By Dalton Del Don
Selvin Young – The best thing for fantasy owners who roster both Denver backs would be for Travis Henry to get suspended Tuesday, because Selvin Young has been the more explosive runner all season. He might lack in short-yardage situations, but Young is a superior receiver and shows excellent burst when hitting the hole. Durability remains a concern with Young, but his 5.3 YPC suggests big numbers could be in store when given the full workload in Denver’s backfield.
Jesse Chatman – The Dolphins’ ground game has hardly skipped a beat with the loss of Ronnie Brown (knee), mainly because of Chatman’s surprisingly effective play. He impressed during the preseason and continues to show a nice combination of power and elusiveness. He’s very active in the passing game and has become the focal point of Miami’s offense. The touchdowns will come, so treat Chatman like a Top-15 fantasy player.
Mark Clayton – Injuries and erratic quarterback play have prevented Clayton from making the leap in his third year as a pro. Still, he appears to finally be rounding into full strength, and he flashed his big-play potential with an 8-catch, 107-yard performance Sunday. The likely eventual switch at quarterback to Kyle Boller should also help his stats, as the Ravens rarely go downfield with Steve McNair at the helm. Clayton could be a difference maker in fantasy leagues.
Chris Henry – After sitting out the season’s first eight games, it didn’t take Henry very long to make an impact, as he hauled in four balls for 99 yards Sunday. Henry has Chad Johnson’s downfield speed, with T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s hands and ability to excel in traffic and the red zone. He might be the most gifted receiver on the team. He by no means comes without risk, and any No. 3 wide receiver is going to struggle with consistency, but Henry should be productive playing for such a pass-happy offense.
Ben Roethlisberger – Roethlisberger is in the midst of having one of the best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. He’s gotten at least 8.2 YPA in five consecutive games, leaving him with an 8.3 YPA mark for the season. He’s on pace to total 41 touchdowns and continues to be a master at moving within the pocket. His 66.1 completion percentage is quite impressive, as was his highlight-reel worthy 30-yard touchdown run Sunday.
Steven Jackson – Jackson’s 3.5 YPC Sunday wasn’t overly impressive -- the Saints’ run defense has been surprisingly effective this season -- but the most important number regarding Jackson this week was his 27 touches. He looked fully healthy, as did the rejuvenated Rams offense, with the offensive line and Marc Bulger playing the best they have all season. If he can avoid further injury, Jackson has the potential to be a Top-5 fantasy back.
Clinton Portis – After looking a step slow for most of the year, Portis has ripped off back-to-back monster efforts, totaling 353 yards the last two weeks. Ladell Betts has been rendered useless, with Portis the team’s clear primary ballcarrier. He’s also becoming more active in the passing game, but beware, Washington’s schedule really toughens, with games in Dallas and in Tampa Bay.
Torry Holt – As mentioned, St. Louis’ entire offense looked much-improved Sunday, as the bye week appeared to really help a once battered unit. Holt has three consecutive games with at least six catches and 82 yards receiving, including 234 in the last two. He appears to be rounding into form after offseason knee surgery slowed him early in the season. Holt is re-emerging as an elite fantasy option.
Marques Colston – Colton’s “sophomore slump” is officially a thing of the past, as the second-year wideout has recorded 26 catches for 373 receiving yards the last three games. The 12.2 yards-per-catch isn’t great, as Colston appears to be better suited as a possession receiver than he does a downfield threat, but in points-per-reception leagues, his value increases. The lack of a viable No. 2 receiver in New Orleans also helps Colton’s stats, which should continue to be impressive in the second half of the season.
Ryan Grant – Grant extended his stay as Green Bay’s primary ballcarrier with an impressive effort Sunday, running for 119 yards against arguably the NFL’s best run defense. He also found paydirt and remains active in the passing game. With the Packers defense playing well, and teams focusing on stopping the resurged Brett Favre, there should be ample opportunity for the Green Bay’s running game to really pick up.
Javon Walker – While there’s no guarantee Walker’s knee doesn’t cause more problems this year – and it sounds like he might need additional surgery during the offseason – all signs point toward an early return to the field, with this Monday as an optimistic possibility. Walker was putting up very good numbers before the injury, and Jay Cutler’s strong arm suits him well, so he might be someone you can get at a discount.
Antonio Gates – Gates has turned in back-to-back disappearing acts, but there’s hardly reason to worry. San Diego scored two special teams touchdowns Sunday and played the league’s best pass defense, so it made sense that Gates' stats were down this week. Philip Rivers’ struggles don’t help, but Gates is still the best fantasy tight end, and there likely won’t be a better time than now to trade for him.
Cedric Benson – It’s doubtful buyers are going to be lining up, but if you can get anything of value for Benson, who is coming off his best game since Week 2, then it’s strongly advised that you do so. Benson has averaged more than 3.8 YPC in exactly one game this season, and he’s received at least 15 carries in every contest but one. On 178 totes, his longest run of the season is 16 yards. He’s caught more than two balls in a game just once and is one of the NFL's slowest and most indecisive starting running backs . Ample opportunity means decent counting stats, but Benson’s 2.6 YPC against one of the worst run defense in the league Sunday reveals a very poor running back.
Kevin Jones – Four carries for minus-four yards? Jones’ health status needs to be monitored after his foot became sore Sunday, but he continues to be a fantasy asset even when the rushing yards are absent. He was targeted nine times in the passing game Sunday, catching eight balls for 36 yards. He also scored for the third time in four games. As long as he’s healthy, Jones is going to produce like a No. 1 running back.
Plaxico Burress – It’s by no means time to panic or jump ship, but three consecutive poor efforts certainly gives legitimate reason for concern. Maybe all the missed practice time is starting to catch up to Burress, who now looks likely to be limited by his ankle injury throughout the season, as even the bye week did little to improve its condition. The last three weeks, he’s averaging a paltry 27.0 receiving yards per game and is rarely being targeted downfield, and he has been held scoreless after reaching the end zone in each of his first six contests this year. He’s still an elite red-zone option, but right now, Burress gets downgraded.
Ronald Curry – After a huge opening to the season, Curry has really struggled lately, due both to a lingering foot injury and abysmal quarterback play. He hasn’t topped 75 receiving yards since Week 1 and is averaging just 30.5 yards the last four games. Maybe JaMarcus Russell can get Curry the ball downfield when he eventually is installed as starter, but the raw rookie figures to struggle early as well, making Curry’s fantasy prospects bleak.
Calvin Johnson – Johnson’s long-term outlook no doubt looks very bright, but he’s essentially been a disappointment during his rookie season. Part of that has to do with a back injury he suffered after getting off to a hot start, as he’s really been limited in the game plan since his return. He hasn’t received more than five targets in a game since Week 2, resulting in three catches or fewer in each of his last six games played. Vast upside remains, but we might not get to see it until next season.
Anquan Boldin – Boldin is now admitting his hip injury might linger all season, and it’s certainly showing up in the stats, as he’s averaged just 31.3 receiving yards per game in the three contests since returning to the lineup. Boldin will likely show improvement as the season moves along, but there’s legitimate cause for concern regarding his health, and Larry Fitzgerald has clearly established himself as the team’s No. 1 receiver as a result.
Adrian Peterson – Maybe his bust in Canton will have to wait after all. Peterson suffered a knee injury Sunday, putting his amazing rookie season on hold. The extent of the injury is unknown at press time, but Peterson’s lack of durability throughout college was part of the reason he slipped during the NFL Draft. Fantasy owners will have trouble sleeping until that MRI comes back clean.
Todd Heap – Heap returned to action Sunday for the first time since Week 4 only to aggravate his hamstring injury. Playing for a team that struggles to pass the ball, a healthy Heap had been surpassed by better fantasy options at tight end this year anyway. A Heap hampered by a nagging hamstring injury means fantasy owners need to look elsewhere.
Donald Driver – Playing for a pass-happy team with an on-point Brett Favre is a good thing, but Driver has taken a back seat to Greg Jennings and has to share looks with James Jones, Koren Robinson, Donald Lee, et al, this season. He’s seen his targets decrease from earlier this season and hasn’t scored since Week 3. He still has fantasy value, but the 32-year-old appears to have a lost a step and is no longer an elite option.
Kevin Curtis – The Eagles passing attack hasn’t been great to begin with, and now Curtis is sharing more and more looks with Reggie Brown and the recently healthy L.J. Smith. Curtis is still on pace for a fine season, but if you remove Week 3’s aberration, he’s left with 432 yards. Brian Westbrook is the clear focal point of Philadelphia’s offense, leaving Curtis as a reliable yet unexciting option.
Article first appeared 11/12/07