By Dalton Del Don
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, PIT – It seems like coach Mike Tomlin's effort to motivate Mendenhall worked, as the second-year back totaled 191 yards with two touchdowns Sunday night. The Chargers have been struggling against the run all season, but it was clearly the best Mendenhall has looked in a Pittsburgh uniform. Willie Parker's YPC has dropped for the sixth straight season this year, bottoming out at 3.1, and that was before he suffered a turf toe injury that's likely to linger. Pittsburgh should have no problem letting Parker walk at the end of the year, as he's a free agent, so don't be surprised if the team gives Mendenhall, the Steelers' second-round pick in 2008, every opportunity to be the workhorse from here on out. There's quite a bit of upside here.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, DEN – Over the last three games, Moreno has averaged 19 touches, a number that's only likely to rise with Correll Buckhalter suffering an ankle injury. The Broncos defense has allowed just 26 points over four games this season, and the offensive line is one of the best in football, so Moreno is in a terrific situation. The rookie back has talent, and some more explosiveness should show up the further he's removed from the preseason knee injury. Moreno should be viewed as a top-15 fantasy running back.
David Garrard, QB, JAC – The schedule hasn't been particularly tough, but Garrard is on pace to finish the season with 3,764 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. What really makes him a sneaky fantasy option, however, is that the quarterback is also in line to finish with 432 rushing yards and four scores on the ground. Over the last two weeks, Garrard has gotten 8.0 YPA, and his next four opponents have a combined record of 1-15. With Mike Sims-Walker emerging as a legit wide receiver, Garrard could remain a QB1 option throughout the season.
Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, CLE – Massaquoi busted onto the fantasy scene last week, recording eight catches for 148 yards. Like most rookie wide receivers, expect inconsistency moving forward, but Massaquoi clearly benefits from the switch to Derek Anderson at quarterback, as he was targeted a whopping 13 times Sunday, including seven of those looks on deep balls. With Braylon Edwards since getting traded to the Jets, Massaquoi's outlook appears even better, so he's a must-add in all leagues.
Brett Favre, QB, MIN – Favre has posted a 7:1 TD:INT ratio the last three games, and he exhibited arm strength during Monday night's impressive performance that was missing at the end of last season. Clearly, his arm is back to full strength, and with Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin as weapons, Favre is suddenly posting gaudy passing numbers. Of course, Minnesota remains a run-first team with a strong defense, but if opposing teams continue to load the box to defend Adrian Peterson, Favre is certainly capable of taking full advantage of the situation.
Michael Crabtree, WR, SF – Crabtree finally caved, agreeing to a six-year deal with the 49ers, an offer similar to the one San Francisco had on the table from the very beginning. Crabtree hasn't played in a football game in nearly a year, as a foot injury was later followed by the holdout that resulted in him getting no reps in practice, so expect a long learning curve, especially coming from a spread offense in college. Luckily, San Francisco has an upcoming bye, but it's worth noting the team implements a run-heavy mentality, so Crabtree is unlikely to put up big stats in his rookie season.
Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ – For those in deeper leagues, it's worth noting Greene saw the first carries of his career Sunday, and he impressed, gaining 5.8 YPC against a tough Saints defense. The Jets backfield is crowded with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington around, but Jones has averaged just 3.8 YPC on the year and is a 31-year-old with 2,010 career rushing attempts. Greene is a good guy to stash, as he could be a difference maker over the second half of the season, especially playing for a team with a terrific run-blocking unit.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, NYJ – Maybe the addition of Braylon Edwards will lead to less defensive attention paid toward Cotchery, but it will also assuredly lead to fewer targets. Cotchery is on pace to finish the season with 92 catches and 1,424 receiving yards, so it's unlikely any of his fantasy owners want any sort of change. He'll remain plenty valuable, but the Edwards addition is probably not great news to his long-term value.
Darren McFadden, RB, OAK – McFadden, who suffered yet another injury that will sideline him 2-for-4 weeks, continues to be one of the bigger disappointments. Facing a Texans defense last week that is the worst in the league against the run this season, McFadden somehow managed to lose three yards on six carries. His straight-line speed hasn't translated to the pro game, and his inability to break any tackles has become apparent. The injury means he'll be firmly planted on fantasy benches, but he warranted that anyway.
Kellen Winslow, TE, TB – The quarterback situation has become a big problem in Tampa Bay. Maybe it was just a one-game aberration, and it figures a raw QB like Josh Johnson could find a safety valve in his tight end, but Winslow saw just three targets Sunday, resulting in a second straight quiet game. He caught a touchdown in each of his first two games as a Buc, but Winslow has totaled just 35 yards over the past two weeks, and his 9.1 yards-per-catch mark is easily a career-low. It's time to panic if he doesn't bounce back in Week 5.
Ted Ginn, WR, MIA – Ginn fooled some with a big Week 2 performance, but he's totaled just three receptions for 30 yards combined over his other three games this season, including a goose egg in Week 4. Miami's coaches have become extremely frustrated with Ginn, and his fantasy owners can relate. Feel free to drop him in shallow leagues, and he needs to be benched until further notice even in deep formats.
Reggie Bush, RB, NO – After a preseason filled with hype, Bush has really disappointed this year, as he's already fumbled three times and has seen a big drop-off in production as a receiver. It's sad his 4.1 YPC mark is easily a career-high, and with Pierre Thomas emerging combined with the healthy return of Mike Bell, Bush isn't going to get many carries moving forward. Maybe he'll return from the bye week truly healthy, and New Orleans will start using him more in the passing attack, and the Saints' offense is powerful, but right now, Bush can't be safely used in non-PPR formats.
Tony Romo, QB, DAL – Since shredding a Tampa Bay secondary in Week 1 that has since been exposed as one of the worst in football, Romo has posted a 1:3 TD:INT ratio. As many feared, Roy Williams looks nothing like a true WR1, and no other Dallas receiver has stepped up as well. Romo has still gotten a healthy 7.6 YPA this year (although that number has now dropped for the third straight season), but he looked especially rattled and was terribly inaccurate against the Broncos last week. Hopefully he can rebound with a big game against the Chiefs heading into the team's upcoming bye.
Mario Manningham, WR, NYG – Manningham, who is coming off back-to-back relatively quiet weeks after a huge game in Week 2, should be fine, as he did see eight targets Sunday. Still, Hakeem Nicks' emergence is a bit of a concern, as is Eli Manning's (heel) health. Steve Smith is clearly the No. 1 target in the Giants passing attack.
Article first appeared 10/7/09