Eli Manning, Giants
This Moving Up is long past overdue. Just 13 games into the schedule, Eli has already surpassed his previous career high in passing yards with 4,105 and is just six touchdown passes away from matching his career high in that category (31 in 2010). In fact, at this current pace he would finish just 32 yards short of matching Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season. Of course, that likely wouldn’t even give him the record since he is currently sitting fourth in passing yards in 2011 behind Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Not bad company to keep. Manning currently sits 5th overall amongst fantasy quarterbacks.
Michael Vick, Eagles
Anybody who was paying attention knew that Vick was unlikely to match his fantasy point per game total from last season in 2011 since his 2010 totals were padded by a whopping 676 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns in just twelve games. Thus far in 2011, Vick’s rushing yardage total of 544 remains solid but he has yet to find the end zone and given that his passing touchdowns are also down (just 12 in ten games), his fantasy ranking has taken a major hit. So much for the theory that when he suffers in the passing attack, he will make up for it running the ball. Throw in the injury issues and Vick, the top rated fantasy quarterback in most circles heading into 2011, shapes up as a low end QB1 at best in 2012.
Felix Jones, Cowboys
What the fantasy gods giveth, they can taketh away just as easily. That’s what DeMarco Murray owners found out this week. After looking decidedly mediocre over the Cowboys first five games, he busted out with a 253-yard, one touchdown performance against the Rams and played well until suffering a fractured ankle last week. With most leagues in the 1st round of the playoffs, that was bad timing to say the least. In steps Jones, who was solid this week with 16 carries for 106 yards and six receptions for another 31. He also had a horrible fumble but let’s be honest, Murray owners probably don’t have many options at this point.
Shonn Greene, Jets
Greene has had a mostly disappointing 2011 campaign, with the naysayers heavily critical of his inability to find the end zone. However, he had another touchdown this week after a three-touchdown performance in Week 13, bringing his season total to six. Hard to imagine that a big, bruising back playing in a heavily run based offense has just ten touchdowns over the first 42 regular season games of his career but at least he’s hot for the fantasy playoffs. Of course, his subpar play for most of the year likely means that plenty of his owners are sitting on the sidelines already.
Ryan Grant, Packers
I’m going to be honest with you. Grant was never the most talented running back in the league and the ankle injury he suffered last season seems to have set him back more than was expected. He was never that explosive and now he looks more plodding than ever. That being said, James Starks has missed most of the last three games with injury and Grant finally took advantage of the situation this week against the Raiders, gaining 85 yards and two touchdowns on just ten carries. Starks hasn’t practiced this week and the Pack get the Chiefs and their 25th ranked run defense this week. Yummy.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants
Jacobs played well in Ahmad Bradshaw’s absence and has continued to get carries and produce with him back in the line up. Despite lining up against some pretty solid run defenses (Saints, Packers, Cowboys), Jacobs has amassed 206 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns over his last three games. Up next are the Redskins and Jets.
Kahlil Bell, Bears
Since Marion Barber hasn’t exactly been a bastion of health in recent seasons and the Bears will have to run the ball no matter who is at running back given Caleb Hanie’s lack of success at quarterback, I would be willing to add Bell in larger leagues that use the flex position. He totaled 64 yards on 14 touches this week, which isn’t bad.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Let’s see. Your season’s on the line in a key division matchup against the team ahead of you in the standings and your starting running back breaks a team rule. You bench him for a series, right? A quarter maybe? A half? Are you kidding me? That was the plight of Bradshaw owners as head coach Tom Coughlin nailed him to the bench until the second half and then gave him eight carries which produced 12 yards. This week, he has missed practice. Let’s sum it up. In the doghouse. Check. Unproductive coming back from injury (19 carries for 50 yards in his last two games). Check. Backup played pretty well in your absence. Check. Guess what? That gets you Moving Down.
Darren McFadden, Raiders
The word is out. Run-DMC has a Lisfranc injury and that usually requires surgery for a full recovery. Looks like Oakland’s chances of making the playoffs in 2011 are dwindling, as are the chances of McFadden owners who didn’t do the smart thing and handcuff the injury prone back with Michael Bush.
Willis McGahee, Broncos
The good news for McGahee owners is that every time I write his fantasy obituary, this cat discovers another of his nine lives. This week, I’m writing him off courtesy of his 17 carry, 34-yard performance last week against the Bears. It’s nice he got the rock 17 times despite his lack of production but what is worrisome is that he seemed to be bothered by his knee injury.
James Jones, Donald Driver and Randall Cobb, Packers
With Greg Jennings expected to miss two to three weeks with a knee injury, the Packers will turn to their trio of superlative backup wide receivers in his absence. The only issue for fantasy owners is figuring out which one is the best option. Of the three, Jones has been the most productive this year but Driver had four receptions this week for 75 yards, one week after catching a pair of touchdown passes. Cobb is a supremely talented, rookie 2nd round pick but he’s been mothballed for much of 2011 after a promising performance in Week 1. Jones is clearly the top pick but all three are listed here because they all could be useful in larger leagues.
Jordy Nelson, Packers
See above. Already a quasi WR1, Nelson moves up the chain to clear cut number WR1 for fantasy purposes. His owners could be getting their fantasy Christmas gift early.
Nate Washington, Titans
About the only reason Washington doesn’t get compared to the likes of the Joey Galloway’s and Santana Moss’ of the word is because he’s never had a 1,000-yard season. Other than that, the similarities are striking and it is mostly to do with consistency – as in Washington has none of it. With 798 yards and three games to go, looks like we will be able to make those comparisons in 2012 as Washington seems a likely bet to get to 1,000 yards considering his performance this week. He went off on the Saints, catching six passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, after notching just five receptions for 52 yards over his last two games. Maybe Damian Williams isn’t the surefire number one in Tennessee after all.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Looks like the 1st wide receiver taken in the 2010 draft has some game after all. After playing a solid game in Week 2 of his rookie season, Thomas basically faded into the background due to injuries that ultimately forced him to miss the first six weeks of this season as well. However, over the last two weeks he has become Tim Tebow’s favorite target and made several big plays, accumulating 11 receptions for 222 yards and three touchdowns. And topping it all off are the 20 targets that he had in those games.
Greg Jennings, Packers
Back for the playoffs, at best. NFL playoffs, that is.
Calvin Johnson, Lions
Here’s your second WR1 that is Moving Down this week. Of course, we all knew that Megatron couldn’t keep up the touchdown clip that he was on over his first eight games of the season when he caught 11 touchdowns (including eight in his first four games). However, his owners weren’t expecting him to forget where the end zone was. Unfortunately, that seems to have happened with Megatron finding the end zone just once in the Lions last five games. This week against the Vikings, he put up his worst fantasy performance of the season with just three receptions for 29 yards. In Week 1 of the fantasy playoffs no less. Recall my comment about the fantasy gods giveth and taketh away.
Jake Ballard, Giants
Being truthful (starting a sentence that way makes it sound like sometimes I’m not, doesn’t it), Ballard is Moving Up because the pickings were extremely thin at tight end. Thin as in I don’t ever remember my options being this limited in all my years doing these types of columns. He looked good against the Cowboys this week with four receptions on six targets for 52 yards and a score. Mostly he is here because he got the six targets and scored despite the Giants having their top three wide receivers healthy for an entire game for the first time in ages.
Jimmy Graham, Saints
Sometimes a player tries to play through injury and they’re still productive but they’re just not the superstar they would otherwise me. Meet Jimmy Graham. Graham’s owners likely made the playoffs in their leagues with his performance being a big part of the equation but he is playing through a back injury that he described as painful. This week against the Titans, he caught five balls for 55 yards and failed to score, bringing his scoreless games streak to two.