Monday, November 30, 2009

Week 12 Column: Another wacky fantasy season? Not so much

I hear a lot of talk about how crazy the 2009 fantasy season has been. But then again, I hear that every year.

It’s understandable, even if it’s not true. A quick glance at the Week 12 statistical leaders would seem to confirm the topsy-turvy nature of the season. After all, who could’ve predicted just three weeks ago that this weekend’s top rushing performers would include Justin Forsett, Ricky Williams, Larry Johnson, Jamaal Charles and Fred Jackson?

But as unexpected as these results were, they don’t alter the reality that this has been one of the most predictable fantasy seasons in recent memory.

A dozen weeks in, only Brett Favre qualifies as a moderate surprise among the Top 10 fantasy passers. We expected to see Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and a healthy Matt Schaub at the top of the rankings, didn’t we?

The top three running backs to date are, in order, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Adrian Peterson. No huge shock there, though few predicted Johnson would be the odds-on favorite for Fantasy Player of the Year honors. DeAngelo Williams, Steven Jackson and Michael Turner were all pegged as Top 10 RBs, and there they sit. Ray Rice has been a pleasant surprise, but Ricky Williams needed an injury to vault into the elite ranks. Only Matt Forte stands out as an unmitigated bust.

Even among wide receivers, where volatility is the perennial norm, very few true aberrations can be found. Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and Roddy White have all lived up to their draft-day billing. Sure, Miles Austin and Sidney Rice qualify as bombshells, the Steve Smiths swapped positions, and we expected more from Greg Jennings and Calvin Johnson. But again, these variances are hardly Earth-shattering.

Granted, I was the last guy who’d have projected Vernon Davis to sit atop the tight end charts, but Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez are right where we thought they’d be, and Owen Daniels would have been if not for an injury.

So, unless your top three draft choices were Forte, Calvin Johnson and Carolina’s Smith, you probably can’t blame your disappointing record on a seemingly unpredictable series of flukes.

Try blaming bin Laden instead.


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at two players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch 'em while you can

Jerious Norwood, RB, Falcons. If Michael Turner’s aggravated ankle sprain forces him back to the sidelines, the speedy Norwood (above) will most likely start in his place. He is fully recovered from his hip injury – as evidenced by his 22-yard scoring scamper Sunday – which makes Jason Snelling expendable. Norwood is a strong runner and capable receiver, so he could come in handy down the stretch.

Jason Avant, WR, Eagles. Now that DeSean Jackson has joined the growing list of concussed players, Avant should get a start or two in the Eagles’ pass-happy offense. He’s produced well over the past three games as Philly’s third wideout (17 receptions for 276 yards and 1 TD), so consider him a decent proxy while Jackson recuperates.

Don’t be fooled

Vince Young, QB, Titans. Hats off to the inevitable Comeback Player of the Year, who just won his fifth consecutive start and passed for a career-best 387 yards. Unfortunately, he couldn’t shake his unexceptional pattern of completing no more than a single TD pass per game. That’s a trend Young is unlikely to reverse, which makes him an unfit addition to your roster.

Larry Johnson, RB, Bengals. His first 100-yard game of the season will undoubtedly be his last, as Cedric Benson has already been named the Bengals' Week 13 starter. Rookie Bernard Scott remains in the mix as well, so don’t expect many more LJ sightings unless Benson is injured again.

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