First off, Congratulations to those who still have teams alive in the playoffs. Reflecting back on the season, I think we can all agree that it has been a tough year to thrive in. Wide Receivers were impossible to deal with in the first half of the season and quarterbacks have crushed many teams in the second half. There were many owners who had drafted two of the following players with their first two picks: Deuce McAllister, Daunte Culpepper, Corey Dillon, Jamal Lewis, Kevin Jones, Julius Jones, Willis Mcgahee, Randy Moss, Priest Holmes, Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, Brian Westbrook, and Ahman Green. Owners who were guilty of taking two of those players in their draft are probably not even reading this because their team is done. It hasn’t all gone bad though: Steve Smith, Carson Palmer, and Larry Johnson were popular picks to bust out this year and they all have. Just about every reason you can have to hate this game really is another reason to love it. Fantasy Football breeds parody just like the real NFL, so if you can’t deal with the fact that you drafted Jamal Lewis and Javon Walker, I suggest you find a new hobby. Hey, Jets fans didn’t think they would have a 3 win team on the field this year, but stuff happens. For every Jets or Raiders fan out there, there might be a Bears or Bucs fan too. And for every guy who drafted Ahman Green in the early 2nd, there was another who drafted Joey Galloway in the 12th.. Learn to Love it!
I gave you a pretty detailed team by team analysis last week and not much has changed, but there are two points I want to make this week before I give you my top 10 value picks of the year.
Bengals- If you were burned by Carson Palmer or Chad Johnson last week, its important that you understand why it happened. The Browns’ game plan against the Bengals was similar to the one many teams were using against the Colts earlier this year. Basically, they weren’t going to let Carson Palmer beat them, even if it meant that Rudi Johnson would have room to run all game. Its hard to argue with the game plan since the Browns almost won on the road. The fantasy results were hard to ignore though, with Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer each having their worst fantasy output of the season and with Rudi Johnson having his best game of the year. It remains to be seen whether or not the Lions and the Bills will mimic the Browns game plan in the next two weeks, but you’re not going to sit Carson Palmer or Chad Johnson either way. One thing is for sure though, Rudi has been on a tear lately and it seems like that trend will continue.
David Garrard- I told you before that he would make a good start this week against the Niners, but I’m revising that and upgrading him to a “great start.” If he can get the job done in crunch time against the Colts, he’s going to have a field day this week. I can see him having 250/2 through the air and another 50/1 on the ground.
I’d also like to vent about something that happened to me this week. I took part in a rather large survivor pool this year and made it to week 14 after the Patriots beat the Jets last week. I had some good teams and match ups left, so thought I was a lock to survive the whole season and split the money with anyone else who survived. I’m going to have to call that party off this year, because the Chargers lost a home game to the Dolphins. Obviously, there are a many upsets every year, but this one to me is the most shocking so far because the Chargers really needed it. So long to me in my pool, and so long to the Chargers who don’t deserve a playoff berth. Shame on them for looking past an opponent at a crucial time in the season.
Moving on, here are my Top 10 Value Picks of the Year. The key word is “VALUE,” which pertains to where they were drafted and how much they overachieved their spot. So you won’t find Tomlinson or Alexander on the list, who were the first 2 picks in most drafts. The following players have saved many owners’ seasons:
#10) Reuben Droughns– Thanks to very little output from Stephen Davis and Willie Parker in recent weeks, Droughns was the one RB this year who came out of nowhere to be a solid starter. Headed into the season, all I heard about Rueben was: Crowded backfield, bad team, and only a product of the Denver running game. Denver does have a good system, but maybe its time to give credit to their scout team, because Portis and Droughns have both looked very solid this year without the Denver o-line. Reuben only has 2 td’s this season, but his consistent yardage totals make him the #15 fantasy RB ahead of 1st rounders like Willis Mcgahee and Kevin Jones. He’s quietly on pace for over 1700 total yards and it seems as if his team is fully dedicated to getting him 20+ touches a game. Watch out for Droughns next year who should get many more goal line appearances with an improved Browns team.
#9) Bears D- In a season full of busts at the position the Bears D paid dividends to those who drafted them. Far and away the #1 fantasy unit, the Bears have 5 defensive td’s, 18 int’s, 36 sacks, and are #1 in total yards against as well as total points against. The Bears D will likely be the 1st defense taken in every draft next year.
#8) Lamont Jordan- A late second to early third rounder in most drafts, Jordan was seen as a risky option because he was on a passing team and had never proven he could carry the load for a team in the past. Playing behind a hall of famer for his entire career, what chance did he have? Jordan has excelled as an every week starter currently ranked 6th at his competitive position. He should rush for over 1100 yards and already has 11 total touchdowns. Surprisingly, Jordan leads all running backs with 65 receptions, a stat which cements his first round value.
#7) Tom Brady- Brady has been somewhat of a paradox because up until very recently, people have said that he’s overrated in the NFL, but he’s actually been vastly underrated for the past couple of seasons in fantasy football. Brady is currently ranked #3 at his position and leads the league in passing yards by a fairly sizable margin. That’s pretty good for a guy who wasn’t even one of the first 10 quarterbacks taken in most drafts. Brady’s fantastic season should elevate him to a top 5 QB in most drafts.
#6) Joey Galloway– Does anyone remember Michael Clayton? It’s easy to forget him with the emphatic way that Joey Galloway took over the team’s role as “go to guy.” Galloway was a late round depth pick in most drafts this season because it appeared as though his best days were behind him. Somehow Galloway is on pace for 1300 yards and 10 td’s excelling with two very different quarterbacks. He has just annihilated Randy Moss’s stats this season.
#5) Larry Johnson- I think we might have had it all wrong with LJ this year. Despite dominating the second half of the season last year, Larry Johnson was taken between the 4th and 7th rounds in drafts this year because he was still only a “backup.” Priest Holmes came into the season with considerable health issues, but still had the starting job. Many thought LJ was too risky to take before 20 other RB’s who were guaranteed to start. So Priest Holmes, Ahman Green, Tatum Bell, and Jamal Lewis weren’t risky picks? With limited duty through the first 7 games of the season Larry Johnson is some how on pace to eclipse 1800 total yards and 17 td’s. I think its safe to say that many of the owners who will win their championship have Larry Johnson on their team.
#4) The Giants- Evidently when a team exceeds 6 win expectations to be in first place, many players on the team can exceed fantasy expectations as well. Such is the case for Eli Manning, Tiki Barber, Jeremy Shockey, Plaxico Burress, Jay Feely and the Giants D. Coming in the season, Eli looked like a decent fantasy backup QB, Tiki was drafted in the second round as a nice #2 RB, Shockey went after 5 other tight ends, Burress was drafted as a #3 WR, and Feely and the defense were left on the waivers. 13 games later, here are their current rankings for their position: Eli- #4, Tiki- #5, Shockey- #2, Plax- #12, Feely- #2, Giants D- #3. Clearly each player is benefiting from the team’s success as a whole. Giants’ players will be a hot commodity in drafts next year.
#3) Edgerrin James- I’m putting James on this list because he should have been the #3 pick in drafts, but he went in the middle of the first round because people bit on Peyton, Priest, Mcgahee, or even Culpepper. Edge is the only player to have double digit points in every game this season and I think that is a very important stat because it shows his consistency. Edge already has 1743 total yards and 13 td’s this season and should have a big finish to his season as the Colts go for perfection.
#2) Steve Smith- Despite a late season push by Marvin Harrison, Steve Smith is still the #1 REC and will probably finish that way. A 5th round pick in most drafts, Steve Smith is having the type of season everyone wanted out of Randy Moss with 1329 yards and 10 td’s with 3 left to play. Despite a blanket of coverage Smith continues to pour it on and watch out this week against the Saints.
#1) Carson Palmer– I think Palmer deserves the crown this season because he has found a way to stay atop Peyton Manning in the rankings despite the fact that Peyton is having another stellar season. Unlike Peyton, Palmer wasn’t a top 5 pick, and most people found gold with him in the 7th or 8th round. I think its safe to say that Palmer will be among the fantasy elite for many seasons to come.
Honorable Mentions- Samkon Gado, Thomas Jones, Arizona receivers.