Matt Forte: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
But drafting poorly is hardly a death sentence for fantasy teams. In fact, the sooner a GM admits his/her draft-day mistakes ... the quicker he/she can start the rebuilding process -- provided they're using their minds creatively (not unlike Val Kilmer's inventive character in the awesome 80s flick, Real Genius).To wit, here's a great blueprint for unloading five fantasy stars having down years -- without giving 'em away for peanuts:
1. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions -- Ol' Megatron might not be on-pace for 12 touchdowns, like 2008; but when 100 percent healthy, he's still one of the NFL's most dangerous red-zone targets -- given his man-mountain size and speed ... AND that rookie QB Matthew Stafford has already perfected the art of the jump-ball pass. Even at his worst, Calvin remains a lock for five catches, 90 yards and .5 TDs every game -- a notion that must be continuously mentioned to Owner B in trade talks.
Trade Offer: Calvin/Michael Crabtree for RB DeAngelo Williams
2. RB Derrick Ward, Buccaneers -- Put aside the overall ineptness of the Tampa Bay franchise, for a moment. If the Bucs had any obvious strengths coming into the season, it rested with their offensive line -- starring Jeremy Trueblood, Davin Joseph, Jeff Faine, to name a few. Throw in a three-headed rushing monster (Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham and Ward) ... and you had the makings of a potentially respectable attack. But alas, Ward has been a shell of his 2008 self (216 rushing yards in Week 16), which only partly explains why Tampa Bay's coaches have been woefully inconsistent with their play-calling. But all is not lost when talking to Owner B: Keep selling Ward as a second-half diamond in the rough.
Trade Offer: Ward/Kellen Winslow, Jr./Brandon Marshall/Carson Palmer for Drew Brees/Jamaal Charles/Jermichael Finley/Steve Smith (NYG)
3. RB Brian Westbrook, Eagles -- It's always something with this decade's reincarnation of Thurman Thomas -- whether we're talking knee surgery or getting Weeble-Wobbled by a Redskins defender on Monday Night Football. But Westy does have one substantial chip in his bargaining favor: The Eagles offense -- aside from the occasional 70-yard run/catch from DeSean Jackson -- looks slow and unproductive without Westbrook on the field. At the very least, Philly coaches NEED Westbrook as a decoy ... otherwise, the idea of McNabb throwing 45 times per game rings a little hollow. In terms of conceiving creative trades, fantasy owners MUST embrace the handcuff.
Trade Offer: Westbrook/LeSean McCoy/Antonio Gates for Larry Fitzgerald/Chester Taylor/Brent Celek
4. WR Greg Jennings, Packers -- Fantasy owners with Itchy Trigger-Finger Syndrome need to exercise extreme patience when trying to deal Jennings. After all, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is averaging 283 passing yards and two TDs per game without major contributions from Jennings (22 catches, 356 yards, 1 TD). And unless there's some unreported injury hindering Jennings -- the Packers' highest-paid receiver -- we have to believe his breakout is merely imminent. The battleplan here: Find another club that's potentially one WR short of contending for a fantasy title ... and then initiate a full-court press to land a top-notch running back.
Trade Offer: Jennings/Marshawn Lynch/Fred Jackson for Steven Jackson/Lee Evans
5. RB Matt Forte, Bears -- I invested three separate top-4 picks for the enigmatic Forte; amazingly, I boast above-.500 marks in each league. But now, we've arrived at the bewitching hour of Week 8 -- deciding if Forte is worth keeping (with the Browns, 49ers, Rams, Packers, Lions still on the schedule) ... or dumping before his name is mud in trade circles.
Trade Offer: Forte/Vincent Jackson/Matt Schaub/Kevin Boss for Tony Gonzalez/Donovan McNabb/Jeremy Maclin/Clinton Portis ... and if all else fails, just find a Chicago-based owner and pitch a Forte-for-Miles Austin swap -- straight up.
... Here's how I fared in the 12-team draft that was conducted in mid-May (not making excuses -- just stating a fact):
1. RB Matt Forte, Bears (it's not too late to right the ship)
2. RB Chris Johnson, Titans (slowly becoming the Steven Jackson of AFC backs)
3. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders (injury + worst offense ... ever = D'oh!)
4. RB Thomas Jones, Jets (602 yards and 7 TDs from my "No. 4" rusher -- boom!)
5. WR Chad Ochocinco, Bengals (his dominance has thrown even me for a loop)
6. WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets
7. RB Darren Sproles, Chargers
8. QB Eli Manning, Giants (a solid QB1 option for Round 8)
9. WR Kevin Walter, Texans (there's no sugarcoating this disaster pick)
10. QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks (an excellent QB2 ... when healthy and not facing Arizona)
11. WR Sidney Rice, Vikings (check the archives: I predicted his greatness back in April)
12. TE John Carlson, Seahawks (he's been OK ... could be a lot better)
13. WR Greg Camarillo, Dolphins (a November pick, giving him time to recover from knee surgery)
14. PK Ryan Longwell, Vikings
15. D/ST San Diego Chargers
16. TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (this upside pick COULD prove to be fruitful in November or December ... but I doubt it -- he's still a year away from taking charge)
Here's a list of prominent-but-struggling players who'll bounce back in Week 8 -- I promise:
1. RB Frank Gore, Chiefs
2. RB Pierre Thomas, Saints
3. QB Donovan McNabb, Eagles
4. QB Jay Cutler, Bears
5. TE Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
6. TE Jason Witten, Cowboys
7. RB LaDainain Tomlinson, Chargers
8. WR Steve Breaston, Cardinals
9. RB Matt Forte, Bears
10. WR Mohammed Massaquoi, Browns
**In 16 career games against the rival Raiders (2001-09), RB LaDainian Tomlinson has amassed 2,168 total yards and 20 touchdowns. And during this period against Oakland, LT has failed to register 70 total yards and/or at least one TD ONLY twice! Translation: If Tomlinson (211 rushing yards, 1 TD in '09) is ever going to break out of a longer-than-usual mini-slump, at the roan age of 30 ... it's likely going to come against the Silver & Black in San Diego -- or not come at all.
**Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald has averaged 6.35 catches for 86 yards and 1.35 TDs in 20 November games (2004-08) -- slightly better numbers than teammate Anquan Boldin for the same month (6.26 catches for 81 yards and .48 TDs in 23 games). More importantly, Fitzgerald and Boldin share different-but-similar career numbers against Carolina -- Arizona's opponent in Week 8:
Fitzgerald: 8 catches for 93.25 yards and .75 TDs
Boldin: 7.4 catches for 121 yards and .60 TDs
1. Donovan McNabb vs. Giants
2. Peyton Manning vs. 49ers
3. Jay Cutler vs. Cleveland
4. Tony Romo vs. Seattle
5. Philip Rivers vs. Oakland
6. Aaron Rodgers vs. Minnesota
7. Kurt Warner vs. Carolina
8. Drew Brees vs. Atlanta
1. Atlanta @ New Orleans
2. Minnesota @ Green Bay
3. St. Louis @ Detroit
4. N.Y. Giants @ Philadelphia
5. San Francisco @ Indianapolis
1. QB Kevin Kolb, Eagles (SHOULD D-McNabb go down ... you'll have a lock for 300 yards passing)
2. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders (the Raiders will return to their run-first, no-JaMarcus roots)
3. WR Steve Breaston, Cardinals (the NFL's best WR handcuff -- should Fitz/Boldin get injured)
4. WR Terrell Owens, Bills (can seriously be had for a bag of balls right now ... a no-risk venture)
5. RB Correll Buckhalter, Broncos (perhaps the NFL's most underrated backup tailback)
6. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (eventually, the Chiefs will become a decent passing team ...)
7. QB Matt Cassel, Chiefs (... and it should coincide with their easy November/December sked)
8. RB Fred Jackson, Bills (ALWAYS finishes seasons strong -- he's perfect for the fantasy playoffs)
9. WR Mark Clayton, Ravens (Joe Flacco loves throwing him alley-oops near the end zone)
10. WR Danny Amendola, Rams (an option for either truly desperate souls stuck in bye-week purgatory ... or those in search of a poor man's Wes Welker in PPR leagues -- either way, he's not the worst receiver on the planet)
@jeffgreer says: Jay, I'm losing sleep over this flex spot: Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Walter, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt. Who's my best option for Week 8?
Answer: Jeff, I hope you're kidding about the whole losing-sleep thing. Yes, this is a quandary for all involved ... but it's not like any of these warhorses is going for 140 yards and two touchdowns, either. Short of throwing a blind dart at your foursome, let's ride the immensely talented Britt over Nicks, Walter and the cracked-bone-in-my-ankle Bradshaw. Thanks!
@jworkman52 wonders: Should I trade Brandon Jacobs/Hakeem Nicks for Calvin Johnson/Brian Westbrook? I have Matt Forte/Joseph Addai at RB and Wes Welker/Donald Driver at WR.
Answer: Workman, if this trade should happen to blow up in your face come December, by all means, I'll take 100 percent of the hit. BUT, in the meantime, heck yeah I'd give up Jacobs and Nicks to land Calvin and Westy ... any day of the week! Now, to be fair, I completely understand Owner B's brilliance here ... but neither CJ nor Westbrook have major injuries ... and they're the engines of their respective offenses.
@ian1398 asks: In place of Wes Welker this week, which backup WR do I turn to -- Pierre Garcon or Johnny Knox?
Answer: Let's see: Knox gets more Targets than Garcon on a weekly basis, but Garcon has the better QB, in Peyton Manning over Jay Cutler. Our tiebreaker is quite simple: Follow the stench-trail that is the Cleveland Browns ... and you'll have your answer -- Knox!
@sjo2009 wants to know: Who do you like in the flex spot -- Steve Breaston/Vernon Davis/Mark Clayton?
Answer: Hmmm ... let's go 1)Mark Clayton 2)Breaston 3)V-Davis in standard leagues. For PPRs, though, let's ride 1)Breaston 2)V-Davis 3)Clayton.
@WFNYScott says: Any thoughts on the 13th-round keeper value of Shonn Greene? I was offered Dwayne Bowe (4th-rounder in August) for him. Whaddya think?
Answer: Scott, I'm not saying you'll want to keep Greene at all costs heading into next year. But I definitely think you can play the waiting game when choosing between him and Bowe. If I were you, I'd just let the season play out -- and hope that Greene carries Round 1/2 value for 2010. And at the very least, he'll certainly beat anything you'll find in Round 13 next August.
Chad Ochocinco: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
A receiver is only as good as his quarterback ... and the number of opportunities he gets to make a catch (known as Targets -- an absolutely critical stat for PPR leagues). This underrated category is the best way to safeguard against one-hit wonders during a looooong fantasy season. To wit, SI.com presents a list of the 30 wideouts with at least 31 Targets since Week 3:
1. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals -- 50 Targets
2. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- 47 Targers
3. Andre Johnson, Texans -- 47 Targets
4. Wes Welker, Patriots -- 46 Targets
5. Randy Moss, Patriots -- 43
6. Steve Smith, Giants -- 43
7. Mohammed Massaquoi, Browns -- 40
8. Sidney Rice, Vikings -- 39
9. Hines Ward, Steelers -- 38
10. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals -- 37
11. Lee Evans, Bills -- 37
12. Santana Moss, Redskins -- 37
13. Reggie Wayne, Colts -- 37
14. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks -- 35
15. Mario Manningham, Giants -- 35
16. Terrell Owens, Bills -- 34
17. Bernard Berrian, Vikings -- 33
18. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs -- 33
19. Nate Burleson, Seahawks -- 33
20. Marques Colston, Saints -- 33
21. Roddy White, Falcons -- 33
22. Miles Austin, Cowboys -- 32
23. Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers -- 32
24. Derrick Mason, Ravens -- 32
25. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars -- 32
26. Mark Clayton, Ravens -- 31
27. Santonio Holmes, Steelers -- 31
28. Torry Holt, Jaguars -- 31
29. Vincent Jackson, Chargers -- 31
30. Louis Murphy, Raiders -- 31
1. Anquan Boldin vs. Carolina
2. Larry Fitzgerald vs. Carolina
3. Roddy White @ New Orleans
4. Vincent Jackson vs. Oakland
5. Miles Austin vs. Seattle
6. Mohammed Massaquoi @ Chicago
7. DeSean Jackson vs. N.Y. Giants
8. Derrick Mason vs. Denver
9. Brandon Marshall @ Baltimore
10. Marques Colston vs. Atlanta
11. Lance Moore vs. Atlanta
12. Kenny Britt vs. Jacksonville
1. WR Jacoby Jones (@ Buffalo)
2. RB Mike Bell (vs. Atlanta)
3. WR James Jones (vs. Minnesota)
4. TE Marcedes Lewis (@ Tennessee)
5. WR Keenan Burton (@ Detroit)
1. Ray Rice vs. Denver
2. Marshawn Lynch vs. Houston
3. Brandon Jacobs @ Philadelphia
4. Thomas Jones vs. Miami
5. Frank Gore @ Indianapolis
6. Marion Barber vs. Seattle
7. Steven Jackson @ Detroit
8. Kevin Smith vs. St. Louis
9. Ronnie Brown @ N.Y. Jets
10. Maurice Jones-Drew @ Tennessee
11. Chris Johnson vs. Jacksonville
12. Pierre Thomas vs. Atlanta
One good turn deserves another. Here are the 23 tailbacks with 13 or more Targets since Week 3:
1. Ray Rice, Ravens -- 33
2. Steven Jackson, Rams -- 25
3. Steve Slaton, Texans -- 23
4. Joseph Addai, Colts -- 22
5. Tim Hightower, Cardinals -- 22
6. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars -- 22
7. Reggie Bush, Saints -- 20
8. Matt Forte, Bears -- 20
9. Jerome Harrison, Browns -- 20
10. Chester Taylor, Vikings -- 20
11. Marshawn Lynch, Bills -- 17
12. Leon Washington, Jets -- 17 (out for the year -- broken leg)
13. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs -- 15
14. Tashard Choice, Cowboys -- 15
15. Adrian Peterson, Vikings -- 15
16. Ladell Betts, Redskins -- 14
17. Kevin Faulk, Patriots -- 14
18. Glen Coffee, 49ers -- 13
19. Fred Jackson, Bills -- 13
20. LeSean McCoy, Eagles -- 13
21. Kevin Smith, Lions -- 13
22. Brian Westbrook, Eagles -- 13
23. Ricky Williams, Dolphins -- 13
Last but not least ... here are the 19 tight ends with at least 20 targets since Week 3. If your preferred guy isn't on the list, perhaps it's time to choose someone who actually sees 4-5 balls per game:
1. Owen Daniels, Texans -- 40 Targets
2. Vernon Davis, 49ers -- 37
3. Antonio Gates, Chargers-- 34
4. Heath Miller, Steelers -- 34
5. Dallas Clark, Colts -- 33
6. Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers -- 32
7. Zach Miller, Raiders -- 29
8. Chris Cooley, Redskins -- 28 (done for the year -- broken ankle)
9. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons -- 28
10. Greg Olsen, Bears -- 28
11. Brent Celek, Eagles -- 26
12. Jason Witten, Cowboys -- 26
13. John Carlson, Seahawks -- 25
14. Dustin Keller, Jets -- 24
15. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions -- 23
16. Jeremy Shockey, Saints -- 23
17. Todd Heap, Ravens -- 22
18. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings -- 22
19. Daniel Fells, Rams -- 20
I referenced Real Genius earlier in today's Clicks. In my book, it stands with Caddyshack, Weird Science, National Lampoon's European Vacation and Back To The Future as the most quotable movies of the 1980s. Along those lines, here are that decade's most underrated flicks:
1. Real Genius (Val Kilmer) -- "Pacific Tech presents ... Smart People on Ice!"
2. Spinal Tap (Christopher Guest/Harry Shearer) -- you'll never think of "11" the same way again
3. European Vacation (Chevy Chase) -- "I believe the pyramidial tracks are a housing development outside of Cairo."
4. Police Academy 2 (Steve Guttenberg/Art Metrano) -- "What? You've never seen a man wash his hair before?"
5. Amazon Women on the Moon -- "I found the movie to be a light, frothy soufflé ... whereas you saw it as pond scum."
6. Spaceballs -- (Mel Brooks/Rick Moranis) -- "We ain't found (s--t)!"
7. Back To School (Rodney Dangerfield) -- "Why don't you call me some time when you have no class?"
8. Naked Gun (Leslie Nielsen) -- "No, I'm talking about good, clean love ... without utensils."
9. National Lampoon's Vacation -- "Personally, I'd rather see a giant ball of mud ... than your cousin Eddie."
10. Police Academy 3 -- "And you know what Capt. Mauser said to me? 'It'safactahemahoa!'"