Ed. Note: I’m not sure if Oliver Macklem ever sleeps, because he has seven fantasy teams, or at least that’s as many as he’s told us about. But when he does sleep, he dreams or more than just sleepers. He dreams of really, ridiculously deep sleepers. I asked him to write down his dream visions every Friday morning.
The key to creating a useful watch list is to identify players who have the opportunity to see an increase in playing time. Many people get caught up trying to figure out the most skilled backups, and that’s a flawed system. Rashad Jennings might be the best backup RB in the league, but playing behind an all-pro in Maurice Jones-Drew means he won’t see many touches.
To figure out which backups have the best chance of increasing their playing time, we must first identify situations where the incumbents are struggling or injured. Which leads us to our first watch list candidate.
Alex Green (Green Bay RB, owned in 3% of Yahoo and 1% of ESPN leagues) – I’ve never been enamored by the play of Cedric Benson, and I imagine Packer fans are already becoming very frustrated with the 30-year old. Benson has never posted a season average over 4.2 yards per carry in his career, and this year he’s sitting on just 3.1 YPC. Green is second on the Packers’ depth chart ahead of James Starks, and if Benson continues to stink up the joint there’s no reason to believe Green Bay won’t give him a chance. A second-year pro from Hawaii, Green has been groomed for his opportunity. Described as “a well-proportioned runner with competitive speed”, he has the frame to handle every-down duty. With a 1-2 record, Green Bay will not hesitate to make this switch.
Bilal Powell (New York Jets RB, owned in 18% of Yahoo and 3% of ESPN leagues) – The ineffectiveness of Shonn Greene has forced Rex Ryan’s hand. He has to give someone else a chance, and that someone appears to be Bilal Powell. Sean Tomlinson thinks it might even be time to make a speculative add on Powell, which means at the very least, he should be on your watch list. The second-year pro from Louisville has never been given a chance in the NFL, and he’s very much an unknown quantity. A telling sign that there has been a shift in the Jets’ backfield came last Sunday, as Powell’s 10 carries for 45 yards trumped Greene’s 40 yards on 19 carries.
Jon Baldwin (Chiefs WR, owned in 11% of Yahoo and 23% of ESPN leagues) – Baldwin was a first-round pick in 2011, but he hasn’t lived up to expectations after he broke his hand in a preseason locker-room fight with Thomas Jones. He dropped below Steve Breaston on Kansas City’s depth chart and thus didn’t make much of an impact as a rookie. Now Baldwin is building some chemistry with Matt Cassel, and he should be the Chiefs’ second receiver by season’s end. Baldwin had three catches for 36 yards Sunday, while Breaston had just one catch for two yards, so it’s time for you to add Baldwin to your watch list.
Brandon Stokley (Broncos WR, owned in 5% of Yahoo and 11% of ESPN leagues) – After essentially being retired for the 2011 campaign, it was reasonable to suspect Stokley would be nothing more than a “player-coach” for the Broncos this season. However, that hasn’t been the case through three games. Stokley has taken control of his familiar role in the slot, and his rapport with Manning has led the two to connect on many crucial passing downs. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have combined for seven drops in three games, which will also help Stokley’s cause. Those in PPR leagues should especially take a long look him, as Stokely had six receptions for 73 yds and a touchdown last Sunday vs Houston.
Donald Jones (Bills WR, owned in 3% of Yahoo and 1% of ESPN leagues) – With David Nelson placed on the IR, Jones is in line to see a serious increase in targets. Buffalo is searching for a second wide receiver to complement Stevie Johnson, and Jones should be that guy. With five catches for 42 yards Sunday against Cleveland, it’s time to add Jones to your watch list.
Brandon Myers (Raiders TE, owned in 6% of Yahoo and 1% of ESPN leagues) – A concussion may sideline Myers this week when the Raiders visit Denver, but the fourth-year pro from Iowa has certainly done enough through three weeks to get on your watch list. He ranks third among all tight ends with 206 receiving yards, and his 15 receptions place him in a tie for fifth. The Oakland offense and specifically Carson Palmer’s arm strength are tailored to Myers and his short crossing routes. Although the red-zone opportunities may not be there, he should finish in the top-10 among tight ends in yards and catches.