As we wade into a third week of NFL action, there are some nuggets that are too in-depth for Fantasy Football Today, too smart for Twitter and a little too short for the full column. Enjoy these Week 3 Quick Hits:
Carson Palmer is the most underrated player in Fantasy Football. Two quarterbacks have more passing yards than Palmer (670 yards) right now: Eli Manning (723) and Michael Vick (688). But sort the quarterbacks by Fantasy points and Palmer tumbles all the way down the ranks, into 15-19 territory. Why? Because he only has two touchdown passes this season (Manning has four and Vick has three).
The whole point of picking up free agents is beating the other owners in your league to the hot name. So it stands to reason that picking up Palmer this week makes sense, before he has that three-TD game and everyone rushes to grab him. This isn't a call to trade Tom Bradyand start Palmer, just a heads-up that once he gets the ball in the end zone (which will eventually happen), everyone else is going to take notice and he will get gobbled up. He's owned in 71 percent of leagues, which is a lower number than the ownerships of Randall Cobb, Greg Olsen, Randy Moss and Stephen Hill. Nineteen quarterbacks are more widely owned than Palmer. And this is kind of silly. Oakland is going to continue to throw -- Palmer is averaging 47 pass attempts per game through two weeks -- and he has playmakers on the other side of those passes, including Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward- Bey and Denarius Moore. Last year, after joining the team mid-season and being thrown into the mix without much knowledge of the team or its principal players, Palmer managed four games of 300-plus passing yards (with one additional game of 299) over nine starts. In his career, Palmer has two 4,000-yard passing seasons (with two more of 3,800 or more yards).
On top of all this, Week 2 marked Moore's first game of the season, and McFadden, who was taken out of the game with an eye injury for Mike Goodson's long touchdown reception run, missed a pretty easy catch for a touchdown in the red zone (although that could also have been Palmer's fault, for passing a bit too late). The touchdowns will come -- Palmer isn't going to pass for just one touchdown every game -- and the yardage will likely still be there, making Palmer a dangerous, and very underrated, quarterback in most Fantasy leagues.
Let's look at the rushing attempt leaders after two weeks:
1. Arian Foster, 54 attempts
2. Marshawn Lynch, 47 attempts
3. LeSean McCoy, 45 attempts
4. Alfred Morris, 44 attempts
4(t). Doug Martin, 44 attempts
6. Reggie Bush, 40 attempts
7. Stevan Ridley, 39 attempts
7(t). BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 39 attempts
9. Trent Richardson, 38 attempts
9(t). Willis McGahee, 38 attempts
9(t). Shonn Greene, 38 attempts
The top three shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but the next eight all have some interesting twists ...
• For all the talk and worries of Washington coach Mike Shanahan playing fast and loose with his running backs, the previously unheralded Alfred Morris is fourth in the entire league for rushing attempts. While Shanahan may like to play his cards close to his chest, he also tends to find a back he likes and sticks with him. Even in 2011, when, on paper, it looked like Shanahan couldn't make up his mind between Roy Helu (640 yards), Evan Royster (328 yards), Tim Hightower (321 yards) and Ryan Torain (200 yards), it was really more of a rotation brought about by injury. Hightower started the season strong, then was cut down by a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 4 (at the time, people assumed Ryan Torain's big game was a result of Shanahan playing the hot hand). When Hightower returned in Week 7, he was again the starter -- and Torain didn't play until halftime -- until tearing his ACL in the game. Torain was given a chance to shine and failed, which led to Shanahan giving the job to Roy Helu. And Helu averaged 24 carries from Week 11 until Week 14, when he went down with an injury of his own and was replaced by Evan Royster. So, in reality, it was really just Shanahan dealing with a rash of injuries and making one change in 2011 based on performance, as opposed to a mad genius constantly tinkering. This should come as welcome news to Morris owners.
• Doug Martin had 24 carries his first game and 20 in his second, which is encouraging considering we didn't have a solid idea of how this offense would be run with first-year coach Greg Schiano at the helm. We have yet to see what will happen when a fully healthy LeGarrette Blount is in the mix, but it looks like Martin -- who, in a bit of poetry, had five rushing yards for Boise State to Blount's minus-5 for Oregon in the infamous 2009 game where Blount punched Martin's teammate, Byron Hout, in a post-game incident -- is pretty comfortable in the lead back role.
• Reggie Bush's value before Week 2 was mainly expected to come from his receptions in PPR leagues. But he nearly doubled his rushing attempts from Week 1 (from 14 to 26) and could be a legitimate rushing force going forward in standard, non-PPR leagues. Bush owners may want to root for Brian Hartline to continue catching passes from Ryan Tannehill, as he opens up the offense a little more and gives Bush some room to make things happen.
• The Patriots somehow got a reputation of not liking the run very much, but, since 2006, the team has been in the top 10 of rushing attempts five times. And Fantasy owners should take note of this secondary statistic -- New England has been in the top five of rushing touchdowns in five of the last six years. So this may not be a fluke for Ridley, and the fact that BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored 24 touchdowns over the last two years, with just over 400 carries, should be a sign of good things to come for Ridley.
• Green-Ellis, meanwhile, was considered a bit of a disappointment in 2011, despite scoring 11 touchdowns, after only gaining 667 yards on 181 attempts (with Ridley getting 441 yards on 87 attempts). But he had only seen one season of 200-plus attempts, in 2010, when he ran for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's in a great situation in Cincinnati right now, with the backfield essentially to himself.
• The fact that Trent Richardson is on this list is pretty impressive. He's had 19 carries in both games, with his first 19 resulting in 39 yards, and his next 19 resulting in 109. He also has 41 receiving yards. Here is the gamble that a Richardson speculator must make: either try to acquire him this week, assuming that 109 is the base from which Richardson will operate the rest of the season; or wait a week, hope that he runs for 59 yards against the Bills this weekend, and maybe the Richardson owner will view Week 2 as a fluke. The problem here is that Week 2 was not a fluke. Richardson is primed to be a star this year, and the sky is the limit. But he will have sub-100 yard weeks here and there, and if it comes in Week 3, you pounce on an owner who erroneously thinks 100 yard games will be the exception, not the rule. If he takes off in Week 3, as he continues to shed rust, you're going to have a to pay a much higher price to pry him loose.
• Here's a fun fact about Willis McGahee: since 2004, he could have played in a possible 130 games; he's played in 122. McGahee has a stigma of a running back who is oft-injured, but he's missed just 6.5 percent of games in the last eight years, and just saw his workload increase by six rushing attempts from Week 1 to Week 2.
• We knew Tony Sparano's offense was going to be ground-and-pound, but Shonn Greene managed 27 carries in Week 1 (granted, in a blowout win over the Bills), and was on pace for another 20-23 carry game -- which would have placed him second on this list -- before he was knocked out of Sunday's Steelers game with a concussion. If a healthy Greene returns in Week 3 and continues on this pace, he could be top five in attempts on the season.
By the time 2012 is over, Mark Ingram will probably have more value than Pierre Thomas. Ingram gained 53 yards on 16 carries for the Saints on Sunday in the team's 35-27 loss. While Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas got the yardage, Ingram led the team in carries (16 to Thomas' nine and Sproles' zero), and the team increased his workload from six carries in Week 1 to 16 in Week 2. Because Ingram was an injury-addled bust last year -- and into this preseason -- Fantasy players tend to forget just how good he was at Alabama, winning the Heisman trophy and having a 5.7 yard-per-carry average over a three-year (also injury-affected) career. With the Saints in a bit of disarray this season, Ingram may be the solid running back option that the team turns to as they try to control the pace of the game and keep their league-worst defense off the field. At the very least, Ingram should be able to vulture some inside-the-five touchdowns, as Sproles hasn't had a rushing attempt this year and Thomas' gaudy totals were aided by runs of 23 and 48 yards on Sunday.
We already talked a little about Alfred Morris, but... Just to pile it on, the Bengals have given up 5.5 yards per carry in two games this season. Morris gets to face them in Week 3. But that's just YPC. The top five in total rushing yards allowed this season are New Orleans, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Oakland, and Carolina. New Orleans has the most interesting scenario of that group this week, as they host the Chiefs, who have the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL this season. This may come as a surprise to some people, especially owners of Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis, who have two very disappointing running backs on thier rosters. Charles is coming off a terrible game, Peyton Hillis seems to have some fumble issues, and Shaun Draughn -- arguably their most effective rusher -- is stuck behind the duo (depending, of course, on Charles' knee issue, which we'll know more about as the week goes on). Draughn has outgained Hillis on the ground and has more receiving yards than Charles, but he finishes second in both categories to the other player. Still, facing a team that has been terrible against the run, Draughn may be a decent start in a deep league, and a borderline-recommended start if Charles ends up missing Week 3.