Steve Smith is back. Yes, that Steve Smith, the one fantasy owners used to rely on when the Carolina Panthers weren't one of the league's laughingstocks. Of course, this Steve Smith, not to confused with the New York Giants' point-per-reception helper, is still pretty good. On Tuesday, I didn't rank the Panthers' Smith because I wasn't sure if he would play Sunday. Now that he says he's ready to go, I'm activating Smith, making him a clear No. 2 wide receiver for this week's contest against the hardly terrifying San Francisco 49ers.
I'm not sure how many of you have simply lost interest in the 0-5 Panthers, either in real life or from a fantasy aspect, but I wouldn't give up yet. Smith, for example, scored touchdowns in each of the first two weeks. You say, "Sure, but Matt Moore is the quarterback." Well, Moore quarterbacked the first two weeks as well. Moore's back in, so rookie Jimmy Clausen can watch the mess from the sideline -- don't worry, he still has a nice future -- but don't sit Smith on the premise he doesn't have a quarterback. Jake Delhomme wasn't exactly Peyton Manning the past few seasons, and Smith overcame that.
The Panthers are actually somewhat interesting this week, and beyond, for a number of reasons. Not only is the rookie temporarily out of the starting lineup at quarterback, but this team had rookies at wide receiver as well! How could DeAngelo Williams succeed? The thing is, Williams is averaging 4.7 yards per rush and is on pace for more than 1,000 rushing yards. OK, so 1,000 yards doesn't mean what it used to, but Williams remains a top-20 running back. I'm using him in multiple leagues this week. Remember, a season ago, Chris Johnson entered Week 7 with two touchdowns and merely two 100-yard games. Williams is a better example; in his amazing 2008 campaign he entered Week 8 with two rushing touchdowns and one 100-yard effort. Then he exploded.
The makeup of the Panthers might prevent any explosions, but Smith and Williams remain starters to me. I'm also watching whether newcomer Devin Thomas, a bust of a second-round pick by the Washington Redskins in 2008 who was signed a week ago, can carve out a role amongst the team's underachieving rookies at the position. If you're looking for a sneaky pickup in a deep league, Thomas fits the criteria.
There weren't many Friday changes to be made to the rankings this week, but I did tweak a few more things.
Ivory towers: I don't think Pierre Thomas is going to play this week, and frankly I don't know when he'll play again. I just know that every Thursday-Friday we seem to go through this. I moved Chris Ivory up to a stronger flex position Friday and ranked Ladell Betts. What if Thomas misses another month? It's like Marvin Harrison from a few years ago, when week-to-week turned into months.
Cool news: With the tight end position hurting, it's nice to see that the Redskins' Chris Cooley appears recovered from his concussion and should suit up Sunday. I moved Cooley into the rankings at 10. We know that not all concussions are created equal; Aaron Rodgers missing zero games is another example. I don't assume a concussion means a missed week. Cooley is a good option this week, and Fred Davis now is not.
Titans leader: I removed Vince Young from my quarterback rankings but didn't move Kerry Collins in. I really doubt if Young plays he will play well, but if he's your only option, just make sure the Titans don't play it safe. I dropped Kenny Britt a bunch of spots. If Collins manages the game, Chris Johnson is the only Tennessee Titans player you want.
Let's go briefly by position to discuss some other sneaky pickups for this week:
Quarterback: Not a ton to watch here, but I do think Max Hall of the Arizona Cardinals could be the No. 2 rookie at this position for the season, after Sam Bradford. And in San Francisco, let's not assume Alex Smith is out of the woods. His backup is David Carr, hardly brimming with upside, but just noting for the really deep formats.
Running back: I've mentioned James Starks of the Green Bay Packers so many times, one might wonder if I represent him. Just saying that Brandon Jackson hasn't done much, so opportunity might arise. In San Francisco, if something were to happen to potentially overworked Frank Gore, I'm becoming convinced Anthony Dixon has game. Derrick Ward has been showing his game for the Houston Texans, and he looks like the 2008 version that rushed for 1,000 yards with the New York Giants. Look for Arian Foster to be handled carefully. Ward, on bye this week, has scored three consecutive weeks. Mike Hart of the bye-week Indianapolis Colts also deserves mention.
Wide receiver: St. Louis Rams rookie Danario Alexander scored in his first game last week, and he should see more chances. The Eagles will be sans DeSean Jackson, and everyone assumes Jason Avant puts up big stats; however, I think rookie Riley Cooper is the more apt home run threat. We know Malcom Floyd is out for the Chargers, but Buster Davis is also hurting. Richard Goodman could get the starting nod. As for Chaz Schilens of the Oakland Raiders, he's still recovering from knee surgery but might be ready by Week 8. A preseason sleeper for many, there's opportunity alongside Louis Murphy, but the team needs Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback. Man, who thought we'd ever say that?
Colts: And finally, after the Thursday blog about Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai, the news came out that Austin Collie had hand surgery and could miss a few weeks. Everyone and their mother will get excited about slot receiver Anthony Gonzalez, and hey, I'll add him as well, but he's not exactly Mr. Durable himself.
Have a great weekend and good luck in Week 7!