By Dalton Del Don
Matt Schaub - Schaub has completed a remarkable 72 percent of his passes so far this season with 9.0 yards per attempt. The yardage totals aren't gaudy, since Houston hasn't passed all that frequently, but the Schaub-to-Andre Johnson connection is fast becoming one of the NFL's best. If the Texans' defense continues to impress, Schaub will be managing leads more than his fantasy owners will like, but either way, he looks like a viable No. 1 quarterback at this point.
Marion Barber - There's not much more Barber can do to see the field more often. He continuously outplays Julius Jones, is a devastating blocker and runs with a toughness few can match. Barber is getting 6.2 YPC, is a good receiver and is a beast when he smells the end zone. Expect the majority of carries to eventually start siding with Barber, though that scenario might still take longer than most of his fantasy owners would like.
Derek Anderson - It looks like the Brady Quinn era will have to wait after all. Anderson threw five touchdown passes and had 9.9 YPA on Sunday. He doesn't look like much of a fantasy option moving forward, of course, but he has earned the starting job in Cleveland for at least the next few weeks with the strong effort. Start all of your passing options when pitted against Cincinnati.
Kellen Winslow - So much for health concerns regarding his twice repaired knee. Not only has Winslow remained extremely active in the passing game this year, but his yards-per-catch has increased from last year's 9.8 all the way to 18.3 this season, suggesting he's regained some of that explosiveness he flashed before the injuries. Winslow is essentially the No. 2 option in Cleveland's passing attack and is especially valuable in points-per-reception leagues. He looks like the second best fantasy tight end, behind only Antonio Gates.
Tom Brady - So this is what happens when Brady is given some decent wide receivers to work with. He's off to an MVP-type start, completing 79.7 percent of passes on 9.8 YPA with a 6:1 TD:INT ratio through two games. If you have some trepidation over whether Randy Moss can remain healthy all season, or whether the Pats will continue to throw as much against dominant defenses moving forward, then now might not be a bad time to sell high on Brady. He could net second-round talent.
Dallas Clark - Clark is basically being used as the team's No. 3 wide receiver this year. He often lines up on the outside, and Peyton Manning frequently looks to him while attacking the middle of the field. Health is always a concern regarding Clark, but he has skills and is in the right position to put up Top-10 numbers as a fantasy tight end this year.
LaMont Jordan - Consecutive weeks on this part of the list but deservingly so after an impressive Week 2 performance. It was discouraging to see Jordan go without a catch, but Dominic Rhodes (suspension) will be relegated to spot duty when he returns if Jordan keeps running with such determination. The quickness from 2005 appears to be back after disappearing for most of last year. Jordan is getting 5.7 YPC this season and plays for an offense that figures to be light years ahead of last season's dreadful unit.
Edgerrin James - Not only is new coach Ken Whisenhunt making good on his promise to pound the ball this year in the desert, but James is also getting all of the work near the goal line, which was a big question entering 2007. James' YPC will never be elite running behind that line, but he should be active in the passing game, and Arizona's defense looks much improved. The decline may be delayed after all.
Brandon Marshall - "Baby T.O." has always had the physical tools, but it was just a question of how long it would take to translate that into production on the field. Apparently, it's happening sooner rather than later for the second-year wideout. Marshall, who is a 6-4, 230, physical specimen, is already a big part of Denver's passing game with five catches in each of the first two games this season. He's an excellent red-zone target as well as a downfield playmaker.
Carnell Williams - Williams exhibited toughness by playing through sore ribs Sunday, and while the 2.5 YPC left a lot to be desired, the two goal-line touchdowns is what mattered most to fantasy owners. Previously never used there, williams will see his fantasy value take a major leap if he gets the touches from in close, even if he never becomes much of a threat in the passing game. He's not running behind a great run blocking unit, but at least he's already doubled his touchdown total from a season ago.
Carson Palmer - Peyton Manning may be a better real-life quarterback, but if Sunday was any indication, Palmer is the one with the slightly higher fantasy upside. Cincinnati's terrible defense is great news for Palmer's passing stats, as Week 2 doesn't figure to be the last shootout this club competes in this season. Palmer's knee looks back to full strength, and this offense is a force.
Jamal Lewis - He had a huge game Sunday, but that doesn't mean the Lewis circa 2003 is back. Maybe the improved quarterback play will start opening more running lanes for Lewis, but there will not be a better time to sell high than now. He offers nothing as a receiver, and the Browns will have a hard time running the ball with any frequency with such a poor defense. It was a pleasantly surprising effort, to be sure, but cash out before it's too late.
LaDainian Tomlinson - You don't need us telling you to be patient with Tomlinson, of course, but it's nice to reiterate that he's gotten off to slow starts throughout his career. Even during his record-breaking 31-touchdown campaign last season, Tomlinson recorded "just" three touchdowns in the first four games of the season and only broke the century mark in rushing yards once over the first six weeks. He's not likely to match his overall production from last season this year, but he's still clearly the most valuable fantasy player. The schedule continues to be difficult with a matchup in Green Bay next week, but it really starts to ease up after that.
Drew Brees - It may be time to worry, but it's certainly not time to panic. Brees and the New Orleans offense have now struggled three games in a row against Cover 2 defenses, dating to last year's postseason. Since that scheme is geared toward limiting big plays, it only makes sense that it would give the Saints trouble, as it's a team that relies on throws downfield. Brees isn't getting sacked with much greater frequency this year, and he still has all of those playmakers that helped him put up an MVP-caliber season last year. He'll be fine, as will Reggie Bush.
Ronnie Brown - There's big cause for concern here. Brown has supplemented his otherwise poor stats with some decent receiving numbers, but he found himself on the sidelines far too often Sunday and is averaging 32.5 rushing yards per game this season. Jesse Chatman is likely to remain in the game plan, and the Miami offense as a whole looks stagnant.
Brandon Jackson - With Vernand Morency out, Jackson has been given ample opportunity to stake his claim as the Packers' starting running back. Instead, he's averaged just 2.3 YPC and has seemingly lost playing time to DeShawn Wynn, including goal-line carries. Jackson is a rookie so there's still plenty of room for improvement, but so far, he's been a disappointment and figures to be in a timeshare moving forward.
DeAngelo Williams - At this point, Williams only figures to have fantasy value this season if DeShaun Foster gets hurt. Williams has already lost two fumbles and is a poor short-yardage runner. He can contribute in the passing game but is clearly the minority in the committee at running back.
Vernon Davis - Davis obviously has the physical tools to succeed, and it was believed his inability to fully grasp the playbook was a big reason why he didn't have a great rookie year. After rectifying that problem over the offseason, many forecasted a big 2007 out of the second-year tight end. Instead, we are left with four catches for 27 yards after two games. Davis is getting separation and is a freak in the open field, but quarterback Alex Smith is holding him back and will continue to do so unless his play improves dramatically.
Mark Clayton - Through two weeks, Clayton actually has negative yards receiving in 2007. He's clearly limited by injuries, so it's best to ignore him until he's back to full strength. He showed plenty of potential last season, and his long-term upside remains high, but for now, he can't be used in fantasy leagues.
Joe Horn - He's officially finished being a useful fantasy commodity. Now 35, Horn has just three receptions, and the Atlanta passing attack doesn't figure to get much better any time soon. Joey Harrington took seven sacks Sunday, and he's targeted Horn just 4.5 times per game so far this season.
Tarvaris Jackson - Since he runs, there was some fantasy potential with Jackson. However, he's now injured and been completely ineffective as a passer through two weeks of the season. Vikings brass has pretty much tied its season to Jackson, but the 5.9 YPA and ugly 1:5 TD:INT ratio simply won't get it done.
Tatum Bell - As if the news that Kevin Jones (foot) is likely to return sooner than expected next week wasn’t bad enough, Bell managed just 14 yards on nine carries Sunday. Sure, it was against a stout Minnesota run defense, but of bigger concern is the run-pass ratio being doled out in Detroit. Through two games, the team has called 92 pass plays to just 34 rushes. Expect more of the same from pass-happy Mike Martz moving forward.
Donte' Stallworth - Maybe he'll become relevant if Randy Moss pulls a hamstring or if opposing secondaries are forced to triple team Moss, but for now, Stallworth is an afterthought in the offense. Wes Welker works the underneath routes, while Tom Brady looks to Ben Watson in red zone. Stallworth averaged 19.1 yards-per-catch last season, so there's plenty of potential here, but it's going to take some time before he acclimates himself in New England.
Rex Grossman - It's officially time to start worrying. Or maybe that should have begun last year. Either way, mustering a paltry 4.7 YPA with two interceptions against a beatable Kansas City secondary at home is not good. Over his last three regular season games, Grossman has thrown just one touchdown and six interceptions. Additionally, teammate Muhsin Muhammad has taken a major fantasy hit as a result.
Article first appeared 9/17/07