By Dalton Del Don
Terrell Owens – You don’t need us to tell you Owens is having a terrific fantasy season, but it’s worth reiterating just how good he’s been lately. Owens has 31 catches for 575 yards and eight touchdowns in his last four games. His 17.7 yards per catch is a career-best, and he’s on pace for 1,645 yards and 19 touchdowns, which would obliterate his previous career highs. He’s having the best season of his career at age 33.
Randy Moss – The NFL record for most receiving touchdowns in a season is 22. Moss is on pace to haul in 26 scores this year. Through 10 weeks Moss already has more receiving yards than he’s had in any season since 2003. New England has a good defense, but the offense only runs the ball in jest and seemingly never lets up even in blowouts, a recipe for continued success from Moss. He’s easily a Top-5 fantasy player.
Willis McGahee – Largely a disappointment since coming out of college, McGahee is in the midst of his best season as a pro, despite playing behind a woeful passing offense. He’s already set career highs in receptions (31), receiving yards (199) and YPC (4.3). After failing to get a rushing touchdown in any of the season’s first five games, he’s now hit paydirt in five consecutive contests, making him one of the most reliable fantasy backs in a league filled with running back by committees.
Chester Taylor – The Raiders’ leaky run defense can make any back look good, but Taylor destroyed it for 202 total yards and three scores Sunday. While the world was clamoring for Adrian Peterson to get more playing time – and rightfully so – Taylor was quietly having a fine season himself. Running behind one of the better offensive lines in football, Taylor averages a remarkable 5.6 YPC this season and will be a more-than-adequate fantasy starter as long as Peterson is shelved with his knee injury.
Maurice Morris – Seattle has successfully shifted its offensive philosophy to pass-heavy, but Morris ran well Sunday, averaging 4.8 YPC while again replacing Shaun Alexander in the starting lineup. Alexander has been ineffective even when healthy this season, and now he’s dealing with wrist, ankle and knee issues, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be back anytime soon.
Ron Dayne – Dayne’s running style can most aptly be described as plodding, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have fantasy value. Ahman Green’s knee injury figures to limit him the rest of the season, and Adimchinobi Echemandu fumbled on his only carry Sunday, so Dayne might be the featured back for the season’s final six games. In the last two weeks, Dayne has totaled 237 yards and a touchdown. With defenses forced to focus on a finally healthy Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson deadly combo, Dayne could find running room.
Kenny Watson – When it comes to veteran running backs, coaches are often loyal to a fault, but Cincinnati’s changing of the guard at running back is becoming unavoidable. Never an explosive runner to begin with, Rudi Johnson is getting a microscopic 2.6 YPC with zero rushing touchdowns this season. Watson nearly doubled his touches Sunday (17 to 9) and is by far the superior pass catcher. In fantasy leagues, Watson is the more valuable commodity.
Matt Schaub – Sent to many waiver wires after a couple of poor games and injured, Schaub could be a fantasy force down the stretch. Healthy after a bye week gave him sufficient time to heal, Schaub’s peripherals reveal a much better quarterback than his current 7:7 TD:INT ratio indicates. He’s completed 67.3 percent of his passes and gotten a remarkable 7.9 YPA in 2007. Expect the touchdowns to start coming in bunches, especially with a healthy Andre Johnson back as a target.
Andre Johnson – Forced into a possession-receiver role last season thanks to David Carrr's dreadful quarterbacking, Johnson looks like one of the NFL’s best wide receivers this season. In three games played, he’s gained at least 120 receiving yards in each, while hauling in four scores. While he might not truly be 100 percent until next year, Johnson, who missed seven games, should be treated like a Top-5 fantasy wide receiver.
Reuben Droughns – The severity of Brandon Jacobs’ injured hamstring is unknown at press time, but Droughns needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues to be safe. He’s not an exciting option, averaging just 3.4 YPC this year, but the Giants run block well and have a solid offense overall. Droughns has been getting goal-line work regardless of Jacobs’ health and would be fantasy worthy if the starter were forced to miss time with the ailment.
Cedric Benson – Don’t let Sunday’s 11-carry, 89-yard performance fool you; Benson has been one of the worst running backs in the NFL this season. After he took the first carry of the game for a 43-yard touchdown, Benson continued to look pedestrian like he has all year and lost more touches to Adrian Peterson over the course of the game. His 3.3 YPC is the worst mark of any starting running back in the league, and despite leaving the field in nearly all third down situations, Benson entered Sunday with more drops than any other ballcarrier in the NFL. If you can get anything of value in a trade following Sunday’s best performance of the year, it’s strongly suggested you do so.
Jerricho Cotchery – Cotchery had an extremely disappointing outing Sunday, recording just one catch for five yards despite playing most of the game without Laveranues Coles (leg). However, he was targeted seven times, and the Steelers secondary has allowed an NFL-best 5.5 YPA this year, so the matchup was difficult. With strong-armed Kellen Clemens now under center, and Coles likely to miss Thursday’s game, Cotchery should be in store for a nice stretch of upcoming games as the schedule eases up.
Drew Carter – Against a stout Packers defense, Carter caught five balls for 132 yards and a score Sunday. While it was a nice performance, we wouldn’t fall over ourselves rushing to pick him up off the waiver wire. Steve Smith was sidelined with a shin injury, but he’s as tough as they come, so he’s likely to return to action shortly, and Carolina’s aerial attack is normally anemic. This had all the makings of a one-week wonder.
Frank Gore – Gore’s gimpy ankle is partially to blame, but the 49ers’ horrific offense has been the main cause for the third-year back becoming one of the biggest fantasy busts this year. The Rams run defense is actually pretty good, but Sunday’s 2.1 YPC effort while playing at home marked a new low for Gore, and San Francisco’s horrendous quarterback play doesn’t figure to improve anytime soon. His increased activity in the passing game was a plus, and Gore is explosive enough to make big plays on his own, but he’s going to end up as a major fantasy disappointments this season.
Donovan McNabb – It seems like an annual theme – McNabb succumbing to injury right about this point of the season. While this year’s injury doesn’t appear to be as serious as previous ones, McNabb has failed to live up to expectations even when healthy. Before going down Sunday, he had 3.1 YPA with a 0:2 TD:INT ratio, generating a 0.4 QB rating. He again showed an improved ability to run, so just when he seemed to be turning the corner regarding his knee, McNabb is now dealing with an ankle injury. He’s thrown for multiple touchdowns in just two of 10 games this season, and his best days are in the rearview mirror.
Chad Johnson – Sure, he’s on pace for 1,500 receiving yards, but he's also on pace for fewer than five touchdowns. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was already a superior red-zone option, and now Chris Henry appears to be as well. Johnson is an explosive playmaker down the field, but without the easy scores, he’s not a truly elite fantasy option. He also really struggles with consistency regarding his hands.
Willie Parker – In a league littered with timeshares at running back, Parker has hardly been a bust, especially with his yardage total on pace to top 1,650. Still, he’s really struggled away from home this season and has only two touchdowns this season. Teammate Najeh Davenport has three. While Parker hasn’t lost all goal-line duties, his fantasy owners sure would like to see him visit the end zone more often.
Laurence Maroney – Is it possible for a running back to suffer from his team having too good of a passing attack? Whether it’s injuries or sitting out during blowouts to protect from injury, Maroney simply hasn’t been used as a true workhorse this season. It’s too bad, since he plays for a record-setting offense and averages a solid 4.6 YPC. With his limited work likely to continue, Maroney’s disappointing numbers (one TD, two catches this season) aren’t likely to skyrocket.
DeAngelo Williams – Fantasy owners still holding their breath waiting for Williams to break out can go ahead and exhale, because it’s not going to happen anytime soon. DeShaun Foster has stayed healthy and performed adequately, but more important, Williams has failed to impress. He hasn’t averaged even 4.0 YPC in a game since Week 6 and struggles mightily in short-yardage situations. Additionally, playing for a Panthers offense that’s been brutal since Jake Delhomme went down, Williams’ upside is quite limited, even if given a heavier workload.
Priest Holmes – Holmes is obviously more fantasy relevant today than he was three weeks ago, but the 34-year-old’s ceiling is quite low. Since he’s better in pass protection, Holmes should continue to see more work than rookie Kolby Smith, but he’s seriously prone to injury at his age and no longer possesses explosiveness. He’s getting 3.0 YPC and shouldn’t be relied upon in fantasy leagues despite the No. 1 RB status.
Reggie Brown – It’s one step forward and one step back for Brown this season. After posting at least 55 receiving yards in three consecutive games, Brown was held to two catches for just 18 yards Sunday. It’s now evident Brown’s impressive 2006 campaign was more a product of the Eagles’ successful passing attack than a sign of true talent, so when Philadelphia’s offense struggles, Brown sinks with it. Extremely inconsistent, Brown should be avoided in fantasy leagues if at all possible.
Mark Clayton – Clayton followed up an eight-catch, 107-yard performance during Week 10 with a two-catch, nine-yard dud Sunday. The switch to Kyle Boller at quarterback did little to help a massively disappointing season, and the fact Sunday’s stinker came against a terrible Browns secondary makes it that much harder to swallow.
Darrell Jackson – For the season, Jackson has 23 receptions on 61 targets, giving him a 38 percent conversion rate – easily the worst in the NFL. Poor quarterback play is partially to blame, but Jackson’s hands are seemingly all thumbs, as his troubles with drops continue. Sunday saw him make a backbreaking drop that would have tied the game late in the fourth quarter, a microcosm of Jackson’s horrendous first season in San Francisco.
Article first appeared 11/19/07