Dear Mr. Fantasy: Facing a Colston conundrum?
Owners are growing very impatient with some of their early-round disappointments, like Marques Colston. Our Scott White dishes out some advice on trades and lineups for Week 5 in Dear Mr. Fantasy.
He was the 10th-highest drafted wide receiver in Fantasy, consistently going off the board in the third round.
He has yet to catch more than five passes for more than 67 yards in a game this season, and he has yet to score a touchdown. And that's even with his quarterback ranking fourth in passing yards and seventh in Fantasy points.
He's tall and talented, proficient and proven, but easily one of the biggest disappointments in Fantasy to date.
He's Marques Colston, and he's driving people crazy.
At what point do I let Marques Colston go? Even though Calvin Johnson, Austin Collie and Mike Wallace are playing well, I always seem to leave Colston in the lineup, hoping for his breakout game. What do you think he could get me in a trade? -- Jason Markle
SW: I too have left Colston in my lineup for each of his four disappointing performances, and I too have reached the end of my patience.
It's not that Colston is any less of a player. It's just that Drew Brees has too many places to throw the ball.
Granted, the surplus of targets in New Orleans has always been the knock on Colston, but in the past, when other targets would disappear from week to week, he would remain the go-to guy. This year, he's just one of the guys, having caught only one more pass than Pierre Thomas, four more than Lance Moore and five more than Devery Henderson. And that's not even counting Jeremy Shockey, who leads the team in receptions with 20.
I'm not recommending anyone cut a player of Colston's caliber. I know he'll eventually have a 100-yard game and score a touchdown or two, but how much of this nonsense will we have to put up with before then? And how much afterward?
Frankly, the upside isn't worth the inconsistency. Something would have to change in New Orleans for me to trust Colston as an every-week option. At this point, I'd rather take my chances on someone I know will be a factor in the passing game each week -- someone like Mark Clayton or Brandon Lloyd. In your case, I'd say Johnson and Collie should definitely take priority over Colston. I might still rank him ahead of Wallace, who has only nine receptions, but the return of Ben Roethlisberger could change that.
As for trading Colston, you'll find some takers based on name value alone, but after four weeks of inadequate production, any potential trade partners would expect to acquire him at a significant discount. Unless you could couple him with another player -- like a reserve running back -- you're better off sitting on him.
SW: I'll admit Orton's matchup looks scary. In fact, on numbers alone, it's downright suicidal. The Ravens rank first in pass defense, having allowed only 119 yards per game.
Ah, but the Broncos rank first in pass offense with 339.5 yards per game, having pretty much abandoned the running game with Knowshon Moreno sidelined by a hamstring injury. And if you look at the other teams the Ravens have played, none even come close to that level of production.
The Ravens played the Steelers and third-string quarterback Charlie Batch in Week 4, the Browns and weak-armed backup Seneca Wallace in Week 3, and the Jets before they hit their stride offensively in Week 1. (Remember that 74-yard performance for Mark Sanchez? Talk about skewing the average.) The only time their pass defense stood out as anything exceptional was Week 2 at Cincinnati, when they allowed 167 passing yards to Carson Palmer, himself a shell of his former self.
I think the Broncos will do what they normally do against a defense not used to seeing it, and though they might not have their usual success with it, they'll do well enough to raise that 119-yard average.
Of course, starting Orton with this matchup is still a risk, which is why I wouldn't normally recommend it, but if your only other choice is Kolb, you really have no choice. The guy has to show me something before I can trust him, especially against a 49ers defense that stepped up at Atlanta last week, limiting Matt Ryan to a 67.3 quarterback rating.
With Michael Vick out this week, should I consider benching DeSean Jackson? After watching Kevin Kolb dink and dunk all day, I'm not sure if Jackson is going to produce like he did the previous weeks with Vick at the helm. My other options at wide receiver are Chad Ochocinco and Hakeem Nicks, and I really like Nicks' matchup. -- Troy Kasmar, Fort Atkinson, Wis.
SW: Careful, Troy. You'll catch me talking out of both sides of my mouth.
OK, so I don't trust Kolb enough to start him, but I don't think he's so terrible you have to give up on Jackson. The two certainly made it work in Kolb's two starts last year, when Jackson had a total of 10 receptions for 250 yards and two touchdowns.
The beauty of Jackson is his foot speed makes him a threat to reach the end zone regardless of how he gets the football -- be it a short pass or a long pass. If the quarterback can deliver him the ball, he'll do the rest.
All it takes is one big play for him to pay off in Fantasy. All he needs is four or five catches to have a shot at a 100-yard game. His ability after the catch gives him the potential to have a good game even if Kolb has a so-so game. And chances are Kolb won't be as conservative after a full week of practicing with the first-team offense, especially since he might not have LeSean McCoy available to him underneath.
Nicks' matchup against the Texans is a good one, so coming off an eight-catch, 110-yard performance, he's clearly must-start. The player I'd bench is Ochocinco, who has averaged 45.7 receiving yards in three games since his big performance in Week 1.
I own Philip Rivers and would love to get Antonio Gates to form that one-two punch. Do you think trading Chris Cooley and Jahvid Best for Gates is too much? I have Ray Rice and Tim Hightower as well. The Gates owner needs running backs as he has only Marshawn Lynch, Clinton Portis and Rashard Mendenhall, whose bye is this week. -- Ben Darling
SW: Don't you think it's too much? You're the one who has benefited from Best's services all year. He's tied with Adrian Peterson and Rashard Mendenhall for second-most points at the running back position -- behind only Arian Foster -- and had his second-best yards-per-carry average last week despite playing with turf toe.
He has established himself as a Fantasy stud, and stud running backs are still primarily what separate the good teams from the bad. So yeah, giving him up for help at a position where you don't have a clear need seems a little pricey to me.
I can certainly understand why you'd want Gates considering he has at least one touchdown grab in each of his four games, but he's on pace for 24 touchdowns this season. I'm sorry, but I'm not ready to sign him up for any records. Football has a way of policing itself statistically. As Gates attracts more attention from the defense, Rivers will have to shift his focus to his wide receivers.
Maybe if you had a better third running back -- like an Ahmad Bradshaw, a Peyton Hillis or a LaDainian Tomlinson -- I could get behind this move a little more. But if I allow you to expose yourself at running back by buying high on Gates, I'm doing you a disservice. Hightower certainly isn't the answer, especially now that Beanie Wells is back.
I have Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger. I could drop Vick and pick up Shaun Hill for this week, but I was thinking of playing with no quarterback so I can keep Vick and Roethlisberger. I run the chance of losing this week, but it might help me going forward. What do you think? -- Dane Tollefson, Fargo, N.D.
SW: I think you more than "run the chance" of losing. By not starting a quarterback, you're basically punting this week.
I'm not saying you can't win. If you have a strong supporting cast and your opponent stumbles to one of those 50-60-point weeks that happen from time to time, hey, anything's possible. But your chances of winning drop so much by not starting a quarterback that you should go ahead and chalk this one up as a loss.
In most scoring formats, quarterbacks are the highest-scoring players. If an owner gets nothing from the position, regardless of what he has at any other position, he's losing. So many quarterbacks are capable of putting up 20-25 points each week that you can't expect to survive with one who doesn't even come close.
And zero isn't coming close.
I'm not saying you can't try such a radical move. If you're 4-0 or maybe even 3-1 and really don't have anyone else you can cut for Hill, I wouldn't call you crazy for going without a quarterback. But I'd try my hardest to avoid a sure loss. You don't know when Vick will return or how quickly Roethlisberger will get up to speed. What if that one loss turns into two or three more?
You really don't have a fifth running back you can cut? A fourth wide receiver? A second tight end? Unless you're playing with a 12-man roster, there has to be somebody. If not, I'd probably just bite the bullet and cut Vick. Again, you don't know when he'll return.
You can survive without a tight end. You can survive without a kicker. But a quarterback is simply too important to your bottom line for you to go without one. Why do you think so many Joe Flacco owners are struggling now?
I have Jamaal Charles and Joseph Addai as my starting running backs, but I recently acquired Ryan Torain and Marshawn Lynch off the waiver wire. Which two would you start for this week and the rest of the season? -- Chris Jackson, Philadelphia
SW: For now, you still have to consider Addai and Charles your top two options. Addai showed why we shouldn't be so quick to downgrade him with his two touchdowns last week. Charles' platoon with Thomas Jones is annoying, but he has proven he can remain relevant with only 12-15 touches per game and should be able to run wild against the Colts defense this week. They're both proven, so I think you should stick with them in the short term.
But eventually, I could see Torain taking over as a starter for you. Coach Mike Shanahan has an infatuation with him that dates back to their Denver days, and now that Clinton Portis is on the shelf, Torain has a chance to show what he can do, beginning with his 70 yards and a touchdown last week. With a big performance, he could conceivably hold off Portis -- who has never been a Shanahan favorite and doesn't have much left to offer at age 29 -- for the rest of the year.
I'm not as high on Lynch. I'm not sure he's any more talented than Justin Forsett, so even if he gets to carry the full load in Seattle -- an unlikely scenario with Forsett around -- his totals likely wouldn't be any better than Forsett's have been so far. I don't know about you, but I need a little more than 60-65 yards per game.
If it's a hunch you're looking for, I say Charles emerges as your best running back, followed by Torain, Addai and Lynch.
I recently received Michael Turner, Ronnie Brown, Randy Moss and Mark Clayton in exchange for Adrian Peterson, Matt Ryan and Santonio Holmes. My quarterback after the trade is Brett Favre. How do you think I made out? Before this trade, my wide receivers were Marques Colston, Mike Sims-Walker and Brandon Lloyd. With a record of 1-3, I felt like I needed to strengthen my receiving corps, and I did so without crippling myself at running back, where I now have Michael Turner, Cedric Benson and Ronnie Brown. Do you think I need to make a move at quarterback? -- Mickey Ballantine
SW: I'm not wild about giving up the best player in a deal, and the best player in this deal is clearly Peterson, who has been the most consistent running back in football even though Arian Foster has more points. But if you're going to trade him, I don't think you can do much better than you did, getting a potential No. 1 running back in Turner and a potential No. 2 running back in Brown. Both have underachieved so far, but I'm not ready to write off either. You also got not one, but two upgrades at wide receiver with Moss and Clayton.
Ultimately, what happens at quarterback will define this trade as a success or failure. Ryan is unspectacular, but you could at least trust him to keep you afloat at the position. Favre has been just plain bad, and as we've already discussed, you can't win with a bad quarterback.
The good news is Favre now has Moss at his disposal, which could instantly turn around his season. Moss was one of the biggest reasons Daunte Culpepper found success, and he made Tom Brady the best quarterback in Fantasy. Now that Favre can lean on someone other than Visanthe Shiancoe, he'll likely cut down on his interceptions.
And if he doesn't (or if you're worried he won't), you could try swapping Colston for somebody like Kyle Orton, Joe Flacco or Donovan McNabb. You should be set at wide receiver with Moss, Clayton and Lloyd, and at 1-3, excess isn't a luxury you can afford. You need to get this thing moving in the right direction.
For the record, the inclusion of Holmes doesn't influence my opinion of the trade one way or the other. He'll begin his season as the third receiving option behind Dustin Keller and Braylon Edwards on an offense that relies heavily on the run. That's not exactly a recipe for Fantasy success.
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