print Hansen on Strategy: Week Ten

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by John Hansen, Publisher

Published, 11/9/11 

At the risk of looking like a jackass, I’m going to continue to be proactive about possible emerging players on the Waiver Wire like Jacoby Ford and Roy Helu because that’s just what I do. We’re spending more time on this aspect of fantasy than ever because everyone’s looking to catch lightening in a jar and because it’s been by far the most active season on the WW we’ve ever seen. Things are changing quickly, and the number of viable options out there this year is amazing, and I’ve told the guys in the office that producing and updating the WW report each week is almost like a full time job in and of itself.
 
But while we have spent a ton of time on players fantasy owners should consider owning, we haven’t spent as much time trying to help people deal with the players they do have.
 
So the bulk of this week’s column will deal with all the things you should be doing to get ready for the stretch run and the fantasy playoffs. Next week, I’ll give out a ton of ideas on how players can try to handle making tough lineup decisions. I wish I had time to do both this week, but that damn WW report is taking up like 15 hours a week of my time.
 
Let’s break this down by position, and then let’s offer up some other tidbits after that.
 
Quarterbacks
I’ve said a lot this year that, if you have two stud QBs, you may want to trade one of them because leaving points on your bench isn’t exactly a play-to-win move. If you’re conservative by nature, that’s fine, but that’s usually how I roll. So first and foremost, if you have two good ones, consider moving one for an upgrade elsewhere. Check out the SOS tool and see if one of your guys has a particularly tough or easy schedule for your playoffs.
 
Otherwise, if you have one of these guys, you should be good to go and you should start him each week.
 
Aaron Rodgers
Drew Brees
Tom Brady
Michael Vick
Cam Newton
Matthew Stafford
 
If you don’t have one of these guys, the next tier is certainly fine, and you can win a title with one of these guys:
 
Eli Manning
Ben Roethlisberger
Philip Rivers
Tony Romo
 
I know Rivers is playing poorly, but they’re usually throwing all four quarters, which is what I look for, and he can obviously put up numbers. That’s one of the reasons I like Eli Manning and usually do like him: He always seems to be in tight games and forced to throw it all four quarters, which results in numbers. The Steelers are all about the pass now, so Big Ben is strong. And Romo, well, he’s not a good as he used to be and not as reliable, but he does still have nice potential.
 
If I didn’t have one of these guys, I’d possibly look to make a trade, and move some positional depth to get a QB I can rely on because I’m not sure people can rely on anyone else for a 3-4 game stretch in the playoffs. Obviously, there are some other viable options, like:
 
Matt Schaub
Matt Ryan
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Tim Tebow
 
I was the guy here saying to grab Tebow two weeks before he took over the job, but I was spooked by his performance in Week Eight. It was so bad by NFL standards that you had to be worried about whether or not the team would pull the plug on him. But as an example of how quickly things can change, things are now looking up for Tebow. First and foremost, they’re 2-1 in games he’s started. He’s nowhere near as good as Kyle Orton, but Tebow is a “winner” and Orton is a “loser.” I don’t think either term is fair, but they are accurate. Tebow’s averaging about 22 fantasy points per game, so while I’m still worried about his long-term value, and who knows where we’ll be in mid-to-late December with the guy, but right now, I think you can win with him, especially if you’re loaded at the other positions.
 
Now, if you don’t have one of the guys listed above, you’re going to have to play the matchups most likely, and if possible you might want to secure three options to give yourself more flexibility. The best options are:
 
Joe Flacco
Carson Palmer
Jay Cutler
Sam Bradford
Mark Sanchez
Matt Cassel
Andy Dalton
Josh Freeman
 
Now, if we go by strength of schedule based on our SOS Tool, here’s how these guys stack up Weeks Thirteen through Seventeen.
 
1.    Jay Cutler – He is playing very well, and he gets KC, Den, Sea, GB, and Min to end the season.
2.    Matt Cassel – Not easy to trust, but he gets Chi, NYJ, GB, Oak, and Den, and he does now have three very viable wideouts.
3.    Carson Palmer – I may actually trust him the most, and he gets Mia, GB, Det, KC, and SD. I know he just joined the team, but this is a pretty good situation. Heck, the guy threw for 300+ in his first start this past week.
4.    Mark Sanchez – Sometimes I feel like I’d rather lose than to try to win with Sanchez, but he has put up decent numbers this year, and he gets Was, KC, Phi, NYG, and Mia. Not really loving that, but it’s beatable.
5.    Josh Freeman – You can almost throw the schedule out with this guy, which is good. What’s not good is that it’s Week Ten and we’re still talking about how he hasn’t had a good year at all. He has Car, Jac, Dal, Car, and Atl. That’s not bad, actually.
6.    Sam Bradford – He gets SF, Sea, Cin, Pit, and SF. That’s actually kind of scary, but at least he’ll likely have to throw the ball a lot, since most of those teams are tough to run on. Tough call, by the way, as to what you do with Steven Jackson because he has run well on some solid defenses lately.
7.    Andy Dalton – The rookie has played well all year, and he closes out his initial campaign against Pit, Hou, Stl, Ari, and Bal. The Stl and Ari matchups are in Weeks Fifteen and Sixteen, so he has a chance to be nice if you don’t play in Week Seventeen.
8.    Joe Flacco – Coming in dead last is Flacco who is up against Cle, Ind, SD, Cle, and Cin.
 
Here’s how I’d readjust those players while also incorporating things like career success, supporting cast, offensive system, trust level, flow of the game, etc.
 
1.    Carson Palmer
2.    Jay Cutler
3.    Joe Flacco
4.    Sam Bradford
5.    Josh Freeman
6.    Matt Cassel
7.    Andy Dalton
8.    Mark Sanchez
 
Running Backs
I wrote many times in the preseason how one should not get too caught up in bogarting the RBs because it’s a position in which guys emerge quickly due to injuries and shifts in playing time, and if they’re all of a sudden getting touches, then they can be very helpful, possibly great.
 
I’ll approach this position a little differently in terms of gearing up for the playoff push and the post-season.
 
For one, even if you’re set at the position, keep working the WW just in case someone steps up. You never know; Roy Helu could be a fantasy stud a month from now. He’s certainly capable of being one based on talent. You don’t want to drop a valuable player currently producing acceptable totals for a guy who may produce good numbers, but if at all possible, keep looking for options. I’m sure, even here in early November, that there will be many teams that win championships this year that end up doing so with names that are currently available on your WW. That’s just the nature of the beast.
 
If you have a stud back, a top guy, then you’re obviously in good shape. Having a foundation-type player on your squad can offset maybe a shakier #2 and #3 guy, so if you have one of these guys, you might not have to make a trade:
 
Arian Foster
LeSean McCoy
Adrian Peterson
Ray Rice
Matt Forte
Fred Jackson
Frank Gore
Darren McFadden
 
And if you have one of these guys and also one of the following, you’re in pretty good shape on the surface:
 
Steven Jackson
Michael Turner
Maurice Jones-Drew
Darren Sproles
Ryan Mathews
DeMarco Murray
Rashard Mendenhall
Willis McGahee
Beanie Wells
 
If that’s the case, then you might not have to do anything drastic.
 
If not, then you may want to consider making a move and trading away some depth to acquire an upgrade at this position. I know a lot of our subscribers drafted Jimmy Graham because I practically begged people to do it, and he’s actually a good player to consider moving for an upgrade at RB. Say you’re in a PPR league and you have Graham and either picked up Brent Celek for depth (again, working the WW even at a position you don’t need help at is always wise move because it gives you flexibility) or can pick him up on the WW. Moving Graham to upgrade your RB spot and rolling with Celek could go down as a great move. You’re getting a drop-off from Graham, but Celek may actually get you 12+ points most weeks now, and you’d, of course, upgrade RB and fill a huge hole. That’s a great example of managing your roster through WW pickups and trades, and making your team better.
 
Otherwise, you can consider trading away a marketable back-up QB (or even your starter if you have two comparable guys), or trade away some depth at WR.
 
If you’re looking to trade for a RB, here are some guys to consider, based on affordability right now and potential:
 
·         Darren McFadden – As we had in the trade article, his value is down, and we know his upside is big. It’s a risk, for sure, since his foot problem is a big issue (he won’t play tomorrow night, despite not being ruled out).
·         Maurice Jones-Drew – Things have been somewhat quiet here, so he’s at least someone who may not cost a lot. If you want to deal for him, do it this week because we’re seeing him getting 25-30 carries, and MJD told me he usually has success against Indy simply because he knows them. And they’re a lot worse this year, plus he plays them again in Week Seventeen. His schedule Weeks Fourteen through Sixteen looks decent.
·         Michael Turner – He’s been good, but at least he’s not going off, so his value isn’t through the roof.
·         Ryan Mathews – I know he’s a real pain in the ass, but his value is down, and he can be a major difference-maker. The guy can rack up 100+ total yards with ease.
·         Rashard Mendenhall – This is a passing team, which hurts his potential, for sure, but the untold story is that he looks very fresh and quick this year. Those 400+ carries last year are not the problem.
·         Shonn Greene – Nothing special here, but the Jets are blocking better for the run and he remains a huge key to their overall offensive success, so he has a chance.
·         LeGarrette Blount – He does have a pretty good schedule, including two games against the Panthers upcoming.
·         Roy Helu – He’s a guy I cannot wait to see the next few weeks. As we mentioned in the trade article yesterday, he’s someone to consider because his value could be on the rise quickly, and it could possibly soar. Helu is not special, but he has size and power to his game, and if he gets a crease on a cutback run, he can take it a long way, and he can clearly catch the ball. Add it all up, and his potential is very clear if he’s getting 18-20 touches. Now, I’m not saying he will get that, but he could. And this guy is used to putting an offense on his back.
·         Chris Johnson – He showed me a couple of flashes last week, I will say that. We’re not out of the woods yet with Johnson, for sure, but I will say this: While I would NOT want to deal for him if the transaction was clearly going to be felt elsewhere, but if I could definitely afford to take a hit at another position, I’d consider it.
 
In addition to beefing up your RBs corps if so needed, it would behoove you to consider handcuffing a starter or two of yours, if you can spare the roster spot. Handcuffing isn’t as prevalent as it used to be, but here’s what I’ve got in terms of listing these handcuffs in order of priority.
 
Must-have
Arian Foster - Ben Tate
Darren McFadden - Michael Bush
Frank Gore - Kendal Hunter
Ahmad Bradshaw - Brandon Jacobs
Ray Rice - Ricky Williams
Michael Turner - Jason Snelling
 
It would be nice
Matt Forte - Marion Barber
Rashard Mendenhall - Isaac Redman
LeSean McCoy - Ronnie Brown/Dion Lewis
Adrian Peterson - Toby Gerhart
Fred Jackson - C.J. Spiller
Maurice Jones-Drew - Deji Karim
Steven Jackson - Cadillac Williams
Cedric Benson - Bernard Scott
Beanie Wells - Alfonzo Smith
Shonn Greene - LaDainian Tomlinson
Willis McGahee - Knowshon Moreno
BenJarvus Green-Ellis - Stevan Ridley
 
Only if you can truly afford it
LeGarrette Blount - Kregg Lumpkin
Marshawn Lynch - Leon Washington
Chris Johnson - Javon Ringer
James Starks - Ryan Grant
 
The good thing about handcuffs is that they give you the security, but also some flexibility. For example, say you have Ray Rice and Frank Gore as your top two backs and you also have Steven Jackson. If you’re only starting 2 RBs and you’re dying at WR, you can trade S-Jax and simply rely on your handcuffs to protect your top two guys. Your may be screwed if one of them goes down, but you’d at least have a chance if that happened with the handcuff, and if they’re healthy, then you’ve helped yourself considerably at another position.
 
You’ll also want to be on the lookout for any potential problem areas for your RBs, such as matchups against SF, Bal, and Hou and also some sneaky good run defenses like Sea, Dal, Jac, Mia, and Cin. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to do anything about these problematic matchups, but you should at least know they are present on the chance you can adjust in preparation for them.
 
And finally, you’ll want to grab yourself a stash-and-hope RB or two, if possible, just for their upside. Here’s my top-10 S&H backs right now. These players are not only an injury away from doing well, but they are also capable of doing well. I really tried to whittle this down to only guys who have a chance to be available. Most have a very good chance.
 
1.    Kendall Hunter, SF
2.    Javon Ringer, Ten
3.    Ricky Williams, Bal
4.    Jason Snelling, Atl
5.    Stevan Ridley, NE
6.    Bernard Scott, Cin
7.    Deji Karim, Jac
8.    Isaac Redman, Pit
9.    C.J. Spiller, Buf
10.Taiwan Jones, Oak (obviously, he’s 3rd on the depthchart)
 
Wide Receiver
Generally speaking, I’d like to have at least one guy to hang my hat on at this position, which is what I wrote about all summer, so I really want a stud like Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, and Wes Welker. If you don’t have a really good option who can be relied on a lot, you’re likely exposing yourself a little to the week-to-week nature of the league. If I didn’t have one, or if I was light in general at wideout, I’d be looking to make a deal to improve my situation, and I’d be willing to sacrifice depth at another position.
 
If you’re set with 2-3 go-to guys, then you’re simply continuing to work the WW in case someone of note pops up. Like Jacoby Ford in Oakland. He could fade away, sure, but he could also blow up, so he’s a good one to pluck off the wire this week and see what you see. If he does blow up, now you have some great depth, and maybe in two weeks you can trade away one of your receivers for help elsewhere.
 
You’re ideally looking for those go-to guys who play in good passing games, and it’s always wise to look at players with good QBs and on teams that are usually throwing all four quarters for whatever reason. That’s why Victor Cruz is a good option right now. Eli Manning is very good, and the Giants always throw the ball.
 
It’s also wise to check out your matchups for the playoff weeks, just in case your guy is facing off against Darrelle Revis or a stingy pass defense.
 
Obviously, you want that go-to guy in a good offense, and if you don’t have one that could trip you up in the playoffs, so you might want to get someone to hang your hat on at WR. Obviously, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, and Wes Welker are desirable, but they will all cost a lot. Here are some guys who fit the criteria but won’t cost as much:
 
·         A.J. Green – That’s Dalton’s guy, obviously.
·         Jeremy Maclin – Pass-happy offense, and DeSean Jackson slumping.
·         Dez Bryant – Might explode with Austin out.
·         Marques Colston – He’s been very active lately.
·         Brandon Lloyd – A major, major go-to guy. I would feel good about him.
·         Anquan Boldin – As we’ve said all day, he gets a ton of looks, especially in the red zone.
·         Hakeem Nicks – Value down at least coming off injury.
·         Vincent Jackson – Major upside if he can hit on the downfield plays.
Percy Harvin - I added him on 11/10 after thinking about it a bit. I like his chances going forward with Ponder at QB. He's much more accurate than Donovan McNabb.
 
You can also look to upgrade your situation by targeting a guy who’s struggling right now or someone who we know has big potential like Andre Johnson and DeSean Jackson.
 
Otherwise, if you’re unable to get go-to guys, I’d be inclined to roll with secondary guys in great offenses. When in doubt, always go with the good QB, so these players are fine #3 options: Jordy Nelson, Victor Cruz, and Antonio Brown.
 
There’s also a lot to be said for cheap catches as a fall-back option, so I’d be looking to acquire some for depth, especially in a PPR, just in case I’m forced to use them in a playoff matchup. Some good options are: Earl Bennett, Early Doucet, Lance Moore, David Nelson, Doug Baldwin, and Jabar Gaffney.
 
And finally, if I had the roster spot, owning an upside receiver who has a legit chance to shock the week you need him in the playoffs with a big play is nice to have, if possible. Some candidates are: Torrey Smith, Antonio Brown, Jacoby Ford, Eric Decker, Laurent Robinson, Jonathan Baldwin, Denarius Moore, and Danario Alexander.
 
Tight End
What you do to prepare for the playoffs really depends on your individual league in terms of its size, how many viable guys are on the WW, etc. But that stuff is even more important for these secondary positions like TE and DT. If there are usually viable options on the wire like Jake Ballard, Greg Olsen, Brent Celek, Heath Miller, and Kellen Winslow, and if I had a stud like Jimmy Graham, I’d probably keep only Graham because you’re going to start him each week.
 
But if there’s very little left on the WW and you have only one guy, you may want to protect yourself a little by holding on to a guy who has a chance. There are really no handcuffs for fantasy TEs, keep in mind.
 
Also, if your guy is an injury risk, like Antonio Gates, it would behoove you to protect him with a solid option, just in case Gates suffers a setback.
 
If I didn’t have a stud, I’d be looking to hold two solid options and play the matchups each week as best as I could. Check out the SOS and Points Allowed tool to see who the best options may be, but here are a few off the top of my head after looking at these tools for Weeks Thirteen through Sixteen.
 
·         Kellen Winslow – Car, Jac, Dal, and Car
·         Jake Ballard – GB, Dal, Was, and NYJ
·         Brent Celek – Sea, Mia, NYJ, and Dal
·         Scott Chandler – Ten, SD, Mia, and Den
 
Place Kicker
This is pretty simple, since I’m usually going to keep only 1 PK, unless I’m locked from doing any waiver moves and/or there’s nothing on the Waiver Wire, which I’m sure is very rare. The other thing is you do need to be mindful of potential weather issues for your kickers. In general, you want solid options in good situations, the guys who are getting it done this year. The best options now are:
 
·         Jason Hanson – Although he does have an injury issue this week
·         Billy Cundiff
·         Mason Crosby
·         David Akers
·         Dan Bailey
·         Robbie Gould
·         Neil Rackers
·         John Kasay
 
Check out your PKs matchups in December and use common sense with potential problem areas. If you can easily switch a guy like Robbie Gould (at GB Week Sixteen) that week when you see an issue with the weather, then it’s not that big of a deal. If not, that could be a problem, but I wouldn’t go nuts and sacrifice valuable depth elsewhere just to protect my kicker.
 
Defensive Team
The defenses have been tough to handle again this year, and this is not a new trend. First and foremost, there are a few defenses that are probably weekly starters against anyone, so especially if you’re somewhat limited with roster space, I’d probably just roll with the following teams each week no matter what:
 
·         Baltimore
·         NY Jets
·         San Francisco
·         Green Bay
 
I could also make a strong case for:
 
·         Philadelphia
·         NY Giants
·         Detroit
·         Houston
·         Cincinnati
 
Otherwise, you’re playing the matchups for the most part, and if there’s not much on the WW, you might want to give yourself some flexibility because it’s hard to find a lower-end defense that has 2-3 good matchups in a row around playoff time. If you owned a DT from the second group listed above and had the room to spare, stashing away another matchup defense may not be a bad idea. Here are some lower-end defenses with good matchups Weeks Thirteen through Seventeen.
 
Chicago - Solid defense to have anyway, plus KC, Den, Sea, and GB (that's bad)
Buffalo - They are opportunistic and get Ten, SD, Mia, and Den
NE - They stink, but Ind, Was, Den, and Mia is nice.
 
Otherwise, there’s not much else out there, so I’d be inclined to get one of the DTs listed above. In fact, if you didn’t have any of them, you might want to trade away some depth to acquire one to put forward your best starting lineup possible in the playoffs.
 
Let me break this all down in terms of how I’m doing it for the league I want to win the most. It’s the SiriusXM Celebrity League, which is in its second year and is a promotional 12-team league for SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. I’m the defending champion, and this year I’m facing some stiff competition from Alice in Chains guitar player Jerry Cantrell and WWE wrestler “The Miz,” of all people.
 
I had not heard of The Miz before, but I stopped watching wrestling once I learned that it was a fake sport when I was like nine years old. How grown men can be entertained by fake sports and bad acting is beyond my comprehension, but that’s just me. I think there may be a direct correlation between the erosion of our society and the popularity of pro wrestling, but maybe I’m just getting old. But apparently he’s a big deal. He’s a nice enough guy actually, but he’s all about promotion, and he took direct aim at me before the draft, at the live event in NYC, and ever since. He really wants to take me down to talk smack, so I, of course, want to take him down. I’m still pissed he was able to get Steve Smith off the WAIVER WIRE after he was dropped preseason, which really helped his team. Anyway, after I lost this past weekend, he’s moved ahead of me at 7-2. I’m 6-3 and #1 in points, so we’re right there, along with Jerry Cantrell, who, by the way, is competitive as hell. He was so pissed I acquired Greg Jennings in a trade earlier this year he sent me an e-mail cursing me out (in good fun).
 
Okay, so here we go:
 
Quarterback – I’m taking the Indianapolis Colt approach with my starter Aaron Rodgers. If he goes down, I’m screwed anyway, so why bother to hold a backup? That’s true to an extent, but there are some decent options on the WW should that happen; otherwise, I’d have a backup – and I might go Matty Flynn if, God forbid, Rodgers goes down.
 
Running Backs – I said all summer that this was the easiest position to replace if you bypass a little in the draft, and I didn’t take a RB until the 5th round in this league (Jahvid Best). I also drafted Fred Jackson, who I traded for Greg Jennings. But while I’m in okay shape with Mike Tolbert, and I picked up Maurice Morris and have Daniel Thomas, I got the guy before he broke out in DeMarco Murray, so all of a sudden, I’m pretty solid at RB. This is why focusing on QB/WR/TE, which I did in this draft, may be the way to go. I also have Jackie Battle, so I’m holding a bunch of RBs. This week I also picked up Kendall Hunter, whom I previously owned, and he’s my stash-and-hope guy. You can start only 2 RBs, so it looks it is Murray and Tolbert most likely for me in this non-PPR.
 
Wide Receivers – My top pick, 11th overall, was Calvin Johnson. I lost Kenny Britt (can you imagine that combo all year?), which prompted me to trade Fred Jackson to Baba Booey from the Howard Stern show, along with Tampa Bay Mike Williams for Greg Jennings. I gave up a lot at the time, but I was going for the kill in the playoffs with the Rodgers-Jennings connection. I then trade raped my buddy Scott Ferrall, who you know if you listen to Howard, and got DeSean Jackson for Tim Hightower/Roy Helu and David Nelson before Ryan Torain came on. Granted, Jackson is killing me right now, but he’s at least my #3. I’m using him every week no matter what because if I sit him he will surely catch a 70-yard TD. Otherwise, I picked up and started James Jones last week, and he scored, so I have him as something of a handcuff for Jennings. That’s all I have, but there are always 3-4 decent guys on the WW, so I’m not using a roster spot on anyone else because I roll with Calvin, Jennings, and DeSean each week.
 
Tight End – I used an early pick on Antonio Gates, which is finally starting to pay off for me. My backup is Dustin Keller, whom I drafted, so I have not done much here. I should have picked up Fred Davis and used him for trade bait, but I was too lazy/busy and didn’t need to look at TE or else I would have noticed he was available. But I’m good here.
 
Place Kicker – I drafted David Akersas my starter, but I dropped him for Jason Hanson very early. I actually dropped Hanson last week because of his bye and grabbed Nick Novak, who was surprisingly available. This week, I hope to get Hanson back and I will just roll with him because he’s pretty much money in the bank, plus I have much better hair than he. Now to get him back for sure, I made him my #1 WW claim, so I will definitely get him in the first round of waivers. No sense in risking it in case someone else sees him and puts in for him in the second round (no blind bidding in this league). 
 
Team Defense – I’ve been scrambling a bit here, but two weeks ago someone had to drop the Giants Defense and I pounced on them. Once again, I put a #1 WW claim on them to make sure I got them, even though that week I needed a WR, and I got them. Their playoff schedule is good, so I will roll with them each week.
 
So here’s the starting lineup I will go to battle with:
 
Aaron Rodgers
DeMarco Murray
Mike Tolbert/Jackie Battle/Lion RBs
Calvin Johnson
Greg Jennings
DeSean Jackson
Antonio Gates
Jason Hanson
NY Giants Defense
 
That’s a damn good team, and there’s not too much more I need to do, barring injury.

Note: Next week, in addition to dishing out a ton of tips on making tough lineup decisions, I’ll roll out as many other side tips on today’s topic as possible.

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