BUY LOW, sellhigh--and count the wins as they roll in. The similarity to the stock market isone of the reasons that fantasy football is so addictive. But as with a realstock exchange, determining the right course of action with commodities thatare over- or underachieving is a skill that requires good instincts and solidinformation. With that in mind, what follows is SI's evaluation of five playerswho have dramatically exceeded expectations so far this season, as well as fivewho have drastically underperformed.
This is an article from the Oct. 9, 2006 issue
REX GROSSMAN QBBears
He was named NFCOffensive Player of the Month for September (and SI's Peter King wondered if hehad gotten "an arm transplant from Dan Fouts"), but fantasy ownersshould beware. Grossman has had only one huge game--against the Lions, one ofthe NFL's worst pass defenses, in Week 2--and in the opener against thePackers, whose pass defense is even worse than Detroit's, he threw for just 262yards and one touchdown.
RecommendationSell. Favorable matchups have made him look more valuable than he is, and whenthe wind starts whipping around Soldier Field in a few weeks, passing will bedifficult.
FRANK GORE RB49ers
New offensivecoordinator Norv Turner has helped make Gore this season's most pleasantrunning back surprise. But Gore, who has rushed for 331 yards and threetouchdowns, has also fumbled four times in four games, including twice at theopponents' one-yard line, prompting coaches to insert rookie Michael Robinsonon goal line carries.
RecommendationBuy. Despite Gore's butterfingers, he remains the featured back in an improved49ers attack and has the potential for some big outings against the likes ofthe Raiders, Lions, Packers and Cardinals.
CHARLIE FRYE QBBrowns
Saddled with atruly offensive O-line and one of the worst running games in the league, Fryehas been forced to become a one-man gang. Scrambling for his life, he hasthrown for a meager 216.5 yards per game but for seven TDs. A contrarian'snote: Against the Ravens in Week 3, Frye did pass for a career-high298--despite getting sacked seven times--and displayed a growing rapport withreceiver Braylon Edwards (five catches, 116 yards, one TD).
Sell. Frye has been gutty, but guts don't earn fantasy points.
LAVERANUES COLESWR Jets
After twostraight seasons in which he had fewer than 1,000 receiving yards, Coles hasrejoined the ranks of elite fantasy wideouts. With a healthy Chad Penningtonunder center and a dismal rushing attack, Coles has been the Jets' mainplaymaker downfield, leading the league in receptions (30).
Buy. Games against the Lions, Texans and Packers ensure that the returns willkeep coming.
MARQUES COLSTONWR Saints
Possessing greatsize (6'4", 231 pounds) and good speed (4.5 in the 40), this seventh-roundpick from I-AA Hofstra has been a steal. He leads New Orleans with 20receptions for 336 yards; moreover, with three touchdowns (including an86-yarder) he has proved to have a nose for the end zone. In certain leagues healso qualifies at tight end, making him even more valuable.
Buy. He's still a free agent in some leagues; even if he's already taken, hewon't cost you much in a trade and his upside is enormous.
CADILLAC WILLIAMS RB Buccaneers
No player hasbeen a bigger fantasy bust than Williams, who has rushed for just 107 yards andone touchdown in three games. Two problems have been the defenses that TampaBay has faced (Ravens, Falcons and Panthers) and Chris Simms's inability toprovide a passing threat. Now, with rookie Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback,running the ball has become even more difficult.
Sell--if you can find a Bucs fan or a wishful owner who wants to take a chanceon a slightly used Cadillac.
DAUNTE CULPEPPERQB Dolphins
The man who wasexpected to lead Miami to the Super Bowl has flopped so far, averaging a mere232.3 passing yards and throwing just two touchdown passes against threeinterceptions. It hasn't helped that the 29-year-old has lost some mobilityafter knee surgery, that he's in his first year in a new system and that theDolphins' offensive line has already gone through three starting right guardsand allowed a whopping 20 sacks--12 in Weeks 2 and 3 alone.
Sell, if you can get anywhere near fair value. After Sunday's 249-yard,one-touchdown effort against the Texans, his stock won't get any higher.
TIKI BARBER RBGiants
The No. 4 pick inmost fantasy drafts has been held to 225 yards in three games, shackled not somuch by other teams as by his own. Early deficits against the Eagles and theSeahawks forced New York out of its running game and kept Barber under 100yards two times in three games.
Buy. With the toughest part of their schedule behind them, Barber & Co.don't figure to be down early by three touchdowns again.
LAMONT JORDAN RBRaiders
If Jordan couldplay the Browns every week, he'd be a Pro Bowler. After being stuffed for atotal of 55 yards over the first two games, he ran for 128 yards and atouchdown against Cleveland on Sunday. The Browns, however, have thefourth-worst run defense in the NFL, so Jordan's numbers should be looked atwith skepticism. Also, coach Art Shell has said he plans to get more carriesfor backup running back Justin Fargas, who had a 48-yard run on Sunday.
Sell. With games against the Broncos (twice), Steelers, Seahawks and Chargersin the next eight weeks, Jordan's stock is about as high as it'll get.
CHRIS COOLEY TERedskins
One of lastseason's breakout players has run a reverse so far this year. Althoughoffensive coordinator Al Saunders loves to feature the tight end, Cooley hascaught a paltry 11 passes for 108 yards and no TDs while often being used as ablocker. There are also fewer balls to go around with wideout Antwaan Randle Elin the lineup.
Sell. There are more than enough viable tight ends on the market.
1 Patriots running back Laurence Maroney, a FANTASYPLUS favorite from Day One, is well worth acquiring. Buy.
2 Broncos wideout Javon Walker is healthy, but it'salways a gamble to rely on one of Jake Plummer's receivers. Sell.
3 Wideout Amani Toomer's Giants are too good to betrailing (and throwing as often) as they have been. Sell.
4 Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew hasimpressed while spelling fragile starter Fred Taylor. Buy.
5 With Chad Pennington healthy and the Jets' runninggame subpar, receiver Jerricho Cotchery will thrive. Buy.
6 In seven years Bears tight end Desmond Clark has hadone season with more than 433 yards and three TDs. Sell.
7 With the terrible Texans likely to keep falling way behind early, the red-hotANDRE JOHNSON, a 6'3", 219-pound wideout who has caught 20 passes for 253yards in the last two weeks, should continue putting up big numbers. Buy.
8 Once Terrell Owens's broken finger heals, he'llovertake receiver Terry Glenn as Drew Bledsoe's go-to guy in Dallas. Sell.
9 One domed stadium plus one offense with red-zonetroubles equals a big season for Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins. Buy.
10 Led by linebacker Bart Scott (five sacks, oneinterception), the Ravens' D has returned to the top of the NFL charts.Buy.
1 Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's stock hit a low inWeek 3, but a budding rapport with new receiver Doug Gabriel bodes well.Buy.
2 Circumstances and coverages, not lack of talent,have limited Cincy receiver Chad Johnson to one TD in four games. Buy.
3 The Chargers' Antonio Gates has too much athleticability to continue playing like a midlevel tight end. Buy.
4 It wasn't that long ago that wideout RANDY MOSS had countless fantasy ownerssinging his praises. With the Vikings in 2003, he caught 111 passes for 1,632yards and 17 touchdowns. Now stuck with the inept Raiders, he is a backupfantasy receiver at best. On Sunday he had one catch for five yards (though itwas for his first TD), increasing his barely visible season stats to sevenreceptions for 84 yards. Poor play from quarterbacks Aaron Brooks and AndrewWalter has kept Moss from busting loose, and there is no sign that things willget better. It's time to get what you can for him--if it's not too late.Sell.
5 Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme will perk up nowthat wideout Steve Smith is healthy. Buy.
6 Despite a 100-yard game on Sunday, Browns RB ReubenDroughns has no offensive line to speak of. Sell.
7 Unless Dolphins QB Daunte Culpepper improves his2-to-3 TD-to-INT ratio, WR Chris Chambers can't be counted on. Sell.
8 Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez won't get near his usual ProBowl numbers as long as QB Trent Green is out. Sell.
9 Supposedly healthy, Cowboys kicker Mike Vanderjagtmissed a 26-yard FG try on Sunday. A cause for concern. Sell.
10 Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (no TDpasses) remains a caretaker, not a playmaker. Sell.
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