As another week comes to a close tonight with the titanic Jets-Dolphins matchup on Monday Night Football, it's time again to visit some new nuggets from fantasy land. Pertaining to current trends of fantasy and NFL relevance, some of these might be no-brainers while others might surprise you a bit.
Top-10 WR from 2004 not named Reggie Wayne who is still fantasy-relevant
Nate Burleson. After his five-yard TD catch on Sunday, Burleson now has 47 fantasy points for the season, a none-too-shabby average of almost eight points per contest.
This statistic is all the more impressive when you consider that Burleson has been an under-the-radar fantasy performer for the better part of the past eight seasons. In fact, he is the only current receiver of note, other than Reggie Wayne, who was a top-10 receiver (in fantasy world) as far back as 2004. That season, the venerable Burleson ranked No. 10 among receivers with a healthy 14 points per game average.
Top-10 RB from 2004 who is still fantasy relevant
Willis McGahee. This was a shocker to me. Without data, if asked this question, I would have named Steven Jackson or Thomas Jones (LT would have been a logical choice, but he is merely a bit player now, in fantasy terms). Data revealed the ageless McGahee to be a bona fide super stud in 2004, totaling 1,128 rushing yards along with 13 TDs. He is still chugging along nicely, averaging 13 points a game and averaging 4.5 yards a carry in doing so.
Running Back with the most number of rushing TDs in the last 365 days
BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Yes, while the Petersons, Rices and Chris Johnsons of the world grab all the headlines, it’s the reputable, yet unheralded, BJGE from New England who leads this category with an impressive 18 TDs since Week 4 of last year. Over the same period, Adrian Peterson has 15 TDs, Ray Rice has 7, and CJ2K 12.
Tied for No. 2 in rushing TDs in 2011
Cam Newton. While AP’s three-TD deluge against Arizona last week elevated him to the top of the rushing TD list, the rookie QB from Carolina has turned heads with his feet as much as with his arm. A total of six touchdowns in six weeks, plus an anointment as the goal-line back for his team from his head coach—Cam is anything but a scam. He is the real deal, indeed.
League leader in Interceptions in 2011
Cam Newton. There always are two sides to a coin, I guess. So while Newton has been electric as a runner, with a pile-up of passing yards at a record-breaking pace, he has also been guilty of throwing a high number of interceptions (nine). His propensity to throw picks is the only aspect of his game that has been rookie-like.
Guy shockingly at No .5 in receiving targets this season
Sproles has been at the receiving end of 53 passes in six weeks (catching 39), which translates to just under nine a game. Those would be prime numbers for a receiver. Needless to say, Sproles is one of those 1.5 players—a player who functions not only in his primary role, but as a serviceable value-add in another role.
TE not named Jimmy Graham leading the league in targets in 2011
Brandon Pettigrew. After the first two weeks of 2011, Pettigrew had a total of five receptions for a measly 64 yards. Since then, he has been Matthew Stafford’s favorite receiver other than Calvin Johnson. In the last four games, Pettigrew has amassed 29 catches (on 40 targets), including two TDs. With Megatron frequently demanding double teams, Pettigrew has had a free-for-all in the middle of the field, and Stafford has done a great job finding, or at least looking for, him.
Getting superstar looks, not doing anything star-like with them
Roddy White. Ranks second amongst WRs in receiving targets at 60, but is hardly looking stellar with a 51 percent conversion rate (percentage of completed targets). White’s mediocre performance is a testament and an offshoot of the Falcon’s overall malaise as a passing offense, overall. After six games, the Falcons are averaging less than 226 passing yards a game, 20th in the league at the moment.
Mike Wallace. Among receivers with at least thirty catches over the past three seasons, the Steelers speed-burner leads all players with a yards per catch (YPC) of 20.1. What is remarkable is that during this timeframe, he has had an amazing 24 catches of 40-plus yards—again, ranking No. 1 in the league by far.
New England Patriots. It was not as much of a surprise to me to see where the Patriots' defense ranks this season; what was more of a surprise was to learn where they ended last season. Ranking second in 2010 at an average of close to seven fantasy points a game, New England came in ahead of much more vaunted teams such as the Packers, Bears and Ravens.
The first six games of this season, though, has been a crash down. Leaking more than 420 yards a game, the Patriots are not displaying any of the opportunistic ball-hawking illustrated last year. With a secondary that is regarded as one of the league’s worst, and with absolutely no pass rush up front, the situation is unlikely to get better anytime soon.