Closing out week seven we are half way through the fantasy football regular season, which means it is time to be honest with yourself about your team.
For weeks now we have been placing underperforming players on “The Bubble,” waiting just a little bit longer to see if they can be the guy you thought you had on draft day. With seven weeks in the books, its time to burst those bubbles and get realistic about those such players. We have enough data this season to make keen observations about what you can expect out of a player, so you need to act accordingly. Often I hear people saying of their slumping first or second round pick, “I took him in the first round so I have no choice but to play him.” That might have been true three weeks ago, but now its time to get real and adapt. Your only obligation is to play the guys on your roster who have the best chance of scoring the most points in that particular week, not the ones who you drafted first. As easy as that might sound, most of us are guilty of favoring certain names from time to time over PPP (possible point production). Remember, points win in FF, not names. You have to train yourself to look at each player as nothing more than a PPP stat line. Most people do this very well with players they drafted late or picked up on the waivers. For example, if you used your last pick to nab Mewelde Moore, you probably see him as a guy who can be useful in a plug and play scenario. If he has a good match up you’re not afraid to play him, and if he has a bad match up you have no problem sitting him. There is no emotional attachment towards starting or sitting him each week, because you didn’t have to invest a high pick to get him. Treat all of your players like this and you will be a pro in no time.
Take a good look at your rosters and single out any players that have a good chance at being labeled “2005 bust of the year” by seasons’ end. Regardless of which round you selected these players in, immediately remove them from your “Must Start List.” Be careful though…often times people will take their underperformers and add them to their “Must Sit List,” and usually that is a mistake as well. Even Kevan Barlow put up decent numbers last year when he had a very favorable match up. The key is to get some value out of them when the match up is right, but to limit your losses on them as well by benching them for a hot hand or a better match up.
I have included a list of some of the bubble players and a realistic assessment of each:
Peyton Manning- For those of you who picked Peyton before Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, and Edge: My thoughts are with you! No time machine though, so time to move on and salvage your season. Peyton is a borderline top ten QB so far and has actually scored less fantasy points than his brother, despite having played one more game. What happened to 40+ Td’s? By now most of you know that the Patriot’s winning blue print for defending the Colts involves taking Manning’s receivers out of the game and letting Edge beat them. Nearly every team they play has tried to duplicate this and so far it has worked to kill Manning’s #’s. The light at the end of the tunnel here is that this blue print hasn’t worked to do anything else because Edge has beat them and the Colts are 7-0. The Patriots linebackers in past years have been so good that without any help defending Edge, they still contained him because they just don’t miss tackles. No other team has the personnel to duplicate those type of results and we have seen Edge go off recently. I think teams will have to commit a little more to Edge down the stretch letting Manning’s #’s bounce back, but not even close to the level they were at last year. So far Manning has averaged 221 yards and 1.5 td’s per game. I think he will average around 250 and a solid 2 td’s per game from here on out making him a top 5 QB the rest of the way.
Bottom Line: Manning still has value and should be in starting lineups most weeks; you just can’t count on him to single handedly get you to the playoffs like he did last year.
Daunte Culpepper- Remember that question going into this season that everyone was asking, “Will Moss’s departure hurt Culpepper’s #’s ?” The more appropriate question these days might be, “Will Culpepper ever be a top 5 fantasy QB again?” I doubt it, but I still wouldn’t mind having Culpepper on my team this year because I know what I am getting with him. Culpepper has had a terrible season so far, but he has had two great games mixed in. He smoked the Saints at home and the Packers at home, and did horrible on the road against Atlanta, Chicago, and Cincinnati. See the pattern? The Vikings have lost their deep threat and that does compromise their whole offense, but with Burleson getting healthy, Williamson improving, and Wiggins and Moore finding their place in that offense, Culpepper can still put up big #’s against week opponents, especially at home.
Bottom Line: Start Culpepper with confidence at home against Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, and on the road against the Giants and the Packers, but avoid him at all costs at Carolina, Baltimore, Detroit and at home against Pittsburgh. If he gets hot, trade him or make sure you have another solid option for the playoffs, because Culpepper plays Pittsburgh and Baltimore in week 15 and 16.
Trent Green- Another struggling QB, but at least you didn’t get this guy until the 4th round. Green is currently ranked around #20 among QB’s depending on your league format; not great for a top 5 QB on almost every cheat sheet going into the season. The main reason seems to be the Chief’s relentless commitment to the run. With not one, but two great RB’s, the Chiefs can still put up points and keep their defense off the field. Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes will probably continue to eat up the Td’s and a good amount of yardage for the Chiefs as the season progresses. Shouldn’t that open things up for the pass? Well that should have happened weeks ago and it still hasn’t. Gonzalez looks older and the wide receivers aren’t getting enough separation. Remember, Kennison wouldn’t be the #1 WR on almost any other team in the league, so beating double teams isn’t exactly his strong suit.
Bottom Line: Green had a strong finish to last year despite a slow start, so its not out of the question for him to bounce back, but at this point you can’t look at him as anything better than a middle of the pack guy and you have to start players like Brunell, Bledsoe, Delhome, and Eli ahead of him when they have a better match up.
Jamal Lewis- Should we stick a fork in him? Well, after seven weeks JLew has 7 more fantasy points than Patrick Pass and 6 more points than Chris Perry. That’s hard to swallow and so is his 2.9 ypc average. Chester Taylor, running behind the same offensive line with the same QB problems is averaging 6.0 ypc; more than double JLew’s. The team isn’t blocking well and defenses have no respect for their passing game, but Taylor’s #’s prove that some of the fault lies with Jamal. Perhaps he was pounded too much in a five year period ala Eddie George. Whether or not he has something left in the tank or not remains to be seen; but even if he does, its hard to see any scenarios where he can be consistently successful down the stretch.
Bottom Line: Consider Jamal Lewis in a tier with Kevan Barlow, Reuben Droughns, T. J Duckett and Jerome Bettis. Use him only when you have no better options.
Kevin Jones- Heading into the season KJ looked like the one guy you can get in the second round who had the chance to give you high first round value. So much for that! KJ is ranked #32 among RB’s behind Barlow, Pittman, and Droughns; but I will make the case that he has far more value. Jones has skills, but the Joey Harrington led Lions had some “issues” on offense. In comes Jeff Garcia barely healthy, and the Lions offense looks better already. Jones didn’t light it up against Cleveland, but his 84 total yards were the most he’s had in five weeks and that was with a nagging shoulder injury that almost kept him out. With a good possibility of Garcia giving the Lions their desperately needed spark on offense, their defense playing better than it has in years, and one of the most RB friendly schedules the rest of the way, KJ has a shot to have a very solid second half like he did last year.
Bottom Line: If you have Jones, ride him out and expect good #’s especially in weeks 13-16 when they play at home against Minnesota and Cincinnati and play Green Bay and New Orleans on the road. If you need another RB, Jones is someone you might want to deal for since you can get him cheap.
Andre Johnson- Where as his teammate Dominick Davis has found a way to pile up good numbers on a terrible team, Andre…hasn’t. Johnson’s hurt right now, so he’s getting 0’s on your bench instead of 2’s and 3’s in your starting lineup. With the Texans getting behind in so many game you’d think he’d put up some big #’s while they have no choice but to air it out playing catch up. It hasn’t worked out that way because Carr has no time to throw whether the score is tied or the Texans are down by three touchdowns. Remember, Andre is always working against a team’s #1 corner and still attracts the occasional double team, so with their lack of pass protection he doesn’t have ample time to get open. He only had 4 td’s last year and he struggled badly down the stretch, so in a way the writing was on the wall, but no one could have predicted 76 yards through 7 weeks with 0 td’s even if he did miss two weeks. Betting on a rebound for Andre in the second half would be like betting on the Texan’s passing game, and that’s a bet you don’t want to make.
Bottom Line: Andre Johnson will return to the Texan’s starting linup soon, but he shouldn’t enter yours for the rest of the season.
Michael Clayton- Sophomore Slump? That’s being generous when talking about a guy who was a consensus top 15 WR heading into the season and is now averaging 37 yards per game with a donut in the TD column. With Joey Galloway out for most of the season last year, Clayton flourished leading the team with nearly 1200 yards and 7 td’s. This year Joey Galloway has stolen the thunder and is on pace himself for over 1300 yards and 10 tds. Clearly Galloway is their # 1 or at least he was before Griese was injured. Even if Simms leans on Clayton more than Griese did, that probably still wouldn’t get him more than 50 yards per game and Simms himself has a long way to go before he can prove that he can run a potent passing offense.
Bottom Line: Clayton should really be on waivers at this point and he’ll probably be there for the remainder of the season.
Tony Gonzalez- If it makes you feel any better, Javon Walker went in the 3rd round too. Astoundingly he ranks 25th among TE’s in total points, which includes his best and most recent game against Miami where he had 7 catches for 67 yards, but was kept out of the end zone yet again. Anyway you slice it Gonzalez is not a top TE anymore, but I would make the argument that down the stretch he will be a top 10 TE. Even if he is slightly off his prime (and it appears that he is), Gonzo still has the tools to put up solid #’s for a team with a good offense that lacks another physical receiver. Frankly, the Chiefs aren’t as good a team as they were if Gonzo isn’t helping to stretch the field. With their offensive line in tact once again, Gonzo will not have to stay back in pass protection quite so often and will have some good games for his owners. Gonzo’s main problem could be his TE competition, filled with young talent like Gates, Shockey, Witten, LJ smith etc.
Bottom Line: Keep Gonzo in your lineup, but don’t expect the production of years’ past.
Patriots D/ST- Points awarded for team defense vary from league to league, but with one interception and two fumble recoveries this season, the Pats probably rank in the bottom three in any format. The abundance of injuries obviously haven’t helped this unit and the schedule hasn’t been kind either. Their schedule does soften up a little bit from here on out and the team could get a spark if Bruschi returns, but putting a band aid on a broken bone doesn’t get you too far.
Bottom Line: You’d be in better shape picking a different defense every week off your waiver wire than you will be sticking with the Pats D this season.