I remember back in elementary school, they used to hand out progress reports so all parents could see how good or how had their kid was progressing in each quarter of the school year. We were supposed to give them to our parents, but lets just say that a majority of mine either got lost on the bus or were forever sucked in the vortex of forgotten notes.
Now that we are a quarter of the way through a team's football season, I want to give praise to those players who have helped fantasy owners and a big middle finger to those who have wasted our time.
Cam Newton - CAR: I know I have mentioned Newton's name in my previous Risers and Fallers articles, but I can't help but give the guy all the credit in the world for how well he has played. Even though the Panthers are 1-3, Newton is averaging 346.5 passing yards a game and has nine total touchdowns, as he is also averaging a little over 33 rushing yards per contest. And the fact that he is doing all of this without barely a rushing game to help him is remarkable.
Matthew Stafford - DET: We all knew Stafford could be a player if healthy, but he's been on a fantasy tear through the first four weeks of the season, averaging almost three touchdowns a game. The biggest improvement on the Lions offense has been the offensive line, which has allowed just five sacks (all in Week Three). Stafford has finally taken that next step and is a bonafide QB1 for the rest of the year.
Matt Forte - CHI: Forte has been doing it all in 2011, averaging 81 yards on the ground per game. But what has been his strong point is in the passing game. So far, he has totaled 26 receptions and is averaging 77.5 receiving yards a game, which is No. 1 amongst running backs. In one-point PPR leagues, Forte is easily the No. 1 running back going into Week Five. He recently admitted that his contract was a distraction, so imagine what he could be like once he gets a new extension?
Darren Sproles - NO: Still only third on the official depth chart, Sproles is clearly the running back to own in all fantasy leagues. He only has fifteen carries, compared to Mark Ingram's 53 and Pierre Thomas' 27, but he leads the team in yards a carry with 8.9. And as a receiving option, fuhgettaboutit. He currently leads the team with 26 receptions and is averaging 56 receiving yards a game. And he's doing this in a triple-player timeshare. If Thomas or Ingram ever missed time with an injury, Sproles could be bigger than he is now.
Wes Welker - NE: Not only is Welker the No. 1 fantasy receiver. But in PPR leagues, he's the No. 1 fantasy player, above guys like Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson. Welker is a PPR machine, averaging ten per game and he has three 100-yard games under his belt. And have I mentioned he's been scoring at will? In 2010, Welker racked up seven scores. He has five already. It's a safe bet that if you asked which player has helped owners the most this year, Welker's name will be mentioned the most.
Stevie Johnson - BUF: Johnson hasn't been blowing up the stats like a WR1, but he has put up some strong game while dealing with a groin injury. The guy many thought was a one-year wonder has averaged 78 receiving yards a game and tallied three touchdowns. His stats could decrease a tad once the weather in Buffalo starts getting colder (that lakefront snow is a bitch), but Johnson will do just enough to make him a worthy WR2 for the rest of the year.
Greg Olsen - CAR: The Panthers are using Olsen the way Chicago should have; as a pass-catching weapon. Through four games, Olsen has averaged 4 catches a game with 54.8 receiving yards. Not exactly superman stats, but still worthy of a low-end TE1 start.
Tony Gonzalez - ATL: Gonzo is another name that I have mentioned in the past, but he continues to get it done even with Julio Jones taking away more targets. After catching six scores in all of 2010, Gonzo already has four through four games. Not bad for a 35 year old.
Ben Roethlisberger: With an average of 287 passing yards a game, Big Ben is still getting his fantasy stats in terms of yardage, but his 3:5 TD:INT ratio is awful. The lack of talent on the offensive line and Rashard Mendenhall looking like he's running through mud isn't helping. Reothlisberger is a QB2 until his touchdowns start getting more frequent.
Jay Cutler - CHI: While Matt Forte has been getting it done in the backfield, Cutler has been laying on his back more times than not. During the first quarter of the season, Cutler ranks No. 2 in sacks taken with fifteen, second only to Sam Bradford (18). Cutler could easily be a QB1. But like Roethlisberger, he's getting zero help from his offensive line and Mike Martz's play-calling will always make interceptions inevitable (Cutler had fifty in 2009-2010). Cutler is nothing more than a QB2 without much upside.
Shonn Greene - NYJ: This will be harsh, but Greene is beyond bad. Even in a good matchup, he can barely maintain a 3.0 ypc average. I had predicted that Greene would finally break out after disappointing last year. But the only difference between 2011 and 2010 is LaDainian Tomlinson is a year older. With a meager one rushing touchdown to his name, Greene is nothing more than a low-end flex. He has a great matchup against the Patriots, so at east owners have that to look forward to.
Chris Johnson - TEN: While I do expect better things from Johnson going forward, he's been killing fantasy owners thus far. As if the lockout wasn't bad enough, Johnson's holdout wasn't making things any easier. Despite averaging a measly 75 yards from scrimmage a game, Johnson insists that his slow start isn't because of rust.
Percy Harvin - MIN: I remember making a post-draft trade for Harvin thinking he was going to be a huge part of the Vikings offense. I couldn't have been more wrong. Most of Harvin's lack of stats haven't been his fault. The team is simply not using him enough. I'm hoping his 42 receiving yards and 67 rushing yards from Week Four are a sign of things to come. Because if they aren't, the WR2 tag I had on Harvin in the preseason is going to make me look pretty bad.
DeSean Jackson - PHI: While Jackson has put up big numbers this year, his consistency has been awful. He got me over 20 points in Week One, totaled ten in Weeks Two-Three and got me another 20+ in Week Four. For a guy who was tabbed as a WR1, that's not that good. There are a couple things not in Jackson's favor. First are the double teams. When you're considered the passing offense's best weapon, you're going to get covered....a lot. Second is Jackson's contract. There have been rumors that Jackson is playing not to get hurt and he even has teammates talking to the media about it. While I think Jackson's total numbers will be rock solid, the up-and-down play of the entire team doesn't help matters.
Antonio Gates - SD: Remember when Gates put up seven receptions and 74 receiving yards in Week One? Us Gates owners thought we had it made. Little did we know Gates' previous foot injury would get in the way, leaving him stat-less from Week Two to now. Gates resting until after the Chargers' Week-Six bye is doing nothing for us owners who have clamored to find his replacement.
Kellen Winslow - TAM: Winslow had a good Week One with six catches for 66 yards against the Lions, but it's been all downhill from there. Lacking play-making ability because of all the knee surgeries, Winslow is a shell of his former self. He will have big games here and there, but he's nothing more than a TE2 with close to zero upside. And this was a guy that many experts had ranked as a top-10 fantasy option in the offseason.