OPEN TO SWAPPING
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons
Steven Jackson is expected to return to practice this week after a month on the sidelines with hamstring issues—which should drive Rodgers’ asking price down. During Jackson’s absence we’ve seen Rodgers do enough in all facets of the game—as a receiver, in short yardage, etc.—to warrant touches even after Jackson returns. And given Jackson’s age, mileage, and the propensity of hamstring injuries to linger there’s no guarantee he’ll be hogging all the carries the rest of the way. Great buy low opportunity.
PUT A RING ON THAT THING
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Colts
From time to time DHB still has trouble with the “receiver” portion of his job description. However, with Reggie Wayne out for the season the Colts will have to rely on Heyward-Bey and TY Hilton and their matching unreliable sets of hands. More importantly, even with Wayne still in the lineup the Colts seemed to be going out of their way to get the ball into DHB’s hands against Denver. Now Andrew Luck won’t have the luxury of looking elsewhere, and if you can put up with a few frustrating drops Heyward-Bey could prove to be a solid fantasy receiver down the stretch.
HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN… HEART? FIBULA? WRIST?
Week 7 was particularly harsh injury-wise; additionally, we’re at the crossroads for several players who may or may not be helpers if/when they return. The keepers include…
Andre Brown, RB, Giants
The G-Men want to run the ball, they need to run the ball, and they’ve done so with at least some effectiveness with the undead carcasses of Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis. Brown could return as early as Week 10; if he does he’ll move quickly into a role that includes at minimum goal-line work and sooner rather than later the bulk of Big Blue’s backfield touches.
Percy Harvin, WR, Seahawks
News that Harvin is returning to practice this week shouldn’t be met with unbridled optimism; after all, he missed much of the offseason work that would have created a comfort level with Russell Wilson so it’s unlikely he’ll race back to the lineup and be effective. That said, he’s back earlier than expected and can develop the aforementioned relationship with his quarterback in practice in time to give you almost a month of late-season surge in addition to whatever he brings to the table during the fantasy playoffs. There are still concerns, but for the waiver-wire price you can’t beat the potential upside.
On the other hand…
GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
David Wilson, RB, Giants
Wilson may be back around Week 11, but his return is far less certain than Brown’s—much like he was far less effective when healthy this season. Between the unknown timetable, the lack of productivity and the inevitable fumble that would cause Tom Coughlan’s head to explode there’s just not much worth clinging to here.
Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
Placed on IR/designated to return, Cobb can’t even start practicing until most fantasy seasons are wrapping up. Worse, he isn’t eligible to return to the lineup until Week 15. Should you be fortunate enough to still be playing in what will in most leagues be the semi-finals, can you trust a guy coming off a two-month hiatus against what is becoming a decent Dallas pass defense? Would you use him in championship week against the Steelers? Far too many questions for him to take up a roster spot you could be using to test-drive Jarrett Boykin.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
Stewart is expected to begin practicing this week, but with Carolina playing Thursday don’t look for him in the lineup right away. Stewart has said he needs to practice reps to get into a rhythm before returning to action; he’s also said at least one of his two surgically repaired ankles still bothers him when he tries to cut. Meanwhile, if and when he does return he’ll have to contend with Mike Tolbert, fast becoming the goal line monster many expected, and the reasonably effective DeAngelo Williams as well as one of the better rushing quarterbacks in the league. That’s far too many question marks for a back who even when healthy is a major fantasy lineup question mark anyway.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos
Not injury related, but after suggesting that Hillman still had value in a previous version of PUJ it’s necessary to issue the correction order. Hillman can’t hang on to the football, which is helping Knowshon Moreno hang on to lead back duties in Denver. And it’s that same propensity for fumbling that could cost him further carries to rookie Montee Ball. After all, at this juncture neither can be trusted with key touches, so when the Broncos do dole out non-Moreno carries in garbage time why not see what your second-round draft pick can do?