I realize the baseball season just ended but I couldn't help but think of the movie "Major League" on Tuesday when I saw T.J. Houshmandzadeh signed with the Raiders.
It reminded me of the scene where veteran catcher Jake Taylor arrives at camp.
General manager Charlie Donovan: "That's Jake Taylor."
Manager Lou Brown: "He was an All-Star in Boston, wasn't he?"
Assistant coach Pepper Leach: "Wish we had him two years ago."
Donovan: "We did."
Leach: "Four years ago then."
Do you think a similar conversation was had in Oakland this week when Houshmandzadeh showed up?
It's been precisely four years since Houshmandzadeh was fantasy relevant, when he had 112 catches for 1,143 yards and 12 scores. He parlayed that into a big contract with Seattle a year later, but lasted just a season before being cut. He couldn't crack the starting lineup of the Baltimore Ravens last year and had tryouts with the Giants, Patriots and 49ers this year, but couldn't land a contract.
That should tell you all you need to know about Houshmandzadeh's value. At this point, Houshmandzadeh is a safety valve for Palmer, like that comfortable t-shirt you have your closet that really should go to the rag bag, but you can't bear to part with it.
Because the truth is, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Kevin Boss and Jacoby Ford stand to be the main targets for Palmer. The only player that probably is hurt by this move: Denarius Moore, who had long moved into cut-able territory anyway, having just nine catches for 66 yards and a touchdown since his huge 146-yard game in week 2.
That scene from "Major League" could be repeated by a number of fantasy football owners of Chris Johnson. Guys who thought they got the steal of the draft because of how far he fell in the preseason drafts because of his holdout are wishing they would have drafted him much later.
The fourth-year back has been miserable to the point that his coach, Mike Munchak had to address his status as a starter.
Johnson rushed for 3,370 and 25 touchdowns in the last two seasons. This year: 306 yards rushing at 2.8 yards per carry and just one touchdown. While it helps that he has another 160 yards in receiving yards, his rushing yards is tied for 32nd with Jackie Battle, the guy who has started just two games. He's behind the likes of Tim Hightower, Delone Carter and Darren Sproles. ?What sparked Munchak to answer questions about Johnson, who's coming off signing a contract making him one of the top paid players in the league, is that Javon Ringer rushed for 60 yards on 14 carries and had a team-high five catches for another 42 yards. Munchak said Johnson still is the starter, there's no plan to split carries. However, the one caveat he threw in there was that he was going to play whoever was give the team the best chance to win.
Is Ringer worth owning? Yes, particularly if you are Johnson's owner. If I were an owner, I'd try to trade for Johnson in a keeper league because I think that what's hurt Johnson is that he's not in top football form due to the lockout and to his subsequent holdout through the nearly all of training camp. As I wrote about last week, a shortened training camp and non-existent offseason camps has led us to see a lot of players who don't have the strength and endurance that they would have had in a normal season.
I think Johnson is still the guy you want to own but I think the leash is much shorter. With the Titans just a half game back from the Texans in the AFC South, Tennessee is not going to blow a chance to win the division in the interest of being loyal to their highest paid player.
Speaking of guys who once had some sense of fantasy value, Tashard Choice found a new home in Washington after being released by Dallas. Because it's a Mike Shanahan-coached team, it bears mentioning because the way he coaches, it's a certainty that he'll be the starter at some point for like a game and a half before Shanahan moves back to the next flavor of the week.
Now that we're approaching the midway point of the season, we have a pretty good idea what to expect from defenses.
It may sound strange to say it after his debut featured three interceptions and a lot of rust, but Carson Palmer is a nice spot play this weekend. The Raiders face a Denver team that has tied for the most points given up to fantasy quarterbacks this year. I like Heyward-Bey as a potential top play this week as well, since the Broncos also have given up the second-most points to fantasy wide receivers.
The team Denver is tied with, Miami, makes it a good week to start Matt Cassel, who has been painfully marginal this year with the exception of a huge game against the Colts in week 5. His second favorite target, Jon Baldwin, is a good pickup given the matchup is beginning to look like the talent that warranted the first round pick the Chiefs used this April on him. However, unlike the Broncos, the Dolphins have done a little better job against fantasy wide receivers, ranking 11th as far as most points given up.
Conversely, a sneaky start could be had for Denver running back Knowshon Moreno. While he's getting about two-thirds of the carries with Lance Ball getting the other one, the Raiders have given up the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs.
Another potential payday could come from Beanie Wells, if he's healthy this weekend. Wells likely will miss practice time the rest of the year to keep his knee as healthy as possible for Sundays. But if he plays, he could be in for a solid day facing the defense that has yielded the most fantasy points to running backs in St. Louis. If he doesn't play, I don't like the trifecta that remains in the Arizona backfield: LaRod Stephens-Howling, Alphonso Smith and Chester Taylor.
Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to be a top-10 fantasy quarterback this year, but this week may be one that you look elsewhere for a starter if you have a choice. The Jets have given up the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
This just in: Peyton Hillis is injured. While that may not be as newsworthy as say, the Berlin Wall coming down, it's worth noting because his backup Montario Hardesty is out at least two weeks with a calf tear. Which brings Chris Ogbonnaya to the forefront of the running back mess, which is as exciting as getting a Tootsie Roll in your Trick or Treat bag: you have 100 other guys just like him. Like the marginal candy, Ogbonnaya has done nothing to excite the taste buds so far, rushing for just 58 yards in 17 carries. He has 10 catches for 67 yards in the last two weeks, but against a Texans defense this weekend that has given up the fourth fewest points on average to fantasy football running backs, he needs to stay with the rest of the Tootsie Rolls: on the bottom of the bag.
Aaron Korte is the A-T's fantasy sports writer. When not watching Major League, he can answer your fantasy questions sent to akorte(at)advertiser-tribune(dot)com.