Fantasy Speed Dial - Part 2
By Dave Larkin
August 23rd, 2011

The vast majority of coach speak – the lexicon of coaches in professional sports – is nonsensical and unnecessary. Ridden with clichés, it can be predicted prior to its utterance.

"We just didn't make enough plays."

"Hey, those guys get paid too. We didn't execute."

Or the all-time classic of former Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox...

"We picked a bad day to have a bad day."

Nevertheless, there are nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned from coach speak from time to time, namely the mention of adjustments, especially at half time. In fantasy football, there is no half time. The equivalent of making adjustments to strengthen your squad comes at the conclusion of a round of games. We call it the waiver wire.

Make no mistake about it; the best fantasy owners are the ones who can most adeptly make adjustments on the fly to their rosters. That happens by informing oneself of the depth charts in the league, storing those kernels of knowledge until the time is right and then acting on them when the unthinkable occurs.

The NFL is a 'next man up' league. Injuries are an inevitable and unfortunate aspect of this physical, all-go game that we all love so much. How we as fantasy owners react to the chaos and, to coin an expression from the inimitable Terry Tate, 'condense the nonsense', can go a long way to deciding who is shining up their trophy at the end of the season and who is picking up the pieces of a devastating two win campaign.

So with that in mind, who are the players at the wide receiver and tight end positions to seize should an injury occur to a stud player? Often new stars are born from other player's misfortunes. Who should you have on 'speed dial'?

Wide Receivers

Eric Decker, Denver Broncos

Eric Decker is a very talented player and was graded as having some of the best hands in his draft class. Decker is currently positioned behind Eddie Royal on the Broncos depth chart, but Royal does not inspire confidence after his lackluster 2010 campaign. The former Gopher can, if he continues to hone his route-running skills and can get a quicker release off the line of scrimmage, be a potent weapon for this offense. With Brandon Lloyd due to have another sensational season, Decker should benefit from facing number two cornerbacks. With his precise breaks and toughness after the catch, he is a player who Kyle Orton can rely on in the clutch.

Blair White, Indianapolis Colts

Blair White is a veritable poster child of a 'fantasy speed dial' player. The rookie from Michigan St. surprised many casual fans when he posted 36 receptions and five touchdowns seemingly out of nowhere in the plug-and-play offense run by Peyton Manning. The more savvy fans had heard long before about Blair White's ability to run crisp, efficient routes and find soft spots to present a target to his quarterback. His landing with the Colts was a match made in heaven. Austin Collie is slotted (no pun intended) to start and provided he can stay concussion-free, he is a very safe, high-upside WR2. Relying on Collie's health is a dicey proposition, however, and you should be quick to add White if anything happens.

Seji Ajirotutu, San Diego Chargers

The Chargers just love to accumulate these receivers with a large frame and a wide catch radius who can go above defensive backs and snag the football away before the DB knows what has happened. The six-foot-four wide receiver has bundles of potential and showed as much last season when Vincent Jackson was holding out. The former Fresno State player only hauled in 13 passes, but what impressed me most was how he stepped right in and made a seamless transition to the first team. For an undrafted player, that is no mean feat. Ajirotutu is a deep sleeper candidate to keep an eye on if Malcom Floyd were to go down. He is a similar player to Floyd in many ways. Rivers trusts him to make plays for him, and I believe he will do just that if the opportunity arises.

Tight Ends

Zach Miller, Jacksonville Jaguars

A forgotten man in many circles, Zach Miller (not the Oakland one) has produced when called upon for the Jaguars. Unfortunately for him, Pro Bowl TE Marcedes Lewis is firmly entrenched as the starter, meaning Miller will have to bide his time. Miller is a very reliable target underneath, with soft hands and decent run after the catch ability. His most underrated talent may be his downfield speed. At 233 pounds and standing six-foot-four, he can challenge linebackers and safeties down the seam with his size and speed. Miller would be a smart pickup if Lewis went down at any point.

Delanie Walker, San Francisco 49ers

Delanie Walker has only come on the scene properly in the last two seasons, posting 21 and 29 receptions in 2009 and 2010 respectively. With Vernon Davis unlocking his potential at last, Walker was relegated to a backup role. While it's no sleight on Walker that he finds himself backing up one of the premiere tight ends in the game, Walker can be a productive target in this passing game if Davis gets injured. The fact that Alex Smith is his quarterback is a concern, but in this case it would be wise to trust the talent over all else.

Randy McMichael, San Diego Chargers

In a good offense like San Diego's with Philip Rivers running the show, there is never much of a noticeable drop off. Even if your star tight end is out of the game, it is probable that your quarterback can make up for it. Rivers has developed a good chemistry with Randy McMichael since arriving in San Diego. Antonio Gates' foot injury, by all accounts, is significantly healthier than last season after a long offseason of healing. It is difficult to trust that he will play all 16 games, all the same. Randy McMichael is an automatic, run-to-your-computer-and-add-him waiver wire player that you should always have on speed dial. In fact, program him in as the number one option.

The Last Word

In this two part series I have covered some names to file away in your memory banks when (not if) injuries occur to stud players. The knowledgeable owner always has a good grasp of which players have the talent to rise to the occasion if a starter goes down. Make certain that your team is prepared if the unthinkable happens. Good luck in your drafts and during the regular season.

If you have any questions or suggestions about other 'fantasy speed dial' players, contact me via Twitter (@davlar87) or alternatively, you can email me at larkin@footballguys.com.

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