NFL fantasy roundtable: Vick's start growing into long-term concern
The NFL fantasy season is one filled with decisions. Join SI's roundtable of fantasy experts each week to help sort through the lineup choices, injuries and waiver-wire options that can make or break a season. Each week, we'll also be featuring a question from our readers, which you are free to submit each Sunday of the season at the @SInow Twitter feed.
1. Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Michael Vick are among a host of elite quarterbacks who have struggled this season. What top-flight signal-callers are you most concerned about?
Mike Beacom: Assuming Stafford's leg checks out OK, I can't say I'm worried about any of the league's elite quarterbacks. I'm confident Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will pick up the pace, and both Vick and Newton will bounce back from their so-so September starts. It's not time yet for fantasy owners to circle the wagons.
Will Carroll: I'm most worried about Vick. We know who he is and what he does, but right now, that's not getting it done. Yes, he's 2-1 but two squeaker wins and one bad loss have him firmly in the cross hairs of Philly fans. I don't think Nick Foles is ready or better suited to help this team, but at some point -- very soon -- Vick is going to try and do something, to make a play, and he's going to end up on the sidelines or worse.
Eric Mack: Most are cursing all three, but at least in the case of Vick, the preseason offered some warning. No one could have seen the struggles from Stafford and Newton coming. I am more worried about Newton, because Stafford is more certain to post 4,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns, if healthy. Newton right now looks more certain for 20 interceptions than 20 touchdowns -- and that's including his rushing totals.
David Sabino: Even though he's been the most productive out of the above group, I still worry about Vick as a fantasy quarterback. His play has been erratic, sometimes spectacular, but often sloppy, and he's still an injury risk of the highest degree. Stafford is also a concern since his numbers are a far cry from last year. The lower leg strain that forced him out of the game against Tennessee Sunday is a concern, much as is the common sight of him being thrown around like a rag doll in the pocket.
2. How has the Saints' poor start altered your view of the team's fantasy options?
Beacom: Marques Colston has been slow to get going, but other than that it's about what I expected. Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham are among the top fantasy scorers at their respective positions, and Lance Moore has been a nice surprise. If anything, it's frustrating to see Pierre Thomas steal some of Darren Sproles' production, but the Saints' split backfield is nothing new.
Carroll: I'm drafting Sean Payton in the second round next year, that's for sure. Does a coach make this much difference, or did the offseason issue unsettle this team in ways we don't understand? The Saints are no longer automatic, but it seems like all the talent is still there. Brees is still a top tier guy, Graham has been exactly what people hoped for when drafting a tight end in the first two rounds, but the receivers haven't been buoyed by Brees in the same way they normally are. Worse, the running game is a disaster.
Mack: Save for Brees and Graham, there's no certainty about anyone on the Saints right now. It was frustrating enough when they were setting records and spreading the ball around so much it was hard to pinpoint who would produce. Now, they're spreading the ball around and not setting records. Moore has been a pleasant surprise, but do you trust him? You shouldn't. Colston should be productive eventually, but will he? The three-headed monster at running back between Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas makes a mess of each other. The good news is no matter the Saints situation, Brees and Graham are going to be fantasy monsters. The rest is a crap shoot.
Sabino: A lot of New Orleans' woes have been on defense, so it's not a major factor in the Saints' fantasy outlook. Brees is still finding his receivers, namely Graham and Moore. Colston has been slowed by injury, so he gets a pass for a slow start. I'm much more bullish on their fantasy outlook than on their chances of recovering to make the playoffs.
3. Mikel Leshoure had a promising debut for the Lions. What do you foresee for his future this season?
Beacom: The fact that Detroit pushed so hard to get him reps in his first week back from suspension says plenty. This team was not satisfied with Kevin Smith, and Leshoure showed Sunday he can help Detroit bring balance to the offense. He could be special -- 20 or more touches a game, with goal line privileges.
Carroll: He always had potential. Now we're finally seeing it. Everything offensive was super-sized in Sunday's game, so I'm not putting too much into Leshoure's performance, but I certainly liked what I saw. He seems to be a legitimate RB1 with some power and evasiveness. There's definite upside and the potential to balance the offense is a huge plus for those around him as well. He's only owned in 36 percent of leagues, a number I'm guessing will increase by 63 percent this week.
Mack: It is pretty clear the Lions like Leshoure over Kevin Smith and their stable of backups. It is also clear Leshoure is capable of being a feature back. Consider him a starter in all leagues and a potential star when the matchup is right. The lone caveat there is when, er if, Jahvid Best (post-concussion syndrome) is activated off the PUP list. Will Leshoure have to split carries? That might be the only fear and it's not that big of one yet.
Sabino: The Lions sorely needed a reliable option in the backfield to complement the passing of Stafford and his solid corps of receivers. Smith wasn't cutting it as an every-down player, and Keiland Williams and Joique Bell are nothing but stopgaps. Leshoure brings a power running style to an otherwise vertical passing attack. I can see the Lions becoming a bit more balanced than in recent years; great news for those who were wise enough to stash away Leshoure.
4. Fantasy is a game of matchups. What defenses are causing you to reconsider your lineup options in terms of starting and benching.
Beacom: San Francisco, obviously. Even though the 49ers lost In Week 3 they still limited Adrian Peterson to just 3.4 yards per carry. Tampa Bay's defense is allowing less than 50 yards rushing per game -- they're legit. Of course, the team every fantasy owner must pay attention to is Arizona. They've frustrated two very good offenses (New England and Philadelphia) the past two weeks, and lead the league in fewest points allowed.
Carroll: Matchup is a tiebreaker for me. I play the best possible talent and only when all else is equal do I start thinking matchups. There's no defense right now that's so dominant I don't play my best talent. Adrian Peterson against the vaunted Niners D? Yep. Manning against the Texans? Yep. I got decent production from both of them. Talent is what wins in fantasy. Know what else wins? Consistency.
Mack: The Cardinals and Seahawks have clearly out San Francisco'd the 49ers, who haven't limited fantasy points like the other two teams. The Texans and Bears are tough, too, but they were expected to be in the top 10.
Sabino: It's still a bit early to know exactly what the dominant defenses are but it's not a good idea to start a running back against the 49ers and Texans. Based on early results, fantasy owners also have to think twice about going against the Buccaneers (2.3 yards per carry, 47.3 yards per game) and the Dolphins (2.4, 64.7). On the other side, you have to use anyone going up against the Saints, Bengals and Jaguars. Individually, Vontae Davis had been thrown at nine times through the first two weeks, resulting in eight catches and two touchdowns. Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin was six of six also with two touchdowns. Start your second wideout whenever they're playing the Colts or Bills.
5. I have G. Jennings, H. Nicks, and J. Maclin out. I had to start M. Massaquoi and P. Harvin. Who should I try to pick up on waivers?-- Daniel Phan @DPhierce
Beacom: Julian Edelman's role is slowly growing in New England. Tom Brady has thrown to him almost as much as Rob Gronkowski through three games, and Edelman has something Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd do not -- a touchdown catch. He'll become an instant fantasy stud if the team deals Welker before the trade deadline.
Carroll: There are plenty of decent receivers available. Greg Little is a clear WR1 and Brandon Weeden has looked better than he did in Week 1. Little's only owned in 20 percent of leagues. Andrew Hawkins looks like a home run hitter and is only owned in six percent, though that's sure to go up after two solid weeks for the Bengals. Jeremy Kerley, Cecil Shorts and Brandon Stokely are other names to consider, all under the 10 percent owned mark.
Mack: Among the surprises in the early going among under-owned receivers are: Lance Moore, Andrew Hawkins, Leonard Hankerson and Donnie Avery (with Austin Collie done for the season). If they are owned in your league, a name to consider is Jerome Simpson, who is eligible to return this week after his suspension. He is a freakish talent, and Christian Ponder is proving capable behind one of the best running games in football. Simpson can take off, perhaps even moreso than that aforementioned early surprise group.
Sabino: The good news is that Jennings appears to be back. There's no shame in playing Harvin, who is having a fine season. Among the best free agents out there would be, in order, Ramses Barden, Brian Hartline, Aldrick Robinson, Denarius Moore and Kevin Walter.
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