Four weeks into the 2010 NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs are the only undefeated team still standing, with an assist from this week’s bye. No disrespect, but who would be shocked if Don Shula and his ’72 Dolphins have already popped the champagne?
Meanwhile, in Fantasyland – where this columnist resides – Kyle Orton has out-performed Drew Brees, Matt Schaub and Tony Romo, and Michael Vick’s injury is cause for mourning.
Chris Johnson has almost fallen out of the Top 10 ranks among running backs, which now features a former practice squad player (Arian Foster), a presumed draft bust (Darren McFadden), a rookie on a winless team (Jahvid Best) and a 7th-round draft pick and Denver castoff (Peyton Hillis).
Among wideouts, the players to own thus far include Brandon Lloyd, Mark Clayton, Kevin Walter and, of course, the incomparable…Austin Collie.
Can you imagine the ridicule you would have endured had you drafted a roster comprised of such newcomers, no-names and has-beens?
To be sure, just as Maurice Jones-Drew showed that it’s too early to give up on slow-starting fantasy studs, there’s plenty of time for the shooting stars to fall back to Earth. Just ask your neighborhood Jay Cutler owner how quickly your fantasy fortunes can change.
All of which is to say that a losing record at this point of the season, though undesirable, is not irreversible. Bye weeks, an unrelenting parade of injuries and the temperamental fantasy gods are sure to wreak havoc on your high-flying competitors at some point.
Keep tweaking your roster, concentrate on making wise starting lineup decisions and, if all else fails, cross your fingers. As we’ve seen already, anything can happen in today’s NFL.
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, you need to start with a good draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents can also make a big difference. Here’s a look at a few players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else’s line-up.
Catch ‘em while you can
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams – It’s hard not to be impressed by what this rookie is doing in, and for, St. Louis. He’s tossed a touchdown or two in every game, and aside from a three-interception debacle in his debut, he’s kept the turnovers to a minimum. With a favorable schedule ahead, owners with bye-week or injury issues could do worse than Bradford, especially with the Lions on tap next.
Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins – He looked great on his 12-yard scoring rumble, and finished with 70 rushing yards on the day. With Clinton Portis adding a groin injury to his wrist problems, Torain should stay busy for at least another week, and possibly much longer.
Michael Bush, RB, Raiders – If Darren McFadden’s hamstring injury forces him out of action, Bush can be a decent proxy in his absence. Oakland is actually moving the ball this season, and Bush is a battering ram at the goal-line.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, Broncos – I had reservations about him earlier this season, but Lloyd has consistently been one of Kyle Orton’s favorite targets. And this year, that’s a very good thing. Despite his status as a Top 10 wideout after four weeks, Lloyd is still available in more than a third of fantasy leagues. (For that matter, Orton is still available in many leagues, too!)
Don’t be fooled
Kevin Kolb, QB, Eagles – It’s too early to project when Michael Vick will return from his rib cartilage injury, but it’s not too soon to know that Kolb will yield the job back the minute Vick is ready. Kolb has been unimpressive in limited playing time this season, so despite the weapons at his disposal, he can’t be counted on in the interim.
Laurence Maroney, RB, Broncos – Even if Knowshon Moreno doesn’t return as expected in Week 5, Maroney’s performance since being traded to Denver – capped by Sunday’s five-yard rushing effort against the Titans – confirms his expendability, especially with Baltimore up next.
Derrick Ward, RB, Texans – The box score shows 80 rushing yards and a touchdown. Look closer and you’ll see that the bulk of his damage was done while Arian Foster was being disciplined for missing a team meeting. Ward may not even be the best handcuff to Foster, as Steve Slaton remains above him on the depth chart.