they can buy into him producing a handful of games this season like the one he had against Dallas on opening weekend. But those same fantasy owners should remain a bit wary of Tampa Bay's history of sharing the workload. Even under a new coaching staff, the Buccaneers are proving they prefer two over one in the backfield -- never a formula for success in fantasy play.

Here are a few other waiver wire candidates to consider ...

WR Mario Manningham, Giants

Remember Manningham, the one-time heralded college football star at the University of Michigan? Poor draft guides and a no-show rookie season prompted fantasy owners to dismiss him this summer. But Manningham showed up in Week 1 (three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown) and could factor into New York's passing game this season. Outside of Steve Smith (six catches for 80 yards) and Manningham, the team's other wide receivers caught a total of just three passes for 28 yards.

WR Laurent Robinson, Rams

Make no mistake -- Donnie Avery is still the No. 1 wideout in St. Louis. Against Seattle, though, Robinson racked up the most fantasy points in his debut with the Rams. The former Falcon receiver caught five balls for 87 yards -- his best performance since Week 16 of the 2007 season (seven catches for 114 yards). Robinson has big-play ability and could be an answer for a St. Louis team in search of weapons for its depleted offensive arsenal.

WR Louis Murphy, Raiders

Murphy arrived on the scene Monday night with four catches against San Diego, including a 57-yard score on fourth down in the final quarter. Darrius Heyward-Bey is the Oakland rookie wideout fantasy owners are most familiar with, but he failed to register a single catch on Monday. Murphy, on the other hand, showed he might be ready to make a splash as a No. 4 or 5 receiver for fantasy owners right out of the gate.

TE Robert Royal, Browns

Hard to believe but Royal led all Browns receivers in yards (60) and he tied for the team lead in receptions (four). He was also the only offensive player for Cleveland to find the end zone on Sunday. The 30-year-old Royal has never been a strong fantasy prospect, but he does appear to have inherited the starting job for a club with a history of throwing to the tight end. In a year in which talent is thin at the position, Royal might be a worthwhile pickup to fill a backup role.

Here is a look at this week's buy and sell candidates:

RB Larry Johnson, Chiefs

Johnson's low output in Week 1 (11 carries for 20 yards) will leave his owners looking for ways to dump the once elite fantasy back. But chalk up his poor day to a Ravens defense that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rushing effort since Johnson did it in December of 2006. Johnson is not the back he once was, but if he can be acquired for a reasonable asking price he still offers value to fantasy owners as a spot starter in most leagues.

WR Earl Bennett, Bears

As a group, the Bears receivers hung quarterback Jay Cutler on Sunday, cutting off routes on a number of occasions. Bennett was no different, but not everything was negative for the second-year receiver. His seven catches led all players in the contest, and Bennett was targeted 13 times throughout the four quarters. Sure seems as if Cutler has already picked Brandon Marshall's counterpart in Chicago. If Chicago continues to pass the ball 36 times per game, and Bennett remains Cutler's favorite target, watch out.

WR Nate Burleson, Seahawks

The telling stat from Burleson's Week 1 effort against St. Louis wasn't his touchdown catch or 74 yards receiving but rather the 11 passes Matt Hasselbeck threw in his direction -- more than any other Seattle receiver. Burleson has been an inconsistent player for fantasy owners through the years, but as a cheap No. 4 or 5 receiver he might be someone to pickup just in case he does find his way this season.

RB Tim Hightower, Cardinals

This guy just won't go away. Arizona drafted Chris Wells in April and yet Hightower was the back grabbing all of the headlines on Sunday. He caught 12 balls for 121 yards in the loss to San Francisco -- the finest effort for a PPR back in the first week of the season. But what cannot be overlooked is Hightower's poor performance rushing the ball -- just 15 yards on eight carries. The Cardinals have plenty of targets to pass to, and although he may have found a role as a situational back, it's doubtful Hightower will ever approach his Week 1 numbers again.

WR Patrick Crayton, Cowboys

Fantasy owners debated whether Crayton or Miles Austin would assume the team's No. 2 role this season. They now think they have an answer after Crayton's 135-yard outburst against Tampa Bay. But consider a few facts: 80 of those yards came on his fourth-quarter touchdown grab, and Crayton caught just four balls. Whether he remains the No. 2 receiver in Dallas is irrelevant; what should matter to fantasy owners is how much value the No. 2 Cowboy receiver will offer, and on most weeks the answer will be minimal. Crayton's Week 1 performance will be the exception this season, not the rule. If he can be packaged for something better, make the deal.

TE Benjamin Watson, Patriots

Watson's game-winning grab and six catches for 77 yards will be fresh in the minds of fantasy owners this week, which is to say that if ever there is a week to unload the fantasy backup it's now. New England is a team that likes to spread the ball around to its skill players, with Randy Moss and Wes Welker being the only two to offer consistent production to fantasy owners. Watson probably will never come within a mile of the 25 points he scored in PPR leagues this past week.

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