By Dalton Del Don
Adrian Peterson – While the Vikings eased Peterson back into action Sunday with a limited workload, the NFL’s leading rusher showed he’s recovered from his knee injury with another explosive performance, gaining 116 yards with two touchdowns on just 15 carries. Peterson has the benefit of running behind a very good offensive live, but he’s also proving that he’s already the most talented ballcarrier in the NFL, getting a remarkable 6.5 YPC this season. With upcoming tilts against the 49ers and Bears, expect a monstrous finish for the rookie.
Justin Fargas – Facing a soft Broncos’ front seven contributed to Fargas’ strong stat line Sunday (164 yards, 1 TD), but he’s been one of fantasy football’s most valuable backs for five weeks now. He’s received at least 24 touches in each of the past five games, totaling 633 yards with three scores during that span. With Tom Cable’s zone-blocking system producing big holes, Fargas’ tough running style has rendered the other Raider running backs moot, as LaMont Jordan was the only other back to receiver a carry Sunday, and he had just one.
Roddy White – White is the NFL’s latest example of a wide receiver making a major leap during his third year in the league, though poor quarterback play in Atlanta has suppressed his numbers overall. White has blazing downfield speed but also plays bigger than his 6-foot, 208-pound frame suggests. He excelled Sunday once Chris Redman replaced an inept Joey Harrington, and there’s little reason to think coach Bobby Petrino would stick with Harrington any longer this season. White won’t truly break out until Atlanta finds its quarterback of the future, but he can still be valuable in the meantime.
Fred Taylor – Despite sharing the backfield with explosive sophomore Maurice Jones-Drew, Taylor has defied age and past injury concerns while posting impressive back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts. Touchdowns remain hard to come by, but Taylor’s 4.7 YPC clip suggests he’s still got burst, and with an emerging David Garrard at quarterback and a looming Week 16 matchup against the NFL’s worst run defense (Oakland), Taylor can still be a difference maker in fantasy leagues.
Dallas Clark – At this point, fantasy owners should move forward as if Marvin Harrison (knee) isn’t going to return until after the regular season. Even if he does come back sooner, it’s likely it will take time for him to acclimate into game shape. Clark stands to gain, as the tight end has essentially become the No. 2 receiving option on one of the league’s best offenses. After a concussion sidelined him for a game and limited him in two others, Clark is still on pace to finish with 12 touchdowns this year.
LaDainian Tomlinson – Tomlinson isn’t going to even approach his 2006 numbers, but fantasy owners still have to be ecstatic to see him go off for 197 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. The 177 yards on the ground marked the first time he broke the century mark in six weeks. After scoring multiple touchdowns in a game 10 times last year, it was just the second such occasion this season. Still, in a league with an increasing amount of timeshares in the backfield, Tomlinson remains a constant, and he’s going to be a fantasy force with home games against the Lions and Broncos during Weeks 15 and 16.
Laveranues Coles – Coles wasn’t 100 percent during his return from an ankle injury Sunday, but with Jerricho Cotchery’s season-ending finger surgery, he figures to see all the targets he can handle. Coles has been looked at heavily in the red zone this year, and Kellen Clemens’ arm strength means Coles should be utilized downfield more the rest of the season. With a defense making the offense play mostly in catch-up mode, Coles should post big stats the rest of the way.
Reuben Droughns - By no means an exciting option, Droughns finds himself firmly on the fantasy radar after Derrick Ward suffered a broken fibula Sunday. Ward looked terrific before going down, but he’s likely gone for the season, and Brandon Jacobs’ hamstring issue is still up in the air. The Giants running game has been successful no matter the ballcarrier, and Droughns has seen the bulk of the goal-line work regardless. Ahmad Bradshaw may also get in the mix, but Droughns might soon find himself getting 20-25 touches a game in an offense that needs to rely on the ground game with an erratic Eli Manning behind center.
Jerious Norwood – While Warrick Dunn has proven to be the more reliable blocker and continues to get significant snaps, it’s hard to see what Atlanta has to lose by seeing if Norwood can be the team’s future featured back. While Dunn had 1.7 YPC Sunday, Norwood averaged 11.8. For the season, the discrepancy is 3.2 YPC vs. 6.4 YPC, once again in Norwood’s favor. With the Falcons out of the playoff race and clearly eyeing the future, the explosive Norwood, who is eight years younger than Dunn, simply has to see the bulk of the work.
Fred Jackson – Marshawn Lynch’s status still in doubt, Jackson should already be owned in all leagues after totaling 151 yards in Washington Sunday. With Anthony Thomas sidelined with a torn calf and Dwayne Wright a non-factor, Jackson is the team’s workhorse until Lynch comes back. Whether it’s Lynch or Jackson, the Bills’ ballcarrier has two highly favorable matchups against the Dolphins and the Browns coming up next on the schedule.
Bryant Johnson – After Larry Fitzgerald missed Sunday’s game with a groin injury, and Anquan Boldin left with an injury of his own, Johnson may soon find himself as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver by default. A middling defense and running game along with an effective Kurt Warner make it a situation that should be conducive to some pretty nice stats.
Thomas Jones – The good news is Jones reached the end zone for the first time all season Sunday. The bad news is the 75 yards and score appear to be Jones’ upside at this stage of his career. In a game that saw his Jets outscore by 40-13 a winless Miami team that’s been getting gashed by the run, Jones averaged a meager 3.1 YPC. Teammate Leon Washington looked much more explosive and ran for two rushing scores himself. Jones can’t create much on his own these days, and the Jets’ run blocking is well below average, leaving the veteran back with a paltry 3.6 YPC on the year.
Shaun Alexander – Alexander returned from a three-game absence Sunday and scored for the first time since Week 2. Still, he again looked sluggish, getting just 3.3 YPC. Alexander has topped 4.0 YPC just once this season and remains inactive in the passing game. Maurice Morris, who was solid while Alexander was sidelined, gained just one fewer rushing yard Sunday on a fourth of the carries. The time off may have done Alexander’s body some good, but he’s looking at a timeshare.
Travis Henry – The two touchdowns were nice, but Henry looked sluggish Sunday, and his knee injury is clearly still affecting him. Henry averaged just 3.3 YPC against the NFL’s worst run defense in Oakland, while also fumbling a couple times. With Selvin Young (knee) and Andre Hall (ankle) banged up, it’s possible Henry receives a full load moving forward, but he still has legal issues to deal with and has lacked burst all season.
Willie Parker – It’s officially time to seriously start worrying about Parker’s fantasy value. Or maybe that’s past due, because Parker has scored just two touchdowns this year despite receiving 302 touches. Because of the heavy workload, Parker is still on pace to rush for 1,457 yards, which is hard to complain about. Still, he’s averaged 3.0 YPC the last three games, which have come against three very soft run defenses (Jets, Dolphins, Bengals), and he’s totally ignored in the passing game.
Jesse Chatman – Chatman overcame his surroundings with a strong mid-season stretch. Now, he’s battling numerous injuries and major ineffectiveness while suiting up for the NFL’s only winless team. Even if he can return to the field, he and the Dolphins face an upcoming schedule featuring the Ravens and the Patriots Weeks 15 and 16, making Chatman a highly undesirable fantasy commodity when it matters most.
Vernon Davis – Davis is one of the most physically gifted athletes in the NFL, but with San Francisco’s passing game inconsistent at best, he’s simply hard to rely on. Frequently asked to block more than he’d like, Davis has been held to one catch in two of his last four games. He still has tremendous long-term potential, but it’s tough counting on Davis with Trent Dilfer (5.6 YPA) throwing him the ball.
Carson Palmer – Palmer is still a big time fantasy property, especially with Cincinnati’s favorable upcoming schedule, but he was simply brutal Sunday night. He completed a microscopic 38.6 percent of his passes while averaging 4.2 YPA and failing to throw a touchdown pass for the second time in four games. The offensive line failed to give Palmer ample time in the pocket, and he was extremely inaccurate as a result. Since his rookie season, Palmer is averaging his worst YPA (7.4) and has already thrown the most interceptions (15) this year.
Kevin Jones – Minnesota may very well have the NFL's best run defense, but the fact that Jones saw just three carries Sunday reflects how quickly Mike Martz can abandon the ground game. Jones isn’t getting targeted in the passing game quite like he was last year before going down to injury either. Moreover, it doesn’t appear that he’ll truly be 100 percent until next season.
Matt Schaub – Schaub has had a very solid first year in Houston, but his season has also been derailed by injuries at an alarming rate. His latest setback, a separated non-throwing shoulder, looks likely to keep him shelved for weeks. His 7.8 YPA this year suggests a very bright future lies ahead, but Schaub is also close to being aptly labeled injury-prone.
Clinton Portis – After a two-game stretch in early November that saw Portis rush for 333 yards, he’s gained just 154 yards on 57 carries (2.7 YPC) during three games since. Sunday’s home game against the Bills in which he turned 25 totes into just 50 yards was especially discouraging, and with stout run defenses (Giants, Vikings) on the docket during Weeks 15 and 16, Portis’ fantasy value takes a major hit.
Anquan Boldin – Already dealing with a lingering hip injury that figured to only go away with an offseason of rest, Boldin left Sunday’s contest with yet another malady, this time to his foot. After averaging 14.5 yards per catch last year, Boldin is down to 11.5 this season, as he’s clearly been slowed by injuries.
Javon Walker – Fantasy owners holding out hope for a late season surge by Walker have to be disappointed, as Walker’s return from knee surgery has resulted in just one catch for seven yards the last two games. Jay Cutler is looking to Brandon Marshall first, and even if Walker does get healthy, Week 14 is already approaching, and he can’t be relied upon during the fantasy playoffs.
Plaxico Burress – While it still says Burress on the back of his jersey, the current incarnation hardly resembles the receiver that put up eight touchdowns over the season’s first six games this year. Burress has scored just once since and looks a step slow while hampered by ankle and knee injuries. He’s still a fine red-zone target, but Burress’ injuries are clearly a big problem with his current lack of explosiveness, and it doesn’t look like he’ll return to full health until next season.
Article first appeared 12/3/07