It means mostly nothing to most managers in most leagues, but it means something to a few managers in some leagues. Since we are all things to everyone, Jake Locker matters to us. Sometimes.
Locker gradually increased his practice participation all week, making the Titans’ declaration today that he’ll start for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury during a Week 4 loss to the Texans something less than surprising. Locker missed five games, partly due to the extra caution the Titans used with their quarterback of the future after he had injured the same shoulder twice early in the season.
We still have a sample size that feels especially miniscule when we attempt to assess Locker, as he was injured early in that Week 4 game after attempting only two passes, and that was just his fourth career start. But during that brief time he had shown some promise of something, as his last full game was a win over the Lions when he completed 69 percent of his passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns while adding 35 rushing yards, 31 of which came on one long scamper.
So he’s been what we thought he would be. He has a little bit of Russell Wilson in him with the mobility and elusiveness, and just a dash of Andrew Luck with his arm strength. The problem is that he also has a sprinkling of Michael Vick and his inability to stay healthy.
When Locker was declared the Titans’ opening-week starter I wrote that he could quickly become a quality sleeper, citing among other things the support he should still be getting from Chris Johnson, and the youth and speed he has at his disposal among Tennessee’s wide receivers between Nate Washington, Kenny Britt, and rookie Kendall Wright. Over two months later I still think Locker is a quality low-tier QB, and now he’s a depth player at a notoriously thin position on the waiver wire as we progress into the late stages of the fantasy season.
The likes of Wilson and Ryan Tannehill are still ahead of Locker for those in deep leagues still scrambling to find solutions to the worst bye week ever for the position (hi, Aaron Rodgers and Robert Griffin III). But Locker is a fine fall-back option against a Dolphins pass defense that’s ranked 30th while giving up 298.2 yards per game.
Look out, here comes more hurt…
- Mike Goodson and Darren McFadden (high-ankle sprains): This is greeted with the same utter lack of surprise, but the Raiders made it official with their top two running backs, as head coach Dennis Allen said McFadden and Goodson will sit out, and Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece will step up in their absence. If you’re making any play here, Reece remains the best option since the real replacement plan for McFadden and Goodson will likely be to just not pass ever, and Reece is utilized far more often as a pass-catching RB out of the backfield. Those in PPR leagues are particularly encouraged to roll with Reece as a flex play.
- Percy Harvin (ankle): Like a Mitt Romney backer who didn’t believe in math and staunchly maintained Nate Silver is some sort of devil wizard, the Vikings are selling you lies. They say there’s still a slight chance Harvin could play Sunday. I suppose that’s true, although it wreaks of concealing the real truth from the enemy. Harvin didn’t take a single practice rep all week, and he’s still walking with a significant limp. Look elsewhere, and if that search leads you back to the Vikings’ WR depth chart (may the lord be with you), Jerome Simpson is your guy.
- Owen Daniels (hip): This sucks. Daniels is behind only Rob Gronkowski and Heath Miller in tight end fantasy scoring, and he has five touchdowns over his last six games, and therefore only three touchdown-less games overall. But he was “very limited” today in practice, according to head coach Gary Kubiak, who also said Daniels has “a way to go.” Those aren’t nice words, and although Daniels will be helped slightly by the Sunday night game time the Texans have this weekend against the Bears, that doesn’t help you at all unless you’re lucky enough to own Miller too, who plays Monday. You’ll have to make a call on Daniels long before we get a definitive word on his status, so prepare a safety net now. Earlier this afternoon in his Fantasy Insomnia post Oliver Macklem suggested simply turning to Daniels’ backup Garrett Graham
- Stevie Johnson (thigh): There was mild concern here earlier in the week, but that’s gone now after Johnson was a full participant in two straight practices. He’s listed as questionable, but he’s playing, and you’re starting him as a high-end WR3 at best.
- Titus Young (knee): After missing practice Wednesday and Thursday while playing with your heart, Young returned today, and he seems like he’s on track to receive a regular workload Sunday against the Vikings. But just how heavy that regular workload is remains in doubt, because Young could be limited, giving Ryan Broyles a chance to step up. Meanwhile, Calvin Johnson also practiced today for the first time this week while maintaining his limited reps. Worrying about him was cool and trendy last week. Now you’re behind the times, hipster wannabe.