Each Monday of the fantasy football season, we'll cut through the fantasy numbers put up by individuals and tell you what they really mean.
When peering ahead to the fantasy football draft of 2010, it's easy to envision getting the top pick and taking Adrian Peterson without a second thought. And if you had one, it would probably be Maurice Jones-Drew. After these past two weeks, though, I'm fully behind considering Chris Johnson the top fantasy football player heading into next season. In fact, I'll say it right now: Johnson will end the season with the most fantasy points among running backs and be the consensus No. 1 player on the board for 2010. Unbelievably, it seems to involve the presence of Vince Young.
Sure, the best game of Johnson's career came in Week 2 with Kerry Collins at the helm, but Johnson was fickle in the first half. Since the bye week, when Young was inserted as quarterback, the Titans have played two games and Johnson has been on top of his game. He's carried the ball 49 times for 363 yards (a disgusting 7.4 per carry) and four touchdowns.
The Titans' fantasy football schedule from here on out with the run defense rank in parentheses (which is entering Week 9): vs. Buffalo (32), at Houston (20), vs. Arizona (8, but they won't be able to stop him), at Indy (17), vs. St. Louis (28), vs. Miami (6), and vs. San Diego (27).
With the first pick in the 2010 fantasy football draft, I select Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.
Yeah, that definitely feels right.
Other Reality Checks
• It's officially much more worthwhile to spot-play defenses than it is to just use the same one every week, with the possible exception of the Saints' juggernaut of a fantasy defense. You can have the Steelers. I'm going with an opponent of the Lions, Chiefs, Redskins, Buccaneers, Browns, Rams or Raiders. That's a lot of teams to choose from, so there should pretty much always be someone available. We'll help guide you each week, but it can't hurt to start looking ahead on your own, as you may have to grab teams one week in advance -- considering many already do this. The latest example was the Seattle Seahawks. Look, the Lions' offense has a bright future, assuming everyone grows as they should, but for right now they are a turnover and sack-allowing machine. The Seahawks steamrolled them for 24 fantasy points. In Week 10, take a look at the Dolphins. They should be available in most leagues and take on the Bucs at home. If you want to jump the gun, take a look at the Cardinals (at St. Louis) and Bengals (at Oakland) for Week 11.
• The Bengals are threatening to run Cedric Benson into the ground. For the second consecutive game, he carried the ball more than 30 times. He leads the league in carries with 198 (second most is Steven Jackson with 165) and is on pace for a whopping 396 trips. No one has carried the ball that many times since Larry Johnson rushed the ball an insane 416 times in 2006 (in fact, 325 led the league in 2007). It may be a coincidence, but Johnson's career has absolutely fallen apart since then. There's a reason no one usually carries the ball more than 350 times in a season. Running backs take a pounding on nearly every run, thus, the damage should be minimized by spelling the main back when you can. If you play in a deep enough league, it wouldn't hurt to take a preemptive flier on either Brian Leonard or Bernard Scott (Scott has much more upside, but the Bengals might trust Leonard more for now). The Bengals have an easy stretch coming up after the Steelers (Oakland, Cleveland, Detroit) and face a run-friendly fantasy playoff schedule (Chargers, Chiefs). Losing Benson would be a big blow for any owner, so it can't hurt to plan ahead -- just in case his body can't take all the punishment.
• Just when we were ready to write Roy Williams off, he seemed to have Tony Romo's eye for much of Sunday, nabbing five catches for 75 yards. Maybe he whined enough that Romo felt sorry for him -- and that's not a joke, as Romo seemed to often give in to T.O.'s incessant whining in the past. Regardless, Williams, compared to his fellow receivers, appeared to have the stat line of the team's No. 1 receiver. Of course, Miles Austin did grab the pivotal 49-yard TD pass. Austin is absolutely legit -- even with cornerback Asante Samuel checking him most of the night, he found a way to produce. The rest of the Cowboys' schedule sports very few teams who are adept at stopping the pass, so be sure to leave Austin where you already had him -- the starting lineup. As far as Williams, Sunday night was most certainly a good sign. He's worth a roster spot in all formats and is a must-start in deep leagues for now. We'll need to see more before endorsing him as a definitive starter in all leagues and formats. He could have simply been a beneficiary of less attention than the running game, Jason Witten and Austin for one night. Personally, I need to see consistency before trusting him. Gimme Austin any day.
• It was a really, really small sample, but adding Chris Chambers to the mix seemed to give the Chiefs the shot in the arm they needed. The bye-week preparation probably helped as well, but whatever the reason, the Chiefs threw it well Sunday. Matt Cassel hit on 23-of-39 for 262 yards and two touchdowns -- without an interception. Dwayne Bowe, Lance Long and Chambers all had serviceable games. You can see what coach Todd Haley is trying to do. He wants to emulate the passing attack he built in Arizona. The problem is his personnel isn't near as strong as the Cards', but it's definitely worth watching as this team grows. They play the Raiders next week, so Nnamdi Asomugha will lock down Bowe -- meaning Chambers is worth a look as a desperation play.
• Speaking of desperation plays, or "Hail Mary" plays if you will, what about matching up a second- or third-string receiver against the Buccaneers? Patrick Crayton, Sinorice Moss, Lee Evans, Jeremy Maclin, Sam Aiken and now James Jones have all gotten loose against them (among others). The Bucs have the Dolphins on the schedule next week and that's a tough one with all the wildcat-ness going on. Still, depending upon league size, Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess and Brian Hartline could be worth a shot. After that, Tampa has the Saints (Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore) and Falcons (Michael Jenkins). Just something to think about when trying to gain an edge.