- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Shaun Alexander was traded in one of my leagues today, essentially for Jon Kitna. Would this trade have raised eyebrows in August? Oh yeah. What about three weeks ago? Probably. Today, however, I wonder if the guy who gave away Alexander was thinking ahead and won the trade. He did need a quarterback, after all, and if you're not a believer in 30-year-old running backs coming out of slumps, you should sell.
Alexander's last two games haven't been so pretty, as he's rushed for a combined total of 60 yards, his worst two-game stretch since 2002. Then again, we can't say for sure that Alexander is toast and dealing him off, even for a second-tier quarterback in the Nos. 5-10 range overall, is smart. Running backs can be streaky, and they can carry fantasy teams when they're hot. Will Kitna?
In truth, there are a lot more safe quarterbacks than running backs in fantasy this season, and it would make me consider a trade like that as well if I owned Alexander. While I still prescribe to the theory that running backs are the key to fantasy, only three running backs show up in the top 15 among fantasy scorers so far. Of those three, one is a rookie still sharing carries and another is on a team that might not win a game, just dealt a key wide receiver and has Baltimore and New England in Weeks 15 and 16. OK, so LaDainian Tomlinson is safe.
But Alexander isn't. The rest of the top-15 running backs in fantasy are littered with questions, whether it's about durability (Brian Westbrook, Joseph Addai, LaMont Jordan, Sammy Morris), performance (Edgerrin James, Derrick Ward, Clinton Portis) or something to be decided in the courts (Travis Henry). However, wouldn't you say you can count on Kitna?
In fact, coming off a messy week in which it seemed like half the quarterbacks who played were going to be undesirable for fantasy (Vinny Testaverde, Kyle Boller, Cleo Lemon, Tarvaris Jackson for starters, and later Kerry Collins, Tim Rattay, etc.), I'd say it's more important than ever to make sure your quarterback is someone you can count on. At running back, it's been guesswork all season.
I feel like I can reasonably count on the top nine quarterbacks for fantasy points the rest of the way. That group includes Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck, Eli Manning and David Garrard, and I'm calling Derek Anderson safe as well. He's ranked No. 3 right now, and even after his current bye week, should be no lower than No. 5. Anderson is legit, and his schedule still has a number of appealing matchups, like the Rams, Cards and a return engagement with the Bengals. Look at his December: Jets, Bills, Bengals and 49ers. OK, that looks really nice!
Meanwhile, there are other quarterbacks outside that top nine I'm darn close to trusting, and Kitna leads that list. Jeff Garcia, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub and Donovan McNabb are right there as well. That's nearly half the starters in the league that I now trust, or will soon. At running back we need to play two or more players each week, but we can't even count on a handful of these guys to perform consistently. I'd say it makes sense to get a good quarterback if you can, because I don't want to be stuck with Chad Pennington.
Alexander has to be one of the top running backs on my sell list. Not only is he 30, an obvious age for statistical decline at his position, but he's dealing with a number of injuries which I think are derailing him. The broken wrist is probably more annoyance than anything, since it doesn't directly deal with running, but I'll bet that broken foot from last year still is a problem.
So, as is the Thursday tradition in this here blog, let's go list by list. Because everyone loves a list.
The All Sell-High Team
Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals or Philip Rivers, Chargers: I must have written, said, sign languaged or dreamed about 50 times last week that while everyone was jumping on the Warner train for Week 6, there remained this small problem with the best-case scenario. He's never healthy. After three drives and minus-two fantasy points against Carolina, Warner was out and Tim Rattay was in. I don't care if Warner starts this week. Sell, sell, sell. As for San Diego's Rivers, you think the acquisition of a big-time wide receiver all of a sudden makes Rivers a top fantasy QB. I'm thinking, big-time wide receiver? It's LT's team.
Shaun Alexander, RB, Seahawks: Can you still sell a guy high if everyone knows he's running on fumes? Well, apparently so. Look, he might be fine, I do understand that it's possible, but I am skeptical. And for those trying to find Leonard Weaver on the free agent list, I still think underwhelming Maurice Morris is the backup.
LaMont Jordan, RB, Raiders: Back injuries are like pest problems. You can fix them temporarily, but they always come back. Jordan claims he's fine today, after a heavier-than-anyone-thought workload in Week 6. I doubt the Raiders continue to push him like that with two other seemingly viable options to help out in Justin Fargas and Dominic Rhodes.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: I shook his hand in the Bristol office Tuesday, as I walked past him filming one of those SportsCenter commercials. Know what he told me? Sell high! That's what he said. David Carr? Vinny T? A backup or Methuselah, you choose? OK, so Smith didn't say any of those things. But I did shake his hand. The commercial will be funny. I don't think the stats the final two months will make you smile, though, not for what you expect.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: Yeah, I surprised myself typing this in, but let's remember he's still a rookie, and they tend to run out of gas, plus Bowe has cooled off after the streak of scores in three straight and the Chiefs are going head-over-heels with the run now. I like Bowe as a top-20 receiver in the end, but not to maintain his current rank of No. 10.
The All Buy-Low Team
Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: I'd feel better about this if most of McNabb's fantasy points hadn't come on one play against the Jets last week, but still, I see him getting a lot better, and a number of future opponents can be thrown on (Vikings, Dolphins, Saints, Bills). I wanted to put Drew Brees on this team, but not quite yet. Maybe next week.
Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs: If he gets 30 carries a week, which I think Herman Edwards finally realizes he should have been doing all along, I think Johnson ends up a top-5 running back for the season, and someone who begins carrying fantasy teams. He's currently ranked No. 18, tied with Alexander. Do not trade this guy away.
Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: The bye week is over, and a rejuvenated Parker is ready to resume his 1,500-yard season. Only one time has he failed to rush for 100 yards this season. As for the touchdowns, they're coming. I do not believe Najeh Davenport is this season's Brandon Jacobs. I do believe Parker could be this year's Tiki Barber.
Marvin Harrison, WR, Colts: Just tell the guy in your league that Harrison is ranked No. 50 at WR so far, behind Hall of Famers James Jones and Marty Booker, and point out his age. You should get him cheaper that way. I have no real concerns about Harrison resuming normal, pre-2007 production levels, starting this week.
Marques Colston, WR, Saints: I guess I'll put him on this list every week. His value can't get much lower after catching only one pass Sunday. So what if it was a touchdown? The schedule is so nice for him and his pals, I'd be targeting him in deals.
The All Take a Deep Breath Before Getting Too Excited Team
Marc Bulger, QB, Rams: You're stoked that he's back and can't wait to activate him, plus you see an enticing schedule ahead. I still no sign of Orlando Pace to mind his blind side, though. I also don't see Steven Jackson or a healthy Torry Holt. I see a mess.
Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots: For the record, I do think he will play this week, but all the Sammy Morris injury does is give Kevin Faulk the chance to pick up those carries. You think Maroney will? You think he's going to get 20 touches? Silly fantasy player! Maroney is not only brittle, but not someone Bill Belichick wants to use often or near a goal line. He might become Julius Jones at this rate.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: Yes, it's a touching tale of the backup with so much promise who breaks off a 75-yarder to seal a win but still isn't anointed the starter. DeShaun Foster is doing nothing wrong. Williams remains a backup, and when the byes end, probably not someone you'll need to activate.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons: Please tell
me the reason he's on fantasy's most-added list this week is because the matchup against the Saints is attractive, not because Byron Leftwich was named the starting quarterback. White is a fine No. 3 wide receiver in fantasy, but having Leftwich throw to him won't make a bit of difference when the offensive line does its patented matador routine. You think Joey Harrington was the reason for all the sacks? I'm not defending Harrington, but Leftwich will be on the turf a lot. Hard to throw that way.
The All So What If They're Better In Fantasy Than Real Life Team
Jon Kitna, QB, Lions: Statistically, this guy is going to be terrific again, likely to pass 4,000 yards by Week 16 and supply 25 touchdown passes. And really, it's not fair to say Kitna isn't good in real life, since the Lions are winning more than they have all decade. Still, he'll give the ball to the other team quite a bit (eight fumbles already!) and I have a hard time believing this team is playoff-bound.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins: Well, has his team won a darned thing? Give credit where it's due, because Brown is having a terrific season, and should end up a top-5 back, but it almost seems like Miami is just trying to pad his stats because nothing else is working.
Travis Henry, RB, Broncos: And I stick him in this section without even discussing his off-field issues. Henry could rush for 1,500 yards, if Mike Shanahan and, separately, the authorities let him, but his teams seem to be worse off when he's out there, don't they?
Chris Chambers, WR, Chargers: The focus of an ongoing fantasy games staff argument, which is odd because we all agree this is not a good player, Chambers is generally misrepresented as a top wide receiver. He's not. The stats are there because his quarterbacks are always looking for him, and that makes fantasy owners satisfied, but in real life he's about as inefficient as can be. I don't think the Chargers will throw to him nearly as much as Trent and Cleo did in Miami, but he retains his fantasy value because he ought to find the end zone a few times.
Kevin Curtis, WR, Eagles: Has more fantasy points than Terrell Owens and all but six fantasy wide receivers, which is incredible since he's not close to the receptions or yards leaderboard. Curtis has scored four touchdowns, and long ones at that, and while he does have value to Philly, that could have easily been Reggie Brown, Hank Baskett or even ex-Iggle Todd Pinkston, since McNabb shares so much.
Scotty (Mendon, Vt.): "Eric, I have claimed Priest Holmes off of waivers. Am I wasting a roster spot just to satisfy my sentimental feelings for Priest when he singlehandedly won me a league championship in my first FFL year, or does he have a chance, with or without an injury to Larry Johnson, to be a FFL factor this year? I absolutely admire his determination to get back on the field. He is one if the finest men in the NFL you would ever want to meet. However, none of these factors automatically translate into FFL points and wins. What do you see in Priest's future?"
Eric: I discussed this in Tuesday's blog, how I don't believe Holmes will make much of an impact. Let me go a step further. Larry Johnson is like a kindergartner playing with a toy. "Mine, mine, mine!!!" He doesn't share. Johnson gets every carry. I don't think even a healthy Holmes will get a chance to put up numbers as long as Johnson is healthy and running well. Loyalty and track records are beautiful things, but if you someone in your league cuts Sammy Morris this week, that's someone who can help your bench more.
James (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.): "Hey Eric, I need you to be the supreme court justice in my league and give me your opinion on a trade. Owners in my league are in an uproar over a Derek Anderson for Frank Gore trade. They say it's unbalanced because most believe that the undrafted Anderson can't keep his pace up and Gore, the fourth overall pick, will pick up his pace. Do you factor in draft rankings, actual performance or future performance in a trade? Thanks for helping out."
Eric: I think this was the topic of last Thursday's blog! Draft rankings stopped mattering about six weeks ago. Projected performance, health and schedule are among the things you look at in a trade. As I mentioned at the very beginning of this blog, I could totally understand someone dealing Shaun Alexander for Kitna. Well, this trade is a bit harder to rationalize, but I can totally do it. Yes, Anderson can keep this up. He has weapons, health, motivation (where will he be next season when that Notre Dame rook plays?) and the enticing schedule the rest of the way. I do think Gore will improve his play, and it looks a little odd to see this deal, but it's not really that unbalanced. Where Gore was drafted is irrelevant. Whether he finishes as a top-10 RB, which I think he can but might not necessarily do, is.
John (Los Angeles): "I have a counterpoint to all the people who are clamoring to increase Adrian Peterson's carries over Chester Taylor's. There's no doubt that AP has the skills, but he's also a rookie. He still has to adjust to a full 17-week NFL schedule. There's no need to wear him out when it's not even the halfway point yet. I can see the increase coming if/when the Vikes are in playoff contention. Also, this running back by committee thing is working well and is a nice combo for Minny. Taylor is a north-south type runner who will tenderize the opposing front seven. Then AP comes in and slices up the D for big gains. I think coach Brad Childress has the right formula going and he should stick with it. Minnesota is going to keep AP fresh and ride him the entire season. One quick criticism, AP on kick returns? C'mon Childress, don't increase AP's risk of injury."
Eric: This is like the needle in the haystack e-mail in terms of how rare it is for someone to believe this, really. And I totally agree with it. Peterson has managed to be the No. 3 running back in fantasy despite sharing time. Don't get the kid hurt by giving him Larry Johnson-type touches. Fantasy owners cannot possibly complain about Peterson.
Keep sending those comments by clicking here, and let me know what you'd like me to write about, what you think of other blogs, mistakes I have made that I probably didn't mean to, whatever you want. Enjoy your Thursday.