They say you can’t win your fantasy league in round one, but you certainly can lose it. Well they must have been thinking about the 2013 football season. Never, and i mean never, have we seen such attrition at the top. Injuries (Arian Foster, Doug Martin, Aaron Rodgers), inconsistency (C.J. Spiller) and just good ol’ fashion regression (Ray Rice, Trent Richardson) have plagued owners in a way that we have not seen to this point. If you managed to dodge a bullet in the first round, perhaps the injury imp has reared his ugly head and stole your top wideout (Randall Cobb, Julio Jones) or another valued piece of the puzzle (Reggie Wayne). Yes, the waiver wire has been kind for some (Zac Stacy owners, come on down), but others who thought they have found the answer, have only been disappointing once-again (yep, Doug-Martin-turned-Mike-Jones-owners, you’ve been bitten twice).
Still, you’ve managed to scratch and claw your way to .500 and with only a few short weeks left in the regular season, your ticket to the dance is in plain sight BUT with the bye weeks winding down, it’s time to retool your roster for the stretch run. That dead weight on your roster? Its time to move on. Reset. A short memory can be a wonderful thing in fantasy sports and we are gonna try and do just that.
Rambling aside, the trade deadline is fast approaching and whether your team has been touched by injuries, or you are sitting on some fortunate depth, the market is likely ripe with teams scrambling to fill some holes. And with that, we’re turning to the market to try and identify a couple of players to snag via trade. These guys aren’t “buy lows” per say and in fact, you may end up needing to “buy high” on some of them, but consider this a guide to players we are targeting for a playoff run. We’ll break ’em down in a couple of categories for you. The Stud is a player we are targeting no matter the cost… a must own player down the stretch. The Dud is a player who we’re expecting a swift turnaround and one you can perhaps buy low on. Additionally, we’ll toss out a couple of other targets at each position for whom we’ve got high hopes.
Drew Brees – Continues to ranks as our No. 1 QB for the rest of the way. Don’t overlook the benefit of the dome as the weather gets nasty while making your play for Brees. And if I was a Peyton Manning owner, I’d offer him up for the Saints’ signal-caller.
Colin Kaepernick – He’s faced with a daunting task this week, trying to keep up with the Saints’ high-octane offense on Sunday while also dealing with a much improved defensive unit in New Orleans. Kaepernick is coming off a brutal performance in Week 10, but the Carolina front seven is no joke. Vernon Davis‘ injury may drive the price down even further, but as the Niners’ sprint towards the playoffs, they will need to open up the offense quite a bit. Help is on the way with Mario Manningham now healthy and Michael Crabtree slowly inching his way towards a return, Kaepernick simply must do better. The schedule doesn’t help — save a matchup with Washington in Week 12 — but if the 49ers expect to make the playoffs, they will once-again begin to lean on their talented quarterback.
Nick Foles -Finally got the nod from Coach Chip Kelly as the Eagles No. 1 moving forward, Foles finds himself at the center of an innovative offense with a trio of dynamic playmakers and improving defensive support. The schedule also looks like a slam dunk with Washington up this week followed with a bye and then ARI, DET, @MIN, CHI and @DAL.
Ben Roethlisberger – Very nice schedule in the short term, he’ll be hit or miss, but you can do worse.
Adrian Peterson – It’s a lost season in Minnesota, but don’t tell that to All Day. He runs with a fury matched by few and while we love the prospects of Jamaal Charles and Lesean McCoy down the stretch, Peterson remains the top back in the NFL and in fantasy. On paper, the schedule doesn’t do AD any favors, but we’ve seen him beat a stacked box before.
Andre Brown – Fresh off injury, Brown looked strong while proving that he could handle a hefty workload (31 carries for 115 yards and a score). He’s always an injury risk, but the G-Men — who have reeled of three straight wins — get to make their playoff push in a division that has been lacking on the defensive side of the football.
Shane Vereen – Fresh off the wrist injury, we’re curious to see how quickly the Pats’ ramp up his snap count. One thing we do know is that the 15-point Week 1 performance was no fluke.
C.J. Spiller – The price tag has likely never been lower and despite some workload worries, Spiller appears to be getting back to full strength. We’ll invest our faith in the talent and the cupcake schedule on tap following the Week 12 bye: ATL, @ TB, @ JAX, MIA.
Rashad Jennings – His production has been solid since Darren McFadden went down for the second time and with the starter likely nowhere near a return, Jennings is locked in as a RB2 down the stretch.
Brandon Marshall – His quarterback situation may be a concern in the short term, but B-Marsh has shown that he can be productive even with Josh McCown slinging the leather under center. Marshall’s schedule is a fantasy dream — save a Week-15 date with Joe Haden — and with Alshon Jeffferey coming on as a reliable second option, the double-teams will come less frequently, leaving B-Marsh to carry you to a championship. Marshall is our No. 2 wideout for the rest of the way and we don’t mind at all sending any running back not names Peterson, McCoy or Charles and just about every receiver save Calvin Johnson. If your an A.J. Green owner looking ahead to a tough matchup with Joe Haden and a upcoming bye week, perhaps you should make a play for B-Marsh.
Vincent Jackson – After starting the season on fire, V-Jax has turned ice cold of late, totaling just 10 fantasy points over this last three games. Mike Glennon has been solid under center, but the offense has certainly been lacking in explosiveness over the past couple of weeks. Jackson’s target total dipped in Week 8, but he jumped back up to eight targets in Week 9 and we expect that number to continue to rise back into double digits moving forward. V-Jax has the ability to light up the stat-tracker in any given week and now that Win No. 1 is out of the way, expect the Bucs to play with a little more confidence on offense as their top wide out re-inserts himself among the league’s elite fantasy plays.
Torrey Smith – Of course, touchdowns play a huge role in any player’s fantasy football value, but it’s typically more prudent to trust yardage production and have faith that the scores will come. Smith ranks in the top 15 in targets, yards and yards-after-catch among wide receiver, but has hit pay dirt just two times all season. Buy the yardage, profit when the score begin to pile up.
Rob Gronkowski – Finally, Gronk is flashing the form that owners were hoping for in late September. Given the lack of production early on, it’s quite possible that Gronk’s owners is i desperate search of some wins to make the playoffs. If you can trade from an area of depth to upgrade you tight end spot, Gronkowski is the man we are targeting.
Jason Witten – It’s been an up and down fantasy campaign for Witten. He’s got three weeks so far with 16+ standard fantasy points, but has not broken five points in any of his other seven games. Oddly, one of the most reliable fantasy commodities of the season has become a boom-or-bust, touchdown-dependent player. We’re gonna go ahead and blame Tony Romo’s inconsistent play for his struggles in Week 10 and expect much better with a number of great matchups as the ‘Boys come out of their Week 11 bye.
Coby Fleener – Andrew Luck’s play has dipped significantly since Reggie Wayne was lost for the season. Still, he’s paying an awful lot of attention to Fleener of late and we certainly like the 15 targets he’s seen in the two games since the Colts’ bye week. With that kind of volume, it’s only a matter of time before Fleener steps up as the No. 2 option in the Colts’ passing game.