- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
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Two weeks ago, when DeShaun Foster trotted to the sidelines with a hyperextended elbow against the Rams, the door to Carolina's starting job cracked open--and Williams barged in, gaining 114 yards on 20 carries (both career highs). The run-first Panthers drafted the NCAA's Division 1-A alltime leader in all-purpose yards as their long-term (and possibly short-term) answer in the backfield. But Williams missed three weeks in October with a sprained ankle, leaving Foster in the starting role. As a result many fantasy owners dropped Williams while others stayed away, unsure of his status. Over his eight games the first-round pick out of Memphis has piled up 4.8 yards per run and 7.6 per catch (compared with Foster's 3.9 per carry and 5.8 per catch). Now fully healed, Williams could be among the NFC's best runners over the final quarter of the season.
The loss of a starting tailback would normally cripple an offense. But for Oakland, replacing a struggling LaMont Jordan with an eager Fargas shouldn't be too much of a chore. Serving mainly as Jordan's backup through the first 10 games of the season, Fargas rushed for 50 or more yards five times, gained 3.7 yards per run and had 367 yards from scrimmage. Over his first nine games, Jordan had 50-plus yards in four of them, 3.8 yards per carry and 508 yards from scrimmage. Fargas's biggest advantage is the better personnel he'll have around him. With the return of QB Aaron Brooks and wideout Jerry Porter (who missed seven games over a contract dispute and a hip injury), and the emergence of wide receiver Ronald Curry, the Raiders at least have something resembling an NFL offense again. That alone makes Fargas a solid second fantasy running back or utility player.
After the September trade that sent Deion Branch to the Seahawks, New England naysayers moaned that Tom Brady had no good receivers left. While the man widely expected to step into Branch's big shoes, former Raiders wideout Doug Gabriel, has been a flop, Caldwell has quietly become the Pats' most dependable receiver, catching a career-high 38 balls for 462 yards (28 catches and 344 yards of which came in the last six weeks). As games increase in importance, look for New England to open up the offense and ride Brady's talent. That means Caldwell will be on the receiving end of the sort of plays that made Branch a star.
The Saints' Marques Colston is stealing the headlines, but fellow rookie Holmes is having a stellar season too, leading the AFC's first-year wideouts with 32 grabs, 486 yards and 44.2 yards per game. What's more, the bulk of his production has come since Week 5. Holmes is not starting yet, but the first-rounder from Ohio State injects energy and speed into the Steelers' air attack while providing a much-needed deep threat opposite Hines Ward. With Ben Roethlisberger throwing for 54.2 more yards per game than he did last season, there will be plenty of chances for Holmes to shine.
As Washington tumbled in the NFC standings, the change from Mark Brunell to Campbell was inevitable. In Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El and Chris Cooley, the Redskins have outstanding receivers, and it'll be up to the strong-armed quarterback from Auburn to utilize them better than his 36-year-old predecessor. Campbell underwent a year of seasoning on the sidelines before being put in this position, so while he's still raw, he's not likely to be overwhelmed. (Think a slightly less experienced Tony Romo, minus the Jessica Simpson rumors.) Campbell will be in the top half of NFC fantasy passers through the rest of '06.