It's always dangerous to rely on a young quarterback in fantasy football, because mistakes are usually part of his game, and some of those errors cost points. Last season, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez led his team to the AFC title game, but almost in spite of his error-filled ways, as he threw 20 interceptions and fumbled 10 times. Fantasy owners love upside picks, but not when they come with so many, well, picks.
This season, however, it's hard not to notice the change in Sanchez. Of the 33 quarterbacks who've scored more than 10 fantasy points so far, Peyton Manning, Michael Vick and Sanchez are the only ones without an interception. Since Week 1, Rex Ryan's bunch has produced 59 points, and Sanchez has a pair of three-touchdown games, 22 standard fantasy points in each and nary a turnover. In fact, Sanchez has yet to commit a turnover in three games, which is startling considering his 2009 performance. Although the upside for large passing totals in yards and touchdowns remains somewhat limited on this defensive-minded, run-focused team, it's impressive nevertheless and would have made Sanchez quite a bit more popular on draft day had fantasy owners thought mistake-free football was possible from him.
I can't vault Sanchez into starting-quarterback territory quite yet, but he's certainly headed in the right direction. Although running back Shonn Greene has been one of fantasy's bigger disappointments, Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson has stepped up and looked better than he has in two years. Sanchez also has stepped up, as he and tight end Dustin Keller have a great thing going -- Keller is fantasy's No. 2 tight end -- and Braylon Edwards has scored in consecutive games. When Santonio Holmes debuts for the Jets after his suspension, it will give Sanchez another weapon.
The Jets don't have the scariest schedule during the next two months; their road games are at Buffalo, Denver, Detroit and Cleveland. I'll stop short of trusting Sanchez in the top 10 (starter territory in standard leagues) for fantasy quarterbacks -- he was selected 17th in ESPN.com average live drafts -- but I will say that as long as he avoids turnovers, he might get there eventually. Fantasy's third-most added quarterback is looking better and better.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons: The No. 13 quarterback in preseason drafts is tied for 10th at his position in fantasy scoring with Sanchez, and he has done it in similar fashion, rebounding from a poor first game and taking care of the football. Ryan has 38 fantasy points, split evenly, the past two weeks and an enticing schedule ahead. I'd start him over Sanchez, and with Brett Favre and Eli Manning sputtering, Ryan might crack my top 10 soon.
Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals: His season debut after missing the first two weeks following minor knee surgery went well; he ran for 75 yards on 14 carries. It might take another week or so for him to get 20 touches, but Wells should threaten for 100-yard rushing games soon. He's clearly on the rise, unlike Tim Hightower.
Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints: Likely to be a prime pickup this week, Moore had totaled two fantasy points entering Week 3. He's talented, and he showed it in 2008 when he caught 79 passes for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns, but injuries ruined his 2009 campaign. The loss of Reggie Bush not only directs Drew Brees' attention to a deeper pool of wide receivers but also gives Moore a chance to return punts. At this point, Moore has more value than Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: Other than the second half of Week 1, when Palmer's Bengals were trailing by a million at New England, this passing game hasn't done much. Palmer became very popular after throwing for 345 misleading yards and a pair of touchdowns in the opener; since then, he has one touchdown and three turnovers. I maintain that he's a worthy backup quarterback and useful the next few weeks against the Browns and Buccaneers, but his season is looking much like his disappointing 2009 campaign.
Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins: His number of carries is headed in the wrong direction, and it's taking his value with it. Williams received 18 carries in Week 1, 10 the next week and only seven Sunday night, and when you add in the lost fumble in Week 2 (he fumbled again but didn't lose it Sunday), he has earned a grand total of nine fantasy points or three per week. It's not that Ronnie Brown has been spectacular, but these aren't last season's Dolphins. They throw because Brandon Marshall is that dominant. Williams might need a Brown or Marshall injury to be worth using.
Derrick Mason, WR, Baltimore Ravens: Although Anquan Boldin owners are mighty pleased with themselves, Mason owners have been letting go of the once-reliable option. Mason caught four passes for 30 yards in Week 3, giving him seven receptions all season. Last season, Mason caught seven or more passes in five games. ESPN Fantasy projected Mason for 64 receptions, but it doesn't look as though that's going to happen, and he doesn't make up for it in yards or touchdowns.