By Dalton Del Don
Willis McGahee, RB, BAL – After totaling 75 yards with a score during Week 1, McGahee led the Ravens with 15 carries Sunday (Ray Rice saw just eight rushing attempts), leading to 89 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns. McGahee has impressed, averaging 4.9 YPC through two weeks, and he's also been more active as a receiver than ever before. Rice will remain in the mix, but he gets plenty of his touches through the air, and Le'Ron McClain has really been removed from the RB picture. Playing for a team with a strong defense and offensive line with a developing quarterback, McGahee is all of a sudden in a terrific situation, especially since he's also been used at the goal line. He's not a true workhorse, but McGahee can be plenty valuable getting even just 60 percent of the carries on a team that led the NFL with 592 rushing attempts in 2009.
Mario Manningham, WR, NYG – Steve Smith is the more consistent option, but Manningham has fast developed into the Giants' most explosive receiver, showing a terrific ability to rack up yards after the catch. With 17 targets through two games, he's quickly developing a nice rapport with Eli Manning, who hasn't missed a beat with Plaxico Burress gone. Opposing defenses are loading the box in an effort to stop the run, and Manningham will continue to make them pay. Domenik Hixon isn't a threat to take back the starting spot once he returns. Manningham looks for real.
Dallas Clark, TE, IND – With Marvin Harrison gone and Anthony Gonzalez hurt, Clark has essentially become Peyton Manning's second read on offense, evidenced by his team-leading eight targets Monday. Clark has been a bit injury-prone in the past, but he's missed just two games total over the past two seasons, and there's no reason why he won't continue to be a major part of Indy's offense. Clark is actually quite athletic, possesses good speed and has fantastic hands. He might be the favorite to lead the NFL in receiving yards from the tight end position this year.
Cedric Benson, RB, CIN – Through two weeks, Benson is tied for the league-lead with 50 carries, and he's even contributing as a receiver more than usual. With an improving YPC and a goal-line role, he's going to be plenty valuable this season, especially once the offense starts fully clicking after Carson Palmer missed most of the preseason with an ankle injury. Four upcoming matchups against the Ravens and Steelers isn't ideal, but Benson has never looked better throughout his NFL career.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, JAX – A third-round pick in the 2007 draft, injuries have cost Sims-Walker his entire rookie season as well as most of the preseason entering this year. However, before suffering a leg injury in training camp, David Garrard called him a developing star, and he possesses good size (6-2, 241 lbs) and speed. He was already threatening to join the starting lineup, and a season-ending injury to Troy Williamson (shoulder) made it a formality. With Torry Holt lacking his old explosion, Sims-Walker looks like the team's best deep threat. Since Jacksonville's defense has been brutal so far, the Jaguars may be forced to throw frequently in 2009, leading to solid numbers from Sims-Walker.
Joey Galloway, WR, NE – Galloway and Tom Brady haven't shown much chemistry so far, and the speedy veteran is somewhat miscast as an underneath route-runner in New England's offense. Still, if Wes Welker's knee injury proves serious, Galloway will be valuable, especially in PPR formats, as he saw 12 targets Sunday. The same could be said for rookie Julian Edelman, who received a whopping 16 looks in Week 2. Keep an eye on Welker's status.
Justin Forsett, RB, SEA – While Julius Jones managed just nine yards on 11 touches Sunday, Forsett racked up 92 yards on 11 touches. Of course, much of that was a product of dumpoffs after Matt Hasselbeck got hurt, and Forsett is too small to ever emerge as a workhorse. Still, despite a nice Week 1, Jones has done nothing but disappoint throughout his career, and Forsett is much more explosive. This could develop into a timeshare, and with Seneca Wallace likely to be starting at least in the short-term, Forsett could continue to be heavily involved in the passing offense.
Byron Leftwich, QB, TB – In no small part because the defense has been terrible so far this year, allowing 10.1 YPA with a 5:1 TD:INT ratio in the secondary, Leftwich has already attempted 91 passes – the second most in the NFL. While he's not always the most accurate quarterback, that kind of volume can lead to big fantasy stats, as he's currently averaging 286.0 yards per game despite getting 6.3 YPA. In Week 2, he nearly threw for 300 yards with three touchdowns despite missing Antonio Bryant (knee) and a quite Michael Clayton, so Tampa Bay's lack of weapons is hardly a big concern. The defense doesn't figure to get much better anytime soon, so Leftwich is a sneaky fantasy option, at least until the team turns to Josh Freeman once the playoffs are out of the question.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, DEN – It didn't take long for Moreno to already start getting the majority of carries in Denver's backfield, and it looks like he's completely recovered from the knee sprain. Expect him to dominate the ratio of carries even more moving forward, and with a strong offensive line, an improving defense and a middling passing attack, Moreno is in a pretty good situation to succeed.
Clinton Portis, RB, WAS – With 2,087 career rushing attempts, Portis no longer possesses much burst, but this downgrade is hardly all his fault. When an offense can't reach the end zone playing at home against the Rams, there are big problems in store for the future. Portis gets another easy matchup this week against the Lions, so if he can put up even moderate production, it might not be a bad idea to see what you can get in return in a trade. Obviously, you can't aim too high.
Marion Barber, RB, DAL – Barber has looked nothing short of fantastic so far this season, but it's now safe to question his durability. He never even appeared on the injury report before taking over the starting role last season, but after an injury-riddled 2008 campaign, his latest malady (thigh) is a concern, although it appears to be minor. The injury didn't look great when it occurred, however.
Donnie Avery, WR, STL – Just like in Week 1, Avery (six targets) took a backseat to Laurent Robinson (nine targets) in the Rams' offense, and being the third option on such a terrible unit is unlikely to lead to big stats. It's still too early to bail, but since Avery isn't a great red-zone threat either, his expectations need to be tempered. At least the Rams should be forced to throw quite a bit with that defense, and more games against the NFC West will help.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, SEA – The good news is that the newest injury wasn't an aggravation to his persistent back problem, which would have put the rest of Hasselbeck's season in jeopardy. However, a fractured rib is pretty serious, so don't be surprised if he's forced to miss multiple weeks. Seattle's offense really struggles with Seneca Wallace under center.
Mike Bell, RB, N.O. – Just when Pierre Thomas looks ready to return from his MCL sprain, Bell suffers one of his own. A timetable hasn't been set yet, and Bell hasn't been ruled out for Week 3 even, but considering Thomas just missed nearly a month with a similar injury, it's safe to expect Bell to miss a few upcoming games. The timing couldn't have been better for Thomas owners.
Josh Morgan, WR, SF – Bad games will happen, but Morgan received zero targets Sunday, highlighting his absence in the current offense. San Francisco won't always enjoy such success on the ground like in Week 2, but Shaun Hill's lack of arm strength simply isn't a great fit for a downfield threat like Morgan. Things can only get better, but Morgan's status as a sleeper is quickly fading.
Brandon Marshall, WR, DEN – While not a bad buy-low target, Marshall's value has taken a hit with Denver's current rotation at wide receiver. He's been targeted far less than when Jay Cutler was at QB, although that may change the more familiar he gets with the playbook. Still, fantasy owners were probably expecting more than seven receptions for 61 yards over two games against the Bengals and Browns.
JaMarcus Russell, QB, OAK – Not that he was a viable fantasy QB1 to begin with, but how about a 35.2 completion percentage? Throwing to two rookies starting at wide receiver doesn't help, but Russell needs to dramatically improve his accuracy if he wants to be a long-term starter. Teams are going to start taking Zach Miller away down the seam, so Oakland better hope those raw wideouts develop quickly.
Article first appeared 9/23/09