By Vidur Malik
Now that NFL offenses have come down to earth from the astronomical numbers they were putting up in the beginning of the season, your fantasy players have probably taken a hit.
Quarterbacks have had the most noticeable drop-off in production, but the league’s elite wide receivers have also seen their numbers drop. Two examples are Wes Welker and Calvin Johnson. Both players began the season with the potential to have record-setting years. Welker had over 700 yards after only five weeks, while Johnson had nine touchdown receptions in his first five games. Welker looked like he was on his way to setting the record for receiving yards in a season – which currently belongs to Jerry Rice, who had 1,848 yards in 1995 – and Johnson was on pace to shatter the record for touchdown receptions in a season, which Randy Moss set in 2007 with 23 touchdowns.
Both have dramatically cooled off. Johnson hasn’t cleared 100 yards receiving in his past three games and only has one touchdown in that span, and Welker has gone above 100 yards only once the past four games. Welker and Johnson are still ranked number one and two in yardage for receivers, respectively, and their numbers are still relatively good compared to their record-setting output earlier in the season, so there’s no reason to panic. You should, however, start looking for lesser-known wide outs for your team if you haven’t already.
There are a few receivers out there who might not be household names and should be available in your league. We recommended taking a look at Earl Bennett of the Chicago Bears a few weeks ago, and even though quarterback Jay Cutler is out with a broken thumb, Bennett is still the most reliable receiver on the team and should be a target for backup quarterback Caleb Hanie. Michael Crabtree of the 49ers had a seven-catch, 120-yard day against the Cardinals in week 11, and though he only had 54 yards against the Ravens on Thursday, he was still the Niners’ leading receiver with six catches.
Looking for tight ends could also help your team. Picking up players like Dennis Pitta of the Baltimore Ravens or Fred Davis of the Redskins and putting them in your flex spot could get you solid production. Both players aren’t going to give you big numbers, but they do get targeted by their quarterbacks and could get you some points on any given day.
Like any position, the wide receiver spots in fantasy teams are dominated by a few stars, but looking for up-and-comers who aren’t widely known could help you make a late-season surge. Players like Welker and Johnson will always be fantasy threats, but even they have off days. Make sure you’re prepared for them.