Rigid beliefs are dangerous in the real world. Assuming something without proof, pigeonholing people without getting to know them, or letting learned biases such as sexism, racism or ageism be our guideposts will set us apart from truth and our ultimate goal of understanding ourselves and others. It can lead to catastrophe. But in fantasy football, these practices are downright deadly.
One of the most difficult obstacles for fantasy owners to overcome in a season is the set of fixed values we harbor regarding fantasy players once the season has started. Before the year it would have been understandable to rank Tiki Barber a couple of tiers below Shaun Alexander, LaDainian Tomlinson, Clinton Portis, Jamal Lewis, and Deuce McAllister, but now that he has remained healthy and has excelled despite a moribund passing game, it is only with rosy glasses that we don’t all recognize Barber was vastly underrated going into the season.
There are always guys we continue to doubt, upon whom we never bestow their due. We ignore their impressive efforts because of injury history, age or our own made up depth charts. These guys exceed expectations though, and become bona fide fantasy stars.
However, there are also players we lavish credit upon, who haven’t earned it this season. We continue to reward their poor play with occupancy in our starting lineups even though they are a detriment to our chances of winning each week. For example, I have seemed so far this season to be unable to cope with the fact that New York Jets wideout Santana Moss is not cutting it as a starting fantasy wide receiver. I have played him every week except the bye (we start three receivers) on my Sports Illustrated expert’s league team, and have been bludgeoned for it. It’s time for me to start someone else until Moss makes some plays.
It can be difficult to adapt to a new reality. Right now, Javon Walker leads the NFL in receiving yards with 726, David Patten is tied with Torry Holt and Joe Horn with four receiving scores, and old man Curtis Martin has rushed for more yards and touchdowns than Ahman Green, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Jamal Lewis and Deuce McAllister, while tying LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander for touchdowns but running for more yards than either of them.
Here are some guys to finally recognize this season as fantasy starters, and a few other players who are worth benching until further notice.
Byron Leftwich – Because Byron started the season slowly, only his current owner may realize how valuable he has been recently. Passing for 300 yards in three of his past four games, and missing the fourth game by only two yards against Kansas City.
Tim Rattay – His injury kept him out of the minds of many early in the season. With the 49ers needing to pass a lot to catch up in games, Rattay is rising the quarterback rankings quickly. He is smart, and safe with the ball.
Sammy Morris – Right now, Morris is the Dolphins’ feature back. Though the team is off to a poor start, 83 yards and a score – what Morris accumulated against the Rams this week – is not too shabby as a second back.
Mewelde Moore – The way that Moore helps this offense, I would be surprised to see the team use Michael Bennett upon his return. Onterrio Smith may be administered at the goal line, but Moore is the man that will help move the purple machine.
Michael Pittman – Pittman was a forgotten man entering this season, but with Garner out and Alstott now out for a few weeks, Pittman might continue to have games like his most recent one: 23 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Emmitt Smith – Guess what? If Smith gets 20+ carries a game, he can still do something with them. This offense is starting to come together, and when Boldin gets back, it will be even better. Smith has five touchdowns on the year, which is not at all chump change.
Brandon Stokley – What Brandon has been able to accomplish as a third receiver is outstanding. He still has more yards receiving than Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne.
Roy Williams – When healthy, Williams is clearly already a number one fantasy wide receiver. He was injured for a couple games but is still tied for 11 th place in the league in touchdowns. He is Harrington’s favorite, and sometimes only, target.
David Patten – Patten is one of those performers who never gets any publicity, but always ends up being the fantasy starter whose total puts some owner over the top. He also has five touchdowns this year. Brady trusts him for big-play attempts and red-zone looks.
Michael Clayton – Nobody thought Clayton would do this much this quickly. He has been thrust into a starter’s role and responded with 505 yards and two touchdowns. This rookie can be penciled in on most fantasy rosters most weeks.
Steve McNair – Why start him when his sternum is sore and he’s thrown for two more interceptions than touchdowns. McNair is a fighter, but why suffer his grueling losses with him?
Michael Vick – Vick, like McNair above him, has thrown for four scores and seven... uh, make that six, interceptions. He is not worth what you paid for him.
Marshall Faulk – The Rams have been passing more and running Steven Jackson a lot, which is a poor combination for Faulk. He sports an average rushing total (465) and touchdown count (3) to constitute a disappointment for owners.
Kevan Barlow – Here is another disappointment, but one that was rather obvious with all of the top-notch competition. Barlow, on a bad overall team, has only gained three touchdowns and 367 yards.
Peerless Price – He has no scores and only 290 yards receiving. This is a far, far cry from the way he was looking two years ago in the preseason.
Santana Moss – The aforementioned Moss has even fewer yards than Price (243) and also has no scores so far this season.