As Evan Silva pointed out Tuesday morning, this week’s waiver wire boasts three promising receivers reminiscent of the Miles Austin vs. Jeremy Maclin vs. Donnie Avery dilemma two years ago. We advised grabbing Austin then based on his obvious playmaking and upside in a best-case scenario. The waiver receiver who best matches that description this time around is Raiders rookie sensation Denarius Moore, coming off a human highlight-reel performance against the Bills.
Moore slipped to the fifth-round coming out of Tennessee, leading ESPN NFL analyst Ross Tucker to call for an investigation into the matter. As soon as training camp opened, Moore immediately began catching the eye of the coaching staff, teammates, and beat writers. Moore continued to make the spectacular catch look routine, leading coach Hue Jackson to exclaim, "Mama, there goes that man again.” The phrase became a familiar refrain among beat writers, tweeted throughout training camp practices.
By mid-August, Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times called Moore not only the best receiver on the team but often the best player, period. “It has reached the point,” said Corkran, “where this isn’t some one-week wonder, flash in the pan or fluke. The man can flat out play.” In any other NFL city Moore would have been in the starting lineup by the first preseason game. Under stubborn owner Al Davis, though, Darrius Heyward-Bey continued to coast by on scholarship. That’s about to change.
Asked if Moore’s impressive showing would lead to more playing time going forward, coach Hue Jackson responded, "Oh boy, you better believe [it]. There’s no doubt. You can’t deny that one. What the guy’s doing … he’s done it in training camp, he’s done it in practice, he’s done it in preseason games and he’s done it in regular season games. He is as advertised. It’s going to be hard to keep that young man off the field.” Nothing is guaranteed with the mercurial Davis running the show, but Moore's talent gives him the edge over David Nelson and Eric Decker this week.
On to the players. Here is how I rank the top players at each position as we head into Week 3. Full writeups of each player are below.
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Mike Kafka, Eagles - Here are the facts as it relates to the Eagles’ starting quarterback job for Week 3: Vick’s concussion tests conducted in the locker room were a “little bit off” from his baseline. Since the NFL instistuted stricter guidelines for concussions two years ago, only one of nine concussed Eagles players has returned the following week. The Eagles are “holding out hope” that Vick can play against the Giants. Vince Young is still not quite 100 percent recovered from his hamstring injury. Coach Andy Reid is kicking himself for not placing more trust in an impressive Mike Kafka late in Sunday night’s loss to the Falcons.
Here are the opinions as it relates to the starting job for Week 3: Beat writers Les Bowen and Reuben Frank both suspect Kafka would start over Young if Vick can’t play. Kafka played well enough in relief of Vick, is healthy enough to practice all week, has a stronger understanding of the offense, and the support of his head coach. Any quarterback throwing to DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy is worthy of a spot-fantasy start against the Giants’ injury-depleted defense. If the coaching staff switches gears and throws their weight behind Young later this week, by all means make the adjustment.
Recommendation: Worth a look as a spot starter.
Rex Grossman, Redskins - Grossman started out the Cardinals game as “Bad Rex” with two picks, but rallied for 291 yards and two touchdowns in a winning effort. Through two weeks, Rex is sixth in the NFL pass attempts, tied for sixth in passing scores, and ninth in passing yards. The plus matchups continue this week against Dallas’ banged-up secondary.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.
Matt Hasselbeck, Titans - Hasselbeck received unexpectedly stout protection against Baltimore’s pass rush, air-mailing pinpoint passes to Nate Washington and uncoverable Kenny Britt for 358 yards -- his third-highest output since 2005. With defenses stacking the box against Chris Johnson, Hasselbeck proved plenty capable of making defenses pay. He has the weapons to finish the season as a solid QB2 in an underrated offense.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.
Jason Campbell, Raiders - Largely on the strength of two rushing scores and a shootout with the Bills, Campbell enters Week 3 in 11th place among fantasy quarterbacks. Although his outlook is looking up with Denarius Moore emerging as a go-to receiver down the field, Campbell is hands-off for this week’s game against a Jets secondary that just got Luke McCown fired.
Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.
Andy Dalton, Bengals - We covered Dalton’s Week 2 performance in Monday’s Morning After column. Dalton set a franchise rookie record with 332 passing yards, including 280 in the second half with the Bengals playing from behind against an injury-riddled Broncos defense. Ex-scout Dave Razzano came away convinced that Dalton is the “real deal,” but I’m advising skepticism until this performance is repeated against a quality defense.
Recommendation: Should be owned in two-quarterback leagues.
Donovan McNabb, Vikings - No fantasy owner outside of two-quarterback leagues should feel the need to roster McNabb even after improving from 39 yards to 228 in Week 2. Molasses Mike Jenkins and Bernard Berrian are gaining no separation down the field, and coordinator Bill Musgrave is oddly under-utilizing Percy Harvin. McNabb is in no danger of losing his job yet, but this is one of the least dynamic passing offenses in the NFL.
Recommendation: Worth a look in two-quarterback leagues.
Cut Bait: Matt Cassel, Kerry Collins, Luke McCown
Now in the Andrew Luck derby, touchdowns are scarce in Kansas City and Indianapolis. … McCown is coming off one of the worst games we’ve ever seen from a starting quarterback.
Hold Off: Blaine Gabbert