December 11, 2011
After an explosive Week 14, here are three unheralded medal-earners (started in less than 20-percent of Y! leagues) projected to finish in fourth place who ended up setting the fantasy pace:
Jake Locker, Ten, QB
Y! Percent Started: 0-percent
After Matt Hasselbeck exited stage left with calf injury in the second quarter of Sunday's loss to New Orleans, the rookie entered the game cold, but finished white-hot.
Though he fell just short of pulling off the comeback, the former Washington standout, drafted eighth overall back in April, immediately grabbed the attention of the fantasy masses, showcasing a rocket downfield arm, eye-popping versatility and competitive spirit. Over a little over a half of play, he threw for 282 yards, chipped in an additional 36 yards on the ground and accounted for two touchdowns (one pass and one rush), a Cam Newton-esque effort. Accuracy is an issue, but he's very interesting to say the least.
Believe or Make Believe? Believe. Hasselbeck's Week 15 availability is unknown, but with Houston clinching the division title and the Titans' hopes for a wildcard berth dwindling, it's likely Mike Munchak will turn to the future. He might as well. It's pretty clear, based on the veteran's recent string of unmemorable performances, Locker deserves to gain much needed experience.
With a matchup against the winless Colts this week, there's no better opportunity for the youngster. To Locker, Indy may seem like Washington State. The My Little Ponies, severely crippled by injuries in their secondary, present a very favorable situation. On the year, the Colts have given up 7.8 yards per attempt and the eighth-most fantasy points to signal callers. Assuming he gets the nod, the minimally-owned passer could flirt with the QB top-12 next week. Riverboat gamblers in deeper leagues should give him a long look.
Ryan Grant, GB, RB
Y! Percent Started: 12-percent
For the first 13 weeks of the season, Grant, once a fantasy rushing darling, played with a fork firmly planted in his back. Without a single carry above 10 yards, the plodder, an afterthought in a pass-happy offense, looked completely done. His best fantasy contribution prior to Sunday was a surprising 92-yard effort against Chicago back in Week 3. In his other 10 games, he failed to eclipse the six-point mark. Suffice it to say, Grant made awful look good.
But prior to Sunday's clash with Oakland, the veteran felt his luck was about to change, foreshadowing what would be his best single-game performance since 2009. We should've listened. From Friday's Green Bay Gazette:
Grant said he's as healthy as he has been all year and is looking forward to the possibility of an increased workload.
"I think it's a great opportunity for myself to just get back in a rhythm, for the backfield, I think we're going to get some opportunities this week," Grant said. "But I do think individually I have set a standard for myself and what I'm trying to do."
The rusher's remarks proved quite prophetic. On just 14 touches he totaled 98 yards and two touchdowns, the third-best output among RBs for the week. For a running back who notched a yards per carry well below 3.0 for much of the season it was an astonishing turn of events.
Believe or Make Believe? Make believe. Grant may indeed be the healthiest he's been in months and his Week 14 scorgasm was definitely encouraging, but one fact remains unchanged: Green Bay rarely runs the football. Mike McCarthy has called 'pass' 55-percent of the time this season, leaning on Aaron Rodgers' golden arm.
Kansas City, the Pack's Week 15 opponent, is certainly beatable up front. Shonn Greene torched the Chiefs for 129 rushing yards and a score on Sunday. Including that effort, they've allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to RBs on the year. If Starks sits again, Grant is a decent flex option. But given his recent track-record and Green Bay's unwillingness to feature the run, the former RB1 is an extremely risky commodity in most 12-team formats.
Rex Grossman, Was, QB
Y! Percent Started: 5-percent
Poll 10 random fantasy players on the street about whether they would trust Rex Grossman in a must-win situation and nine would likely respond, "Hell no!" To doubters, putting your head inside the mouth of a hungry lion would seem less risky.
Abrasive feelings toward the quarterback are understandable. He's best known for titanic face-plants, even against the softest of opponents.
But in Sunday's fantasy-scoring extravaganza against New England, Grossman delivered a heroic playoff performance. A week removed from completing just 41.3 percent of his attempts versus the Jets, he responded with a gutsy 19-for-32 effort, nearly bringing the 'Skins back to pull off an improbable upset of the AFC kings. Outside an early fumble that led to six Pats points, the passer was nearly flawless throwing for 252 yards and two touchdowns and a pick. The gaffe bobbly Santana Moss was solely responsible for.
Believe or Make Believe? Believe. On Friday's rather heated episode of "The Fantasy Freak Show," Andy Behrens and I exchanged pleasantries over Grossman's potential upside in Week 14. Being a calculated risk-taker I emphatically argued the maligned passer would be more man than muppet. Entering the week, he ranked No. 15 among QBs in points per game since Week 9. Plus, New England's incredibly giving pass defense, on pace to break a very unflattering single-season record, had turned several sketchy quarterbacks into fantasy studs. Rex was just the latest example of its futility.
Next week, Grossman is gifted another exploitable matchup, facing a Giants secondary that's come unraveled. Over the past five weeks the unit has allowed the most fantasy points to QBs. The 'Skins slinger, who's averaged 258.8 yards and notched a 7:7 td:int split in his past five starts, is in a solid position to follow-up with another top-15 tally.
Follow Brad on Twitter @YahooNoise.
Image courtesy of US Presswire