Commentary

The Talented Mr. Roto: Duckett and Musa worth consideration

Updated: December 26, 2007, 11:37 AM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

Merry Christmas.

Or happy Chinese food hunting.

I wish you well in whatever endeavors you partake in today, especially if it involves finding free agents for Week 17 and/or for your fantasy football championship. Many leagues end in Week 16, of course, for the exact reason this column will be meatier than it has been lately: Many of the top guys won't play much. Fantasy options are coming out of the woodwork.

Coaches pulling players early, studs not starting, fantasy seasons being decided by the likes of T.J. Duckett ... these are the times that try men's souls. And, apparently, women's.

Teresa White (Topeka, Kan.): Matthew, I'd just like to thank you and all of the people on the ESPN fantasy site for recommending Fred Taylor and denigrating Clinton Portis. Not only did I lose my fantasy championship game (by less than two points), but I also felt sick with every point that Portis accumulated on Sunday Night Football. Thank you for crushing my fantasy season.

TMR: This is why we recommend watching ESPN on Sunday nights instead of football. You could have saved that sick feeling for when you read my column.

TMR (alternate response): On behalf of all the people at ESPN Fantasy, thanks for coming to ESPN.com for all your season-crushing needs!

TMR (alternate response, take two): Taylor was the hottest running back in the league going against the worst run defense in the league and had more than 100 yards on just seven carries. Portis was going against the best run defense in the league. You're bonkers. Tell the truth now. We've played Madden together, haven't we?

Anyway, we don't have to be concerned about Teresa's season anymore, but for those of you still playing, you need to make sure you get to the waiver wire. I hear what you're saying. Even if I have a good team, TMR? Yes, I say, especially if you have a loaded team. You also must make sure players who will receive lots of playing time will not be playing against you, as well.

Working the Wire

Here are some players who might be available in your league and have recently seen an increase in value.

T.J. Duckett, RB, Lions: My mom always said, "If you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all." That's why you rarely see T.J. Duckett's name in these pages. But he did have 124 total yards and a score in Week 16 while filling in for the injured Kevin Jones. (By the way, can we officially change his name to "The Injured Kevin Jones"?) Duckett gets a Packers defense that has nothing to play for in Week 17 and gives up more than 16 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.

Najeh Davenport, RB, Steelers: Fast Willie is out for the year, and only two teams in the NFL average more than the Steelers' 141 rushing yards per game. Pittsburgh is still playing for the No. 3 seed, and in case you haven't noticed, the Ravens, this week's matchup, have given up any pretense of trying.

Dominic Rhodes, RB, Raiders: He was named the starter late last week, so there's a chance he is still available. Oakland is sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, so Rhodes' games last week (124 total yards) against the Jags likely wasn't a fluke. The Chargers aren't the easiest team to run against, but neither is Jacksonville.

Musa Smith, RB, Ravens: Speaking of the Ravens ... if you're in need of a warm body, Musa qualifies. With Willis McGahee done, it's either Smith or Mike Anderson. Anderson suffered a quad injury in Week 16 and is questionable for the finale, but Smith will get the majority of the carries Sunday regardless. Not a great matchup against the Steelers, but he should be able to get enough work to help owners.

Vernand Morency, RB, Packers: No, he is not good. But the Packers have nothing to play for, and they are not going to risk Ryan Grant for more than a series or two. Expect Morency to get the majority of the work against a Lions team that gives up a league-high 25 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants: I almost put him in the "obvious name" department, but considering no one had ever heard of him as of a few days ago, we can slap him here. Brandon Jacobs is banged up, and the Giants have nothing to gain in this game. Tom Coughlin can say whatever he wants, but Jacobs won't sniff the field. Bradshaw will go against a motivated Patriots defense that wants to go 16-0, but when the only other alternative is to let Eli throw it, expect Bradshaw to get a heavy load.

From the Obvious Name Department

Here are some players who have recently seen a spike in value and might be available in more shallow leagues ... or leagues in which you play with morons.

Santana Moss, WR, Redskins: Finally 100 percent healthy, Moss has 20 fantasy points over his past two games and is still available in more than 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues. He traditionally plays well against Dallas, this week's opponent, with 20 receptions, 422 yards and three touchdowns in his past four games against them. And the Cowboys have nothing to play for.

Kenny Watson, RB, Bengals: Dude had 150 total yards and a score in Week 16. Now he plays against Miami, which has the worst rush defense in the NFL. You do the math.

Darius Walker, RB, Texans: Hard to believe Ron Dayne didn't make it into Sunday's game, huh? Darius Walker had more than 100 total yards against the Colts and should have similar success against a Jaguars team that can't improve its playoff positioning.

Jabar Gaffney, WR, Patriots: Gaffney now has a score in four of his past five games, and while the Pats will rest Randy Moss and Wes Welker after Tom Brady gets the record, I expect Gaffney to play the whole game.

Standing on the Sidelines

Here are some players who have recently seen a spike in value and should be considered in deeper leagues.

Shaun Hill, QB, 49ers: He has five touchdowns in his past two games (four passing, one rushing), has averaged 16 fantasy points per game as the San Francisco starter and plays at Cleveland. Granted, the Browns' defense has improved somewhat, and it could be terrible weather, but you could do much worse than Hill.

Chris Redman, QB, Falcons: If you throw out the game against Tampa Bay (arguably the best pass defense in the NFL), Redman has been very solid, with good showings in his other two starts (New Orleans, Arizona), plus nice work in relief against St. Louis. Now he's at home against a Seahawks team that has nothing to gain in playoff positioning.

Lorenzo Booker, RB, Dolphins: This is a tough call since we're not sure how much work Jesse Chatman or Samkon Gado will get. But Booker is the future of the team, and he looked good against the Patriots in Week 16, with 82 total yards on just 11 touches. The Bengals' run defense is ranked 23rd in the league, and I could see Booker racking up 100 total yards in this one.

Darrell Jackson, WR, 49ers: I hate Darrell Jackson. And I would not start him. But it's my job to point out that he has eight fantasy points in each of the past two weeks.

Clifton Dawson, RB, Colts: Given Joseph Addai's injury question marks, my guess is that backup Kenton Keith is also kept fresh, just in case. So Dawson, who scored in Week 16, should get a solid amount of work. However, they are playing a Titans team that can get into the playoffs with a win, so I don't expect big things.

James Jones, WR, Packers: The game is in Green Bay, and I don't have a ton of confidence in whomever ends up throwing to him, but with Greg Jennings banged up and there being nothing to play for in terms of playoff positioning, I expect the rookie to be on the field a lot. And the Lions certainly are an enticing matchup.

That's all I got, kids. Good luck, if you are still reading this for the pickups. And remember, you can be my cyberfriend here: myespn.go.com/Matthew Berry.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior 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.

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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