One team is finally getting it at the running back position (the Bills), while another is apparently confused (the Jaguars). With the Bye Weeks upon us, and injuries continuing to mount, I'll give some suggestions on the players everyone is targeting at the running back, wide receiver and tight end positions off the waiver-wire.
Finally, Fred Jackson Gets His Chance
Fred Jackson is a hell of a football player. Everyone knew that for years now, that is except the Bills front office and coaching staff who apparently were spending some of their off time huffing paint. All one has to do is to look at the numbers to find support for the statement that Jackson was a beast when give the chance, and fully deserving of more work on the field.
2009: 1,062 yards rushing, 46 receptions, 4 total TDs
That's a pretty darn good effort when you consider that he picked up only 237 carries leading to a 4.5 yards per carry mark, not bad for a guy who had only 188 carries his first two seasons in the league. So what did the genius' in the Bills' front office do as a follow up? They kept puffing on the magic dragon. They chose a running back, C.J. Spiller, with the 9th overall pick in the 2010 draft. Did Jackson slump in 2010 while Spiller excelled as a rookie? You've got to be kidding, right?
Jackson in 2010: 927 yards rushing, 31 receptions, 7 total TDs
Spiller in 2010: 283 yards rushing, 24 receptions, 1 total TD
Swing and a miss.
So heading into the 2011 season the Bills had finally learned their lesson and were going to go all Fred Jackson all the time, right? Wrong – they keep blazing up the dube's. There were reports heading into camp that the Bills were going to increase the workload of Spiller because the new regime in control of the team didn't feel tied to Jackson because they hadn't drafted him. Luckily Spiller had a lackluster preseason leading the Bills to rethink their decision and to, finally, feature Jackson as their lead back.
How has that gone through four games? Pretty damn well. Jackson is fourth in the NFL with 369 yards rushing, and average of 92.3 yards per game, and he's also scored four rushing touchdowns. Spiller? The dude has six touches the last two weeks as he pretty much continues to underwhelm.
Have the Bills, after the long and circuitous route, realized that they should be buttering their toast with a heaping helping of Jackson? Finally, the answer is yes. Coach Chan Gailey has said the play for Week 5 is to get Jackson even more work, and that Spiller is the “odd man out” at this point,” something anyone who had been watching film for the last two years could have already told you was the right direction to go.
Maurice Jones-Drew to Get More Work
MJD is second in the NFL with 391 rushing yards though he's scored only time. Still, an average of 19 carries and 98 yards a week paint him as a player who has put behind him all the concerns over his wonky knee. Still, it's odd that everyone seems so concerned about his workload given his production through four weeks. Again, he's averaged 19 carries and 98 yards a game this season compared to an average of 19 carries and 85 yards per game on the ground the past two years. So why all the concern about giving him the ball too much, or not enough? One of the main reasons for that is that the Jaguars made a bonehead tactical decision in Week 4 against the Saints deciding that they would keep the ball out of the hands of their best player – Drew – and instead go with a pass heavy offense in the first half behind a guy who entered the game having thrown a total of 27 NFL passes – Blaine Gabbert. Predictably the strategy didn't work as Gabbert completed 38.1 percent of 42 passes for a total of just 196 yards. Great job Jaguars. In the effort Drew touched the ball a mere 12 times (11 rushing, one receiving), but still produced 87 yards of offense. So of course the Jags are committed to getting MJD his 20+ touches per game moving forward, right? Well, maybe.
"I thought the mix was pretty good," HC Jack Del Rio said. "We broke down in the first couple of drives of our own, doing more than them. I think you saw a glimpse of what we're capable of there when we're doing things the way they need to be done."
Really Jack? You scored 10 points and had 274 yards of total offense. You're comfortable with that?
"We came out [calling pass plays on the first seven snaps] and we moved the ball,” OC Dirk Koetter said. “We didn't score. If we scored more, it wouldn't be an issue. I'm a huge fan of getting Maurice more touches."
Uh, really? 'If we scored more it wouldn't be an issue?' That's the same thing as saying – if I was as good looking as George Clooney I'd probably spend less time by myself on a Friday night. (1) Your the offensive coordinator Dirk. If you're a huge fan of getting the ball to MJD, than call plays to get him the ball. Is that really that hard? (2) Ten points and less than 275 yards of total offense a week will get you fired. You might want to utilize your best player more often if you want to win football games.
FantasyAlarm LITE has arrived! Get our premium email service FREE! First 100,000 users only. Sign up Today!
Ryan Torain, Redskins
Everyone is fumbling all over themselves to add Torain this week after his massive effort in Week 4 (19 carries, 135 yards, one touchdown). However, there are plenty of legitimate reasons why it makes all the sense in the world to wade into the water slowly with Torain.
(1) Before Week 4, his last carry was in Week 17 of last season.
(2) Torain had huge success last week, but he didn't play appreciably more than Tim Hightower as he saw only four more snaps (30 to 26). Torain hadn't even played a snap before the second quarter in Week 4.
(3) Torain only saw his chance to play because of the shoulder injury to Hightower. Speaking of injuries, don't forget that Torain has only played in 14 of a possible 36 games since his career started, and just 12 of 20 since he joined the Redskins. He's simply never exhibited an ability to stay on the field at the NFL level. This is probably the biggest concern that I have with Torain.
(4) Torain isn't a very good pass receiver, a skill that Hightower is very adept at (he had 63 receptions in 2009).
Torain is the back to own right now with the Redskins, and you should certainly add him if he is on the waiver-wire. All I'm saying is that you should be careful not to spend your FAAB too heavily on a guy who is a total wild card.
Antonio Brown, Steelers
The Steelers offensive line is a disaster right now. They can't keep Ben Roethlisberger upright (he's dealing with a foot injury right now). They can't open up any holes for Rashard Mendenhall (he has a hamstring injury and is unlikely to suit up this week, or at least to be anywhere near 100 percent). The Steelers are also getting next to nothing from Heath Miller (12 catches for an average of 36 yards a game) and Hines Ward (13 catches, 34 yards a game). Mike Wallace has gone off averaging 113.5 yards a game, but behind him the second most effective player on the Steelers offense might be Brown. The youngster is second on the team with 15 receptions and 223 yards, and in each of the last three games he's caught at least four balls for 67 yards. At this point, with Ward and Miller struggling, and Emmanuel Sanders failing to take advantage of his opportunities, it sure seems like Brown is asserting himself as the #2 option in the Steelers passing attack.
Preston Parker, Buccaneers
Those pesky slot receivers often disappoint in standard scoring leagues, but in PPR setups they can be golden. Parker, who seems to grow more sure of himself with each week, has clearly formed a nice connection with Josh Freeman. Through four games Parker leads the team with 223 yards receiving, and he is third on the team in receptions with 16. Moreover, he has thoroughly outperformed Mike Williams (15 receptions, 155 yards) who has been facing nearly constant double-teams. Parker will be a hit or miss option given that the Bucs don't exactly run a wide open offense (he caught one ball for 11 yards in Week 3), but he's caught at least four balls in three of the four weeks during which time he's averaged 71 yards receiving per contest. With the Bye Weeks upon us, there are much worse options to add off the wire.
Laurent Robinson, Cowboys
Go into the addition of Robinson with your eyes wide open. Miles Austin has been out of action the past few weeks, and Dez Bryant is continuing to battle through a troublesome thigh injury. That is the main reason that Robinson had seven receptions for 116 yards in Week 4 – he was the healthy option. When everyone is back to full strength he'll be nothing better than the fourth option in the passing attack (don't forget about Jason Witten), and Felix Jones isn't a bad pass catcher out of the backfield either. Robinson seems to have blown past Kevin Ogletree as the third option out wide – Robinson was on the field for 30 more snaps than Ogletree in Week 4 – but don't overspend to add a player who will see his role reduced when Austin and Bryant are at full health.
Ed Dickson, Ravens
Dickson is averaging four receptions for 45 yards a game this season. Those sound like rather middling totals, that is until you realize that if he kept up that pace for 16 games that he would end the year with 64 receptions and 720 yards. Those are pretty solid totals for a tight end in a PPR setup. Of course, if he could get into the end zone more than the four times he is on pace for, that would help a lot. The exciting thing with Dickson is that Joe Flacco is a big fan. Dickson is currently 24th in the NFL with 32 targets on the year, one more than Dustin Keller, Brandon Pettigrew, Dwayne Bowe and Mike Wallace. Pretty shocking ain't it?
Jared Cook, Titans
With Kenny Britt down and out, the Titans have to find someone to throw the ball to, so why not look at the athletic Cook? The Titans' tight end has caught only two passes each of the last three weeks, but his 80 yard touchdown in Week 4 has everyone excited. It stands to reason that Matt Hasselbeck will find a way to get his end more involved in the offense, but for now you'd be better served adding Dickson if you're looking for some help at the position (note though that Dickson's Ravens are on a bye this week, so if you need help this week Cook is a decent add as he gets ready to face a beat up Steelers defense).
Santana Moss has caught at least five passes in each game this season, and he's pulled off the feat in 8-straight games going back to last season. He's also gone for at least 70 yards in six of the eight outings as he went for 61 yards in Week 2 this year and 39 yards in Week 4.
Kyle Orton doesn't appear long for his job as he is 4-13 in his last 17 starts. Tim Tebow, who was a top-5 fantasy performer the last three weeks of 2010 is warming in the bullpen.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at Baseball Guys and his minute to minute musings can be located at the Baseball Guys Twitter account.