This column is all about tiering players for the upcoming week; that part is easy enough to understand. But what you need to keep in mind when looking at the actual names in the following groups is, who are these guys right now?
Now that we're entering the halfway point of the season, last year's numbers are no longer relevant. That doesn't mean that we can't use the previous season as a marker for what we're looking at this year, it just means that we need to change the names around. Like my 11th grade history teacher always said (in between grossing us out with stories about him copulating with his wife on a bearskin rug), history repeats itself. The players may change, but the results stay the same. So to help you see past the names, let's take a look at a few guys that bring to mind a perceived notion of who they are, and reveal them for what they really are in comparison to last year's performers.
Matt Schaub: We all know Schaub as the former backup to the kind-hearted, dog enthusiast
Derek Anderson: If Schaub is this year's Anderson, what does that make the beleaguered Browns signal caller? Try Chad Pennington. Like Anderson this year, Pennington entered the '07 season as the starter for a team coming off a 10-6 record with serious playoff aspirations. He subsequently led his team to a 1-7 mark (the Browns are 2-4), and amid a chorus of calls for him to be replaced by a highly-drafted, second-year quarterback (
LaDainian Tomlinson: I'm not here to tell you that Tomlinson has lost it, or that he's a guy you should ever consider benching, but I think it's time we stopped being polite, and started getting real about what we're dealing with here. Blame the toe, blame his blockers, blame the ineptitude of his head coach. It doesn't matter. The fact is that Tomlinson just isn't the same guy who has been a consensus top-three pick over the past six seasons. He's topped 100 yards just one time, and is averaging nearly a yard below his career average of 4.5 yards per carry. Most telling is the lack of big plays that he's been able to generate. Last year he led the league with 13 carries of 20 yards or more. This year? He has two. And only five times has even broken one for more than 10 yards. He's on pace for career lows in yards (1,019), touchdowns (9), and receiving yards (342). Does that make him a bad fantasy back? Absolutely not. What it does make him is
Aaron Stecker: Here's a twist for you, Stecker is ... Stecker from last year. It would have been easy for me to say Pierre Thomas is this year's Stecker, but as Leon Washington once said: "I cannot tell a lie" (wait, was that Leon or George Washington that said that? I think I watch too much football.) Thomas is more of a McAllister clone, while Stecker could be considered the hobo version of the pass-catching, scat-back, Bush. Most owners in your league will flock to McAllister, but I'm not so sure that his role will be much different than it already is. As his name suggests, Deuce is a No. 2 man, no longer capable of carrying a traditional workload. Essentially, he's a burst-less back that benefits from the gaping holes that the wide-open approach of the Saints offense induces. He needs a complementary runner to split-out and spread the defense, and that's where Stecker comes into play. With Bush out last year, Stecker averaged 82.6 yards on the ground, adding four touchdowns and 12 catches for 84 yards in three games. While he may not be able to match those numbers, he'll come close, making him a very intriguing RB3 against the struggling Chargers defense.
Dwayne Bowe: Imagine for a moment that you're a big-time corporate lawyer with millions of dollars riding on every decision that you make. It's a stressful environment for sure, but thanks to a competent support staff that includes a highly-qualified paralegal, a veteran secretary and a tireless intern, you're able to reliably perform your job at the level that warrants your hefty salary. Now imagine that you replace that paralegal with a Clown College dropout, the secretary with a speech-impeded octogenarian and the intern with a pothead. Do you think you'd still be able to do your job? Welcome to Bowe's world. Somehow, despite a deplorable three-man QB rotation, a running game that's in shambles, and some guy named
Torry Holt: Funny thing, Holt entered the league trying to match the production of Isaac Bruce, and after catching and surpassing him, he once again finds himself trying to better Bruce's numbers. Only this time, he's attempting to equal the stats that the 35 year-old put up as the Rams' second wide receiver last year, and Holt's not doing a very good job of it. Owners keep waiting for him to break out of his funk, but even as St. Louis has flourished over the last two weeks, the steadiest of the steady receivers over the past decade continues to disappoint.
The Patriots have done an excellent job of shutting down their opposition's top receiving threat (only Vincent Jackson managed more than 80 yards), so if guys like