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Fantasy Football Edge: Value Up, Value Down

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By Matt Cott, Moe Koltun, and Matt Schwimmer of RotoAnalysis.com

With two fantasy matchups in the books, it’s pretty clear that preseason rankings have been thrown out the window. While the obvious risers include the likes of Robert Griffin III, CJ Spiller, and Demariyus Thomas, here are some other names that we at RotoAnalysis.com have moved up and down our ranks that you may not have paid as close attention to. Our full week 3 rankings can be found here.

Value Up: Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, and Rob Gronkowski, Patriots WR/TEs

The fantasy spin on the Patriots all preseason was that there were ‘too many mouths to feed’ on their offense. Well, when one of those mouths closes, it means everyone else on the team is going to be able to eat their fill the rest of the season. Aaron Hernandez was actually eating more into the rest of the Pats’ receivers’ value than we originally perceived, so his going down should be even more beneficial than we could have known. Gronkowski will go back to being the number 1 goal-line option for this team, and Wes Welker will get his ‘Safety Blanket’ tag back in the eyes of Tom Brady. Lloyd will get more downfield targets, and although he hasn’t converted on a ton of those with only 12 points through 2 weeks, I think this injury will propel him to being a top 15 receiver the rest of the way. This is one of the best offenses in the league, and can be exploited across fantasy positions.

Value Down: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals WR

While after two weeks Fitzgerald may look like a classic buy low, we at RotoAnalysis have slid him down in our rankings all the way outside the top 20. While John Skelton and Kevin Kolb are both clearly below-average quarterbacks, the drop off from Skelton to Kolb hurts Fitzgerald the most. Kolb is more of a check-down quarterback a la Alex Smith who doesn’t have the ability to throw Fitz many deep balls. Given how many amazing wide receivers there are who are in better situations and offenses, it’s probably best to stay away from Fitzgerald this year.

Value Up: Martellus Bennett, Brent Celek, and Dennis Pitta, Giants/Eagles/Ravens TEs

For years, the middle tier of start-able tight ends was relatively clear-cut and included a dependable group of guys like Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. However, the times have changed and as that group ages, they are slowly being replaced by a new group of tight ends, which includes the likes of Bennett, Celek, and Pitta. Celek has been around for a while and showed his true fantasy upside in 2009 when he scored 8 times. Although last year was mainly disappointing for Celek, he started to show chemistry with Michael Vick towards the end of last year by scoring in the final three games. Although he benefited from an injured Jeremy Maclin in week 2, fantasy owners should be able to rely on Celek for plenty of targets, catches, and yards this year. In addition, Dennis Pitta has moved up the depth chart for fantasy teams and his own team, the Baltimore Ravens. Now that he’s ahead of Ed Dickson on the depth chart, Flacco will look to the tight end often in an offense that hasn’t had superior play from any wideout this year. Finally, although Martellus Bennett was the butt of 15,000 weight jokes this offseason, he is putting together a monster season by scoring in each of the first three games. Bennett’s skillset has been impressive for a guy of his size who causes huge mismatch problems and he will continue to benefit from Eli Manning’s love for tight ends.

Value Down: Darren McFadden, Raiders RB

Coming into 2012, the question marks on Darren McFadden were entirely about his injury issues; not even the most pessimistic prognosticators questioned his immense talent. However, through 2 games against mediocre opponents (the Chargers and Dolphins), McFadden is averaging a ghastly 2.1 yards per carry. People don’t seem as worried about him as they are about Chris Johnson, and I’m sure that has something to do with McFadden putting up solid fantasy stats in week 1 thanks to his pass-catching ability, but at this point, we still have big concerns about McFadden. Every week he plays, Run DMC is a liability to get injured, and unless he’s going to put up elite, 5+ Yards Per Carry numbers like he has the past two seasons, I don’t think he can be considered a truly elite back. The biggest problem with McFadden’s performance hasn’t been his consistency, but his explosion—his longest rush of the season is just 8 yards. Unless Darren McFadden can get his old explosiveness back, I’m temporarily changing his nickname from Run DMC to Jog DMC, and if he gets stifled against the Steelers at home this weekend he may have to be relegated to Walk DMC.

Value Up: Stevan Ridley, Patriots RB

While we have yet to see Shane Vereen action, it looks like Belichick will stick with Stevan Ridley as an every-down back for the Patriots this season. It is the first time in a few years that the Pats could have a true go-to back. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is performing well in Cincinnati and ceded goal line work to Ridley. With Hernandez also out, the Patriots should continue to feed the ball to Ridley, who had 39 carries in week 1 and 2. Ridley’s a talented runner and receiver who has officially creeped his way up the rankings into a solid #2 running back for your fantasy team.

Value Down: Shonn Greene, Jets RB

Although it’s tempting to like Greene because of the Jets ground and pound philosophy and good offensive line, it’s just a tease. For starters, Greene just isn’t talented enough to be a lead back in the NFL. Although he provided a burst for the Jets in the playoffs a few years ago, he doesn’t have any admirable skillsets besides the volume of carries he gets. After only averaging 2.1 yards/carry last week, Greene found himself splitting carries with second-year back Bilal Powell in the fourth quarter. The second-year back is way more explosive and dynamic then Greene, who is not an asset in the passing game either. Going forward, Greene will continue to lose fantasy value as the Jets use more of Powell and Joe McKnight in the backfield.

Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.

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