Going Deep: Fantasy garbage men can clean up

Garbage men get a bad rap. From Roc to the Estevez brothers in "Men at Work"), the friendly neighborhood trash collector is often the butt of jokes.

Were it not for Mike Rowe, the folks who do this dirty job would probably get no love at all.

But there is one type of garbage man that deserves much more love -- the fantasy garbage man. He's the guy who produces for fantasy owners once the game on the field has gotten out of hand. If you've played enough dominoes, you've likely heard that "not all points are good points." That doesn't apply in fantasy football. Fantasy owners know to take whatever they can get. While it might not result in a win for that particular player's NFL team, it could be enough to pull out a "W" for your fantasy squad.

So this week, we're Going Deep to salute these kings of garbage time, looking back at 2012 and looking ahead to who might be taking out the trash in 2013.

As usual, some rules: for our purposes, "garbage time" is a team trailing by 11 or more points in the fourth quarter. Alrighty then, here we go...


For the past few years, I've held to the theory that Carson Palmer was the ultimate fantasy garbage man. Turns out, I was absolutely right. Over the past three years, no one has thrown for more yards once the game gets out of hand -- and it hasn't really been close. Late in one-sided affairs, Palmer's tossed for 1,588 yards. Second is Josh Freeman ... with 1,175 yards. Palmer also leads teh way with 14 TD passes -- one better than Ryan Fitzpatrick.

But even just looking at 2012, King Carson kept his crown, far outpacing his competition in garbage time. Certainly part of it was that the Raiders were frequently behind late in ballgames, but Palmer didn't have the most attempts in those situations last season. That belonged to Matthew Stafford and his 109 throws.

Then again, when you set an NFL record with 727 attempts, you're likely to be the attempts leader in a wide variety of scenarios.

Nonetheless, the guys on this list have a few things in common: they played for teams that had losing records and ... well, there's not much more really needed. It's pretty simple. Teams that are losing will throw the ball more in an effort to catch up. With that said, who are some of the candidates to be in the running for top fantasy garbage QB of 2013?

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: It's hard to imagine the Lions going 4-12 again this season, but the competition in the NFC North also makes it hard to believe they're primed for a deep run into January. Stafford is back on this list simply because the Lions aren't built to run the football. Reggie Bush is a nice addition, but he's not the kind of back who can grind down the clock late in a ball game. Look for Stafford to throw, throw and throw some more.

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: Judging from the first two preseason games, the Bolts have a lot of holes to fill. New coach Mike McCoy is a quarterback specialist and could help revive Rivers' fantasy value. The only caveat: a suspect offensive line could keep the veteran QB off the field and in the trainer's room.

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Carolina's defense was a major liability last season, giving up 27-plus points in seven of the team's nine losses. If things don't get any better this season, a more pocket-centric Newton might have to chuck it a few more times to get his team back in contention.

Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals: For old times' sake.

Running backs

Finding value here could be a little tougher. After all, teams that fall behind tend to go away from using their running backs. However, it's not a surprise that the player sitting atop this list is one known for his prowess as a pass-catcher.

The one thing that remains the same: you won't find a lot of guys on this list who played for playoff teams last season.

So who could end up on the list this season? Here are a few candidates.

Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions: Bush is on this list for many of the same reasons Stafford is. Detroit's newest addition to the offense is expected to be big for PPR owners this season -- and plenty of those catches could come late in ball games. If the Lions get behind, Bush is one running back you won't have to worry about being removed from the game plan.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: If the Eagles defense can't show much improvement from 2012, it could be another long year in the City of Brotherly Love. Chip Kelly's offenses have generally been geared toward the running backs and McCoy could feel the love.

Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams: Richardson wasn't too far out of the top five last season and now that he's on target to be the primary back in St. Louis, he could very well move up the list. If you're considering him to be a sleeper, this might put it over the top. Or not.

Wide receivers

If running back values are hard to come by, wide receivers should be a little easier. Since the QB has to put the ball in the air, chances are good that it's going to a wideout, right? That's why it's not a total surprise to see some big names on this list ... as well as just off of it.

If you look just outside the top five, you'll find the likes of Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and Marques Colston. They're go-to receivers for a reason. So expect quarterbacks to go to them when they're most needed.

When it comes to potential clean-up men on the edges in 2013, who should fantasy owners look toward?

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: See: Stafford, Matthew and Bush, Reggie.

Justin Blackmon/Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags will likely be trailing early and often this season. There's no reason to think Blaine Gabbert will be a viable fantasy option at quarterback, but his playmakers at the receiver spot could offer some production for their respective owners this season.

Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns: The Browns have said they would like to feature more of a vertical passing attack and Gordon is a home run hitter who can help get his team back in a game quickly. If Cleveland falls behind, don't be surprised if Brandon Weeden chucks it up to the young speedster.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: Yes, I expect Fitz to look more like the player fantasy owners fell in love with so many years ago. But that doesn't mean the Redbirds won't fall behind at times this year. When they do, you can expect Carson Palmer to find his primary playmaker to try and play catch-up.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a guy who'd prefer not to take out the trash. You can follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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