NFL fantasy roundtable (cont.)
3. Cam Newton has produced few of the explosive performances many fantasy owners expected before the season. Will he turn things around, and if not, who can be trusted in the Panthers offense?
Beacom: Take away his dismal showing on Sunday and Newton has not been all that bad this season; through his first four games he had scored three rushing touchdowns and was on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards. The only area of concern is his low touchdown pass total. Forgive him for struggling against Seattle -- who hasn't this season?
Carroll: Without Newton being on his game -- and his Week 5 performance worries me more than last week's -- then no. The running game is a mish-mash by design, and Steve Smith is a product of Newton's scrambling and strong arm. Newton right now is a hold. There's no injury and all the talent is still there, but for whatever reason, he's not getting results.
Mack: The latter part of the question is the problem: The Panthers don't run with their backs enough. That makes Newton a one-man show on a team that doesn't have great receiving targets down field. And then, what's worse, Newton is showing some signs of his struggles getting to him mentally. It isn't a disaster yet, but the schedule really is not that easy with the bye, Dallas, Chicago, Washington, Denver, Tampa Bay and Philly on the schedule through Week 12. If you're behind and not in position to be a fantasy playoff team, you might want to consider making a bold move at quarterback and trading Newton.
Sabino: In 16 of the last 17 games he's played, Newton has failed to throw for 300 yards. His rushing this season, while fine, is not making up for the lack of precision in his passing. He was downright awful late against the Seahawks, which leads me to believe that if I'm counting on him, maybe it's time to have a Plan B. Perhaps they'll make major changes during the bye week, but I'm not confident. As Cam goes, so does that offense. Stay clear of everyone but Greg Olsen, his safety valve, right now.
4. Rashard Mendenhall posted a promising season debut in Week 5. How much confidence do you have in him in the weeks ahead?
Beacom: This is what we know: The Steelers running game generated an average of 65 yards per game (2.6 yards per carry) in the team's first three games; on Sunday, Pittsburgh gained 136 yards on 31 carries with Mendenhall handling the bulk of the load. His 5.8-yard average was 2.6 yards better than Isaac Redman against Philadelphia. My confidence has been fully restored.
Carroll: I was huge on Mendenhall before the season as a sleeper. I thought he'd be back at this point and could be stolen in mid-rounds. Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles have shown that running backs can come back quickly and effectively from ACL surgery. Mendenhall showed me on one play -- that around end score -- two of the three things I want to see from a back coming off surgery. He had speed and burst, and he was able to turn the corner. He did not make a hard cut that I saw (can't wait for the game film on him) but he's the Steelers RB1 going forward and a huge addition to that offense.
Mack: That was no slouch defense he faced Sunday. "The savior is back," Ben Roethlisberger said. The Steelers have already had their bye, and the schedule is not tough in terms of run defenses until Week 11 vs. Baltimore. The next five weeks shape up well for Mendenhall as a starter in all leagues. He will lead more than a few teams to the fantasy postseason, which means his owners got great value relative to draft position. For those who have him, consider dealing your previous running starter for help at another position right now.
Sabino: My skepticism about Mendenhall was centered around the Steelers' line but they were praising Mendenhall after Sunday's win over the Eagles for understanding where he was supposed to run, something apparently lost on Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer through the first three weeks. At his best Mendenhall is a top-10 running back and I'm sure that Todd Haley is much happier having a solid rushing option around. Be confident using him against all but the league's best run defenses, only one of which (San Diego) is on Pittsburgh's remaining schedule
5. I have lost Danny Amendola just as the bye weeks hit. Who does the roundtable recommend as a WR-Flex? Need a steady-Eddie type.
Beacom: Try Tennessee rookie Kendall Wright. He ranks among the top-20 in targets (44) and is coming off his best performance to date (nine catches for 66 yards). He's a possession guy, much like Amendola, and Wright's role in the Titans offense will continue to grow, even after Kenny Britt returns to full health.
Carroll: This is a tough question since league context is key. Is this a smart 12-team league with a deep bench and keepers? Is this a casual 10-team office league with a vast array of free agents? I'll use the SI league I play in with a couple guys as proxy. There, the best guy might be Brandon Gibson, who looks as if he'll take Amendola's targets. Golden Tate is emerging as a solid option in Seattle and is getting touchdown looks. Armon Binns is a bit more speculative, but is close on catches and is less home-run needy than Andrew Hawkins.
Mack: Calvin Johnson. Kidding. All leagues are different, but guys like Davone Bess, Donnie Avery, James Jones, Randall Cobb and whichever receiver starts for the Giants when Hakeem Nicks (foot, knee) has been out have been good for targets in rhythm passing games. Kendall Wright is quietly among the top-20 most-targeted receivers in fantasy to date. Chaz Schilens and Stephen Hill can step forward in Santonio Holmes' (foot) absence. Among the buy-low receivers elsewhere, we should all expect Justin Blackmon, Jeremy Maclin, Denarius Moore, Mario Manningham, Donald Jones and Jerome Simpson to improve as the season moves on. Those guys are available in many leagues.
Sabino: The problem is that all of the steady types cost. Of the players with the most games of at least four catches and 50 yards, none should be on any waiver wire. The players I'd target in a trade who won't break the bank are Eric Decker, Antonio Brown or Brian Hartline. Running backs of that ilk are even harder to come by although you might be able to pry away a Steven Jackson or Willis McGahee, each of whom gained at least 50 yards from scrimmage four times this year.