Every team in the NFL has now played at least half its schedule, so before looking ahead to Week 10, it’s a good time to look back at the fantasy football MVPs of the first half.
Here they are, position by position, keeping in mind their average draft spot:
Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington. RGIII is trailing only Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in fantasy scoring through the first nine weeks, with 182 points in standard-scoring ESPN leagues. He’s cooled down recently with just one touchdown pass in the past two weeks, but gets an inviting matchup with the Philadelphia defense in Week 11 when the Redskins return from their bye week. On average, Griffin was drafted in the seventh round of CBS Sports leagues.
Running back: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay. Fueled by his Week Nine explosion, when he rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns at Oakland, Martin is now the top-scoring running back. That 51-point outburst was the third most since the year 2000, following a 54-point game by Washington’s Clinton Portis in 2003 and a 52-point game by the Seahawks’ Shaun Alexander in 2002. Martin, who was drafted on average in the fourth round of 12-team leagues, has scored in three straight games. Next up is the San Diego Chargers, who visit Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
Wide receiver: Randall Cobb, Green Bay. He wasn’t drafted until the 13th round, on average, if at all, but Cobb has been a major find for his owners. He’s got five touchdowns in the past three weeks and ranks eighth in positional scoring. He’s had double-digit fantasy days in four of the past five weeks. Green Bay is on its bye in Week 10.
Tight end: Heath Miller, Pittsburgh. With 384 yards and six touchdowns on 39 catches, Miller has been Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target. Not bad for a player who for the most part was not drafted in 12-team leagues. Miller has scored touchdowns in five of eight games this year.
Kicker: Blair Walsh, Minnesota: The rookie is 19 for 20 on the season after hitting from 36 and 55 yards in Week Nine. He’s third in positional scoring and has had double-digit games in five of nine weeks.
Martin’s rushing total last week was the best for a single game, but if you’re looking for season-long excellence, it’s hard to beat the Chicago Bears.
In eight games, the unit has eight touchdowns, amazing considering none of them have come from returner Devin Hester. The Bears’ “D” last week scored 26 fantasy points, the fifth-highest total of the week. Last season’s highest-scoring defense, the 49ers, scored 169 points. The Bears were second with 163.
This year, the Bears are on pace for 264, better than a 100-point improvement from last year.
Analyzing the Bills
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick did throw for 350 yards and four touchdowns against the Patriots in Week Four – along with four picks. Garbage time points count just the same, though, so Fitzpatrick could be considered as a bye week replacement. His top target, Stevie Johnson, has been limited in practice because of a thigh injury, but should play. He’s a No. 2 receiver.
C.J. Spiller remains my preference among the Bills’ running backs. It’s a tough matchup this week against New England, which has allowed just one run of 20-plus yards this season. One concern with Spiller, though, is the red zone. He’s got just two carries for one touchdown inside the 5-yard line, while Fred Jackson has three carries and two touchdowns near the goal line.
On the New England side, quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Wes Welker are elite fantasy players. Here’s a telling number from Matthew Berry’s fantasy column on ESPN.com: The Bills are averaging a 78.7 completion percentage on passes targeting receivers lined up in the slot, where Welker does most of his work.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez, who also works out of the slot at times, will play Sunday after missing the first game against the Bills, and is a low-end starter at his position.
Patriots rookie running back Brandon Bolden, who had his only career 100-yard game in the first meeting with the Bills, is questionable with a knee injury.
He should sit. Stevan Ridley is a solid No. 2 running back for New England. Ridley has seven carries inside the 5-yard line for three touchdowns. The Patriots, though, divide their goal-line work pretty evenly.
Bye weeks: Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay, Washington.