Fantasy Football 2012: 10 Players Who Will Breakout in Second Half
Fantasy football has officially reached the halfway mark as we enter week 9. Is it me or is it amazing how fast the football season comes and goes? Just like every season, 2012 has been no different for fantasy football fanatics across the globe. There have been injuries to key players, surprise sleepers who have emerged as play makers, and flat out busts.
For the owners who are dealing with some of this year's fantasy football busts, I can't help but preach the meaning of patience. Week 1-8 are important, but it's really the second half of the season that matters in terms of success.
If you have been dealing with a struggling star player, or a key position player that is hampering an injury, all you can do is keep calm, and work your way out of it. Through the waiver wire, via trades, or simply playing through the disappointment is all you can do as an owner.
Players like Green Bay Packers WR Greg Jennings, who is out three weeks after a groin injury forced him to undergo a procedure, is a perfect example of a high draft pick who has doing little/nothing to help his owners. I'm a Jennings owner myself, and all I can do is watch him rot on my bench until further notice. The more important issue, is if he can get back to game form before week 13 when the fantasy playoffs start for most. Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson is another example, yes he has produced this season, but NOWHERE near the predictions most had for him.
Certainly fantasy football can be frustrating, and these ten players who have underachieved through the first half of the season have frustrated owners. Due to soft schedules, and basic laws of averages, these ten players will improve and breakout for their owners in the second half of the season. Let's take a look.
10. QB Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton has improved drastically from his rookie season. He's completing the ball at a more accurate rate, and already has 13 touchdowns on the season which ranks 9th in the NFL. Dalton currently ranks as the 14th best quarterback through seven games, and is averaging 15.4 fantasy points per game in standard scoring leagues.
As the season progresses, and RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis continues to struggle, look for Dalton to continue throwing the ball at a high rate. He has thrown 40+ pass attempts in two games this season, and 30+ three times.
His soft schedule for the second half of the season is what makes me believe Dalton is due to breakout as long as he keeps his turnovers to a minimum. Dalton faces defenses such as the Kansas City Chiefs who rank 27th in pass defense, Oakland Raiders who rank 24th, and the San Diego Chargers who rank 23rd to name a few. Dalton and WR A.J. Green should have a field day from here on out, and owners should take full advantage of this.
9. QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Can you say sophomore slump? Cam Newton has certainly struggled through the first half of his second season as a pro quarterback. His completion percentage is down from last year, he's already fumbled more times this year (4) than he did all of his rookie season, and is coming nowhere near the 4,000+ yards he passed for in 2011.
At this point, I'm sure some owners have moved on and looked for greener pastures elsewhere, but for those that are staying patient, you are about to be rewarded. Newton has one of the softest schedules moving forward, starting with the likes of the Washington Redskins, who have allowed the third most fantasy points to the quarterback position and rank 29th overall in pass defense.
Looking farther down the schedule, Newton will see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who rank 19th in pass defense and have given up the 14th most fantasy points to the QB position. From there, Cam will see the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, and Saints. Every single one of those defenses rank 23rd or worst through eight weeks. With Cam being a dual-threat, using both his arms and legs to generate offense, I see no reason why he cannot breakout in the second half of 2012, and save himself and his owners from an embarrassing season.
8. RB Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rookie Doug Martin had a rough start to begin his NFL career. Through the first five weeks, Martin had failed to eclipse 100 yards rushing, and had only reached the end zone once. Things are looking up for Martin and his owners however.
After the Buccaneers week 5 bye, the rookie from Boise State has turned it up. Martin has recorded 467 total yards in the past three weeks, recording three touchdowns in that span. He is now ranked 8th at the RB position, and I don't see him falling out of the top ten category for the rest of the season. Martin has a very favorable schedule the rest of the way, as not one of the teams he faces ranks better than 15th in rush defense. With nine games remaining, he will face the Raiders, Chargers, Panthers, Falcons, Broncos, and Saints. If Martin can shred up a defense like the Minnesota Vikings, he should have no problem remaining the productive fantasy back he has been for the past three weeks. Like I mentioned, patience is a very big factor in fantasy football, and Doug Martin owners are a perfect example of that. Enjoy this second half breakout, folks.
7. RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
For the record, I did have Jamaal Charles pegged as a fantasy bust this season. Not because of his ability or athleticism, but based on the fact that he was coming off a gruesome ACL injury, and well, because he's a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Charles has produced three big games so far this season and the rest of them were stinkers. He rushed for an astonishing 233 yards against the lowly Saints in week 3, and 140 against the Baltimore Ravens in week 5.
Fresh off their bye, the Chiefs faced the Raiders last week, who rank 21st against the run. For whatever reason, Charles only saw five rushing attempts for a grand total of 4 rushing yards. If there is such a thing as a dud, this was it. And the strange thing about all this, was the fact that head coach Romeo Crennel had no answer for reporters on why Charles received such a light workload. He just simply said, "I don't know why Jamaal only got five carries, that's a good question."
Look for Charles to bounce back in a big way, especially this week against the Chargers who he historically plays well against. I'm also sure Crennel made it clear to offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, to never let something like 5 carries for Charles ever happen again.
Charles' remaining games should be a sigh of relief for owners, as he has one of the easiest schedules moving forward. Eight of his final nine games are against run defenses that rank no better than 18th. The Broncos twice, Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Raiders, and Indianapolis Colts. QB Matt Cassel is also back which should make the offense more balanced, and open things up for Jamaal. Don't give up just yet Charles owners, the best is yet to come.
6. RB Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins
Reggie Bush started the 2012 season off on the right foot. He had a 115 total yards the opening week against a tough Houston Texans defense, and followed it up with a 2 touchdown performance against the Raiders in week 2. Since week 2 however, Bush has failed to record 100 total yards, and has only reached the end zone once.
So why should Bush owners keep the faith, and ride him until the wheels fall off? Some might worry that RB Daniel Thomas is going to cut into Bush's production, but I don't see it happening. The Dolphins remaining schedule is just so soft, I can't imagine Bush having a problem going back to his early season form.
With nine remaining games, there are only two weeks where Bush will face top-tier defenses. Week 12 he will face the Seattle Seahawks, and week 14 he will face the San Francisco 49ers. Other than those two games, Bush has seven games against lousy run defenses. He will face the Buffalo Bills twice, who rank dead last at stopping the run, the Colts, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the New England Patriots twice.
It doesn't get much easier than that, folks. With a soft remaining schedule, I foresee Bush getting back on track and breaking out in the second half of the season. If you own him, keep starting him, it will pay off eventually against these weak run stoppers.
5. WR Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
So much for that bye week success talk in Philly, eh? The woes continued against the Atlanta Falcons last week, and the Philadelphia Eagles have now lost three straight games. QB Michael Vick has been a complete nightmare on the field, committing more turnovers (13) than touchdowns scored (9).
Aside from Vick's struggles, the reality here is that Jeremy Maclin is the best wide receiver on the Eagles. DeSean Jackson has one lousy touchdown on the season, and is nothing more than a WR2 with a little more plus side in PPR formats.
Maclin on the other hand has missed multiple games this season, but still has three touchdowns on the year, and is regarded as Vick's favorite target. If Vick can be accurate and less of a headcase, Maclin will easily catch 8-10 balls against the Saints this week. There should be no reason he doesn't reach the end zone either.
Besides this week's match up against the Saints, Maclin's remaining schedule is beyond soft. Not only does he get to face the horrendous Redskins' secondary twice, he will only see one top 10 defense the rest of the way in the Cincinnati Bengals. Other than that, he will see the likes of the Panthers, Buccaneers, and the New York Giants in the second half of the season. Barring a setback or some sort of injury, Maclin should rise in the rankings from here on out.
4. WR Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
It was tough for me to put not only one, but two Kansas City Chiefs on this breakout list, but if KC is going to do anything productive in the second half, Dwayne Bowe should certainly be a part of that success.
Through the first four weeks of the season, Bowe was performing at a decent rate, catching 25 balls, recording 342 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns. That's when QB Matt Cassel went down with a concussion against the Baltimore Ravens, which really hurt Bowe's value. QB Brady Quinn took over for the injured Cassel in week 6 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bowe caught a measly 3 balls from Quinn for 25 yards. After the bye week, for whatever reason, head coach Crennel stuck with Quinn for his team's week 8 match up against the Raiders. Again, the Chiefs struggled to score, and Bowe only had 3 receptions.
Chiefs continue the quarterback shuffle, as Cassel has been named the starter tonight against the San Diego Chargers. Improvement in the offense, and targets to Bowe should happen almost instantly, and for the rest of the season. Bowe will face some of the softest secondaries moving forward. The Broncos twice, Panthers, Browns, Raiders, and Colts are all second half opponents that Bowe should absolutely take advantage of, and owners should look forward to Bowe seeing 7-9 receptions a game the rest of the way.
3. WR Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
If you have been reading my thoughts since the season started, you will already know that I'm a big supporter of Julio Jones. Roddy White and Jones have been neck and neck in terms of production this season, which really isn't a surprise. Both get a regular diet of targets from QB Matt Ryan, and it's almost as if they take turns being the #1 on a weekly basis. One week it's White hitting pay dirt, the next week it's Jones. It's been like that all season, and will most likely continue.
Last week, Jones was the main beneficiary, catching 5 balls for 123 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Eagles. In other news, White was a limited participant in practice Wednesday, and is dealing with back issues. If Roddy misses any time whatsoever, or goes down with an injury, Julio instantly becomes a major fantasy factor. Roddy has dealt with numerous injuries this season, but has played through them. They might be catching up with him at this point though.
The schedule for the Falcons in the second half is downright laughable, and the more I look at it, it's hard for me to see them losing many games the rest of the way. The Falcons have to play the Saints twice, the Buccaneers twice, Panthers, Giants, and Lions in the second half. If that's not the softest slate of opponents, in terms of pass defense, I don't know what is. With Julio's athletic ability, and Roddy's aging body, I think we are in for a show featuring Mr. Jones in the second half of this season. Hold onto your hat, folks.
2. TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
You can say that Jimmy Graham has been somewhat of a disappointment this season, as he has dealt with some ankle issues, and has missed some time this season. The reality, however, is that Jimmy has hauled in three touchdowns in the first three weeks of the season before going scoreless in the next three games.
Graham was questionable all of last week, but surprised his owners by starting against the Broncos. He snagged five balls for 63 yards and a touchdown. This should be a good sign moving forward, as his ankle looks to be 100%, and he remains one of Drew Brees' favorite targets.
The Saints will face the Falcons twice in the second half of the season, as well as the Raiders, Giants, and Panthers. All teams who rank in the bottom half at defending the tight end position, which bodes very well for Graham and his owners. Look for Jimmy to put the ankle issue behind him, and get back to elite status he held heading into the season.
1. TE Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
What a great season Heath Miller is having for himself and his owners. Currently ranked as the 2nd best fantasy tight end, Heath has hauled in six touchdowns this season, and remains a very valuable tight end in PPR formats.
They are calling it "Miller Time" in Pittsburgh, as QB Ben Roethlisberger has shown his confidence in Miller by making him his #1 target through eight weeks. Miller does face a few defenses that have been strong at defending the tight end position, but he does face the Giants, Ravens, and Bengals in the second half. All of those teams rank in the bottom half in terms of defending the tight end so the Miller time should continue. The Steelers running game is also a mess, and as long as Big Ben keeps slinging the ball 35-40 times a game, Miller should have no problem continuing what he started in the first half of the season.
Michael J. Igyarto is a featured columnist and fantasy football expert at Rant Sports
Follow Michael on twitter: @windycityiggy