Week 3 Fantasy Football: Last Minute Lineup Advice

Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce
Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce
Sep 15 2013 Baltimore MD USA Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce 30 runs with the ball against the Cleveland Browns during the second half at MT Bank Stadium The Ravens won 14 6 Brad Mills USA TODAY Sports

Entering week two, two running backs found themselves among the least started players in fantasy. One was a backup running back, and the other, an NFL free agent. Just over three months ago, these two men were sharing the same backfield as teammates in minicamp. And this week, they became perhaps the two most talked about players in fantasy.

The similarities end there. Today, Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee would be hard-pressed to find themselves in situations more different. One is on the third ranked – and probably most feared – offense in the NFL. The other is now on the fifth-worst offense, with a failing and injured quarterback.

After two weeks, Moreno has lead all Denver running backs in snaps, while McGahee has been out of the NFL since June 11. Facing the Giants on Sunday, Moreno took command for 107 yards of offense and two touchdowns. While many still expect Montee Ball to harness the starting position very soon, Moreno will surely retain great value until that time comes.

The Cleveland Browns made a rare, bold trade in the NFL on Wednesday, sending Trent Richardson to the Colts for their 2014 first round draft pick. That left the Browns with a hapless backfield of Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey. The two have combined for five career starts, with 95 carries for 420 yards, and by that, I mean that Chris Ogbonnaya has five career starts with 95 carries and 420 yards. In his short career, Rainey has zero rushes, but six kickoff returns at an average of 24.5 yards.

McGahee’s situation is even more complicated. Starting quarterback Brandon Weeden left week two’s game with a sprained throwing thumb, and will miss at least one game. Brian Hoyer will make his second career start week three against the Vikings. The Browns were already 28th-best when the ball is in their hands. It’s clear their hopes have slid considerably.

Coach Rob Chudzinski commented on Weeden’s job security by saying, “I’m going to leave all of the options open.” This team is committed to exploring their current talent, at the direct cost of 2013 success. McGahee has extremely little value to fantasy owners, as even less should be expected from a previously terrible offense. Richardson was only able to average 3.4 YPC, and McGahee (career 4.1 YPC) is no spring chicken, as he is about to turn 32 in October. Drop all Browns receivers on your rankings appropriately. This just became a fantasy wasteland.

For up-to-the-minute injury updates, and pre-game active/inactive statuses, check the Player Updates on XN Sports.

Ray Rice (hip flexor strain) didn’t practice all week, and will not suit up today against the Texans. Backup Bernard Pierce is respected by fans of the NFL and fantasy alike, as one of the better backups in the league. He’s averaged a career 4.5 YPC, and is a good receiving back as well. Pierce may be a good RB2 option today.

Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion following a week two hit from Washington safety Brandon Meriweather. The rookie back has been slow to pass concussion tests, and is expected to sit through the team’s week four bye. Following Lacy’s departure from the game, James Starks had a beastly 168 yards of offense in relief. This is the fourth season for Starks, who has never rushed for more than 578 yards in a season, and has a career 4.2 YPC. Don’t be overly optimistic about Starks’ abilities, based on one great week against a defeated defense. Starks will have borderline RB3/RB4 ability against perhaps the best defensive line in football with the Cincinnati Bengals.

By Tuesday, Steven Jackson (thigh) was officially ruled out for week three, and is not expected to return until week seven at the earliest. The team has listed Jackson as having a hamstring injury, and getting plenty of rest will be the best remedy moving forward for the Falcons’ prized free agent acquisition. Jacquizz Rodgers may lead the team in carries, but the back is only listed at 5-foot-6, and 196 pounds (he looks about 150). Jason Snelling is likely to see six or seven carries, spelling Rodgers. This may be a fantasy situation to avoid. Expect the Falcons to lean heavily on Matt Ryan in the interim.

A helmet hit Reggie Bush (knee) in the knee last week, and an MRI on Monday showed no structural damage. Bush has remained optimistic all week, but is now expected to sit for today’s game in Washington. Joique Bell should receive a boost in value as a result. Expect Bell to receive the bulk of the snaps, and lead the Lions in rushing today.

Danny Amendola (hip) is going to miss another week for the Patriots. He is not expected to return for at least another couple weeks. Jay Glazier reported that Amendola’s groin injury was actually torn adductor muscles. He considered surgery this week, but instead opted for rehab with hopes for an earlier return.

Julian Edelman has filled in nicely at the slot. As expected, whoever plays slot receiver for Tom Brady is of immense value, real and statistical. Edelman is leading the league in receptions, and is second in targets to Andre Johnson. Edelman is a high-end WR2 option, and even higher in leagues with any PPR value.

Malcom Floyd (neck) sustained a scary neck injury Week 2 against the Eagles. He will likely remain sidelined for about a month, while he wears a neck brace for at least a week. Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal remain as the last two receivers (of any talent) standing for the Chargers. Royal may continue his surprisingly great production, as Philip Rivers is left with few options. Brown has high expectations in 2013, and that should begin immediately. Each could be low-end WR2s for Week 3, with some good upside from a resurgent Rivers.

Maurice Jones-Drew (ankle) declared himself to be a game-time decision. He’s battling a left ankle tendon sprain. If he’s out, Jordan Todman should fill in for a terrible matchup against the Seahawks’ stout defense (league-leading 230 yards per game through two weeks). Neither a limited Jones-Drew nor a healthy Todman should be a trustworthy start for Week 3.

Stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com.

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Dave Major
Senior Fantasy Analyst for @XNSports. While not wasting immeasurable time as a stand-up comic in New York, Dave Major can be found watching three football games at once and telling people how to live their fantasy lives. If you're out of ideas, use your one phone call on !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');