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Working the Wire: Mark Stopa with This Week's Suggested Pickups

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.

It would be easy for me to encourage you not to overreact after one week, not just with waiver claims but with all of your fantasy players. To say, "Arian Foster won't have three TDs every week," or "Andre Johnson will turn it around - buy low."

The problem is that this isn't baseball. The NFL season flies by, so we don't have the luxury of waiting several games to adjust. At this stage of the season,
we're constantly trying to evaluate whether last week's results are a fluke - a product of a small sample size - or the start of a trend. For instance, a young, athletic Texans defense along with an improved running game makes me think they will throw less frequently than last year. They aren't going to get to face the Colts anemic run defense every week, but we just saw that Gary Kubiak is willing to run when they get ahead.

As for the Colts, we've seen this before, so don't act surprised. In their Super Bowl title season, they were last in the league against the run. Many casual fans don't realize this weakness because Peyton Manning ensures the Colts usually play with the lead, so many teams can't stick with the run. But good backs on good teams (like Ahmad Bradshaw this week) are a threat to explode on them at any time.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on potential waiver claims for this week.

My preseason suggestions: Sticking with my theme of not over-reacting, don't forget the guys I profiled during the preseason. Lance Moore and James Jones
come to mind. Don't go cutting these guys for the scrubs who happened to score in Week 1 (e.g. Michael Spurlock, Laurent Robinson, etc.).

Mike Vick, QB, Eagles: After his Week 1 performance, how many NFL teams wish they had Vick as their starter? About ten, I'd say. On a team without an
established short-yardage back (especially with Leonard Weaver presumably out for the year after a gruesome leg injury), Vick could steal some short-yardage
TDs, in addition to weekly stats similar to those he posted against the Packers. Don't presume Kevin Kolb is going to get the starting job back. He may, but this
is Vick's chance to prove he should start, if not for the Eagles this year, then for a different team in 2011.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers: Ryan Grant has already been declared out for this week's matchup against the Bills, so even though Jackson has never done much at the NFL level, a starting RB on an elite offense mandates a waiver claim. The Bills are sneaky good against the pass but can be had against the run. I don't expect them to slow down Aaron Rodgers, but I see the Packers blowing them out and a tired, frustrated Bills defense giving up a long TD run to Jackson in the second half. It looks like Grant's injury may be significant, so Jackson is my top waiver suggestion of the week.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: Jerome Harrison was terrific down the stretch in 2009, probably saving Eric Mangini's job. So naturally, even after Montario
Hardesty gets put on IR, Harrison takes a back seat in the offense to Hillis. I have to think that Harrison's superior talent, and Hillis' two Week 1 fumbles,
will relegate Hillis to fantasy irrelevance at some point, but at minimum, this is a situation worth monitoring. After all, regardless of which back you, I, or the rest of the fantasy industry views as the better back, all that matters is the head coach's opinion (something to also keep in mind with the Saints, among others).

Fred Taylor, RB, Patriots: With tight-lipped Bill Belichick running the show, nobody was sure how the carries would be divided among the Patriots RBs. After one week, it seems like Taylor is the man and Laurence Maroney is still an injury-prone tease.

Mark Clayton, WR, Rams: Clayton is everything I dislike about waiver claims - veteran castoff on a new team, bad offense, limited upside. That said, Sam Bradford is going to be playing from behind a lot, and judging from Week 1 (16 targets), Clayton is going to get a lot of opportunities to become fantasy-worthy.

Austin Collie, WR, Colts: Collie is exactly the opposite of Clayton - terrific offense, high upside, but more competition for targets. I'm profiling him this week not just because of his Week 1 explosion, but because Anthony Gonzalez is hurt again, and like 2009, that bodes well for Collie.

Devin Thomas, WR, Redskins: Stay patient. Thomas didn't do anything in Week 1, but neither did the WRs above him on the depth chart. The upside of this
third-year receiver is still there.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: Revis can cover Randy Moss, but Brady is going to get his. I expect Gronkowski to score this week.

This year, I want to create a new category. I'll call it "Dead To Me." These are players who, at present, I can't imagine owning under virtually any circumstance, even for waiver purposes. I am willing to revisit such players in the future (this is the NFL - things change quickly), but consider this a list
of players I'd cut in favor of the options listed above.

Dead To Me:

Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills: Combine a bad offensive line with bad quarterback play and a coaching regime that is intent on featuring its
first-round draft choice, CJ Spiller, and it's hard for me to see a scenario where I'd use Jackson or Lynch this season. They're both dead to me for fantasy

Chester Taylor, RB, Bears: I'm now convinced the Bears offensive line is among the worst in the league. Playing second fiddle to Matt Forte on a pass-first team with a bad offensive line compels me to bury Taylor. When I cut players, I look for guys who I don't think I'll regret cutting. That's Taylor.

Raiders passing offense: I've seen enough. There's just not enough upside here to justify a roster spot.