In last week's Fantasy Fodder, I highlighted the five most pleasant surprises of the 2010 fantasy season. This week, I'll look at the season's biggest busts. Thanks for screwing over our teams, guys!
1. The old gunslinger: When Brett Favre did his usual preseason unretirement, fantasy owners expected a lot from the veteran. After all, Favre had one the best statistical seasons of his career in 2009. But based on ESPN's stats, Favre is the 28th-ranked QB in fantasy. He has thrown 10 interceptions and lost four fumbles, and he no longer looks like the "old gunslinger." He just looks old.
2. The can't-miss rookie: Ryan Mathews was a first-round pick on the draft boards of many owners, but the Chargers rookie has put up just one double-digit fantasy performance to date. Mike Tolbert is getting more carries, especially where it really counts: at the goal line.
3. Beanie baby: Beanie Wells was expected to have a big season as the Cardinals shifted to a run-based attack post-Kurt Warner. He was injured at the start of the season, but he is averaging 3.5 yards per carry since his return. More telling: He is still waiting to get his first NFL start.
4. Speaking of Kurt Warner: Larry Fitzgerald is having a rough season without his quarterback -- heck, he would take Jake Plummer right now -- and is ESPN's 40th-ranked wideout. It's not Fitzgerald's fault, but that doesn't matter to frustrated fantasy owners.
5. Your problem, not mine: I've never been a fan of Mike Sims-Walker, but many owners and experts thought he was poised for a breakout season. He had one big week and a couple of decent ones, but he really hurt owners with a pair of goose eggs and a slightly-better one-point effort.
6. A local product: Heading into the season, we knew Morgan State grad Visanthe Shiancoe would be a boom-or-bust player. We just didn't think there would be this much bust. Shiancoe has scored one touchdown, and has caught just five passes in his last four games. I blame Favre.
You can count on a few of these guys being on my all-bust team at season's end, that's for sure.
Carson Palmer (412 passing yards, three touchdowns), Darren McFadden (165 rushing yards, four total TDs), Kenny Britt (225 receiving yards, three scores), Todd Heap (59 receiving yards, two TDs)
Jay Cutler (four interceptions), Rashard Mendenhall (37 rushing yards), Roy Williams (zero catches), Brent Celek (two catches, eight yards)
Start 'em or sit 'em:
Jon Kitna, Cowboys. Start 'em. I don't like him long-term, but he's going up against the Jaguars secondary this weekend -- always beneficial to fantasy quarterbacks.
Vince Young, Titans. Sit 'em. He might be healthy enough to play for the Titans on Sunday, but you should keep him on your bench either way.
Thomas Jones and Jamal Charles, Chiefs. Start 'em. If you have one of these guys, make sure you play him. If you have the whole committee, I wouldn't be against starting both.
Cedric Benson, Bengals. Sit 'em. Running on the Dolphins is no easy task.
James Jones, Packers. Start 'em. With Donald Driver banged-up and Greg Jennings likely to be stranded on Revis Island, Jones could have a big game against the Jets.
If someone in your league has quit on Kyle Orton, scoop him up. ... Ride Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lee Evans and Steve Johnson while they are hot, and were they ever Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. ... Johnny Knox is heating up, posting double-digit points in consecutive weeks. ... Young quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Chad Henne have been putting up solid numbers if you need a backup QB. ... Davone Bess continues to impress. ... If Joseph Addai remains sidelined, Donald Brown is worth a look, assuming he isn't sidelined. ... LeGarrette Blount is on the verge of becoming the Buccaneers' lead back. ... Seattle's Mike Williams is now starting-caliber. ... I'll say his name once again: Owen Daniels.
Tony Romo is out 6-8 weeks after fracturing his collarbone. The value of Miles Austin, Roy Williams and Dez Bryant takes a dip. It could raise the value of Jason Witten and Felix Jones, though. ... Brett Favre has a fractured ankle, but if you've been playing him in recent weeks, you probably think he can't play any worse. ... Antonio Gates (toe) might not be himself for a while, but he's still a must-start. Meanwhile, Malcom Floyd (hammy) could sit again. ... Reggie Bush (leg) could return Sunday. ... Count on Steven Jackson (finger) playing. ... Matthew Stafford (shoulder) should start. I like him a lot in the second half, assuming he stays healthy. ... DeAngelo Williams (foot) is questionable, which is significant if you have been patient with Jonathan Stewart. ... The status of DeSean Jackson (concussion) is unclear.
You make the call:
Which player would you rather have going forward this season: Anquan Boldin or Kenny Britt?
Reader question of the week:
After Chris in Hawaii touted Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong, BigPhilMD asked, "That's now two unsolicited opinions on Anthony Armstrong. What are your thoughts on him?"
I wrote at the time, "I'm not going to tell you to not pick him up for your bench just in case he breaks out. But I wouldn't feel comfortable giving him a starting spot. I need to see more." In Sunday's game, Armstrong had two catches for 42 yards, and I'm sticking to my guns on this one. Armstrong is the third option behind Santana Moss and Chris Cooley in the Redskins' passing game, and has scored more than five fantasy points (in non-PPR leagues) just once -- fringe production for a No. 3 fantasy receiver. Barring injury, that won't change. Armstrong should have a couple of big weeks; good luck guessing when. But if Moss goes down and Armstrong is sitting on your bench, he will be pretty valuable.
It looks like fantasy running backs are making a comeback. A year ago, studly fantasy wide receivers were matching the value of most first-round running backs. But so far in 2010, five of the top six fantasy scorers among non-quarterbacks were running backs (with Roddy White being the exception). Nine out of the top 12 are running backs. The reason? A handful of teams are sticking with a one-back approach, such as the Vikings, the Titans, the Vikings and the Eagles.
My weekly Fantasy Fodder column will run in some fashion on the Virtual Vensanity blog every Wednesday. E-mail your fantasy questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, Tweet them to twitter.com/mattvensel or leave them in the comments section below. Carrier pigeons are also acceptable.