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2010 Miles Austin Award

This year, like most years, we’ve had a ton of players come out of nowhere and begin putting up monster numbers. There will be players that have had talent in the past, but the reason the stats weren’t there was due to either the depth chart or the surrounding cast. Miles Austin always had the talent, but he didn’t have an opportunity to prove himself being that he was behind Terrell Owens on the depth chart. Tom Brady had the ability, but needed an injury to Drew Bledsoe to showcase his talents. Michael Turner needed a slow down from LaDainian Tomlinson in order to prove his worth. Are any of the big surprises from this year set to continue their play into the future? Is anyone set to become this year’s Austin or Turner and potentially be kept for next season? Let’s take a look at a few surprisingly effective players this season and see if their play is a one-hit wonder or this is the first of many.

Brandon Lloyd

The Denver wide receiver is currently second in the league in receiving yards behind only the immortal Reggie Wayne. Kyle Orton’s sudden resurgence has benefited Lloyd the most out of anyone on that Broncos’ offense. Before this season, Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas were the three players that many predicted to have a chance at replacing star wide receiver Brandon Marshall. LeBron James wasn’t the only player who decided to take his talents to South Beach this offseason. Seemingly out of nowhere, Lloyd has taken this opportunity and run with it.

His 700 yards in the first seven weeks of play offers up a phenomenal average. But will it continue? No. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that this stat line will roll into next season with Lloyd. Lloyd has been a dud for the majority of his career and his inflated stats are caused more by Orton’s play than Lloyd’s play. Thomas will be healthy next season with a full grasp of the playbook. Also, with Knowshon Moreno back (as of this moment) the running game will hopefully stabilize and the passing game can relax a little. Lloyd is not this year’s Austin; he’s this year’s Ashley Lelie. If you keep him simply due to his stats for next season you will be sorely disappointed in what you get.

Arian Foster

Up until the season-ending knee surgery, Ben Tate was the next coming of Terrell Davis. Tate, like Davis, is a bulky, yet quick runner that could both evade and plow through defenses. But opportunity knocked and Foster was there to answer. Apparently, Steve Slaton was still asleep and missed the door bell. Foster has gone wild with the chance that he was given. He’s excellent in both the running game and as a receiving threat out of the backfield. I do have doubts about his stock and feel his value may dip into next season with the return of Tate, but not to a point where he loses tremendous value.

Watching Foster run is a sight for sore eyes for all the Texans’ fans. I bet Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson send him a thank you card at the end of the season for taking some of the pressure off of their shoulders. Foster is the real deal here, but his situation may not get any better than the current one that he’s in. The circumstances surrounding his benching early in the game just a few weeks ago causes some concern as well. But the stat line shows that there are far worse options out there for keepers to bring into next season.

Kenny Britt

I suppose someone on that team needs to catch the ball, so why not Britt? Nate Washington has done a good job, but not to the extent that Britt has. I’m not overly excited about Britt’s talent, but his situation is good. Defenses need to key on Chris Johnson to stop him from taking the game away and the wide receivers are left to wonder about the secondary. Whether it’s Kerry Collins or Vince Young under center, Britt has proven to be a highly productive player. What could be troublesome is that due to the lack of additional threats on offense, defenses very well could begin to slide coverage toward Britt and force the ball to Washington or Damian Williams.

Britt should remain a No. 2 wide receiver for next season that can perform as a number one receiver under the correct circumstances. His off-field issues do bring down his value, as it always does with any player, no matter the talent. There is no pressing need to keep Britt going into next season. Due to what could be viewed as “over producing,” Britt could be grabbed in the draft next season if you want him.

Kyle Orton

I brought him up briefly while dissecting Lloyd so I could go into more depth here. Orton is one of the most pleasant surprises so far this season. And it couldn’t have happened to a better guy, either. Orton has been thrown around his whole career. He was in a quarterback circus over in Chicago that centered around the ring leader, Rex Grossman. Then he’s cast off Denver in the Jay Cutler deal to fill the roster need at the position for Denver. Then Josh McDaniels sends his No. 1 receiver to the Miami Dolphins. Then Denver goes ahead and brings in Brady Quinn and selects Tim Tebow in the first round. And Orton responds as a true professional, letting his play do the talking for him.

Orton has done a lot with a group of borderline no name receivers. He’s a quarterback that makes the receivers better. He’s not a quarterback that is made by his surrounding receivers, like Daunte Culpepper. There should only be a few quarterbacks kept in any league.  Even though Orton’s numbers do rival the big guys atop the board, he still shouldn’t be kept. His production will continue due to the fact that there is no reason as to why it would slow down. The numbers will continue to come in this year. To determine his keeper value (just incase you think I’m being biased), I’ll ask you this: “What will be the quarterback rankings going into next season?” I’d say he’s outside the Top 7 at the very least. But I’d argue he comes in at 12 after: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick/Kevin Kolb, Eli Manning and Jay Cutler.

Darren McFadden

Did the Oakland Raiders make a draft selection that actually worked out? McFadden has been playing at the exact level that we thought he would when Oakland called his name on draft day. But also as expected, he’s come across too many injuries. When healthy, McFadden is a top talent at the running back position. Think of the numbers he could be putting up if the Raiders had an actual passing game or an offensive line to block for him. The best thing that could have happened to McFadden this season was the injury to Michael Bush. That opened the door for McFadden to capitalize. And he has. It’s hard to tell as of right now what both McFadden’s and Bush’s roles will look like going into next season, but McFadden’s numbers aren’t a fluke. I can’t remember a fluke player scoring four touchdowns in one game. McFadden is a good option as a keeper and his stats moving forward will continue to support that as long as he stays on the field.

LaDainian Tomlinson

Will his production keep up for this season? Yes. Will it carry over into next season? Probably, yes. Is he worth keeping for next season? No. Tomlinson is having a renaissance MVP type of season. But there are a few reasons as to why Tomlinson doesn’t make sense for next season. First and foremost, his age is a huge factor. Even with a lighter work load, Tomlinson has had a few injury seasons in a row and his age increasing won’t be helping his cause. The second biggest reason is Shonn Greene. I find it hard to imagine that Greene will be moving from a borderline first rounder in fantasy drafts this season to nothingness for next year.

This season isn’t a fluke and the numbers will continue as long as his legs stay fresh. But there is no reason as to why you should be holding him into next season. Ricky Williams is the most recent example that I can offer up as to why not. Curtis Martin is another good example when he had his end of the road comeback and then dropped off. But the topper is definitely the last few seasons leading up to Tiki Barber’s finale. Barber went from Top 5 to zero due to his situation in sharing carries with Brandon Jacobs and hating Tom Coughlin combined with his age. Enjoy this season of Tomlinson’s revival and then dump him. Greene is a pretty close comparison to Jacobs and when things get bad (and believe they will), Rex Ryan can be almost as overbearing as Coughlin.

Peyton Hillis

Outside of Foster, Hillis has been the most “bang for your fantasy buck” so far this season. Of course, he needed about a dozen things to work out in his favor, but he also needed to excel once given his chance. The Cleveland Browns must like what they’ve seen because Jerome Harrison is now on the Philadelphia Eagles and James Davis is on the Washignton Redskins’ practice squad. Hillis should continue his production from here until the end of the season. How do I know that? Because, how could the Browns’ situation possible get any worse than it already is right now? Aside from an unpredictable injury, Hillis will continue being the only bright spot on that roster.

After this season, he will have Montario Hardesty back competing for reps. Much like Foster, Hillis’ value could already be at a high. But depending on your league format and how many players you get to keep, Hillis could be a reasonable option. If you’re in a 12-team league and only get to keep two players, then it may be a good idea to roll with a more established player. But if you get multiple keepers and are hard up for value due to some draft day fumbles, there is nothing wrong with keeping Hillis and hoping for the best for next season.

If anyone is this year’s “Miles Austin” after seven weeks of play, it’s Arian Foster. But much like Austin himself, expect a small step back next season.

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