Both of these backups are poised to take bigger offensive roles.
With the season-ending injury to Jamaal Charles and the nagging hamstring injury to Arian Foster, two names have emerged as the "you have to go get" players from your fantasy football waiver wire: Dexter McCluster and Ben Tate.
They're two players in two very different positions in the fantasy football landscape. But which one will have the larger effect on the 2011 season?
The Case for Dexter McCluster
The Pros: The obvious upside with McCluster is that his team's first stringer (Jamaal Charles) is definitely out for the season. The only person standing in Dexter's way of becoming the feature back is the ancient (although extremely jacked-up-for-his-age) Thomas Jones. Last year, which was his rookie campaign, McCluster played only 11 games in a smaller role in the offense, yet managed to catch 21 balls for 209 yards (a tidy 10 ypc avg) and ran the ball only 18 times for a n even tidier 3.9 yards per carry. Yes, it's a small sample size, but Dexter proved in his kickoff and punt returns that he's a pro-caliber runner. His slashing style makes people miss, and the fact that he's playing behind one of the better offensive lines in football, this is almost a perfect situation for McCluster to find himself in.
The obvious elephant in the fantasy locker room is Thomas Jones. How much time will he take away from Dexter? While he may be the first down back and will steal some touchdowns, the truth of the matter is that the Chiefs are a bad football team right now. Their defense is atrocious, which is actually great for Dexter owners.
The Chiefs are going to be behind much more than they will be leading in most games, which means they're going to be throwing the ball. Last year, in 16 games, Thomas Jones caught only 14 balls. Less than one reception a game. While Dexter averaged two a game in a much more limited role.
Without using too much hyperbole, it seems to me (especially in a PPR league) Dexter McCluster is going to be this year's Peyton Hillis.
The Cons: Injuries are really the only con facing McCluster this year. He missed 5 games last year, but in reality almost every player is an injury risk, so don't let that bother you.
Dexter McCluster 2011 Prediction: 845 yards rushing and 3 rushing touchdowns. 63 receptions for 560 yards and 4 receiving touchdowns. And one kickoff/punt TD for good measure.
The Case for Ben Tate
Pros: What most people don't know is that Ben Tate was a great running back at Auburn. And after the first two games of the season, he's garnered the third-most yards of any running back this season. He's ahead of other fantasy darlings Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy. And he shared time with Arian Foster of the first half of the Texans game against the Dolphins.
So we know he can run, and he's on an offense that can move the ball. Texans coach Gary Kubiak came out and gave Tate the primary back duties as long as Foster's hamstring is still injured.
So, the real question on Tate is how much time will he be the #1 back. And if he's leading the league in rushing, is there a possibility he will keep this job even after Arian's hammy is fully healthy?
Hamstrings take forever to heal. It's one of those nagging injuries that seem to always pop back up throughout any season (just ask fantasy baseballers who own Nelson Cruz). So I'd be willing to put a good bet that Tate puts up more fantasy points than Foster this year (he's already got a sizeable lead with a good chance he's going to start for the next week or two at minimum.) Either way, if he's available, go get him.
The Cons: It all comes down to Arian's hammy, whether or not Tate becomes this year's Arian. How's that for meta?
Ben Tate 2011 Prediction: 1,250 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. 15 receptions for 120 yards.
If you've missed out on both of these guys, check out our complete waiver wire pickups for week 3.
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By Cory Jones