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Anyone can see the value in drafting Priest Holmes,
but it takes a discerning eye
to distinguish the unheralded or unused players
primed for breakout seasons. On the eve of the 2004
Season here are some lesser known names that we
think you'll want stashed on your bench. Keep an
eye on these guys. They turn fantasy teams into
fantasy champions. Thanks Paul Tagliabue, for starting
week one on a Thursday in Foxboro with the Indy
triplets in town. Thanks Marshall Faulk, for playing
the Cardinals on the opening Sunday. Thanks for
the Cowboys D vs. Daunte Culpepper. Football’s
back. Exhale. Let’s quit with the foreplay.
This is our waiver wire pick-ups column. The WagerOnFootball.com
staff will scour the free agent pools in fantasy
land for the best available talent every week. Availability,
of course, depends on the league. We’re using
12 team, 15 roster spot leagues as the median, but
we’ll look for roster candidates for leagues
of all shapes and sizes.
Steve Smith is out indefinitely
Watching Brett Favre introduce a Beastie Boys video/highlights
package should have been the most painful image
of week one’s Monday Night Football broadcast.
Then Steve Smith broke his leg.
Smith’s injury was gruesome and decisive;
reminding us of Ed McCaffrey’s broken leg
during the 2001 Monday night opener. The effect
of Smith’s broken fibula could be equally
painful for fantasy teams across the country.
Smith’s owners will now desperately search
the waiver wire or trade market for help. Owners
of Joey Galloway and Travis Taylor should also be
looking, although they had wide receiver issues
to begin with. In truth, every owner should be looking
to upgrade talent every week.
We just ask everyone to exercise patience. If Drew
Bennett was a solid grab last week, don’t
drop him after one poor outing. One boffo David
Terrell performance doesn’t erase the last
three years. Two might.
Top Pickups – Wide Receiver
Tampa’s replacement for Joey Galloway at wide
receiver will be rookie Michael Clayton.
The LSU product has played older than his age since
the day Tampa drafted him. He doesn’t possess
great speed, but is sure-handed and is tougher than
90% of the older receivers in the league. Tim Brown
will also have a bigger role in the offense and
is worth a look for fantasy teams in need.
Teams will continue to blitz the Bucs all day until
Tampa proves they can handle it. That should mean
short passes and plenty of receptions for Clayton.
He totaled seven on opening day for 53 yards and
looked like the best offensive player on the field
for Tampa. That’s not saying much, considering
the offense didn’t reach the red zone during
60 minutes of action. We expect the high reception
totals to continue for Clayton, if not big yardage.
That makes Clayton roster-worthy in points-per-reception
David Terrell stepped up with a
huge week one performance, gaining 126 yards despite
a sluggish Bears offense. We’re skeptical
he can keep it going, but he’s worth a roster
spot to find out in deeper leagues. He probably
has the highest upside of the waiver wire pickups
Tyrone Calico may be floating on
the waiver wires in many leagues after starting
the season out with a knee injury. He’s begun
light workouts and it sounds like he could be ready
for week three. Grab him and stash away now before
the rest of the owners in your league notice.
The Panthers strongly hinted Tuesday
that USC rookie Keary Colbert will take over for
Steve Smith in the starting lineup. We love this
kid. All he did at USC was produce tough catches
and huge production in big spots, even as a No.
2 receiver to Mike Williams. He was excellent throughout
the preseason and appears to have the smarts necessary
to succeed as a rook. We'd grab him in virtually
all leagues if you need WR help.David Givens isn’t
starting yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
If he can gain 80 yards as the Pats third receiver,
it doesn’t really matter. He should have a
roster spot in all 12-team leagues and may be worth
playing versus the Cardinals this week.
Kansas City should own the best
offense in the AFC again. That makes Eddie Kennison,
their steadiest wideout, worth owning. He gained
101 yards in week one.
Wide receivers to think about
Cedrick Wilson had his strongest
game as a pro in opening week, always a dangerous
thing. He makes tough catches in traffic and could
emerge as San Francisco’s most consistent
pass-catcher. We wouldn’t bet on many days
like Sunday, though.
Don't bump up Muhsin Muhammad’s
value too much after Smith’s injury. He’s
not a receiver who can shoulder the load by himself
and may actually be hurt by Smith’s absence.
Carolina looked like they were going to open up
their playbook a bit this season, but now we doubt
it. Expect heavier doses than ever of Stephen Davis
and Deshaun Foster.
Antonio Bryant is an interesting
player because he’s in his magical third-season
and he’s obviously talented. But the Cowboys
won’t sling the ball every weekend and we
wonder how consistent any third receiver on the
Cowboys could be. With two tight ends and two running
backs often in the game, Bryant will watch from
the sideline too much for our liking.
If anyone if your league drops one of the three
Green Bay receivers, we’d pick them right
up. Same goes with Marty Booker, who will get accustomed
to Miami in time.
Eric Parker didn't pile up production
in week one, but the Chargers looked for him on
a few deep routes. He’s likely to be the top
Chargers wideout this season, for what it’s
Johnnie Morton looked healthy in
week one and could be worth stashing away in deep
leagues. He’s not flashy, but could prove
to be a competent injury fill-in.
Wide receivers to drop
No need to hold on Joey Galloway
in virtually any league. He was a questionable fantasy
grab to begin with… The same goes with Baltimore’s
Travis Taylor if his groin injury lingers into this
week. Taylor’s injury, meanwhile, could really
hurt the Ravens passing game and consequently Jamal
Lewis. Taylor is no All-Pro, but the downgrade to
Randy Hymes as a starter is significant.
Jerry Rice is a consideration to
drop after barely playing in the second half of
the Raiders game. Oakland wants receivers who can
finish their long pass routes and Rice may lack
the necessary speed. We don’t want to be hasty,
but if Rice is a part-timer again this weekend,
his upside isn’t worth holding on to.
Fantasy owners holding out hope for Atlanta rookie
Michael Jenkins can forget about
him in re-draft leagues. He hasn’t passed
Dez White on the depth chart and didn’t make
a catch in his first NFL game.
Wide receivers to be patient with
Don't go dropping Steve Smith just yet. Wait until
the Panthers give an official prognosis for the
Drew Bennett had a quiet week
one, along with the entire Tennessee passing game.
Still, they looked to him twice in the red zone,
which is a great sign. Steve McNair will throw more
than two second-half passes this week… Also
be patient with the Green Bay receivers, who were
all quiet in week one… San Francisco receiver
Brandon Lloyd only had four catches, but the 49ers
tried to get him the ball all day.
Top Pickups - Quarterbacks
Like the rest of the Oakland offense, Rich
Gannon looked harried and out of synch
for most of the first half versus Pittsburgh on
Sunday. But Gannon led an inspiring comeback by
hanging tough in the pocket and hitting looong pass
plays. Coach Norv Turner went for it on fourth-and-five
with less than five minutes remaining, resulting
in a 38-yard TD to Alvis Whitted. Gannon completed
passes to eleven different receivers on Sunday,
showing how deep the Oakland talent pool is. The
deep strike attack will help Gannon’s yardage
totals and make him worth a fantasy backup position.
As long as he keeps his job.
Carson Palmer is still available
in some re-draft leagues, but he could be a better
yardage option than Drew Bledsoe, Mark Brunell,
Brad Johnson, and Byron Leftwich right now. The
Bengals won’t be shy to air the ball out and
may have to if their defense doesn’t improve.
For a first game, Palmer looked very composed.
The Cowboys won’t throw fifty passes very
often, but Vinny Testaverde still
looks like a decent backup QB for fantasy teams
that ignored the position on draft day. Off the
top of our head, we like him better than the QBs
of at least eight teams: BAL, MIA, CHI, BUF, NYG,
SF, WAS, and SD.
Drew Brees, yes we’re serious,
has an impressive air about him this season and
two great weapons in Antonio Gates and LaDainian
Tomlinson. He made smart decisions all preseason
and followed that up with a perfect QB rating in
week one. The play we remember most about Brees
on Sunday was a run. Brees tucked the ball away
on a QB option, smashed into mountainous Texans
nose tackle Robaire Smith right in front of the
goal-line. Brees didn’t score, but his toughess
wasn’t lost on his fired-up teammates and
Quarterbacks to drop
Week one looked a lot like the 2003 season for Bills
QB Drew Bledsoe. Buffalo was leading
10-6 with less than 2:30 left versus Jacksonville
on the Jaguars’ 35-yard line. Travis Henry
was injured, so the Bills had run Willis McGahee
eight straight times with some success. But Buffalo
was facing third-and-eleven and needed a first down
to keep the drive alive or 5-8 yards to get in field
goal range. What did they do? Run McGahee off tackle
for two yards, then punt, and eventually lose the
With a chance to win the game, Buffalo coach Mike
Mularkey was too petrified to use Bledsoe in a situation
that clearly called for it. If the Bills coaching
staff doesn’t have confidence in him, why
Along those same lines, Detroit coach Steve Mariucci
hardly gave a ringing endorsement for his quarterback
Joey Harrington on Monday. When
asked about Harrington’s performance, Mariucci
paused for a long time, and then said, “He
was just okay.” Without Charles Rogers to
help him out for the season, Harrington now has
less potential for big games. Harrington could be
a decent backup fantasy QB, but we wouldn’t
lose sleep over trying to upgrade from him.
Top pickups… running backs
Maurice Morris is the must-pickup
in fantasy leagues this week. Shaun Alexander’s
knee injury could keep him out of the Seattle lineup
for zero, one, or two games. It doesn’t matter.
Grab Morris if you need running back help or not,
then trade him to Alexander’s owner. Or just
start him yourself. The Seahawks believed enough
in Morris’ ability to shop Alexander in trades
over the offseason. A box of donuts could gain 80
yards and a score behind the left side of the Seattle
Onterrio Smith will likely start
for the Vikings through week four. He should already
be owned and starting in all leagues, but we’re
just making sure. With Moe Williams likely out,
Mewelde Moore may be Minnesota’s third-down
back over the next two weeks, but has minimal fantasy
Emmitt Smith looked scarily competent
versus the Rams on Sunday. He’s worth a spot
as a fantasy reserve over backups like Anthony Thomas
and T.J. Duckett.
Antowain Smith will step in for
Chris Brown if Brown’s ankle injury proves
serious. That’s the only way he’ll have
serious value. The Titans used Smith near the goal-line
with Brown in the game, although Antowain failed
to punch it in. He also lost a fumble.
He should be gone in most leagues, but Ron Dayne
is sure to have a significant role in the 2004 New
York Giants offense. Double-digit carries and goal-line
looks make him an attractive pickup where available.
Running Backs to be patient with
We’re not fans of T.J. Duckett
this season, but he’s worth holding on to
in case the situation changes in Atlanta. Like when
Warrick Dunn gets injured… Julius Jones was
inactive for week one, but certainly don’t
give up on him yet. Same thing with Chris Perry
in Cincinnati for deep leagues…
Running Backs to drop
Don’t wait on Eddie George
if you find an option with upside floating around…
Musa Smith is questionable roster spot filler in
12-team leagues since he’s fallen behind Chester
Taylor on the depth chart. Jamal Lewis owners are
in a bind with that decision.
Garrison Hearst left Denver’s
game with ankle injury and was replaced by Tatum
Bell as Quentin Griffin’s top backup. With
Q running so well, it’s hard to see Hearst
providing value, injured or not.
It’s safe to drop all Miami running backs
except Lamar Gordon.
Tight Ends to pickup
San Francisco’s Eric Johnson
is ready to be a starter in 12-team fantasy leagues.
He’ll be a focal point of the offense this
season and is worth grabbing if you need help or
depth at tight end.
Antonio Gates should be owned in
all leagues, including eight-team affairs.
Tight Ends to drop
Unless you carry two tight ends, we wouldn’t
hang to Houston’s Billy Miller
any longer. He was held without a reception in week
one and suffered a minor hamstring injury to boot…
Minnesota’s Jim Kleinsasser
hurt his knee (again) and could be out a month.
It's safe to let him go.
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