IS DARREN MCFADDEN WORTH STARTING WHEN HEALTHY?
As you read this, a majority of Week 13 will be in the books. Most of you will have a very good idea as to whether or not you have made the playoffs. If you have done so, I congratulate you. I hope that reading my column every week helped you get there. If you found yourself on the losing end and you are reading this right now, you definitely have the right attitude. Through all of my years of playing Fantasy sports, there is one thing I have learned. There is no offseason.
For those of you who are in, it’s now crunch time. One mistake will likely end your season. The best way of keeping your run going is avoiding the mirage. Perfect example of what I mean would be owners out there who picked up Dolphins tight end Charles Clay after his big Week 12 that saw him haul in a season high six balls for 84 yards and a score. This week, he followed that up with two grabs for 26 yards. Heading into Week 12 Clay had seven receptions for 91 yards and a score. I know there were owners out there trying to catch lightning in a bottle this week and started him. To those that did so I say SHAME ON YOU.
Keep it simple stupid should be your motto. If you have a tough lineup decision, be sure to do your homework but ultimately don’t let one big week sway your decision. Examine a player’s full body of work for the season, his matchup for the current week and his health as your ultimate indicators. If it’s close based on your analysis, then hit the internet to see if you can find any additional tidbits that can help with your decision. If that fails, call into the RotoExperts in the morning on Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Radio or try out our email advice feature.
For those of you that have been eliminated, I will throw you a bone. I am already thinking ahead to Fantasy drafts next season and can tell you with full confidence that I will not be taking a quarterback in the early rounds of any draft. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady all went were drafted by the middle of the second round of just about every Fantasy draft this year and have continued supplying strong numbers. Problem is the gap has closed between the top and bottom ends of the QB1 spectrum in 12 team leagues. To finish 2011 there were just four quarterbacks within 50 points of the 385 standard league points Rodgers posted. This year heading into Week 12, rookie Robert Griffin III leads all quarterbacks in scoring with 242 points, and there are eight quarterbacks within that 50-point margin. There will be value in holding off until at least the fifth round on a signal caller next year. Load up at running back and receiver before doing so.
The Eagles scored 33 points against the Cowboys on Sunday night. They lost again, but it was their highest output of the season. And as you know, they did this without Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. Rookie quarterback Nick Foles completed 22-of-34 passes for 251 yards and a score against a Dallas secondary that has been stingy this year. While he failed to lead the team to a win, he did show good pocket presence and has the look of a guy that has a chance to make it. Bryce Brown has been a flat out beast over the last two games, rushing for 347 yards and four touchdowns. To put that into perspective, McCoy has 750 yards rushing and two touchdowns in 10 games on the season. Brown is raw (as evidenced by his fumbling) but absolutely has the ability to be a starter in this league. With the Eagles now sitting at 3-9 with zero chance at a playoff berth I think it is safe to say, we have seen the last of both Vick and McCoy for the season. Vick is highly unlikely to be back with the team next year, and the team stands no benefit from rushing McCoy back whatsoever.
It’s fun watching a player come into their own in this league. This season we have had a bevy of talented rookies storm the league, forcing many to overlook the guy I want to talk about. Russell Wilson earned the starting gig for the Seahawks after a strong training camp and started the season slow as he adjusted to the speed of the game. Over his last five games though, he has been lighting up the competition, completing 97-of-142 passes for 1,114 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air while adding another 179 yards on the ground. His ability to move around the pocket while continuing to look for an open receiver downfield is uncanny. The fact that he is just as dangerous as a runner after he crosses the line of scrimmage forces defenses to remain honest. He ranks sixth in quarterback rating (95.2) ahead of guys like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning and Andrew Luck. His confidence is growing with every game, and he will be a force to reckon with once coach Pete Carroll starts straying from his ball-control offense. I plan to grab him as my QB2 in every draft I can in anticipation of a breakout.
DeMarco Murray missed six games courtesy of a sprained foot. All reports heading into this week had him splitting work with Felix Jones. He got the start, proceeded to rush for 22 yards on his first two carries and ended up with 27 touches for 102 yards and a score. Hardly split work. Murray immediately rejuvenated the Cowboys rushing game, ripping off yardage in chunks when provided a hole, something Jones and the rest of the teams backs just aren’t capable of. While I was able to see a slight hitch in his giddy-up, Murray by all accounts emerged from the contest no worse for wear. With the lack of reliable options at running back, Murray should be viewed as a high end RB2 to close out the season. You should have no hesitation rolling him out there because of the fact he will dominate touches when on the field.
[caption id="attachment_30214" align="alignright" width="300" caption="<em><strong>McFadden is supremely talented, but has left plenty to be desired with his play on the field.</strong></em> Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/53804330@N05/5137146777/sizes/z/" target="_blank">IllegalShift</a>"][/caption]
After putting in a full week of practice, Darren McFadden was a surprise inactive on Sunday against Cleveland. There were some rumblings that poor field conditions were the ultimate cause, but let’s face it, the Raiders have nothing to play for anyway so why push the envelope. After the game, coach Dennis Allen let the media know he expects McFadden back for their Thursday night tilt against Denver. I expect him to take the field. The questions now are, how much work does he see and is he worth playing? His playing time will ultimately be dictated by his effectiveness, much like what happened with Demarco Murray and his long layoff. If McFadden gets hot, he should see 20 touches. If not, he likely splits work. A couple of things to consider here though before putting him back into your lineup. First being Denver is seventh in the league against the run and gives up just 3.6 yards per carry. Last game against the Broncos McFadden managed just 34 yards on 13 carries. Second is McFadden may lead the Raiders in rushing yards, but he is fourth on the team in yards-per-attempt at 3.3. Even when on the field, McFadden has supremely struggled picking up the Raiders new zone-blocking scheme. He is the most talented player on their roster, but I just can’t justify playing him with my Fantasy season on the line.
Let’s double up with the bay area. The Oakland Raiders have now lost five straight games. During this streak, their defense has given up 189 points. To put that into perspective the San Francisco 49ers have given up 171 points for the entire season. Obviously, based on this alone you can see that Carson Palmer and the offense are going to be playing from behind a lot. As the season has progressed, it has become obvious his favorite target has become tight end Brandon Myers. After his monster Week 13 where he hauled in 14 passes for 130 yards and a score he now finds himself as the team leader in targets (88), receptions (69) and receiving yardage (721). He may not rack up a ton of yardage, but since Week 6, he hasn’t caught less than three balls in a game. That is the type of consistency that would make Bob Lung proud! The kid is a PPR gem at tight end and a must start option for the rest of the season unless you own Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten or Aaron Hernandez.
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