Fantasy season's first-half highlights

Pat Fitzmaurice
Fantasy season's first-half highlights

Can it really be that the fantasy season is already halfway over? It seems like only yesterday that I was touting DeAngelo Williams as a value pick in fantasy drafts and casting doubt on Adrian Peterson’s chances of making a successful comeback from knee surgery. I mean, c’mon … Mike Shanahan hasn’t even made a running back change yet.

On the other hand, it has been an eventful half-season so far. We’ve watched Chris Johnson’s share price go from Enron-level to Berkshire Hathaway-level. We saw Pittamania come and go. We LaFell in and out of love. We opened up our Hartline only to have it broken.

What better way to sum up the half-season than with a few lists?

All-fantasy team

QB Drew Brees — Edges out RG3 and Rodgers in fantasy points per game. Hasn’t had a bad game yet.

RB Arian Foster — His dependable excellence has almost gotten boring (though not to his owners, of course).

RB Ray Rice — Has offered consistent production, aside from a Week Seven hiccup against Houston.

WR A.J. Green — Will probably be one of the first 2-3 receivers taken in fantasy drafts for the next 10 years.

WR Victor Cruz — Last season clearly was no fluke.

TE Tony Gonzalez — Noble old warrior is shining in the twilight of his career; edges out Gronk.

PK Greg Zuerlein — With his crazy range, “Greg the Leg” is racking up points despite the Rams’ lousy offense.

All-bust team

QB Matthew Stafford — Edges out Cam Newton; unlike Cam, doesn’t have his legs to fall back on.

RB Steven Jackson — Slowing down, offering less in the way of both quality and quantity.

RB DeAngelo Williams — Half of his outings have been colossal flops.

WR Steve Smith — Zero touchdowns, and his fantasy owners are as mad about it as he is.

WR Brandon Lloyd — A wildly talented receiver paired with Tom Brady … how could this have gone so wrong?

TE Jermichael Finley — Has stonier hands than Roberto Duran.

PK Mason Crosby — Ranks 20th in kicker points and has been bad on long tries.


All-surprise team

QB Robert Griffin III — We suspected he might be good from the get-go, but not this good.

RB Alfred Morris — You have to be good, real good, to keep your starting-RB job under Mike Shanahan.

RB Adrian Peterson — Because there has been no discernible drop-off even though everyone expected post-injury slippage.

WR James Jones — Tied with A.J. Green and Victor Cruz for the NFL lead in TD catches (seven); who bought him the new set of hands?

WR Josh Gordon — Everyone figured he would need time to develop. Perhaps not.

PK Greg Zuerlein — Have I mentioned that he kicks for the Rams?


All-rookie team

QB Robert Griffin III — In a terrific year for rookie quarterbacks, RG3 sits atop the heap.

RB Alfred Morris — He’s 5-foot-9, his 40-yard dash time is 4.67, and he was drafted in the sixth round: Who’d have guessed this would be the Washington running back to finally earn Mike Shanahan’s trust?

RB Trent Richardson — Highly impressive even though he hasn’t been completely healthy at any point in the season.

WR Josh Gordon — The Browns’ supplemental draft pick seems to have a knack for big plays.

WR Kendall Wright — Very solid so far; he’s outperforming Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd, who were both chosen ahead of him in the first round.

TE Coby Fleener — The best of a thin rookie crop at tight end; he’s not playing as big a role as we had hoped.

PK Greg Zuerlein — A lot of midseason hardware for the guy who was always called last when his teachers took attendance.


The 15 most significant in-season casualties

1. Pierre Garcon — Might have put up huge numbers in a full season with RG3, but a plantar plate tear in his right foot continues to keep him out.

2. Greg Jennings — On the bright side, Mike McCarthy has been very straightforward about Jennings’ unavailability.

3. Maurice Jones-Drew — This ranking is speculative, but one gets the feeling that he won’t be back in a workhorse role any time soon.

4. Hakeem Nicks — Missed three games with knee and ankle injuries, hasn’t been himself since returning.

5. Jimmy Graham — Has missed only one full game (and most of another), but it’s hard to lose such a difference maker, even for a short time.

6. Aaron Hernandez — Back from a high ankle sprain, but the productive tight end missed three games.

7. Danny Amendola — PPR stud felled by a grisly collarbone injury, but he could be back soon.

8. Cedric Benson — Was putting up solid yardage numbers before a major foot injury.

9. Peyton Hillis — The notion that he was going to split carries with Jamaal Charles was overly optimistic. Still, his season has been a washout so far.

10. Santonio Holmes — Had slipped from starting-caliber fantasy receiver to flex option, but his owners took a depth hit.

11. Donald Brown — Solid flex option is due back soon.

12. DeMarco Murray — Hadn’t hit stride this season and hasn’t missed a lot of time, but his owners are still anxious to get him back.

13. Fred Davis — Before a season-ending Achilles injury, there was hope he would turn around a disappointing season.

14. Ryan Williams — The kid can’t catch a break.

15. Fred Jackson — Missed two games plus part of the season opener. Returned to a 50-50 time-share with C.J. Spiller.


The five most disappointing teams from a fantasy perspective

1. Carolina Panthers — Cam, Steve Smith, DeAngelo and J-Stew have all flopped.

2. Detroit Lions — The Stafford-to-Megatron combo is less exciting than the Weeden-to-Gordon combo these days.

3. San Diego Chargers — Almost no one here playing up to their draft positions

4. Dallas Cowboys — A bad offensive line is strangling the productivity of Romo, Murray, et al.

5. Philadelphia Eagles — No real busts, but mildly disappointing across the board.


Three players thriving in new surroundings

1. Peyton Manning — Manning owners and Broncos fans probably would have been satisfied with 85 percent of vintage Peyton; they’re getting close to 100 percent.

2. Vincent Jackson — The big-play receiver has added a jolt of electricity to the Tampa Bay passing game.

3. Brandon Marshall — A Chicago reunion with former Broncos teammate Jay Cutler has gone even better than expected.


Three players flopping in new surroundings

1. Brandon Lloyd — As mentioned earlier, the move to New England looked so good on paper but hasn’t worked out thus far.

2. Robert Meachem — As lackluster in San Diego as he was in New Orleans.

3. Tim Tebow — A complete nonfactor in the Jets’ offense so far.


Five players who have convinced us that their 2011 breakouts weren’t flukes

1. Victor Cruz — More than just a home-run hitter; a terrific all-around receiver despite his lack of size.

2. Marshawn Lynch — His punishing style evokes memories of Earl Campbell and John Riggins; let’s hope Lynch’s body holds up.

3. A.J. Green — Nope, no sophomore slump here.

4. Jordy Nelson — Started slowly, but he’s on fire right now.

5. Jimmy Graham — He and Gronk are the real deal; no need to list Gronk since he had 10 TD catches two years ago.


Four young players who have lowered our once-lofty expectations indefinitely

1. Dez Bryant — Still looks like a superstar on a few rare occasions, but those fleeting moments only make it more frustrating to have him on your team.

2. Jermichael Finley — Somewhere along the line he traded in his hands for a pair of cast-iron skillets.

3. Mark Ingram — True, he hasn’t had the chance to play a major role, but he hasn’t done nearly enough with the carries he has been given.

4. Sam Bradford — Hasn’t come close to fulfilling the promise of his rookie year; if he played in New York, he might be as big a pariah as Mark Sanchez.


Three players who were overhyped but nevertheless have been productive

1. Julio Jones — Sure, he’s still a star in the making. But the Bengals got it right in last year’s draft: A.J. Green is the better receiver.

2. Matthew Stafford — Looks like we were premature in calling him a top-tier QB. For now he belongs on the second tier, where he can play cribbage with Tony Romo.

3. Darren McFadden — And here we figured he only needed good health in order to turn in a career year. McFadden hasn’t been a total flop, but we were expecting so much more.


Three rookie running backs who came from out of the blue

1. Daryl Richardson — The seventh-rounder not only pushed his way past second-rounder Isaiah Pead on the Rams’ depth chart, he has muscled his way into a time-share with Steven Jackson.

2. Andre Brown — We figured first-round draft choice David Wilson would be the primary backup to Ahmad Bradshaw; we figured wrong.

3. Brandon Bolden — With Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen ahead of him on the Pats’ depth chart, it seemed inconceivable that this undrafted rookie would have any value.


Don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what the second half of the fantasy season has in store for us.