Grab-Bag – your ultimate source for free agent pick-ups
Information is everywhere, coming from multiple sources in real-time. The best thing we can give you is educated opinions to compare with – or corroborate – your own. The Grab-Bag has an unrivaled track record of success that would speak for itself – if it didn’t have so many fantasy championships tied to the information you will only get here. The Grab-Bag strives to keep you at least one week ahead of your competition by separating the one-week-wonders from the future fantasy stars.
During the regular season, the Grab-Bag column is available Monday mornings with our earliest opinions on worthwhile pick-ups for the upcoming week. An extended version of the Grab-Bag arrives in the Weekly Report, available Wednesday evening. In Wednesday’s version, changes and additions from Monday morning are italicized or highlighted as appropriate.
One unique aspect of this column is, in fact, how early we make suggestions for the following week. At all times, these will be before your waiver wire deadlines and can lead you to grab a key player before the rest of your league has been alerted. This year, can you say, “Kendall Wright” or even “Vick Ballard,” perhaps?
The pre-regular season Grab-Bag is always a bit tricky as no injuries or breakout performances have yet occurred, so what follows is a rapid fire mix of prospects and veterans with value beyond where most have typically been drafted. And, of course, Maurice Jones-Drew reported over the weekend, where Rashad Jennings may still get the start and most of the work in the early weeks, but temper your expectations for Jennings accordingly.
And, in one of those classic Grab-Bag moments, this was the write up “From the Deep” in the 2011 pre-Week 1 edition:
“Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
All hype aside, Newton has unique skills that should make him a success in this league and, more importantly, has been left to the late rounds in most drafts, a great time to pick him up in keeper leagues. The Panthers will rebound nicely from their 2-14 disaster in 2010, where Newton will be a huge part of that success even this year.”
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
To the extent any of your fellow owners shied away, all signs are go for Peyton to get back to doing what he does, along with raising the games of WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson won the starting job from $10M acquisition Matt Flynn, where his confidence and mobility make him an interesting back-up QB and a very solid pick-up in keeper leagues.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
The top overall pick in the draft will make his rookie mistakes, but he also looks like that rare QB that comes into the league with the composure and field sense that the average QB never achieves. Luck is an essential keeper and will post good numbers this season, as well.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
More experience and a productive off-season bode good things for the mobile, composed Ponder and the Viking offense in general.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Locker has the starting job for the Titans and should build on his composure from his rookie season, along with a strong arm and improving WR corps with rookie Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt expected back after just a one-game suspension and Nate Washington still hanging in there for the occasional long ball. Locker is a good pick-up for bye week back-up and depth in case your starter is on the fragile side.
These are some young backs that are well-positioned behind fragile starters, along with some veterans that could take over what initially looks like an RBBC.
Cedric Benson, Green Bay Packers
This veteran back will benefit greatly from the defenses he faces because of the potent Packers’ passing attack, where the team sounds very happy with what Benson has done in the preseason. Don’t expect big yardage numbers, but you can expect a fair amount of short TD runs.
Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos
McGahee’s worth and likely usage are very similar Benson’s — a strong, forward-falling runner that now has a passing attack behind him that will force defenses to play for the pass and open up space for this veteran. Don’t hesitate to grab him as your low #2 or high #3 back, as he will post a good amount of scores this season.
Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
The Pats have a solid line and as long as Ridley hangs onto the football (which BenJarvus Green-Ellis always did), he should be favored for goal line carries and clock-killing work all season.
Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions
As long as Smith can avoid further injury between now and next Sunday, he will get the bulk of the carries for the first two weeks of the season, including the opener against the porous Ram rush defense. Don’t hesitate to get him in your opening day starting line-up.
Mikel Leshoure, Detroit Lions
And, speaking of the Lions backfield, after Leshoure completes his two week recreational drug based suspension, he will be line to get most of the work going forward, at worst a momentary shared situation with the always fragile Smith, discussed above.
David Wilson, New York Giants
Wilson is my personal favorite to be FF starter worthy from the opening bell as the Giants have a great run-blocking offensive line, injury-prone Ahmad Bradshaw in front of Wilson, and have described the rookie from VTech as the fastest runner the team has ever had, with good size and power for Wilson, as well.
Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs
After a disappointing season in Cleveland, Hillis should be back in the mix with authority this year, as HC Crennel favors a bruising back, and the presumptive starter, Jamaal Charles, is always bruised. It won’t be Hillis’s breakout season of 2010, but it should be useful FF starts throughout the year.
Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars
MJD is back, but don’t give up on Jennings, who missed all of last year with a knee injury, looked good in preseason, and will get the opening day start and maybe a lot more work this season depending on how effectively MJD gets back on the field.
Michael Bush, Chicago Bears
To the extent OC Mike Tice is to be believed, he has stated that he wants both Bush and Matt Forte to rush for 1,000 yards, but either way, Bush is a solid, very agile runner for a big back and will get goal line carries and decent yardage numbers all season.
Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
After missing all of his rookie season with a knee blowout, Williams should take the starting job from often-injured “Beanie” Wells, and the goal line carries regardless if Wells hangs in for a time. Williams looked powerful in preseason, grabbing a few TD runs along the way.
Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
The relatively unknown Ballard looked great in preseason and with only Donald Brown in front of him has a fair chance to get the bulk of the carries for the Colts sooner than not – stay tuned, and keep on the lookout for this situation.
Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers
With Isaac Redman already wobbling, Rashard Mendenhall maybe not effectively back all season, and no one else really in the mix, Dwyer should be the back you want on opening day and beyond. Even Todd Haley likes him and you know the Steelers will always have a back that pounds the ball, where Dwyer will meet that requirement and then some.
Evan Royster, Washington Redskins
A few sources tab Royster as one of the breakout backs of this season, the problem is he is breaking out in Washington, where the FF nightmare that is HC Shanahan has even taken the trouble to announce that he will not name an opening day starting RB. It’s all good fun as long as you’re really not depending on Royster, Roy Helu, or even Albert Morris, for your starting FF backfield.
Receivers should always be approached with caution because their consistency varies considerably. For waiver wire pick-ups look for repeat performances before slotting some of the players below into your starting line-up, unless team conditions require emergency use.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland Raiders
Contrary to popular belief, where DHB has gone very late in most drafts that I’ve seen, he is no longer a stiff, will catch passes from Carson Palmer all season, and should post 1,000 yards receiving with a goodly amount of scores given his speed, now featuring hands and route-running to go with the velocity.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Wright has already shown a good rapport with second year QB Locker, runs solid routes and should post respectable numbers all season, including when and for how long Kenny Britt gets and stays on the field.
Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
The downside to this dominant rookie is that both he and Robinson, discussed below, will be catching throws from Blaine Gabbert, but for some reason everyone believes in Gabbert this season. If you do also, don’t hold back on grabbing this very talented, dominant rookie.
Titus Young, Detroit Lions
This speedy, diminutive receiver will play opposite the double coverage that Calvin Johnson commands, and is poised to have a great season, where you can tell the owners looking at old news when they draft Nate Burleson ahead of Young.
Jon Baldwin, Kansas City Chiefs
Baldwin could post some big numbers this season opposite Dwayne Bowe in Kansas City, the drawback again being a belief in whether Matt Cassel can get the ball to him effectively.
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints
Moore is somewhat forgotten, but with Robert Meachem off to San Diego, and no one else to start opposite Marques Colston, Moore should be good for yardage and the usual 8-10 TD catches that he nets in every season that he has been healthy.
Laurent Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Robinson showed a huge knack for the end zone in Dallas last season, where that team is grumbling about letting him depart, and where if QB Gabbert can get the ball in his approximate vicinity, he can again post good yardage and scoring numbers.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
Jeffery has the skills, now if he maintains the focus, he could emerge to be a huge threat opposite Brandon Marshall in Chicago with QB Cutler back on the field and the Bears poised for a great season on the offensive side of the ball.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
Drafters forget that the greatest TE in NFL history and second leading receiver of all time (only behind Jerry Rice) is still going strong and can be marked down for at least 70 catches and 6 TD’s until he really does retire.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Rudolph looked great in the preseason, has a good connection with QB Ponder and should assume the numbers and looks that Visanthe Shiancoe had in Minnesota a year or two ago.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
Given rookie QB Luck’s poise and experience with this fellow Stanford Cardinal, expect many dump-offs and safety valves to Fleener all season, even better in a PPR league.
Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos
And, in case anyone forgot that Peyton Manning makes extensive use of his TE’s, welcome former Colt Tamme to Denver and for that role in this Peyton-led offense.
FROM THE DEEP:
This section is devoted to deeper leagues to try to give a few names that are still available and may make an impact later in the year.
LaMichael James, San Francisco 49ers
James will go undrafted in most leagues, but he is in the backfield for a purpose that HC Harbaugh knows from their mutual days in the Pac-10 at Oregon and Stanford, respectively. Harbaugh expects to turn James into an all-purpose running and receiving threat from the backfield, where it’s already not too soon to stash him in keeper leagues.
Le’Ron McClain, San Diego Chargers
Forget about Ronnie Brown backing up fragile Ryan Mathews for the Chargers, McClain is the back you want and that could get the bulk of the carries and TD’s if Mathews is not available for opening day. Management is ecstatic to have this still young — 28 year old — former fullback on the roster, and who was the every down back for the Ravens a few years ago just before the arrival of Ray Rice in Baltimore.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
And, in case you want to have fun at the expense of fellow owners that are invested in the Shanahan backfield, Morris is a good candidate to see significant work this season, meaning, of course, that there will be that game out of the blue where he gets all of the carries, rushes for over 100 yards with a few TD’s, and is not on anyone’s roster, let alone starting line-up.
Good luck in all things in life, onward and upward.