By Dalton Del Don
Kellen Winslow - After racking up 10 catches for 111 yards with two touchdowns last week, Winslow has officially returned as an elite fantasy option. Durability will always be an issue, but Winslow is currently the healthiest he's been all season, and the quarterback switch should be a big boost to his value. Brady Quinn looked capable, but he rarely attempted passes downfield, instead electing for check downs and shorter routes. Winslow is going to be targeted an awful lot with that type of game plan.
Kevin Smith - Smith had the best game of his short career last week, totaling 123 yards with a score. His 4.3 YPC mark isn't overly impressive, but when you consider the teammates around him, the number actually suggests he's been running well, and he's also an asset in the passing game. The biggest news last week was how the workload was distributed, as Smith saw 23 carries while Rudi Johnson received just two. That type of ratio should be the norm moving forward, as Detroit has no reason not to give the younger (and more productive) back most of the touches. Unlike other rookie backs, Smith hasn't been used heavily this season, so he should be fresh down the stretch.
Mark Bradley - Considered a bust after the Bears selected him with the seventh pick in the second round of the 2005 draft, Bradley has become a major part of Kansas City's offense over the past three games; in fact, he was targeted an incredible 14 times last week against the Chargers. Health remains a concern with Bradley, but he's flourishing in his new surroundings, and he's always had the talent to succeed. Tyler Thigpen has solidified the quarterback position, so Bradley needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues.
Benjarvus Green-Ellis - Green-Ellis recorded his first career 100-yard rushing day last week, and he's also scored in four straight contests. He's earning more and more playing time, and the Patriots' playcalling is skewed far less to the pass than in year's past. Still, he's not much of an option as a receiver, and LaMont Jordan (calf) and Sammy Morris (knee) will eventually return, cutting into his playing time. Still, until that actually happens, Green-Ellis has value.
Marques Colston - Colston returned to the starting lineup last week, resulting in seven receptions and 140 yards. The bye week allowed him to fully heal from the thumb injury, and he's now 100 percent for the first time this season. Drew Brees has attempted 20 more passes than any other quarterback in the league, so there will be plenty of opportunities through the air. Remember, Colston scored nine touchdowns over the final 10 games last season, so there's a ton of potential here.
Tyler Thigpen - Over the last three games, Thigpen has a 64.7 completion percentage with a 6:0 TD:INT ratio. He's also shown excellent mobility and decision-making, so the Chiefs very well may have a franchise quarterback in their hands. Drafted in the seventh round out of Coastal Carolina in 2007, Thigpen may be seeing his first significant playing time this year, but he's not a rookie, and the light has clearly gone on. With Tony Gonzalez, Dwayne Bowe and the emerging Mark Bradley at his disposal, Thigpen has plenty of weapons to work with, and the team will rely heavily on his arm since the ground game is longer what it once was. Expect another big game from Thigpen at home against the Saints this week.
Larry Johnson - Johnson will return to Kansas City's lineup Sunday after serving a league-imposed one-game suspension. While his legal troubles may not be over, for now, he could see significant action, as both Kolby Smith (knee) and Jamaal Charles (ankle) are injured, leaving only unknown Dantrell Savage competing for touches. Johnson is no longer an option in the passing game, but he wasn't playing poorly before missing time, getting 4.5 YPC. His legs should be fresh after having not played since Week 5, and with the Chiefs' offense suddenly greatly improved, Johnson could be a major factor from here on out.
Matt Hasselbeck - Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren is "cautiously optimistic" that Hasselbeck (back) will be able to practice this week and play Sunday against Arizona. He hasn't played since Week 5, so expect some rust early, but hopefully the extended time off allowed him to return at full strength, as he was struggling mightily while playing through various injuries. The Seahawks should also get Deion Branch (heel) back in the lineup, so he'll have added weapons as well.
Peyton Hillis - With the Denver backfield ravaged by injuries, Hillis may become the team's feature back by default. Still, he's more of a fullback than tailback, and the Broncos will surely bring in some other runners to help with the workload. Hillis is the current favorite to lead the team in carries week-to-week, but that still may only result in 10-15 touches, as Denver will be pass-heavy.
Braylon Edwards - Edwards' stock hit rock bottom last week, as he recorded just one catch for 15 yards against a highly suspect Denver defense. He's been one of the biggest busts this season, as he's topped 90 receiving yards just one time and has five games with 32 yards or fewer. Edwards is on pace to finish the year with 48 receptions, 839 yards and five touchdowns. To make matters worse, Cleveland's quarterback switch from Derek Anderson to Brady Quinn appears to be a major detriment to his value, as Edwards' main strength is downfield, whereas Quinn concentrates on underneath routes.
Ryan Torain - After receiving plenty of hype despite being a fifth-round draft pick and yet to see the field in 2008, Torain justified the praise by running for 68 yards (5.7 YPC) and a score in a little more than one quarter's worth of action. Unfortunately, a torn ACL followed, so his season is over. Torain has been extremely injury-prone dating back to his college days at Arizona State, so Denver can in no way rely on him as anything more than a backup next season, especially since he'll be coming off major knee surgery as well.
Jeremy Shockey - Despite Drew Brees throwing for 422 yards, Shockey had just two catches for 16 yards last week while also getting into shouting matches with his quarterback on the sidelines. Playing for one of the most potent offenses in football, Shockey has yet to score this season, and his current 9.3 yards-per-catch mark ranks as the worst of his career. Moreover, he's currently listed as "day-to-day" with right ankle soreness and swelling. He simply can't be counted on at this point.
Jonathan Stewart - Dealing with a painful heel injury, Stewart gained just 21 yards on seven carries against the Raiders last week. He's gotten just 3.7 YPC while offering next to nothing in the passing game this year. Of Stewart's 103 carries this season, 22 of them have gone for no gain or negative yardage. Meanwhile, DeAngelo Williams has ran for 248 yards with two scores over the last two games, as he's clearly earned the majority of touches in Carolina's backfield. Especially since he was still recovering from toe surgery before the season began, Stewart's struggles can somewhat be justified, and he shouldn't be written off in dynasty leagues. However, there's no doubt his rookie season has been a major disappointment that doesn't appear to be getting better anytime soon.
Willie Parker - Just when Parker retuned from a knee injury, he suffers a shoulder subluxation, forcing him to miss last week's game. Rumors of a torn labrum have been denied, and coach Mike Tomlin expects Parker to practice Wednesday and has listed him as "day-to-day." The running back is expected to be fitted with a shoulder harness for Week 11, and he's expected to play, but there's no telling just how much the injury will affect his performance. It's clear the heavy workload early this season has taken a toll on Parker's body, and Mewelde Moore figures to remain a big part of the Steelers' offense moving forward.
Marvin Harrison - Harrison had just three catches for 37 yards last week, including a couple of huge drops as well. Afterward, members of Pittsburgh's secondary spoke of how the team game planned around stopping Reggie Wayne, as Harrison's eroding skills struck little fear in them. Over the last four contests, he's averaging a paltry 27.5 receiving yards per game with no touchdowns. At age 36, it's safe to say the end of Harrison's career is fast approaching, and he's become virtually worthless in fantasy leagues.
Santonio Holmes - After getting a highly impressive 11.1 YPA last season, Holmes looked prime for a true breakout campaign in 2008. Instead, he's on pace to finish the season with just 52 catches, 745 yards and four touchdowns. Holmes still possesses elite skills and tremendous upside, but he's simply targeted too infrequently to put up big numbers. There have been 20 quarterbacks who have attempted more passes than Ben Roethlisberger this season, and the signal caller's shoulder injury could prevent him from looking toward Holmes deep downfield as much as he'd like as well. Holmes has been targeted in the red zone just five times this year, so he's dependent on the big play.
Chris Chambers - After being held without a catch against the Chiefs last week, even Chambers admits his ankle injury continues to hamper him, and he expects that to be the case in future weeks as well. He has long-term upside because Philip Rivers has suddenly turned into an MVP candidate this year, but since the ankle will clearly bother him for some time, Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates are the first two options in San Diego's passing attack, making Chambers irrelevant until he returns to full strength.
Article first appeared 11/11/08