NFL fantasy roundtable: Tebow's future, potential sleepers, more
Each week of the NFL season, a committee of SI.com fantasy experts will huddle together and offer their insights into the most intriguing questions facing fantasy players.
1. Tim Tebow looks like he'll be getting more snaps in Denver. What kind of production do you foresee for him?
Carroll: Something significantly less than what we saw in the last couple weeks of last season. At that point, it was a test and most teams were just trotting guys out. This is the core of the season and he's got a pretty tough schedule coming after the Miami game. The bye week helps, but I think Tebow's value depends on whether or not the Broncos install an offense that maximizes the things he can do. If he gets goal-line carries, that's the big help.
Mack: Tebow is a poor man's Cam Newton. If you missed out on Newton this year, and you need a quarterback with upside, take the waiver-wire flier on Tebow. It is likely Tebow is available and it is worth stashing him through the bye week. He is going to take over in Denver and take off for fantasy owners as a viable starting quarterback (top 12-type production), if not in Week 7 then shortly thereafter.
Sabino: Tebow is an exciting, unorthodox player who shows shades of Michael Vick and Cam Newton. Despite a major bounce-back year from Willis McGahee, Denver's offense has been sputtering with the interception-prone Kyle Orton at the helm, so I can see this being a boost to many members of the Broncos attack. His fantasy rushing numbers will offset any passing deficiencies he may have, as will the amount of touchdowns he'll score himself. Much like Newton, those who pick him up will find themselves having to consider using him each week.
2. Jonathan Dwyer and Jackie Battle emerged seemingly from nowhere to star in Week 5. What player currently hiding deep on some team's roster has the potential to be the next surprise star?
Will Carroll: I think there's a lesson here in that sometimes, it's not the RB at all. Let's assume there's a minimum amount of talent necessary to hold a roster spot in the NFL and that any player on a roster has that. (I know we all like to think, "Oh, I could play better than that guy." No, you can't.) When given a chance, some of those will succeed. You have to look for systems that work, such as Houston. It really doesn't matter if it was Steve Slaton or Arian Foster or Ben Tate -- it was a good situation. Same in Pittsburgh. Same for any power back going against Indy. If I had to guess, I'd look at backups in Green Bay (Alex Green) or Minnesota (Toby Gerhart.)
Eric Mack: Dwyer and Battle weren't necessarily fantasy stars in Week 5, because owners would have had to use them in order for them to make an impact. But they did surprise and it tends to be running backs who rise up like this and have the most residual value. Unlike a receiver having a big game out of nowhere, a running back is a function of circumstance, due in part to the (lack of) health of the back ahead of him, but also because of the quality of the offensive line in front of him and the commitment to the running game of the play-caller. For the next Dwyer and Battle, look to some of the unheralded handcuffs to elite backs like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. Toby Gerhart and Javon Ringer (or Jamie Harper) could be the next 100-yard surprises.
David Sabino: Here's one who's not out of nowhere but is long forgotten: Dolphins running back Steve Slaton. Trapped behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate in Houston, Miami picked up the former Texan off of waivers on Sept. 28 and he suited up against the Chargers, picking up two yards on his lone carry. As a rookie four years ago he gained over 1,600 yards from scrimmage but was severely limited by a neck injury. He possesses a similar skill set to coach-killer Reggie Bush, but with a better career rushing average (4.4 yards per carry to 3.9 for Bush), including 4.9 in 2010 after his return from the injury. With Chad Henne out for the year and with the coaching staff having the Week 5 bye to re-group, look for the Dolphins to switch back to heavy reliance on the ground game, especially playing in a division with opponents that are 13th (Patriots), 27th (Jets) and 29th (Bills) against the run. He'll get a chance to re-establish himself in the coming weeks, and at that level, all he may need is the opportunity.
3. The Buccaneers were supposed to have an up-and-coming offense with Josh Freeman. LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams leading the way. Yet the team has been inconsistent. Whom should fantasy owners give up on in the Bucs offense and whom should they stick with?
Carroll: I have no idea what's wrong with this offense. It just went poof. I still like Blount, but on the WR side, Arrelious Benn has come back from ACL surgery and is looking like a real No. 1. I still think Freeman and Williams could bust out, but I'm done waiting for it.
Mack: Blount is the focal point of the Bucs offense. Freeman merely had some huge surprise games down the stretch last year. If you throw those games out, this year's Freeman is pretty close to last year's Freeman: A marginal fantasy backup quarterback. While Blount is the one to have, cutting Freeman is not the move. Williams is a viable cut if you need to fill a hole during the bye-week season, though.
Sabino: First and foremost is Kellen Winslow Jr., who has been a non-factor this year, ranking 16th in tight end fantasy points without reaching the end zone. But I'd also consider giving Freeman the boot. There aren't many quarterbacks I'd like more with the game on the line in the NFL, but his tremendous leadership skills haven't transferred well to fantasy yet. Blount's knee is a concern but he's still worth holding onto unless we hear surprisingly bad news about him.
4. Last week you offered some of your top Sell High candidates. Let's go the other way and identify who you're Buying Low on?
Carroll: Understanding injuries better than your competitor can give you an advantage. Andre Johnson isn't normally going to be on the trade block, but if you can find a guy who's panicking a bit, you can get him with a real offer. Same with Rashard Mendenhall, another first-round talent. You can also steal some good players on bad teams. If you've got an Eagles fan who's overreacting in your league, maybe you can pick off one of the guys he's throwing darts at. Use every angle to win.
Mack: Any of the disappointing first-round running backs are good buy-low candidates. Chris Johnson, Mendenhall and Ahmad Bradshaw are going to be a lot closer to their previous production. Their teams are learning -- even in this pass-happy NFL, record-pace passing NFL -- they need to get back to running the ball in order to win. When the weather gets a bit more inclement, running games are going to be more of a priority and this trio is going to be relied on heavily. Jump back on board if anyone is selling.
Sabino: I'm buying low on Philip Rivers, currently ranked below Jason Campbell and Matt Hasselbeck and barely ahead of Alex Smith in fantasy points after having thrown more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (6). Malcom Floyd has been hurt and slow to regain the form that made him such a dangerous player last season and we all know about Antonio Gates' foot woes. With those two expected to have a major impact in the second half of the season, I believe we'll see Rivers return to his rightful place among the league's top six QBs.
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