Every year, we're surprised by a handful of players who emerge from obscurity to become instant fantasy heroes. We're equally shocked when "can't miss" studs turn into duds overnight. (I'm looking at you, Chris Johnson.)
But I can't remember a time when an entire position seems to have been flipped upside-down. Sure, we're only three weeks into the 2012 season, but what in the name of Johnny Unitas is going on with the quarterbacks?
Tom Brady has thrown half as many touchdown passes as Ryan Fitzpatrick. Cam Newton's four combined rushing and passing scores are one fewer than his interception total. Matt Stafford has just three TD tosses in as many games. Tony Romo has found the end zone just once since the Cowboys' opener.
After the first two weeks, Aaron Rodgers trailed in the fantasy rankings behind such pedestrian passers as Matt Cassel, Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton. Drew Brees finally got on track in Sunday's matchup; but Peyton Manning is still kicking off the rust. Michael Vick is a flipping turnover machine.
Meanwhile, those of us who spent a first- or second-round draft pick on one of these "elite" quarterbacks would have been better off, so far anyway, with a rookie (Robert Griffin III), a fifth-year passer that has never ranked higher than eighth (Matt Ryan), or a perennial fantasy backup (Ben Roethlisberger).
The NFL is the most popular game in the land because, among other things, any team can beat any other "on any given Sunday." But that maxim normally doesn't apply to individual players.
Jake Locker isn't supposed to out-perform Stafford. Flacco should never take Brady to school. Kevin Kolb couldn't beat out John Skelton this preseason, so how does he thoroughly upstage Vick on Sunday?
These things have a way of working themselves out over time, so don't panic if your starting quarterback is weighing down your team.
But you have my permission to whine about it.
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.
Catch 'em while you can
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions. Not only did Leshoure step directly out of a two-week suspension and into the starting job, but Kevin Smith was completely missing in action. That speaks volumes about how the Detroit coaches view the RB pecking order. If Leshoure is still available, run, don't walk, to the waiver wire.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins. Big things were expected from Thomas when Miami selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft. But injuries and Reggie Bush's stellar play conspired to ruin his rookie season. Though Bush's knee injury is not as serious as first feared, Thomas seems destined for at least one start in his place. This
could be the opening he needs to re-stake his claim to fantasy relevance.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings. I'm not putting my trust in Christian Ponder just yet, but I'm getting more and more intrigued by his safety valve. With three TDs over the last two games, the 6'6" receiver is starting to fulfill his red-zone potential. Ponder would be wise to keep looking his way.
Don't be fooled
Shaun Hill, QB, Lions. Unless Matt Stafford's leg injury proves to be more than a one-week liability, there's no need to rush to claim his backup. Hill has a strong track record of performing well in relief, but you're better off looking elsewhere if you need a QB.
Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sam Bradford and Carson Palmer are widely available, and offer more long-term help.
Tashard Choice, RB, Bills. C.J. Spiller is expected to miss 1-2 weeks with a sprained shoulder, but Fred Jackson (knee) is hoping to return this Sunday. If he can't go, Choice will get the start against the Patriots. The career backup has had success when pressed into duty before, including Sunday's contest; but he's recommended only to those already invested in the Bills' backfield.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts. The rookie flashed his potential on Sunday, and he could mature into a quality receiver as he and Andrew Luck build their NFL resumes. But Hilton's 113-yard, one-TD game looked like more of an aberration than a coming-out party, after he was targeted just once over his first two games. Keep an eye on him; but
as long Donnie Avery is still in the picture, Hilton's upside is limited. In addition, Indy is heading into its bye week.
Ladd Biro has been named Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for two consecutive years (2010 and 2011). Follow all his advice at the Fantasy Fools blog, on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).