September 29, 2010
More than any other sport, pro football is a game that we need to re-learn each year. Forecasting the NFL is basically like practicing alchemy — it's impossible to do it successfully, but if you could, you'd be a zillionaire.
Did any analyst think that the Chiefs, Bears, and the Steelers would all be undefeated after three weeks? No, of course they didn't. Most of us didn't think any of those teams would be 3-0. In fact, we were shocked that Kansas City made it to 1-0.
The NFL constantly re-writes its script, borrows from the past, devises new schemes, recycles stars, and kicks others to the curb. It stands to reason that an unpredictable league would produce an unpredictable and unruly fantasy game, and that's exactly what we get. The fantasy values (or perceived values) of individual players change dramatically week-to-week; if we were to rebuild a 2010 draft board today, it probably wouldn't look too much like this one. That's just the nature of this ridiculous game.
Below, you'll find 10 players whose stock has moved significantly up or down. (It's actually a list of 12. We're rounding down, like they do with college football conferences). Act now. We believe these gains and losses will hold.
Michael Vick(notes), QB, Philadelphia Eagles — The Hot-lanta version of Michael Vick was driven by raw athleticism. That Vick would barely complete 50 percent of his passes, he threw nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns, and he'd take off down field when his first receiving option failed to come open. That Michael Vick was labeled a "coach killer." The Vick we’re seeing now is giving his receivers a chance. He’s making smart decisions – his completion percentage is at career-best 60.7 clip, and his TD-to-INT ratio is 6:0. And he can still run like the wind blows when he needs to (23 rushes, 170 yards). Donovan McNabb(notes), a not-so-accurate, strong-armed, mobile QB, may wind up in the Hall of Fame thanks to this Andy Reid offense. If he could do it, Vick can too. -Brandon Funston
[Photos: See Eagles quarterback Mike Vick in action ]
Austin Collie(notes), WR, Indianapolis Colts — No, Collie isn't a brand-name star just yet, and he went undrafted in many fantasy leagues. But three weeks into the season, Collie is winning the receiving Triple Crown. He leads the NFL in catches (27), yards (359), and receiving touchdowns (4). Collie also ranks sixth in the league in total targets (32), so this isn't a fluke. We're dealing with a talented young receiver who's tied to a great offense, and he has the full confidence of a Hall of Fame quarterback. Seems like a nice setup, doesn't it? Collie has actually caught nine TDs in his last 11 games, playoffs included. Even if he doesn't quite lead the league in everything at the end of the year, Collie will still close the season with crazy numbers. -Andy Behrens
Arian Foster(notes), RB, Houston Texans — He crept up August cheat sheets like Ray Rice(notes) did in 2009, and Foster has rewarded his investors handsomely. After steamrolling the Colts for the second-best opening week performance by a back in NFL history, he’s continued to pile up the numbers. On pace for an obscene 2,165 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, Houston’s philosopher king will almost certainly run his way into the fantasy first-round next season, possibly even the top-five. The Texans’ high-powered offense and favorable schedule are strong points in his favor. Foster, it’s Australian for "fantasy stallion." -Brad Evans
Kyle Orton(notes), QB, Denver Broncos — Orton is fully comfortable in the Josh McDaniels offense, and while the Broncos don't have a true Alpha Dog to throw to, they have plenty of solid options for Orton to consider weekly. Ultimately, he can sit back in the pocket and throw to the receiver with the best matchup. Orton also gets helped by his environment in Denver, at least for fantasy purposes; the Broncos can't run the ball at all, and the Denver defense has it's share of leaks, which will buoy Orton's pass attempts. If you're not blessed with an every-week stud at the quarterback position, Orton might turn into your unsung hero for 2010. Don't hold the neck beard against him. -Scott Pianowski
The 2007 Arkansas Razorbacks (but not Felix Jones(notes)) — Prior to the 2008 Draft, a pair of Arkansas running backs could be found near the top of everybody's rankings. (Here's proof). Darren McFadden(notes) had rushed for 1,830 yards and 16 scores in '07, and Felix Jones had delivered 1,162 and 11. Fast forward three NFL seasons, and you'll find two members of the '07 Razorbacks among the league's top-10 rushers. But it's not exactly the two we expected. Oh, McFadden is there — he's averaging 115 rushing yards per game for Oakland — but the other Hog is 250-pound bruiser Peyton Hillis(notes). A pass-catching fullback in college, Hillis appears to have seized control of the top spot in Cleveland's backfield hierarchy. He rushed for 144 yards on 22 carries against the Ravens in Week 3, stunning a Baltimore defense that's historically impossible to run against. Hillis has reached the end zone in each of the Browns' first three games. Both he and McFadden are looking like every-week fantasy starters at the moment. Jones has a little catching up to do. -Behrens
Brett Favre(notes), QB, Minnesota Vikings — If Favre could turn back the clock to mid-August, perhaps he would decide to de-un-re-retire after all. The 2010 season is not going as planned for the Vikings, or for No. 4. Favre was utterly brilliant last year (until that disastrous season-ending pass), throwing for 4,202 yards and 33 TDs, while posting the lowest interception percentage of his career. It's been a different story this season, however. Favre has already turned the ball over seven times -- he had just nine giveaways in '09 -- and he's passed for only two touchdowns in three games. It's easy to pin the decline on Favre's age (40) and his accumulated wear and tear, but his O-line hasn't done him many favors, and his receiving corps lacks a star. The problems confronting Favre aren't easily fixed at mid-season; if the Vikings go anywhere this year, they'll get there because Adrian Peterson bulldozes a path. -Behrens
Shonn Greene(notes), RB, New York Jets — Greene still has some value in deeper leagues, but forget him being a No. 1 or No. 2 fantasy back in 2010. The Jets realize that LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) is a better blocker and pass-catcher (Greene actually has no skills in the latter area), and that just about guarantees that LT will be on the field at least 60 percent of the time. Greene might work as an effective closer, getting carries late in blowout victories, but he's not ready to be a starting NFL runner. If I were redrafting from scratch tomorrow, Greene would be outside my top-25 at the position. Only a Tomlinson injury can restore the upside we pinned on Greene this summer. -Pianowski
Larry Fitzgerald(notes), WR, Arizona Cardinals — Arizona quarterback Derek Anderson(notes) is a fantasy Debbie Downer. The horrifically inaccurate passer has sapped the production of arguably the most talented receiver in the league. Despite attracting 34 targets, Fitzgerald has reeled in a mere 12 receptions. Currently the No. 26 wideout in the virtual game, he ranks well behind upstarts Brandon Lloyd(notes), Mark Clayton(notes) and Louis Murphy(notes), all of whom went largely undrafted. Unless the four-time Pro Bowler quickly gets on the same page with his QB — or gets a better QB — 2010 could be a lost season. Dear Kurt Warner(notes), please hang up the dancing pants and come back to football. -Evans
Carolina Panthers running backs, all of 'em — DeAngelo Williams(notes) and Jonathan Stewart(notes) have been the poster platoon of NFL backfields — at least until 2010, that is. Last season, the Panthers were the only team with two backs who topped the 200-carry threshold, and both players finished among the top 15 running backs in the fantasy game. Through three games this season, both sit outside the top 30 backs, and well below their draft-day asking price. To be fair, these guys have traditionally enjoyed sleeping in, with both players having produced a yards-per-carry average in September that is roughly a yards less than their career norms. Wake them up when the month ends. -Funston
Carson Palmer(notes), QB, Cincinnati Bengals — Don't let the presence of the NFL's Twitteriest receivers fool you. Ocho and TO are plenty entertaining, but when everything follows the script, the Bengals are a running team. They finished fourth in the league in rush attempts last season, and they swept their division thanks largely to the efforts of Cedric Benson(notes), the offensive line, and an outstanding defense. In each of their two victories this year, Palmer has passed for fewer than 200 yards. He barely topped 3,000 yards last season. Cincinnati would like nothing more than to run the ball 35 times, hold their opponent to 10 points, and grind out an ugly win. That's who they are. Or who dey are. -Behrens
Photos via US Presswire
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