Alright, so a quarter of the 2010 fantasy season is up. Maybe your teams are exactly where you want them to be, sitting at 4-0 or at the top of your division. Or, maybe you’re like me and can’t catch much of a break (though, I will admit, the only bad play I’ve had all year was sitting Jahvid Best Week 2 when he scored 41 points in my league).
Either way, a lot has happened in 2010. Some good, some not so good, but all interesting and relevant to fantasy owners. Below, I’ve compiled the Top 20 things I’ve learned from the first four weeks of the 2010 fantasy football season.
1. Austin Collie is for real.
The dude just doesn’t stop. Anthony Gonzalez who? Collie is the top fantasy wide receiver in most league formats by more than 10 points. Let me throw some numbers at you: he’s scored a touchdown in every single week, he is averaging 16.5 points per week, he has reached the 20 point plateau twice in four weeks and he has not scored less than 8 points in any one given fantasy week. So, he’s consistent, he’s talented and he has Peyton Manning throwing to him in an offense that is too cool for the run, clearly. Collie is a No. 1, plain and simple.
2. Antonio Gates will score every week.
OK, no he won’t. It’s not impossible, but obviously very unlikely. Gates is the hands-down No. 1 fantasy TE in the league. I, along with just about everybody else, thought Vincent Jackson’s absence in the San Diego passing attack would mean more attention on Gates and thus, less fantasy value. Wrong-O (what happened to that saying? I know, it’s sooo 1996, you don’t have to tell me, but maybe we should bring it back. Then again, maybe not). Gates is a must-start each week, and Jackson’s return may actually bring his fantasy value down because he’d steal catches, yards and scores from him. ‘Cause as it stands, no defense can stop this dude.
3. Play San Diego Chargers D/ST at home.
Yeah, their 36 point total this past week was against a Derek Anderson-led Arizona Cardinals team that would find a way to turn the ball over five times against a high school defense. But, two weeks before, the Chargers put up 24 fantasy points against Jacksonville at home. They’re not a very good unit on the road, so their only benefit is when they play in SoCal. Which means dropping them each week, or stashing them on your bench. I’m not one to keep a D/ST taking up a bench spot, but keep in mind their schedule in Weeks 13-15: Oakland, Kansas City, San Francisco. All at home. Oh, and those are traditional playoff weeks in fantasy football FYI.
4. Arian Foster is a surefire No. 1 back.
I know that’s not telling you something you don’t already know, but he is for real. Sure, when “The Arian Race” (a new nickname, spread it around like wildfire) was handed the starting job in Houston, everybody knew he was solid starter material in fantasy circles. But nobody could have expected this. Foster is the top back by almost 30 points and doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon. Start with confidence each and every week.
5. Kyle Orton is an every-week starter.
Fact 1: He is the fifth best fantasy QB as it stands today, behind such stud stalwarts as Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. Fact 2: Orton is ahead of alleged preseason Top 5-type QBs such as Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matt Schaub. Fact 3: Noodle-Armed Neck-Beard is leading the NFL in passing yards ahead of, well, everybody. Fact 4: He may not have Brandon Marshall, but all that means is that defenses don’t know which receiver to cover out of Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal, Brandon Lloyd and Demaryius Thomas. Fact 5: He may not have a sweet southern twang to his voice and has starred in exactly zero Wrangler commercials (and probably hasn’t sexually harassed Broncos team employees, but anybody who saw photos of him partying it up with his best bud Jack Daniels in Iowa City know that wouldn’t be out of the realm of the Purdue grad), but Kyle Orton is a better option for your fantasy team now and in the future than Brett Favre is. Yes, even with that dude Randy in town in Minneapolis.
6. LT’s still got it.
And Shonn Greene don’t. Well, maybe it’s a bit early to say Greene is a bust in his career, but he’s certainly been a bust in fantasy in 2010. Who would have expected LaDainian Tomlinson to be the best fantasy back on the Jets this season? Nobody. Sure, people figured he might have a decent year, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who called LT’s resurgence in Week 4 before the season started. Tomlinson is one of the best RBs in the history of the NFL, and his game last week proved that he’s still got some juice left in those legs. He’s starter material, at least for the time being.
7. Philly’s O runs through Vick
Except Brent Celek. He’s had almost no impact with Michael Vick under center, but lucky for Celek owners, he and Kevin Kolb are reportedly great friends, because that’s so important. I don’t care if the two hold hands and skip and have picnics every day, how does that relate on the football field? It doesn’t. So don’t get too caught up in it. The fact of the matter is, though, Philly’s offense in real life is a more well-oiled machine with Vick taking the snaps instead of Kolb, so that means fantasy numbers and touchdowns will go down now that Vick can’t even breathe. Everybody’s stock goes down, including even kicker David Akers.
8. Peyton Hillis is an every-week starter.
Seriously?! A Browns player? Let alone Hillis, who has never been a highly touted RB prospect and used to remind people more of Mike Alstott than a traditional RB? Yes, Hillis’ 2010 season is not a mirage. Let’s look at the facts: he’s scored each and every week, he had his biggest game (144 yards, TD) against the NFL’s best defense statistically (Balitmore), he’s the 8th best fantasy RB thus far, ahead of Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew and he doesn’t have anybody to vulture carries or tuddies away from him. The Cleveland thinking heads apparently are all but done with Jerome Harrison and Montario Hardesty is out for the year with a knee injury, so it’s Hillis’ show in LeBron’s ex-town.
9. Mark Sanchez is indeed starter-worthy.
Let’s make this one short and sweet: 8 TDs vs. 0 INTs (He’s on pace for 32 TD passes). Oh, and he’s about to get Santonio Holmes back.
10. Dustin Keller is a Top TE.
Thanks to the aforementioned success of Sanchez, Keller is suddenly the second best fantasy TE in the game. He has already hauled in 5 TDs and is behind only the monster that is Antonio Gates at his position. When I wrote in the preseason that Sanchez would have 30 touchdown passes, I suggested Braylon Edwards would be on the receiving end of 16 of those. Maybe I had Edwards and Keller mixed up. On the downside, however, Santonio Holmes is returning so he will require targets, but Keller clearly has an on-field rapport with Sanchez and still should get plenty of looks in the endzone. I’d be really, really surprised if he falls out of the Top 5 in TE by year’s end.
11. When healthy, Darren McFadden is a No. 2 back.
“Run DMC”, as he is sometimes referred to as, has bust a move so far this year, coming in as the fifth best RB in fantasy despite scoring just one tuddie. He’s currently out for Week 5 with a balky hamstring, which is very good timing for Michael Bush. He’ll likely steal carries from McFadden even when the latter returns to full health, but the Raiders would be idiotic not to give McFadden the lion’s share of the carries after seeing how his four-game audition turned out. But, then again, this is the Raiders, so be careful if you own McFadden. And if you don’t, don’t get suckered into an unfair trade.
12. All fantasy analysts were too high on Shonn Greene and Ryan Mathews.
Let’s let it out. I feel the pain, too. I have Mathews on three of my four teams and he’s put up just 19 points thus far. Greene has just 18, and he’s had the advantage of playing in all four games (Mathews missed Week 3 due to an ankle injury). Greene was going in the first round in a lot of leagues, and both players were likely gone by the start of the third round in your league, yet combined don’t have the numbers of a No. 3 back even. It’s sickening, it really is. There is hope, however. All is not lost. Last week, Greene had 117 rushing yards on 22 carries and Mathews scored a touchdown. But, Greene has a rejuvenated LT around and Mathews has a bowling ball named Mike Tolbert around, so neither are safe bets. Sigh.
13. Ryan Torain is a great pickup.
Everybody has been searching for the year’s one great pickup, especially in the running back pool. Yeah, Austin Collie and Michael Vick were probably available in a lot of leagues, but running back is usually the most high-profile position in fantasy. Peyton Hillis is that man so far, admittedly. But Ryan Torain has the potential to overtake him. Washington head coach Mike Shanahan is in love with this guy, and after watching him bowl over Philadelphia safety Quintin Mikell for a touchdown last week, I am too. Clinton Portis is going to be out for the next four weeks or so and by the time he comes back, he may have lost his job to this slashing power runner. If Torain is still available in your league, snatch him up immediately.
14. Michael Turner is unreliable.
Turner owners feel the pain of those who spent an early round draft pick on Mathews or Greene. However, he’s a proven commodity. Turner the Burner has done this whole fantasy thing before. But, he was even unreliable last year and I avoided him at all costs this year. Thankfully, I did. He’s averaging less than four yards a pop and has just one double digit day in fantasy so far. His other games? 4 points, 7 points, 7 points. Oh, and Jason Snelling ran for 129 yards and 2 scores in Week 2, so it’s not the offensive line or the scheming. Nope, Turner just is inconsistent. Sure, he’ll eventually turn it around, but he’ll have those games where he nets just 4 points, and that will absolutely kill your week. Trade him if you can.
15. Bruce Gradkowski elevates Oakland’s passing offense.
No need to look any further than Zach Miller in Week 4 (111 yards, TD) and Louis Murphy in Week 2 and 3 (91 yards and a TD followed by 119 yards). Jason Campbell was not the answer. For you Oakland fans out there, I’m sorry to say that Gradkowski isn’t the answer, either, as the Raiders are still struggling to win games. But in the fantasy world, Bruuuuuuuceeeee is a name worth shouting, and a QB worth starting in lieu of Bye Weeks.
16. Joseph Addai’s fantasy value lies only in his TDs.
He’s not getting to run the ball much, as the Colts are one of the most—if not the most—pass-oriented teams in the NFL. Consider the fact that Addai is not a terrible receiver, but not really targeted all that much in the passing game and the fact that his next three weeks (KC, who shut down Frank Gore, and WAS, who shut down Dallas in Week 1, followed by a Bye Week for Indy) and Addai is just not worth owning right now. He’s gained over 85 total yards just once and he’s had only two double digit fantasy days thus far, one of which was thanks mostly to two rushing touchdowns. Trade him if possible.
17. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2010’s Top D.
NOT the New York Jets, whom everybody tabbed as the top unit prior to the season’s start. Pittsburgh is averaging 19.3 fantasy points a week. From a defense. That’s incredible. In most leagues, where 100 points is needed for a win, a DEFENSE is responsible for turning in a fifth of that total each and every week. They’re getting turnovers (5 picks and 6 fumble recoveries in four games so far) and scoring touchdowns (2), but their most admirable trait is the lack of points allowed. They gave up 9 points in Week 1, then 11 in Week 2, 13 in Week 3 and just 17 to a good Baltimore offense last week. That’s a combined 13 fantasy points from the most overlooked fantasy stat of them all—the points allowed category for defenses. The Jets may pour on a lot of fantasy points down the road and the Chargers are exceptional at home, but Pittsburgh is where it’s at.
18. Nobody on Cincinnati is worth a consistent start.
Cedric Benson’s point totals by week: (9, 7, 20, 6)
Carson Palmer’s point totals by week: (19, 6, 7, 18)
Terrell Owens’ point totals by week: (5, 5, 4, 28)
Chad Ochocinco’s point totals by week: (21, 4, 3, 5).
19. New Orleans has not gotten on track offensively yet.
But, they will. Don’t worry. Drew Brees will come back to the elite status of fantasy, not that he’s been terrible so far. Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush are out injured, but their eventual return to health will be a big boost. Their schedule down the road is up and down fantasy-wise (the scariest of which is at Baltimore Week 15, the championship for a lot of fantasy leagues), but this is a team that nobody could stop last year and they haven’t lost any integral parts of that unit. How that plays out in fantasy, however, is a different story. Robert Meachem (just 54 yards and no scores) has done nothing so far this year. Lance Moore (team-high 209 yards and 3 TDs) is suddenly fantasy releveant. Marques Colston is not performing up to expectations. And then there’s Jeremy Shockey and Devery Henderson, who are rather inconsistent as well. This unit is too good to stay down this long in fantasy, so be patient with guys like Colston and Brees. They’ll come out of it.
20. Brandon Jackson is not the heir apparent to Ryan Grant’s throne.
I was really excited when Grant was declared out for the year after Week 1. Not because I like seeing players injured, but because I was pumped for Jackson to finally break out and prove that Grant is just a hot bag of garbage (I’m not a big fan of Grant, if you couldn’t tell). Yet, that little experiment hasn’t worked out so well. In Grant’s absence, Jackson has not gained more than 33 yards on the ground in any one game and has just one score. He’s now vacated a lot of his carries to John Kuhn, who is clearly winning the coaches’ hearts in Green Bay. Jackson may eventually have a few good games, but largely, he’s nothing but another disappointment. Great, cause I picked him up in several leagues. Poop.