Week 10: Player Upgrades
Hello and welcome to player upgrades. Throughout the year we'll be focusing on which players should receive starts based on matchups, injuries, etc. plus those rising weekly and long-term rankings.
Your opponent has a clear-cut starting QB in Drew Brees, but maybe you're saddled with Andy Dalton and Big Ben? You locked up AP with the number one pick, but forgot to take another back until round seven? Player upgrades will help you decide whom to start each week and forecast the winding road ahead.
In Scott Zolak's mind, Brady was back four games ago. However, in the realm of fantasy, Brady made his grand appearance this past Sunday by torching the Steelers for 432 yards and four touchdowns. He also snapped a four-game interception streak and was every bit the player we are used to seeing en route to a 55-point game for New England. With the full cast of characters back together on offense -- including Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola --, it appears Brady will once again assume a spot among the top fantasy options at quarterback for the rest of the season.
Manning has been a tremendous disappointment this season, but he has a laundry list of positive matchups down the stretch. Games against the Raiders, Packers, Cowboys and Redskins over the next four weeks could snap Manning and the Giants out of their season-long funk. He has gotten Hakeem Nicks more involved over the past few games and still possesses a second threat in Victor Cruz. Manning hasn't been much of a fantasy option to this point -- so it's a gamble to put a lot of faith in him --, but given his track record and favorable schedule, he's at worst a quality backup with high upside as a starter.
There isn't much to cheer about in Tampa Bay, yet James gives fantasy owners an extra option to consider after his banner week. He became the second under-the-radar back in a week to ravage what is considered a stout Seahawks front -- 26th in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs -- scampering for 158 yards on the ground to lead all running backs this week. James also managed his best Tim Tebow impersonation with a jump-pass on the goal line for a touchdown, his lone score on the day. There is a chance Doug Martin returns as soon as this week, but James is a player worthy of a roster spot and -- depending on the health of Martin -- a start.
It's not ground-breaking that Morris ran for 100 yards on Sunday. What is a surprise is that he finally received over 20 carries in a game. Morris is averaging 5.2 yards per carry this season, yet the Redskins have insisted on ignoring him in key moments all season in favor of an uneven passing attack. Somehow despite this lunacy, Morris is fifth in rushing and is fresh for the stretch run, which includes games against the Vikings, Niners and Cowboys -- all of whom rank in the top 12 in fantasy points surrendered to running backs. Now that the Redskins have made the pleasant discovery that Morris indeed exists in the fourth quarter, he's a must-start in all formats and a top-flight running back.
The Panthers are heating up and so is LaFell who was targeted nine times on Sunday – second only to Steve Smith's 10. LaFell has only scored once this season and has yet to establish a rapport with Cam Newton, but he has flashed breakout potential throughout the season -- most notably a 107-yard performance earlier in the year against the Vikings. As the Panthers continue to progress offensively, LaFell is a player standing to benefit, as could any teams owning him.