By David Sabino
September 23, 2010
Gridiron 11: Top Buy-Low Candidates

As the third week of the season rolls on, some key players have yet to have much of an impact either on the field or on the fantasy scoreboard. Ranging from the elite to the emerging, these 11 players are making their fantasy owners wait, wish and want for who they drafted to show up. While we're disappointed in their output thus far, we fully believe they're just late to the party and haven't completely missed it, making them great buy-low candidates.

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1 Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars
Yes, my fellow Sports Illustrated fantasy columnist rushed for 98 yards on opening weekend against Denver, but a bum ankle and concern about his knee in the preseason are concerns. Perhaps the most troubling fact from the consensus Top 4 pick's dossier is that he has gone over 100 yards just one time in his last nine games, and has failed to score a touchdown of any kind in his last four. However, don't jump off the bridge yet. The next few games provide ample opportunities for MoJo to right the ship, get into the end zone return to the ranks of the elite. It can't come soon enough.
2 Calvin Johnson, Lions
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
We all know that fantasy owners were hosed when his apparent game-winning touchdown grab was overturned in Week 1, but since we're only credited for the catches that count, Megatron's near miss hurt. Detroit has been good through the air, ranking 11th in the league with 477 passing yards, but with just 95 yards so far, Johnson ranks third among Detroit receivers. The return of starter Matthew Stafford and the respect that Jahvid Best now requires from defenses surely will open up Johnson's game and return him to the ranks of elite receivers.
3 Pierre Garçon, Colts
Pierre Garçon, WR, Colts
The postseason hero's paltry production isn't for a lack of trying by Peyton Manning, who has targeted him 12 times, fourth among all Indy receivers. But they've connected just four times, a success rate of 33.3 percent. Manning hasn't been the problem as he's been his usual otherworldly self to the other Colts such as Dallas Clark (80 percent), Austin Collie (93.3 percent) and Reggie Wayne (73.7 percent). Garçon's slump won't last once his normally crisp route running and attention to detail return, and with Anthony Gonzalez out of the picture again for the next month at least, Garçon is still as attractive as any third fantasy receiver in the game.
4 Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
First the good news: For the first time since he's been in the NFL, Stewart is fully healthy. He leads the Panthers with 4.2 yards per carry. Now the bad: Stewart has only carried the ball 13 times, ceding his co-membership in Carolina's lead-back co-committee to DeAngelo Williams (33 carries). Those 4.2 yards per carry are the fewest in Stewart's three-year career and last week a full half of his carries went for no gain or a loss. The Panthers' strength is the running game and they desperately need a productive Stewart to have any chance of winning, so there's no way he's being abandoned. At the very least, he's the highest quality backup in the league, so be patient, find him a safe spot on your bench and re-evaluate his position in a few weeks.
5 Shonn Greene, Jets
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets
The Jets had the league's top rushing attack last season and are currently ranked fourth behind the Cardinals, Eagles and Texans with 4.8 yards per carry, so Greene's lack of success can't be attributed to the team's slightly revamped offensive line. The problem Greene faces is that he hasn't been better than LaDainian Tomlinson, who is gaining more yards from scrimmage per contest than much higher fantasy picks such as Ray Rice, DeAngelo Williams and Cedric Benson. Greene's day will come, but the way LT has been playing fantasy owners shouldn't wake him up until when September ends.
6 Jerome Harrison, Browns
Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns
As stellar as the end of 2009 was, and withthe season-ending injury to rookie Montario Hardesty, it's hard to believe that Harrison has been so pedestrian to start 2010. His troubles and the outright lack of confidence in him by the Browns coaching staff have led him to find himself in a timeshare with fullback Peyton Hillis. Things certainly won't get easier this week against the Ravens, but there's no way that anyone who saw him last December can believe that he'll fall off the face of the fantasy landscape so quickly.
7 C.J. Spiller, Bills
C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills
Fellow first-round rookie Jahvid Best leads the NFL with five touchdowns and is in the top 10 in receiving yards. In sharp contrast, Spiller, taken 21 picks before Best by Buffalo, has been virtually non-existent, picking up just 40 yards on 16 touches. After being the lead back during the preseason, Spiller has found himself trailing Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and even Trent Edwards in rushing, and with sporadic use has averaged but 1.1 yards per carry. He's obviously not the best rookie runner this year, but he's certainly not as bad as he's been. Look for the Bills to use their prize possession more often starting this week in New England.
8 Mike Wallace, Steelers
Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers
It's possible that nobody is anticipating Ben Roethlisberger's return to the lineup more than Wallace. One of the league's most dangerous deep threats as a rookie, he's been held in check with David Dixon and Charlie Batch under center, with just four catches. Santonio Holmes is gone, and nobody else is pushing the former Ole Miss speedster for snaps, so it's not time to panic. He'll be worth owning in two weeks.
9 Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs
Last year Todd Haley used the tough love approach with Bowe, placing him below journeymen on the depth chart. That didn't work. This year Bowe has been praised and placed atop the receiving corps, and that hasn't worked either, as the former first-round pick has caught just five passes (on 10 targets) for 58 yards, which is roughly equivalent to Carolina tight end Dante Rosario's output -- not exactly what one looks from a fantasy wideout. Only 11 of Matt Cassel's 26 completions have gone to wideouts thus far, but since the Chiefs are 2-0, don't look for a change in philosophy anytime soon. Given that Chris Chambers and Dexter McCluster are the alternatives, though, Bowe is primed for a breakout, but it likely won't come until K.C.'s schedule softens up in October.
10 Michael Crabtree, 49ers
Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers
Even with the benefit of a full training camp, the tumultuous wideout has produced little this season, catching just three more balls for 44 more yards as Green Bay's rookie fourth-string tight end, Tom Crabtree (who if you didn't guess has zeros across the board on offense). Lackadaisical work habits and a frequent absence of effort on the field are overshadowing the second-year man's vast skill set, much like as was the case with Vernon Davis during his first few NFL seasons. Mike Singletary took it upon himself to straighten out Davis, who has become one of the stars of fantasy football. There's no way that Iron Mike lets Crabtree squander his talents, especially when he's desperately needed to win.
11 Robert Meachem, Saints
Robert Meachem, WR, Saints
Last year's breakout receiver has all but broken down this year, being used sparingly during New Orleans' first two games. In Monday night's loss to the Niners, Meachem saw the ball come his way just once and it sailed right by him. However, he and Devery Henderson have swapped roles, meaning that Meachem, although unlikely to gather receptions in bulk, will have the opportunity to score long touchdowns. He's still recommended in leagues that award bonus points for big-play touchdowns, but in other PPR leagues, he can safely be sent packing.

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