Ever since I mastered the art of flicking a paper football across a table until it dangled off the edge, then drilling it through a two-fingered goal post, Ive loved fantasy football. Of course, we young lads didnt call it fantasy back in the day; but Im sure the grade-school time-killer has its place in the evolution of the game.
By LADD BIRO
The Kansas City Star
But my love of all things fantasy is being tested this year. Mostly by Philip Rivers, who I drafted as a cant miss anchor of two teams, but has played more like a miss-take waiting to happen. Even on Sunday, amidst a long-overdue stellar performance, Rivers threw three costly interceptions, including two pick-sixes. Something is clearly rotten in San Diego.
Rivers disappointing season, which landed him on my bench weeks ago, is just one of several implosions that have rocked countless unsuspecting fantasy owners. Naturally, Chris Johnsons inexplicable demise ranks at the top of the list. And no, 110 yards of combined production against the Bengals hasnt changed a thing.
I suppose $21 million of guaranteed money (roughly half the value of the five-year deal he signed this offseason) goes a long way towards soothing DeAngelo Williams concerns over his reduced role in Carolina. But it doesnt make us feel any better.
We should have known Peyton Hillis would be a one-hit wonder after he became the Madden cover boy. But when will we stop believing that Shonn Greene is workhorse material? Or that Jahvid Best, Beanie Wells and Felix Jones can possibly stay healthy?
Well give the Colts receivers a pass this time, since their downfall was not of their own making. So whats Chad Ochocincos excuse?
Halfway through the 2011 season, these and other fantasy underachievers are vying for our dreaded Bust of the Year honors. Theyd better step up soon, or risk earning a label they may never shake.
Free agent picks and pans
To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup. Catch em while you can
Roy Helu, RB, Redskins. Counting on any Redskin back from week to week is foolhardy indeed. But Mike Shanahan has signaled all along that Helu would eventually get his shot at the featured role. While the rookies 41 rushing yards were nothing special, those who play in point-per-reception leagues are salivating over his 14-catch, 105-receiving yard effort against the 49ers. While you cant count on that again, Helu is clearly more roster-worthy than Ryan Torain.
Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys. Robinson has been surprisingly effective since Dallas plucked him off the scrap heap earlier this season, in spite of the heavy competition at his position. Now that Miles Austin has aggravated his hamstring again, Robinson could be starting one or more games during a very favorable stretch.
Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders. I still wouldnt entrust my fantasy team to the mistake-prone Carson Palmer, but Ive been a fan of Fords since last season. His re-emergence as Oaklands lead receiver, coinciding with Darrius Heyward-Beys goose egg, makes Ford a high-upside pickup in leagues where he has been dropped. His role as an electrifying return man gives him bonus potential as well.
Dont be fooled
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals. Give the rookie his due. Dalton has fired a touchdown pass in all but one game this season, including multi-score efforts in half of them. Sundays 217-yard, three-touchdown, zero-turnover performance was his best to date. Id recommend him if not for his brutal second-half schedule, which includes two dates each with the Steelers and Ravens.
Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Browns. Hopefully you didnt invest in Hillis backups backup. When you dig this low on the depth chart of a mediocre rushing team, you get what you pay for. Even in a favorable matchup with the Rams next week, stay away. Stay far away.
Ladd Biro was voted the 2010 Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).