1. Buy Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker
If any Brandon Lloyd or Wes Welker owners in your leagues are antsy about Welker's demotion or New England's signings of Deion Branch and Kellen Winslow, now is a good time to swoop in for a steal. Both Welker and Lloyd will establish themselves as second-receiver options in the near future, and perhaps as soon as this week.
The Branch and Winslow signings are insignificant. Even if the Patriots brought in Branch to contribute in any meaningful extent as a receiver, it won't matter much because he doesn't have the skills to capitalize like Lloyd and Welker. Branch caught just 51 of his 90 targets (56.7 percent) last year, whereas Welker snagged 122 of 173 (70.5 percent). Lloyd, meanwhile, caught 13 of the 21 targets he's seen so far (61.9 percent). Winslow gets a big "Nothing to See Here" since the Seahawks preferred Zach Miller, Anthony McCoy and Evan Moore while the Buccaneers went with Danny Noble.
The concern over Welker and his puzzling lack of a prominent role through two weeks is a more understandable worry, but it's still a situation that can't possibly persist for more than another week or two. Unless Welker is pulling a Terrell Owens in the New England locker room - something difficult to believe given Welker's universal portrayal as the flawlessly humble, perfectly loyal soldier - he will reestablish a 90-catch pace.
There's no justification for playing Julian Edelman at Welker's expense. No schematic consideration nor game situation is capable of dictating that Edelman would ever be more productive for New England than Welker. That means Welker's decreased snap count - Welker has 106 snaps so far compared to Edelman's 107 - is either poor judgment on New England's part or a punitive action in response to Welker's refusal to sign whatever long-term contracts the Patriots might have offered him in the offseason.
No matter the scenario, poor judgment and punishment will both lose out to common sense, as well as pressure from media and perhaps even Tom Brady. Despite playing one more snap than Welker, Edelman has just eight targets compared to Welker's 16 - it's easy to tell who Brady would rather see playing. Furthermore, it's no stretch to suggest New England's 20-18 loss to Arizona on Sunday could have been avoided if the Patriots' all-time leading receiver had played a full complement of snaps.
2. No relief for Chris Johnson Owners Until (Maybe) October
Conventional wisdom tells us not to sell an asset when its value is perceived to be low, but owners of Chris Johnson will either need to ignore that advice or prepare for a potentially lengthy wait as they hold out hope for his value rising again. Every relevant variable with Johnson's situation brings nothing but bad news for the foreseeable future.
First and foremost, Johnson is a cheap imitation of his former self. Either he's unwilling to run like he used to or he forgot how. Unless you're playing the 49ers on the road and every one of your offensive linemen was imported from the CFL that morning, there's no excuse for totaling 21 yards on 19 carries. The second problem is that his offensive line really is bad. Third, Johnson's quarterback (Jake Locker) is a mess, and defenses aren't at all worried about the pass, yet offensive coordinator Chris Palmer exasperates the issue by abandoning the run at the first sign of trouble.
The fourth issue for Johnson, and the main one that's likely to prevent him from breaking out in the near future, is an unfriendly schedule. The problems mentioned are unlikely to change anytime soon, so Johnson's production will probably only vary relative to the competence of his opponents. With defenses allowing 112.5 (Detroit), 72 (Houston), 98.5 (Minnesota) and 92 (Pittsburgh) rushing yards per game coming up, Johnson figures to find the going tough until Tennessee faces Buffalo in Week 7.
It could pay off for Johnson's owners if they just try to weather the upcoming, potentially protracted storm, but if you can trade him now for a player like Ahmad Bradshaw, Willis McGahee, BenJarvus Green-Ellis or Stevan Ridley, it's a move you should make. If the best you can do is the likes of Michael Turner or Shonn Greene, on the other hand, you might want to wait.
3. Martellus Bennett is a Top-10 Fantasy Tight End
Few players in the league are as liable to do something embarrassing, but those lucky enough to have invested in Martellus Bennett late in their drafts won't complain when he finishes the year as one of the league's 10 best fantasy tight ends.
Although he was unheralded as a free-agent signing, Bennett has long been one of football's most talented tight ends. He showed poor focus as a backup in Dallas, but the combination of a starting role and the Giants' more disciplined coaching staff has Bennett finally making the most of his significant talent.
A five-star recruit out of high school with sub-4.7 speed on a 6-foot-6, 265, frame, Bennett is no less than freakish as far as measurables go, and even at his worst in Dallas he was one of the league's best blocking tight ends. Bennett's talent as a blocker means he will rarely leave the field for the Giants, and his new focus as a receiver means he'll make the most of his big snap count.
Eli Manning already has a good rapport with Bennett, who heads into Week 3 with nine catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 16 targets. Considering the Giants have yet to have a third wide receiver emerge, there's no reason to think that a player with Bennett's talent and prominence won't continue to produce.
4. Daryl Richardson Might be More than a Handcuff
It appears as if seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson's ascent to the backup role behind Steven Jackson had more to do with Richardson's own skill than disappointment on the part of second-round pick Isaiah Pead, the heavy favorite to be Jackson's handcuff entering the year. It also appears as if Richardson might be too good for St. Louis to relegate him to a strictly backup role.
That's not to say Richardson is a threat to kick Jackson out of the starting lineup, but if he keeps running like he has to this point, the Rams probably need to get Richardson seven or eight carries per game if possible. Richardson looked a little like a pre-disaster Chris Johnson against the Redskins on Sunday, showing a rare combination of speed and smoothness as a runner as he bolted for 83 yards on 15 carries.
Jackson and Richardson combined for 47 carries in the first two weeks, a workload that could be split to roughly seven carries for Richardson and 16 for Jackson each game - a reduction for Jackson that would make plenty sense given his vulnerability to nagging injuries since last year.
Coach Jeff Fisher said Jackson could have played through his groin issue against Washington on Sunday, but the Rams stayed with Richardson in a close game because he was doing well. If good play from Richardson is a sufficient condition for lightening Jackson's workload, then doing just that could become a habit for St. Louis. Even if Jackson starts every game, Richardson looks like a player who could push for 700 yards from scrimmage.
5. Titus Young will Outdo Donnie Avery as a Sleeper Receiver
The market value of Donnie Avery is understandably much higher heading into Week 3, to the point that he's earning as much as WR4 consideration. With 18 targets in two weeks and a nine-catch, 111-yard against the Vikings on Sunday, Avery is an arguable addition in most formats at this point.
He should not, however, be added at the expense of Titus Young, a player who has seen a double-digit drop in ownership percentage after a miserable first two weeks. He has just 25 yards receiving, with as many penalties (one pass interference, one personal foul) as receptions.
But Young is the more talented player between the two, playing in an offense that should throw for much more yardage. Young also doesn't have Avery's durability issues - Avery played just eight games last year after missing 2010 with an ACL tear - nor does he have the specter of Austin Collie (concussion) threatening to displace him from the starting lineup. As long as he doesn't do something so boneheaded as to get suspended, opportunity and talent will win out for Young, who should still be expected to breeze past 800 yards receiving after catching 48 passes for 607 yards as a rookie and third wideout in 2011.