Even in fantasy, it helps to remember our past every so often. The
second-half stud might as well be considered a bit of a yearly tradition
because it seems impossible to have a fantasy football season without
having at least one player come out of the woodwork to complete
the championship puzzle.
I could have chosen about 20 or 30 different former or current
players to serve as the highlighted player in my headline this
week, but decided to go with one of the first two or three names
that come to mind every year when I think about the phenomenon
of the “second-half stud”.
For those of you with short memories or too young to remember,
Bennett was a former walk-on quarterback at UCLA the Tennessee
Titans turned into a full-time receiver after signing him as an
undrafted free agent. The lanky 6-5 project totaled 89 catches
for 1,311 yards and seven touchdowns through three NFL seasons,
unable to top 33 receptions, 504 yards or four scores in any of
Then 2004 happened. More specifically, the legend of Billy Volek
began. It is easy to look at Bennett’s year-end totals that
year (80-1,247-11) and say it was just his time, but a closer
look reveals a much different story. Bennett’s receiving
totals stood at 46 catches, 654 yards and one TD through 11 weeks.
Regular starting QB Steve McNair missed the rest of the regular
season due to injury, opening the door for Volek.
Bennett’s next three lines read like this: 3-124-3, 12-233-3
Volek threw for 11 touchdowns over that three-game span and Bennett
accounted for eight of them, tying Jerry Rice for the most TDs
over a three-game span in NFL history. Just as fantasy owners
were patting themselves on the back for the incredible find they
made, Bennett finished the season with a pair of two-catch games
(one for 26 scoreless yards in Week 15 and one with 50 yards and
a touchdown in Week 16). Bennett went on to play 44 more games
over four years following the 2004 season, but only scored 10
more touchdowns and never more than four in a season.
This week’s article probably isn’t going to uncover
the next Drew Bennett, so I offer my apologies in advance. My
hope is to give owners a list of possible candidates that I feel
have at least a slim chance of becoming this year’s second-half
stud. Most of these players will need an injury to a player in
front of them on the depth chart in order to get a chance, so
the majority won’t see the light of day on a large number
of starting lineups. I am willing to bet, however, that a few
of them emerge as every-week options before the end of the season.
While some will already be on rosters in deeper leagues, I think
it’s safe to say that most of them will not.
Johnson has flashed the skills to be a
Chris Johnson has not shown any signs of slowing down yet in
his age-30 season and proven to be very durable during his eight-year
NFL career. The same cannot be said about Andre Ellington, who
would be the next man in line should CJ2K suffer an injury. David
Johnson has jumped off the screen just about every time he’s
been given a chance to play, so I find it hard to believe that
even old-school HC Bruce Arians will keep his rookie on the sidelines
for very long in the event of a CJ2K slowdown/injury.
The NCAA’s all-time receptions leader has logged at least
53 snaps in each of the last two weeks, but will need Leonard
Hankerson’s hamstring injury to linger a little bit longer
in order for this prediction to pay off. As with any longshot,
however, the chances of Hardy turning into fantasy superstar the
season are slim, but owners should consider the possibility. Julio
Jones has already dealt with a hamstring injury and we’ve
already discussed Hankerson’s while Roddy White has been
mostly phased out the offense.
The Ravens rolled the dice on aging veterans Steve Smith and
Justin Forsett this season. Smith is already on IR and Baltimore
appears to be losing hope that it will get Breshad Perriman back
at any point this season. Unlike many other teams, there’s
probably always going to be a role for a primary deep threat like
Givens in this offense because QB Joe Flacco has such a big arm.
I would not expect Torrey Smith-like blow-up games from the ex-Ram
simply because he’s not in the same class talent-wise, but
Givens’ one trick does complement one of Flacco’s
primary strengths. Forsett is still producing at a fairly decent
clip, although his 4.2 yards per carry is well off of his 5.4
mark from last year. Without harping too much on the fact that
Forsett turned 30 in October, it is nonetheless an important consideration
for his owners. Allen has held his own in limited duty so far,
has little competition behind him and is more advanced in the
passing game than most rookies, making it somewhat realistic that
he could be a featured back if Forsett misses time.
Woodson is an unlikely candidate to become a second-half superstar
because he plays in an offense that will struggle to make more
than one receiver fantasy-relevant. However, Sammy Watkins has
struggled to stay healthy all year and TE Charles Clay has been
more miss than hit since erupting for nine catches and 111 yards
in Week 4 against the Giants, who have struggled against tight
ends all season. Percy Harvin is now out of the picture as well,
removing one more obstacle from Woods’ path.
It’s hard to know what to make of Funchess’ Week
9 effort (3-71-1) because he hasn’t played more than 21
snaps in any game since the Panthers’ Week 5 bye; his performance
last weekend happened despite only 18 snaps. In all likelihood,
we probably just witnessed the rookie’s best fantasy game
of the season since Ted Ginn and Corey Brown have emerged as the
clear frontrunners (at least in terms of snaps) at receiver since
the bye. The reason Funchess is worth the gamble is because he
offers QB Cam Newton the one thing none of the other wideouts
Alshon Jeffery appears to be out of the woods regarding his early-season
hamstring injury, so the likelihood of Wilson taking the fantasy
world by storm the rest of the way is very slim. The second-year
Washington State product did have his moment in the sun during
a two-week stretch in October and would be worthy of a bench spot
if Eddie Royal is forced to miss more time, but we have probably
already seen the best he has to offer this year barring another
The third-year pro was discussed here three weeks ago and his
situation has not changed one iota. He’d be a very worthy
add in all fantasy leagues if Giovani Bernard was to miss time
and a decent flex consideration if something happened to Jeremy
Cleveland – TE E.J. Bibbs
Before Gary Barnidge became an unstoppable force, it was Bibbs
who was the talk of the preseason for the Browns. He played a
whopping two snaps this season, so consider this mention a bit
of a public service announcement in order to promote him for next
year. I suspect he’ll make Rob Housler expendable at the
end of the season and be given a chance to move ahead of Jim Dray
at that time, unless Cleveland chooses to have him compete with
sixth-round rookie Malcolm Johnson at the H-back/fullback spot
Dallas – RB Trey Williams
Christine Michael was too easy of a selection for this piece
and should be on many more rosters across the fantasy world that
not. (A person has to be willing to take chances in this crazy
fantasy world.) Williams is a 5-7, 195-pound scat back in the
Lance Dunbar mode who was signed off the Washington practice squad
in early November. The reason this has a chance of happening is
simple: Darren McFadden’s durability is always a question
mark and Michael’s inability to capitalize on an opportunity
thus far in his NFL career has been as well. It wouldn’t
surprise me at all if Williams, who was impressive in preseason
action, ends up playing the Dunbar role in this offense should
an injury force McFadden out and leave Michael as the starter.
Another graduate from the “Buried Treasures” article
from a few weeks ago, the undrafted rookie free agent from Michigan
State has the most to gain if something were to happen to Demaryius
Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders. While I’ll admit it’s
hard to get too excited about a receiving corps that has scored
five touchdowns, Peyton Manning has looked much better since the
bye than he did before it.
Detroit – N/A
It’s hard to believe the depths to which this offense has
sunk considering the amount of talent it has. Lance Moore is presumably
the most under-the-radar performer capable of going on a run,
but consistency is going to be hard to come by with Calvin Johnson,
Golden Tate and Eric Ebron all in his way for targets.
The third-round rookie out of Stanford has been sidelined with
a high-ankle sprain since Week 6, but he was able to make a bit
of an impression on Aaron Rodgers while Davante Adams was out.
Montgomery is going to be the fourth receiver anytime that Adams,
Randall Cobb and James Jones are all healthy, but the Packers
may feel the need to start reassessing their offense a bit since
Adams and Jones have been unable to create much separation. Also
working in Montgomery’s favor is the fact that Rodgers has
the ability to make four receivers fantasy-relevant when Green
Bay’s offense is going right.
Of all the names we’ve discussed so far, Shorts has easily
the best chance to contribute to a fantasy contender and doesn’t
need someone ahead of him to get hurt. In the first three games
of the season in which DeAndre Hopkins, Nate Washington and Shorts
were on the field together, all three managed to receive at least
eight targets in every contest. That time period just happens
to be the same stretch in which Arian Foster missed due to his
preseason groin injury, so it is very likely that the most pass-happy
team in the league during Foster’s first absence will challenge
for that title again with its top rusher sidelined for the season.
The Texans also don’t throw much to their tight ends, leaving
most of QB Brian Hoyer’s 40 or so pass attempts per game
to be distributed amongst the aforementioned three receivers.
The selection feels a bit like cheating since we just learned
about Andrew Luck’s kidney injury earlier this week. Nevertheless,
owners may be somewhat hesitant to put much faith into a 40-year-old
quarterback to perform well over a prolonged stretch. While there
is a distinct possibility his effectiveness fades as the season
draws to a close, he’ll have the bye week to prepare for
a less-than-grueling run of defenses: Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh
and Jacksonville. If Luck needs more than five weeks to recover,
Hasselbeck will finish the season against Houston, Miami and Tennessee.
He probably won’t be end up being the reason why fantasy
owners when their league title, but he certainly is more than
capable of being a matchup-based starter against that schedule.
“Shoelace” is probably the most obvious handcuff
candidate that is readily available in most fantasy leagues and
one of several players across the league that have their coach
say “we’ve got to get the ball in their hands more
often”. T.J. Yeldon battled injuries for most of his final
year at Alabama, so it should not be automatically assumed that
he will be able to handle his heavy workload all season long.
Robinson is one of the few players on this list that has already
proven he can carry fantasy teams for a stretch when given the
opportunity and it needs to be noted that the 2015 Jaguars are
much more explosive than the Jacksonville offense Robinson carried
for a short while last season.
Since Alex Smith is unlikely to lose his job, especially in light
of the Chiefs’ two-game winning streak, about the only other
candidate in Kansas City can be Davis. Charcandrick West has performed
admirably in two games as the team’s clear lead back, but
he hardly a proven commodity in terms of withstanding a heavy
workload for the remainder the season. Davis is much more of a
volume runner, but will likely will play with a chip on his shoulder
– if given the chance - in light of being passed on the
depth chart by West.
Poor Jonas Gray. (What’s a guy got to do to keep a job
in this league after rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns
in his only real opportunity?) Ajayi came off the short-term IR
list last week and immediately moved into the backup spot behind
Lamar Miller while also making Gray expendable. Ajayi’s
five-carry, 41-yard effort was enough to compel interim HC Dan
Campbell to say his fifth-round rookie “earned more carries”,
which is probably not the news Miller’s owners wanted to
hear. Miller’s spot atop the depth chart is secure, although
Miami has shown a frustrating tendency to cap his touches throughout
his career – even after he became the clear starter. If
Miller succumbs to injury, perhaps the Dolphins will be less inclined
to do that with their 228-pound rookie.
We saw this movie play out last year, so there’s not a
lot of need to go into much detail. McKinnon’s fantasy value
but will be minimal as long as Adrian Peterson is healthy. In
the event that Peterson is forced to miss multiple games again,
the second-year freak athlete would likely emerge as the clear
lead back in Minnesota while Matt Asiata would probably assume
about a third of the snaps.
Brandon LaFell should have been added a few weeks ago, so I don’t
consider him a candidate for this article. Due to the nature of
football, it’s nearly impossible to do a piece like this
and not fall into at least one “well-timed” injury.
It be ridiculous for owners to expect White to pick up right where
Dion Lewis left off, but entirely reasonable to think he’ll
be a reasonable flex in PPR formats. White will probably fall
short of the value Shane Vereen brought to the table last year
and cede much more time to LeGarrette Blount than Lewis did. However,
with as much is New England’s passing this year, White may
be able to put together one or two game-changing weeks for his
Given his lack of usage and the fact he doesn’t know why
that is the case, C.J. Spiller could be a candidate for this article.
(Sad, but true.) Spiller saw a season-low six snaps last week
in a game in which should have seen him reach a season high in
light of Khiry Robinson’s season-ending leg injury the week
before. HC Sean Payton has not hesitated to use three backs for
the better part of the last few years, so it seems reasonable
that since Hightower is somewhat similar to Robinson, he’ll
eventually be in line for Robinson’s usual 6-8 touches.
The more likely avenue for Hightower to establish fantasy relevancy
again is an injury to Mark Ingram, who has played more than 13
games only once in his first four seasons.
New York Giants – N/A
Orleans Darkwa would have been a good candidate for this honor
a few weeks ago, but he had his moment in Week 7 and now may be
limited with a back injury. Dwayne Harris is another candidate,
but he should already be on most deep-league rosters. Victor Cruz
may be the best candidate by default, although I have’s
severe doubts he is going to be the first football player to make
a seamless transition to the field following patellar tendon surgery.
It’s a good thing Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have
proven to be durable to this point because there doesn’t
appear to be much clarity behind them, or else it would’ve
been easy to go in that direction. Instead, Stacy gets the nod
since he is the clear top option behind a struggling Chris Ivory.
It’s not so much Ivory has to worry about Stacy taking his
job (he doesn’t), but the combination of the former’s
injury history and the volume with which the Jets throw the ball
make any back worthy of second-half standout consideration.
Jones gets the nod here over Marcel Reece because of the likelihood
owners will rush to add the latter first this week in light of
Latavius Murray’s uncertain status this week. Jones, Reece
and Jamize Olawale formed a three-man committee after Murray left
with a concussion in Week 9, but it is worth noting that Jones
passed Roy Helu on the depth chart a few weeks ago. The 27-year-old
was a classic Al Davis draft choice back in 2011 (speed-weight-size
specimen) that may be considered nothing more than a change-of-pace
back by the current regime, but there’s no denying what
he can do in space – even with limited touches. Reece will
probably get the starting nod this week (in the event Murray cannot
go) and do most of the work in between the tackles, although a
part of me suspects the coaching staff didn’t feel comfortable
giving Jones more work last week because he wasn’t prepped
for a bigger workload.
Agholor is a complete shot in the dark considering he was inactive
for Week 9 despite practicing in full leading up to the contest.
Common sense would seem to dictate Chip Kelly’s first pick,
who was seeing a ton of snaps before suffering a high ankle sprain,
is going to see his fair share of targets again before long.
Owners are generally pretty quick to write off a 30-year-old
back, so it’s not hard to imagine what the fantasy community
thinks about a 32-year-old runner (DeAngelo Williams) that has
logged 89.9 percent of the snaps in the three full games Le’Veon
Bell has missed this season. Williams was limited to six games
last year with Carolina and, while he looks great after dropping
15 pounds this offseason, his durability issues in his final years
with the Panthers weren’t all the result of carrying a bit
too much weight.
San Diego – N/A
It’s almost getting to the point where Philip Rivers may
need ask his receivers to wear name tags. Practice squader Javontee
Herndon saw playing time at receiver in the Monday Night Football
loss to the Bears and Dontrelle Inman was beginning to see significant
playing time even before Malcom Floyd went down with a shoulder
injury. Keenan Allen is out for the year and Antonio Gates badly
needs the Week 10 bye in order to get his knee right. Suffice
it to say that I don’t feel Donald Brown or John Phillips
has even a remote chance to contribute to fantasy teams this year
or any other one for that matter.
I don’t want to make it a habit of recommending a player
that has already proven he can fill up a fantasy box score, but
Rawls has hit the waiver wire in a number of leagues. Along with
Jay Ajayi and Knile Davis, Rawls is probably the most likely running
back on this list to reward his owners for stashing him, assuming
the current starter is injured down the road. With the bye weeks
coming to an end, this undrafted rookie free agent is just the
type of investment that owners need to make whether they own Marshawn
Lynch or not.
San Francisco – N/A
Although Jim Tomsula won’t receive any votes for NFL Coach
of the Year, it is quite impressive has managed to get three wins
out of this squad. That doesn’t mean there is much hope
in this team for fantasy purposes. Following Blaine Gabbert’s
promotion last week, I pretty much cut bait on any remaining Niners
I had on my redraft squads (Anquan Boldin was on a few of my teams).
There’s some decent skill-position talent that will be able
to develop eventually in San Fran, but it’s hard to imagine
that any of it is going to make even a little splash in the fantasy
pool over the remainder of this year.
There’s not many people that were/are higher on Todd Gurley
this summer than I was and he has certainly lived up to the hype
and then some. Thus, it is safe to say the only way Mason is going
to find his way into fantasy lineups is if the No. 10 overall
pick gets hurt like he did all too often at Georgia. Even in that
scenario, the second-year back would likely cede a lot of passing-down
work to Benny Cunningham. It should be noted, however, that Gurley
actually has some holes to run through on occasion, making it
more than possible that Mason could have some of the same success
he enjoyed last year.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins would be too easy of a pick here. My
selection of Rainey has nothing to do with Doug Martin’s
recent statistical downturn, but rather the likelihood he’s
going to wear down in December. It seems rather unlikely the Bucs
will turn to Charles Sims as a featured back if Martin was sidelined,
so it only seems reasonable that Rainey would be the next likely
candidate to split the backfield work. Remember, it was less than
a year ago that many felt Rainey should be seeing more time than
There’s a good chance we will look back at the 2015 draft
for the Titans and be able to point to it as the beginning of
their turnaround. Unfortunately, I’m not going to hold out
a lot of hope that either Cobb or Green-Beckham will power owners
through the end of the fantasy season. However, there is a chance
for that to happen if interim HC Mike Mularkey is willing to play
his rookies down the stretch after Tennessee has been eliminated
from the playoff race. Cobb reportedly was a bit overweight coming
off short-term IR and probably cost himself the opportunity to
make a year-one impact as a result, but he is probably the most
talented back on the roster. Green-Beckham is the most naturally-gifted
receiver the Titans have, but despite his Week 9 “breakthrough”
(five catches for 77 yards), Mularkey has suggested his run-blocking
needs to improve. It seems very likely he’ll return to a
lesser role once Kendall Wright returns, which could be in a week
or two. In other words, DGB would do well to channel his inner
Drew Bennett if Marcus Mariota will let him.
Washington – N/A
The once-proficient running game is a mess and Jordan Reed might
as well be the only player running routes in this offense. It’s
actually almost comical that HC Jay Gruden can’t seem to
get any production out of a three-time 1,000-yard rusher in Alfred
Morris or the team’s future feature back in Matt Jones.
The Redskins are averaging 1.9 offensive touchdowns, which is
just as bad as it sounds. DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Reed
are all going to be owned in just about every league, so there’s
not a lot else to see here outside of Jamison Crowder in deeper
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.