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Fantasy Spin: Trent Richardson Fallout

Posted Sep 21, 2013

Michael Vick’s performance on Thursday: Was it a blip, or is it time to bail?

It seems like I’ve been answering this question for four years, so it’s obvious that Michael Vick is what he is for fantasy. If he’s healthy, he’s going to have some games in which he turns the ball over, but he can still put up fantasy numbers because of his athleticism. Yes, he had the two picks and the fumble against the Chiefs. And once again, he got banged up. But he still had 201 passing yards with a touchdown, and 95 rushing yards. If you have another option you’re confident in at quarterback, it’s certainly advisable to explore trading Vick for a stud elsewhere, but I’m not bailing on an offense that is putting up over 460 yards a game.

Are you surprised that no consistent pass-catching option has emerged outside of DeSean Jackson?

Not really. Chip Kelly has done a good job getting the ball in the hands of his real playmakers, whether it’s Jackson or LeSean McCoy, and everyone else plays a smaller role here. As I said a couple weeks ago, having Riley Cooper or Jason Avant or Brent Celek or Zach Ertz on your roster is OK, because the Eagles move the ball well enough that someone is going to come through each week. It’s just been really hard to predict which guy is coming through. In Week 1, it was Celek. In Week 2, it was Cooper. In Week 3, Avant. The ball is just going to whomever’s open. Man, I really wonder what Jeremy Maclin could do in this offense …

Is it worth stashing Bryce Brown?

Yeah, I think so. I have to admit I’m really surprised with his lack of involvement thus far, and I’m only really confident calling him a handcuff to LeSean McCoy at this point. But I also don’t think the Eagles have put together a truly consistent, effective performance on both sides of the ball yet. When they get an early lead and keep it, I would think Brown will get more carries than he’s seeing now. And in the event McCoy goes down, Brown has top-10 fantasy upside.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

What is the fallout from the blockbuster Trent Richardson deal?

First and foremost, I was getting sick of Richardson not looking like the foundation of the Browns’ offense. They have a pretty good offensive line, and their passing game is an absolute mess. Naturally, I figured they’d run the ball, which evidently wasn’t the case. So Richardson was apparently expendable to the new Browns’ regime under Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi and Rob Chudzinski. The Browns dealt Richardson to Indy for a first-round pick in 2014, where he now plays behind a worse offensive line, but with improvements in quite literally every other area of the offense. As such, it’s hard to get a feel for Richardson’s immediate value here. Remember, the Colts still have Ahmad Bradshaw, although it’s obvious that they didn’t trust him to stay healthy, or weren’t impressed with what they’ve seen so far.

So Richardson had a short week of practice with his new team, and he has to head out to San Francisco for a really difficult matchup in his first game. But ultimately, the Colts and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton want to run “power,” and Richardson doesn’t have to study a playbook to know how to do that. If you have the luxury to bench Richardson for an upside option, this is probably the best week to do it, going against San Fran behind an offensive line that just lost guard Donald Thomas for the year. But it’s also understandable if you just don’t have an appealing option behind him. Remember, coach Chuck Pagano this week called Richardson “a rolling ball of butcher knives” and that the Colts didn’t acquire him “to be a waterboy.” The first-round price tag confirms that, and he will not be a decoy. Ultimately, Richardson’s in a better spot now than he was last week, even if it takes some time for his role to truly carve itself out. Richardson expressed excitement to play with Andrew Luck, knowing that it’s harder for defenses to stack the box against a quarterback who is actually a threat.

As for Cleveland, the trade does make some sense. The Browns are clearly purging themselves of the previous regime, starting with Richardson and ostensibly continuing with Brandon Weeden, whom the team simply doesn’t believe in. The Browns now have two first-round picks next year, one of which will be a very high pick. But they still need to play this year, so they signed Willis McGahee to replace Richardson. The veteran McGahee will likely vie for carries with Bobby Rainey and Chris Ogbonnaya. It’s also impossible to tell how well he’ll play without actually seeing him, given his season ended with an injury last year. Ultimately, I think McGahee is the guy to own in this backfield, and he’s absolutely worth picking up for depth, especially if you lost a guy like Vick Ballard or Shane Vereen to injury.

What’s going on with Cam Newton?

This isn’t so good. Not only are we concerned about Newton as an NFL quarterback right now, but the real issue from our perspective is that Newton isn’t putting up fantasy numbers right now. He has only 53 yards rushing through two weeks, and while that’s generally very good for a quarterback, a 26.5-yard pace would put him at a career-low 424 yards in 16 games. Again, that’s good, in relative terms, but Newton isn’t throwing the ball well enough right now to sustain a high-level fantasy performance without elite running numbers. In Week 2, Newton completed 21-of-38 passes for 229 yards with 2 touchdowns and a pick in a loss to Buffalo.

Obviously, that’s not an awful fantasy performance, but when he’s “augmenting” that line with only 15 yards rushing, fantasy players just aren’t getting the upside that Newton was expected to provide. A major concern besides the weapons (it’s a problem when Ted Ginn gets 8 targets, even though he scored) is the offensive line. But ultimately, this all falls back onto Newton. His weapons aren’t good, but he’s not throwing the ball consistently or accurately. Newton has an incredible arm, but he’s making incorrect reads and it’s hard to sustain a consistent high-end performance without seeing the field well or delivering the ball accurately. We’re concerned enough about Newton that we’d consider trading him for the right offer.

Speaking of trading someone for the right offer, who are some sell-high/buy-low candidates?

Aside from Cam Newton, I’d consider trying to trade Darren McFadden now. He’s looked pretty good through two weeks, but I’m simply not convinced the Terrelle Pryor magic is built to last. And as we know from experience, McFadden is a ticking time bomb when it comes to injuries or general ineffectiveness. I’d try to capitalize on his name value and move him now.

A player I want to try to get on the cheap is Steelers rookie running back Le’Veon Bell. He could be back within the next few weeks from a foot injury, and it is so obvious they need him. How do I know that? Their leading rusher through two games is Felix Jones, with 37 yards. Jones was by far the worst back in Eagles camp, and he’s not built to lead an NFL team in rushing at this stage of his career. Given that Bell could be available for peanuts at this point, I’m adding him for depth.

INJURIES TO WATCH

Ray Rice, Ravens – Rice is doubtful against the Texans on Sunday, as he battles a hip flexor strain, which is typically a one or two-week injury. Keep an eye on Rice, because if he can’t go, Bernard Pierce becomes an appealing play with a presumed heavy workload.

Reggie Bush, Lions – Bush is questionable with a bruised knee, but told the Lions’ official website on Thursday that he’s “optimistic” for Sunday, and he practiced on Friday. He’s been great so far, but the Lions do have the luxury of cutting down his workload if they’d like, because Joique Bell has been so good this year.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars – MJD is questionable with an ankle injury and could be a game-time decision on Sunday. If he doesn’t go, Jordan Todman will.

Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Dez is dealing with a tight back, but it doesn’t appear to be something to worry about. He’s not really the type of player who needs to practice to play well on Sundays.

Rashard Mendenhall, Cardinals – Mendenhall is dealing with a toe injury and his only action in practice was limited participation on Friday. His status is questionable for Sunday.

START ‘EM

QB: Sam Bradford, Rams – Bradford’s done a fantastic job thus far, as he’s sixth in the NFL in passing and is going up against a Dallas defense that has secondary issues. He has the perfect arm strength and complement of targets to beat the Tampa-2 defense.

RB: Alfred Morris, Redskins – He managed to get 100 yards last week despite Washington getting blown out. The Redskins have to have a close game at some point … right? Might as well be this week against the Lions.

WR: Tavon Austin, Rams – Austin has six catches in each of his first two NFL games, and he scored twice last week. He’s an ideal player for beating the Cowboys’ Tampa-2 defense with short throws into the flats.

TE: Owen Daniels, Texans – Daniels had seven grabs and a TD against Baltimore last year, and the Ravens have given up over 100 yards per game to TEs so far this season.

SIT ‘EM

QB: Tom Brady, Patriots – If you’re ever going to sit Brady, the next week or two is the right time (and only if you have an upside backup play). Tampa Bay has a solid defense, and Brady still isn’t on the same page as his receivers. It wouldn’t shock me if Brady is back to throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns on a consistent basis in a few weeks, but he and his crew are going through some growing pains right now.

RB: Ryan Mathews, Chargers – I like the way Mathews has looked, but the Titans defense has been surprisingly better, and Mathews is still not playing a ton of snaps (27 last week).

WR: Greg Jennings, Vikings – He has to deal with Joe Haden. But worse, he has to deal with Christian Ponder.

TE: Jordan Cameron, Browns – Despite his insane production thus far, if you have an upside option like Julius Thomas, it’s the week to potentially sit Cameron. It’s a good week for tight ends in general, and Cameron does have to deal with Brian Hoyer throwing him the ball.

Joe Dolan is the managing editor of FantasyGuru.com and a host for SiriusXM Radio. A former writer for PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Joe still contributes to the site with on-camera segments and written columns. He can be heard hosting “SiriusXM Fantasy Football Gameday” every NFL Sunday from 1-7 PM on Sirius 210, XM 87.

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