Okay, it’s the time of year for my annual top 50 keepers list. As always, don’t lose your mind if I ranked a player on your team (or one you just have a man-crush on) lower on the list than you would like. It’s just one man’s opinion. I take into consideration not just last year’s output, but a player’s age, injury history and potential for future success based on their team, and teammates, into consideration.
On to the list!
1. Chris Johnson, RB – Tennessee: A lot of fantasy owners doubted Johnson’s potential coming into 2009 with LenDale White vulturing TDs and Johnson’s ankle injury in the 2009 playoffs against the Ravens. Johnson’s solution was to score from everywhere this season, pretty much taking away White’s effectiveness. Johnson had six plays of over 50 yards on the season, and ten games with over 150 total yards from scrimmage. In fact, he finished the season very strongly, with over 150 total yards in nine of his last ten games. The exception was Week 13 at Indianapolis, when he had 141 total yards. Johnson set the NFL single-season yardage from scrimmage record with 2,509 yards in 2009, and added 16 TDs. He is one of the few RBs in the RBBC era that can tip the scales in your favor in any weekly matchup with his huge numbers. At the tender age of 24, and with an effective offensive line, Johnson is the most sought-after keeper in any fantasy format.
2. Adrian Peterson, RB – Minnesota: Like Johnson, Peterson has the ability to go off for a huge game against anybody. It seems he did that a lot less in 2009 with Brett Favre raising the Vikings’ passing game. Peterson was still reliable, with only one bad fantasy game, which came in Week 13 at Arizona (65 total yards). The Vikes also have a great offensive line, and Peterson is also 25 years old. His penchant for fumbling and an injury history are a cause for concern, but ‘All-Day’ takes a backseat only to Chris Johnson on this list.
3. Ray Rice, RB – Baltimore: At this time last year, Rice was coming off a decent rookie year, but seemed to be caught up in a three-way RBBC with Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain in Baltimore. By the time drafts started up last August, it was clear that McClain would take a backseat, but that McGahee would split carries with Rice again. What we didn’t know was that Rice would be one of fantasy’s biggest surprises in 2009. By Week 5 he had surpassed McGahee and started to put up huge numbers. At season’s end Rice had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. His eight TDs were disappointing, but consider Rice had McGahee vulturing TDs from him early on. Rice could become an even more productive rusher as he exceeds the aging McGahee. At 23, his future is very bright.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB – Jacksonville: Jones-Drew was the focal point of the Jaguars’ offense in 2009. Patient owners hung onto Jones-Drew last year knowing his backfield mate, Fred Taylor, was leaving Jacksonville. As the Jags’ lead back in 2009 ‘MJD’ didn’t disappoint. His 1,765 yards from scrimmage and 16 TDs made him a stud. A dual rushing/receiving threat and an every-down back, the 25-year-old Jones-Drew’s production should continue in 2010 and for many seasons to come.
5. Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay: Rodgers was probably not the first QB you thought of in terms of fantasy production coming into 2009, but he was the highest-scoring fantasy player in most formats last season. The young Packer pivot has a wide array of passing options, and is well-suited to the West Coast offense. The only game Rodgers faulted in 2009 was a Week 14 stinker at Chicago. He had only 180 yards passing, a fumble and no TDs. (If you were lucky, you had a playoff bye in Week 14 if you had Rodgers and it didn’t cost you). Rodgers had 35 TDs last year and five of them were rushing, leading all QBs. With a defense that gives up points, he has to light it up most weeks, which is great for your fantasy team. At 27, Rodgers has many productive seasons left in him.
6. Andre Johnson, WR – Houston: This guy is hands-down the best WR in fantasy football. He’s a constant leader in receptions and yards, and the Houston offense is hitting its stride. At 29, Johnson is entering his prime years. Injuries were a concern for him, but he has been injury-free and not missed a game since 2007. Other guys get media attention, but all Johnson does is catch footballs. In his last three full seasons (he missed seven games in 2007), Johnson has averaged 108 catches, 1,400 yards, and seven TDs per year. The only thing missing is the big TD year, which could come in 2010.
7. Drew Brees, QB – New Orleans: Brees is the center of the Saints’ offense, and it is based on passing. Brees just barely trailed Rodgers in QB points last season, but was a little more inconsistent, with some monster games but also a few stinkers (a combined 362 yards passing, no TDs and a fumble in Weeks 3 and 4, for example). Nonetheless, Brees gives your fantasy team a big edge most weeks and is still only 31 with many good years ahead of him.
8. Peyton Manning, QB – Indianapolis: Manning has been a fantasy keeper for the past decade. Like Brees, the offense is built around him and the passing game. Manning will be 34 when next season begins, but with the big years from aging QBs like Favre and Warner in 2009, there shouldn’t be much cause for concern. Manning’s pretty much a lock for 4,000 yards and 30 TDs every year, so he continues to earn this spot in the top 10 keepers for 2010.
9. Reggie Wayne, WR – Indianapolis: Manning’s #1 target settles in right behind him in the rankings, and with good reason. With 1,264 yards and 12 TDs, Wayne was among the best at his position in 2009. At the age of 31, and with Manning at the helm, Wayne should be a reliable WR stud for several more years and is a solid, no-nonsense keeper in all formats.
10. Frank Gore, RB – San Francisco: Gore’s value increased this year under coach Mike Singletary’s first full year leading the Niners. Singletary likes tough, conservative football and Gore is his man. Gore had over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 11 total TDs in 2009, despite missing two games. Gore will be 27 heading into next season and is a reliable fantasy runner, making him an excellent RB1 for your squad.
11. Steven Jackson, RB – St. Louis: His situation is the only thing that keeps Jackson from being a fantasy superstar. He is essentially the only star on the Rams’ offense. Despite that, Jackson churned out 1,675 yards from scrimmage last year behind a below-average line. Consider that defenses knew what was coming and still only held Jackson to 4.5 yards per carry. Unfortunately Jackson could only score five TDs last year due to the lack of talent around him. He also battled a bulging disk in his back through much of the season. If Jackson moved to a contending team, he’d challenge Chris Johnson and AP as the best fantasy RB. As it stands, he’s an above-average keeper on the Rams, with a real injury risk due to his back problems. He’ll be 27 next year and did miss Week 16 last season, as well as four games in ’07 and ’08.
12. Larry Fitzgerald, WR – Arizona: ‘Fitz’ is one of the most dependable WRs in the NFL, and he’s a virtual lock for 100 catches, 1,300 yards and 11 TDs, based on his last three seasons. The only concern for his owners will be the Cardinals’ QB situation. Despite Kurt Warner’s retirement, Fitzgerald’s stats will only take a slight hit with Matt Leinart under center in Arizona next year. Fitz will only be 27 next season, and has yet to hit his prime. The best is yet to come for him, and he will be a solid keeper for many seasons.
13. DeSean Jackson, WR – Philadelphia: Jackson is one of the young stars at the WR position. His first two seasons have been great for fantasy owners, and the best is yet to come. After 1,008 total yards and three TDs as a rookie, Jackson followed that up last year with 1,304 total yards and 10 TDs. He has clearly become the top WR for the Eagles. With most star WRs making a big jump in production in their third season, Jackson’s prospects for 2010 are bright. At 24, he could be a keeper on your team into the next decade.
14. Cedric Benson, RB – Cincinnati: Benson was a huge fantasy surprise. After being rescued off the scrapheap in 2008 by the Bengals, he exploded for 1,362 yards from scrimmage and six TDs, despite missing three games. Benson has battled injuries over his four-year career, and his 301 carries in 2009 represents a career high. Despite that, I am ranking him very high on this list and I think better things will come for Benson in the following seasons. The Bengals have become a run-first offense with Benson, and he will remain a focal point for them in 2010.
15. Vincent Jackson, WR – San Diego: For much of 2006 and 2007, fantasy owners heard that ‘V-Jax’ was a great sleeper candidate. In 2008, the 6’5”, 230-pound giant woke up, to the tune of 1,167 total yards and seven TDs. V-Jax followed that up with 1,178 total yards and nine TDs last season. However, fantasy owners should have some concerns with the 27-year-old Jackson. One is his recent legal trouble for a DUI and driving with a suspended license, which could land him a short suspension to start 2010. The other is his free-agent status, which could see him leave the Chargers this off-season. Regardless, V-Jax would land somewhere as a No. 1 WR, and is a solid keeper.
16. Michael Turner, RB – Atlanta: Turner missed much of the second half of the 2009 season with a nagging ankle injury. However, in 11 starts, Turner managed 871 yards and 10 TDs with 4.9 yards per carry. He likely fell victim to too many carries (376) in 2008, but Turner is an excellent bounce-back candidate in 2010. At 28, he has much left in his tank, as Turner served as a backup in San Diego his first four seasons and has not been worn down.
17. Philip Rivers, QB – San Diego: Rivers is one of the most consistent fantasy passers the past two seasons, with 8,263 passing yards and 62 TDs over that span. The 28-year-old Rivers has reliable targets with Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, and Malcom Floyd. With questions surrounding the Chargers running attack in the off-season, there may be more reliance on the pass in 2010 than in previous seasons, which is good news to Rivers owners.
18. Brandon Marshall, WR – Denver: It seems Marshall will be traded out of the Mile High city. Whether this drags into next year’s training camp remains to be seen. The uncertainty of where Marshall will end up, and whether he will be able to adapt and learn a new offense, makes his stock drop in keeper leagues. Marshall remains a loose cannon, and the possibility of off-field problems that could result in an NFL suspension are a concern to his fantasy owners. Nonetheless, Marshall had his third consecutive 100-catch season, along with 1,120 receiving yards and 10 TDs. At 26, Marshall has great long-term keeper value, if he can stay out of trouble.
19. Tom Brady, QB – New England: Brady had a difficult year coming off his major knee surgery. Still, he managed 4,398 yards and 28 TDs. Brady’s problem was inconsistency with his offensive line. Hopefully the Patriots address this issue in the off-season, and with Brady being another year removed from his knee injury, he will have a better season in 2010. Brady will be 33 next season, and there is some concern as to whether he is starting to break down with injuries. He is still a great QB, but smart fantasy owners might look to deal Brady this year if they can get a major return for him.
20. Randy Moss, WR – New England: The enigmatic Moss had a fine season on paper, but there are questions about his commitment, and accusations of Moss “mailing it in” in some games this season. Moss’ penchant for feast-or-famine games is troublesome in fantasy circles, as he can cost your team dearly with a poor showing, as illustrated by his five games with less than seven fantasy points and four games with greater than 22 points. But Moss was still a top fantasy WR in 2010, with 1,264 yards and 13 TDs. Moss will be 33 next season, and, like Brady, is a good candidate for a blockbuster trade if your fantasy team is in a rebuilding mode.
21. Jamaal Charles, RB – Kansas City: One of the hottest young players in the NFL, Charles finished his season with four straight 100-yard games and averaged 111.6 rushing yards per game over his last nine games. Charles had an amazing 5.9 yards per carry, 1,417 total yards, and eight TDs this season. But here is my concern with Charles’ stats: he had five 100-yard rushing games, but four of them came against inferior, non-playoff teams such as Denver, Buffalo and Cleveland in the last month of the season. His other 100-yard game came against the playoff-bound but fading Bengals. At 24, Charles is worthy of a keeper spot if you have him on your team, as the future of the Chiefs looks bright – I am not so sure about their immediate future in 2010, however. If you are viewing Charles as a top-10 fantasy RB in 2010, you may be disappointed.
22. Matt Schaub, QB – Houston: Finally putting it all together in 2009, Schaub passed for career highs in completions (396), yards (4,770), and TDs (29). He led the NFL in passing yards. The Texans’ offense is finally hitting its stride, with Schaub-to-Andre Johnson becoming one of the NFL’s most prolific combos ever. Schaub’s problem is staying healthy, and that is the only thing keeping him from passing Brady and Rivers on this list. Prior to this season, Schaub had missed 10 of Houston’s previous 32 games in 2008 and 2007. Schaub remains a solid keeper, and at 29 seems poised to become one of fantasy’s elite keeper QBs.
23. Calvin Johnson, WR – Detroit: Johnson entered the NFL in 2007 with limitless potential. He teased us with a huge 1,331-yard receiving, 12-TD sophomore season in 2008, but disappointed last season with just 1,057 total yards and 5 TDs. Johnson aggravated his knee in Week 5 and was never the same. Also, the addition of a rookie QB Matthew Stafford and his subsequent injuries kept him and Johnson from developing good chemistry. Johnson should bounce back in 2010, hopefully with Stafford raising his game and living up to his number-one overall selection in the NFL draft last year. Johnson has the body of a tight end combined with the finesse of an elite wideout. He has tremendous upside in keeper leagues and is only 24 years old. If you’ve got him, keep him.
24. Miles Austin, WR – Dallas: Austin came out of nowhere last season. The early-season sleeper candidate had 81 catches, 1,320 yards and 11 TDs. Austin did very little over the first month of the season before busting out with 250 yards and two TDs in Week 5 at Kansas City. Austin averaged 15.4 fantasy points per game over his last 12 games in 2009, and it looks as though he will carry that into next season. He remains Tony Romo’s top receiving target, and in the Dallas pass-oriented offense, that makes him a major fantasy threat and a sure-fire keeper. At age 26, he has many solid years left in him.
25. Matt Forte, RB – Chicago: One of the huge disappointments in fantasy football last year, Forte was hampered all season with an ACL knee sprain. After an amazing rookie year with 1,715 total yards and 12 TDs in 2008, Forte dropped off to 1,400 yards and just 4 TDs. Still, at age 24 the future is bright for him and he has virtually no competition for carries in Chicago. Forte’s stock has dropped dramatically in keeper leagues, so you may be able to find a disenchanted owner that may trade Forte away for below market value. His TDs should double next year, so go get him if you can.
26. Anquan Boldin, WR – Arizona: Boldin was hampered by injuries to his left knee and ankle in 2009, but missed just one game. Boldin had an off-year for him, with 1,036 total yards and just 6 TDs. His stats could be affected by QB Kurt Warner’s decision to retire, as well as the possibility of being moved by the Cardinals in an off-season trade. When healthy, the 29-year-old Boldin is one of the NFL’s best WRs. With his injuries, the uncertainty in the Arizona QB situation and his possible trade to parts unknown, Boldin falls out of my top 25 keepers, but he’s still a good player to hang onto in most formats.
27. Jonathan Stewart, RB – Carolina: Stewart built upon his rookie stats last year and proved he was worthy of the 13th overall selection in the 2008 NFL draft. The bruising runner totaled 1,272 yards from scrimmage with 11 TDs. Stewart spent most of the season in a RBBC with backfield mate DeAngelo Williams, but with Williams sidelined the final five games of the season, Stewart took over exclusively. Fantasy owners of Stewart should note that in those final five starts, Stewart had 589 yards rushing and four TDs. If rumors of a Williams’ off-season trade out of Carolina take place, the 23-year-old Stewart could become a top-five fantasy RB in 2010.
28. Marques Colston, WR – New Orleans: Colston rebounded from a disappointing 2008 season in which he only started six games. He posted 70 catches, 1,074 receiving yards and nine TDs last season, re-establishing himself as a stud fantasy WR. Colston is a fine WR but actually might be held back by the Saints’ ability to spread the ball around to all their receivers. He will only be 27 next season, so Colston has plenty of years left as a fantasy keeper.
29. Shonn Greene, RB – N.Y. Jets: Greene’s emergence in the NFL playoffs cannot be ignored. His 304 yards on 54 carries and two TDs in three playoff games showed what Greene can do when given significant carries. In the five regular-season games where Greene had more than 10 carries, he had over 50 fantasy points combined. Greene is sure to get more carries next season, and there remains a possibility RB Thomas Jones could be cut by the Jets, who will owe the 32-year-old Jones a $3 million roster bonus in March, on top of his $2.9 million salary for 2010. At 24, Greene may prove to be the less expensive, and better, RB in New York. The Jets offense is on the rise with a young offensive line along with Greene, who could be a mainstay on your team well into this decade.
30. Knowshon Moreno, RB – Denver: Another impressive rookie, the Broncos’ first round pick in 2009 had a good, but not spectacular, first NFL season. Moreno notched over 7.5 fantasy points in 12 of his 16 games, and should improve on his stats for 2010. He had 1,160 total yards and nine TDs in his rookie year. Moreno will have a better hold on the complicated Josh McDaniels offense next year, and he should take more carries away from RB Correll Buckhalter. At 23 going into next season, the future is bright for Moreno and he should be kept on most rosters – unless you have a veteran championship-caliber squad and you want to deal Moreno for another vet to help you win right away. Any fantasy owner looking to the near future would be crazy not to want a talented youngster like Moreno.
31. Roddy White, WR – Atlanta: White has proven he is a consistent fantasy performer. He has averaged 85 catches, 1,246 yards and eight TDs per season since 2007. White had a career-best 11 receiving TDs last year. He is the go-to deep target for one of the up-and-coming fantasy QBs in Matt Ryan, and at the age of 28, White has many more solid years in a solid offense in Atlanta. White could exceed expectations with a breakout year from Ryan in 2010, which many fantasy experts are predicting.
32. Sidney Rice, WR – Minnesota: Here is another sleeper that woke up big-time this year. Whether it was the addition of Brett Favre at QB or if Rice simply “got it” in 2009, the third-year man broke out for 83 catches, 1,312 yards and eight TDs. Rice really came on in the second half of the season, posting three games of 20+ fantasy points in his last eight games and six TDs. Rice also added four TDs in the Vikings’ two playoff games. The 23-year-old Rice is emerging as one of the great deep threats at the WR position. However, if Favre retires and Minnesota relies on one of the incumbent QBs like Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels, Rice’s value would take a hit.
33. Rashard Mendenhall, RB – Pittsburgh: The second-year man out of Illinois got his chance last year after a season-ending shoulder injury in 2008. Mendenhall had 1,249 total yards and eight total TDs in 2009. He also came on late in the season, averaging 12.8 fantasy points in his last seven games played. There is a good chance that Mendenhall will be the lead back in 2010, with Willie Parker likely headed out of Steeltown. At 23 heading into next year, Mendenhall will have every chance to establish himself as the next great Steelers RB.
34. Beanie Wells, RB – Arizona: Stuck in a RBBC split with Tim Hightower, it took Wells half the season before he gained the trust of the Cards’ coaching staff. Once the rookie did, he started to show why Arizona was excited to get him with their first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Wells had five games with more than 14 fantasy points over the final eight games of the season. He finished with 936 combined yards and seven TDs in 2009. At 22 headed into next season, and with a great mix of size, speed and power, Wells has all the tools to be a dominant fantasy back, but he still has the shadow of a RBBC with Hightower looming over him. The Cards may become more reliant on the run in 2010 if Matt Leinart is their QB, which would make Wells’ owners rejoice.
35. Ryan Grant, RB – Green Bay: One of fantasy’s most consistent performers, Grant scored over 8.7 fantasy points in 14 games last season, and averaged 13 fantasy points per game. Grant has shown a penchant for coming on strong late in the season, and 2009 was no exception. He had three games with over 20 fantasy points out of his last seven games played, along with seven TDs. On the season, Grant totaled 1,460 yards and 11 rushing TDs, both career highs. At 27, Grant is the Packers’ unquestioned No. 1 RB and a reliable fantasy performer. He may not be considered a No. 1 fantasy RB, but he’s a top-notch second RB that you can count on for solid, but not spectacular, fantasy points on a weekly basis.
36. LeSean McCoy, RB – Philadelphia: The Eagles’ 2009 second round pick looks as though he will be given the starting RB job next season. Veteran starter Brian Westbrook may have a reduced role next year, or may have already played his final game in Philly. Whether McCoy can match Westbrook’s output remains to be seen. However, in the six games where McCoy had 11 or more carries, he averaged 12.45 fantasy points and scored three TDs. On the season, the 21-year-old rookie had 954 total yards and four TDs. He has tremendous potential, and while McCoy is a slight risk as a keeper, I believe he will be a very useful No. 2 fantasy RB because of the potent Eagle offense. He presents the most upside to re-building fantasy teams as a keeper, as he should be productive for a long time in the NFL, but perhaps not right away.
37. Ben Roethlisberger, QB – Pittsburgh: ‘Big Ben’ had a big year in 2009. Despite missing a Week 12 start at Baltimore, he finished among the top 10 fantasy QBs last season. Roethlisberger amassed 4,328 yards passing and 28 total TDs. The Steelers’ inability to establish a consistent running game helped Big Ben achieve those numbers. I expect more of the same in 2010, as the 28-year-old signal-caller will have three reliable targets at WR with Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward and Mike Wallace, along with a solid TE in Heath Miller. The Steelers should look to solidify their offensive line, which will help Roethlisberger to avoid taking as much punishment as he did last season. With a third-place schedule, look for Big Ben to exploit some weaker opponents and compete for a top-five fantasy QB finish in 2010.
38. Pierre Thomas, RB – New Orleans: The oft-injured Thomas was a frustration to many of his fantasy owners in 2009, often losing goal-line carries to Mike Bell, as well as limping in to many games with an assortment of well-hidden injuries. Thomas only exceeded 15 carries in a game once, a Week 4 game against the Jets. That’s par for the course with the Saints, who spread the ball evenly among all their RBs and WRs in most games. Still, Thomas finished 2009 with a respectable 1,095 total yards and 8 TDs in 14 games. When healthy, the 25-year-old is a reliable runner. With Reggie Bush’s future with the Saints up in the air, Thomas’ value could soar if Bush moves on to another NFL team. Stay tuned on that story, and keep Thomas with an eye on grabbing Bell as his handcuff in your 2010 draft.
39. DeAngelo Williams, RB – Carolina: After an amazing 20-TD season in 2008, I had a feeling Williams would take a step back, and he did. The emergence of backfield mate Jonathan Stewart as a better goal-line back and Williams’ ankle injury with five games to go in the season killed his fantasy stats. Now, the question remains whether he is back in Carolina in 2010. Rumors persist that the Panthers may consider dealing Williams to teams like Seattle, Miami, New England or San Diego in exchange for draft picks. Depending on where Williams lands, his fantasy value has dropped dramatically in one season. The 26-year-old still had six games with more than 15 fantasy points in 2009, and finished with a respectable 1,369 total yards and seven TDs.
40. Greg Jennings, WR – Green Bay: Jennings had a disappointing year in 2009, with less than 6.5 fantasy points in half his games last year. He finished the year with 1,120 yards and just four TDs. Defenses paid more attention to Jennings last year after a breakout 2008 season, and he struggled. But, the 26-year-old Jennings is still QB Aaron Rodgers’ top target and is not in danger of losing that spot to soon-to-be 35 veteran Donald Driver or youngsters James Jones and Jordy Nelson. Look for a bounce-back year from Jennings in 2010, and resist the urge to drop him from your keeper squad. You won’t regret it.
41. Joseph Addai, RB – Indianapolis: The Colts’ drafting of RB Donald Brown with their 2009 first-round pick seemed to light a fire under Addai. After leaving fantasy owners scratching their heads from a lackluster 750 yards and seven TDs in 12 games in 2008, Addai went off for 1,164 and 13 TDs in 2009 and fended off Brown and an apparent RBBC in Indy. The 26-year old Addai is still a risky keeper, since he has averaged just 3.7 yards per carry the last two seasons. Brown is still a threat to Addai’s long-term fantasy value. But, as a starter on a potent Colts’ offense, Addai will have appeal to keeper owners with limited options.
42. Steve Smith, WR – Carolina: Smith had a decent season with 1,004 total yards and seven TDs. He suffered a broken forearm in Week 16, but it is not expected to affect him in 2010. What may affect Smith more than anything are the Panthers’ quarterbacking issues. It is pretty clear Jake Delhomme is regressing steadily, and Matt Moore may be the starter next season. Smith is still regarded as a fantasy ‘stud’ by many owners, but it’s pretty clear he is not. He has not had double-digit TDs in a season since 2005. Smith is a reliable fantasy WR though, with nine games with more than eight points last season. At 31 headed into next season, and on a team that favors the run over the pass, Smith is an okay keeper at best.
43. Santonio Holmes, WR – Pittsburgh: The 25-year-old Holmes broke through for his first 1,000-plus receiving yard season last year, with 1,248 yards and five TDs. He has solidified himself as Roethlisberger’s favorite target, surpassing Hines Ward, and has great long-term keeper potential. I expect Holmes to double his TD output next season.
44. Felix Jones, RB – Dallas Cowboys: Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Jones is a worthwhile keeper, even in the Dallas RBBC. He didn’t have a 100-yard rushing game during the regular season, but any doubts about Jones’ talent were vanquished in the Cowboys’ playoff victory against the Eagles. With Marion Barber limited with a knee injury, Jones went off for 148 yards and a TD on 16 carries in that game. As the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2008 out of owner Jerry Jones’ alma matter Arkansas, he has a bright future and could eclipse Barber as Dallas’ lead RB in 2010. He’ll be only 23 next season and is one of the more dynamic young RBs in the NFL. Consider Jones’ 6.5 career yards per carry a testament to his potential.
45. Dallas Clark, TE – Indianapolis: One of the pass-happy Colts’ big weapons, Clark is clearly the best fantasy tight end. With 100 catches, 1,106 yards and 10 TDs on the season, he gets WR-type numbers at the TE position. The 30-year old Clark still has several more productive years in him, and the Colts will remain an offensive juggernaut over that period. If you are soft at the RB or WR position and in a keeper league, carrying Clark over to 2010 wouldn’t be a bad move for your squad.
46. Chad Ochocinco, WR – Cincinnati: Even though ‘Ocho’ is on the run-happy Bengals, he was one of their few threats in the passing game. With 1,079 total yards and nine TDs, he was easily the dominant WR in Cincinnati. He also averaged 11.3 points per game during the fantasy playoffs in Weeks 14-16. With the untimely death of WR Chris Henry and the disappointing year out of free agent Laveranues Coles, Ochocinco is the only reliable receiver in Cincy. At 32, he has a few good years left in him. He is prone to boom-and-bust games due to double coverages but is still a reliable fantasy option and warrants consideration as a keeper for 2010.
47. Kevin Smith, RB – Detroit: After a breakthrough rookie season in 2008 with 1,262 total yards and eight TDs, Smith disappointed in 2009. He had 1,156 yards and five TDs in 13 games before tearing the ACL in his left knee, ending his season. By all accounts Smith is expected to bounce back next year and is a worthy keeper option for owners looking to the future. Again, if you have a contending team for next year, a re-building owner might offer you a decent draft pick or a veteran player for Smith if you make him available. The Lions will continue to struggle offensively in 2010, as their offensive line still needs much work.
48. Vernon Davis, TE – San Francisco: Davis struggled to live up to his draft hype his first three seasons in the NFL. He had 78 catches for 965 yards and 13 TDs in 2009. The 13 TDs tied an NFL tight-end record. One concern to fantasy owners would be Davis’ pedestrian stats during the fantasy playoffs, where he averaged 7.16 points. Those are still good numbers for any TE but not nearly as good as Davis did earlier in the season. (Consider that Davis averaged 15.6 fantasy points over the previous three weeks). It seems as though coach Mike Singletary has gotten through to Davis, and 2009 may be a sign of things to come for him. At 26, he could be an annual keeper on your team for many years.
49. Dwayne Bowe, WR – Kansas City: A suspension for using weight-loss diuretics in 2009 forced Bowe to miss four games. The prospect of another suspension if Bowe were to test positive again is concerning to fantasy owners. Despite that, the 25-year-old Bowe has amazing potential and is one of the bright young WRs in the NFL. With just 589 yards and four TDs in 11 games last year, it’s better to look at Bowe’s averages over his first two seasons; 1,008 receiving yards and six TDs. Don’t forget Bowe’s head coach is Todd Haley, who worked with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in Arizona, so Haley should bring out the best in him.
50. Michael Crabtree, WR – San Francisco: There are very few rookie WRs that could miss training camp and one-third of the season and still turn heads, and Crabtree managed to do just that. His numbers weren’t great, with 625 yards and just two TDs in 11 games, but consider that over a full season, that works out to 900 yards and three TDs. Crabtree is a WR phenom with too much long-term potential to throw back into your keeper league draft, unless you have better options listed above. Offer him to the re-building teams in your league if you don’t want to keep him.
Tom is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada and attended Ryerson University's Journalism School. After two years working for Hockey Night in Canada after graduation, he decided to go into the private sector for employment. He still has a passion for sports, and he's completely hooked on Fantasy Football.
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