Before it gets too far away from the end of the 2010 NFL season, we should take a look back at a few players who either exceeded expectations or didn’t come close. These players can make or break your draft next year as their former owners clamor for a chance to own their savior from last season again, or let them fall way too deep in the draft because of bitter feelings of resentment. In order to be a good fantasy football player you have to have a short memory, but there are always a few nuggets of information worth remembering over the long-term:
Steve Smith, WR, CAR – He was a dud this past season and it is easy to think that he is getting old and no longer a factor. I took a look at his production and found something worth noting, take a look for yourself:
Games with Matt Moore at QB
Games without Matt Moore at QB
*Matt Moore started but was knocked out due to injury in the first half.
Moore did not make the Panthers a better team by any stretch, but he clearly had a trust and connection with the only legitimate receiving threat that Carolina had last year. I am not saying that he has much value going into next season, but the Panthers are very likely to go with a different QB next season and I do not blame Smith for his mediocre numbers. Smith could end up a gem if he can build chemistry with whoever is at Quarterback for the Panthers, so don’t be afraid to use a mid to late round pick on him at next years draft.
Jamaal Charles, RB, KC – What more can you ask for from the Chief’s stud running back, who burst on the scene last year? MORE CARRIES! I have been on record saying that Todd Haley is an idiot, but it never hurts to say it again. Charles averaged a staggering 6.4 yards per carry over the course of the season, which was highest in the NFL for all players who saw over 100 carries on the season. Charles was also 2nd in total yards with 1,467, not far behind Arian Foster who had 1,616. Even more impressively, he did it on just 230 carries (Foster had 327). Thomas Jones was the other back involved in the league’s top rushing attack and despite having just a 3.7 YPC average Jones saw 15 more carries. This was essentially a 50/50 timeshare, but look for Charles to get better every season from here on out. Thomas Jones is aging quickly while Charles gains experience, he will be trusted to carry the ball more often. This guy is here to stay and I do not see his production dropping off even a little next year.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC – I was very surprised that the Chiefs made the playoffs this season and Dwayne Bowe was a big part of their success. He started the season pretty poorly, with 152 yards and one TD in his first four games. In weeks 6 and 7 he went up against two of the worst secondaries in the NFL and his production spiked with 189 yards and four TDs in those two weeks. He went on a 7 game scoring streak recording 13 touchdowns during that timeframe. Easily lost in these impressive stats is the trouble that Bowe had against quality defensive backs; In week 13 Bowe was held without a catch against an aging Champ Bailey and in week 8 against Buffalo, he had three catches for just 16 yards (though one of them was a TD). Lastly, the team’s passing offense disappeared when Matt Cassel missed a game against the Chargers in week 14. I don’t blame this on Bowe but for me to take a guy as my top wide receiver, I’d like to think he could get open at least ONCE for his backup QB. All this points to Bowe having a lot of upside for next season, but it is not without risk. Bowe is nothing more than a WR2 until he can produce more consistently, so don’t get caught paying too high a price to have him on your team next season.
Brent Celek, TE, PHI – Celek had a breakout season in 2009 when Donovan McNabb was at Quarterback for the Eagles and appeared to be a big part of their offense last season when Kevin Kolb was running the show. Once Michael Vick took the starting job, Celek appeared to become an afterthought. The fact is that with a mobile quarterback like Vick, the tight end will not be used as often as with a pocket passer… especially when the offensive line struggles as it did last year. The end of the season was better for Celek, but the big issue for me will be his consistency. There might be more 10-reception games like in week 16 on the horizon, but I am much more concerned with how many 0-2 fantasy-point outings are waiting for his fantasy owners. I think Celek has the skill to be a top-5 TE, but the situation looks to be a frustrating one for fantasy owners and you can find a better value at the position during next year’s draft.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, NYJ – There was a lot of hype going into last year’s fantasy draft season about Shonn Greene being the lead guy for the Jets. This was not the case, LT showed that he still has what it takes to be a dynamic playmaker and was pivotal to the early success that the Jets had. Later in the year however, LT slowed down and made less of an impact. LT might be getting old, but he still has the ability to make an impact in a supporting role. He was used as the lead back most of the season and because of that he wore down and was not as effective a weapon late in the year. If Rex Ryan hopes to get the most of LT deep into the playoffs he will need to lean much more heavily on Shonn Greene, which knocks LT out of my top 30 running backs for next season.
Kenny Britt, WR, TEN – Britt is my biggest sleeper pick for next year’s fantasy draft. I am by no means alone in this, but there is good reason that so many people think he is about to explode… he already did. Last season Britt started just 7 games and still managed 775 yards and 9 TDs. This is an average of over 110 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. These averages are slightly inflated due to a 225 yard 3 score game in week 7, but since when do we mind letting one player put up 40+ points with their backup QB? Right now I see Britt as a top-15 receiver, but this all depends on how the Titans go about addressing their QB situation. The Titans also have a new head coach, Mike Munchak, who was a 9 time pro-bowl offensive lineman and is sure to favor the ground game. This actually bodes well for Britt however, because Chris Johnson will force defenders to bring an eighth into the box to contain him and severely limit their ability to double cover Britt. I expect the Titans to look to add a veteran QB to their roster in an effort to give them a chance to win right out of the gates and if say, Donovan McNabb landed the job… the Titans would instantly have a playoff-caliber team. All we really need now is a new CBA so that free agency can happen…