Big Name Busts And Late Bloomers: Who Is Left To Break Out In The NFL?

Can Larry Fitzgerald and other big name players overcome a season that has been lackluster so far? Who are the players on poorly performing teams that should be looked at as sleepers for the remainder of the season?

[UPDATE 4:42 pm 10/30/2010]: Brandon Gibson was originally sleeper #5 but was swapped out for Danny Amendola due to statistical mistakes.

In fantasy football there is nothing more satisfying that picking up a player off of the waiver wire and watching him blossom into a top fantasy performer. Not even hitting on every single draft pick comes close to the pride that comes from being the owner who took a chance on a player, only to have that chance be rewarded with point upon point. On occasion that player emerges to become a big name player, ala Miles Austin last season, in the future.

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the disgust that a fantasy owner has with a high draft pick busting. Big name players are highly sought after in fantasy drafts because a big name typical comes along with big numbers. Matt Forte was a first round pick in most fantasy drafts last season and found himself to be one of the largest busts because of his disappointing play. But sometimes an owner will get lucky and that big name bust will redeem himself during the season.

All point totals and statistics used in this article are courtesy of Yahoo! Sports and Yahoo! Fantasy Football.

Big Name Busts Who Can Rebound

  1. Larry Fitzgerald: 45.10 points. Two years ago Fitzgerald was almost unanimously considered the best wide receiver in the NFL. Now Andre Johnson has secured that title but Fitzgerald is still amongst the league's great wide receivers - just not statistically this season. It really comes down to who is throwing Fitzgerald the ball because he has over one third of the Arizona Cardinals' receiving yards (331 yards out of 877 yards) and two out of the Cardinals' three receiving touchdowns. If the Cardinals find a quarterback who plays at even an average level then Fitzgerald should finally show off his immense talent. 
  2. Brent Celek: 34.90 points. Wasn't Celek touted as Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb's go-to-target? Even when Kolb started for the Eagles this season Celek saw very little of the ball. Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy have been the real winners on the Eagles this season, seeing more of the ball than any other pairing on the Eagles. The main competition for targets for Celek will come from Jason Avant and Riley Cooper, not Jeremy Maclin or DeSean Jackson. Celek seems as though he's relegated to, at best, the fourth receiving option. If he is to make any impact for fantasy players then he needs to work his way back to being the second or third option.
  3. Ryan Mathews: 37.70 points. Fantasy owners drafted Mathews high on the potential of him filling in LaDanian Tomlinson from day one for the San Diego Chargers and that faith in Mathews hasn't yet been repaid. Chargers head coach Norv Turner chose to go against the hot hand in Mike Tolbert and named Mathews the Chargers starting running back once healthy. A positive for Mathews is that Phillip Rivers is once again leading a powerful passing offense, which is not only missing Vincent Jackson but also has Patrick Crayton as its only uninjured wide receiver. Mathews should have plenty of opportunities to prove that he isn't a fantasy bust. 
  4. Beanie Wells: 25.40 points. Averaging 4.5 yards per rush attempt and recording 7 touchdowns as a rookie last year made Wells a coveted running back for fantasy owners in two running back leagues. While not amongst the elite running backs, Wells had the advantage of being needed heavily for the Cardinals transition from Kurt Warner to whomever (though disadvantaged as being part of a platoon with Tim Hightower). As of this week, Wells is averaging a weak 3.5 yards per carry and has only 1 touchdown and 178 yards. He is expected to receive his first career start this upcoming week but that may not be enough to make his relevant to fantasy owners, not unless his yards per carry drastically improves and he finds a way into the endzone.
  5. Mike Sims-Walker: 39.90 points. Sims-Walker is truly an enigma for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had 63 receptions for 869 yards and 7 touchdowns last season but can't find a way to replicate anything that resembles his play last year. This season Sims-Walker is confusing fantasy owners with minimal yardage displays that still result in the occasional touchdown. At his current pace Sims-Walker will finish the season with only 515 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. His only quality game of the season was a 10 reception, 105 yard and 1 touchdown effort in week two versus the Chargers. Much like Fitzgerald, Sims-Walker is dependent on his own quarterback, in this case David Gerrard, and whether or not Gerrard can stay healthy and perform up to his talent level.

Sleepers On Poorly Performing Teams

  1. Matthew Stafford: Stafford only qualifies on this list because the Detroit Lions are currently 1-5 and he only has made one appearance so far into this season. This season was supposed to be a successful individual sophomore season for Stafford, if not for the Lions as a whole. With Shaun Hill suffering a forearm injury that resulted in surgery and a recovery time of four weeks, Stafford has plenty of time to get back into the swing of things. It's easy to be in the belief that if Hill could run an efficient offense than Stafford, considered a much better quarterback, could put up even higher numbers. As of right now Stafford is only owned in 42% of Yahoo! Fantasy Football leagues.
  2. All three of the Buffalo Bills wide receivers: It seems like every week one of the three figures out a way to stake a claim to be the number one wide receiver. Steve Johnson (25 receptions, 372 yards and 5 touchdowns) has been far and away the best receiver that the Bills have had but Lee Evans exploded last week with 6 receptions for 105 yards and 3 touchdowns (21 receptions for 286 yards and 4 touchdowns on the season). Then there's Roscoe Parrish who has quietly collected 22 receptions for 274 yards and 1 touchdown. The best bets are Johnson and Lee for the rest of the season but Parrish will also continue to put up respectable numbers for a third target. Johnson is remarkably only owned in 66% of Yahoo! Fantasy Football leagues. Evans is owned in 58% of Yahoo! Fantasy Football leagues and Parrish finds himself owned in a meager 3% of Yahoo! Fantasy Football leagues.
  3. Fred Jackson: Bills, Bills and more Bills. When it comes to the running game, Ryan Fitzpatrick can't be asked to do it all for the floundering Bills. At some point either Jackson or rookie running back C.J. Spiller need to fill the role of the runner on the Bills offense. Jackson is the likely player to give the Bills some semblance of a rushing attack. It could be argued that Jackson is a bust after putting up good numbers last season (237 rushes, 1062 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns plus 46 receptions for 371 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in 11 games) but if anything he's prepared to have an impact fantasy wise in the remainder of the 2010 NFL season. If Fitzpatrick and the Bills receiving corps continue to allow the Bills to employ an efficient air assault then Jackson will have the ability to run rampant (if the Bills offensive line helps out at all). Jackson is owned by 48% of Yahoo! Fantasy Football leagues.
  4. Greg Olsen: The question about Olsen is whether or not offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system will ever prove to be worthwhile in Chicago. The Chicago Bears sit at the top of their division at 4-3 but their offense hasn't really shown up at all this season. Olsen has put up okay numbers (18 receptions for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns) but nothing close as to what was expected of him. What makes him a sleeper versus a bust is the fact that people knew that Olsen would be targeted much less in Martz's system, which has led to Olsen's low numbers. Because the offense hasn't shown much life yet, Martz should start looking to Olsen to give quarterback Jay Cutler another weapon to utilize effectively on offense. Olsen is owned by 46% of Yahoo! Fantasy Football leagues.
  5. Danny Amendola: When Mark Clayton was placed on the injured reserve list, someone had to be targeted by St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Now that Amendola has moved into the number one slot there has been little production from the number two slot.  Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson, Mardy Gilyard and Danario Alexander have combined for only 23 receptions for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bradford will continue to target Amendola as his main receiver and that should make Amendola an attractive commodity to fantasy owners as the Rams ask their rookie quarterback to throw the ball 37 times per game on average. Amendola is owned by a low 37% of Yahoo! Fantasy Football leagues.
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