We’re now approaching the halfway point of the NFL and fantasy season; hard to believe, right? At this point, you should have made a few savvy waiver claims and dropped your dead weight. If you haven’t, or if your team is just hopeless, don’t give up–at the very least, check your roster once a week and plug in guys who are actually playing. Please. Nothing’s worse than a lame-duck fantasy owner who checks out early. But you know that and I know that, so I digress.
As you scanned your roster during these first 7 weeks, there were likely a number of nagging questions plaguing your logical thought process and reasoning, especially when it came to deciding who’d be “up” as your WR3, your RB2, or your flex play, and who’d be benched. With six to seven games in the bank, though, it’s time to take some of the mystery out of that weekly guesswork and make some well-informed decisions on who’s a relatively safe or risky play.
Remember: fantasy football is a total fucking crapshoot. The best play won’t necessarily turn out to be right play. That’s the nature of the beast. Start your best players with the most reasonable matchups and let those stupid footballs bounce where they may. Yes, there’s a little art to this thing, but there’s also a whole lotta luck (and black voodoo magic).
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers – We’ve touted this stallion since the moment he entered the league, and every year he let us down. Until this year. Thank you, Vernon, for finally making us look good. Though he still hasn’t crossed the 100-yards receiving mark in a single game this season, the sixth-overall pick of the ’06 draft has hauled in 6 TD catches in the past 4 weeks, including three on Sunday from his born-again QB Alex Smith. You were probably sitting on Davis as a backup: now’s the time to either trade your “starter” or to sell (really) high on Davis. This guy is a major talent who seems to finally get it, and you’ll want him in your starting lineup from now on. (Just for the record, Andrew kind of called this.)
Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals – It’s not often you see running backs bloom like Benson has this late in their career after accomplishing very little for so long. You do realize that not only is the fifth-year back leading the league in rushing with 720 yards (4.4 YPC), he’s now just 28 yards away from establishing a new career high… with nine games to go. You were already starting him before that monster effort against his old Chicago Bears team on Sunday (37 carries, 189 yards, 1 TD), but now you finally feel comfortable plugging him in every week without thinking about “the old Cedric Benson” making an unwelcome return.
Friendly reminder that Benson’s average Yahoo! draft position was 109th overall, or towards the front of the 11th round, behind guys like Larry Johnson (below), LenDale White, and Derrick Ward. Don’t feel bad, I didn’t want anything to do with him either.
Don’t miss three more fantasy football upgrades after the break…
Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys – After making minimal contributions over the better part of three NFL seasons, a healthy skepticism of Austin’s breakout performance in Week 5 against the Chiefs was warranted. It’s not anymore. Looking every bit like the elite playmaker Dallas is grooming him as, Austin was electric in his follow-up performance on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, catching 6 passes for 171 yards and 2 TDs. Every time he caught the ball, it felt like he had a chance to break it for 6 points. To recap, that’s now 16 catches for 421 yards and 4 TDs in Austin’s last 8 quarters of play. Start him next week against Seattle, and the week after at Philadelphia, and the week after at Green Bay, and…
Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings – Consider the Bernard Berrian Era (whatever that was) over and the Age of Rice underway. When Brett Favre establishes a palpable rapport with a wide receiver, history says you should take heed. This is one of those situations. Rice has only found the endzone twice so far this year, but expect that to change soon: the third-year wideout from South Carolina is getting plenty of redzone looks and has had a few TDs called back because of penalties. In his past two games, Rice has been nothing short of spectacular, catching a combined 17 passes for 312 yards. He’s tough, he has above-average speed, can get separation and find the seams, and has great hands. (Did you see that unbelievable crunchtime catch on the sideline where he twinkle-toed two feet in bounds while fully extended? Awesome.) Rice is an every-week starter unless you’re totally stacked at WR.
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets – It’s time to get on this rookie’s bandwagon. We didn’t think incumbent starter Thomas Jones had it in him to last another full season as a horse in the Jets backfield, and we still don’t, but like most we expected Leon Washington to be the main beneficiary of the long treads on Jones’ tires. Unfortunately for Washington and his owners (myself included), the dimunitive scatback suffered a broken fibula on Sunday at Oakland, ending his season and essentially starting Greene’s. I’d say he made the most of it, wouldn’t you? Yes, it’s just the Raiders and they played terribly, but there’s a lot to like about Greene’s effort: 19 carries for 144 yards (7.6 YPC) and 2 TDs. There aren’t many strong rush defenses left on the Jets’ schedule, which means Greene should probably be considered a strong RB3 or flex play start from here on out, minimum.