By Dalton Del Don
Roddy White - White has at least eight catches, topped 110 yards and scored in each of the past three games and is on pace to finish the season with 98 receptions and 1,552 yards with 11 touchdowns. He has good speed and plays bigger than his 6-0, 208-pound frame suggests. Averaging 15.8 yards-per-catch, White has been targeted on 34.6 percent of Matt Ryan's pass attempts this season - the highest percentage in the NFL. White must be considered a top-five fantasy wideout from here on out.
Kurt Warner - Facing a Carolina secondary that entered having allowed just 5.8 YPA (second lowest in the league), Warner shredded the Panthers on Sunday, getting 381 yards with two touchdowns. Since opening week, he's tossed multiple scores in six straight games and is on pace to finish the year with 4,775 yards and 32 touchdowns. He's been better at protecting the football and is completing a remarkable 70.2 percent of his passes. With Anquan Boldin back in the lineup and Steve Breaston developing into one of the better No. 3 receivers in the league, only health can stop Warner from continuing to post huge numbers.
Steve Smith - Since returning from a two-game suspension to open the year, Smith has been on a torrid pace, topping 95 yards receiving in each of the past five games and never finishing with fewer than 70 yards in a contest this season. Having Muhsin Muhammad on the other side has decreased the double-teams, and Jake Delhomme has been even better since returning from Tommy John surgery. Smith has the toughness to go over the middle, but he's also one of the best deep threats in the league. He's easily a top-five fantasy receiver.
Deuce McAllister - Although he has a looming suspension, that decision isn't likely to come for a few weeks, and in the meantime, McAllister has the New Orleans backfield duties all to himself with Reggie Bush sidelined by a knee injury. McAllister no longer has any explosiveness, but with defenses focusing on stopping the Saints' high-powered passing attack, there should be running room and scoring opportunities. Moreover, after their bye, the Saints face the Falcons, Chiefs and Packers, teams that have allowed 4.7, 5.6, and 4.9 YPC, respectively, on the year, so the schedule couldn't be any easier.
Lee Evans - No one has been more improved this season than Trent Edwards, and Evans has been the biggest beneficiary. Typically feast-or-famine, Evans has been remarkably consistent this season, having reached at least 65 yards receiving in every game. He still doesn't get targeted in the red zone much (just twice this year), but Evans' 12.7 YPA is the highest among all receivers with at least 35 targets this season. With better teammates surrounding him, Evans is finally becoming the star everyone knew he was capable of.
Antonio Gates - First a foot problem and later a hip injury slowed Gates' production earlier this season, but after a six-catch, 96-yard performance last week, he appears to be rounding back in form. Gates says he's feeling the best he has all season and is finally over the injuries and proved it by getting separation from defenders last week. His nine red-zone targets are the second most in the league among tight ends, and Philip Rivers' (8.7 YPA) development has led to a potent passing attack, so Gates could be in store for a big second half.
Donnie Avery - Many panned the Rams for taking Avery with the second pick of the second round of last year's draft, as plenty of other bigger-named receivers were still on the board. However, it looks like St. Louis knew what they were doing after all, as Avery has racked up 218 receiving yards with two scores over the past two games. He's locked into a starting role and has surpassed a slowing Torry Holt as Marc Bulger's favorite target. Avery possesses terrific deep speed and has shown a knack for adjusting to balls mid-air, and he's only going to get better. Avery has only been targeted 33 times on the year, but his 10.5 YPA mark is elite.
Shaun Hill - After "leading" the NFL in sacks, fumbles and interceptions, the 49ers mercifully pulled the plug on J.T. O'Sullivan last week and named Shaun Hill the starter moving forward. Despite all the mistakes, O'Sullivan was getting an impressive 7.7 YPA, which is a reflection of leading a Mike Martz offense, so Hill can't be ignored. He's only played in four games during his career, but that has resulted in a 67.6 completion percentage and 101.5 quarterback rating. That does come with a subpar 6.6 YPA, so it's clear he rarely attacks downfield, but that's something Martz can fix.
Braylon Edwards - After last year's breakout campaign, Edwards is on pace to finish the season with 50 catches, 848 yards and five touchdowns, which would qualify as a major letdown. A foot injury sidelined him toward the end of the preseason, so the slow start wasn't completely unexpected, but that's no longer an excuse. Drops have been a big problem, as has Derek Anderson's (5.9 YPA) regression. Edwards possesses the physical tools to turn it around, but so far, he's been a huge disappointment.
Santonio Holmes - Holmes was deactivated for Sunday's loss to the Giants after he was charged with possession of marijuana earlier in the week. Coach Mike Tomlin has stated Holmes will return to the starting lineup in Week 9, but there's still the possibility the league eventually suspends him a game for the incident. Regardless, he's failed to meet expectations in 2008, instead taking a backseat to 32-year-old Hines Ward. Holmes is on pace to finish with fewer than 1,000 yards receiving and just two touchdowns this season, so he's been something of a bust.
Jason Witten - Witten left last week's game in the second quarter with a rib injury, returning for a few plays at the start of the second half but leaving for good after that. It's since been revealed the rib is broken, so the injury is fairly serious. Witten has stated he intends to play this week against the Giants, and although he's an extremely tough player, with an upcoming Week 10 bye, it might make sense to sit him for a game.
Darren McFadden - McFadden had a setback last week with his turf toe injury, forcing him to miss Oakland's game against the Ravens. He's officially listed as "day-to-day," but it's become clear this problem isn't going away anytime soon, and most of the blame has to be placed on the team for not allowing him to properly heal with sufficient rest to begin with. Even when he was able to play, the malady clearly hindered his explosiveness, so it's starting to look like a lost season for the rookie. McFadden impressed before the injury, making the lingering issue that much more frustrating.
Todd Heap - Injuries have always been an issue for Heap, but a complete lack of production while healthy is a new problem. Facing a Raiders secondary last week that has had major problems stopping tight ends this season, Heap recorded just two catches for 17 yards. Baltimore hasn't gotten great quarterback play, and Heap has been asked to block more than usual, but that doesn't excuse a pace to finish the season with 313 yards and no touchdowns. He's become a complete afterthought in fantasy leagues.
Brett Favre - Over the last three contests, Favre has committed eight turnovers, and he's been picked off in six straight games. Last week was especially brutal, throwing three egregious interceptions against a suspect Kansas City secondary. He's completed 68.5 percent of his passes, but that's resulted in just 6.9 YPA, as the Jets rarely go downfield. If you remove a Week 4 outburst against the Cardinals, Favre is left with a 9:10 TD:INT ratio with 6.6 YPA on the year. There's room for growth as he continues to learn a new playbook and system throughout the season, but at age 39, this decline could very well be here to stay.
Fred Taylor - Despite an excellent matchup, Taylor was only able to muster 24 yards on eight carries last week against Cleveland. After getting 5.4 YPC last year, he's getting just 3.3 in 2008, and Taylor's also yet to reach paydirt. He's 32 years old, which is ancient in running back terms, but even more worrisome, he's now accrued 2,365 career carries. Most decline far before that, and while Taylor was able to buck the odds with an impressive year last season, all of that mileage appears to have caught up with him, and when running backs reach the cliff, the fall is often fast and hard, which appears to be the case with Taylor this year.
Jeremy Shockey - Freed from a Giants system that made him block more than run routes, Shockey appeared to be a perfect fit for a Saints team that features one of the best passing attacks in the league. It still might be true, but we may never know, as Shockey continues to battle injuries, with the latest problem being a sports hernia that's still clearly limiting his production even when back on the field. Shockey has never played a full 16-game slate during his seven-year career, and the big problem now is the nagging nature of the hernia injury. Shockey still has plenty of upside, but he may not be 100 percent anytime soon.
Article first appeared 10/21/08