Posted: Thursday October 11, 2012 5:14PM ; Updated: Thursday October 11, 2012 5:14PM
Michael Beller
Michael Beller>INSIDE FANTASY FOOTBALL

Flex Spending: Jackson finds himself target of Vick's attention

Story Highlights

Michael Vicks has directed a quarter of his passes this year to DeSean Jackson

Vick Ballard could produce well with games vs. Browns, Titans in next few weeks

Jordy Nelson is averaging six fewer yards per catch this season than in 2011

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DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson has been the target of a quarter of Michael Vick's pass attempts.
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The flex landscape is always shifting. Last week, it was the first heavy dose of byes that sent owners scrambling to the waiver wire. This week, it's injuries.

With Cedric Benson, Ryan Williams and Donald Brown all heading to the shelf, their owners will once again have to shuffle the pieces to make their starting rosters whole. In the cases of Benson and Williams, you've lost someone for the season who you were likely depending on helping you through the bye-week portion of the schedule. Brown should only be out a few weeks, but, unlike Benson and Williams, he's a guy who you were probably counting on to be an option no matter the time of the season. That can mean a bigger hit to your starting lineup and depth.

Luckily, all three have ready-made replacements, as we'll see below. The degree to which you'll want to trust their replacements differs, but that's what makes Flex Spending a constant challenge to navigate.

Upgrades

DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- With eight more targets in last week's loss to the Steelers, Jackson is up to 46 on the year, and clearly looks like Michael Vick's favorite target. Despite doing most of his damage from outside the red zone, Jackson has four targets inside the 20 this year. The 46 targets represent a quarter of Vick's passes this season, which is good for 15th in the league. You likely weren't benching Jackson any time soon, but the rest of the way I like him as a top-20 wide receiver. Even when bye weeks end, I'd have a hard time benching Jackson, even in leagues that only start two wide receivers. In standard 12-team leagues, meaning two running backs, two receivers and one flex, Jackson remains a guy you want in there every week.

Steve Johnson, Bills -- Is Johnson a top-15 wide receiver? Seems outlandish, but he just might be. Of all the passes Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown this year, 31 percent have been to Johnson. One-third of the Bills' red-zone targets have been to Johnson. He has 21 catches for 234 yards and three touchdowns, which may not be anything to get too excited about, but the volume sure is nice. Like Jackson, you weren't even considering putting him on your bench, but it's always worth doing periodic audits and checking everyone's value. Johnson's is decidedly up since the start of the season. I'd treat him as a top-15 receiver.

New Faces

Vick Ballard, Colts -- Donald Brown will miss the next two-to-three weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery, and Ballard steps into his place as the starter. While the Colts expect to have Brown back before the calendar turns to November, Ballard could be a treat all the way up to Halloween. His matchup against the Jets this week isn't special, but it's not the death sentence it once was, and he has two juicy matchups waiting for him in the Browns and Titans. Scoop him up now if he's available in your league. Depending on how the Week 6 byes impact your roster, he could be worth starting this week, as well.

Alex Green, Packers -- Running second in the Week 6 waiver race is Green, who figures to be the main beneficiary after Cedric Benson suffered a lisfranc fracture. James Starks may be the nominal starter, but if last week is any indication, the Packers will turn to Green as their primary ball carrier. He racked up 63 yards on 10 carries in last week's loss to the Colts. The Packers have had a ton of trouble getting the ball downfield this year, and that could force them to rely on running the ball more than they have recently. We were already seeing that develop with Benson, and now it's Green who stands to get most of those touches. You should have better options to go with this week when the Packers visit Houston, but Green just might prove to be this year's big-ticket midseason pickup.

Downgrades

Steven Jackson, Rams -- We've been waiting for this day. Every year, the experts said it was going to happen, and every year they were proven wrong. But the party always has to end, the tab must always be paid, and it appears the time is nigh for Jackson. After churning out workmanlike, quality seasons year after year, it looks like all the hits have finally caught up with him. Jackson has carried the ball 77 times for just 271 yards and zero touchdowns this season. Meanwhile, Daryl Richardson clearly has more burst and gives the Rams' offense a dynamic that Jackson simply does not, and they can't afford to keep him on the bench. At this point, Jackson is a fringe flex option at best.

Jordy Nelson, Packers -- The Packers have hit on just one pass of 40 yards or longer this season and nine of 20 or longer. Not surprisingly, Nelson has just 23 catches for 289 yards and one touchdown. Last year, he caught 68 passes for 1,263 yards, good for an 18.6 yards-per-catch average. That number is way down to 12.6 this year. Simply put, no one is more adversely affected by Green Bay's inability to stretch the field than Nelson. As such, we have to downgrade him here. It's hard to pinpoint what's causing this lack of firepower from the Packers, but until they turn it around, we have to consider Nelson as outside the top-20 receivers. Now you'll probably still be starting him. I own him in two of my three leagues, and I'll have him in there without hesitation. But temper your expectations for him in the near future.

Week 6 Flex Rankings

1. Arian Foster
2. Ray Rice
3. LeSean McCoy
4. A.J. Green
5. Calvin Johnson
6. Darren McFadden
7. Trent Richardson
8. Reggie Bush
9. Victor Cruz
10. Jamaal Charles
11. Adrian Peterson
12. Roddy White
13. Marshawn Lynch
14. Reggie Wayne
15. Julio Jones
16. DeMarco Murray
17. Larry Fitzgerald
18. Frank Gore
19. Percy Harvin
20. Wes Welker
21. DeSean Jackson
22. Demaryius Thomas
23. Ryan Mathews
24. Dwayne Bowe
25. Miles Austin
26. Mike Wallace
27. Rob Gronkowski
28. Vernon Davis
29. Mikel Leshoure
30. Stevan Ridley
31. Michael Turner
32. Ahmad Bradshaw
33. Alfred Morris
34. Torrey Smith
35. Brandon Lloyd
36. Doug Martin
37. Tony Gonzalez
38. Steve Johnson
39. Eric Decker
40. Brian Hartline
41. Vincent Jackson
42. Rashard Mendenhall
43. Antonio Brown
44. Andre Johnson
45. Jordy Nelson
46. Willis McGahee
47. C.J. Spiller
48. Fred Jackson
49. Michael Crabtree
50. Dez Bryant
51. Malcom Floyd
52. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
53. Vick Ballard
54. Steven Jacson
55. Owen Daniels
56. Anquan Boldin
57. Jason Witten
58. Alex Green
59. Jeremy Maclin
60. James Jones
61. Nate Washington
62. Chris Johnson
63. Andre Roberts
64. Donnie Avery
65. Shonn Greene
66. Golden Tate
67. Robert Meachem
68. Domenik Hixon
69. Kyle Rudolph
70. Heath Miller
71. Fred Davis
72. Kendall Hunter
73. Brandon Bolden
74. David Wilson
75. Jackie Battle
76. Toby Gerhart
77. Jeremy Kerley
78. Sidney Rice
79. James Starks
80. Jacquizz Rodgers
81. William Powell
82. Bilal Powell
83. LaRod Stephens-Howling
84. Daryl Richardson
85. Andrew Hawkins
86. T.Y. Hilton
87. Dennis Pitta
88. Ronnie Hillman
89. Shaun Draughn
90. Martellus Bennett
91. LeGarrette Blount
92. Pierre Garcon
93. Randall Cobb
94. Josh Gordon
95. Jon Baldwin
96. Donald Jones
97. Rueben Randle
98. Armon Binns
99. Denarius Moore
100. Danny Woodhead

 
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