When a coach talks up a player in preseason, it's generally wise not to listen too closely, as his comments may be a smoke screen—perhaps designed to pump up confidence or even motivate his roster competition. (All the good news coming out of Dallas this August, for example, about wideout Roy Williams proved to be unfounded.)
This is an article from the Nov. 16, 2009 issue
But the 49ers' Mike Singletary, in his first full season, has shown that he is one coach whose pronouncements are worth heeding. The coach heaped praise on longtime underachiever Vernon Davis before Week 1, naming him a team captain and saying that he "exemplified a lot of those qualities that you have to have in order to be a leader." The 2006 first-round pick has been among this season's highest-scoring fantasy tight ends (477 yards, seven TDs). Singletary also said that when Michael Crabtree ended his long holdout that the rookie would play a role in the 49ers' offense immediately, and he did, starting the first game in which he was active. So one tip from the season's first half: When Singletary speaks, pay close attention.
Other lessons learned:
1) The Rule of 30 is more of a guideline.
Fantasy owners have long subscribed to the axiom that running backs will have a severe drop-off when they turn 30. That notion has panned out this year in the cases of two 30-year-olds, San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson (289 rushing yards, three TDs) and Cleveland's Jamal Lewis (349 yards, zero TDs). But the Jets' 31-year-old Thomas Jones has been frisky, averaging 88 rushing yards through eight games and scoring seven touchdowns. Perhaps Jones has been an exception because he came into the season with several hundred fewer career carries (1,949) than either Lewis (2,399) or Tomlinson (2,657). In the future take note of such spry legs.
2) Rookie wideouts can contribute.
Receivers once needed two, or more often three, seasons to blossom. But, possibly because more colleges are using pro-style offenses, the babes are no longer lost in the woods. Last season Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson and Denver's Eddie Royal caught on immediately; this year the much longer list includes the the Colts' Austin Collie, the Vikings' Percy Harvin, the Eagles' Jeremy Maclin, the Giants' Hakeem Nicks and the Steelers' Mike Wallace. In next year's draft the top rookie receiver, Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant, should be upgraded accordingly.
3) Change can be a tonic.
Braylon Edwards was all but useless during his final days in Cleveland. However, when he was dealt to the Jets after Week 4, he briefly returned to must-start status. Similarly, Chris Chambers struggled to contribute with the Chargers, but the wideout had two touchdowns in his debut for Kansas City on Sunday. Then there's Brett Favre; the move to Minnesota has worked out well, no? So if you have a hunch about a prominent player who's switching teams—pounce!
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Detroit is having another dismal season with only one win thus far, but an emerging bright spot for the Lions is 6'5", 265-pound tight end Brandon Pettigrew. He had his best game in Seattle on Sunday, with seven receptions for 70 yards and his first career touchdown. The 20th overall pick from Oklahoma State is available in most leagues if you're fishing for an upgrade at tight end or an injury replacement. Given that Detroit will often be playing from behind and thus passing frequently, he's worthy of consideration. With young talent like Pettigrew (below), QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson and RB Kevin Smith, the forecast for the Lions—at least in the fantasy realm—looks bright for 2010.