Adam Levitan

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Award Tour

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Now that every team has played at least eight games, it’s time to take some stock of what we’ve seen. So strap on your stilettos, it’s award season.

Here are the picks for fantasy’s best and worst at midseason:

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: It’s safe to say that Jackson is an anomaly more than a trend. If we consistently target 30-year-old running backs that play behind untalented offensive lines, we’ll have poor results. But sometimes, things happen that no one can predict. And what we have now is a guy with a preseason average draft position (ADP) of 72.8 that is the No. 2 fantasy running back.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: A no-brainer. Johnson went in the top-4 of almost all drafts despite his holdout and has proceeded to average 3.0 yards per carry with one total touchdown. If owners are somehow still in the mix, they can grasp onto hope in the form of a plus-schedule. The Titans still have games against the weak run defenses of the Panthers, Bucs, Bills and Colts remaining.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints: Here’s a quote from Graham way back on August 24. "Oh my God, that's all I hear about, man. It seems like everybody I meet on the street, somehow I was some sleeper or something crazy. I have no idea what they're talking about. I have no idea any kind of points system. I've never played (fantasy football) or anything like that." It’s safe to say the secret was out on Graham, but he still came off draft boards behind guys like Dallas Clark, Owen Daniels and Marcedes Lewis. Now Graham is dominating as the No. 1 tight end in fantasy.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: Charles lasted just one full game before tearing his ACL. To show how good he could have been, the Chiefs still rank 10th in the league in rushing at 123.3 yards per game despite riding the likes of Jackie Battle, Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones. Owners should be able to overcome an injury to someone like Kenny Britt due to the depth at wideout. But losing Charles was likely a death blow.

Victor Cruz, WR, Giants: It’s fitting than a guy who went undrafted out of college wasn’t selected in any fantasy leagues either. Now Cruz is locked in as the No. 3 receiver in an explosive pass offense and has often served as the No. 2 receiver due to injuries to Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks. Despite recording no catches in Week 1, Cruz is now fantasy’s No. 12 receiver, ahead of Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White and more.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: We told you to go all-in on Stafford over and over again before the season. Still, his ADP in leagues was 96.7 as the No. 15 quarterback off the board. Predictably, Stafford has been a beast, averaging 272.3 passing yards per game and tossing 19 touchdowns in just eight games. Just like with Michael Vick, injury concerns were overblown here.

Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys: A wildly impressive preseason had Jones’ stock soaring right as the majority of fantasy drafts got underway. Perhaps he isn’t as talented as we thought. Even before the ankle injury, Jones was held to 70 or fewer total yards in four of five games and scored one touchdown. Now he’s looking at a complementary role when he returns. DeMarco Murray has simply outplayed Jones and ran with his chance.

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers: We’ve been drilled to think that rookie quarterbacks will struggle. So despite Newton’s obvious running ability, no one thought he would pass well enough to be a fantasy factor. In fact, we ranked him 16th among rookies for the 2011 season here, behind guys like Titus Young and Jacquizz Rodgers. Big mistake. Newton’s ability to stand in the pocket and deliver accurate, aggressive throws has been stunning.

Aaron Rodgers, Week 4: In a home game against Denver, Rodgers scored more fantasy points in one game than Vernon Davis or Mario Manningham have scored all year. He completed 29-of-38 passes for 408 yards with four touchdowns and added 36 rushing yards and two more scores. It’s part of one of the best first halves we’ve seen in the history of the league. Rodgers is on pace for 5,238 passing yards, 52 total touchdowns and six interceptions.

OK, let’s move on to Tuesday’s news as we get set for Week 10:

It’s been a rough couple weeks for Emmanuel Sanders. Last week he lost his mother and on Monday he underwent a scope to repair meniscus damage in his knee. Sanders will be out 2-3 weeks.

Sanders’ absence does clear up the Steelers’ depth chart at receiver. Antonio Brown will continue to start as a strong WR3 opposite Mike Wallace. And Hines Ward, who has been medically cleared from his concussion-like symptoms, will man the slot. Sanders can be dropped outside of the deepest leagues.

With Dallas Clark (leg) likely done for the year, Jacob Tamme is in line to start. However, there’s no reason to think Tamme will be the savior he was for owners last year. Curtis Painter has crippled this entire offense and the line needs constant help blocking. It would be a shock if Tamme eclipses Clark’s season averages of 3.1 catches for 31.8 yards.

Darren McFadden (foot) is not expected to play Thursday. Michael Bush gets another shot. … Kevin Kolb (toe) is not expected to play this week. John Skelton gets another shot. … Ryan Mathews (groin) remains on track to play Thursday. … Malcom Floyd (hip) is out. Vincent Jackson will take his spot. … Jahvid Best (concussion) has still not been cleared. … Frank Gore (ankle) is expected to be fine for Sunday. … Percy Harvin said his rib pain subsided during the bye week. Perhaps his snap count will now increase. … Kevin Faulk (knee) was close to playing last week. It’s unclear if he or Danny Woodhead will be the passing back Sunday. … Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) is expected to practice Wednesday.

Kevin Smith will start out as a third-stringer behind Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams, as expected. … Knowshon Moreno is expected to stick as the long-term third-down back. He’s not passing Willis McGahee anytime soon. … Dave Rayner is the Bills’ new kicker, in place of Rian Lindell (shoulder)… Roy Helu played on 64-of-67 snaps in Week 9.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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