Each week, we dive into the stat sheets to see which weekly performers fantasy owners should applaud and which fantasy owners should write off as frauds. You can read past applaud or a fraud analyses in the category listing. And you can also check out our fantasy football thoughts during the week via our Twitter feed here on the blog or here.
This week we’re going to focus purely on players who had breakouts at the end of the 2009 NFL regular season and try to determine whether they are true fantasy factors for next season or just end-of-season anomalies.
Chad Henne, Dolphins – Henne had to leave the Dolphins’ Week 17 game against the Steelers with an eye injury, but that put only a small pall over a strong end of the season for the second-year quarterback. In three of his last four games, Henne threw for more than 300 yards – and that was without a top-flight receiver. This is an emerging young quarterback who could take the kind of fantasy football leap forward in 2010 that Joe Flacco did in ’09. And if the Dolphins get him a stud receiver, Henne could go from being a top-20 fantasy quarterback to becoming a top-15 guy. Verdict: Applaud
Matt Moore, Panthers – Moore has been Mr. December in Carolina, running his record as a starter to 6-2 (all in December). He also showed some fantasy chops, throwing three touchdowns both in Week 15 and Week 16. If Moore can claim the Panthers’ starting job – which seems a better than 50-50 shot as the ’09 season ends – he’ll have a full season to throw deep balls to Steve Smith and others. But that won’t be enough to move Moore into the top-20 at quarterback, at least not at first. So players in 10-team leagues will have to pass on Moore just as the Panthers did most of the season. Verdict: A fraud
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs – Charles absolutely exploded in Week 17 against Denver, running for a franchise-record 259 yards, and that capped an incredibly strong end to the season. Charles cracked the century mark in the last four games of the season and scored eight touchdowns from Week 10 on. With Larry Johnson completely out of the picture, Charles should get the chance to carry the full load from Day One next year, and that will make him a top-20 overall player if not more. Keeper league owners should celebrate having Charles as an option. Verdict: Applaud
Arian Foster, Texans – Foster had a false start in his first start in Week 15 with just four touches, but in the final two games of the season the rookie from Tennessee had a 97-yard, one-touchdown game against the Dolphins and then a 119-yard, two-touchdown game against the Patriots. Those are promising performances, but with Steve Slaton returning it’s impossible to say if Foster will get a shot to even share the load in the backfield in Houston next season. Maybe Foster wins the job in training camp next year, but fantasy owners just can’t assume that will happen. Verdict: A fraud
Jerome Harrison, Browns – Harrison had the third-best rushing day in NFL history in Week 15 with 286 yards, and he followed that huge day up with 148 yards against the Raiders and 127 against the Jaguars. He also had six touchdowns in those three games. While it would be foolish to expect that kind of massive production from Harrison in 2010, the fact that he should be the clear starting choice in Cleveland (with Jamal Lewis talking retirement) makes him a top-20 running back entering the season. Harrison will likely be a guy who slips on draft boards as the offseason progresses, but don’t forget about him. He’ll definitely have value next year. Verdict: Applaud
Fred Jackson, Bills – Jackson had 212 rushing yards in Week 17 against the Colts to go over 1,000 for the season. More importantly, he seemed to take over for Marshawn Lynch as the main guy in Buffalo’s 60-40 run game split. With a new coach shuffling off to Buffalo, it’s impossible to know how that split will look next year, however, and that makes Jackson a tough guy to rank as a starting fantasy back for 2010 at this point. Maybe he emerges during the offseason, but for now we just can’t be sure. Verdict: A fraud
Devin Aromashodu, Bears – Jay Cutler professed his respect for Aromashodu as early as training camp, but it was Week 14 before DA got his first real shot in the offense. But in the last four weeks, Aromashodu totalled 22 catches for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Those project out to starting fantasy receiver numbers. Given that Cutler likes Aromashodu so much, it’s fair at this point to look at Aromashodu as a sleeper regardless of offensive coaching changes or free-agent signings in Chicago. And if the receiving corps stays the same, Aromashodu could end up being even more than a good sleeper. Verdict: Applaud