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Never Too Early: Fantasy Football Value Shifts for 2011 Season

Jan 3, 2011 – 9:00 AM
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R.J. White

R.J. White %BloggerTitle%

Jerome SimpsonHaving just closed the book on the 2010 season, it's already time to look ahead to 2011. Let's look at how a few key players ended last season, and what their performance means to their value moving forward, starting with 2011's premier sleeper at wide receiver.

When Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco went down late in the season, an already ineffective Bengals passing game was expected to lose any value it had. Instead, they destroyed the Chargers' vaunted pass defense in Week 16, then put up a solid effort in Week 17 against a Ravens team fighting for a division crown. The hero for the second straight week was Jerome Simpson, who hauled in 12 passes for 123 yards and a TD. The big day gives Simpson 247 yards and three scores on 18 catches over the last two weeks of the season after posting only three catches and 32 yards over the rest of his three-year career. Cincinnati should definitely feel comfortable letting both big-name receivers walk and putting Simpson in as the featured guy in the passing game. If that happens, he'll be one of 2011's biggest sleepers.

Jahvid Best
The talented rookie limped to the finish (literally) in 2010, suffering from multiple turf toe injuries that sapped him of the explosiveness he showed in Week 2 of his rookie season, when he totaled 232 yards and three TDs on 26 touches. He was able to eek out a 1,000-yard season combined with 57 yards in the season finale. If he's deemed 100 percent in training camp next season, put him on your sleeper list for a 2011 breakout season.

Anquan Boldin
Call him a Second-Half Zero if you'd like, because Boldin has been an awful fantasy option ever since Baltimore's Week 8 bye. Heading into that bye week, Boldin had five TDs, two games over 100 receiving yards, and three other games with at least 60 receiving yards. Starting in Week 9, he only topped 60 yards once, catching five passes for 118 yards and a TD in Week 13. He recorded just 21 catches, 201 yards and one TD in his other eight games over the second half of the season. As a Boldin owner this year, I'd definitely avoiding him in drafts next year as anything other than a fantasy backup.

Kenny Britt
After a huge breakout performance in Week 7 and then multiple weeks on the sidelines due to injury, Britt really made a huge fantasy impact in the last three weeks of the season. He had at least 12 points in each of his last three games, finishing his season with a five-catch, 85-yard, one-TD effort in Week 17 that saw him leave the game early with an injury. He's a great WR2 to draft in 2011, and his draft stock may be a little deflated as his stats on the season aren't as impressive as his ability.

Ronnie Brown
The Dolphins running game had an amazing set of matchups to close out the season, facing the Bills and Lions in Weeks 15 and 16 at home before traveling to New England for what was a meaningless game for the Patriots. Brown rushed for 90 yards total in those three games, finishing in Week 17 with a lousy 14-yard performance. He had no 100-yard games this season despite receiving 200 carries in 2010, just 30 fewer than Jamaal Charles. He's sure to move on to another team this offseason, but whos's going to want him?

Larry Fitzgerald
It's been a long year for Fitzgerald and his fantasy owners, but he managed to close 2010 on a high note, catching 11 passes for 125 yards and a TD in Week 17. Even in the midst of a disappointing season, the uber-talented receiver managed 1,137 yards and six TDs. Hopefully the Cardinals find a QB this season -- their ability to do so will mean the difference between Fitzgerald being a top-five wide receiver and a borderline WR2.

Matt Forte
The Chicago running back was essentially the Bears offense on Sunday, totaling 151 yards on 23 touches but not scoring a TD as the Bears lost a semi-meaningless game 10-3. Despite seeing a decline in carries and receptions for the second straight year, Forte still managed to rack up 1,616 total yards of offense while scoring nine TDs. Likely considered a disappointment in many fantasy circles, Forte should offer nice value in 2011 drafts.

Josh FreemanJosh Freeman
What a season. After posting a 10:18 TD:INT ratio in ten games last year, Freeman wound up ending 2010 with QB1 numbers. One week after going 21-for-26 with 237 yards, five TDs and no interceptions, the Tampa Bay quarterback struck down fantasy's toughest defense for QBs, going 21-for-26 again with 255 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. Freeman ends 2010 having completed more than 60 percent of his passes, throwing 25 TDs and only six interceptions all year. He'll be as solid a QB1 as you can have after the elite options are off the board in 2011.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis
The Law Firm -- quite possibly the best nickname in football -- had himself quite a season this year. Despite not receiving a feature role in the offense till Week 3, Green-Ellis rushed for 1,008 yards and 13 TDs splitting time with Danny Woodhead. He had 80 yards and a score in Week 17 against the Dolphins to put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. He's the first 1,000-yard rusher the Patriots have had since Corey Dillon back in 2004. Still think the Patriots need to bring in a running back? I don't think so -- Green-Ellis should be a top-20 running back next season.

Peyton Hillis
Surprisingly active in the season finale, Hillis suffered from Cleveland's early deficit as well as from facing a stingy Steeler defense. He had just 16 yards on seven touches, finishing this season on a bad note with three straight poor performances. With 1,180 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards and 13 TDs, Hillis has clearly had a big impact on fantasy football this season. Claiming him after Week 1 helped lead me to a fantasy title. Even with my obvious affection for the guy, I would expect Cleveland to play it smart and make it a RBBC (running back by committee) in 2011 with Hillis and Montario Hardesty in an effort to keep both healthy and fresh for 16 (or 18) games.

Robert Meachem

With Marques Colston out in Week 17, fantasy owners may have expected a big game from Meachem. Maddeningly inconsistent all year, Meachem routinely mixed 100-yard games (Weeks 13 and 16) with clunkers, totaling just 23 yards on three catches in Weeks 14, 15 and 17. He managed just one catch for five yards on Sunday as 2008 seventh-round pick Adrian Arrington filled Colston's hole in the passing game, catching seven passes for 79 yards. I'd avoid Meachem at all costs next year, as he's proven too unpredictable to use in fantasy leagues.

Mike Wallace
A third-round pick in 2009, Wallace's performance in his rookie season allowed Pittsburgh to trade Santonio Holmes and make the second-year player a starter. He delivered and then some, posting 1,257 receiving yards on 60 receptions this season, easily topping 20 yards a catch. He added 10 TDs this year and capped his 2010 season off with 105 yards and a TD on three receptions. He's a rock solid top 20 receiver moving forward, and it wouldn't shock me to see him taken in the top 40 picks in next year's fantasy draft.
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