Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Breakdown: The bye weeks are now beyond us. The regular season of fantasy football is almost two thirds done in many leagues. With these things in mind we realize that, minus the opportunity that may arise due to injury, the players with something to bring to the table this fantasy season are pretty much well known to all. Therefore our perspective must change a bit, leading us to look beyond just this season but to next season as well. Whether for keeper league purposes, trade purposes, or whatever other purposes may be pertinent, we’ll be taking a weekly look at players and situations that fantasy owners should be aware of in order to be on top of their game moving forward.
Kenny Britt (TEN) – The guy who, if he’s not already on a roster, will be the hot pickup off the waiver wire this week is Kenny Britt. With Justin Gage injured he’s been steadily increasing his output and effectiveness, even on an offense that, with Vince Young behind center, isn’t as much a throwing offense as a running one. The Titan’s tried to move more towards opening up the passing game in the off season, but that didn’t seem to work to well and things have regressed just a bit. However, Young did have one of the top passing yardage performances this past weekend, so he is definitely capable of getting the job done. Young’s resurgence is reason for optimism looking ahead to 2010, and if he doesn’t regress, this offense could be very fantasy friendly very soon. Britt will be the recipient of much of that action.
Justin Gage isn’t going anywhere in all likelihood, but it would be very surprising if he regained the full starting job whenever he’s able to return from his back injury. The rookie Britt has proven very quickly that he’s more than capable of being a big time receiver in the league and won’t go away quietly. By next season he’ll be the starter across from Nate Washington, and quite possibly could be the number one guy by then. He’s 6’3”, a full two inches taller than Washington, and has all the skills needed to be a top fantasy performer, even on a team like Tennessee. If you can get him and stash him away on your keeper roster, jump at the chance, he’s one of the best receivers of this year’s rookie class.
Lance Long (KCC) – Dwayne Bowe and Davard Darling are the likely one and two receivers for the Chiefs for the next few years. Why then am I telling you to look at Lance Long? Glad you asked. Chris Chambers, Mark Bradley and Bobby Wade all become free agents after this season. Bowe is the undisputed number one receiver on this team, this is a given. Darling likely will continue as the number two at least through the 2010 season. Long meanwhile fits in nicely as a slot receiver, becoming a safety valve of sorts now that Tony Gonzalez is no longer in Kansas City. While the team may end up keeping one of the above listed free agents, Long seems to have locked down at least the first opportunity at his position.
The Chiefs are in a heavy transitional period and will have a good draft spot next year. They’ve signed a quarterback for a few years, with Matt Cassel signed through the 2015 season, and should be focusing on the running game and tight ends in the draft considering their depth at receiver. This all points to Long having limited competition for the spot, and there isn’t much reason that the team would really be looking at this point, such has been his quality of play. Long will be one of those much written about ‘third year receivers’ next year, and should be in a prime position to break out, comparatively to his role. Many have drawn comparisons between what is being developed in Kansas City with Arizona and New England, putting Long in the Wes Welker/Steve Breaston role, and whether intentional or not it appears to have some validity. Realistically it is unlikely that the team will perfect things right away, but even if they just move solidly forward, Long’s value has a lot of room to grow. He’s a nice third receiver option in most average fantasy leagues and a strong one in deep leagues looking ahead to next year.
Mike Thomas (JAX) – Thomas has had a quiet, yet somewhat active rookie season with the Jags. Lining up in the slot, he’s been overshadowed by Mike Sims-Walker and, to a lesser extent, Torry Holt. The Jaguars aren’t an offensive juggernaut, and will remain a running team as long as Maurice Jones-Drew is in town, but they do mix it up well. Over the past month Thomas has seen an increase in his numbers overall and appears to be a definite candidate to take over a much bigger role next season. In 2010 Torry Holt will be thirty-four and Troy Williamson will likely be gone, leaving plenty of room for Thomas to move into more catches.
Thomas isn’t tall, only 5-8, so he could stay at slot receiver for most of his career, but the reason the team drafted him was for his speed, not his height. However, don’t let his height – or lack of it – discourage you from taking a look at him for your long term plans. Wes Welker is only 5’9” and he hasn’t had too tough a go of it in the NFL. It is likely that the biggest thing that would hold him back is his quarterback, who is capable of doing more, but continues to underperform year in and year out. Garrard is on a pace to have his best year in yardage, but his touchdown numbers are in the tank – he’s on pace for twelve on the year. This won’t repeat next year, as he will at least be back in the ‘almost 20’ category, meaning a few more touchdown opportunities for all the receivers on this team. It is hard to imagine Thomas not taking things up a notch next year, priming himself to be a solid ‘third year’ breakout receiver the year after.