Start, Bench or Cut: Is it time to part ways with these guys?

Now that we’re a quarter the way through the fantasy football season, some owners are wondering if it’s time to start benching their early round picks or if it’s appropriate to cut bait on a disappointing middle-round pick. Here is a list of 20 disappointing fantasy players, along with my take on their prospects over the next four games.

I’ve included the player’s Antsports ADP in parenthesis (for the month of August) along with their drafted and current rankings within their position.

1. Randy Moss (1.08)
Drafted: WR1
Currently: WR43

There’s no doubt that the loss of Tom Brady for the season has had a significant impact on Moss’ performance and prospects. He was a stud, but now there are owners who are (justifiably) starting to bench him for better options. He is averaging three catches for 24 yards and zero TD in the two games that Matt Cassel has started. The upcoming schedule (SF, SD, DEN and STL) looks pretty good from a matchup standpoint, and it seems like the bye week would be a good opportunity for Bill Belichick and Co. to figure out a way to use their most dynamic weapon. Unless you have a clearly better option, Moss is still worth starting.

2. Braylon Edwards (2.05)
Drafted: WR4
Currently: WR57

Edwards has looked out of it from the start, dropping a few balls against the Cowboys in Week 1. Through four games, he’s averaging 2.8 catches for 24 yards and 0.3 TD. He did catch a TD in Week 4 and his schedule gets a little easier over the next two weeks with the Giants and the Redskins, two teams that have allowed plenty of fantasy points to wideouts this season. Like Moss, unless you have a clearly better option, Edwards is still worth the start, though he’s on bye this week.

3. Ryan Grant (2.07)
Drafted: RB12
Currently: RB55

It’s no secret that Grant has been absolutely brutal in the first quarter of the season. He is averaging 14.3 touches for 46 yards per game and has yet to score a TD. His ypc (3.4) looks a lot worse (2.2) when we remove a pretty good Week 1 performance against the Vikings. Earlier, he was fighting a bad hammy, but that’s not an issue any longer. If he’s not able to get it going in the next three weeks against three suspect rush defenses (ATL, SEA and IND), then he certainly needs to be benched after the bye when he faces Tennessee, Minnesota and Chicago. Grant is still startable, but proceed with caution.

4. Willis McGahee (2.08)
Drafted: RB13
Currently: RB52

McGahee is coming off knee surgery and now he has a rib injury. In two games, he has touched the ball an average of 16.0 times for 68 yards and 0.5 TD. The preseason hype machine had Ray Rice cutting into his carries, but it looks like Le’Ron McClain (17.3 touches for 90 yards and 1.0 TD) is a much bigger threat to McGahee’s workload. It’s clear that if he can play, the Ravens will use him. But until his ribs are healed, expect the team to reduce his workload as much as they can. I’d bench McGahee this week, but if he’s ready to go next week against the Colts, go ahead and start him.

5. Andre Johnson (2.09)
Drafted: WR6
Currently: WR48

After a stellar 10-catch, 112-yard effort in Week 1 against the Steelers, it looked like AJ was off to a strong start. But in the two weeks since, he has converted 17 targets into only five catches for 67 yards. The bad news is that the Texans face a very tough Indianapolis pass defense this week. The good news is that they face the Lions, Dolphins and Bengals the following three weeks. I’d bench him this week if I had a viable option (i.e. DeSean Jackson, Eddie Royal, Calvin Johnson), and if he shows signs of life, start him against the Lions and see how he does.

6. Chad Johnson (3.04)
Drafted: WR9
Currently: WR54

“Ocho Cinco” has failed to catch more than four passes or gain more than 40 yards in any game this season. Some of this has to do with the poor play of Carson Palmer, but Johnson himself seems off as well. His shoulder is probably bothering him, so he’s not as willing to battle for the ball as he used to be. With a 2.8-catch, 29-yard, 0.3-TD average over the last four games and Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, there’s no reason to start him if there is a better option to be had.

7. Torry Holt (3.06)
Drafted: WR11
Currently: WR31

Holt was only targeted twice in Week 1, which resulted in a dismal 1-catch, 9-yard performance. Since then he has been only mildly disappointing, posting 4.7 catches for 59 yards and 0.3 TD over the last three games. I’m cautiously optimistic about Holt’s prospects. First, Scott Linehan was recently fired and replaced with Jim Haslett, who has already said that the team needs to utilize their star wideout more. Linehan and Holt reportedly hated each other, so it would seem to help Torry’s psyche as well. The team is on bye this week, so they have two weeks to try to right the ship before a pretty favorable passing matchup against the Redskins in Week 6. Lastly, the Rams don’t have a bad passing matchup for the rest of the season and looks like they will be playing from behind most of the time. As you can see, there are reasons to like Torry Holt for the remainder of 2008. He should be started unless there is a clearly better option on your bench, and if you don’t have him on your roster, he’s a great guy to try to acquire in a “buy low” scenario.

8. Laurence Maroney (3.09)
Drafted: RB16
Currently: RB86

Is there a player with more pure ability that is a bigger fantasy disappointment than Laurence Maroney? When he’s not injured, he’s giving up carries to Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan. If my options allowed it, I’d bench Maroney for the next two weeks (SF, SD) and if the Patriots suddenly look committed to feeding him the ball, he’d be worth starting against Denver, St. Louis and Indianapolis.

9. Roy Williams (4.05)
Drafted: WR16
Currently: WR59

Through three games, Williams is averaging 2.7 catches for 38 yards and 0.3 TD and has said that he feels like an afterthought in the Lions’ offense. It’s true that he’s seeing just 6.0 targets as compared to Calvin Johnson’s 10.7, but the team is saying that they need to open up the offense, which means Williams might see an extra target or three when the team faces a Bears defense with a banged up secondary in Week 5. I’d start him this week barring a better option, but if he doesn’t show some life soon, it may be time to bench him.

10. Carson Palmer (4.07)
Drafted: QB5
Currently: QB30

Palmer is dealing with an elbow injury and doesn’t want to talk about the results of the MRI. If the results were negative, he’d say so. Obviously, there’s a problem. Even if/when Palmer returns to the lineup, I wouldn’t start him until he proves that his issues are behind him. Don’t cut him just yet, but if you can get a brave owner in your league to give you a starter-quality player for him and you don’t need the QB depth, it might not be a bad idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if Palmer doesn’t return this season.

11. Marvin Harrison (5.03)
Drafted: WR20
Currently: WR51

I don’t think it’s time to panic on Harrison. He had a bad game against Minnesota (1-16) sandwiched by two good games against Chicago (8-76) and Jacksonville (4-40-1). He’s also past his bye week, which is the main reason he’s ranked so low. He has a pretty nice matchup this week against Houston followed by a bad matchup against Baltimore. Then he has a solid matchup against the Packers followed by a bad matchup against the Titans. With Reggie Wayne on the other side and one of the best QBs in the game throwing to him, I think Harrison is a guy that you can start depending on the matchup.

12. Selvin Young (5.10)
Drafted: RB27
Currently: RB41

I was high on Young heading into the season, only to get burned (yet again) by Mike Shanahan (a.k.a. “Skeletor”). It’s not that Young hasn’t played well – he has. His 6.2 ypc is by far the best on the team. The problem is that he’s only getting 41% of the team’s carries. Michael Pittman is vulturing goal line carries and catches, while Andre Hall is basically rotating with Young between the 20’s. Complicating matters is Ryan Torain’s impending return in a few weeks. Young should definitely ride the pine, but he’s still a decent spot starter, so in most cases I wouldn’t cut him, unless there was a very good option out there on the waiver wire. LeRon McClain jumps to mind.

13. Matt Hasselbeck (6.12)
Drafted: QB9
Currently: QB26

Through three games, Hass is averaging 184 yards passing, 0.7 TD and 1.0 INT. Considering four of his top five receivers are Billy McMullen, Michael Bumpus, Courtney Taylor and Logan Payne, I’d say he didn’t do all that bad. Deion Branch and Bobby Engram are due to return to the lineup in Week 5, and Koren Robinson is getting into game shape, so Hasselbeck will have a number of new weapons to throw to for (hopefully) the rest of the season. He doesn’t have a bad passing matchup for the next nine weeks and he has two great matchups in Weeks 15 (STL) and 16 (NYJ), so he’s a guy that you might want to buy low and start once he looks like he and his receivers are on the same page.

14. Bernard Berrian (7.06)
Drafted: WR30
Currently: WR53

Berrian has improved with Gus Frerotte under center the last two games. His average (4-79) in Weeks 3 and 4 is much better than his average (1.5-19) with Tarvaris Jackson throwing him the ball. He has three great matchups over the next three weeks (NO, DET, CHI), so he’s a guy you can start with a reasonable amount of confidence. He has yet to catch a TD, but in PPR leagues, he’s WR2/WR3 caliber.

15. Chester Taylor (7.09)
Drafted: RB33
Currently: RB57

Heading into the season, Taylor was viewed as a backup RB with huge upside (if Adrian Peterson went down) that got enough regular action that he’d be a decent spot starter in most fantasy leagues. Well, Peterson hasn’t gone down and Taylor’s touches are down. If you have the roster space, it would be wise to hold onto him, as he has about as much potential of any backup RB in the league. Non-AP owners who have Taylor on their roster are just waiting for Peterson to get hurt. They shouldn’t hope for it, however. That’s just bad karma.

16. Jeremy Shockey (7.10)
Drafted: TE7
Currently: TE12

I managed to pick up Shockey last week in a 12-team league where my team had a gaping hole at TE, so there must be a few owners out there wondering what to do with him. It’s pretty simple: stash him away. Before his injury, he was hugely involved in the Saints’ offense to the tune of 6.7 targets per game (4th best in the league). He turned those targets into an average of 5.3 catches for 50 yards in the first three games. He has yet to score a TD, but that should come fairly quickly after his return (which is scheduled for Week 6). The good news is that his “sports hernia” was pretty minor. The bad news is that he is injury prone.

17. Marc Bulger (8.03)
Drafted: QB11
Currently: QB28

Clearly, Marc Bulger is not off to a good start. He averaged 173 yards, 0.7 TD and 0.7 INT in the first three games before being benched for Trent Green. But out goes Scott Linehan and in comes Jim Haslett who immediately gave Bulger his job back. After their bye, the Rams have a very favorable schedule with no really tough pass defenses the rest of the way. If all goes well, Bulger could be a decent starter in Weeks 9 (ARI) and 10 (NYJ). He faces the Cardinals again in Week 14, which is the first game of the playoffs for many fantasy leagues. If you’re struggling at QB and Bulger is out there on the waiver wire, you could do worse as your QB2 or QB3.

18. Joey Galloway (8.04)
Drafted: WR32
Currently: WR85

Galloway is out with a foot injury (and isn’t practicing), and I’m sure many fantasy owners are wondering if they should cut him. It’s definitely getting to that point. The question is – what are your options? I’d rather have a guy like Justin Gage, Lance Moore or Muhsin Muhammad, who are actually on the field and producing. I’d also rather roll the dice on Bobby Engram or Deion Branch than sit and wait for Galloway to get healthy. He’s 36 years old, so the odds are just a little bit longer that he’ll be able to get back to 100% this season.

19. Todd Heap (8.09)
Drafted: TE8
Currently: TE50

It is mind-boggling that rookie QB Joe Flacco has only targeted Todd Heap an average of 3.7 times through three games. Isn’t Heap arguably the team’s best receiver? (No offense, Derrick Mason.) Aren’t rookie QBs known for loving their tight ends? I can only assume something very strange is going on here, like maybe Heap slept with Flacco’s girlfriend and the two have some sort of ongoing feud a la Roger Dorn and Ricky Vaughn in “Major League.” Regardless, Heap is worth stashing if you have the space, but if you need help elsewhere, it might be time to cut ties.

20. Vernon Davis (8.12)
Drafted: TE9
Currently: TE31

VD has burned me for the last time. (Man, that didn’t sound good.) It seemed like Mike Martz’s arrival would be a good thing for Davis. Finally, he’d be playing in a wide-open offense that would take advantage of his immense physical ability. Alas, he is averaging 1.3 catches for 17 yards and zero TD. In his last game, he screamed at the 49er bench for more targets and was reprimanded by Mike Nolan. This can go one of two ways – either the outburst will prompt a change in the 49ers’ offensive game plan or Davis will continue to be ignored. I’d hold onto him for another week and then cut him for someone that’s producing.

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