Chris Wesseling

The Morning After

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That's a Wrap

Monday, January 03, 2011


Not convinced we take anything of value away from the NFL's regular season-finale with important players resting and scrubeenies posting career games? Consider two of last year's Week 17 breakout brigade. An afterthought all season in 2009, Brandon Lloyd posted 95 yards on 13 targets in a Week 17 game against the Chiefs. He went on to finish as the top fantasy receiver in 2010. Arian Foster, on the practice squad just a month before, gashed the Patriots for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the finale. As we all know, he went on to emerge as the 2010 season's breakout star. Let's take a look at this year's Week 17 wonders:

Joe McKnight, Jets - What can we say? The planets were aligned in Week 17. Jets coaches promised that the "Vomit Comet" (head-nod to @RumfordJohnny for the excellent nickname) would play "a ton" with LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene being rested for the playoffs. Better yet, McKnight's first start came against the league's worst run defense. He responded with the first 100-yard performance by a Jets back since Week 4 while also rushing for the most yards by a Jets rookie since Matt Snell's 180 back in 1964.

Jerome Simpson, Bengals - Fantasy's top receiver over the final two weeks, Simpson showed that his 6/124/2 play-making performance in Week 16 was no fluke. For an encore, he proved his mettle as a move-the-chains receiver, hauling in 12 catches for 123 yards and the Bengals' lone score. Thought to be a second-round bust just three weeks ago, Simpson has earned a starting job for 2011.

Ryan Mathews, Chargers - If only he had stayed healthy all season. With Mike Tolbert sidelined, Mathews churned out 120 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. The rookie showed his home-run ability with scores of 27 and 31 yards while also proving he could handle a heavy workload. With Tolbert and Darren Sproles due to hit free agency in 2011, Mathews is line for a major role next season.

Tim Tebow, Broncos - Opinions may still be divided on Tebow's NFL future, but there's no question that he has demonstrated the potential to emerge as a fantasy monster oin Denver. Tebow's 33.7 points were 8.7 more than the second-best fantasy quarterback's Week 17 total, and he's averaged 28.8 points in his first three NFL starts. For perspective, only Michael Vick averaged more per week over the course of the season.

Michael Bush, Raiders - Behind Bush's 171 yards and a touchdown on 29 touches, the Raiders became the first team since the 1970 merger to sweep their division and still miss the playoffs. It's another important game-tape for Bush's portfolio as he heads into free agent waters this offseason.

Brian Westbrook, 49ers - Behind 93 yards and two TDs on 14 touches, Westbrook enjoyed the fourth-best game of any running back in Week 17. The 31-year-old also became the only active player with 40 rushing touchdowns and 30 receiving touchdowns.

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Fantasy MVP of 2010: Michael Vick, Eagles - Without making a judgment call on Week 17 Super Bowls, it is worth noting that the great majority of all leagues still use Week 16 as the championship bout. If yours is one of the leagues that uses the regular-season finale, see the player below for your most valuable player. For the rest of the fantasy world, a player that went undrafted in 99 percent of redraft leagues walked away as the trophy holder with an average of 33.9 fantasy points from Weeks 13-16. Vick finished with 29.7 points per week on the season, almost a full touchdown more than Aaron Rodgers' second-place of 24.5.

Fantasy Breakout Player of 2010: Arian Foster, Texans - It was widely reported Sunday evening that Foster's 1,616 rushing yards broke Priest Holmes' (1,615 yards) record for the most ever by an undrafted player, going back to the advent of the common draft in 1967. That wasn't even Foster's most impressive accomplishment, however. He also joined Holmes (1,615 / 672 in 2002) and LaDainian Tomlinson (1,645 / 725 in 2003) as the only three players in NFL history to top 1,600 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards in the same season. Darren McFadden (17.4 in 13 games) was the only back to come within 4.5 of Foster's 20.1 fantasy points per week. His 329.8 fantasy points lapped the field with Peyton Hillis and Adrian Peterson both falling more than 80 yards shy.

Fantasy Rookie of 2010: Mike Williams, Buccaneers - Williams (964 receiving yards) and LeGarrette Blount (1,007 rushing yards) became the first rookie teammates to lead all NFL rookies in their respective categories since Pat Harder (545 rushing yards) and Mal Kutner (634 receiving yards) of the Chicago Cardinals in 1946. Williams' 11 receiving TDs are the third-most by a rookie since the 1970 NFL merger. He finished as the No. 11 fantasy receiver with 161.5 points, bypassing Marques Colston (151.8) and Michael Clayton (161.3) for the second-best fantasy season by a rookie receiver in the past decade. Anquan Boldin's 101/1,377/8 line remains the top rookie season since Randy Moss' 69/1,313/17 line in 1998. Speaking of which . . .

Fantasy Disappointment of 2010: Randy Moss, Patriots / Vikings / Titans - The summer was filled with stories praising Moss for his grueling offseason regimen heading into his contract year. Dreams of 20+ touchdowns danced in fantasy owners' heads as he went off the board with an ADP of 1.09. Perhaps he could have at least sniffed those lofty expectations had he kept his mouth shut and enjoyed his stay in New England. As it was, though, his season nosedived after three TDs in his first three games. Not long after ranting his way out of Minnesota and landing Tennessee, Moss was discarded from fantasy rosters. He closed out the season as the No. 65 fantasy receiver with a 28/393/5 line.

Fantasy Fraud of 2010: Shonn Greene, Jets - The Jets' presumed backfield star, Greene went off draft boards as high as the late first round last summer. It wasn't just that LaDainian Tomlinson beat out Greene for the starting job. It was also that Greene stayed healthy all year and still never once reached valid RB2 status in standard leagues. In essence, he was a roster albatross for 17 weeks.

Fantasy Fluke of 2010: Brandon Lloyd, Broncos - It's not that Lloyd isn't talented. No player in the NFL makes more spectacular catches. Lloyd's leaping ability and body control are off the charts. At age 29, though, his 77/1,448/11 line doubled his previous best season. The perfect storm that created Lloyd's career-year won't resurface in 2011. It will likely be Tim Tebow, not Kyle Orton, throwing to him next season, and the passing attempts will plummet from Orton's record pace early in 2010.


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
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