A quick look back to the 1st half of the fantasy season and shine a light on some surprises, some disappointments, some bargains, some busts and some waiver wire gold…
Certificates of VanExellence
We’re halfway through the fantasy regular season and it’s been one hell of a ride so far. There are things we’re accustomed to seeing: short term and season-ending injuries, Aaron Rodgers being the best in the league at quarterbacking, and Beanie Wells has been hurt most of the season. These are givens in this fantasy business.
But we have also seen a few surprises as well: rookie kickers are now effective, Mike Shanahan has stuck with ONE running back the entire season, and Brian Hartline’s become someone you can actually spend time thinking about starting on a week to week basis! Yes, Brian Hartline! I don’t know about you but those are MAJOR surprises to me!
So I wanted to take a little time out of your fantasy prep for Week 8 to give a quick look back to the 1st half of the fantasy season and shine a light on some surprises, some disappointments, some bargains, some busts and some waiver wire gold…
Robert Griffin III – The charismatic, sandwich-selling dual threat is giving the Redskins and plenty of fantasy owners a legitimate chance to win on a weekly basis. He has more passing yards than Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, and Jay Cutler and more rushing yards than Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte. He’s been handing off to a rookie running back drafted in the sixth round and has been without his number one wideout for a majority of the first 7 games What he lacks in regard to passing touchdowns, he more than makes up for with his legs (468 rush yds, 6TDs). He’s also been good at limiting turnovers (3 INT, 2 fumbles) so far...Kudos go out to the Shanahans for maximizing Robert’s fantasy potential by making him the point man in an offense that lets him run at a moment’s notice or take advantage of the drawn in defense by going over the top..
Trent Richardson – I know Jim Brown wasn’t a fan of his at the beginning of the season but by now, he’s got to be in this guy’s corner 100%! He’s the 5th best RB at the halfway point and he’s been worth the high draft pick. He’s been consistent crossing the stripe (5 total TDs) and Cleveland is using him the passing game (24 receptions) as well. The Browns are still the Browns when it comes to their overall record but to Trent’s done what he can to keep defenses honest.
Randall Cobb – He’s been the main beneficiary of Greg Jennings’ absence and Jermichael Finley’s overall terribleness this season. He started out this season like he did last season with a good game and followed it up with 2 subpar games. Everyone jumped off his bandwagon because no one wanted to be burned in consecutive years. But Randall has rallied to become a top 10 option @ WR this season. He’s become a major weapon out of the slot for the Packers air raid offense and has provided some serious after the catch ability for Aaron Rodgers.
Tony Gonzalez – If you thought Tony Gonzalez would be leading all tight ends in receptions and overall points right now at the halfway point of the fantasy season, I’m going to need the lotto numbers when the Powerball jackpot gets over 300 million dollars. Due to the hype of Atlanta’s dynamic duo of receivers, Tony’s role was glossed over. He might get a couple of catches a game…a few 1st downs here and there. However, he’s parlayed all the soft coverages into heavy production, edging out the younger, more athletic options in fantasy.
Rookie Kickers – The position does have a lot of turnover on fantasy rosters but the names are filled with recognizable names to choose from: Akers, Hanson, Janikowski, Tynes, Gould, etc…but this season is a bit different. 3 rookie kickers have come out of nowhere to rank near the top. Blair Walsh, Justin Tucker and Greg Zuerlein have obliterated any expectations had for them. They all have strong legs, good conversion rates and they’re all tied to offenses that have JUST enough wrong with them to stall out in field goal range.
One last point about Greg Zuerlein. Greg’s acquired three of the best nicknames this season: Greg the Leg, Legatron and Young GZ. I dare you to find someone with a trio of nicknames that work any better for one player in this league…
Cam Newton – Fantasy owners have to admit that Cam’s given them the shaft so far this fantasy season. For all the success he had last season, he been a major underperformer this season and it’s weighing some teams down because of it. I’m not sure if it’s a case of defenses getting wise to what the Panthers run or if his ego was that pumped up from last season’s successes but he’s been inaccurate and hasn’t provided that statistical juice with his legs. In his defense, he hasn’t been done any favors by his offensive coordinator or that bad defense giving up rush yards by the hundreds. He’s got all the talent in the world but he’s got to do a lot to turn this season around. Considering how bad the Panthers have looked so far this season, I’m not sure he will.
Ryan Mathews – Ryan had it all prior to the season: momentum from last season, nobody on the roster there to challenge his spot as RB1 and his health. He proceeded to fracture his collarbone on his 1st carry of the preseason. Still, hopes were high because now he’d turned into a draft day bargain. But now that he’s healthy and back on the field, he’s been unable to provide fantasy managers with those stats they were hoping to get once he got back on the field. The Chargers seem intent on trying to teach him lessons after one fumble rather than let him work his way through it like every other organization in the league. Here’s hoping Norv Turner decides to lay off the psychological tricks and focuses on devising run plays!
Titus Young – Titus had the attention of every fantasy owner as sneaky pickup late in drafts but to this point he’s been a MAJOR disappointment. 4 games with 2 catches or less and his only touchdown this season came on a ball tipped to him on a Hail Mary…I know some owners got tired of his act and benched him or jettisoned him onto waiver wires. There’s no way a kid with his talent level should have such subpar stats but sometimes physical talent and a golden opportunity doesn’t always lead to guaranteed production. With Nate Burleson shelved for the season with a broken leg, there’s a chance the light comes on for him in the second half. We shall see.
Antonio Gates – Another sexy pick in the preseason to make a major comeback this season from a few years of below average production but he’s been largely ineffective so far. He’s had a few nicks and scrapes and Philip Rivers has also been a bit off with his accuracy, often overthrowing Antonio on routes that were considered routine. Hopefully he got back on the same page with Rivers during the bye week and starts putting up those numbers we were hoping for in late August/early September…
Philadelphia Defense – For a team with all that pass rush , a new linebacking corps better suited to play behind the Wide-9 technique and top notch cornerbacks in Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie shouldn’t be this bad. If Asante Samuel was that important to team chemistry, why trade him? 7 sacks in 7 weeks from a team that led the league last year? And there weren’t any notable injuries to speak of? What’s the problem here? The Eagles canned Juan Castillo, the defensive coordinator, during their bye week. Let’s see if this makes a difference for the rest of the season..
Draft Day Bargains
Roethlisberger has had to throw the ball a lot more than he figured. All that offseason chatter about a lot more runs in this Todd Haley offense has gone by the wayside. Big Ben’s going to be flinging it for the rest of the season with that defense….Andy Dalton’s done way more than most fantasy owners expected and has been a borderline QB1 in some league. He’s let it fly way more considering injuries to his offensive line and an overall lack of juice from the running back position. A.J. Green is more than happy with all the catches, yards and touchdowns….Peyton Manning’s had questions and concerns stemming from his neck surgery but those should be quieted down now that he’s put his mark on this offense. He just has to hope his team avoids double digit deficits from here on out…or should they?
C.J. forced Chan Gailey’s hand with an early injury to Fred Jackson and has stayed relevant ever since, which he had some trouble doing in years past. He’s still the most electric RB on the team and has found a way to do it with consistency….Stevan has avoided the Belichick personnel tricks this season and is the lead RB for the Patriots this season. His receiving stats are lacking but he’s getting a majority of the carries, especially when the Pats want to play smashmouth. Touches are important and he’s the main one getting them…..Reggie’s been a PPR machine this season. He’s been dealing with a little knee pain but should continue being the focal point of a Miami Dolphin team light on talent that plays hard and is competitive every week.
James has shaken that nasty habit of dropping everything thrown his way and has become a touchdown magnet in Green Bay. He should continue to be a big part of that offense with Jennings on the shelf….Kendall Wright was considered a big part of the Titan offense but I don’t think anybody figured he’d be this big. Thanks to Kenny Britt’s inconsistency this season, he’s been the one constant in the passing game…. Many figured Anquan Boldin to take a back seat in the BAL offense with Torrey Smith ascending to WR1 status but he’s been Joe Flacco’s security blanket down the seams. He’s light on the touchdowns but has been providing decent production in PPR leagues
Owen has been Matt Schaub’s main threat in the pass game for most of the 1st half of the fantasy regular season. He picked up the slack when Andre Johnson wasn’t providing a lot down the field. When the Texans do play-action off the run game, Owen’s usually open….Heath Miller might be on his way to a career season. He’s been the one consistent piece to that Pittsburgh offense, even with all the injuries on the offensive line. Big Ben trusts him in the redzone.…Kyle Rudolph’s hype-train keeps on rolling. He was a media darling in the off-season for his potential in this offense and he’s capitalized, scoring 5 touchdowns already. Ponder hasn’t forgotten who the tallest guy on the field is near the goal line and Rudolph has taken advantage.
Draft Day Disasters
Stafford’s been a complete waste of a 1st-2nd round pick so far. 6 picks and 7 total touchdowns one year after 5000 yards and 40+ TDs is a MAJOR letdown. The offense has no balance and Matt’s mechanics are all out of whack.….Cutler was expected to light up the NFC North once Brandon Marshall joined the roster but he’s been subpar so far. A lot of that can be attributed to his porous offensive line but his inaccuracy has kept his numbers down too.…Russell Wilson made the Kansas City Chiefs look like JUCO team in the preseason so he was the sexy pick late in most fantasy drafts as a QB1. He’s been nothing but a flirt so far. Pete Carroll has put the clamps on his opportunities throwing the ball down the field (except late in games as New England and Green Bay found out first hand) and his receiving corps has yet to sort itself out so far…
DeMarco Murray, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jacquizz Rodgers, Donald Brown
Murray was a 1st-2nd round pick expected to be an RB1 for teams but he’s been much worse than that so far. There’s been the typical offensive dysfunction that runs rampant in Dallas since Jason Garrett took over and the offensive line hasn’t been consistent but Murray’s biggest issue is being hurt all the time. Could he be injury-prone?....BenJarvus was brought in to be a low-cost alternative to Cedric Benson but maybe the Bengals should’ve ponied up the paper to pay for better results. Green-Ellis has been underwhelming as a lead back and is slowly getting phased out of the offense….Hoo boy, Jacquizz was getting all the hype this offseason as Michael Turner’s replacement in an uptempo, pass heavy offense. Instead, Jacquizz became the second coming of Mewelde Moore. That late round pick could’ve gone to someone else with upside….Donald Brown was a nice midround option once the big dogs were taken. Many thought he could provide the Colts with a decent run option to help ease Andrew Luck into the league. No such luck. Andrew leads his team in rushing TDs so far so you can see how much help Donald’s been!
Hakeem Nicks, Pierre Garcon, Robert Meachem, Justin Blackmon
Hakeem’s had one of the great games of the season so far (10 catches for 199 yds, 1TD) but he’s been subpar outside of that. He’s been hampered by a foot injury that I think he’d be better off sitting out and healing up than giving mediocre numbers to fantasy owners expecting him to be a WR1….Pierre Garcon’s another preseason WR1 who has held teams back due to trying to work his way through injury. Outside of a great game 1 from him, he’s been questionable, doubtful or out ever since….Robert Meachem was supposed to be the lower-cost replacement to Vincent Jackson in San Diego but he’s played more like Robert Mitchum. 12 catches? That won’t cut it in any format!....Justin Blackmon showed tons on tape in preseason. Even with concerns over a holdout, he still looked like the goods. But the Jacksonville offense has been anemic since week 2 and the QB play hasn’t exactly been consistent. He looks like a victim of his environment…
Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham, Fred Davis
Jermichael has all the talent in the world but he’s had a declining amount of catches as the season’s worn on. You could attribute it to him being weeded out of the offense, tighter defensive coverage , shaky chemistry with the QB or a freshly injured shoulder but the biggest thing to me is him dropping the ball. His hands are as reliable as paper crutch in a thunderstorm….Jimmy Graham had a first round grade and many fantasy owners thought they were going to get the jump on everyone by snagging him early. He’s been good and has battled injury but he was drafted to be a fantasy mismatch so if he’s giving you average numbers, that’s not good for business….Fred Davis was also a trendy tight end pick for teams who were looking for athletic field stretchers late in the draft but he hasn’t been as involved in the offense as many expected. Davis didn’t capitalize off of the play-action because RG3 seems drawn to the WR position or running for massive amounts of yardage…
QB: Alex Smith, Brandon Weeden, Josh Freeman, Christian Ponder, Alex Smith
RB: Alfred Morris, Andre Brown, Mikel LeShoure, Cedric Benson
WR: Andre Roberts, Brian Hartline, Jeremy Kerley, Andrew Hawkins, Brandon Gibson, Josh Gordon
TE: Martellus Bennett, Dennis Pitta, Brandon Myers
Special Teams: Atlanta, Denver, Justin Tucker, Blair Walsh, Greg Zuerlein