By Dalton Del Don
Adrian Peterson – While coach Brad Childress continues to stubbornly dole out the carries (Chester Taylor had 22 to Peterson’s 20 Sunday), Peterson continues to shine. Week 6 saw one of the most impressive performances by a running back in recent memory, as Peterson went into Soldier Field and ran for 224 yards (11.2 YPC) and three touchdowns, displaying a rare combination of power, breakaway speed and elusiveness. He leads the NFL in rushing by a wide margin (80 yards) and has to be considered a Top-10 fantasy player at this point.
Tom Brady – After a Week 6 effort that saw him go for 388 passing yards with five touchdown tosses, Brady became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least three touchdown passes in each of the first six games of the season. He’s completed 72.5 percent of his passes this year, getting 8.7 YPA with a remarkable 21:2 TD:INT ratio. His 128.9 QB rating laps the rest of the league, and with New England’s running game taking a backseat, Brady could challenge Peyton Manning’s record-setting 2004 season.
LaDainian Tomlinson – Tomlinson more than doubled his season touchdown total with four rushing scores Sunday, adding 214 combined yards as well. Perhaps more important, the Chargers looked like an elite team for the second straight week, so the franchise appears ready to put the slow start completely behind it. Remember, Tomlinson had “just” three touchdowns through five weeks during his 31-touchdown campaign last year, so he’s accustomed to slow starts. Expect a monster second half to the season for LT.
Braylon Edwards – Edwards is in the perfect situation to put up Top-5 numbers from a fantasy wide receiver this season, as Cleveland has a poor defense, a stagnant running game and a quarterback playing extremely well. He’s second in the NFL in both receiving touchdowns (seven) and yards per catch (19.0). The three scores Sunday were especially impressive, as Edwards was covered well during all occasions yet out-jumped and out-muscled opposing defenders to come away with the ball.
Maurice Jones-Drew – The last two weeks, Jones-Drew has totaled 296 yards, three touchdowns and 9.9 YPC. He’s still receiving fewer carries than fantasy owners would like, but Fred Taylor (groin) is dinged up, and if Jones-Drew keeps exhibiting so much explosiveness, the Jaguars coaching staff will have no choice but to increase his touches. He’s a threat to take it to the house whenever he gets his hands on the ball, is dynamic as a receiver and a beast at the goal line.
Bobby Engram – Seattle’s offensive system is conducive to good numbers from whoever plays the lead receiver position, and right now, that role is Engram’s. The veteran doesn’t have game-breaking speed, but he’s comfortable with the offense having played in Seattle seven seasons. Engram hauled in nine balls for 120 yards Sunday, and with Deion Branch out at least one more game with a sprained foot, should make for a nice play Week 7 against the Rams.
Reggie Bush – The Saints offense finally showed a pulse against the Seahawks Sunday, and Bush was a big beneficiary, totaling 141 yards and breaking off the three longest runs of his career in the process. Bush also has 31 catches through five games, so he’s a fantasy monster in points-per-reception leagues. With Deuce McAllister (knee) gone for the year, it’s clear Bush is the focal point of New Orleans offense, and health is the only thing standing in the way of a huge season.
Derek Anderson – Anderson has thrown multiple touchdowns in four of five games started this season. Because of the Browns' struggles on defense, Anderson is forced to throw frequently, and despite a 54.9 completion percentage, the 8.1 YPA is a reflection of the success the team has had going downfield. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow give him two terrific weapons at his disposal, and Anderson has better mobility than most realize, often eluding the pass rush and running in two scores already this season as well. He’s a borderline Top-10 fantasy quarterback, and with Cleveland legitimately in the playoff hunt, Brady Quinn might not see the field until next year.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh – The Bengals find themselves in a similar situation to the Browns, forced to pass with great frequency because of a poor defense and a stagnant running game. As a result, Houshmandzadeh leads the NFL with 72 targets this season. He hasn’t caught those looks with the same success as years past, but he has been going downfield more, resulting in an average of 101 receiving yards per game, good for third in the league. Moreover, his seven touchdown receptions are tied for second in the league, as he’s looked at far more frequently than teammate Chad Johnson when Cincinnati is in the red zone.
Kevin Faulk – Keep your eye on this situation, as Sammy Morris left Sunday’s game with a chest injury, and Laurence Maroney’s health remains a question. If both were to continue missing time, Faulk would be the starting running back for the league’s most high-powered offense. Despite his diminutive size, Faulk can run between the tackles and is a major threat as a receiver.
DeAngelo Williams – Williams impressed Sunday, taking just 10 carries for 121 rushing yards, including a score. Still, despite his upside, coach John Fox doesn’t figure to change the timeshare at running back anytime soon. It’s likely going to take an injury to DeShaun Foster for Williams to be truly fantasy relevant.
DeShawn Wynn – At a minimum, Wynn looks like Green Bay’s goal-line runner. It was good news to see him lead the team in carries Week 6, but the Packers’ run blocking has been brutal, and he still has Vernand Morency and Brandon Jackson to contend with. Jackson was scratched Sunday, but he’s getting closer to full strength, and the first-round pick is going to be utilized moving forward.
Earnest Graham – Graham was the only Tampa Bay running back to even have a carry Sunday, but he was bottled up for just 2.2 YPC. Maybe even more discouraging, Graham got just 17 yards on six catches. The 2.8 yards per catch highlights an inability to create plays in open space, revealing a pretty average running back. There’s no real competition on Tampa Bay’s roster, and Week 6’s matchup with Tennessee was a difficult one, but Graham is going to have to play better to fully take advantage of this opportunity.
Shaun Alexander – His jersey may say otherwise, but this is not the Alexander we previously knew. Last year’s struggles were largely blamed on the injured foot, but he’s now 30-years-old and has accrued quite a bit of mileage throughout his career. He’s indecisive, slow to hit holes and simply a ghost of his former self running behind an offensive line that is just plain bad. The fact he was only able to muster 2.5 YPC against a leaky Saints defense while at home speaks volumes, as does the Seattle crowd booing him off the field.
Rudi Johnson – Maybe having the most carries of any running back in the league the past three seasons has finally caught up to Johnson, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury. Still, he was healthy enough to suit up Sunday but was again outplayed by Kenny Watson, who is a better pass catcher and more explosive at this point. That Johnson was still slowed coming off the team’s bye is disconcerting, as is the fact the team’s playbook actually expands when Watson is on the field. Even if Johnson can return healthy, the running back situation appears to be a committee in Cincinnati.
Vince Young – Despite showing signs of progress over the second half of last season and into this year’s preseason, Young has really regressed as a passer this year, averaging just 6.2 YPA with a 3:6 TD:INT ratio. He’s also averaged 2.7 fewer yards per carry rushing the ball, so he’s definitely been a disappointment despite the team’s overall success. Additionally, he left Sunday’s contest with a quad injury, and his status for next week is questionable.
Larry Fitzgerald – Fitzgerald has had a fantastic season, but circumstances surrounding him have his fantasy value on the decline. Not only is Matt Leinart out for the season, but Kurt Warner suffered a potentially serious elbow injury as well Sunday, leaving Tim Rattay as the team’s starting quarterback. It’s a huge downgrade for the position, and with the imminent return of Anquan Boldin (hip), Fitzgerald is certain to see a decrease in targets as well.
Ladell Betts – After turning in one of the more surprising 2006 seasons, Betts has really disappointed this year, averaging just 2.8 YPC. Clinton Portis’ ability to stay on the field has hurt, as has the devastating injuries suffered by Washington’s offensive line. Still, with the Redskins a run-first team, it’s surprising Betts has yet to receive double-digit carries in a game since Week 1. As of now, he’s no better than a simple handcuff for Portis owners, though upside remains.
Mark Clayton – Is Mark Clayton the new Michael Clayton? While Michael had a big rookie season, Mark impressed during his sophomore campaign, and big things were expected from him during his third year in the pros; a time when many wide receivers break out. Instead, Clayton has battled injuries and ineffectiveness, barely breaking the century mark in total receiving yards through six games. The Ravens’ passing attack has struggled as a whole, but 33-year-old Derrick Mason has badly outplayed Clayton, who is simply unusable in fantasy leagues.
Chad Pennington – Pennington has a nice matchup against the Bengals this week, but that might mark the last time he’s a viable fantasy option in New York, as the writing is on the wall for the Kellen Clemens era to begin. The last three weeks, Pennington has a 2:6 TD:INT ratio, and the team needs to transition into rebuilding mode. Pennington is a smart quarterback, but his utter lack of arm strength is a big liability at this point.
Santana Moss – Moss had zero catches Sunday, yet might have cost his team the game when he fumbled an end-around that resulted in a defensive touchdown. Despite finally having a capable quarterback at his disposal, persistent leg injuries have really slowed Moss, who has seen his yards after catch decrease from 7.3 in 2005 to 4.4 in 2006 all the way to 3.6 this season.
Article first appeared 10/15/07