Free-agent finds for Week 8
Standard ESPN League Finds
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (owned in 13.6 percent of ESPN.com leagues): This is why we handcuff! If you're a Maurice Jones-Drew owner, the handcuff situation was complicated by Jennings' Week 1 knee injury, but Jennings was healthy as of Week 4 and took over when MJD injured his foot on his second carry Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. So I was mighty surprised to look up Jennings' ownership numbers on Monday and see them so low. That will change. With Blaine Gabbert also injured but not ruled out of Sunday's game, and the Jags set to travel north to play the Green Bay Packers, this is a non-optimal situation for Jennings. But we might not see a more valuable waiver add all season. Jennings has averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his career and is a big enough kid to take every-down work. With MJD definitely out for Week 8 and likely facing a much longer time away from the lineup, Jennings is a must-add.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns (36.8 percent): I put Gordon in the "deep-league" portion of this column last week, but he deserves an upgrade. He's got four TDs in three weeks, and although he grabbed only two passes versus the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, he came within a ray of sunshine of another long score (the sun filtering through the windows at Lucas Oil Field hit Gordon at just the wrong moment, as he was about to haul in a fourth-quarter 55-yard TD). It's true that Greg Little also scored Sunday, but he tried his best to drop that one in the back of the end zone, and if I'm placing a bet on any Browns receiver, it's with the rookie Gordon. Now, I don't view him as an automatic fantasy starter. He's more of a bye-week fill-in just now. Long term, the question about him will be his ability to get off the line of scrimmage against physical coverage, because he's not as strong as he needs to be. But he's got a huge frame (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and runs very well for a guy his size. He's got a lot of Brandon Marshall in him, but his game is raw. Still, he's another definite add for receiver-needy fantasy squads.
Leonard Hankerson, WR, Washington Redskins (43.9 percent): Hankerson has been up and down as Pierre Garcon's replacement, and we simply don't know enough about Garcon's foot injury to guarantee that he'll be out of the lineup for a few more weeks. But we saw the "good Hankerson" Sunday, as he converted eight targets into six grabs for 70 yards, taking a couple of big hits over the middle but hanging onto the rock. The weird thing about Hankerson's usage so far is that he's actually quite fast -- he ran a 4.43 at the '11 combine -- but the Redskins just don't throw the ball down the field yet with Robert Griffin III at the helm. His seven attempts that have traveled between 21 and 40 yards in the air are the fewest of any starting QB in the NFL. So to this point, Hankerson has been something of a stabled stallion, and that's why most view him only as a PPR fill-in. Maybe that's what he'll remain. But he's got potential for more, and for as long as starting split end Garcon is out, Hankerson is probably worth a standard-league bench spot.
Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets (16.8 percent): Let's just say the New England Patriots are a pretty good matchup for any pass receiver, so don't go crazy over Keller's seven grabs for 93 yards and a TD in Week 7. That said, it's mighty good news to find out that his injured hamstring is finally all the way back, as even when Santonio Holmes was healthy last season, Keller was Mark Sanchez's favorite target. If you lost Fred Davis, Keller is the guy you should be targeting as your fill-in starter. Just realize that Sanchez won't get to face the Pats every week; the test will get decidedly sterner this week against the Miami Dolphins.
Titus Young, WR, Detroit Lions (51.1 percent): I apologize. Young was one of my favorite flag players this summer, and that was just an excruciatingly bad call. If you wasted a draft pick on him, I'm sorry. And after Monday night's performance, I think it's safe to say the Lions' offense isn't exactly humming. But Nate Burleson was carted off with a broken right leg, meaning Young could finally wind up inheriting what he couldn't take on his own: The No. 2 receiving job in Detroit. Things should stay tough for the Lions' passing game next week versus the Seattle Seahawks, but will lighten up a bit after that. I'm breaking my "50 percent" rule here by mentioning Young, but I figured any chance for a decent performance by this fantasy miscreant should be highlighted. However, take note that rookie Ryan Broyles (0.2 percent) scored a late TD Monday night and conceivably could surpass Young.
Oakland Raiders defense (6.1 percent): This one feels a little too paint-by-numbers to work out. Brady Quinn has been named the Kansas City Chiefs starter, and last time out, the Quinn-led Chiefs gave up 15 fantasy points to a mediocre Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. So Quinn's next opponent, the Raiders, figure to approach double digits, too. Right? Yeah, probably. The worry I have is that this game takes place after the Chiefs' bye and at Arrowhead, and that Jamaal Charles guy is pretty good. But if you need a bye-week fill-in, it's unlikely you'll do better. After a horrible start (minus-10 fantasy points in its first four games), the Oakland D/ST has 16 fantasy points the past two weeks. If using a defense that still doesn't have either of its starting corners freaks you out too much, though, you might try the Cleveland Browns D/ST (7.1 percent) instead, which in a vacuum is better than Oakland's D, but gets what is probably a better offensive opponent in the San Diego Chargers.
Other solid waiver adds, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings (38.1 percent); Vick Ballard, RB, Colts (45.7 percent); Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Steelers (18.5 percent); LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Cardinals (10.5 percent); Montario Hardesty, RB, Browns (8.5 percent); Daryl Richardson, RB, Rams (11.4 percent); William Powell, RB, Cardinals (8.5 percent); Jeremy Kerley, WR, Jets (43.0 percent); Stephen Hill, WR, Jets (15.0 percent); Domenik Hixon, WR, Giants (38.7 percent); Brandon Gibson, WR, Rams (29.5 percent); Kendall Wright, WR, Titans (18.6 percent); Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers (19.8 percent); Andre Roberts, WR, Cardinals (35.9 percent)
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams (43.7 percent): If you're a living, breathing QB and you're facing the Patriots, you're worthy of consideration. The Rams get shafted out of a home game and have to travel to London to face New England, but Bradford will probably enjoy the Wembley digs just fine. Before facing the pass-challenged Mark Sanchez, the Patriots had allowed at least three TD passes in four consecutive games! In those contests, opposing QBs had 25, 23, 23 and 22 fantasy points, and we're not talking the cream of the NFL crop here: Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Peyton Manning (OK, he's not bad) and Russell Wilson. If you're looking for bye help, here it is.
Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins (24.8 percent): Moss played hero and then he played goat in Sunday's loss to the New York Giants. He caught only three passes, but two of them went for TDs, including a 30-yarder with less than two minutes left that appeared to be the game-winner. Eli Manning and Victor Cruz produced instant heroics thereafter, leaving RG3 plenty of time to drive for a tying field goal, but Moss fumbled to end the game. He's purely a slot man now and has a grand total of two targets out of two-WR sets this year, meaning his snap count is limited. He's best suited for fantasy ownership in a deeper PPR league.
Chris Cooley, TE, Washington Redskins (0.2 percent): Fred Davis is done for the season with a torn Achilles, and Cooley re-signed after the Redskins cut him this summer. The best thing you can say about Cooley is that he knows Mike Shanahan's offense well. The worst thing you can say is that he had eight catches for 65 yards in five games last season as he battled ongoing knee problems. Logan Paulsen (0.0 percent) played well for the Fighting Shannys Sunday and young converted WR Niles Paul is also on hand, so I'm having a difficult time imagining that Cooley suddenly rushes back into the starting lineup and never looks back. This is probably a TE smorgasbord, and in a 10-team league you don't want any part of it. But if you're in a deep league where the waiver-wire cupboard is barren, I understand grabbing Cooley.
Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (1.9 percent): Entering last year's draft, Shorts was a super-raw prospect out of Mount Union, the same place that produced Garcon. He doesn't quite have Garcon's speed, but Shorts has surpassed Mike Thomas on the Jags' depth chart, and with Laurent Robinson suffering through concussion problems, he has been used as the team's deep-route receiver. You'll remember he caught dramatic late-game scores both in Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings and Week 3 against the Colts, and Sunday he had four grabs on a whopping 10 targets with another TD. Alas, he also fumbled in overtime, basically handing the game to the Raiders on a platter. The fact that Shorts is the most attractive Jacksonville WR right now is not a ringing endorsement of general manager Gene Smith, who gave Robinson big dough this winter and drafted Justin Blackmon with the fifth overall pick in April.
Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego Chargers (0.4 percent): Forward-looking deep-league speculators could grab Brown and install him on their fantasy bench, though he's not eligible to return from injured reserve until Week 9. Brown broke his ankle in the preseason, and as of last week Norv Turner didn't seem thrilled with his second-year WR's progress. Reading the tea leaves, that means Brown is probably not going to play until mid-November at the earliest, and when the Chargers signed Danario Alexander the first thing I thought was, "Uh-oh, not good for Brown." But occasionally these situations turn around quickly, and the Chargers could certainly use a jolt of life in their receiving corps.
Other solid waiver adds for deep-leaguers, about whom I've written in previous weeks: Brandon Weeden, QB, Browns (8.8 percent); Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins (5.6 percent); Andre Brown, RB, Giants (38.1 percent); Danny Woodhead, RB, Patriots (38.9 percent); Phillip Tanner, RB, Cowboys (0.9 percent); LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers (32.3 perecent); Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Browns (0.4 percent); James Starks, RB, Packers (5.8 percent); Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers (13.7 percent); Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos (0.5 percent); Joique Bell, RB, Lions (3.3 percent); Jamie Harper, RB, Titans (0.1 percent); Devery Henderson, WR, Saints (3.4 percent); Donnie Avery, WR, Colts (12.6 percent); Chris Givens, WR, Rams (0.7 percent); Jerome Simpson, WR, Vikings (4.5 percent); Brandon Myers, TE, Raiders (3.2 percent).
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Fantasy Football Week 8
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Fantasy Football Tools• Week 8 Projections
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Week 8 Rankings
• Harris: The Hard Count
• Berry's Love/Hate
• Carpenter: Gridiron Challenge preview
• Daube: Trendspotting
• Cockcroft: Consistency Ratings
• Harris: Free-agent finds for Week 8
• Harris: Instant Impressions from Week 7
Bell Injury Blog
• Karabell: Four Downs from Sunday's games
• Kavanagh: Week 8 cheat sheet
• Karabell: Sneaky pickups
• Karabell: Week 8 flex rankings
• Karabell: Week 8 rankings reaction
• Football Outsiders: Top matchups
• Pro FB Focus: Analyzing platoons (Bills RBs)
• Goal-Line Grid: Through Week 7
• Joyner: Chris Johnson trade market
• Karabell: 2012 season rankings update
• Karabell: Four Downs -- Week 7 recap
• Friday: Fantasy Football Now
• Thursday: Berry's Love/Hate
• Wednesday: Buccaneers-Vikings preview
• Wednesday: Fantasy Focus on rankings
• Tuesday: Sell-high players
• Monday: Replacing Fred Davis
• Monday: Chris Johnson breaks out
• Friday, 11 a.m. ET: Stephania Bell
• Thursday, 3 p.m. ET: KC Joyner
• Thursday, 2 p.m. ET: Matthew Berry
• Thursday, 11 a.m. ET: Christopher Harris
• Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET: Eric Karabell
• Tuesday 11 a.m. ET: Stephania Bell
• Monday 11 a.m. ET: Tristan H. Cockcroft