- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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Back in the day, way back when they still used phrases like back in the day, I wrote a blog. It was an every-night occurrence, the last thing I wrote before I went to bed, and often very late at night. I wrote it for my old TalentedMrRoto.com website and it was called "the TRUM." TRUM stood for "Thoughts, Ramblings, Useless Information and Musings" and its loose nature was basically an excuse for me to do a late-night brain dump, a smattering of random ideas that were not in any order beyond what came into my mind. I wrote it in one sitting, first draft as is, the lack of formality and structure excused by both the premise of the piece and the fact that I wrote it late at night.
It was only my favorite thing to write ever.
For a variety of reasons, I stopped doing it when I came to ESPN, but I have occasionally brought it back, almost always when I write baseball. I wasn't planning on doing one today, either, but then Trent Richardson went and screwed everything up. Well, that's not true. It would appear Jim Irsay screwed everything up. Or the Colts. Or the Browns. I don't know. Someone is to blame for this mess and for once it's not me. The point, and I'm almost positive there is one, is that I just got off the "Olbermann" show, it is now very late at night as I sit down to write this open, and I have to tape a baseball podcast in a handful of hours, so you know what? Call me the Justin Timberlake of fantasy, I'm bringing TRUM back. You heard me. Clearly, even though we killed off the TRUM, some staples, such as bad jokes and awkward transitions, still remain.
"WHAT WHAT WHAT?!?"
Like Sheila Broflovski on South Park, that was my reaction when I first saw the tweet from Adam Schefter. I quickly clicked on Adam's profile to make sure it was, in fact, him who tweeted it and not some parody account, because that's what I was sure it was. No way the Browns were trading Richardson, their 2012 first-round draft pick, two weeks into the season ... were they? Yep. Adam's profile had the tweet, the blue check mark, it was from him all right. "WHAT WHAT WHAT??!!?"
But now I've had time to gather my thoughts. And for Richardson, this helps. The Colts want to go power run game, and thanks to Andrew Luck and the passing offense, T-Rich will have more room to run, he'll have more scoring opportunities, the Colts will have more sustained drives. Indy is tied for 17th in rush attempts so far this year, the Browns are tied for 30th. If Richardson was a top-10 back before, he's now top six or seven. Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin and Arian Foster; those are the only running backs I would want ahead of Richardson now, and Foster is a borderline call.
Luck, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener; this helps them all a little bit as well. More balanced offense, defenses having to respect the run, it's an upgrade for Indy. Luck was already docked a bit in preseason (by me at least) for a more conservative offense, which is happening, but he's making up for it with his rushing, oddly: In two games, he has totaled 76 yards and a touchdown on the ground, despite a lack of designed runs. By virtue of an improved offense (and Dwayne Allen being out for the year), Fleener is now a low-end TE1/high-end TE2. And he's available in a ton of leagues. For now.
So all Colts are up except, of course, Ahmad Bradshaw. Pity the poor owner who had Bradshaw. Or worse, just dealt for him after the Vick Ballard news. You know those guys are out there. Bradshaw is usable this weekend as a flex if you need a running back, but then, he's a backup and handcuff to Richardson. That's it. No issue dropping him in a 10-team standard league.
Speaking of this weekend, I ranked Trent Richardson at 40 this week. The other three rankers have him as a top-20 play. One of us is going to look really stupid. Maybe it'll be me. Won't be the first time. But my editor called me when he saw the ranks, asking if it was a mistake. Here's what I wrote back: "Nope. How much do you think he plays on 3 days with no knowledge of blocking, plays, etc? On road at SF?" That's the same question you need to answer if you own Richardson and have other good options. How much risk can you take? One thing's for sure, I'm not using him in Gridiron Challenge or Player Eliminator this week.
On the Browns, it's fantasy zombie time. Willis McGahee, yes, Willis McGahee is coming back. If he passes a physical, they're going to sign him. My guess is Chris Ogbonnaya gets the majority of carries this weekend, but he's a fullback and nothing exciting. As soon as the news broke, I tweeted out "Just picked up Willis McGahee and Bobby Rainey in my 16-team league." I also made the same move in a 14-team league I'm in. I ignored them both in 10-team leagues.
McGahee is the veteran and, interesting tidbit, played for Browns coach Rob Chudzinski when Chud was the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami. So there's some familiarity there, and maybe it's among the reasons they'll sign him. Once he gets up to speed and in football shape, he'll probably be the guy you want. Rainey is interesting to me. On the Ravens in the preseason, he showed a little something (OK, mostly the fourth game, but still) scoring two touchdowns and having 47 total yards. The Ravens ended up cutting him and Cleveland scooped him up. He has been part of the kickoff return game, and my feeling is the Browns are going nowhere this year so at some point they'll see what they have in Rainey. They already know what Ogbonnaya is, and the answer is not much. I expect McGahee to be flex worthy or a low-end RB2 in some leagues, but I wouldn't go nuts trying to get one of them off waivers unless you're in a deep league where any running back with a pulse is rostered. Speaking of running backs with a pulse and not much else going for them, time to release Donald Brown, if you grabbed him and were hoping.
Figure you'll see a lot of throwing in Cleveland as they trail in every game, so while I'm not trying to trade for Jordan Cameron or Josh Gordon, I'm not freaking out if I have them. Finally, see below, but the Vikings make a good plug-and-play defense this week against Brian Hoyer and whatever running game the Browns scrounge up.
More football thoughts, now that we're off and running. ...The Ryan Clady injury is obviously not great for the Denver offensive line, but ultimately what it tells me is that Knowshon Moreno becomes more entrenched as the starter there. They are taking no chances with pass protection now. Top-20 running back with top-12 or so upside the rest of the way. ... I am sticking by or buying low on Eddie Lacy, Stevan Ridley, Trent Richardson (you saw where I ranked him among running backs the rest of the season) and David Wilson and anything less than first-round value is a steal for Alfred Morris and Arian Foster if their owners are underwhelmed so far. And while I'm not a huge Frank Gore fan, he's better than he has shown. ... I'm still a believer in Maurice Jones-Drew, but it's getting harder and harder to hang tough. ... Randy Bullock is a kicker who is owned in 92 percent of leagues. This needs to change. He missed three field goals last game and is on a super-short leash. And by super-short leash, I mean I already dropped him in the leagues where I had him. … One of these days, either Kenbrell Thompkins or Aaron Dobson is going to learn how to catch, and then, watch out. I'm hanging on wherever I have the bench to do so.
Some unintended fallout from the Richardson trade? I'm annoyed at Howie Schwab. Howie, of course, is my former colleague here at ESPN and was the star of "Stump the Schwab." He was also a co-analyst on a show that I also was on in 2007 called "Fantasy Insider." I've known him ever since I came to ESPN and he is as kind a man as you'll ever meet, and I follow him on Twitter. So ... Wednesday night is the finale of "Big Brother," a show that is a huge guilty pleasure for my wife and me to watch together. We love it (and love to hate some of the people on it. Most … despicable … cast … ever!). I actually wanted to go home and watch it and then come back to work for my 11:45 p.m. segment on the Olbermann show, but then the Richardson news broke and then I'm updating ranks and doing "SportsCenter" and digital video and whatever, the evening is shot. So I'm on Twitter scanning for news and Howie suddenly tweets, at 11 p.m. ET, "Congrats to xxx on winning Big Brother!"
I'm not putting the name there because I am sure there are people who have DVR'd it or whatever and don't know who won yet. And Howie blows the answer on Twitter! Forget me; this is before anyone on the West Coast has even gotten a chance to see it! I tweeted at him asking why he would do that, he apologized and said he didn't even think about the West Coast. So now I'm super annoyed. I know who won (my wife and I were going to watch the finale this weekend) and I can't even be properly annoyed at Howie because it's not as if it's some jerk who did it, it's Howie, who, as I said, is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. You can't be mad at Howie. I want to be mad at someone. Maybe it's at Jim Irsay. Or Trent Richardson. Or the Colts. Or the Browns. I don't know. I'm here way too late and it's their fault. It's someone's fault.
Rambling on, this past weekend, "Sunday NFL Countdown" did a segment where they talked to the guys in the "Tattoo League" that is featured in my book "Fantasy Life." It's terrific - you must watch it. Then you'll know that no matter how hard-core you think your league is, these guys are more hard-core.
I really want "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." to be good.
Got sent this stat by the former SWAN, Zach Jones:
15-Point Fantasy Games
Through 2 Weeks
>> ESPN.com standard scoring
Until we see more stability from running backs (or you are loaded at the position), more often than not, your flex is coming from a wide receiver these days. Food for thought as you settle into the running back panic and scarcity that I keep seeing everywhere. Depth is nice (and will be an issue soon with bye weeks coming in Week 4), but the key is two good running backs, not three. ... I've gotten a lot of panic-stricken emails from fantasy owners who are 0-2 and worried about what to do with failing stars. Keep in mind, through the first two weeks of the 2012 season, Eli Manning was the fourth-highest scoring QB in fantasy (he finished 15th), Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Brady had the same number of points, Kevin Ogletree had more points than Roddy White, Calvin Johnson had the same number of points as Jeremy Kerley, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a two-point advantage over Doug Martin. It's a long season. Calm down. ... It's not like you have a to get a tattoo if you lose. Or someone ruined the "Big Brother" finale for you.
Your usual caveats. This is not a start/sit column, it's a "guy I like to exceed or fall short of normal expectations" column. Use my player rankings if you'd like my opinion on whom I would start or bench. Big bear hug to Zach Rodgers of ESPN Stats & Information for his help, and away we go.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 3
Matthew Stafford, Lions: I would say that it has been a struggle for my Washington Professional Football Franchise, except it would mean that they are a professional-caliber franchise. Their defense hasn't looked like it the first two weeks and there aren't two players in D.C. who can guard Calvin Johnson. Having Joique Bell means that even if Reggie Bush can't go, Stafford still has his outlet man. The guy with the best wideout in football, whose game plan usually involves throwing it 40 times a game, is facing the defense that has given up the highest completion percentage and the most yards per attempt in the league so far? Just because it's obvious doesn't make it wrong. Top-four play this week.
Robert Griffin III, Washington: So, I've been doing the "Love/Hate" column for 13 years now. They run anywhere between 3,500 words and 5,000 words. And usually about an eight-to-10K piece in the preseason. And this next sentence is the most depressing one I have ever written: I like RG III this week in a "Carson Palmer junk time" kind of way. That's what he has become. Zero offensive points in the first two halves of their games, yet RG III is currently in a five-way tie for the seventh-most points in fantasy (41). Against the Lions, I see more of the same. It won't be pretty, but by the end of the game, the points will be there.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks: It's Jacksonville. If not now, when? If not him, whom? If not last week, why not do this joke a second time?
Eli Manning, Giants: Well, they can't run the ball, so Eli is throwing. When he throws, he throws deep. Only Slingin' Joe Flacco has more pass attempts 15 yards downfield than Eli. The Panthers secondary is really banged up and they weren't all that to begin with, allowing opposing QBs to complete 72 percent of passes (hint -- that's a lot, especially because one of those QBs is a rookie). Eli gets out of the "Eli face zone" and is a low-end QB1 this week.
If you're desperate: Did you know that I know that only one QB has attempted more passes than Sam Bradford, and that he actually has thrown the most red zone pass attempts this season? Only one team has given up more red zone scores than Dallas so far. ... Andy Dalton missed everything in sight last Monday night, but in a shootout with Green Bay, there will points to be had. … If you can't have the "new Carson Palmer" in RG III, why not settle for the original model? Assuming Larry Fitzgerald plays, and despite the fact that I like what Rob Ryan has done with the Saints defense, Palmer should still put up solid double-digit points on the turf in New Orleans as the Cardinals play from behind.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 3
Andrew Luck, Colts: Yes, he has a new running back. But that's not helping this week as T-Rich needs to learn the playbook, his blocking assignments, and what to do when an angry 49ers linebacker or defensive end is coming right at you. Which is what the Colts face this week, on the road. Not a top-10 play this week.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers: In case you were thinking this might be a shootout with the Patriots. Freeman has missed on an NFL-high 54.7 percent of his throws this season. The New England defense has put opposing quarterbacks under duress on 30.6 percent of pass attempts, fourth highest in the league. I didn't even rank Freeman this week. Wouldn't start him in a two-QB league if I didn't have to.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: On last week's "Fantasy Football Now" (Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2 and WatchESPN), Tim Hasselbeck said he was starting Terrelle Pryor over Big Ben. I agreed with the call. Should tell you everything you need to know, and it doesn't get easier for the Steelers against Chicago.
For the second week in a row, not many great names to put in "hate." I'll say it again, quarterback is deep this year!
Running backs I love in Week 3
Frank Gore, 49ers: I'm not a huge fan of Gore these days, but he's better than this. And against the Colts this week, he proves it. Since 2012, Gore has scored single-digit fantasy points in six weeks. The following week, Gore has averaged 15.2 fantasy points. The Colts are tied for the most rushing touchdowns allowed and fourth-most rushing yards. In their defense, they've faced noted offensive powerhouses Oakland and Miami, so, you know. …
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos: As rambled about above, the Ryan Clady injury means Moreno is even more entrenched in his starting RB role thanks to the pass protection he provides. Off a two-touchdown game, he keeps the good times rolling against Oakland, which should become their new slogan. Instead of "Commitment to Excellence" or "Just Win, Baby," I'm pitching "Keeps the good times rolling!"
Chris Johnson, Titans: So it looks like the Titans aren't ... terrible. Johnson has 11 red zone rushes this season, four more than anyone else in the league. Meanwhile, when fantasy zombies Philip Rivers and Eddie Royal aren't hooking up, the Chargers defense has allowed 333 yards to opposing running backs and are giving up 4.7 yards per rush in the red zone, third highest in the NFL.
Rashard Mendenhall, Cardinals: They might run a little more with Fitz banged up and trying to slow down the Saints, and you know what? He has been very not-terrible this year, averaging more than 4 yards per carry, and he got both of Arizona's goal-line carries last week. The Saints, meanwhile have allowed 5.3 yards per carry so far this season, third most in the NFL.
If you're desperate: Reggie Bush is either not going to play, or be limited this week, which means Joique Bell becomes fairly useful in a high-scoring game. … Of the Jets' 47 run plays this season, 46 have been between the tackles, and Buffalo has allowed the third-most rushing yards between the tackles, so Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell have flex appeal this week. ... Total gut call, but I bet Montee Ball gets a touchdown this week as Denver gets up big on Oakland and gets him some reps. ... The same junk-time logic applies to Robert Turbin, who will get some run against the Jags, who give up 5.7 yards per carry, most in the NFL.
Running backs I hate in Week 3
Trent Richardson, Colts: As mused about above.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars: I still believe, I do... but it's wavering, and I'm not starting any Jaguar at Seattle. Not in a 16-teamer, not while riding in an ocean steamer, not while eating green eggs and ham. I do not like MJD this week, Sam I Am.
Darren McFadden, Raiders: Fine, he has been better than expected, and by that, I mean he's still upright and not terrible. But the Broncos have allowed only 81 rushing yards through two games, fewest in the league. If they can stop Ray Rice and David Wilson, er ... fine, if they can stop Ray Rice, they can stop the likes of DMC.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys: Pick a number, any number. Like Murray's 3.5 yards per carry, 27th in the league. Which is worse than his 4.8 yards per carry of the past two seasons. Or how about 2.9, as in, the Rams have allowed only 2.9 yards per carry this season, seventh fewest in the league. Or 12, as in, last game, he got only 12 carries. Or zero, as in, he has yet to score a touchdown this year. My guess is you don't have better options this week, so you're probably starting him, but I don't see him as the top-15 running back that two of my fellow rankers do, nor would I use him in Gridiron Challenge.
James Starks, Packers: Running out the clock with a big lead against the Washington Professional Football Team is one thing, doing it against the Bengals (allowing just 63 rushing yards a game) is another. He's not a top-20 running back this week.
Wide receivers I love in Week 3
Victor Cruz, Giants: See Manning, Eli.
Anquan Boldin, 49ers: You either believe he is closer to Week 1 Boldin, a guy they are going to force feed the ball to and line up all over the place, or you believe in last week, where he was completely shut out. Indy ain't Seattle. I'm a Week 1 guy.
Steve Johnson, Bills: Why so serious? He caught this game winner. The Jets do have a good run defense, so even though C.J. Spiller will get his, Buffalo will need to throw to move the ball. Johnson already has two red zone touchdowns through two weeks, as many as he had in all of 2012. So off to a hot start and the matchup is right. Three scores in six games against the Jets in his career while averaging over 70 yards a game, he's a solid third wide receiver or flex this week.
T.Y Hilton, Colts: They use all of Hilton, Wayne and Fleener in the slot and I've written a lot in the past about San Francisco's struggle with the slot receiver. I expect Hilton to play even more snaps this week and for San Fran to concentrate on stopping Wayne, so I have Hilton as a medium risk/reward WR3 this week.
Stephen Hill, Jets: They've got to throw it to someone in New York, and the guy they're choosing these days is Hill. Most targets and yards on the Jets, he's raw but has chemistry with Geno Smith and is getting the ball thrown his direction a lot. Sometimes, that's all you need. Against the Bills, it will be, in a flex sort of way.
If you're desperate: I assume Andre Johnson plays, but if he doesn't, I'm all about the DeAndre Hopkins. He's a full-grown man, son. Full grown. ... I also like the guy on the other side of the field, Marlon Brown. ... If Kendall Wright ends up playing this weekend, it's worth noting that since 2012, when Jake Locker is under center, Wright leads the Titans in targets, yards after the catch and is tied for the team lead in touchdowns. ... You already know the I think Washington-Detroit is a high-scoring game, so it's worth noting that Nate Burleson has seen almost as many targets as Calvin Johnson (14 to Johnson's 16) and that no receiver with at least 10 targets has a higher catch rate than Burleson. ...You saw the note about Eli (and Cruz) and the deep balls and the banged-up Panthers secondary, so it's worth mentioning that Rueben Randle actually has been targeted downfield this year more than Hakeem Nicks. … Finally, it would have to be a deep league to start him this week, but I strongly suggest finding a way to add Cordarrelle Patterson, who will make a difference this year and sooner rather than later.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 3
Reggie Wayne, Colts: Believe it or not, he's actually second on the Colts in targets (to T.Y. Hilton) and I believe we'll see more of Hilton in the slot than Wayne. Meanwhile, back at Wayne Manor, nine of his 13 receptions have been on throws 10 yards or fewer downfield. The 49ers have allowed the fewest number of receptions 10 yards or fewer this season. Not a top-20 play for me this week.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars: He is truth, justice, the American Way, and benched against Seattle.
Josh Gordon, Browns: No run game, Brian Hoyer at quarterback and, since 2012, the Vikings are tied for ninth-fewest receptions allowed thrown at least 25 yards downfield, and seventh-fewest yards allowed on such throws. Love Gordon this year but this probably isn't his game.
Tight ends I love in Week 3
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: I think he plays. And if he plays for the Patriots, he plays for you.
Antonio Gates, Chargers: Since 2012, no team has allowed more touchdowns to opposing tight ends than the Tennessee Titans. Philip Rivers is going to pass in this game and Gates will be heavily involved.
Jordan Cameron, Browns: It's not as though they're going to run it anymore. I expect Cleveland to have to throw a lot and, given the volume and the matchup, I'm not worried about Cameron. The Vikings have already allowed three touchdowns to tight ends, tied for the most in the league.
Owen Daniels, Texans: Another nice matchup for a tight end who is getting used a lot. Matt Schaub has targeted his tight ends seven times in the red zone this season, leading to five touchdowns, both of which lead the league. Meanwhile, quoth the research department, the Ravens have allowed 205 yards (third most in the league) and two touchdowns to opposing tight ends in the first two games. With the potential of Andre Johnson missing this game, expect Schaub to look for Daniels when he decides to pass.
Martellus Bennett, Bears: No tight end has been targeted more in the red zone this year than Bennett. Pittsburgh has struggled so far against the tight end (seventh-most tight end yards allowed this year), so expect a top-10 performance here.
If you're desperate: Coby Fleener is the only game in town on a team that will struggle to run against the Niners. ... Chargers have given up three touchdowns to opposing tight ends in two games and frankly, it would be four if James Casey had caught the ball cleanly at the goal line. They've allowed the fourth-most points so far and Delanie Walker did score last week. … I had Charles Clay in this section last week and that seemed to work out, so I'm back again. Tannehill continues to look for him underneath as Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline stretch the field.
Tight ends I hate in Week 3:
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: Well, he scored last week. I was wrong there. But just three receptions. I can't trust a guy who is so touchdown dependent as a regular top-10 play.
Brandon Myers, Giants: Banged up a bit himself, and only three teams in the NFL allow fewer fantasy points per game than the Carolina Panthers. Of course, they've faced Zach Miller and Scott Chandler, so not exactly tough to do, but still, I expect the Giants to try to get their run game going and take shots deep, making Myers a not-top-10 play this week.
Brent Celek, Eagles: Two receptions (on four targets) in two games; he's just not a consistent part of the offense. Don't want to brag, but I figured that one out all by myself.
Fred Davis, Washington: Not that you were really starting Davis anyway, but I put him in here just to mention that I really like Jordan Reed, their rookie tight end, and so do they. Athletic, nice pass-catcher, it will be a while before he contributes with any consistency, but good name for deeper dynasty leagues.
Defenses I love in Week 3
Denver Broncos D/ST: It's Oakland. Come on. This ain't rocket science.
Minnesota Vikings D/ST: Hello, Brian Hoyer. And no Trent Richardson. And an offensive line that is tied for the league lead in sacks allowed.
If you're desperate: The Buffalo Bills defense is averaging almost 10 points a game and now gets to face Geno Smith and the Jets. ... The New Orleans Saints have put together solid games back-to-back and will be at home against the less-than-mobile Carson Palmer, who might be short Larry Fitzgerald. ...The Tennessee Titans kind of have a sneakily solid defense, with 10 scores and 22 interceptions in the past 18 games, and when you're playing against Philip Rivers and Ryan Mathews, turnovers are always in play.
Defenses I hate in Week 3
Cleveland Browns D/ST: Normally I like this defense a lot, especially against Christian Ponder, but I'm worried they will be worn out after a lot of three and outs from what passes for the offense they are rolling out there.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has un-followed Howie Schwab in the hopes of not having anything else spoiled for him. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. You may also have heard: He's written a book.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg