September 19, 2011
After an exhilarating Week 2, here are three unheralded medal-earners (started in less than 10-percent of Y! leagues) projected to finish in fourth place who ended up setting the fantasy pace:
Andy Dalton(notes), Cin, QB
Y! percent started Week 2: One-percent
"Wham! Bam! Thank you Cam!" might be the expression of the moment in Fantasyland — that is, for the 12-percent of owners in the Y! universe who actually played him in Week 2 — but the Bengals second-rounder is also making a name for himself, albeit very quietly.
Cool, calm and collected in his first two games, Dalton has shown the poise of a 10-year veteran executing the Bengals offense smoothly. He's also shown true grit, fighting through a wrist injury. Through roughly six quarters, he's completed nearly 66-percent of his passes for 433 yards, three touchdowns and zero turnovers. His 332-yard, two-score performance in Denver definitely opened eyes (See him in action here).
Yes, his first two matchups were against pushovers. The Browns and Broncos, who were without top corner Champ Bailey(notes), would probably make Tarvaris Jackson(notes) seem appealing. But Dalton has a Pro Bowl caliber pedigree and is immersed in a fairly healthy offensive situation. Cedric Benson(notes) is a terribly average back, but is reliable. His ability to tote the rock 20-25 times per game will continue to help take pressure off the green QB.
Even more encouraging are the vertical weapons around Dalton. Fellow rookie A.J. Green(notes) is an athletic marvel who is rapidly developing into a must-start receiver. The duo, who connected 10 times in Denver, have established an PB-and-jelly relationship. Meanwhile, Jerome Simpson(notes), who exploded down the stretch in '09, has picked up where he left off grabbing eight passes for 180 yards. Tight end Jermaine Gresham(notes) is also a valuable target whose size and athleticism presents problems for defenses with weak coverage across the middle.
Obviously, the five-percent owned slinger isn't for the shallow-minded. The pass-first mentality pervasive throughout the NFL has created an endless supply of useful QBs. However, Dalton has a fairly easy row to hoe. His next five matchups (SF, Buf, at Jax, Ind, at Sea) are far from frightening. He also gets exploitable St. Louis and Arizona during the fantasy playoffs. As Green said post-game Sunday, he and Dalton are "taking steps every week" and will only get "better and better" as the season progresses. Given their accommodating slate, the pair could become lineup staples in short order.
Without question, the Dandy-Cam is the rookie passer to own. But for those that missed out on the Newton sweepstakes, Dalton is a better-than-advertised consolation prize. Consider him a QB2 with top-15 upside in 12-team and deeper formats.
Eric Decker(notes), Den, WR
Y! percent started Week 2: Two-percent
Forget billboards for Tim Tebow(notes), Broncos fans should lobby the coaching staff to get Decker more targets. Though most conventional publications devoted entirely too much time to The Mile High Messiah's cameo as a receiver on Sunday, it was his battery-mate who stole the show.
With Brandon Lloyd(notes) a late scratch due to a tight groin and Eddie Royal(notes) also felled by a setback to his delicate area in the first half, Decker, one of the last Denver receivers standing, proved he wouldn't go down without a fight. In total, he reeled in five receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals, making a beautiful adjustment on a 52-yard strike from Kyle Orton(notes) late in the second-half.
The former Golden Gopher, who worked out with Larry Fitzgerald(notes) and Orton during the lockout, isn't your run-of-the-mill one-week wonder. He's an intelligent, versatile receiver with tacky hands, above average athleticism, plus size and deceptive speed. Orton absolutely love him. From the Denver Post:
"He's ideal as a slot receiver," Orton said. "He can play outside too, but as a slot receiver he can really be an impact receiver with his combination of quickness, his size, and his brain."
If Royal is indeed sidelined for an extended period of time, Decker will live on the edge, literally. Opposite Lloyd, he should attract roughly 6-9 targets per game, especially when coverage rotates to No. 84's side. Equally important, Denver's shortcomings on defense will force John Fox to the skies often, particularly against potent offenses (e.g. Green Bay in Week 4 and San Diego in Week 5). Add it all up and the second-year wideout is capable of finishing around 65-75 receptions, 900-1,000 yards with 6-8 touchdowns.
There are several candidates who could be this year's Lloyd (e.g. David Nelson(notes), Devery Henderson(notes) and Denarius Moore(notes)), but, coincidentally enough, another overlooked Bronco just might take home the hardware as the position's biggest surprise sensation.
Fred Davis(notes), Was, TE
Y! percent started Week 2: Eight-percent
Preached endlessly preseason, the tight end position is rolling in the deep. Five of the position's current top-10 scorers were either drafted extremely late or not at all in most leagues a month ago. The Redskin was one of them.
Blessed with supreme athleticism, intimidating size and terrific speed, Davis has always had the baseline talents needed to develop into an upper-tiered tight end. However, physical derailments, Chris Cooley(notes) and underuse by prior coaching regimes only occasionally elevated him into the spotlight. But now a featured player in Mike Shanahan's two-tight offense, the boastful target, exploiting battles with overmatched linebackers and defensive backs, is finally taking center stage. Targeted 13 times by Rex Grossman(notes) through two games, he's hauled in 11 passes for 191 yards and a score, including a 6-catch, 86-yard, 1-TD clipping of the Cardinals Sunday (Watch highlights here). Unsurprisingly, the ex-Trojan has approached his newfound success with an ego that would make Kanye West seem like the Dalai Lama. From the Washington Post:
"Man, I'm killing these dudes," Davis said of opposing defenses. "I'm killing these dudes on these routes."
Expect the innocent slaughter of defenses to continue.
Without question the 'Skins have one of the friendliest passing schedule over the next several weeks with matchups against Dallas (twice), St. Louis, Carolina, Buffalo, San Francisco, Miami and Seattle. For Davis, a Week 6 tilt against Philly, which allowed seven catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns to Tony Gonzalez(notes) Sunday night, is also very favorable.
When weighing his cushy slate, budding chemistry with Grossman and sensational skills, Davis is more than a poor man's version of Jermichael Finley(notes). In fact, it's entirely possible he performs at or above his comparison's level over the next several weeks. And that's not hyperbole.
Consider this your last chance to hop on the bandwagon.
Honorable Mentions: Jason Campbell(notes), Oak, QB (four-percent started), Daniel Thomas(notes), Mia, RB (three-percent), Roy Helu(notes), Was, RB (two-percent), David Nelson, Buf, WR (one-percent), Denarius Moore, Oak, WR (one-percent)
Image courtesy of US Presswire