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Changing of the Guard
Joe Levit
November 7, 2007

Historically throughout human society a “changing of the guard” has referenced any one of a number of national formal ceremonies meant to relieve a group of guards engaged in formal (if often ceremonial) protection duty with a fresh set of sentries. These movements in these events are usually very detailed, and the general impression presented is one of precision, strength and purpose.

Many countries bear out this ceremony in interesting and entertaining ways. There are three different types of guard change in Denmark, depending upon who is in residence at the time. In Taiwan, the ceremony takes place in three different locations. In the United States, guards have been on duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery continuously since 1937.

In the NFL, a changing of the guards is also a continuous affair, but not all of the changes have the pomp and circumstance of the aforementioned official ceremonies. And they don’t happen at prescribed times or in specific locations. At the halfway point of this fantasy season, we are seeing some serious transitions, and owners should take note of these power changes or be cast with lesser players and fewer fantasy points.

Now in Charge: Reggie Wayne
Relieved of Duty: Marvin Harrison
I know it generally isn’t fair to demote a star player due to injury, but guess what? It happens all the time in real life, and it’s going to happen here in my fantasy article. Marvin Harrison has had one of the sweetest runs of success the league has ever seen. His knee this season has kept him hobbled and ineffective in games he has played. While he will assuredly play better later this season, and better than that next year, he won’t play better than Reggie Wayne over a season anymore. Wayne has taken on the role of a leader in the absence of Harrison. He is running routes with succinct skill and Peyton Manning has been trusting him entirely.

Now in Charge: Greg Jennings
Relieved of Duty: Donald Driver
Donald Driver has been one of those under-the-radar fantasy stars his entire career, consistently selected lower than his production warrants. But now, a younger receiver has stepped into the role of go-to guy, particularly down the field. Greg Jennings started his rookie season on fire last year before getting injured to temper his statistics. This year it has been the opposite. Jennings started slow with so-so health, and has come on of late to post some very nice fantasy scores. Last week he had two touchdowns on 85 receiving yards in a win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The week before, he had a touchdown to go along with 141 yards receiving in Denver. Driver has never scored more than nine touchdowns in a single season, and is on pace for four this year. Jennings already has six scores this year, despite missing the first two games. 

Now in Charge: T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Relieved of Duty: Chad Johnson
Clearly Chad Johnson is and will remain an offensive force for years to come, particularly with Carson Palmer passing the ball to him. But, this year it is clear the more consistent and prolific fantasy player is in fact his teammate. Houshmandzadeh has a touchdown in every game this year, and two touchdowns in two of them. He ranks behind only Randy Moss for touchdowns scored in the league this year. Johnson has only scored three times this season. And, Houshmandzadeh has been increasing his season touchdown totals every year he has been in the league if you don’t count 2003, when he only played in two games and did not start either of them. His weekly production is what fantasy owners need to be competitive in every contest.

Now in Charge: Santonio Holmes
Relieved of Duty: Hines Ward
Hines Ward has had a nice career, but Santonio Holmes is the present and future king in Pittsburgh. Ward has made a living as a tough-minded route runner who is able to wrestle opposing players for position and the ball on the field. Holmes is explosive. Ben Roethlisberger is looking his way more frequently and it is paying off for everyone involved. Just last week Holmes caught two of his quarterbacks five touchdowns in a rout over their division rival, the Baltimore Ravens.

Now in Charge: Earnest Graham
Relieved of Duty: Carnell Williams
Cadillac Williams has never figured out a way to stay out of the garage for very long. His torn-up knee this year underscores his pro penchant for injury. Though the former first-round pick will likely get his chances again next summer, if Graham keep playing the way he has of late, it will not be Williams who comes out ahead. Graham adds the dimension of pass catching to his performance, a skill Williams doesn’t seem to have in his repertoire.

Now in Charge: Justin Fargas
Relieved of Duty: Lamont Jordan
It is true that at this point in the season, Jordan has more yards rushing and more touchdowns than Fargas. But, Jordan is being put on the sideline while Fargas gains more influence in the Oakland offense. When he gets his carries, Fargas gets his yards. He rushed for 104 yards on 23 carries last week, and the only other time he got more than 12 carries in a game (the 22 at Miami in week 4) he gained 179 yards. He may be just a stopgap before Michael Bush or some other runner is set loose next year, but for now he has surpassed Jordan.

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