The Biggest Surprises and Disappointments Through Fantasy Football's Halfway Point
We're roughly halfway through the fantasy football season, so rather than bring a standard 5 Facts to Know article (especially considering this was written a couple of days ago), we'll be taking a look at the some of the surprises and disappointments from the fake football season at each position.
Let's get at it.
Note: I will be using the term "startable" often to describe players at each position. For quarterbacks and tight ends, that means a weekly top-12 performance at that position. For running backs and receivers, it refers to a weekly top-24 performance based on a standard roster. All point totals mentioned are standard scoring through Week 7 games only.
Biggest Surprises: Joe Flacco, Eli Manning
Thanks to a new offensive coordinator, a more effective running game than last year, and two free agent pickups in Owen Daniels and Steve Smith Sr., Flacco has had ample playmakers and opportunities to put together some great fantasy football weeks. He's the ninth-best quarterback in fantasy football right now despite only two startable weeks this season, and has been a bright spot for the savvy late-round quarterback drafters so far this year.
But if Flacco is a bright spot to the late round drafting strategy, what does that make Eli Manning? Probably the biggest surprise of the season at the position. With so many young quarterbacks making an impact and veterans that are always at the top, the younger Manning's return to relevance is a breath of fresh air to those that took a gamble on him. He has given fantasy owners 114 points, three fewer than Flacco.
Biggest Flops: Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, Cam Newton
It's hard to put three quarterbacks that have a combined eight startable weeks between them (Brees has four), but when all three of these quarterbacks were consistently ranked in the top five or six and currently rank as a QB2 in fantasy football, I would consider them borderline flops. Granted, two if not all three could possibly finish as a QB1 by the end of the season, but fantasy football owners that drafted each of these guys may be wishing they didn't spend such a high pick on them.
Most Startable Weeks: Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning
Luck has seven startable weeks compared to Manning's six through the first seven weeks of the season, but Manning has already had his bye week. We shouldn't surprised at all that Manning has been this good this season (again), but Luck being the top quarterback in fantasy football wasn't expected this season, though his development has shown it was close. Manning could take the top spot once Luck has his bye, and both quarterbacks should be battling back and forth the rest of the season for being the top quarterback in fantasy football.
Biggest Surprises: Ahmad Bradshaw, Justin Forsett, Lamar Miller
Bradshaw and Luck can thank each other for their fantasy football success this year. If not for Bradshaw's six receiving touchdowns, Luck may not be king of the quarterbacks right now. And Bradshaw wouldn't even be fantasy relevant without them, as he only has one rushing touchdown. Going forward, Bradshaw will be interesting to keep tabs on in fantasy football, as regression could occur.
Considering the Ravens had the worst backfield according to our Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) last year, it's quite shocking to see a Ravens back as an RB1 this year (eighth overall). Forsett, and Miller as well, has had five startable weeks this season at running back. They may have not all be of Matt Forte-quality, but they have still be serviceable for fantasy football owners.
Biggest Flops: Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy
For two running backs that were constantly debated as who was the better number-one rusher in the league, there has been little good from either so far this season. However, Charles gets a little bit of a pass as he missed a week and has still given owners three startable weeks thanks in part to a three-touchdown performance in Week 4.
So if a pass applies to Charles, maybe it should apply to McCoy, too? Darren Sproles was signed by the Eagles this year and has as many startable weeks as McCoy, but 11 more points thanks to stealing a couple touchdowns in the early going. McCoy is starting to round into form, and with Sproles out for a little bit, McCoy owners will be glad they hung on to him. But if he doesn't see the volume he saw last year, McCoy could be a hard play some weeks.
Most Startable Weeks: DeMarco Murray
And the bell-cow award goes to Murray. It's halfway through the season and Murray is the only back who has been startable every week in standard leagues this year. Many thought he would be a fantasy asset in the passing game, but after 100 or more rushing yards a game and an average of one rushing touchdown per game, Murray is the best back in fantasy football.
Biggest Surprises: Kelvin Benjamin, Terrance Williams
We shouldn't be too surprised that a rookie receiver is a WR1 in fantasy football this year considering the talent that was drafted in May. However, if someone told me that Benjamin would be the best fantasy rookie receiver over the likes of Mike Evans (one startable week) and Sammy Watkins (two), then I would have been shocked. But thanks to a touchdown in five of his seven starts, Benjamin has turned in four startable weeks and is the 10th-best receiver in fantasy football.
Equally shocking is Terrance Williams, the number-two receiver in Dallas. Williams has scored just four points fewer than Benjamin on the season, and has turned in three startable weeks for fantasy footballers. Like Benjamin, Williams has scored at least one touchdown in five of his seven games while flying under the fantasy football radar. Beware that Williams could be very touchdown dependent going forward though.
Biggest Flops: Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green
With both Bears' receivers being drafted late in the first or early second rounds of drafts, high expectations were set for Jeffery and Marshall. And understandably so with Marc Trestman whispering in Jay Cutler's ear. But so far, both receivers have been inconsistent for their fantasy owners. Jeffery has one more fantasy point than Marshall, and four startable weeks over Marshall's three. But many expected them to be one of the best duos of fantasy receivers this year; instead that title goes to division rivals Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.
Green wasn't even targeted in Week 2 due to injury, and missed games in Weeks 4 and 6. Granted, Green did put up the third-best fantasy mark in Week 1 and was the 16th-best in Week 5, but for those that spent a first or even second round pick on Green have had to scour the waiver wire all season.
Most Startable Weeks: Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Steve Smith, Dez Bryant
Each of these receivers have five startable weeks under their belts already, and none of them have had a bye. Cobb has been the touchdown machine, leading the way with eight touchdown catches. Teammate Nelson is right behind with six touchdown catches, but trails Brown by just two points. With Demaryius Thomas finally getting attention from Manning and Bryant just doing work in Dallas, it will be a Battle Royale to see who finishes as the top fantasy receiver.
Biggest Surprises: Antonio Gates, Martellus Bennett, Dwyane Allen
Ladarius Green who? That's what Gates has to be asking this year, as he's pulled a Steve Smith and dialed back his career a few years. Gates is already on pace to beat his 2004 total of 13 touchdowns, and is having a season where he could easily knock on a 1,000 yards receiving. This has translated into a third-place standing in fantasy football with five startable weeks so far this season.
Of any Bears pass-catcher, Bennett was supposed to be number four in the pecking order of receptions and targets. However, Bennett is second on the Bears in targets and receptions, leading to 422 yards (third on the team) and four touchdowns (second), adding up to the fourth-best fantasy tight end.
Dwayne Allen may be the biggest surprise at tight end. Many thought the tight end to own from the Colts would be Coby Fleener, but Allen has been a startable tight end in five of the first seven weeks of the season (good for seventh in points overall) compared to Fleener's two. And while Thomas and Bennett were drafted expected to be startable tight ends, Allen and Fleener both went undrafted according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. Surprising indeed!
Biggest Flops: Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis
Jimmy Graham was supposed to take the league by storm once again, hooking up for multiple touchdowns with his Pro Bowl quarterback. But due to low targets in a couple games and mostly sitting out against the Lions, Graham has only turned in two startable performances in six games, good for the eighth-best tight end in fantasy football - not good for a first-round fantasy selection.
Over his nine-year career, Vernon Davis has always been more touchdown-dependent than most tight ends. This year it's more the same, but he's simply not producing. He only has 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns in one of the more run-heavy offensive schemes. Outside of his Week 1 performance against Dallas, he has been very quiet in the passing game translating to being unusable in fantasy football for the time being.
Most Startable Weeks: Greg Olsen, Rob Gronkowski
Both players are tied for six startable weeks, and neither player has had to deal with their bye week yet. In fact, with Olsen putting up six top-12 weekly performances, he's the second-best tight end in the league right now. Olsen is performing a lot higher than his average draft position after being taken as the sixth tight end off draft boards.
Gronkowski is performing well too, as many were concerned for his health going into the 2014 season. Many drafted Gronk in the second or third rounds, and have been rewarded six startable fantasy weeks and the fifth-best tight end in fantasy football.