Week 6: Player Upgrades
Player Upgrades may be a fantasy football column, but I think I'm obligated to say something about the Detroit Lions in this space, especially after their victory over division-rival Chicago on Monday Night Football (Detroit's first MNF game in over a decade) to improve to 5-0 this season.
The Lions are 5-0 for the first time since 1956. Dating back to the end of last season, Detroit has won their last nine regular season contests. They also went undefeated in the pre-season. Detroit hasn't lost period since a 24-20 loss to Chicago back on December 5th of last season. Head coach Jim Schwartz and the Lions organization deserve a ton of credit for changing the entire culture in Detroit through sheer determination and perseverance, but lets face it, it is still the regular season and the Lions haven't truly won anything just yet. The Green Bay Packers are 5-0 as well, let us not forget that.
Also, the NFL community should never forget former Raiders owner Al Davis, who passed away last weekend. Davis was one of the truly iconic figures as both a coach and owner in the NFL and will be sorely missed.
This Week 6 edition of Player Upgrades takes a look at seven players whose fantasy stock is on the rise and should be targeted by fantasy owners either off the wavier wire or via trade. Fantasy owners should be sure to check out all of the excellent strategy articles here on FFToolbox.com (yes, I am a company man) as well as download the FFToolbox.com Weekly Podcast available on Itunes.
The Denver Broncos faithful will finally get their wish when Tim Tebow gets his first start of the season in Week 7 on the road against the Miami Dolphins. Tebow isn't a very intriguing fantasy prospect when it comes to his ability as a passer, but his athleticism and ability to pull the ball down and run gives him an added dimension that fantasy owners can use. After taking over as the Broncos' starting quarterback late last season, Tebow rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns in the final three games of the season. Tebow will run the ball and score plenty of touchdowns -- any passing yardage that Tebow tacks on for fantasy owners will be gravy. There are some concerns, most notably turnovers (interceptions and fumbles) and injuries. Any quarterback with a propensity to pull it down and run is susceptible to both.
The bottom line is that fantasy owners have nothing to lose by picking up Tebow. There is tremendous potential here from a fantasy standpoint. Tebow could turn out to be a pretty decent fantasy quarterback thanks to the rushing yards and touchdowns this season.
A week after rookie Stevan Ridley stole the show with a breakout performance in Oakland, BenJarvus Green-Ellis re-established himself as the dominant running back in New England with a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns on a season-high 27 carries against the New York Jets last weekend. Green-Ellis appeared to be in danger of losing carries to the talented rookie Ridley before his monster performance in a commanding victory over the Jets. With Ridley receiving just seven carries for 13 yards, it appears that Green-Ellis still has plenty of job security at this point.
There is still a chance Green-Ellis (who will be a free agent at the end of the year) could lose carries to Ridley down the road, but for the time being "The Law Firm" will shoulder a majority of the workload. Green-Ellis has a tough match-up and could potentially struggle this weekend against the best run defense in the NFL so far this season -- the Dallas Cowboys, who are allowing just under 62 yards per game. Should Green-Ellis struggle, he would represent a major buy-low opportunity. As long as Green-Ellis is the Patriots' number one running back, then his fantasy value should continue to rise as the match-ups get easier later in the season.
While DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin found the end zone, it was actually Jason Avant who led the team in both receptions and yards this past weekend against the Buffalo Bills. Avant hauled in nine passes for 139 yards on a team-leading 10 targets. Avant is quietly developing into a solid number three wide receiver for the Eagles and has relegated Steve Smith (who was not even targeted once this past weekend) to the bench.
Avant is owned in less than 10% of leagues according to MyFantasyLeague.com. That number should be much higher. Avant's fantasy stock is clearly on the rise and he deserves to be owned, especially in point-per-reception formats going forward. Fantasy owners looking to add bench depth or a bye-week fill-in at wide receiver should look no further than Avant off the wavier wire.
Who is Doug Baldwin? Seattle's rookie wide receiver has caught a pass in every game this season and led the Seahawks with eight catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. With Mike Williams still sidelined with a concussion, Baldwin just continues to produce and appears to be a solid complement to Sidney Rice in Seattle. Even when Tarvaris Jackson left the game this past weekend, Baldwin appeared to have a solid connection with Charlie Whitehurst.
Baldwin is owned in less than 20% of fantasy leagues according to MyFantasyLeague.com. While he won't be the sexiest name to pick up or trade for, he could help your team to a title this season. Lets face it, Seattle is going to have to thrown the ball, a lot. Baldwin continues to pile up the targets and yards, which has his fantasy stock on the rise. Fantasy owners looking for an upgrade at wide receiver should target Baldwin off the waiver wire.
Deion Branch has scored touchdowns in back-to-back games and continues to be a key part of the Patriots' offense this season. Branch is the definition of a match-up player; his fantasy value is directly tied to how opposing defenses choose to cover the other weapons in the Patriots passing game (Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski). When opposing defenses look to take away Welker or the tight ends, Branch factors greatly into the Patriots' game plan.
With the Jets looking to shut down Welker, Brady turned to Branch early and often this past weekend. Branch reeled in seven passes for 74 yards and a touchdown on a team-leading eight targets. Through five weeks, the Patriots boast the number one passing game in the league. Despite being the fourth option on most passing plays, Branch's stock continues to rise and is at the point now that he deserves to be owned in all leagues. Depending upon the match-up, Branch has the potential to be a solid flex option play each and every week for fantasy owners.