Friday, November 5, 2010

Midseason report: Booms, busts and beyond


Everyone has a hard-luck story about fantasy football. They’re as common as a bad beat yarn spun at the poker table. The fantasy football stories usually include the words “if” and “but” (i.e. If Ryan Grant would have stayed healthy my team would be awesome. But instead I’m 1-7). To them I say – if ifs and buts were candies and nuts, everyday would be Christmas. It is of course not Christmas today, but I am going to give you an early present. Like most NFL teams, your fantasy football team is about to embark on push towards the playoffs. This article features the 2010 fantasy football top 20 booms and busts of the season so far. Plus, find which of the players I think will have better a second half of the season. Use this guide as a tool to target free agent, set starting line-ups and make trades in your league.

Booms: These are players who have exceeded expectations so far this season

Kyle Orton – QB Denver
So far this season, Orton has out passed Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Orton has 2,509 passing yards and 12 TD passes. What is perhaps the most impressive part of Orton’s big year is who he’s doing it against. In Orton’s three games against Tennessee, Baltimore and NY Jets, he’s thrown for 864 yards and 5 TDs. If you’re worried about Orton going forward, you shouldn’t be. Orton has a weak running game and plenty of weapons to throw to. I’m buying Orton to continue his pro bowl-type season.

David Garrard – QB Jacksonville
There is nothing sexy about Garrard, but it’s hard to deny his worth this year. Garrard has accounted for 15 TDs (13 passing, 2 rushing) so far in 2010. Impressive considering he missed 1 ½ games due to a concussion. Garrard is not a yards guy, but he’s very accurate in the redzone. With games against Houston, Cleveland, Oakland and Indianapolis on the schedule, I would take a long look at Garrard if you need a QB.

Ryan Fitzpatrick – QB Buffalo
There are some crazy fantasy football stats this year, but perhaps the most difficult to comprehend is Fitzpatrick’s TD numbers. The Buffalo QB has 12 TDs so far this year, the same amount as Aaron Rodger, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Kyle Orton. What makes Fitzpatrick’s numbers so amazing is he’s tossed all those TDs in just five games. Plus, he’s thrown just 1,200 passes this year. That is 1,449 fewer passes than Philip Rivers, 1,309 fewer than Orton and 811 fewer than Rodgers. Fitzpatrick is making the most of his opportunity and considering who he’s already played against - New England, NY Jets, Baltimore and Kansas City - I look for him to continue his solid season.

Busts: These are players who have not lived up to expectations so far this season

Matt Schaub – QB Houston
At the start of the season, Schaub was a fringe top 5 QB. As it stands in most leagues after eight weeks, Schaub is outside of the top 10 in points among QBs. The road doesn’t get much easier for Schaub, with several tough match-ups left on the schedule. With nine games left Schaub may struggle to get to 20 TDs this year (he has 10 TDs after week 8).

Tom Brady – QB New England 
It’s hard to believe Brady has yet to throw for over 300 yards in a game this season. Brady’s numbers have been modest since torching Cincinnati, the New York Jets and Buffalo in the first three weeks of the season. While Brady hasn’t lived up to his elite QB status - at least when it comes to fantasy football stats - he does have some favorable match-ups ahead. Even without Randy Moss, Brady should have great success against Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Indianapolis and Buffalo.

Brett Favre – QB Minnesota
He’s too old and doesn’t have enough playmakers. a favorable schedule ahead and Sidney Rice’s return makes him slightly more appealing.

Joe Flacco – QB Baltimore
With all those offensive weapons, he should have more than 10 TDs. Flacco has played better recently and has a favorable road ahead.

Jay Cutler – QB Chicago
It’s hard to run that high-flying offense when you're on your back most of the game. I don’t see Cutler turning it around this season.

Kevin Kolb – QB Philadelphia
So much for that smooth transition from Donovan McNabb. Kolb’s back to holding a clipboard and Michael Vick’s the man again.

Booms: These are players who have exceeded expectations so far this season

Arian Foster – RB Houston
Foster has emerged as a top RB in the league this year. He is currently second in the NFL in rushing yards (737 yards) and rushing TDs (seven). His opening day performance against the Indianapolis Colts – when he ran for 231 yards and 3 TDs – made people pay attention. Foster is becoming a fantasy football superstar and if he stays healthy this year look for him to be a top 5 draft pick next year.

LaDainian Tomlinson – RB NY Jets
Tomlinson had a choice after leaving San Diego, play for Minnesota or the Jets. LT chose right, picking New York and the opportunity to play more often. Tomlinson has looked solid this season, almost reborn. At age 31, Tomlinson looks to have his legs back. The Jets have increased his workload, giving him at least 15 carries in each of the last four games. What makes Tomlinson such a great RB (and a great fantasy football RB) is he knows how to find the endzone. With five TDs this year, Tomlinson is the Jets best goal line RB. Shonn Greene will continue to eat away at Tomlinson’s carries, but considering how much the Jets run the ball, there should be enough for both RBs. I’m buying Tomlinson’s rebirth lasting through December.

LeSean McCoy – RB Philadelphia
The Eagles don’t run the ball that often, which was the reason I was skeptical about McCoy. Plus, his durability needed questioning. Could this smallish RB carry the load for Philadelphia? Through eight weeks, McCoy has answered all of those questions. From a statistical standpoint, McCoy has been great for the Eagles, scoring 5 TDs this season and tallying 770 yards of total offense. What those stats don’t show is three of McCoy’s TDs and 128 of those yards came against the Detroit Lions. After Indianapolis this week, Philadelphia’s (defensive) schedule gets considerably more difficult. I’m selling McCoy. I think he struggles the rest of the season.

Matt Forte – RB Chicago
Many people expected Forte’s touches to go down with the arrival of Chester Taylor. But Forte’s carries and catches are right about where they were last season. What has made Forte an early season star are his six TDs. Forte has three TDs rushing and three receiving, already two more than he scored all of last season. I do expect Taylor to get more involved in the offense and I’m selling Forte the rest of the season.

Peyton Hillis – RB Cleveland
The consistency Hillis has brought to fantasy football owners is something worth cheering about. Hillis has scored in every game except one this season. He’s turned out to be a solid RB1 option in every league. With no other RB options in Cleveland, look for Hillis to keep pounding away on defenses and racking up the fantasy football points.

Mike Tolbert – RB San Diego
So much for the Ryan Mathews-era, Tolbert has been the real story in San Diego’s backfield. With seven trips to the endzone, only Chris Johnson has scored more rushing TDs than Tolbert this year. Tolbert is riding a five game TD streak that could be extended this week against a weak Houston defense. While Tolbert has been a TD star, Mathews will begin to eat away at his carries. The Chargers want to get Mathews has many chances at RB as possible before the end of the season. Tolbert will continue to be a good goal line option, but expect his touches to go down.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis – RB New England
Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk all were on fantasy football rosters before Green-Ellis. Now after 8 weeks, Green-Ellis has a stranglehold on the Patriots starting RB position. With fewer playmakers on the edge, the Patriots will try and establish the run more often. Look for Green-Ellis to have a big impact on the fantasy football season during this stretch run.

Ahmad Bradshaw / Brandon Jacobs – RBs New York Giants
Bradshaw has emerged as a top RB in the NFL and Jacobs has proven this year he can still find the endzone. While Bradshaw is missing out on TDs (only 3 so far this year), he is gaining big chunks of yards. Bradshaw will find the endzone more as the season goes on and look for him to be near the top of the league in rushing yards. Jacobs will also get his touches, especially inside the redzone. Both are good players on a good team and they should have success the rest of the season.

Busts: These are players who have not lived up to expectations so far this season

Maurice Jones Drew – RB Jacksonville
After Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, Jones-Drew was #3 on a lot of preseason fantasy football draft boards. MJD has just three TDs this season and managed just two 100-yard games. Jones-Drew has lacked consistency this year, but after his bye week this week that could change. Jacksonville has a favorable road ahead and MJD could end up making up those lost fantasy football points in the second half of the year.

Steven Jackson – RB St. Louis
When it comes to racking up the yards, Jackson is a workhorse. He runs, he catches, but he doesn’t score. Jackson has just two TDs this season, despite touching the ball 189 times so far. It’s a bit head-scratching that Jackson hasn’t found more success in the redzone, considering how well Sam Bradford has played. As Bradford continues to get more comfortable as an NFL QB, look for the Rams offense to improve. I expect that will translate to more TDs for Jackson during the second half of the season.

Ray Rice – RB Baltimore
He’s being outscored in most league by Willis McGahee. Take away his one game against Denver and Rice has been dreadful. The road ahead for Baltimore favors Flacco and the passing game, so Rice owners may be in for a long year.

Michael Turner – RB Atlanta
Inconsistency has plagued Turner so far this year. Look at his stats, every other game he’s good. Eight solid games doesn’t make a fantasy football stud. The Falcons second half schedule is not easy, so Turner could be another first round fantasy football bust when the year is over.

Ryan Mathews – RB San Diego
He could still salvage his season and remind us why we had such high hopes for the rookie. Mathews has been injured and has struggled in San Diego’s pass offense. He’s also missing out on valuable touches around the goal line. San Diego’s schedule in the second half of the season is very favorable for Mathews to find success.

DeAngelo Williams – RB Carolina
A bum foot and bums at QB have limited Williams. He has one TD this season and if his name wasn’t DeAngelo Williams, you’d have cut him by now. I don’t see Williams ever get going this year.

Knowshon Moreno – RB Denver
The guy can’t stay healthy. However, if Moreno’s hamstring does heal, he does have several good match-ups the second half of the season.

Ricky Williams / Ronnie Brown –  RBs Miami
Go to your fantasy football league’s stats page and see who these guys are trailing in points. In my league, they are both behind Derrick Ward, Marcel Reece and LaGarrette Blount. Miami’s two-headed monster is officially scary for the fantasy football owners who have them. Miami has a mix of favorable and difficult match-ups ahead, but I expect more bad than good from these two.

Booms: These are players who have exceeded expectations so far this season

Brandon Lloyd – WR Denver
As Denver’s top deep threat, Lloyd leads the NFL in receiving with 878 yards. What we’re seeing from Lloyd just doesn’t happen in the NFL. Lloyd is in his eighth NFL season, played on four different teams, has never come close to 1,000 yards receiving – yet here he is at age 29 and he’s already surpassed his career-high in receiving yards. Lloyd is Denver’s most valuable and most important WR. I’m buying Lloyd to continue his tremendous season.

Kenny Britt – WR Tennessee
There wasn’t much to get fantasy football owners excited about Britt heading into the season. He had three TDs his rookie year, he was in Jeff Fisher’s doghouse and Tennessee’s QB situation isn't exactly stellar. That changed this year when starting in week three Britt proceeded to catch a touchdown in four consecutive games. He then rewarded fantasy football owners who picked him up with a monster game, 225 yards and 3 TDs. Unfortunately, that was the last we saw of Britt. A hamstring injury will keep him out multiple games, maybe even a couple of months according to some reports. Britt’s value as a fantasy football WR may be gone for this season, but he’s certainly someone to remember for next year.

Hakeem Nicks – WR New York Giants
Last year it was Steve Smith’s coming out party in New York, this year belongs to Nicks. His eight TDs are tops among WRs and he’s surpassed the 100-yard mark three out of the last four games. Nicks is a great WR1 option the rest of the season and he’s a player who could be a top 5 WR in next year’s draft.

Terrell Owens – WR Cincinnati
At age 36, Owens is showing his critics he can still play. He’s also playing well without being a distraction. The Bengals are struggling as a team, but Owens certainly isn’t the reason. Owens has five TDs in the past four games and is on pace for a 1,200+ yards season. Owens is a good WR option with plenty of favorable match-ups ahead for the Bengals.

Dwayne Bowe – WR Kansas City
The season got off to a slow start for Bowe, but over the last three weeks he’s been fantastic. Five TDs in the last three games have landed Bowe among the league leaders in TDs with six. Bowe doesn’t catch many balls or gain many yards, but he does get plenty of redzone targets. With the way the Chiefs are running the ball, I expect Bowe to get more TDs opportunities as the season goes on.

Steve Johnson – WR Buffalo
The guy with the ordinary name has done some extraordinary things this year. The third-year WR has had an impressive run the last five weeks scoring six TDs. The Ryan Fitzpatrick to Johnson connection has been the lone bright spot in Buffalo this year. Keep Johnson in your line-up until he stops scoring.

Austin Collie – WR Indianapolis
It’s good to be Peyton Manning’s #3 WR. Collie started the season in that role and has looked really good. Five TDs in the first four games had fantasy football owners wondering could he sustain those numbers the entire season. A thumb injury has forced Collie off the field, but he should back soon and look for him to resume his prominent role in Peyton Manning's passing arsenal.

Antonio Gates – TE San Diego
With Vincent Jackson gone for the first half of the season many suspected Gates would have a big year. However, I don’t think many thought he’d lead the league in TDs with nine. Gates has also been a solid yardage receiver with 668 years through eight games. Gates is banged up right now and a week ten bye comes at a perfect time for him. Look for Gates to be a solid fantasy football contributor as long as he’s healthy.

Busts: These are players who have not lived up to expectations so far this season

Larry Fitzgerald – WR Arizona
Take away his two TD performance in week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Fitzgerald has been way below average. However, what is happening to Fitzgerald’s numbers is not his fault. Nobody works harder at getting better than Fitzgerald. His main problem this year has been the play of his QB. Whether it’s been Derek Anderson or Max Hall, they have struggled connecting with Fitzgerald. I do believe Fitzgerald will still have a productive season, especially with the returns of Steve Breaston and Early Doucet.

Randy Moss  – WR New England
Moss’ erratic behavior and inconsistent play is becoming tiresome to a lot of people, including his fantasy football owners. Moss had a great situation in New England, but he blew it. His situation in Minnesota was also pretty good, but he blew that too. Now he’s in Tennessee where the Titians aren’t exactly a prolific passing team. Tennessee has a great schedule ahead for Moss and the passing game to thrive. However, if Moss acts like the Moss of New England and Minnesota, he will go down as a fantasy football bust.

Brandon Marshall – WR Miami
In my league, Marshall has the same amount of fantasy football points as his teammate Davone Bess. Marshall was the Dolphins big acquisition this offseason and was brought in to help Chad Henne evolve into a top QB in the league. Marshall has one TD so far this year and Miami’s schedule ahead doesn’t look favorable. I wonder what Marshall’s numbers would look like if he were still in Denver?

Steve Smith – WR New York Giants
A year after making the pro bowl, Smith is no longer the Giants top WR. While the leading WR role now belongs to Hakeem Nicks, Smith is still a valuable fantasy football WR. He has just two TDs this season, but they have both come in the last three weeks. I look for Smith to get plenty of targets going forward and with some favorable match-ups still left on the schedule, he could be a second half star.

Wes Welker – WR New England
Three TDs in the first two games had fantasy football owners convinced, Wes Welker was back. It turns out that’s not quite the case. Welker has struggled to regain his form after last year’s ACL injury. Welker is not the same player he once was and the departure of Randy Moss hurts him too. I think we may have already seen Welker’s best days in the NFL.

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