In order to be successful in Fantasy Football it is always imperative to get good values in the draft and be a hawk in looking for free agents. This season was no different and some of the best players all year were passed over on draft day.
In last week’s article I let loose on the players that disappointed and crushed your Fantasy season. This week is a week of celebration to those players that were just outstanding and justified their draft positions or those players that were low draft picks and waiver wire additions that ending up being some of your top performers all year. In order to be successful in Fantasy Football it is always imperative to get good values in the draft and be a hawk in looking for free agents. This season was no different and some of the best players all year were passed over on draft day.
Once I decided to this article there was no doubt my first choice to write about would be Aaron Rodgers. Michael Vick was taken before Rodgers in many drafts this year, but while Vick made my article last week, Rodgers has been nothing short of spectacular this year. In 2009 Rodgers threw for over 4400 yards and 30 TD with only 7 INT and followed that up with a slight decrease in those numbers in 2010. Well, 2011 he has already reached a season career high in throwing TD’s with 39 through 13 games played. He has had at least 2 TD’s in every game this season. He is on pace to finish with over 5000 yards passing, which would well exceed his 2009 total and rival Dan Marino’s season record of 5084 yards. Rodgers has only thrown 6 INT so far this year and the reason why is the fact he is completing passes at a 69.6% clip which is 4% higher than his best season. Rodgers is only getting better, but his owners still need to beware if the Packers decide to rest him when you need him most.
In most years it would be hard to imagine another QB that would rival Rodgers, but Drew Brees has done just that. Brees has been absolutely sick this year as evidenced by the fact he has thrown for over 300 yards in 10 of 13 games this year, with a 419 yard performance against the Packers in week 1. Brees is on pace to finish with 5376 yards passing which put him well over Marino for the #1 passing yard season of all time. Not to mention that when you have needed him most he has been there for you. In his last 4 games played he has thrown for 1364 yards, which is a 341 yards per game average, and thrown 11 TD’s with 0 INT. During the last 4 weeks and throughout the entire season Brees has a 70.9% completion rate, which is disgustingly good. As the Saints are still fighting to get the #2 overall seed in the playoffs, you can expect Brees to continue to post huge numbers for the rest of your playoff run.
Dan Marino may be the 4th best season of all time with yet another player on pace to overtake his record, Tom Brady. Part of the reason Brady is in the hunt was due to his performance through the first 3 weeks of the season where he posted an insane 1327 yards when he posted a 500, 400 and 300 yard passing game, and his worst game was 387 yards. Brady has averaged 335 yards passing over his last 3 games and has 13 TD’s to 1 INT over his last 5 games. Brady has passed for more than 300 yards 8 times this season and has nice match ups the rest of the way to continue that trend. The Patriots are still fighting to get the #1 overall seed in the playoffs so don’t expect to see Brady resting any time down the stretch.
Those guys were all great this year, but if you did not draft them in the 1st or early 2nd round you did not have a chance to get one of them and needed to find a gem deeper in the draft. There were 3 QB’s that emerged as great draft values. The one that most likely went off draft boards first was Eli Manning. Manning is also on pace to pass for over 5000 yards this year. Eli is emerging this year a top notch QB and has made a nice run over his last 3 games to bump up his numbers. In the past three games he has thrown for 7 TD’s and 1153 yards. The stat that stands out the most when you look at Eli Manning is that he has thrown 3 games over 400 yards. Eli has definitely helped you all season long and should continue to roll this week over Redskins, but look out for the Jets the next week. Eli will not be a draft value like this next year.
A QB that was taken in rounds 8 and 9 was Matthew Stafford and he made a big impression on owners this season. Stafford threw for over 300 yards 5 times and topped the 400 yard mark once this year with two other games over 290 yards passing. Stafford has been dealing with an injury to his hand that looks like it has finally healed, but that hurt his production in the middle of the season. Stafford is blessed to have Calvin Johnson to throw the ball to and the emergence of Titus Young has helped his numbers as well. His final three match ups are good ones against the Raiders, Chargers and Packers. Just imagine the stats he could have put up if Jahvid Best, and every other running back on the team had not been injured.
The final QB to talk about is one that was taken as a flier at the end of drafts or picked up after his 422 yard performance in week 1, Cam Newton. There is no one that could have predicted the season that this rookie would have. As a rookie he is averaging 275 yards passing a game and is on pace for nearly 4400 yards passing. His TD to INT ratio could be better at 15 TD to 16 INT, but has added 13 rushing TD and a ratio of 28 to 16 is not horrible, especially for a rookie. Now that you consider the 13 rushing TD’s count for more points than his passing TD’s, in most leagues, and he has rushed for 554 yards on the season which is about an extra 4 points a game on the ground, and you have a stud in the making. It will be interesting to see how high he is drafted in leagues next year.
There were more disappointments at the top of the RB position than sure things. Arian Foster was a player that could have gone #1 overall in a lot of drafts this year if had not hurt his hamstring before the season started. That being said once he fully came back in week 4 he was a beast, going for over 100 total yards in 7 straight weeks, with 6 of those games totaling at least 150 total yards. He also added an impressive 8 TD’s during that streak. In leagues that are PPR Foster was a demon at his position with 45 receptions on the season so far. His numbers have taken a dip since the injury to Schaub, due to defenses stacking the line on him, but he has still been a great performer.
The other top pick at RB that stood out this year was Ray Rice. Rice has been very consistent all year. He totaled over 125 yards in 7 games this season, but was always active in the passing game with 62 receptions on the season to this point. He also has added 10 TD’s rushing and 2 receiving. He is on pace to finish the season with 1996 total yards and is on pace for his best season since 2009 but with his TD total it will be his best season yet. Rice is the focal point of the Ravens offense and will continue to be throughout your playoffs as the Ravens are still fighting for the division and the #1 overall seed in the playoffs.
I will give a quick note about Adrian Peterson, who would have had a good chance to be on this list if it were not for his injury happening at the worst time of the season for most owners. Moving on…
Now it is time to look at the steals of the draft this year. Marshawn Lynch was not a high draft pick in most drafts, and the way he started off the season there was reason to understand why. Lynch did not score his first TD until week 4 and did not have 100 total yards in a game until week 5. Then the month of November came around and Lynch went into Beast Mode. He has rushed for over 100 yards in 5 of the last 6 weeks and the week he did not hit 100, he rushed for 88. In his last 6 games he also has 7 TD’s and looks like he will be a force for the rest of your playoffs.
Moving from the Beast to a player that went undrafted or was a late round pick up and not the back you would expect to run between the tackles, but what a season Darren Sproles has had. Sproles was very smart in deciding to sign with the Saints, as he is the most perfect fit for their offense and what they want to do. Sproles was never, and is never, going to be an every down back in the NFL, but that does not mean he does not score a lot of fantasy points. Sproles is such a dangerous threat in the passing game as evidence by his 74 receptions and has only been held under 5 receptions in a game 2 out 13 times. Sproles has only totaled over 100 total yards twice this year, but his receptions put him over the top in PPR leagues.
The last of my running backs is one that I never thought would make this list and has been an over drafted disappointment his entire career until this year. Reggie Bush was living up to his over drafted billing through the first 6 games of the season totaling a mere 329 total yards, 1 TD and 3 fumbles. Then in his next 7 games he has totaled 705 yards to go along with 5 TD’s. The Fins have finally found a way to use Bush and a healthy Daniel Thomas effectively and Bush is experiencing his best season since his rookie campaign and should eclipse those totals by the end of the year. Bush has shown a toughness he lacked up to this point in his career, but you have to feel confident about starting him in the playoffs, I am, and he looks good for next year as well…just don’t over draft him.
This season there is no doubt when you start to talk about wide receivers that your conversation starts with Wes Welker. Welker already has reached the 100 reception total on the year and has 1339 yards along with 9 TD’s. That is a sick season on its own, but he still has 3 games left. Welker has had a 100 yard receiving game 7 times, which for receivers that are always hit or miss is a solid number, and then you factor in that he was only under 81 yards 4 times all season proves his worth. Now if you are in a PPR league he has only had 2 games all year with less than 6 receptions. That is a crazy number, and one of those was a 5 reception game where he went off for 124 yards. Welker was most likely a third round pick, and what a pick he was this year. Expect him to carry you through your playoffs.
The one wide receiver who is always worth his draft position is Calvin Johnson, as he has proved that he can put up numbers no matter who is throwing him the ball. This year he had a mostly healthy Matthew Stafford and it was paying dividends early. Megatron had 8 TD’s in his first 4 games…wow that was an amazing run. After that he had at least 5 receptions and 113 yards in his next 4 games, while adding 4 TD’s. Since then he came down to earth, which unfortunately happens with Johnson, as teams double bracket cover him more toward the end of the season and make the offense go elsewhere. He was also not helped by the injuries that gave them a nonexistent running game. Megatron is a premiere receiver and always worth the pick, but don’t rule out trading him after half a season as the numbers speak for themselves.
The story, other than Wes Welker, at the wide receiver position this year has to be Victor Cruz, who went undrafted in most leagues this year, although the teams that picked him up off the waiver wire are probably in the playoffs. Once he was inserted in week 3 he had five 100 yard receiving games with 3 others over 91 yards. In week 3 he only had 3 receptions, 2 of which were TD’s, and since then has not had less than 6 receptions in any game except one. Manning looks to Cruz a lot and with Nicks and Manningham drawing coverage away, Cruz has very favorable match ups. He is the next receiver in the mold of Wes Welker.
The next receiver I want to discuss was so impressive at the start of the season and was not drafted until rounds 8 or later and that is Steve Smith. Smith was so dominate through his first 8 weeks of the season. In that span he had 46 receptions for 936 yards and 4 TD’s. 4 of Smith’s first 8 games went for over 143 yards and he was a reception machine for PPR players. Then all of sudden Newton started looking elsewhere as Smith had only one game over 50 yards in his next 4 until last week’s 125 yard performance, which was achieved by a late catch with less than 5 minutes left in the game. He was a great player this year and way outperformed his draft position, but is a high risk high reward from here on out.
Then there is the story of the rookie sensation AJ Green. Green has been amazing as a rookie WR which is not something that happens very often. Green has 55 receptions for 891 yards and 7 TD’s and should easily have a 1000 yard season. Green had a TD in 5 of his fist 7 games and added 33 receptions for 516 yards. This kid has all the talent in the world and no other WR on his team that helps to draw coverage away from him, yet he still put up these huge numbers. Then you add the fact that he has a rookie QB throwing him the ball and you just have to admire what Green has done all year. Green has favorable match ups for the next 2 weeks and is a great play in your playoffs.
You had to figure with the season that Aaron Rodgers has been having that we should see one of his receivers in this piece, and we do with Jordy Nelson. Most would have expected that it would be Greg Jennings, but Nelson has put up great numbers on the other side of the field and he was drafted well later than Jennings. Nelson has scored 10 TD’s this season and has two 2 TD games. Nelson has not had a ton of receptions, 51, or a lot of 100 yard games, 3, but what Nelson does have is the consistency at the receiver position that you just don’t get, and his TD’s made him a major producer. You don’t get the huge games for any of the Packer receivers, but if you picked Nelson you did well.
My final receiver to talk about is one that was definitely not drafted and was not the first replacement on his team to be drafted. I am speaking of Laurant Robinson who emerged after others were running to get Jesse Holley or Kevin Ogletree when Miles Austin got hurt. Robinson blew up in week 4 with 7 receptions for 116 yards, and then Austin came back and he only had 2 receptions in his next 2 games. Then Austin goes down again and Robinson made his stamp on the Cowboys and the Fantasy season with 8 TD’s in his next 7 games. Last week was his exclamation point as he went off for 137 yards and a TD with Austin on the field with him. Robinson could find himself in the same situation as Victor Cruz with great weapons outside that leave him great matchups. Go with Robinson over Austin the rest of the way.
Then there are the TE’s which as a position all seemed to start hot, but none were hotter and stayed hot like Rob Gronkowski. The Gronk has been an absolute machine this season. In his first 3 games he had 17 receptions for 281 yards and count them 5 TD’s. Then he went through a 2 game slump and went off again. His last 8 games have only brought his owners 49 receptions for 761 yards and 10 TD’s. This guy is simply a TD machine. He has had 6 games with 2 TD’s and when you add the yards, he has outscored just about every wide receiver…WOW!!!
The next TE on the list also has a prolific QB who is having an amazing season and that is no other than Jimmy Graham. Jimmy Graham is the other TE who scores like a WR. He has 80 receptions on the year and already has over 1100 yards receiving. Graham has only had 1 game this season where he failed to reach 50 yards. Not only that, he also has not had less than 4 receptions in a game all year. This is the kind of consistency that you just don’t find at the TE position. Then you realize that he was drafted later than most TE’s as a 9th to 10th rounder you have a gem of the draft. He will continue to post numbers the rest of his career.
From the young gun to the old vet there is no denying the season that Tony Gonzalez has had. Through 14 games, as he played last night, he has 74 receptions for 826 yards and 7 TD’s. This guy just does not stop. He is the mold that Gronkowski and Graham are following and he is a damn good role model. Gonzalez seemed like he was on a downward turn last year with only 70 receptions. Then you add that the Falcons added Julio Jones to the mix and you had to figure that Gonzalez would wither away, but you would be wrong. He has had at least 5 receptions in 10 of his 14 games. He is the ageless one and Matt Ryan knows that he is his safety blanket. Ride the old horse the rest of the way.
This was just my chance to lay some love on the players that deserved it for their performances as top draft picks or true surprises. This is what makes Fantasy Football so much fun. You can look at the numbers from last year all you want, but if you do you will not win your league. There are always top picks that pan out, but if you want to win you need to have a top performing draft pick along with one of these gems. Good luck you in your playoff games.
Listen & subscribe to our Pyro® Weekly Podcasts: http://pyromaniac.buzzsprout.com
Follow Pyro® on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pyroman1ac
Like us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/pyromaniac