Before we recklessly dive into the deep end of the free-agent pool this week, I think it would be prudent, in this six-team bye week, to reiterate the focus of Hail Mary.
Consider this column innocently sitting behind a pane of glass, the little red hammer dangling from the relatively flimsy red chain off to the side. Do you have to choose between a backup running back for the Texans or a third-stringer on San Diego because of a bye week and no free agents on your wire? Are you scrambling for a guy who could be considered WR5 material thanks to a bevy of injuries? Hail Mary serves the purpose of helping you decide between the lesser of those evils.
So, with that being said, I give you this week's Hail Mary plays.
Vinny Testaverde, QB, Panthers
Interesting news from Thursday. David Carr had yet to practice this week.
Just to review:
Jake Delhomme is out for a while.
Carr will most likely not play.
Third-stringer Matt Moore was a September waiver claim from Dallas
Testaverde and Moore have both been practicing with the first team.
This is actually kind of fun to watch as it develops. Testaverde is 43 years old (he will be 44 in a month), and is playing for his fifth team in five seasons. His name always seems to surface when teams have been decimated at quarterback. Like, "The Cardinals contacted the agent for Vinny Testaverde Monday," or, "The Raiders had Vinny Testaverde run through some drills on Tuesday," yet it rarely comes to fruition. And never so quickly. We are now staring down the prospect of Testaverde starting for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, and -- we're being serious -- it might not be a disaster. Sure, he's wholly unfamiliar with the system and receivers, but 21 years in the NFL teaches a QB some things, and one would be how to adapt and learn things on the fly.
For his career, Testaverde has a 75.2 QB rating, but has the tendency to throw interceptions. Relatively often. Still, in case of emergency, you go with the devil you know (Testaverde) as opposed to the devil you don't, so keep a very close eye on the situation as it develops in Carolina, and have your mouse hovering over "add" in case Vinny gets the nod.
Kenneth Darby, RB, Buccaneers
Speaking of decimation, meet Kenneth Darby, the proverbial second-to-last man standing in Tampa Bay. Cadillac Williams is done for the season (and possibly, depending on who you believe, for his career) and Michael Pittman could be gone for eight weeks. So Jon Gruden must now turn to Earnest Graham, who is unproven and put up a lackluster performance in Week 5. If that continues into Week 6, don't be surprised if Gruden gets Darby in the game and gives him a chance to do some damage. Darby himself actually won't be surprised, according to his journal on NFL Players. Tampa Bay, remember, is still 3-2 and very much in contention, so this isn't a situation where the coach will sit back and see what they've got in Graham. They are looking to win, and will go with whichever back does the most with his carries. Just by virtue of Graham not breaking out last week (six carries for 11 yards in split time with Pittman), Hail Mary is rearing back from our own 18, and throwing Darby into your arms as the clock ticks down.
Marques Hagans, WR/possible QB, Rams
Yes, this is your "who?" moment for the week. The entire St. Louis roster has been so ravaged by injury that Hagans went from the No. 5 receiver to the No. 3 in just four days. Week 5 was the first action Hagans saw as a professional, and you may be seeing much more of him in Week 6 against Baltimore, just by virtue of there being no other receiver to line up alongside Torry Holt and Drew Bennett. As an added bonus, Hagans will be taking over Dante Hall's kick return duties, which will benefit those who get points for return yardage. As an even more enticing bonus, Hagans will serve as the third-string quarterback, which is pretty much the second-string role, considering Bulger's ribs are broken and the Rams stubbornly refuse to carry a third QB. So prepare yourself for myriad scoring opportunities from young Hagans this week, and break the glass if you're feeling lucky.
Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Dolphins
In the same vein as Hagans, we give you Ted Ginn Jr., the Renaldo Balkman of this year's NFL draft. Ginn's speed has been widely publicized, and his success as a returner this season shows that he is utilizing it as a professional. But this was all before Cleo Lemon entered the picture. In 10th-grade math, it looks like this:
New QB = new targets.
Ginn and Lemon have to be at least somewhat familiar with one another, since Ginn most likely practiced with Lemon as a second teamer. And Ginn isn't just stepping into a role this week; he has been slowly brought along, catching a pass in two of the past three weeks, for about 25 yards per catch. At the very least, those who play in return-yardage leagues will be rewarded just by virtue of his kick return skills. And the rest of you desperate owners may just get a nice surprise from the new Cleo Lemon passing attack.
Bye Week Special
Luke Lawton, RB, Colts
We are including Lawton in this week's column just to point out that, with Joseph Addai hurt, the two primary running backs in Indianapolis are Kenton Keith and Luke Lawton. It was just too good to let go. Alliteration and it's in alphabetical order.
Get Him Now Special
Priest Holmes, RB, Chiefs: Laugh all you want, but guess what? Priest Holmes can officially return to the active roster after this week. And it couldn't come at a better time, considering Larry Johnson and Michael Bennett combined for a whopping 10 rushing yards in Week 5. Holmes is probably frothing at the prospect of getting back in a Chiefs uniform and carrying that ball again, and I can guarantee you he hasn't been sitting around on his couch, reading a book about Sir Edmund Hillary, munching on Cheetos, watching art-house movies and then commenting on them on IMDB ("'The Guatemalan Handshake' was awesome!") waiting for Week 7 to arrive.
If you have an empty spot on your roster, or are holding out hopes that Reuben Droughns could somehow still be worth something, you might want to grab Holmes now, because news items about Holmes practicing and running with the first team will start to surface next week, and his name will only be tossed around even more if Larry Johnson has another bad game. So strike now if you want to let Priest gestate at the bottom of your roster and possibly contribute before the fantasy season is through.
Fun Kicker Fact Of The Week
Jaguars kicker John Carney's nickname is "Carne Asada."
Nando Di Fino is a fantasy analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at Nando@TalentedMrRoto.com.