Fantasy football roundtable: Best, worst of first half; future surprises
Robert Griffin III has been surprisingly good for Redskins with help of Alfred Morris
Decline of Cam Newton's game has hurt Panthers offense and Steve Smith
Best way to play Pats players is to think of trying to confuse team's opponents
The NFL fantasy season is filled with tough decisions. Join SI's roundtable of fantasy experts each week to help sort through the lineup choices, injuries and waiver-wire options that can make or break a season. Each week, we'll also be featuring a question from our readers, which you are free to submit each Sunday of the season at the @SInow Twitter feed.
As we're just past the halfway point of the season, let's get to some midseason business ...
1. Who's been the biggest surprise of the first half?
Mike Beacom: Many expected Robert Griffin III would do well, but I'm not sure anyone anticipated he would be a dominant fantasy quarterback. Through Week 7 he leads the league in completion percentage and yards per attempt, and trails only Arian Foster in rushing scores. Other worthy candidates: Tony Gonzalez, Alfred Morris and Stevan Ridley.
Will Carroll: I imagine someone will say Peyton Manning, but I was not surprised at all. Better, he's getting more comfortable with his team, the offense, the coaches and his own limitations. He's going to be scary in the second half. Christian Ponder has made a leap, but I have to go with the No. 1 scoring player in the game, RGIII. He's been better than advertised and hasn't done as much with his legs as some expected. The sky is the limit for him.
Eric Mack: Peyton Manning has been surprisingly close to his elite form. Griffin is out-Cam Newton-ing the famed "greatest rookie quarterback ever," and late-round rookie Alfred Morris is rolling with the big boys, producing near the level of Arian Foster and Ray Rice. You likely can find a lot of people now that claim they knew Manning and RGIII were going to be fantasy MVPs, but even Morris owners have to admit they feel like they are playing with the house's money on their rookie running back. The production we are seeing out of Morris should have been going to another rookie back like Doug Martin, if not Trent Richardson.
David Sabino: My biggest surprise has been Mike Shanahan, who committed to a rookie backfield that has allowed two of fantasy football's brightest stars, Griffin III and his unheralded-yet-equally valuable running back, Morris, to thrive. Given improvements and better health at wide receiver over the offseason Griffin and Morris will find themselves among the fantasy elite for years to come. And they may even put to rest Shanahan's anti-fantasy owner reputation. I did not expect to write about the Redskins as much as I have and that's a good thing for them.
The other major surprise has been Adrian Peterson's comeback. Around now is when we all thought we'd start seeing the "real" Peterson starting to round into shape. Instead, he's been valuable from Day 1,ranking as the league's third-best back this year so far. A miracle of modern sports medicine and training is what Peterson has been.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Legatron, Greg Zuerlein, as a major surprise. Along with fellow rookies Blair Walsh and Justin Tucker this new wave of kickers is revolutionizing the game.
2. Who's been the biggest bust of the first half?
Beacom: LeSean McCoy was a top-3 pick in most fantasy drafts this summer, but he hasn't lived up to that billing. He has averaged just 4.1 yards per carry, just 4.5 yards per reception, and has reached 100 yards from scrimmage just once in his last five outings (he reached that mark in 10 of 15 games last year). Throw Darren McFadden, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford into the debate, as well.
Carroll: Newton. He's done nothing, but all the talent is still there. I think a lot of the problem is the team -- they've abandoned the run, leaving Newton to do it all and he just can't. I think this could end up being good for him in the long run, but he doesn't seem to be learning and that worries me a bit. The plus is that he's healthy, but that makes it even more confounding that he could vanish like this. Then again, notice that Ponder is a positive surprise and Newton is a bust -- but they're four points apart on the season. The difference is value and clearly Newton was drafted much higher and weighted with unrealistic expectations.
Mack: After Monday night, you're going to hear a lot of audible complaints from Stafford and Calvin Johnson owners. Megatron, specifically, came into the season as the most dominant player at his position in fantasy, a lone wolf, but he has barely performed like a starter in a standard 12-team, two-receiver league. A number of second-tier backs can make a case, including one assumed first-tier one in McCoy, and Jimmy Graham certainly qualifies as a bust relative to draft position. But, in the end, those guys should pay their owners back. It's hard to be as certain with the Panthers' Newton. He looks like a beaten man and his fantasy owners are, too.
Sabino: If someone would've told me that Stafford would have fallen so far down the quarterback totem pole that he'd find himself behind the likes of Christian Ponder, Mark Sanchez, Brandon Weeden and Alex Smith, I would've said you were crazy, but Detroit is unraveling and Stafford's less-than-inspired play is a major cause. Also getting dishonorable mention is Darren McFadden (Who would've believed that he'd remain healthy yet still be a bust?).
3. What preseason prediction do you most regret at this point?
Beacom: Besides picking Philadelphia to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl? I believed Jermichael Finley would finally join the elite list of fantasy tight ends. I guess I looked too closely at Finley's talent and forgot to take into consideration all of the baggage. Tom Crabtree has caught more touchdown passes for Green Bay this season.