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November 2, 2011

Cam definitely sits atop mid-season list

David Coleman's Fantasy Football for Nov 3

PORT ARTHUR —  We’ve already done this once this season, but now we’ve got half a season’s worth of games behind us. So, it’s time to check in on some of the half-season awards. Last time, we did this by position, but this time, we’re going to check in on some different categories to see which players have helped fantasy teams the most.

 Most Valuable Player: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers – The rookie from Auburn is having an outstanding season. He’s got more points than Aaron Rodgers in standard scoring leagues. He’s provided points through the air and on the ground, having more rushing touchdowns than all but two running backs. Newton’s team hasn’t won a bunch, but he’s been a great value for any team who drafted him.

 Least Valuable Player: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans – On the flip side, Johnson has been the most disappointing first round pick in recent memory. The first year my wife played fantasy football, she drafted former Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander two years after his huge 2005 season and he stunk.

 To this day, she can’t even hear his name without getting upset. That’s how CJ2K owners feel after he puts up week after week of mediocre performance and might be losing his job to Javon Ringer.

 Rookie of the Year: A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals – Newton should rightly win this award too, but I didn’t want to give him two different awards. So, we go with the only other rookie contributing on most fantasy teams.

 Green has been the sixth-highest scoring wideout this season, ahead of such luminaries as Larry Fitzgerald, Dwayne Bowe, Jeremy Maclin and Hakeem Nicks. That’s from a guy who may have gone undrafted in some leagues. He still may hit the rookie wall in the second half, but so far, so good for the former University of Georgia standout.

 Rookie Bust of the Year: Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints – On the flip side, Ingram went in the middle rounds of many drafts for teams looking to pick up some running back depth. He hasn’t gotten many touchdowns this season after he was expected to be the short-yardage and goal line back. He does have three TDs, but both Darren Sproles and fullback Jed Collins have almost as many with two apiece.

 Best Draft Value: Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills – Definitely in the second tier of running backs, many players passed on Jackson because C.J. Spiller was expected to have an expanded role in the Bills offense. That was before Jackson turned into a do-everything back, able to get tough yards, catch passes and make explosive plays.

 Jackson has the fifth-most points of running backs in standard scoring leagues. Only three backs have more rushing yards and only three have more receiving yards. In fact, only Matt Forte has more total yards from scrimmage than Jackson this year. That’s not bad for someone going in the sixth or seventh rounds of most drafts.

 Best Draft Value, PPR Edition: Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints – To appreciate the season Sproles is having, you really need to be in a league that gives a point for each reception (PPR) and points for return yardage. In that situation, Sproles is a beast.

 Even though he’s got 300 rushing yards and five touchdowns total, his return yardage is better than all but four players and he’s got the second-most catches in the entire NFL this season. That’s a big reason why only Adrian Peterson has more points than him in PPR leagues.

 Comeback Player of the Year: Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers – Who knew that the only thing holding the feisty Smith back all these years was his quarterback? With Cam Newton, Smith seems to have found a willing partner on the deep ball and has exploded this season, ranking as the third-highest scoring receiver in standard scoring leagues.

 Smith was the 29th receiver drafted and was picked in the seventh to ninth rounds of most drafts. He’s certainly performed much better than that and made himself relevant again in fantasy circles. Considering he was drafted after Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams, New England’s Chad OchoCinco or Washington’s Santana Moss, it’s safe to say Smith has

exceeded expectations.

Injury Watch

 Pittsburgh Steelers defense – Yes, the Ravens offense has been spotty this season, but if the Steelers are forced to play Baltimore without three of their starting linebackers in James Harrison, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley, they’ll have a tough time containing Ray Rice and Co. Harrison is still recovering from that broken orbital bone around his eye that he suffered against the Texans. He practiced for the first time since breaking it on Wednesday, but is unsure if he will be able to play.

 Farrior was also listed as questionable for the game with a calf injury. Woodley badly hurt his hamstring, but posted a video on his Twitter account saying he would play this week. That directly contradicts a report from the Pittsburgh Times-Gazette, citing an anonymous source and saying that Woodley would miss about a month with the injury.

 If you’ve got the Steeler defense, you might check out the waiver wire to see if there’s any favorable matchup you can add this week to let those linebackers recover.

Waiver warrior

 Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs – Another rookie finally stepped up for the Chiefs with a big week. The former University of Pittsburgh wideout caught five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. He’s only played in two games at this point and caught just one pass for 14 yards in his first game against Oakland.

 The 6-foot-4 receiver also proves a matchup problem for teams as the Chiefs have been running him out of the slot. That’s why he makes sense if you need a bye week wideout, as he should only get more integrated into the offense the rest of the way.

Buyer beware

 T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Oakland Raiders – I know, I like saying his name as much as you do. Those ESPN fantasy draft commercials also were hilarious for a lot of years now. Too bad his time has passed. Housh was a good fantasy option, but hasn’t been worth much for a few years now.

 He hasn’t even been playing this year and fans would be picking him up on the hope that his rapport with Carson Palmer would be worth something. Sure, Housh will provide a nice possession target over the middle, complementing deep threats like Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford.

 But, do you really want to count on him to get separation from a defender at this point? Go get Jonathan Baldwin instead.

Matchup of the week

 Green Bay Packers at San Diego Chargers – Do you want to know a sneaky fact about the 2011 Green Bay Packers? Their defense has been vulnerable.

 The Packers are giving up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season and are facing one in Phillip Rivers who needs some redemption. Count Vincent Jackson in that group too, as he’s had a pitiful three-game stretch.

 You also know the Packers will put up points, like they have all season. That means this one could be a high-scoring shootout, which is good for fantasy owners everywhere.

 David Coleman is a sports writer/columnist for the Port Arthur News.

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