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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fantasy football: LeGarrette Blount analysis, plus start, sit and drop advice

In case you weren't excited about Jackie Battle, we now give you Earnest Graham in the In-Season Rush to Acquire a Starting Running Back Sweepstakes.

Thursday, a report circulated by Pro Football Talk that credited WQYK-AM 1010 in Tampa stated Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount will miss "several weeks" with a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his knee.

If accurate, that leaves Graham as the best of the Bucs' remaining running backs, along with an intriguing choice in point-per-reception formats.

Blount has been somewhat disappointing in his second season. He has rushed for 328 yards and three touchdowns in five games. Since he isn't a threat to catch passes (four for 58 yards thus far), the fact he has rushed for 71 yards or fewer in three of five contests is even more damaging.

Graham, meanwhile, has 23 receptions and 41 touches in five games. The 31-year-old had a breakout 2007 (898 yards rushing, 10 TDs, 49 receptions for 324 yards), but he has compiled 812 yards and five TDs on the ground in 40 games since.

He's a good receiver, and Sunday's matchup against the Saints is a decent one. New Orleans ranks 15th against the run, which is deceiving because the Saints' opponents usually take to the air, since they are often trailing. New Orleans is allowing 5.2 yards per carry and has given up four rushing TDs.

The Bucs' opponents in Week 7, the Bears, rank 28th against the run and have allowed 5.7 yards per carry.

Consider Graham a flex play in PPR formats, and a fringe No. 2 running back during weeks such as this, when six teams are on a bye.

A few more notes as we get ready for the weekend:

Start 'em

-- Cam Newton, QB, Panthers:
In five games, the rookie has thrown for 1,610 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. He has rushed for 160 yards and five scores. Can he continue this pace? Probably not. But I wouldn't sit him against Atlanta, which has the No. 28 pass defense (294.2 yards per game).

-- Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions:
He had only five receptions for 64 yards and zero TDs in his first two games, but he's been a top-10 tight end since. In the last three weeks, Pettigrew has 21 catches for 215 yards and a TD. Sunday, Detroit will play host to San Francisco, which ranks No. 23 vs. the pass, but does have one more interception than TD tosses allowed (eight to seven).

PPR flex play of the week

Saints running back Darren Sproles has had at least five catches in each game this season, and he's received an average of 14 touches the last two contests. In that span, Sproles has 18 carries for 126 yards (7.0 average) and 10 receptions for 96 yards.

If Sproles continues to get in the neighborhood of 15 touches, he should produce more than 100 total yards. Combine that with his five catches per game, and any time he reaches the end zone would make a productive PPR play an excellent one.

An added bonus: Sunday's opponents, the Bucs, rank 23rd vs. the run and 20th against the pass.

Sit 'em

-- Dallas Clark, TE, Colts: I wouldn't be surprised if Clark is being dropped in some leagues, since Curtis Painter has targeted the tight end a combined nine times in two games. Clark has six receptions for 65 yards and zero TDs in Indy's last three games. On the season, he has 14 catches for 136 yards and a score. And to think I not too long ago thought Clark was the No. 2 tight end in fantasy.

-- Josh Freeman, QB, and Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers: We believed Freeman was a fringe top-10 QB heading into the season, and he's been anything but. Freeman -- who threw for 3,451 yards, 25 TDs and six picks, and rushed for 364 yards in 2010, his second NFL season -- has one TD and four interceptions in his last three games. Overall, he has three TDs and six picks.

His struggles have coincided with the decline of Williams, who had 65 receptions for 964 yards and 11 TDs as a rookie in 2010. This year, he has 19 catches for 183 yards and one TD.

Sunday, the Bucs will face a Saints defense that has given up 10 TDs and has only three picks, and with Blount out, Freeman might be throwing quite a bit. Regardless, both players are difficult to keep in your lineup unless bye-week blues have left you desperate.

Give him another week

Jets tight end Dustin Keller, after catching 17 passes for 249 yards and two TDs in his first three games, has three catches for 19 yards in his last two contests. If you're growing impatient, you're not alone, especially since you might not have drafted Keller as a starter and might have two decent tight ends on your roster.

Monday night, the Jets will play host to Miami, which has the league's second-worst pass defense. The Dolphins are allowing 307 passing yards per game and have given up nine TD tosses, compared to two picks, in four contests.

Play Keller this week, and if he lets you down, keep him on your bench until he proves us wrong again.

Drop 'em

If you need the roster space, C.J. Spiller, LaDainian Tomlinson and Pierre Thomas are worthy candidates of joining the waiver wire.

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