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Fantasy football: First half disappointments and surprises

Who's hot, who's not and why Jalen Richard should remain on the fantasy radar.

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham reacts while being carted off the field after an injury during the second half against the Chargers in Week 5. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham reacts while being carted off the field after an injury during the second half against the Chargers in Week 5. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)Read moreBill Kostroun / AP

There have been a lot more downs than ups in the first half of fantasy this year. Injuries and inconsistency have been the rule. As if Sundays weren't bad enough, fantasy MVP candidate Deshaun Watson went down during Thursday's practice with what looks like a major knee injury


But you know who also has really killed us? Wide receivers.

Through the first eight weeks of the season, wide receivers have posted 48 games of 100 receiving yards or better. Through eight weeks last year and in 2015, that number was 80. That's a drop of 40 percent.

In 2013, there were 90 occurrences of 100-yard wide-receiver games through eight games – down 53 percent. Bye weeks aren't a factor, because the schedule has been just about the same the last five years.

Obviously, the injuries suffered by Odell Beckham Jr. and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers are partially to blame. But so too is inconsistency and the rise of shutdown cornerbacks.

Julio Jones has one 100-yard game. Last year at this time, he had four – including one game of 300 yards. Mike Evans, Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant, and Michael Thomas are among players drafted high in fantasy leagues with zero 100-yard games so far. At least Nelson, who has battled injuries of his own and to his quarterback, has six touchdowns.

There also has been a drop in running backs rushing for 100 yards through eight games. This year, it has been done 44 times, compared with  48 over the first eight weeks last year and 53 in 2015.

Some other first-half observations:

Sob stories

Injuries wrecked the seasons of Watson, David Johnson, Odell Beckham Jr., Aaron Rodgers, and Dalvin Cook, and now Ezekiel Elliott is staring at a six-game suspension after posting three consecutive 100-yard games. Complaint department is on the 12th floor. Take the elevator.

Unreal result

The Chiefs defense scored a touchdown to end their Week 4 win over the Redskins, 29-20. Washington tried a series of failed laterals when K.C.  linebacker Justin Houston picked the ball up and walked into the end zone from 13 yards out. The Chiefs were laying 6.5 points, which Vegas took note of, and K.C.'s defense got credited with a turnover and score. Being on the wrong side of that play will make you quit fantasy.

Didn’t see that coming

Blake Bortles had four touchdown passes for the Jags in Week 3. He has a total of five in the other six games he has played … Brian Hoyer threw for 300-plus yards and two TDs in Weeks 3 and 5. He was cut by winless San Fran after Week 8 … Bilal Powell ran for 163 yards in  the Week 4  Jets win over Jacksonville … Mike Gilleslee ran for three TDs for New England in Week 1. He has just one since … JuJu Smith-Schuster has emerged as Pittsburgh's No. 2 receiver. His 193 yards in Week 8 were the third-most of the first half behind DeAndre Hopkins (224) and Amari Cooper (201, grrrr) … Most yards by a tight end was the 175 by Carolina's Ed Dickson in Week 5. He has  played in 116 games and it's the only time he has  cracked 100 yards.

Thanks for nothing

And finally, Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper had been a stone-cold bust for  the first six weeks then exploded for 210 yards and two TDs in Week 7 when many owners were fed up and benched him. In the game after his monster, Cooper posted five catches for 48 yards. Grrrr.

Get well, Deshaun

As sweet as winning the World Series was for Astros fans Wednesday night, news of Deshaun Watson's injury the very next day is much more bitter.

Watson's 19 touchdown passes are tied with Carson Wentz for the league lead and, throw in his two rushing touchdowns, he was third in overall scoring standard ESPN leagues through eight weeks. But all of that is likely over.

Watson was the consensus No. 1 fantasy quarterback this week ahead of a tasty matchup against the visiting Colts, who are last in points allowed and next to last in passing yards allowed.

The Texans now turn to Tom Savage, the Cardinal O'Hara product who threw for 62 yards before being bench in favor of Watson during the blowout loss to Jacksonville in Week 1.

We dropped DeAndre Hopkins down from the No. 1 rated wide receiver to No. 10. Running back Lamar Miller dropped from No 5 to No. 7 since we see him now possibly getting more carries.

Position watch

Quarterbacks: Has to be just a coincidence that Cam Newton had easily the best season of his career in 2015 (45 total TDs), which Kelvin Benjamin missed with a torn ACL. The Panthers, of course, traded Benjamin to Buffalo this week … Kansas City's Alex Smith is making his first career start at Dallas. His coach, Andy Reid, was 8-7 there while he was with the Eagles.

Running backs: Alfred Morris is a mid-RB2 until we figure out what Dallas looks like while Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. Darren McFadden will rotate with Morris while Rod Smith (not the old Denver guy) is expected to be the third-down back. Smith has four catches in 25 career games and is not a PPR candidate, while McFadden is worth a roster stash … Leonard Fournette is back as an RB1. He missed Week 7 and took advantage of the Week 8 bye to heal his ankle injury … This is just a hunch, but don't be too quick to drop Jalen Richard now that Marshawn Lynch is back for Oakland. The further the Raiders fall from contention, the more likely the mercurial Lynch is to get bored and do something unpredictable like retire again.

Wide receivers: DeVante Parker is expected back after missing the last three games. Fellow Dolphin Jarvis Landry had his best games while Parker was sidelined with a sprained ankle … Detroit's Marvin Jones is red hot with 14 and 11 targets respectively over his last two games. He's had six catches in each and gone for 96 and 128 yards respectively … Those in large leagues should keep an eye on Jacksonville rookie Dede Westbrook, who is expected to make his debut this week after having core muscle surgery in September. We used to call it a sports hernia. Ahh, simpler times.

Ed Barkowitz, who has set a goal of not accidentally writing the name Gabe Kaplan when referencing the new Phillies manager, has been writing about fantasy football since 2001.


Quarterbacks, Opp.

  1. Drew Brees, NO vs. TB

  2. Alex Smith, KC at Dal.

  3. Carson Wentz, Eagles vs. Den.

  4. Dak Prescott, Dal. vs. KC

  5. Matthew Stafford, Det. at GB

  6. Russell Wilson, Sea. vs. Was.

  7. Matt Ryan, Atl. at Car.

  8. Kirk Cousins, Was. at Sea.

  9. Marcus Mariota, Ten. vs. Bal.

  10. Tyrod Taylor, Buf. at NYJ

  11. Cam Newton, Car. vs. Atl.

  12. Derek Carr, Oak. at Mia.

Running backs/PPR, Opp.

  1. Todd Gurley, LAR at NYG

  2. LeSean McCoy, Buf. at NYJ

  3. Kareem Hunt, KC at Dal.

  4. Leonard Fournette, Jac. vs. Cin.

  5. Devonta Freeman, Atl. at Car.

  6. Aaron Jones, GB vs. Det.

  7. Lamar Miller, Hou. vs. Ind.

  8. Jay Ajayi, Eagles vs. Den.

  9. Alvin Kamara NO vs. TB

  10. Alex Collins, Bal. at Ten.

  11. Mark Ingram, NO vs. TB

  12. C.J. Anderson, Den. at Eagles

  13. Chris Thompson, Was. at Sea.

  14. DeMarco Murray, Ten. vs. Bal.

  15. Christian McCaffrey, Car. vs. Atl.

  16. Joe Mixon, Cin. at Jac.

  17. Carlos Hyde, SF vs. Ari.

  18. Alfred Morris, Dal. vs. KC

  19. Marshawn Lynch, Oak. at Mia.

  20. Doug Martin, TB at NO

  21. LeGarrette Blount, Eagles vs. Den.

  22. Adrian Peterson, Ari. at SF

  23. Frank Gore, Ind. at Hou.

  24. Bilal Powell, NYJ vs. Buf.

  25. Ameer Abdullah, Det. at GB

Wide receivers/PPR, Opp.

  1. Julio Jones, Atl. at Car.

  2. Michael Thomas, NO vs. TB

  3. Doug Baldwin, Sea. vs. Was.

  4. Mike Evans, TB at NO

  5. A.J. Green, Cin. at Jac.

  6. Tyreek Hill, KC at Dal.

  7. Jarvis Landry, Mia. vs. Oak.

  8. Dez Bryant, Dal. vs. KC

  9. DeAndre Hopkins, Hou. vs. Ind.

  10. Jordy Nelson, GB vs. Det.

  11. Michael Crabtree, Oak. at Mia.

  12. Larry Fitzgerald, Ari. at SF

  13. Demaryius Thomas, Den. at Eagles

  14. Golden Tate, Det. at GB

  15. Davante Adams, GB vs. Det.

  16. Alshon Jeffery, Eagles vs. Den.

  17. Mohamed Sanu, Atl. at Car.

  18. Marvin Jones Jr., Det. at GB

  19. Will Fuller V, Hou. vs. Ind.

  20. Amari Cooper, Oak. at Mia.

  21. Nelson Agholor, Eagles vs. Den.

  22. Devin Funchess, Car. vs. Atl.

  23. T.Y. Hilton, Ind. at Hou.

  24. DeVante Parker, Mia. vs. Oak.

  25. Sterling Shepard, NYG vs. LAR

Tight ends, Opp.

  1. Travis Kelce, KC at Dal.

  2. Zach Ertz, Eagles vs. Den.

  3. Jason Witten, Dal. Vs. KC

  4. Jimmy Graham, Sea. vs. Was.

  5. Evan Engram, NYG vs. LAR

  6. Delanie Walker, Ten. vs. Bal.

  7. Jack Doyle, Ind. at Hou.

  8. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NYJ vs. Buf.

  9. Cameron Brate, TB at NO

10 Tyler Kroft, Cin. at Jac.

  1. Jared Cook, Oak. at Mia.

  2. Austin Hooper, Atl. at Car.


This week/ESPN-run leagues

As of Thursday afternoon

  1. Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami

  2. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh

  3. Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis

  4. Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore

  5. Vernon Davis, TE, Washington