Concerns about Jones-Drew, Rice growing in fantasy land

I took Ray Rice, Ryan Mathews, Shonn Greene and Michael Crabtree in the first five rounds of our draft. At the time I was feeling pretty good about my team, but now I'm 0-3. Is there any hope for these players? -- J. Orlowski, San Diego

Michael Fabiano: I'm not worried about Rice (at least not after this week's road game against the Steelers), and I wouldn't be concerned about Mathews either. Rice is too talented not to turn it around, and the rookie showed flashes of potential before injuring his ankle in Week 2. If he's active this week, I'd expect Mathews to put up good numbers against the Cardinals. As for Greene and Crabtree, well, some concern is warranted. LaDainian Tomlinson has taken over as the starter in New York, leaving Greene to play second fiddle. I wouldn't drop Greene -- I actually think he's a viable flex play against the Bills -- but he's not going to meet expectations while Tomlinson is playing at a high level. Crabtree has been atrocious, and I wouldn't use him as more than a No. 3 wideout in leagues with 12-plus teams. His fortunes could change soon, though, as new coordinator Mike Johnson is expected to run more of a spread offense rather than lean so heavily on the run. That should mean more opportunities for Crabtree to show off the skills that made him a preseason fantasy sleeper.

I have Joe Flacco and Alex Smith at quarterback, and neither has a good matchup this week. Which one of them should I start? -- N. Boudreau, New Hampshire

M.F.: Honestly, I wouldn't start either of them. Instead, see if one of the following quarterbacks is available on the waiver wire -- in order: Mark Sanchez, Kyle Orton, Chad Henne or Bruce Gradkowski. Flacco's matchup on the road against the Steelers is anything but favorable, and Smith simply hasn't been consistent enough to start in fantasy leagues right now. If you need to dump one of these players to acquire one of the aforementioned quarterbacks, I'd release Smith. If you're stuck starting either Flacco or Smith, go with the former -- and maybe go to your place of worship and pray!

Can I expect Maurice Jones-Drew to put up more fantasy points this week against the Colts, or should I start LeSean McCoy, Ahmad Bradshaw, Mathews or Brandon Jackson ahead of him? -- R. Daniel, Wilson, N.C.

M.F.: I have Jones-Drew in two of my 10 fantasy leagues, and I'm sticking with him. It's not his fault that he's not producing the sort of numbers we expected -- it's the awful play of David Garrard and an offense that's been non-existent the past two weeks. It's also hard to run the football in the second half when you're constantly behind and forced to throw in an attempt to erase big deficits. On a positive note, Jones-Drew has owned the Colts in recent years. In his last four starts against this AFC South rival, Pocket Hercules has averaged an impressive 5.3 receptions, 144 scrimmage yards and scored a total of four touchdowns.

I spent a high draft pick to land Brent Celek, and he's been has been killing me this season! I don't have enough roster space for two tight ends, so should I drop him or keep the faith and hope he starts to produce? -- G. McGuire, Denver

M.F.: Unless someone like Dustin Keller is on the waiver wire, I'd stick with Celek. He's not seeing as many targets this season with Michael Vick under center, due in large part to the effectiveness of the Eagles' vertical pass attack. Once defenses adjust and look to shut down DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, Celek will start to see more work. Be aware that he did suffer a wrist contusion against the Jaguars in Week 3, so it will be important to check his practice status in the coming days.

I'm in a PPR league where all touchdowns are worth six points, and I need to start one quarterback from Carson Palmer and Sam Bradford. Who should I use? -- C. Livermore, Las Vegas, Nev.

M.F.: As I mentioned in a previous answer, you should check to see if Orton, Sanchez or Henne is available on the waiver wire. Palmer appears to have a good matchup in Week 4, but the Browns defense is much tougher against the pass at home. I also simply don't trust Palmer anymore. Ever since he suffered that elbow injury to this throwing arm a few years back, he just hasn't been the same quarterback. There's no question that he's lost some of his accuracy -- Palmer is missing throws now that he used make with ease -- and he isn't nearly as consistent. In his last two games, he's thrown for just one touchdown with two interceptions and has a combined passer rating of 56.7. I would side with Palmer over Bradford if you can't add another quarterback, but it's well worth exploring other options.

With Steven Jackson's status for Week 4 in doubt, should I start Darren McFadden or Justin Forsett? Seems like a simple call, but Forsett has a great matchup against the Rams. Also, should I start Malcom Floyd or Mike Wallace? -- E. Shellman, Ukiah, Calif.

M.F.: Forsett does have a good matchup, but he's not even close to being on the same level as McFadden right now. After three weeks, he's fifth in fantasy points among running backs on NFL.com. McFadden has been so good, in fact, that he's made Michael Bush expendable in fantasy leagues. I'd continue to ride him while he's hot. In fact, I'd start McFadden ahead of Jackson even if the Rams runner is active in Week 4. He's been that good. At wide receiver, I would start Floyd. His matchup against the Cardinals is far more favorable than the one Wallace faces in AFC North rival Baltimore, and he's clearly become the top wideout in the Chargers' passing game for Philip Rivers.

I hate to think of the idea that Larry Fitzgerald is turning out to be a bust, but I'm beginning to think it. Should I grin and bear it and continue to start him, or is it time to trade Fitzgerald now while he still has some semblance of fantasy value? - B. Croteau, Virginia Beach, Va.

M.F.: Despite the fact that Fitzgerald is the third-most targeted wide receiver in the league after three weeks, he's still on pace to post his worst reception and yardage totals since his rookie season. In my opinion, a lot of the blame goes to Derek Anderson. Sure, he's throwing in Fitzgerald's direction a lot, but that doesn't mean much when the passes are inaccurate and in many cases uncatchable. Like I've always said, it never hurts to put a player on the trade block and see what offers are made, but I'm not sure you'll get a lot of value for Fitzgerald right now.

Is it time to bench Steve Smith from the Panthers in favor of Austin Collie? I've started the season 2-1, and that's without using Collie! I'm a Panthers fan and love Smith, but I'm worried about him (and the entire offense for that matter!) -- B. Hughes, Charleston, S.C.

M.F.: The short answer is a resounding yes! Collie is actually the highest-scoring wide receiver in fantasy football and has been one of biggest draft steals of the season. (No, that wasn't a misprint - Collie is the current king of the fantasy wideouts.) With Pierre Garcon still dealing with a bad hamstring and Peyton Manning playing like, well, Peyton Manning, Collie has become hard to bench. Furthermore, Smith's value is on the decline with Jimmy Clausen under center. The rookie looked like a deer in the headlights against the Bengals, and opposing defenses will continue to be aggressive against the inexperienced signal-caller. That makes Smith a risk and Collie the obvious choice to start.

I saw your waiver-wire column and noticed that Ryan Torain has now passed Keiland Williams on the depth chart in Washington. Is Torain worth adding? I'm in a 12-team league with 16-man rosters and don't have much depth at running back. Can Torain overtake Clinton Portis? -- F. Anderson, Denmark

M.F.: Torain, who was a sleeper as a rookie in Denver under coach Mike Shanahan, is worth a look in leagues with 12-plus teams. He saw the same number of carries as Clinton Portis in Week 3, and I think he's in for an even greater role in the offense moving forward. Portis is dealing with a wrist injury and even saw a reduced role in the second half against the Rams. What's more, Portis says he isn't sure what his role in the offense will be against the Eagles. In fact, he's not even sure he'll get the start this week. Torain has been injury prone in the past, but he has more upside than his broken-down veteran teammate and should be considered off the waiver wire -- especially if you lack backfield depth.

DeAngelo Williams is killing me! Is it time to bench him in favor of Ahmad Bradshaw, or even release him altogether? Also, would you start Louis Murphy ahead of Crabtree, Wallace or Devin Hester? -- W. Richardson, Stamford, Conn.

M.F.: Much like Jones-Drew, Williams' numbers and fantasy value is nose-diving because of the offense around him. Neither Matt Moore nor Clausen has been effective, so opposing defenses can stack the line of scrimmage to stop the run since the pass attack isn't a threat. It's also hard to produce when the offense is forced to abandon the run in the second half in an attempt to erase deficits. I would certainly start Bradshaw over Williams right now and until the Panthers turn things around. At wide receiver, I would start Murphy ahead of the trio of players you listed. He's put up two consecutive great performances and has a great matchup against Houston next on the schedule. Only the Redskins have allowed more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than the Texans this season.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!

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