Coming into this NFL fantasy season, if I told you that through eight games, Kyle Orton was a top three QB; guys like LT, Michael Vick, Darren McFadden, and Brandon Lloyd have resurrected their careers; a guy named Peyton Hillis had outscored MJD; Randy Moss had been dealt twice, you would declare me insane.
After that, you would ask me to join your money league.
The season thus far has showcased the value of scouring the waiver wire for pickups, and how important free agent pickups are compared to drafting well.
Kyle Orton, Peyton Hillis, Brandon Lloyd, Terrell Owens, Dustin Keller, and Marcedes Lewis have been fantasy gold for those owners willing to take a shot with them and their mediocre reputations.
Through these pickups, owners who stuck with players like Jermichael Finley, Dallas Clark, and Ryan Grant could save their season.
Even without Tony Romo, there is a plethora of viable options at QB.
Through eight games, Josh Freeman and Carson Palmer have quietly put up top 10 numbers at the position. Ryan Fitzpatrick has averaged just under 20 points per games he’s started. Heck, you could easily survive a few weeks with Matt Cassel or Sam Bradford.
Unfortunately for Matt Schaub, a banged up Andre Johnson has really been the only reliable receiver on a team that has been leaning on the amazing Arian Foster.
At running back, players you might’ve considered starters in the preseason have been complete flops. Ryan Mathews is the poster boy for failed preseason hype, and with him being a rookie you probably should’ve known better than to draft him as a low RB1.
In standard leagues, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Mathews, DeAngelo Williams, Shonn Greene, and Jonathan Stewart have each scored fewer than 50 points on the season. But thankfully, guys like Ahmad Bradshaw, Arian Foster—and the aforementioned LT, McFadden, and Hillis—have been great contributors, making up for the performance lacking duds.
Wide receiver has been a very odd position so far this season. Perennial studs like Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald, and Marques Colston have been great disappointments, considering where they were drafted. Regardless, WR is a deep position where weekly starters could easily have been picked up over the course of the season.
Austin Collie, Brandon Lloyd, Steve Johnson, and Terrell Owens have all become solid weekly options that can lead you to a playoff run down the stretch.
Tight end started out as a position with a fair amount of depth. However, injuries and lack of production have left countless owners gasping for a TE that provide consistent points.
You know that TE’s are scarce when Marcedes Lewis is the second highest scoring, by a margin of almost 50 points to league leader Antonio Gates, who is dealing with multiple injuries.
Guys like Owen Daniels, Kellen Winslow, and Brent Celek have been the source of much frustration, and obviously Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley stressed their owners with their season ending injuries.
D/ST has been another wildcard position where you’d be hard-pressed to find a defense that will score you serviceable points on a consistent basis.
The problem is, you’d be equally hard-pressed to find a match-up to salivate over. Gone are the days when the Chiefs, Raiders, Browns, Rams, and Bills were lie-down offenses for your defense to rack up crazy points against.
Misconceptions to get out of your head:
Browns are a lie-down defense for your RB.
False. The Cleveland Browns are actually ranked as the seventh stingiest defense, in terms of points allowed to opposing RB's, allowing just 12.6 ppg total to RB's (not just the starter). The Rams aren't much more generous, ranking 11th with 13.5 total ppg.
You should avoid RB matchups with the Vikings.
The Vikings defense is not what it was when you wouldn't think twice about sitting your RB. This year, the Vikes have ranked 15th in most points allowed to opposing RB's, so don't get the impression that they're a particularly vaunted run-stuffing defense anymore.
Believe in Kellen Winslow and Brent Celek.
Unfortunately, neither Winslow nor Celek are that important in either of their offenses anymore. Winslow was projected as the go-to guy, the best friend of a QB that would struggle to throw the ball down the field. But Josh Freeman and his weapons have flourished, pushing Winslow to the side.
Celek has been used to block much more this season, and Vick just won't throw to him, preferring Maclin and Jackson taking the deep throws.
Sell high on LT while you can.
LT is the real deal for the Jets. It's reasonable to think that LT's aged legs will stumble at some point, but he's running with a new found youthfulness, and the Jets can see it.
Greene has taken a full backseat role to LT (seven to 22 touches, respectively), so at this point LT is one of the more valuable feature backs in fantasy. Don't part with him unless you absolutely must.
Bail on Randy Moss.
What do we know about Randy? If he's happy where he's at, he will motivate himself and produce ridiculous numbers. Don't deal him unless you get blown away with an offer, because early indications are that Moss has bought into a Titans team that is in the midst of a playoff race with a 5-3 record.
And Finally, a Look Forward
Quarterback is such a deep position that you will be able to survive, if not thrive, without your drafted starter, should he go down to injury. Freeman, Palmer, Fitzpatrick, and Stafford aren’t sexy options, but will do well enough to help your team to the playoffs.
Getting a serviceable RB through the waiver wire will be hard at this point, so if LeGarrette Blount is still available, pounce on him immediately. If you have a problem at RB, the only effective remedy is trading for one.
WR’s will continue to rise and fall, so keep your eyes peeled for ones that might emerge. Keep a close tab on receivers that could explode late, like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Anthony Armstrong. But most importantly, snatch up Vincent Jackson or Sidney Rice if you can afford the spot—both will be active by the end of November, and could be crucial in the playoffs.
Even if you don’t need a WR, the depth that Rice or Jackson would give could allow you to free up another receiver to sneak in a deal before the trade deadline.
If players like Tony Moeaki and Ben Watson can prove that they can produce consistently, TE might grow a bit more deep. But until then, try your best to trade for a high-end TE, or grab Jacob Tamme immediately if he’s available. Tamme will be a stud, and proved on Monday night that Manning treated him just like Dallas Clark.
ESPN and other sites have hyped Aaron Hernandez a great deal, but be cautious as he hasn't been getting the production—especially in the red zone.
If you have excess at other positions, see if you can target a consistent D/ST (Steelers, Titans, etc), which can be crucial for doing well in the playoffs when consistency is key. You can’t have a mediocre D/ST flopping, especially when you think you’re playing a good match-up (see Saints DST @ home vs. McCoy, Browns).
Finally, speaking from a biased Seahawks fan's perspective, give the Seahawks DST a spot start consideration when they play at home, especially against Carolina in Week 13.
Best of luck with the rest of your fantasy season, and a successful playoff run!