Flex Spending: Jackson finds himself target of Vick's attention

Thursday October 11th, 2012

The flex landscape is always shifting. Last week, it was the first heavy dose of byes that sent owners scrambling to the waiver wire. This week, it's injuries.

With Cedric Benson, Ryan Williams and Donald Brown all heading to the shelf, their owners will once again have to shuffle the pieces to make their starting rosters whole. In the cases of Benson and Williams, you've lost someone for the season who you were likely depending on helping you through the bye-week portion of the schedule. Brown should only be out a few weeks, but, unlike Benson and Williams, he's a guy who you were probably counting on to be an option no matter the time of the season. That can mean a bigger hit to your starting lineup and depth.

Luckily, all three have ready-made replacements, as we'll see below. The degree to which you'll want to trust their replacements differs, but that's what makes Flex Spending a constant challenge to navigate.

DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- With eight more targets in last week's loss to the Steelers, Jackson is up to 46 on the year, and clearly looks like Michael Vick's favorite target. Despite doing most of his damage from outside the red zone, Jackson has four targets inside the 20 this year. The 46 targets represent a quarter of Vick's passes this season, which is good for 15th in the league. You likely weren't benching Jackson any time soon, but the rest of the way I like him as a top-20 wide receiver. Even when bye weeks end, I'd have a hard time benching Jackson, even in leagues that only start two wide receivers. In standard 12-team leagues, meaning two running backs, two receivers and one flex, Jackson remains a guy you want in there every week.

Steve Johnson, Bills -- Is Johnson a top-15 wide receiver? Seems outlandish, but he just might be. Of all the passes Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown this year, 31 percent have been to Johnson. One-third of the Bills' red-zone targets have been to Johnson. He has 21 catches for 234 yards and three touchdowns, which may not be anything to get too excited about, but the volume sure is nice. Like Jackson, you weren't even considering putting him on your bench, but it's always worth doing periodic audits and checking everyone's value. Johnson's is decidedly up since the start of the season. I'd treat him as a top-15 receiver.

Vick Ballard, Colts -- Donald Brown will miss the next two-to-three weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery, and Ballard steps into his place as the starter. While the Colts expect to have Brown back before the calendar turns to November, Ballard could be a treat all the way up to Halloween. His matchup against the Jets this week isn't special, but it's not the death sentence it once was, and he has two juicy matchups waiting for him in the Browns and Titans. Scoop him up now if he's available in your league. Depending on how the Week 6 byes impact your roster, he could be worth starting this week, as well.

Alex Green, Packers -- Running second in the Week 6 waiver race is Green, who figures to be the main beneficiary after Cedric Benson suffered a lisfranc fracture. James Starks may be the nominal starter, but if last week is any indication, the Packers will turn to Green as their primary ball carrier. He racked up 63 yards on 10 carries in last week's loss to the Colts. The Packers have had a ton of trouble getting the ball downfield this year, and that could force them to rely on running the ball more than they have recently. We were already seeing that develop with Benson, and now it's Green who stands to get most of those touches. You should have better options to go with this week when the Packers visit Houston, but Green just might prove to be this year's big-ticket midseason pickup.

Steven Jackson, Rams -- We've been waiting for this day. Every year, the experts said it was going to happen, and every year they were proven wrong. But the party always has to end, the tab must always be paid, and it appears the time is nigh for Jackson. After churning out workmanlike, quality seasons year after year, it looks like all the hits have finally caught up with him. Jackson has carried the ball 77 times for just 271 yards and zero touchdowns this season. Meanwhile, Daryl Richardson clearly has more burst and gives the Rams' offense a dynamic that Jackson simply does not, and they can't afford to keep him on the bench. At this point, Jackson is a fringe flex option at best.

Jordy Nelson, Packers -- The Packers have hit on just one pass of 40 yards or longer this season and nine of 20 or longer. Not surprisingly, Nelson has just 23 catches for 289 yards and one touchdown. Last year, he caught 68 passes for 1,263 yards, good for an 18.6 yards-per-catch average. That number is way down to 12.6 this year. Simply put, no one is more adversely affected by Green Bay's inability to stretch the field than Nelson. As such, we have to downgrade him here. It's hard to pinpoint what's causing this lack of firepower from the Packers, but until they turn it around, we have to consider Nelson as outside the top-20 receivers. Now you'll probably still be starting him. I own him in two of my three leagues, and I'll have him in there without hesitation. But temper your expectations for him in the near future.

1. Arian Foster 2. Ray Rice 3. LeSean McCoy 4. A.J. Green 5. Calvin Johnson 6. Darren McFadden 7. Trent Richardson 8. Reggie Bush 9. Victor Cruz 10. Jamaal Charles 11. Adrian Peterson 12. Roddy White 13. Marshawn Lynch 14. Reggie Wayne 15. Julio Jones 16. DeMarco Murray 17. Larry Fitzgerald 18. Frank Gore 19. Percy Harvin 20. Wes Welker 21. DeSean Jackson 22. Demaryius Thomas 23. Ryan Mathews 24. Dwayne Bowe 25. Miles Austin 26. Mike Wallace 27. Rob Gronkowski 28. Vernon Davis 29. Mikel Leshoure 30. Stevan Ridley 31. Michael Turner 32. Ahmad Bradshaw 33. Alfred Morris 34. Torrey Smith 35. Brandon Lloyd 36. Doug Martin 37. Tony Gonzalez 38. Steve Johnson 39. Eric Decker 40. Brian Hartline 41. Vincent Jackson 42. Rashard Mendenhall 43. Antonio Brown 44. Andre Johnson 45. Jordy Nelson 46. Willis McGahee 47. C.J. Spiller 48. Fred Jackson 49. Michael Crabtree 50. Dez Bryant 51. Malcom Floyd 52. BenJarvus Green-Ellis 53. Vick Ballard 54. Steven Jacson 55. Owen Daniels 56. Anquan Boldin 57. Jason Witten 58. Alex Green 59. Jeremy Maclin 60. James Jones 61. Nate Washington 62. Chris Johnson 63. Andre Roberts 64. Donnie Avery 65. Shonn Greene 66. Golden Tate 67. Robert Meachem 68. Domenik Hixon 69. Kyle Rudolph 70. Heath Miller 71. Fred Davis 72. Kendall Hunter 73. Brandon Bolden 74. David Wilson 75. Jackie Battle 76. Toby Gerhart 77. Jeremy Kerley 78. Sidney Rice 79. James Starks 80. Jacquizz Rodgers 81. William Powell 82. Bilal Powell 83. LaRod Stephens-Howling 84. Daryl Richardson 85. Andrew Hawkins 86. T.Y. Hilton 87. Dennis Pitta 88. Ronnie Hillman 89. Shaun Draughn 90. Martellus Bennett 91. LeGarrette Blount 92. Pierre Garcon 93. Randall Cobb 94. Josh Gordon 95. Jon Baldwin 96. Donald Jones 97. Rueben Randle 98. Armon Binns 99. Denarius Moore 100. Danny Woodhead

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.