Leaving Limbo - Gut Check #227
By Matt Waldman
August 12th, 2011

The Weekly Gut Check examines the players, strategies and guidelines fantasy football owners use to make personnel decisions.

This column has always been the fantasy football equivalent of a workshop, a laboratory, and occasionally a therapist's couch. I figure whether you agree or disagree with what I'm thinking about you might gain a greater of clarity once you finish reading.

The players I discuss in this column are ones that I had absolutely no clarity with regard to drafting before I started writing. I finished with greater clarity.

Quarterbacks

Josh Freeman (7.12): Freeman had an excellent second season in the NFL. This 25:6 touchdown-interception ratio was impressive when his outside receivers had no more than a couple of years of experience, at best. I look at Freeman's production and I want to consider last year a fluke, but I can't. Half of his interceptions came in both Falcons contests. He's so good throwing on the move that it somewhat makes up for some of his inexperience with certain presnap reads. None of his touchdowns came as a runner despite gaining 364 yards on the ground. He only had three games last year where he scored fewer than 16 points.

Verdict: Freeman might be the last of the safe plays this year. In fact, he might be safer than Steelers daredevil Ben Roethlisberger.

Update: Mid-Round Targets at RB

In order of preference, I'm going to recommend three runners per round. This should supply you with a solid game plan. I'll update this as necessary in future columns.

Round 5 Targets

  • Mark Ingram (5.06): I think he's better to consider at his high water mark of 3.07, because that's really where you're going to get a shot at him in leagues with hardcore owners.

  • Ryan Grant (5.02): Grant's ADP is increasing, but James Starks is looking better, too. It's funny how both players are gaining in ADP. This shows the split in views among fantasy owners as to who will get the most time. You would think both players' value would drop rather than rise. However, it seems both Grant and Starks supporters are gaining confidence. Interesting.

  • Jonathan Stewart (6.05): Kind of a risky pick with Williams back, but if any team can field two fantasy caliber starters at the position I think the Panthers qualify.

  • Round 6 Targets

  • Felix Jones (5.09): Choice is getting outplayed by Lonyae Miller and DeMarco Murray is nursing a hamstring (so much for my MMA training theory). That leaves Jones as the only healthy option worth the job. The irony.

  • Marshawn Lynch (6.09): I helped talk Sigmund Bloom into him last week.

  • Daniel Thomas (6.03): The fact Reggie Bush is slated for 12-15 touches significantly decreases Thomas' value. Plus Lex Hilliard is looking better after week one. This shouldn't be a shocker, considering it's...well, week one of camp. However, if we don't see some signs of life soon, I'm taking him off the list.

  • Round 7 Targets

  • Joseph Addai (7.02): I still like his value. I drafted him last week.

  • Chris Wells (7.05): Wells has nearly jumped a round in value after the Cardinals listed him as the starter. I understand anyone taking him here. I just have a bad feeling about him.

  • James Starks (9.05): Nothing has changed with Starks. Ryan Grant remains the starter, but Starks is looking explosive and rugged. He's even gained more muscle after changing his diet. Liking everything I'm hearing.

  • Ryan Williams (9.10): Williams is going as high as 6.08 in some drafts. Not sure I'd go that high, but love his talent.

  • Round 8 Targets

  • Pierre Thomas (8.04): If Mark Ingram gets hurt, Thomas is the handcuff I want to the Saints running game.

  • Brandon Jacobs (8.07): His value slipped a bit this week. Not a lot, but if it continues to drop despite the fact the Giants envision using him more this season he becomes an obvious pick.

  • Michael Bush (9.04): I just don't trust McFadden to stay healthy or that Oakland line to open holes like they did last year.

  • C.J. Spiller (8.09): As I mentioned last week, I'll also be taking a shot at UNC rookie Johnny White very late in the draft because I have seen lead back potential from him. Apparently, he's the "surprise," of the first week of camp. We're not really surprised, are we? I'll probably take White even if I don't take Spiller.

  • Round 9 Targets

  • Ryan Williams (9.07): The line is iffy, Chris Wells is talented, and Williams is a rookie. None of that sounds good. But what is good is Williams' ability. He might not start, but I'll take him in round nine to see if he finishes.

  • Mike Tolbert (9.02): As long as he doesn't creep higher than the eighth round with Mathews still healthy, I like the value.

  • Reggie Bush (9.03): I don't trust Bush to revert to his USC days where he displayed more decisiveness at the line of scrimmage, but at this point in the draft I would definitely take the risk. In PPR leagues it doesn't matter, he's a much lower risk...if healthy. Significant "if," but I still want to believe. This late, I can't afford to dream if I have eat least four backs I like.

  • Mikel Leshoure: Achilles tear. Done. Cecil Lammey is trying to resuscitate the Leshoure Fathead in his basement with mouth to "bubble." Sorry. I feel for LeShoure, just need to find some humor.

  • Rounds 10 (and beyond) Targets

  • Willis McGahee (12.04): This ADP will increase dramatically if he wins the lead role in Denver. I think Cecil Lammey still believes it will happen. Former Ravens teammate Jalen Parmele believes it could happen. Knowshon Moreno showed up at a scrimmage to at least stave off that possibility for a week or two.

  • Rashad Jennings (11.11): I'm still considering him in round 10 without batting an eye. His value has climbed nearly a round in the past week.

  • Montario Hardesty (11.09): The health issues are a true concern. The talent is not. He's not 100 percent right now and there are questions about a setback. I think he's a little overvalued and if he doesn't rebound by next week, I'm taking him off this list.

  • Delone Carter (14.05): I'm beginning to accept the idea that Addai will be back in full force and Carter will be little more than a change of pace, situational guy if Addai stays healthy. He's a must-cuff to Addai and easy to acquire.

  • Shane Vereen (13.12): Vereen still looks like a great value with little risk.

  • Tashard Choice (13.11): I'm considering switching Choice for second-year Fresno State back Lonyae Miller. However, the Lions need another runner and Choice could wind up there if Detroit doesn't want to sign one of the guys on the street. Ricky Williams apparently turned them down before opting for Baltimore. Understandable.

  • Early-Round Exceptions

    These are runners I think are worth a pick between rounds three to five. I only recommend taking one during this period of time. The position I would sacrifice for this RB is quarterback. Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman, and Matt Stafford have enough fantasy potential to wait on a signal caller if you must. Taking a runner this early is not my first recommendation, but these two players are at least worth serious consideration.

  • Mark Ingram (5.06): Ingram's ADP is rising and by next week I expect it to be in the fourth round. He's worth it. In fact, if you really want to go for the jugular take Ingram in the upper range he's going off the board (3.07). If you have one of the first five spots in your draft and you can tolerate the risk, I'd consider drafting Ingram in early round three. However this means you're really veering towards a Stud RB strategy unless you pick Non-RBs with your first two picks. Just because I'm suggesting the Upside Down Strategy doesn't mean I'd use it in every situation. Of course, chasing rookies is a high-risk proposition. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  • Ahmad Bradshaw (3.07): I'm taking Bradshaw off my exception list. While I wouldn't criticize you if you opted for him here, I think the reports that Brandon Jacobs will get more carries this year are going to prove accurate. There are equally valuable runners you can get later.

  • Ryan Mathews (4.01): Mathews has slipped a couple of spots since the "out of shape," or "toe out of whack," issue from last week (you pick which was correct - probably a little bit of both). I hope he slips some more, but I doubt it happens.

  • Jonathan Stewart (6.05): Stewart is no longer an exception, he's just a solid pick in the middle rounds because of his upside if Williams gets hurt.

  • Jahvid Best (4.09): Mikel Leshoure is now out for the year so Best might become an exception. Keep an eye on his rising ADP because he has gone as high as 2.12 in recent days, especially in PPR leagues. Considering what he flashed when healthy, it might not matter that his line is a question mark. It didn't always matter for a back like Marshall Faulk. I think Best has some Marshall Faulk in him. At least enough to consider him.

  • Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to waldman@footballguys.com.

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