With many top picks disappointing, a few familiar running backs turned back the clock in Week 3. Ronnie Brown's cutting ability and vision are back, reviving memories of last October, when he was the top fantasy back in all the land. Julius Jones topped 125 yards for the second straight week, reminding owners of his great run as a rookie in 2004.
But the biggest fantasy development occurred in San Francisco, where Mike Martz continues to (gasp) call running plays. Frank Gore's 27 carries against Detroit were his most since 2006, the year he was stamped as the NFC's version to LaDainian Tomlinson. A terrible 49ers offense dragged down the Inconvenient Truth last season, but Martz is changing all that.
Many feared that Martz's pass-happy ways would limit Gore. But Marshall Faulk's former coach knows talent, and he knows Gore is the best 49er by far. Martz will find ways to use Gore in a variety of ways, whether on inside runs or the passing game. The development of a legitimate vertical attack will also open lanes for Gore and extend drives.
Gore has scored each week this season and is averaging 137 total yards-per-game. PPR owners have enjoyed his steady four catches per week. The schedule hasn't been difficult, but life in the NFC West keeps it that way. If this is finally the season LT2 gives up his throne, a new running back king must emerge. Frank Gore finally has the weapons around him to begin his reign.
After three weeks, unsuccessful owners are getting itchy. They are ready cut bait, often too ready. Here are some players we'd take a look at buying low.
1. Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes: He's barely in the top 20 fantasy quarterbacks through three weeks, but he's playing just fine. The Steelers didn't need to pass in Week 1, the wind in Cleveland caught them and then they ran into a buzzsaw against the Eagles. Most defenses will not be able to exploit Pittsburgh's offensive line like Philadelphia. Ben might be an even better buy low after playing Baltimore this week. Santonio Holmes is also a good buy low after a slow start.
2. Peyton Manning: The Colts passing game has improved every week and now has a bye to get their act together. Manning is throwing more pass attempts than usual and his final numbers against Jacksonville weren't bad considering the Colts had the ball for less than four minutes in the second half. Marvin Harrison, Anthony Gonzalez, and Dallas Clark may all be inconsistent assets, but Manning should still finish in the top-five quarterbacks.
3. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson: They have faced two of the best defenses in the league in Pittsburgh and Tennessee. And Schaub's numbers would have looked a whole lot better Sunday if A.J. didn't drop two touchdowns, including a possible 35-yarder. Schaub needs to improve against Jacksonville and Indy the next two weeks to keep his job, but then he gets a Miami, Detroit, and Cincy in a row. I'm guessing he will hit some waiver wires or could be had for a weak QB2. Johnson remains a solid WR1.
4. Chad Johnson: At least he's not missing snaps. The Bengals passing game showed life against the Giants and we've seen slow stretches from Ocho Cinco before. Admittedly, they have never been this slow. That's why I don't expect a rebound to top-five stud status. But he'll get his 1,100 yards in the end, and that means big days are ahead. Carson Palmer also remains a fine buy low.
6. Wes Welker and Randy Moss: Welker's numbers haven't looked much different in PPR leagues with Matt Cassel behind center. Randy Moss' have. It's a high-risk move, but I suspect some panicky Moss owners would be willing to deal him for a receiver outside the top-15 - say Roddy White or Lee Evans. Take the risk that the Patriots find a way to get Moss more involved. With New England entering a bye, Patriots owners may be especially itchy to pull the trigger. Make a bad offer; it can't hurt!
7. Ryan Grant: He's still getting the majority of carries on an explosive offense. This will turn around.
8. Chris Perry: Cincinnati's schedule gets far easier moving forward. Perry has been one of the most consistent backs in the league getting touches, and will be a solid RB2 as his yards-per-carry average rises.Playing in Pain
After a ton of speculation, Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden suited up Sunday. That wasn't a huge surprise. It was a surprise that both players survived the game intact, each saying afterward they were no worse for wear.
Their numbers indicate otherwise. McFadden was bottled up for only 42 yards. Michael Bush split carries and finished with 55. Peterson looked very good, but was less explosive than usual while piling up 77 yards. Owners of both players should breathe a sigh of relief. They should get better next week.Sell High Candidates
1. Michael Turner/Roddy White: The Turner roller coaster is headed for another big drop after Sunday's three-touchdown performance. Atlanta has already enjoyed their two best matchups of the season during home beatdowns of Detroit and Kansas City. If you can sell Turner as a top-ten option, make the move. White has done a great job impersonating his stats from last season, but playing with a rookie quarterback will catch up to him.
2. LenDale White: I write about it below in the Committee section, but White's poor performance in reality football will eventually catch up to his touchdown hogging ways in fantasy football.
3. In a league with a lot of injuries, committees, and question marks at running back, Edgerrin James' steady 62 carries and 248 yards through three games will look attractive to some owners. But Edge isn't getting goal line touches and Tim Hightower will be a bigger part of the offense moving forward. James is depth. And depth is mostly useful for bye weeks and upgrading another position.
4. Kurt Warner: I write this with caution because I own Warner and plan to keep owning his girly hands barring a great offer. But I'd love to find out what people would pay for Warner. I suspect some owners would give up players like Carson Palmer, and Peyton Manning. Even Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers would make me think hard. These players are far more likely than Warner to last 16 games.
5. Willie Parker: Tell them to focus on his overall numbers, not the Eagles game. Then focus on FWP's inability to make a difference in the passing game, a necessary trait for a true every week running back difference maker.
6. Julius Jones: You drafted him as a RB3 and you've got a RB2. That's a big win and Jones has earned more carries moving forward. But Jones has looked good largely because of his schedule the last two weeks and Maurice Morris will return to take some shine off. Make the move if you can get top-15 value for Jones.
It took 17 fourth quarter points against Oakland, but Buffalo remains model of consistency this season. Lee Evans has exactly four catches in each game, with a minimum of 65 yards. It doesn't sound like much, but he's on pace for 1,301 yards. Marshawn Lynch hasn't been explosive, but he's scored a touchdown and received at least 20 touches each week. Trent Edwards has at least 215 passing yards, with exactly one score each game. You know what you are getting in Buffalo.Stand Pat
Players to hold on to
1. The Saints defense will force their offense to light up the scoreboard to keep up. And Sean Payton will continue to feed Reggie Bush like crazy, even if he's a far better fantasy player than he is on reality.
3. I thought about putting Marion Barber in the sell high list, if only because he can't keep up this workload without getting hurt. But who are you going to trade him for? He's a top-four fantasy back, potentially the top back in the NFL (Not fantasy). Many of the other top backs are hurt or struggling. I would trade him for Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson, but it's close. I wouldn't deal him for Marshawn Lynch.
4. J.T. O'Sullivan could actually have much better numbers. Mike Martz has shown surprising restraint throwing the ball, which won't keep up. JTO's 9.4 YPA indicate better days ahead after a solid fantasy start.Some Panic is Acceptable
1. Brandon Jacobs: The touchdowns will come, like they did Sunday against Cincinnati. But the Giants are starting to notice that their offense runs just as well or better when Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw is in the game. Jacobs isn't a factor in the receiving game, and that will keep him off the field too much.
2. Derek Anderson is not a player to buy low on. He could bounce back in the short term, but the Browns will need to have a winning record by midseason or Brady Quinn seems likely to get the call. It could happen sooner.
3. Vernon Davis just isn't a big part of the 49ers offense. There are too many options for J.T. O'Sullivan to throw to. No one on the team is averaging more than 4.3 targets-per-game. That will lead to inconsistent production for all.
4. Willis McGahee: Despite the solid debut for McGahee, LeRon McClain is not going anywhere.
5. Kevin Smith: That big day Rudi Johnson had off the bench was supposed to be for Smith. Now the rookie could be the one coming off the bench.
6. Roy Williams has lost his alpha dog status to Calvin Johnson, but that's not the most troubling part of Williams' value. It's the specter of Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton hanging over the team entering a bye. Without Jon Kitna, this team will lose garbage time yards.
7. All Chiefs Receivers: Oh, what the Tyler Thigpen era has wrought. At one point midway through the second quarter, Thigpen had as many yards as attempts (12) and as many completions as interceptions (2). At least the team's dreadful performance will keep them passing a ton. Dwayne Bowe was lucky to get 43 yards and a touchdown. Who knew we could miss Brodie Croyle so much?
8. All Raiders receivers: Javon Walker caught two passes and it was considered a breakout game in Oakland. Take away JaMarcus Russell's lucky 85-yard slant to Johnnie Lee Higgins and the quarterback is averaging 102 yards a game. Now a new offensive coach is likely coming in. Ronald Curry and Zach Miller can no longer be played.Coming Out Party
The plan was to rotate Steve Slaton and Chris Taylor every series at running back. Houston stuck to the plan early, and then stuck with Slaton as he proved he more than capable of handling the job. Slaton is tougher to take down than you'd expect, and was plenty willing to mix it inside against a strong Titans run defense. Despite the final score, Houston's zone blocking showed signs of coming into its own. Slaton owners could benefit as he takes hold of the starting job.In the Year 2005
The Bucs and Bears reclamation projects partied like it was 2005 in a crowd-pleasing display at Soldier field. Brandon Lloyd looked like a rising talent, topping 100 yards. Redeemed Rotoworld favorite Antonio Bryant caught ten passes for 138 yards. Jerramy Stevens played like a TE1, Warrick Dunn led his team in rushing, Brian Griese threw enough to rack up 400 yards, and Kyle Orton ultimately disappointed Bears fans. Just like old times! Even Michael Clayton had one of his better days since he was a phenom WR1.
What does it all mean? Probably that these two offenses can be competent in the short-term even if they are going nowhere in the long run. Jon Gruden will find a way to produce passing yards from odd places.Committee Time
2. The Titans are consistent. Chris Johnson and LenDale White split carries evenly again Sunday with 16 each. Johnson has 50 carries on the year; LenDale has 49. Johnson is easily the superior player, with 128 more rushing yards and 51 more receiving yards. (Although we'd like to see Johnson get more than seven catches in three games).
But with four touchdowns, including two more goal-line plunges against Houston, White has actually equaled Johnson's fantasy output in standard leagues. That shouldn't keep up, but White has been a pleasant surprise as a RB2/flex for his owners. Too bad he's averaging three yards-per-carry and looking slower than ever. No one said this was fair.
3. I often say how we shouldn't assume certain defensive characteristics carry over from year-to-year when looking at matchups. Minnesota's rush defense is the exception that proves the rule. DeAngelo Williams wound up with three more carries than Jonathan Stewart, but both players failed to top 30 yards. Stewart got his third score.
4. Warrick Dunn had nine touches; Earnest Graham had 12. Dunn is getting more playing time when Tampa is playing from behind. Graham has lost some of his receiving value and is averaging only 12 carries-per-game. He doesn't have much margin for error.
7. Selvin Young got to be the lead back for once, but he still only wound up with eleven carries. That's the most any Denver back has enjoyed all season, making Young a flex play, not a RB2. Michael Pittman now has four touchdowns despite only 44 yards all season.