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NFL Barometer: King of the Cassel

Dalton Del Don

Dalton Del Don

Dalton Del Don writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

RISERS

Fred Jackson, RB, BUF – Jackson totaled 123 yards last week against a Pittsburgh defense that entered the game having allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. His 65-yard TD reception was impressive, as was his 4.9 YPC mark against a Steelers’ front seven that has allowed a league-low 3.0 YPC. The return of C.J. Spiller could take away some touches, but Jackson is clearly Buffalo’s workhorse; and with the emergence of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Steve Johnson the offense finally has some legs. Over the last three games Jackson has totaled 462 yards and five touchdowns. He should be treated as a top-12 fantasy back moving forward.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR – Stewart gained 98 yards on 12 carries last week and looks to be fully recovered from the concussion that cost him two games. However Mike Goodson remains in the picture after leading the team with 14 rushing attempts and racking up 136 total yards against the Browns. Goodson’s impressive performance has earned him touches going forward, but coach John Fox usually sides with his veterans, and a healthy Stewart should regain the starting job soon enough. Goodson will be on the field a lot on in third down situations, but Stewart should get the majority of the carries and the goal line work, making him a viable flex option in most formats.

Matt Cassel, QB, KC – Cassel continued to impress by throwing four touchdown passes and zero interceptions against Seattle last week. He has tossed 10 touchdown passes and zero picks over the past three games while averaging 8.2 YPA. If you date back further, Cassel has posted a remarkable 21:2 TD:INT ratio since Week 3. He benefits from a strong Chiefs rushing attack, but Kansas City is no longer one-dimensional on offense, and Cassel is suddenly a borderline QB1 in fantasy leagues. Meanwhile, Dwayne Bowe has recorded 13 touchdowns over the past seven games, and there’s certainly an argument to be made that he is the top fantasy wide receiver. Charlie Weis struggled as the head coach at Notre Dame, but he has been a terrific offensive coordinator and deserves a ton of credit for the Chiefs’ success.

Jacoby Ford, WR, OAK – Not only did Ford have an impressive 101-yard kickoff return TD to open the game last week, he also recorded the first receiving touchdown of his career, one of a couple of highlight type catches he hauled in en route to gaining 108 yards through the air. Ford has topped 100 yards receiving in two of the past three games, and no one on his team did much against the Steelers in the middle game. Ford is not in an ideal situation with Bruce Gradkowski likely out for the season with a shoulder injury, but it’s worth noting he has been targeted 18 times over the past two weeks. Al Davis drafted Ford for his speed (his 4.28 forty time was the fastest at this year’s combine and nearly matched Chris Johnson’s all-time record), but it’s clear Ford is much more than just a speedster. He looks like a special player capable of helping fantasy teams down the stretch, and those who own him in dynasty leagues have to be salivating at his future prospects.

Maurice Morris, RB, DET – Morris totaled 75 yards and two touchdowns in Week 12 while injured backfield mate Jahvid Best did not receive a single carry. While Best returned to practice in a limited basis this week, his injuries will likely keep him from making a big impact on Sundays over the rest of the year. However, it’s worth noting that while Morris saw nine carries last week, Aaron Brown was given 13. Still, Morris was far more effective with his rush attempts, and he will be involved as a receiver in an offense that likes to use its backs in the passing game.

Ben Obomanu, WR, SEA – With Mike Williams sidelined due to a foot injury, Obomanu stepped in and recorded five catches for 159 yards and a score against Kansas City last week. The former seventh-rounder has scored a touchdown in three of the past four games and has averaged 102.0 receiving yards over the past three contests. Obomanu has impressed this season when given the opportunity, and he should continue seeing playing time since Williams’ foot injury could potentially keeping him out a while. Seattle’s offense hardly breeds fantasy success, but the Seahawks do have a favorable schedule from here on out.

Danario Alexander, WR, STL – Alexander continued to flash impressive ability and ended up with 95 receiving yards last week in his return to the lineup. Alexander put up those numbers while playing only 20 snaps, which reveals a high ceiling if he becomes a full-time player but also a low floor if the plays remain limited. Alexander’s latest knee operation was his fifth, but while there’s no guarantee he’ll stay healthy or be able to play a full complement of snaps anytime soon, the skills are clearly there. If his health cooperates, Alexander could be the Rams’ No. 1 wide receiver for years to come.

FALLERS

Frank Gore, RB, SF – Gore is out for the season with a fractured hip, which no doubt comes as a surprise to those who saw him return to Monday night’s game after suffering the injury. Gore supposedly won’t need surgery, but losing the NFL’s leader in yards from scrimmage since 2004 is devastating to his owners. Brian Westbrook became the No. 1 waiver wire priority this week as a result of Gore’s injury, but he is a major health risk himself and will yield goal-line carries to rookie Anthony Dixon, who will be in the mix for early down carries as well. The two backs will split the work in some fashion, but Westbrook could still be a flex option if his body holds up.

Anquan Boldin, WR, BAL – Targeted just four times for the second straight game, Boldin watched as 36-year-old teammate Derrick Mason got 13 looks last week. Boldin has not topped 50 yards receiving since Week 7, averaging just 3.25 catches per game and scoring only once over that span. While a Week 14 matchup against an awful Houston secondary is tasty, the Ravens face the stiff pass defenses of the Steelers and Saints in two of their next three games, so his slump may not be over just yet.

Vincent Jackson, WR, SD – Jackson lasted just a few plays before leaving Sunday’s game with a calf injury, which apparently was the byproduct of a groin injury he suffered the week before during practice. Jackson will miss at least the next two weeks with the ailment, which makes him unreliable in fantasy leagues and highlights the risks involved with players who miss a good chunk of the season. With Jackson and Patrick Crayton out, and Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd still banged up, a healthy Legedu Naanee becomes a sneaky option in fantasy leagues. Naanee could be difference maker as one of the main options in the Chargers’ high-powered passing attack.

Keiland Williams, RB, WAS – Williams gained only five yards on three carries against the Vikings last week, and he spent much of the game watching newcomer James Davis receive twice as many rushing attempts. Williams should remain active as a receiver, but he is averaging only 3.8 YPC and Sunday’s game illustrated just how unpredictable a Mike Shanahan backfield can be. No Washington RB is reliable right now.

Shaun Hill, QB, DET – Hill broke the index finger on his throwing hand in the first half of last week's loss to the Patriots; and although he was able to play through the injury, he could miss the remainder of the season. While Hill has played reasonably well, Calvin Johnson owners could feel the biggest impact. With Matthew Stafford also sidelined, Detroit will proceed with the unproven Drew Stanton at quarterback. With a third stringer at the helm and Jahvid Best hampered by a turf toe injury, the Lions’ offense has taken a major step back.

Marion Barber, RB, DAL – Barber is expected to be sidelined for a game or two with a calf injury. Tashard Choice can be added in fantasy leagues as a result, but Dallas struggles in run blocking, and even starter Felix Jones is at best a matchup play. Barber looks finished as an impact player in the NFL.