After claiming that it was time to cut ties with Darren McFadden and subsequently trading him from three of my teams, you can imagine how ecstatic I was to see him rattle off 113 yards and a touchdown last Sunday. I’m going to go ahead and blame the replacement officials for this aberration since that seems to be the trendy thing to do this week. I won’t back pedal from my statement, as Run DMC picked up 64 of those yards on this TD run where a zone block opened a highway to the safety. Without that run, McFadden had 49 yards on 17 carries for 2.2 yards per carry.
This week, we take a look at a veteran running back and a young quarterback that you should be targeting. We also contemplate the end of an era with one of the NFL’s greatest receivers.
BUY: Willis McGahee
A lackluster game from McGahee against a stout Houston Texans defense is just what the doctor ordered for those looking to scoop him cheaply. He is likely being undervalued at this point in the season after facing two premier run defenses – Pittsburgh and Houston — in weeks 1 and 3. Fortunately, those appear to be two of the toughest matchups he will have all season. Baltimore looms large in week 17, but apart from that there isn’t another elite run defense on Denver’s schedule.
It’s not just the schedule that leads me to believe Willis can improve on his 2011 totals, when he ranked 14th among running backs with 261 touches. For starters, he has a firm grasp on the feature back role in Denver, as the Broncos have seemingly given up on former first rounder Knowshon Moreno. Denver is also more likely to spend time on offense and have more red-zone opportunities with Peyton Manning under center instead of Tim Tebow. Through three games this season, McGahee has 10 red-zone rushing attempts, while in 15 games last season, he had just 19 as Tebow vultured many of his opportunities. As a result, McGahee already has two rushing TDs in 2012, after having four throughout the entire 2011 campaign. His 4.8 yards per carry last season was the second best mark of his career, leaving no reason to believe the 31-year old is regressing.
Players I would trade away to get Willis McGahee: Darren McFadden, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Stephen Jackson
BUY: Christian Ponder
Facing arguably the best defense in football, Ponder showed the poise and savvy of a 10-year veteran on Sunday against the 49ers. He finished the game with two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown (a great decision to tuck and run) and no turnovers. The progression Ponder has made from his first year to his second year is staggering. The reads he’s making, his footwork in the pocket, and his accuracy have all improved by leaps and bounds.
Ponder currently sports the fifth best passer rating in the league at 104.9. He is one of two starting QBs in the league who haven’t thrown an interception yet (surprisingly, Blaine Gabbert is the other) and he has the second highest completion percentage in the league at 70.1, trailing only Matt Ryan.
The situation for Ponder could not be more ideal. He has a defense that gives him plenty of opportunities. He has two all-pro players in his offense – Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. He has rising talents in Kyle Rudolph and Devin Aromashodu, and most importantly, he has a franchise left tackle in Matt Kalil protecting his blind side. Trading for Ponder in single-season leagues could prove to be a very wise move if you currently have a mid-tier QB. Trading for Ponder in keeper leagues could result in even bigger dividends as his progression from last year leads me to project a lofty ceiling for the 24-year old.
Players I would trade away to get Christian Ponder: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Philip Rivers, Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler
SELL: Andre Johnson
We are now three years removed from Johnson’s legendary back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons. If he had played a full season last year, his stats projected to 75 catches and 1,124 yards. So far through three games, his full season projections are 69 receptions and 1,130 yards. Even more concerning than that is the fact that Johnson ranks 39th among wide receivers with just 18 targets.
It will be very difficult for him to achieve top-10 production if that pace continues, and it’s not unreasonable to believe that at 31 years old we’ve already seen the best of Andre. Given Houston’s recent offensive successes, there’s no reason to think they will alter their philosophy. They are a run-first team, which means Johnson and the receiving corps will get most of their looks off play-action passes once the run game has been established. A top-flight defense in Houston also plays against Andre, as it is unlikely that the Texans will be playing from behind and forced to open the game up.
By no means am I advising you to hold a fire sale for Andre. However, there’s a group of talented , young wide receivers in the league right now who should finish with more fantasy points than Johnson. Due to his star power and reputation, you very well might be able to upgrade your situation at receiver by putting Dre on the block.
Players I would target while trading Andre Johnson: A.J. Green, Julio Jones. Demaryius Thomas , Dwayne Bowe