Which fantasy football players should you panic over and which should you be patient with.
IS IT TIME TO HIT THE PANIC BUTTON?
We are 3 weeks into the Fantasy season and many of you are out there scratching your heads trying to figure out what to do with underperforming top draft picks. In this article I am going to go over the top players at each position that have fantasy owners pulling out their hair. I will talk you off the ledge in regards to some players and let you know which players are playing at their actual level. Whether you decide to keep these players or trade them could be the difference between a winning and losing season. Let’s first take a look at the quarterbacks and I will list them and their current rank amongst all quarterbacks in standard ESPN scoring leagues that are not PPR.
Drew Brees 4
Tom Brady 12
Cam Newton 15
Matthew Stafford 19
Aaron Rodgers 20
Tony Romo 22
Philip Rivers 26
Let’s start with the big 4 of Brees, Brady, Rodgers and Strafford as these were all first round picks in many leagues and have caused their owners a lot of concern through the first 3 weeks. Let me start of by saying that I don’t think you should be panicking on any of these guys and it would be a mistake to trade any of them at this point unless you have a guy like Matt Ryan backing them up. Here is why…
I truly believe that these top quarterbacks have been hit the hardest by the replacement officials. The word came down this week that the real officials will be back this week, which is the best news for the players, fans and fantasy players alike. All 4 of these quarterbacks are field generals who can control the tempo of the game. This is a part of their game that has been lacking with the confusion and inconsistency of the replacement officials. With the real officials back this weekend, the tempo of the game will be more consistent and have a much better flow, which allow these quarterbacks to hit their mark going forward. There is more to why the return of the officials will help these quarterbacks, but I will save that until I discuss the wide receivers.
The remaining 3 quarterbacks of Newton, Romo and Rivers are players that I would look to get away from as soon as possible. Cam Newton was one of my preseason bust candidates and he is definitely suffering from the sophomore slump. Cam has done a nice job with his completion percentage at 64% this season, but he has an atrocious 9.6 yards per attempt and only 2 TD. The Panthers have also not had him run as much this season as last as he only has 81 yards rushing with 2 TD. I think that this trend continues for him. Tony Romo has the same problem that Newton does with his even worse 7.8 yards per attempt. Romo also has a horrible offensive line and continues to live up to his past with a really good game followed by 2 stinkers. Romo will not be a top 10 quarterback this season. Then there is Philip Rivers who owns the worst yards per attempt average at 6.7. Rivers is also not making me forget last season as he only has 4 TD and 3 INT. The problem for Rivers is that he has no help at the wide receiver position as Robert Meachem has been a disaster and Antonio Gates has been hobbled and disappointing. The best hope for Rivers is the return of Vincent Brown after week 6 and a healthy Antonio Gates. This looks like a tough season for Rivers.
Now let’s move our attention to the running backs. Here is where they rank amongst all running backs in ESPN standard scoring leagues.
RUNNING BACKS RANK
Darren McFadden 17
LeSean McCoy 18
DeMarco Murray 19
Michael Turner 22
Shonn Greene 30
Steven Jackson 36
Chris Johnson 52
As far as McFadden, McCoy and Murray I am not concerned going forward. Each one of these guys has shown some great ability in the first 3 weeks and has been in situations where the game dictated that the running game was not going to be used as much. All of these running backs were drafted as #1 running backs and each has at least 1 rushing TD through 3 weeks. They also have the ability to break the big one, like McFadden did last week with a 64 yard TD run. With the real referees back there is also going to be more consistency on the holding calls and I expect these guys to benefit.
I feel like Turner, Greene, Jackson and CJ2K are all players to run away from. Turner is playing in a prolific offense where he is being counted on less and less. Greene has done nothing to show that he is ready to be the workhorse back for the Jets and is going to start losing carries to Bilel Powell. Jackson has only 1 rushing TD in his last 12 games...enough said.
Then there is the case of Chris Johnson. He just seems like he does not care about the game of football anymore. He is not hitting the holes with any speed and looks like a player that is just cashing a paycheck. If he was on one of my fantasy teams, which he is not, I would trade him for the best deal I could get or a 6 pack of Pabst which is more value than he is worth. He has a 1.4 yards per carry average, which is beyond horrible. Johnson looks like the “The Walking Dead” out there, and he is not worth starting in Fantasy at this time.
Here is where the wide receivers are ranked amongst all receivers in ESPN standard scoring leagues.
WIDE RECIEVERS RANK
Roddy White 19
Percy Harvin 20
Steve Smith (Car) 21
Brandon Marshall 26
Antonio Brown 27
Wes Welker 29
Vincent Jackson 30
Larry Fitzgerald 31
Brandon Lloyd 36
DeSean Jackson 38
Jordy Nelson 52
Dez Bryant 63
There are 4 players on this list that I am not worried about at all: Harvin, Marshall, Fitzgerald and Nelson. I mentioned before that there was another factor to consider with the return of the officials that would benefit the quarterbacks. The replacement officials could not keep up with the speed of the game, and there was a lot of contact well beyond the 5 yards of the line of scrimmage by defensive backs that was not being called. The problem this caused for receivers like Jordy Nelson is that they were not able to get into their route because of the contact down the field which limited their ability in these first 3 weeks. These 4 receivers are going to find more open field than they have in the first 3 weeks and should see a spike in their effectiveness going forward. I would not be concerned with these players and encourage you to stay the course and it will get a lot better.
This is Reality
The players in this category are White, Smith, Brown, Lloyd and Welker who are basically playing close to where I expect them to be at the end of the season. You are going to get some good games and a lot of average games from these guys. Roddy White has Julio Jones who has really eaten into his targets and thus his fantasy value. Steve Smith is seeing a lot of double coverage and as I mentioned how I feel about Cam Newton, Smith’s success is hitched to that wagon. Antonio Brown was the breakout player last season that many thought would be top 10 this year. Wallace has proven to be more than just a one trick pony and Brown is having trouble duplicating last season and has had a few too many drops. Brown is still valuable, but be realize he will not be a top 10 this season. Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker are each other’s worst enemy as they limit the possibility for the real big game from either player.
I do have a lot of concern when it comes to Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson and Bryant. Vincent Jackson has a chance for a good game this week against a horrible Redskins pass defense. Vincent Jackson just does not have the consistency needed at the quarterback position to make him a reliable fantasy target this season. DeSean Jackson has 27 targets this season but only has 14 receptions. Jackson is not a reliable receiver and also has shown that he can be taken out of a game when the defensive backs get physical with him. Dez Bryant is an enigma. He has all the talent in the world and is clearly the best receiver on the Cowboys, yet the Cowboys don’t seem to know how to use this guy. He has the ability to dominate a game on his own, but Tony Romo just does not seem to have the chemistry with him that you would like to see. Bryant is the only one of these 3 that could be a buy low candidate if you can get him in a trade.
Finally let’s take a look at the Tight Ends and where they rank amongst all Tight Ends in ESPN standard scoring leagues.
Tight End Rank
Jimmy Graham 5
Rob Gronkowski 8
Jermichael Finley 17
Fred Davis 20
Jason Witten 36
Antonio Gates 37
I am not worried about 3 of these players and surprisingly it is the best and worst on this list with one in the middle, Graham, Davis and Gates. Graham has not been all world like he was last season, but he is still the best offensive threat that Drew Brees has and Brees knows it. You may have jumped the shark and drafted him in the second round, so at this point you need to relax and ride it out because when he does explode he will win you a week on his own. Davis was another hot riser after his season last year, but he got off to a slow start with RG III. The benefit for Davis is the Redskins may have the worst defense in the game and are getting into shootouts every week. Gates is a player that has a lot of owners scared right now and I will talk you off the ledge. Gates is getting older, but he is now healthy from the rib injury is the best option that Philip Rivers has. This could be the last viable season for Gates, but I expect him to settle in and start producing consecutive good weeks starting this week against the Chiefs.
This is Reality
This space is reserved for Rob Gronkowski. The Gronk was the other 2nd round pick in many drafts and he is hurting his Fantasy owners right now. The problem for Gronk is the same problem that Welker and Lloyd suffer from, which is, too many mouths to feed. Then you consider that while Gronk had 17 TD last season, the Patriots still the run the ball more in the redzone than any other team in the NFL. Gronk has 2 TD this season, but he is just not getting the yards to go with them. Gronk is averaging only 6 targets a game and is converting over 70% of those in catches, but it is for 3 yards less per reception than last year. He looks like he will finish close to where he is right now. I am not a believer in the Gronk blowing up again like last season.
If you own Jermichael Finley or Jason Witten I think it is time to panic. Finley was supposed to be a top tight end for the past 2 seasons and has not produced. Finley has seen his targets decrease every week this season and has also fumbled once. Then there are the comments that his agent made calling Rodgers a great quarterback, but not a great leader. Finley and his fantasy owners say thanks a lot Dick!!! As far as Jason Witten, the wheels have fallen off the bus. The situation to start the season with his spleen seems to have a lingering effect this season. Witten does not seem as comfortable as he used to be taking contact and he never had great speed to begin with. Witten is not going to have a revival this season and I recommend getting rid of him if anyone is interested. Throw him in with CJ2k and make it a case of Miller High Life!!!
WELCOME BACK REAL OFFICIALS….AND THAT CALL TOTALLY SUCKED!!!