The Ticker, Week 3: Who to buy, who to sell, who to look at a little longer

Bob Levey

The fantasy world can be a crapshoot, but if you look you can find some clarity with players on the way up and players on the way down. We break the whole list down as you prepare your fantasy football waiver-wire claims for Week 3.

We had a board game night a few years ago, in which we played Pictionary. We ended up dividing by gender, because we are in our mid-20s and are completely unimaginative. I remember one clue/drawing in particular, where my best friend's wife had to draw "ticker-tape parade."

At first, she didn't even know what such an event was, let alone how to draw it. But after a quick, whispered explanation, Lindsey proceeded to draw a clock, a tape dispenser, and some random float-looking thing, and got her teammates, who, as it turned out, also were unfamiliar with "ticker-tape parade," to nonetheless say those words in that order. It was some sort of miracle, I have to say.

The moral of that story, though, is that anything involving the word "ticker" is a total freaking crapshoot, and my recommendations should be taken as recommendations, not gospel. This is the second week of The Ticker, taking a look at guys I'm in on, guys I'm out on, and guys we need to keep an eye on going forward.

As a reminder, we have a few categories: Buying, selling, futures market, and hedges. Buys and sells are obvious. Futures market guys are guys who don't have a lot of value now, but could see a spike in value going forward. And hedges are guys whose roles could increase due to injury or usage or changing job description. Anyone I'm advocating is 50-percent owned or lower. Ownership percentages are as of Monday morning. To the waiver wire!

Stocks I'm buying

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Sam Bradford
, QB, STL (47 percent in Yahoo! leagues)

Bradford's 374 passing yards Sunday were the second-highest single-game total of his career, behind only a 377-yard outing last season against the Raiders. At this point, he's unlikely to ever live up to the hype that came when he was the top overall pick in the 2010 draft, but Bradford now has a full complement of weapons to throw to, for what has to be the first time in his career. Chris Givens was the yardage leader Sunday, with 105, but Tavon Austin had two scores and Austin Pettis added another. Jared Cook was quiet, but that was a week after he had a monster Week 1. Daryl Richardson is something of a pass-catching running back, as well. No, Bradford doesn't have a Calvin Johnson, and he's not ever going to be Drew Brees. But he's a more-than-viable bye-week fill-in or injury replacement.

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Jacquizz Rodgers
, RB, ATL (21 percent)

Honestly, the Roddy White injury means almost as much to Rodgers' fantasy value as the Steven Jackson one. Once Jackson left after his first-quarter touchdown, Rodgers became the team's primary running back Sunday, but managed only 17 rushing yards on 11 carries. The flip side of that coin is that Rodgers also caught four passes for 28 yards. No, that's not super-impressive either, but the Falcons are a team that likes to pass. With White hobbled, and Tony Gonzalez hardly being his vintage-era self, the Falcons need someone who can catch the ball other than Julio Jones. Harry Douglas is a guy, sure, but Rodgers, with a career average of 7.9 yards per catch and two receiving touchdowns, will get a lot of looks as well. If Jackson is missing any kind of time, Rodgers is a good deep-league look.

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Donald Brown
, RB, IND (8 percent)

In the Colts' first game without starting running back Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Brown, meanwhile, averaged...4.3 yards per carry. The Colts had planned to ease Bradshaw back into a full-time role over the course of a few weeks, but those plans were scrapped by Ballard's injury. Necessity doesn't breed a healthy foot, though, so it's hard to imagine the Colts will just lean on Bradshaw going forward. Brown has never lived up to the potential that made him a first-round draft pick in 2009, but he does have a 4.1 yards-per-carry career average and 11 touchdowns, and a lot of his work came either in garbage time or with Curtis Painter as his quarterback. We haven't yet seen what Brown can do with quality around him. In my mind, he's already a viable flex option in deeper leagues.

Stocks I'm not buying

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Bernard Pierce
, RB, BAL (45 percent)

I'm going to need someone to explain this one to me. What is the huge Pierce appeal? Take away two rushes - a 78-yard run against the Giants in Week 16 last year and a 43-yard one against the Colts in the Wild Card round - and Pierce has been a perfectly adequate backup running back, though one averaging less than four yards a carry over a season-plus. He's not someone that is going to rob a first-round fantasy pick of serious value, which was one of the supposed knocks against Ray Rice entering this season. Yes, those rushes count as much as the others, but there's just not much to Pierce. Not entering this season, and not his 57 yards on 19 carries against the Browns Sunday, with Rice banged up. Will he be viable in fantasy if Rice were to miss time? Sure, I suppose. Someone who is starting in the NFL should always get a long look. But, on a team that is already struggling to produce a strong offense, will Pierce thrive as "the guy"? That seems optimistic at absolute best.

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Eddie Royal
, WR, SDC (20 percent)

So, wait, after five seasons of "meh" production in Denver and San Diego, we're supposed to buy in to Royal being some super-receiver after five touchdowns in two games? Don't get me wrong, he's been damned impressive so far this season. Philip Rivers sure looks like he has a new favorite target. But other than being a red-zone target, it's hard to find any reason Royal is superior to the other Chargers. Yards per catch? Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, and Malcom Floyd all dwarf him. Gates and Danny Woodhead have as many receptions. Gates has as many targets, and Woodhead is only one behind. If Royal had two touchdowns in Week 1 and three in Week 5, we'd call it a fluke. Just because they came in back-to-back weeks, I'm sorry, that isn't reason enough for me to change that. Fluke it is.

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James Starks
, RB, GBP (10 percent)

Starks had a great-with-italics day Sunday, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries after rookie Eddie Lacy left the game with a concussion. It was the kind of day optimists and Packers fans have been hoping for since Starks' 123-yard seeming coming-out party against the Eagles in the 2010 playoffs. But that was years ago, and Starks' (and Ryan Grant's, and Alex Green's, and Cedric Benson's) poor production since then was the entire reason the Packers went out and got Lacy. If he's healthy enough to play, Lacy will get the job back. If he isn't, well, the Packers play a decent Bengals defense next week before their bye in Week 5. Lacy will almost certainly be back long before Starks has much value.

Stocks I'm selling

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Arian Foster
, RB, HOU (100 percent)

It's not the 3.7 yards per carry so far this season. It's not the preseason calf injury. It's not the last three years, in which he averaged 414 offensive touches a season. Okay, maybe it's a little those things. But what really has me out on Foster, at least for the time being, is the Texans' upcoming schedule. The team's next three games are against the Ravens, Seahawks, and 49ers. That is a crazy-tough sequence for a running back. After that, they play the Rams and Chiefs, two defenses that still have some skill, before a bye week. A healthy Foster is still a must-start, of course, but if I own him, I'm seeing what kind of trade return I can get right now, because I see his value plummeting for the next few weeks. On the other hand, if I'm a Foster-desirer, I start firing off optimistic offers around Oct. 7 and hope his owner has soured on him. But for now, yuck, that's a rough go.

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Torrey Smith
, WR, BAL (98 percent)

At his best, Smith is a complementary piece, a long-distance threat that stretches the field opposite a possession guy. He's a poor man's Randy Moss-with-Wes Welker, or 2011-era Mike Wallace-with-Antonio Brown. Except there's no Welker, no Brown on this Ravens team. There is Smith, and there is Marlon Brown. A guy like Smith can be a weapon, but he can't be the weapon. I don't see where the Ravens had a choice but to let Anquan Boldin go, but I have to wonder if his absence will be more significant than they ever expected. Smith has only 177 yards through two games this season, and only one touchdown in his last nine regular-season games. He's not totally shut-down-able, so he'll have his occasional big game, but by and large, expect a down year from Smith.

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Knowshon Moreno
, RB, DEN (54 percent)

I mean, if you trust Moreno to stay healthy, more power to you. You never root for injury, but that doesn't mean you don't grow conditioned to expect it. And, while Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball haven't exactly proven themselves capable of holding tightly on to the ball, it's not like Moreno is known for his sure hands, with nine fumbles in his career so far. It's been nice to see his strong production through two games, especially Sunday's huge fantasy performance against the Giants. But I expect Ball and/or Hillman to have a similar game before Moreno has another.

Stocks I'm not selling

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Tom Brady
, QB, NEP (100 percent)

If you want to be the fantasy owner who bails on Tom Brady, be my guest. Through two games, he has 473 passing yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. I can't find much way to differentiate that from last year, when his first two games featured 552 yards, with the same number of touchdowns and INTs. A difference of 79 yards, and last year, he had Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd. Brady had 378 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions in his first two games in 2003; 576 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in 2005. He's done this before. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were disappointing Thursday night, no question. But if there's a single quarterback-coach combination I think can figure out how to make riches from rags, it's Brady and Bill Belichick, and that's before considering Gronkowski and Danny Amendola surely have to come back from injury eventually.

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Anquan Boldin
, WR, SF (96 percent)

If you drafted Boldin, and I told you he would have 14 receptions for 215 yards and a touchdown through two games, you'd have been ecstatic. Yes, it sucks that the yards per game went 208-7 instead of, like, 120-95, but it's hard to fault a wide receiver for having a bad game against the best damn pass defense you're likely to see in Seattle. The 49ers' next few games include outings against the Colts, Rams, Texans, Cardinals, Titans, and Jaguars. I expect Boldin to perform much closer to his so-far-this-year average, rather than hitting either high or low he has thus far.

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Eli Manning
, QB, NYG (91 percent)

Okay, here's a tidbit - through two games, this is the best yardage to start a season of Manning's career. Sure, that's cheating a good bit, because of his huge Week 1 game against the Cowboys. But even in an awful Week 2 matchup against his brother's Broncos, Eli threw for 362 yards. It's hard to throw seven interceptions in two games even if you're trying; that can't possibly continue. Again, this is his best two-game yardage ever. He still has Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, and now Rueben Randle and Brandon Myers are present and producing. It looks like the Giants' passing attack will be more of a fantasy producer than a real-life producer, but that's good for fantasy owners, not bad.

Futures Market

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Justin Blackmon
, WR, JAC (43 percent)

Look, Blaine Gabbert is awful, and Chad Henne only looks good by virtue of not being Blaine Gabbert. I get that. A wide receiver needs a decent quarterback to be an über-elite guy. But no one is asking Blackmon to be über-elite. If he can return from his four-game suspension and produce like he did a season ago, when as a rookie with an awful quarterback he still produced 865 yards and five touchdowns, Blackmon will have distinct value. If you're hurting for wide receiver production, now is the time to dive on Blackmon. He will still miss another couple games, so he won't return until the team's Week 5 matchup at the Rams, but fantasy owners that wait for him to be active to claim him off waivers will find he's already been claimed. Grab Blackmon now and stash him.

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Ryan Broyles
, WR, DET (25 percent)

In a world where everyone has healthy ACLs, Ryan Broyles was a stud rookie a year ago. It's not that world, of course, and so Broyles now has torn both ACLs playing football, but he's years removed from one tear, and the other was longer ago than, for one, Robert Griffin III's tear. While Broyles has been inactive through the Lions' first two games, the team has (again) had significant trouble finding a viable second receiver after super-stud Calvin Johnson. Nate Burleson is a fine possession guy, no embarrassment for an NFL team, but he's not a fantasy option. Rookie Patrick Edwards sprained his ankle Sunday. Broyles might not be quite healthy enough to be active in Week 3, but he'll be back soon enough, and he'll have value when he does return.

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Roy Helu
, RB, WAS (17 percent)

This is a play only for super-deep leagues, as Helu might continue averaging only 1.5 touches per game going forward. But the Redskins' defense is about as bad as it could possibly be. Alfred Morris is great, but he isn't a pass-catcher, and if this team continues to fall behind early like it has the last two weeks, it'll continue moving toward more of a passing offense. Robert Griffin III hasn't looked great through the air in the team's first two games, so he and coach Mike Shanahan might start looking for a true dump-off option. Of the team's running backs, the best "dump-off" guy has to be Helu, not Morris. I wouldn't be surprised if Helu started getting more looks as a pass-catcher in the backfield. But, again, this is a super-deep play.

Hedges

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DeAndre Hopkins
, WR, HOU (48 percent)

I can't claim this as some grand insight. I'll concede that. But coming off a game in which he caught seven passes for 117 yards and a game-winning touchdown, Hopkins stands a decent chance of being the Texans' No. 1 pass-catcher in Week 3, as the team's top guy, Andre Johnson, is being called an "end-of-the-week decision" as he deals with a concussion. Hopkins was getting some good talk in the preseason as the team's secondary guy, which, in an offense that includes Johnson, tight end Owen Daniels, and running back Arian Foster, isn't high praise. But if he can get No. 1 play, Hopkins stands to be a primo receiver.

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Mikel Leshoure
, RB, DET (10 percent)

The news came out over the weekend that Leshoure would be "open" to a trade from the Lions. I mean, sure, if I had been a healthy inactive through the season's first two weeks after rushing for nine touchdowns a year earlier, I'd probably be okay with being dealt, too. Leshoure will never be a true No. 1 running back, but he did rush for 798 yards in 14 games last year. He's a straight-ahead, barrel-them-over kind of running back, but with the Colts certainly looking for help, and, depending on injury news, the Ravens, Falcons, Jaguars, Packers, Giants, Patriots, Jets, and Steelers all possibly needing running-back help, there is the possibility that Leshoure finds himself in a better situation. With no trade, his value is nil, but there are rumors that he finds himself on a new roster at some point.

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Nick Foles
, QB, PHI (1 percent)

In my main league, a 12-teamer, one guy decided to wait on quarterback, thinking he'd end up with an Andrew Luck or a Tony Romo. And then one guy decided to take Tom Brady and Robert Griffin III, so this guy ended up with Michael Vick as his quarterback. A week ago, the owner who has Cam Newton (and doesn't particularly love Cam Newton) sent the Vick owner a trade offer, basically to feel him out. The Vick owner rejected the trade with the message "No thanks; I'm set at QB." For his sake, I want to believe that, as Vick has looked like a fantasy stud through two games, and I did tout him in my bold predictions piece a few weeks ago. But, in the offense new head coach Chip Kelly is running out there, and considering his history, it is supremely hard to picture Vick being healthy through 16 games. Maybe it happens. But you can't expect it. You weren't particularly impressed with Foles a season ago. Neither was I. It wasn't great. If Foles ever gets the job in Philly, if Vick misses time, he'll get his yardage, and he'll get touchdowns. Vick owners have to grab Foles as a backup. It should be non-negotiable.

Follow me on Twitter @danieltkelley

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