Fantasy Slumpers and Fantasy Dumpers: Week 6
Each week we will try to take a look at some struggling players in fantasy football and whether they are just slumping or worthy of dumping. This week will take a broader look at those who have raised some questions over the course of the season.
Flacco has not been a terrible quarterback this year, but he also has not met expectations considering the offseason additions of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Both Flacco’s yards per attempt and completion percentage are down, but the Ravens are still putting the ball in the air a lot. Given the late acquisition of Houshmandzadeh and the decline of Derrick Mason, it may take a little more time for Flacco to gain a rapport with his new receivers. Despite the shortcomings, his offensive efficiency measured by DVOA is still strong, diminishing any reason to be concerned. Four of his five interceptions came in the week 2 game against the Bengals and he has posted over 7.6 yards per attempt while averaging over 30 throws per game since then. Given his strong track record, Flacco should break out in coming weeks and start putting up some big points consistently. He is currently owned in 87% of Yahoo leagues and could be made available coming off a no-TD performance in a heavy bye week.
Ronnie Brown has only struggled in terms of fantasy statistics this year. This is mostly due to a lack of goal-line opportunities and his current situation splitting carries with Ricky Williams. There are reasons to be optimistic about Brown going forward; he got more involved in the passing game last week, he has still managed a high YPC and DVOA in 2010, and Ricky Williams has been not quite as good in the same timeframe. Brown also has the lone touchdown amongst the running backs and will probably start receiving a larger portion of the carries in weeks to come as Tony Sparano recommits to the run game. He should have a great week 5 against a banged up Packer team as the Dolphins could be playing much of the game with the lead.
Michael Crabtree is finally a year into his NFL career and is starting to show some signs of life for the hyped but winless 49ers. Crabtree has not been amazing this year, but there is a reason to be optimistic going forward aside from his talent. For one, the 49ers should continue passing as Frank Gore has put up some pretty brutal rushing performances. Also, Crabtree has started to become more of a focal point in the offense after only mustering seven catches in the first three weeks. He has since followed up with five and nine catches and found the end zone against Philadelphia. Frank Gore has caught 33 balls in only 5 games, so some of those checkdowns could easily become points for Crabtree owners. While now out of a slump, Crabtree’s stock may be low as Alex Smith has inspired no one and the 49ers are fading into irrelevance. In Yahoo leagues, Crabtree is only owned by 75% of teams and could be available early this week. He is one of the hotter waiver wire players, but could be overlooked by owners who see Roy Williams, Danny Amendola and Steve Johnson in free agency.
Fantasy owners may still have some high hopes for Bowe considering his big numbers in 2008. A lot of people may put the blame on quarterback Matt Cassel and expect some improvement as the season goes on. Unfortunately, Bowe appears to be heading in the wrong direction. This was made evident in Sunday’s game against the Colts where he dropped a pass in the end zone and followed it up with another drop on the next play. Bowe has pretty awful numbers thus far and evidence shows he probably won’t improve. If you look at his 2008 numbers, they mostly came as a result of being targeted 157 times. With the run-first style of the 2010 Chiefs featuring Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, any number of targets near that amount is extremely unlikely. Any success for Bowe is not really a matter of regaining form, but somehow convincing Todd Haley to invoke a strategy that would lose football games. If you are one of the 82% of people in Yahoo leagues who owns Bowe, consider trading him to somebody who didn’t see Sunday’s game or who has been in a cave since 2008.
When on the field, Cutler has had a great year in most metrics. Even with the abysmal turnover numbers in 2009, he still had a plethora of touchdown passes. The main issue with Cutler moving forward will be his offensive line and his concussion. Most reports are that Cutler will return in week 6 against Seattle and the Bears passing game should improve exponentially over Todd Collins’ performance. Nevertheless, the offensive line is even more of an issue with Edwin Williams and J’Marcus Webb getting starts as part of Lovie Smith’s new accountability program. Accountability is nice, but pass protection would be even better. It’s a high likelihood that Cutler could miss more time this year as he is forced to stand behind a bad line in the Martz system. This past week also was a sign of a desire to run the football more often and get offseason acquisition Chester Taylor involved more in the offense. Cutler probably still has a lot of fantasy value, but if you are thinking playoffs, remember his week 15 and 16 matchups at Minnesota and at home against the New York Jets. If you have a good backup like Kyle Orton on your roster, consider dumping Cutler for some help elsewhere.
Chris Johnson hasn’t exactly slumped this year, except by his own standards and in terms of early DVOA rankings. However, there are some big signs that Johnson could be in a for a slowdown reminiscent of some of his early-season struggles. Overall, Johnson’s YPC is way down to 4.3 and he is coming off 358 carries in 2009. Johnson has received less than 20 carries in three contests thus far, something which only happened once in his final ten games of 2009. Johnson has also put the ball on the ground 3 times this year and could be a classic sell-high candidate considering the lack of performance of many other top picks. If you can take advantage of this sky-high value, then go for it, but otherwise hope that he continues chugging out those touchdowns.