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Rock and a Hard Place: Week 1

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There are times during a season when you look at the waiver wire or list of free agents and end up telling yourself, “They might be in three-receiver sets a lot and he could make a few catches,” or “He caught four touchdowns of three or fewer yards last season, and one of them was against this team,” or “If the injury-prone guy ahead of him on the depth chart gets hurt, he’s a lock for five points.”

In situations like this, fantasy owners will look for a diamond in the rough. When they don’t find it, they go back looking for a name they recognize. When they don’t find that, they end up rationalizing ridiculous situations. Because, if six things break perfectly, they’re golden.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve picked guys up in a 10-team league that shouldn’t be owned in a 16-team league. In fact, years ago, in my first ever preseason draft, I picked a dead guy. There’s no amount of rationalization that will help that guy.

Each week, I’ll take a look at a group of guys that might typically be available who I think could provide some value to owners that are in a tight spot. It’s important to note that I am not saying go pick this guy up at the expense of depth on your roster. Instead, think of them as “in case of emergency, break glass” type of guys.

Jake Locker, QB , Tennessee.
Locker was given the starting nod in Tennessee because there was very little to gain from starting Matt Hasselbeck. Locker is the future of the franchise. He’s younger, with a stronger arm and more mobility. In Week 1, he faces a New England defense that struggled last season against the pass. While coach Bill Belichick is known as a defensive mastermind, Locker has a chance to put up decent numbers, and, if for some reason you find yourself needing a quarterback, he has the upside to provide some value.

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco.
Smith impressed last year in his first season under Jim Harbaugh. He completed better than 60 percent of his passes for 3,100-plus yards, 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions. San Francisco didn’t need him to be Eli Manning. The 49ers needed a game manager. They wanted to run the ball effectively, protect the football, and ask Smith to make two or three plays a game. This season it’ll be more of the same. Smith shouldn’t really be your go-to guy, but he should have some throwing lanes against Green Bay this week. Given the firepower on the other sideline, Smith will look to press the issue, and with his bulked up receiving corps, he may do just that.

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta
. Atlanta has been fairly vocal about cutting back on Michael Turner’s workload. The likely recipient of the extra work is Rodgers, who is a surprisingly tough runner for a guy that’s 5-foot-6. He also catches the ball well out of the backfield, and gets a nice matchup against Kansas City. I really like Rodgers to have a nice impact this season, and he’ll start it off in Week 1.

Ronnie Brown, RB, San Diego.
Ryan Mathews is out for the Chargers’ Week 1 game at Oakland. He’ll also likely miss Week 2 against Tennessee. Brown has always been an adequate runner, but at 30 years old, he can’t stand up to the weekly grind. But for a game or two at a time, and with a great matchup against a poor run defense, and when he hasn’t been hit 30 times in an afternoon, yet. I think Brown might be able surprise owners that are desperate enough to play him.

Devery Henderson, WR, New Orleans.
New Orleans has Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles and Lance Moore. But I don’t understand why the speedy Henderson isn’t owned in more leagues. I just feel like he’s that guy that will sneak behind the defense at least once a game. The Saints offense is so high-powered, and he’s a guy that can deliver a long catch, and possibly a touchdown, at any time.

Santana Moss, WR, Washington.
Moss is a guy I have liked for years. He’s small, but quick, and working out of the slot is a perfect fit for him at this point in his career. He can work against less-talented cornerbacks, and he can run option and pivot routes that will make the best use of his quickness. He can work the middle of the field and get the ball in space. And with a rookie quarterback at the helm in noisy New Orleans, the Redskins will want to get Robert Griffin III outside the pocket in plays he’s comfortable with, and a guy like Moss will quickly become a trusted target.

Good luck in Week 1.

Drew Magyar is a staff writer and can be reached at “Rock And A Hard Place” will be posted on Friday mornings throughout the regular season.

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