After an unkind Week 9, here are three unheralded medal-earners (started in less than 30-percent of Y! leagues) projected to finish in fourth place who ended up setting the fantasy pace:
Marshawn Lynch, Sea, RB
Y! Percent started: 29-percent
Finally, the Beast reared his ugly, yet productive, head.
In an era where timeshares are all the rage, yeoman backs typically fetch quite the premium. That is, unless you're the carrier pigeon in Seattle. Over the first half of the season, Lynch, once a fantasy darling in Buffalo just a few short years ago, has found little daylight. Early season injuries along Seattle's offensive line combined with a porous pass game severely handicapped the runner's numbers, though he's not completely absolved from blame. On plays where running lanes were visible, he often plodded up to the line, gaining feeble yardage. Before Week 9, Lynch had eclipsed the 12-point fantasy mark in standard formats just one time, an amazing nonachievement for a back whose registered nearly 65-percent of his team's touches.
But, quietly, the 'Hawks ground game has taken flight over the past couple weeks, climbing to peak altitude Sunday in Dallas. Against a defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL against the run just two weeks ago, Lynch displayed terrific vision, power and open-field speed, rocketing through a number of sizable holes. On 23 carries he rushed for a season-best 135 yards. He also crossed the chalk for the fourth consecutive game. During that scoring streak he's averaged a fantastic 5.1 yards per carry.
Believe or Make Believe? Believe. It's clear Seattle's front has finally jelled. Yes, the pass game is incredibly inconsistent, but with a host of favorable matchups remaining, Lynch is a player to target via trade. Outside Week 10's battle with Baltimore, the 'Hawks square off against St. Louis (twice), Washington and Philly, run defenses that rank in the top-15 in most fantasy points allowed to RBs since Week 5. If he can attack the line with the vim and vigor seen on Sunday, it's possible Beast Mode could be in full-effect down the stretch. Lynch, recently swapped for Plaxico Burress, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Josh Freeman in one-for-one industry deals, is worth testing the waters for.
Ben Tate, Hou, RB,
Y! Percent started: 16-percent
If current trends hold true, this will be the most prolific passing season all-time. Entering Week 9, teams had averaged a combined 234.3 passing yards per game, up from last season's record-holding 221.6 yards per game. Though many offensive coordinators have an airy attitude, one club, Houston, is playing a throwback brand of football Chuck Noll could appreciate. Arian Foster and Tate, doing their best Franco Harris-Rocky Blier impersonations, are on pace to become only the seventh 1,000-rushing yard duo in NFL history. Gary Kubiak couldn't be happier with his two-man show. From FS Houston:
"It's fun to watch right now," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "It's almost like a competition because they just go back and forth. Arian pounds them and Ben comes in and Ben gives you a lot of speed. They're a little bit different from that standpoint.
If Tate continues to have performances like he did Sunday against the Cleveland Chihuahuas -- he rolled his way to 115 yards on just 12 carries, his fourth 100-yard game of the season -- the dynamic duo just might become the second 1,100-yard pair ever.
Believe or Make Believe? Believe. With Andre Johnson, who reportedly suffered a setback last week, recovering slowly from a hamstring injury and the Houston offensive line absolutely dominating the line of scrimmage, the Texans should continue to two-step over opponents over the remainder of the season. This is a warm weather team perfectly built for the late-season chill. When matched against stiff defensive fronts or highly competitive opponents, Tate, without a doubt, is a risky option, even at the FLEX in deeper leagues. Dates with Jacksonville (Week 12), Atlanta (13) and Cincinnati (14) aren't favorable. However, savvy owners who start Foster and/or Tate against Carolina (Week 15) and Indy (16) could be crushing Korbel come Christmas. The Panthers and Colts rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in fantasy points yielded to RBs. Sacrifice marrow, if necessary, to acquire his services.
Roy Helu, Wash, RB
Y! Percent started: 6-percent
At the beginning of the season many fanalysts, including yours truly, argued Roy Helu was a player to keep an eye on. Despite being firmly behind Tim Hightower on the 'Skins initial depth-chart, the rookie's supreme speed and versatility made him a player of interest in the late-rounds. So irresistible was he in a 14-team PPR, the Noise, possibly influenced by one too many Silver Bullets, shelled out a wallet-slapping 10-large for him in an auction draft.
Sunday he was worth every penny.
The 23-year-old, breaking a team-record set by Art Monk and Kelvin Bryant, put together a performance PPR zealots dream about. Though he lost a critical fumble, the youngster caught 14 passes and totaled 146 yards against the league's stingiest run defense, San Francisco. Post-game, Mike Shanahan, tickled by the rookie's effort, spoke highly of Helu's upside. From the Washington Post:
Coach Mike Shanahan said Helu earned the start because he "has got the speed to make big plays." Helu added 10 carries for 41 yards.
"I think you can see that he is a pretty good all-around back," Shanahan said. "He makes some plays, obviously, like a Pro Bowl back."
Believe or Make Believe? Make Believe. There's no disputing Helu's talent, but this is still a Lucifer coached team that's currently in a tailspin offensively. Sure, the 21-percent owned back is worth stashing on the bench, but "fluky" best characterizes his Week 9 line. Sans the Giants in Week 16, there are several unfriendly opponents remaining on the Redskins schedule (at Mia, Dal, at Sea, NYJ, NE and at Min). And New York, coming off a excellent defensive display at New England, is getting healthy. By the time the fantasy playoffs come around, the G-Men could be even more formidable. If you're a Helu owner in a non-dynasty format, place him on the block. You just never know how gullible some people are (e.g. Brad Evans on Ryan Torain).
Honorable Mentions: Matt Moore, Mia, QB, Carson Palmer, Oak, QB, Laurent Robinson, Dal, WR, Jacoby Ford, Oak, WR
Image courtesy of US Presswire