Each week I'll take a look at the four main positions in fantasy football. This week I'll break down the Eagles' quarterback situation while also touching on the success of Aaron Rodgers and the failings of Ryan Fitzpatrick. In the backfield, Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw are dealing with injuries, and the Rams might be starting to shift responsibilities. Out wide Brandon Lloyd and Steve Johnson are seeing a lot of targets, and on a per game basis Hakeem Nicks has been very, very good. At the tight end position, Rob Gronkowski has been a disappointment to some, but he really shouldn't be, an is it time to consider dealing Tony Gonzalez?
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The Eagles are in rough shape. They may be 3-3, just one game behind the Giants in the NFC East, but they are floundering. They fired their DC, and Andy Reid is apparently coaching for his job. The figurehead for the struggles has been Michael “Turnover Machine” Vick. Through six games Vick has an unconscionable 13 turnovers. When asked of late, Reid hasn't exactly been offering a ringing endorsement for Vick. "As I sit here today, he's the starting quarterback," Reid said. "I'm just telling the truth.” Statements like that have led many to believe that rookie Nick Foles could be under center sooner rather than later if Vick can't cut the turnovers, and by that I mean he could appear in the Eagles next game if Vick turns the ball over a couple of times. For the sake of fantasy football, let's hope that Vick remains the starter in Philly. The turnovers are dreadful but Vick is still a top-10 fantasy option at the position, something Foles obviously wouldn't be. Vick is also completing passes at better than his career rate, and throwing for more yards per game than he ever has before. Vick is also on pace to throw for 21 passing scores which would tie his career-high. The fumbles (five lost) and interceptions (eight) are awful, but Vick is actually passing the ball as well as anyone had a right to expect.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 12 touchdown passes in his first four games this season. Over his last two contests he's failed to throw for a score while posting just 279 passing yards. Hey, you didn't think it was going to be easy with Fitzpatrick did you? He's a mid level QB2, nothing more.
Aaron Rodgers is on pace for 4,364 passing yards and 43 passing yards after his massive Week 6 outing. Over the past four seasons Rodgers has averaged 4,259 yards and 33 touchdowns. And you thought he was struggling this season.
Were you aware that Michael Vick, you know the horrible Michael Vick that I spoke of above, has passed for only five fewer yards than Aaron Rodgers this season? Or that Vick has thrown for 289 more yards than Robert Griffin III? Speaking of Griffin, he leads all quarterbacks with six rushing scores. Cam Newton has three, but it might surprise you to see who is tied for third at the position with two rushing scores. Colin Kaepernick, who has thrown only nine passes while rushing the ball just 12 times this year for the Niners, has two rushing scores. The other two fellas – you're not gonna guess, so I'll just tell ya: Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady.
Ahmad Bradshaw has run for more than 300 yards the past two games reminding us all just how dynamic an option he can be when healthy (316 yards on the ground, 33 through the air). Unfortunately, there is that last part of the previous sentence to consider - “when healthy.” Bradshaw didn't practice Wednesday because his foot was sore. Uh oh. Bradshaw has had foot issues for years, and he's gone under the knife the past two off-seasons to try and fix the issues. The truth is – he is never going to be 100 percent until he stops playing football. Most of the time he can play through it, but he's a certain risk to be able to carry a full workload. I can't blame the Giants for giving him the work the past two games given all the yards he racked up, but 57 carries in two weeks – what the hell were you thinking would happen Giants? There isn't a legitimate concern at the moment that Bradshaw will miss action in Week 7, but how could you not be concerned about his outlook moving forward? The real question is, do you try to lean on Andre Brown or David Wilson if you are looking for the support that Bradshaw will certainly need at some point? Brown looked great earlier in the year, and he has been cleared to return from his concussion. A big, powerful back, Brown brings a skill set that would look impressive on early downs. Wilson, on the other hand, is the elite/explosive type of runner that can take it to the house every time he touches the ball. I've been talking up Wilson since the preseason, and I would still say he is my choice of the two backups to truly breakout, but as with so many situations across the NFL there really is no certainty as to which player would carry the majority of the load if the lead back goes down.
Steven Jackson isn't the player he once was. Everyone knows that. At the same time, he's still a capable NFL running back. However, at 29 years of age, and with a contract nearing it's conclusion, the Rams might be paying as much attention to 2013 as they are 2012. Therefore, Daryl Richardson is likely to split work the rest of the season in the backfield, at least that is the growing feeling in St. Louis. I would still rather own Jackson, and personally I wouldn't be shocked if he were to carry the majority of the load the rest of the way, but there is no doubt that he hasn't been as effective as Richardson who is averaging 5.2 YPC compared to Jackson's mere 3.6 mark.
Trent Richardson (ribs) returned to practice Wednesday, and it appears that he will be good to go this weekend against the Colts. So much for the quick ascension of Montario Hardesty. Richardson has been everything that he was expected to be this year for the Browns. He's scored five times in his last five games, and he's caught at least four passes in four of the last five games. That's RB1 production folks. Hardesty came in for the injury Richardson in Week 6 and ran for 56 yards and scored a touchdown causing some to become excited about his prospects. Here's the truth with Hardesty folks. He's just not that talented. Injury after injury have taken their toll on Hardesty, and through 103 carries in the NFL he's barely averaging three yards a carry (3.1). Hardesty is clearly the handcuff to own behind T-Rich so he's worth adding off the wire in case Richardson is unable to go or limited by his rib issue, but don't add Hardesty expecting to strike it rich – that just ain't gonna happen.
Andrew Hawkins leads all pass receivers, minimum 25 receptions, in yards after the catch at 9.2. Percy Harvin is close behind with a mark of 8.7 YAC. Given that he's caught 49 balls to Hawkins 25, you can see just how seriously effective Harvin has been this season.
Stevie Johnson has 56 targets, tied with Brandon Marshall for 7th in the NFL. Unfortunately for Johnson owners he's been unable to catch even 50 percent of those targets with just 27 receptions. He is the only receiver in the top-20 in the NFL who has failed to haul in at least half of his targets.
Brandon Lloyd's shoulder injury apparently isn't that big a deal. He should be fine. He's also seeing a ton of targets. Lloyd has been targeted 52 times this season, tied for 14th in the NFL. In fact, Lloyd leads the Patriots in targets with one more than Wes Welker. Lloyd isn't running as many vertical routes as we expected him too, but he's still a solid option as a WR2, even though he's only scored once this season. Remain patient with him.
Hakeem Nicks has only appeared in three games this season. However, because of his huge effort against Tampa Bay (10 receptions for 199 yards an a score), he's averaging 93.7 yards per game this season, the 6th best mark in the NFL. If he were to keep that pace up for 16 games we'd be looking at a season of 1,499 yards. That goes to show you how effective Nicks can be if he can just maintain his health.
Reggie Wayne and Victor Cruz are tied for the NFL lead with 70 targets. Cruz has two more receptions – 43 to 41. Wayne does have 97 extra yards with 593 (Cruz has 496).
The last three weeks Owen Daniels has been the third most productive PPR weapon at the position behind the Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. Where does that leave Rob Gronkowski? In fourth place. Before the panic train rides into the station with Gronk, consider these salient points. First, Rob is on pace for 77 receptions. Second, he's on pace for 949 yards. Third, he's on pace for eight touchdowns. That's one hell of a season folks. It should also be pointed out that he's scored 31 touchdowns in 38 career games. He'll be fine, but as I said all preseason, expecting him to repeat his numbers from last year (90-1,327-17) was always asking too much.
Tony Gonzalez leads all tight ends in receptions (43) and yards (430). You already know he wont keep up that pace, at least I hope you do, and that decline started in Week 6 as he caught four balls for 42 yards. With the Falcons on a bye this week now might be a great time to try and parlay Gonzo's hot start into bolstering your fantasy squad. It's a long time until the Falcons play next, and chances are the longer we get into that time off the less that Gonzalez will bring if you deal him on the market. Just a thought.
Jason Witten started the year in a horrible tailspin. The spleen injury was an issue, an it clearly affected him as he dropped as many balls the first three weeks of the season as he has averaged the past three years. As he has gotten healthier his output, and snap count, has improved. Witten has actually played every offensive snap the past three games for the Cowboys. Every one. He's also back to being his former TE1 self with 19 receptions for 200 yards an a score the past two weeks. Hopefully you bought low.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT and Friday's at 9p-12a EDT. Further analysis from Ray can be found at BaseballGuys.com, and you can always follow him on Twitter at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.