Chris Wesseling

Waiver Wired

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To Vick or not to Vick?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The episodic nature of the NFL's weekly schedule creates unexpected storylines, sending seasons careening in directions unimaginable just a month ago. Picture the story arch of Mad Men or Dexter. Eagles coach Andy Reid is no more married to Kevin Kolb as his starting quarterback than Don Draper was married to Betty. One week in the NFL is an eternity.

At a crossroads this past offseason, the Eagles fully committed to Kolb as the new direction of the team. Reid and his staff deemed the young quarterback ready to take the reins, shipping franchise icon Donovan McNabb to Washington while writing Kolb a check for $10.7 million as a signing bonus on a one-year extension. Realistically, Reid isn't going to back out of that commitment after one ugly game. We can believe him when he vehemently denies that Kolb's job is in jeopardy. This week.

It's not that Andy Reid is lying. It's that these situations are extremely fluid. No matter what Reid believes now, events can unfold to change his mind. This week's plot is already thickening. Kolb flunked his initial concussion on Monday, he's not expected to practice until Friday (if at all), and three Eagles beat writers have already declared him unlikely to play in Week 2.

Enter Michael Vick, fresh off an impressive performance straight out of his electric early career. Saving the Eagles from Kolb's horrific start, Vick topped triple digits in rushing yards and passer rating for just the fifth time in his career. "I feel like if I had been out there for four quarters, maybe we would have had a chance to win the game,'' said Vick. Uh oh.

At the very least, it's looking more and more like fantasy owners will have a top-10 quarterback on their hands this week when Vick travels to Detroit. It doesn't take an overactive imagination to picture Vick excelling against the Lions' burnable secondary, planting more seeds in the fertile mind of Reid. NFL Network's Michael Lombardi believes Vick will have the locker room behind him if Kolb doesn't do a quick 180. It's already been suggested that Vick gives the team a better chance to win right now.

Kolb will get another shot regardless, to be sure, but the leash is already shorter. We have no reason beyond the Eagles' offseason commitment to believe that Kolb will hold off Vick into mid-October. He's now had nightmare performances against the 2008 Ravens and the 2010 Packers in his brief career, to go with an uneven start against the 2009 Saints and an impressive game versus a Chiefs team that turned every quarterback into a star last year.

Serious questions remain about his pocket presence after struggling in training camp and preseason action this summer. He won't remain under center while looking like a deer in headlights.

It wasn't Kolb's talent that had him widely labeled a borderline top-10 fantasy quarterback leading up to the season. It's the weapons, stupid. If Vick manages to wrest control of the starting job, he's a legit weekly QB1 considering his running ability and the arsenal in Philly.

This week's waiver wire conundrum, then, comes down to roster specifics. Owners counting on Kolb or Matthew Stafford -- or even Brett Favre or Matt Ryan -- will want to pounce on Vick this week, especially if they have two rock-solid options at running back. The rest of the fantasy world, those who drafted elite starting quarterbacks and those with questions marks at running back, should aim for Brandon Jackson instead.

On to the players. Here is how I rank the top players available at each position as we head into the season opener. Full writeups of each player are below.

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Quarterbacks
1. Michael Vick, Eagles
2. David Garrard, Jaguars
3. Sam Bradford, Rams
4. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks
5. Shaun Hill, Lions

Running Backs
1. Brandon Jackson, Packers
2. Peyton Hillis, Browns
3. Bernard Scott, Bengals
4. Fred Taylor, Patriots
5. John Kuhn, Packers

Wide Receivers
1. Mark Clayton, Rams
2. Legedu Naanee, Chargers
3. Mike Williams, Seahawks
4. Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns
5. Louis Murphy, Raiders
6. Mike Thomas, Jaguars

**Note: If Eddie Royal (CBS: 62%), Austin Collie (CBS: 61%), and Devin Aromashodu (CBS: 65%) are available in your league, they go directly to the top of this list as the Nos. 1-3 options.

Tight Ends
1. Jermaine Gresham
2. Todd Heap
3. Tony Scheffler

Defense/Special Teams
1. Patriots
2. Raiders

Quarterbacks

Michael Vick, Eagles - As we pointed out last week, the ideal roster stash isn't the one most likely to receive an opportunity; it's the one most likely to become a weekly fantasy asset if he does happen to receive an opportunity. In two and a half quarters of action, Vick finished as the No. 7 fantasy quarterback in Week 1. As the favorite to start at Detroit, he's easily a top-10 option this week. In a league often described as "Not For Long," Vick's fantasy value goes beyond filling in for a week with Kolb concussed.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues

David Garrard, Jaguars - After finishing as a top-15 fantasy QB in each of the past two seasons, Garrard posted top-10 numbers in Week 1 against the Broncos. If recent history serves, he'll be bankable in home games and useless on the road. Garrard won't be a strong QB2 this week at San Diego, but he's a decent mix-and-match starter the rest of the way for those QB-needy owners unable to land Vick this week.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues

Sam Bradford, Rams - The Rams called 57 passing plays against 23 runs, showing the utmost faith in their rookie quarterback on key plays throughout the game. Only Peyton Manning attempted more passes in Week 1. This defense isn't going to allow coach Steve Spagnuolo to go into ball control mode, so Bradford will be playing catchup for most of the season. Brighter days are ahead for the No. 1 overall pick, who had Larry Fitzgerald calling him a special player after his debut.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues

Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks - Will the real Matt Hasselbeck please step forward? Is it the brittle, aging passer with a 22:27 TD-to-INT ratio and a pick on the first pass of the game in Week 1? Or is the 2007 Pro Bowler who dove headfirst for the pylon Sunday on his way to a three-touchdown afternoon? I'd lean toward the former. Hasselbeck may work as an emergency fill-in this week at Denver, but he's not a great fantasy bet the rest of the way in a subpar offense.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues

Shaun Hill, Lions - The Detroit offense is better than it showed at Chicago, but its playmaking ability is limited with a mediocre talent like Hill under center. He simply doesn't have the arm to execute the vertical attack that was honed with Matthew Stafford in August. It's still not clear how long Stafford will be out -- estimates have ranged from 1-2 weeks to six weeks. Hill has a red-light matchup this week against an Eagles defense that held Aaron Rodgers under 200 yards. Desperate Stafford owners can do better than his backup in Week 2.

Recommendation: Should be owned in two-quarterback leagues

Long-Term Fliers

Max Hall, Cardinals - Derek Anderson flirted with 300 yards in Week 1, and he looked craptacular doing it. As Gregg Rosenthal mentioned during Sunday's game, "No one misses intended receivers by five yards quite like Derek Anderson." There were several key moments where the thought of replacing Anderson with the more accurate Hall had to be going through coach Ken Whisenhunt's mind. That same scenario will continue to play out until Anderson loses the job outright.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues

Jimmy Clausen, Panthers - Coach John Fox, like Andy Reid, isn't going to bench his starter after just one lousy performance. That's subject to change after two or three lousy performances, however. Matt Moore's (concussion) status for Week 2 is up in the air, so Clausen could end up as a QB2 in a quality matchup hosting the Bucs.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
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