Commentary

The Talented Mr. Roto: Straight to business

Updated: November 6, 2007, 6:29 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

Insert amusing story here.

Normally I start off my columns with a pop culture observation, angry rant or some story about me. If it involves my dating life, all the better. But today we're getting right into the meat of the column (free agent pickups) because I have a huge mailbag to get to and this column is going to be crazy long as is.

I'm also gonna try a slightly new format for the column. My basic take is that you get it and I don't need to go on for a paragraph about a player. And if you don't get it, you'll just have to trust me. Or don't. I get paid either way. (Laughs evilly, throws money in air and rubs hands together as it cascades over him.)

Working the wire

Here are some guys who are available in a good chunk of ESPN.com leagues and whose value has taken a spike.

Priest Holmes, RB, Chiefs: I have no stats for him that are of any use. And in an Associated Press story, Herm Edwards said he didn't see Holmes getting more than 15 carries. And Larry Johnson could still actually play. So why is he at the top of my list? Because I love him. Right out of the box I'm breaking my "only a line or two about a player rule" because he won me a lot of leagues over the years. And he's a fantasy guy. He was among the first prominent players to embrace fantasy. Nowadays, players say all the right things about fantasy (They've clearly gotten the league memo that reads "It means big money!"). But back in the day, when most were dismissing it, Priest embraced it with messages on his own Web site and in interviews.

Here's the other big thing: Priest is my kind of guy. Every single time someone has counted him out, he's shown them up. Undrafted out of college, no one really wanted him when he was a free agent from Baltimore, no one thought he could come back from his first big injury. No one thought he could come back and even make this team this year. Not that I'm anything like Priest Holmes, but speaking as a guy who was told he would never work in Hollywood, who was told I couldn't just give up a movie writing career for a small fantasy sports Web site I was starting, who was told I'd never work at ESPN … I thrive on people who tell me I can't do something and I identify with those who overcome the odds. Herm can say what he wants, but I bet Priest carries the full load. If he's going well, the Chiefs are not pulling him and he's not coming out on his own. He should be the second guy picked up on waiver wires this week (the first is below) and I like him this week against Denver and its 32nd-ranked run defense.

Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders: The fact that his dad is Huggy Bear isn't the top reason you should grab him, but it doesn't hurt. The most important reason is that he's the new starting running back for Oakland. He's averaging 5.4 yards per carry on the season and the Raiders are fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game. He should be the No. 1 waiver pickup this week, if he is still available (I was surprised by the number of leagues in which he is available).

Maurice Hicks, RB, 49ers: The better of the two Maurices I am recommending this week, he was the more effective fill-in for Frank Gore, even though he got fewer touches. He had 52 total yards and a score and has a decent matchup at Seattle on Monday night this week.

Michael Robinson, RB, 49ers: Again, if Gore can't go, Robinson had 19 touches for 69 yards. In a bye week, you could do worse.

Musa Smith, RB, Ravens: As of this writing, we don't know the status of Willis McGahee. (Do you like how I throw in "as of this writing"? Makes me feel like I'm a journalist on deadline and all. Which I am decidedly not. A journalist. Or on deadline. I won't even protect my sources. First sign of danger and I'm like "Nate told me!" But I digress.) If McGahee misses time, Smith would be the guy and has a fantastic matchup against the Bengals on Sunday. If McGahee will miss time, I rank Smith as the No. 3 pickup this week, after Fargas and Holmes.

Maurice Morris, RB, Seattle: Morris was solid last week, with almost 100 total yards on 11 touches. But I can sum up his inclusion on this list with this simple e-mail I got:

Marcus Horbal: When is Shaun Alexander going to be removed from the ESPN Undroppable list? He's junk and he continues to disappoint me and is an eyesore on my roster. Hopefully after this week against Cleveland where he continued to suck someone will get smart and remove him from the list.

We have removed him, Marcus, and your criticism of Mr. Alexander is duly noted. And agreed with. Oh and the Seahawks play the 49ers this week.

Detroit Defense/Special Teams: Okay, they embarrassed the Broncos. But did you know: They've averaged 17 fantasy points over the past three weeks? That they have double-digit fantasy points in six of eight games. That only the Patriots' defense has scored more fantasy points than them this year? That they are available in more than 70 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues? That I can't stop writing questions? How are you? Can I buy you a drink? What are you wearing? How creepy is that?

From the obvious name department

Here are some guys who have recently seen a spike in value and are available in shallow leagues or leagues where you play with idiots.

David Patten, WR, Saints: I don't know what else he has to do to be owned on more teams than Devery Henderson, but apparently, he hasn't done it yet. Henderson continues to have higher ownership numbers while Patten has double-digit fantasy points in three of his past four games. This just in: The Saints' offense is back and it is good. Oh and New Orleans gets the Rams this week.

Nate Washington, WR, Steelers: We all saw him catch two touchdowns Monday night, right? And we see the Steelers play Cleveland next? He's still the third option behind Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward but he has talent and he's clearly getting some looks.

D.J. Hackett, WR, Seahawks: I've talked about him so much it was nice to see him finally do something. If he wasn't grabbed in your league, he should be now. He's back and the Seahawks are throwing a lot. (See Alexander, Shaun.) Six receptions for 58 yards and a score and he plays the 49ers on Monday.

Chris Henry, WR, Bengals: He's finally back. Never before has a third wide receiver gotten so much pub. But he's got talent, he might start if Chad Johnson's injury holds him up and Monday night proved you can throw on the Ravens (Henry's week 10 opponent).

Kellen Clemens, QB, Jets: He's on a bye this week, but he looked good Sunday and has nice matchups in Weeks 13 (Dolphins) and 14 (Browns).

Ron Dayne, RB, Texans: Houston is also on a bye, but with Ahman Green in front of him and 122 yards and a score game behind him, he's worth stashing for Week 11 against the Saints and Week 12 versus the Browns.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Bears: Doomed to be called "The Other Adrian Peterson" for the rest of his life, I know two things. Cedric Benson continues to be horrific and the Bears play the Raiders this week. Oakland gives up over 150 rushing yards a game.

Standing on the sidelines

Here's some guys who have seen a spike in value and whom you should keep an eye on except in deeper leagues:

Aaron Moorehead, WR, Colts: No, he's not any good. But if Marvin Harrison continues to miss time, he'll be a starting wideout for the Colts and that has value.

Kolby Smith, RB, Chiefs: In case my whole rah-rah speech about Priest Holmes turns out to be dead wrong, Smith would be the guy and I like him from a skills standpoint.

J.P. Losman, QB, Bills: He's starting to resemble an actual NFL quarterback, has chemistry with Lee Evans and gets Miami this week.

Brian Leonard, RB, Rams: Looks like Steven Jackson is coming back this week, but if he doesn't, Leonard would be the guy against New Orleans. Not a great matchup as the Saints are better than you think against the run, but sometimes you can't be picky.

Matty's mailbag

Way too much to get to and I still have all the Patriots-Redskins stuff to deal with plus many other subjects, so I'll have to do a full-on mailbag sometime this week. But in the meantime, I just want to wrap up a few things from my mailbag, so here's a start. And if you want to be my cyber friend, you can do so by clicking here.

The final words on the ASU journalism student

Coulter (San Diego): Matt, I've been reading your work since the old days, I was even a member of your TMR site and now download daily and sometimes even listen to the podcasts. I am writing to defend my alma mater. As a graduate of the esteemed Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University (and now a sales guy so you can guess how that turned out), I must take issue with the school being trashed because of the ramblings of a single, obviously drunk, undergrad. I will put my money on David never actually completing his degree, and if I was still there, I would take David out of one of the 37 bars I could walk to from campus and try and beat some sense into his obviously pickled brain. I know your time is limited but please take a moment to pass along the truth about the ASU School of Journalism by passing on this link to those interested: http://asunews.asu.edu/stories/200704/20070425_cronkite.html. Thank you for the time and we will take steps to see David, the poor misguided youth, is dealt with appropriately.

Alex (DC): Hi, I'm the guy who came up with what you plan to use as your epitaph (mildly irritating, occasionally helpful). I still think that description is apt, but I do find your columns entertaining enough that I keep coming back. So let me help you with a few things: One, Yoda's grammar is fine. It's his SYNTAX that's bizarre. Two, blasting Mike from ASU because of his poor prediction on the outcome of the World Series is one thing, but calling him out on his grammar and spelling because of one obvious typo seems a little unfair. And saying "...an ASU grad that has correct grammar and spelling" when you mean an ASU grad WHO has correct grammar is a little ironic, no?

TMR: This made me laugh. Very fair point.

Apparently, I've been "Baba-Booeyed"

Matt (St. Louis): My loser friend Mike faked an email to you so he could brag on our fantasy message board. He pretended to be the angry Arizona State Student so he could see his name in print. Here's his post on our message board. "After writing to Funston, Andy Behrens, Brad Evans, and even Bill Simmons with humorous little fantasy quips, I got nothing posted. Sad and dejected, I tried again. No such luck. Along the same time, I started reading Talented Mr. Roto's columns on ESPN.com. I really like his love/hate fantasy column each week. As I started reading his columns, he started talking about the World Series and how boring of a team the Rockies are. Then he spoke of what idiot Rockies fans emailed him back, posted their emails in his columns, and berated the Rockies even more. I think one of these Rockies fans was from Arizona State University's journalism program and he berated Talented Mr. Roto's journalistic perspective or some "bs", including lots of profanity and poor grammar. TMR then posted this email and made fun of him. Subsequently he posted several ASU emailers that were backing ASU. So then I decided to stoop down low. In a poor, low down, dirty ploy to get an email posted in a fantasy column, I wrapped all of these things up into one nice little email, acting like a dumb, profanity using, gay bashing, Rockies supporter from Arizona State University. And it worked. Mailbag email No. 1 baby." I'm not sure what you could do with this information, but I thought you would like to know. Matt St. Louis

TMR: I'm fairly certain the only thing more pathetic than lying in an e-mail to get it published in an online fantasy column is bragging about it.

The final word on "The Gooch"

Lech (Wichita, Kan.): To correct the subject, The Gooch was never seen but is commonly discussed amongst the various characters as if he was male. It was a girl, Carmella, who finally beat up the Gooch.

TMR: Ah-ha! I knew I was right. Sort of.

And now that you mention it

Jeffrey (Durham): Have you noticed the rash of knee injuries for former Auburn stars, in particular the 2005 draft class? First Kenny Irons in the preseason, then Cadillac, Ronnie, and now Carlos Rogers. Jason Campbell would make it 4-4 for Auburn first-rounders from 2005. Tell me you're not worried. I am.

TMR: Yeah, I really am. If Campbell gets hurt, who will not throw touchdown passes for my Redskins now?

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's Sr. Director of Fantasy, in charge of content. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner and the only writer in the industry with wins in multiple sports (NFL, MLB, NBA). Be sure to check him out every Sunday morning on "ESPNEWS Fantasy Insider" at 11 a.m. ET and then on ESPN.com's "Fantasy Football Now," which is live starting at Noon ET.

Cyberstalk the TMR

• Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of "Fantasy Life"

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