One of the cardinal rules of fantasy football is to always start your fantasy studs - regardless of match-up.
But what if you are having your doubts about whether or not a particular guy (say, Matt Stafford), who you drafted as an elite fantasy player still qualifies as such?
What if a guy who HAS been a stud for you so far this year has been hit pretty hard by the injury bug? You know, someone like Trent Richardson.
What if a guy really has not been producing to the level you had hoped — and to top it off faces a very difficult opponent the coming week? Steve Smith, anyone?
Last week we advised benching all three of these one-time fantasy studs. However, all three of them proved us wrong in Week 8. In fact, all three were top 5 fantasy performers at their respective positions — and fantasy owners have to be understandably frustrated if they lost this week due (at least in part) to having benched any of them.
Hind-sight is always 20-20, but looking back our analysis seemed to have merit.
If you are a Matthew Stafford owner, then you know exactly how frustrating it has been trying roll with him every week. As we pointed out, Stafford was averaging nearly 300 passing yards per game but had thrown only 5 TD passes through the first 6 games to go along with 6 INTs. On a week-to-week basis, he ranked #16 among fantasy QBs heading into last week and no longer seemed worthy of an every-week start, we argued.
What’s more, he was facing the Seahawks, who ranked #3 in points allowed to fantasy QBs and had given up the fewest passing TDs in the league. So our advising benching a player who was having trouble finding the end zone against a team that was tops in preventing passing TDs seemed reasonable, no?
Well, all Stafford did was post the best fantasy numbers of any QB this weekend. He passed for 352 yards, 3 TD passes and ran another one in for good measure. A guy whose confidence looked shot against the Bears last Monday night calmly led his team on a game-winning TD drive against the Seahawks, even as his top receiver, Calvin Johnson, was once again choking in the clutch.
This single performance was good enough to catapult Stafford into the top 10 of fantasy QBs after 8 weeks.
Last week Trent Richardson made it onto my Fantasy Villain list. Like the previous week, he had been limited in practice all week with a rib injury. Like the previous week, he was listed on the injury report as “Questionable”. And like the previous week, he was a game-time decision.
When we received word that he would play in Week 7, we breathed a sigh of relief — after all, he was getting a crack at the Colts, whose run defense was very near the bottom in the league. TRich responded with a meager 8 rushing yards in the first half — and found his way onto the bench in the second half. So, it made perfect sense to be wary of the still injured Richardson in his Week 8 match-up against the Chargers’ 2nd ranked run defense, right? Remember, the Chargers were also coming off their bye, so they even had an extra week to get rested and prepared.
That is not the way it worked out, of course. Richardson showed some real guts in pounding the ball between the tackles. He also exhibited toughness in fighting through arm tackles and even showed an occasional burst. When the smoke settled, he carried the rock 24 times for 122 yards — both career highs. He scored a rushing TD and added a reception for 12 yards.
The rookie, a top performer already prior to the injury, earned the respect of his coaches and even the admiration of the great Jim Brown for his heroics in fighting through the painful injury on Sunday.
And then there is Steve Smith. The Carolina version, that is. Smith had not reached the 100-yard mark since Week 2. He has scored exactly the same number of TDs on the season as I have. (That would be ZERO.) His QB, Cam Newton, has appeared to be in the midst of a serious sophomore slump.
Furthermore, the Panthers were taking on the Chicago Bears, who just happen to have one of the best pass defenses in the league. Surely not a recipe for success for Smith, right?
Well, the only thing Smith didn’t do was score a TD on Sunday (although he came VERY close). Newton showed no fear of top CB Charles Tillman, as he targeted Smith a whopping 16 times on Sunday, resulting in 7 receptions for 118 yards — easily Smith’s top fantasy performance of the year.
If we only had a crystal ball…