Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Fantasy football: It's time to dig deep

Another slate of six team on byes means some people may be reaching deep looking for help this week.
And as we reach the mid-point of the season, many fantasy football players might be feeling scorned and reluctant to play certain players. Some of those guys will show up in today's column.
Then there are the injuries. How many people got burned by not playing Jimmy Graham last week? A good rule of thumb is that if a player suits up during the regular season, you have to assume they are healthy and ready to play. I know some players have been hurt by doing that already this season (hello there, Roddy White and Steven Jackson), but it's a chance worth taking. Especially when talking about young, talented players like Graham.

Start 'em if you got 'em
QB Jake Locker. Quietly, Locker has been excellent this season, and has cracked the top 10 in scoring for the position a couple of times already this season. He's a good start against a shaky St. Louis secondary this week, and a possibly even better start against Jacksonville in Week 10.
QB Terrelle Pryor. In addition to the points he'll get you with his legs, he should be able to take advantage of the Eagles secondary to do damage with his arm too. He's a low-end QB1.
RB Zac Stacy. One of my "scale him back" picks a week ago, Stacy is proving to be match-up proof after running all over the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense and gradually improving every week since becoming the Rams starter. He got hurt late in the game, but was practicing in full this week. Give him the rock again against a Titans defense that, while strong against the pass, has struggled against fantasy runners.
RB DeMarco Murray. He probably could've played last week, but the Cowboys held him out as a precaution. With an extra week's rest, he has a juicy match-up against Minnesota. Of note, the Cowboys offense seems to be better with Murray as a running threat, so expect better numbers from Romo and Co. as well this week.
RB Ryan Mathews. After a few years of futility, the Chargers running back is starting to play like the guy they took in the first round of the 2010 draft. He has back-to-back 100-plus yard performances. The Redskins defense seems to be a little tougher as of late, but I still feel good if I'm rolling out Mathews as an RB2.
WR Josh Gordon. Question marks surrounded him going into last week after a poor outing the previous game, another change in quarterback and a tough match-up against Kansas City. Against all odds, he delivered a big performance. If he's playing, he's got to be in your line-up. Gordon is talented enough to exploit any match-up, as long as he QB gets him the ball.
WR Vincent Jackson. V-Jax should be considered a top 5 fantasy WR and every week play, but some might be scared off this week because of the match-up with Seattle. Don't be. Bucs QB Mike Glennon is throwing a record number of passes for a rookie and most of those are going V-Jax's way. Based on sheer targets alone (an absurd and NFL-leading 90), he's going to catch some of them and he has the talent to take any catch to the house.
WR Keenan Allen. The rookie has established himself as the No. 1 WR in San Diego and he could dominate against the Washington Redskins. He's a potential top 10 player at the position this week between byes and match-ups.
TE Rob Gronkowski. Don't get scared off by his poor numbers and hamstring injury (unless he sits, of course). The Steelers defense isn't what it used to be and Gronk will still see a lot of targets.


Scale 'em back
QB Andrew Luck. Houston is pretty tough against the pass and, without Reggie Wayne, it remains to be seen how effective Luck can be. He'll likely finish outside the top 12 at his position this week.
RB Steven Jackson. He's fully healthy, but on the road against a tough Carolina defense doesn't bode well for him. Expect better numbers than last week, but it might not be pretty again.
RB De'Angelo Williams. Good match-up and he's been a solid option so far this year, but he's nicked up, he's not getting goal line looks (Mike Tolbert) and now Jonathan Stewart could be back in the mix to usurp carries.
RB Pierre Thomas. Getting a lot of work for the Saints, and producing in recent weeks, but the Jets are rock-solid against the run. This is setting up for a big Darren Sproles day.
WR Torrey Smith. I still think you have to start him, but lower his expectations this week going against Joe Haden.
WR Stevie Johnson. Bad match-up against Kansas City, and he will likely have Jeff Tuel or Matt Flynn throwing to him. Yuck.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey. A popular pick-up after Reggie Wayne was hurt, now he's gimpy with a hamstring and he wasn't all that good anyway.
WR Golden Tate. He probably won't get full Revis Island treatment, and the Bucs are susceptible to the pass, but I just can't start him with confidence, especially without Sidney Rice opposite him.
TE Tony Gonzalez. The reason Harry Douglas is putting up good numbers? Because teams are focused on stopping Gonzales. Until Roddy White comes back -- and even then -- it's tough to trust Gonzo. He still has TE1 talent, but the opportunities are no longer there for the production to measure up.

Taking a flier
QB Joe Flacco. Cleveland's defense has been strong against the run, but susceptible to the pass (minus Haden, see above). I wouldn't be excited about starting the reigning Super Bowl MVP, but if you're in a pinch, he's got potential to have a big game coming off the bye.
RB Trent Richardson. As someone who bought a lot of stock in T-Pain, I never thought he'd be in a "sleeper" section of a fantasy football column. Still, Colts OC Pep Hamilton admits he hasn't been using the former first-round pick right and the Texans are without Brian Cushing. You might have to start him regardless, but if he's part of the debate, I say give him one more chance.
RB Ben Tate. He's banged up with sore ribs, but if Arian Foster (game-time decision) doesn't go, Tate could be in line for a lot of work.
WR Dwayne Bowe. Another player that's fallen from grace, Bowe has a nice match-up against the Bills porous secondary. It's not that he lacks talent, it's the Chiefs inability to get him the ball. I also really like Dexter McCluster this week, especially in a PPR.
WR Kenny Stills. The ultimate boom-or-bust type player, he's taken over the Robert Meachum/Devery Henderson role in the Saints offense. If you're looking for upside or get bonus points for a big play, you could do worse for a WR3.
TE Coby Fleener. Lots of Colts throughout this entire list. I expect their offense to change quite a bit without Reggie Wayne, and that could mean more intermediate stuff going to Fleener.