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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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fantasy football: Week 4 waiver-wire picks

If you're in a league in which Lions running back Mikel Leshoure is somehow available, you should immediately stop reading this and put in your waiver claim.

Seriously, go. We'll be here when you get back.

Leshoure's ESPN ownership percentage is a comically low 36.9. It's unlikely he's available in any league with more than 10 teams, but he should be considered a starter in any format.

In his NFL debut last week at Tennessee, the Lions didn't gradually work Leshoure, who was suspended for the first two weeks, into the lineup.

They gave him 30 touches, which produced 134 yards and a touchdown.

Leshoure should be a productive No. 2 running back in fantasy, especially when you consider he plays in an offense that could average 30 points per game.

He's a no-brainer as the top-ranked running back this week, and it should be the last week of the season in which he's available in more half of the ESPN formats.

As always, we only consider players who are owned in fewer than 50 percent of the ESPN leagues, and we try to go much lower than that.

On to the rankings:

1. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (owned in 42.2 percent of the ESPN leagues)
2. Christian Ponder, Vikings (5.9)
3. Matt Cassel, Chiefs (35.9)
4. Mark Sanchez, Jets (32.0)
5. Jake Locker, Titans (7.4)
Dropped out: Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Just missed the cut: Wilson (14.1 percent)

1. Mikel Leshoure, Lions (36.9 percent)
2. Andre Brown, Giants (41.9)
3. Bilal Powell, Jets (1.1)
4. Tashard Choice, Bills (0.4)
5. Jacquizz Rogers, Falcons (9.4)
Dropped out: Dexter McCluster, Chiefs; Daryl Richardson, Rams; Jackie Battle, Chargers
Just missed the cut: Danny Woodhead, Patriots (5.3 percent); Shaun Draughn, Chiefs (3.9); Lamar Miller, Dolphins (3.1)

1. Andrew Hawkins, Bengals (6.3 percent)
2. Kendall Wright, Titans (12.3)
3. Donnie Avery, Colts (15.6)
4. Jon Baldwin, Chiefs (25.4)
5. Ramses Barden, Giants (0.7)
Dropped out: Danny Amendola, Rams (he's now owned in 81.4 percent of the ESPN leagues); Brandon LaFell, Panthers (now at 49.1 percent ownership); Brian Hartline, Dolphins; Greg Little, Browns
Just missed the cut: Alshon Jeffery, Bears (16.7 percent); Davone Bess, Dolphins (8.2); Jeremy Kerley, Jets (4.8); Golden Tate, Seahawks (1.3)

1. Dennis Pitta, Ravens (43.0 percent)
2. Heath Miller, Steelers (27.6)
3. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (20.5)
4. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (14.2)
5. Greg Olsen, Panthers (16.6)
Dropped out: Coby Fleener, Colts; Brandon Myers, Raiders
Just missed the cut: Scott Chandler, Bills (24.6 percent); Myers (1.1)

Past waiver-wire picks: Week 2, Week 3

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fantasy football: The declining values of Jamaal Charles and Michael Turner

As I did last week (I'm nothing if not consistent), I want to delve a little deeper into a topic I wrote about in my weekend column for The News-Herald.

Last week, it was a game of buy and sell analyzing some of the most notable Week 1 performances.

This week: Reassessing how we view certain players, especially as they struggle.

In the column, which was posted online Friday night, I wrote about Chris Johnson, Wes Welker, Larry Fitzgerald and Reggie Bush. Here's a hint: All four shouldn't be viewed as they once were, and for three of the four, that's a bad thing.

Two players I didn't include in the column should be discussed as well -- Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and Falcons running back Michael Turner.

Charles and Turner have combined for rush for 164 yards and one touchdown in the first two weeks of the season.

Last week, Charles had six carries for 3 yards and caught three passes for 19 yards. On the season, his 90 yards rushing barely lead his team. (Backfield mates Shaun Draughn and Peyton Hillis have rushed for 85 and 82 yards, respectively.)

Charles missed the majority of the second half of Sunday's loss at Buffalo because of a sore left knee, which is a concern after he suffered a torn ACL in the same knee during Week 2 last season.

Prior to the season-ending injury in 2011, Charles was coming off a two-year stretch in which he averaged 1,294 yards rushing, 6.2 yards per attempt, 43 receptions, 383 receiving yards and eight total TDs per season.

He was considered a top-10 running back by some sites entering 2012 (we had him ranked 16th), but any owner who did the same on draft day is regretting that choice.

Our new view of Charles?

He can't be considered elite. Instead, he's a low-end No. 2 running back in most formats, especially with Hillis and Draughn eating into his attempts.

Turner wasn't considered as much of a risk as Charles prior to the season, but we knew his drawbacks.

He would rush for more than 1,200 yards, likely reach double figures in touchdowns -- and be of no help in the receiving department.

In his first three seasons in Atlanta, Turner had 50 rushing touchdowns in 59 games. In 2010 and 2011, his stats were very similar -- 1,371 and 1,340 rushing yards, 12 and 11 rushing TDs, respectively.

Two things we should have considered more strongly: With the electric Julio Jones in the mix, Turner wouldn't be nearly as critical to the Falcons' success, and he turned 30 on Feb. 13, which in running-back circles is celebrated about as feverishly as the big 5-0 would be for you and me.

Turner is averaging 2.6 yards per carry in two games. In the hours following the Falcons' win over the Broncos on Monday night, he was arrested and charged with drunken driving and speeding.

Turner likely won't be suspended for the incident, but his numbers bring into question something else: Are his days as a productive back over?

It's too soon to declare that, but Turner's "new" value is such that I wouldn't consider him a must-start each week.

He's now a mid- to low-end No. 2 running back in deeper formats.

He has that in common with Charles.

One more column hint: They're both still better than "Anger Management."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fantasy football: Week 3 waiver-wire picks

Before we get to the top five at each position, let's get to a few quick notes on four players we really like this week:

-- Giants running back Andre Brown could be the featured back Thursday night at Carolina. Starter Ahmad Bradshaw left last week's game against the Buccaneers with a neck injury, and he's questionable for this week.

Since it's a short week for the G-Men, the guess here is Bradshaw will sit, which would make Brown -- not rookie David Wilson -- a decent option as a low-end No. 2 running back in a deep league or as a flex play. Brown had 13 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs, and he caught two passes for 19 yards.

Carolina ranks 28th against the run. The Panthers are allowing 146.5 rushing yards per game and 4.7 yards per attempt.

-- Rams receiver Danny Amendola, as you know by now, is a machine in point-per-reception leagues. Amendola enters this week owned in only 19.2 percent of the ESPN leagues -- a number that should increase to the 90s by tomorrow. Amendola caught 15 passes for 160 yards and a TD last week against the Redskins, and he should be considered an immediate starter in any format. He has a ridiculous 25 targets in two games, and 20 of them have resulted in receptions.

-- Lions running back Mikel Leshoure could be the featured back after Kevin Smith managed just 53 yards on 16 carries Sunday night at San Francisco. Leshoure, a rookie, returns from his two-game suspension this week, and it sounds as if Detroit will waste no time getting him into the flow. Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told the team's website Leshoure will "definitely be involved heavily in the game plan, and we'll go from there." If you're desperate for help at running back, Leshoure should be considered a No. 3 option in 12-team leagues and a low-end starter in deeper formats.

-- Colts receiver Donnie Avery has received 18 targets in two games, and last week he caught nine passes for 111 yards. Considering Andrew Luck has attempted 76 passes and thrown for 533 yards in two contests, Avery should continue to produce. He's a decent No. 3 receiver in deeper leagues.

On to the rankings. As always, we only consider players who are owned in fewer than 50 percent of the leagues on

1. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (owned in 42.5 percent of the ESPN leagues)
2. Matt Cassel, Chiefs (32.9)
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks (16.3)
4. Mark Sanchez, Jets (37.9)
5. Christian Ponder, Vikings (5.0)
Dropped out: Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars
Just missed the cut: Brandon Weeden, Browns (2.1 percent)

1. Andre Brown, Giants (1.5 percent)
2. Mikel Leshoure, Lions (20.0)
3. Dexter McCluster, Chiefs (24.6)
4. Daryl Richardson, Rams (1.1)
5. Jackie Battle, Chargers (0.4)
Dropped out: Alfred Morris, Redskins (he's now owned in 90.4 percent of the ESPN leagues); Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers; Evan Royster, Redskins; Ronnie Brown, Chargers
Just missed the cut: Royster; Shaun Draughn, Chiefs (3.0 percent)

1. Danny Amendola, Rams (19.2 percent)
2. Donnie Avery, Colts (1.0)
3. Brandon LaFell, Panthers (26.8)
4. Brian Hartline, Dolphins (0.7)
5. Greg Little, Browns (17.4)
Dropped out: Kevin Ogletree, Cowboys (now owned in 71.4 percent of the ESPN leagues); Stephen Hill, Jets; Randall Cobb, Packers; Alshon Jeffery, Bears
Just missed the cut: Cobb; Jon Baldwin, Chiefs (25.9 percent); Kendall Wright, Titans (14.5); Andrew Hawkins, Bengals (2.4); Brandon Gibson, Rams (0.5)

1. Martellus Bennett, Giants (35.6 percent)
2. Dennis Pitta, Ravens (24.8)
3. Coby Fleener, Colts (32.6)
4. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (12.0)
5. Brandon Myers, Raiders (0.1)
Dropped out: Heath Miller, Steelers; Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
Just missed the cut: Miller; Gresham; Scott Chandler, Bills (18.0 percent)

Past waiver-wire picks: Week 2

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fantasy football: Analyzing Chris Johnson's struggles

When Chris Johnson dropped to the end of the first round in The News-Herald's 12-team, point-per-reception league earlier this month, I was no longer cursing the fact I had drawn the last pick in the first round.

I'm back to cursing.

In two games, the running back who convinced the Titans to reward his holdout with a $56 million contract has 19 carries for 21 yards.

Nineteen carries. Twenty-one yards. Zero touchdowns. An average of 1.1 yards per attempt.

Sunday at San Diego, Johnson had eight carries for 17 yards and caught two passes for 11 yards.

Granted, the Titans have lost to the Patriots and Chargers by the combined score of 72-23, which explains Johnson's norm of 9.5 carries per contest. But the lack of production is still alarming from a player who followed his contract dispute by rushing for 1,047 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per attempt and scoring four touchdowns last season.

Johnson's only value in PPR leagues last season were his 57 receptions for 418 yards.

If you take a look at his 2011 game log, you'll realize 473 of his rushing yards and three of his TDs occurred in the three games in which he rushed for at least 130 yards. The three contests came in a four-game span between Nov. 13 and Dec. 4.

Take away those three games, and Johnson rushed for 574 yards and scored one touchdown in the 13 games in which he "played."

Is he a very good player on a bad team? Or is he an overpaid former stud who received a huge contract and hasn't been the same since?

Well, in four weeks, we might be very much in the corner of the latter.

The Titans' schedule doesn't get much easier. In Week 3, they will play host to the Lions, followed by games at the Texans and Vikings. In Week 6, they will play the visiting Steelers.

By then, I might be wishing I had gone in a different direction at No. 12 overall. (Did I mention I selected the now-injured Matt Forte at No. 13? Talk about a back-to-back bonanza.)

If you have two quality running backs in addition to Johnson on your roster, now might be the time to sit C.J.

If you're like me and you loaded up at wide receiver and waited on selecting another running back because you thought you had two pretty good ones, including Johnson, you probably have to wait a while before benching C.J.

Either way, this is now an 18-game stretch in which Johnson has four TDs and four productive games (he rushed for 101 yards against the Browns in Week 4 of 2011).

This is no longer a trend.

It's a problem.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fantasy football: C.J. Spiller's value, plus buy and sell

In a column that will be posted online Friday night, I wrote about the Madden cover jinx and the fear it will strike Calvin Johnson this season.

Being a creative soul (or a cliche-filled one; whatever works), I turned it into a game of buy and sell.

The Cliffs Notes version of the column: I'm buying the Madden Curse is strong enough to take out Megatron, that Robert Griffin III is an every-week fantasy starter and Reggie Wayne is again a very good fantasy receiver with Andrew Luck under center. What I'm selling (and, boy, do I have a deal for you): Alfred Morris is going to be a productive running back for fantasy hater Mike Shanahan this season, Kevin Ogletree is the next Laurent Robinson and Randy Moss will be a fantasy starter.

One more item to buy, and this one wasn't included in the column: C.J. Spiller, at least until Fred Jackson returns, is an elite fantasy running back.

Jackson is expected to miss at least three weeks with a right knee injury. One quarter into 2012, he was injured, and the ailment occurred after a 2011 season in which Jackson sat out the Bills' final six games with a broken right leg.

He told reporters he would be back in "four weeks ... without a doubt."

If you were smart (or lucky) enough to draft Spiller in the middle rounds, he's a must-start until Jackson returns -- and he might be a decent flex play even if Jackson is healthy.

With Jackson out for Buffalo's final six games last season, Spiller rushed for 446 yards and three touchdowns, and he caught 24 passes for 187 yards and two scores.

Combine those numbers with Spiller's stats from Sunday (169 yards rushing, one TD and two receptions for 25 yards) and you have the following: In seven games with Jackson out or injured for the majority of the contest (Week 1), Spiller has rushed for 615 yards and four scores and caught 26 passes for 212 yards and two TDs.

Six TDs in seven games. An average of 118 total yards per contest. A 16-game pace of 1,406 rushing yards, 59 receptions for 485 yards and 14 total TDs.

Those are elite running back numbers.

If you have Spiller, start him regardless of the matchup. If you have Spiller and not Jackson, try to acquire Jackson while his value is low. That way, you're covered if one (possibly Jackson again?) is injured.

A few more buy and sell items, express checkout style:

BUY: Patriots running back Stevan Ridley is a No. 2 fantasy back until Bill Belichick decides otherwise, and Falcons receiver Julio Jones could be the No. 2 receiver in all of fantasy -- or No. 1 if the dreaded Madden Curse strikes again.

SELL: Lions running back Kevin Smith (seriously, sell him now, before he gets hurt) and Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill (he was impressive in Week 1 and is worth a roster spot, but I wouldn't get too excited).

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fantasy football: Week 2 waiver-wire picks

Jon Baldwin, not Dexter McCluster, was the Chiefs receiver many of us targeted late on draft day.

Baldwin, after all, was Kansas City's first-round pick in 2011, and was earning rave reviews during training camp.

In Sunday's loss to the Falcons, however, Baldwin barely played and Steve Breaston -- for reasons known only to Romeo Crennel and Brian Daboll -- was the starting receiver opposite Dwayne Bowe.

In the slot was McCluster, a second-round draft pick in 2010 who has alternated between running back and receiver in his first two NFL seasons.

The latter part is key in fantasy.

McCluster is eligible at both running back and wide receiver in most leagues, and Sunday he had a team-high six receptions for 82 yards.

McCluster was targeted 10 times, and in point-per-reception leagues he's a decent No. 3 running back or receiver because of his versatility and explosiveness.

Last season, McCluster averaged 4.5 yards per carry as Kansas City's second-leading rusher and had 46 receptions.

This year, he should be more productive than any Kansas City wideout aside from Bowe.

If you're looking for a No. 3 running back in PPR leagues, consider adding McCluster, who is available in more than 96 percent of the leagues on

That brings us to this week's waiver-wire picks. As was the case last season, we only consider players who are available in more than half of the leagues on

A different twist this year: We're going to rank the top five players from the under-50-percent club at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.

1. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (owned in 46.4 percent of the ESPN leagues)
2. Mark Sanchez, Jets (12.3 percent)
3. Matt Cassel, Chiefs (31.2)
4. Russell Wilson, Seahawks (24.5)
5. Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars (2.1)

1. Alfred Morris, Redskins (18.2 percent)
2. Dexter McCluster, Chiefs (3.9)
3. Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers (18.2)
4. Evan Royster, Redskins (16.8)
5. Ronnie Brown, Chargers (22.9)

1. Kevin Ogletree, Cowboys (49.8 percent)
2. Stephen Hill, Jets (7.4)
3. Danny Amendola, Rams (9.0)
4. Randall Cobb, Packers (13.4)
5. Alshon Jeffery, Bears (11.5)

1. Coby Fleener, Colts (23.3 percent)
2. Martellus Bennett, Giants (36.7)
3. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (22.9)
4. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (9.9)
5. Heath Miller, Steelers (8.4)

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fantasy football: Trying the new draft approach

In my fantasy football preview column for The News-Herald on Aug. 18, I wrote about the declining emphasis of the running backs.

A few of my conclusions as we entered the 2012 season:

-- Unless a premier player fell, Don't be Two Running Backs In The First Two Rounds Guy.

-- Don't be afraid to select a quarterback in the first round.

-- I would take Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski with the first pick in the second round of a 12-team league.

As it turned out, I drew the No. 12 and No. 11 picks in two of the leagues in which I participate. In the first -- the News-Herald's 12-team point-per-reception league -- my theories didn't come into play for the first two rounds because two running backs I have ranked in the top six at their position (Chris Johnson and Matt Forte) were available at Nos. 12 and 13 overall.

Tuesday night, in a 12-team PPR league in which I compete with two of my brothers and a few of my cousins, I certainly put my findings to the test.

When the No. 11 pick rolled around, seven running backs were off the board, but Drew Brees -- who was No. 6 in my top 100 overall (the pre-Maurice Jones-Drew holdout edition) -- was not.

Thus, I was very happy to select Brees.

Then it got a little crazy, at least by my past reliance on running backs standards.

At No. 14 overall, I narrowed my choices to two players -- Jones-Drew and Gronkowski. Since it's a PPR league and since Jones-Drew, who just reported to the Jaguars and won't be a starter this week as Jacksonville eases him into the lineup, scares me, I went with Gronkowski.

Yes, I love having Brees and Gronkowski on my team.

The negative in that, however, is by the time my third-round selection, No. 35 overall, arrived, 15 running backs were off the board.

I was surprised the Bills' Fred Jackson, whom I had No. 13 at running back, was there, so he, like Brees, was an easy choice.

At No. 38, I went out of my comfort zone yet again. There, I selected Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace for two reasons: 1. Twelve receivers were off the board, and my No. 9 wideout was available. 2. If I didn't take a receiver here, the first wideout on my roster would have to wait until at least No. 59.

So I went with Wallace at No. 38 and the Broncos' Demaryius Thomas (my No. 18 receiver) at No. 59.

Instead of taking running backs in each of the first two rounds, which had been one of my draft-day staples, I selected one back in the first five rounds.

That left me with Shonn Greene (No. 62 overall in Round 6) as my No. 2 running back.

It also left me feeling very uneasy, since this wasn't a method with which I was familiar.

My final 16-player roster from Tuesday night:

QBs: Drew Brees, Andrew Luck (Round 12)

RBs: Fred Jackson, Shonn Greene, Isaac Redman (Round 7), Evan Royster (Round 10), Daniel Thomas (Round 13)

WRs: Mike Wallace, Demaryius Thomas, Anquan Boldin (Round 8), Malcom Floyd (Round 9), Santana Moss (Round 11), Jon Baldwin (Round 14)

TE: Gronkowski

K: Alex Henery (Round 16)

D/ST: N.Y. Giants (Round 15)

If Fred Jackson stays healthy, I like my chances.

If he doesn't, I'll be kicking myself for believing I should stray from something that had worked quite well in the past.

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