By Dalton Del Don
Adrian Peterson – Facing one of the league’s better run defenses, Peterson set an NFL record with 296 rushing yards Sunday. He’s lost three fumbles this season and still needs to work on his pass blocking, but Peterson looks like the NFL’s best running back. Few, if any, backs can match his speed and strength, as he’s virtually impossible to tackle in the open field. At this point, there isn’t a more valuable running back in fantasy leagues, and Peterson deserves to be in MVP conversations.
Drew Brees – Most considered Brees back after a three-game stretch that saw him post an 8:1 TD:INT ratio. However, those all came against below-average defenses, but Sunday’s performance (445 passing yards, three TDs) came against a very good Jaguars secondary. The last four games, Brees has averaged 7.9 YPA with an 11:1 TD:INT ratio. He’s also completed 71.5 percent of his passes in that span, as the team has focused on the passing game. He’s officially back among the elite fantasy options at quarterback.
Justin Fargas – Whether it’s due to a back injury or ineffectiveness, LaMont Jordan has taken a back seat to Fargas as the Raiders’ primary ballcarrier. In fact, coach Lane Kiffin named Fargas the team’s starter until further notice. Fargas doesn’t have great vision, but his combination of size and speed has produced a solid 5.4 YPC mark this season, which included a goal-line score Sunday. The one area Oakland has excelled this year is run blocking, so Fargas belongs on every fantasy roster.
Priest Holmes – Holmes has hardly impressed during his limited time back on the field; in fact, he looks every bit the 34-year-old running back that he is. However, Larry Johnson’s recent ankle injury means Holmes could take the majority of touches in Kansas City’s backfield for the foreseeable future, placing him firmly back on the fantasy radar. The Chiefs offense is no longer potent, and Holmes is no longer explosive, but the opportunity is there for decent numbers.
Greg Jennings – Jennings burst onto the scene last year as a rookie. Then, an ankle injury essentially ruined the rest of his season, and he was largely unimpressive throughout the preseason this year. However, he’s fast emerging as a legitimate fantasy option, as his deep speed gives him more upside than teammate Donald Driver. Brett Favre is having a major resurgence, showing terrific touch on his deep ball, and Jennings has been the beneficiary.
Ron Dayne – The Texans’ backfield situation remains murky at best, but Ahman Green’s knee injury might limit him the rest of the season, leaving an opportunity for someone to take the starting job. Adimchinobi Echemandu has upside, but Dayne ran well Sunday, albeit against one of the worst run defenses in the league. Still, if he’s the only healthy back on the roster, expect him to continue being heavily involved in the offense, despite his plodding ways.
D.J. Hackett – Hackett has largely been forgotten after suffering a high ankle sprain Week 1. But with Seattle’s running game virtually non-existent, the team might start throwing with greater frequency (teammate Bobby Engram received an incredible 20 targets Sunday). Hackett will have to share looks with Deion Branch, who's expected to return next week from injury, but he’s a red-zone favorite of Matt Hasselbeck and could emerge as a viable fantasy option.
Maurice Morris – There’s no other way to put it: Shaun Alexander is done. Alexander is scheduled for X-rays on his knee after getting injured Sunday, but either way, he could start seeing the field less and less as the season progresses. Morris, meanwhile, totaled 98 yards on just 11 touches this week and despite being unimpressive during his time as the team’s starter last year, looks like an upgrade at running back. If forced to choose between Alexander and Morris in a fantasy league right now, we’d rather own Morris.
Tony Gonzalez – It’s clear that receivers age better than running backs in the National Football League. Gonzalez is approaching 32, yet is in the midst of one of his best seasons. Halfway through the year, Gonzalez is on pace for 104 catches, 1,230 yards and eight touchdowns.
Chris Henry – Henry is due back from his league-mandated suspension this week, and he might find himself thrust immediately into the starting lineup with Chad Johnson (neck) injured. Remember, Henry had nine touchdowns last season in just 13 games as the team’s third wide receiver, so there’s major potential here. Cincinnati is struggling to run and has a terrible defense, which is a recipe for success for the passing game. If Johnson’s injury proves serious, Henry has the upside of being a Top-10 fantasy wide receiver.
Lee Evans – Don’t look now, but Evans has posted three consecutive nice games, including a nine-catch, 165-yard performance Sunday. It seems that if J.P. Losman remains under center, Evans’ value increases. For whatever reason, he’s posted better statistics during the second half of seasons throughout his career, and this year looks to be no different. He’s simply one of the most explosive receivers in the league.
Jamal Lewis – What an odd statistical day it was for Lewis this week, as he ran for just 37 yards on 20 carriers (1.9 YPC) yet scored four touchdowns. There’s nothing not to like about the four TDs, and he did contribute 67 receiving yards as well, but Lewis has had 3.7 YPC or fewer in all but one game this season. His longest run Sunday went for five yards. Being a product of the potent Cleveland passing attack could lead to similar days in the future, but it might not be a bad idea trying to shop him with the four-TD game fresh in mind.
Warrick Dunn – Dunn played well Sunday, but it came against a struggling 49ers defense and was more aberration than a harbinger. Before Sunday’s outburst, Dunn hadn’t had even 30 rushing yards in a game since Week 4, with 62 rushing yards his previous season high. Jerious Norwood’s inability to stay healthy could prolong Dunn’s stay as Atlanta’s primary ballcarrier, but little should be expected of him.
Ryan Grant – Grant again took the bulk of the work in Green Bay’s backfield Sunday, but he left the game with a possible concussion, leaving his status for Week 10 uncertain. The Packers' running game appears to be a committee for the foreseeable future.
Steve Smith – Smith totaled just five catches for 33 yards in his last two games. He’s faced two of the league’s best secondaries during that time, but the real problem is quarterback play, most notably David Carr’s inability and utter unwillingness to go downfield. Smith isn’t going to lose all fantasy value – he’s the type of player who can take a short screen pass all the way to the house and has exemplary playmaking ability – but as long as Carr remains under center, Smith is not an elite fantasy option.
Donovan McNabb – McNabb hasn’t looked as bad as Daunte Culpepper while trying to come back from injury – after all, his knee injury was less severe – but the comparison is apt, as McNabb’s inability to move within (and outside) the pocket has really hurt his accuracy this season. He’s posted some nice yardage totals but thrown for multiple touchdowns in a game just once this season. If you remove Week 3’s anomaly from the equation, McNabb has had a paltry 6.3 YPA this year and barely resembles last year’s version, when he was an MVP candidate before suffering the season-ending knee injury.
Frank Gore – As if playing on one of the league’s worst offenses wasn’t bad enough, Gore is dealing with an ankle injury that forced him to sit out Sunday’s game. As tough as they come, Gore must really be hurting for him to be sidelined, and it was clearly affecting his game when he did gut it out and play. Hopefully the week off helps him get closer to full strength, but Gore has yet to reach the century mark rushing this season after doing so nine times last year.
Ronald Curry – After a strong start to the season, Curry’s stats have really been limited lately, due both to a foot injury and terrible quarterback play. Josh McCown wasn’t much of an upgrade over Daunte Culpepper on Sunday, and soon enough he might have the raw rookie JaMarcus Russell under center, which could only be viewed as even worse than his less-than-ideal current situation.
Travis Henry – The entire Denver team is a complete mess. The defense is awful, and the offense lost Jay Cutler to a potentially serious leg injury. The Broncos are no longer an elite run blocking unit, and Henry has shown an inability to make plays on his own. His 4.5 YPC for the season is a solid number, but his one touchdown is unacceptable, and he’s seemingly always banged up. Add the likely suspension coming up, and Henry’s fantasy value takes a hit.
Rudi Johnson – After practicing all week, Johnson returned to the lineup Sunday. Unfortunately, it looked like he was running in quick sand, gaining just 11 yards on nine carries. Entering 2007, Johnson had more carries the last three seasons than any NFL back. All of that mileage appears to be catching up to his body. Kenny Watson clearly has more burst and is a vastly superior option in the passing game, something increasingly important to a team with such a poor defense like the Bengals.
Larry Johnson – Has the curse of the 370 carries caught yet another victim? History shows running backs decline greatly in seasons following a year in which they received 370-plus carries, and Johnson set the NFL-record with 416 totes in 2006. Johnson was coming on, but a poor offense had held him back all year, as he averages just 3.5 YPC this season. The seriousness of the ankle injury he suffered Sunday is unclear, but it certainly didn’t look good when it happened.
Edgerrin James – James started fine this season and remains a decent fantasy option due to opportunity, but his play is clearly in decline. He hasn’t had more than 3.7 YPC since Week 3, including a 1.7 YPC effort Sunday. The touchdowns are nice, but he doesn’t have a single catch in any of his last three games and has just seven this year.
Article first appeared 11/5/07