We’re through seven weeks of the NFL season, which to most football fans signifies the midway point of the fantasy season. The AFC North had plenty of big names and sleeper candidates coming into the season. Who’s been studly and who’s dragging your team to the basement? And, most importantly, who can give your squad a boost in the second half?
Note: All point and ownership figures come from NFL.com standard leagues.
AJ Green, CIN WR — If you haven’t followed football at all this year, this tidbit might come as a surprise to you: AJ Green is the top-scoring receiver in fantasy. Despite being shut down in Pittsburgh, he still managed to find the end zone for the sixth straight game. With seven receiving TDs, he’s tied for tops in the league. Even as defenses continue to key on him, it doesn’t seem as if Green will be slowing down in the second half. Green’s touchdown pace might not keep up, but the targets will be there and he’ll continue to perform like a stud.
Trent Richardson, CLE RB — Injury problems aside, Richardson has been as good as advertised coming out of Alabama. He’s currently No. 10 in scoring among running backs, and that number would be higher had he not been ineffective and subsequently benched due to his achy ribs in Week 7. Few rookie running backs have been able to carry that kind of workload from a fantasy perspective, but Richardson seems more than capable as long as he’s on the field.
Andy Dalton, CIN QB — Despite some struggles during the Bengals’ current losing streak, Dalton has been a nice surprise for fantasy owners. The Ginger General (or whatever pun you want to make on his red hair) sits ninth in QB scoring going into his bye week. Dalton owners should be Bengals fans as well—in wins, he’s averaging 23.37 points against only 10.74 in losses. He does have some weaker pass defenses on his upcoming schedule, and will continue to be a solid start in two-quarterback leagues and should be owned across the board.
Ray Rice, BAL RB — Yes, Ray Rice sits behind only Arian Foster in fantasy scoring for RBs this season, but you can’t help but feel he could be doing even more. He’s got five touchdowns on the year, but has actually crossed the goal line in only three games. And through seven weeks, he’s carrying the ball only 15 times per game, although having nearly 250 receiving yards helps his value immensely. This might be splitting hairs with one of the finest players in fantasy, but for a guy who was a consensus top-5 pick, owners would probably like to see him getting more work.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN RB — There was a ton of potential for a big year from The Lawfirm coming into 2012. For the first time in his career, he would be a featured piece in an offense. On top of that, Marvin Lewis is known to give his running backs plenty of work. While the carries have been there (and a few catches as well, never a part of Green-Ellis’ game in New England), the results haven’t been as desired. He’s averaging jsut 71.8 yards per game and has lost as many fumbles (two) as he’s scored touchdowns. Lucky for Green-Ellis owners, the Bengals don’t have much else going on in the backfield, so there is hope for a turnaround.
Greg Little, CLE WR — After dropping just about everything thrown his way during his rookie year, there was reason to believe Little could up his performance this season. After all, someone had to catch the ball for the Browns, right? Unfortunately, those drops have continued for the second-year receiver, and his numbers have suffered as consequence. Considered a sleeper option around draft time, Little is averaging just over 31 receiving yards a game, even without fellow starting receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in the lineup for much of the season.
Torrey Smith, BAL WR — With all the talk of a much-improved passing offense in Baltimore, logic held that Smith would be a beneficiary and see increased production. But after a few weeks of pass-happiness, the Ravens offense has regressed while Smith has been hit or miss. In fact, he’s been mostly miss. Outside of a combined 40.4 points in Weeks 3 and 4 that have boosted him to No. 13 in wide receiver scoring, Smith hasn’t cracked double digits in any game. Anyone who was “wacko for Flacco” in the preseason likely had Smith tabbed as a must-own, but so far he’s mostly let owners down.
Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon, CLE — Following his cover-your-eyes-bad Week 1 performance (Four picks! Negative points!), not many thought Weeden would wind up on any fantasy rosters except in the deepest of leagues. Yet through seven weeks, he sits just outside the top-20 in scoring for quarterbacks. If you’re in need, he’s owned in only 4 percent of leagues. He’s gotten into a groove over the last four weeks specifically, with some of the credit going to Gordon. Coming out of the supplemental draft, Gordon didn’t have much of an impact the first few weeks of his career. Since week five though, he’s been on fire, scoring a combined 48 points in three games. He’s developed a real rapport with Weeden and was targeted 10 times against Indianapolis. Since the Browns other receivers can’t hold onto the ball, you can expect that to continue. He’s still owned in under 33 percent of leagues, and is a solid pickup for anyone looking for receiver help.
Rashard Mendenhall, PIT RB — If you’re a savvy owner, you probably put in a waiver claim for Mendenhall during Pittsburgh’s bye week, knowing the running back would be returning from ACL surgery. Mendenhall rewarded owners with a solid debut, notching 16.1 points in a win against Philadelphia. Unfortunately, he suffered an Achilles injury the following week, causing him to miss the Steelers’ week 7 game. If he can get—and stay—healthy while producing close to the level he did in his only full game so far this year, Mendenhall will easily be a top-15 running back going forward.
Jermaine Gresham, CIN TE — Owned in only 19.1 percent of leagues, Gresham has quietly had a nice year to date. In fact, he’s sitting 10th in points scored at the position halfway through the fantasy regular season. He’s grabbed 28 catches for 325 yards and two touchdowns, and has seen at least five targets in all seven of the Bengals’ games so far. In deeper leagues or formats where you can play multiple tight ends, Gresham is a must-own player who can help you down the stretch.