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By Matt Schauf
Here’s the thing about writing to a broad fantasy audience. There can be so much variation by league that it’s difficult to know what people know.
For instance, if you’re reading this and see a recommendation to pick up Tampa Bay rookie receiver Mike Williams off the waiver wire, you’ll probably think: “Yeah, thanks. Now how about someone that didn’t actually get picked in the middle of my draft.”
Well, as of Monday morning, the youngest of the NFL Mike Williamses can be found on rosters in less than 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Now, we all know that the broad, free audience of Yahoo! fantasy players includes very shallow leagues, plenty of newbies and a fair number of teams that never get touched after August (if that late). Nevertheless, there are some out there who can find Williams freely available after he has grabbed touchdowns in each of his first two pro outings. If you happen to be one of those people, get to grabbing. If you aren’t, just remember to frame player values by the particulars of your league and scoring system. On to some other guys worth claiming this week …
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay
Why not move next to the guy getting Williams the ball? Freeman hasn’t exactly faced a stifling pair of defenses in Cleveland and Carolina, but he has posted four touchdown passes versus just one interception. That beats the heck out of his 18 picks and 10 fumbles (just two lost) over the final nine games of last year and is particularly encouraging when you remember that Freeman was iffy for Week 1 after missing the exhibition slate with a thumb fracture. I liked Matt Moore before the season (he admits, ashamedly), but I’ve seen enough to swap him out for Freeman as a fantasy backup.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver
Unless you need a quarterback right now, your first target this week should be this Broncos rookie. In his first NFL regular-season game, Thomas saw four more targets than any of his teammates and finished with eight catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. Granted, Seattle tends to be a positive matchup, but there’s a reason Denver drafted this guy ahead of Dez Bryant. Agree with that decision or not (and I don’t), the pick was made because they really like Thomas. Whether he’s a top route runner or not, Thomas has terrific speed and size and brings playmaking ability that the team would be lacking without him. Thomas figures to be a bit inconsistent, but he also figures to be a central element of this passing game as long as he’s healthy – certainly more central than Brandon Lloyd, at least.
Dustin Keller, TE, N.Y. Jets
There was some talk before the season of Keller turning into Mark Sanchez’s “go-to guy” … whatever that means for an unreliable passer. Through two weeks, Keller has led the team or tied for the lead in targets twice, including Sunday’s seven-catch, 115-yard outing. If Brian Schottenheimer continues to let Sanchez actually throw passes beyond the line of scrimmage, we could see this connection continue to blossom after displaying some late flashes in 2009.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville
Lewis didn’t have nearly as good a day as Keller in Week 2, but his five receptions topped any one-week total he put up last season and follow a two-touchdown performance. Jaguars camp broke with predictions of a breakout season for Lewis, and he has done nothing to dispel such hopes in one of the league’s most maddeningly inconsistent offenses.
Earl Bennett, WR, Chicago
This recommendation isn’t so much because Bennett tied for the team lead with five catches at Dallas on Sunday. That’s not really a number worth getting excited about. At the same time, though, Devin Aromashodu saw nary a target against the Cowboys, and Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times said via Twitter after the game that Bennett appears to have passed Aromashodu on the depth chart. Bennett will need to do more before proving fantasy-start worthy, but it only helps him that he and Jay Cutler go all the way back to their college days at Vanderbilt. In an offense with no clear No. 1 wideout and an odd distaste for tight ends, it’s foreseeable that Bennett becomes Cutler’s safety blanket. At the least, he’s worth picking up in PPR leagues right now, just in case.
Mario Manningham, WR, N.Y. Giants
Four catches a game doesn’t sound exciting, but it’ll put you right around 60 by the end of the season. That’s what Manningham has done each of the first two weeks, despite Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks both being around and the Giants only playing from behind in one of those contests. Perhaps more encouraging, though, is that he has caught eight of 10 passes thrown his way so far. That small a sample doesn’t really tell us a whole lot, but even those small results can’t hurt a guy who displayed inconsistent hands last year. Combine this with his big-play upside (54-yard touchdown Sunday night) and the injury risk following Hakeem Nicks, and Manningham looks like a nice player to stash on fantasy benches in any format.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots
At some point every season, there gets to be a premium on ownable running backs and folks start blowing FAAB budgets on guys they didn’t even consider at draft time. (Just check out how much your leaguemate paid for Brandon Jackson last week.) That makes it worthwhile to try to get ahead of the curve if you have room on the roster, and the guy with infinite names could present some value later in the season. No one should get excited about the 19 yards Green-Ellis managed on 10 carries Sunday, but there also shouldn’t have been any fantasy owners starting him against the Jets. It’s worth noting, however, that his 10 attempts doubled the totals for Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk. It’s also worth noting that Green-Ellis tallied five touchdown runs just two years ago amid 74 carries. That’s at least some goal-line back precedent.
Faulk and Taylor remain closer to usable in fantasy going forward, but consider Green-Ellis a buy-low option who can be easily dropped again if you need the roster spot.