The Talented Mr. Roto: Get Chris Brown
As soon as I decide, I will let you know.
Recently, I have been really puzzled by something and I can't make up my mind on it.
Part of the puzzlement, of course, is the inability to make up said mind. I make up my mind for a living. All day, every day, in every possible medium, I get asked my opinion. And when chatters or TV hosts or podcast e-mailers ask me, "Who do I start?" they don't want me to say, "I'm not sure."
So I give a lot of opinions, but if you asked me what I thought of the new Heineken Draught Keg commercial, I couldn't tell you. I am both fascinated and weirded out by the robotic woman who walks stiffly out onto a stage, has her skin open up in a "Total Recall" kind of way, and then pours beer from the mini keg that appears.
It's freaky, right? On the one hand, she's not really your typical "beer commercial babe" and the song is like this techno-dance-club thing that sounds like something out of a Dieter sketch from "Saturday Night Live." She comes on stage with no explanation and starts pouring beer from her metallic innards. It's bizarre and uncomfortable.
On the other hand, she's a scantily clad woman with beer! In her belly! And at the end of the commercial, two other women emerge, also scantily clad. In different color outfits! So, to recap She has little clothing, built-in beer and babe friends. She just might be The Future Mrs. Roto.
I bring up this futuristic commercial because that's what this column is about. The future. Players to grab, pick up, claim off your waiver wire. Call it what you will, but there's probably no more important aspect to fantasy than working the wire. Ask anyone who had Maurice Jones-Drew or Marques Colston last year.
With that, we dive in. Here are some players who have recently seen a spike in value and should be added in standard 10-team leagues.
Chris Brown, RB, Titans: Yeah, I'd say he's healthy. Sometimes, a big yardage number is due to a lot of carries. This is not one of those times. Brown carried the rock 19 times for 175 yards and, by comparison, LenDale White carried 18 times for 66 yards. This is what we saw during the preseason, by the way, as each running back carried 32 times. Brown averaged over five yards a carry; White averaged fewer than four yards. The problem for Brown has always been health, not talent. Am I promising he stays healthy all 16 games? No, I've owned him before. And it's why I think Chris Henry gets the starting gig at some point. But I do know that thanks to Vince Young, the field will be spread and the Titans can run the ball, and that Brown should be your No. 1 waiver priority and he's currently available in over 60 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues.
Ronald Curry, WR, Raiders: They're not always going to be playing Detroit, but someone will have to catch it no matter whom the Raiders are against. And that person is Ronald Curry. After his 10-for-133-and-a-score performance on Sunday, you may be asking, "TMR, is this a fluke?" Because I assume you are the type of person who talks out loud to online columns. The answer is no, it's not a fluke. Because this is his fifth straight productive game. He's averaged almost 100 yards a game over that time and he's available in more than 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Green Bay Packers D/ST: Every Sunday morning we do the ESPNEWS "Fantasy Insider" show. It's on at 11 a.m. ET (on ESPNEWS, naturally) and it's Howie Schwab (of "Stump the Schwab" fame), Merril Hoge and myself. And Merril said on the show last week that he thinks the Packers' defense will finish the year as a top-five defense. Now Merril had four concussions during his playing career, so sometimes I just think he's nutty. And I told him so on the air. But then, the Packers come out and get a special-teams score, a sack, three turnovers and hold the Eagles to 13 points, and I have to say I'm a believer. Especially considering they play the Giants and backup quarterback Jared Lorenzen in Week 2. Go get them.
Derrick Ward, RB, Giants: Conventional wisdom is a nutty thing. Conventional wisdom had some folks suggesting Reuben Droughns would be splitting carries with Brandon Jacobs. Others had Jacobs getting all the carries with Droughns as the back. All of them were wrong. When Jacobs left the game on Sunday, the guy who took his place was Ward. And he played well, with 116 total yards and a score. I'm not crazy about him this week against the Packers, but he's going to be getting the gig while Jacobs is out and it's nice to have a starting running back.
Antwaan Randle El, WR. Redskins: I have a few things to admit here, most importantly that I am a Redskins fan. As in, a "they are my favorite team of any sport, I will die a Redskins fan, I bleed maroon and gold, my first kid will be named Riggins even if it's a girl" Redskins fan. So understand the bias. I also am a sucker for guys with three names. Oh, and I am partial to players who can make things happen once they get the ball. That last point is the only one you should care about, plus the fact that the Redskins (including Jason Campbell) clearly are looking to involve Randle El more. Randle El had five catches for 162 yards, and one of them was that fluky Hail Mary pass. But he still had those four other receptions for over 100 yards. A nice pickup for 12-team or deeper leagues.
Here are guys you have definitely heard of and who are probably available only in shallow leagues, but all have seen a spike in value:
Like you, I've been burned by Nate Burleson of Seattle before. But he is the new No. 2 wideout with the injury to D.J. Hackett, and Seattle is a decent passing team. Burleson is available in pretty much every fantasy league on ESPN.com (clearly, everyone has owned him before) and the Seahawks get a nice matchup with Arizona this week.
It was a year too late, but looks as if Steve McNair finally noticed his old Titans teammate Derrick Mason was on his team. He had seven receptions for 76 yards and, as long as the guy I loved in the preseason, Mark Clayton, continues to be on milk cartons, Mason has value.
Not sure yet if Cadillac Williams will miss Sunday's game with the rib injury, but if he does, Michael Pittman makes a nice grab for Sunday against a Saints defense that let the Colts run all over it.
I thought Matt Schaub looked pretty good and I continue to be high on the entire Texans offense, including its new quarterback. Schaub threw for 225 yards and a score, and he is available in almost 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Speaking of QBs, Josh McCown won't be playing the Lions every week either (just like Curry) but the Raiders aren't afraid of chucking it. He'll be a good spot starter as long as he has the gig.
Wes Welker of the Patriots is owned in only 31 percent of ESPN.com leagues (compared to Donte' Stallworth being owned by everyone) and other than Randy Moss, there's not a Patriots wideout I like more than Welker. He scored on Sunday for the Pats as well, along with a sweet six receptions for 61 yards.
It happened last Thursday, so lots of folks may have forgotten, but Saints tight end Eric Johnson looked good, catching eight balls for 57 yards.
With the injury to Terry Glenn, Patrick Crayton is now the No. 2 wideout for the Cowboys. He had three receptions for 51 yards on Sunday. And finally, lost in the Ronnie-Brown-looked-terrible discussion from Sunday is the fact that he had only four more touches than Jesse Chatman and was just as effective. Brown had 17 touches for 72 yards, Chatman had 13 for 63.
Guys who should be picked up only in deep leagues or for extra depth on the bench.
I'm not convinced Jason Avant of the Eagles gets that many balls thrown to him again, but he certainly looked good on Sunday, including his score. Arnaz Battle was the only wideout who did anything on Monday night for the 49ers. I still think Mark Clayton, Todd Heap and Derrick Mason are the top three pass catchers for Baltimore when all is said and done, but Demetrius Williams looked solid Monday night and they were targeting him often.
Mike Furrey isn't going anywhere, but considering how much Detroit is throwing it, it's worth noting that Shaun McDonald had a very nice game for the Lions. It was only one play, but it was a touchdown and Sam Hurd is on the fantasy radar. They like him in Dallas. And finally, I'll mention Kenton Keith here, the backup to Joseph Addai. For one brief moment on Thursday night, he was the most valuable player in fantasy. If you own Addai, you need Keith. And let that scare be a friendly reminder that you need to handcuff your studs. Grab the backup to your top-tier running backs. No doubt Brandon Jacobs owners are hoping Ward falls to them this week.