Wild Card players often become valuable playoff fantasy X-factors
Fantasy football owners greedy enough to covet a chance for two championships in one season, or those looking for a second chance at finishing on top, all felt the sting of wild card weekend, which was as wild as it gets.
Well, at least I did, as three out of four underdogs won, helping wreak havoc on my personal draft board and playoff team. Who knew the Seahawks were an offensive time-bomb ready to go off, LaDainian Tomlinson would rise from the dead and the Packers were hiding a surprise running game from the world for 16 previous weeks. With fantasy playoff football, the most important rule is to stay alive and racking up points from week to week for your postseason total. Depending on your picks last week, there may be a lot less of your guys to go around.
As the divisional playoff weekend kicks into high gear, those with big-ticket items (Patriots, Steelers, and maybe Falcons players, depending on one's NFC tea leaves-reading) hope to reel in some rewards for their investment. The one risk taking players on teams with byes is giving up one week's worth of point production, and judging from the historic success of wild cards making the Super Bowl, that's an X-factor to consider.
Using the common 1 point per 10 rushing and receiving yards and 1 point per 20 passing yards method, here are the top performers thus far in postseason fantasy football. (An * indicates the player is no longer alive in the playoffs.)
1 QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, 29 points
There was plenty of fantasy fodder from the first playoff weekend to sift through in projecting ahead.
The Colts' running game is no great shakes, but at least fantasy owners can set their watches by an annual Joseph Addai injury. Donald Brown's late-season surge puts him in a good spot to finally (maybe?) unseat the perpetual underachiever in 2011. Neither impressed last weekend. Looking forward. I'd avoid both teams' backs on draft day, but maybe saving a flier for the last few rounds.
All year long we analyzed the receivers, tight ends and running backs who got the most passes thrown their way, or Targets. One of the best indicators of a pass-catchers' worth, it's a nice way to see how involved your guys are in the offense, from week to week even if the production is off from time to time.
With '10 in the books, let's look at a six-pack of top receivers in the league, who don't get as many chances as expected. This either explains why they may have had off-years (Austin, Boldin) or show how much big-play potential they have with making the most of only a few chances per game (Jennings, Wallace). Either factor may help when making out next season's preseason draft rankings.
While it's easy to see that the Eagles' duo tend to cannibalize each other's chances due to the lack of a true lead receiver, it also illustrates why Jackson and Maclin are, at best, WR 2 or WR 3-type fantasy receivers. Neither gets the amount of chances they should for catches as long as each other is around. On the other hand, the data also points to the awesomeness of Jennings, who, if he received even more passes his way, would truly be scary as well as the feast or famine Boldin. Nobody does the deep ball better than Wallace, while Austin's struggles are connected to Tony Romo's injury and Jon Kitna's Kitna-ness (otherwise known as up and down play and questionable decisions).
To the surprise of no one with the exception of Aubie the Tiger possibly, Auburn's Cam Newton declared himself eligible for the NFL draft Thursday. Spread-style offense quarterbacks are still a relative unknown at the next level, but as the lone "canary in the coal mine" Vince Young could showed what he could not do when not melting down, diva-style. Mobile QBs are the ultimate fantasy X-factor, as Tim Tebow's late-season push demonstrated. Newton can offset a so-so BCS title game performance with measurables that will likely be off the charts come combine-time, raising his stock to top-10 status. Don't sleep on Newton's potential come draft time, and that goes too for your keeper league's fantasy rookie draft.