The 2012 fantasy football season may be remembered as the year of unpredictability. Rookies started in Week 1 and starred. Many undrafted players became stars. And worst of all, many established stars either faded or outright bombed for their owners.
But the season isn't in the books yet. Here's 25 of those "stars" who could still redeem themselves with big fantasy points before it's all over:
Yes, he’s dropped every other pass that’s come his way. He can’t find the end zone. But Finley is growing unpopular in Green Bay for those achievements, which means he’s reached a fork in the road. He’s either going to get some smelling salts under his nose and clean his game up, or the Packers are going to find another tight end in 2013.
Like the Patriots, this offense finds replacement parts and keeps chugging along, and Tom Crabtree looks very capable of filling his spot. Finley’s got to start producing if he even wants to interest other teams next year, let alone Green Bay.
Stewart hasn’t rushed for more than 51 yards in a game this season, and he’s only scored one touchdown.
Yet two weeks ago, the Panthers reaffirmed their commitment to the ground game in general, and Stewart in particular. He’s their No. 1 back. He’s had 32 touches in the last two games as evidence.
Carolina made a very public statement about him being “their guy” at RB, and signed him to a huge extension before the season.
Moss has 13 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns through eight games. If he wasn’t who he is, most fantasy owners would have him buried on their bench or waived him off their roster completely.
But he is Randy Moss, and he’s still got big-game potential. He’s averaging a gaudy 18.1 yards per catch, and every time QB Alex Smith gets him involved in the 49ers' offense, he produces.
San Francisco has a relatively easy second half schedule, and Moss is worth hanging on to just in case he conjures up a little past glory.
The 10-year veteran is still getting an average of seven targets a game from QB Joe Flacco. Even though Boldin’s only scored once, he’s still gaining 14.1 yards per catch. Torrey Smith is Flacco’s No. 1 receiving target, but Boldin’s experience can’t be ignored as the fantasy playoffs arrive.
He typifies the cagey, aging vet who gets a start in your Super Bowl and winds up catching a key touchdown. Bernie Parmalee was once the Super Bowl MVP in two consecutive years in my 24-year league. Never discount what a seasoned player can do for you late.
A colossal disappointment to date, Gates is averaging three receptions a game. He hasn’t gone over 100 yards receiving. Worst of all, he’s only scored three times.
But hang on.
Those three scores have come in the last two games, suggesting he’s warming up. The Chargers still have games against the Ravens and Steelers, but if you make the playoffs in your league, Gates will face the Panthers, Jets, and Raiders the last three games of the season, ensuring positive matchups.
The Rams voided the last year of his contract a few weeks ago. Jackson was rumored to be traded before the deadline last week. There’s every indication that he’s playing his final games in St. Louis. So there’s a huge amount on the line for him to start reaching paydirt frequently for a big contract with another team in 2013.
He’s only rushed for 400 yards and one TD so far, but Jeff Fisher isn’t going away from the ground game. Jackson’s going to get scoring chances, and he badly wants to cash them in.
The first four weeks of the season, the Eagles’ TE caught 29 passes for 315 yards. The Eagles went 3-1. Since that time, Celek has only caught 22 balls for 121 yards, while the Eagles have gone 0-4.
Celek needs to be more involved in the offense for Philly to start winning again, and Andy Reid is smart enough to see that (even if Monday night was rough for him). Celek may only have one score, but he’s valuable in PPR leagues. And with a history of one TD catch for every 12 catches prior to 2012, Celek’s due for a rebound.
If he remains healthy, Welker will catch 100 balls for well over 1,000 yards this season. That’s great in PPR leagues, but he’s only scored two touchdowns.Call it Gronk-itis, Ridley-itis, or whatever you want. The Patriots spread the scores around on offense, and Tom Brady’s in the habit of looking for Welker outside of the 20s, not in the red zone.
But he’s been targeted 83 times in eight games, so the law of averages has to kick in at some point. And with TE Aaron Hernandez out again, any further personnel losses at receiver will mean an uptick in Welker’s numbers.
Injuries have kept Jackson from being the fantasy stud he was in 2011, but he’s 100 percent now and becoming more of a focal point in the Bills’ offense. He’ll split time with C.J. Spiller at RB the rest of the way, and the Bills’ remaining schedule is among the league’s softest.
He may only have two touchdowns on the season and less than 400 total yards, but Jackson’s gotten 49 touches in the last three games. That figure should only increase.
Crabtree leads the 49ers in receiving with 39 catches for 440 yards and three TDs. But Crabtree is more of a career fantasy dud than just a single-season one (only 15 TDs in 214 career catches).
However, he’s been consistently targeted by QB Alex Smith (55 times), and broke out with a 2-touchdown effort in his last outing. The fact that he leads the Niners in receiving on a team with Randy Moss, Vernon Davis and Mario Manningham suggests he may finally be coming into his own.
Nicks’s chronic foot ailments seem like they’ll always be there. But Nicks is relatively healthy right now, and that should mean immediate improvement in his numbers the rest of the way.
He has 27 catches for 390 yards, but hasn’t had a “Nicks” kind of day since Week 2. That day, he hauled in 10 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. The Giants will face some leaky pass defenses the second half of the season (Packers, Saints), and a healthy Nicks should find plenty of end zone opportunities.
Green-Ellis has played fantasy’s Rip Van Winkle this season, putting owners to sleep for the first half of the season. He went a month without scoring a TD until Sunday’s game against the Broncos.
But Green-Ellis’s history of scoring touchdowns is too hard to ignore as the fantasy season reaches its stretch run. He’s also continuing to get 18 rushes a game and more than 20 touches.
Keep him on your bench and ready to watch for improvement.
Here’s a guy with everything to play for.
Bowe is in the final year of his contract, he’s made it clear he wants out of Kansas City, and that he wants big money. There’s no way he’s getting it unless he lights it up for the Chiefs the remainder of the season. A total of 45 catches and three touchdowns isn’t going to get it done. He’s also been notorious for dropped passes.
Give Bowe credit for being smart enough to understand what’s at stake and play his tail off the rest of the season. It doesn’t matter if Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn is throwing, Bowe's going to give it all to reach the end zone and pad his stats. In a fantasy world, that’s a guy worth holding on to.
Despite his need for a nanny, and his ailing hip, when Bryant is targeted, he produces. Thirteen targets against the Bears resulted in eight catches for 105 yards. Fifteen targets against the Ravens netted 13 grabs for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Eleven targets two games ago against the Giants yielded a five-catch, 110-yard game.
So why don’t the Cowboys make more of an effort to establish him during games? My bet is that as soon as Jerry Jones gets inside the Dallas locker room, that’s going to be a directive for coach Jason Garrett.
Lloyd is another receiver whose stock should go up. A focal point of the Patriots' offense early on (33 targets the first three games), Lloyd caught 22 catches for 237 yards. Over the next five, however, he’s only caught 15 balls in five games for 232 yards. And there’s the total of three touchdowns, too.
But Lloyd scored two of them in the team’s rout of the Rams in London, suggesting maybe he’s back in Tom Brady’s first-look sights again. New England spreads the ball around too much for owners to get in a lather about Lloyd, but his resurgence is worth factoring in as a spot-starter.
Things are unraveling in Philly.
Andy Reid is under fire. Michael Vick is nearing the bench. DeSean Jackson’s contract return on investment has been almost zero. Change is coming in the offseason, and now is the time for Maclin to make his statement to be the Eagles' No. 1 receiver heading into next season.
His numbers are mild (28-356-3), and he’s been injured. But Maclin has been targeted 32 times in the last four games, with 19 catches for 230 yards and a TD. He’s warming up, and at just the right time for fantasy owners.
Carolina’s road win at Washington was a huge lift for a team enduring a very disappointing season. With the exception of Cam Newton, no Panther was struggling more than Smith, who finally reached the end zone for the first time against the Redskins.
Smith was a high draft choice in fantasy drafts, and many owners who stuck with him are now hoping he and Newton are resurrecting their connection. With 70 targets and 38 catches for more than 600 yards, the odds of several more touchdowns are in Smith’s favor.
While A.J. Green is all the rage in Cincinnati, Gresham is up for a Best Supporting Receiver award. T
he third-year tight end has 34 catches for 433 yards, decent digits for that position. But he’s only scored twice. Yet with the number of targets he’s getting from QB Andy Dalton (51), and his 12.7 yard per catch average, it’s a decent bet that Gresham will top his first half season totals.
Sunday against the Broncos he went over the 100-yard mark for the first time in 2012, so he’s definitely trending upward.
A receiving touchdown in each of the year’s first three games had Johnson owners giddy. One touchdown since then has brought them back to earth.
But he’s still being targeted steadily (70 through eight games), and he’s averaging 12 yards a catch. Ryan Fitzpatrick will rediscover his ace, and the Bills have a laughably soft remaining schedule (the Patriots are the only team on it likely bound for the playoffs).
The Cowboys may be imploding before Jerry Jones’s eyes, but Witten is not a target of his ire. The 10-year vet just keeps doing his job, and with 42 career TDs, Witten’s bound for a few more this year.
Megatron is still Megatron.
He’s been targeted a whopping 82 times. He’s caught 48 of them for 767 yards (16.0 average). But Johnson’s got just a single touchdown, and that came from Shaun Hill, not Matthew Stafford. That’s the mega-rub for owners in keeper leagues and others who drafted him in the first round.
But Stafford appears to be shaking off the cobwebs, and plays much better at home. The Lions have five home games left, folks: Johnson’s numbers are going up very soon.
Here’s another receiving Johnson with touchdown troubles. Despite double-digit targets in half his games, the Texans’ stud has only scored twice. He’s gone over the 100-yard mark twice, the 70-yard mark five times. But there’s been little goal line glory for fantasy owners. Arian Foster’s going to get his, pure and simple. More bothersome is Matt Schaub’s affinity for TE Owen Daniels.
However, Johnson’s on an upswing: the last three games have been an average of eight catches for 93 yards. If those numbers stay consistent, the scores will come.
If getting in trouble was rewarded, Britt would already be a Hall of Fame candidate. As it is, he’s still a very viable fantasy option when healthy and not suspended.
Right now, Britt’s free of both shackles, though he’s been slow to get back into playing shape (25-276-1). The Titans are a mess, but offensively they can still compete. That should lead to Britt getting enough scoring chances to keep him around.
No one else is going to score for Arizona. Poor Fitzgerald has Thing 1 and Thing 2 throwing the ball to him, but he never complains. He also finds a way to register decent numbers (51 grabs, 585 yards, four TDs).
A season that started with so much promise for the Cards has turned into a five-game losing streak. But feast or famine, with 94 targets, Fitzgerald owners can count on him to keep finding the end zone, if not improve in that area.
If you own Davis, you’re angry today. The 49ers TE has fallen off a cliff the last two games, catching just two passes for 34 paltry yards. Go back another game and the three-game numbers are 7-71-0. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Sept. 23.
His scoreless streak will reach 49 days until his next chance Sunday against the Rams. But stay the course. Davis does have four scores this season, and his history strongly suggests that he’ll rebound.