Best, worst of 2010 fantasy season
The fantasy season doesn't have to stop now. With the playoffs in full swing this weekend, playoff fantasy football is a great way to get your fantasy fix while enjoying the postseason. Whether through hosting web sites or even an old-fashioned calculator and chain-e-mail league, there are plenty of options to keep you going through the NFL's second season. Some leagues feature benches, while others have you playing everyone on your team every week and most don't feature head-to-head play. Either way, the plan is the same -- staying alive. The longer your players are marching through the playoffs, the longer they can earn points and the team with the most player points at the end of the Super Bowl comes out on top.
The main strategy is to pass up some of the best individual players for guys on strong teams you expect to go far. For instance I may have a man-crush on the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles but with him playing the Ravens in Round 1, no thank you. Going by teams I like to make it at least two games (Steelers, Patriots, Eagles and Falcons) I came up with my following list. Come up with your own lists, play your hunches and have fun.
1. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers (captain)
Whether due to circumstances beyond their control or just by terrible play, these are the players who killed us this year.
QB Brett Favre, Vikings
None of these guys were on the radar at the start of the season and took up the bottom end the position rankings, if they even made it into the preview magazines at all (Steve Johnson, I'm looking at you). Here are the top guys who came out nowhere and into our winning lineups.
QB Michael Vick, Eagles (captain)
These are the guys that one way or another, had injuries that wrecked your team or at the very least left gaping holes in your lineup. It wasn't their fault, but willing to forgive and forget won't be too easy at this summer's draft.
QB Tony Romo, Cowboys
It was definitely not the year of the tight end. Whether it was the season-ending injuries to Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley, Vernon Davis' QB trouble, Dustin Keller being great for three weeks (out the entire year) Brent Celek turning invisible with Michael Vick under center, leagues requiring tight ends everywhere felt the pain. Antonio Gates had a season for the ages despite injuries that eventually overcame him late, Zach Miller was the Raiders' top target and both Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez defied preseason expectations while Marcedes Lewis and Brandon Pettigrew surprised.
Hard to believe it was three teams in three months for the preseason top-15 pick in 2010. Moss' production flagged with the Patriots, then spiked for all of one week in Minnesota. He ended the season barely making a statistical ripple with the Titans and his career is in question. The law of diminishing returns for diva-like behavior with eroding skills make last season possibly his last in terms of fantasy -- or even real-life -- NFL relevance.
Keeper leagues beware Tampa Bay's young group of skill players aren't going anywhere. In just his second season, QB Josh Freeman looks like a borderline fantasy starter heading into 2011 with a group of exciting young wideouts like Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, not to mention tight end Kellen Winslow, to throw to. Even better was that the late-season emergence of LeGarrette Blount gives the Bucs some balance on the ground with a punishing rushing attack.
Whether you drafted a QB early or you waited, got burned on draft day and worked the waiver wire, there were plenty of passing options. Many hit the jackpot by picking up Vick, but mostly all the top-six or so, all posted great years (Peyton, Rodgers, Brees, Rivers, Brady). Meanwhile Flacco, Roethlisberger, Orton (good until mid-November), Eli, Garrard, Freeman and Ryan were all decent starters most of the year. Heck, even Sam Bradford was a rookie one could start in deeper leagues and Lions' backup Sean Hill was more than solid. In 2010 it was hard to have a hole in your lineup at QB.
While QB Matt Moore was worse than expected and took Steve Smith down with him, the even bigger disappointment was the running game. DeAngelo Williams did next to nothing before getting hurt, and Jonathan Stewart was invisible before also getting hurt. Stewart did return to post a couple of good weeks at the end of the season, but only benefited teams that use injured reserve or owners who were waiver wire vultures.
Brett Favre's off-field reputation and on-field production took equal beatings, but ask fantasy owners and they might argue they got hurt the worst by his return in 2010. From Favre's flagging play and bodily breakdown, to Percy Harvin's headaches, the disappearance of Visanthe Shiancoe and Sidney Rice's surprise injury announcement on the eve of the season, the fantasy value of nearly everyone took a hit. The lone bright spot was Adrian Peterson, who still ended up the No. 2-scoring running back in fantasy despite the turmoil around him.
No position offered more surprises than at wide receiver in 2010. After not being active in 2009, the Broncos' Brandon Lloyd emerged as the top-scoring fantasy receiver in football, followed by Chiefs' preaseason mid-rounder Dwayne Bowe who finished second. Placing at the bottom of the top 10 was revelation Steve Johnson who came out of nowhere with the Bills. Late mid-round filler/late round afterthought Terrell Owens may have been the king of garbage time stats, but still finished top 12-15 in most scoring leagues thanks to an up and down year for the position.
So much for not having a "deep threat." After losing supposedly their best receiver, the Patriots' offense began to ring up similar offensive numbers to a few years ago. Ironically, the player credited with taking their offense to the next level back then was listed as one of the reasons it improved this year with his dismissal. Tom Brady and the passing game caught fire and some unheralded running backs in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead turned into occasional fantasy stars.
Whether you were buried by his point production during one of his one-man wrecking crew performances or you benefited from a savvy free agent pick up and rode him to a title, Michael Vick was a force of nature in 2010. The all-around production from his rushing and passing was reminiscent of Steve Young's fantasy dual dominance in the mid-1990s. Further, he saved some of his best performances for late in the season around playoff time with gonzo performances in Weeks 13 through 16. Had it not been for a missing a month of the season due to injury, he would have been the top story of the year and his video game numbers would have reached some even scarier totals.
No player had a bigger breakout than league rushing champ Foster. In the past, Texans running backs were often one-season teases, such as Domanick Davis and Steve Slaton. None, however, produced like the former Vol. Foster looks like the real deal. He shredded the Colts in Week 1 and never looked back. Even against some of the best run defenses, like the Chargers (127, two TDs) and Jets (84 yards, two TDs), Foster played like the best back in fantasy football. After posting 2,200 combined yards and 18 touchdowns, with age on his side not to mention a very good passing game with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson to balance the offense, draft list rankings in 2011 everywhere will have him in the top three overall.