Fantasy scores were down virtually across-the-board this weekend, thanks in part to the onset of the dreaded bye weeks. But a quick glance at some of Sunday’s top performers also sheds light on the statistical downturn.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis out-scored his quarterback. Darren McFadden played second fiddle to Darrius Heyward-Bey. Brandon Lloyd racked up a measly 20 receiving yards which, remarkably, was 24 more than his counterpart, Eric Decker.
Matt Cassel connected on four touchdown passes, for crying out loud.
Meanwhile, very few of us own such wideouts as Doug Baldwin, Victor Cruz, James Jones, Steve Breaston or Jason Hill; so starting them was out of the question. In fact, that would have made about as much sense as Hank Williams, Jr., debating metaphysics with Stephen Hawking. Or a 12-year-old, for that matter.
Week 5 served as a reminder that every lineup position can make a difference in a tight contest. I certainly wouldn’t have bet that DeAngelo Williams would provide the winning margin in one of my leagues, and the margin of defeat in another. Countless players were burned when Rashard Mendenhall was declared active, then stood on the sidelines the entire game.
Consider this just the latest example of the often random nature of the fantasy gods. They’ll smile on you one week, then kick you in the hammy the next.
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
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 players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.
Catch ‘em while you can
Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos. Forget what you saw of his mediocre passing on Sunday and recall his impressive play of late 2010. Heading into the Broncos’ bye week, Tebow could very well emerge as the team’s starter over the uninspiring Kyle Orton. If nothing else, you know the young gun will score as a rusher; something he’s done in every game in which he’s seen meaningful action.
Jackie Battle, RB, Chiefs. Consider this the most unenthusiastic recommendation possible. Battle emerged Sunday from the morass that is the Kansas City backfield with 140 combined yards. But consider that the fifth-year player nearly doubled his career production in the process. Any starting tailback merits a fantasy roster spot, but Battle is an unlikely hero. And he’s heading into a bye.
Delone Carter, RB, Colts. We expected the rookie to compete for a starting role by midseason, and he could get the nod earlier now that Joseph Addai has suffered a hamstring injury. If Addai misses multiple weeks, Carter will be a decent flex play. But he’ll still split carries with Donald Brown, who is viewed as the better option on passing downs.
David Nelson, WR, Bills. He and Donald Jones have essentially split the No. 2-wideout duties in Buffalo since Roscoe Parrish was lost for the season. Now that Jones has been sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury, Nelson has a chance to distinguish himself opposite Stevie Johnson. But Ryan Fitzpatrick will need to get his mojo back first.
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals. With touchdowns in three of the first five games, Gresham won’t be flying under the radar much longer. Still available in the majority of leagues, the second-year player is developing a special rapport with Andy Dalton. Only A.J. Green has been targeted more.
Don’t be fooled
Alex Smith, QB, 49ers. Every season, Smith has a stretch of games that raises the eyebrows of fantasy owners. Some even take the step of adding him to their rosters, either out of desperation or a hunch that he might finally be on the verge of fulfilling his lofty expectations. And then, he turns into Alex Smith again. In an era when 300-yard passing games have become the norm, Smith has posted two since the 49ers made him the top draft pick of 2005. Sunday was just the sixth three-touchdown game of his career.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders. It was fitting that Heyward-Bey had one of his finest performances in the game following Al Davis’ death. After all, Davis surprised everyone by using the seventh overall pick in 2009 on the speedy wideout with the butter-fingered reputation. Don’t let nostalgia fool you into investing in the underachiever.
Devery Henderson, WR, Saints. Now that Marques Colston and Lance Moore are healthy, the consistently unreliable Henderson has disappeared on cue. With one 11-yard reception (on two targets) over the past two weeks, it’s time to give him the heave-ho.