NFL’s 2012 Dean’s List [1st Semester]

Hard to believe we’re heading into week 9 already. So far, the first 9 weeks of the NFL season have been a hodgepodge of frustration, surprises, and outright disappointments. However what I love about football (in direct opposition to basketball) is that the window to have your talent be noted is small. Which means the pressure to make big plays have to be maximized. I won’t list the obvious marquee players who are doing what they should be. Instead, let’s take a look at what this season’s class of interesting playmakers have done:

1) RG3: While Luck to me is a bit more poised, RG3 is an easy fan favorite. Statistically, RG3 is more accurate with a higher passer rating because he doesn’t have as many attempts as Luck (222 to 288 respectively). To put it in basketball terms, I liken RG3 to Deron Williams, while Luck is more like Steve Nash. RG3 has the speed. He has a hell of an arm and his lateral movement is incredible. Not only is RG3 among the elite quarterbacks in his rookie season in terms of pass completions, but he’s also in the top 20 for rushing yardage; 476 yards with 6 TDs. He’s doing what he can with the offense he has. In my opinion, what really gives the Redskins an interesting identity is…

2) Alfred Morris: You never really know who’s going to be running the ball in Washington because of Shanahan’s unpredictability. With Roy Helu and Evan Royster out and Tim Hightower getting cut, Morris emerged as the sole RB. Just as RG3, Morris has nice speed and he’s been a solid 3rd down/goal line RB. The Skins have faced some tough defenses in this 1st half. Yet Morris has 5 TDs and only 1 fumble. Overall, I like the functionality and chemistry between him and RG3.

3) Adrian Peterson: I hope AP’s comeback serves as a story of encouragement for Marcus Lattimore. This guy is having an incredible return after that ugly ACL injury last year. For RBs, you never really know what shape your knee will be in and how much it’ll effect your power until you’re in the game. Clearly, Peterson is the 6 million dollar man! He’s the rushing leader at the halfway point with 775 yards. He’s also tied with Morris for attempts (151). His ability to cut and break tackles has not disappeared. And he’s always had an uncanny manner of seeing the openings in opposing defenses.

He’s no Jimmy Graham. But when Matt Schaub throws it, Daniels will grab it

4) Owen Daniels: Tight ends are extremely versatile and often times overlooked because they play alongside such great wide receivers. In the league, you have maybe a top 3 or 4 when it comes to tight ends and then there’s everybody else. Of course The Gronk is cream of the crop at that position. But the Texans’ Owen Daniels is quietly posting a strong offensive season. Thanks to defenses doubling Andre Johnson, Daniels has become a consistent scoring option for Matt Schaub.

5) Matt Ryan: With the Falcons record, it’s imperative that #Matty2points makes the list. I should probably stop referring to him as such seeing the numbers he’s been putting up. The Falcons are winning which is the bottom line. But Ryan’s statistics are somewhat confounding. For example, given his receivers, you would think he’d average more than 288 passing yards per game (ironically tied with Eli Manning who was without Hakeem Nicks). I suppose you can attribute that to having such a workhorse like Michael Turner, who’s had 108 attempts and 415 yards. That 3 pick game against the Raiders was a fluke. I don’t see that happening again until Dec. 16.

6) Doug Martin: He’s the only other rookie in the league worth mentioning in the “good” report. As the lead RB for the Buccaneers, Martin has had to find his way. But as any rookie, he’s finally figured out the learning curve through playing time. He was a late round pick for 1 of my fantasy teams. So from that perspective, he has been frustrating. But there’s so much upside with him now. Against a staunch Minnesota run defense, Martin put up his first career game – 135 yards on the ground, 3 receptions for 79 yards and a TD. On a Tampa team that basically has to run often, I’m excited to watch his maturation process going forward.

7) Giants defense: When everyone’s healthy, the Giants are very difficult to beat! Last year, they got off to a slower start because of Osi Umenyiora being out. Yes, our secondary still sucks. But this year, the defense is looking well-prepared to run straight into the playoffs. This is a team that picked apart the 49ers at home. And last week, it was the Giants defense that renamed Cowboys Stadium as “our home away from home”. Stevie Brown was named defensive player of the week, as he picked off Tony Romo 2 times. JPP also scored his 1st TD off a pick 6. Here’s a great recap of the team for fellow fans of #bluenation

8) Eric Decker: Remember what was said last year about Jordy Nelson being underrated as a WR because he’s white? I think that can be applied now to Denver’s Eric Decker. When Tim Tebow took over last season, Decker was targeted 95 times. He caught 44 of Tebow’s 126 completions. He had 9 TDs for the year. Thus far with Peyton Manning, Decker has been targeted with 59 times and has 38 catches with 5 TDs. At the halfway point of the season, he’s slightly behind Demaryius Thomas in terms of yards after the catch. BUT, watching the games, Decker is an obvious favorite of Manning’s for end zone scores.

Honorable Mentions

Torrey Smith. Sure he’s up and down statistically. But when he’s on, he’s really on!

Randall Cobb. His opportunity in the Packers offense is much like how Victor Cruz’s opportunity happened once Hixon went out. It might surprise you to know this, but Domenik Hixon was ahead of Cruz on the depth chart last season before his knee injury. With Greg Jennings done and JerMichael Finley having awful hands, Randall Cobb will share targets with James Jones going forward. But I prefer Cobb simply because he’s faster.

Andre Brown. Now that Bradshaw is back, Brown’s carries will drop off significantly. However, as a temporary starter, he showed a lot of promise. He’s 1 of those guys who’ll show up and deliver when you need him.

Who are your picks for mid-season stand outs? What teams do you think will heat up after a cold start?

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