Remember how good it felt to own Kevin Jones last year when he helped your team get some key late-season wins and surge into the playoffs? Well, while Jones is not likely to be the player doing that for you this season, it is important to go mining now for production like that from players who can help you in the second half of 2005. Admit it, even if you have a terrific team, there is some part of your lineup you’d like to shore up. Maybe you need a more consistent second running back, a third receiver who actually catches some passes each week or game-breaking potential from your flex slot.
Work hard right now to make some key trades, though on speculation, to give your team some chances to be truly special. If you can capture that one genie in a bottle, your wishes will be granted. The 10 players below are all guys who have the potential to put up drastically better second halves. Some of them are starters, others currently backups, or dealing with injuries. But all of them could come on for you in the stretch run, and have your team humming come playoff time.
Reggie Brown, Eagles – Without Terrell Owens around to black hole all the attention and pass plays, Brown has a legitimate opportunity to be a fantasy factor. He has a quarterback who is playing at the top of his game despite distractions and physical ailments. And, that quarterback seemed to be looking to Brown a lot in the loss to Washington last Sunday. Brown caught a touchdown pass, and was the target on another end zone toss. Greg Lewis has had his chance to make a name for himself. It will be Brown who does so.
J.J. Arrington, Cardinals – The Cardinals aren’t going anywhere this year, so Denny Green might as well finally focus on bringing along his pet project this season, running back J.J. Arrington. Originally believed by fantasy owners to have the best opportunity to succeed right away among rookies, Arrington quickly faded into fantasy oblivion with a string of stat lines that showed him rushing for something like nine times for seven yards. This last week he showed his first signs of life in the NFL, gaining 40 yards on five carries against the Seahawks. Get him cheap before he does something really positive.
Nate Burleson, Vikings – Culpepper may be done for the year, but Burleson isn’t. He caught a touchdown from Brad Johnson last weekend against the Lions, and it could just be the start for Nate now that he is healthy. There are no expectations for this Vikings team right now, which makes them a dangerous bunch.
Cedric Benson, Bears – With tailback tandems all the rage right now, Chicago should have two Bears in the backfield after Benson’s NFL baptism this last weekend. As a classic run game and defense unit, this team will feed the hungry runners, meaning Benson could provide a spark to fantasy lineups as the season wears on and Thomas Jones wears out.
Kerry Collins, Raiders – Collins has more yards and only half as many interceptions as Manning this year. He is two touchdowns behind, but can quickly make that up with Jerry Porter getting into the action. Once Randy Moss is fully healthy, this team will pick up some serious steam. Collins was a somewhat hyped commodity before the season, as fantasy owners pictured Moss, Porter, Ronald Curry and Doug Gabriel romping through opposing secondary squads. Injuries have ensured it did not happen as drawn up, but now things could be on the rebound.
Drew Bennett, Titans – Once Bennett is back he will reprise his role as the top receiver for the Titans. The experience gained by all three rookie wideouts will only help make his job easier, and Erron Kinney and the other team tight ends will also help to siphon coverage. With nothing to lose, and a defense that cannot stop the pass, the Titans will need to air it out themselves to stay in games, meaning lots of opportunities to score for Bennett.
Carnell Williams, Buccaneers – Cadillac cruised out of the garage on opening day and looked more like a high-octane sports car for a few weeks. Then, he got a flat. Fantasy owners have been very unimpressed with his production recently. Though Tampa Bay may stay out of the playoff picture, expect Williams to find his groove again soon, and be that strong second fantasy back you need to make your playoffs.
Joe Horn, Saints – It has been an ultra-slow year for Horn, who has been hurt, and then uncharacteristically sluggish to catch fantasy fire. Now is the perfect time to grab him. His value couldn’t be lower. His owners have not been able to count on him at all, but if you grab him at this market value, you may well be adding an additional number one fantasy receiver on the cheap.
Roy Williams, Lions – With all due respect to the effort Scottie Vines has made in the vacuum that is Detroit’s receiving corps, Williams ( Roy that is) is still the wide receiver most likely to be worth something on this team when he gets healthy. While it’s true that the quadriceps injury is taking too long to heal, once he’s up and running he can be a strong addition to any fantasy squad as a solid second or terrific third receiver.
Frank Gore, 49ers – Every time Gore gains some good yardage this season, Kevan Barlow does just enough to keep his starting job. It may take an injury to Barlow for Gore to get his big break, but when he has that opportunity, I think he will make the most of it. He still has a ton of talent, and the 49ers could use someone to rally around heading into another off-season of rebuilding.
Hire Joe Levit for corporate or client appreciation events at fantasyfootballspeaker.com. His fantasy football columns appear on SI.com and thehuddle.com. Joe, a PFWA and FSWA member, writes about the NFL for patriotsinsider.com and is a fantasy football analyst on radio. He is the creator of the Sleeper League and FF Hold ‘em League concepts.