Week 4: Player Downgrades
Player Downgrades is a column focused on a handful of players who are losing fantasy value. Rather than discuss injured players, these guys are healthy and getting playing time, but are still underachieving. It's ultimately up to you whether you decide to bench, trade away, or drop them.
Week 4 brings a whole new set of interesting decisions. Those late-round fliers you drafted are probably on your bench and taking up space. Wide receivers seem to be breaking out on nearly every team, while running backs remain a hot commodity.
There's no reason to panic just yet, but in order to maintain a competitive roster, your bench should be brimming with potential, not slumping non-achievers.
Like most quarterbacks, Orton would be a better option if he could simply take better care of the ball. Through three games, he has five turnovers (two fumbles and three picks) -- which is unacceptable for a Denver Broncos team that wants to possess the ball and physically outwork teams. Orton is on pace for well over 550 pass attempts (which would be a career-high, but he's only averaging 6.1 yards per attempt). For some context, that is the seventh worst average amongst starting QBs in the NFL. Keep in mind that Denver's receiving corps is one of the least formidable in the league. With a stagnant rushing attack (sixth fewest rushing yards in the NFL), there is a lot of pressure on Orton from week to week. Don't expect him to suddenly turn it around and his value as a QB2 no longer exists. At the very least, you can keep him on your bench and hope Denver improves, but you'll probably need to cut him loose in order to add a better option like Jason Campbell or Colt McCoy since you presumably missed out on Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rex Grossman, and Cam Newton.
Grant's issues shouldn't be news to anyone. There were three red flags that fantasy drafters should've had in mind when they selected him. First, the Packers use a spread offense and throw the ball a ton. Next, Grant clearly doesn't have the same explosion he had before missing all of the 2010 season due to injury. And finally, there's James Starks nipping at his heels, poaching touches and devaluing him as a fantasy contributor. Grant rebounded a bit in Week 3 with 17 carries for 92 yards but these sorts of games appear to be the exception, not the rule. Starks looked pretty bad against the Bears, but in truth neither player is a viable, bonafide RB1 (or even RB2 for our purposes). Green Bay is going to throw and they're throwing it with good reason. With arguably the league's best QB and group of receivers, there just isn't enough room for a shared backfield on this team. You can't cut him, but you can attempt to package him in a trade offer.
So you drafted Hines Ward? That's too bad because you're probably going to have to cut him. Ward has just 12 receptions and 117 receiving yards in this young 2011 season. The Steelers' passing game is carrying the team too. Due to some deficiencies along the offensive line, Pittsburgh's running game has been a big disappointment. Ben Roethlisberger has passed for 942 yards, sixth in the NFL. Just going by yardage, Ward has the fourth-most on the team, behind Wallace, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. Ward may still be one of the best edge blockers in the game, but that doesn't provide anything to your team. At this point, cut him loose and find help elsewhere.
Most fantasy owners have wisely moved on, but some may still be clinging to Roy Williams; for what reason, I don't know. The Bears' leading receiver is Matt Forte and he's followed by Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, and Dane Sanzenbacher. Williams has been a non-factor, whether because of injury or lack of playing time. Everything goes through Forte, and Jay Cutler is completing just 55 percent of his passes. Chicago hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Marty Booker did it in 2002. Looking ahead to the rest of the year, there's nothing to suggest that Williams will break out of this slump or emerge on his new team. Every week, there are numerous young receivers making a name for themselves -- most recently Baltimore's Torrey Smith -- and I'd much rather own a high risk / high reward guy like Smith than a low risk / no reward player like Williams.
Lewis was the Dwayne Bowe of tight ends last year. The same hypothesis that said Bowe couldn't replicate his high touchdown totals should have applied to Lewis. He caught 10 touchdowns last year and was a consistent red zone target for David Garrard. Unfortunately, not only is Garrard gone, but the Jaguars' offense isn't anywhere near as good as it was in 2010. Lewis missed Week 2 and has only four receptions for 43 yards in two games this year. The Jags have only scored 29 points through three games, which is the second lowest total in the NFL. There are a number of emerging tight ends to consider this year, so rather than stick Lewis on your bench, be more aggressive and drop him.