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Pickups and a pick-me-up

9/29/2010

Not impossible.

Oh, make no mistake, it's not likely. But it's not impossible.

I got the following e-mail.

Karl (San Diego) Oh, Matthew. Explain to me how I drafted in a league of idiots, managed to get Philip Rivers, Steven Jackson, MJD, DeAngelo Williams, Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith and Brent Celek, with rotating defenses and kickers and my record is 0-3. I'm thinking nobody knows how to rank players anymore. It's not your fault though.

TMR: Thanks, Karl. Glad to know you don't blame me for your team. The struggles of Williams and the entire Panthers run game has been shocking (Jeff Otah's injury hasn't helped), and no one saw Kolb losing his gig to Vick, especially this early, and that has hurt Celek's value. Those are all good players and, ultimately, I think you'll be all right. But the best news is that you are not alone.

With many big names struggling early and a couple of crazy bust-out performances in the books, many could very well have been against Arian Foster in Week 1, Jahvid Best in Week 2, and Anquan Boldin and/or Austin Collie in Week 3.

If, like Karl, you are 0-3, all is not lost. I asked the great Mike Polikoff, who oversees our League Manager product, to look into the 2009 results. He looked at all our 10-team prize eligible leagues from last year (the idea being that with a prize on the line, it's even more of a competitive league) and, get this, more than 9 percent of the teams that started 0-3 still made the playoffs.

In other words, it doesn't look great, but it's not impossible. Incidentally, 25 percent of teams that started 3-0 didn't make the playoffs. So don't get cocky. And if you are 0-3, you keep playing. Some more stats;

Record after Week 3 and success percentage of making the playoffs:

3-0: 75 percent
2-1: 51 percent
2-0-1: 66 percent
1-2: 27 percent
0-3: 9.3 percent

Record after Week 4 and success percentage of making the playoffs:

4-0: 85 percent
3-1: 65 percent
2-2: 38 percent
1-3: 16 percent
0-4: 3 percent

Two final notes of interest from our prize-eligible leagues; One guy from last year actually made the playoffs after starting 0-6. And there were 19 teams that started 6-0 yet did not make the playoffs.

The point, of course, is that every week matters. That you are assured of nothing right now and, no matter how bleak it seems, you have a shot. And most importantly, you have to keep working on your team, filling holes, improving your team and gearing your roster to getting a win both this week and in the future. Let's get to it.

A TMR HELPFUL HINT: First week of byes starts this week. The Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the week off, so keep that in mind when you make your waiver claims or bids this week. Need trumps all when you look at how I have them ranked.

Don't look back in anger

"A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives, of approving of some and disapproving of others." -- Charles Darwin

Here are some guys I suggested you pick up in this column last week. Somehow, you managed to avoid my genius, or you ran into my idiocy and picked up the wrong guys. Either way, they remarkably are still available in some leagues. I list them quickly here because I already discussed them last week, so consider this a combination of obvious names and a list of guys previously discussed.

They should be picked up before any of the guys listed below them except where noted. I've listed them in the order I would claim them. As always, ownership percentages are for ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.

In addition, at the request of many of you, I am adding how much I would bid on this player in a league that uses FAAB money. The dollar amount is based on a standard $100 cap.

Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos (59 percent, $30). Normally in the "Don't look back" section, I just list guys, but I've separated the first two just to point a few things out. First, I can't believe how much I've pimped this guy, from preseason to now, yet he's still available. Clearly, I believe this is legit, but to give you some perspective, I feel he's a top-12 quarterback the rest of the way. His next three games (at Titans, at Ravens, Jets) are not ideal matchups, but I think he has reached the level of starting no matter what, especially given the state of Denver's run game. I said $30 because I figure if he's still available in your league, folks are set at quarterback, but if you think you need to go higher, do so.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns (70 percent, $40). Another guy who has made multiple appearances in this column and was even in a lot of my preseason stuff as a sleeper, as well. I would be lying if I said I saw 180 total yards, on the road at Baltimore, coming, but I have said he's versatile, the Browns like him because he lines up all over the place and we've seen him be a good fantasy performer all along. That said, I'm not going whole hog on him for one reason: Mangenius. Who happens to be a Manidiot. When Jerome Harrison comes back, I can't trust that Hillis will be the workhorse, regardless of what Mangini says or what we think should happen. Even if Eric Mangini comes out and says, point blank, as God is my witness, I swear, Peyton Hillis will touch the ball at least 20 times every week, I won't trust it. He needs to be owned in all leagues and should be the first pickup this week, but I actually think that, because of factors beyond Hillis' control, Orton will be the more consistent fantasy performer.

The rest of the previously mentioned list: Mike Tolbert (57 percent, $20, $30 if you own Ryan Mathews), Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders (50 percent, $9), Mario Manningham, WR, Giants (59 percent, $9), Mark Clayton, WR, Rams (74 percent, $7), Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos (69 percent, $6), Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers (51 percent, $7), Kevin Walter, WR, Texans (70 percent, $5), Devin Hester, WR, Bears (22 percent, $5) Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans (56 percent, $5), John Carlson, TE, Seahawks (26 percent, $5).

Pickups of the week

"Are you an interior decorator, baby? Because when I saw you, the room became beautiful."

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots (2 percent, $10): It's a fairly ugly week for pickups. Not gonna lie. Or at least, I'm not gonna lie about that. I've told the truth for all 25 years I've been alive. But with so many productive wide receivers still available, the opportunity this week seems to be at running back. So I've ranked them in order of potential to have long-term success. So, with "The Law Firm" heading up my list, you know it's nothing I feel great about. The Patriots are a pass-first team; they mix in their backs; and Green-Ellis can be fairly pedestrian (like his 10-runs-for-19-yards effort against the Jets in Week 2). But when Fred Taylor got hurt (again, sigh), BJGE was the biggest beneficiary. Well, except those who were playing against Fred Taylor (again, sigh). With defenses needing to play back to stop the passing game, a running back could be successful for the Patriots if he got 17 touches, which is what BJGE did last week to the tune of 104 total yards and a score. Decent (not great) matchup with the Dolphins on "Monday Night Football," too.

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins (0.2 percent, $8): So I asked a friend of mine who is very close to the team about who is the No. 2 to Portis,and this is what he wrote back; "I am hearing rumblings that the coaching staff thinks Portis will no longer be an effective runner. I don't think Keiland Williams can take his place. They like him as third-down back and as pass-catcher. Ryan Torain is really the only option at this point. They think he's a one-cut runner and he's familiar with the system. Shanahan was high on him in Denver. If Portis isn't gonna get carries, best guess right now is that Torain would be the beneficiary. Game plan for second half (of the Rams game), if Shanahan is to be believed, was to have Torain handle on 1st and 2nd downs and Portis to handle passing downs…"

Stop me if you've heard this one before: According to Redskins.com, as far as the running back situation moving forward, Shanahan said at his Monday news conference, "We'll change it up week by week" depending on the game plan. Arghh. We heard a lot about Keiland Williams and, for my money, he looks like the best back. But Torain did get seven carries for 46 yards (a 6.6 yards per carry average, plus Williams didn't get a rush attempt) and he does know the system. The whole team looks terrible, and this situation really could change week to week, but for Week 4, it looks as if Torain has passed Williams and possibly Portis on the depth chart.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets (35 percent, $10): One of my preseason loves, you know I believe. And it's worth noting he has more fantasy points than Matt Schaub. Two straight games with more than 200 yards passing and three touchdowns, I like him against Buffalo this week. Not a bad fill-in if your starter is on a bye. (Tony Romo and Brett Favre owners, I'm talking to you!). The strong run game will only continue to open things up for Sanchez, as will the increased playing time for LaDainian Tomlinson, the emergence of Dustin Keller and the return of Santonio Holmes.

John Kuhn, RB, Packers (4 percent): Mentioned last week, I thought he looked the best of the Packers run game on Monday night, and he got the most work. If Aaron Rodgers would stop vulturing all the rushing touchdowns, he might be OK. Brandon Jackson will still be in the mix, but you have to like Kuhn as a potential flex this week against Detroit.

Kenneth Darby, RB, Rams (0.2 percent, $7): Actual e-mail from a reader about three weeks ago.

Brian Batko (Pittsburgh) Matthew: A dude in my league is starting Kenneth Darby. KENNETH DARBY. I just felt the need to tell someone this. I would say something about it to the rest of the league but I don't really know the other people. They're actually my aunt's co-workers. It is a 14-team league, but still, KENNETH @#!$^&* DARBY!!! Should he be kicked out immediately?--Brian

This is how little folks think of Kenneth Darby. Yet, when Steven Jackson left the Redskins game Sunday, Darby came in, had 15 touches for 57 yards and looked decent. Some of that is because my Redskins are terrible (Sigh. Seriously. Tough week…), but the Rams are a team that is averaging 98 rushing yards a game. Not great, but not totally horrific, either. Seems like Steven Jackson is gonna be OK, but if he missed time, Darby is the guy who would be the starter, and he is a decent matchup at home against Seattle this Sunday.

Laurence Maroney, RB, Broncos (66 percent, $5): When Knowshon Moreno went down suddenly, Correll Buckhalter and the former Patriot were thrust into fantasy relevance. Maroney ended up with more of the work (14 touches, 64 yards) and, with reports that Moreno might miss more that just this past week, well, Maroney's sort of interesting. As I mentioned with Orton, the next three games for Denver (at Titans, at Ravens, Jets) aren't great, especially for a running back who is in a bit of a time-share on a pass-first offense and goes back to the bench when Moreno is healthy. But, um, if you need a guy, he's a guy. There. All I got.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills (55 percent, $5): At some point, we're gonna have to believe. Another day when Lynch got a decent number of touches (14 for 86) and was productive. C.J. Spiller was the guy they went to for the TD (albeit on a receiving play, and this is a bad offense with both Spiller and Fred Jackson in the mix, so it's not ideal. Nor is this week's game against the Jets. Still, Marshawn Lynch officially has value, such as it is.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints (3 percent, $3): The Saints spread the ball around so much and it's been so long since he's been consistent that it's hard to really recommend him. But Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson haven't really impressed this year, either; he was a good fantasy play once upon a time; and after his day (6 for 149, 2 TDs) it's worth a few-buck gamble to see whether it's legit.

If you need a tight end

With Jason Witten, Kellen Winslow, Visanthe Shiancoe all on bye and Brent Celek being forgotten in Vickville, you might find yourself looking for a tight end this week. Lucky for you, it's deep this year. I already mentioned John Carlos, but here are a few I've mentioned before but are out there in lots of leagues.

Dustin Keller, TE, Jets (49 percent, $15): I like him more than Carlson or anyone else out there. Leads the Jets in targets, receptions, yardage and touchdowns. Sanchez looks for him often. I don't expect that to change when Santonio Holmes comes back, and the next few weeks (at Bills, Vikings, at Broncos) are pretty favorable.

Aaron Hernandez (19 percent, $5) and Rob Gronkowski (5 percent, $2), TE, Patriots: Hernandez gets the targets and the yards, the Gronk is a red zone machine, getting the touchdowns. I like Hernandez more, but both guys clearly will have value this year. Hernandez has six receptions each of the past two weeks (for 166) and the Gronk has two touchdowns in three games. And when you see what the Jets did with Keller to this week's Patriots opponent, the Dolphins, I like 'em.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals (12 percent, $1): Third on the Bengals in targets, the rookie could be OK against the Browns this week. Cincy-Cleveland has produced some crazy games through the years.

Kevin Boss, TE, Giants (12 percent, $1): Back from injury, he caught three balls for 88 yards on seven targets. Despite what Jermichael Finley did, I don't love Boss this week against Chicago (Boss ain't Finley) but Eli Manning is looking for him, somewhat, if you need a warm body.

Tony Moeaki, TE, Chiefs (2 percent, $4): He'd be higher in this list if he weren't on a bye this week. I've mentioned him in this column before, but he now has two touchdowns in three games and leads KC in receptions, targets, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. I'm not sure the Chiefs are legit, but Moeaki is.

Others receiving votes

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

Here are some guys who shouldn't be picked up in 10-team leagues, but if you're in a 12-team or deeper league, I like them, and you should keep an eye on them. I've sorted them by position, then listed them in the order in which I like them.

Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins (67 percent) could be a decent bye-week fill-in against the porous Patriots secondary this week. … I mentioned Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Raiders (2 percent) before, but now entrenched as the starter, he should do well against a Texans secondary that has given up lots of passing yards this year. … Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (20 percent) has double-digit fantasy points in two straight games and gets a nice matchup at home against the Seahawks.

As of this writing, we don't know the status of Ray Rice. And even if he's out, Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens (68 percent) wouldn't be a good start against the Steelers. But still, if you own Rice, you need to own McGahee.

If the Buccaneers weren't on a bye this week, LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers (0.4 percent) would be higher. Six carries for 27 yards and a score, Raheem Morris actually wanted to use him more against the Steelers in the second half. He's clearly the backup to Cadillac Williams (no surefire bet to stay healthy), and you're going to see him get more touches. … I've discussed the Denver running back situation in the Maroney section, but if you're this far down and still looking for someone, Correll Buckhalter, RB, Broncos (66 percent) will get approximately 10 touches next week.

I've mentioned Mike Goodson, RB, Panthers (0.7 percent) before. He's getting tons of targets (eight last week in a 4-for-44 game) in the passing game and, with a rookie who will be checking down a lot, that will continue. Chris Ivory, RB, Saints (0.6 percent) didn't help his cause a lot last week given that he fumbled and had only 13 yards on seven carries … but he did get seven carries. We'll see whether Ladell Betts, RB, Saints (0.6 percent) gets into the mix this week.

And finally for running backs, the definition of a warm body is Maurice Morris, RB, Lions (1 percent) but, depending on the injury to Jahvid Best, he might be starting against the Packers this week as it doesn't appear Kevin Smith is ready to return. Given Best's injury history, though, if you are in a super deep league, Smith might be an interesting name to stash.

For wide receivers, someone tweeted me this, and I think the tweeter put it best: The Denver wide receivers are the new old Denver running backs. A week after Demaryius Thomas goes off and all the papers in Denver say that his emergence will cut into the production of Brandon Lloyd, WR, Broncos (13 percent), he goes off for a crazy six-for-169 and a score game. My beloved preseason favorite Jabar Gaffney, WR, Broncos (19 percent), who had done absolutely nothing all year, gets a 12-for-140 day. And Thomas has a quiet 2-for-43 day. Now, as you heard Stephania Bell say on our Fantasy Focus 06010 podcast Tuesday morning, Thomas got banged up in the game, and that might have contributed to his lack of production and everyone else's. He (Thomas) should be good to go next week. Which further muddies the picture. I wish I could tell you what is going to happen week to week with this group, but I really can't seem to get an answer. If I were ranking them for the rest of the year, based on what I've seen so far, it'd go Eddie Royal, Lloyd, Thomas, Gaffney, despite the fact that I love Gaffney and can't stand Lloyd. But I don't know that I'd feel comfortable starting any of them.

I'm not ready to add any of these guys yet in 10-team leagues, but another game with a lot of targets (11) for Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders (2 percent), who faces the Texans this week. … Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys (5 percent) is on a bye, and I have to think they come out of that with Dez Bryant more involved, but he did have a 5-for-117 and two TDs game, is on a prolific offense, and isn't dead yet. … Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs (12 percent) is on a bye and not someone I'd trust starting for a while, but his big-play ability and talent mean he needs to be on your radar, same as Josh Cribbs, WR, Browns (12 percent), who leads Cleveland in targets, had almost 80 total yards against Baltimore and is involved in the run game, as well. … And hopefully we get Pierre Garcon back soon, but anyone on the Colts passing game needs to be on your radar, and Blair White, WR, Colts (0.2 percent) did get six targets last week as he put up a 3-for-27 and a score game.

Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You.

As always, these are not guys I'm saying you should drop, and, as always, some of you will ignore that caveat. But if you need roster space to grab someone above, I have no issue with dropping these guys. They're good players who will have productive weeks but who I feel ultimately won't lead you to the promised land, based on schedules and who else is available in ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.

Brett Favre (as promised), Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, Derek Anderson, David Garrard, Kevin Kolb, Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Leon Washington, Chester Taylor, Tashard Choice, Kareem Huggins, Jerious Norwood, Steve Slaton, Michael Bush, Mike Bell, Brandon Jacobs, Devin Aromashodu (sigh), Laurent Robinson, Chris Chambers, Bernard Berrian, Mohamed Massaquoi, Jerricho Cotchery, Lee Evans, Mike Williams (Seattle), Vincent Jackson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Nate Burleson, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Owen Daniels, Heath Miller, Cowboys D/ST, 49ers D/ST, Vikings D/ST, Patriots D/ST.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- hopes his Redskins can be part of the 27 percent. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend