I won't waste any space below on Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Frankly, he's been written about and talked about plenty since his awe-inspiring 296-yard, three touchdown effort this past Sunday. But what I will say is that what Peterson has done in his nine-week NFL existence has already positioned him as a potential No. 1 overall fantasy pick next season. All that needs to happen for AP to cement his place among top pick candidates is for his offensive line to stay relatively intact – it really is an awesome unit leading the way up front – and for head coach Brad Childress to fully get on board with the idea that, in a backfield where you are blessed with the perfect prototype of what an NFL back should be, Chester Taylor is nothing more than a very capable backup. Peterson was officially awarded the starting gig over Taylor a couple weeks ago, so there's every reason to believe that those two caveats will be in place so that Peterson can be in the conversation with Tom Brady, LaDainian Tomlinson and Joseph Addai for first-pick honors next season. But, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. Let's take a look at how Week 9 shook up the fantasy landscape:
The Good: Top tight ends. Until this season, Antonio Gates has pretty much been in a class of his own at the tight end position. But the disparity between Gates and the rest of the upper tier class at the position has shrunk considerably in '07. In fact, Dallas' Jason Witten (77 receiving yards, TD, catch of the year in Week 9) has nearly matched Gates across the board, thus far – he's two catches (47 to 45) and 32 receiving yards (649 to 617) behind Gates, and he's crossed the end zone chalk equally as often (5 to 5). Tony Gonzalez (10 catches, 109 yards, TD in Week 9) and Kellen Winslow (11 catches, 125 yards in Week 9) are also keeping pace, falling roughly a fantasy point per week behind. And Dallas Clark can throw his hat into the mix thanks to a tight end-high six touchdowns – he's hurt by the fact that he's 200-plus receiving yards behind the others mentioned here. This fab five of tight end talent is currently averaging more fantasy points per game than Gates did when he led tight ends in per game fantasy production last year.
The Bad: Carolina offense. For the third time in their past five games, the Panthers scored exactly one touchdown. Not surprisingly, those five games represent the post-Jake Delhomme portion of the season. In the four games that backup QB David Carr has seen significant action behind center, the Carolina offense is averaging 9.3 points. In those games, WR Steve Smith has averaged 3.5 catches, 28 receiving yards and has scored just one touchdown. The Carr experience also coincides with a backfield meltdown. In those four games under Carr's guidance, DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams both have been held to 64 rushing yards or less.
The Ugly: Running backs named Henry. Both Travis Henry and rookie Chris Henry are staring at a suspension by the league for violating the banned substance policy. Of course, both think they have extenuating circumstances that need to be heard in the appeal process. Travis Henry's appeal now sounds like it won't be heard until after Thanksgiving, offering his owners a stay of execution. But you have to wonder if they wouldn't be better looking for other options immediately. The Broncos back has found the end zone just once this season and has posted 65 total yards or less in four of his past five games, including an anemic nine-carry, 31-yard effort on Sunday. In addition to sore ribs, Travis Henry dinged his knee in Week 9. Regardless of whether or not he can stay active through Turkey Day, it's becoming increasing likely that backup Selvin Young will see more and more play going forward. As for Tennessee's Henry, he hasn't appealed his case yet, but it sounds like he will soon. Regardless, it's not likely to make waves in fantasy as LenDale White (averaging 27 carries and 100 rushing yards over his past four games) has rendered the rest of the Titans' backfield mix moot.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Vernon Davis, SF, TE – In the past two weeks, Davis has been targeted 19 times, resulting in 13 catches, 148 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Bobby Engram, Sea, WR – In his past three games, Engram has been targeted 43 times and has produced a combined 29 catches, 332 receiving yards and a touchdown. On Sunday he finished with 21 targets, 14 catches, 139 yards and a score.
David Patten, NO, WR – In the resurgent Saints offense, Patten has topped 80 receiving yards in three of his past four games, including a four-catch, 81-yard, TD effort in Week 9.
Sidney Rice, Min, WR – This rookie has opened my eyes a couple times this year. Minnesota's passing game is still too shaky to make him a viable fantasy option, but let his four-catch, 66-yard, TD performance in Week 9 serve as a wake-up call. This guy has some legit talent.
Roy Williams, Det, WR – Williams still ranks among the top 20 fantasy wideouts, thanks to a monster three-week season-opening stretch. In the five games since then, however, he's averaged a mere 47 receiving yards per game and has failed to find the end zone.
Jason Campbell, Was, QB – Fantasy owners looking to get some QB help for the upcoming final bye week should steer clear of Campbell. The Redskins' signal caller has averaged just 145 passing yards and has thrown just one touchdown pass in his past three games. In addition, he threw for just 209 yards and one touchdown in Week 2, the last time he faced Philadelphia.
Vincent Jackson, SD, WR – Jackson has gone from everyone's favorite fantasy wide receiver sleeper to unownable over the course of the season's nine weeks. He's was cruising from Week 3 through Week 5, averaging 78 yards and scoring twice in those three weeks. In the three games since then, he's caught a total of two passes for 21 yards and no touchdowns.
EARLY BIG BOARD RETURNS
• Players in consideration for falling off the Board: Travis Henry, Thomas Jones,
• Players in consideration to make the Board: Drew Brees, Kellen Winslow
• Expected top Board climbers: Brett Favre, LenDale White,
• Expected top Board fallers: Shaun Alexander, Roy Williams, Larry Johnson (ankle), Rudi Johnson, Henry, Jones