The pass catchers take a back seat to the running backs this week in Targets & Touches, because of The Fall of Three Stars. I know, it sounds like the tag line for a Will Smith action movie (with Bruce Willis as the bad guy and Olivia Wilde/Rose Byrne as the love interest/computer expert) but it's true this week in fantasy.
Three running backs you drafted in the first round and were starting weekly have now fallen so far that two of them are flexes at best -- and one you can't even play anymore. Don't worry, we'll spend a little bit of time on the pass catchers, too - sort of like the attention on the sub-plot of the movie I mentioned where the kid who was McLovin inadvertently helps Willis by pressing the wrong button, but then by dumb luck ruins the diabolical plan when he flushes the secret virus down the toilet. So to T-N-T we go, before I head to Paramount later today to pitch this movie.
Jarrett Boykin, welcome back from obscurity. With Aaron Rodgers' injury and the return of James Jones, you likely cut bait on the man set to replace Randall Cobb. But with 13 targets -- and 112 yards receiving Sunday -- he's put himself back in the free agent conversation. Notice how I said "conversation" and didn't actually refer to the physical act of pressing the "claim free agent" button. Without Rodgers, you simply can't trust Boykin enough to start him ahead of who you already have, or other players who are available. The quarterback situation is just too fluid and uncertain, even with Scott Tolzien starting this week against the Giants.
Coby Fleener is getting pretty interesting. He had over eight fantasy points the last two weeks and was just off this list with 10 targets Sunday which led all Colts pass-catchers. While his numbers didn't translate into a big fantasy day, you can tell he's becoming a larger part of Indianapolis' offense as time goes on. Pick him up now -- he's got a ton of upside the rest of the season. Someone has to make up for Reggie Wayne's absence and Fleener is slowly moving into that role. Meanwhile, a Colts player who's moving in the other direction …
It's official. You can send Trent Richardson to the bench in cement shoes while holding onto an elephant. Richardson has been THE fantasy disappointment of the 2013 season. His Week 10 numbers are part of startling trend that have seen his overall touches decrease like this the last five games: 18, 11, 14, 10, and now eight Sunday against St. Louis. He's averaging 3.1 yards-per-carry and is no longer even certain of giving you more than five fantasy points per-game. Indianapolis has realized they can't rely on him and as a result are throwing the football more than they anticipated after getting him from Cleveland in what now looks like a lopsided trade for the Browns. Sit him on your bench and don't even think twice about it.
It's also demotion time for Ray Rice. While you're not benching him -- because he's Ray Rice -- you can't play him as any more than a flex. We're ten games into the season. As Michael Fabiano said this week on NFL Fantasy Live, if a guy hasn't done it by now, he's not going to. And Rice has run for more than 45 yards in a game once this season. Once. He's never had more than 35 yards receiving in a game. His overall touches look like this for 2013, starting in Week 1: 20, 16, 5, 33, 17, 19, 14, 24. So it's not like he's being phased out. You can accept lower production out of your flex position. After all, unless your team is absolutely loaded your flex spot is where you take a chance. And that's what you're doing with Rice the rest of the way. So keep him there.
C.J. Spiller brings his own wealth of issues to T-N-T. So, is he healthy enough to carry the football 20 times a game or not? We heard about his clean bill of health during the week and were ready for him to build on his 116-yard rushing game a week ago. However, in a mostly close contest, Spiller played second fiddle to Fred Jackson and totaled just 11 touches while Jackson had 15. Jackson's also not nearly as dynamic as he was three years ago and is much less of a sure thing at the goal line, where he gets all the snaps. Want to know why Dan Carpenter is such a good fantasy kicker this season? Because Buffalo's red zone offense is atrocioius. They haven't scored more than 24 points in a game once all season. At some point you know Doug Marrone is going to have to load Spiller up to carry the team, but that day's not here yet. So even if Spiller winds up having a big week as he continues to split carries, make sure he's married to your flex spot. He's too much of a risk to move up in your lineup.
What a debut for Andre Brown, who basically had all of the running game to himself on Sunday. He had 31 touches -- with a whopping 30 carries -- compared to just six for Peyton Hillis (Brandon Jacobs was inactive). That's incredible. After a season of non-usage, he gets those kinds of numbers in his debut. So much for bringing him along slowly. We've said for a long time: pick up Brown. He's a downhill back and the best 'angry' runner this side of Chris Ivory. Brown can even be an RB 2 for you as early as next week, because the one thing you know is he's going to get the carries. The Giants are surging in the horrendous NFC East and Eli Manning has been having trouble throwing the football with success all season long. The G-Men will ride Brown as long as they can, who will also get all the goal line work.
Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for nfl.com. You can see him as the host of NFL Fantasy Live that airs Sunday through Friday on NFL Network at 5pmET/2pmPT and also at 1amET/10pmPT. Listen to him on the NFL Fantasy Live podcast available at nfl.com and on itunes. Reach out to him on Google plus or Twitter @howaboutafresca, and listen to his Fantasy Podcast with Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison every week on nfl.com. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.