Underrated/Overrated: Despite hopes, Flacco has been average
Ravens Joe Flacco ranks 16th among all quarterbacks in NFL in efficiency
Buccaneers' offensive struggles this year may be regression to true value
Matt Cassel has performed about as well as Tom Brady in last three weeks
Whether it's Tebow Time or the Palmer/Ponder Paradox, the QB shuffle is the dance on this week's card, and we're headlining our second column by looking at two QBs with ignominious backup histories. We'll start by looking at a QB who couldn't beat out Tyler Palko, and then move on to one who couldn't beat out Matt Leinart. Ouch.
Elsewhere, we look at the second most disappointing Peyton, the best achieving WR named Mike Williams, and the only players to ever play in the league with the name Montario or Darrius. Enough with the Scrabble, away we go!
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (84 percent owned)
Flacco is the franchise quarterback in Baltimore, but you hate to have him as your fantasy starter. You also have to hate him if you have a preference for non-Troglodytic eyebrows. Like finding someone at a dimly lit club or eating at Taco Bell, you never know what you will get with him; he has two games over 20 fantasy points and two games below 10. That's what we nerd-types call a high deviation. Add in the fact that Flacco ranks 16th among all QBs in total efficiency this season -- he is, by all standards, a league average quarterback -- and it's a mystery why people are still starting him over the likes of Josh Freeman. Must be the brow.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns (98 percent owned)
Those who expected Hillis to repeat is breakout 2010 season have been sorely disappointed this year, and let me tell you personally, their fantasy records reflect it. With a talented backup like Montario Hardesty waiting his turn, it is only a matter of time before Hillis returns to his role as an anonymous nobody. While Hillis has been successful on over 41 percent of his runs -- which is slightly above average for a starting running back -- he has not been as efficient as Hardesty in the rushing or receiving game. In fact, for every 10 plays in which Hillis is involved, the Browns sacrifice a full point below expectation. While the Browns' offense is rather offensive to begin with, Hillis certainly isn't helping the cause.
Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers (90 percent owned)
After showing off his ridiculous physical talents last season, everyone (including us) jumped on the Williams bandwagon, and man, this ride sure is difficult on the backside. On the surface, Tampa Bay's offense has suffered severely this year. A better way to think about it, though, is simply that they outperformed expectations last year, and this year is a basic regression to their true values. Regardless, Williams has suffered, ranking just 94th in the league in receiving efficiency this year. That said, he still has the most targets on the Bucs with 52; if Freeman and company can turn around the offense, there is potential upside for Williams.
Dallas Clark, TE, Colts (80 percent owned)
I don't care that he had a ridiculous one-handed TD grab against Cincy, Clark's days as a top TE are gone until Peyton Manning returns, and even then it's relatively dicey. Clark has yet to score more than 10 points in a week, and he has a catch rate of 57.14 percent, 10 percent less than his career average. And yet he is still getting starts over the likes of Brandon Pettigrew and Fred Davis, proving that Curtis Painter's hairstyle isn't the only terrible decision related to the Colts.
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs (35 percent owned)
Cassel and the Chiefs started off the season in the most miserable of fashions, leading to significant sturm und drung surrounding their offensive capabilities. Just like Wall Street, though, opportunities arise where doubt lies. Let's play the comparison game:
QB A: 13.14 points, 16.40 points, 27.48 points
QB B: 16.94 points, 15.14 points, 17.26 points
Hintaroo: Both are New England products, and we're not talking about smug self-importance.
One of these is the devastatingly handsome Tom Brady, while the other is the slightly less pulchritudinous Cassel. Granted, this is an extremely small sample size, but Cassel is our mysterious QB A. Cassel has improved in each of the previous three weeks and should be productive for the remainder of the season now that he's on the same page with the mercurial Dwayne Bowe.
Montario Hardesty, RB, Browns (18 percent owned)
Despite the notable embarrassment of backing up Madden cover-boy and All-Disappointment First Teamer Hillis, Hardesty has tremendous upside. Hillis has been dealing with nagging injuries, and with limited playing time, Hardesty has put up at least five points in each of his last three weeks. Add in the fact that he has been much more efficient in the passing game -- the Browns have added seven points above expectation when they completed a pass to Hardesty vs Hillis -- you have a back poised to take the reigns of the Yugo that is the Browns offense. Let it be said: the name Peyton signals fantasy doom.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders (45 percent owned)
DHB's stock is on the rise, as people have begun to notice that he's no longer the ridiculously awful draft pick he once was. The speedster has the highest catch rate of any receiver on the Raiders (with at least 10 catches) at 57.89 percent. He has also scored at least eight points in each of the last three games, a consistency that the Raiders haven't seen since Tim Brown and the heyday of Silverchair. Heyward-Bey will be hurt by the loss of Jason Campbell, but the whole world is holding their collective breath to see if Carson Palmer still has what it takes to play in the NFL. I'm skeptical, but at 45 percent ownership, it's worth a flyer. Someone please keep Kimo Von Oelhoffen far, far away though.
Fred Davis, TE, Redskins (45 percent owned)
Davis has quietly become the Redskins top TE, edging out Chris Cooley. Adding injury to insult, Cooley is out for the foreseeable future with a broken finger after a jaw-shattering hit from Nnamdi Asomugha. Davis ranks ninth in receiving efficiency among tight ends -- ahead of players like Vernon Davis (98 percent owned) and Kellen Winslow (76 percent owned) -- catching 66.67 percent of the balls thrown his way. On completions to Davis, the Redskins have added almost a point per play above expectation. If he can find the end zone more consistently, he looks to be a top option at TE moving forward, provided that Rex Grossman or John Beck can remember which team to throw the ball to.
Nik Bonaddio is the CEO of numberFire, a sports analytics platform that provides algorithmic modeling for sports. You can follow him @numberfire. Keith Goldner is the Chief Analyst at numberFire. You can follow him @drivebyfootball.