Derek VanRiper chimes in with upgrades and downgrades on players fantasy owners should know for Week 9 & the rest of the season.
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Tony Romo, QB, DAL – There were plenty of poor decisions and bad throws (four INT) in Romo’s second look at the Giants on Sunday afternoon, but he turned 62 attempts in 437 yards and a score while narrowly missing a game-winning TD on a long ball to Dez Bryant in the final seconds. Often times, it’s the weapons at a quarterback’s disposal or the system that he plays in that makes him more valuable than his similarly skilled counterparts. Jason Witten has looked much better over the last five weeks, as his training camp spleen injury does not seem to be having any lingering effects. Miles Austin continues to get overlooked as a potential top-10 receiver, while Bryant still flashes top-end talent around his steady supply of mistakes. Even with clownshoes playcalling from head coach Jason Garrett, there’s simply too much talent here to think that Romo will fail to rank among the league’s top-10 fantasy quarterbacks during the second half of the season. The Cowboys’ upcoming schedule should include opportunities to put points on the board including road trips to Atlanta and Philadelphia before a three-game homestand against the Browns, Redskins and Eagles.
Donald Brown, RB, IND – While Vick Ballard was used in a timeshare with Brown against the Titans on Sunday and his highlight-reel dive into the corner of the end zone will garner most of the attention from the Colts’ Week 8 victory,
Brown ran effectively against Tennessee with 80 yards on 14 carries (5.7 YPC). For the season, Brown has an edge in YPC at 4.3 against Ballard’s 3.4 mark, and that should help him quickly regain hold of the larger share of the carries in Indy.
Although a stout Miami run defense awaits the Colts in Week 9, an upcoming three-week stretch against the Jags, Patriots and Bills should afford Brown an opportunity to deliver adequate numbers for regular use during that span.
Jonathan Dwyer, RB, PIT – Dwyer eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the second straight game Sunday, putting himself in a very interesting position once Rashard Mendenhall eventually recovers from his Achilles injury. According to the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dwyer was the first Steelers back to accomplish that feat since Willie Parker did it in 2008. After the Steelers’ win over the Redskins, head coach Mike Tomlin was non-committal about his backfield plans with the
impending returns of Mendenhall and Isaac Redman. Over 58 carries this season, Dwyer is now averaging 5.2 yards per tote, while three of those runs have gone for 20-plus yards.
Denarius Moore, WR, OAK - Moore currently ranks 14th among wide receivers in fantasy points per game this season. Further, the Raiders are averaging 38 passing attempts per game and showing no signs of significantly slowing that
pace. Thus far, six of his 26 receptions have gone for 20-plus yards, while Moore has found the end zone in four of the Raiders’ last five games. I agree with the Mark Stopa’s valuation of Moore from his Working the Wire column this week,
although it seems as though a decent number of owners are still not on board to this extent:
“I love how Moore has at least eight targets in each game (since sitting out Week 1 with an injury), and Oakland’s remaining schedule is juicy. Oakland can’t run, either, and even if it could, it’s not the type of team that will have the luxury
of sitting on leads very often. Add it all up and I’d rather have Moore over any Steelers WR, any Cowboys WR or the Smiths (that’s Torrey and Steve).”
Cecil Shorts, WR, JAC – It’s funny how Blaine Gabbert‘s disastrous rookie campaign (in a lockout shortened offseason, no less) has shaped the perception of his play in Year 2. The small improvement in YPA (from 5.4 to 5.8) is likely
keeping most owners away from making investments in the Jags’ passing attack, but without Maurice Jones-Drew, it should be an offense that puts the ball in the air regularly during the second half of games. Shorts’ value has been on the rise
for a couple of weeks as he’s taken over the starting spot vacated by Laurent Robinson (concussion), while being targeted 22 times in the last two games. Further, Shorts has shown big-play ability this season, with seven of his 20 receptions
going for 20-plus yards. The departure of Mike Thomas via trade this week doesn’t hurt Shorts’ chances of maintaining something close to his current target volume upon Robinson’s eventual return.
Dustin Keller, TE, NYJ – Keller has recovered from his dismal one-catch, six-yard season debut against the Colts to amass 15 catches for 167 yards and a touchdown over the last two games. Given the issues the Jets have had in their
receiving corps this season, it should come as little surprise that Mark Sanchez is looking his way often now that he’s back from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for the better part of the first five weeks of the season.
Jamaal Charles, RB, KC – Is it even his fault? Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel did not have an explanation for the media when asked about Charles’ extremely limited workload in Week 8. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll blamed it on
the flow of the game Sunday and the Raiders’ run defense (3.9 YPC allowed this season). Frankly, Charles is the type of player capable of dictating the flow of the game, that is of course, if his coaches are smart enough to call his number more
than eight times. It would be interesting to see what type of trade offers a Charles owner might receive, as this downgrade is a follow-up to the suggestion a few weeks ago that he may finish the season as a top-five back. The workload patterns
to this point have been too unreliable to expect that (four of his seven games this season have yielded 16 or fewer total touches). Hopefully for those riding it out, the Chiefs will realize their best chance to win is giving him 25-30 touches (the
latter has already happened twice).
Mikel Leshoure, RB, DET – Leshoure is one of four common links on the teams I have struggling through the halfway point of the season. Since taking 26 carries in his NFL debut against the Titans in Week 3, Leshoure hasn’t received
more than 15 attempts in a game since. Fortunately, his value in PPR leagues gets a slight bump because of his steady contributions as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, but the limited attempts recently paired with a useful-not-great 4.0 YPC
are keeping him firmly outside of the top-15 at his position. Keep an eye on his participation throughout the week as he missed Wednesday’s practice for personal reasons. Further, Leshoure appeared to suffer an injury (or get bench) in the
second half of the Week 8 game against Seattle.
Alex Green, RB, GB – The Packers are pain-stakingly loyal to their running game, and while Green has more of a shifty running style than Cedric Benson in addition to the ability to break off the occasional long run, the blocking up front
doesn’t seem to be creating enough holes for him to do significant damage. Benson can’t return until Week 13, so there’s a three-game window (the Packers still have an upcoming bye) for Green to prove he belongs in the starting role, but
there’s an increasing chance that James Starks will start to take away a few carries as Green is averaging just 2.9 YPC despite three consecutive weeks with 20-plus totes.
Kenny Britt, WR, TEN – Britt had a precautionary MRI earlier this week, which likely means he’s experiencing swelling or soreness in his surgically-repaired knee. For what it’s worth, Britt was spotted limping around Monday. Fortunately,
he’s going to continue playing through any issues he’s experiencing, as the MRI apparently didn’t turn up anything significant, and he was able to fully participate in Wednesday’s practice. Some combination of less than full health and the
quarterback situation in Tennessee have caused Britt’s YPA to drop from 11.1 last season to 5.2 through six games, and the concern here is greater with the former as Britt has proven capable of overcoming the latter in the past.
Brian Hartline, WR, MIA – With just 11 targets over the last three weeks, Hartline looks like a potential drop in 10-team leagues. The consistency simply isn’t there, as he’s had two big games, four very mediocre showings and a bagel.
Fortunately, the schedule in the next three weeks includes the Colts, Titans and Bills, so he could deliver something for those in deeper formats relying on him as their third receiver, but Hartline looks like a 30-35 range receiver during the
second half of the season.
Andrew Hawkins, WR, CIN – With five or fewer targets in five of his last six games, Hawkins appears to be on the list of players we’ll collectively wish more chances toward. At 8.4 YPT, he’s been decent when called upon, but the Bengals
spread the ball around enough behind A.J. Green to limit Hawkins to spot duty for now. A Week 11 matchup against the Chiefs looks particularly enticing, but otherwise he’ll likely need an injury to one of the other secondary weapons to take a
leap forward in the second half of the season.