It is hard to notice, but we have reached the midseason point of the 2012-13 NFL season. Which means whether you are in a league that plays all the way through week 17 or just to week 16, you have played more games than there are left, and that should be about 6 or 5 regular season games left before the fantasy football playoffs begin. If you currently have a record under .500 in your league, it’s time to look at the rest of your schedule and prepare adequately, things might not be looking good for some of you, so there is no need to keep stressing about fantasy football, but to those who hate to give up, it is time to make a run at it. If you have a better record however, it’s time to get ready to separate yourself from other contending teams and make yourself a championship team.
At the moment, I stand at the top of my primary league with a 7-1 record, stand 2nd with a 6-2 record in a different league, and third in the last one with a 5-3 record, just in case you are wondering if I know what I am talking about, or just play this game because I have nothing else to do, or need a different kind of excitement from NFL Sundays. Fantasy football has become more than a game of luck in recent year, and with the amount of statistics, updates, and rumors available to everyone, it is quite easy to get an upper hand on all your opponents.
This season, like every season, has brought many surprises from unexpected players. But the biggest surprise in my opinion has been the amount of incredible production from rookies this year. Sure there is always one or two rookies that capture your eye and perform well instantly at the NFL level, but this year, there have been a ton of players exceeding expectations. Also, unlike many other seasons, old veterans have began producing at higher levels than expected, some top ranked consistent players have been under performing, and injuries haven’t impacted as many top players as it usually has.
Stories such as Robert Griffin III as the top player, the Bears Defense a top 15 fantasy scorer, Calvin Johnson and Cam Newton producing small amounts, Victor Cruz dominating targets, and Reggie Wayne and Tony Gonzalez looking as good as ever, are some of the great stories of the first half. Whether things are going to change or not down the road remains to be seen but it never hurts to prepare.
Here as some of the top stories from the first half of this Fantasy Football year:
Elite is for a chosen few:
The word Elite has been thrown around way to loosely around the league. Every single year we get new questions about which players should be considered Elite at the quarterback position. Elite fantasy quarterbacks, in my mind, are the ones you can count on to give you great to amazing points, week after week, regardless of match ups. We have had about 6 different quarterbacks trying to establish themselves as Elite quarterbacks in the past 3 years, and none of them have been able to break through.
There should be no doubt of who the top 3 and undoubted elite quarterbacks are. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees, are the only unquestioned elite quarterbacks, and as eventual Hall of Famers, there is nothing anyone can say to take these spots away from them. Drew Brees is a statistical monster and ranked 4th in points so far; and with 2304 passing yard, he is already on pace to break his incredible passing yardage record set last season; Tom Brady is highly regarded as one of, if not the best quarterback in the history of the NFL, leads the league in completions and has a 16-4 touchdown to interception ratio that ranks him 3rd; and Aaron Rodgers, as current MVP, has a 21-4 touchdown ratio without his top receiver, and has shown the best levels of accuracy and consistency so far throwing 30-37 completions in week 7, which ranks him as 2nd in points. You cannot go wrong with any of these guys on your team, that’s for sure.
The obvious guy missing from this is Peyton Manning. Peyton missed all of last season with a neck injury and everyone was skeptical about him. Will he return to the same status? Will he get hurt easily? Well, after his week 2 first quarter disaster, he has thrown 14 touchdowns to only one interception. 3 touchdowns in 4 straight games, and over 300 yards in 5 straight games, he has been every bit of Hall of Fame quarterback he ever was. I want to place him back in the elite rank, but I’m waiting for week 12 when all the bye weeks are over with. Peyton is 5th ranked player in fantasy standard scoring leagues. His brother, Eli Manning, is the player making the biggest case for getting into the elite conversation. Throwing for almost 5000 yards last season, winning his 2nd Superbowl ring, and currently 3rd in passing yardage without his top receiver being in top form, Eli definitely has a great argument. I think he is trying his best to become an elite quarterback, but as this year showed, not having his top receiver does affect his statistical prowess, contrary to what Brady, Brees, Rodgers, and Peyton have shown over the years.
Apart from these guys, there have been several guys who have tried to enter the discussion but haven’t been able to succeed. Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Michael Vick, Mathew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Joe Flacco, are the other names who have had the “elite” tag surrounding them. Ben Roethlisberger has 2 Superbowls and has always been one of the toughest players in the league, playing through injuries, but has never had the statistical numbers to place them in the elite ranks. Joe Flacco has shown great potential, but consistency is lacking, and while others think he has a chance to eventually become elite, I believe elite is out of his reach. Michael Vick has amazed in the fantasy football world, but this year he has gotten careless with his turnovers(13 so far), and is close to being benched; Tony Romo has had incredible games and has always had potential, but the interceptions keep increasing and he is just not the greatest quarterback under pressure. Philip Rivers has been awful. He has lost a lot of speed in his arm, and he’s careless with the ball. He can’t even lead his team to a victory over the Cleveland Browns. Mathew Stafford is one of only 4 quarterbacks to throw for over 5000 yards, this year however, he has been overthrowing receivers, and has looked sloppy with his mechanics and foot work. This year, the top elite choice would be Matt Ryan. Ryan has the Falcons at 7-0 as the only undefeated team, and his 2000+ pass yards and 17-8 ratio has him as 6th best fantasy player this year. Ryan needs consistency and playoff success to even be considered, but having his team at 7-0 definitely helps his case.
Where do they come from?!
Every serious manager (or maybe only the over obsessive ones), looks deep into the rankings to find the hidden secrets, and breakout players that they can snatch late in the draft. These players have already become quite evident even at mid season. There are way too many receivers to pick from, as there have been many surprises, but the running backs don’t stay far behind.
I’ll start with the most surprising scoring output there has been in a while. The CHICAGO Bears Defense has been absolutely phenomenal. Yes, I said defense, I don’t care if you are laughing at me, they have been incredible. Chicago is currently ranked 13th Overall in fantasy scoring. More than Ray Rice, A.J. Green, Cam Newton, Victor Cruz, Percy Harvin, and why even go on! They have allowed less than 7 points in 3 games, at least 2 turnovers every game this season, and have scored 5 touchdowns already. Will this keep up? Probably not to this rate to keep them as the 13th best player overall, but I don’t see how offenses will make them pay considering the way they are playing.
- Starting with the duo of wide receivers in Green Bay replacing Greg Jennings, both Randall Cobb and James Jones have been spectacular. Cobb has 42 catches with 463 yards and 4 touchdowns with 1 return touchdown; and Jones has 36 catches for 601 yards and 7 (yes 7) touchdowns. The Packers looked like they would take a while to take off with the injuries to Greg Jennings and Cedric Benson, but Cobb and Jones have stepped up and been outstanding.
- Reggie Wayne has been phenomenal with a rookie quarterback throwing to him, but with 54 receptions, 757 yards and 2 touchdowns, he stands as a top 10 receiver when nobody considered him even a top 20.Wayne is also the only receiver averaging over 100 receiver yards per game.
- Andre Roberts was meant to be a temporary starter alongside Larry Fitzgerald, but Roberts has been a great surprise, and a favorite for Cardinals quarterbacks. He stands as a top 20 receiver, while Fitzgerald is just outside the top 20. Don’t expect it to keep up much but it was a great first half surprise.
- Another good surprise has been Denarius Moore with 26 catches and 419 yards and 4 touchdowns, he has established himself as one Palmer’s favorite targets.
- And how about Percy Harvin even getting MVP consideration? Harvin is the 3rd best fantasy receiver and leads the league in catches with Welker. Yes, Harvin does have a tough time with Ponder at quarterback, but the Vikings understand that to win, Harvin needs to get the ball, so expect this to continue.
- A.J. Green is tied for the most fantasy points by a receiver. Falling just outside the top 15 last year, he has been a phenomenal star and with Dalton struggling to find other receivers, he should continue to target A.J. Green
- Danny Amendola was the best receiver in the league from the first 4 games. He still appears as one of the top wide receivers in catches and targets, even though he hasn’t played since a terrible broken clavicle injury sidelined him. The good news is, he has recovered faster than predicted and is actually expected to play in week 10 after the Rams bye week.
- Adrian Peterson has officially been declared a freak of nature. Coming back this early from a torn ACL is impressive, but performing at such a high level to place him as the 2nd best running back in the league? It is just ludicrous. Rushing for 775 yards and 4 touchdowns, while averaging 5.1 yards per carry coming off ACL surgery? Ludicrous I tell you!
- Stevan Ridley was supposed to be the primary backup in a passing dominant offense. He didn’t need to be a factor, he just had to be good enough to move the ball a little and get the first downs and clock moving. Well, he over did it a little. 4th in rushing yards in the league and in fantasy points for running backs, Ridley has been able to compete with a Tom Brady and the other running backs for touches, and he still has been able to be 4th best in rushing yards.
- C.J. Spiller has 523 yards in 72 carries. That is a league high 7.3 yards per carry, and he even has 19 receptions for 173 yards. Having Fred Jackson get injured early in the season helped his statistics, but Spiller won’t be able to keep that up with Jackson back, he is still good in PPR leagues though.
- Frank Gore has been phenomenal considering the talent and competition behind him. Kendall Hunter and Brandon Jacobs have tried to take playing time from Gore, but he has still posted 654 yards and 4 touchdowns on 5.4 yards per carry, as the focal point of the San Francisco offense.
- Heath Miller is 2nd in fantasy scoring for all tight ends. 6 touchdowns in 7 games, Miller has been a target monster in the red zone and Roethlisberger has been noticing him. One of the best surprises of the season has been Miller’s consistent red zone looks, but his receptions are too low to consider him keeping it up. Selling high would be the best option for now.
- Tony Gonzalez has found the fountain of youth. If he didn’t, then I have no explanation to what is happening in Atlanta. Sure Ryan’s passing ability has improved considerably, and the Falcons are going to the passing game over the rush, but Gonzalez is third in fantasy scoring for tight ends, and 2nd in receptions for tight ends. I didn’t think his numbers will be this good, but now that I see the numbers, I don’t expect his production to decrease.
- Continuing the surprises, the 4th highest scoring tight end is Owen Daniels. I have loved this guy from the start of the 2009 year before he got hurt, and have tried to trust him every year since, but he has failed. Well, with 416 yards and 4 touchdowns, he is back at it with great numbers. Schaub hasn’t had any receiver preferences so far, but Daniels has been making spectacular plays all year for the 6-1 Texans.
Of course there are always those disappointing players that can be blamed for a loss because they were so far off their game. You can’t talk to those players in real life, you can’t tell them to make smarter decisions, and you definitely can’t control them like a videogame, but you are definitely screaming at the TV when you see his face pop up, aren’t you? These players have such a high ceiling that every week you start to think, should I just trade him? Will it actually get better? Why did I pick him in the draft over the other guys? Well are some guys you hold on to, some you just got to get rid off now before their value drops too much, regardless of situation, it is a pain to see disappointing performances in continues weeks from players that should be leading the league in some categories.
It will get better:
- Of course, first off, what is Calvin Johnson doing? He should be the #1 wide receiver in the league. I understand Megatron lets his game show how good he is, and he never complains, just patiently waits for an opportunity to embarrass defenders and get into the end zone, but through 8 weeks he’s gotten there once. Currently the 18th best wide receiver behind Andre Roberts (that’s not a typo), Megatron has had 3 games over 100 yards including 164 yards against the Titans. While there are players doing worse than him, the pressure goes to him because he is not a top 20 wide receiver, he is not a top 10 wide receiver, he is not even a top 5 wide receiver, he is a top 1 wide receiver. Nobody compares to him, and nobody should have the edge over him. Johnson has to get Stafford throwing better passes, and with the amount of targets that Johnson is receiving, the touchdown number can only get bigger during the second half of the season.
- Andre Johnson is back!!… is what everyone said while watching the playoffs last year. T.J Yates made Andre Johnson look like the receiver he once was before his multiple injuries, and everyone was instantly sold on him being a super star again. Well, everyone forgot about the Texans defense and Arian Foster. Andre Johnson only has 2 touchdowns, and has eclipsed 100 yards in only 1 game. The Texans haven’t had a need to pass downfield, Foster has been a chains mover and scoring machine, and the defense has been incredible, so there has been no pressure on Schaub to make a play with his top receiver. Players of this caliber always figure a way to turn it around the closer it is to playoff time, I’m sure Andre will be no different. Or maybe is in their last name?
- Steve Smith was the 6th best fantasy wide receiver last year and Cam Newton was the 4th best quarterback. This year is quite different as Smith stands currently outside the top 30, and Cam falls to 13th best, but there are good signs to look ahead for. Smith is receiving plenty of targets and has yet to score a single touchdown, Cam Newton on the other hand, can only get better throughout the year, and always has that running potential. Disappointing so far, yes, but not enough to be time to sell them.
- Hakeem Nicks had a lingering injury to deal with all preseason but was still able to play from the start. He had 10 receptions for 199 yards and a touchdown on a week 2 comeback win for the Giants, but right after that game, he missed 3 straight weeks, and in 3 games back from injury his best game included 5 receptions for 53 points. Not exactly what you want from such a high potential receiver, but it finally seems that he is fully healed. Things can definitely only get better at this point.
- Lesean Mccoy should’ve earned the rushing title last year. A few bad performances late in the season and an injury that sidelined him the last week ultimately gave Jones-Drew, who had his best games late last year, the rushing title. This year, “Shady” will need to do a lot more than he did last season just to catch up. The Eagles have had terrible game management issues with the struggling Vick turning the ball over way more than expected. Mccoy scored an incredible 20 touchdowns last year, and currently has 5, but the Eagles will need to figure things out before he can behind to get back to being the 2nd best fantasy running back like last year, instead of 13th at the moment.
- Michael Turner is an easy pick for me here. Even with the Falcons coming out in the preseason saying they were going to pass a lot more this year, people still had Turner getting into the end zone plenty of times, and being able to get numbers like he usually did. Well, he’s had to share time with Rodgers, and if it wasn’t for a career long 60+ yard receiving touchdown, his numbers wouldn’t be a pleasure to look at. I don’t think things will get better for him as the Falcons have enough players to keep their passing attack going.
- Probably not my favorite pick but Antonio Gates has just missed a step, and Philip Rivers is not helping him much. Gates is a tremendous athlete, and a huge receiver, but the balls is just not getting to him. Without his best game against the Broncos (6 catches, 81 yards and 2 touchdowns), Gates has gotten 15 catches for 157 yards and 0 touchdowns in 5 games. If Rivers can’t turn it around, Gates won’t be able to either, but instead of hoping it happens, Gates is a great name to trade and get some value from some of the other more consistent tight ends of the season. Malcolm Floyd for that matter shouldn’t be a great option either, just like Gates. The Chargers offense is just struggling, and the only player worth a guaranteed start is Ryan Mathews.
- It hurts to say, but this year Larry Fitzgerald might just be overwhelmed. He has given everything he has to the city of Arizona and to the Cardinals organization, but the organization hasn’t done much to help Fitzgerald out. The poor guy gets demolished every night and it has become unpredictable to figure out where his numbers will end up at the end of the night. In PPR leagues maybe you could take a chance, otherwise, turn his name into something more valuable for the 2012 season.
- I guess Greg Jennings and Pierre Garcon should fall in this category. They started the season slow and banged up, and they both have healed at an incredible rate. Incredibly slow rate. It took Jennings 4 weeks to realize he needed surgery, and it took Garcon 3 weeks to realize he had something bad in his foot. Both have been quite the let down considering what was expected from them, sure some say keep them until the playoffs, maybe they come back and help you out in fantasy, well if you can get someone else to buy into this logic and trade them to him, it could work a lot better than just waiting.
- Every year is the Cowboys year. Whoever they acquire, and whatever they accomplish, in preseason we always have to look at them and people keep saying, this is the Cowboys year. This is Tony Romo’s year. This is Dez Bryant‘s year … well so much for that. Tony Romo has thrown 9 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. 9 of those interceptions came in 2 games however, with 5 against the Bears and 4 against the Giants. Romo is a great passer, the numbers are there, but so are the turnovers. Dez Bryant can also be attributed some fault for Romo’s fall from grace. Dez has had numerous drops, specially potential touchdown and game changing plays. Bryant has however, had some great games, but these two guys were made for more than just a few great games. I don’t think they correct it this year though, Austin and Witten are the more reliable offensive players in PPR leagues as well.
Rookies are Getting Smarter:
And of course we come to the most incredible part of the season. The rookies. The players that managers carefully look at to see who could possibly produce in a league they have never been before. Someone you can pick late to be a key sleeper. Well oh man, there are more than just sleepers here. These have been some of the best players in the league.
The number one player in the league, yes, #1, numero uno, the big cheese, the big kahuna, the fantasy god, the chosen one; is none other than a rookie. Robert Griffin III has been everything you want for in a star, and more. 1773 passing yards with 8-3 touchdown ratio, and 487 rushing yards to go with 6 touchdowns. This kid is the real deal. He has made some outstanding throws and his legs give him the ability to keep almost any play alive. 169 points and the bye week yet to come, it all points to RG3 holding his spot to be a top 5 player if he can stay healthy all throughout. We’ve seem dumb decision that have put Griffin at risk of injury, so it’s always a good idea to have a back up for Griffin ready.
Andrew Luck, the #1 pick of the draft, has been everything the Indianapolis Colts expected. He has double the wins than the Colts had all of last year, and he has done it in late game situations. Luck has 1971 pass yards and 8-8 touchdown to interception ratio, and lets not forget about his 3 rushing touchdowns. The Colts have very winnable games coming up and could end the season as a playoff team should other AFC teams falter, making his candidacy for rookie of the year even bigger. And let’s not forget, Luck already beat Aaron Rodgers head to head. His confidence should be high, and hopefully his fantasy points will as well.
The third pick of the draft, Trent Richardson, is playing for one of the worst teams in the NFL. He stood atop the fantasy scoring running backs for a while, but injury made him drop a few spots. Richardson has been excellent in both the rushing and receiving game with 470 and 209 yards respectively, and 6 touchdowns combined. If this is what the can do while playing through injury, it will be fantastic to see him play when completely healthy. Richardson will stay a top 10 fantasy running back now, and for years to come.
You want to talk about hidden gems? Let’s talk about Washington Redskins Alfred Morris. A 6th round pick from Florida Atlantic University, Morris has been outstanding running for Griffin III. Morris is the 5th best fantasy running back and he is third in the league in rushing yards. Morris should eclipse 1000 yards pretty easily, he’s already at 717, and as long as Griffin III stays healthy, Morris should be able to keep defenses away from focusing on him.
There are other rookies making a difference. Doug Martin has the 9th highest running back score, and he is now the lone running back in Tampa Bay. Martin has 767 combined yards and 4 touchdowns, he is a very dangerous player in any part of the offense. Kendall Wright started the season off the right way, but he had a better connection with Jake Locker than with Matt Hasselbeck. Already at 40 receptions for the season, his statistical prowess depends on who will be the healthy quarterback at the end of the year. Josh Gordon is nothing more than a deep threat. The Browns, however, need to take as many shots as they can to make teams pay. Gordon gets a ton of targets from quarterback Brandon Weeden, but Gordon still hasn’t caught more than 3 passes in any game. Others like Chris Givens, Brandon Weeden, Russel Wilson, have been great rookies but not enough to be counted on down the stretch.
Goodluck to everyone in the second half of the season, it’s going to be a tough one, but just remember the goal, because winning the championship and having bragging rights is an incredible reward. And if you play for more than bragging right, work even harder to get the prize, don’t underestimate your opponents, Karma does have an impact in fantasy football.
This is a post submitted by Gino Bernasconi. Gino is currently a Florida International University student going for an electrical engineer major with a journalism minor. He is a huge New Orleans fan and sadly, also a supporter of the Miami Dolphins. He has written fantasy football tips and articles for over 8 years and is prepared to defend any and all arguments you have against his picks. Gino is always looking for new leagues, new challenges, and new victims to build his confidence.