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NFL Barometer: Marshall Plan

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Ishmael Butler, James Harrison and David Bowie.

RISING

Mike James, RB, TB


Doug Martinís labrum tear should keep him out for the short term and, if weíre being honest, the only person whose interest is served by a 2013 return for Martin is head coach Greg Schiano, who probably canít save his job anyway even if Martin returns later in the year. In other words, Schiano will probably the only decision maker pushing for Martinís return in a month or so, but none of the people above Schiano will have a reason to listen to him by then. That means James, Martinís top backup, could and should hold on to the top runner role for the rest of the year. The fact that Martin badly struggled this year (127 carries for 456 yards and one touchdown, 12 catches for 66 yards) means that James shouldnít have high expectations, but the rookie has fresh legs at the very least after playing as a rotational runner for his entire career at the University of Miami, and running backs are always in high demand in fantasy football.

Terrance Williams, WR, DAL

Williams didnít earn high reviews in the offseason and has made his fair share of big mistakes on the field in his rookie season, but itís hard to ignore his playmaking abilities. Defenses are understandably leaving the big, athletic wideout in single coverage much of the time to focus on Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, but defensive coordinators may need to rethink their approach if Williams keeps up his current rate of production. He has a touchdown in three straight games, and 19 catches for 320 yards on just 21 targets over the last four weeks. Williams canít possibly continue to catch 90.5 percent of his targets while averaging 15.2 yards per look, but Dallas has every reason to drastically increase his target count in the meantime. Williams appears to be a legitimate WR3 in most cases, because Miles Austin looks like toast.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND

Reggie Wayneís torn ACL is a disaster for the Colts offense and a big disappointment to the league in general, but crisis often creates opportunity. That rule applies to the NFL as well, and in this case Hilton is the best bet to profit. Wayne received 58 targets this year, while Hilton checks in at second on the Colts with 54 through seven games. With only Darrius Heyward-Bey and Lavon Brazill pushing for targets otherwise, itís quite possible that Hilton will up his target rate from 7.7 targets to around 10 targets per game. Even after a fluky effort in which he caught just two of 11 targets for only 27 yards, Hilton is still averaging 7.6 yards per target on the year, so itís difficult to find a reason why he shouldnít average 80 or more yards per game the rest of the way.

Jordan Reed, TE, WAS

Itís early, but it looks like Reed will be one of those players who leaves GMs and scouts scrambling to figure out how they managed to overlook him in the draft. The rookie third-round pick (85th overall) is already on the verge of establishing himself as one of the leagueís top receivers at tight end, just seven weeks (five games) into his rookie season. After scorching the Bears for 134 yards and a touchdown on nine catches (nine targets) on Sunday, Reed is up to 298 yards and two touchdowns on 26 catches. His average of 9.9 yards per target demands that he be fed in the passing game, and the Redskins will almost certainly oblige. Reed has after-the-catch skills that rival those of many running backs, and heís too big for cornerbacks to feel comfortable matching up with him.

Jarrett Boykin, WR, GB

The Packers probably had a fair amount of confidence in Boykin given that heís been in the teamís system since he went undrafted as a rookie in 2012, but even they must have been pleasantly surprised when the Virginia Tech prospect lit up the Browns for 103 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions (10 targets). Cornerback Joe Haden aside, the Browns are known for their inability to cover receivers, and Boykin didnít exactly put up Madden numbers Sunday, but such a strong showing warrants further auditioning. Boykin is probably worth owning in leagues of 12 or more teams as long as Randall Cobb is out, because quarterback Aaron Rodgers can make three receivers fantasy relevant at any given point.

FALLING

Bilal Powell, RB, NYJ


One of the most puzzling out-of-nowhere gut punches in fantasy football this year was the decision of the Jets to all but remove Powell from the offense in Sundayís game against New England, instead making Chris Ivory the unannounced workhorse at running back. It was the scenario originally envisioned for the Jets in the offseason after they acquired Ivory from the Saints, but not the one owners had become accustomed to after Powell totaled 497 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the first six weeks, a span in which Ivory totaled just 115 yards on the ground. Head coach Rex Ryan said that Ivory had the Ďhot handí Sunday, but the Jets obviously were committed to feeding Ivory even before such a temperature could be taken. This is a workload distribution that looks very uncertain for now.

Nick Foles, QB, PHI

So much for a quarterback controversy. An almost jubilant chorus declaring Foles a 'better fit' than Michael Vick for the Philadelphia offense rained down after Foles threw three touchdowns and ran for a fourth against Tampa Bay in Week 6, but Sunday's game against Dallas conclusively proved otherwise. Foles turned in one of the weakest quarterback efforts of recent or distant memory, completing 11-of-29 passes for just 80 yards, while running for 25 yards against a Dallas pass defense that looked like one of the leagueís worst prior to Sunday. Even if heís not healthy, Vick will start this week for Philadelphia.

New England wide receivers

The Patriots got by with a ragtag bunch of wideouts led by Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson while Danny Amendola (groin) and Rob Gronkowski (forearm/back) sat out, but that obviously wasnít Plan A. When Gronkowski finally made his 2013 debut against the Jets on Sunday, Brady unsurprisingly threw the ball his way often, at the expense of the previously mentioned receivers (besides Amendola, who was out with a concussion). After averaging a combined 13.5 catches for 159.8 yards and 1.2 touchdowns in the previous six games, Thompkins, Edelman and Dobson combined for just 10 catches for 94 yards as Gronkowski gobbled up 17 targets for eight catches and 114 yards.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR

Williamsí early-season value was muted by his inactivity near the goal line, and his 106 carries and 12 catches in six games have yielded no touchdowns and just 547 yards from scrimmage. There's little or no reason to think that his usage will change much Ė he has just five touchdowns on his last 279 carries, and his workload is set to take another hit with the imminent return of Jonathan Stewart, who has yet to play this year due to ankle issues. Although Stewart doesn't exactly look formidable after averaging just 3.6 yards per carry in nine games last year, the team will likely give him at least a ceremonial role to justify his lofty salary. Stewart in any case is set to return to the lineup in Week 9 against Atlanta.


Bears wide receivers

The groin injury Jay Cutler suffered against Washington on Sunday is likely to keep him out at least four weeks, and the phrase Ďat leastí is not something you want to see in the prognosis for a serious injury. An even lengthier absence is more than plausible, leaving the value of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery somewhat in flux as Josh McCown takes over as starting quarterback for the Bears. There's some hope that McCown might be productive enough to keep the duo's value afloat after throwing for 204 yards and one touchdown on 20 attempts against Washington on Sunday, but the Washington defense is very weak against the pass, and itíd be quite a surprise if McCown could match Cutlerís level of play. Still, owners of Marshall and Jeffery should merely adjust their expectations rather than panic and make an irrational trade, because Cutlerís average of 7.4 yards per pass is not irreplaceable.