September 23, 2010
Over the past 36 hours, we've all read quite a lot about Michael Vick(notes). He's a total American hero. No, superhero. No, superiorlysuperhero. Vick is awesome. My 9-year-old has already pre-ordered the Mike Lupica book that hasn't yet been written about the kid who befriends a disgraced quarterback. So heartwarming.
Vick is everywhere, and we love him again, all of us.
But if you can detach yourself, just for a minute, from the feel-goodest redemption story of all-time, then you'll recognize that in fantasy, Vick is an obvious sell-high.
This is not an official Roto Arcade Stock Alert™, so you don't have to trade him immediately, right this second. Vick is about to face Jacksonville, a team that's allowing 27.5 points and 300.0 passing yards per game. The matchup is terrific; Vick's weapons are terrific. But if he were mine to deal, I'd connect with the eight dudes in my league who think he's somehow going to be better than '06 version of Mike Vick, and we'd have a ourselves bidding war.
This is a hugely talented player who can dominate in the right circumstances, sure, and he'll deliver at least one absurd highlight per 30 minutes of football. Vick is a badass, a guy I've paid to watch. He's finished as a top-10 fantasy QB before — thanks mostly to the ridiculous rushing totals — and he may again. It's nice that his top receiving threat these days is DeSean Jackson(notes), not Alge Crumpler(notes). There are lots of reasons to like him.
Vick's schedule beyond this weekend is not one of those reasons. After Sunday, the Eagles face basically nothing but playoff-quality opponents. Jacksonville is the last user-friendly defense Vick will see. It's easy to rank him as a strong start in Week 3, but he'll be much trickier in Weeks 4-17.
Also not reasons to like him: All the things you complained about four years ago, because they're still here. Hesitation. Fumbles. Inaccuracy. Off-balance throws that Detroit won't punish you for, but other teams will.* I'll sign off on the idea that Vick can be a credible fantasy option over the remainder of the season, but when you start telling me about his stunning development as a pocket passer … well, you lose me. That I haven't seen. Let's just enjoy Week 3, then take the profit.
* Before the ranks, a short rant: Way too often, fantasy experts hype a player in advance of a specific matchup — like, say, Mike Vick against the Lions — and then, when the player's performance matches the hype, we forget why we liked the guy in the first place. Suddenly, we care only about the fact that WE GOT SOMETHING RIGHT! and we disregard the steps that led us to the decision that WE ACTUALLY GOT RIGHT!!! We get tied to the player, like falling in love with a stock. I can absolutely guarantee that by the time Week 4 rolls around, you'll hear a fantasy guru say something like this: "Vick has scored the (whatever)-most points over the past three weeks!" But they'll eliminate all context. They won't tell you that Vick just faced two bad teams and a Packers defense that had prepared for a very different quarterback. /rant
OK, gamers, here's the rough draft. Your thoughtful input is appreciated; your usual input is expected…
Last year, a home matchup with Detroit makes Brett Favre(notes) a top-three quarterback, easy. This year, I can't rank Favre inside my top-10, and I'm not really sure which direction to go with that game in the confidence pool. This mess isn't entirely Favre's fault, of course. Right now, there are no receivers on Minnesota's roster who can make plays, who are winning battles in traffic or in single-coverage. That final failed drive against Miami was full of sadness. Incomplete to Berrian, incomplete to Lewis, incomplete off Shiancoe's face. The Lions defense will allow receivers a bit more room to operate, obviously, but this still feels like an Adrian Peterson game. … Joe Flacco(notes) helped no one last week; the Cincinnati defense was his second leading receiver (four INTs). But before you launch him, though, recognize that Flacco has opened the season with road games against two of the league's elite defenses. Give him an opportunity for a make-good game at home against Cleveland. … Alex Smith's two-minute drill against the Saints was more or less a clinic, exactly the sort of drive you assumed he couldn't lead. The only real problem was that it didn't last the full two minutes. The Niners left Drew Brees(notes) with 1:14, so that didn't end well. Still, credit Smith for making degree-of-difficulty throws, under duress.
This is an almost impossible position to rank mid-week, given the injuries to various brand-name backs. Here are the players and situations you'll need to hawk: Michael Turner(notes) (groin), Joseph Addai(notes) (knee), Ryan Mathews(notes) (ankle), Beanie Wells(notes) (knee). Both Turner and Wells practiced on Wednesday; Addai and Mathews were rested. The Colts never share meaningful information, so don't expect clarity there. Just add Donald Brown(notes) where you can. … Even if Reggie Bush(notes) were healthy this week (he's not), Pierre Thomas(notes) would have ranked as a top-10 back. In each of PT's last three games against Atlanta, he's reached 100 total yards, and he has a pair of multi-TD efforts.
Yeah, OK, that seems awfully low on Matt Forte(notes), given his production in the opening weeks. But the Bears' running game has actually been a small disaster; Forte is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and he's been repeatedly denied at the goal line. The healthy receiving workload has saved his fantasy value (12-188-3). At this point, you assume that he'll carry 18 times for 40 yards, and you hope for receiving score. That's not the traditional blueprint for an every-week fantasy starter at this position. … Buffalo's ground game is a weekly mystery — a consistently boring mystery, like Jake and the Fat Man. The Bills seem content to ride the lukewarm hand. Marshawn Lynch(notes) unexpectedly carried 17 times for 64 yards in Week 2, in what may have been a showcase game for Green Bay's benefit.
Percy Harvin(notes) remains a problem, further complicating Favre's situation. He's dealing with a hip strain, and the migraine issues have apparently not gone away. Last week, he was heavily targeted on Minnesota's opening series, but was shelved in the second half. … Dez Bryant(notes) missed practice on Wednesday with a "slight" rib injury (Wade Phillips' word). The rookie is still expected to play in Week 3 at Houston, in a game with shootout potential. … Michael Crabtree(notes) was quiet again in Week 2, catching just one pass on three targets. It's worth noting that he made a brilliant after-the-catch move on his lone reception, but still: three targets, one grab. Not helpful. If you're selling at the bottom of the market, maybe I'd take Crabtree off your hands, but he can't rank as a must-start until the usage trends upward.
This week, I bought all the shares of Demaryius Thomas(notes) that I could, burning through FAAB, perhaps recklessly. His debut was outstanding (8-97-1), he's competing for targets in an unimpressive receiving corps, and he was drafted to eventually fill the No. 1 role in Denver. And I felt like I had FAAB funds to spare, after all those failed bids on Brandon Jackson(notes). … Devin Aromashodu(notes) will very likely sneak back into the final draft of my rankings; he was largely absent in the win over Dallas, and various Bears have offered different spins on his situation. We shouldn't assume that workload distribution will look the same every week under Martz. Aromashodu was a tough assignment for the Packers last December (8-76-1).
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