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Cutting the ties with draft day favorites in this week’s Fantasy Corner


By Adam Hoff


One of the toughest things to do in fantasy sports is to let go of preconceived notions.  Once you’ve made up your mind about a guy during the preseason, it is extremely hard to alter that perspective.  It is even more difficult when you latched onto that player in the third round of your draft.  Plugging him into the lineup week after week is just about the most gruesome thing imaginable.  Now Week Six is behind us, and it feels as if there is no recourse.  Do you keep playing him even though he sucks?  Do you dare sit the guy that was a late second round pick and slated to rack up 20 points every game from the QB position?  These are the times that try fantasy owners’ souls. 


I personally tend to be a loyalist.  I simply can’t cut a guy loose.  Maybe it stems from the false hope that he’ll turn it around.  Maybe it has something to do with me not wanting to admit that I botched a crucial pick in the draft.  Perhaps I simply don’t want to be “that guy” – the one that drops or trades an underachieving star, only to watch him regroup and go nuts the rest of the way.  Here is a breakdown of some of the players most likely to be driving fantasy owners crazy this week:


Santana Moss, WR – Perhaps the most disappointing player in fantasy football.  What do you do with this guy?  He was dinged up for a while and I probably speak for all Moss owners when I say that I rationalized his poor start by pointing to the injury problems.  Well, he’s healthy now and he still sucks.  He dropped about a gazillion passes against the Pats on Sunday and the Jets offense has become more conservative than Dick Chaney.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing in politics or even in the NFL but it’s horrible for fantasy owners.  Do the Jets even have deep routes in their playbook anymore? 


Advice (Your best bet is to read this advice and then to follow the George Costanza method of “doing the opposite”):  Put Moss on your bench or try to package him in a trade for a more consistent WR.  You can’t drop him because he probably cost you a fourth round pick, but you certainly can’t start him either.  If you have an extra William Green-type RB laying around or if you won the Rueben Droughns Sweepstakes and can spare someone like Warrick Dunn, go ahead and offer them up with Moss to try to move into Darrell Jackson territory.  Just be sure not to do what I did: post on your league message board about how much you hate Moss and how bad he sucks.  It’s hard to find takers after something like that.


Chad Pennington, QB – Might as well stay with the Jets.  They may be 5-1 but they are still a disappointment as far as I’m concerned.  You know about Moss.  Justin McCareins went for 83 yards last week and it felt like a miracle.  Only Curtis Martin has been productive.  The field general Pennington is one of the more obvious culprits considering that he came into the season as the #6 QB on most draft lists.  Despite being one of the most accurate passers in the league, Herman Edwards has got him dinking and diving every Sunday afternoon.  Open it up, Herm!  Right now Pennington is the #15 Rated QB in the league and has only 5 TD’s to his credit. 


Advice: Not only should you keep Pennington, you should try to acquire him.  If you have been riding a young gun primed for an inevitable dip in production (Leftwich, Carr, Harrington) or you are using a smoke and mirrors approach (Warner, Rattay, Brees), now is the time to swipe Pennington from a frustrated fellow owner.  While Moss may never get back on track, Chad P simply has to start putting up better numbers.  Once the Jets get past a series of games against Miami, Buffalo, and Baltimore, they will be playing much better offensive teams the rest of the way and Pennington will have to put up numbers to continue winning. 


Domanick Davis, RB – He emerged during the second half last year as a multi-talented back with big time fantasy capabilities.  He was like a trendier version of Tiki Barber.  After being anointed as an elite back during the offseason, he put up two touchdowns and over 150 all-purpose yards in the opener.  However, he also fumbled twice, which served as a warning for the disaster ahead.  He’s been hurt twice, has fumbled about 50 times, and is averaging less than 2.5 yards per carry in each of his past three starts.


Advice: Tough one.  On the one hand, he just got two weeks off and might be coming back recharged.  On the other hand, his backup, Jonathan Wells, has been running at a 3.8 clip over the past three weeks and could wind up splitting the carries.  Best to take a wait-and-see approach with Davis.  Observe what happens this weekend and go from there.  If he has a big game, he’s back for good.  If he sputters yet again, it might be time to go looking for a new running back. 


Rudi Johnson, RB – We all know the Bengals suck, despite their surprise MNF victory.  Thanks to the moronic decision to go with Carson Palmer over Jon Kitna at quarterback (more on that in a minute), Cincinnati has sabotaged their playoff hopes and the fantasy seasons of guys like Chad and Rudi Johnson.  While Mr. Bismo has had a rough time catching passes this year, there’s nothing you can do there.  If you’ve got Chad Johnson, you’ve got to stick with him through the ups and downs.  Besides, just look at what he did to Champ Bailey on Monday Night.  He may be inconsistent but he is still explosive.  However, to have a streaky WR is one thing – to count on a running back week in and week out is an entirely different matter.  While he finally had a nice game against the Broncos, Rudi has yet to score more than 18 points in a single week and is being grossly outplayed by later-round picks like Barber, Dunn, Martin, Thomas Jones, and Emmitt Smith, not to mention waiver wire pickups like Rueben Droughns and Mewelde Moore. 


Advice: Hold on to Rudi.  Not only will he respond when his teammates start chanting his name in the tunnel (okay, bad joke), but he’s actually looked good running the ball this year.  He looks sleek and powerful.  The problem is that the Bengals almost never have the ball and when they do, they are trailing.  Plus, there are like eight guys in the box on every play thanks to Palmer’s woeful play.  There is a silver lining here though.  Once Lewis finally goes back to Kitna (it feels like we’re about two weeks away), things will open up for Rudi.  And if they don’t go to Kitna it means that Palmer has finally started to play well – also a good thing for Johnson.  Either way, Rudi wins and so do you.  I’m not saying go trade Corey Dillon for him, but hang in there because he could wind up panning out okay.


(As for the decision to go with Palmer, I honestly still can’t believe they did it.  To listen to Madden and Michaels last night you would think that Palmer was the next Joe Montana.  He happened to get lucky with a long TD when Champ Bailey fell down and then his defense took care of the rest.  I wasn’t all that impressed and in my opinion, the verdict is still out.  This takes us back to why sitting Kitna was such a bad decision.  I understand the “one step back to take two steps forward” argument, but there are three fatal flaws with that line of thinking:


1) Wrong guy.  Palmer is not going to be a Hall of Fame QB.  Can we just admit that his senior year at USC was a product of the system now?  After all, Matt Leinart has been even better.  You are telling me that a mediocre QB of three seasons suddenly turned into a #1 pick?  No way.  He has Pete Carroll and Norman Chow to thank for that fat salary of his.  In fact, I hope he’s paying them rather handsomely.  Meanwhile, Kitna finally came into his own last season, turned the Bengals into a legitimately fearsome offense, and gave the franchise hope for the first time in over a decade.  Now?  They suck again. 


2) Wrong team.  If the Packers try something like this in three years, no problem.  The Ravens gave it a shot and no one freaked out, even after it has become apparent that Kyle Boller is dog meat.  A team like the Dolphins could definitely get away with it, if they had a young QB to throw out there.  The point is, teams that have had success get a grace period with their fans.  The season ticket holders and die-hards are perfectly fine with a losing season or two if they think they can get a stud QB out of the deal.  But the Bengals?  I’m sorry, it just doesn’t fly.  This franchise needs to worry about a winning season.  You can’t go 8-8 and finally have a decent season and then take a step back.  Which leads us to point #3 …


3) Wrong Goal.  As mentioned above, this is the Bengals!  They should not be worried in the least about building a possible Super Bowl contender.  They simply need to make the playoffs.  This team, with the 2003 Kitna at the helm, is a playoff contender.  This team with Palmer is not.  It’s as simple as that.  And when you are the laughing stock of your sport, you worry about making the freaking playoffs. 


Bottom line?  The Bengals will always be the Bengals and this is just further proof.  Okay, I’m glad I got that off my chest.)


Matt Hasselbeck, QB – What is happening here?  The guy was a breakout player last year, has a great running game opening things up for him, and a playbook that is perfect for fantasy quarterbacks.  Well, the problem lies with the receiving corps.  Darrel Jackson is having a decent season but he dropped three straight passes against the Cardinals on Sunday.  Koren Robinson is a washout.  Bobby Engram is hurt.  Jerry Rice is cryogenically frozen.  The two pass-catching tight ends, Stevens and Mili, are off to disappointing starts.  Throw in the fact that Hasselbeck is supposedly “trying to force things” too much and you’ve got trouble.  After tossing four picks last time out, Hasselbeck now has only 7 TD’s to go with 8 interceptions.  The #4 rated QB going into the season is #21 currently, just ahead of Jake Delhomme.  Ouch.


Advice: A week ago he was on the “trade for him” side of the ledger, but I’ve tempered those thoughts.  I would say hold on to him and wait for the Seahawks to get things figured out.  If you’ve got someone like Rattay or Roethlisberger, go in that direction for the time being. 


Michael Vick and Steve McNair, QB – The troubles have been well documented here.


Advice: McNair is going to be in and out of the lineup.  Vick is caught between a rock and a Mora place.  As long as Atlanta is running that ridiculous West Coast offense, the already overrated Vick will be horrible.  The hope for owners of these two players is that they are big name guys.  Most leagues have at least one sucker for a brand name.  It seems crazy but I bet you could get Leftwich or Carr for Vick.  As for McNair, well, you have to try something so throw him out there with the words “last year’s MVP” attached and hope someone has been out of the country for the first six weeks of the NFL season. 


Brian Westbrook, RB – Another running back that was sort of anointed “fantasy stud” status.  This year he has put up some nice yardage totals but the guy that scored 13 touchdowns in 10 games last year has sniffed the end zone only once all season … and that was when he popped a 54-yarder while running out the clock.  Let’s face it, the Eagles just aren’t looking for Westy in the red zone.  With T.O. on board and with Andy Reid’s infuriating propensity to “get cute” near the goal line, Westbrook is on the outside looking in.


Advice: There aren’t going to be too many takers out there at this point.  Besides, he’s a tough guy that can run and catch – he’s going to have to score some touchdowns eventually.  His bruised sternum is an additional worry, but I doubt you could trade him for even equal value.  Stick with Westbrook and hope that Reid finally gives him the ball close to the end zone.


Travis Henry, RB – What a murky situation.  Henry has been banged up all year, McGahee is taking his job, his QB is practically a statue … and things will probably only get worse for Henry.


Advice: Try to find someone in your league with plenty of wide receivers or a quarterback upgrade that also happens to be starting someone like Richie Anderson in one of his running back slots.  You might have yourself a taker.




Apprentice Update!  As promised, here is the weekly update on America’s favorite reality show.  Last week saw a restructuring of the teams and a bizarre assignment involving dogs in Central Park.  For a minute I was terrified that one of the two teams would steal the “Rent-A-Dog” idea that my buddy Juice and I came up with last year, but luckily that didn’t happen.  Frankly, I can’t even remember what they came up with but I know it was stupid.  Officially the worst task yet on the show.  Once things hit the boardroom it became apparent it was either going to be losing team manager Wes or the Queen of Complainers, Stacy, getting the axe.  Despite the fact that Wes pretty much screwed everything up and therefore should have been fired (especially considering the precedent on the show in regard to team managers getting fired), Stacy still found a way to get canned by The Donald.  Not only that, but the little poll on NBC.com showed that a whopping 91% of viewers felt the same way.  How is this possible?  Well, there is an answer to that question and also a lesson to be learned here. 


Remember last year when the foul-mouthed Heidi and the incredibly insane Omarosa went head-to-head week after week?  It was obvious that Omarosa was wrong in most instances, but Heidi came off looking just as bad.  Eventually, Omarosa was fired as Heidi celebrated the departure of her bitter enemy.  Well, the next week Heidi got the boot and had to listen to Trump call her “an incredibly negative person.”  All that fighting and complaining and whining got her tossed.  All she was able to do was outlast the one person she was feuding with.  Big deal.


This episode featured the same exact story line.  Stacy was so caught up in whining about that obnoxious Jennifer woman (voted off a couple of weeks ago) and then complaining about Pamela two weeks ago that she finally wore out her welcome.  All that complaining might have bought her some time by pointing the finger, but it ultimately wore Trump out.  You just knew that she lucked out two weeks ago and that the next time her team lost, she was gone.  It was automatic.  So the lesson is this: never get into it with another candidate.  Even if you are right and even if you get that person fired, you will just come off looking like a little baby and a complainer.  And then you’ll be the next to go.


We’ll be back next week with Fantasy Corner, NBA edition.   


Adam Hoff is a columnist for WhatifSports.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers of America.  He can be reached at ahoff@uchicago.edu or by sitemail at adamo112.

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