Alf on left 450x318 Four Players Who Will Make Me or Break Me

We’ve rounded the turn and left the 2012 season’s quarter pole behind us. Some NFL stars have exceeded my expectations, while others have me shaking the shame finger at them. While plenty of quarterbacks and tight ends have flashed or fizzled, it’s running back and receiver where the most surprises and letdowns happen. For a view that’s up close and personal, I’ve picked four guys who are on one or more of my fantasy team.

He May Break Me: Fred Jackson 

Got Out the Car Lookin’ More Like Jesse Jackson

That one goes out to all you fans of FootballGuys’ awesome podcast, The Audible. No disrespect to Freddie Jackson, still ballin’ at an age when most running backs have spaghetti legs, but I wanted more when I put him on three of my five teams. F-Jax was doing nothing Week 1 vs. the Jets when he suffered a wicked hit to the knee. It looked like the kind of hit that has you walking funny for the rest of your life. Missing only two games, Jackson might have made Adrian Peterson feel like a slacker with his rapid-healing prowess. Unfortunately, being tough as nails doesn’t score fantasy points, so Fred’s 128 total yards, 2.6 yards per carry and zero touchdowns are the kind of numbers Jesse Jackson could put up. And possibly Janet.

Verdict

I wish I could say Buffalo’s schedule is super-favorable for ball-carriers, but they have four dates with Top 10 run defenses and an especially wicked Weeks 9 through 11. C.J. Spiller has been banged up too, but the young gun has done damage in 8 of his last 11 games: scoring, going for 100+ total yards, or both. My guess is that Jackson has three or four good games left in him this year and they’ll come in cupcake matchups. That’s about it.

Bonus Breaker: Ryan Mathews

Kid looked like a beast vs. New Orleans, but actually getting into football games and staying in them has been a struggle for him. Taking him at the end of the second round hasn’t been the genius move I hoped it would be. Still, I’m optimistic (crazy?) and think Mathews will be a stud the rest of the way.

He May Make Me: Alfred Morris 

Ha! I Kill Me

They laughed when I spent 51% of my FAAB budget to acquire Alfred Morris after Week 1. Who’s laughing now? Alf, whether he’s from Melmac or Pensacola, has not been the flash-in-the-pan many expected him to be under the shaky hand of Shanahan. I wish I’d scooped him up in my dynasty leagues over the summer, but he’s a bulwark of two redraft teams. I love my two cats, but if Alf gets hungry, he can have them.

Verdict

Morris is 4th in the NFL in rushing and shows no sign of slowing down. Obviously, if RG3 misses any games, defenses can clamp down on the run. And the Redskins get a lot of fairly sturdy run defenses the rest of the way – most are ranked between 10 and 20. We may have seen Morris’ best work this year, but he’ll remain a staple of starting lineups and should have big games vs. Carolina and Cleveland Weeks 9 and 15.

Bonus Maker: Stevan Ridley

Ridley’s actually ahead by a nose in scoring and a single rushing yard behind Alf. However, Morris has a more secure hold on his job – and the football – than the otherwise impressive New England back. A severe case of fumble-itis would put Ridley on the pine, so stay tuned.

He May Break Me: Brandon Lloyd

Annoyed by Lloyd

Brandon Lloyd was one of the few players I actively targeted rather than looking for value—he’s on three of my five teams. In my “Receiver Risk Meter” blog written in March, I proclaimed “Lloyd will be a Top 20 WR whom I’d snatch up as early as the middle of the 5th round” and compared the risk of drafting him to taking on a sorority girl in a pillow fight. So far, this seems like taking on the androgynous house mother and she’s wielding Pearl Jam’s pillow made of concrete. With 28 receptions for 321 yards and a touchdown, Lloyd is currently WR No. 34 based on ESPN Standard Scoring, well behind such luminaries as Andre Roberts, Jeremy Kerley and Andrew Hawkins.

Verdict

Will he get it going? His targets went down in Weeks 4 and 5 and Lloyd faces tough corners in his three matchups before the bye. Thus far, Lloyd and Tom Brady have left at least five touchdowns on the field. While Lloyd doesn’t look like the same player who was fantasy’s top receiver in 2010, when he played for the Denver Broncos, the wily vet will continue to see lots of single coverage and should get in sync with No. 12. With a deep breath, I predict that Lloyd will have cracked the Top 20 when the final numbers are in. Stubborn or stupid, I’m sticking with “Spiderman.”

Bonus Breaker: Jordy Nelson

Nelson is only killing one of my teams, so he gets less ink than Lloyd. However, I’m sure I’m not alone in jones’n for Jordy’s long bombs of 2011. They’ll come, but he’ll be lucky to score half as many touchdowns this year – let’s say seven scores by Week 17.

He May Make Me: Reggie Wayne

Reggie has been Waynderful 

Unfortunately for me, this is a guy I only have in one league. While I had high hopes for Wayne entering the season, the wily vet surpassed them even before his 212-yard explosion vs. the Packers in Week 5. No WR has seen more targets than Wayne and don’t forget, he’s already had his bye.

Verdict

Can Reggie keep his engine revving in Indy? Yes! Andrew Luck is improving every week and has enough young weapons to keep defenses from completely blanketing Wayne. Besides, it’s more volume than big plays that have Wayne No. 6 in ESPN standard scoring – he’s only scored two touchdowns on the year. No reason to worry about Wayne slowing down in 2012, though dynasty owners should keep an eye on his odometer (12-year vet, age 33).

Bonus Maker: James Jones

For years, the book on J.J. has been this: whenever he’s gotten P.T., he’s dropped one potential TD for every score. This season, I took a flier on him and James is two spots behind that other Jones, Julio, in scoring. He won’t keep scoring two touchdowns per game but until Greg Jennings is back, J.J. should be in your lineup (at least as a flex).

So there you have it. One man’s look at the players who hold his season in the palm of their hands. We’ve all got our own version of this story, but this one is mine. Wish me luck…