Brad Morgan

Red Zone Report

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Some Hope Left for L.J.?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Perhaps the hardest thing to deal with in fantasy football is watching your players rack up tons of points on your bench. This week I had Ray Rice and Ahmad Bradshaw riding the pine, while my 5th overall pick Brandon Jacobs broke my heart again (Mulligan, please). It's hard to do, but coming to grips with the fact that your 1st round pick isn't the guy you thought you were getting is just part of fantasy.

While Jacobs appears to be a huge bust (compared to what I thought I was getting), many players are unfairly given the bust label. This isn't a bad thing for you, though. This a great time to grab some players that should start producing soon at their lowest values. In case you don't get it, I'll hit you with a fantasy football buzzword: BUY LOW!

Buy Low

LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers RB

LT owners have been incredibly disappointed with their 1st round selection, but I have some good news: I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance with Geico. There are good times coming for Tomlinson. Despite his injuries, and the emergence -- then disappearance -- of Darren Sproles as a possible every-down back, LT is poised to have value similar to what we all expected on Draft Day (from this point forward). LT not only has a nice schedule coming up (KC and OAK over the next two games), but is still the man for the Chargers in scoring situations.

In the 3 games LT has played, he's gotten 7 of 11 RZ carries (64%), and 4 of 7 GL carries (57%). While both of these percentages seem low for what you would expect for LT, the numbers are more a result of small sample size than the Chargers not trusting Tomlinson in scoring situations. This past week LT got 4 out of 5 RZ carries (2 of 3 GL); the only one he didn't get got a ton of publicity. I would chalk that Sproles carry up as somewhat of a fluke. Norv Turner will be giving the ball to LT when it counts.

To those who have LT: hold onto him (unless you're in my league). To those who don't have him: this is going to be the lowest value LT will have the rest of the year: BUY LOW!

Larry Johnson, Chiefs RB

I wrote about him last week, and not much has changed since then. That's why I like him even more. Chiefs coach Todd Haley has had many chances to hand over the majority of the carries to Jamaal Charles, but has shown excruciating faith in the once-great Larry Johnson. Last week against a very tough Redskins run defense, Johnson was impressive. While he didn't get into the end zone, LJ once again got all of the Chiefs' RZ carries, and remains the ONLY RB in football to get all of his team's carries in scoring situations. I'm not suggesting Johnson will become a fantasy stud, but he could definitely be worth starting in the near future.

Not only does Johnson have Todd Haley's full faith in important situations (and throughout the game), but LJ also has a very favorable schedule from here on out. He's facing a terrible run defense this week in the Chargers, and will see JAC, OAK, SD, BUF, and CLE before the season ends. Those are some of the easiest teams to run against. Larry is imminently available, even if he's owned. It probably would take very little to trade for him, and he could pay off as a matchup RB2 soon.

Steven Jackson, Rams RB

Steven Jackson is one of the few RBs who has managed to: 1. Perform well, and 2. Get nearly all of his teams scoring chances, but has yet to find the end zone. This seems like bad luck more than anything else. Sure, the Rams have a terrible offense, but that hasn't prevented Jackson from having any meaningful carries. Steven Jackson has 11 RZ carries on the year; Michael Turner has 14. That number of scoring opportunities should be enough to get a few touchdowns.

Now is the perfect time to find a Steven Jackson owner who is fed up with mediocrity, and snag a guy averaging over 100 yards a game in total offense. Once he starts to find his way into the end zone, you will be very happy that you bought low.

Stock Up

Sidney Rice, Vikings WR

Since being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2007 Draft, Rice has always been a receiver high on upside, but low on just about everything else. His size (6'4, 200) and speed combination is elite, and in the mold of NFL receivers such as Randy Moss, Plaxico Burress, and Larry Fitzgerald. However, unlike them, Rice had yet to put those tools together entering this season. Now with gun slinging Brett Favre at quarterback, Rice has finally begun to make use of his tremendous skill set.

While most people know he is a viable big play threat for the Vikings new pass friendly offense (read: non-Tarvaris Jackson offense), Rice has found himself in a role that could take his fantasy value to a new level. Rice has emerged as Favre's favorite Red Zone target, getting more targets than even touchdown czar himself Visanthe Shiancoe. Rice has been targeted 8 times in the RZ so far, tying him for 8th in the NFL with Randy Moss, Tony Gonzalez, Marques Colston, and Chad Ochocinco (decent company, no?).

Although he only has 2 TDs so far, Rice's frequent RZ targets should eventually lead to more scoring. When considering Rice's big play ability and Brett Favre's new found love for him in scoring situations, Sidney Rice is a great WR3 play every week, and has some big time upside. Owned in just 29% of ESPN leagues, Rice is a relatively easy player to acquire, and could provide HUGE dividends.

Laurence Maroney, Patriots RB

Yes, I know, pretty much everyone has written about Maroney, alerting you to the obvious: pick him up. Since I assume you already know this I'll take a different approach. With Sammy Morris going down, it was unclear who -- if anyone -- would take control of the Patriots' RB spot. Maroney, surprisingly, was essentially given full control of New England's running game. Not only did he get the majority of carries in between the 20s (before getting replaced in the fourth quarter by BenJarvus Green-Ellis while up by 50), Maroney got all of the Patriots carries in scoring situations (5 of 5).

We know better than to trust what we see in one game from a Bill Belichick team, but Maroney looks to be the go-to RB in New England. While he definitely looks good right now, remember that Maroney remains extremely risky as long as he's running in a Patriots jersey. However, going into Week 7 against Tampa Bay, Maroney is a great RB2 option. If New England continues to use Maroney as they did in Week 6, he could grow into an excellent RB2 on a weekly basis (not just in great matchups, like against the hapless Bucs).

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