The real-life NFL trade deadline generally comes and goes with little fanfare, but fantasy owners do need to at least consider the possibilities.
By Tuesday afternoon it will be all over, and most likely nothing will happen to New York Jets clipboard-holder Tim Tebow, St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe or others mentioned in fantasy-relevant rumors. Still, while we should expect little news, the Rams' situation bears a bit more scrutiny, because even if Jackson stays put, playing time is hardly assured.
Rams rookie Daryl Richardson is owned in 11.7 percent of ESPN standard leagues, which frankly isn't much considering he's been splitting touches with Jackson the past two games. There are 71 running backs owned in more leagues than the fellow who soon could inherit the Rams' throne. Jackson scored his first touchdown Sunday, and he's nowhere near the top 20 running backs in season scoring (Andre Brown has more points). There are 24 running backs with more rushing yards than Richardson, but of those, only Frank Gore and C.J. Spiller,average more than his 5.1 yards per carry.
Here in the weekly Friday Sneaky Pickups we're not focusing on the next game, and often the players discussed are far more off the radar than Richardson as well. In the Rams case, Jackson is not a good play for at least another month. This week the Rams are in London to meet the New England Patriots, a team that is far easier to exploit through the air. Then comes a bye, and a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, second to the Chicago Bears in making fantasy running backs miserable. After that it's the Jets, Cardinals and 49ers again, and it's easy to see how Jackson won't have helped fantasy owners much until after Thanksgiving.
The reason to add Richardson now, and perhaps fellow rookie Isaiah Pead (he was more touted in August) in deeper formats, is for what happens in December and beyond. Say that Jackson stays put next week, but where will he be in 2013? A few weeks ago the Rams and Jackson negotiated an out in his contract, meaning he can leave after this season. He wants to play for a contender. The 3-4 Rams aren't really contenders, but it sends a bad message to fans when you deal the longtime face of the franchise in October. Sure, the Rams could take a few of the next five games, but if they don't, what's the motivation to keep playing free agent Jackson at all? Richardson and Pead are the future, in some order, so the team should see what each can do.
I'd call Richardson a wise stash today, whether you have thoughts on using him before Thanksgiving or not, and before it's too late. Jackson also has been dealing with a groin injury. By the way, the schedule doesn't ease up in December, other than a Buffalo Bills game. Don't expect any Rams -- running back or not -- to be safe, weekly plays this season, but for fantasy owners in deeper leagues or those already looking at 2013, look at Richardson now.
Quarterback: Is there any reason to keep Tebow owned in a standard league? I'd wait until after the trade deadline, but really, I can't see one at this point. I've said this about DeAngelo Williams as well multiple times this season but, man, what a waste of talent. ... Similarly, those waiting on Jake Locker to return from a shoulder injury should look at the Tennessee schedule. We're down on Chris Johnson after this week for a reason. ... However, it's not a bad time to preemptively add Matt Flynn in Seattle. Russell Wilson has reached double digits in fantasy points in one game the past month. Flynn's elbow is supposedly healed and it seems silly to never, ever play this guy.
Running back: There's a real possibility the Dallas Cowboys will be sans both DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones this week, meaning Phillip Tanner and his career rushing average of 3.1 yards per tote (44 carries) get major opportunity. Nobody knows if Tanner has game. Deep leaguers should look at Lance Dunbar, as he's fourth in line. ... Who's next in Jacksonville if Rashad Jennings gets hurt again? You know, it happened in Week 1. If healthy, it would be Montell Owens. If not, then Jalen Parmele. And Keith Toston was signed this week. ... Note to anyone who added Ryan Grant when he signed in Washington. He's gone now, replaced by Keiland Williams. Of course, that actually might be a positive for Grant, because Alfred Morris is so secure. It means Grant can sign in Detroit, Arizona, Dallas -- somewhere relevant. Keep him owned in 14-team formats and deeper.
Wide receiver: I realize Jerome Simpson has not done much in Minnesota, but I think there's opportunity when the matchup is right and he's healthy. He looked rusty Thursday night ... Cecil Shorts was discussed in this space last week, and that went well. This would be a wise time in deep leagues to see if that Ryan Broyles touchdown for Detroit was a harbinger. We know disappointing Titus Young has had issues. ... The Miami Dolphins come off the bye and rumor has it Jabar Gaffney will see an increased role. Still two more matchups with both the Patriots and Bills! ... There is still no update on Vincent Brown (ankle) of the San Diego Chargers, but he remains stash-worthy.
Best of luck the rest of Week 8 and beyond!