Grand Theft Roto: Don't look desperate replacing Brady
When I was a younger man, I frequently wore cologne. I might have been 5-8 and 135 pounds, but a splash of Drakkar Noir was all it took for me to transform from awkward teen to burgeoning stud. But then I went to college, where there were more guys wearing Drakkar Noir than there were wearing L.L. Bean boots in winter, so I changed things up. For a short time, I tried Benetton Colors for Men, and then I eventually settled on a lesser-known scent called Bowling Green. I don't believe it had any ties to the university.
Eventually, however, I stopped wearing any sort of cologne because I realized just how polarizing it was. I figured that for every woman I met who thought I smelled like a walking pheromone "ph"actory, there probably were at least two who were praying they didn't get stuck in an elevator with me.
But there is one scent that is never desired, and that is the unmistakable stench of desperation. The only thing it attracts is those who feed off it, and now that Tom Brady is out for the season with torn ligaments in his knee, the pitch man for Stetson cologne has saddled his fantasy owners with that awful odor. It's desperation, and it's going to take more than soap and water to wash it off.
If you are one of the millions of fantasy owners who burned a top-10 pick on Brady, you can forget trying to sneak up on other owners with your needs. Unless they have been off on humanitarian missions to Darfur, they know you're desperate. The key for you is to disguise your desperation or, at the very least, mix it up with some other things so it isn't so easy to recognize.
First, go out and grab Matt Cassel and point out to anyone who will listen that Cassel's numbers Sunday -- one touchdown, no interceptions and a 72 percent completion rate -- were better than Brady's during his first start after he took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001. Claim that if he's good enough for the Patriots, he's good enough for you. Heck, make that your team name. Of course, no one will believe you, but Cassell still has tremendous offensive weapons around him and the fact that it might take only one strong start against the Jets in Week 2 for the buzz to begin.
But really, grabbing Brady's backup is just about taking the edge off your desperation. You likely still need to deal for a legitimate fantasy quarterback without looking more needy than the only single guy at the prom. First off, call the owner who has Jon Kitna, Jay Cutler or Philip Rivers. All three had sterling performances this past weekend and likely were on their owners' benches. I guess you could ask for one of them and see whether he would come cheap, but I suggest you ask for the quarterback that owner started ahead of Kitna, Cutler or Rivers. It's a common phenomenon that owners want to show off how right they were with their late-round picks. So if your potential trading partner lost in Week 1 due to starting Carson Palmer or Derek Anderson, he might be looking for an excuse to start his backup, and trading away the presumptive starter could free him to do that. Just don't try to lowball anyone to score a GTR. All you want to do is replenish your quarterback situation without having to give up your top running back or wide receiver.
You also can try offering a huge, multi-player trade in an attempt to bury the desperation in the shuffle of huge names. Why not offer Plaxico Burress, Marshawn Lynch and your backup quarterback for Ben Roethlisberger, Thomas Jones and Patrick Crayton? With that many players involved, it's hard to really judge the total value going each way. But for a Brady owner who is looking at starting Matt Schaub each week, the downgrade from Burress to Crayton and Lynch to Jones is acceptable. The more players you can get into the deal, the better chance you have of getting fair value instead of getting hosed.
I'll admit, even as a Patriots fan, I felt Brady was going too early in most drafts, so I didn't get him in a single league. But I do feel your pain, and I believe it doesn't have to be the end of the Patriots' season or yours.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: I'm not saying you want Rodgers as your every-week starter, because you don't. At least not yet. But he is the quarterback of a team that features two tremendous receivers, an outstanding young running back and a strong, physical defense. For me, the only question was whether he was as good as the players around him, and watching him play well against the Vikings, one of the better defenses in most preseason rankings, convinced me. Not only would I love to have him as my backup, I probably would start him this week against a Lions team that made Matt Ryan look like a seasoned veteran.
Patrick Crayton, WR, Cowboys: I mentioned Crayton earlier as a guy I thought was not all that far behind the top tier of receivers, and if I liked him before the season started, I'm in platonic love now. Crayton was targeted six times by Tony Romo and caught all six passes in a game in which the Cowboys were up big and threw only three times in the fourth quarter. With Brady done and the Colts' offense looking rusty, Dallas has the premiere offense in the league right now, and Crayton figures to be more of a "1A" option than a true second receiver. Get him in the next week or two, because by the time Week 4 arrives and he starts a stretch against the Redskins, Bengals, Cardinals and Rams, you want him on your roster.
Julius Jones, RB, Seattle: I know I'm about to curse Jones with some seriously faint praise, but even though he did a big old hunk of nothing against the Bills on Sunday, Jones really is Seattle's best option right now. Granted, that isn't saying much when Maurice Morris is out for a few weeks and the average wide receiver on the team is getting very close to reaching his HMO deductible. I consider Jones a short-term investment. He faces the Niners and the Rams the next two weeks and should get the bulk of the carries against those two um what's the opposite of "powerhouses"? Anyway, if he's going to thrive, it's now.
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons: I believe you should explore trading any player when you know his value can't possibly go up, and I think that is a fair description of Turner's situation. I mean, what could he do to be worth more than he is now, days after rushing for 222 yards and two scores against the Lions? Throw a touchdown pass to himself? Kick field goals? Cure West Nile Virus in impoverished communities? I do not believe the Falcons will be good this year overall, and I believe three of the next four teams they play -- Tampa Bay, Carolina and Green Bay -- are going to put a hurtin' on them. See what his trade value is now.
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: Thanks to serious toe woes, there was plenty of uncertainty with Gates in the preseason, but he manned up and managed an outstanding first week, catching four balls for 61 yards and a score. Now, he's got a bruised hip. I'm sorry, but even the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" eventually ran out of limbs and had to call it a draw. I think he'll be effective when he plays, but I'd give you odds that he is going to miss multiple games this year. If you can get full price for him, you're mitigating risk in a year in which tight end is a deep position.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings: I'll admit, Tarvaris Jackson looked better than I expected in the second half of Monday night's game. Then again, he looked worse than I expected in the first half. So I guess it balances. I think the Vikes will struggle to throw the ball all year, and when I see Rice is owned in 85.2 percent of all ESPN leagues as of Tuesday night, it makes me realize not everyone thinks the same thing. Perfect. Because while Rice did score against the Packers, he was targeted only four times, and there were four other Vikings who saw as many or more balls during the course of the game. I'm sorry, but I'm selling a guy who looks like the third option on a weak passing team.
I'll admit, I was joining leagues right up until Thursday night's game and have no deals to report yet. Also, as longtime readers know, I think this is the worst time of the year to make any deal unless you can find someone who overreacts to one great game or one truly wretched performance.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to get something done.
So until next week, don't just win your league. Steal it.
Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball, football and golf analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him your own grand theft rotos by clicking here.