2010 Fantasy Football: Five Guys on the Rise
The 2009 NFL regular season just ended. While the first thing most fans are thinking about is the playoffs, it has to be hard not to think about fantasy football.
Sure, the start to the 2010 season is further away than the NBA Finals, but that's no reason to put a halt on your preparation.
After all, if there's one thing that can show you just how important preparation is, it's losing.
Want to get back to the playoffs and even have a good shot at winning your league's championship next season? Thought so.
It all starts when the season ends. It's a nonstop routine. In addition to monitoring all NFL team's decisions and actions throughout the offseason, one needs to be aware of the special players who made a name for themselves in 2009.
Read on to see who isn't just a pretender, and who could be worthy of a pick in the first few rounds.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Charles was nothing short of spectacular in his final four games, rushing for 100+ yards in each contest. He finished the season with an impressive 259 yards on 25 carries.
After taking over for the suspended (and then traded) Larry Johnson after Kansas City's Week Eight bye, Charles laid an egg in his first start. He then went on to register at least 17 total touches in the team's remaining eight games, putting him on a 2,000-yard pace.
He finished with an extremely impressive 1,120 rushing yards and seven scores in just eight full games as the starter, while averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
In the stretch run of the season, Charles carried the ball 20+ times in four straight games showed the Chief's new dedication to the ground game. This guaranteed Charles to be the feature back in 2010.
The Chiefs may draft some help in the offseason, but there really won't be much standing in the way of Charles becoming an elite back.
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
This list isn't just about the guys who broke out with big numbers and are solid bets to do it again in 2010.
To be a good fantasy owner and decision maker, you need to be advantageous and sniff out the roster moves before they happen.
Edelman's Week 17 performance in place of the injured Wes Welker (torn ligaments) was enough to show us that his impressive (but not quite elite) performances earlier in the season weren't flukes.
But before we crown Edelman as Welker's replacement and a lock to get Welker's usual 111+ catches, let's take a good look at what we may be committing to.
First, Edelman isn't a true wide receiver. He started at Kent State as a quarterback then was drafted and converted as a receiver.
Despite playing in the shadow of Welker and Randy Moss, Edelman still was able to rack up 37 receptions for 359 yards and a touchdown.
Very pedestrian numbers, but considering 18 of those catches came in two games where he replaced Welker, his value has to be considered to be very much on the rise.
Welker's knee injury appears to be as bad as it looked, which will likely have the star receiver on next season's PUP list. He could be out longer than the initial six weeks.
Even if Welker were to make it back in time, Edelman's stock is surely on the rise. His status should be monitored.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos
Moreno was drafted by Denver for a reason: to stay healthy and help give Kyle Orton a shoulder to lean on.
He did the first one for nearly the entire season. For the most part, he gave Orton a decent rush offense to fall back on. That is, until the final four games.
But don't blame Moreno entirely. A lot of his production (or lack thereof) has to do with play-calling. Also, he went up against a few stiff run defenses (although there's no explaining his performance against Oakland).
Regardless, Moreno was a rookie in 2009. Rookies that produce at even a moderate level for more than a few weeks need to be given the benefit of the doubt.
Moreno obviously hit a rookie wall nearing the end of the season and wasn't as effective as we'd like. Still, he fell just 53 yards short of a 1,000-yard season and gave fantasy owners nine total touchdowns on the season.
Give him another break for playing his first season in an offense that was being introduced by a first-year head coach.
Moreno and the rest of the 8-8 Denver Broncos will be back with a vengeance. You won't want to miss out.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Talk about the holdout all you want, but one positive from Crabtree missing the first six weeks of his rookie season was that he wasn't given much of a chance to hit a rookie wall.
Granted, Crabtree didn't even top 650 receiving yards (625) and only scored twice all season. But his consistency and role in the offense as the number one receiver are both promising.
Crabtree played second fiddle to Vernon Davis for the second half of the season. Alex Smith was more comfortable throwing to a guy he had experience with. Still, Crabtree had at least three catches in every game he played. That's encouraging.
With a complete offseason coming up, his chemistry and timing will be better, and the 49ers will be a more complete offense than in 2009.
I'm not saying the 49ers are going to the playoffs (even though they might), or that Alex Smith is definitely the answer (even though he is). But Crabtree has a very good chance at putting up solid No. 2 receiver numbers next season.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
Nicks just makes plays.
Give him a mulligan for being a rookie, a break for being in an inconsistent offense and a real hard look at being your first choice for your No. 3 next year.
In fact, the numbers suggest he could even be considered for a No. 2 spot come August.
Nicks was as solid as they come as a rotation receiver off the bench. He shared snaps with the equally impressive Mario Manningham earlier in the season, until Nicks took over as the starting number two receiver on a full-time basis in Week 14.
In his first game as the starter, Nicks rattled off 110 yards and a touchdown on just four receptions. He hit a bit of a wall and fizzled down the stretch, which could cause him to fly a bit below the radar next season.
Don't let him.
While Steve Smith is the guaranteed No. 1 guy in New York, it's quite clear the Giants intend on having Nicks stick at the two spot.
With 47 catches for 790 yards (an impressive 16.8 yard average) and six scores, Nicks displayed a raw ability to get open and make plays as a rookie.
As long as Eli Manning can get back to form after dropping off in the final two weeks, Nicks should be in for a rise in production.
The Wild Card: Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys
If you don't know Austin by now, you haven't been watching the NFL.
At first, it was a random elite appearance: Austin rambled off 10 catches for 250 yards and two scores in his first major action of the season in an overtime game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
This outstanding effort, which included the game-winning score in OT, led to a 171-yard, two-touchdown showing the following week. He scored a touchdown in his third and fourth consecutive game.
Austin went on to top 90 yards five more times, while racking in four more scores. He finished with 81 catches for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns.
But will it last?
Austin is a playmaker who has great speed and an uncanny ability to shake would-be tacklers. he gives Tony Romo all the confidence in the world that he'll both catch the ball and make something special happen.
Austin is Terrell Owens without all the drama, and he isn't going anywhere. Except, of course, into your 2010 starting lineup.
There are plenty of players who can (and likely will) either have a true break out season in 2010 or feed off of their 2009 success and continue assisting your fantasy lineup.
Regardless, here's some guys who are packing some heat going into 2010 that didn't make the list:
Austin Collie/Pierre Garcon
For more fantasy news as the off-season builds on, go to NFL Soup