Using late season success as a predictor for RBs and WRs

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 20:  Running back Jerome Harrison #35 of the Cleveland Browns outruns DaJuan Morgan #38 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the game on December 20, 2009 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

One of the numbers I look at when evaluating players, especially young or up-and-coming players, is their performance over the last half of the season. I’ve found that, typically, if a guy plays well late in the season, he will take that momentum/success into the next season.

With that in mind, here are several players at each position that played a lot better in the second half of the 2009 season than they did early on.

RUNNING BACKS

I’ve outlined Jamaal Charles‘s resume here, and I think it’s time people get back on his bandwagon…Fred Jackson (114 total ypg, 0.5 TD over the L6 games) was probably going to start for the Bills, but an injury has opened the door for C.J. Spiller, who has been electric…Jerome Harrison (198 total ypg, 1.7 TDs over the L3 games) is holding onto RB1 duties in Cleveland at this point, but rookie Montario Hardesty is back practicing and there’s a good chance that he’ll eat into Harrison’s carries…Justin Forsett (88 total ypg, 0.6 TD over the L8 games) was great down the stretch for the Seahawks, but he’s mired in a three-way battle with Leon Washington and Julius JonesKnowshon Moreno (84 total ypg, 0.8 TD over the L8 games) is the clear starter in Denver, when healthy, but he can’t seem to stay on the field…Chris Wells (73 total ypg, 0.6 TD over the L11 games) is clearly the superior runner in Arizona, yet he’s still relegated to backup duties behind Tim Hightower…With the season-ending injury to Ben Tate, Arian Foster (121 total ypg, 1.5 TDs over the L2 games) has gone from an RB3-type 8th or 9th round sleeper to a bona fide RB2-quality 4th round pick.

All of these players are worth looking for on draft day, and only Forsett seems to be overvalued at this point in the preseason.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Anquan Boldin (6.1-78-0.5 over the L8 games) had a nice finish to the 2009 season, but he’s joining a new, run-oriented offense in Baltimore. I’d still expect top 20 numbers out of him, but a top 10 finish seems unlikely…Calvin Johnson (5.4-79-0.5) has all the talent in the world, but he has a spotty injury history and hasn’t much consistency at QB. With Matthew Stafford looking like the real deal, CJ is in line for a big year, assuming he stays healthy…Robert Meachem (4.1-58-0.8 over the L9 games) was dynamite for the Saints down the stretch and became something of a touchdown machine. He’s battling a toe injury right now, but assuming he’s good to go by Week 1, he should settle into the Saints’ WR2 role, which could mean a top 20 finish…The performance of Terrell Owens (4-69-0.5 over the L8 games) late in the season just goes to show that he still has some gas left in the tank. With a better QB throwing to him, he should have a solid WR3-type year…Chris Chambers (4-68-0.4) blew up after joining the Chiefs in the middle of last season. But he’s always been a fantasy tease, and with the re-emergence of freshly-out-of-the-doghouse Dwayne Bowe, he’s probably not going to post those kinds of numbers again. Still, he’d be a good WR4/WR5 bye week fill in…Michael Crabtree (4.4-57-0.2 over L11 games) sure didn’t show any ill effects from his early season holdout. His numbers were somewhat modest, but the fact that he was even able to produce at that level with no preseason work and no rapport with Alex Smith is a testament to his considerable talent. He should take a step forward into the top 20 this season…Jabar Gaffney (4.4-62-0.3 over the L7 games) appears to be the WR1 in Denver and seems to have a good relationship with Kyle Orton. He’s not going to catch a bunch of touchdowns, but he’s a worthwhile reserve in PPR leagues…Malcom Floyd (4.0-62-0.0 over the L8 games) will definitely benefit from the absence of Vincent Jackson and will take over WR1 duties in San Diego. If he gets Jackson’s targets (7.1 per game) and converts at the same rate and yardage as he did last season (59.2%, 17.2 ypc), he’s looking at an 1150-yard season…Brandon Gibson (4.3-44-0.1 over the L8 games) put up decent PPR numbers last season, but he’s listed behind Danny Amendola on the Rams’ depth chart, which means he has competition for that underneath stuff that he made a living with last season…Brian Hartline (2.7-45-0.3 over the L7 games) obviously didn’t set the world on fire, but he was consistently involved in his rookie season and now he’s locked into the starting job opposite Brandon Marshall. He could play Wes Welker to Marshall’s Randy Moss. At this point, Hartline is only worth a look in PPR leagues.

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