Second-Quarter Fantasy Awards
Posted: Saturday November 6, 2004 12:50AM; Updated: Saturday November 6, 2004 12:50AM
Week 9 action is imminent, meaning it's time for the second installment of my quarterly Fantasy Awards. These awards honor those players who have -- for better or for worse -- distinguished themselves above all others over the four-game stretch in question -- in this case Weeks 5 though 8.
Those of you unfamiliar with the categories can find descriptions here. Remember, players who missed a week due to by during the quarter in question are ineligible.
So here you have 'em, my 2004 Second-Quarter Fantasy Awa
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
With Priest Holmes ineligible due to a Week 5 bye and Daunte Culpepper cooling off considerably after opening the quarter with a pair of five TD outings, I'm going with Gates.
The second-year man continues to establish himself as not only an elite tight end, but also one of the league's most dangerous receiving threats, period -- which Gates effectively demonstrated with a two-TD effort against Oakland last Sunday.
How dominant was he?
The Contra Costa Times noted Monday that Raiders cornerback Phillip Buchanon playfully suggested the Raiders need to "find Jesus" after Sunday's beating at the hands of the Chargers, to which an observer replied: "You need to find Gates at the goal line."
After flashing his potential last season by catching 24 passes for 389 yards and two touchdowns, the former college hoopster is coming on even stronger than expected this year.
In fact, he's already pulled in 49 passes for 546 yards and five touchdowns this year -- with four of those scoring grabs coming over the last four weeks.
At 6-feet-4 and 260 pounds, Gates has the speed to outrun a linebacker and the size to outmuscle most cornerbacks and safeties.
"The big thing that he has is separation quickness," general manager A.J. Smith said. "He can pull away from a defender, and that provides a larger window for the quarterback. [Gates] can catch the ball in traffic, but he can get separation."
More impressive still, he continues to dominate despite regular double-teaming by the opposition and more importantly, he continues to not only meet and exceed already lofty pre-season expectations.
Travis Henry, RB, Buffalo Bills
While an injured foot has obviously limited him, Henry has been active throughout the entire quarter and his failure to fend off the suddenly surging Willis McGahee has been a major disappointment for those who weren't ready for the role reversal we're seeing now.
According to Pro Football Weekly, this wasn't an easy change to make because Henry is so well-respected in the locker room.
Nevertheless, it was a necessary change.
As much as I'd like to see Henry fulfill all my preseason predictions of glory, there's no denying that McGahee is outperforming the former University of Tennessee star.
And I strongly suspect that had McGahee's first NFL touchdown -- he scored two last weekend -- hadn't been the Bills' first rushing touchdown all year, Henry might not find himself playing a secondary role heading into Week 9.
Mewelde Moore, RB, Vikings
Although it appears a sprained ankle -- and Onterrio Smith's return from a marijuana-related suspension -- will slam his window of opportunity shut this week, Moore came out of nowhere the last month to make any fantasy owner sharp enough to secure his services quite happy over the last month.
This despite rushing for just 29 yards on eight carries in last Sunday's loss to the Giants. However, Moore easily made up for it by racking up 610 yards over the three previous games -- far exceeding even the wildest hopes of those relying on him.
In fact, that total broke a franchise record for most combined net yards in that time span.
Bottom line? Had you told me in September that Moore would be Minnesota's most productive skill player in October, I might have advised you to stay out of Smith's stash.
Top Comeback Player
Drew Brees, QB, San Diego Chargers
Heck, Brees has played reasonably well throughout the quarter, but he would have earned this one based on nothing more than last week's performance against the Raiders.
As the San Diego Union-Tribune suggested Monday, "The quarterback that the organization didn't feel was good enough to win with was nearly perfect, completing 22-of-25 passes for 281 yards and five scores with no turnovers.
"His QB rating: 153.1. A perfect rating: 158.3."
Brees set team single-game records for passer rating and completion percentage (88). His five touchdown passes were a career high and only one off the franchise mark held by Dan Fouts. He threw two scores to Gates and one each to tight end Justin Peelle and wideouts Keenan McCardell and Tim Dwight.
Brees was so good that two of his three incompletions came when he was throwing the ball away.
"Brees was on fire," fullback Lorenzo Neal said
For what it's worth, Brees now has thrown 14 touchdown passes against just three interceptions, with a passer rating of 106.8. Not bad for a guy who was supposed to be watching from the sidelines as rookie Phillip Rivers established himself as San Diego's quarterback of the future.
Candy Bone Award
Roy Williams, WR, Detroit Lions
After tantalizing Fantasy owners with an impressive and productive opening month, a sprained ankle has kept Williams from hitting the field in three of the last four games.
Of course, he added insult to injury against the Giants by pulling in a touchdown pass in his lone appearance during this span.
Perhaps more importantly, Williams' absence seems to have a serious impact on the entire team. As one observer suggested this week, his presence in the game changes everything, not just the way an opponent tries to defend him, but also the confidence level of his own teammates.
On a more positive note, Williams is listed as questionable this week, but is coming off his best Friday workout in three weeks and by all accounts will almost certainly return to action this weekend.
That's all for now. I'll revisit these awards four weeks from now, and then announce my final 2004 full season Fantasy Award winners following Week 17.