For a deeper review of players that are either new to the scene or playing differently than expected, Double Coverage will give the respective views of John Tuvey (Start Bench List) and David Dorey (Game Predictions and Player Projections). We'll bring 47 years of combined fantasy football experience to bear and hopefully a few things to think about as you manage your fantasy team.
WR Josh Gordon (CLE)
DOREY: The supplemental pick of the Browns is going to cost them a second rounder next season and that's a lot of faith to put into a player who really only played one season in college, getting kicked out of Baylor for marijuana and transferring to Utah where he sat out the 2011 season. Then he applied for the Supplemental draft where he found a team desperate for receiver help. There was never an argument that the 6-3, 224 lb. wideout was very talented. He just rarely applied that to the playing field because of non-field issues. He did not play at all last year. He did not play as a freshman. His sophomore year at Baylor saw him play 13 games and only have two big games both at home against Kansas and Kansas State. His entire college career is pretty much just two games. He has the size and speed and talent according to scouts. My problem is that he only had one year playing in college and now is taking on NFL cornerbacks and safeties? Everyone picked him up on waivers last week because he had 82 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants but that was on only two catches. Five games into the season he has nine catches for 175 yards and the two scores. He had no more than three passes for 40 yards in any game prior to last week. Brandon Weeden is exceeding expectations to be sure. But I have to believe that he is not going to offer consistency this year at the least. He had just two games in college and now has just two catches in the NFL. Not bad to see what happens on your depth but I have no expectations until next year at the earliest.
TUVEY: Having just watched the “Cleveland ‘95” segment of “A Football Life” on NFL Network, and having spent the last few years very concerned that my own beloved Vikings might suffer a similar fate, I will freely admit to having a soft spot for the Brownies. So maybe I’m a little pie-eyed about the influx of young talent in Cleveland… but doggone it if Brandon Weeden doesn’t look too shabby throwing the ball around. And with Greg Little incapable of consistently catching said ball and nearly every other pass-catcher on the Browns’ roster banged up, it’s a real opportunity for Gordon to make a run at the long-vacant WR1 gig in Cleveland. Sure, he has a checkered past—but don’t you want your receiver with a healthy dollop of off-the-field issues? It’s worked for Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Plaxico Burress, Chad Johnson, Dez Bryant… it’s almost a requirement for today’s NFL wideout. Gordon brings plenty of skills to the table, flashed with a couple touchdowns last week, and in Cleveland has an opportunity to grow with this young offense. Color me interested.
RB Fred Jackson (BUF)
DOREY: I must admit that Jackson leaves me saying "wow" and not in a good way. Now granted, he had a broken leg that ended his great 2011 season but he was healed and back. Given a new contract. 31-years old is a concern but 30 looked pretty good last year. He doesn't have the mileage of most backs and seemed ready to resume at least partially what happened last year. And then in week one he twisted his knee and missed the next two games. He only has 29 rushing yards in either if his last two games. In fairness, those were against the Patriots who play the run well and play the Bills even better. And last week was in San Francisco facing a 49ers team ticked off about their loss in Minnesota. Pretty small sample to say his season is over. But it is not getting any better. @ARI is no fun anymore. TEN is good but then @HOU and @NE are probably going to be really bad. His schedule clears up starting week 11 but you'll be dead by then if you rely on Jackson. The Bills offense is not allowing rushing, their defense is worse so the game score is up for opponents and Jackson never gets many carries. Spiller is there to share with. To me, this has evolved to a bad slate of games and a inopportune twisted knee. And his outlook is pretty dim to me until it is too late.
TUVEY: Jackson, like Cecil Shorts, Pierre Garçon and yours truly, is a former Division III baller and thus has a permanent “in” with me. Doesn’t hurt that all signs indicate Chan Gailey feels the same way; even last week, with both F-Jax and C.J. Spiller returning from injuries the Bills’ backfield duties were essentially split. That’s a more even divvy than prior to the injuries, when it was Jackson’s backfield and Spiller was a complementary piece. Spiller’s production with Jackson out understandably warrants that he get a longer look, but keep in mind that in games where both play Spiller has done virtually nothing for fantasy purposes. Jackson won’t be the top-five guy he was before going down last season, but at least until his next injury he should match C.J. in workload—and likely fantasy productivity as well.
RB William Powell (ARI)
DOREY: I would jump all over Powell if I could though in all my leagues he was snatched by teams with worse records or more cash to spend. The reality with Powell is that he is an undrafted back out of Kansas State and maybe slightly smaller than typical at 5-9, 207 pounds. Problem with Powell is two-fold. First, Beanie Wells will be back after week 12. But you get six or seven weeks worth anyway. Second, if the assumption is that Powell is even just an average back, that doesn't bode too well. The Cardinals have not had a great runner since... since... yeah, I can't think of any either. The offensive line cannot open the holes that ensure 4.0 per carry. No ARI runner has more than 14 carries in any game this year for a reason. If you have no starter anyway then none of that matters. But my expectations for Powell are pretty low.
TUVEY: Hey, everybody, it’s the next back up in Arizona! Pardon me if I’m not particularly giddy. The Cardinals have ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in fantasy production out of their running backs the past two seasons and are currently checking in at next-to-last… and I want the guy who couldn’t beat out the guy who couldn’t beat out the guy? Call it an “opportunity” if you want, but the pass-heavy Cardinals are currently throwing even more than in previous seasons—darn close to 70 percent of the time. Best-case scenario Powell is sharing at least some of the workload with LaRod Stephens-Howling, and I still think Alfonso Smith gets some touches as well. Sorry, but a partial share of a limited workload in an unproductive ground game just doesn’t have “fantasy savior” written all over it for me.
RB Vick Ballard (IND)
DOREY: Ballard was the Colts fifth round pick and I liked him this summer. And You have to like what Andrew Luck has done so far that has produced an offense that has exceeded all expectations so far (low as they were anyway). I think Ballard can be that average back or better. Donald Brown had not been anything special this year and yet he had decent showings at home against the Jaguars and Packers. Ballard has done very little so far with only 21 runs for 42 yards on the season but that should see a spike in use now that Brown will be out for a few weeks after getting torn knee cartilage repaired. That gives Ballard games @NYJ, CLE and @TEN. That faces defenses ranked 25th, 24th and 26th against running backs. Ballard should have at least mild success in the next three games and could always surprise. I like him more than Powell for at least the next three weeks.
TUVEY: Ballard actually snuck onto a couple of my rosters as a speculative add, since Donald Brown’s NFL career thus far has been decidedly under whelming. And now that Brown is down for at least a couple weeks with a bum knee, it’s Ballard’s time to get the 15 or so carries Indy doles out to its feature backs. Not a bad time for this to happen, as Indy’s schedule against the run is quite fantasy-friendly with the Browns, Titans, and Jags on the immediate docket. Mewelde Moore is the third down back, Delone Carter is on the roster, but Ballard is a young guy who could do enough when given the opportunity that maybe Brown a) doesn’t need to rush back and/or b) doesn’t have much of a gig to come back to. Of all the current trendy free agent backs with a shot at double-digit carries, Ballard tops my list and it isn’t even close.
RB Alex Green (GB)
DOREY: The problem with Green is that the Packers offensive line is not what it was. The former third round pick in 2011 tore his ACL last year and missed most of the season and was never used anyway. In his two years in the NFL, he only ran five times for 13 yards until last week when he gained 63 yards on ten runs in Indianapolis. Cedric Benson is gone at least until week 14 so there are eight games worth of the Packers backfield to grab. But HC Mike McCarthy already says it is going to be a committee backfield that will lean on the hot hand for the game. That should be Green over James Starks but what does that really mean? Benson all by himself only scored once and gained about 50 yards per game. He had 100 total yards in the last two home games but Green will have to share a bit with Starks no matter what. Benson only had 20 carries once as the back who never shared. The next two weeks are @HOU and @STL which are not likely to be productive. If you have no other options then it really does not matter and we truly do not really know what Green can do yet. But I would limit my expectations because the offense is just not producing a great rushing situation in most games.
TUVEY: Way back in the preseason, even before Cedric Benson made his way to Green Bay, I was mildly on board the Alex Green bandwagon. I stashed him on a couple deep rosters because of the running back “talent” in Green Bay he appeared to have the most fantasy upside. Six weeks into the season, now that Green has surfaced atop the depth chart, that bandwagon is starting to fill—and because that’s just the kind of guy I am, I’m willing to give you my seat. The Packers are still primarily a passing team, putting a limit on Green’s involvement—especially since he’s even less adept at pass protection than the Packers’ offensive line. If and when Green Bay does opt to run the ball to grind clock, James Starks is still in the picture. The Packers have also talked about working Brandon Saine into the mix, and any goal line chances the ground game does get go to John Kuhn. If best case is a one-fourth share of a smaller pie, you can have my seat and I’ll catch the next bus.
Not Amendola Receivers (STL)
DOREY: The Rams will be without Danny Amendola for at least a month and let's be serious - the guy has hardly been a paragon of durability. So we are all looking for who gets to be Danny for the next four games or so. Or even if there is any receiver on the roster worth anything besides Amendola. To me, the answer is clear. Probably not. Chris Givens is getting the replacement worth for him and the slot is manned by either Austin Pettis or Steve Smith. Brandon Gibson remains the starter as well but since scoring in each of the first two games, he has done nearly nothing. Steven Smith never showed up. Brian Quick seemed like a better fit last summer but it did not work out that way. He only has one catch. Most leagues jumped on Chris Givens this week because he had the 51-yard touchdown against the Cardinals but he only has four receptions this season. Factor in that this is a Jeff Fisher team and the notion that any of the receivers are likely to step up is too hard for me to buy. Amendola is like a magical elf. He shows up for a short time and makes everyone happy and then disappears. Seems like the Rams would have someone - I have given up.
TUVEY: On the surface it looks like Chris Givens is consistently producing, but he’s getting his 50 yards a game on one catch. Nice to have a deep threat, but what the Rams really need is for someone to fill Danny Amendola’s receiver gloves. Enter Steve Smith. Desperate for receivers, the Rams brought in Smith this offseason—and dang if he didn’t look a whole lot like the same cat with 100-plus catches for the Giants a couple years back. Then he absolutely vanished once the games started to count and Amendola took all the targets. Now that Amendola is down for a while, it’s Smith’s opportunity to step right into that role and produce. He’s got the hands, he’s got the quicks… about the only trait he actually shares with other Rams receivers is that he’s injury-prone. It might be a short run until his next malady, but until then the St. Louis passing game will be deep shots to Givens, a handful of targets for the inconsistent Brandon Gibson, and Smith filling Amendola’s role as the PPR guy to get.