Want Mike Williams (TB)? Pay up.

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 21: Receiver Mike Williams  of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs after a reception against the Kansas City Chiefs during a preseason game at Raymond James Stadium on August 21, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

It’s funny — when I originally hopped on the Mike Williams bandwagon a couple of weeks ago, his ADP was in the 13th round and he was still sort of flying under the radar.

A few days later, I took Williams in the 10th round of my Industry Insiders Draft:

10.03: Mike Williams, WR
This was one of those there’s-no-one-else-I-like-so-I’m-going-to-take-this-guy picks. Williams has really played well in the preseason and as a rookie, he is already the Bucs clear-cut WR1. Josh Freeman isn’t bad, and the Bucs are probably going to have to throw more than they’d like as they try to stay in games this season, so this could all add up to a top 25 year for Williams.

When I made that pick, one of the other ‘insiders’ commented, “I think that’s the earliest that I’ve seen Williams go.”

I wasn’t sure whether or not to take that as an insult, but it struck me as funny when, several days later, Williams went in the 7th round in two of my slow email drafts.

What’s the point? Well, it seems like in the world of WRs, the talent drops off a cliff at a certain point in the 7th or 8th round. Once guys like Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Malcom Floyd, Pierre Garcon, Johnny Knox and Percy Harvin go, things are starting to get tight at WR. Maybe Donald Driver and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are still worthy of 7th or 8th rounders in PPR leagues, but who’s left after that? Lee Evans? Bernard Berrian? Braylon Edwards? Most fantasy owners are going to pass up these retreads in favor of the upside of Williams, which means he could very well go as early as the 7th round in 12-team leagues.

That’s not to say that there aren’t still some interesting wideouts out there. Guys like Laurent Robinson, Jacoby Jones, Santonio Holmes and Louis Murphy are worthwhile picks, but not in the 7th round. Just don’t expect to land Mike Williams in the 10th round or later anymore — that ship has sailed.

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Using late season success as a predictor for QBs and TEs

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 23: Quarterback Vince Young  of the Tennessee Titans drops back in the pocket against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at LP Field on August 23, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. Tennessee defeated Arizona, 24-10. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Earlier in the week, I tackled the RBs and WRs, and now it’s time to discuss late season success with regard to QBs and TEs. Here are a few players that performed well down the stretch and what that success means for the upcoming fantasy season:

QUARTERBACKS

Brett Favre (285 yards, 2.1 TD over the L8 games) was terrific for the Vikings, especially down the stretch. But throw in a bum ankle and a M.I.A. Sidney Rice and things aren’t lined up quite as well for ol’ #4 in 2009. Rice is especially important considering his ability to go up and retrieve all the ill-advised bombs that Favre has a tendency to chuck up. Favre was QB8 last year and I think he’s looking at a finish in the 12-15 range this season…Ben Roethlisberger (310 yards, 1.8 TD over the L6 games) is going to be suspended for the first 4-5 games, and he’s going in the 9th or 10th round as a result. This makes him a great value for use in a QBBC, because he’s probably going to give you top 10 numbers once he starts his season…Vince Young (198 passing yards, 29 rushing yards, 1.3 TD over the L8 games) had a better second half of the season than Kurt Warner, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco, yet he’s being drafted behind all of these players (save for the retired Warner) heading into the 2010 season. He has three tough matchups to start the year, but it should be relatively smooth sailing after that.

TIGHT ENDS

Jermichael Finley‘s strong finish (5.5-72-0.5 TD over the L8 games, including the playoffs) has him poised to be a breakout star in 2010. He’s going a little early for my taste, often ahead of a far more proven option in Jason Witten, but he has tremendous upside and is a great pick in the late 4th or early 5th, after the last solid WRs (Steve Smith 1.0, Steve Smith 2.0, Wes Welker, etc.) are off the board. With Donald Driver in the twilight of his career, Finley is poised to become the Packers’ #1 or #2 option in the passing game, and that’s saying something with the way Aaron Rodgers is throwing the ball…Kevin Boss (3.4-41-0.6 TD over the L9 games) was a big part of the Giants’ passing game down the stretch, especially in the red zone. If he can just stay healthy enough to post these kinds of numbers for an entire season, he could finish in the top 10. Given his late round ADP, he’s a very solid TE2 with some upside…Fred Davis (4.1-46-0.6 TD) was terrific for the Redskins after Chris Cooley‘s season-ending injury. Cooley is back now and Davis’s draft stock is in the tank, but he might be the only true TE handcuff out there. If you grab Cooley in the middle rounds, be sure to grab Davis as insurance. Donovan McNabb loves to throw to his TE and Washington is hurting at WR2, so if one guy gets the lion’s share of the targets, there’s a good chance he finishes in the top 10 at the position.

Conflicting reports on Moreno’s return

DENVER - JANUARY 03: Running back Knowshon Moreno #27 of the Denver Broncos rushes for yardage as Travis Daniels #34 of the Kansas City Chiefs makes the tackle during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on January 3, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Mike Klis of the Denver Post said that Knowshon Moreno doesn’t look close to returning to practice:

…from here, running back Knowshon Moreno and receiver Demaryius Thomas don’t look anywhere near close to returning. Both are running and cutting very gingerly.

Considering Moreno suffered his hamstring injury Aug. 1 _ four weeks ago today _ either he’s a slow healer or he received a least a partial tear. I’m betting on the latter.

On Monday, Klis reported that Josh McDaniels ‘indicated’ Moreno would practice this week:

In his postgame comments, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels indicated starting tailback Knowshon Moreno would practice this week. Moreno’s primary backup, Correll Buckhalter, returned to practice on a limited basis last week but did not play in the preseason game Sunday night against Pittsburgh.

“I think that’s always best for a running back – same thing with (RB Correll Buckhalter) – to get hit before they actually go on to a regular-season game,” McDaniels said. “”But, if that’s not the best thing for us to do, the smartest decision to make, then we’ll probably hold off on that. We’re going to practice this week – we’ll be in pads on Tuesday and we’ll see if we can bang one or both of them around if they’re ready to go by then. We don’t have a timetable yet but both of them are getting close.”

The bit about the hamstring being a tear and not a strain is somewhat worrisome. Moreno is slipping in drafts and owners should proceed with caution. I just passed him up for Mike Sims-Walker in the late 5th, but I’d grab him in the 6th if he makes it back to me. It’s vital that anyone who picks Moreno grab his handcuff, Correll Buckhalter, who his battling his own injury at the moment. The good news is that Buck is usually around very late in drafts.

For what it’s worth, the team is listing him as probable for Week 1.

Tuesday Update: He has been cleared for practice, but Rotoworld is reporting that Moreno is telling people that he’s only at about 80% right now.

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.

It’s time to get back on the Jamaal Charles bandwagon

ATLANTA - AUGUST 13: Jamaal Charles  of the Kansas City Chiefs against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on August 13, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Heading into the preseason, Jamaal Charles’s stock was quite high, and for good reason. The 23 year-old had just come off an eight-game stretch where he averaged 140.8 total yards and 1.0 TD per game. He was going in the early second — I even saw a few drafts where he was going in the late first — but with the acquisition of Thomas Jones and the beginning of Todd Haley’s mind games (i.e. refusing to list Charles atop the Chiefs’ depth chart), Charles’s stock has slipped into the late 3rd/early 4th.

I just snagged him in a slow email draft at 3.10 on the heels of his first start of the preseason. He fumbled his first attempt, but finished with 40 yards on six carries and caught a 20-yard pass. During the preseason, Charles has averaged 8.2 yards per touch versus TJ’s 3.2. Even Haley said that he’d “be a fool” if he didn’t play Charles given that type of disparity in production:

“We want this guy to be playing when the games count,” said Haley. “He’s coming off a pretty significant (surgery). … We want him to be playing at a high level.” Haley admitted he’d “be a fool” to not play Charles if he’s severely outproducing Thomas Jones in terms of yards per carry. Added the coach: “We’ve got great competition. Both of those guys want to be pretty good.”

Moreover, Footballguys lists KC’s schedule as the second-easiest for RBs, predicting four favorable matchups through Week 16 (along with zero unfavorable matchups).

I’d still take Pierre Thomas and maybe even Ryan Grant ahead of Charles, but once they’re off the board and I’m staring at guys like LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Knowshon Moreno, Chris Wells and Jahvid Best, Charles is looking awfully good.

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