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Deeper & Down

Mike Thomas
(JAC, WR) 3%

I think what we have developing in

is comparable to what has already happened in

San Diego. No one (and I repeat no one) is
unbenchable or undroppable in the NFL. There are some players you’d envision it’d
be nigh on impossible to bench, but at the end of the day that’s because those
players have

earned the right to ride out whatever reasons there are
surrounding an argument for a ride to the pine.

Chris Chambers has already been cut – don’t be surprised if Torry Holt either
retires before he gets the call to the office this offseason. It’s not fair,
but it’s life. Holt is one of the all-time greats but the NFL is a
results-driven industry. Thomas, who (along with fellow rookie wide receiver
Jarrett Dillard has already been name checked in

“Dishonourable Mentions,” Oct.
22) is already doing a pretty good imitation of someone being groomed to step

Over his last two games he has put up 107 yards. Now credit a poor

Jacksonville defense to
be helping to inflate those numbers – you go behind, you toss the rock more the
longer the game progresses. But credit the young man for pulling down the
receptions tossed his way. Just for comparison, contrast and chuckles, Holt’s
and Mike Sims-Walker’s lines for the same weeks?


11 targets; 9 catches (82%), 120 yards/BYE/3 targets; 2
catches (67%) for 9 yards



9 targets; 7 catches (78%) for 52 yards/BYE

/6 targets; 4 catches (67%) for 55 yards



8 targets; 5 catches (63%) for 101 yards/BYE/6 targets; 2 catches (33%)
for 17 yards

I don’t see defenses being worried by Holt so much anymore.

Tennessee had their best defensive back
(Cortland Finnegan) and you can see the effect it had on the passing game. Maurice
Jones-Drew saw most of the rock.

I think you can expect decent numbers off all three wide receivers, but I’d be
more than a little surprised if coach Jack Del Rio didn’t use the softer match
to experiment more with the mercurial rookie slot receiver. There again,

Del Rio manages to
surprise me on a weekly basis, so go figure.

Chris Henry (CIN, WR) 8%


seriously? Well, kind of …

This week and next against

Baltimore and at

Pittsburgh are matches
that might make you consider sitting studs, let alone anyone else. I’d agree
totally that starting Henry against the Ravens is not something I’d do – but
you have to remember I’m not suggesting you start him – even though he did get
90 yards on his last outing against them and did pick up a touchdown last week –
but I am suggesting you pick him off the waiver wire.

Savvy fantasy owners will be well aware that championship form all the way up
to the playoffs counts for nothing. I’d rather go 8-4 or a messy 7-5 and scrape
into the playoffs by the skin of my teeth than go 12-0 in the regular season
only to bomb out in the first round.

Cincinnati has
a nice stretch of matchups coming down the road starting after the

Baltimore and

games: at



Detroit, at


San Diego,

Kansas City (followed by the season finale
at the New York Jets).

Henry’s sizzling and salivatory preseason form has turned slightly sour in
early season games, but “nil desperandum!” Given the fact that he’s had to get
over first a quad strain and then flu and still managed to stay above the league
average for wide receiver yardage – just about – I’ll give him a pass. The
strength of schedule (or lack thereof to be more accurate) coupled with the
fact that this is still a contract year for Henry and he has half a season left
means he has every reason and opportunity in the world to play his socks off.

Fred Davis (WAS, TE) 11%

Factoid – Prior to Week 8, Chris Cooley has had as many targets and as many
receptions as Vincent Jackson.

Washington, despite GLARING needs elsewhere on
the team picked

in the second round of the 2008 draft – 48th overall. Why?

The guy is a previous John Mackey Award winner at college – a tight end award
whose previous winners including Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow and Heath Miller.
Good company to be sure. In 2008, coach Jim Zorn was impressed by his athleticism,
speed and talent but not with his routes, which is a problem the majority of
receiving players coming into the NFL have to adapt to.

He was always a good player going into a bad fantasy position as a lot of
people liked him going into the draft and had he landed on another team he
might already be a starter, but with Cooley ahead of him on the depth chart he
was never going anywhere soon. Until Week 7. The bye week has left him on the waiver
wire for most folks, but he’s there, and with the wide receiver corps. at
Washington wilfully under-performing thanks to a number of factors (poor playcalling,
poor quarterback play, mediocre talent), Davis has an opportunity to give Washington
all sorts of problems going into next season – maybe they could even move him
back to wide receiver, which was his starting position in his collegiate career
before being converted early on to a tight end. It’s not like Devin Thomas and
Malcolm Kelly are stepping up yet – although until there is some consistency at
offensive coordinator (the Redskins have had four in three years) and some
level of quarterback development, it’s hard to blame them. So I attach little
blame there (aside from some glaring drops).

Ultimately, tight ends aren’t huge for fantasy points barring the odd game here
or there, but this is mainly for all you Cooley and Owen Daniels owners – this
is the pickup you’ll need to make (I’ve already made it for Daniels in one
league). Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that he will be facing

Atlanta this week –
currently the fourth-worst defense against tight ends.

Sammie Stroughter (TB, WR) 3%

Still widely available in an unbelievable amount of leagues – on kick return
and punt returns alone. If your league caters for it then you should own him. Percy
Harvin showed the Packers (this week’s opponents for the Buccaneers) just
exactly what a pacey return man can do, and Stroughter has already proven he
can take them to the house in the NFL as well as college.

Josh Freeman’s promotion over the “other” Josh at quarterback in


makes Stroughter somewhat of an X-Factor in terms of what sort of chemistry he
will have with the new quarterback. Generally, though, players that are drafted
together tend to bond pretty well. They attend the same NFL prep seminars to
pave the way for what to expect from the media, agents as well as the “hangers-on”,
etc. Not to mention the franchise specific routines and, more importantly,
practice reps together.

Freeman has a cannon arm, which is mutually beneficial to both Stroughter’s
pacey elusiveness and Freeman’s need to find an open man quickly.
Unfortunately, as Matthew Stafford and JaMarcus Russell can testify, a big arm
means not a lot without two things: the ability to read opposition defensive
schemes and the accuracy to match the arm strength. Freeman, like Josh Johnson
before him, will not immediately pick everything up in prodigal fashion and
start posting Manning-esque numbers (Peyton not Eli). Even the elder of the
Manning boys didn’t post anything like amazing numbers in his first year – he
too struggled. So for Freeman to be dropped into a team that is struggling to
find its identity, let alone manufacture wins? I think he’ll do as well as
Johnson did. He’ll be “OK.”

That – believe it or not – works for and against Stroughter. The


defense is truly terrible. The veteran leadership they lost in the offseason,
whilst I do see the arguments for it (rebuilding/transitional phase, making the
defense younger, make cap room, etc.) there is also the flip side of that coin
– a price that must be paid. Bottom line: bad defenses make for good fantasy
offenses on both sides of the ball. The more they go behind and the more they
stay behind, the more they will have to open the playbook and air it out.

I’d expect Stroughter to post similar numbers with Freeman as he did under
Johnson: 50-60 receiving yards and a possible touchdown in some way shape or
form, be that a kick return, a punt return or receiving. Believe me – he’ll
have plenty of opportunity on kick returns against a Green Bay team out for a
little payback …

Dishonorable Mentions:

Ryan Moats (HOU, RB) 49% – with Owen Daniels out as well? Even an RB2
– and I think this is where it’s heading – this deep into the season is hard to
pick up. If he gets the goal line and short yardage as well he could very well
be one of the pickups of the season on this high-octane offense. On the plus
side it’ll mean less carries for Chris Brown, something I think all Texan fans
would only applaud!

Jamaal Charles (KC, RB) 33% – and so the L.J. era sputters and implodes
just short of the tape in the race for the all-time franchise rushing record.
It somehow seems appropriate, no? Charles is fast and has soft hands – it’ll be
interesting to see how Kolby Smith gets worked into the mix after having been
out with injury since last November. For now though? Enjoy whatever yardage the

Kansas City
crew can provide – which isn’t going to be that much all things considered. Aim
low and he can only surprise.

Malcolm Floyd (SD, WR) 18% – As mentioned here on Sept. 26, Chris
Chambers is useless … in fact, he’s now been released by

San Diego. Floyd is the guy you wanted then
and still do now. Goodbye Mr. Chambers, thanks for turning up.

Anthony Gonzalez (

WR) 41% – Bill Polian was saying one or two weeks after the bye he
expects him to play. Soft matchups ahoy with this explosive offense. Good
player to stash? Nuh-uh, we’ve been

“Harrisoned”. That’s a term within the

Indianapolis organization
when injuries are not what they appear to be. Gonzo is now seeking a second
opinion on his knee. He hasn’t practiced all week (it’s Wednesday, currently)
and Jim Caldwell has said, “I’m not quite certain where he is at this point.” I’d
keep an eye on this. If the second opinion in question is Dr. James Andrews, then
it might be a tear and not a sprain to one of his knee ligaments. A tear would
likely mean season over. 41 percent and counting …


Vince Young (TEN, QB) – 15-of-18 for 125 yards, 1 TD

Alex Smith (SF, QB) – 19-of-32 for 198 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. That was against a

pass defense, which had allowed only three passing touchdowns all season (first
in the league.) This could be the Smith they were drafting …

Brian Hartline (MIA, WR) – Just one target all game!

Mike Hart (


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