With four weeks of NFL and fantasy football action in the books, we've reached the quarter mark of the season. As is the norm around the NFL Media offices, this is a time to dole out some awards and titles based on what we've seen through the first four weeks. So we assembled an esteemed panel of fantasy analysts -- Michael Fabiano, Marcas Grant, Alex Gelhar, Matt Franciscovich and Matt Harmon -- to name their picks in the following five categories:
» Biggest surprise
» Biggest disappointment
» Fantasy Player of the Quarter-season
» Player to PANIC on
» Player to NOT panic on
Below are the results. Enjoy, and let the dissension begin!
Honestly, I didn't think Dalton would ever be as good as he was in 2013, when he finished fifth in fantasy points among quarterbacks. But so far, I've been proven wrong. It's insane to think that Aaron Rodgers is the lone player in the entire league with more fantasy points than the Red Rifle.
Back in the spring, it was something of a joke that Taylor could win the starting job in Buffalo. Through the first four weeks, he's become a legitimate NFL quarterback and is flirting with "must-start" fantasy status. The biggest thing is that he's doing it without a consistent running game and a mostly unproven receiving corps. #TeamTyrod is strong right now.
I figured Jones would have some success reuniting with his old team, but I didn't think he'd enter Week 5 as seventh-highest scoring wide receiver! He and Aaron Rodgers haven't lost a step, and are carving defenses up with surgically precise timing/chemistry routes, like the back-shoulder fade. It's been fun to watch.
Even though it's mostly on the back of a mere two week stretch, it's hard to call anyone more surprising than Devonta Freeman. He wasn't a good player as a rookie, and looked like he was taking a clear backseat to Tevin Coleman in the season opener. Now, he's the top scoring back in fantasy football. If you haven't adjusted your expectations for how this Atlanta backfield will play out the rest of the way, you aren't being honest with yourself.
I was on the Cooks bandwagon at the start of the season. I liked him as one of the top breakout candidates in fantasy football. And after one quarter of the fantasy season, well, he's 49th in points among wideouts. Ugh. There's still time for him to turn things around, but so far ... no good.
Through four weeks, Cooks is fantasy's WR49 in standard leagues. Yep, 49. He's far under-produced his Round 4 ADP and is averaging fewer than 54 receiving yards per game. He's still the most targeted Saints wideout (31), but with Willie Snead creeping up and more of a focus on the run game, Cooks could end up as the season's biggest fantasy disappointment unless he gets, um, cooking (?) soon.
There's just something about Denver Broncos running backs. Every time we think we've found a bell cow, there's another rusher coming to steal his milk. Maybe not everyone was on board with Anderson, but few would have expected a grand total of 17.40 fantasy points. Devonta Freeman had more than that by halftime of Week 5. This was a swing and a miss on a high second-round pick.
There are a lot of names to list here, but none have hurt me more than my boy JStew. All of the numbers seemed to be lining up for him to have a huge year, yet he's failed to top 62 rushing yards in a single game. He honestly is verging on droppable right now, and it pains me to write that. He was one of my favorite sleepers this offseason.
There were a lot of players to choose from here, but C.J. Anderson is the biggest for me. Everything about that situation screamed running back production; the holy marriage of talent meeting opportunity in a historically productive rushing offense. If I could do it all over again without hindsight would Anderson still be a first round pick? You bet. Always trust good process over results, and the process to taking Anderson that high was right.
Fantasy Player of the Quarter-season
Don't make Brady mad, or he will make like Marcellus Wallace in "Pulp Fiction" and go medieval on your derriere. The future Hall of Famer has averaged better than 26 fantasy points in three starts and is on pace for almost 6,000 passing yards and 48 touchdowns. Those are Arena League numbers!
Is there really any doubt? The Packers quarterback has a seven-point lead over the next closest player and is performing on an absurd level right now. The loss of Jordy Nelson and a slow start by Eddie Lacy have done nothing to diminish Rodgers' output, especially with the return of James Jones. Rodgers has proven why he was the lone quarterback worth a first-round pick.
Devonta Freeman, the NFL's touchdown leader, is too chalky for me. I've been the most impressed with the Red Rifle, who has shown growth and improvement in shedding some of the "bad Andy" habits from years past. Whether he keeps it up remains to be seen, but for the first four weeks he's my pick for fantasy MVP.
I'm a noted late-round quarterback enthusiast and streamer. Even so, you never expect to get fantasy's highest scoring quarterback (on average because of the bye) late in your drafts. Tom Brady and his potential suspension provided a cheat code in this year's drafts. You could regularly get Brady in the ninth-to-11th round of some drafts. He's currently lapping the quarterback field by recording 2.1 more fantasy points per game than the next highest scoring passer.
Player to PANIC on
This year, Murray is averaging 1.6 yards per carry on his 29 rushing attempts. He has fewer rushing yards than Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jay Cutler. That's totally not good. There are concerns with Philadelphia's offensive line and Chip Kelly refuses to acknowledge that Murray isn't a fit for his offense. When Murray was out in Week 3 and Ryan Mathews got 20 carries, Mathews posted a 24-108-1 line ... in one game. I just gave you five reasons to panic. You shouldn't need any more.
Graham's numbers were going to drop a bit by virtue of moving from New Orleans to Seattle. But he wasn't expected to fall off a cliff. The star tight end just isn't a fit in the Seahawks' anemic passing game and with the offensive line struggling to protect Russell Wilson, every drop back turns into a scramble drill. That doesn't fit Graham's skill set and he's going to struggle to make his presence felt on a weekly basis.
I tried, I really tried to put someone else in this space, but no one else worries me as much as Anderson right now, and it's all because of his situation. At least Lamar Miller could see an improvement if the offense starts giving him the ball now that Joe Philbin has been fired. Anderson is going to have to fight at least Hillman for carries all year long. This is looking like a big whiff across the board.
If you opted for wide receiver over running back in the second to third rounds this year, your're feeling pretty good unless you stepped on the Dez Bryant landmine. The other exception has been Calvin Johnson, currently the WR38 in fantasy. I can't honestly tell a story where it gets any better. His offense is a disaster, his quarterback has been neutered and he looks like he's just a tick off from the player he used to be. There were a few plays Monday night that Calvin of old makes that this year's rendition just didn't.
Player to NOT panic on
OK, so the Dolphins haven't lived up to preseason expectations. Because Miami has been playing catchup for most of the season, Miller has just 37 rush attempts through four games. You can't expect a running back to produce fantasy points when he's averaging fewer than 10 carries per game. But the team has made coaching changes and will enjoy an entire bye week to iron out whatever kinks are preventing the offense from being successful. So I see Miller breaking out of this slump and proving he's worth a starting spot on your fantasy roster every week going forward.
I'm encouraged about Maclin simply because he cracked The Mystery of Chiefs WRs Scoring Touchdowns. That's reason enough to be optimistic. But what really helps is that Kansas City has realized that in order to be successful on offense, they'll need to feed him the football. He's had a combined 24 targets in the past two weeks. That's a commitment to getting Maclin involved. Now, if Alex Smith would only target him more than three yards downfield.
We got into this on the podcast this week, but I'm not worried about Abdullah. He performed poorly against a tough matchup on the road in Seattle last week. So what? He's at worst, the second-most talented player on this offense and the Lions will eventually figure that out (I hope). Expect him to start seeing more touches and performing better as the year goes on.
From the late Green Goblin, "the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying." As much as we loved to prop Odell Beckham to the national spotlight after an all-time rookie season, the public seems just as a ready to tear him down. Let's drown out silly judgement casting narratives of an immature 23-year-old, and focus on reality. Beckham is still one of the best receivers in the game, has dominated two halves of football games this season, and owns a 29 percent share of his team's targets.