by Jeff West
September 17, 2003
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"Heading North" – Players whose fantasy value is rising

    Last week he was in my East-West (too-early-to-tell) category, but with a second impressive effort, Anquan Boldin’s stock is rising.  We can write off his week one performance as a fluke, more so as a fantasy fluke because I don’t know anyone who benefitted from his performance.  He was the top waiver-wire pickup midweek and deserves a spot on your roster as a third or fourth receiver.  He is getting open and is getting noticed by his quarterbacks as he has been thrown to a total of 27 times in two games (tops in the NFL).  For a team who will be playing catch-up all season, he should have a number of solid games.

    A good fantasy owner knows that putting a rookie on his team is risky.  It is especially risky if the rookie is a wide receiver because history dictates that they rarely perform well in their first seasons.  That is why it is even more risky for me to include a second wideout among the players heading north.  Andre Johnson was the second overall pick in the 2003 draft and is now a starter for the Houston Texans.  After only two games he leads his team in receptions (11) and receiving yards (147).  He has solid wideouts in Corey Bradford and Jabar Gaffney on the field with him, so he can’t attract all of the defensive attention.  He might be worth a look as a bye-week WR if you’re in a redraft league.

    Was there a better free-agent acquisition than Stephen Davis?  He ran the ball 33 times against the Bucs and helped the Panthers to a surprise victory over what is considered to be one of the best defenses of all time (according to many pundits).  With a defense as good as the Panthers have, look for a heavy dose of the running game throughout the season.

    There has been a question who will get the carries in Minnesota with Michael Bennett out of the lineup.  Moe Williams turned in a 100 yard effort with a TD against Chicago in week two.  Moe has 43 carries already and has only been stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage once in all of those carries.  He moves the ball forward and is a solid receiving back as well.  Add in the fact that nearly one third (12 of 43) of his carries have gone for first downs (second only to Clinton Portis) and you have a very productive and reliable running back.

    It might not look like much, but the Seattle Seahawks defense pitched a shutout against the Arizona Cardinals.  Sure, but the Cardinals are pathetic, right?  The Cardinals actually have a very good offensive line and some decent weapons on offense.  The Seattle defense also allowed only ten points to the potent Saints offense.  The icing on the cake?  They already have 10 takeaways.  They might still be on your waiver wire and are probably better than what you have currently.  Ray Rhodes has turned the defense around very quickly and they face a weak schedule for much of the season.

"Going South" – Players whose fantasy value is slipping

    Donovan McNabb has some serious confidence issues to deal with right now.  He needs to know that his offensive line will block for him.  He needs to know that his coach will call a running play once in a while.  He needs to know that his receivers will catch the ball when it is thrown to him.  Most importantly, he needs to know that he can throw the ball accurately.  Unfortunately there is no evidence that any of Donovan’s needs will be realized any time soon.  The Eagles face a tough schedule and are still struggling for answers.  By no means should McNabb be dropped, but let him ride the bench until he gets things straightened out or trade him to an Eagles fan who remembers the Donovan from the first half of last season.

    I received a bit of flak for my selection of Ahman Green as a player whose stock will drop, especially considering his efforts against Detroit in week two.  I won’t argue that Green has impressive ability to run and catch the ball.  He even made it through an entire game without a fumble.  But I’ll stick by my guns and tell you that he won’t last the season.  I’d be surprised if he isn’t injured before his bye in week eight.  He has two more cream puff opponents coming up before two tough games against Seattle and Kansas City.  He hasn’t been overworked yet this year, but he will be used more and more, especially in light of his early season success.  I’d hang onto him for two more weeks and then try to trade him.

    Aveion Cason appeared on everyone’s radar screens last weekend.  Two carries netted him 77 yards including a 63-yard TD run and a mad scramble by many owners to grab him off waivers.  A week later he added three carries for 11 yards.  Expect to find Cason and his 17.6 yards per rush average on the waiver wires again this week.  He’s not going to take the carries away from Troy Hambrick despite Hambrick’s anemic 3.1 yards per carry average.

    The Atlanta Falcons defense looked like an up-and-comer at the end of last year.  They were aggressive and made a number of big plays.  This year they face a difficult schedule with a number of teams that are quite adept offensively.  They are giving up an average of more than 400 yards a game which is, by far, the worst in the league and have managed only one interception in their two games.  There should be much better value available on your waiver wire right now.

"East-West" – Players whose fantasy value is still undetermined

    Tiki Barber is considered to be a top-ten back by many fantasy experts, and, to support that ranking, he is currently tenth in the league in total rushing yards.  He runs the ball well and is a capable receiver on a Giant team that can do many things on offense.  He ran for 146 yards in week one, yet only 41 in week two.  Tiki leads the league in runs of ten yards or more with nine such runs already (although his longest run is only 22 yards).  Conversely, he also is amongst the league leaders in runs for no gain or loss-of-yardage.  Furthermore, he is already averaging a lost fumble a game.  Just be prepared to be both elated and disappointed with Tiki over the course of a season.

    The Tennessee Titans defense was expected to be one of the top defenses this year.  They’ve opened against two impressive offenses with Oakland and Indianapolis and face a few more in the coming weeks.  The Colts were able to control the game on the ground and mixed in a few long passes while only getting sacked by the Titans once.  The Raiders couldn’t run the ball, but managed to pass effectively.  The Titans are also the only team in the NFL who have not yet created a turnover on defense.  Don’t dump them—unless you need the roster spot—as they face some weak offensive teams down the road.

    If he’s not already on a roster, look for there to be a feeding frenzy surrounding Seahawks’ receiver Darrell Jackson this week.  He had 133 receiving yards and two TDs this week.  Very nice numbers for a receiver who has shown, in the past, that he can be a solid number two or three WR on a fantasy team.  But the Jackson enthusiasm may be tempered by the fact that he only caught three passes for those numbers against a weak Cardinals defense.  Jackson also benefitted from the fact that Koren Robinson was suspended for the game for being late to a team meeting on Saturday – a suspension that probably would not have existed had the opponent been more worthy.  Darrell Jackson will have some more good games this season, but K-Rob is clearly the number-one target in Seattle.

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