So one day my buddy Mike takes his kid to a local theme park. In addition to his son, he brings his son's friend. Let's call the friend Timmy, because in real life little kids are never actually named Timmy. I think they're about 6 or 7 at this time.
Anyways, they are at the park and they stop to get lunch. Mike gets hot dogs for the kids. And Timmy gobbles his down like he hasn't eaten in three days.
"Mister," Timmy says hopefully, "can I have another hot dog?" Mike laughs. Sure. He buys the kid another hot dog. And again, Timmy wolfs the hot dog down.
"Oh my God," Timmy says. "This is the greatest hot dog I've ever had. Mmmm."
Yes, Mike swears that he actually said "Mmmm," which you rarely hear these days. As he finishes hot dog No. 2 with a satisfied chew, Timmy asks Mike if he can have another. Mike is a bit curious; I mean, this is a theme park hot dog, not exactly five-star dining, but OK. "Yeah, sure Timmy," Mike says, as he buys the kid another hot dog.
And again, Timmy attacks the hot dog with abandon. "This is so good!" Mike is laughing; he's never seen such unadulterated joy. As he reaches into his backpack to get out the map to see where they should go next, he sees the lunch that Timmy's mom packed him. With all the running around for rides, he had totally forgotten about the lunch. And the reason for the lunch: Timmy's parents keep kosher.
"Seriously this is the greatest hot dog ever!" Timmy cries, tears of joy streaming down his little face. "It's soooo good!"
Mike buries his head in his hands. Of course the kid loves this hot dog. He's eaten nothing but kosher hot dogs his whole life. Mike shakes his head and laughs.
"Mister, can we have hot dogs for dinner?"
I thought of Timmy as I watched football this past weekend. There's nothing better than the unexpected surprise. Upon discovering a hot dog is the greatest hot dog you've ever had. When just a guy off the waiver wire turns out to be Brandon Lloyd. When your Shaun Hill manages to outscore Drew Brees and Peyton Manning ... combined. And I thought of Timmy when he got home. When he went back to kosher hot dogs and realized: Awww, man. This is what I'm stuck with? As a Matt Schaub and Greg Jennings owner in one league, I feel the same way.
Fantasy is about those unexpected surprises. About grabbing what seems to be a normal hot dog only to discover it's the greatest thing you've ever eaten. While I don't have the optimism, innocence or lack of life experience that a 7-year-old does, I still get excited and happy when Kyle Orton has another huge game. When Marcedes Lewis comes through again (twice!). And when Kenny Britt makes me look good.
Which brings us to this week's pickups, where we'll find you another greatest hot dog you've ever had.
Don't look back in anger
"Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold -- but so does a hard-boiled egg." -- Unknown
Here are some of the guys that I suggested you pick up in this column last week (and the week before and the week before that). Somehow, you managed to avoid my genius, or you ran into my idiocy and picked up the wrong guys. Either way, they remarkably are still available in some leagues. I list them quickly here because I have already discussed them in detail, so consider this a combination of obvious names and a list of guys previously discussed.
As always, ownership percentages are for ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues. In addition, at the request of many of you, I am adding how much I would bid on this player in a league that uses FAAB money. The dollar amount is based on a standard $100 cap. When in doubt as to whom I value more, check how much I would bid on that person. That should give you a fairly good idea of how I value a player.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks (65 percent, $40), Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins (83 percent, $30), BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots (77 percent, $27), Michael Bush, RB, Raiders (74 percent, $15), Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos (71 percent, $10), Kevin Kolb, QB, Eagles (59 percent, $8), Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers (35 percent, $8), Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets (78 percent, $8), Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants (77 percent, $8), Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (39 percent, $6), Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills (6 percent, $5), Ladell Betts, RB, Saints (4 percent, $4), Chris Ivory, RB, Saints (4 percent, $1).
Bring out yer dead
"I'm not dead yet!" -- Monty Python
A number of guys who showed up on ESPN.com's most-dropped list this past week then showed up on the field. Finally. I didn't talk about them last week, of course, because they were all owned at that point. But a week after they were dropped in some leagues and then showed up, I thought I'd quickly talk about a few of these guys. Again, mostly obvious names, but apparently available in some leagues, especially as bye weeks force owners to make some tough decisions.
Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys (82 percent, $25): The 14th-most popular drop among running backs last week, the Cowboys actually stuck to their guns and featured him. The result was 126 total yards on 19 touches. And if he can get 15-20 touches a game in that offense, very good things will happen.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts (74 percent, $15): You may have heard me mention him before. Ahem. But hey! Led the team in targets, started over the banged-up Austin Collie and with the run game's depth being tested (not to mention the defense being what it is) you know they're gonna keep throwin'. I've got a chance to not look stupid on this one yet!
Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers (81 percent, $15): Another guy who was finally targeted a bunch, he went nine-for-a-buck-five and a score. The new offensive coordinator seems to be helping and you have to like him this week at home against the Raiders.
Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers (54 percent, $10): Allow me to just say I'm not buying Sunday's performance at all. The Redskins' run defense looked terrible for much of the day. That said, with Aaron Rodgers possibly missing Sunday's game against Miami (not a great run defense), the Packers may rely more on a running back who somehow got 140 total yards on just 15 touches. With that kind of production, you have to wonder why they didn't run more in a game in which they scored only 13 points. But then again that's the kind of thing that normally happens to the Redskins, so I'm very happy to be on the receiving end of the gift of poor play calling. And normally, I'm such a giver!
Pickups of the week
"Say baby, it's a good thing I got my library card because I'm checking you out."
A fairly thin week this week for pickups. Mostly because a number of players who are prime candidates have been discussed before and also there isn't a ton of fantasy talent missing this week due to byes. But still, there are a few names, so let's get to it.
Donald Brown, RB, Colts (64 percent, $10): Looks like he's healthy as he went through the Colts' light practice on Monday, which is more than we can say about Joseph Addai, never known as the toughest cat around. If Addai can't go, you have to like Brown against a Redskins run defense that made Brandon Jackson look like Bo Jackson. Pre-hip surgery. He's a good pickup regardless, because even if Addai gets healthy for Sunday, he'll be hurt again soon.
Danny Amendola, WR, Rams (12 percent, $10): Nineteen. N-n-n-n-nineteen. Not just an obscure pop song, but also the number of targets Amendola got last week. With Mark Clayton out for the year, Amendola benefits the most. Tied for the NFL lead in red zone targets among wide receivers and already a solid PPR guy, Sam Bradford likes him and soon you will, too.
Brandon Tate, WR, Patriots (20 percent, $8): Last week this column came out the day before Randy Moss was traded away. Of course, it's now also coming out after Deion Branch was acquired by the Patriots. Sometimes the deadline kills ya, sometimes it helps. A little like this column, I suppose. Anyways, I don't think Tate immediately becomes Randy Moss. Branch being there doesn't help (neither does Aaron Hernandez, frankly) and Tom Brady will spread the ball around more, similar to his days pre-Moss and Welker. Attack the best matchup and take what the defense gives them. Which means some big weeks for Tate and some stinkers. That said, he's the deep threat on a Tom Brady team which is throwing and has a head coach who likes to run up the score. That's worth something.
Kenny Britt, WR, Titans (36 percent, $7): The Titans are slowly realizing a few things. No. 1, they need to throw deep some to keep defenses honest enough to give Chris Johnson room. No. 2, they might have something here in Kenny Britt. He's scored a touchdown in three straight games, he's among the league leaders in red zone targets and, if not for penalties and a dropped pass two weeks ago, he'd have a lot more fantasy points and be noticed by a lot more people. I just wish Justin Gage could be hurt every week. Pardon my schadenfreude. I mentioned Britt in last week's column, in my preseason "Love/Hate," and a lot last year. I have a semi-man crush on Kenny Britt. Take that into account, but against the Jaguars this week, maybe you'll starting feeling it like me. Huh. That seemed a lot less creepy in my mind.
Roy E. Williams, WR, Cowboys (39 percent, $7): What do Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker and Chad Ochocinco have in common? Well, none of them have been in my kitchen, but in addition, none of them have as many fantasy points this year as Roy Williams. I love Dez Bryant as much as the next guy. As long, of course, as the next guy isn't Jason Garrett or Tony Romo. Roy and Miles Austin are tied for the team lead in red zone targets, while Dez doesn't have one. I've discussed Roy in the "others receiving votes" section before, but with three touchdowns in two games he's now a full-fledged fantasy zombie (come back from the dead) and worthy of a grab.
Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs (15 percent, $5): Sometimes, you just have to look beyond the box score. Dwayne Bowe is terrible. Period. I was wrong to like him in the preseason. McCluster is something special and the Chiefs know this. Expect more and more work for McCluster and less for Bowe. Get McCluster before it's too late, like before he goes nuts on the Texans, who are the second-most generous team in fantasy when it comes to giving up points to wide receivers.
Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins (14 percent, $5): After back-to-back games of at least 80 yards, he's already a known quantity to PPR guys, but off a bye it looks like Chad Henne will continue to look for him as teams focus their defensive attention on Brandon Marshall.
Nate Burleson, WR, Lions (29 percent, $4): Back from injury, he scored a touchdown on a four-catch for 56-yard day last Sunday. Back to injury is teammate Calvin Johnson, who may not play this week. Not a great matchup with the Giants, but I expect Detroit to have to throw in this game and Nate's a good bet to get a lot of those looks.
Steve Johnson, WR, Bills (2 percent, $4): With four scores in three games, he'd be higher on this list except for a few facts. He's on a bye this week and the Bills' schedule is fairly brutal. He's also fairly dependent on scoring for his fantasy value, as he has only one game with more than four receptions or more than 50 yards. That said, Ryan Fitzpatrick is looking for him near the end zone and often finding him and if you need some depth with upside, Johnson's a good bet.
So, you lost Jermichael Finley ...
"There are some cases ... in which the sense of injury breeds -- not the will to inflict injuries and climb over them as a ladder, but -- a hatred of all injury." -- George Eliot
I've written about all of them in one way or the other in previous weeks, but quickly, here's how I would rank the top 10 free-agent tight ends for the next three to six weeks, based on schedule, their quarterback, offensive scheme and how comfortable I would feel starting them and knowing I'd get production. None are worth more than $5 bids.
1. Brent Celek, Eagles (78 percent): Big winner with Kevin Kolb in as quarterback, he's available in some leagues.
2. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots (36 percent): Gets a nice boost with Moss out of town.
3. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars (58 percent): Talked about him a lot. Not a fluke.
5. Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (6 percent): We know the Lions will throw and Pettigrew can catch. Very well, in fact.
7. Owen Daniels, Texans (61 percent): Slowly getting fully healthy. Nice second half coming up.
10. Jeremy Shockey, Saints (59 percent): Limited upside but has been better than he has recently.
Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You
As always, these are not guys I'm saying you should drop, and, as always, some of you will ignore that caveat. But if you need roster space to grab someone above, I have no issue with dropping these guys. These are good players who will have productive weeks but who I feel ultimately won't lead you to the promised land, based on schedules, bye weeks and who else is available in ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.
I've gotten a ton of questions about Jonathan Stewart. I'll say this: They are on a bye this week and I'm hopeful that Jeff Otah gets healthy enough to play after the off week and they figure out what else is wrong with the offense. So I'm giving Stewart until the first week after the bye. That said, you wanna dump him, I won't get in your way.
Carson Palmer, Chad Henne, Bruce Gradkowski, Matt Ryan, C.J. Spiller, Clinton Portis, Laurence Maroney, John Kuhn, Justin Forsett, Reggie Bush, Willis McGahee, Chester Taylor, Leon Washington, Cadillac Williams, Dwayne Bowe, Legedu Naanee, Robert Meachem, Devin Aromashodu, Steve Breaston, Vincent Jackson, Devin Hester, Bernard Berrian, Mike Williams (SEA), Jerricho Cotchery.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- can't believe he just wrote an column in which he compares football players to hot dogs with no mention of T.O. Whoops, there it is. He (Matthew, not T.O.) is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend