Fantasy Football Truths
Why Matt Hasselbeck and Darren Sproles are so sneaky valuable: When the NFLsurprises
There are certain guys who draw the majority of the attention in fantasy football circles week in and week out. It doesn’t take a genius to see the impact of these stars when they perform up to expectations (like Aaron Rodgers or Adrian Peterson) or when they don’t (I’m looking at you, Chris Johnson.)
But there are some guys who are completely under the radar, putting up numbers that don’t quite light up the scoreboard but are effective if you’ve got them on your team. This week, we’ll salute those unsung heroes, guys who only get appreciation from their fantasy owners.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee: Most experts assumed that Hasselbeck would be a game manager in Tennessee, handing the ball off to Chris Johnson and getting out of the way. Johnson’s shocking ineffectiveness scuttled that plan, and the 36-year-old has responded to the challenge.
Even when his top threat (Kenny Britt) was lost for the season to injury, Hasselbeck has stayed steady, throwing for at least one touchdown in every game until leaving last week early due to injury. He’s also thrown for more than 200 yards in eight of 10 games.
That kind of consistency doesn’t blow people away, but, at a position where you need some production every week to compete, it’s extremely useful.
Running back Darren Sproles, New Orleans: The knee-jerk reaction to Sproles is that he is a points-per-catch league menace, and this is true. But he has been valuable no matter what scoring format is used. After all, the guy has 796 combined yards, which puts him in the upper echelon of running backs in that important stat.
Throw in six combined touchdowns, and there is no doubt who the most valuable Saints running back has been. The Falcons shut him down in New Orleans’ last contest two weeks ago. Other than that, he’s been consistent in giving some sort of fantasy production every single week.
Running back Marshawn Lynch, Seattle: Three weeks into the season, it looked like another hopeless year for Lynch, as he managed just 117 rushing yards and no scores. In every game that he’s played since (he missed a week with injury), Lynch has scored a single touchdown.
Any fantasy player knows that TDs are the most coveted currency you can have, which makes Lynch a pretty valuable dude in that time span. What’s more is that the yards have started adding up the past few weeks. Lynch has averaged 110 yards the last three games, benefiting from Pete Carroll’s grind-it-out approach.
Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis: The results for Lloyd were inconsistent in his first four weeks in Denver. He did have a 136-yard week, but he was also banged up and a victim of the Broncos offensive uncertainty.
Since arriving in St. Louis, he’s been steady as he goes. In his five games with the Rams, he’s had no less than 48 yards receiving. He has also spaced out his touchdowns, scoring in three of the five games while adding his two highest yardage totals in St. Louis in the two games in which he didn’t score.
Again, it won’t drop any jaws, and it’s certainly not comparable to what he did last year, but he’s giving you something each time out.
Wide receiver Early Doucet, Arizona: Again, this is a case of a guy who manages to produce something positive in every game. After busting out of the gate with 105 yards and a TD in Week One, Doucet has paced himself nicely. His overall stats (511 yards and four touchdowns) are OK but not great.
In eight out of 10 games, however, Doucet has either posted a touchdown or amassed at least 50 yards receiving. Maybe it’s just a freak statistical thing, but it’s something that has been advantageous if you’ve been forced to go with Doucet, which isn’t likely because he isn’t even owned in most leagues.
Tight end Jake Ballard, New York: Many, many big-name tight ends have struggled mightily this season for a number of reasons (Chris Cooley, Zach Miller, Todd Heap, Kevin Boss, just to name a few). Ballard was still fighting for the Giants' tight end job when the season began. But he has been quietly productive in his role as the Giants have thrown more than expected.
Ballard had a streak in weeks four through nine in which he averaged more than 60 yards receiving and scored three TDs. That is TE1 material, not bad for a guy who most fantasy players were unaware of at the start of the season.
Like I said, these guys probably won’t win you any fantasy titles on their own. But you probably are pleased if you have them stashed on your roster somewhere, ready to produce if the big names ever let you down.