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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Wouldn't it be great if ...

By Matthew Berry
ESPN.com

The Talented Mr. Roto

He gets it.

When Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee at the 1-yard line in the waning minutes of the Jaguars' game against the New York Jets on Sunday, he knew exactly what he was doing. He was doing as his coaches instructed, which is to be commended. He also knew he was sending his millions of fantasy owners into frenzied what-might-have-been wailing.

He addressed it after the game. "Sorry to my fantasy owners," Jones-Drew said. "They [the coaches] told me to get as close as I can and take a knee."

I love this. I'll leave the "great, selfless play or stupid play that they are lucky they didn't botch the field goal" debate to others and focus more on what MJD said after the game.

I love that he addressed his fantasy owners, a group in which he is included. When we interviewed Maurice for our podcast a few weeks ago, he told us how he owns himself in a few of the leagues he plays in.

It's much better these days than when I started, but players still are slow to acknowledge fantasy owners. My battle cry for fantasy sports respect is a running joke among my friends and co-workers. At any random time, I can be caught talking to random ESPN executives about how we need to take fantasy more seriously, how so many of our fans at ESPN play, how we need to treat it with the resources and importance that we give every sport. How, if I were in charge, "SportsCenter" would be nothing but 45 minutes of fantasy news and an occasional Mayne Event.

Yeah, they don't let me in those meetings anymore. But Maurice Jones-Drew took an important step in the right direction on Sunday by addressing his owners. This should be required after every game. Players discuss the game and then address their fantasy owners. Come on, Roger Goodell. If you're not going to get rid of Al Davis, this is the least you can do. Like, if we had this rule this past week, think of how helpful that would have been:

Nate Burleson: Just want to tell my fantasy owners that I'm not dead. I got targeted five times, once in the end zone, should have come down with it, but I didn't. Oh, and pick up Justin Forsett. Dude is legit.

Lee Evans: Just want to tell my fantasy owners not to expect this every week. Kind of a fluke, you know? I mean, my quarterback is Trent Edwards. Come on. Trade me now. I'm not this good and we both know it.

Brady Quinn
Brady Quinn is ultra-popular in QUIFF, the Quinn Family Fantasy Football League, where interceptions are worth +6 and touchdowns are worth -2.

Brady Quinn: Just wanted to tell my fantasy owners … hah! I'm just kidding. I don't have any fantasy owners. Except for my mom. Hi Mom!

Miles Austin: Just wanted to tell my fantasy owners to shut the hell up. I had one bad game, OK? You've gotten way more out of me than you've had any right to. We had to game plan for Roy E. Williams because Green Bay wouldn't expect us to go to Roy Williams because, you know, Roy Williams stinks. So chill out, OK? I'm gonna be fine.

Marques Colston and Pierre Thomas:

Marques: I just wanted to tell my fantasy owners ...
Pierre: Tell us what? 'Cause I own you. And this was St. Louis!
Marques: Well, I own you on my team. You were bad, too.
Pierre: Dude, you think I liked it when Reggie Bush is coming in at the goal line? How's that make any sense?
Marques: At least I dove toward the end zone, trying to get a score.
Pierre: Yeah, and you fumbled. Thanks for that. Now I got a minus-1 from you instead of a one. I'd a been better starting Kevin Walter.
Marques: I'd-a been better starting Pierre Garcon. That's a Pierre you can trust.
Pierre: Okay, that's it ...

(A fight ensues as Pierre jumps on Marques and Mike Bell looks on hopefully. He whispers to a reporter, "Hey. I may end up having value again. Hang on, let's watch this.)

LaDainian Tomlinson: Just want to tell my fantasy owners that I know this doesn't change anything. I still got a lot to make up for. But hey, Denver, KC and Cleveland are my next three!

Todd Haley: Just wanted to say to all the fantasy owners out there ... hey, I know you've been waiting on Jamaal Charles for weeks now. I know Matthew Berry has stuck his neck out many a week on him. And I know everyone was all excited because we were facing Oakland today. And I know I messed everything up by announcing on Friday that Kolby Smith was starting, only to then dump him quickly for Jamaal in the game. But if I knew anything about running backs I wouldn't have stuck with Larry Johnson that long, now would I? Exactly. This is your fault for not recognizing I have no idea what I am doing.

Jay Cutler: What? I was second in the NFL in interceptions last year. You knew what you were getting into. I got no guilt and you know what else? I'm gonna do it again. So there.

Laurence Maroney: Just wanted to tell my fantasy owners it's been a fun ride. I can't talk about it publicly, but remember when I fumbled on the goal line? Yeah, um, Coach doesn't take kindly to that and uh, he's sorta angry and um, he's got this dark room that I gotta ... uh, well ... I, uh, just want to tell, um ... (tearing up now) my mom that I love her and that, you know, I've tried to be a good person and, um ... (sniffle) yeah, (sob) good bye ...

Chris Johnson: Just want to tell my fantasy owners that you're welcome. And yes, when you see me in public, you may hug me.

Go ahead, look back in anger

"When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me." -- Frederick Buechner

Normally in this space I list all the players that I had told you to pick up but you didn't and now they've gone off ... it's really a combination of subtle back-patting, obvious names and a testament to how shallow 10-team leagues really are. And the idea is that you pick those guys up before you grab any of the new free agents I list below.

But here's the thing: While I have mentioned guys like Ladell Betts, Jamaal Charles (many times!) and even Justin Forsett and Jason Snelling before, this week was so wacky with all the injuries, it's the kind of topsy-turvy reality usually reserved for bad movies.

Zac Efron is starting for the Bengals while Cedric Benson has to pass Geometry before he gets the car for the prom! Tonight, on Disney Channel!

But, because there were so many running back injuries this week and the guys that suddenly have value are mixed in with the previous pick-ups, I'm listing them all again, in the order I rank them.

Now, it all depends on your team needs, of course, and league scoring. Justin Forsett is gonna be more valuable in a PPR league than one that doesn't give points for receptions. He's also more valuable if you don't need him this week (he plays the Vikings), because he does have a better schedule after that.

Of course, you also have to take all the news you can get into account. I am writing this late on Monday and adding to it early Tuesday morning. The extent of injuries to guys like Julius Jones and Michael Turner are not yet known. So, you know, use your brain. But as I sit here now, here are my ...

Pickups of the week

"Was there a rainbow nearby, baby? Because you're the treasure I've been searching for."

LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles (93 percent): On the off chance he's around, he's the guy you want. He's part of the best offense and I think Brian Westbrook is done.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs (36 percent): Thank goodness. Coach Haley messed me up with his whole Kolby Smith thing on Friday, but I'm glad Charles at least delivered on the promise I've been shouting about for a while now. Almost 120 yards on 22 touches, he scored and looked a lot better than the still-recovering Smith. While I do expect Kolby to take some touches away, the Chiefs have a decent upcoming schedule after this week's game versus Pittsburgh. At the Chargers and then three straight home games against the Broncos, Bills and Browns, all of whom you can run on and all of whom for which the Chiefs will be without top receiver Dwayne Bowe. I bet even Todd Haley can figure out what the game plan should be for those games.

Justin Forsett
There's no truth to the rumor we just made up that Justin Forsett carries a well-worn copy of Matthew Berry's Love/Hate update tucked under his helmet.

Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks (1.5 percent): I am torn here. On one hand, I feel like a proud papa. An ESPN search of "Matthew Berry Justin Forsett" turns up nine different entries, including a link to my preseason Love/Hate update, where I mentioned Forsett as a guy who has impressed me in the preseason. I've mentioned him in this space before as well, (the Week 3 pickups) and it was nice to see a 149 total yards and a score after Jones went down. Of course, I was also a big Julius Jones supporter, and my preseason predictions on him are now looking moot. So I am torn about how to feel. But I will tell you two things: 1) After this week's game against the Vikings, I love Forsett's schedule (at Rams, 49ers, at Texans, Buccaneers, at Packers, Titans). With the exception of the Packers, all of them are in the top 15 of most fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. And 2) I don't think it matters how healthy or not Julius is. Forsett is the best guy on that team and it's not close. He's not giving this gig up.

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals (65 percent): Uh, you saw the two scores on Sunday, right? A week after his 72-yard road game against the Bears on just 13 carries, Wells looked great. And visits with the Rams this week. Yes, Hightower is still in the mix, but you have to like what you saw out of Wells. And more importantly, you figure the Cardinals have to like what they saw out of their first-round pick. A reminder that he gets the Lions in Week 15 and the Rams again in Week 16.

Jason Snelling, RB, Falcons (0.5 percent): The guy who got most of the work when Michael Turner went down, Snelling has looked good in limited action all season. He had 93 total yards and a score and, even better, 32 of those yards came in the air. Unlike Turner, Snelling is a part of the pass game. And he faces the Giants this week. Never like going against teams that are at home and coming off a bye, but keep in mind only four teams in the NFL have given up more rushing touchdowns than the New York Football Giants. The Falcons are still going to run the ball and Snelling will be solid as long as he is getting at least 15 touches. The big fly in the pickup ointment here, however, is Jerious Norwood. He may or may not come back this week and if he does, he will eat into Snelling's work. Rather have Snelling than Norwood right now, but that's among the reasons Snelling is down near the bottom of the list, despite being on a run-heavy team and what is sounding like the most serious non-Westbrook injury among all the running backs.

Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins (17 percent): From the sounds of it, Portis will miss one more week. Which is just fine with the folks who picked up Betts. Second straight game with at least 15 fantasy points, including a score. He had a buck fourteen against Denver and gets Dallas on the road. Not a great matchup and Portis will be back soon, so that's why he's down here on the list.

Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders (17 percent): The return of Darren McFadden and the out-of-nowhere game by Michael Bush hurt, but he's scored in two straight, has at least eight fantasy points in four straight and remains the only Oakland running back I'd even consider starting.

Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs (33 percent): With Dwayne Bowe suspended four weeks, Chambers claws his way to the top of the receivers chart and should see more targets. He might even catch a few of them.

Others receiving votes

"Falling short of perfection is a process that just never stops." -- William Shawn

A new section this week, I haven't decided if I will keep it. But since we are past the byes, there's not nearly as much need for pickups going forward. So here are guys that I have mentioned before or that have value but I'm not necessarily recommending you grab them. Just want you to be aware of them and, if you need someone, these are the guys to look at first.

Maclin
What we especially like about Jeremy Maclin is his ability to hold on to the ball all the way into the end zone, a skill not easily mastered by all Eagles rookie wide receivers.

Another good day for Jeremy Maclin (41 percent) and you know the Eagles are always going to throw. ... Nate Washington (12 percent) now has two scores in the past three weeks and doesn't have to worry about Justin Gage anymore. ... Sammy Morris (35 percent) is close to returning and will get some run when he does. Same goes for Jerious Norwood (24 percent), whom Falcons head coach Mike Smith has said he "hopes to have back for the Giants game."

Do I trust Michael Bush (17 percent) or Darren McFadden (58 percent)? No, I do not, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention once more that Bush looked awesome on Sunday and McFadden is back.

Pierre Garcon (31 percent) has at least 50 yards receiving in three straight. ... Roy E. Williams (73 percent) now has two scores in his past three weeks. … Laveranues Coles (59 percent) has averaged eight fantasy points in his past four games and Robert Meachem (10 percent) has scored in two straight and in three of his past five. ... Anytime you score twice in a game you have to take notice, so this is me, going back to the Donnie Avery (44 percent) well once again. It will no doubt end in heartache. It always does. ... Under the category of "if you found yourself desperate enough to try and pick up Chris Chambers but he was already taken," Lance Long will also benefit from Bowe's absence. ... Finally, don't forget about Kevin Walter (64 percent) who will see an increase in looks with Owen Daniels gone.

Incidentally, the Bengals' D/ST has scored double-digit fantasy points in three straight weeks, is available in 67 percent of leagues and faces the Raiders this week. And you know I hate kickers, but for whatever it's worth, Dan Carpenter is currently sixth overall in scoring among kickers, is available in basically 75 percent of leagues and has scored at least seven fantasy points for seven straight games. Just saying.

Just below the Mendoza Line:

"There's a thin line between love and hate ..."

It's a baseball saying, but it's appropriate here, as well. (As far as I'm concerned, OK?) Here are some guys who shouldn't be picked up in 10-team leagues, but for those in 12-team or deeper leagues, I like them, and you should keep an eye on them.

Another guy who looked good for Seattle is running back Louis Rankin, who will get some run with Julius Jones banged up. ... If I own Cedric Benson and I am worried about this week (he's a game-time decision) I am grabbing Bernard Scott, who would get the start and be a good play against Oakland. My guess is Larry Johnson, however, is the handcuff you want for Benson beyond this week.

It would take a lot to trust starting him, but since Sherm Lewis has taken over the play calling, Jason Campbell has double-digit fantasy points in three straight games. Same for Vince Young, incidentally. Both have outscored Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, among others, over that time frame.

Despite everything I wrote above, Kolby Smith will get more and more work and there are some decent matchups for him in the coming weeks. ... I don't see Jason Avant having a day like that again any time soon, but eight for 156 can't be ignored, either. ... With Ronnie Brown on the shelf for Thursday's game, Ricky Williams will get the start and Lex Hilliard will get some run. ... And while LeSean McCoy will be the guy, Leonard Weaver will get seven or so touches a game while Westbrook is out. … Finally, Rock Cartwright looked solid playing the backup to Ladell Betts.

Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You

As always, these are not guys I'm saying you need to drop, and as always, some of you will ignore that caveat. But if you need roster space, I have no issue with dropping these guys. They're good players who will have productive weeks but I feel they ultimately won't lead you to the promised land, based on their schedules and on who else is available in ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.

Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Trent Edwards, Mark Sanchez, Willie Parker, Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, Darren McFadden, Mike Bell, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice, LenDale White, Jamal Lewis, Willis McGahee, Johnny Knox, Mario Manningham, Terrell Owens, Ted Ginn Jr, Patrick Crayton, Isaac Bruce, Justin Gage, Eddie Royal, Austin Collie.

That's all I got. And I just want to say, to all my fantasy readers, that, you know, we'll get back out there with a new column on Thursday. We'll work on the fundamentals in practice, take it one day at a time, and hopefully get this thing going in the right direction.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- thinks the fantasy owners of Josh Scobee who won by two points or less should send MJD roses. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend