Every time a football game kicks off, class is now in session. We revert back to grammar school/high school/college/whatever was the highest level we finished and essentially sit in our assigned seat (the couch). Kickoff signals the morning or recess bell letting us know our education has started for the day. Throughout the course of three hour lessons at a time, things become more and more clear. Our eventual final exam is approaching (the fantasy playoffs) so we want to have as much knowledge as possible before D-Day finally rears its ugly head.
Passing fantasy football with a grade of “A+” requires constant study. Weekdays entail going above and beyond in terms of your homework assignment. Information on your fantasy players is out there and you must spend significant amounts of time enlightening yourself. If your quiz comes along on Sunday and you haven’t done your homework and, say, looked at your injury reports, then you may not make the correct decision. Just like school, if you make an uneducated guess on your quizzes, you are likely to get it wrong. Getting it wrong results in a bad grade, or a loss, in which you have to make up for later.
So basically, when heading into week 4, let’s get this quiz right. If we haven’t scored so highly on our previous assignments, then it’s time to get to business. No more starting David Wilson or Roddy White until further notice. If we have excelled so far, let’s take pride in staying in the top 95 percentile of our classroom. Keep Jordan Cameron in your lineups and do not ever bench him. Please sit down, stay still and shut up because for this article I have taken it upon myself to be your teacher. I have a plethora of observations from the past week that have changed my outlook on the fantasy football subject. With this information, your 4th quiz will be easier than your previous three and will hopefully result in a victory.
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With all that being said, class is now in session. As always, here are some players whose values have changed significantly since this time last week. Remember I try my best not to be so obvious with the players I choose.
Cam Newton – Those predicting the demise of Newton have quieted considerably in the past two weeks. Newton’s games, in layman’s terms, have gone from bad to good to great. Newton’s passing TDs have gone up in increments of one every week. Finally, last week, Newton decided to run again which resulted in a season high in attempts and yards. Much to the chagrin of the doubters, one those carries once again netted Newton a touchdown superman dance. If you were worried about Cam before this week; stop. Newton is one of the game’s elite fantasy quarterbacks whether it looks pretty on the field or not. As one of the best goal line runners of all time, Newton can score multiple TDs on the ground on any given week. Also, Newton possesses one of the strongest arms in the NFL which can result in a long passing touchdown in the blink of an eye. Remember from week 10 to week 16 in 2012, Newton was the number one point scoring quarterback in fantasy football. Week one’s schedule matched him up against the best defense in the business. Without Seattle on the schedule for the rest of the way, it looks like blue skies ahead.
Brian Hoyer – Well that was unexpected. Who thought going from Brandon Weeden to Brian Hoyer was an upgrade? At this time last week, we were all laughing at the Cleveland Browns for trading Richardson and having to go without Weeden for a period of time. We were all making, “well at least they’ll get the first pick” jokes. Turns out starting Hoyer is not synonymous with throwing in the white flag. Hoyer threw three touchdown passes and led the Browns to a late comeback victory. Do realize that Hoyer accomplished this feat against the lowly Minnesota defense, but there are plenty of positives here. Most notably, Hoyer developed a rapport with Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon. Assuming Hoyer can keep the turnovers to a minimum (he threw three interceptions), the job should be his for the long haul. Take notice in 2QB leagues and maybe even as a deep league bye week filler.
DeMarco Murray – Football is so predictable. One week (week 2) Murray goes for a disappointing, small yardage total (25 yards) and the next week he goes for seven times the amount. Although the Cowboys’ offensive line isn’t incredibly talented, they are starting to gel. After averaging 4.1 YPC last season, Murray has upped it to 4.9 YPC through three games. One thing the Cowboys never seem to do these days is commit to the run for an extended period. Murray has received 20+ carries in 2/3 games thus far, so it looks as if there may be a change in philosophy. I think Murray will always come with a “fragile” label, but as long as he’s healthy I would consider him a solid RB2.
Giovanni Bernard – Another week, another rise in workload. Eventually this mental graph will have to plateau out but his role continues to increase. It’s become increasingly clear: Bernard is the back to own in Cincinnati. If you haven’t seen Bernard’s acrobatic TD in week 3, check out this link. One reason to think the Bengals would have stayed with BenJarvus Green-Ellis was he hardly ever used to fumble. The first fumbles of his career all came last season; his fifth year in the league. Last week the Law Firm lost a fumble which resulted in him falling out of favor fast. Bernard has also proved he’s every bit as solid a goal line runner as BJGE. If Green-Ellis isn’t a superior touchdown maker and doesn’t hold onto the ball more effectively, then there is no reason to use him. We know it and now the Bengals are finding it out. I wouldn’t be sitting Bernard any longer. With his explosiveness and now prowess on the goal line, he has moved into must start territory.
Michael Bush/Matt Forte – Not only is Marc Trestman proving to be the “quarterback whisperer,” he is just generally an offensive guru. Earlier this week, Trestman officially named Michael Bush the team’s goal line back. We pretty much figured this out on Sunday: Bush was given four carries in the red zone, three of which were inside the five yard line. One resulted in Bush’s first TD of the season. Right now, the Bears are firing on all cylinders. If things continue to flourish, the team should spend plenty of time inside the red zone. One of the men helping them get to the red zone has been Matt Forte. Forte is the number five fantasy back through three games. Trestman is proving this offense has plenty of production to go around because the offense is just improved. You start Matt Forte every week from here on out and you can now use Bush in deeper leagues if you’re in a fix.
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Josh Gordon – Gordon came back with a bang! In fact, his 19 targets in week 3 led all players. Gordon scored a long TD early in the game then was heavily targeted for the rest of the game. Those who drafted Gordon knew they would be getting a WR2 at WR3 price which made him worth the gamble. The fact that Gordon succeeded and developed a rapport with the back-up is even more encouraging. Gordon is a big WR (6’3) along with blazing speed. One catch can make your fantasy day because he’s the team’s deep threat. Along with being the deep threat, it looks like the team wants him to be a possession receiver also because they have nothing else. Davone Bess is capable of moving the chains every now and then but is nothing exciting. Without a run game, Gordon and Cameron will be part of the game plan every week. For this reason, Gordon actually has the potential to finish as a WR1 in most formats. Due to his draft position, he will most likely end up on plenty of championship winning teams. If you drafted him, sit back and enjoy the ride.
Eric Decker – Through two weeks, Decker was the forgotten man in the Denver passing game. On Monday, Decker rose from the ashes and reminded you why you drafted with a high draft choice. Decker played his best football of the season: eight catches on eight targets for 133 yards and a TD. That’s a 100% conversion rate for those of you kindergartners reading this article. It can’t get any better. As a big body in a Peyton Manning offense, it’s nearly impossible to sit Decker. While his inconsistency may drive you nuts, he’s going to end the season with eight TDs minimum. You just have to start everyone in the Denver passing game because they are on a historic pace.
Cecil Shorts – Who leads all of the NFL in targets? You guessed it: Cecil Shorts. The Jaguars are absolutely terrible. I really don’t want anyone on the offense if I can help it. If I had to own one player, however, it would be Shorts. Constantly playing from behind means the team will be passing plenty. Shorts’ target conversion rate is a mere 47.5%. Due to pure volume of passes heading his way, he’s basically a must start WR3 every week. Just imagine if Shorts starts converting targets at a 60% rate. Oh the possibilities!
Antonio Gates – Thought he was done? Like Tony Gonzalez, he just won’t go away. Gates went from 100+ yards in week 2 to five catches for 55 yards and a TD in week 3. Through three games, Gates is the #8 tight end in fantasy. Looks like Gates may have some extra motivation this season. Without Malcolm Floyd, Gates is the teams’ primary large target. For that reason, it just makes sense that he would be the red zone target. If he shows he still has some of the burst he used to possess, Rivers will look for him all over the field. I don’t believe Eddie Royal is going to be the best pass catcher on the team over a full season. Gates, looking rejuvenated, has a chance to earn that role.
Josh Freeman/All TB receivers – Poor Josh Freeman. Today we learned coach Greg Schiano is sending Freeman to the pine and starting rookie Mike Glennon from here on out. Due to the unknown nature of Mike Glennon, VJax/Mike Williams’ values both immediately plummet. Freeman was semi-inconsistent (okay that’s probably an understatement) but already proved he could sustain both their values over a full season. Glennon is a crap shoot for fantasy owners and I would prefer to look elsewhere. VJax/Williams/The Tampa offense as a whole have the potential to tank on any given week until further notice. If someone still trusts the talent of either receiver, I would trade them for 75 cents on the dollar immediately.
C.J. Spiller – The Spilla from Manilla can’t catch a break. After a pre-season filled with optimism, the regular season started and Fred Jackson found his way back into the picture. Somehow, someway Spiller has only out-carried Jackson 43-32 through three games. To add injury to insult, Spiller left the game which is what is now being called a “thigh” injury. Originally it was classified as a knee which had fantasy owners worrying about ACL. Honestly, I’m extremely worried about Spiller. I was as high on him as anyone in the pre-season but the vibes feel like this just isn’t happening. Sure, he has the ability to recover, but Fred Jackson is making that difficult. He was never going to repeat the 6.0 YPC as last season but 3.6 is a disaster. I think he gets better just due to pure talent but I don’t believe he is the top 5 back a lot of us thought he was. I am more comfortable considering him a solid RB2 at this point. I wouldn’t look to sell him unless you can get RB1 value in case he rebounds, but I would temper expectations. The Bills just aren’t going to run him until he throws up as long as Fred Jackson is in town……..ever.
Maurice Jones-Drew – As I mentioned above, I want nothing to do with the Jacksonville offense. The team is going to be playing from behind so often, and be in such deep holes, that they may abandon the run early in games on a weekly basis. Jones-Drew has the talent to be a top back, obviously, but the situation is dictating his value here. Sell Jones-Drew to the owner who still associates his name with greatness, because Jaguars and greatness don’t belong in the same sentence in 2013.
Knowshon Moreno – Just as we thought he had a stranglehold on the job, John Fox went back to his old ways. Fox has always given fantasy owners fits dating back to his Carolina days with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams (and even Mike Tolbert). All three of the Denver backs possess different skills so it makes sense to use them in different situations. Montee Ball is the power back, Hillman is the speed back and Moreno is a little of both plus the best pass blocker. Since all serve a purpose, all are going to get used. Sell Moreno before Ball and Hillman eat even further into his workload.
Kenny Britt – Any last ounce of fantasy value was sapped out this week: Britt was benched for Justin Hunter down the stretch. Between Britt’s injury history and his recent attitude problem, the Titans no longer want anything to do with him. As a fantasy owner, you shouldn’t either. His snaps are going down and the Titans aren’t an offense that offer too much value to pass catchers as-is. Send Britt to the waiver wire for a better option and don’t lose any sleep over it.
Andre Johnson – The injured will always get injured. Andre Johnson was already semi-disappointing then he went down with a badly bruised shin this week. So far the vibes aren’t good when it comes to his availability this weekend. If I had to bet, I’d say Johnson misses this week. Johnson again is dealing with a lack of red zone targets so his upside is semi-limited. Due to his age combined with the fact that he’s already injured, I don’t expect him to stay healthy even when he comes back. There’s just too many negatives involved here to feel great about Johnson’s outlook.
Kellen Winslow – Sorry guys but week 1 was an outlier. We wanted to believe that Geno Smith and Winslow were going to develop a rapport after his big week in the team’s debut. Unfortunately, it looks like that was more of a game plan thing. Expect Kellen Winslow to continue to be what Kellen Winslow has been: an inconsistent low to mid tier tight end like almost every other guy.