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Sneaky pickups entering Week 7

10/18/2013

Josh Cribbs has always been a master in the return game but a tease to fantasy owners interested in him as a sleeper wide receiver, just in case those tremendous skills translated positively to big value. It hasn't happened yet.

Cribbs, who had 11 return touchdowns to his credit but only seven as a wide receiver in his Cleveland Browns tenure, is 30 years old, is coming off offseason knee surgery and, naturally, signed a contract with the New York Jets this week. He is expected to play Sunday.

Cribbs certainly doesn't lack confidence, telling reporters he will electrify the team. Perhaps that really will be the case. After all, the Jets could use playmakers, and even if Cribbs is a bit slower coming off knee surgery, he can help them as a Devin Hester-type player returning kicks. We’re not blind to the fact that in some custom leagues, return yards and touchdowns play a significant role in scoring, and Cribbs did remain a major weapon in that respect for the 2012 Browns. On offense, he caught seven passes and was given six rushing attempts.

But what if Cribbs was held back by the team, the quarterback, the situation? These Jets don’t exactly have Peyton Manning throwing passes, but the wide receiver depth is ridiculously thin and someone is needed to stretch the field.

Here in the weekly Sneaky Pickups blog entry, we aim to think optimistically big, and while Cribbs hardly warrants immediate attention for 10- and 12-team leagues, we should be open to the fact that this might be a nice fit. Sure, myriad teams had a chance to sign Cribbs, and he still didn't land somewhere until Week 7. His contract with Cleveland ended, and the New England Patriots -- Sunday’s opponent, by the way -- took a look at him but did not sign him. Perhaps that’s telling. The Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants also had interest, and Cribbs signed with the Oakland Raiders in May before underachieving in training camp and the preseason and getting cut.

However, look whom else the Jets have for rookie Geno Smith to throw to on the field. Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill are starting, and each has deep-league value, but after that Cribbs could be next in line. Santonio Holmes seems unlikely to play this week because of a hamstring injury. Clyde Gates is out for the season. Greg Salas was signed off the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad.

While we’re at it, Cribbs was used periodically as a runner for the Browns, gaining 381 yards at 6.9 yards per carry in 2009, mostly out of the Wildcat formation. For his career, he has averaged 5.9 yards per rushing attempt and 10.9 yards per reception. With Mike Goodson’s season ending soon after it started, Bilal Powell is being backed up by the brittle Chris Ivory. Cribbs could definitely see the occasional rushing attempt.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Cribbs on Sunday to see how he looks. The odds are stacked against someone at his age, perhaps in his physical state and, despite the lack of depth on the Jets, with a rookie quarterback. But 12 NFL teams are on bye in Weeks 8-9, and like the Jets, you might be desperate. Take a look in deep leagues or formats that count return yards.

Quarterback: If anyone needed a break, it was beleaguered Houston Texans passer Matt Schaub. He’s got it this week. Case Keenum probably isn't a future star, especially going against the Kansas City Chiefs. Still, it is possible Keenum keeps the job if he plays well. ... I've been asked if I think Peyton Manning gets shut down early this season. Well, there are two unbeaten teams in the AFC West, so I doubt it. Add Brock Osweiler for Week 17 now if you must, but I think you can wait two more months. ... Absolutely add Philly’s Nick Foles in case he keeps the job. I just think it’s unlikely. ... Absolutely add Minny’s Josh Freeman. He will torch the Giants on Monday night and keep the job.

Running back: So many unexciting choices, so little time. I’m not buying what Brandon Jacobs is selling, but I can’t see many scenarios in which Peyton Hillis becomes relevant. I’d rather add Cribbs. ... The Bills seem to like Tashard Choice enough to give him nine rushing attempts over the past two games. And the starters aren't durable. ... Detroit’s Joique Bell isn't a lock to play this week, meaning the door could be opening for Mikel Leshoure. Don’t worry, Reggie Bush owners, but let’s remember Leshoure was relevant a year ago. ... James Starks will miss another week for the Packers. I’m a big Eddie Lacy fan, but I’d hold on to Johnathan Franklin a bit longer, just in case.

Wide receiver: Harry Douglas is one of the starters for the Falcons and remains readily available, but assuming Roddy White sits, that means Kevin Cone and Drew Davis should get chances. Neither has had chances before, so don’t assume they’ll fail. ... Jarrett Boykin is the obvious name to watch in Green Bay with Randall Cobb out and James Jones possibly out, but Myles White, promoted from the practice squad this week, could see just as many targets. ... Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams and his sore hamstring could sit out another week or more. Chris Owusu caught three passes last week, and the Falcons do get thrown on. ... Mario Manningham could be starting for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 8 against the Jaguars. That sounds nice, eh?

Well, that’s it for this week. Best of luck the rest of Week 7 and the rest of the season!