This week we discuss the following:
- Steelers offense
- Pick a quarterback
- Pick a running back
- Pick a wide receiver
- Martellus Bennett vs. Raiders
- Andre Johnson
- Brandon Marshall, Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald
Michael Vick looked bad with the Jets last year, but he has much better skill-position players around him in Pittsburgh. For fantasy owners who just lost Roethlisberger, is Vick a decent replacement compared to, say, Jameis Winston, Blake Bortles, or whoever else may be on the waiver-wire in medium-sized leagues?
Jeff Pasquino: I would put Vick as a lower to mid QB2 pickup for the next month, but slightly higher due to this timeframe of bye weeks. If a Tannehill or Eli Manning is available, or Andy Dalton, I might take those options instead.
Chad Parsons: Vick is in the range of those listed options on rushing potential alone. Of course in his mid-30s, Vick's rushing appeal is frayed on the edges. His shoddy ball security was on display in relief of Roethlisberger against St. Louis, making him dicey in formats with heavier interception and fumble penalties. I side with Winston or Bortles over Vick in leagues where available.
Bruce Hammond: Vick not only looked pathetic last year with the Jets, his decline was evident in 2013 with the Eagles. Let's also not forget that he was on the street until late August when backup Gradkowski went on Injured Reserve and therefore had no benefit of Spring OTAs or Summer training camp. The Steelers plan to scale back the offense over these next six or so games and try to limit Vick's opportunities to hurt them. I would expect about one TD per game, a completion percentage in the mid-50s, and a lot of reliance on dump off passes to Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. Vick is also fumble-prone when sacked, so if the Steelers fall behind in games, look out. This is a quarterback I would not want in a starting lineup and I'd avoid adding Vick to my roster in all but the most desperate circumstances (i.e., no other starting options available).
Jason Wood: As someone that watched Vick start a great many games for my team (the Eagles), to expect him to recapture his near-MVP caliber play from a few years ago is a fools' errand. He's not the same guy. Yes, the supporting cast is great but Vick is NOT anymore. And I don't see Vick adjusting well to Todd Haley's system. Let's remember that Roethlisberger and Haley had a very tough first year together, and it wasn't clear Haley would stay in place as the play-caller. They eventually found common ground, but Vick has never shown the touch, instincts or adaptability that Roethlisberger has displayed. I would prefer Winston to Vick (and I'm not Winston fan).
Mark Wimer: I'm with Chad regarding Vick's shoddy ball security. He is also an erratic passer, and always has been—I have watched him many times since he came in the league (I live in the Atlanta TV market) and the guy just doesn't throw into NFL-sized passing windows. It's either a fastball (which has faded with Vick's advancing age) or something wildly off-target, with no touch to speak of—I'd much rather roll with Winston now that Mike Evans is back in the fold for the Buccaneers, to name just one guy I'd prefer over Vick this season.
With Roethlisberger out, will Le'Veon Bell get even more touches than usual (if that's possible)? Or will defenses key on him so heavily that he'll have no room to run?
Jeff Pasquino: Bell will be relied upon, especially this week because of the short turn-around for Thursday Night Football. Defenses have always keyed on him, yet he still gets his yards and production. I think shorter passes to Bell will be a big part of Vick's passing game, as will be short passes to Antonio Brown.
Chad Parsons: Michael Vick's mobility will help, but yes, Bell's efficiency will drop with the loss of quality quarterback play in Pittsburgh. Considering the running back landscape and the bye week gauntlet begins, Bell is still a high-end RB1 each week.
Bruce Hammond: I think Bell's touches will approximate what we saw last year, but now the Steelers also have seen DeAngelo Williams succeed and will involve him as well. Defenses will certainly key on Bell and dare Vick to beat them, but instead of the big play offense Roethlisberger ran, the Steelers will have to be content with a more methodical move-the-chains approach and hope their defense doesn't let them fall behind in games.
Jason Wood: No, Bell will be less productive. The Steelers offense simply isn't going to have as many plays without Roethlisberger, which means Bell will have fewer chances to get a heavy workload and fewer opportunities at the goal line. He's still a top option at his position, but he's no longer THE top option.
Mark Wimer: I think Jeff nailed it when he wrote that defenses have always keyed on Vick, yet he still gets his yards and production. Bell is going to have a LOT of chances (both rushes and dump-off passes from Vick) with Roethlisberger out as it only makes sense to lean on your best remaining weapon aside from Antonio Brown (who, as I detailed above, is going to have to deal with the erratic throwing of Michael Vick for the foreseeable future).
Vick isn't known for going through his full progression and finding his third or fourth option. Will he lock onto Antonio Brown and feed Brown double-digit receptions every week, or will Vick's inconsistent accuracy mean the end of Brown's reign as top fantasy wide receiver for a month or so while Roethlisberger is out?
Jeff Pasquino: Vick does not read defenses very well at all, but head coach Mike Tomlin has already stated that he will tailor the offense to Vick rather than force Vick to run the Pittsburgh offense. Some of you may remember that Ben Roethlisberger started as a rookie, and the offense was simplified to two reads quite often (one deep, one shallow) so that it was a quick decision. Reducing the options and progressions makes for quicker decisions, and that is what I expect will be the case here. Brown will usually be the first read, followed by Heath Miller or Le'Veon Bell, and then Vick will either be asked to run for what he can on a rollout or just get rid of it. Brown and Bell will get their normal number of targets, but Brown won't be stretching the field as much.
Chad Parsons: Brown turns into a mid-WR1 with Vick in the lineup. In addition to not making progressions, Vick also throws non-ideal fastballs at all times and will kill drives with turnovers. Brown is still an automatic weekly start, but the historic floor and ceiling combination is gone until Roethlisberger returns.
Bruce Hammond: My guess is that Vick will target Brown as much or more than Roethlisberger does since he won't take as many shots downfield. However, Roethlisberger and Brown have had years to develop their chemistry and Vick not only is vastly inferior he has also had none of that time with his receiver. Where Roethlisberger might lead Brown open, Vick won't be able to do that as effectively. Brown should still get a handful of catches per game but both his yards-after-catch and his TD opportunities are likely to be significantly diminished.
Jason Wood: The way Brown has played, my instinct says he's game-script proof. But I would be looking to sell Brown for 95 cents on the dollar today if I could get it. Vick is inaccurate and I think a few throws to Brown are going to be deflected passes and/or interceptions. This has a disaster-in-the-making outlook.
Mark Wimer: Vick will feed Brown high double-digit targets in the 'tailored for Vick' offense as Vick won't need to get past his second read before throwing the ball very often. Brown should still be a solid fantasy wide receiver, but I think some of his upside is gone as long as Vick is the one trying to deliver the ball to Brown.
Darrius Heyward-Bey has looked pretty good so far this season, and has surpassed Markus Wheaton as the number two wide receiver with Martavis Bryant out. Does his fantasy relevance disappear a week from now when Bryant returns to the lineup?
Jeff Pasquino: Darrius Heyward-Bey and Markus Wheaton will likely see fewer targets with Vick due to a shorter, quicker passing game. Asking deep routes to develop means more time in the pocket and more complicated routes, which is not Vick's strength at all. Now, I don't think either deep receiver will be eliminated as an option, but I think that the plays that they are involved in will be simpler (such as a go route on top of a shallow cross with just two receivers in the defensive secondary). That said, game scripts will dictate some of the calls, so if the Steelers wind up in a shootout or trailing by 10+ points, all this goes out the window. Ideally though, Vick won't be asked to sit in the pocket and progress through 3-4 reads on a regular basis.
Chad Parsons: Heyward-Bey's production will be affected by Michael Vick's presence, followed by Martavis Bryant's addition. Look for Bryant to begin as a role player, but his role will be in the deep route game where Heyward-Bey has made his production through three games. Heyward-Bey's stint on the fantasy radar is reaching its endpoint.
Bruce Hammond: I think Heyward-Bey was made better by Roethlisberger, and Vick will have the opposite effect. Deep and intermediate passes to Heyward-Bey are just begging to become interceptions, and this is exactly the thing the Steelers are likely to significantly limit in their game planning while Vick is in there. I'd expect maybe 3-5 targets to Heyward-Bey, with little success if they try to go deep.
Jason Wood: Yes, all the peripheral Steelers players are now waiver wire fodder.
Mark Wimer: Yes.
Who do you like best in redraft leagues:
Would your answer be different in dynasty?
Dave Larkin: Marcus Mariota gets the nod for me in both redraft and dynasty formats. I thought draft analysts were too quick to dismiss him purely based on the Oregon system; if anything, his process-oriented style of playing the position has allowed him to smoothly transition to the pro game. Ken Whisenhunt has done an excellent job drawing up plays that suit Mariota's strengths and Mariota himself has shown a willingness to spread the ball around and a fearlessness in the pocket.
Jeff Pasquino: I agree with Dave on this one. Mariota has some underrated receivers, and the Titans are going to be asking him to run this show all year long. The running game cannot pick out a running back to rely on, and with Tennessee needing offense from somewhere, Mariota is going to have to ignite that spark. Both of the other options have either a good defense and ground game (Tyrod Taylor) or at least a feature tailback (Derek Carr with Latavius Murray). While I like what Carr's doing with both Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, I don't see 300-yard games most weeks in a tough AFC West. That's the added bonus with Mariota this year—a weaker AFC South.
Chad Parsons: Taylor would be my redraft selection with his rushing trump card and mid-QB2 weekly floor. Carr and Mariota are neck-and-neck for the dynasty format preferred option. Carr's progression with a much-improved set of weapons has been dramatic, garnering the tiebreaker long-term.
Jason Wood: All three should be owned in redraft leagues, but Mariota stands above the pack in both redraft and dynasty formats. I was much higher on him as a pro prospect than the consensus, and ranked him significantly higher than Jameis Winston. What was considered a contrarian view in the preseason is now the consensus one. Mariota is a top five fantasy quarterback and he's yet to start running the ball. If the Titans allow him to use his legs, he could be a legitimate fantasy QB1 this year—something even his most ardent supporters (myself included) didn't expect.
Mark Wimer: Derek Carr—the Raiders are building a powerful offense around Carr and he's still developing as a pro—Taylor is a close second.
Bruce Hammond: Wow, interesting question in redraft. I'll go with Mariota. I think despite being a rookie (and we all know we should avoid rookie quarterbacks, right?), Mariota is showing us he has something special. There was a lot of concern over how his game would translate to the pros since he never took snaps under center in college, but he has answered that question with an exclamation point. His team will give up a lot of points and he will be in a lot of shootouts. I love what Tyrod Taylor has done so far, but I hesitate to believe this streak of his has staying power. This is still supposed to be a ball control offense with Taylor as the caretaker, the game manager, as they win by running the ball and playing defense. I think for the most part that will still be the plan. And when the weather turns nasty in Buffalo I wonder how well Taylor will adjust. A great start for him, yes, but my expectations are still tempered going forward. Carr has lit it up in back-to-back weeks and I do like him, but I see him returning to earth too. I'd have to see more before I trust he can do consistently what he is doing lately.
In dynasty it's Mariota without a second thought. He has a chance to be special.
Let's do the same thing with running backs:
Dave Larkin: The guy I want to own is Karlos Williams in redraft leagues. Since preseason, I've been thinking he is a much better fit for what Rex Ryan likes to do offensively, and that is coming to fruition now. LeSean McCoy, admittedly, has performed better than I expected, but Williams fits this scheme better. The Bills look to be a solid team who should be able to leverage off favorable game scripts to provide Williams with plenty of touches. In dynasty formats, I'm warming to the idea that Seattle may part ways with Marshawn Lynch before he falls off the cliff; that could even be at the end of this season. Thomas Rawls is a player they clearly have a lot of faith in, as their offseason moves have shown. He could be a hard-charging, efficient but unspectacular RB2 in 2016 and beyond.
Jeff Pasquino: I'll second the Karlos Williams pick. McCoy has lost (at least) a step and the Bills want to run the ball. Rawls' value is completely dependent on Lynch missing time, and I am not counting on that. Williams is already pushing for touches. Dunbar has some PPR value with Witten out, but not enough to rely on for a weekly fantasy start. I'm staying far away from the Tennessee ground game.
Chad Parsons: Karlos Williams is the clear answer in both formats. Still relatively new at the position, Williams has plus athleticism and is a handful after contact between the tackles in the 230-pound range. He has already looked like the better fit in Buffalo's backfield than LeSean McCoy and now gets a snap uptick with his McCoy-less Week 4 audition.
Jason Wood: Williams is the gem here. We've already seen him dominate with a full workload, and McCoy appears to be breaking down. The Bills system, coaching philosophy and defense all mean there are PLENTY of carries to go around. If Williams can maintain the number one role, he'll be an every week fantasy starter.
Mark Wimer: For redraft purposes, I'd go with Antonio Andrews—he'll likely be the featured back sooner rather than later in Tennessee, and Mariota is good enough to keep defenses from stacking the line going forwards. In dynasty I'd go Rawls as the Seahawks moved on from his potential competitors and Rawls is the clear backup to Marshawn Lynch, who is starting to wear down and is nearing the end of his career. Rawls looks like the next featured back in Seattle when Lynch moves on or hangs up his cleats—in a system that makes super-stars of the featured back.
Bruce Hammond: I'll go with Rawls in dynasty. Dunbar is a specialty pass catcher whose numbers will be dictated by game flow. Low ceiling because he'll seldom get carries. Karlos Williams is behind LeSean McCoy and that's not changing. McCoy is hurt now and Williams is doing well in his place, but McCoy will remain The Man when healthy. With Antonio Andrews, it's very hard to say what his role will be going forward. Sankey may or may not be permanently behind him now, McCluster will still get some action, Cobb returns in a couple months from short term IR. It's just too early to know if Andrews is going to be starter or just a temporary stopgap. Rawls though has a real shot at a future as a feature running back. Marshawn Lynch is getting to that age where running backs can fall of the proverbial cliff, and he has had oodles of carries over the last few years. If I'm stashing one of the four running backs mentioned above for dynasty, my guy would be Rawls.
As for redraft, if I had to take a stab at one of them for the next 10 regular season games I think I'd go with Andrews. Of the players under consideration, he appears to have the best chance of being the primary ball carrier for his team this season. Dunbar will stay active in PPR but his ceiling is just too low overall (he won't repeat his 10 Week 3 catches), while Williams and Rawls are too dependent on the injury status of the starters ahead of them (Williams less so since he'll get some carries, but still not enough to be fantasy-useful unless McCoy is out).
Same drill with wide receivers. Pick one of the following:
Dave Larkin: Both Marvin Jones Jr and Ted Ginn Jr stand out in redraft, but Jones gains the slight edge due to the added potency of his passing attack and the variety in his game compared to Ginn, whose main threat is the deep ball. Ginn offers more upside, but Jones is a more talented player and has the nuance and route-running skills to his game to exploit single coverage time and again. The Bengals have an embarrassment of riches at skill positions; expect Jones to continue to benefit from this set-up and Hue Jackson's play calling.
Jeff Pasquino: It's a close call between Jones and Matthews for me. You have to take notice of what Rishard Matthews is doing in Miami with all those targets, catches and touchdowns. It may not be flashy production, but it looks like Miami is going to have to throw their way to the end zone more often than not this year. Cincinnati could turn more to the ground game at any instance and minimize Marvin Jones Jr (or any receiver other than A.J. Green). I like Matthews' numbers with 16 catches, 262 yards and three touchdowns on 23 targets this season, including two consecutive 100-yard games.
The other three guys (Ginn, Britt, Hankerson) are all too inconsistent and see too few targets to be productive enough for my tastes.
Chad Parsons: Leonard Hankerson is the only option without stiff depth chart competition. Roddy White is eroding as fast (or faster) than similarly-aged Andre Johnson, Atlanta is without much at tight end, and Hankerson is flashing his Day two NFL Draft pedigree from years ago. Matthews has DeVante Parker emerging in Miami. Ginn has Devin Funchess. Britt has Brian Quick. Marvin Jones Jr has a bevy of secondary options to A.J. Green including Tyler Eifert, Mohamed Sanu, and Giovani Bernard. Fast-forwarding to December if one of these receivers is a top-30 option, it will be Leonard Hankerson.
Jason Wood: I'm not really a big fan of any of these guys, in redraft or dynasty leagues. Hankerson is just a guy. Britt is just a guy. Ginn is barely just a guy. Jones and Matthews may be more than that, but they're WR3s at best. If I have to choose, I'll take Matthews simply because he's been the most consistent playmaker of the bunch through three weeks.
Mark Wimer: Marvin Jones Jr and it's by a mile in my book—he's going to score a lot of touchdowns in the rejuvenated Cincinnati passing game this season.
Bruce Hammond: For both redraft and dynasty I'll go with Hankerson. The number two in Atlanta's active passing game has worth and Hankerson has pretty clearly passed Roddy White. Hankerson should get a lot of targets, especially with the tight end not providing much and the certainty that Julio Jones can't keep this record-obliterating pace. Rishard Matthews has had a great start but first round rookie DeVante Parker will usurp more and more of the action as he progresses (he was injured in preseason and is just now rounding into form), Jarvis Landry is a potential 100 catch guy, and they have a very good tight end in Jordan Cameron. Ted Ginn Jr is getting targeted out of necessity but this is not long term—Benjamin of course is gone for the year, Funchess isn't quite ready yet, Corey Brown is drop-prone and lost the trust of Cam Newton, and Cotchery is dinged up. I like Britt as a sometimes-flex play but he won't be a target monster—Foles is unreliable; they spread it around also to Bailey and Austin and tight end Cook; Brian Quick will eventually return; and the Rams will be more and more run-focused as Gurley gets up to speed. Marvin Jones Jr is a nice piece of the puzzle in Cincinnati but not a consistent focus—just too many other players to target in Green, Eifert, Sanu, and Giovani Bernard.
The Raiders are the worst team at covering tight ends ever. They've given up seven touchdowns to tight ends in the first three weeks—guys like Crockett Gillmore and Gary Barnidge, no less. Does that make Martellus Bennett an absolute must-start this week, or does Jimmy Clausen's ineptitude (assuming he starts) scare you away from the Bears passing game?
Dave Larkin: I have very little faith in Jimmy Clausen to successfully string together drives, but if the Bears can lean on Matt Forte and Adam Gase can leverage off that with bootlegs and play action, there could be opportunities. The Raiders are definitely exploitable defensively—especially against tight ends—but I wouldn't be willing to say Bennett is a no-brainer start. If I had to trust any player in the Bears offense, it would be Forte. I just don't have faith that Clausen will be able to get the ball to Bennett when it matters most.
Jeff Pasquino: Here's the thing—Oakland is not just bad at covering tight ends, it looks like they are not even considering them as options. Barnidge's touchdown was a complete whiff by the defense, who gave him a free run off the line and left him wide open for the score. I think even Jimmy Clausen can find Bennett in a similar route this week. The Bears have to throw to someone, and I think it will be Bennett and Matt Forte. Not a sexy pick (and not a safe one) but Bennett has big upside against a terrible Raiders defense against all tight ends.
Chad Parsons: Bennett gets a boost for Week 4 as Clausen and the Bears offense had the clear 'ball control at all costs' look last week. Giving up Gary Barnidge's career day is noteworthy. Rob Gronkowski on bye makes DFS decisions at tight end more difficult and Bennett is on the short list of value plays for the week.
Jason Wood: I'm leery of extrapolating something like what we've seen in the first three weeks as a blueprint. As my colleagues have noted, Oakland has been HORRIFIC at covering tight ends. While I don't think they're suddenly going to become a unit that locks down the middle, I do believe Jack Del Rio is a smart enough coach to make adjustments. With Chicago's ONLY viable passing threat being Martellus Bennett, I suspect the game script is going to look something akin to Del Rio having his guys oversell stopping Bennett at the expense of leaving gaping holes elsewhere. Whether Clausen is good enough to take advantage of the overplay remains to be seen, but I'm fading Bennett in every lineup where I have a viable alternative.
Bruce Hammond: I think you still have to go with Bennett, unless of course you have elite options (Kelce, Graham, Olsen, Eifert, etc.). I certainly wouldn't avoid using him and choose a middling option instead. Certainly Clausen is a poor starter, but let's take into account that had to face two of the league's best defenses (Arizona and Seattle) after Cutler was hurt. Now he gets the Raiders, and I think he'll look competent enough to warrant keeping Bennett in the lineup.
Mark Wimer: I own Bennett in a lot of leagues and I'm starting him. Clausen drew a VERY tough matchup for his first start of the year, and was still knocking the rust off his throwing arm—against the Raiders Bennett should be able to do more with the targets he sees from Clausen.
Dave Larkin: The more I watch, the more discouraged I am by Johnson's career trajectory. Clearly it is heading downward, but I didn't anticipate such a precipitous drop from one of the all-time greats at wide receiver. Obviously the Colts expected a different Johnson as well, but reports in the offseason from Houston seemed to indicate the reason they parted with the veteran was that he was 'done'. Maybe there was more to that story than people gave credit for; instead, fantasy owners dreamed of the big opportunities in the Colts offense. I think Johnson could still hold some low-end WR3 value in certain weeks, but it will be difficult to pinpoint them. Furthermore, opportunities for Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett are muddying the waters in Indianapolis, and the offensive line will not turn into a Pro Bowl unit overnight. I'd be selling my shares on Johnson.
Jeff Pasquino: I'm selling all of my Andre Johnson interests at this point aside from memorabilia. Johnson looks like Reggie Wayne now—lack of separation and speed. He can still catch, but he just cannot get open. Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton will be the top two receivers for Andrew Luck, followed by his tight ends, Frank Gore and Phillip Dorsett. The Colts will be just fine without Johnson, who will be on the sidelines watching the game more and more as the season wears on for Indianapolis.
Chad Parsons: Add Roddy White to the list of physically eroding receivers who were once automatic weekly starters. Andre Johnson was horrible in 2014 in the same offense where DeAndre Hopkins broke out in Houston. While Andrew Luck is an improvement under center, the competition for targets is higher in Indianapolis with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, two tight ends, plus Phillip Dorsett likely to see more snaps as the season wears on. Holding out hope for Andre Johnson to be the WR2 (or even WR3) projected by the consensus a month ago is ignoring the reality of Johnson's decline.
Jason Wood: Time is a cruel master and Johnson looks finished. He looked finished last year but we all crafted a story about how it was his surrounding cast versus his abilities. We were wrong. He's done for; if you can get 25 cents on the dollar—please do so.
Bruce Hammond: I'm afraid Andre Johnson is a big part of the reason the offense has not been clicking, and rather than see a revival I think we'll continue to see a phasing out for the big guy. Mike Chappell, a writer who has covered the Colts for years, tweeted on Tuesday "Andrew Luck has 7.4 passer rating when targeting Andre Johnson: 7-of-18, 51 yards, 0 TD, three INTs." Ouch. Moncrief and Dorsett will continue to take Johnson's targets. He's probably about done.
Mark Wimer: Johnson is one of the all-time greats, but Father Time has caught up to him. He's going to fade away as a veteran mentor to Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett—I expect those two guys to have an increasing role on game day while Johnson is reduced to the occasional short pass for a first down.
Meanwhile, Brandon Marshall, Steve Smith, and Larry Fitzgerald appear to be getting better with age. Are they sell-high candidates because you worry that, as older players, they may fizzle out after a hot start? Or will they remain strong fantasy starters throughout the season (though perhaps not at their current pace)?
Dave Larkin: That's the key point; they'll remain viable, but not at their current pace. Steve Smith has shown this pattern before in Baltimore, starting a season red-hot before tailing off down the stretch. Older bodies are simply not equipped to take the week to week punishment that younger bodies are. Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer have a special connection firmly established; as a result, Fitzgerald is the player I want out of these three ageing stars. Bruce Arians won't take the reins off Palmer and will continue to pass even with a lead. Marshall will be a very solid WR2 in PPR leagues as long as Fitzpatrick, who has been quietly very efficient this year, stays under center.
Jeff Pasquino: Steve Smith is an enigma. After looking really bad in Week 1, he has just been dominant the past two weeks. I still remember back in Carolina when guys like Jimmy Clausen were throwing him ducks into double coverage and Smith would still make the unreal catch for a touchdown. The guy is simply amazing, and he is a smart receiver that knows how to get open. All these years in the league has given him a lot of tricks of the trade, which he can use when his speed or size let him down some. He will continue to see 12+ targets a week (which is probably a conservative number) as the Ravens do not have another viable receiver. Baltimore is hoping Crockett Gillmore and/or Maxx Williams develops to help the passing game, as Breshad Perriman is still out.
Larry Fitzgerald is at least as good as Steve Smith, and possibly better. Fitzgerald's declines have aligned more with Carson Palmer missing time than anything else. As long as Palmer stays healthy, Fitzgerald will be a stud wide receiver for the Cardinals, who still lack a consistent rushing attack with no Andre Ellington. Even when Ellington returns, Fitzgerald should be the WR1 here for Arizona and I love his value all year long (with Palmer healthy, of course).
Brandon Marshall is a notch below these two, both in talent, receiver smarts and quarterback support. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a savvy veteran as well, and he is smart enough to know to get the ball in his best receiver's hands however he can. Marshall may have had troubles with every team he has been on, but he seems to have found another home, even if it may only be temporary, as they all seem to be for him throughout his career. All that aside, Marshall should continue to be the target magnet for the Jets whenever they need to throw, which seems to be most contests they are in this year.
I'm keeping all three veterans on my team this year as I've learned to ride production as long as I can, even if I ride it into the ground. At least then I will have the production that they did produce until the last minute.
Chad Parsons: The level of return is key here. Larry Fitzgerald is carrying the most value of the three, making him a more appealing sell. Marshall and Smith are worth a decent chunk less on the open market, so I would likely hold them until overtly strong at wide receiver without them. Steve Smith is the only game in town for the Baltimore passing game at receiver (pending Breshad Perriman's integration once healthy), so riding him for a few more weeks is prudent.
Jason Wood: If Breshad Perriman gets healthy, I could see Smith tapering off but I don't think he'll fall off the cliff we saw last year. He's the ONLY real weapon in that passing game. I don't see Marshall falling off at all. He's doing what he's always done. We undervalued him. Larry Fitzgerald isn't going to keep catching two touchdowns a game, but I do think as long as Carson Palmer stays healthy, Fitzgerald is a legitimate fantasy WR1.
Bruce Hammond: Marshall should continue to hold a lot of value, and it helps that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the quarterback because he will be more consistent feeding Marshall the ball than Geno Smith would have been.
Steve Smith started hot in 2014 but faded, but there's a good chance this time around that won't happen. The other alternatives are just really limited right now, and that doesn't seem to be changing any time soon. Breshad Perriman, it was hoped, would fill the void left by Torrey Smith's departure, but due to injury the rookie barely saw the practice field in preseason and has a lot to learn. It's hard to say whether it's too late for him to catch up and be much help this season. Kamar Aiken and Marlon Moore are mediocre fillers. This appears to be a high octane Steve Smith farewell tour the rest of the way. Don't sell in redraft, just enjoy. Since he is retiring after the season though (and if you believe he won't change his mind), he's certainly a potential sell high if you can find a contending team who will pay for the short term rental.
Larry Fitzgerald is helped by the fact that Michael Floyd (injured fingers) is still trying to get healthy and up to speed, and deep threat John Brown hasn't connected with a lot of Carson Palmer's deep passes yet. Both of those things should change, and Fitzgerald's numbers are likely to return to something more like what we've seen from him in 2013-14 since Palmer arrived, about five catches and 60 yards per game. I see him as a sell high.
Mark Wimer: I'm not worried about these guys fizzling—they have all demonstrated that their NFL-caliber skills are intact and all of them still have the desire to play in the NFL. Steve Smith in particular wants to go out with a bang, and I think Larry Fitzgerald sees this season as a chance to win a Super Bowl with Arizona—their team definitely has a championship window open. Marshall has a chip on his shoulder about being ushered out of Chicago.
All three have good and sufficient reason to keep fighting through the aches and pains of being NFL players, at least for this current season.
That will do it for this edition of the Footballguys Roundtable. Please join us again next week.