By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com
At this point in the season, it’s pretty easy to tell if you need to cut ties with a player on your team. Player A has underperformed, isn’t making a dent in your team’s weekly final score and is occupying a roster spot better used otherwise. You dump him, move to the waiver wire and find someone you hope will give you at least a few points more per week, or might have a lopsided matchup in the coming weeks. Rinse and repeat.
So for the most part, the drop section is now populated with the unfortunate fellows who have suffered serious injuries. That’s the theme this week: next man up. But if you’re struggling between dropping two healthy guys for another healthy and available player, I’m here for you on Twitter @TheNickShook. Let’s settle this together.
Oh, and we also had a trade. Transactions are fun, unless you’re a 49ers fan.
Vernon Davis, tight end, Denver Broncos (owned in 15.2 percent of ESPN leagues)
The Broncos sent the San Francisco 49ers a grouping of late-round picks (2016 sixth, seventh, 2017 sixth) for the veteran tight end on Monday. Although his best days are behind him, quarterback Peyton Manning still has a great history with tight ends. Manning’s also near the twilight of his career, but part of his downturn has to do with him lacking a consistent option at the position.
Julius Thomas’s departure for the Jacksonville Jaguars has left the cupboard barren at tight end, with Owen Daniels failing to get open, and Virgil Green lacking experience necessary to separate himself, both in route running and in his feel for open spaces on the field.
Noticing this, John Elway went out and traded for a better player at the position, even after the Broncos took care of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.
Davis has struggled mightily (18 total points in four games) with the now-benched Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, and understandably so. Manning is a massive upgrade for him, too.
I’m not saying Davis is going to channel his more youthful days, or become a Rob Gronkowski clone. But pairing him and Manning is dangerous.
Kamar Aiken, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens (owned in 20.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
Aiken has had a hard time battling teammate Steve Smith for targets and catches so far this season. He’s also had a hard time trying to replace Torrey Smith, who left the Ravens for a bigger contract in the football wasteland known as Santa Clara, Calif., where the 49ers play.
Smith is out for the season after suffering a torn Achilles in a 29-26 win over the San Diego Chargers. Enter Aiken, who will see his numbers naturally jump.
The Ravens are still a team thin on talent at skilled positions, but especially if you were relying on Smith, you should be adding Aiken this week. He’s no world-beater, but is an obvious replacement.
DeAngelo Williams, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers (owned in 27.2 percent of ESPN leagues)
Back in Week 1, when Le’Veon Bell was sidelined thanks to a suspension, Williams fooled us all into thinking it was 2006, and he was a rookie fresh off a 233-yard performance in the 2005 Motor City Bowl (a 38-31 win over your University of Akron Zips). He ran with purpose and showed he could still churn up yards, even on the other side of the 30-year-old running back wall (Williams is 32).
Perhaps he’s out for vengeance, seeing as he was unceremoniously released by the Carolina Panthers in the offseason after nine seasons with the franchise.
Now, Williams is in for the lion’s share of carries, with Bell suffering a torn MCL — his second major knee injury in less than a calendar year. The Steelers signed former University of Cincinnati star Isaiah Pead to back up Williams, but the former Memphis Tiger will be the main back.
Williams combined for 194 rushing yards and three touchdowns in two starts this season. You cannot replace a young talent like Bell, but you can have a rather effective stopgap. Williams is that plug.
Owen Daniels, tight end, Denver Broncos
With Davis’ arrival in Denver, Daniels becomes wildly expendable. He and Virgil Green were essentially splitting targets as of late, but Davis will gobble all of those up upon arrival. Daniels could still see minimal targets in two tight-end sets, but his likelihood of being a productive option for your team just plummeted.
LeVeon Bell, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers
Another season, and another devastatingly gruesome knee injury for Bell. I can only hope he comes back as strong from this rehabilitation as he did his last. In the meantime, he’s useless for your team for now. If you’re in a keeper league, the risk is yours to take.
Steve Smith, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens
Smith plans to play next season, even after suffering a torn Achilles in what was assumed to be his last hurrah in the league. They might have to break both of his legs, loan shark-style, to keep the man — who once approached an NFL Films camera to deliver a very important message to Charlotte-area residents in 2014 — from playing.
“This is the nail, in the coffin,” Smith said to no one in particular (maybe a vision of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson?) during a game in Baltimore. “You’re dead. Take your [expletive] back to Carolina. Make sure you mow my lawn too while you’re out there. Keep it clean for me.”
I hope he comes back next season. We need another year of unforgettable, vitriolic sound bytes.